The Bucket List

42.07.602N 008.50.556W

0215hrs 14 June 2012

We arrive in Baiona. The final approach was taxing. A pitch black night; a ribbon of distant town lights; and leading lights to home in on. I don’t trust the chart plotter (GPS may be out of position) or my charts (could be out of date)… I focus my tired brain and weakening eyesight on the ..leading light Oc.4s.19m.9M…now what does occulting mean!…we gingerly glide past the submerged rocks (unlit).

I cant see any of the cardinal marks…just town lights and sinister shadows….it would be very inconvenient if I ran aground or sank within a few miles of the marina after crossing Biscay.

Eventually we make out the marina breakwater and call up Rally Control. Poor Andrew Bishop he tries to explain to a befuddled skipper how to approach and that a “Med mooring” is required. OH…xxxx. I have to reverse the boat into a gap between two others, throw stern lines to Andrew and grab the “slime line” that runs to a permanent anchor point that will hold the bows. I manage to reverse into the slot, and then I see the crew of Scarlet Lady on the dockside. They leap into action tying up; handling the slime line and applauding our great personal achievement. One of them thrusts a glass of wine into my hand. I turn the engine off. We made it. What a fantastic welcome. Scarlet Lady had themselves arrived only some 4 hours before us, but they elected to stay up to welcome us. I will never forget their thoughtfulness.

We all crash out. The next day most of the boats are in. The crews meet up and stories are swapped, everyone is euphoric as they recount their journey. For some it is quiet contemplation, for others it is almost hysterical banter, for all of us it is pride and a profound sense of achievement. After the months of build up; the boat prep; the crew prep… at last we have made it.

To be sure we had a challenging sail. Winds gusting over 35kts, constant swell at times 4m high, agitated seas perhaps left over from the recent storms, the constant threat of worse to come as we studied our Grib files downloaded by sat phone each day. For a time you may settle the boat and hit a groove…then Biscay would slap you, a squall, a random wave crashing over the sprayhood…don’t get complacent…the Bay is boss.

For the husband and wife teams the added dimension of watch keeping routines and navigational and sailing decisions that would fall on the shoulders of perhaps only one person. Lonely, wet night watches dodging commercial traffic or simply straining eyesight from chart plotter to inky black seas searching for the tell-tale navigation lights of an approaching container ship.

No one can claim to have “done Biscay” no, Biscay “does you”.

But – we can all tick that one off the Bucket List.

SAM_0354 Baiona_night4
Putting up the Spanish courtesy flag.. The rocks we couldn’t see..
Baiona_night2 Baiona_night1
Baiona_night3 er…where is the leading light?….where is the marina?….

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