8 || Biscay Crossing
10th - 12th September
Falmouth to A Coruña, Spain
We left the harbour at 8:15. Hoisted the main sail in the shelter of Falmouth and proceeded to motor sail out of the famous Estuary heading south. The starting point of so many significant voyages which have left footprints in our country’s history. The night before leaving we stood on the spot where Sir Robin Knox Johnston stood when he returned from becoming the first sailor to circumnavigate the globe half a century before us.
After half an hour of motor sailing, the A4 was unleashed on the prevailing winds and the engine was turned off. As predicted, the wind built as we cleared the shore, we were heading south by south west on the tail end of an Atlantic depression and making the most of the wind whilst we had it.
((A few hours after leaving the safety of the harbour we found ourselves in quite a heavy Atlantic swell generated by the fading depression. The boat started to roll in an unfamiliar fashion, especially for for this London girl. It was at this point my breakfast decided it was no longer required. I helmed and tried to fight the overwhelming feeling but unfortunately nothing worked. I was determined to continuing helming in between of rushing to the stern to be ill (after putting the autopilot on!), however, I started to get very cold and could not concentrate any longer. About nine hours later I went below to the safety of Sophia’s cabin and away from the crew.
We held the A4 for the next twenty-eight hours pushing on our progress towards Spain at a steady 9-10 knots.
As dusk fell, we were concerned for Jacqueline’s deterioration and route diversions were discussed. Bearing away to the French coast would dramatically lower the boat speed and make for uncomfortable sailing. This combined with the knowledge that the next Atlantic depression was only two days away meant we decided to press on towards Spain. Dugald and I agreed a rough 4 on 4 off watch system, I took the first watch. Overnight we were crossing the tail end of the Brittany shipping lanes which added excitement to the watches. Despite this, both watches maintained boat speed easing and bearing off when required with the adjusting breeze to keep the A4 set.
We had the companionship of dolphins most of the night - but not by seeing their playful frolicking in our wash, but by hearing their familiar in take of air as they swam past the helm.
Dawn came and the dying breeze made for challenging sailing to keep our speed up. It was towards the end of my graveyard shift that I thought my eyes were failing me - there were the odd blurry patches over the sea. The third one however was accompanied by a dark shadow on the sea……..’There she blows’ was not my first comment…..WHALES!was and within a few seconds all were on deck to observe.
We had sailed into a pod of large sperm whales - WOW…..WOW….followed by a quiet ‘shit’ from me. Although great, they were close and we were on collision course! We were sailing at 8 knots with our A4 - the whales cruising slowly across our bow heading east.
First I thought all would be ok as I headed up…. only to see another whale surface behind the first…. so a huge bare away to run with them…
It is amazing how, within a few seconds all those Moby Dick images of boats being demolished by whales come to mind …. And not to mention, I hadn't received confirmation that our insurance policy was valid before we set off ….. My general assumption, … what could happen!!!
So after dolphins all night and whales close up, the rest of the day was quite bland. The breeze continued to die and head us and soon we found ourselves motor sailing - but with the promise of a fresh breeze along the Spanish coast.
Another night of watches and Spain was within sight. The expected breeze filled in and we powered towards A Coruna. Jacqueline appeared to detect the land and started to become human again after her 40 hour ordeal.
It was great to feel the warmth of the Spanish land as we approached and the promise of cold beers and feasts of tapas. We arrived at 14:45. A fifty four hour trip, averaging 8.3 knots :)
We were met at the marina entrance by the harbour master who showed us to our berth - A service we could not dream of on the East Coast!!