Leaving Eastbourne

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  A Mast at Last!


On May 9th the mast finally arrived from Sailspar - only 5 weeks and 2 days late on their "guaranteed" 5 week lead time!  On May 10th, we discovered that the mast section was twisted.  It was within spec, but Sailspar had failed to allow for the twist when fitting the spreaders which were visibly horribly wrong from the other side of the boat yard. To be fair to Sailspar they responded immediately with 5am starts, Sunday working, etc, and remanufactured the spreader sockets, but even they accept that allowing the mast to leave the yard in that condition was sloppiness of an exceptional kind.   All of the above of course cost precious days in our departure schedule.  Further delays were added as we sat and waited for the wind to drop sufficiently for us to step the mast - pictures in the gallery.  The mast was finally stepped (with special thanks to Andy Garland, the marina manager who stayed late into the evening after his team had gone home and drove the crane for us) and rigging completed on the evening of Friday 30th May (with more thanks to James Tate for pouring in the hours).  

Those of you who are following closely will have noticed that 30th May was absolutely the last possible date to leave Eastbourne to join the rally!  And the rig still needed to be tuned at sea, ideally in about force 3/4 winds.  There was also the small matter of a missing Enkes electric winch, dispatched from Holland via TNT 24 hour delivery over 3weeks ago, but now not existing in any country on the planet according to TNT, but more on that later.      

Saturday was (of course) a flat calm and James was, in any case, coming under some pressure from his other customers to get back to working on their boats.  So, with a lightning instruction in rig tuning from James and his commitment to be at the end of a phone to talk me through any problems, we took the decision to leave Eastbourne and try to catch up with the rally at Bayona.

Marianne Holmes who was to sail with us for the Portugal rally the joined the boat during the week and Steve Jenkins the other member of the team had joined on Friday evening.  So with a good initial weather forecast for Biscay and with what little wind there was blowing the wrong way we set off motor sailing on a grey rainy morning down the channel from Eastbourne 2 hours after the rally proper left Plymouth.  

By lunchtime the following day things had changed and not for the better.  We had received a weather fax predicting F8/9 in Biscay within the next 24 hours.  We had also been able to raise one of the rally boats - Free Flight - on SSB radio.  They had been receiving similar forecasts and were currently experiencing F7 gusting 8.  Those close enough inshore were heading for ports on the French coast.  Those further out had no choice but to keep going.  During all of our conversations with rally control they insisted that the wind was F5 and decreasing and that our information was wrong!  You work it out!

We chose to head for Guernsey, tucked ourselves into St Peter Port and started looking for bars and restaurants.  We were in the wrong place, but we'd sort of left the country and things could have been a lot less comfortable so we stayed in Guernsey for 2 nights and waited for the weather. 

When we did leave we sailed through a mixture of flat calms and fog and F6/7,  mainly on the nose, right across Biscay. So a lot of motoring as we still struggled to catch the rally. Our Guernsey departure had set us further east than originally planned so we headed into La Coruņa to collect more fuel and called rally control to say we would catch the rally 'tomorrow'.

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Samarang in Guernsey

At La Coruņa it was low water when we arrived so we unable to get onto the fuel pontoon and faced with a two hour wait we decided to the use the time to motor down the ria to the small town of Sada were we picked up fuel, were squeezed into a berth which I still believe to have been slightly narrower than our actual beam, showered, and headed out to refuel ourselves.

There seemed to be not an open restaurant in Sada (it was Sunday evening)  but we eventually became the only customers of an extremely patient Spanish restauranteur who introduced us to a sort of buy one get one free to take home with you system of wine list,  that remains a mystery.  

Early morning 9th June - Left Sada, phoned rally control to say we'd definitely catch them 'tomorrow', and headed for Finistere. 

2030 hrs  9th May - just north of Finistere, wind F7/8 - on the nose again - almost zero progress.  Headed into Camariņas.

2300 hrs 9th May - Awful mooring with 20 Knots of wind behind us. Climbed off the boat over the pulpit and into a bar at the end of the pontoon.  Fishermen poured us tumblers of red wine and the owner opened the kitchen to cook us "meat or fish".  It suddenly all seemed OK again.

We stayed in Camariņas for two nights whilst the weather settled. Unknown to us at the time Estrela, one of the other yachts struggling to catch the rally, anchored in the bay and left before us at first light.  We left at 0600 and motored south in almost no wind, but a 3-4 metre swell left over from the earlier storm.

Phoned rally control to say we would definitely catch the rally 'tomorrow'! They managed not to sound at all sceptical.

Entered Portuguese waters at 1820. (More dolphins than I've ever seen at one time. At least 100) Arrived Leixoes 0130 (more fishing boats etc etc).  We had caught the rally - it was now 12th June!   Parked and went to bed.

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Last updated 18th March 2018