Llanes – Here we don’t Come

After checking numerous weather sites, and talking to the local customs guys, we decided to leave Bilbao and head west to Lllanes, 70nm away.

We had a light W wind up our behind and put up the geneker as we passed a few fishing boats. The coast was very scenic, but we decided to head out a touch to get a decent angle for the geneker.

Then the geneker started to misbehave as the wind dramatically swung forward and increased rapido. I quickly called Allan up and by the time we got the geneker down and packed away the wind had picked up to over 30kts.

Time to put some reefs in. Two to start but the wind kept climbing, swinging to the S blowing straight off the mountains. The third reef went in and we consulted the charts to find Santander straight in 5nm away, straight on the nose. As we tacked our way in with minimal sail, the wind climbed passed 50kts. La Mischief was handling it well – we were certainly finding out all about her capabilities in a blow.

The swell wasn’t too bad as the wind was straight off the land with minimal sea space to build up any fetch. Still it wasn’t a great place to be and we were glad as we approached the safe harbour of Santander, with the wind gusting to over 60kts. The 75HP engines were worth every cent. There provided all the power we needed without having to overtax them.

Going past the island at the entrance and into somewhat calmer waters, we dropped the main – or at least we tried to. It was stuck fast about a third of the way up. We tackled the problem as we navigated through the channel. Allan climbed up the mast away, clipped on with the wind pinning him against the mast. He got a rope over each of the cars and we slowly winched it down – car by car. At about this time we hit our record – 66kts – about 24kts higher than anything I’d experienced on Camelot.

Sail finally down, we headed for the main marina, which is down the river a bit out of town. There were a few vacant berths so we headed for one and backed La Mischief in. Even with her extra windage, its a lot easier than Camelot to maneuver in tight spaces. We tied her up and headed for the Capitainerie to check in. They ended up letting us stay put for that night, but we had to move across to the other side of the pen for the rest of our stay.

Which was good because our next step was the Tavern at the marina, where a round of drinks cost 4.80 Euro. They went down really well. It wasn’t open for dinner so we tried the only other restaurant in the marina, which turned out to be pretty average. For such a big marina, it turned out to have very little in the way of services and it was a bit of a way out of town.

The next day we headed into Santander to check it out. Not being on our radar, we didn’t know much about it so we walked about 20 minutes to the bus that came every hour, and then in another 20 or so minutes we were in the centre of town. It was a pleasant bus trip, passing through local neighourhoods. There must have been a special on pastel paints at the local Bunnings, as the houses were a patchwork of pretty pastel colours.

It as a pretty grim old day, overcast and rainy and we wandered the streets, checking out the sites and indulging in a bit of shoe shopping.My boat shoes, weren’t coping with wandering the streets in the rain, my socks were soaked and I fount a great pair of leather boots for 25 Euro. Allan outdid me and bought two pairs of shoes as well. We also found anice bar for lunch as paid 16 Euro for mains, deserts, coffee and a bottle of red chrianza, for the 3 of us. Thats ridiculous.
Lastly we found a supermarket and stocked up with a few groceries and caught a cab for 15 Euro back to the marina.

Next day, after tackling the main sail issue (which we think we fixed by washing it in fresh water and applying a bit of silicon spray after talking to both Facnor and Robert from Vicsail), I decided that I better write some blogs or you guys will kill me (if you could find me). So whilst Allan and Joan did the bus thing again, I started playing catch up.
I was doing well until Allan and Joan got back and we ran into Richard, an English farmer with an Oyster mono and Ned, his son’s friend. We were lamenting the fact that we hadn’t run into any other cruisers around these parts, and up pops Richard.

He turned out to have a wealth of information about cruising these parts. We started picking his brain at the bar at the marina and then, a he had a hire car, we progressed into town and ended up at our favorite tavern for dinner and then a few more bars around what was a bustling Friday night in Santander. We got back rather late and felt rather average the next morning.
Once our heads cleared, it turned out to be a lovely morning with clear skies and sun!!! It was still blowing 30kts so we decided we’d go around and anchor near the palace, go for a walk around there and have a look at to sea.

The palace used to be the summer palace for the King, now its just a tourist spot. We didn’t have time to go inside so we just walked around it and then down tothe outdoor maritime museum, which had replicas of a balsa raft and 3 ships that, although tiny, sailed to the Americas and discovered Haiti.

Next door was a bit of an outdoor zoo with some seals and penguins. The vista on the whole walk was amazing, overlooking ocean beaches and the entrance to the river, with a very impressive island with lighthouse perched on top. Everywhere in Santander, they sell pictures of this lighthouse in a violent storm with what must be 20m waves crashing over it.

We headed back to the boat, which was parked off a nice beach towards the river mouth. There were people everywhere enjoying the sun – there were even bikinis on the beach. And there I was in my gumboots and coat.

Back at the boat we set course for San Vincente De La Barquera, 30nm away.20130414-103219.jpg20130414-103301.jpg20130414-103433.jpg20130414-103541.jpg20130414-103557.jpg20130414-103644.jpg20130414-103725.jpg20130414-103738.jpg










Guggenheim and Cianza



Got a message from Rob, when I said we were off to Bilbao – he said “enjoy the Guggenheim and the Crianza”.

The Crianza had me stumped for a while, everyone’s heard of the Guggenheim but I’d never heard of a place called the Crianza!!!

Like all good research, its best to start off in a bar and it turns out thats the perfect place to work out Crianza – because it turns out that Crianza is their very good wine.


Anyway back to our adventures in Bilbao…..

After some more unsuccessful VHF calls to both marinas, we decided our best strategy was to pull up on the collector jetty and go from there. So off to Getxo Marina we went and pulled in behind a Spanish yacht that had just got back from an expedition to Antarctica, with a very nice Spanish girl who spoke pretty good english. We were off and running.

From there, we went up to the marina office and filled in some forms saying we’d lobbed up in Spain. We weren’t quite sure but we suspected that we’d successfully checked in to Spain.


So off we went up to explore Getxo. We found the Tourist Bureau and asked where we could buy a wifi hotspot – as our French Wifi had stopped working. We were directed up the hill to the old port town of Getxo, where we found another Orange shop and signed up for some Spanish prepaid SIM cards. In between we had to go back to the boat to get a passport as this was needed to buy a SIM Card evidently.

With a bit of other shopping done, it was back to the boat, for some lunch before setting off again into Bilbao. Which turned out to be a good strategy, as several guys dressed in lifejackets and crash helmets knocked on our hull and announced themselves as Customs. They were really nice and spoke enough English to make the whole process pretty smooth.


Joan and Allan decided to explore Getxo some more, whereas I was itching to get into Bilboa proper. I wandered up to one of the metro stations and hopped on a very modern train and half an hour later I was in the centre of Bilbao.

It took a while to get my head around the Spanish street names and to be able to navigate off the street map. I made my way to the Guggenheim, which was closed on Mondays and took a heap of photos outside – its titanium exterior is one of the most photographed buildings in Spain.

Then I took a walk along the expansive boulevards that run along the river to the old city, with its narrow streets, old churches and tapas bars. Called in for a drink, it was only about 7pm so too early for dinner. After exploring the old city, crossed over the old bridge and back into the centre of town where I’d previously spotted some rather trendy Tapas Bars. The food is all laid across the top of the bar and you just chose what you want. You keep count and tell the bar person, when you are finished. 3 Tapas will more than fill you up – I had 4! At 2 Euro each plus 1.70 Euro for a glass of cianza it was a bargain.

Next morning, we visited the chanderly for some more boat stuff. Its a lot cheaper in Spain than France (or Australia) so we picked up a second anchor – a 16lb Fortress. We will run it in series, 7m in front of our main Rochna anchor when we need to.

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After lunch, we hopped on the metro again and headed back into Bilbao. Its was Tuesday (from memory) and the Peggy Guggenheim was open. We wandered through for a couple of hours but it didn’t seem as good inside as the ones in NY or Venice – there was some Picasso paintings and a single Dali, as well as an Andy Warhol Marilyn montage. But outside, it was simply stunning.

Then along the other side of the river to the old city and then an interesting search for a courier than could send something back to Oz. Not as easy as it seems. Eventually called into the Carlton Hotel and got them to arrange their courier.

Back at the boat it was time to get organised for the mornings departure to Llanes.







Across the Bay of Biscay to Spain

Once in the Gironde we quickly discovered there’s no a lot of good harbours between there and the Basque country at the bottom of France. And to complicate things, there’s a firing range that extends 45nm out to sea. We also discovered another one further out that the guide books and web sites don’t mention – but it wasn’t in use as there was a ton of fishing boats out there.

With this information to hand, we decided it was time to do our first overnighter and head for Spain. Bilboa seemed to be the logical choice – it was more or less straight down, whereas San Sebastian required us to cut in again.

So Bilbao it was.

We set off at 1pm so that we crossed the bar at high tide and then turned south. Allan and I split the watches between us. We started with 2 hour watches and then pushed them out a bit at night.


Crossing From France to Spain
Crossing From France to Spain

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The wind was annoyingly on the nose but we just got enough angle and didn’t have to do too much tacking, sailing a lot of the way. The swell wasn’t big – maybe 1.5m but it was confused and not as nice as a bigger regular swell that we are used to off the west coast of Australia.

The wind dropped away in the wee hours of the morning but picked up to 30kt as the sun came up and we approached the Spanish coast. We passed a few fishing boats on the way in to Bilbao. The entrance is a little tricky as there is a breakwater that is underwater (but shown on the charts).

Once past the breakwater it’s about 5nm in to the port city of Getxo, where we dropped anchor. We tried calling up a couple of marinas but being a Sunday, nobody there spoke English so we thought we would have a good nights sleep and check into Spain with clear heads on Monday morning.