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.