Crossing Biscay – Roscanvel to Caderia

15th to 17th September 2017

Biscay has a fearsome reputation for weather that is either unhelpful or dangerous for sailors. For us, though, wind on the beam nearly the whole way, mostly at 15-20knots, had us flying along and covering 350Nm in a little under 45 hours (averaging not a lot short of 8 knots). Sounds blissful, right? Well, it would have been if we didn’t all suffer from varying levels of sea-sickness along the way. Both kids were ill-but-OK, as kids tend to be – Arthur punctuated bursts of being sick with discussing whether he would prefer fish and chips or ice cream when we arrived somewhere; Theo listened to endless books. Charlotte, as she was trapped below reading those books (mostly with her eyes closed), didn’t have such a good time of it. I was sick, but by 24 hours in had got used to it and was pretty much OK the rest of the way – but then it’s easy enough to start feeling better when all you have to do is sail in relatively benign conditions.

Weather wise, there was nothing too scary, apart from one sudden squall, at 3am as such squalls tend to be, which had me dropping the mainsail as something we had done which seemed clever on leaving Roscanvel turned out to be troublesome. Specifically, we used the holes in the sail at the first reef point to tie the lazyjacks down. Now, this was a sensible enough thing to do – we had one reef in to reduce our sail area because of conditions just-off the Rade de Brest, and were going to then keep one in overnight because when we are single-handing we reef as though the wind was a few knots higher than forecast/experienced. So, we figured, get the lazyjacks out of the way to prevent chafe on a long straight sail. But, it then made dropping the sail singlehanded to clip in the next reef, as the wind which had been steady at 15kts started gusting above 30, somewhat difficult. With Charlotte down below feeling very ill I just dropped the whole thing, wrapped it up tightly, and turned the engines on. It felt somewhat like cheating, but it made life easier at the time.

We don’t really know what set us all off with the sickness either – the swell was not the biggest we have experienced, and apart from on leaving the Rade de Brest there was no “chop” to speak of. The swell early on in the passage was coming from two directions, one of which was on our aft quarter, which at times made it a bit “rolly” – I think that’s what had me turning green. But apart from adding further consideration of where the swell is coming from, and whether we are going to be at points where swell from multiple direction converges, to our passage planning list I am not sure I have anything more sensible to suggest than Arthur’s sage advice/orders that we should do “more short hops, and less long passages”.

When we got within sight of land, with Charlotte still feeling unwell, I changed our destination to the slightly-closer Cederia, rather than one of the Ria’s near La Coruna. It turns out this Ria was recommended to us by someone on a Facebook Group Charlotte is part of – and we should have listened to her and headed for Cederia in the first place, it was fab. Anyway, that’s where we ended up. We got there 45 hours or so after leaving Roscanvel, and after half an hour faffing around with the anchor were done – we had to reset twice as our anchor wasn’t setting (either we were trying to use the engine to check the set too quickly after dropping; or we were in one of the more silty patches closer to the river). Whatever the case, our third time dropping anchor worked fine and we were secure for what turned out to be the next three days.

Overall, the passage was fine. It is very nice to know I can single hand such a long passage perfectly safely and comfortably; and we got across without any scary stories to pass on to the people we meet on the other side. I can’t say it was the most pleasant of experiences with the sickness, but after a feast, and then another feast (I have never seen our kids eat so much), we were feeling much better and ready to start enjoying Cederia.

Leave a Comment