To Biscay and Beyond

The report of the build up to our return to Galicia to repatriate our beloved yacht ‘Hejira’ to the sanctuary of the UK may prove to be more interesting than the eventuality. The bureaucracy and the capricious weather have increasingly become factors in the evaluation of the passage, particularly as the year progresses and equinoctial influences press in on our plans.

In the meantime, the previous trip back from A Coruna to ensure my attendance at my son’s wedding was essential and more than worth it. I would not have missed it for the world – it was such an unforgettable and enjoyable day. My son Ollie and his then fiancé Gini had planned the event meticulously and it was very ‘them’. It was held in the Whitstable former oyster sheds which have been transformed into a quirky wedding venue. It is approached along a rutted road between an Industrial silo, fisherman’s sheds, derelict boats, stacks of wooden pallets and the odd forklift truck. This inauspicious entrance belies a slick operation which oozes charisma and with the adjacent beach, the excellent staff and flexibility to allow the event to be tailored to the couple’s preferences, it proved to be an absolute winner.

Ollie and Gini pictured at their wedding (in front of shipping containers)

The crew for what will hopefully be the final leg, comprises Peter who has endured the first 1500 miles from Nice, and Carl who has crewed (loose expression) on previous occasions and, for this passage, has identified himself as a non-sailing cook with no aspirations to make any meaningful contributions beyond the galley – and the blog. Peter, being old and Carl being a self-confessed Luddite, found the necessary on-line form filling for travelling to Spain, something of a ‘challenge’. Peter was clearly ably assisted by his daughter Lucy and partner Marian. As a result, he arrived at Thornleigh with the necessary certificates and entry documentation in paper form and pretty much in order. By contrast Carl thought that a visit to his surgery would produce the necessary vaccination certificate but his efforts were only rewarded with a detailed print out of his medical history – interesting but not what was required. After the last-minute intervention and assistance of Alan, MD of Atom (keen to see the back of us) Carl was finally able to produce the necessary QR code and vaccination certificate to allow his boarding of the flight and entry into Spain. Big thanks to Andrew who kindly drove us to the Airport and found himself ‘stung’ with a £5 drop off charge – be warned!

I generally try to avoid the budget airlines having had more than enough bad experiences over the years but trying to fly to Santiago de Compostela in Northwest Spain left little choice. Booking on-line with Vueling left the impression that the process was a gauntlet of traps to extract extra cash from every keystroke, but prudent navigation rendered a total cost of less than £30 each – result! We had flown back to the UK with Vueling and with a queue free transition (apart from the confiscation  of mouthwash from Peter’s bag) through a deserted Gatwick, we had plenty of time to spend in the airside Weatherspoons. Even the slog of cheddar cheese in my baggage, left over from the wedding and weighing nearly a kilo, slipped through in a hold bag – I had been told it had a similar density to semtex! Landing 25 minutes early, we were delayed by Carl’s paper Covid certificate missing his name and with him being unable to operate his phone, the matter was only resolved, after all the other passengers had gone through, by  handing his phone to an officer who was more tech savvy (not difficult) and who managed to find the original digital version. However, with a successful rendezvous with the pre-booked taxi and despite a bizarre and slightly frightening journey, we all agreed that the whole experience was more than acceptable, and it almost transformed our assessment of the budget airline offering.

When we finally arrived at the Marina (the taxi driver was completely lost, his sat nav had ‘gone down’ so he pulled up next to another taxi that we followed to the wrong marina) we found that they had moved Hejira, the new access was on the port side so the steps that I had padlocked to the starboard side were out of reach – oh well, happy to be on board and to find things mostly okay.

With the updated weather forecast first thing the next morning looking promising, we agreed that there was a ‘window’ in the weather to favour a departure as soon as possible. Following a cursory inspection of the ship’s stores, the crew set off to the supermarket intent on buying fresh produce having eschewed my tins. Carl had been particularly cautioned to reign in Peters propensity to purchase the more marginal local specialities. I stayed behind to deal with the formalities and to prepare Hejira for what Biscay was likely to offer.

While Carl and Peter ventured off to the shops, I found it my duty to comply with the Brexit induced regulations and get our passports stamped ‘out’. Having been stamped ‘in’ at the Airport on our arrival, unless I managed to stamp us ‘out’, we would be forever marooned in Spain as far as the bureaucracy was concerned. Needless to say, this Brexit box ticking was not straight forward. The governmental office that deals with this was a 25-minute walk away, past a park with a curious statue of John Lennon.

John Lennon Statue

My spirits plummeted when I was told to wait outside in a throng of very foreign looking people but soon a couple of officials found me, took the passports, and returned fifteen minutes later having provided the necessary stamp.

Victualling, preparation, and briefing completed, we slipped our mooring at 10.30BST, 11.30 local and set off to cross the Bay of Biscay. We will motor in very light winds into the evening when we should pick up a favourable and good sailing wind on the quarter. The wind is forecast to veer onto a close reach, and we may experience some 36 knot winds for a period before heading us. By this time, we should be off the Brittany coast and hopefully refreshing our forecast and blog.

Carl writes his ‘Galley’s Eye View’:

“Four days.”

“Four days? I could do that. You sure,  Nick, four days?”

“Yep, four days. And look, I could book your flight right now for only thirty sovs? Another pint, best?

Click. Done. I have been. “Well, four days, dependent upon wind, and wave, and conditions, and red tape. Could be double that, quite easily.” B*gger.

So, fast forward a week and here we are with a bit of a swell under us and, with the Scopoderm yet to kick-in, perhaps the octopus pie for breakfast wasn’t the best of ideas! Short and sweet, I’m afraid as I need to go on deck without delay…

(Editors note: It would appear that we are unlikely to have any further contribution from Carl towards this blog. He mentioned that the Scopoderm was yet to kick in but the truth is that he hasn’t used Scopoderm, he has put on an alternative, cheaper, ‘ginger based’ (probably homeopathic) patch, probably as some kind of one man demonstration against ‘big pharma’ – why didn’t he just stick with what he knows works?  We do hope he gets better; we are relying on him for our meals!)

Poor Carl, he seems to have lost his sense of humour.

5 thoughts on “To Biscay and Beyond

  1. Good luck all, especially Carl; I feel for you. Having experienced the octopus pie, I would blame that- and Peter, of course, as he, no doubt, thought it would be a good idea!

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