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Bay of Biscay

Our barque Picton Castle is sailing along in the famous Bay of Biscay about 180 miles west of the French city of Bordeaux and conditions could not be more stunningly enchanting. We have had our share of fog and gales in this voyage around Europe but now will be increasingly leaving that type weather astern as we head south. The crew are all excited about this as we make our way south for Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Senegal and across the mid Atlantic and the equator to Brazil.

We have just sailed from Saintt Nazaire, France and before that from Milford Haven, Wales but these stories will have to wait a little bit.

We are in the middle of a perfect and sunny day at sea under full sail. The yards are braced up on the port tack well off the back stays. The force 4-5 winds blow from the southeast and are fed by an enduring high pressure area overhead. The sky is a rich clear blue with not a cloud to be seen. Seas, a royal blue to complement the skies, are spattered with enough white caps to give depth to the horizon. This morning we passed nearby a bunch of whales headed the other way. For a time we were surrounded by the spouts of these huge creatures. There will be some sunburns today. Yesterday, when were doing our practice safety drills a lot of porpoise joined in and surrounded the ship. One of the objects was to train and drill in launching and recovering the 24 foot ship’s rescue boat in seas. The drill went very well as the crew are very used to quick launching and recovery of the boat, as we so often do this apart from our drills when coming into harbours. We had launched the rescue boat into lumpy seas and soon it was surrounded by jumping porpoise leaping ahead of it as if pulling it like sled dogs. I wasn’t lucky enough to catch them on camera in that pose but almost. And after we hoisted the boat in the five foot swells the porpoise took to jumping out of the water and slapping the seas by landing on their sides. They did this repeatedly as we checked all our abandon ship gear and put on and inspected our exposure suits. We had to stop and watch their cavorting. Later that evening we sailed through a school of small tuna jumping out of the water that some porpoise seemed to be rounding up.

It is good to be back at sea and get back to the business of seafaring under sail. But seafarers need fine old world ports too. Onward.

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