Finally, my dream of getting my (old) boat to Spain and Portugal is fulfilled. I wanted to cross the Bay of Biscay and spend some lovely time in the Atlantic south of Europe, but it took me three years to get there.
This is the short story of how my sailing nomad journey started end of 2018. I just bought a boat with only some 200nm or two weeks of sailing done before. As I learned from that little sailing: I want to have my boat so I can change things if I dislike them. I want to have a nice interior layout. I need to be able to reef, and I need wind steering. It had been a very steep learning curve starting in October sailing from the Baltic Sea to the entrance of the North Sea. There I stopped and fixed up the boat for five months. Yes, I lived on the boat with no heating in the German winter while fixing it up. Not really a pleasant thing, but it suited me – from the working rat race into another undoable task. During these months, I deeply got to know every corner of the boat, fixing, renewing basically everything of relevance, rigging, engine, electronics, much more. I was in a hurry hoping to get things finished and get south. Even though I progressed much, my to-do list only grew longer. But in the most well-meaning and friendly way, my new friends in Cuxhaven told me it was time to cast off the lines and finally go by myself. Mid May 2019, I cast off from Cuxhaven. I sailed some 1000nm partly solo from Germany to Ireland Cork. From there, I wanted to cross the Biscay sail to Spain and Portugal, to Lisboa.
But before Ireland, I made another check in Plymouth to be sure the boat will all be well for the feared Biscay. During the hull-out, I realized I had to rebuild the stringer over the keel. Also, I had to get a new Genua sail. I also checked the rudder as that was to be the week part of the Jeanneau Fantasia 27. From the outside, there was nothing wrong with it. It had nice paint where I could not look through. The construction – the design was bad, but hey, it’s been working. Why worry when every experienced person around me said easy. The work on the stringer, waiting for the Genua, and the stories of the feared Bay of Biscay made me choose to have a short break with my boat and go and sail with friends in their bigger boat across Biscay before I try myself. A nice short holiday. The Biscay has been that calm that we motored across as there was no wind for three days.
Back to my boat, I sailed to Cork to visit a friend there. Then the time came for me to cross this, so said treasures stretch of water to get south. To cut that story short, while beating into the wind, out Cork harbour, our rudder broke. This and the work of rebuilding the rudder and the late season (October 2019) made me choose to leave my boat on the dry and have another holiday. I sailed with another Dom on his Trimaran Juniper (which had been sailed by Henk de Velde around the world) from Plymouth to Cascais (Lisbon) to conker the Biscay and get somewhat to my dream goal to sail to Lisbon. Then with other friends, I sailed from Tenerife via the Cape Verdie’s to Barbados. I mostly enjoyed it. Then Family issues drew me to New Zealand. Early 2020 while Covit was starting off, I chose to sell my boat with reluctance though. On my return to Europe in August 2021, I checked with the guy I sold my boat to if he potentially would sell it back to me, and I was happy to learn that he was open to this conversation. But I also wanted to build my own boat, so no decision was made.
The Galicia Meetup had an impact not only on me. I guess we all really enjoyed it and got to know more like-minded salty souls. While chatting with Nadiem, I learned about his eagerness to buy a boat. Also, I noticed his inpatients, emotional timeline of getting going soon and of his budget. A bit down the track, I suggested to him to repurchase my old boat. As I had sold it for very little and knew how much work and money had gone into it. Also, I at least knew its real value and its flaws. My old Fantasia 27 was the second boat he looked at, and his decision quickly followed. With me saying I would sail it with him from West Ireland to across the Biscay. He just bought it.
Nadiems fast paste of doing things, his inpatients, and inexperience reminded me of myself at the start of my sailing journey. Shortly after, I found myself in RANY Ireland with the view to my old boat on a mooring, the mast still horizontal laying on the Fantasia. What a cute beauty.
We got the mast up in a hurry, and I have been delighted it worked, as there was no other professional and it was my first time being in charge of this. We had to hurry as the tide was falling, and we wanted to get out of that village marine which would fall dry. While we progressed fast on getting everything back together, I mostly marveled at how connected I felt with the boat. Further, for how many things I still had my old routine. Within a few hours of putting up the mast, reconnecting all wires to complete working condition, we set sail, off into a short night sail to Galway city where we had left in the morning from our Hostel.
After another day of fixing little things, mounting the Windpilot, refueling, and stocking up a few more provisions. I was amazed at how much Nadiem and I got done in the short time. We had our roles but worked as a team. It has been a little sad to see all the things neglected in my time of absents from the boat! But also cool how many things I had installed still worked.
The following day we sailed out of Galway. It was tuff sailing, and I had been seasick most of the time. While a few more issues became obvious and mistakes of mine clear, we managed to get all of them under control. We fought our way south around the headland with only two stops from Galway to Dingle. The sail to Dingel was particularly tuff. Before, I doubted if Nadiem and I were up for the challenge to sail across the Biscay. But after arriving in Dingle, I knew that we worked together in critical situations with endurance and focus. In Dingel, we prepared and finished off our final things and sailed off towards A Coruna.
I remember vividly the seal which guided us out of the marina in the morning, sticking his head out of the water from time to time. Out we sailed with only nature to surround us for the next 5.5 days. I feel very thankful for the time and for nature to have been so kind to us. Many heavy clouds passed before and behind us, but we stayed dry all the way across besides a drizzle. We enjoyed all wind conditions, from fully reefed to all sails up. And we also enjoyed the eye of the high at least for some hours floating around having a dip in 4000m of deep blue ocean. As much as I would have liked not to, we did motor sail and motor a bit to miss out on certain fronts and forecasted higher wind zones. Our route ended up being reasonably straight down south.
Besides the wind and the sea, we also got to see lots of sea life: Dolphins, a big whale, pilot whales, florescent plankton, and playful pilot whales in the fluorescent plankton.
While sailing into A Coruna, I felt a little sad that this epic voyage was coming to a close, more the chapter of me and that sailboat was coming to a close. From A Coruna on, Nadiem would be the skipper, he would sail on, and I had to let go. But I also felt very happy for Nadiem and that the Fantasia was again in good use and no more detreating on an Irish paddock. We were totally aware that there is still lots for Nadiem to learn. But 900nm learning on his boat and the variety of situations we had been in gave us confidence that it was time for him to become the skipper of his floating home to continue his steep learning curve. To learn and grow by himself and with his crew to come.
Thanks, Nadiem, for the fantastic adventure! Thanks for the trust! And I am looking forward to sailing again together!! Bone Voyage!
Thanks to Ocean Nomads the basis for making this story happen : ))
Thanks to the wind, the ocean, and nature I am very grateful for how well everything played out. I am happy to have finally crossed Biscay as a skipper : )