Into the Bay of Biscay (day 1)

Trip Start Oct 15, 2010
1
11
35
Trip End Dec 15, 2010


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Flag of France  , Brittany,
Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween brought with it a good weather prognosis, a temporary lull in the wind, and sunshine.  I got my last hot shower and returned to find my crewmates ready to go.  We motored out of the harbor and out to round a short white lighthouse that stood on rocks with crashing white waves.  A drizzle came down for a few minutes and when we looked back a bright rainbow arched from the lighthouse and high above a sunlit regatta of sailboats.  Everyone was glad.

Back behind Belle Ile the winds calmed again and we lost all speed and even turned around and my fishing line became caught in the propeller.  As I did not fancy diving into the cold sea just then I cut the line instead and lost my tackle to the briny deep.  So I was a little downcast as we fired up the motor, climbing big long swells as we passed cliffs whitened by crashing waves on the west side of Belle Ile.  My mood was brought back up by the colorful sunset off our bow and a sudden appearance of half a dozen small dolphins playing around us.  They jumped in unison, shot underneath the boat, and followed us playfully until it was too dark to see them anymore.  I went to bed as I would be on tonight's middle watch.

Libellule woke me at 11pm and I could feel we were sailing again.  I poked my head out of the hatch into darkness and saw Orion shouldering his way up at the horizon.  Jupiter was high and bright and a meteor dropped like a silent silver tear.  The boat was skimming along on autopilot like a rocket with a green plume of phosphorescence in the sea.  The Milky Way was splashed across the sky.  It was magic.  And all I had to do was sit in the cockpit and ride and watch for ship lights and marvel at the scene and try to stay awake four hours.  To keep warm I sat in the hatch with legs on the cabin steps.

The wind picked up even more and I noticed that there was no more light at the masthead.  Then a halyard clanged and the light came back on.  Another damned thing to fix and in a very inconvenient place.  I spotted a trawler at a distance and made sure he crossed well in front of us, while in the opposite direction all sign of land had evaporated except the lazy flash of the lighthouse on Belle Ile.  A ruddy crescent moon was rising like a crooked boat the next time I looked back.

Then our boat was turning itself into the wind.  I looked for the course on the autopilot display and found it dark.  I unhooked the device and took the tiller in hand.  What was up with the electrics all of a sudden?  Jupiter was dropping low and in front of us when it was finally time to wake Pappy for his watch.  The autopilot could at least hold the tiller in one place for me while I went below.

As the wind seemed on the increase with Pappy's help we put a couple reefs in the main, which was quite hard in the dark as he motored into bumpy seas.  I snapped on my safety line and went forward slipping all over the deck and cursing but getting the reef in and the sail back up and tight.  The autopilot was working again and I switched off the engine leaving Pappy to sail as I crawled weary into my bunk.

Here is the first of the photos from today.
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