Friday, December 14, 2018

'A Coruna - Spain.... Big-ass seas!...nice town

The Bay of Biscay has a reputation that I was aware of....and last night it lived up to it.

We did our "due diligence" on weather checks and it did not look great - but it did look about as good as it gets for this time of year.  15 kt winds, and...errrr 3-4m seas?

We left the river mouth of Ria Ribadeo after an amazing lunch at a reasonable price at the "green restaurant near the marina".  San Miguel's I think it was called.  This was the beast meal we have had so far!

I guess it was around 5pm after we had fuelled up and cast off the lines.  Exiting the pass,waves were big, but organized and Midnight Sun III rode up them quite happily and ran down the other sides.   While the waves were big, it was smooth.  So big waves were not bad at all.

Marina - Ria Ribadeo
But alas, as is typically the case, after dark, things went pretty bad.  The wind picked up into the 20s, the waves got very disorganized, and the boat crashed around pounding into the seas.  It was very noisy, at times quite scary, as it sounded and felt like the boat was being dropped from 10 ft above the water.  if you have never experienced pounding and crashing like this - you are lucky.  While pounding and hobby-horsing is an issue with catamarans in general, these wave conditions would have put any boat - cat or monohull to a test.  We also had a lot of commercial shipping on AIS, so had to keep a vigilant watch.  The night was long and grueling - but the boat did fine, despite the pounding.  I don't think any of the crew got much rest, and a couple were sick.  Fortunately not too badly.  To help put in perspective - at one point in the morning when things seemed to be improving, we made coffee.  The pot was clamped to the stove, but as we crashed down a wave, it leapt 2 ft. into the air.  Yes - big clean-up in rough seas!

As daylight boke, we were about 3 miles offshore.  Really not enough for "comfort", but I had found that there actually was a little more "comfort" in terms of pounding by keeping closer to shore.  As we approached the entrance to 'A Coruna, the waves started to organize somewhat more, and although they built in height, they were predictable.  I think its fair to say without exaggeration, these were the largest waves I have sailed in.  They had to be 20+ ft.  Put it this way, when we were in a trough, a wave ahead of me obscured mountains on the shore.  And at one point, we had a 450 ft tanker, about a half mile ahead of us, and again, I could only see it when we were on a wave crest..  of course, no photos, but they would not have done justice - and I had white knuckles holding the wheel.

I steered and Larry watched for traffic.  We  played chicken at one point with the 450 ft tanker - not by choice.  He did a 360 degree circle waiting for his escort, and was escorted in by a convoy of tugs.  We followed as waves started to  break onshore in a spectacular, but  scary display of the power of nature.

But, we made it in and are now docked at a great marina in the heart of downtown A Coruna.  The town is a lot larger than I anticipated, and seems delightful, with friendly locals and great bars- - yes, what would you expect after a day and night like that!!........multiple bar visits before I crash in about 5 minutes!  Here's a few shots of town......goodnight for now!
Town Square - A Coruna

Downtown A Coruna

A Coruna - near harbor

By the way - track our real-time location at:

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Off the Dock. On to Spain!

We left the dock in La Rochelle on Monday, Dec 10, 2018. And set out for Spain across the Bay of Biscay. Growing up in England, I knew the reputation of Biscay. We had watched the weather for days with winds of 20 +, but the local sailors were not deterred.   We waited, and finally a small window between lows presented itself. Our goal was to get to La Coruna, Spain, but this was not looking good.  So we decided to strike out for Gijon.

We left with little wind, but swells were every bit of 15-20 ft generated in the Atlantic from days of low pressure systems and high winds. We motored for 10 hours or so until winds filled in. Then we soon had 15-20 kt winds. This gave us speeds of 6.5 to 7.5 kts average, with a maximum surfing speed of 11.5 kts recorded. Wow,! This was nice. But alas, with the winds, the rollers got disorganized, and although less in height, became more like the Gulf if Mexico on a bad day.  Meaning 6-8 ft with no direction - just “lumps and holes” in the sea surface. This meant constant bashing on the boat - which just feels and sounds awful.

Nonetheless, our awesome crew made it through with no issues. While we had planned on Gijon as a stopping point before La Coruna, we were ahead of schedule, and arriving at midnight was not a good plan. We elected to continue on to Ria Ribadeo, and arrived at about 9am. As of writing this, we have been here abou 12 hours and love it. Friendly, great bar prices, and all bars we have visited have provided complimentary appetizers!  Just loving it here!

Midnight Sun III at dock (Cat in center)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

La Rochelle - Update No.4

It finally feels like we are making real progress and getting closer to leaving.  Of course, when that happens panic sets in and you realize all the things we should have been doing waiting around!

Harbour at Honfleur
As reported earlier, our pallet of equipment that we shipped from the US got stop in an administrative "do loop" in French customs - meaning that it was stuck in L Havre (northern France), so  We made a road trip to go deal with the needed temporary importation permit.  Had we known we needed to do this, we could have done it earlier!    We stayed overnight in the cute town of Honfleur, which was a real treat.  It looked like a town where Beauty and the Beast could have been set.  But alas, we got the temporary permit, hand delivered it to the shipping company and our goods were promised to be delivered Friday, then back to La Rochelle (about a 5-hour drive each way).

oldest wooden church in France 

Several days passed and Friday came around.  Sure enough, as promised, our pallet arrived at Dream Yacht's storage facility.  We rented a van and voila!  we had stuff!.  This set in motion a couple of larger projects.  I installed the watermaker which we had shipped over (we love our Rainman watermaker!), and Larry and Mike set about rigging the code zero sail that we had made in Pensacola by Schurr Sails.  At about that time, more weather set in and with 30 kt winds gusting to 50 and 15-20 ft seas - yes we have stayed put pinned to the dock

As I write this, it is Sunday and things are supposed to settle down today- but seas will remain big and another front approaches on Wednesday/Thursday.  So as of writing this, our plan is to depart tomorrow morning (Monday).  Several delivery crews on the dock are planning a similar strategy leaving either today or tomorrow and headed in the direction of La Coruna, Spain.  We have figures our "bail-out" plans for Gijon, Santander, or Viveiro if we need to, and I think it is likely that we will duck into one of those locations just short of La Coruna - but we shall see.  Its 2:30 pm locally here on Sunday, so we have some last minute preparations to make while we have daylight and while a few shops are open (we hope).  So hopefully, my next update will be from Spain.  Wish us luck and hope for some better weather ahead of our 3-day trip across the Bay of Biscay.

Friday, November 30, 2018

La Rochelle - Update No. 3 - Sailing!

Midnight Sun III
We have been watching the weather closely and trying to understand the local conditions.  Its quite different than back home with 15-20 ft tides every 6 hours - actually its very much more like my "old" home town of Blackpool, England.

We have a nice "side tie" spot outside the Capitainerie here in La Rochelle, which so far nobody has asked us to pay for (even better!).

I am sure DYC will ask us to vacate as soon as we work through our punchlist.  But until then - here we are with a couple of other delivery crews headed to the Virgin Islands and Croatia.

This morning, as forecast we had rain and gusty winds, but just before noon we were able to get out for our first sail on the new boat.  Immediately before that, we gave our friends Annie Dike and Phillip Warren a hand letting off dock lines as they set out on almost the same  journey as we have
Farewell  and Fair Winds - Annie, Phillip, Syrus and Kate!
planned.  Annie and Phillip are also from Pensacola (Annie of "Have Wind Will Travel" fame).  Annie and Phillip are crewing for new friends and fellow Dream Yacht clients, Kate and Syrus who took delivery of their Lagoon 42 a week ahead of us.

But finally, we got a break in the weather this afternoon and took the boat out for its first sail.  Conditions were near perfect.  We left the harbor and went out into the bay with about 12 kts of breeze and 2-3 ft seas.  We traveled south along the coast approximately 7-8 miles on a beam reach making 7.5 kts. 

The boat performed flawlessly and the ride was so comfortable.  In fact after a glass of celebratory champagne, the girls made a great lunch of toasted sandwiches.  Soon we found ourselves racing a monohull, and flew by it without effort.  With its self-tacking jib, Midnight Sun III tacked effortlessly for the return leg back to the marina.  With the ease-up in weather conditions, many other small craft were taking the opportunity to enjoy a Friday afternoon sail - so there was a fair amount of boat traffic on the way back into the marina.  But with over 5,000 boats in this marina, that was no big surprise.  It is apparently the largest marina in Europe.

So Midnight Sun III had a very successful maiden sea trial.  So far our punch-list is relatively short and most items are minor.  Certainly nothing that would delay departure.  What is delaying our departure however, is the pallet of equipment we shipped from the US - which is still stuck in customs in Le Havre.  Hopefully we can resolve this early next week and get our stuff delivered to us. 

Unfortunately weather conditions next week are forecast to deteriorate even although we are anxious to get moving, we don't have a good sense of when that will be.  With predicted seas of 5-7 m (yes metres not feet!), next week is not looking good.   Especially since local sailors tell us it typically takes at least 2-3 days for seas to subside once weather like that has gone through

But still, there are far worse places to be holed up!  Of course, we may not be saying that next week.

Now if we could just have a little more luck dealing with French Customs - life would be really good. 

Tonight we headed to a small French Bistro for dinner adjacent to the marina which turned out to be good and reasonably priced.  We had hoped to stop in at the local Yacht Club for a drink - but at 7pm on a Friday night it was what type of a yacht club is that!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

La Rochelle - Update No. 2

Late Breaking News - Sneak Peak!

We found her!

After several miles of walking the docks - yes there are over 4,000 boats in the large marina in La Rochelle......we found our boat.  Hull # 45, Midnight Sun III.  Just before sunset.  So we climbed on board and had a bottle of champagne! - thank you Larry and Tracy.

our agent emailed us to say she is being cleaned and we will meet Monday morning.  In actual fact, we convinced they guy cleaning the boat to give us the keys and we have had a look around.  Here's a quick sneak peak

its the one on the outside!

La Rochelle - Update

Friday November 23, 2018

Today (Friday) has been a rainy day.  We have now been in France just over a week.  No boat as yet - we were warned of this and it is true - things simply happen at their own pace.

We are loving the town and location, but communication from our broker and commissioning team has been awful at best....well actually, more like "non-existent" from our local agent.

The boat has apparently been in the "commercial boatyard" which cannot be accessed by the public.  Yes, we tried, but it is a gated industrial area with no access through the security gates.  Our commissioning agent with Dream Yacht Charters has been elusive at best.  His office is a lockbox in a storage facility.  Maybe he has another physical location, but we have not found it, nor been given that location.  He seems to return phone calls after 2-3 days.  He did tell us when we arrived that we were delayed until Nov 26, but could not provide a reason (today is Nov 23, and we were promised the boat 7-10 days after it exited the factory; we understand it came out of the factory Nov 12).  Needless to say, I have made calls and emails back to our broker in the US and and to our local agent, but it has to date made no difference.   I've just been told its not reasonable to expect a boat to be ready within the range of dates promised.  Seriously!  I did talk with a person from the company that is commissioning the boat and they have apparently installed through hulls that I need for my water maker.....and they told me the boat would  launch today.  But then the english/french communication broke down - maybe it was my excitement!.....and I could not figure out if it would be launched at the commercial yard or here in La Rochelle.  Its amazing that we are getting the best info on the QT from a guy we should probably not be speaking with!

We have been watching all the other Lagoon 40s being commissioned in among the plethora of boats here, I can tell you where Hull No 41, 42,43, and 44 are - and that's where the track goes cold as we have not found Midnight Sun III - Hull no 45 as of writing this.  We spent a couple of hours checking on all likely locations today in the rain - but to no avail.  This IS just like waiting for your first-born to enter the world.......and (Helen), this one is as stubborn as you were!

So we wait.  And if that's not enough we have been wrestling with our shipping agent to get the pallet of equipment we shipped from the US released from customs.  It is apparently in Le Havre where the container ship was unloaded.  So I have spent the last 24 hours trying to  research EU regulations on "ships supplies for a vessel in transit", as they relate to import tax, VAT, etc.  Our shipping agent says that there are only 3 conditions for being tax exempt, adn these are: I am accepting a job in France; relocating to France; or a union with a French after several drinks last night I proposed to our barmaid (it turns out she was from Wales but speaks French).  She accepted subject to me buying her a new dress and shoes.  So that may prove to be the solution!  Our shipping agent is at least trying - he returns my emails within a couple hours and takes my phone calls.
La Rochelle by night

So that's my update!  We will see what happens Monday as it is now 5pm on Friday, and I don't expect anything to happen of significance over the weekend.  Its a rainy day today - but at least the bars and Irish Pub are open.

Update - Saturday, Nov 24

There was a late-breaking update on the pallet last night.  I did get an email saying "confirmation of Discharge".......but this was not from customs.

The plan today is to go for another walk around the docks and see if there's any sign.  Leave a message for our commissioning agent - but I expect no reply.  He didn't reply yesterday.  On  a brighter note, we met friends from Pensacola the other day (Annie Dike of "Have wind Will Travel").  the sailing community is a small one!  Annie and Phil are crewing on a 42 Lagoon that is also going into charter with Dream Yacht and alo in the BVI.  So we have been able to compare notes with them.  It seems their new boat owner Syrus and Kate have had a similar experience with delays and limited to no communication.  They just got their  boat - about a week after it was promised.  Hopefully we will find them in the marina today so we can compare notes!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

La Rochelle, France

La Rochelle

We have arrived in La Rochelle, France which is the location that we will pick up the new boat.  We have now been here a couple of days.  The trip over was a bit gruelling, but about what we expected. Our travel was on American Airlines and TAP Portugal: Pensacola to Miami; Miami to Lisbon; Lisbon to Nantes and a rental car to La Rochelle.  We almost missed our flight to Lisbon as it turned at that changing terminals in Miami is a nightmare!.....about a  mile long treck with the need to exit and re-enter security.   So, of course one of our checked bags went missing - it is supposed to be delivered to us today.
La Rochelle -- Old Harbor

We spent some time yesterday exploring the town - which is magnificent!  Small streets, old buildings, street cafes,  and literally thousands of sailboats.  I am sure my photos will not do it justice.  We are staying close to the old harbor, but there is a new harbor/marina that we estimate has over 3,000 boats within it - most are sailboats.

This is clearly a "nautical town".  We saw several new boats being commissioned, including boats by Lagoon, Fontaine Pajot, Nautitech, Bavaria, and Amel.

Old Harbor

The new harbor/marina was quite a spectacular sight.  I don't think I have ever seen such a collection of sailboats in one place.  The  French certainly take their sailing seriously.
New Harbor - Note masts in background

From old square riggers, to new boats, to fast racing boats - we saw it all here in La Rochelle.  We spotted a Nautical Museum, which we have not visited as yet, but intend to do so.  

We are loving this town!  The locals are friendly, the restaurants are good (some a little pricey), baars and street cafes are really good.  Latest word on the boat is a "slight delay" we are waiting on more info on that one.  The one disturbing thing is that we just witnessed a protest by the "yellow jackets" or "Gilets Jaunes".  Apparently its a  protest organized entirely on social media with no identified leaders, no political connections, but a protest by the French people about increases in fuel prices - particularly diesel.  We hear there's a threat that this could cause major disruptions in France..........we are hoping this will not be the case!
Maitre Coq - Ocean Race Boat

Anyway - we are here and it doesn't suck!  The next challenge will be to track down our pallet of equipment that we shipped and hopefully no no further disruptions from those pesky "Gilets Jaunes".

I did just activate my inReach tracker - so if you click on the link below or the one ar the right side of this page, you should see our current location.

More updates to follow!

Our Location: