Winds, south-westerly F5-6 (gusting 7)
Atlantic swell 2-3m north-west, wind ‘wind sea’ from the south west
I had a completely rubbish sleep – not exactly preparing myself well for the passage today. Anxiety (the sea, had dreams about tsunamis) coupled with an increase in the swell finding its way into the anchorage, making it a little rolly. I gave up and moved bunks about 04:00, after an hour of tossing and turning.
More obsessive checking of the weather for me, just incase the forecasters had decreased the sea. Nope. But neither had they changed the wind direction from south-westerly – very good. Pete was checking that I wanted to go, and I did, because the winds are so favourable for heading north and east!
We were efficient in preparing Whinchat for the sea, taking care to stow everything, as we were expecting a bit of a bumpy ride, and we didn’t want anything flying around the boat. I even made a pile of sandwiches, so we could just lift them from the fridge and not have to worry about being braced in the galley to make something to eat. We left at 09:30, the anchor coming up without issue, so there was nothing for it but to put to sea. Pete thought that the Yankee might be enough sail to move us through the sea, ‘nothing crazy’. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough wind, consistently, to give us enough speed – for both of us! So, we furled that away and Pete decided that he’d motor out to the edge of the Ria, to see what the wind was doing there. Not really enough to sail on the Yankee, as it was trying to be a F4. Not even much attempt to muster any white ponies. So, we had the joyful task of raising the main in the full swell of the Atlantic. Deep joy! I have to say my heart was in my mouth, hoping that my stomach wasn’t about to join it. I was on the helm, and Pete went to the mast, with the intention of me tailing the halyard. Pl-llease! He’s released the main sheet, so that the reefing lines were slapping me in the face each time the boom swang past (and on a turbulent sea, that’s quite a lot). I was supposed to use one hand to haul, and the other to steady the boat into the wind. I was screaming at Pete, but he kept pulling. Clearly didn’t hear me, as *whack* the warps slapped me again. I felt like I was being punished! I screamed louder, and then he came back, but as I hadn’t explained myself very well (hard when you’re a bit frazzled, and whipped, to be fair to me), he said “Right, back to the harbour!” “What? Noooo!” I said. I said I couldn’t do everything, not nothing (although I declined the option of grinding up the main). So, with both hands on the wheel, and an ability to look up at the wind-vane without fear of being slapped, Pete had the long grind on the winch. He looked a bit hot! With the main up, we turned on our course (north easterly, 340), and let things settle. The wind was being a bit random at one level – not in terms of direction, it was absolutely consistent here – but in terms of its strength. At times about 15knots, then a period of 22knots, then 19knots, then 26knots. The highest gust was 34knots, I think when Pete was helming (the wind had gotten a bit peaky, so he stood Doris down a bit). So, at times it felt like more sail would be beneficial, and at others, you were thinking it was enough. Doris (autopilot) did the helming most of the time, and she was amazing. I had a go at one point, but I couldn’t work it out with the sea moving in two directions behind us, perhaps I could have tried harder. I would like to see a pressure chart because I’d like to understand the wind (I had a theory), and I want to go to Weather School this season – it’s been a “voucher” from Pete for a few years.
Anyway. The big scary Ocean. Today it was so grey. Very overcast skies, casting gloomy shadows over the water’s surface. Only the spume and white horses gave the sea any definition. It was very swelly, but for the most part, quite manageable. More so than the other day (even though that was blue), because it was behind us. We were not ploughing into to it. The Atlantic swell was consistently piling in from the north-west, more noticeable earlier in the passage, perhaps, when the wind wasn’t so strong. This massive body of water just seems to heave, let go, heave. It’s like it takes massive intakes of breath, and then blows out. The belly of water just moves in this very rhythmic manner – and it is quite hypnotic. Pete and I were playing spot the land disappearing (when it wasn’t drizzling and you could see the shore), as the swell rose up above our eye level in Whinchat and obliterated the land… and then a few seconds later, it was back… and then gone. This quite fabulous slow rhythm. How can that be scary?
Even when the south-west wind picked up, generating enough body of movement to push the water in the way it wanted to, meaning we had swell coming one way and wind-sea another, the latter with white-horses charging at times. Whinchat was amazing in this converging of the waters, she just seemed to dig her back into it, and rear the bow and surf away. Doris had the record for the top speed, reaching 9.60 knots. Pete saw this, and was determined to try and out do her, but no, today he was outsailed by a mechanical device.
We had the most spectacular visitors today, a pod of dolphins who were playing in our bow waves. I could barely splutter the usual cry, because the first dorsal fin that I saw was just to starboard – I’m certain I could have reached over and touched it. They must have played around us for about 15 minutes, torpedoing alongside the boat, then jumping in the bow wave, circling back, diving under the boat, coming up behind us, surfing the waves of the running sea. It was mesmerising! It’s impossible to say how many, but there were at least half a dozen, including a couple of babies (smaller fins and bodies). The water was so clear, that when they were zooming next to us, you could see their ‘grin’ and the whiteness of their belly as they spun in the water. I swear that I heard one squeaking as it leapt out of the water. Of course we were whooping like loonies – having been told when we did the dolphin swim, that they love laughing and whooping. Well, it’s not like there was anyone around to hear us! We have had very quiet waters today. No fishing boats, no traffic to speak of until we got near Coruña – when we had a tanker on our stern and a racing fleet were piling out of the ria! This kind of thing stresses Pete, well the tanker did. Had he seen us? What was his course? We suspected we were both heading for the same way-point, following leading lines in order to avoid the rocks around the Tower of Hercules. When it was clear his path would take him clear of us, on the port side, Pete relaxed a little. I was quite anxious about the racing fleet, but we were on starboard tack so had the right of way. In fact, it didn’t seem that any of the half dozen that passed us needed to take avoiding action, which they would have to have done. Although Pete will say that there’s no point in having a collision and being right! The wind was being particularly noisy here, blowing up in the twenties. You’d’ve thought that Coruña would have provided shelter from the south-westerly, but no… it would seem to funnel it.
We sailed up the ria, and then it was time to moor. I called up Marina Coruña on VHF and got an Irish guy! Result. He directed us very clearly, although changed his mind where he was putting us, but we would be port-side to, and mooring in winds of 25knots! Eek! The same guy cycled to show us where to go, and then cycled around to take our lines. I decided that I’d throw him the mid-ships, and when he had that he said ‘I’ll use that to stop the boat’ OH YOU ANGEL, I thought, but said ‘yes’. Someone who really knew what we try and do. So he duly did that, but because of the wind, he had to fend off a bit. I’d flaked the bow line along the rails, so his marineros buddy just had to pick up the lines and tie that on, so I did the stern, and Pete went ahead to do the starboard bow. It went surprisingly well, given the wind, and not one blast on the bow-thruster (which will have pleased the skipper). Job done.
Whinchat’s stores are running low, so we elected to eat out. Only the Spanish eat so late, that we nearly didn’t make it! I had a snooze about 19:30, a pre-supper nap, and Pete struggled to rouse himself from the paper at 20:30, when we’d agreed to head out. We stopped for a drink and jamon at the jamoneria (Pete will be taking Tom there), which was really lively. However, most of the places we walked past were devoid of people eating. We decided to go to the same Parilla, and the place was half-full sometime around 21:15 – by the time we’d left, 22:30, it was full to the rafters, with some people only just arriving. It’s something I don’t think I’ve still accustomed to. I love the Spanish way of eating, sharing dishes, but I would sooner eat earlier, although some night we are quite Spanish. As I’m writing this (the following day), it’s 21:45 and I’m just about to serve boat tapas supper (but more of that tomorrow…. !!)
When we left the restaurant it was tipping down with rain, and the streets were rather more devoid of people! We had our Rustler jackets with us, so fully zipped in, made a dash for it, but it was a bit insane, so we stopped to join a couple sheltering under a canopy. They were not prepared for rain, so when they headed out, we did too. We got back to Whinchat slightly soggy, but having had a really lovely evening.
atlantic swell meets
tropical maritime wind
Whinchat whoops, surf babe.