Crossing the Bay of Biscay (day 3)

Trip Start Oct 15, 2010
Trip End Dec 15, 2010

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Flag of France  , Brittany,
Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Waked at 3am by Libellule I started the late watch in darkness with no stars and little wind and the motor running.  After half an hour of autopilot boredom I decided to test the wind.  I unfurled the genoa and fell off 45 degrees and saw the sails were taught, so I snuffed the engine and autopilot and began happily steering by compass and sail luff.  As the wind was directly on our nose I was losing a bit of our southing but gaining some decent westing, which I reckoned we needed more of.  Little did I know that there was a west sea current that was erasing all my westing gains.  So at the end of my shift, in grey morning light, Libellule laughed that I had taken us nothing but a bit north back toward France.

So we switched to the southing tack and enjoyed that course every bit as much, steering by the wind out in the middle of the now sedate Bay of Biscay.  I was actually feeling chipper and talkative and liking sailing again.  No more queasy tummy and actually pretty hungry.  Pappy and I took turns steering all day and talking nonsense while captain Libellule kept to the cabin, having had the notorious middle watch the night before.

But down there in his forward cabin in the afternoon Libellule heard a sound that he did not like: he thought it was a shroud about to break.  They all looked fine to me from the cockpit but we would take no chances and so we dropped the sails and plotted a course to the nearest port, Gijon in Spain, and fired up the motor.  Our course unfortunately put us nearly perpendicular to the rollers and swells so, as we traveled, all of us glum, we were constantly rocked hard from side to side.  Libellule had on the autopilot and the poor machine was screaming trying to control the tiller.

My turn for first watch, lasting until 11pm, and when it got dark everyone went below to wedge themselves into their berths and try to sleep.  The black waves continued to pummel us now, unseen, and it was almost better not to see them coming, and in case of the dreaded big one I put two boards in the hatchway and clipped myself into the cockpit with a safety harness.  But hardly any water even sprayed me, staring at whatever stars shone through the patchy clouds, my glasses streaked with salt so everything looked fuzzy.  And as I had been awake since 3am I began to hallucinate, staring into the blackness, that I saw bushes and animals and patterns of light, and heard voices in the drone of the engine.

Our masthead lights now seemed to be out for good.  There was a torn piece of genoa, probably from where we neglected to cover the safety rail cotter pins with ugly duct tape after fixing the bow light.  We would need to correct all this in the next port.  I set our course by my GPS, watching the clock until finally it was Pappy's watch and I could drop into a deep and much needed sleep.

There was only one picture taken today.

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