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Crossing the Bay of Biscay

Crossing the Bay has a deserved reputation of “Be buttoned up no bullshit passage”. I say this only from reading others experiences and talking with the locals who have made the crossing. Everyone gets twitchy when discussing the topic. We decided it would be prudent to use our weather router, Susan Gannett from Real Weather. She helped us getting to Belize from Key West, crossing the Atlantic, and again on our passage from Crete to Barcelona. We only use the router when there are difficult weather predicting routes. Biscay to us warranted the extra caution.

Our initial thought after getting her forecast was that we would be motor sailing for the first two days. Light winds between 4-10 from the NE were forecast. Our rhumb line was 355 degrees, or pretty much true north. We motored out of Cedeira and within 3 hours decided we could sail as fast as we were motoring. So we made just west of the rhumb steering pretty much 325-330 degrees. We hooked up our Hydrovane for the passage as we wanted to conserve electricity and also Hydro just follows the wind keeping boat speed more constant. Again Hydro was a champ, we love this engineering marvel. The first day and night had a difficult sea state so we pretty much beat into short seas slowing boat speed but with 10-12 knots we were still able to make between 5-6 knots boat speed. The second day had similar wind but once off the continental shelf, where the sea goes from 300 feet to over 10,000 we had a long rolling swell. Cadence easily made 6-7 knots just off the rhumb line to the west. We had 10-12 knots of wind. Also, according to Susan the further west and north we got, the more wind we would find and its direction would turn to W, or WNW. She was correct and finally we were able to make the rhumb line on day 3. Unfortunately we were healed over hard and beating into the sea for the next 24 hours. Cadence handled it with no issue, we on the other hand were getting tired of living on what seemed like the side of a slanted roof in the rain with beating seas. We still kept boat speed above 6 knots and were closing in on SW Ireland.

By day 4 the wind had gone to the WSW and was blowing 15-20 so we made quick time on the Rhumb line. We were closing in to the Dingle Peninsula, our intended land fall. We could picture ourselves coming in full speed on a beam reach and arriving in the morning. Perfect passage. Yeah right, what were we thinking. There needed to be a greater barrier to entry than this. One could not expect the Western tip of Ireland to be so forgiving. Well the wind changed direction to the NE and picked up in intensity to 25-30 knots. This came about 30 miles or so before getting into Dingle Bay. This and a difficult current because of the tide made it next to impossible to penetrate up into the bay. We tacked back and forth between the Blasket Islands and Valentia Island slowly making progress toward Dingle marina. We in our moment of bliss thought we would arrive around 11 am were sternly corrected by the weather Gods and it was closer to 5 before we got into the marina. Coming up into Dingle bay was however magical. The sea life was abundant. We had puffins in large groups all around the boat, large pods of porpoise, Gannets soaring just above the sea with their huge wing span and black tips and yellow fuzzy heads, and were treated with whales feeding in decent numbers near the boat.

Apparently the NE wind is one that the forecasters never get correct. We were told this upon entry by a couple of locals. Susan sent us a text on our Delorme tracker letting us now we were going to have a change in forecast to a NE wind. This text came about 15 minutes into the new direction so we were keenly aware already. We were pretty proud of ourselves for finishing our last long passage of the season. We have sailed close to 2000 miles I would guess so far, Barcelona to Gibraltar (600 miles or so), Gibraltar to Galicia (another 600 or so) and the finally the crossing to Ireland, another 650 or so. Now, we need to get buttoned up on the tides and currents and new weather patterns for Ireland.

Here is Susans forecast and routing detail if interested…..

Bill & Jess Tobin - S/Y - CADENCE **** Departure Forecast: 1000-1100GMT Friday 7 July For: Cediera, SP to Dingle, IR Prepared: Friday 7 July By: Susan Genett COMMENTS: The wx pattern is evolving closely to previous discussions. A notable change in the latest data is overnight Sat-Sunday, NE backing NW'ly and increasing briefly before backing further W -- and then for Tues-Wednesday night for SW-W'ly winds having potential to persist longer with NW'ly winds, associated with cold frontal passage, to impact the vicinity of Dingle by pre-daylight Thursday These changes of passage winds enroute beyond Cediera this morning, are small in the larger scope of notable Low pressure features N of 55N beginning to track more N'ward, than E'ward, over the next 2-5 days. This Low tracking tendency likely influenced by the accelerate West movement of slowly intensify Tropical Depression over Tropical Atlantic waters. The faster W movement and stronger intensity of the Tropical, will tend to slow the E'ward movement of the Nern latitude Low pressure features. Thus, the most notable impact upon regional winds in this scenario to potentially be for overall lighter windforce - winds to average less than 20kt now expected for the duration of your passage. Nonethelss, an overall stable wind trend, with the Sunday providing for the widest flexing trend - in direction and speed - as you sail beyond narrowing High pressure axis between Low pressure trof inching E-SE'ward toward Spain (providing backing trend NE'ly to NW) and into the SE'ern edge of better defined Low pressure to the N (a swath of downpour wx around this confluence of features). Suggest sailing W of rhumbline as winds back, on a course that gains more N distance than W, until winds back far enough that your're headed - Anticipate Sunday morning when NW 10-15kt establishes. Then head more N'ward course to realign with rhumb. As reliable 15kt backing wind trend WSW-W'ly establishes for final stretch toward S'ern Ireland, on Monday, can decide destination port. Expect Monday will offer efficient sail North and will have higher confidence on timing of cold front, NW'ly wind transition timing for Dingle arrival, or if latest data holds true to be an early Thursday event. In this case, think a fairly ideal wind-sea window into Dingle will be available for Tuesday arrival. The only concern for the latest data is a potential for fog, restricting visibility, with mostly cloudy with isolated shower trend for Dingle Tues-Wednesday - with a persistent SW-W'ly windfield. I think there is low potential for dense fog to limit visibility throughout the coast for daytime, but a higher probability for pre-daylight and evening hours Tues-Wednesday. This the only wx caveat potential for Dingle arrival, compared to Cork - besides any change in N'rn frontal progress... Will monitor your tracker and keep me posted on any questions or deviations in wx along the way. The forecast below is focused upon rhumbline and want to note again that maintaining a position W of rhumbline on Sunday helps position get into W'ly winds quickest, as they establish from points N toward points South by early Monday. Best-Susan WIND FORECASTS: based upon 6.0-7.0kt yacht speed (Wind Direction in True and Speed in Knots)/L TIME is -0 Hours Zulu Friday 7 July 10-1100Z: 010-030/6-11KT - DEPARTURE 1800Z: 010-030/8-13KT SEAS: 2-5FT - E-SE'ward swell flow. WEATHER: Morning fog and stratus to lift by late-morning tho low cloud to persist with variably to mostly cloudy skies throughout the day offshore. Saturday 8 July 0000Z: 010-030/8-13KT 0600Z: 360-020/6-11KT 1200Z: 360-020/6-11KT - Vicinity 46.0N 8.1W 1800Z: 340-360/6-11KT - backing wind trend SEAS: 2-5FT - dominant flow toward E-SE'ward. WEATHER: Variably cloudy with increasing clouds late-day into overnight. Sunday 9 July 0000Z: 300-320/5-10KT - flexing winds NW-NE'ly - backing trend to W-NW'ly 0600Z: 330-350/3-8KT 1200Z: 320-340/10-15KT - Vcty 48.3N 9.3W - brief NW'ly moderate windforce before backing W'ly 1800Z: 300-020/10-15KT - winds to stabilize W-WNW'ly with North distance gained SEAS: 3-5FT - becoming low and long, multi-directional swell - overall sloppy WEATHER: Variably cloudy to mostly cloudy with isolated downpours for pre-daylight to late-morning along N'ern edge of trof/Low tracking E-SE of position. W'ly winds to establish along SE'ern edge of better defined N'ern Low pressure feature with N distance gained. Monday 10 July 0000Z: 280-300/10-15KT - winds to stabilize W'ly 0600Z: 270-290/10-15KT 1200Z: 260-280/12-17KT - Vicinity 50.7N 10.1W 1800Z: 260-280/12-17KT SEAS: 3-5FT - building swell fetch toward E'wrd WEATHER: Continued variably to mostly cloudy with potential for isolated showers. Tuesday 11 July 0000Z: 250-270/12-17KT 0600Z: 250-270/10-15KT 09-1200Z: 250-270/10-15KT - vicinity Dingle 1800Z: 230-250/6-11KT - winds to flex SE-SW'ly SEAS: 2-4FT - E'wrd swell flow to persist with eventual SE'ward flow to evolve after frontal passage WEATHER: Mostly cloudy with isolated showers. Winds to remain fairly stable within SW-W'ly range through Wed 10-20kt with NW'ly 15-20kt to establish overnight Wed-Thurs with frontal passage. -- Susan Genett Chief Meteorologist RealWeather® Ltd 401.841.0287<tel:401.841.0287><>

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