Gijon 11.7. - 13.7.

  • Posted on: 20 November 2017
  • By: Eve

The prevailing winds on the northern coast of Spain are from the west that is just from the direction we were heading to. Andrus was following the weather and only options he saw there was either 20 knot westerly wind or no wind at all. We chose a day with a latter. The Sun was shining, a group of dolphins playing around us and our trustworthy Perkins purring quietly and comfortingly pushing us for 95 nautical miles to Gijon.
Suwena sailing on the coast of North Spain
Dolphin playing with Suwena on the coast of North Spain
Dolphin playing with Suwena on the coast of North Spain
Gijon is a major town in the region of Asturias. It has been a centre of industrial activities for several decades that are now slowly turning into more service oriented business. There are two marinas, one in the old fishing harbour and another just outside the town behind the container port. We chose the first one and to stay in the centre of the city.
The city of Gijon in Asturias of Spain
Suwena in the Gijon marina in Spain
Downtown marina of Gijon in Spain
Our stay in Gijon was very short, we only stayed there for one day. One day is way too short for getting any understanding of a big city. We settled just for a walk in the centre area looking at some landmarks and even stumbling on a flamenco performance.
The youth partying in the waterfront of Gijon in Spain
The waterfront of Gijon in Spain
The Eulogy of the Horizon monument in Gijon in Spain
A flamenco performance in Gijon in Spain
The weather was still good so it was right time to continue going west as Galicia is waiting us.

Laredo 8.7. - 11.7.

  • Posted on: 14 November 2017
  • By: Eve

Laredo is a small resort town in the region of Cantabria on the eastern shore of Ria de Trento, only 15 nautical miles east from Santander.
Ria de Trenton, Santoña in the background, Spain
When arriving to a new town it is usually easy to spot the location of the marina by searching the masts of sailboats. However, when we were approaching the marina of Laredo Andrus could not see any masts at all. He double checked several times our position from GPS and even wondered, are we in a correct ria as the marina was nowhere to be seen. Finally, almost at the marina entrance he spotted some masts. All boats were hidden behind a massive breakwater which must be something like 15 metres tall. We later learned that the winter storms can really be vigorous here on the Bay of Biscay. The breakwater was designed to withstand the pounding of 10 metre tall waves arriving at 19 second intervals. What a marvel of engineering! This isn't anyhow the first harbour in Laredo. On seaside coast we could visit the ruins of the harbour built during the Roman Empire.
The new breakwater of Laredo in Spain
The marina itself is very new with sturdy pontoons and all services readily available. Even if mid-July is high season for sure there was a plenty of space available. It looks like sailors have not yet found this wonderful place.
Suwena in the marina of Laredo in Spain
In the first morning when we were having a coffee in the cockpit the marinero came to say hello and explained all kinds of things about the marina like how to connect electricity, the gate access and all. He was speaking in Spanish and we were listening and smiling only understanding very few words here and there. After a 10 minute long discussion we somehow agreed that we'll come to the harbour office for registering. In the office it was much more straightforward. Whenever we did not understand each other he just used Google Translate to speak from Spanish to Finnish. All formalities were done quickly and soon we had also a good amount of information on what to do in the town.
The waterfront of Laredo in Spain
Laredo has a small old town and it is mostly dominated by a five kilometre long beach and surrounding mountains. Laredo is neither a shopping paradise nor party heaven. Activities here are related to being outdoors, indeed. We wanted to see also a little bit of North Spanish countryside and opted to go for a walking tour. The routes are very well marked and vary in lengths from just two kilometres to multi-day hikes between the villages on the coast. We chose 10 kilometre long trail that took us to nearby mountain to the height of 180 metres.
Andrus in Laredo in Spain
The Cantabrian ranch in Laredo in Spain
The village of Las Carcobas in Cantabria in Spain
We also got a good sample of local Cantabrian cuisine which was absolutely delicious. It was also surprisingly cheap. For example, 3-course-meal including half a bottle of wine was only 12 € per person.
The centre of Laredo in Spain
The old town of Laredo in Spain
In the end we were very happy that we had turned south on the Biscay and visited Cantabria as well. This detour meant that now we had to watch the weather windows for going west more carefully. We already had flight tickets back home and there was not much time left for reaching Sada in Galicia.
The sandy beach of Laredo in Spain

Crossing of the Bay of Biscay 7.7. - 8.7.

  • Posted on: 10 November 2017
  • By: Eve

Once our batteries were replaced and the weather settled we were eager to go forward. The crossing of the Biscay will be the longest sailing voyage so far and we tried to prepare as well as we could. The route distance is 260 nautical miles from La Rochelle to Gijon and we estimated it takes approximately 44 hours at 6 knots, nearly two days at sea.

There are two marinas in La Rochelle and we were staying in Vieux Port which is located behind the lifting bridge and the tidal gate. The gate is opened -2 h - +1.5 h of high water. Andrus was constantly monitoring the weather and checking the boat while I was making sure that we had enough food and the boat was shipshape for the sea. We also had a constant debate whether we should depart during the high water late Friday afternoon or should we just move the boat behind the tidal gate to the 24h marina next door and stay there one more night and depart on early Saturday morning. There was a possibility of stronger westerly winds later on Sunday near the Spanish coast so we decided to depart on Friday afternoon.

On Friday afternoon, the weather was just perfect and the Sun was shining. We still enjoyed the last and the best mango-mint sorbet ever and soon afterwards I was slipping off the last line on the portside stern quarter. She was slowly sliding out from the berth when suddenly Andrus put engine hard reverse and then forward again. He shouted that there was no steerage. I was thinking on overdrive how could we get her back to the berth? But then he suddenly acknowledged that we are able to go on. However, Suwena was still going in wild arcs and bystanders were surely pondering to whom this guy is trying to impress ;-)

When the gate opened we had some steerage but the rudder indicator was showing that it is almost at a 25-degree angle. Clearly the boat would not go straight with the rudder at this angle but Suwena did. We decided to pass the gate and look at the problem once out from the marina. We were slowly limping forward and letting other boats pass us while pondering our options. The manual steering worked even thou the rudder angle was way off. Could there be any possible underwater damage? Andrus likes to use autopilot even in marinas. It's much easier for him to come to help with mooring when the boat is moving slowly forward and keeping a course. Now however, whenever he turned the autopilot on the boat made a sharp turn. Could it be an electrical problem?

After Andrus shut down and restarted all electronics the autopilot was functioning fine, but still the rudder indicator of the outside steering station was hallucinating. Then he got it! During our stay in La Rochelle he finally had time to tackle the problem with Suwena's electrical genoa winch switches. The connector to the outside helm autopilot control is next to these switches and he probably moved some wires and now there was a bad connection. A little bit of contact spray, another reboot and we were back in business in full steam towards Spain.

The weather forecast was perfect. The wind was from north-east 10 to 15 knots that is, almost behind us and we were about to prepare a gennaker for a leisurely sail to Spain. Later near the Spanish coast the wind should turn westerly at 20 knots so we set course 30 miles north from Gijon and made a plan to turn south depending on actual conditions.

Well, that was the forecast but in reality, the wind was from NNW at 15 knots. We saw 21-24 knots over deck. Nothing that we cannot cope with but certainly unexpected.
Suwena sailing across the Bay of Biscay
Suwena's crossing of the Bay of Biscay
After the sunset the waves kept rising. The wind started to calm down creating very uncomfortable swell. We turned engine on and continued motorsailing, looking for better comfort but soon the colour of skipper's face was resembling pea soup and his dinner found a new home outside the boat. Next morning at three Andrus hadn't still got any sleep at all and we made a decision to head to Santander that was 130 nautical miles south from our position, 60 miles closer than Gijon. Now we don't need to stay two nights at sea.

At dusk sleepless Andrus was feeling already better when he noticed a lighting at the horizon. Quick check on the radar and for sure the big lightning storm was coming from the south towards us. After having already some electrical troubles during the departure he was not keen on sailing through the storm. We turned west, motorsailing at 8 knots trying to get out from the storm. And we made it, three hours later we could turn south again.

We also give thumbs up to the fishermen in the middle of the Biscay. Usually fishing boats do not care too much about sailing yachts regardless who has the right of way. However, here in the middle of the Biscay we could see their distant subtle course changes in AIS and we never had to make any course change for avoiding them even thou we were passing through several fishing flotillas. There was a definite respect between the sailors in ocean.

When the Spanish coast was getting closer Andrus was reading pilot books about Santander. For all practical purposes, it did not look very attractive. The marina is far away from the city and everything looked difficult. However, Laredo that is located only 15 miles east from Santander looked more attractive. So we changed course once more.
Suwena arriving in Laredo in Spain
Finally after 31 hours and 200 nautical miles we made her fast in the sturdy pontoons of the marina in Laredo, Spain. We had made it, we have sailed across the treacherous Bay of Biscay, what an adventure!

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