Cape Finisterre, Spain
Sorry that my recent updates have been short and few in number. In the midst of taking advantage of an easterly wind to get me clear of the notorious Bay of Biscay and on towards the equally challenging Cape Finisterre, this easterly wind came with warnings of a very strong wind front forecast to reach Cape Finisterre at approximately the same time as Bodacious Dream. It became imperative then that I move as quickly as possible towards Cape Finisterre, and try to round it before the winds arrived.
The first two days out of La Rochelle would have been “champagne sailing” any other time, but for this urgent need to make haste, and to use every option available to do so. As you can imagine, when you are focused on something as specific as hitting a time target 60 hours in the future, you forget to look around and realize how nice the sailing is. It was indeed beautifulâ€¦warm – nearly clear skies but light winds. I had to remind myself a number of times just how lucky I was to be there.
I hadnâ€™t made any mention of the strong winds at Cape Finisterre, because I didnâ€™t want to alarm anyone, but the forecasts were calling for winds accelerating north and west of the Cape at 50 knots. No matter how I recalculated my course, I was scheduled to arrive at the Cape no sooner than 00:00 (midnight) while the winds were forecast to kick up between 01:00 and 03:00. To make things worse, every forecasted wind and pressure change along the way occurred just as predicted, so there was little use in hoping the forecast was wrong. Any delay in my passage would mean sailing through 50 knot winds.
Some of you know about winds and wind strengths, while others donâ€™t. An example of a good sailing day would be 10-15 knot winds â€“ nice and comfortable going.Â A fun and exhilarating day would be 20 knots. 25 is going to be a bit sporting, and only enjoyable by experienced sailor. 30 is just plain hard work for any sailors, experienced or not. At 40 knots there is little pleasure…and at 50 there is no god. So…the thought of rounding Cape Finisterre with its treacherous reefs in such winds, was not something I wanted to experience.
(Back again…) Well, itâ€™s now Saturday morning and I can say that last night was one of the most beautiful sails Iâ€™ve had in a long while. Otto (that would be my autopilot) and I worked our tails off steering and driving the boat for every second of time we could, and we arrived just west of Cape Finisterre at 23:30 in dark of night, gybing into the separation lanes. There is a lot of shipping that travels around the Cape back and forth from the Mediterranean and Africa, and so they have marked lanes to control the direction of traffic. We gybed down through the lanes and exited them at 01:30 and made an angle of sail towards Vigo, a town on the coast of Spain. Once in that area, weâ€™d be sheltered from the worst of the winds, by cover of the coastline.
About 30 minutes after we gybed for Vigo, the predicted winds arrived – quickly rising to 30+ knots. Fortunately, just before 23:00 I had the foresight to reef the mainsail and Solent jib – (reefing is making the sail smaller in size by gathering some of it and tightening it into a “reef.”) Once I found just the right angle and balance of sail trim, Bodacious Dream took off in a way…I can only call mysticalâ€¦a quiet, fast reach. There was not much more sound than the whisper of the autopilot and the hissing of water passing the hull. We were traveling at 16 to 18 knots down waves. When you have a boat as beautifully designed and implemented as the Kiwi 40 Bodacious Dream, and when you set her just right…thatâ€™s what she does. Fast speeds with very little noise, noise being an indicator of drag.
I sat back and marveled at how smoothly and quietly she was sailing, and how lucky I was to have a boat that could handle 30 knots of wind with such class. As if that wasnâ€™t enough, shortly after the winds came, the skies cleared and the bright moon appeared casting soft glows across the wild waters. It reminded me of fractured black glassâ€¦the broken edges glistening in the moonlight, as we rolled over each wave. Even more fortunate was that this moment lasted for another six hours, as we made our way to the Vigo area. Once there about daybreak, we turned down coast, and will spend the rest of today and tonight, making our way to Lisbon, about 200 miles south.
Oh…and still one MORE thing. Not long after the moon set and the skies went dark, a school of porpoise came by to play. The water was full of phosphorescent plankton, and the wakes of the speedy little guys and the tunnels through which they sped around and under the boat, were all aglow in the dark. Some corkscrewed, some just went in straight zips, like contrails – but all of it was wonderful.
So it was, that while the winds did come, and we were ahead of them enough to escape their full force, in the end, we were doubly blessed with a magical night of sailing.
Now onto Lisbon!
- Dave, Otto (the autopilot) and Bodacious Dream