Military playground in the way

From Royan Jacob and I started with the first sun light to sail south towards Spain. We had very calm weather, almost no ocean swell. But the main “obstacle” or awkward thing was the firing range (Schießübungsgebiet) of the French military reaching out 35 miles from the coast from the Gironde estuary down to Capbreton which you are not allowed to enter at any time. They only leave a 3 mile wide strip off the coast on which you can sail between the coast and the firing range. So we had two options. Either to go around it outside but that would have meant almost 200 miles and the logic port would have been Bilbao. The other option was to go along the 3 mile strip. But here you are caught between the coast and the firing range. So in case of bad weather one could easily get into a dangerous situation if you can not sail out to sea to gain room. And on this 100 mile distance there are no harbours. Arcachon is in the middle but it can only be approached at high water and only in good weather the actual harbour is 10 miles into the bight of Arcachon. In and out makes already 20 miles for nothing.
Because the weather was very calm and the forecast was the same we decided to sail on the narrow strip over night. In all the books and charts it was highly advised to get latest up to date information about the firing activities because even this narrow strip is not always safe. So I called the phone number of the operation centre of the firing range and luckily I even got somebody on the phone who spoke good enough English to tell me that only on the Thursday morning it would be unsafe in the area of Mimizan. But we had started on Tuesday morning and the plan was to have passed the whole thing by Wednesday morning. So the Thursday firing practice should not affect us.


The dune of Pyla near Arcachon

At sunrise the next morning we were through and came out at the south end of the strip. Besides some fishing boats there had been no obstacles on the way. Navigation is easy because the coast is straight as a line, no shoals (Untiefen) and all deep almost up to the beach. The easiest thing is to follow the 20m-depth-line. Due to light winds we had to motor half of the distance.
Since it was so early and we were not too tired we skipped Capbreton, which would have been the first port after the firing range and went directly to Hondarribia, the first Spanish port directly on the border to France. At 11:30 we arrived there and after our habitual mooring drink we went to the beach to relax. I wanted to go to this port anyway because I expected my next new crew member here.
The evening we went to town were the streets were packed with people partying with some stages with music and bars playing music outside. It was the festival week celebrating a victory over the French some 300 years ago.
The next day I spent with washing my clothes and Jacob went out to explore the city.
On Friday Jacob had to leave to Bilbao to get his plane back to England.

Hondarribbia2 Hondarribbia3 Hondarribbia
During the week-end and until Tuesday I spent with some repairs, going to the beach and eating good food in the tapas bars. During all these days it was very hot and almost no wind.














Tuesday evening Asa, a woman from Sweden, arrived by train. The next morning we left for Getaria, a small fishing port ca. 20 miles west of Hondarribia.

Asa swimmingRegenfrontIt was a nice sunny day but only 10 minutes after we had arrived in Getaria a heavy rain shower came down. We didn´t mind it because we wanted to go to a restaurant. We ran through the rain and our shoes got soaking wet. But we were wearing sandals and it was warm. After dinner the rain had stopped and we were more or less dry. So in the dark we walked through the city.

The peculiar thing about the city was that they have a very big and modern museum about the region in a newly built building that looks far too expensive for this small town. Next to it they had built a tower with a lift in it so you  could get up to the upper areas of the city. I have to admit that the city is situated on a very steep slope and that such a lift is a very convenient thing. But it just looks a bit overdone.

The next day it was again calm sailing with not very much wind but we made it to our planned port of Elanchove. This is a tiny little fishing harbour with no marina and only moorings. There wasn´t even a free mooring, we had to squeeze between a 43ft sailing yacht and and motor boat. But it was very calm in there and free of charge.







On Friday morning we left to go to Bilbao to pick up Bernd who had come from Germany.

Elanchove Kueste Elanchove Kueste 2












Parts of the trip we could sail but towards the end the wind had died completely so we had to motor the last third especially because from the outer harbour entrance to the yacht harbour was 3,5 miles of port area.
The marina of Las Arenas, a suburb of Bilbao, is nice with a luxurious yacht club including a swimming pool, is nice but also the price is luxurious. 35 Euros per night including electricity. Nevertheless we booked two nights because we wanted to visit the city the next day.
So we did and between rain showers we looked at the Guggenheim Museum from the outside, saw one jump of the artistic jumping from one of the bridge columns into the river that took place that day, went to the old town and we got all three of us Spanish SIM-cards for our telephones.




Guggenheimmuseum Bilbao



Altstadtgasse Bilbao Haeuser in Blibao








On Sunday we sailed further west ward and picked up a mooring at the yacht club of Laredo. The place was nice but after sun set the harbour master came and we were quite shocked when we had to pay 25 Euros for the night. 25 Euros just for the mooring, there is no shower, no electricity. So the mood on board was a bit depressed because we had thought that after the expensive stay in Bilbao we could make good something in the budget.
So the next morning we left as soon as possible after breakfeast with the clear determination to anchor the next night. In the bight of Santander we had identified a corner where we wanted to anchor. When we arrived there we found out that it is not as quiet as we had assumed because we hadn´t taken the ocean swell into account. And on top the anchor did not hold very good. But it was holding good enough in the swell, there was no wind and also no wind forecasted for the night. So we stayed there, with the anchor alarm on the GPS set to 0,02 miles and the echo sounder depth alarm set to 5 metres.
At first I could not sleep as I was worried whether the anchor would hold or not. But eventually I fell asleep, woke up in the middle of the night, checked the situation and our position but it was all in best order. We were only circling around the anchor as the chain and rope permitted. At sunrise we got up, had breakfeast and continued our journey. This day we wanted to go to San Vicente de la Barquera. The books kind of warned to got there but only because there were no facilities for yachts. That fact made it even more attractive for us because it sounded as if the port should be at least cheap.
The approach was easy and we were there at the right tide. Shortly after us came in an English yacht called Stillblue of similar size with a father and his adult sun. We both moored at the quay of fishing boats. We had to bring out very long lines on the bow and stern so that the boat would not hang in the lines when to tide went down.
We looked and asked for a harbour master but the fisher men just shrugged their shoulders. Well, we did not mind the absence of a harbour masters as it meant there is nobody to pay any money to or who would came and charge us.
We went to town for dinner with the two English men and had a very nice evening.
The next day, we spent on sight seeing to the medieval cathedral and castle, interrupted by a lunch in a small restaurant in the narrow streets of the old town.

San Vincente de la Barquera Drying boats in San Vincente Caslte San Vincente
Before dinner Asa and I went to the beach where many surfers were and we took a swim and tried to body surf a bit.
For dinner we had fish we had bought in the town during the afternoon.