La Rochelle – Aviles


Tuesday, 27 September 22

Now I’m sitting here in Royan and the weather is sticking to the forecast. Punctually yesterday at noon the W 6-7 came, then in the evening the rain. During the night it calmed down, the swell was only slightly noticeable in the harbour. Tonight the rain is supposed to continue and from noon on the wind is supposed to increase again from 5 Bft and in the coming night to 7 Bft. Tomorrow, Wednesday, then all day.

Obviously I did everything right, to get to here, I was in a terrible hurry. It is nicer here than in La Rochelle, at least as far as the area around the harbour is concerned. The view of the Bay of Biscay is unique.

The coast to the south, with no sunshine, just at all.

Old SNSM house, exactly in no good condition, but the southern style is unmistakable: flat roof with light shingles

I only know these restaurant and shopping miles at the harbour from Portugal.

With the large tarpaulin, I have extended my living space on board, so rain is no longer such a nuisance. The weather not expected to change much until next weekend. Next week the forecast report a light easterly wind and low swells of up to 1 metre. My way to Spain!

Slowly again you meet the sailing freaks, those, which see being on the move as a philosophy of life. From southern Brittany to here at the mouth of the Gironde, they have hidden either away or given this area a wide berth. Holiday and weekend sailors and the regatta circus dominate sailing there in the district. Now I feel more at home.

On Sunday, on my way south, I had the feeling that I had crossed an invisible border. Before La Rochelle, the sea was full of boats, about halfway past the Ile d’Oleron they all turned around. Apart from a few fisher, I was the only one still here.

The passing of the narrow passage at the southern tip of Ile d’Oleron was also a navigational adventure, especially the passage to sea. It is a very shallow area, where the “pole fisher” probably farm mussels and oysters on every sandbank. All the sandbanks are full of poles, that’s why I call them pole fisher. So, it is impossible going up onto sandbanks. But the two channels up to the bridge are hardly buoyed, except for poles with top marks. With a good echo sounder – I have it again now – and a plotter, you have to find your way sometimes. Once only, there was a shallow with 2 metres, otherwise always 4 to 8 metres.

But the way out to sea was now the hardest part. On the North Sea, this exit is called Seegatt. They call it a passage, and they put buoys in it. You have to have confidence in the buoyed channel, according to the depth information on my nautical charts it goes straight over sandbanks, but I rarely had less than 8 metres. The actual channel I would have expected was not marked. A 1.5 m swell is breaking violently on the shallows, as I could see.

At sea, a good nautical mile from land, everything was fine again, only the swell rocks you slightly, at a water depth of 15 metres. Except a few gusts, once again, there was no wind, it’s good, I always have enough petrol with me now.

Donostia – San Sebastian

Friday 7 October 22

Yesterday I reached Spain, crossing the border about 1 pm across Cabo Higuer. Now I’m here in San Sebastian, just thinking and feeling it is loco. At the beginning of this year, I didn’t believe, I could get so far with my little amica. Already the distance covered at 6 m waterline length of the boat is extreme. Here I immersed in a completely different world, not only linguistically – I am learning eagerly – but especially culturally-historically.

But once again, step by step. I took a break of 8 days in Royan and used it for repairs. Technically, something had to retrofit and needs to add. Probably I have to sand and paint the naturally varnished surfaces more often. The sun breaks down the varnish. My photovoltaic panel has been out of action for a while and after some research, I concluded, that my panel was only suitable for northern latitudes. Here, too, I think UV radiation and extreme heat led to fractures in the cells. There are better panels especially for these latitudes. Well, I don’t have them, so I had to calculate, how much power consumption is allowed at which consumers so, that my battery can last a long night tour (min. 12 hours). In any case, it is not possible to run my autopilot the whole time (approx. 24 – 26 hours). A maximum of 8 hours is possible, and I have to limit the brightness of the plotter to a minimum.

I used the time to reassure myself of my decision, to sail 130 nm in one piece. On the route there is only the Bay of Arcachon and Capbreton. According to during this week with several windy days, along the entire coastline were only fisher, and south of Arcachon there were no vessels. There was sailing in the Bay of Arcachon, but not in the estuary. Now, I don’t give much to bad news or less bad news, I want to understand, what’s going on. There’s no need to talk about the Atlantic swell, it always goes up, and even higher in autumn and winter. The sandbanks are constantly shifting, just like in the North Sea, also caused by big swell. So I can also understand, that the best entry window seems to be two hours before high tide with low seas and in spring tides. Once every fortnight, if the other factors are right. There is a lean buoyed channel, even don’t use by fishermen.

The Capbreton problem is somewhat different. Although the sand again plays a decisive role, the formation of only one sandbank probably comes about differently. There is the Gouf de Capbreton in the Bay of Biscay, an 800-metre-deep underwater canyon, which reaches just before the entrance. Two nautical miles from the entrance, there are still 100 m of deep, which creates extreme waves; Capbreton is also a wave surfing hotspot. The only sandbank moved right into the entrance. At high tide by neaps, there is a deep about 3 m of water, the swell will inevitably break. Locals can try it out, it’s not for me.

Amica got her “tent” so, that I can work in peace.

There wasn’t much of a swell here in the Gironde at 7 Bft.

On Monday, 3 October, summer-like calm weather returned. That was a birthday present to me, because as of today I am 68 years old. Whenever I am asked, how I am, I can answer, that physically everything is fine. Sometimes I need two days of rest, but that’s all right. Mentally, the question is more complicated to answer. On the one hand, you have to be a bit crazy, in the sense of you being from another planet. Who would voluntarily put themselves through something like that? You certainly have to understand the love to the sea and to a other life. However, you also grow mentally from the experiences. In principle, the answer should be: it’s a bit strange.

In order to limit the duration of my journey, I planned to sail permanently at least 5 knots, i.e. under motor, because the wind was supposed to be lightly circulating as desired. I set sail at 11 am with the aim of reaching Anglet by midday the next day. In the harbour office, I got the informatio, why nobody is sailing south of Arcachon. They are shooting in their zone d’Exercice de tir. Nevertheless, even soldiers go to sleep, the shooting hours were between 11 am and 5 pm. Nothing going on there at night, so it’s perfect for a night tour.

Last pictures from third of October:

The tip of the Medoc

Really, big swell at the exit of the Gironde to the southwest

Punctually the night set in with sunset at 8 o’clock, no long twilight, in a jiffy, it was dark. What to report about the night:

– I had a Swedish sailing yacht as a course maker in front of me, always visible a few miles ahead on the plotter.

– There was a northerly wind from 5pm to 11pm. That made sailing quite unpleasant, with swell from the west and wind sea from the north. That’s why I ended one sailing attempt around 7 pm, always so close to the gybe, in the dark it doesn’t work at all.

– From Cap Ferret Central, I was looked after at night. Around 10 p.m. the first VHF call with the questions, where to, where from, how many people on board. The call was not in short form, a lot of text, so at first I didn’t understand, that I was meant. Then again a call about 1 o’clock with the information, that a vehicle is on anchored in front of me. That’s what happens when you let your AIS transponder run.

– Fluttering pennants of fish trap.

– Lots of pine smell from the shore

– In-between some chemistry in my nose, but I only saw the moon and the stars.

Towards morning, thick fog with visibility of less than 50 m set in again. I liked to see finally more than my instruments. Shortly before Capbreton, I phoned home, as I was being tracked all the time via Across from Capbreton, I almost ran over an angler-boat. This boat was just lying there without any markings, neither AIS nor lights or sound signals. And they still waved at me in a friendly manner. You have to believe in the probability that no one will ram down me. On the plotter, I could see a sailing yacht at the entrance to Capbreton, which had been circling there for hours. I don’t know if she still managed to negotiate the difficult entrance with enough water.

The river Adour to Bayonne has large piers in the entrance, that’s how it appears in the fog. I was really scared off, so close to it. Now I also knew, why the Swedish sailing yacht circulated so strangely slowly at this point.

15 minutes later, I was able to moor in Anglet after only 24.5 hours. A short sleep during the day and then 12 hours at night, I almost felt fit again. But it’s better to take another day off, the weather is supposed to stay the same. Therefore, I was able to register the first Basque phenomena.

Basque flags in various functions

Sometimes under the national flag

Sometimes demonstratively under the spreader, a bit exaggerated.

And also on the flagpole of the local yacht club

And a reference to the ETA at the pier

The view to Biarritz

And yes, the Atlantic swell is for wave surfing

Decaying piers, which I didn’t see in the fog

The 25 nautical miles to Donostia-San Sebastian were a special experience. Not the annoying swell that ran higher and higher towards the end of the tour, no, suddenly there were more than rocks: mountains.

Still in the haze

Already clear

There, behind the small hill, is the harbour. I’ll take this hill as my first for a summit tour, 200 m is enough for a start.

Getxo (Bilbao)

Thursday 13 October 22

There were a nice and interesting few days in Donostia-San Sebastian. I deliberately took this break to arrive in Spain. Now and then, you have to see something, and there were plenty of them.

amica in the Basque Country First

I climbed to Monte Urgull, but it was only 137 m high and I managed the climb in 20 minutes. But still, one ascent and one descent.

Then the old town has many narrow and colourful alleys,

with little shops called Eroski here.

Tapa bars with ham on the ceiling

There were also demos and sometimes posters are left hanging

One day there was more than 2 m of swell, but quietly here, you can still go out,

even if the high swell breaks on the rocks on the left and right.

There is a peaceful bay and for the first time a view of the mountains in the land behind the coast.

The next day I set off again in rainy weather, and it was a gloomy journey. The coast was in haze and the north coast was always in shadow or lack of light.

Darkcoast near Mutriku

Entrance at Mutriku

Tres Nudos and in Basque 3 Korapilo

Harbour pictures, digitally brightened

The next morning it still raining, and I was beginning to wonder, how one can stand it here without sun. It’s been dark all day.

Bermeo has a nice harbour panorama.

Here, as in the last harbours, winter was making itself felt. Pontoons were taken out of service, the internet was switched off and the power supply didn’t work either. I didn’t even get ashore in Bermeo, moored in a private fishing harbour where everything was locked. That’s why I left at 9am and was able to sail the last 2 hours to Getxo, with the first hints of sunshine. Now it’s supposed to happen more often. And maybe it will work out better with the sailing.

I always write Getxo because that’s simply the name of the place. Bilbao is a good 5 km away; you can take the metro to there, if you want to, but not me. A day’s rest, laundry, shopping and refuelling, then it’s on going west. Oh yes, I will take a few more pictures.

And here they are.

I was only in Gexto for two days, but I walked this way to shop four times..

The only nice corner.

The sun didn’t manage to clear the haze.

Since it was a bit too expensive for me at just under €29 per day, I couldn’t watch anymore. On Friday we continue to Laredo in Cantabria, not in Texas.


Tuesday, 1 November 22

Today it is for me an unusual time to write about sailing. In November, amica always stood high and dry on land. I still have to get used to spending the winter on board. But autumn has arrived here too, although the temperatures are still 18 degrees to 20 degrees and will stay that way, only at night it is now getting quite chilly. Certainly, this is due to the mountains, because the water temperatures are quite pleasant at 18 degrees. The length of the day has also become considerably shorter, just 10 hours.

About weather: First, there was a strong southerly current for 14 days, which brought a lot of rain to Portugal, Galicia and central Spain. This caused by a stationary low-pressure system far off the Portuguese west coast, which simply did not move on. On the west coast there were permanent 5-8 Bft from the south with corresponding waves. Here on the north side of the Pyrenees, no rain arrives, only dry foehn, which is sometimes very gusty. Wind forecasts here sometimes look like this, wind south 2-3 Bft, with gusts of 8 Bft. I experienced this in Laredo also later in Santander with measured gusts of 55 knots. Absolutely no sailing wind for amica.

On the way to Laredo, the Costa Verde of Cantabria

Laredo surprised me positively: a beautiful and generously laid out harbour, all supply possibilities in the immediate vicinity and a lot to discover on foot.

The harbour, with lots of space.

For the higher mountains, however, you need a car. But there is a large beach.

I didn’t find the way up the hill, but there was a tunnel underneath.

There you could feel like you were in the sea, with all kinds of sea creatures and even a treasure chest.

The north coast at the end of the tunnel

The restaurant El Fantastico with bananas as decoration.

Once again, you meet nice people. During my stay in Laredo, the south wind set in. I waited 5 days to take advantage of a supposed weather window to Santander. Nevertheless, the last 7 see miles to Santander I got SW 5 Bft with gusts 6-7 Bft almost exactly from the front. This was not actually forecast until the evening, but it came already at 1pm. I managed the remaining miles to Puerto Chico with great effort with my outboard. The engine also had to struggle; it only managed 3 knots most of the time. The small wave (luckily the wind was still blowing very lightly from a land direction) everything got wet, including me. The splashes flew almost horizontally over the boat.

What about Puerto Chico? A very strange harbour, no one was available for registration, not on VHF channel 9 or telephone and otherwise everything was very privado. After 30 minutes, I cast off again and went to the Marina del Cantrabico at the airport, 2.5 nautical miles away. There a harbour staff was immediately ready to explain everything to me, to carry out the registration formalities directly at the boat and quickly get a loaf of bread. Unfortunately, there are no supply facilities in this harbour or in the immediate vicinity. In addition, you can’t rent bicycles here. The next supermarket is a good hour’s walk through an industrial area. Moreover, Santander I could only see from a distance.

Here I have spent 9 days, with a persistent south wind with strong gusts. My little excursion with amica to the city harbour of Santander after 5 days brought the final clarification about Puerto Chico. This time, there was at least some assistance in finding a berth, but when I went to the ostensible harbour office, I ended up in another world, or rather on another planet. This privado story probably has the background that this is a very exclusive club. First, they didn’t let me in – privado – to do the registration, and then they apparently don’t want transitos, i.e. guests. How else to explain that they were charging almost €100 for amica, por dia!!!! I left right away, back to Marina del Cantrabico, €10 por dia.

The mountain scenery is always beautiful

The airport was not really annoying, too few planes leave here.

The palm avenue is impressive Barbara arrived at the sixth day.

Together we did the major shopping that had become necessary. It was a combination of a long walk and a taxi. There you go.

Old wooden boat drying out

Santander city, it’s not supposed to be nice inside the city either.

On Friday we set off for San Vincente de la Baquera with the option of breaking off in Suances. Once again zero wind, but swells up to 1.5 m high and, it seemed to us, reflecting waves from the rocky coast, made amica rock violently. So we tried to sail into Suances, a big mistake. The swell broke across the whole width of the bay, and the entrance channel was not clearly visible. In addition, the depths in the channel were relatively unknown. Then, when amica sat on a wave and started to ride it down at 10 knots, I unceremoniously yanked amica around just before the breakwater. The result was a powerful trough with enormous leaning and a lot of adrenaline. You can’t go in here, so we continued on to San Vincente, rocking no matter what.

The coast before San Vincente

Entrance of San Vincente

Beforehand we knew that there were no showers or toilets here, but at least we got a mooring and found water and electricity. We moored directly on the promenade, so it was a bit noisy. During the night, an angler had to beat his big fish to death on the pontoon, which took quite a while. The next morning, we saw blood spatter everywhere. On the second night, there was a karaoke event or something similar aft. There was soft music playing, and someone always grabbed a microphone and sang along loudly. It went on until late at night. It’s not the way to rest.

We decided to make up for it in the next beautiful harbour. Ribadesella seems to be the right place. Very nicely situated and at a distance from the harbour mile. The small town is very nice and has water and electricity as well as duchas.

Entrance of Ribadesella

Pier of Ribadesella, which you have to get very close to, even at low tide there is still enough depth. Then it goes around the corner to the left.

This Ribadesella holds us, not because the weather is so bad here or the wind too strong, the swell just goes too high. Especially on the way out.

Peaceful exit at low tide. With minimal swell, you can get in here even at low tide. It’s nice to see the swirling water of the channel, which should always be 2 m deep.

However, it can also look quite different. We couldn’t get out for days.

Ribadesella surrounded by mountains.

They are only about 800 m high

In front of us the mountains, the entrance with high swell, you feel trapped with time. Even though it’s all very beautiful to look at, somehow we want to sail further.

Gijon Tuesday, 15 November 22

Well, at least we made it here 3 days ago. The sun was shining, but it was still quite cool at 8 o’clock in the morning. At noon, the warmth of 20 degrees arrived. The first two days at the guest pontoon were a bit restless, and we moved to the inner harbour basin.

There was no real get ahead in the last four weeks. This was not because we found it so beautiful everywhere. This persistent south-westerly wind, which has also sent a lot of warmth to Northern Europe, spoils the sailing here. The lows move too south across the Atlantic and then northeast from here according to the air current. Nevertheless, they never manage to drive away the persistent high over North-Eastern Europe. This is a highway for the low-pressure areas, additionally fuelled by ex-hurricanes. This also really sets the North Atlantic in motion. The swells that arrive here have the corresponding height. This is no longer consistent with the weather statistics.

The conditions for a small boat are getting worse and worse. First, it was the wrong wind direction and strong winds that made me stay in Laredo for 5 days. Then I had to pause in Santander for 9 days because the gusts were too hard, and in Ribadesella the high swell held me for almost 14 days. Now the westerly wind is coming with rain and swells of up to 3 m again, which should last until the end of November. In addition, the temperatures drop temporarily to 12 degrees during the day.

Is it that now? Do I have to think about wintering here now? For the tips near A Coruna and Finisterre down to Portugal, I need a calm, stable weather situation with northerly and easterly winds. This requires an area of high pressure that extends its wedge as far as Brittany. Sometimes this is really exist! Please, stable and not always just for two days, but once for a fortnight, that’s how much time I require until Porto.


Saturday, 26 November 22

10 days after the last report and still in Gijon? While I had marvelled at the tame waves in the Bay of Biscay at the beginning of my journey, a different world is now showing itself. Yes, at the moment nothing is possible outside at the moment. Hardly any yachts are sailing now, the whole coast here in the north seems to be empty, and the same goes for the west coast. Only south of Lisbon do you see movement on the water again via AIS. It has become winter with the normal accompanying symptoms: large swells, occasional storms or strong winds from westerly directions, wet and cold. In the last few days, large swells meant 5-7 m Mar Combinado and west to northwest 7–8 Bft according to the warning message.

Unfortunately, the quality of the shots from the bay next door is not so good because I hadn’t taken my GoPro with me.

The classic

Breaking waves

Two days later with less sea

Now the policia portuaria has even closed the harbour pier.

Barbara took a flight home. We spent the last two days together in a hotel. From there we could see the first snow on mountain peaks.

Unfortunately, it was hard to see, smartphones just don’t do it at a distance.

Of course, it’s nice to enjoy the 20 degrees in the sunshine, because the sun has a lot of power at these latitudes. Only at night does the thermometer almost drop into the single digits. Moreover, when the sun is not shining, during the day it hardly gets warmer than 14 degrees.

Gijon is one of the larger cities in northern Spain, so there is an infinite amount to discover. Here are a few impressions:

Many charming alleys

Typical architectural style

Adventurous wiring, but I guess it works

Our hotel

What I am planning to do now? I’m still waiting for some quiet moments at sea, at least I’d like to get as far as A Coruna. There you can leave the boat there for a longer time and fly home quickly.


Friday, 2 December 22

With temperatures barely making it into double digits, I’ve decided to take my winter break. Here in Aviles, amica have a good, safely and cheaper berth. The airport Asturias Aviedo reached by bus in 20 minutes. I’ll winterize amica a bit and then take the plane to Hamburg. I’ll be back next year in March.