Monthly Archives: July 2017

Llanes to Ares – 18th to 26th July 2017

Well you might be sitting in Old Blighty thinking it’s all sun, sea and sand.  Northern Spain is mountainous and very green.  Now there’s a very good reason for that, it rains a lot.  The weather along this coast is reminiscent of the SW coast of England, so a bit of everything and very changeable.  It can be lovely sunshine one minute then overcast and raining the next.

We’d had a lovely hot sunny day in Santander.  We set the alarm for 8 o’clock.  I got up to make some tea before our departure and all I could see, well actually I couldn’t see, it was thick fog!  The northern coast of Spain is renowned for fog.


We waited an hour when it started to lift and off we went.  We headed for Llanes which is about 40 miles along the coast.  It was grey, miserable and the wind was on the nose which meant we were bashing into waves again!  Just as we arrived at Llanes the wind dropped a bit and the seas became very flat.  There was still quite a mist over the land.

The marina had space for just three visiting boats, luckily we were the third boat into the marina.  We rafted alongside Bonaire, whose skipper John, is sailing single handed.

Llanes is a lovely village situated beneath the Picos de Europa mountain range. We took a ride a few miles out of town and then came back in for some lunch.  Spain is definitely better value than France.  Lots of restaurants offering 3 courses for €12 and food in the supermarket is in line with UK.




We spent a couple of days in Llanes and we left on Thursday 20th July for Gijon.  It was another overcast day, with the clouds hanging low on the mountains.  It was just under 50 miles to Gijon and we arrived at Marina Yates which of the two marinas here was the one further out of town, but we have the bikes and the cycle paths here are great.  Plus this marina is half the price of the other one and we can always do with the exercise.


We ventured into the main town and came across a rather unusual statue made of bottles.  We were walking along the bay and we heard a loud roar and it was an F16 flying overhead.  We then went up to the top of the hill where we found quite a few people with cameras set up.  There was obviously something going on.  We could then hear the sound of a helicopter which landed just along from us, dropped of five people and then off it went again.


Two of the guys who were in Swiss uniforms walked past us.  So Ian decided to have a chat with them.  They were part of the Swiss Airforce and they were going to be practicing in 20 minutes time for the Airshow that was being held on the Sunday.  The helicopter arrived again and picked up two guys and off it went.  The helicopter and nine other planes then put on a display.  This was followed by one lone plane, that we did wonder if was local and trying to get in on the act.


The following day we met up with Karen and Ronnie, fellow Mahe owners.  We had decided to meet for lunch but we were a bit late so a drink and dinner it was.E1. 22.7.17.

Cudillero – Sunday 23rd July 2017

Our next port of call was to Cudillero which had been recommended by Jesus from Marina Yates.  He lived at the top of the hill and said it was a traditional Spanish village.  Ian had looked at this harbour and thought the entrance looked tricky and so had dismissed it however, Jesus was insistent that it was fine so off we went.  It certainly was a beautiful place with the houses hanging on the side of the hill.  However, the entrance was quite narrow and there was quite a swell with rocks either side.  We had to go through the rush of the water, Ian thought it was great, I wasn’t so keen!  Once in though it was lovely.


Moving swiftly on!

The next couple of days we moved on pretty quickly as the weather wasn’t so good, grey and overcast, not something you would expect for Northern Spain.  So from Cudillero we went to Ribedao, where we anchored up for the night.  We did call into Luarca where there were five mooring buoys.  You had to tie up to one of the buoys on the stern and the bow to a ring along the wall.  However, one boat had used two mooring buoys, fore and aft (front and back) and one other boat had used one mooring buoy and the only ring, so the other two buoys had nothing to tie on at the wall so we decided to give that a miss and carried on to Ribedao.  From Ribedao to Carino, which was a lovely sunny day.  John on Bonaire joined us and we had a meal together aboard Cuffysark sitting in the sunshine.

We then moved from Carino to Ares.  On the way we finally got to see some dolphins and they were swimming underneath the boat and jumping out the water.


We spent one night at Ares, we had planned two but on getting up on Thursday 27th July, it was just like home can be, raining, grey and foggy, so we left for La Coruna just 6/7 miles away.  Hoping to find some sun soon!



27th July 2017

Hola Espana

We left St Jean de Luz on 15th July for San Sebastian on the northern coast of Spain, which was a short hop.  It is a very mountainous landscape along this coast.

As we turned into the bay there were lots of other boats, people on paddle boards, kayaks, etc and the beaches were packed.  A popular beach resort.  Plus the sun was shining brightly, which is not always the case on this coastline.  We anchored and then took the dinghy ashore.  There weren’t many places to leave the dinghy so we took our chances and headed for the marina.  There was a fuel berth and the guy ashore indicated we could tie up there.

San Sebastian was buzzing and very busy.  We had a walk through to the old town which had very narrow streets with high buildings.  There were bars, restaurants and shops all along.  At one end was the Basilica of Santa Maria and at the other the Buen Pastor Cathedral.

We took a walk to the top of Mont Urgull which is quite a long uphill (obviously) walk but we did it!  We discovered once we neared the top that you could take a bus.  The hill is topped by a stronghold (headquarters, barracks and warehouses), the 12th century Castillo de la Moto was key in defending the city.  In 1950 a chapel and a 12 metre-high sculpture, the Sacred Heart statue (Cristo de la Mota) was added.

There is also an English Cemetery which had a handful of graves.  One read:

Sacred to the memory of Whilam I M Tuppe, Colonel of the 6 Scotch Bal who at the Head of Reg at the taking of Ayete on the 5 May 1836 fell mortally wounded at 32 years of age”.

Ian got chatting to a Scottish lady (who was married to a Spaniard) in St Jean De Luz and she recommended that we try the tapas in San Sebastian.  In fact it is “pintxo” here which is similar to tapas but is generally served on a slice of bread and has a cocktail stick through the pieces.   This is traditional Basque cuisine.  There were lots of pintxo places and we settled on “Baztan Pintxos and Bar” in the old town.  The pintxo is all laid out on the counter, replenishment is ongoing and not always with the same things.  It’s a bit like a buffet where you fill your plate, hand it over and the staff then heat up whatever should be hot and then you pay for it.  Very nice.  Slightly different to what we know to be tapas.

The bay was quite sheltered here although a bit rolly at high tide.  We anchored just behind Isla de Santa Clara.

Our next stop was originally going to be Bilbao, however, the nearer we got we decided that we would rather to go to one of the smaller ports a little further on so we headed for Castro Urdiales which was a small harbour.  This was a pleasant sail, with light winds and blue skies, which was nice as it was 50 miles which took us just over nine hours.

Virgen del Carmen – protector of all seamen, fishermen

We anchored up and as we finished we could hear singing.  We wondered if we were near to a church.  There were a lot of people standing looking over the quay wall and when we looked closer (with the binoculars) there were quite a few boats decorated with bunting.  We could then hear a priest this was followed by the boats all starting to move together towards the outer part of bay.  It looked like there were three priests on the front of one highly decorated boat and they were speaking and then singing was being played.

We discovered that this festival was the Día de la Virgen del Carmen, which involves the tradition of a parade through the town, making its way to the sea front. Usually, a flower-strewn effigy of the Virgin is carried through the streets by a group of the local fishermen. When they reach the sea, they are met by a flotilla of decorated boats. After prayers are made for all those at sea, the statue is then customarily taken on a boat, around the local harbour.  The Virgin, according to the legend, is responsible for keeping the waters around the shore clean and safe; many devotees used to refuse to swim until after July 16th!  It was great to witness this festival, if only in part.

We spent the night here before heading off the following morning (Monday 17th July 2017) to Santander.  This was just under 25 miles.  We anchored up in the bay here, which is surprisingly really nice, not what you’d expect from a big commercial port.  Here we came across a fellow Mahe and Cruising Association member from Brighton, Karen and Ronnie on CopyCat, who came aboard and we chatted for a couple of hours over a few drinks.

23rd July 2017

France – the Final Chapter

6th to 15th July 2017

We left Royan at 5am on Thursday 6th July heading down through the North firing ranges on the West Coast of France. It was a long trip of 11.5 hours. We had to slow down a little as we could only enter Cap Ferrat one hour before high tide as there is a sandbar at the entrance and there can be quite a lot of swell. It wasn’t too bad, coming out three days later was a different story! There is a very large sand dune here called the Dune de Pilat on the way into the bay.

We left Cap Ferrat on Sunday 9th July at 6am, there was no firing as it was a weekend. We spoke to the port who advised that the swell was 1.5m however, with wind over tide (ie going in opposite directions) it was choppy and the swell at the bar was 2m (wave height) so it wasn’t particularly nice, in fact it was horrible (it’s not all great). The trip was just over 10 hours to Anglet, which was about three miles from Bayonne and the wind was gusting quite hard at times. It was only about an hour or so from our destination that the wind dropped and the sun came out.
Our first full day and we had to go in search of an opticians who could provide some glasses for Ian. (I mentioned in my last blog how he managed to knock them off his head and they dropped into the water with no chance of retrieving them). So déjà vu as we had this same issue in Thailand. Just one of the challenges we have to overcome. It rained quite a lot here too, so off we went to Bayonne (which is quite a big town) in our identical pac a macs, identical bikes, both in jeans and sailing shoes, we did look like Howard and Hilda although I didn’t wear the sunglasses.

Luckily Ian has prescription sunglasses and the third optician could produce glasses from the sunglasses in two days. We spent the rest of the time here doing chores. On Tuesday 11th July we had a stowaway Julia. The following day we sailed about 12 miles down the coast to a lovely bay which had St Jean De Luz to port, Ciboure ahead and Socoa to starboard. The bay was a hive of activity with various watersports – dinghies, paddle boarders, surf boards, areas for swimming and anchorages with beaches all around the bay.

C1. Cemetery at Socoa 12.7.17.On arriving in the bay, what stood out was the cemetery in Socoa on the hillside. Now Julia is a Taphophile, “what?” I hear you cry, it is a fascination with cemeteries. I can actually understand this! So we had a wander up to it, it was quite something else. Most of it was made up of family tombs.

There are three breakwaters here. As the tide gets higher the waves crash against this. Some people walk along them hoping they won’t get wet as some of the waves crash over the wall. Someone had to give it a go!

We had night on a buoy in the bay and then moved into the marina. We had to moor up stern to (which means the back of the boat is against the jetty). This meant that we could use our pasarelle (gang plank) for the first time but before we could do that Ian had to drill a hole in the engine room hatch door so it would fix into it so it didn’t slide about when you stood on it and also make up a pulley so it didn’t bang on the jetty. It is quite amazing how quickly things get done when it involves a boat!

That evening we went into St Jean de Luz for a nice meal and the place was buzzing. Walking back to the boat a large bar caught our eye, it was bar and street food all in one. So we popped in for a drink.


Bastille Day 14th July 2017

This is a big celebration in France so we had made sure we were still in France for this. It started at 9.30am with swimming across the bay from Socoa beach to St Jean de Luz beach. It’s quite difficult to see how many people were taking part from the photo. There was a memorial ceremony and then a group playing big band music in the market place. In the market place artists set up their stalls with easels and were painting and displaying their work. This was done each day.

Sadly we had to say goodbye to Julia at lunchtime as she had a train and plane to catch so wasn’t able to stay for the celebrations that evening. So we waved her off on the train.
In the evening there was a band playing by the Renauld bar we’d been into the night before that attracted a large audience. We decided to go back to near where the marina was to watch the fireworks on the beach, which was crowded.

Our time in France has come to a close.  So on Saturday 15th July we headed south for the border. We’ve had a great time in France and are now looking forward to our time in Spain.

16th July 2017

Au revior to our Cruising Companions

6th July 2017

Two months ago in May we set sail on an overcast day from the Island Yacht Club.  Bob and Gillian on Morning star were planning on a trip which took them in the same direction.  So we set off together with no fixed plan as to where we would go or even if we wanted to go to the same places.  Well we’ve been cruising companions for 90% of the time and we’ve had a lot of fun along the way.

We finally reached that time when we had the parting of the ways.  Royan on the Gironde was to be our last port of call with Bob and Gillian.

We arrived in Royan on Tuesday afternoon (4th July) and were planning on staying for just two nights (even though it was three nights for the price of two – we had to move on).  So we thought it would be best that we had our “last supper” together that evening rather than the night before we leave, as we’d played that game a couple of times before when we were off the following day with an early start and it’s not good when you have “one more and no more” and you lose count of how many times that is said, I’m not sure who led who astray.  So we had dinner and then went back to Cuffysark for a few glasses of wine on the penultimate evening.  It was a very warm evening so we sat in the cockpit listening to music (very sophisticated this time – we were randomly choosing classical, then theme tunes – I started this as I don’t know that many classical tunes although my theme tune was classical!) It was also on this same evening that Ian, who likes to wear his glasses on his head when he doesn’t need them, managed to knock them off, which then promptly bounced on the deck and plopped into the water.  So here we go again, for those of you who have been following us, yes it’s deja vue, as we had this challenge in Thailand, when he lost the last his glasses in Myanmar.

We’ve had a lot of fun over the last two months and we are going to really miss our cruising companions.  They even got up and saw us off at 5am on Thursday 6th July (their mooring was a few minutes’ walk from us – we were on the reception pontoon again as they couldn’t fit us anywhere else – great advantage for the Wi-Fi as it’s normally better by the Capitainiere’s office), just to be sure we went!

We have sailed nearly 900 miles together and been to so many places, it’s hard to remember them all but this is a little reminder.  It has been a great start to our new way life.  Thanks guys!


10th July 2017

La Rochelle, Rochefort and RAIN!

We spent a couple of nights (Monday 26th and Tuesday 27th June) in Les Sables d’Olonne which is where the Vendee Globe starts and finishes.  It is a typical seaside resort.  We didn’t do much here but caught up with chores.

La Rochelle- 28th to 30th June 2017

Our journey of just over five hours to La Rochelle included grey skies, thunder, lightning and rain.  We began with very light winds of just five knots eventually gusting up to 20knots.  We stayed in La Rochelle for three nights as there were strong winds coming through.   La Rochelle is somewhere we have visited previously on a few occasions and where “Cuffysark” was built. The Fountaine Pajot factory is here.  It’s unlikely that you will see so many catamarans in one place other than at the marina here.

Unfortunately it did nothing but rain in La Rochelle.   We had to go to the Capitainerie to allocate us a berth which was a few minutes’ walk along the quay.  He wanted to show us where to go so off we followed him, just a minute in and the heavens opened and we were saturated and that pretty much set the scene for our three days.

IMG_3772We decided to visit (another) the Maritime Museum which consisted of a metrological ship called the France, a tug plus various other boats which could be viewed from the quay including the Joshua which belonged to Bernard Moitessier who was taking part in the Golden Globe race in 1968 and was also in the lead and should have won the race and become the first person to circumnavigate non stop single handedly round the world but when he got back to the south Atlantic he decided that he liked it so much he carried on going and went round again.  This meant that Robin Knox Johnson finished first and was awarded the title of first man to go round the world single handed non stop.

Bob and Ian particularly liked the model of “The France’s” engine room.

In another section of the museum was a model of a Mahe 36, which is what our boat is.  Ian really wanted to take this home.

We also visited the bunker that is situated in the middle of La Rochelle which tells the story of the German occupation of La Rochelle.  Worth a visit.

IMG_3751To keep ourselves amused we decided to have a music evening and each of us (Bob and Gillian too) had to pick our top ten list of music.  Ian cooked his renowned Paella (I know we aren’t in Spain yet!)  This was a really enjoyable evening and quite a mix of music.  A bit of a late night which wasn’t the smartest move as we were leaving for Rochefort the following morning at 8.30.


La Charente River and Rochefort – 1st to 4th July 2017

It was another overcast day as we left La Rochelle at 8.30am.  Rochefort is on the La Charente River and is approx. 12 miles from the river entrance.  There are lock gates to Rochefort marina which are only open for a short time, depending on tides it’s about an hour, so it’s important to get the timing right.  Along each side of the river are “carreletts”, which are big square nets that are for trapping fish.  These are in all states of repair.

On the river there are two bridges, the road bridge (which at high tide is 32metres above the water) and a Transporter Bridge (which is only used for tourists now).  The Transponder (as the transporter bridge is known) was one of the worlds’ first when it opened in 1900.  Cables are suspended from a trolley 50metres above the water pulling a gondola for pedestrians and cyclists across the river.  When going under bridges it always appears as though you will hit it.  As you can see from the photo of Morning Star, there was lots of space but it doesn’t look like that looking up.

Rochefort is where France built its Navy so there is, yes you’ve guessed it, another maritime museum and more boats and also La Corderie (where they made rope) and is the longest building in Europe.  It is now mainly offices with a small museum, so if you want to see rope being made in the traditional way then Chatham Dockyard is the place to go.  Gillian and I decided that we’d seen enough maritime museums so took ourselves off to the Musee des Commerces d’autrefois, which translates as a Museum of small trades from the beginning of the 20th century.

We left Rochefort after spending two nights there and made our way down La Charente River and anchored up near the entrance, as this would save us time the following morning for our passage to Royan.  The Charente River sits opposite Ile D’Oleron, which is joined to the mainland by a bridge which at high tide is 18metres and our air draft is just over 17.  This passage, “Pertuis de Maumusson” is not recommended because of the sandbar at the entrance to the open sea which can create big swells.  The alternative is to go to the north end of the Ile D’Oleron which was another 25 miles added to the already 35 miles we had to sail.  Yes we took the shortcut.  However, we only did because of the conditions, we wouldn’t have taken any chances, you have to respect the sea.  It was neap tides, 5 knots of wind and half a metre of swell which is unusual for this coast and this was the only reason for going this way.


The result of “The Bridge” Race

By the way the Queen Mary 2 made it to New York in 5 days

10th July 2017