Over the shelf and into the Atlantic
Another learning opportunity which Gary and I grabbed with both hands in 2019, was to sail to Spain with Brian, a work colleague of Gary's. This was to be the absolute defining moment that sealed our commitment to make our dream happen, seek freedom, and live a simpler life.
The idea of crewing with Gary, my husband, on a passage from Whitehaven to A Coruna in Northern Spain seemed a perfect way to test the notion of living an alternative life and sailing to distant shores. I was energised and excited and promptly asked for 14 days leave from work with an open window to extend just in case we became weather-bound on route. This was the first point of realisation for my boss, Helen, that I might just go and do this mad and crazy thing and leave the best job I have ever had to sail oceans.
The boat we would be crewing aboard was a Moody 33 called Hamoaze. Her name intrigued me, so I looked it up - The Hamoaze is an estuarine stretch of the tidal River Tamar, between its confluence with the River Lynher and Plymouth Sound. Oh well, nothing to worry my pretty little head about, just quite simply a river! Hamoaze was 3 foot smaller than our boat but in many ways similar as they were built by the same boat builder, Marine Projects. Sandpiper, our Sigma 36 and Hamoaze, a Moody 33 were both solidly built cruisers. This trip for me was more about experiencing night watches and bigger sea states than knowing how to sail. I had never been far from land whilst sailing Sandpiper, the furthest I had sailed at this time was to the Isle of Man. I wondered how I would feel? Would I freak out, go quiet, makeup stories with terrible endings, who knows until you try.
We were to sail to Spain with skipper Brian and his wife and son, both of whom were not sailors but keen to come along for the ride. Hamoaze was then going to stay in the Mediterranean for the following seasons as the weather was warmer and it was after all just a short plane ride away from the UK.
This trip was an excellent opportunity for me to practice provisioning and so I bought lots of dried goods and tinned meals for the passage. I will talk about this more on my YouTube channel.
Our Trip to Northern Spain began on June the 10th 2019, we left Whitehaven to the sweet serenade, the blowing of the Conk shell from friends of Brian's, which was such a nice gesture. The sail angle was different from what Gary and I expected we were heading towards Ireland not the out the gates and turn left as we had talked of so many times earlier. We were making good progress, and the sailing was fun and exciting until Brian decided this was the wrong course, and we should beat into the wind and head for the south. Five hours later, we were only at St Bees, just two miles down the coast from where we commenced this adventure. What I hear you say!? Yes, my thoughts too. The motor now on, soaking wet and a journey like sitting on a washing machine, not the thrilling sensation that might be achieved by sitting on a real washing machine I might add, we headed into the dark for a long night of motoring. The only person not flavouring the sea with carrots was Gary, although I managed to make it to midnight, unlike others who became seasick in the first hour. Maybe the sick bands which I was giving a test drive for the first time really did work. I was not sick for more than an hour, and for that, I am very thankful as Brian's wife, Brenda, and her son were ill for the whole journey - poor devils.
The Scilly Isles was a welcome stop off, and St Mary Harbour was well equipped with fuel, water, great showers, and the town itself was stunning. Quite the little tropical island, our stay was short, but it did give us time to explore and buy a sovereign or two: Tilly Hats, a class purchase and well worth their money.
The journey highlights were the dolphins and the tired racing pigeon who joined us for some of the journey, not to mention the tremendous sunrises and spectacular sunsets.
Crossing the Bay of Biscay (BoB) was uneventful, and the giant rolling seas were such a great experience, in fact, we loved them so much the adventure of travelling the world was no longer a dream and just had to become a reality. Sailing over the continental shelf where the deep Atlantic squishes into the shallower water of the bay is one factor that sometimes produces rough seas. I am glad to say BoB did not greet us with either bad weather or rough seas. My sanity remained intact, mind games silenced, and to my surprise, the enormous rolling seas were my favourite part of the whole trip! Gary and I learned a lot about making sailing 24/7 easier, buying soup flasks and deep pans, and making fewer spillages for sure. We munched our way through the provisions and noticed which canned food was tasty and which were to be avoided at all cost. We also took note that wraps last so much longer than bread. We vowed to each other to always reef early and do our watches in 4-hour shifts.
Arriving at our destination was toasted with whisky and big smiles. We had done it! I enjoyed the trip and knew that sailing our own vessel in these waters would be even more exhilarating and fun. Before flying home to be reacquainted with Sandpiper, we spent a few days in A Coruna – Well worth a visit, it is vibrant and quaint with some fantastic restaurants. Mind you; most things taste good after seven days at sea! Bye for now, stay safe and keep smiling.