Saturday 9th July 2005

Bilbao to Gijon

Our first crew was Joel and his girlfriend Tanya. Joel was very keen to do the trip and get as far as possible, but Tanya was definitely nervous but willing to give it a go. We set off on a bright sunny friday morning for the first short hop to Santoņa. The forecast was for light winds and moderate seas. In fact the seas were 2.5 metres high and steep at the entrance. Once past there in the deeper water we were able to sail for an hour before motoring on a slightly lumpy sea to the old dishing port of Santoņa. The weather was lovely, bright and 30+ degrees. Saturday, we headed off to Santander to meet up with Gerry Jordan, flying in from Ireland. Tanyas father joined us for the trip. He is a keen amateur fisherman and wanted to see ho a longer trip in a sailboat felt like. The first 2 hours we motored and then found a bit of wind for a lovely downwind sail into Santander. By the time we had picked up a mooring buoy at the club there was more wind. But at least Tanya was happy since we had showers in the club. She had imagined that we would be sweaty for the whole trip!Gerry arrived and we had a pleasant evening on board after a stroll around the modern city of Santander.

The sunday dawned grey with light winds, just enough to sail off the mooring for a trip 30 miles to San Vincente de la Barquera. Forecast was for 11 knots northerly wind, ideal for a first day out. Tanya and Joel were still in bed as we reached the open sea and found a gentle swell of 1 metre or less. Unfortunately as we headed out the wind came on the nose from the west. This meant tacking, but also would delay our arrival. Since San Vincente is tidal we could not enter on a falling tide. Thus we diverted to Suances as the weather started to look more grey. Winds were 15 knots or so over the deck which was lovely, thought the seas were building a bit to over a meter and a half at times. Now, Suances entrance is very narrow, between a beach on the right and a harbour wall on the right, so you enter heart in mouth about 20 feet from the wall. Inside we anchored as rain threatened and snoozed after the journey. A drizzly evening followed and things did not look ike improving so we arranged to stay in the small fishing harbour for a second night. Tanya had had enough by now and they decided to stay in a hotel to celebrate their first anniversary and go by road the rest of the way. We left the next day but found very lumpy seas and wind on the nose. So we turned around but coming back in was more nervewracking, especially when a 3 metre wave picked up the boat. It rolled under us but did nothing dangerous. So a third night in Suances in store, this time with Skipper and Gerry alone on board.

A very wet morning greeted Gerry and I but we had already decided to head to the village of Santillana del Mar for a day away from the boat. After walking halfway there in the rain, we were soaked but gradually the rain let up after lunch which led to some hope for a departure the following morning. The highlight of the damp trip was a visit to the Altamira Caves which house prehistoric paintings from 12000 BC. Humand are not let in anymore, but the museum explained in great detail the scandal caused by their discovery in the 19th century, as well as how they survived at the time.

Evantually, after 4 nights in Suances, one at anchor and three in the fishing harbour, we left for a long spin to Llanes in Asturias. The swell was still 1.5 to 2 metres and confused, leaving the skipper feeling woozy for the first time in ages. We were only able to sail for an hour before the wind died but the arrival into the lovely old town made up for it all. There was loads of life in the narrow backstreets and some good cider was imbibed to celebrate getting out of Suances. A morning stroll around the town showed a town with a distinctive architecture and lots of history, mostly tied up in fishing. The small fishing port has a similar feel to the Irish ones, where the fishermen leave at ungodly hours and sailboats have to be moved to accomodate them. But the fishermen treated us ok I suppose.

From there it was a longer spin of 45 miles to Gijon, a large city and stopoff port for many sailors crossing Biscay from France. We had a comfortable motorsail with wind gradually coming from the North East, a sure sign that better weather was on the way.