Leg 18: La Coruna - Nieuwpoort

We met fellow Nieuwpoort yachtsmen moored in La Coruna, which ran into a bit of trouble with their autopilot drive in the middle of Biscay. Due to a general strike of postal and packaging services they found themselves stuck in La Coruna. Having our old, working but fatigued drive still on board, we offered him as a temporary solution. As we really saved their day, we had a very nice evening with both crew members. The next day they left for Bayonne, with our spare pilot installed and working.

Because of our Bonus Biscay Crossing, we got into another WWW. We decided to do some maintenance in the meantime, but with still some 700 nM pending, we decided to work on the inside first. The kids did not like us tearing apart their playground, and voiced their discomfort in overactivity and brawls. Aspro was still looking very good, so we had finished our work in less than a day. Not that we had time to get bored, because 3 days after arrival in La Coruna a suitable weather window was forming to get underway. We left Thursday 19th of June evening time. The forecast gave light airs from the SE for our Bonus Biscay Crossing, freshening around the end. We were not entirely comfortable considering the wind direction, but the chance was too good not to leave.

We made good passage, though most of it under engine. We stopped flying the main early morning Friday, as the lack of wind combined with the waves were only damaging it. We flew the Genoa for a while on its boom, but after another few hours we also rolled it in, as again no thrust was gained from it. Leen’s birthday celebration turned out a tad difficult, as we were sailing in the middle of Biscay. On top of that, a low pressure area between the Acores and Ireland was launching depression after depression to the English islands. While a high over Biscay prevented them from entering the area, they were causing gale warnings all over the UK and in the German Bight. Leen’s entry in the logbook at 16:15 on her birthday, once we had reached the Brest area in 25 knots of carrying breeze, read: “Aspro is flying at 9,1 knots to give me my birthday present: out of Biscay and around the Brest cape…”.

Once past Brest the weather forecast started being a tad confused. The French side of Biscay and the Channel Area was having 15 to 25 knots of carrying, SE breeze, while the depression was causing general gale warnings in all other forecast areas. We had to admit MeteoFrance was not making a mistake, but apparently neither was the UK Met Office. It was weird sailing in 25 knots while 100 miles further, on the other side of the channel, a full gale 8, sometimes even a severe gale 9 was blowing.

Not feeling entirely comfortable with the situation, we decided to alter course on night 3 to head for Lezardrieux, running for cover yet again. Come morning, with about 20 nM left, the forecast from MeteoFrance remained optimistic, and the first impression of the day proved them right. We therefore changed course again and headed for Cherbourg. We laboured against the strong Channel Island currents for 5 hours, but once near Le Hague, and with the tide turning, we covered the last 30 miles with VMG’s of over 10 knots. We entered Cherbourg for 12 hours, to refuel and unblock the toilet.

The next morning, after a too short night but also after a marvellous breakfast with real French baguettes, we continued our trip to Nieuwpoort. The weather forecast gave similar weather then after our Biscay Crossing. Two days of light airs followed by gale strength winds over the Irish Sea and large patches of the English islands. We opted to take the light airs home. The first 5 hours were marvellous, running with the tide and covering ample ground. Then off course came the slow struggle against the ebb. Luckily, going north, the struggle only lasts for 5 hours while the run with the tide can last as long as 7 hours. We succeeded in reaching Cap Gris Nez and Cap Blanc Nez at the height of the ebb, which had us moving at 3,5 to 4 knots VMG. I feel sorry for people sailing boats which only reach 4 or 5 knots tops. We were near exasperation at these speeds.

Once the rising tide started to set in, the wind had completely veered to the NE and started settling around 20 to 25 knots. Tide against wind this made for steep, short but high waves, ideal banging weather. Especially the “Zuydcote Pass” was interesting, with the tide at its hardest and the wind picking up. We reached Nieuwpoort on the 24th of June at 19:05, the official end of our fantastic sabbatical.

With the wind picking up, Luigi Presto had decided to enter Nieuwpoort as well in stead of trying to reach Breskens. The next day, with Aspro already on the dry, we had to part from them, after sailing together on and off for the better part of the last six months. Despite our lifestyle, saying goodbyes never became a strong point of ours, so we most probably did it completely wrong once again. We really enjoyed Luuk’s and Anneloes’s company, and hope to see more of them in the future…

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