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…..


Kinsale Port Number 5

The trip from Crosshaven was uneventful as it was light wind so we motored the 3 hours around the corner to the gourmet capital of Ireland. We owed the crew of Kika a dinner so the next day we put on “Film Night”. I guess there will be more details on “Pink and Fluffy” so I spare the repetition. My thinking has been on the crossing and it came to me in the night that we should seek an extra crew member. Colin from Kika had found passages aboard yachts using the Crew Seeker site so in the morning I put an advert out for a 4th crew member for the crossing. I had 4 quick replies and the first was Ray. He came down to interview us and he sensibly brought his wife to check us out. I think we passed muster as he will be joining us on Saturday. So the plan has been to leave Ireland with the right weather window and finally this looks like happening on Saturday. We have poured over the GRIB files for 2 weeks and we now are as sure as we can be that there is a reasonable high developed in Biscay. Still a few more jobs to do

Port Number 4 Cork

03/08/2013 After a very rough journey from Kilmore Quay we are settled in Crosshaven near Cork. The journey was not the best! On the Thursday evening the forecast looked hopeless and a quick talk with the harbour master confirmed that we were not going anywhere on the Friday. Watching breakfast telly in bed and having my first cup of coffee we were rudely awakened by Jon opening the hatch, setting the alarm off and announcing we were going to make a run for it to Cork. As we were berthed outside him we had no choice but to prepare for departure. I hadn't done a passage plan or even thought about the journey. Before we could think we were off. The start was in a FS 4 and fairly Ok but as the day progressed the wind and seas built to an occasional FS6 with an Atlantic swell. At one point a wave broke across the Bimini. Click on the picture on the right to see some video. As usual it never looks so rough on film. Ju was down below looking after cats and herself so I had 10 hours of solo sailing. I was relieved to see the harbour entrance for Cork but soon even that was not so simple. A pilot boat came along side and asked us to keep a look out for a large passenger ship comming from out of the rain astern. Within a few moments he was not joking! We scarpered into safer water. The entrance to Crosshaven marina was up the river and the boys from the Royal Cork Yacht Club took our lines that made an easy end to a difficult day. Jon arrived 2 hours later after the boys had gone so I guided him into a vacant berth. They too had had a difficult time. After a quick G&T my spirit was restored and it was soon a passing memory as we had dinner and were warmly welcomed by the RCYC. My wife quickly advised Jon that we were not going anywhere until this low has passed! A day of jobs ensued and we were invited over to dinner on the good ship Kika. They did us proud with smoked salmon entrée washed down with Moet, followed with beef stew and apple pie. And as is the tradition on board Kika they played Irish music to entertain us. I even learned in the hight of the FS6 one of the crew was playing the tin whistle. A versatile lot. Today, Saturday we went to Cork town by bus and did some shopping. We are planning the "Film Night" to return the hospitaliy to Kika but can't decide between "Master and Commander" or "The Guard" both appropriate for different reasons.

We are off...

I'm not sure how to start this post as I guess it is one of the most significant. The emotions have ranged from the truly sad to the elation of a new life. So what has been happening?The refit team have worked overdrive to get things ready. I used to own a rally car in my youth and I soon learned no matter how soon you started the preparations for an event you were always working until 3am the night before. And so it is with yacht preparation. The fab trio of Barry and TLC gang, Carl the Electrical and Electronic engineer and the boys from the BoatShed were all over Sephina like a rash in the final week. So what happened? The TLC boys had the piece de resistance by installing the saloon table. To say it is a work of art is to underestimate its aesthetic value. The BoatShed team led by Stephen not only finished the bimini, dingy cover, towed generator cover but also within two days turned around a cover for the table. They used all their skill to deliver a fitting design. I am waiting for a suitable occasion to picture the table in all its glory but there is a tease photo in this post. The final hero of the trinity is Carl. Not only did he have the biggest list in the last month but he also had to redo a number of systems because of my requested upgrades or because of faulty gear. The nemesis has been the LED deck lights. Admittedly they are a bit of a luxury but not to have them working in all their glory would have been a travesty. As they had all virtually blown out in a few hours of use, a new set were delivered from Cabin Marine three days before the off. The dimmer was taken out of service being suspected of delivering over its rated 12 volts an a new DC-DC regulator installed with dropper diodes to limit the voltage to below 11.

This will ensure they are well within spec and should last a life time. Despite working 13 hour days and having them ready just in time on the morning of the off, half were not working again. Carl and my brother came to the rescue and discovered I had trapped a couple of wires in my haste to have them working. I had to leave them to fix the problem as people were arriving to see us off. I didn't want a big send off but it was great to see some remarkable colleagues and old friends in those last hours. The hardest part was saying goodbye to my eldest daughter and I don't mind admitting it was a good job I was wearing dark glasses as the tears were streaming. We leave her in a good place with new baby Luke, and a brilliant son-in-law and our surrogate for the next 5 years his mother Corina who is more than a relation by marriage as we count her as one of our true friends. The appointed time came to cast off the lines and my sailing tutor Jon joined us to handle lines so we didn’t have the ignominy of crashing in the first 5 minutes.  We did drop him off at the fuel pontoon as he is taking his yacht Kika around the world as well.  The departure was bitter sweet. So many friends we have said goodbye to over the last two months and memories of some great work mates who we might never see again. But…. The journey has begun. We are liveaboards, we have set sail around the world and we are living the dream.

Post Biscay

Oyster 406So what has happened since the Biscay crossing. Well the fuel problem was sorted with the help of James from Kika. The tank was opened, cleaned and the fuel given away. It is hard to describe the detritus found in the tank and the biggest piece was 32mm across. So now we have new fuel, changed fuel filters yet again and the engine has run smoothly ever since. It was sad to say goodbye to Phil who joined in Ireland for the crossing. He is one of those people who are fun to be around, are always looking at the up side and has wit and intelligence in equal measure. Thanks mate. Also goodbye to our new friend Ray who joined us via the crew seeker website. His experience and calm was always welcome and a man of few words but those spoken needed attention.  So our stay in A Coruna was a little longer than expected. The town was in fact very nice indeed. A good chandlers and fine restaurants. I leave the tourist stuff to "Pink and Fluffy". On Tuesday Ian and Carol, fellow 406 owners, arrived and it was great to compare notes. Ostegra is a fine 406 and being a later hull number than ours is in fantastic condition, the interior woodwork is fantastic and has spurred me on to continue to irk out the blemishs on Sephina. Ian gave me good advice on the tank cleaning and has a wealth of information and handy tips. On Wednesday we set off for Camarinas a lovely Ria and it was a bit into the wind so the engine was used to get us there but the arrival was worth it. No English spoken and a small marina with a great restaurant and bar. Bliss. Today we set off for Portosin and passed Finistarre in the fog. Luckily it lifted just in time but the photo opertunity was lost. So we are heading south again after a week of little progress. The cats have started a blog and I have no idea how they get internet access. Pesky devils.