|Golfe du Morbihan|
When the weather settled we headed out on a sunny morning towards La Rochelle after being spat out of the entrance on a 9kn tide and having set our course down the coast, we changed our minds after a few hours and altered course for Bilbao about 250 miles due south. We had low moment when Ralph the autopilot started to play up, and toyed with the idea of going back to France (such is the horror of having to steer continuously) but decided against it and pressed on. Dropping off the continental shelf, which can sometimes throw up an uncomfortable sea, was painless and although not much sleep was had, the crossing was otherwise uneventful. The mountainous coast of Cantabria duly appeared, and then disappeared into looming thunder clouds. The wind did the usual random shifts and we ended up motoring the last few hours through intermittent lightning into the spectacularly industrial port of Bilbao.
So at some point in the second day I had a serious mid passage sense-of-humour-failure. However, as ever, arrival at a new landfall does wonders for the spirit and we dropped anchor next to some Danes, sat out the rest of the showery day then headed into Bilbao.
|The Guggenheim - Bilbao|
The weather decided not to co-operate and we ended up being stuck in Bilbao for a week or so. It did give us chance to take Beatrice to the doctor as she'd developed a worrying spottiness and in contrast to the ineffectual French doctor we'd previously seen, this one seemed to be actually competent. We also met Ronald and Annett (the first eastern German cruisers we've met) on their very sleek self built catamaran. Ronald is an electrical engineer and has the boat rigged so that he can control all the steering and motors via a remote control unit.
We finally escaped to Castro Urdiales, only 7 miles or so to the West and arrived just as the wind suddenly decided that it needed some exercise and from almost nothing started to blow a healthy 25kn (what you get for being on a hot mountainous coast). No sooner had we got the anchor down than small children in (and out of) kayaks started floating past, disappearing out of the harbour, being chased by one guy, himself in a kayak. Jan could have used it as an excellent case study in how not to run a kayak activity.... we threw the dinghy over the side, slung the outboard on and gathered up the children and wreckage.
|Finally a bath - Gijon|
Santander provided a safe stop to sit out a northwesterly blow. We headed upriver to find the most sheltered spot, rescuing our dinghy on the way after it decided to go airborne when the gusts reached 40kn, and anchored in the first of two potential spots. I was just headed out in the dinghy to have a look at the other one when I saw the Ryanair jet coming into land directly over it at what seemed to be just a shade above mast height. We decided on balance to stay where we were.
After a few more days of westerlies, we began to feel a bit frustrated and decided to do a long hop to Gijon. It was a slight disappointment to be passing possibly the most spectacular bit of coast on what turned out to be a murky day, but we made up for it by hiring a car from Gijon and doing a breathtaking grand tour of the Picos de Europa.