#1 2019-10-03 20:31:58

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RUBY STAR's Overseas Cruise 2019

Ruby Star’s Overseas Cruise 2019
Guy Warner

8 June to 11 July 2019 (all times local)
From Port Solent to Baiona via Camaret and back
1554nm in my Victoria 34 cutter

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I often sail single-handed but for this adventure crew would be a desirable enhancement. I had met Paola, an Italian finance manager living in London, on a 2017 South Brittany Rally when she was crewing in a Maxi 1100. I obtained her email address at a Winter Meet and, being a keen sailor, Paola agreed to come as far as A Coruna. We were destined for Galicia via Camaret, with the inhospitable Bay of Biscay a factor. I could not depart before 8 June and had a deadline of a mid-July return to Port Solent.  In conversation at a winter dinner, I persuaded Alexandra Scott-Bayfield, an RCC member, to come as far as Camaret - she could only spare a week. However, I was fortunate that Lorne Byatt  would be able to do the whole trip subject to two breaks about which more later. I did not know him before we first made contact in March, but he had won the RCC Claymore Cup in 2017 and was in the process of selling his own yacht Samba, a Seamaster 925. So there I was with a good crew, but none had seen my modest yacht or sailed with me before. How would we get on?

Lorne was able to join on Friday 7 June after journeying from Scotland via Devon where his father-in-law had just died. We did the initial victualling at the nearby Tesco and had a familiarisation supper ashore in Port Solent that evening. We collected Paola and Alex off the London train at Havant on the Saturday morning and prepared ourselves and Ruby Star. However, it was blowing SW5-6 and a planned 1500 departure for the Solent and Channel did not look promising. I then made one of my rare good decisions. We would get through the marina lock and ease down Portsmouth harbour into Gosport marina some 3nm away rather than present an unfamiliar crew with an arduous initial sail. This plan was well received and we motored past the impressive aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth on her home berth and arrived in the marina. An early ‘get to know each other’ supper followed in the alongside restaurant ready for an 0500 start on Sunday 9 June; timed to get going early and reach the Needles with the West going tide.
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The wind had abated by early Sunday and now there was very little of it; all on the nose. We had no alternative but to motor sail which we did down the Solent and into the English Channel. This anyway allowed everybody to settle down and enjoy the calm conditions. In the event there was not enough wind to sail any of the way across the Channel itself. We eventually had an hour of sailing at the northern end of the Chenal du Four but the wind soon became too light for us to sail unaided. However, Monday afternoon saw another burst of lovely sailing across the Rade de Brest but the engine had to come on again for the approach to Camaret. We berthed in the inner marina in our reserved position at 1915 with friendly people taking our lines.

A wet Tuesday morning on 12 June saw us making our way to the re-arranged indoor venue for a talk on the Battle of the Atlantic in which the speaker’s father played a key part in the early days. Quotes from diaries written at the time brought it vividly to life, with the appalling weather as the convoys were routed north to avoid the U-boats. Nevertheless, huge losses were still sustained. The battle did not really turn until 1943, with the advent of aircraft radar cover and more use made of vital positional intelligence. After the talk and questions, we were served with drinks and snacks as we mingled. This was followed by a visit to the local war museum – walking distance for some but not me!

I had planned to cross over to Brest for Alex’s departure and Anse de L’Auberlac’h looked convenient for a stop on the way. It was recommended in the RCCPF pilot book Atlantic France as a favourate anchorage and so it proved during Wednesday night, with excellent shelter, good holding and lovely scenery.
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Moreover, we were able to sail most of the way there with Alex showing her sailing pedigree on the helm by achieving seven knots through the water - almost hull speed! Lorne had sent me an old article entitled, Sleighride to Stornoway, in which Alex had featured as a Cadet! We had a convivial supper on board, made in-roads into the wine stocks and listened to Lorne’s haunting Scottish songs CD.  A 1000 departure on the following day took us to the Moulin du Blanc marina in Brest about midday.

We had an evening meal ashore to say goodbye to Alex who had to get an early flight back from Brest airport on Friday. We ordered her a taxi for 0530 and were all up to say a fond farewell. It had been a good week and we had all got on splendidly; not surprising really as Alex and Lorne were both Cambridge graduates and lawyers and Paola’s English, honed in England, rather than
Milan University, was exemplary.
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After fuel replenishment, Friday was spent doing jobs on board and Lorne found plenty of those! Notably, he went up the mast to change the main steaming light bulb by dint of rigging up a tackle to the powered anchor winch. He was to be greatly innovative onboard throughout the trip; much to the skipper’s admiration. On Saturday, Paola and Lorne got a bus into Brest to sample the interesting town and do the victualling for Biscay while I pondered over routes and weather charts.
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A prompt departure was necessary on Sunday 16 June, both for the tide and the need to get Lorne to Coruna in time for an early flight from Santiago de Compostela on Thursday as he had to be back for his father-in-law’s funeral in Devon on Friday and an alumni College dinner in Cambridge on Saturday. He promised to return on Monday 24 June to prevent the skipper being on his own! We duly slipped at about 0700 in SW4-5 but then found the autohelm was only working from the handheld remote control; the main control panel at the binnacle read, ‘No Pilot’. However, we could manage with the remote, which we did the rest of the way – in fact, until repairs at Baiona, our final Galicia stop.
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It was bumpy through the narrow Goulet de Brest (wind against tide) and our bows regularly plunged into the waves. Unknown to me, we were taking significant water into the fore-ends. After Paola noticed her bunk getting wet, Lorne went up to investigate. He reported that water was pouring through an open pipe in the chain locker (probably originally intended as a drain) every time the bows dipped. Moreover, water was also coming in down through the hawse pipe as it swept over the fore deck. Limber holes should have allowed incoming water to flow through into the bilge but these had been filled in at some stage. Lorne put a wooden bung in the open pipe and that stopped the worst of the inflow. He then nobly sponged out the considerable amount of water and by that time we were past the final west cardinal and into Biscay.

With a rhumb line course of about 210 degrees, the wind was still against us and remained so all across the Bay. The direct distance from the Brest marina to the A Coruna marina was some 400nm and we had to make good about five knots down the track. We did this initially motor sailing (main and staysail) on into the Monday morning. The wind then dropped and backed a little allowing us to have a spell of pure sailing but it was evident that our 100L fuel tank capacity, if needed, could not be guaranteed to get us there at an average of 2.5L per hour as at 1300 we had already used about 75L. So we took advantage of the light wind and calm sea to add some 60L of diesel from three cans into the fuel tank. That left us with one can of 20L in reserve. We had to be careful with the water also, holding only 100L in the tanks, but we had a 25L container in reserve plus about 20L of drinking water.

The rest of Monday was good sailing with benign weather but winds were light and we had to use the engine into Tuesday. However, early on Tuesday evening the wind increased to SSW5-6. We still had some 100nm to go, so we bashed straight into it under engine, albeit with the main still up. It may not have been the seamanlike course of action but I did not want to be responsible for Lorne missing his father-in-law’s funeral. With periods of 25 plus knots, we eventually dropped the main as it was flogging too much. It was a long and somewhat miserable Tuesday night but the wind gradually eased to F4-5 from about 0700 and our speed increased. It had dropped at one time to not much more than three knots!

We had one on watch with one in back-up mode, rotating on a three hourly basis. This seemed to work quite well and Paola remained steadfast in the testing conditions. The wind continued to ease into Wednesday morning so with full engine and some canvas up, we made the Coruna approaches, with some relief, at about 1130 and were alongside in the inner marina at 1240.We had covered 397 miles on the log in just under three days six hours at an average speed of 5.1 knots.
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Lorne got an early train to Santiago on Thursday for his flight to Bristol via Dublin while Paola and I investigated the autohelm control panel and whether it could be fixed with local help. This was promised for Friday but never arrived; no doubt due to the looming long weekend holiday for the St Juan Feast.  On Friday morning Paola managed to get a bus from just outside the marina direct to Santiago airport, on her way to Italy. That evening, a fellow yacht kindly invited me onboard to see the iconic old film, ‘The Cruel Sea’. It told a realistic story of ‘groping and drowning, science and seamanship, in which the men were the heroes, the ships the heroines and the only villain the cruel sea itself’.

A magnificent dinner was held on Saturday 22 June at the very formal Royal Club Nautico A Coruna (RCNC), attended by 19 Meet yachts that had arrived. Next day there was a visit to the local war museum and the memorial to General Sir John Moore. After General Sir Nick Parker, who had just given an illuminating talk on Moore’s retreat to Coruna in 1809, laid a wreath, I followed with a recital of the famous poem, The Burial of Sir John Moore, from memory!  In the evening, RCNC generously hosted a supper party in their imposing club house and this was followed by fireworks and bonfires on the beach for the feast of St Juan; a great night.

On Monday afternoon, I was delighted to see Lorne again when he rejoined Ruby Star after a hectic weekend attending his UK events and travelling. We had some victualling to do on Tuesday morning but got away at 1135, bound for Corme, a distance of some 35nm. It was a perfect anchorage.  Next day we made an early start at 0600 as we wanted to reach Muros, a good 12 hours away. Lorne had sailed there over 40 years ago and was curious to see this delightful town again. We were in the marina there at 1900. I took a photo of Lorne in the exact spot where he was all those years ago.
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It was a leisurely start next day with just a short distance across the Ria to Portosin marina where many of the Meet yachts were assembled for the 27 & 28 June activities including an excellent BBQ on Thursday evening. The following day I managed to get our propane gas bottles filled despite butane being the normal gas in Spain. Other important help was when Carmela in the marina office also arranged for a Raymarine technician to visit and repair the autohelm control panel. This could not be done until Baiona but I was duly grateful anyway.

On Saturday we had a good sail to the iconic Ria de Arousa but did not risk one of the ‘interesting’ inner entrance passages which are detailed in the pilot book. We ended up in the small, but uncrowded, Vilanova marina, having avoided the many fishing rafts in the approaches. This made a good departure point for Ria de Vigo where we anchored in the picturesque Ensenada de Barra near the entrance.  Lorne was able to effect a pre-arranged transfer there to Calypso, a Bowman 46, to spend three days with an old friend of his.

After a quiet night alone, I sailed over to the National Park Islas Cies for a picnic with the Cadets. All the Meet yachts were met from their dinghies and taken up to the cabana area by a Cadet allocated to them.  The picnic was a great success and I was fortunate to have the stimulating and attentive company of the Cadet assigned to Ruby Star.

With the wind getting up, I was happy to make direct for Baiona that evening. This short passage was bumpy but uneventful except for the berthing. The marina staff were waiting to help me into the stern to position arranged. However, there was a significant cross wind in the approach. With Ruby Star’s bow blowing off and her difficulties in manoeuvring astern, my numerous attempts to come in were ineffective. More ‘in sorrow than in anger’, the berthing party eventually waved me round to a temporary bows to berth the other side. I made the original berth perfectly the following day with very little wind but it was too late to avoid the ignominy. I was, however, pleased when a technician duly arrived in the afternoon, as arranged, to repair my autohelm main control. He did this eventually by running a separate cable from the course computer to the control panel.

I met up with Lorne at a Wednesday evening farewell supper party at the Baiona yacht club on a glorious warm evening. We victualled and fuelled on Thursday morning, 4 July, and set off at 1200 for Port Solent direct with a possible stop at L’Aberwrac’h. The wind was predominantly light from the north east all the way but we were able to sail about half the time. All was well until the Passage de Fromveur off Ushant.
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I had planned to take this 1nm gap into the Chenal du Four as it was a shorter route but the Springs tide started to turn against us as we approached. Lorne pointed out that it could run at up to 9 knots and we would not make it through. He was right and half an hour later, making some two knots over the ground under full engine, I recognised the inevitable and we diverted to Camaret arriving at about 1900 on Monday 8 July. We were able to fuel there but the 24 hour machine required considerable patience to get working with a compatible card.

A 0530 start on the Tuesday was timed to get us through the Chenal du Four with the tide. The passage across the Channel had plenty of shipping to contend with but AIS was its usual helpful self and we made good progress albeit with engine assistance. Bursts of sailing only averaged about three plus knots. As we neared the Isle of Wight, it became evident we would not make the Needles channel with the tide so we diverted to the south for the Bembridge entrance to the Solent. We were through the lock and into our Port Solent marina berth at 1430 on Thursday 11 July.
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A mid-July deadline had been met. So ended a rewarding four and a half weeks of adventure afloat. It had worked out so much better than I had expected. I am grateful to Alex and Paola for their stimulating and helpful time on board but, especially, to Lorne for all that he did. He and I kept flexible three hour watches coming north, in which the one going off watch always had a full three hours on going below. This seemed to work well. Lorne made many improvements to Ruby Star during his time onboard, did much of the victualling and prepared many of the meals. He was the perfect crew and I could not have wished for a better companion and a more consummate sailor to accompany me across Biscay twice and round the Rias. I was also very fortunate with the relatively kind weather and the overall performance of my Victoria 34 Cutter Ruby Star while taking us over 1500nm to some great destinations.

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#2 2019-10-04 14:15:18

Charles_Grossie
Member
Registered: 2017-08-10
Posts: 39

Re: RUBY STAR's Overseas Cruise 2019

An interesting cruise Guy! Well done. :-)

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