Biscay! A tale of two halves…

 

Firstly we are in Spain safe and well. But Biscay had its moments and there is good reason it's often said it can be the most difficult part of sailing around the world. However, the start in reality was plain sailing. We made a decision in Kinsale that proved to be pivotal. As we were relatively short handed just the two of us and Phil (a University friend) for the crossing, I put an advert on the Crew Finder web site for a fourth person. I had five offers but the first was from Ray who lives in Ireland. He came down to Kinsale with his wife to check us out and we luckily passed the interview. He joined us on Saturday for the Sunday departure. We set off and fuelled up as light winds were predicted. The passage out of Kinsale was lovely but it soon freshened and we were double reefed. With a slight following sea the motion was slightly uncomfortable and we all were not feeling 100%. The night watch was exhausting but by morning things had settled down. As we approached the infamous Biscay it was nearly flat calm. It was tempting to comment on the ease of the passage but we knew there was more to come. As we progressed we started to catch our friends in Kika, a Rival 38, and passed them as they were serenading us with "Show me the way to go home" played live in the middle of the Bay of Biscay. (Correction 22.08.13. It appears what was actually being sung was the song "Sloop John B and the lyric was "I wanna go home") The haunting sax playing of James could he heard for a good distance. We motored on and soon realised we could be in La Coruna the next evening if we kept up the speed. As the wind freshened we motor/sailed and then it happened…. The engine stopped. Initially we thought it was oil pressure  as the light came on briefly so I topped it up. Still wouldn't start. Ray quickly realised it was fuel but the tank was still on 1/3rd so it couldn't be that. We decided to continue on and the seas were by now that Biscay mess and we were being tumbled around. We were hoping we could make port before dark as not having an engine meant sailing to an anchorage. As we approached La Coruna we had enough calm to empty the spare fuel into the system and try to start the engine. No luck and on closer inspection the fuel primer bulb was firmly squashed together. That meant that there was a blockage in the fuel tank pickup. Luckily as I had done a lot of the refit myself I knew that there was also a fuel pickup for the generator. I swapped them over and hey presto it started. I then decided to change the fuel filter and used the primer to fill with fuel. It started and we were back in business. Unfortunately it then would run for 10 minutes and then stop. We took the decision to sail to an anchorage and then look at it again in the morning when we were all rested. So, we had made it across Biscay and as it was Phil's birthday we opened some champagne. Bed soon followed and my brain continued to try to diagnose the fuel problem.

In the morning Ray and I wend back through our actions and then put some fuel hose on the original pickup and with a light blow it was certainly blocked. A heavier blow cleared it so we put things back the way they were. We changed the primary filter again but this time in calm quiet conditions and topped up the fuel filter with fresh diesel. It started but we decided to only use it at idle as we prepared to weigh anchor. We were then boarded by Spanish customs who were extremely courteous but we were nervous the engine might fail. After the formalities they left and we continued over to the Marina. They gave us an easy hammerhead berth and we had finally arrived. Even though it was 10am in the morning Ray and I had a beer!!! So Biscay you have done your worst. Thanks to the crew, Ju, Phil and Ray we are now in country number 2. As it is a holiday here we will have to wait to get an engineer out but it is clear with the amount of crud in the filter and the blocked pipe that the fuel tank needs cleaning out. We are not in a rush…..