Merry Christmas!

Just a quick post to wish everyone Merry Christmas, and to thank you for reading, contributing and being such a great help throughout my journey so far. I have parked Constellation in Figueira da Foz, around 80nm north of Lisbon. Pedro, a new and very warm Portuguese friend, drove over 100km in the middle of the night, to come pick me up, take me to his family home and adopt me for Christmas, for which I am eternally grateful. I wasn´t relishing the thought of Christmas alone again, and the trip down here has been fraught with terrifying waves, port entrances from hell, and racing tides. I was glad to get away from all that, and today I write from the warmth of an open fire.

I will post again from Lisbon - Feliz Natal!

nick.

Laxe to Baiona, Way out West

It was a little sad leaving Laxe, not because I didn't want to get on my way, but really just because of language difficulties. I couldn't express to Miguel and his family how much I appreciated their hospitality, and it really disappointed me to just be leaving without be able to say much more than 'Thank you, Goodbye'. I left two bottles of wine, and my email address, however I'm not too sure email was his preferred method of communication... I should have asked for their address to send something, but alas, it never occurred to me. Here is a photo of Miguel, who was hard at work cleaning his nets. He showed me an enormous bag of crabs he had caught, and we compared boat sizes. I think I'm going to try sending something to 'Boat Loly Uno/Miguel, Laxe, Spain' - I bet he receives it!

It was a relatively short sail to my next port of call, Camarinas. After the bad weather of the previous few days, I was treated to sunshine and little swell, albeit without any wind. I've been motoring all over the place, so poor little 'August' the mighty Yanmar has been working overtime. I'm quite certain when he came out of the factory, he exclaimed to his bigger friends how lucky he was to be in a small sailboat, doing nothing more than working in and out of port. Little did he know, he'd be motoring to Australia.

As I came into the Ria that houses Camarinas, a little wind picked up, and I launched my headsail. I tacked up the Ria, and decided to sail right into port for the first time. Sailing onto the dock must be a singlehanders best party trick, so I figured while I still have 3rd party insurance (it ran out on the 16th), I should do some practice. As I rounded the breakwater at three knots, I let her run a little, before dousing the foresail. I coasted into the pontoon area, and lined up perfectly for a free berth. As I neared, someone started shouting and carrying on, insisting that I go to another berth. I really couldn't see what the bother was about, considering the entire place was empty, but there you have it. Luckily I had enough power under main alone, and I redirected, and docked to perfection. Unfortunately no one was around to take any notice at all, except the Marinara, who was probably just really annoyed that I had just sailed at 2kts for the last twenty minutes into his marina, while he stood on the dock attempting to direct me.

Nothing of particular interest happened in Camarinas, and I had really only come into a marina to find a post office. Post offices have been causing me great pain in Spain (that's a rhyme)... In La Coruna, I couldn't find the post anywhere, and when I eventually did, the hours were beyond comprehension, it never seemed open, and then I was ready to depart, and hardly in the mood to wait around to figure it all out. In Laxe, the post office was nothing more than a post sign out the front of a house, which upon entrance, turns out to actually be exactly that: The post office is a set of scales in the front room of somebody's tiny apartment. I walked in, and accidently thought I'd gone through the wrong door... While Laxe had the facility to post mail, I really needed a big post office with envelopes, boxes etc, and so, I had to move on in hopes of something bigger further on.

A friend emailed me after hearing I was going past Finisterre, mentioning that it was the end of the Camino Trail. This trail if you are unfamiliar with it, is a walk, or pilgrimage, going from one side of Spain to the other, finishing at Finisterre. As a symbolic gesture, I am told some walkers burn their clothes at the end of the walk, which as you can imagine, results in naked pilgrims loitering around the Spanish hills. All endeavours related to the act of persuing nakedness should be heartily encouraged, so I came in close around Finisterre (to those concerned, it wasn't that close, yet for the sake of narrative...) with eagle eyes. Unfortunately all I found was a sore neck from craning, but I decided to come into Finisterre proper, as another small boat pontoon was reportedly in the harbour. As with the last small boat pontoon, I was dubious of its existence, but noted a decent anchorage nearby, if it was only a summer installation. To my luck, it did exist, and I slept cosily tied up inside the breakwater. The following day I did a scout around for naked pilgrims; rather, I mean for a supermarket so I could buy provisions, but none were open... I walked past a Churros vendor (sort of like donuts that don't connect?) and asked for three Churros please, because I knew any more would make me sick, and I have no self-control when it comes to sweet things. The women exclaimed that I had to buy six for one euro. I couldn't understand why I couldn't buy three for half a euro... The mathematic puzzle really didn't seem too deep to me, however, language barriers resisted my abilities for debate, and so as expected, I ate like a glutinous pig.

Dolphins, the greatest animals on the planet, piloted us out of Finisterre, as I made for Ria De Muros. They danced around the boat, and I would have jumped in to join them, if it wasn't for my Churros illness. I motored into Muros town, and tied up against the fishing harbour wall. No one seemed to mind, so I walked around for a bit, bought eleven tins of anchovy olives, and moved Constellation into the bay so I could sit at anchor, listen to shortwave radio, and eat my tinned olives in the tranquility of not being tied side-on to something. It was still daylight (day/night has effects on stations one can receive), so I was stuck with Christian Science Monitor, and Radio Slovakia German Special Edition on the radio. As you can imagine, I understood neither. Actually, that's a lie... I could understand about 20% of the German Special Edition, however one fifth of any conversation leaves much to be desired. As night fell, BBC World finally came online, and I lay in bed happily listening to the ailments of the planet, reported every fifteen minutes of every day, 365 days a year.

I left Muros for Sanxenxo (pronounced Sanshensho), for reasons I still don't quite understand. I think the name attracted me... I should have powered onto Baiona, but I wasn't finished with the Rias, and Sanxenxo seemed like a good place to stop. While on route, the Guardia Civil (coastguard) curiously powered past. I curled up in a ball in the cockpit to reduce my visibility. This is an instinctive animal trait, that assumes if I cannot see the Guardia Civil, the Guardia Civil cannot see me. In actual fact, they probably now think my vessel is not under command, or I have not set a proper watch, further incriminating me. I fear the Guardia Civil for several reasons, mostly because they could get me on a number of technicalities if they so chose, and I hear they enjoy paperwork, strict rules, and small red boats. In light of all my bad mouthing, they carried on, and left me huddled in a ball thinking up good excuses as to why I didn't have VHF licence or a motor cone up.

In the distance I could see the triangles of sails as I made my approach to Sanxenxo. Out here they appear to be an anomaly - I am about the only sailboat around, so I was happy to see some others out enjoying the distinct lack of wind. I was rather suprised to see several boats sailing quite quickly in the distance, past Isla Ons. How on earth they were sailing was beyond me, as the air was so still, you could see smoke rising from the villages in enormous vertical trails. All I could think of, was that each boat had it's crew on the 'windward' side, blowing great mouthfuls of air onto the sails, to the timing of the skipper cum coxon. In the interest of hypotheticals, if any physicists are onboard, could you please tell me whether or not that would actually be possible... Because if it is, I think I'm going to ditch the solo thing.

As I eventually came into Sanxenxo, which was now dark, I was admiring the surrounding hills when the most curious thing happened: They all quite literally disappeared. In front of my eyes, a huge power outage unlit an entire city. For a second, I thought it was the sneaky Guardia Civil, testing to see whether I was doing Streetlight Pilotage (a close cousin of Stern Light Navigation). Minutes later the city came back online, and I was still floating, which must have meant I had past the test, which as you can imagine, was a great relief.

Thud.

Nothing of particular interest happened in Sanxenxo... I bought some more olives, and left the next day for Baiona (Bayona). I plotted my projected course, punched in my waypoints, setup my routes and sailed south in a perfect wind on the beam. This soon evaporated like a fox, putting 'August' the mighty Yanmar back on shift, to my great annoyance. It wasn't all bad though, as I kept one eye on the compass, and one eye on Fernando Pessoa, until I came closer to Baiona. Then, out of nowhere came a stiff wind and enormous choppy swell. I was not prepared to do any 'real' sailing, the boat was a mess, and I expected nothing less than calm seas and sunny weather, as it had been for the past four hours, and the past five days. I launched the foresail to harness some of this precious wind, and I started flying along at 5kts, burying the bow, and probably slightly over powered. The coffee plunger fell over, covering the floor, the cabinets flew open, and the books on the chart table ended up in the sink, but Constellation was a free bird, almost soaring directly into the wind (upwind is a long keeled, skinny boat speciality). A tanker and a tug boat went past before I could change tack for Baiona, and eventually I docked at the fancy yachtclub closest to the breakwater. The Marinara attempted to put me stern-to with a slime line on the bow, which I think is the most horrible way of marina mooring on the planet, especially for visitors. Sorry, but it's just stupid. Give me a finger pontoon please, or something else distinctly grounded. Not to mention the fact that reversing a long keeled boat is near impossible, and I've got a 1600euro windvane hanging off the back which I don't relish the thought of impaling on a pontoon... So I high-tailed out of there, and went to the lesser Deportivo next door, which was more my style anyway. The fancy one had a restaurant with leather couches, a cigar cabinet, and oil paintings of square riggers painted in pastille colours hanging on the walls. It really wasn't me... Stick me in with the fishermen any day, at least they're interesting, and are really, truly, the only genuine people of the sea.

Baiona was one of my milestones. Thinking of sailing to Australia is impossible - It's simply too far away. I can only think in baby steps... For me, sailing from Amsterdam to Calais was a milestone. Cherbourg was my next milestone, as was Camaret, and then La Coruna. Baiona was my next one, with Lisbon being my last before hitting the Atlantic islands, where my milestones become much further apart. So, as Baiona was a milestone, I was kind of irritated by how things were going. First, the unpredicted wind and sea-state-weirdness, then the silly stern-to idea, and then once in the other marina I was redirected to about three different pontoons because they were all 'prohibido', even though the place is desolate and I'm probably the first sailor from a foreign port they've seen since the end of October. And then, I put my shoes on, and the starboard shoe was full of coffee. I think it was just one of those days...

Special thanks to Cindy at Cindigo for the donation. You rock! I suspect it was a subtle suggestion that I should go by some seasickness medication! ;)

So, I need to get cracking down to Lisbon before Christmas day...

nick.

I Love Laxe!

So far, I have been amazingly fortunate on all counts. As you know, I've hopped into a lot of ports along my trip, becoming quite the expert on entering foreign harbours almost always in the dark, because poor Constellation takes so long, and also (mostly) because I can't stand the idea of waking up before 9am to sail. Which means, if you leave late, you arrive late... Coming into port at night is also a nice challenge after sitting at the helm all day. A challenge except when struck by terror. My first day out after spending 39 days in La Coruna had me chronically sea sick, having been on dry land far too long. I was vomiting over the side of Constellation every hour, for the entire nine hour journey. I was trying really hard to make my first day out a triumphant sail, by going non-stop to Bayona, which would have been a twenty four hour sail. I wanted to get around Finisterre quickly, knowing that bad weather was swiftly heading towards land from far out at sea.

If you've ever been sea sick, you know that while you're sick, you are depressed, tired, and you hate the sea with a great passion. But, after you throw up, you're all keen again. So, for the majority of every hour, I just wanted to sink Constellation and go sleep in front of a warm fire, on dry land. And then I'd be sick, and be back on track, ready to go non-stop to Bayona, often thinking 'to hell with it, I'm going non-stop to Lisbon!'. Some ten minutes later, I'd be back in the dumps, wondering how to safely sink the boat, launch the liferaft and not forget my wallet so I could get the next flight home.

In the end, after all the ups and downs of what to do and where to sail, I decided to just pull into Laxe. I looked in the pilot book, and there was supposed to be a small boat pontoon which I could tie up to. There were no marinas until Camarinas, and I thought I might get away with a free night or two on the pontoon, or if not, I could according to the pilot safely lay at anchor. I was still really sick, and on entrance into Laxe, I had made a severe navigational mistake. I kid you not, I was within seconds of sinking Constellation for real - And not because I wanted to (or maybe my deep subconscious had purposely altered my route, hoping to grant my secret wish).

I was diligently following my GPS route, but not following the track (ie. my course was in the right direction, but not in a perfectly straight line), as clearly the tide was pushing me to port. I was motoring along with a fairly large swell annoying me from the stern, when my peripheral vision picked up the whites of breaking waves. Directly in front of me, lay a rocky outcrop, which I was just about to crash into. Instinctively I reached down for the throttle and pushed 'August' the mighty Yanmar into full ahead, glancing down at the depth sounder as I did the fastest 180 degree turn in history, seeing it read three metres. I had two thoughts as I swung around, the first being 'three metres oh my God!!!' (that's the watered down version) and the second being 'at least when I shipwreck, I can sit on the rocks as they are high enough above the water and wait until morning'. Thankfully, I was fast enough, and I motored away, shivering with cold, stress and sickness. I marked my current position, and derived a new safer waypoint from the Pilot chartlet to home in on. This all took longer than expected, it was such a dark night, the moon was nowhere to be seen, and everytime I was sitting in the cockpit trying to create a new route into Laxe, Constellation seemed to want to steer back into the rocks.

When my navigation was under control, I closed Laxe, and as I did, the smell of land hit me. You never seem to notice the loss of the earths smell on departure, yet on arrival, it literally smells like someone has placed a handful of earth under your nose. This time there was the mixed smell of wood smoke, and I could feel my sea sickness being left at sea. Eventually I arrived at 10pm, looking everywhere for the small boat pontoon. It was nowhere to be found... Fishermen on the breakwater were eagerly watching me motor in circles as I wondered what to do. The swell was up and there was no way I could safely anchor, even with the new fifty metre nylon rode I bought so I could spend more time with the hook down. I decided to sail into the breakwater and tie up on the inside of the breakwater wall where all the fishing boats were sitting on buoys. In hindsight, I should have just picked up an unused buoy, but I was concerned about what the buoys were attached to, and having such a large audience on the wall, I thought it best not to annoy anyone by stealing their ships parking spot in plain view.

I motored into the calm protected harbour, and prepared Constellation to sit against the high wall. A group of people came by as I motored up, taking my lines and tying Constellation up. No one really spoke English, but everyone was interested to see the small boat flying a foreign flag. I took out my pilot book and asked where the small boat pontoon was - Apparently it is only 'installed' in summer! There was no port authority or irritable bureaucracy to deal with, and I was happy to be on land again. Constellation took a battering against the wall, so now she unfortunately has pink marks along her sides, showing her undercoat through three coats of enamel. I was very concerned the swell would smash the spreaders against the wall, but thankfully the swell was only mild on the inside, and paintwork can always be repaired.

The next day, a fisherman came onboard, and told me ten metre waves were forecast, and that I should tie Constellation up on a buoy, and sleep in a hotel. I was as you can imagine, somewhat concerned. I tried to motion that I was not going to motor onto a buoy as the winds were already too strong, and that I would stay with the boat. He then said to me with great seriousness, that if it became too bad, I must leave the boat, as there are many yachts, but only one life. I went from being concerned to being very, very concerned, verging on plain frightened. The little port was well protected, but if a local tells you such things, surely it must only be natural go from concerned to petrified. So throughout the night, I woke up every hour to check the lines and ensure the weather hadn't deteriorated too badly. The winds did increase to great strength, with Constellation pinned to the breakwater wall, her paintwork taking a serious beating, yet it was nothing too terrifying or life threatening.

The morning after, the same fisherman arrived again with his brother. He said the weather was going to get worse, and that he was going to help me move onto a buoy, having phoned around to find a free one. He insisted that I was going to stay with his brother until Tuesday when the weather was predicted to improve. There was little possibility to argue, as most of this was understood through sign language or broken single words. We moved Constellation over, another fisherman helping with his rowboat. Quickly and under-prepared, I took a few things from the boat and was rowed ashore. The brothers drove past a friend and knocked on his door, exclaiming he was excellent in English, and would explain what was going on. As the door opened, I was greeted with a thick London accent, yet the friend (who turned out to be a cousin) also spoke impeccable Spanish. He explained everything, and I was rushed off to Miguels house. I was expecting to be sleeping on the couch with a big family on the hill, but was genuinely suprised when I was handed the keys to a completely furnished top story apartment, with a view of the sea! I was lost for words, as Miguel showed me around, turned on the TV, and said his mother would bring food in two hours! I lay down for a bit, and on queue, Miguels mother appeared, with a huge pot of homemade spinach stew, bread, milk, cans of beer, coffee, salami, cheese, yoghurt and tuna. I was literally dumbfounded with the incredible show of generosity. I was, and still am, lost for words; and not only Spanish ones.

I spent the day relaxing, yet nervous about Constellation. I also hadn't brought enough clothes with me, being in a rush after tying up. As I was rowed ashore by another fishermen, I had no rowboat, or dinghy to get back... Poor Constellation was out there on her own, and I had no real way to go aboard. I eagerly went out to borrow a row boat, but whimped out at the thought of stealing someone else's boat without asking Miguel about row-boat-etiquette. Somewhat disappointed, I went back to the apartment, drank coffee, and tried to watch Four Weddings and a Funeral. It was a rather painful event, seeing Hugh Grant overdubbed in Spain's very own Spanish-Speaking-Hugh-Grant-Voice-Alike, but I had little else to do, and it was blowing a hoolie outside. I understood nothing of the film, and found myself not really watching, but rather just worrying about my little stranded boat, biting my nails and channel surfing for English programs. It didn't help that between the TV breaks, reports would come up in the news, talking about the horrific weather, showing pictures of huge waves crashing against the coastlines of Galicia.

The following day I walked around the town, and worked out the row boat laws - You simply borrow one when you need it. At lunch, Miguels mother again turned up with an armful of amazing food, this time a huge potato fritata, bread, and extra milk. I just wish I had more Spanish to express my thanks, beyond 'Gracias, gracias, gracias muchos gracias!'.

I spent the rest of the day meandering far up into the hills, going in a southwest direction, scoping out where I was to be sailing next. The area was stunning, with the days walk being well worth the trouble of coming into Laxe. Everywhere I went, dogs barked at me, which always makes me feel like I'm a criminal or being told off for something - I'm sure that feeling has some kind of deep-set freudian meaning, but lets not there...

I came home at dusk, attempting to watch Spanish TV again, but still nothing made sense (how suprising). I ended up reading a Webb Chiles book and leafing through the Atlantic Islands pilot guide, taking special note of average temperatures... I'm really getting tired of being in the tail end of the nice weather - I want warm waters, t-shirts and an excess of swimming. Alas, the true temperatures I pine for (30c+) will not be too frequent until I reach the Caribbean, some (seemingly) two million miles away. I will end this post with a quote from Chiles himself, whom I have had the fine fortune of discussing sailing matters with, and who has taken the time to answer my questions with great pragmatism.

"To me a voyage is essentially an act of will and a testing of the human spirit. If a sailor doesn't learn anything more important from the sea than how to reef a sail, the voyage wasn't worth making. One of the pleasures in setting out on a voyage is not knowing where the sea will lead. On a voyage a sailor is at risk. On a voyage a sailor knows he is truly alive. A voyage is not an escape from life; it is a reach for life."

nick (click here for a few more photos of Laxe)

Fickle weather, People of La Coruna

Thanks so much to everybody emailing support and for commenting on my last post, it was all really encouraging. I was hoping to have left today... But the weather has been bizarre. Just two days ago, the forecast for today was huge swell (7.2metres!) and high winds, which is not conducive to making it around Cape Finisterre. Just yesterday, local Navtex stations were reporting gales at Force 8 - Which I think was completely off the mark, as there was barely a draft going through the washboards. It's very confusing, trying to make a decision on when to leave. As of today the next five days are looking good. Swell is still up through till Thursday or Friday, presumably from conditions created by the low pressure system that has been hanging around. I wish it would just go away already. Conditions 100nm down the coast are much better - La Coruna is clearly a magnet for bad weather.

Constellation really wants to leave, she is starting to look like a messy houseboat, it's horrible. Although strapping loads of stuff to the deck does make her look somewhat impressive to some, I suspect the majority of the Real Club Nautico (local sailing club) think I'm a smelly singlehander that should be at anchor, not in their impressive white-boat-marina. Couple Constellation's chaotic appearance and the big Australian flag, it really does look like I've just sailed from Australia, as opposed to the other way around. Finely dressed Spaniards walk along the pontoons, regularly checking mooring lines, as I slouch up and down with bags of pasta from Gadis, saying 'Hola' with far too much enthusiasm.

This isn't to say I haven't met some really amazing people here. Not long after tying up, one of the marina staff took a shining to my boat. He really liked her. Several days later, he said there was another boat, just like mine, on the opposite side. I thought he was daft, maybe confusing Constellation with something of a lesser pedigree. But, I did wonder over for a look nevertheless. And what did I find? Nothing other than a really lovely white Contessa 26, her owner onboard, flying the Spanish flag. I tried to explain that I had a boat exactly the same, pointing to the other side, however we both just stared at each other blankly, having big 'no comprendo' looks at each other (hey, what happened to Esperanto?). In the end, he made a phone call, and gave me the phone. 'Errr, hello?' It was his son on the other line, speaking perfect English. I explained, he explained. It turns out, this little white boat, had sailed all the way from England, through the Med, Suez, around the Cape of Good Hope, and then back up to Alicante, Spain! Wow, another impressive Contessa voyage. Funnily (or, not really) enough, he was in trouble with Spanish authorities, because he had no paperwork for the boat, it had all drowned. How you ask? Much the same way my boat filled up with water when on the hard: The cockpit filled, and flooded the interior, taking the paperwork with it. This lovely Contessa owner invited me to lunch the following day. His son picked me up, drove me at breakneck speed to the family business. Which, as it turned out, was vinegar factory in one part of town, and in another part a spirits refinary! I had a tour of the vinegar factory, which still uses big oak barrels, admiring the family collection of strange cars, with a Uni Mog in the front garden, and a beautiful 1950's Mercedes restoration in the shed. We went out for a stunning lunch, and he invited me out again the following day! Here, he offered to loan me his spinnaker and spinnaker pole, as well as a mooring in Alicante (the Mediterranean) if I decided to stay in Europe. What amazing generosity.

Later in the week, I saw someone poking around my boat. I looked out of the hatch, and saw a man double bent over, trying to read the transom stickers. He popped up with fright when I said 'hola!', and we chatted for awhile. He came back several weeks later, holding the hand of a very young and pretty girl. He exclaimed 'this is my sister!!' and I sort of looked at him oddly. Later he told me he meant to say it was his daughter, which made much more sense. He took me out to coffee, and explained (there were some communication difficulties, so the story may not be quite right) that the OSTAR singlehanders used to come in near his house after the long race. He would row out in his boat to greet them, and chat about their craziness. He then took a look at my legs, and exclaimed 'oh yes, all solo sailors in small boats have tiny legs. I think you have tiny legs'. I laughed. I guess I do. Unfortunately that probably just has more to do with my anatomy than my sailing, since I've been spending more time walking around aimlessly than sailing great distances...

And then I met Monica, at a local cafe. She works there, the cafe is called 'Gasthof', which I must have been attracted to because of the German name (it means Guest House, if I'm not mistaken). Eventually after I kept showing up every once and awhile over the month I've been here, she started asking what I was doing in La Coruna. I explained, and Monica took a great shining to the idea, also after finding out I was not a 'sailing bigos Pijo*' (I don't know what the word is or out to spell it, but I presume it is Spanish for 'snob' or something to that effect!). Not long after, she left for Madrid for a holiday, but not without sending me a present of great generosity, with some photos of my boat to stick to the cabin roof. Thank you again Monica, you've been so generous.

While I have loved it here in Coruna, I really do hope my next post is from another port. It is time to move on. Constellation is biting at the bit, we must go.

nick

* Tudor, my official trip advisor, and official translator (gosh, he's so official!), says: "Pijo, you have correctly guessed is a snob, but it has a slightly different demographic in Spain. More like a "conformist middle-class snob", as these are the people that wear tweeds, Burberry, Barbours and such, looking like thay have just come off a stag hunt in Scotland."

Well and truly... Crossing a Big Ocean!

It is with great amazement, humility and excitement that I am able to announce that Constellation and I, are going to answer the call of the Atlantic Ocean. Thanks to a highly generous friend, mentor and all around good person, I have a sponsor / loan of sorts, which is going to power me across the Atlantic, this year, on schedule. The last month has been fraught by disappointment, plan changes, incessant nervous walking, and scheming. But now, all that is a memory, as my head explodes with things that need doing, work I had commited to that requires finishing, and repairs that need to be made, so I can fly like the wind to my start point in the Canary Islands. Really, thank you. Help from new and old friends is abound. Thank you again(!) to Martin at Autosystems, for his exceptional encouragement, and kindness. Marty & Autosystems are helping me out with a Satellite phone for my Atlantic crossing, so I can give updates back home, maybe make a call for Christmas, and keep this site updated with positions and reports. Incredible.

Thank you to Brian at Southampton Trailer Hire for the donation - Quite amazingly, Brian has Constellation's original trailer for hire - If you check out his site, there are even pictures of her former self! Thank you Brian, and if you ever need a hire, do think about returning his favour to me, in the form of hiring one of his trailers.

Thank you to Tudor, for his donation, and unwavering support, and 'official trip advisor' status. Tudor has been my secret weapon, a person who I have been able to ask stupid questions without fearing ridicule, a person who shows great patience with my fickle plans and constant changes. Everytime I have a query, Tudor has time to help me out with great pragmatism.

Thank you to the new Dutch sailing site, SailorsForSailors.com, a site soon to be launching in English at the end of the month, so keep an eye out. SailorsForSailors is a portal full of cruising stories, comprehensive marina reviews, videos and regular updates. Thanks to these guys, I'm able to to actually leave the marina here in La Coruna.

Thank you to Monica for being my 'friend and sister in La Coruna' - You rock!

Thank you also to Spud, Liam, and David for the donation and words of support, you guys are fantastic.

So where and what to do now? As I said, I have things to finish here in Coruna before anything else. I have some bits and pieces of work to finish off, and also I need to 're-commission' Constellation. I arrived here, dumped everything on deck, took the mainsail off the track, packed her up and cleaned away the sheets. She's a mess inside and out, and needs tending to before getting back out to sea. I hope to leave within the next five to six days, weather pending - Things I hope will pickup in seven days, once that enormous low figures out where, and what it's doing. It's getting cold here in northern Spain, so I keenly look forward to warmer climes. The weather in Barbados is a balmy 30degrees. My oh my, who would have thought I would be looking at Caribbean temperatures so soon?! No, not I.

I've not really done any route planning as such, all this news is almost as new to you, as it is to me. But of course, I will stop off in Lisbon (where I can re-read The Book of Disquiet in spectacular context), hopping down to Cadiz, and then of course I will have to watch Humphrey Bogart as I dock in Casablanca, simply because it's there, and what an experience... I guess I'll follow the standard route afterwards, spend some time in Las Palmas before dropping off the edge into the great abyss, and with great luck, hit land some 25-30 or so days later. I have a ways to go before I get to my starting point, so best not to get too far ahead of myself... But, I'm very excited and very nervous.

Thank you everybody, I'm lost for words.

nick.

Well & Truly Stuck (in a good way)

It has now been three weeks in La Coruna. I guess it's become a self-fulfilling prophecy that I would end up here for winter... As I've said before, every major port I arrive in, I admit defeat and proclaim that I'm stopping, getting a job, and getting a haircut. Somehow I've managed up until here, but La Coruna clearly has some kind of magnetic anomaly which has me glued to the waters surface. I had however triumphantly proclaimed earlier this week that I'd had it, I was going south regardless of all my worldly problems: I still had one tiny trick left up my sleeve, which was to call Lloyds Bank, and somehow convince them I really needed the ₤90's worth of overdrawn fees returned to my account. I had a long forgotten automated transaction take me to to a 'whopping' ₤18 in the red, which resulted in this incredible overdraw penalty. I also had the fortune of a secret cheque in my name, to the tune of ₤125, yet it was useless if cashed onto an account already in the negative. This lone cheque was the result of the local Esso factory in Bursledon spilling it's black soot all over the boatyard I was in, entitling me to compensation to clean the boat. Good friends from the yard filled in the forms for me, and collected the cheque on my behalf, but I had no way of cashing it. I was really trying to avoid a bad credit record in the UK, so I had been pondering that I might cash it anyway, to get rid of my 'debt'... To cut a lengthening story short, I knew if I could get the fees back, cash the cheque, plus the €50 marina key deposit, I could release myself from these pontoon shackles, and edge further south in search of more good luck, and heaven forbid, maybe even a small job. But unfortunately, after telling you my most private banking secrets and hidden cheque stories, there is no triumphant or happy ending. Sometimes when you're about to hit a brick wall, you actually do.

Which brings me to my next thoughts on the topic; of why I mention all this... I often think back to the days when I dreamt all of this up, and just really had no idea how I could make it happen. You read the same story over and over again, about someone doing something on large sponsorship, a good pension, or simply a lot of money. I guess I'd like my story to be about the person who tried to do too much with too little. I tell you not of my woes in hope for a step up (but I am incredibly honoured when granted one), but rather to chronicle things for myself and others, and ultimately to be one of the limited success stories in small boat, small funded and independent long distance sailing. While I may make out that things are difficult (and mostly they are, but on a relative scale), the truth of the matter is, I would not have it any other way. Someone said to me the other day 'if it really gets too hard, why not just sell up and leave'? I've never thought of doing that - I've thought of what I might do if I sank the boat, (which if you're wondering, would be to start walking home, or buy another one) but very little energy has been dedicated to the subject of selling up. Besides, if I did that, then what would I do?

I say all this, to prep you (and maybe myself...) for the news that I simply cannot continue this year, and I will be staying in La Coruna, working, and building my own ideas into things that will power me forward, as early as possible next year. Up until now I have avoided saying the final 'this is it, I'm staying put', because I've always secretly held out that something would happen. But in my quiet reflections on the situation, I was honest with myself, and admitted that without sizable cash injection, even if I did manage to get out of here, I'd quite simply get stuck a little further down the coast, yet again. I also came to the conclusion that I was really happy to have come this far, and also felt good that I could sit back and stop for a minute, knowing that I had tried as hard as I possibly could to get here.

So what now? Well, I may not be able to sail, but I will never rest! I have my own ideas and projects to work on, and I hope to get enough paid work to keep me nourished and in good spirits (if you need any web development work, be sure to hit me up!). Over the next few months, I'll tell you all about what I'm working on, what I've been doing, and about future additions my sailing project. This entire idea has always been bigger than myself, and I hope to keep it that way with some slight additions and route changes.

Thanks so much to everybody for your help and encouragement in getting this far. Everywhere I go, people are helping in every way they can, and it's almost arrogant to say that I sail singlehanded. I hope my temporary defeat is not disappointing to you all, and I trust on prior experience, you know that any admission of 'defeat' is closely coupled with the word 'temporary' - I will get home, on a small boat, alone and with much gusto!

nick.

La Coruna Update

So it's now almost been two weeks since I arrived in La Coruna. My work situation has kind of disintegrated, for a number of technical reasons I won't bore you with. This poses a minor problem to my plans, but alas, there is nothing I can do but keep pushing and searching for solutions. I'm really becoming quite aware about how easy it could be for me to stay here and not move for the winter, which is unnerving, so the search continues. At present, I literally can't afford to pay my way out of the marina (you pay on departure here, as opposed to day-by-day, which means you put yourself in a debt of sorts...), so until something comes out of the woodwork, I'm iced in. I like to think of myself as being a Shackleton of sorts, stuck not really by choice, but rather by extremities. My capture being pure economics, as opposed to a harsh icy climate though - The weather here is actually quite stunning. I was somewhat amazed to find an article on the web about my attempts at work, yet it was positive, and definitely a good advertisement for any future employers! It was also quite exciting that Tom and Tina Sjogren of Explorersweb Inc. took any interest at all in my predicament, they being the ultimate adventuring duo, and also hosts to one of the largest portals of genuine adventure and exploration. It's also been one of my favourite websites for a long time, from the days of sitting back and dreaming of far flung adventures.

Besides all my ongoing woes, I've certainly not been bored while living here - Several days ago the German schooner 'Johan Smidt' appeared overnight, with a crew of high school students and teachers, on a program called 'Die High Seas High School'. One of the English teachers noticed my ridiculously large Australian flag (it was all I could find over here!), and came over to talk - He was quite unexpectedly from Adelaide, Australia, and invited me over for a cooked lunch, and to do a talk about my voyage in English to the students.



I spoke about my voyage across from England to Holland, and they were all rather impressed I knew Johannes Erdmann, who had in fact sailed up to Vlissingen with me. I spoke about my lack of toilet facilities, and explained that two buckets consisted of the toilet, the bathtub, and the kitchen sink. They were rather amused to hear I thought their boat was a floating motel, and insisted on seeing my little ship that I was intending to sail home on. So we walked around to Constellation, at which point there were gasps of astonishment, as they climbed in and out of my little boat, which I had to explain should not be boarded by all of them at the same time, for fear of sinking her.

I'd only spent a tiny amount of time with the crew of this new arrival, but when throwing their lines off, I must admit I felt a little sad. It's always hard being the one who is left behind - It's far better to leave first...

It wasn't long after, that I met a local Mini-Transat (Classe Mini) sailor, who invited me out racing. I can sail a boat in one direction, but I can tell you now: I'm no racer! It was a fun experience, and I've always wanted to sail one of these crazy French pocket rockets. I think they are the 21st century answer to the Contessa 26 - In fact, I wouldn't be suprised if they had a similar length in the water. There was little wind, but you could really feel that these boats go amazingly fast, and crossing the Atlantic in them in the bi-annual race is one incredible feat. It was also interesting to be on a boat specifically designed for solo offshore racing. They are virtually unsinkable, with foam core added for buoancy, and have a number of important safety features, such as the transom escape hatch, and the ability to completely seal off the cabin. Demasted or similar, I think you could 'happily' curl up in your floating pod and survive quite nicely. I'd love to have unlimited funds and the aid of a naval architect to build the ultimate one-handed offshore cruising boat! The minitransat is a nice idea for racing, but for my own super-boat design, I'd lessen her beam, increase the length a little, and up the displacement, increase the weight and strength of the keel, yet keep all the safety and unsinkable traits - I would now like to be referred to as 'Nick Jaffe, RNA, PE'.

After my racing experience, I suprisingly found another Contessa 26 in the marina. Noticing the owner onboard, I found out via the son being a translator, that the boat was named 'Fantasia', and had in fact come from England, via the French canal system, the Med, and around the Cape of Good Hope, right back up to Alicante! Who the skipper was, I have no idea, but if you know, please mail or leave a comment, I'd be most interested. I've been invited to lunch tomorrow by the owner, which I'm looking forward to.

So, while I've had a lot to do in La Coruna, none of it really solves my immediate problem of be stuck in an economic ice berg. I've tried to motivate myself by reading the adventures of Shane Acton, aboard Super Shrimpy, the 18ft plywood boat which he sailed around the world on with less money than I, but alas, it's neither made me any money, nor inspired any further 'southing.

What comes next, I'm not really sure. But one thing is for certain, I need to learn Spanish!

nick.

Serious Sailing

And I thought Biscay was big! Over the last seven days, I've sailed 200metres... Yes, I'm still in La Coruna. Why? Well, when I say I've run out of money, I don't lie. But firstly, thank you to Paul & Lisa, from the Swedish sailing vessel Eekaros, currently docked in Amsterdam. They're going around the world, and currently saving for a larger boat. Their current one isn't that much bigger than mine, and they're totaling three persons onboard (including the kitten)! I was looked after like family while in Holland by these lovely sailors, and they've assisted me again with some funds to keep me eating until my first paycheck. Here is a picture of us, with me wearing the same jumper I've had on since I left Australia, in 2006!


Monnikendam, Holland


Yes, I know the fenders are down. The engine failed, I wasn't suppsed to be sailing...

Thanks guys!

A few days after arriving here, by great coincidence, someone I previously worked for via the web emailed with a job. So, being in a fortunate position where work is achievable if I just have an Internet connection, I'm staying here for a month to refill the boat with beans & diesel. And make repairs... I don't earn a lot (seriously, working in a bar pays better) but if it means I can keep sailing, then I'll do anything.

I've been here for seven days now, and it's been fantastic. I've met really nice liveaboards, had a chance to recover from my sleepless Biscay crossing, and La Coruna is an interestingly transient place. There are ships from Norway, America, and even Japan coming through, and all going places far away. You can tell the boats that have made it this far, are not the day cruisers normally encountered when out sailing. The boats here have crossed the Atlantic, are just about to, or are heading off to other distant places. This also means that a lot of people are arriving from Biscay, all with stories of fighting FORCE 10 CONDITIONS. I'm well aware Biscay is more than capable of throwing up such harrowing storms, but I must admit, I've been taking Force reports with a grain of salt, and automatically reducing them by 3 points. It's a little bit like estimating wave heights at sea - If you think the swell is six metres, the true height is half. I've been guilty of it myself, but I blame horizon physics, a secret branch of a science I just invented.

It is also really exciting that I've been able to get a little work while in La Coruna, because this means that with about 75% probability (I've just calculated that on a large computer), I will actually be making my own Atlantic crossing by the end of the year, or, at the very beginning of the next. This is really amazing, because I never thought I would be able to achieve it so soon - Every port I've arrived in, I've told the locals that I can't continue, and that I'll have to 'winter'. And every time, something crops up that allows me to just move a little bit further. Also, having done with Biscay, I can relax for a little bit without fearing the weather too much. Biscay was a massive hurdle for the logistics of the trip, however now I can almost day hop down to Lisbon, wait for another good forecast, and go direct to Madeira.

I will probably wait in Madeira, or nearby for another few weeks, possibly I can even work again to make further repairs, and hopefully arrive in the Caribbean with more than $14 and six overdrawn accounts. So far, repairs scheduled for La Coruna, involve replacing all the chain plates for the standing rigging, installing an electronic bilge pump, replacing the mainswitch (again) and generally tidying up.

Other than that, my stay here will mostly involve being cabin bound with my laptop, watching the pilot vessels come in and out of the marina.

nick.

Hello Spain, Biscay Smashed!

Before I tell you of the trials and tribulations of my most feared voyage, let me begin at the beginning... The beginning being the day before I left for Spain. As readers can no doubt tell, I like to change my mind. One minute, I'm a bee keeper in Brittany, the next I've moved on already. People I've met along the way, I think will agree on my seemingly random movements. They ask 'where are you going?' Some days it's Portugal, others it's Australia, and then to others it's 'Just around the corner... And then I think I'll stop.'

So, with that in mind, I left Camaret to go buy something I couldn't find anywhere else but in a larger town, like Brest. I had already decided as previously mentioned, I would coast hop until there was a Biscay window, or maybe not... Possibly I would just go through the canal and skip the Bay altogether. I left Camaret for a short hop to Brest under a perfect Easterly wind, and connected the windvane, just because one only feels like a captain when barking orders at crew. The windvane never listens, but anyway, it's the action not the outcome.

Turning up into the Rade De Brest, the current was strong, but I just wanted to go lay on a buoy for the night, and I was in no rush. I sailed upwind at 1kt, and attempted to fish with a spinner I found on the pier in L'Aber Wrac'h. As I fished (or rather, dangled a useless line to fish smarter than I) a large tanker came into the Rade. I thought I would be an annoying yacht type, and let him change course... But he wouldn't have it, and I figured it was time I stopped dawdling and moved. I went to start the engine, only to hear a 'CLICK' and then silence. All the electrics in the boat instantly died in unison. Oh, well, that's an issue. For all you romantics that think I just move around powered by the elements, I've got a story for you.

Panic stricken I finally managed to move Constellation out of the way under sail, by turning around and taking the tide for a minute and straightening up out of the collision course. Two marinas existed on the other side of the Rade, which I tried desperately to sail upwind into strengthening tide. I missed the first one, and aimed high for the next. Alas, I was missing that one too... I started moving into a new collision course with a rock. Terrified to infinity, I saw a fisherman mooring his boat, scurried for my fog horn and blasted it like a steamship. At first he didn't understand what I meant. Meanwhile, a RIB was being put onto the back of a car, yet he obviously heard the horn, and re-launched. In the end, I was rescued by both boats, and as I pulled the sails down, I jumped into the cockpit as the boom swung around and hit me squarely between the eyes. Almost passing out and bleeding, I stood stunned for a minute, while under tow to a nearby buoy. This all happened in such a hurry, I took little notice of what was around me, still dazed and stressed about the situation.

Tied up, I reached into the cockpit locker for my toolkit, and frightfully saw that the buoy I was placed on, was too close to shore, and all the other boats around me were only small powerboats with shallow drafts. The fisherman was gone, and besides, I was too proud to ask for another tow. Soon, maybe in an hour, I'd not only be engineless, but I'd be on the ground. If that isn't motivation to think quickly, I don't know what is. Sweat was dripping from my brain as I searched out a logical reason for the failure, which after thinking it was a solenoid, and then some other things, I tracked it down to a blown vapour tight mainswitch. I disconnected everything, and built a temporary circuit block from parts, started up and moved to deeper water. What stress.

While in Brest, Commandersweather gave me a go ahead via email, several days earlier than anticipated for the Biscay crossing. I had to commit right away. Constellation was generally ready anyway, because I had planned to leave the day before, but I had no diesel onboard. Racing back to the marina, I arrived too late to purchase any in person, and I have no working credit card for the automated pump... Off I walked with arms full of jerry cans... I walked. And walked, and walked. I walked all the way back into Brest (you normally need to catch a bus) quite by accident, and then some. I could find no signs of a fuel station. Eventually I decided I would have to leave a day later than recommended, simply because I had no fuel, and I didn't want to leave without enough to power me right across the Bay if I needed to. But that wasn't good enough - I had to leave at 4am the next morning, and damned if a fuel station was going to stop me. I found a taxi, showed my cans and pleaded for him to take me somewhere. Finally he did, and it was to the only station in town: An automated one which you needed a credit card. Great. I stood there and tried standard ATM cards, but nothing. Eventually the driver detected my despair, and offered to use his card in exchange for cash - Good deal I thought! Back onboard, I lashed 50litres of fuel onto the deck, cleaned up a little and went to sleep at midnight. Checking the tides, I needed to leave at 5am, which I dutifully did, motoring out of the Rade, doing 8knots in its peak. A reasonable wind in a favourable direction prevailed, and off I was, towards a rather distant port.

Winds became increasingly light, and I decided I'd kristen the voyage with a motor sail to leave land as soon as possible. Unfortunately I wasn't quick enough, getting caught up in heavy tide around the Point Du Raz. Frustratingly I went nowhere for a good four hours, yet by 8am the next morning, having helmed all night for lack of wind to power the self-steering, I finally made it to the continental shelf. If you look on a chart, this is an area where a wriggly line shows water going from 100ft in depth, all the way down to 4000ft in a relatively short distance. It is an area where waves can build, and I'd been wary off it since leaving Brest, approaching it with a grim frown on my face. I needn't have worried in the end, but there was definitely an increase in wave activity. The small chop soon became the infamously long and slow Atlantic rollers. I started to become agitated by helming all the time, but thankfully rest came at 9am with a slight but steady breeze. I 'cat napped' (technically termed 'polyphasic sleep') waking up at 20minute intervals for checks, the boat finally sailing herself. This lasted for around two hours, before the wind died out, and I was back at the helm. Lashing the tiller down was useless, with the waves always changing the boats course. I had a sneaking suspicion I was up for a very long and tiring passage.

As night fell, so did waves of fog. I was absolutely terrified. Not minutes before two large tankers had edged passed me, and here I was with nearly zero visibility and no radar or AIS. Panicking, I rummaged through my bookshelf to read up on the topic of fog. I knew there was no solution, but in my head all I could think of was to regularly announce my position and heading on VHF, and I wanted to know if that was a practiced maritime tactic, and if so, what the protocol was. The book 'Handling Troubles Afloat' simply said that fog was bad, and you should go into port. Well, I was nowhere near port, so that was utterly useless information. I decided to take my own action regardless of whether it was the 'correct one', and spread an All Ships announcement of my heading, position, speed and to request that ships use caution when transiting the area. This seemed at the time, the best I could do. Maybe all the boats around me were chuckling at my naivety, but really, when it comes to being run over, I care not for others opinions. I decided to make an announcement every hour, because VHF has a range of roughly 40nm, although probably reduced in fog. I reasoned that a tanker might do 20-25kts, and under given ranges, this was acceptable. In the end, I lived to tell the story, and no one ever acknowledged my calls. The fog never came back, having been blown out to sea after three hours and three All Ships announcements. In fact, I never saw another boat until I was 20nm away from Spain.

Through all this I helmed. Stuck at the tiller like my imprisoned self-steering should have been, I avoided sleep by reducing the clothes I was wearing to make myself cold, drinking coffee from a thermos. Other times I would stand up, 'suspending' myself by clutching a guardrail in each hand to stay awake. This went on for hours, keeping a course of 210degrees, not a whisker off. My second night with only two hours of stunted sleep since the beginning of the trip, I was becoming too exhausted to continue. The numbers on the compass were becoming blurred, my ears aching from the sound of the noisy little Yanmar engine. I decided I simply had to stop the boat, lash the tiller to one side, turn the engine off and sleep. So that's exactly what I did, sleeping like a stone in a field, for two glorious hours. Waking up, I refueled and pushed on through a monochrome night, brightly illuminated by a full moon.

You may wonder why I was so insistent on making such progress. My possible mistake was of telling a friend to become concerned if I arrived a day late. This meant that I had to keep my average speed up and not waver, otherwise people on the other side would start getting worried, and the concern of others is something I don't particularly like to instill. It was a mistake simply because sailing is not like driving a car. You cannot possibly make an accurate ETA, especially if you are under sail, and also unlike a car, you cannot pull over to make a call to tell the other party you're stuck in traffic. So I pushed on, determined to maintain my average speed of 4.5kts. Already I felt guilty about losing two valuable hours of progress by wasteful sleeping. By 5am a little wind arrived, just enough to power the steering. I quickly took the opportunity to sleep in 20minute intervals for an hour, before it died yet again.

The ever nauseating din of the diesel engine was really canceling out a lot of the sailing beauty of the journey. There is nothing quite like the romantic sounds of water being pressed aside by the hull, random creaks the halyards rattling inside the mast. But at the same time, I was incredibly thankful to have 'August' (that's the name of the engine) onboard - If it wasn't for his amazing reliability, I quite simply would have drifted to Newfoundland or somewhere similarly far away... Or maybe just washed up on the French surf coast, a beaten wreck, powerless without wind. I also rationalised that I'd rather be motoring than battling fierce winds and an angry ocean.

The deep sea of the Atlantic is unlike the other waters I have progressed through. It was clearly alive, with so many dolphins, flying fish and strange birds. While in one of my attempts at polyphasic sleep, tiny dreams would crop up, converging with reality. At times I was able to hear the sonar of dolphins reverberating through the hull. Or maybe it was just a dream? At one particular point, a tiny bird 100nm from the middle of nowhere appeared in my cockpit. Not a sea bird, but more like a sparrow. What was it doing out here? The poor bird was exhausted as I was, yet unlike me, didn't have to steer. Not long after touch down, the little bird fell asleep next to me. Curiously, I could even pat it's weary head. Eventually it began to shiver, so I moved him inside the cabin which was warm from the engine. He pooped all over my chart table, but I think it was a small price to pay for companionship in such a faraway place.

Throughout the entire journey, I never felt even a minute of loneliness. A lot of people first ask - 'You are all by yourself? Do you get lonely?' And the answer is almost always 'No'. Not once did I pine for conversation, or become fearful because I was alone. It was certainly the most lonely I've ever been, but lonely in a sense that I was simply completely by myself. To think in these times, it is rare for any one of us to spend a full 24 hours out of contact with the world. Ironically I feel, if anything, the greatest loneliness when I come into port, walking through the streets and watching others in merry self-amusement with friends. It's a curious thing to think that being alone on a tiny boat on a vast sea, is less lonely than being surrounded by a heaving mass of people.

Along the way, it seemed my appetite had completely diminished. I simply wasn't hungry, and I mostly ate things that I suspect didn't rate too highly on the food pyramid. Biscay was proudly powered by Haribo lollies and packets of chips. I did eat the cans of French food I had bought at dinners, and I must take up an extra minute of your time, just to say how incredible French canned food is. For the first time in my ownership, Constellation had an aroma of cooked chicken in a red wine sauce, wafting through hatch. The French make the best tasting canned food I've ever had.

This pattern of helming until I was so tired that I couldn't actually function without an hours sleep, continued the entire voyage. The wind never really came, and when it did, it was just like a fox; there for a minute, and then hidden around the crest of a roller, heading towards a faraway coast. Nights became day, as I watched full cycles of the moon and the sun overhead. As the sun went below the horizon to presumably illuminate my hometown, the moon would rise on the opposite side of the globe, brightly washing out all but the strongest stars. As it tracked across the night sky, I'd get my short sleep at last, and it would have hardly moved. By 8:30am, the sun would begin to add colour to the light, and so the day would begin. If I was lucky there would be a morning breeze, and I could sleep in intervals for an hour at best. Mostly I just concentrated on a course of 210degrees, and carefully listened to the engine, ever fearful it's consistent hum would change, indicating failure.

As I approached Spain, the only indication I was approaching civilisation was rubbish in the sea, and that my mobile received coverage 40nm out. In fact, one would never have known the country existed, as it wasn't until nightfall that I could actually see coastal lights; my navigation hadn't landed us in Boston. Rounding Cabo Prior, I was escorted by dolphins for the last 10miles, before tracking a straight line into La Coruna. The dolphins darted through the waves and under the hull at such an immense speed. I noticed that if I turned all the lights off, you could see the phosphorescent plankton trails underwater, as the dolphins sped up and broke through the surface. I motored into the marina at 3am, keeping a keen eye out for Henk De Velde. I saw his trimaran in Ijmuiden, and I hoped to finally meet him in person in La Coruna, him being stuck with a broken mainsail track. Disappointingly, he is way too fast, already on route to South America. Henk left at least a week later than I, and made it to La Coruna in what looks like less than 7 days. Next boat: High speed trimaran & crew.

I docked 'French style' on arrival - This style can be characterised by smoking a Gitane, and not bothering with the fenders or ropes. I had no cigarette, but doggedly I lay Constellation along side the pontoon, and secured her from the dock. With such a small boat, it's not hard to hold her alongside one-handed.

So that was Biscay, a trip which began at 5am on the 25th of October, and promptly finished at 3am on the 29th. I think the battle was with myself rather than with the elements. It was a sublime.

What now? Bullfighter of course.

nick.

Camaret Update

After my disappointment at the thought of Biscay, and not knowing what to do, I moved on from L'Aber Wrac'h the next day to Camaret, to wait for a Biscay window. This annoying piece of water has to be crossed somehow, and after some encouragement and a day to think about my options, I decided I had to go. With the assistance of the professional weather routers Commandersweather searching for a weather window, a time was identified for a possible cross today - But upon further analysis yesterday, the passage deemed too risky - Swell of 8ft+ and winds of 30kts. I was somewhat disappointed, as I was ready to go... I had spent the previous few days going over Constellation, refuelling, and buying provisions, only to still be sitting in the harbour - At least I have some nice food for the next week! I really wanted to pop up in Spain with this post, but there you have it, I'm under the control of a fickle weather beast.


Re-packing the entire boat

Thankfully I did a good check of the boat, as I found an inner stay (one of the wires holding the mast up) had pulled through a chain plate on the deck. The plate had rusted on the inside and snapped. With the helpful assistance of a new friend in the marina, the plate holes were re-drilled, and a new U-Bolt was bolted in with an oversized stainless back plate on the underside of the deck. Not only that, but said friends cooked me one of my first real meals in months - In fact, the day before my scheduled departure, I was spoilt with more home cooked food, having met a local British couple who live in Brittany. They drove me around to supermarkets so I didn't have to walk everywhere, and then took me home for a cooked lunch! I began to think 'two of the best meals in more months than I can remember in one day, with a big crossing the following - This is either reward for making the decision to cross, or the last supper!'.

So today, I think I'll move on down the coast, and wait on a new window. The forecasters think there could be something coming up next week, so I'll keep exploring the coastline and see how I go. If I slowly make my way down towards La Rochelle, and if no windows open up, I guess I can investigate the Canal Du Midi which will take me through to the Mediterranean - However I suspect parts of it will be closed over the next two months, which may make that option impassable. I'm basically completely out of money now too, so I'll hang out for another week, see what the weather is doing, cross if I can, or keep moving to La Rochelle, where I may be forced to park Constellation and seek work ASAP. If I can get a desk and an internet connection somewhere, I may be able to generate some money and move Constellation later on.

Any cheap marinas with free high speed WIFI between Camaret and La Rochelle?

nick.