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Old 23-01-2014, 21:26   #1
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Bay of Biscay advice

Hello all,

So I'm picking our boat up in Germany March time (Hanse 385, 1.95m draft), having a delivery skipper bring her down to the UK and then take ownership in Guernsey.

We expect to leave Guernsey some time in April and will try to get into the Med as quickly as possible, depending on weather of course.

This means crossing, or hopping, around the Bay of Biscay.

After reading up on this area I understand that it needs to be given a lot of respect. I'm trying to gather as much information as I can so any experts on this area would be great to hear from.

Just wondering what the best pilots / guides are for this stretch? if I'm a madman for taking this on (there will be 2 of us on the boat with limited coastal experience), etc.

We don't mind hopping around it, which would be easier to handle weather wise as we could plan to only sail on good days. Any ports / marinas along the way that are good to stay in would be welcomed as well.

Thanks so much in advance. We're not trying to be hero's here so if it comes down to hiring a more experienced crew we will do. Just looking to get some honest advice.

Best regards,
Simon
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Old 23-01-2014, 21:46   #2
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pirate Re: Bay of Biscay advice

I've done the run from Gurnsey along the N coast of France and its around 1 1/2 to 2 days.. all the ports along this stretch are tidal so you'll only have short windows in strong tides to run in for shelter before you get to Ushant and the entrance to the Biscay..
May I suggest unless you have a clear window you run NW and along to Falmouth... lay up there till you get a 5-6 day window of N'lies then run for La Coruna outside Ushant and stay outside the continental shelf.. if the weather holds keep on to Baiona 60 odd miles past Finisterre..
Hopping down the coast may be okay later in the year but April is still dodgy for fast changing weather that can catch you out..
My advice is keep your sea room.. your sailing short handed don't be fooled by the illusion of safety by hugging the coast..
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Old 24-01-2014, 00:52   #3
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Re: Bay of Biscay advice

Stay well out to the west my friend.

Dave
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Old 24-01-2014, 05:45   #4
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Re: Bay of Biscay advice

Simon,

Seems your circumstances are a mirror of mine lasyt year. My purchase of an Elan 434 in the Baltic fell through due problems with the VAT invoice. I ended up buying a Jeanneau 43 DS in Brighton. I looked at all options to get her into the Med and opted for a delivery with me aboard.

Due family bereavements that didn't work out so the boat left without me. She had a tracker onboard and I monitored the weather patterns and winds on the iPad App 'MeteoEarth', sending the crew SMS messages of what to expect.

It was very frustrating to see them miss a perfect weather window of northerly 10-12kt winds across Biscay and end up becalmed; And using a tank of fuel to motor most of the way.

I posted this video on another thread to inspire others. PM me if you want to hear the lessons I learned from the experience.

The Journey - YouTube
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Old 24-01-2014, 05:49   #5
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Re: Bay of Biscay advice

Lol, gime the calm and the fuel tanks anytime in Biscay , where to sign!!
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Old 24-01-2014, 06:24   #6
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Re: Bay of Biscay advice

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Lol, gime the calm and the fuel tanks anytime in Biscay , where to sign!!
The credit card slip for the fuel!
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Old 24-01-2014, 06:32   #7
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Re: Bay of Biscay advice

We sailed across with a delivery captain and first mate making four of us. It's a good thing we had the extra help because I got very sick with a raging migraine from seasickness. Make sure you bring along the seasick pills and some extra help might also be a good idea.

Extra fuel is also a good idea, we ended up motoring most of the way. It was windy, but mostly heading right into it.
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Old 24-01-2014, 06:33   #8
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pirate Re: Bay of Biscay advice

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alenka View Post
It was very frustrating to see them miss a perfect weather window of northerly 10-12kt winds across Biscay and end up becalmed; And using a tank of fuel to motor most of the way.

I posted this video on another thread to inspire others. PM me if you want to hear the lessons I learned from the experience.

The Journey - YouTube
Be thankful.. a tank of fuel is a small price to pay.. my 1st ever crossing was from Gurnsey with a perfect 6day window (I still had great faith in forecasts back then)... 18hrs into the Bay we were hit by SE F10.. not nice in the Bay as that creates a wind over current washing machine..
The thing to remember/bear in mind with the Biscay is.. it respects no one... all it needs is a Low to stall and your in trouble.. it has no consistency due to its location and the way different fronts collide in W and Central Europe.. there's a reason its been feared and respected by seamen over the centuries.. long before we came along in our plastic toys..
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Old 24-01-2014, 06:39   #9
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Re: Bay of Biscay advice

Simon,

Have you checked into the insurance situation for an April Biscay crossing. My company was very reluctant to do anything other than June - August.
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Old 24-01-2014, 07:10   #10
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My own experience is watch what spins of the finnisterre area that's where the nasty stuff comes from , rather then the big Atlantic lows that can be readily forecast. Often you avoid the obvious stuff and miss the smaller Ones that smack you hard.

The jet stream is currently very far south at the moment so lows are tracking in over northern France = no good

If you embayed watch the Northern Spanish coast nasty place , even approaching LA Coruna

Deep Atlantic is best , hit Portugal or even keep going all the way to Cabo San Vicente !

Mind you a nice summer is to potter down around the coast of biscay

Dave
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Old 24-01-2014, 07:35   #11
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Re: Bay of Biscay advice

San Sebastian is just stunningly gorgeous. Try not to miss it.
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Old 25-01-2014, 21:27   #12
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Re: Bay of Biscay advice

We "hopped" from the Scillies to Royan, then Arcachon, St. Jean de Luz, and San Sebastian. As Boatman suggests, however, we sailed in August. It is worth noting that the European surfing championships are held in Biarritz because the coastlines and weather can combine to create waves that are not fun or safe for sailboats.
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Old 05-05-2014, 04:08   #13
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Re: Bay of Biscay advice

Hello all,

I posted this topic a while back and was very grateful of the advice.
Due to our situation we have ended up in Cameret, France, and are now looking to cross Biscay.

I've been reading as much as I can and it seems 'west is best' so is Cameret going to be too far East to cross?

Where exactly is the shelf and what can we expect from it? Does the huge drop cause large nasty sea states even in good weather?

In terms of weather planning just wondering what people use? I've been looking at gribs / passage weather and this week doesn't look that great. 3m waves, 20knot winds, etc.

We're looking to just get over with the least amount of hassle as possible. If that means flat seas and motoring so be it. Once we're past this area of ocean we can sail again but we fully respect Biscay and just want the easiest crossing possible.

Any advice would be most welcomed. To say we're a little scared of this crossing would be an understatement.

Regards,
Simon
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Old 05-05-2014, 04:50   #14
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pirate Re: Bay of Biscay advice

Just had a look at Passage Weather.. you look good to head off tomorrow evening or Wens morning on a nice W'ly.. would not worry about the continental shelf as I'd suggest you run due S with Santander/Bilbao as your possible port of shelter/rest... as you close N. Spain.. if the weather is as predicted I'd start curving W under motor when you hit the light winds forecast for Friday.. you would then be aiming for Gijon some 80miles W of Santander or Viviero another 80miles on.. recommend a stop there.
Nothing looking to bad for the trip... enjoy..
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Old 05-05-2014, 06:59   #15
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Re: Bay of Biscay advice

Thanks for the advice, I think we'll wait here a few more days first before seriously thinking of heading over.

I think we well we'll head directly towards La Carona if we can, we don't have much time to get south unfortunately, not that we'll rush Biscay (we'll wait for as good a window as we can get), but we do need to keep pressing south if possible.

In terms of weather what should we be looking for? N? NE winds so we can run before them? As I mentioned I don't mind having to motor this part if needed.

Regards
Simon
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