At the end of our last blog post we were in Gigha waiting for the winds to moderate and turn more northerly or at least westerly rather than the persistent southerlies that were coming through.
After 3 days the winds changed direction – to south easterlies which made our anchorage in Ardminish Bay untenable. We moved round to the Queen’s anchorage at the North West tip of the island and had a peaceful night. The long range forecasts didn’t have any signs of the weather pattern changing for at least a week so we decided to make use of our time and visit a couple of our favourite places. We had a fast and pleasant sail up the sound of Jura, on through the sound of Luing and into the sound of Mull before anchoring in Loch Aline.
We spent a couple of days there before heading to Oban to re-stock the fresh food store and top up with diesel. We took a mooring just off Oban and went ashore to visit Rose in the Country Kitchen Deli (a must for good food and drink) Thanks for the Gin J
We took the rib across to Oban Marina to fill up our diesel containers. The new owners seem to be trying to get the marina going after a few years of neglect. I wonder how they’ll fair with the new marina in Oban Bay due to open later this year. The breakwaters were complete and the piles being driven for the pontoons so work going on apace.
We re-traced our route south with a great sail back to Gigha, anchoring once more for the night before sailing to Belfast Loch where we anchored for a couple of nights in Ballyholme Bay just to the east of Bangor Marina. On both of the evenings we were there we had grandstand seats for the yacht and dinghy racing.
The weather window finally appeared on the 18th June – westerlies forecast for our passage through the Irish Sea, veering N – NE’ly as we crossed the English Channel and into Biscay with the swell and weather patterns promising to be light for at least the next 10 days.
We set off at 2:10pm on the 16th June with 2 reefs in the main and 3 in the jib and had a cracking sail all that day and into the night broad reaching at 9-10kts.
Unfortunately it wasn’t to last and the wind died and backed to a more southerly direction, although all of the forecasts had it westerly!!
We started the long series of tacks down the Irish Sea throughout that day, passing our friends on Destination Anywhere on the Isle of Man. We were treated to the SAR helicopter from Belfast practising winching a man down onto a passing freighter
We had a first day 2:10 to 12:00 noon run of 143 miles.
By now we were off the coast of Wales and making great time. The wind increased to a stronger Southerly and we planned to tack into Cardigan Bay and then out again to round Milford Haven. Unfortunately the range control called up on VHF and told us there was live firing in the range and we were to stay well out of the bay. That had us tacking back towards Ireland. The swell forecast had rough seas out there so we had to keep tacking through St Georges Channel to stay east but out of Cardigan Bay. That was a long slog against the tide which put at least 12 hours on our overall journey.
We passed Milford Haven around midnight, having been treated to a fantastic sunset off Ramsey Island.
Day 2 had us crossing the Bristol Channel heading for Land’s End. The noon to noon run was 152.7 miles.
The wind finally died at around 7:30am and we put the motor on to Land’s End. We had a pod of dolphins with us most of the way.
We took a picture of the corner of the UK before heading out across the Channel into Biscay.
Once into the Channel, we were out of phone range and also out of AIS range which our friends and family had used to track our progress. We had however installed long range HF/SSB radio which among other things let us send and receive short emails via a shore station in Belgium. The following is the update we sent the first night approximately level with Brest:
Daily update from Coriander 48 11.8″N, 6 17.9W
18 June 2017 18:00 BST
We’re currently passing Brest (well about 70 miles west of Brest). We’ve 295 miles to go and the weather routing has us reaching Spain late on Tuesday. Given experience to date I expect Wednesday.
Crossing the English Channel and entering Biscay has been a lot easier than the Irish Sea was. The sea is pretty calm and the swell has died down. We currently have about 12 kts of breeze 130 deg off our bow and are doing a comfortable 6.7 kts.
We both slept well off watch last night as the wind was a light 8kts and from behind the beam so the motion was slight and the boat noises quiet.
The weather is gorgeous, wall to wall sun which is helping to top up the batteries. We’re getting excellent weather updates via Navtex, quite detailed in French and good overall picture in English from Spain. No gales or near gales forecast 🙂
We passed just outside the shipping lanes off Ushant and they were very busy. We’re now crossing the traffic from the exit of the traffic separation scheme on their way to Portugal and beyond. Some pretty massive ships but they’ve all given us a very wide berth 🙂
Lots of fishing boats to dodge last night which kept us both occupied during our watches last night. Hopefully we’ve seen the last of them for a while and we have a quieter night tonight.
Anyway, all’s well with us, I’ll send another update tomorrow.
All the best
Steve and Gill
The Bay of Biscay was in a very benign mood,
Allowing us to relax and concentrate on avoiding the shipping. To be fair the ships changed course early to give us a wide berth which we were grateful for, given their size!
We saw just the one yacht on our way over:
Time on our night watches flew by. The stars were amazing and we had a clear view of the Milky Way and numerous shooting stars. If we weren’t looking up, we were given an amazing display by the dolphins racing around us. We couldn’t see them but their phosphorescent trails and splashes were breath-taking.
The following nights update:
Daily update from Coriander 45 57N, 7 09W
19 June 2017 18:00 BST
We had a really good 24 hours sailing since the last update. I’ve just had to turn on the engine after the wind died to < 4 kts variable just as forecast. I have to say that the forecast we got on Saturday has been accurate in terms of wind speed, direction and timing.
We are a little behind the optimum on our track as we took the prudent decision to reef overnight last night as the wind was forecast to go just forward of our beam and increase to >20kts. This allowed us both to have a comfortable watch and more importantly sleep easily down below.
We made our best daily run noon to noon of 156 miles. We currently have 160 miles to go putting us at La Coruna late tomorrow night. We will decide tomorrow whether we wish to slow down a little and enter the marina in daylight or whether the wind is strong enough to get us there before sunset tomorrow night.
We have noticed a real change in the times of sunrise and sunset on our journey down, from 10:03 sunset and 3:50 sunrise while in Scotland to 9:15 last night and sunrise at 6am this morning.
Biscay is like a millpond just now and the forecast does not give any sailable wind until tomorrow morning.
We had to cross 2 shipping lanes through the night but the ships were very courteous in making obvious changes to direction to give us a wide berth – very different to the Clyde!!
The skipper of one ship, the Maersk Essex, called us up on radio to ask us which side we’d like him to pass. He must have been pretty bored because he spent some time chatting on the radio to us, interested in where we’d come from, where we were going, how long it had taken us etc. He rounded it off by saying he was very curious to see such a little boat in the middle of Biscay!! LITTLE!!! We looked up his spec on AIS and he was 150ft wide and 1201 feet long. You could fit 720 Corianders on his deck so I suppose most boats are little compared to him.
Apologies for 2 mails last night. For Malc’s benefit I sent the first via Belgium on 6khz and it took about 2 minutes to upload and disconnected before receiving an acknowledgment. I then sent it on 8khz and it went in seconds even though propagation should have been better on 6.
We’re about to start our evening meal, going for the Scottish favourite of haggis, beans and croquet potatoes.
Weather reports are now in Spanish – good job we’ve a Spanish dictionary on board.
All the best to all and I’ll let you know tomorrow how we’re getting on.
Steve & Gill
We made much better time overnight than we’d anticipated and our ETA had us arriving in La Coruna by 8pm. The wind in the morining died completely so we motored at a sedate 6 kts on calm seas, accompanied by dolphins.
When 12 miles off shore we raised the Spanish courtesy flag as required
We sighted Spain around 5pm and were moored in Marina Coruna enjoying a well-deserved G&T at 7:40pm 20th June
We’d crossed Biscay and arrived in sunny Spain 🙂
776.4 Nautical Miles through the water
728.5 Nautical Miles over ground
Duration 5 days 7 hours 22 Minutes
Motored 1 day 3 hours
Sailed 4 Days 4 hours
Average speed 6.2 kts
Max speed 10.5 kts
Watch System – informal through the day, strict 3 hours on, 3 off through the night, clipped on at all times when on watch overnight or alone on deck.
Weather routing app – Weather 4D using GFS model forecast. This proved to be very accurate – highly recommended.