After three nights in La Rochelle, I was glad to get moving. The next
few days weren't expected to be very interesting as I had to get past
the boring coast of the Landes region south of Bordeaux heading for
the Spainish border. This area is over 100 miles of a featureless
sandy beach, with one stop along the way, a large shallow inlet
called the Basin D'Arcachon. What makes the Landes even more bizarre
is the fact that it is the site of a large milatary firing range
which operates up to 45 miles offshore between Bordeaux and the
For the long haul I had John Carlson, who I met when doing my
Yachtmaster training at Easter. John was interested in doing some
long hauls before meeting up with his wife and kids in Capbreton,
just before the Border with Spain.
Click here to see pics of their mad gang
From La Rochelle John and I set
off on a short hop to St Denis D'Oleron nearby. This was delayed a
bit due to a difficulty with a new impellor but we did get in before
the tide fell too far. The next day was a long spin to Royan, at the
mouth of the Gironde River. Along the way we saw curious towers on
the shore which were used to hoist and lower nets into the deep
water to catch fish. I had only seen the like of this in photos
from Asia. I just don't know what they were catching, but as the
water near the shore was very deep, it could have been anything.
The river was lined with serious palaces for the rich from Bordeaux
and gave you the idea of just how much money there was in the area.
The river heads to Bordeaux a and for
some sailors, to the Canal de Midi, which leads to the Med. Boats
have to have their masts lowered for the trip to allow them to get
under the bridges. We only saw one boat preparing for that trip,
which seemed infinitely more interesting than the trip which awaited
us. As it turned out, the trip to Arcachon was relaxing enough.
The departure from it did not go according to plan as the firing range was
active that morning, despite us being told days before that it would
not be. We therefore had to anchor for a couple of hours on the
exposed coast to wait before we were permitted to head south. Luckily,
there was little swell so we decided to go for a dive. John had never
dived before so it gave him the chance to do something new. Sadly there
was little to see, other that the sandy bottom.
We expected to see missiles and fighters but saw little except for a
few planes. We did hear a couple of explosions in the distance,
though. On restarting south, we had a pleasant trip, though it did
get hot enough that we had to get the sun awning up to give us a
little shelter from the heat. I must say that it worked really well
and we arrived in Capbreton relaxed, clean even as we had showered
on the move. John's wife Trish, son Sean, and daughter Sinead were
there to meet us and we had a great Carlson feed on board as a
reward for our efforts.
A relaxing day in port followed, mostly spent on the beach. I am not
a great sun worshiper, but it was good to chill after the previous
three long days on passage. We left early to head to Hendaye, at
the border. We managed to sail a little but it was back to the engine
to keep seasickness of some crew to a minimum. Along the way we were
briefly entertained by a large pod of dolphins heading north feeding
on tuna which are running at present. We anchored on the Spanish side
of the bay outside the harbour to await a rise of tide. The real
reason was to go for a swim. The water was 24 degrees, 5 degrees
warmer that it had been in Royan. Its great when you can get it!!!
I finally realised why I decided to sail to Spain. Though we did not
go ashore, I can finally say that I have arrived in Spain and I feel
a strange sense of accomplishment. But I could not have done it
without the crew who helped out along the way.
Thank you all
We spent three days in the Marina in Hendaye, swimming and surfing.
The surf wasn't big but the shape of the waves were beautiful. My
little Piranha Attack had a ball. Surprisingly, I was joined by an
Italian Kayak Surfer in a Riot boat. I told him that I had never
seen a paddler surfing in the Basque Country before but he said that
interest in it was on the up.
A short 12 mile hop followed to San Sebastian, which is a real jewel:
a long curving beach and a lovely old town with great tapas. Sadly,
there was a sloppy swell rolling in which made sleeping difficult
Zumaia followed which is one of the possible places for
me to berth my boat for the winter in case the marina in Bilbao is
either full or too expensive. It is a sleepy old town with a lovely
quiet marina. There are boat supplies shops for any winter work I
need to do, and I even found an English Language centre for possible
work. THe only downside is the fact that it is 63kms from Bilbao,
though by motorway.
The following day saw us mooring in the small fishing port of Lequetio
which was the most beautiful place we had seen so far. Trish was quick
to point out that Suckin' Diesel was moored directly outside an Irish
Bar, which must obviously have been an omen of some kind. The beach
was right beside the port so we swam until the eveing before doing
the "Paseo" (eveing stroll) with the locals. Here we met Jan and
Stuart, a Brit and an Aussie, holidaying with their two kids. After
wine and beer in the Irish pub we agreed to all go diving the following
day. And so ended another stressful day in Paradise.
The diving was pleasant, though exciting for the kids who were all
first timers. After that it was a motor on flat seas ever closer to
Bilbao. Along the way the scenery was breathtaking and photos cannot
do it justice. The steep rugged mountains roll down to the sea with
houses and small villages perched on their sides. Though I have been
here many times before, I must say that I have seen a whole new side
We attempted to pull into Plencia, a suburb village on a river but
the anchorage wasn't great so we sailed on and the kids did their
usual.....,they slept until we had tied up in the marina in Getxo,
Bilbao. The following two days were spent doing the touristy sights
of Bilbao and shopping for the girls.
One day of cleaning and a little sightseeing and the Carlsons were
gone. I hope they had a good holiday, their presence was certainly
felt on board Suckin' Diesel....... She may never be the same again !