Well it’s been a long long timing coming but finally the ghost has been laid, Biscay has been left astern and Gleda is now flying a Spanish courtesy flag as she sits safe and sound in the warm sunshine of Marina A Coruña.
Biscay let us past as quietly as she could, no huge ocean swells, no gales, no drama just a small sting in the tail during the final hours just to remind us that she’d been kind and that we should remain respectful. The first 16 hours out of Sainte Evette were fantastic, it was slow at first as we drifted South before a light Northerly but as we got further offshore the wind moved round to the North East and ‘Gleda’ started moving along very nicely and continued to do so all day. From 8am to midnight we covered 95 miles, it was glorious. It didn’t last though and as Monday arrived the wind dropped and during the following 24 hours we covered just 60 miles, it mattered not, we were all enjoying being at sea and although we saw a few ships in the distance we seemed to have the ocean all to ourselves, of course I’m talking about humans here, we were well aware that the thousands of feet of water beneath us would be teeming with life although the only evidence we saw were the dolphins. I’d promised Gail we’d see them, I knew they wouldn’t let us down, but as we saw the first few appear on our bows during the afternoon we had no idea what a spectacular show they had laid on for us later.
I’d decided that Jake and I would work 3 hour watches from 21:00 until 09:00 with the daytime hours left flexible.It worked well not least because we’d got ‘Lewis’ the self-steering working within and hour of leaving Sainte Evette which meant watches were a whole lot easier freed as they were from the tyranny of the wheel. In fact ‘Lewis’ steered for the entire passage except for the final 6 hours when traffic and conditions forced us to take manual control, there’s still some tweaking to do but he works brilliantly.
Anyway back to the dolphins, I’d taken the first watch and after Jake relieved me at midnight I crashed out in the deckpod berth (another success) and was asleep within minutes. About 1am though Jake was shaking me awake like a kid brother on Christmas morning, dragging me half asleep up onto the foredeck. I rubbed my eyes as I followed his pointing finger, then rubbed them again as I tried to figure out if I was actually still asleep and dreaming or if I’d taken too many Stugeron seasickness pills and was tripping. The sea between ‘Gleda’s bows was being criss-crossed with bright luminous green dolphins, they were perfectly visible underwater as they streaked along leaving bright glowing trails of phosphorescence metres behind them. They could be seen underwater perhaps 50 or 100 metres away and in one case I spotted a loner coming in at 90’ to the bow like a torpedo you see in the movies, it was incredible. I knew Gail had to see this and dashed below, dragging her on deck half asleep just as Jake had done to me. She too was instantly mesmerised by this magical spectacle. We had a repeat performance the following night and it was just as captivating. All three of us will take the memory of those glow in the dark dolphins to our graves. As you’ll see sometime soon Jake managed to capture some incredible daytime footage of our dolphin visitations but even his sophisticated equipment couldn’t capture the nightime show. Talking about it afterwards we decided that was a good thing, there’s no way any video could do it justice and in some ways it seems fitting that only those who pay the price of admission to the deep waters of Biscay get to experience the magic.
Talking of deep water it’s worth mentioning that part of Biscays reputation lies with the dramatic effect the shoaling seabed can have on the sea when the winds blow strong. It’s quite daunting to notice that on the chart the centre of Biscay is marked with the words ‘Abyssal Plain’ and an abyss it surely is with the water nearly 6000 metres deep in places. As we closed the coast of Northern Spain the depth went from 500 metres to less than 150 metres over a distance of only 5 miles, quite incredible.
On day two as we drifted along I suddenly caught sight of a pigeon circling the boat, after a couple of abortive landings he eventually dropped down onto the forward deck and I could see from the tags on his legs that he was a racing pigeon. Although seemingly in good health he gulped down some water we put out for him and later gobbled up some broken biscuits. He gradually got braver hopping around the deck and looking down the hatches into the boat, he even hopped onto Jakes legs as he lay sunbathing.
We named him Percy, and he stayed with us nearly 24 hours, spending the night huddled down infront of the deckpod, but as dawn broke I decided it was time he got on his way, not least because we’d tired of washing poop off the deck. It took 10 mintes of waved arms and chasing around the decks before he finally got the message and headed off towards Spain. Strangely, on our third or fourth day in A Coruña. as Jake and I sat in the pod a racing pigeon suddenly fluttered down and perched on the starboard guardrails, looked at us for a few minutes then flew off. Percy saying thanks? We’ll never know.
Apart from the dolphins and Percy nothing else of note occurred during the passage except for a curious phenomena I’ve experienced before. I’m talking about the seemingly magnetic attraction that small boats at sea seem to have for random floating objects. I’ve read somewhere that from the deck of a yacht you can see about 35 square miles of water so how is it that within that 35 square miles it’s possible to almost hit three small floating objects head on? First up it was a orange pot marker complete with pole, float and rope. Given we were in about 6000 metres of water at the time I don’t think it was attached to anything and I spotted it just as it floated past the port hull. Soon afterwards a wooden pallet floated past the starboard hull and then the following day we ran dead centre over an orange ships life ring. We’d spotted it early on and tried to catch it with the boathook but we were moving too fast.
As dawn broke on Tuesday we started to see the outline of Galicias mountains in the distance and as darkness fell we were close enough to start seeing lights. It turned out to be a lively night, it was totally moonless and dark, the wind picked up and before long we began to see the lights of many fishing boats dead ahead. A lot of these boats use bright floodlights to attract Sardines, their decks are well lit, it’s hard to miss them. The problem is that from a distance all these lights completely drown out any navigation lights they may or may not be carrying and this makes it very difficult to figure out which way they’re headed. It’s kind of academic anyway though because they alter course constantly and although the AIS helps not all of them have it. As we got closer we decided that ‘Lewis’ should finally be taken off watch and took manual control so we could alter course quickly if necessary. It was a good decision as we then spent several hours playing dodgems.
As I’d expected the wind started picking up as we closed Cabo Ortegal but conditions were good enough for me to decide to head for A Coruña., I had a fall back landfall of Vivero to the East of Ortegal but as it was we turned further West towards Coruña. When Gleda began touching double figures boatspeed I dropped the foresail to make things a tad more comfortable but despite that the F5/6 and choppy seas made for a bumpy ride, things turned even more bumpy when we came abeam of Cabo Prior and turned South West towards the Raia de la Coruna and the bright shining light beaming out from The Tower of Hercules. This new course had us beam on to the seas and in the dark it wasn’t much fun. Jake helmed as I continually checked the plotter, reassuring Gail that once we got into the lee of the land things would quieten down. Our final approach was straightforward and once in the lee we dropped sails and motored towards the well lit breakwater that protects the marina. It was gone 5am was we tied up to the pontoon, tired but elated. We’d done it.
The fact that I’m finishing this blog post a week after arriving may give some indication of how we’ve enjoyed our stay here in A Coruña.. It’s been fantastic and I’ll be writing about that next time. Tomorrow we’re heading West towards Finisterre so I’m not sure when the next update will be posted. I’ll do my best not to leave it too long but damn this cruising life eats up time!