A transcription of a page taken from the ship's log
We stayed at La Corunna until Thursday, 11th June. Our time there was pleasant enough. The barometer continued rising until the day of our departure for La Rochelle. While in port we carried out a few minor repairs, including attending to chafe on the sails. We did a bit of letter writing and enjoyed the company of other yachtsmen; most were on their way to the Mediterranean.
There can be a tendency not to want to sail. I call the condition ‘Portitis’. One becomes lethargic and there is no desire to put to sea because you know you will be exposed to its incessant movement; you know that physical expenditure will be required of you, and you are never quite sure what the sea may throw at you. Going to sea is always an ‘adventure’, which means taking part in something, the end of which you cannot be sure. Perspective changes when the boat is on her way. The crew is busy navigating and tending sails. Within hours the routine of watch keeping gives structure to the day. There are always new things to see. Life afloat is never dull. Wind and tide determine tactics, and perseverance brings success. The vessel arrives at her destination. Skipper and crew are rewarded.
The decision was made; we were to return home. Precisely at 1102 we cast off for La Rochelle. As expected, on account of high barometric pressure, there was very little wind, but by mid-day we were experiencing a rain squall that required us to put in a reef. Bill noted that the rain was warm - in his words, “ideal for growing tomatoes.” He went on to say that Spanish tomatoes are cheap because they grow profusely in such damp and warm conditions. Later that afternoon the wind fluctuated both in strength and in direction. At one time there was so little wind that we resorted to setting the large jib. All this action was making us hot and sweaty.
On the morning of 12th June we continued to the northeast, parallel to the coast before heading almost north. At 0040 it started to drizzle again –the fine sort that penetrates your waterproofs, although they have been designed not to let it in. The sea was smooth, and between 1120 and 1230 we ran the engine for a spot of mackerel fishing. To our joy we caught three - ideal for sharing between us, not too much and not too little. There’s nothing quite as tasty as fresh mackerel coated with breadcrumbs fried in a pan of olive oil, eaten within minutes of being caught. Baked beans at the same time go down well too!
Throughout the afternoon there was heavy rain and strong gusts tormented us, requiring us to reef the mainsail several times. The rain stopped at 1700, but the wind continued to fluctuate in direction. These trying conditions did not bring us joy; instead, it was hard work, but there was no cause to moan, because we had to take the rough with the smooth.
Sunday, 14th June was mostly a good day. We were about halfway across the Bay of Biscay. Underneath the boat there were 4,700 metres of ocean. The sea was flat, almost mirror-like. We motored along, averaging 3.8 knots. As the day dawned we were entertained by a large school of porpoises. These inquisitive creatures kept company with us for forty or so minutes. They frolicked at the bow, gambolled beside the yacht and made sorties away from us, only to return again. They were having fun, and so were we.
The moon was clearly visible in the early morning light and when I found a good horizon I had a go at taking a sight. The result was not encouraging because it placed us 14 miles further back than we thought we were. The conclusion was that the sight was a poor one, as I later confirmed by taking a sun sight.
I have never been able to achieve an accurate ship’s position by taking a sextant sight of the moon on account of the silvery planet’s rapid movement. Because the moon is close to the Earth, its position relative to the horizon measured as an angle between its lower limb and the horizon is difficult to capture on account of the rapidly moving planet. Accurate timing is an absolute necessary. Equally important is obtaining a precise angle in terms of degrees, minutes and seconds. The exact height of the observer’s eye above sea level is also required for a good result. Unless the shot is taken when the yacht is on the crest of a wave, a true horizon cannot be established.
While calm conditions allowed, we topped up the ship’s main fuel tank with diesel from our spare can and we also refilled the paraffin cooker. Altogether since leaving La Corunna, in addition to sailing, we had motored 81 miles. Later in the day we were again visited by porpoises, possibly the same ones who amused us earlier.
Rather frighteningly we spotted a waterspout. At first it looked like a white streak pointing down from dark menacing clouds, but very quickly it was met with a column of water rising from the sea. The area around the base was very agitated and we were rather too close for comfort. In view of the unpredictability of waterspouts and because of our fear, we immediately took in all sail, and started the engine. We kept a wary eye on what was happening, but the menacing spout did not come towards us, and it eventually collapsed.
Low 'G' deepened, giving us strong winds
Almost immediately the wind started to blow at about Force 3 from the southwest. Accordingly we stopped the engine and made sail. We noted that the barometric pressure had fallen 7 ½ millibars since midnight, and it looked as if we were in for a real blow. The B.B.C. shipping forecast for the Bay of Biscay promised south-westerly winds veering northwest 4 to 6 and perhaps gale 8 later.
Text for the Day
Matthew 10:31 ‘Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.’