Today we sailed sailed from Plymouth to Gijon across the Bay of Biscay

Today is the day we set sail from Plymouth to Gijón.

Monday 20th August 2012

I took the train down from London yesterday afternoon, 3 1/2 hours to get from London to Plymouth…it would have been quicker to fly to Spain! But then I wouldn’t have had the delight of having to listen to a kid play eye spy for the entire journey, or being delayed by a drunk man on the tracks. Public transport truly sucks.

Oliver and his dad have been busy fixing things that seem to break at the most inconvenient time. The steaming light has broken this time.

I spent the morning rushing around buying mobile phone and camera chargers, I want to make sure I capture as much of the trip as possible without annoying the hell out of the crew.

Myself and Carlotta were tasked with buying food for 4/5 days for the four of us. Knowing that shopping with Carlotta was going to be a intense and time consuming task we gave ourselves 2 hours, and left it til the end of the day. We spent about £160 in total, so £40 a head for a week was pretty good. We bought quite a lot of fresh food, but more on that later.

When we got back from the shop we had 2 hours left before departure and news came that we may not get to Gijón until Sunday. Armed with the new arrival times, I nipped out and bought a stash of pot noodles, 4 pack of stella, cider for Carlotta and a bag of chips from the local chippy. Job done.

We set off around 9/10pm and after a few hours I got my head down.

Tuesday 21st August 2012

The day past pretty uneventfully, no land in site, waves and wind, nothing much to report.

Having bought a lot of fresh food, and as we couldn’t power the fridge continuously incase we ran down the batteries I had constant fear of food poisoning. The fear of shitting out of both ends for 24 hours was quickly overcome by the fact I was bloody hungry, so we chowed down a chicken stir fry for dinner, dinner promptly reappeared and decorated the side of Ollies boat about 10 minutes later. My stomach wouldn’t settle but I was allowed a few hours extra sleep before my night shift started. Eventually my time came. Will was setting world records for staying awake the longest on watch, and I was doing my best to keep my stomach lining intact. Chit chat was on the short side and eventually I was ordered to bed given that I was useless. Five minutes below lying on my back and I decided it was time to feed the seagulls the chips from the night before, and lunch and breakfast before that. Little did I know but Carlotta was also making her own vomit installation in the heads, particles remained for days to come for all of us to enjoy 😀

Wednesday 22st August 2012

Sleep is pretty hard going when your crew mates fire up the engine as soon as you try to get your head down. I have ear defenders and have been sleeping in the cabin or the pilot berth, if its not the tud thumping of the engine, its the crew on watch coming down to make a cuppa and turns the lights on, it can’t be helped but next time I’m deffo brining some of those eye patch thingys you get on planes. One improvement I’d make would be to have a switch that turns the lighting red, like being on a Russian submarine, boom!

Communication to the outside world was obtained using Oliver’s sat phone which looked like something out of a 1980’s, though I guess styling is not essential when you’re sailing the high seas, a cursory disapproving look from passing seagulls would not exactly hurt our feelings. The sat phone was supposed to not only let mummy know their little johnny was still alive, but to enable us to download grib files (synoptic weather charts) so we could work out what the winds were doing over the following days, this didn’t work so we had to get our weather reports from Oliver’s dad, not a big issue but could be costly on longer voyages.

Tonight’s meal was chilli con carne using smelly mince (I can handle this, beef going off smells good).

Glad I didn’t have to make dinner, my stomach just won’t settle, I’ve never suffered from sea sickness before but I do wish my stomach would man up and just deal with the situation.

Thursday 21st August 2012

We awoke to a flat calm day, the sea was like a glassy millpond. My stomach settled down and seemed to reset itself. I’d like to think it was the dodgy dinner a couple nights before, but from then on I knocked back sea sickness tables to be on the safe side. I managed to get a awesome nights sleep in the forepeak, which turns out to be the best place to get an undisturbed nights sleep.
News came in that the low we were expecting was going to be deeper than expected and would arrive by night time. It’s hard to believe the report when it was so calm in the morning. Oliver told myself and Will that we could expect some nasty stuff, with winds gusting to 48knots, this was not ideal. The news was kept from Carlotta for the sake of her nerves and everyone elses moral. Will was genuinely excited by the prospect of a bit of a storm, having experienced a good battering on the winter sail from Calais I was less enthused.
Later on that day we were greeted by a awesome sight, just as I was finishing my shift with Carlotta I spotted dolphins! We were followed for about 10 minutes by a small pod. The mood onboard was lifted by the sight of these awesome creatures as they played in our wake, darting around and under the boat and jumping and diving in formation. It was a spectacular scene.
Night time came and once again I was on shift with Carlotta, the dirty low had arrived and we were healing over considerably, however Troskala felt safe and capable. The shifts were way too long, and I could feel it starting to bite. We were doing 7 hour shifts, 2 on 2 off. I’m sure sleep deprevation wasn’t helping, and little things started to annoy the hell out of me, not getting the forepeak for a descent sleep, or sharing too many shifts with one person started to bite.
My issue with the shift patterns were that there were 4 of us, but as we were always 2 on 2 off we were not making the best of our numbers. At night time its nice to have company granted, but in the day I saw no reason to have 2 people on watch, much better in my opinion, was to have one person on watch but on a shorter shift, 7 hour shifts were way too long! What I suggested a change which was not implemented, and rather than make any drama I kept stumpt and decided to raise it once we arrived at the other end, when we were rested and in a better state of mind. It’s a lot harder to rationalise when you’ve not slept properly for days, so somethings are better left to another day.

Friday 22nd August 2012

Another day, same shitty weather. Reports came in that we were in for another 24 hours of this stuff. The waves were pretty big, but not as threatening as you’d think. Gigantic hills would approach from our starboard quarter, they’d lift us high up giving us a 360 panoramic view of…well….just more waves. When you’re on top of a mountain of water, you can see the trough that you were just in, and then as quickly as you were up, you’re back down in another trough, watching as another approaching hill comes towards you. Every so often the ocean spat at us as we were huddled under the spray hood, Will got soaked on a few occasions whilst sparking up a cigarette, it was like someone just threw a bucket of sea water into the cockpit.
Night time shifts were long, and we passed the time with the A-Z game, who thought of it I’m not sure. The game was basically eye spy but running through the alphabet, in turn we’d have to repeat the list before adding a new item. Once we got to Z, we then started over again whilst retaining the last 26 items.
Other night time distractions included gazing up at the stars,  there’s a surprising amount of shooting stars and satellites. Another visual spectacle was the phosphorescence that we saw around the wake of Troskala. The phosphorescence is basically a sparkly light that plankton emits when disturbed. I can only describe this sight as if Walt Disney himself waved a magic wand on Troskala and now we trailed magic pixy dust wherever Troskala went. The  thick sparkly green globules trailed in Troskala’s wake was truly amazing and unfortunately impossible to capture by camera.

Saturday 23nd August 2012

The rough weather continues to plague us, movement in or out of the boat is made twice as hard. Opening cupboards presented dangers such as flying baked beans and cans of soup. By Saturday we were pretty fed up with the weather and the noodles came to the rescue once again. Oliver took out all the super noodles and put all the packets in a pan. The mix of flavours didn’t matter and they tasted superb!!
Myself and Oliver spent the day comparing pressure readings from our sailing watches. I didn’t actually think I’d use any of the functions on my watch other than to tell the time, however when we knew what the pressure reading would be at the middle of the low, were were able to determine where we were in the low, as the millibars started to rise, we knew we had gone through the middle of the low and were coming out the other end. Coming out the other end was no less boisterous than going into the low, but it was a relief to know were had got through the worst of it and soon after good weather would be coming our way shortly.
Another issue that started to bother me was far less pleasant  I’m usually pretty damn regular down below, *cough *cough and I’m not referring to Troskala now. Five days had passed without seeing My Hanky, and short of digging it out with a tea spoon I decided to hang tough and worry about it when we arrived. Finally Mr Hanky appeared and then proceeded to go for a swim in the Bay of Biscay. My timing was exceptional, as an hour later Oliver decided to use one of the hand wipes on his visit (if he’d held on for 5 days his Mr Hanky would have been rock solid..), his fatal mistake was to put it down the toilet, thus blocking the toilet. Not wanting to flood Troskala with mushed up poo and wee, the decision was to use old faithul instead, the bucket. The rest of the trip involved kneeling down in the cockpit and weeing into a bucket, number 2’s were out, but that was fine, there were still delays on the Timmy underground and service was not expected to resume to normal for another 24 hours or so.

Sunday 24th August 2012

We were on a final leg and the weather turned from nasty to lovely. The sun came out, the sea’s calmed down and we were welcomed to a beautiful day.
Shorts out, sun tan on and a few of us hung out on the forepeak, watching the horizon as a the coastline of Spain started to appear. Will spotted something on our starboard side, a few second later I saw a fin, which I thought was a whale!! We kept an eye out and like a torpedo two dolphins (or porpoises) raced under the boat and shot off into the horizon. I’m not sure where they were heading to, but they must have been late for something as they were not hanging around for no one.
We motored into the Marina, greeted by Carlotta’s parents who stood on a rocky outcrop waving to us. We quickly moored up and headed over to a local restaurant that Carlos had managed to persuade to stay open for us (Siestas are still traditional here). I can recommend to anyone who sails to Gijon to go to this restaurant, the food was plentiful, hearty and cheap. Families were outside eating and drinking in the streets, the vibe was amazing which was probably down to the sidra festival. The local tipple is basically flat cider, which you pour from above your head, into a glass angled and position below your waist, the point of this is to airate the cider, though I coudn’t help but think it was a waste of cider as half of it decorated the floor.
I spent another 4 days in Gijon, drinking and partying. We visited oviedo, Carlotta’s home town, which is absolutely stunning. I can’t wait to go back one day and spend more time in the old town one summer. The food, drink and the reception we had was great. I’d like to thank Carlotta’s parents, friends and relatives for making my stay so pleasurable.
I shall be back!



Author: Tim Butler

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