A Journey So Far - The travels of Nausikaa

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seadago
Posts: 117
Joined: Sun Jun 03, 2012 8:42 am
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A Journey So Far - The travels of Nausikaa

Post by seadago »

Hello everyone

Tonight, I'm insomniac. It happens to me on land from time to time. So I figured it was a great opportunity to make a start on telling this tale. I will do it in installments, as time permits, but don't expect a chronicle. Not even a sequential account of events. I’m not that kind of writer. It’ll probably be a series of pics and short explanatory texts; my impression of places, passages, moments along the way.
So, without further ado…
A Journey So Far
A Journey So Far
Journey So Far.jpg (45.11 KiB) Viewed 774 times
The Journey So Far has been between Lowestoft, Suffolk, UK, and Torrevieja, near Alicante, Spain. I left Lowestoft on the 4th of August 2019 and managed to get to Brest, France, by the beginning of October, when the weather finally and definitely closed up on me.
This part of the journey I will relate some other time. For starters, I don’t have any graphic material of it, so I will be one long piece of text. All pics and clips I had were on my phone, and the phone is now rusting away at the bottom of the entry channel to Roscoff. Voilá!

Nausikaa spent the winter on the hard at the Moulin Blanc Marina in Brest, before heading south again on the 17th of June 2020, and arriving in Torrevieja on the 29 September 2020. Much water under the keel in all that time. All in all, 2,500 NM sailed, or thereabouts. Fifty-two harbours, ports, and anchorages visited, and sixteen weeks afloat onboard that beloved chamber pot with masts of mine.
Nausikaa sad and forlorn on the hard for the winter
Nausikaa sad and forlorn on the hard for the winter
Nauikaa on the dry.jpg (51.98 KiB) Viewed 774 times
I arrived back in Brest from the UK after the winter break in the middle of May, having allocated one month to prepare the boat for the journey, to allow Joanna and I to get used to sailing together, and for Joanna to get familiar with the peculiarities of a cat ketch rig. I figured the Rade de Brest would be the ideal place to do just that. I figured it right; it was.

I must, at this point, introduce Joanna Wendrychowicsz to all that know me on the forum. Joanna joined this crazy adventure in March 2020, as First Mate, XO, and winch (or wheel, as it turned out to be) wench of Nausikaä, and Commodore of the overall expedition. No small feat, considering she was joining the company of an inveterate solo sailor, with the unenviable expectation of having to cajole an old dog into learning new sailing tricks. Hence the need to allow enough time and opportunity for both of us to crystalise into an effective and efficient crew before setting off from Brest.

In the middle of the Covid lockdown, that month was not a particularly joyous time. Still, we managed to do everything we could think of to prepare Nausikaä for Biscay, and whatever was waiting for us beyond. Brest is well suited for that sort of thing. At the Moulin Blanc marina, further up the Rade from the city of Brest, there are adequate infrastructure and technical service providers to cater for every need, and the Marina staff is knowledgeable, helpful, and flexible. Thumbs up!

Checking tides and winds, the big day was set to 16th June. Last entry on my to-do list of that day was: “Make offering and appropriate sacrifices to Poseidon” Couldn’t easily drown a horse as the ancient Greeks would have done, so we toasted the fellow with some French champagne going in the water, and begged his indulgence!
Nausikaa at the Moulin Blanc Marina in Brest
Nausikaa at the Moulin Blanc Marina in Brest
@ the Moulin Blanc Marina in Brest.jpg (24.69 KiB) Viewed 774 times
Rafael
s/v Nausikaa
SSR 30570, sail GBR 4619L
F30 CK (Hoyt), wishbones, centreboard, G10 rig. Built by Fairways Marine, Humble, UK, '82
Beta 16 hp with two-blade prop

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seadago
Posts: 117
Joined: Sun Jun 03, 2012 8:42 am
Location: Lowestoft, England

Re: A Journey So Far - The travels of Nausikaa

Post by seadago »

Brest to Loctudy – 60 NM

We left the Moulin Blanc marina just after mid-day on June 16th, well into the ebb tide, for the 3-hour ride to Camaret-sur-Mer, at the south entrance of the Rade de Brest. Short ride, about three hours, but uncomfortable: variable NWesterlies inside the rade, and squalls coming with the wind, arriving in Camaret at 16:00, soaking wet.

The choice had been suggested to us by a good sailor friend from Brest, Jean-Pierre Clec’h, as the best departure spot to round the tip of Bretagne: easy way in and out of the harbour, and best use of the tide hours available to round the Raz de Sein.

On spring tides, the best time to arrive at the northern end of the Raz heading south is within a couple of hours of LW, when the water is still moving in the right direction, but the current is no so strong as to generate potentially dangerous eddies and counter currents in the confetti of islets and rocks between the continent and the Ile de Sein. Even on a modest coefficient spring tide, the current can clock 7 knots and the water breaks on the shallows.

I had planned a route around Touliguet due SW, through the Chenal du Petit Leac’h. On the chart it seemed reasonable and easy: straight line to the Raz, in the exact direction of the tidal current according to the tide atlas, about 20 mts avg depth, and almost three miles wide. Lots of room in case the wind does not quite cooperate.
Through Touliguet channel to port
Through Touliguet channel to port
Toulinget to Port.jpg (51.74 KiB) Viewed 769 times
While discussing the route with Jean Pierre though, he frowned and shook his head. No, he said. Use the Chenal de Touliguet. This is an inshore channel, 0.7 miles wide, 12 mts avg depth, and requiring a dog leg to head for the Raz once we were clear of the point. It was counter intuitive.
In querying this opinion, Jean Pierre shook his head again. I’ve never gone south that way, he said. I don’t know anyone that ever has. Use Toulinguet! he repeated sternly. I have learned to my benefit not to disregard lightly local knowledge, so I took that pearl of wisdom as gospel and reworked my pilot plan accordingly.
Through Toulinguet channel to stbd
Through Toulinguet channel to stbd
Le Lion to Stbd.jpg (42.25 KiB) Viewed 769 times
The plan called for an early departure from Camaret the following day, 05:00 cast-off, at the turn of the tide. I got up at 03:30 to brew some coffee, and weary-eyed climbed in the cockpit to a heavy rain and a pea-soup fog. Oooah gat! Mmmmm…. Nah. Forget it! I will follow your advice Jean Pierre, but not in the dark in these conditions, through a half-a-mile wide channel with rocks like fangs sticking out of the water on either side. There will be other tides. Back to bed!

We left Camaret sur Mer that afternoon at 15:30 on the following tide. The wind had backed from the early morning to NW, so we made slow progress westwards, with both sails tight like drum skins, and at the very limit of what Nausikaä can do and still move forward at all. The prime objective was to get to the north entrance to the Raz de Sein between one and two hours before LW. I had in my mind vivid images of humongous waves crashing at the base of the La Veille lighthouse off the Pointe du Raz (you’ve seen them, the ones with the lighthouse keeper opening the door at that very moment!), and didn’t want to spend any more time than strictly necessary in that vicinity.

But leaving with the afternoon tide meant that we could no longer get to Loctudy with daylight. Past midnight, best guess. Loctudy is not a difficult place to get to, but it is still a tidal river mouth, with a rather narrow channel; perhaps 30 mts at the narrowest part? So while doing the chart work the day before I included a “refuge” halfway in the pilot plan. This became a habit through the journey all the way to Torrevieja. If at all available and practicable, I would include an alternative landfall between any two points 60 NM apart or more.

Yes, it is a bit more effort to the navigation chore, but I found it has several distinct advantages. First, it is a Plan B in case of unexpected change in conditions or technical faults with the gear, without having to undo the progress made up to then and return to the point of departure. Second, the route is already planned. When running for cover, even if simply to cope with tiredness, it is not the time to leaf through pilot books for the basic info or do chart work. One is liable to make mistakes that way. When invoking Plan B I already know what I mast do, and I am familiar with what I can expect. This practice paid dividends more than once on this journey.

Not pretending this is best practice, or even good seamanship. It just works for me!

Once we got to the entrance of Toulinguet and turned south, we made it through the channel fairly quickly, and headed off for the “Fangs” of Pen-Hir. This is a line of rocky outcrops extending SW form the Pointe de Pen-Hir. There are five triangular islets (hence “Fangs”) off the cape, that look somewhat intimidating, but the danger lies on the twelve or so reefs offshore from there, barely below the surface, spaced every three or four hundred meters for another 5 NM.
Heading to the Fangs at Pen-Hir
Heading to the Fangs at Pen-Hir
Heading for the fangs @ Point de Pen Hir.jpg (52.21 KiB) Viewed 769 times
Once clear of Pen-Hir, we had a nice sail at 5 kn with a beam reach all the way to the Raz and got there a little ahead of schedule. The passage through the Raz de Seine offers some absolutely spectacular landscapes. With a heavily overcast sky and light fading though, we were concentrating in the navigation which, even in good conditions, is still challenging. No relaxing and enjoying the view. I don't have any pics... sad!

Past the Raz, the wind died a little, to about 10 knots true. Now we had an almost but not quite dead run, and the sea from behind. Nausikaä does not like that angle, just past 125 degrees, with not enough wind to really fill the sails. We tried several options. With both sails to the same side, the mizzen shaded the main so much that the main stalled. Gull-winging, with the swell directly from astern, the mizzen just would not stay put, and I had to rig a preventer. Eventually, tired of adjusting sail on the light breeze, I abated the mizzen altogether and run with the main only. Not supposed to do this, but what the hec!

Two hours after clearing the Raz and with night rapidly approaching Joanna and I looked at each other and decided that it was indeed to time to invoke Plan B, so we headed for the bay of Audierne, our “refuge”.

We picked up a buoy in front of St Evette in the dark in among half-dozen other boats, presumably also on passage somewhere else, had dinner with a bottle of wine, a good rest for the night, and a lazy morning the following day. We had cleared the French Finisterre that day. Not a great achievement, perhaps, but I was glad to leave it behind.

The following day, clear and sunny, we left St Evette at 14:30 and made to Loctudy at 19:00, just before HW, broad-reaching all the way on 12 knots of wind. What a delightful sail. What a delightful day!
Rafael
s/v Nausikaa
SSR 30570, sail GBR 4619L
F30 CK (Hoyt), wishbones, centreboard, G10 rig. Built by Fairways Marine, Humble, UK, '82
Beta 16 hp with two-blade prop

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newt2u
Posts: 80
Joined: Wed Sep 11, 2019 11:24 am
Location: UK

Re: A Journey So Far - The travels of Nausikaa

Post by newt2u »

Enjoyed reading of your travels. Keep it coming... I'm too constrained for such adventures so enjoy reading good accounts of other's passages.
Rockin - F21 twin drop keels - located Milford Haven
Wintered in Shropshire where I am when I’m not sailing

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seadago
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Joined: Sun Jun 03, 2012 8:42 am
Location: Lowestoft, England

Re: A Journey So Far - The travels of Nausikaa

Post by seadago »

BBBB - Big Bad Boy Biscay

Loctudy to Viveiro – 310 NM

It must have been close to one full year. This is the time I spend researching the crossing of the BBBB. Pilot books and cruising guides, passage accounts on the web, youtube clips, and chats with other sailors that did it before. And after all that prep, I got only one thing clear: first and foremost, conditions are really unpredictable. Could blow a gale out of nowhere. Could also be dead calm all the way to the north of Spain. Of itself, something not quite good either!

Patrick Laine (or youtube fame) had this bit of advice for me: “the secret is to choose the right weather window”. He should know, the BBBB are his home waters. As ever, pay attention to local lore Rafa!

We stayed in Loctudy longer than anticipated or desired, pinned down by a strong SW blowing all across the bay. Not complaining. Loctudy is a delightful little spot. There are extended tidal salt marshes at the river mouth, beautiful beaches facing the bay, and Loctudy itself is a charming 19th century sleepy holiday resort with the air of provincial exclusivity. We explored the marshes on the dinghy, and the town on bikes loaned by the marina.

But we were at the very beginning of our journey and wanted to get the rest of it under way.

The “right weather window”, as far as I could recognise such thing, was a mild high-pressure system moving slowly and steadily north and east along the cantabric coast of Iberia. It was really a bulge of the Azores H, meandering east and protruding into Biscay, but it should give us moderate Northerlies out of France, backing to north-westerlies three days later in arriving to Spain. Most predictive models agreed on that picture for the same time period. If the prediction held, we should have a beam reach 10-15 knots almost all the way there with clear skies day and night. That’s pretty much Nausikaä’s sweet spot. Couldn’t ask for more!

We expected a three-day, two-nights passage to Viveiro on the north coast of Galicia. Our “refuge”, if at all one, was Ribadeo, another small ria about 20 NM east along the coast. Not much to choose between those two; both small, both narrow, both hard to negotiate on the ebb tide with strong onshore winds, and same distance from the decision waypoint. But Ribadeo may give us a better angle on the wind on the third day. On the chart at least.

As soon as the wind settled from the N, on the 26th, we left Loctudy at 06:00 on a compass heading of 210 degrees. On that course off Loctudy, the continental shelf is about 65 NM wide to the 200 mts isobath, and then it drops on a sharp slope to about 3000 mts in the space of 30 miles. I anticipated a gentle shortish-period swell over the shelf, but all pilot books remarked it can get a bit hairy when the long-period oceanic swell hits the continental slope. I wanted to be past that point by nightfall on the 26th.

We had an absolutely fantastic sail that day until about 18:00. A large pod of oceanic dolphins stayed with us, on and off, for much of the day. With Joanna at the wheel, I went forward, leaned over the bowsprit, and spend long minutes spell-bound watching their shenanigans on the bow. Amazingly, it is evident they KNOW they are being observed. One particular individual would repeatedly jump into the wake and then turn slightly sideways just below the surface, checking ME out! Absolutely magical!
Dolphin-gazing
Dolphin-gazing
dolphin watcher.jpg (27.06 KiB) Viewed 675 times
At about 18:00, the wind all but died out. That was not in the forecast. Mmmmm… maybe it’ll pick up later. Let’s get past the hairy miles of the continental slope, and then we’ll see. So I started the engine and revved for 5 knots, our average planned speed, to keep to the schedule.
Against all predictions (or perhaps predictably unpredictable), the wind stayed dead for the following two days. The “hairy” miles were rather bald and as flat as the 150 miles that came after; Dead calm, mirror oily seas, and huge, long, gentle oceanic swell that lifted Nausikaä up and put her down like a toy duck on a bathtub.
Sunset of the first day
Sunset of the first day
sunset 1.jpg (15.46 KiB) Viewed 675 times
Putputputput for 36 hours, on autopilot. Hightlights: Biscay gave us the most incredibly beautiful sunrises and sunsets I have seen anywhere, on land or at sea. Dolphins galore! Overwhelming, clear night skies. Cooked evening meals; boat not rolling at all. Absolutely empty sea; no sight of another boat during the day, no lights on the horizon at night. Lowlights: the drone of the engine, but it soon becomes part of the background noise of the world.
sunrise of second day
sunrise of second day
sunrise 1.jpg (12.7 KiB) Viewed 675 times
By the afternoon of the second day, the whole dead-calm-in-the-middle-of-the-ocean thing was getting a bit tiresome, and I was wondering how on earth I managed to get it so wrong. I’m no meteorologist, but that was ridiculous! Talk about superstitious sailors. I remembered in Brest wishing an “easy” passage across Biscay from Poseidon. Be careful what you ask from the gods… Besides, I honestly did not know if I had sufficient fuel on board to putputput all the way to Viveiro. I simply never considered that scenario in my planning.

Then we spotted a freighter on the horizon. As my weather forecast was already three days old, I put a DSC call on the VHF to the freighter and asked for an updated weather report. Very kindly, the freighter called back and said, “more of the same for the next two days”.

At that point Joanna and I decided to change course due S and head for Gijón. We were about 110 NM from the Spanish coast. It would save us about 40 miles to landfall and at 5 knots, we should get there by lunchtime the following day. I could not trust my 3-day old (wrong!) weather forecast, and I didn’t particularly trust the update from the freighter either. Whatever happened to the weather, Gijón was much easier to get to than either Viveiro or Ribadeo; large open commercial harbour with no tidal or weather hazards.

Late that the evening the sky darkened, and we went into a thick fog bank, still becalmed. Time to switch on the radar. And a good thing we did too, because we had to dribble around a tunny net that appeared across out path in the dark and with very poor viz.

The breeze finally picked up from the West at daybreak, about 14 knots gusting to 18, requiring a deep reef on the mizzen. The breeze took the fog away but brought squalls off the Cantabric mountains ahead of us, so we also had to put and shake reefs in the main a couple of times getting to Gijón. Exhilarating sail! Joanna was at the wheel and really put Nausikaä through her paces, clocking over 6 knots on the water occasionally, but keeping a steady 5.8 knots most of the time, and never quite breaching the boat. Came close though! We made it into Gijón late afternoon and were allocated a berth on the inner harbour by the marina office, as they were about to close for the night.

Securely tied up and with a cold beer in our hands, Joanna and I reviewed our decision to change course when we did. Were we over-cautious? Time would tell. And it did! That night, the wind picked up from the west to 25 knots, gusting 30, and stayed there for several days. No matter. Academic! We beat the BBBB. We made it across Biscay. Horay!!!!

Luv… get another beer from the cool box, will ya?
Rafael
s/v Nausikaa
SSR 30570, sail GBR 4619L
F30 CK (Hoyt), wishbones, centreboard, G10 rig. Built by Fairways Marine, Humble, UK, '82
Beta 16 hp with two-blade prop

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seadago
Posts: 117
Joined: Sun Jun 03, 2012 8:42 am
Location: Lowestoft, England

Re: A Journey So Far - The travels of Nausikaa

Post by seadago »

Views of Biscay
sunset second day
sunset second day
sunset 2.jpg (12.19 KiB) Viewed 673 times
helmswoman
helmswoman
helmswoman.jpg (41.23 KiB) Viewed 673 times
Rafael
s/v Nausikaa
SSR 30570, sail GBR 4619L
F30 CK (Hoyt), wishbones, centreboard, G10 rig. Built by Fairways Marine, Humble, UK, '82
Beta 16 hp with two-blade prop

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Castaway
Posts: 235
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2008 8:40 pm
Location: Lerwick, Shetland Isles

Re: A Journey So Far - The travels of Nausikaa

Post by Castaway »

A most enjoyable story so far, Rafael!

Are you going to overwinter in Torrevieja? We shall be visiting a little North of there (by car) in the spring, so would look you up if our visits coincide. I'd like to see the G10 rig for real! We know the area to the North of Alicanté quite well, if you need any tourist info.

Enjoy your winter, wherever you spend it!

Regards,

Gerald
Gerald Freshwater,
s/y 'Castaway', (UK F35 cat ketch, centreboard, 1987)
Lerwick Boating Club
Shetland Isles, Scotland

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seadago
Posts: 117
Joined: Sun Jun 03, 2012 8:42 am
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Re: A Journey So Far - The travels of Nausikaa

Post by seadago »

Castaway wrote:
Fri Nov 20, 2020 11:21 am
A most enjoyable story so far, Rafael!

Are you going to overwinter in Torrevieja? We shall be visiting a little North of there (by car) in the spring, so would look you up if our visits coincide. I'd like to see the G10 rig for real! We know the area to the North of Alicanté quite well, if you need any tourist info.

Enjoy your winter, wherever you spend it!

Regards,

Gerald
Hi Gerald. Absolutely! Anytime you come around these here parts, there's a place four you in Torrevieja. Standing invite! Yes, we'll spend the winter there, and after, who knows? Plan is to do some cruising around the western Med in the spring, Covid permitting! I'll pick your brains about cruising grounds when the time comes. :lol:
Rafael
s/v Nausikaa
SSR 30570, sail GBR 4619L
F30 CK (Hoyt), wishbones, centreboard, G10 rig. Built by Fairways Marine, Humble, UK, '82
Beta 16 hp with two-blade prop

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