Speedwell of Rhu Ship's Log

21st of June 2018 - The Border

Position Map
Crew : Helen and Andy
Destinations : Hondaribbia.
Distance : 63 miles

We had been thinking about our Biscay crossing for some time. Bilbao is about as far east as you can be to make a direct crossing to France. Any further east and your course would take you across an active firing range off the south west coast of France. The forecast winds were set to be east/north easterly for a while...the direction we wanted to sail from Bilbao to La Rochelle.

Eventually we decided we would head further east. If the winds remained north easterly then sailing north from the south east corner of Biscay would be fine, especially as the wind from that direction would give less swell. The main issue was going to be crossing the firing range off the coast of France (Centre d'Essais des Landes). Either you have to do it at the weekend when it is usually inactive, or you can do it at night and stop at Archachon halfway up. Unfortunately the entrance to the Archachon basin is very shallow and it is not advised to enter in the dark. The tides didn't suit us anyway and we had already decided we wanted to go all the way to La Rochelle in one go so the weekend was our only option.  As the forecast for the coming weekend was for east/north easterlies, we decided to visit Bayonne and leave from there on the Sunday morning. This would get us across the firing range by 0830 on Monday morning, assuming an average speed of 5 knots. By going eastward and visiting some of the Basque ports we were taking the chance that we may be there for another week or have to head back to Bilbao to go north. We decided that would be no problem as there would be some nice places to see and plenty of Pinchos to eat.

We weighed anchor at 0755 and left Bilbao with a grey sky. The sun slowly came out but there was some swell so we motor sailed along the rocky coast since the wind wouldn't stay in our sails. We turned the engine off every so often but our speed would drop right off. Although we couldn't see much of the mountains due to the murky weather, the cliffs and rocks were pretty spectacular.

When we got to Hondarribia we had planned to go into the marina. However the anchorage just inside the breakwater of the fishing harbour next door looked quite settled with little swell getting around the headland so, instead, we had a comfortable night on the hook.

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