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Saint Nazaire and Across the Bay of Biscay

As we have done several times on this amazing voyage around Europe, we found ourselves waiting out a gale before getting underway from a port we were visiting. Well, they have pretty protected harbours hereabouts, plenty of them and we had set up the schedule with these delays in mind so no problem. It would not hurt us so much to hang out at the fine French seaport of Saint Nazaire a couple more days. It looked like a big high pressure system would build behind the front carrying the gales, bringing fair weather. We could live with another day of café au lait and croissants.

Sailing day broke bright and clear with light northerly winds – just perfect for sailing on a southwesterly course for La Coruna, Spain and a very fine chance along to make our way under sail out of the Bay of Biscay. The Picton Castle sprung off the quay, turned around with the help of sails and the skiff pushing the bow. We locked through by ourselves this time. Jean-Claude piped us out of the basin at the river side of the lock. Shortly after we were steaming down the River Loire. As soon as we were clear of the channel, the gang got all sail on the ship and shut down the engine. It was a treat to be under sail with the sun burning down.

Now it was back to sea watches, standing lookout, tricks at the helm, working the ship, setting and trimming sail, bracing back and forth, ships work and afternoon workshops in nautical lore and skills. Again we had a surprising number of porpoise and dolphins swimming and jumping around the ship, more whales too. Two owls hitched a ride and perched on the mizzen cross trees for a couple days – they flew off when they could see Spain. We locked up Chibley while they lurked aloft, seemed like good idea. Getting noticeably warmer it was too, day by day. We closed with the Spanish coast as the light winds died away all together. Rather than drift about at sea in a large sloppy swell we put into a small fishing harbour called Corino for a night. Corino has that little squiggle over the ‘N’ making the pronunciation ‘cor-een-yo’. This was a fine little stop and good anchorage behind a high breakwater. I explained to the crew that when you see a high breakwater it is because, at times, they really need one just like that. Weather info indicated little or no wind on the morrow. As we were not more than forty miles away from La Coruna it looked like a day for motoring.

Off we sailed for La Coruna, or motored actually as there was not a breath of wind, only a large oily swell from a storm swirling far off in the North Atlantic somewhere. As we approached the harbour the port authorities of the La Coruna area recommended that we anchor in a small anchorage nearby at a small town called Ares. This we did and it turned out to be a lovely spot. From here, the crew made forays into the interior. A big hit was visiting Santiago, an ancient medieval city with a magnificent cathedral called Catedral del Apostol. The center piece is a sarcophagus said to hold the earthly remains of James, brother of Jesus. It is a beautiful stone city with winding narrow streets and cafes everywhere. We admired the fine wooden built small craft in this small bay. Every day some good work got done on the ship with sail-making progressing and workshops for the duty watch in seamanship ongoing. From Ares we sailed for Cascais, Portugal at the mouth of the port of Lisbon.

a little ship
An owl hitched a ride to Spain
cathedral at Santiago, photo from Cody
The streets of Santiago de Compostella

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