The First Leg

Welcome back, boatblog fans!

First of all we’d like to thank everyone for all the messages of support and “Bon Voyages!”  and send our apologies for not replying individually. As you might expect, our ability to pick up and send messages is somewhat erratic at the moment, but it was always good to hear from you, so keep on sending them and keep on liking us on Facebook.

At the moment we are moored up in a little marina called Camaret-Sur-Mer, just outside Brest. The rain is beating down on the roof, the wind is howling through the rigging, and all in all we could have saved a lot of money by renting a caravan in Anglesey.

This was an unscheduled stop. We had intended to be in Baiona on the NW coast of Spain by now. But as they say, very few passage plans survive contact with the water.

It all began well enough. We left our berth in Hamble on time, didn’t hit anything on the way out of the marina, which is always a good start, and soon the wind was behind us as we raced down the Solent towards the Needles. Chris and Paul from Universal Yachting ( followed us out in a rib taking photos, and drenching us as they buzzed past at 30 knots. 

We must give these boys a mention. They helped us to prepare our boat for our epic voyage, and were beyond fantastic. We absolutely wouldn’t have been able to do this without them. There is nothing they don’t know about boats and sailing and if anyone is reading this and is thinking of doing the ARC, or any other sailing escapade, give them a call. They are brilliant!

And we were speeding along. The weather was perfect; the wind behind us, the sun warm, the tide in our favour and we were averaging 10 knots over the ground.

But before we go any further, let me introduce you to our crew. This is Clive. He’s a Yachtmaster Instructor and has come with us on this first leg to make sure we get over the notorious Bay of Biscay safely. 



Clive is a quietly spoken Irishman, who has sailed every one of the seven seas. He is ex-Royal Navy, and was in Argentina just a day before the Falklands conflict began, but his courage and stamina knows no bounds as he also ran Sunsail in Lanzarotte for twelve years. A totally accomplished sailor and the most unflappable man you could hope to meet, he has been our sailing instructor for the last couple of years. It’s faintly ridiculous that I am the skipper with someone like Clive on board, but it’s the same as when I was a kid and used to be the captain of the football team because it was my ball.

And here is my mate!




It wasn’t long before we were out into the English Channel. 

Last View Of England


Night fell, and we went onto two hour watches. The sky was clear, and the stars brighter than we’ve ever seen before, and we crossed the main Shipping Channels without causing an international incident.

The next morning, we continued our run towards Ushant, speeding along with our brand new sail. 

The Volkswagen

It was all going fine, apart from by now it had got quite rough and Lyn was starting to feel a bit seasick and needed to stay below for a while. We were much further across the Channel than we had expected, and were looking forward to a trouble free run all the way down to Baiona.

But as they say in sailing, if it’s all going right, there’s something wrong. 

At about lunchtime on Wednesday, the wind dropped and we tried to take out the reef in the mainsail. For you landlubbers, that means raise the sail a bit higher up the mast. It wouldn’t budge. We tried to lower it instead. Again it wouldn’t move. It was jammed fast. Now Houston, we have a problem. If you can’t lower the sail, and the wind picks up, things can get pretty hairy. At this point, even the totally unflappable Clive was heard to mutter things under his breath. Things that he can have only picked up in the navy. Or maybe Sunsail in Lanzarotte.

Even winching down the reefing lines made no difference. Ju bravely suggested that Clive went up the mast to see what was wrong, and we learnt some more nautical language. We decided to head for more sheltered waters, and see what we could do there, when after one final last winch on the 2nd reef, the halyard released itself and the main came down.

That was quite a relief, but although the immediate problem was over, we couldn’t pull the sail up again until we found out what had caused the problem. We suspected it was the Masthead Sheave which is the little wheel at the top of the mast which the main halyard (rope that holds the sail up) goes through. At this point we were about four hours of motoring away from Roscoff, so we decided to head there and look at it properly back on dry land.

Which is what we did. In the shelter of the marina, Clive went up the mast (thank heaven for the invention of the electric winch,) and found it was the sheave as we suspected. But now what? 6pm in a small French marina. What is the likelihood of getting this fixed quickly?

Pas bon, as they say over here.

But then things turned back in our favour. By happy chance we met a rigger, and he happened to have exactly the right sheave in his bag. “Bingo!” as the French friend put it, “It is even the same colour.” 

The Offending Item


And an hour later, he’d replaced it and we were ready to go.

However, the weather window across Biscay was closing in. The time we had lost by diverting to Roscoff meant that by the time we reached Spain, we would be facing F6 south westerlies. (To our landlubber friends – that’s bad). So we decided to stay in Roscoff overnight and re-assess in the morning.

The weather forecast was no better when we woke up, so we decided to just go round the corner to Camaret-Sur-Mer, where we are now, waiting for the weather to settle. If the current forecast stays the same, we will leave at the crack of dawn tomorrow (Sunday) and head across the Bay to La Coruna.


OUR FIRST VIEW OF BISCAY – not quite the raging tempest we’d been led to expect.

So hopefully boatblog fans, our next dispatch will be from Northern Spain.


Bye for now


Ju & Lyn


Le Four Lighthouse

LE FOUR LIGHTHOUSE (North East Biscay – sort of)

3 thoughts on “The First Leg”

  1. We got stuck in the middle of France once for the want of a wheel baring. It took them a week to get our spare part. Serves us right for buying a Bedford CF instead of a VW as everyone told us to. Did you think of picking up some spares???

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s