27 august

Hola! We are still in Spain – stuck in a place called Camarinas – about 60 miles south west of Coruna. We arrived on Sunday afternoon on a calm blue sky day having had an easy motor sail from our previous port of call. Our intention was to leave the following day to get South asap.

The following day the weather had other ideas. Blue sky was replaced with a heavy grey one and the calm flat sea was churning itself into a bit of a lather. The wind had picked up. There was a deep sea mist obscuring the near ground. It was unpleasant. It felt more like Hayling Island on a bad day than Galician Spain. So we decided to move to the harbour which we thought would be more sheltered. We could anchor right beside a marina. Keen to keep costs down that is what we did. The weather did not improve. It was wet and a bit chilly. This was not the dream I had hoped to be living. The one set of warm clothes I had was being worn far too much. Anyway we could not stay couped up in the boat, we needed to get off. This meant a dinghy ride to shore.

So, to dinghies….Our brand new made in china dinghy had been strapped to the top of the coach roof until a few days before. I had rather been dreading launching her. My experience of all Ben’s boat jumble dinghies was of trials pumping them up and then once travelling in them, of engines not starting or stopping half way, or awkward oars and wet bottoms as pools of water collected on the floor. In discussing with him the logistics of dinghy rides how to board them from Dhanu with two kids, a buggy, a papousse and shopping on the return leg I needed to know the sequence of events, for example how we would all get into the dinghy from the boat? Which child would be handed down first? Should Alfi be in a sling? If not where would she go whilst the other parent was climbing in? Who would hold her? And if she was held who would hold Olive? As Alfi is obviously an infant incapable of upright sitting on a moving surface I needed to know these things. Ben said casually ‘oh she can be laid on the floor.’ I was appalled at this suggestion saying that she would get soaked in an instant. Ben laughed and asked why I thought this? I said because the floor would be wet…wouldn’t it? No he cried. Why did I think that? I told him that I assumed all dinghies had wet floors as every dinghy I had been in with him had been wet! He laughed and said, no, new dinghies don’t leak. Oh relief.

So our first trip out in the dinghy was a few days before at our previous port, Corme, during flat calm conditions. Olive was again beside herself with excitement – she was actually shouting ‘exciting exciting’ whilst we motored along towards the beach. She didn’t play silly buggers or try to climb out. She just held on as directed and faced forward expectantly eyes fixed on the beach. We arrived on the beach. I suspect to the bemusement of the locals sunning themselves on towels or playing volleyball or chatting loudly smoking cigarettes. They would have seen us climb out the dinghy with two kids, remove their life jackets, attach them to papousse, put Alfi in papousse, corral Olive who was running around the beach still saying ‘exciting exciting’, put reigns on Olive, then put papousse on and walk off into the town. There we bought beautiful meat butchered masterly by a female butcher who was besotted with Olive and Alfi. Then we drank beer and again both girls turned heads and saw many folk stop and given them a tickle. The Spanish ADORE children it seems. Anyway an hour or so later we returned to the beach and repeated the dinghy drill in reverse order. Sadly the bubble popped when the engine flooded and Ben took both kids and told me to row! Only as I was in pole position to do so..in fact it was quite easy, we were close enough to Dhanu and the wind pushed us most of the way.

However this time, things were different. It was pissing it down. It was windy. The sea was not flat. These were not the conditions in which I envisaged us making dinghy rides. Nonetheless we all got in the dinghy and headed for the shore. Both girls in life jackets, us head to toe in waterproofs, rain dripping off our noses. Olive pressed her face into the wind and said ‘bit windy’ with an enormous grin. The paternal salt in her veins is becoming more apparent with each day that passes. Alfi meanwhile looked like a mini astronaut stuffed in to her life jacket all round ruddy cheeks and a chin glossy with dribble. Her life jacket has the effect of making her into a mini torpedo which makes her easy to pass around and stow. She has her own bumpers and is completely protected from all sides. Despite being propped between papousse and dinghy seat, she was far too perplexed by her new torpedo status to be bothered by the moody elements. Thankfully shore was not far away. We approached the marina pontoon. I got out, there then followed a carefully thought out sequence of events to get us all out of the boat, children into their next ‘vehicle’ (Alfi in papouuse, Olive in buggy), boat tied up and shoes on. Mission and a half! Oh the days of just jumping in the car and strapping them in to their car seats/buggy…so easy by comparison. We went ashore for the first time mindful of the fact that the supermarket was due to shut in 20 minutes. We seem always to mobilise just as siesta starts…3 hours of closed closed closed…its amazing that a country can survive with a 3 hour shut down in the middle of th day. Anyway we made the supermarket. Again only females behind the counters. All falling in love with Olive and Alfi (who they all think is a boy). They even gave us free little bibs for her at the till and kisses for them both and ooos and aaahs and ‘que bonita’. Then on to the marina for calamari, beer and internet. Olive spent the afternoon rolling around the floor or pulling serviettes out of the serviette boxes on each table. We made the typical mess of a family with small children. I felt embarrassed by the confetti like scattering of screwed up serviettes that Olive had peppered the ground with along with half macerated bits of calamari and chips. I felt obliged to clear up a bit. As I did I was told ‘don’t worry don’t worry we have children its all ok…’ The people here could not be nicer. Anyway a few beers too many later we attempted the dinghy routine…I was praying that oars would not be required. Thankfully engine purred and dinghy got us back to Dhanu, wet but safe well fed and happy.

That evening life was as normal. Girls supper, flannel bath, milk, bed. Then adult supper, flannel bath, wine and then bed. By the time I went to bed the wind had picked up. With it came some stark alarming noises from the direction of the anchor chain. Ben explained this was called yawing where the boat wants to turn sideways into the wind and in so doing the greatest amount of pressure is on the chain which causes it to make these unfathomable noises. I was reassured that the noise did not foretell of anything more sinister. So I carried on with the business of sleep.

I woke later but before dawn to find no Ben in our bed but his face hovering over me to say that just as a precautionary measure he wanted to get out the second anchor and anchor chain. He might have well have said, ‘just popping out for milk, we’ve run out – back soon!’. That was his tone. He said there was nothing to be alarmed about but it was always sensible to have a plan b. Hmm I thought; removing the second anchor and anchor chain involved lifting up the mattress on which Olive and I slept and then pulling out of the floor by Alfi’s cot and through the deck 90 foot of heavy chain. Ideal! These are noisy tasks that did unsurprisingly and inevitably wake the girls momentarily. They were quickly reassured that the noise was just daddy playing with his anchor chain. Once the noise had stopped Olive without prompting said ‘all done’ in a final and triumphant kind of a way before rolling over with bunny and falling back to sleep. Bless her little crocs. So too did Alfi & I. Unbeknownst to me, Ben slept in the saloon with one eye open.

Morning came and the wind had not abated in the least. Ben was keen for us to pull up the hook and move to the marina (close by). To do this we needed a 10 minute lull in the wind. We both assumed this would come pretty soon. Hours passed and the wind remained persistent and consistent and strong. No lull came. I did housework whilst Ben got twitchy and frustrated. The situation was not unsafe, our anchor was holding fine but it was not ideal being at anchor in such strong wind. Aside from anything else I thought, we had laundry to do, food to buy, internet to find – all land based chores which we did not want to do via the dinghy…there was no way we were launching it as we had yesterday. We were desperate to tie up alongside a pontoon (again!).

During the hours of waiting, I got thinking about the anchor. It had always been a remote item to me, a bit like a car engine. Obscured from view but there, implicit from it’s surrounds and something entirely depended upon. Like most things aboard Dhanu, ours is not automated. It is dropped and pulled up by hand along with 90 feet of anchor chain. In the past (ie on our sailing trip to Falmouth last year when it was always calm) I had always watched Ben do this whilst I took the helm my straightforward orders being shouted back to me by Ben. Whilst taking what I thought was the easy option, I used to watch Ben and his sinewy strong whippet like frame and think, there is no way I could ever pull up that anchor…it looks so darn heavy.

Whilst waiting for the epic wind to desist, I wanted to know why we could not just go now. Ben raised as a question (as if not knowing the answer) that he wasn’t sure how ‘we’ would keep Dhanu into the wind whilst pulling up the anchor in such a strong wind. He doubted that he could override wind with engine. He explained that it would be tricky keeping the boat into the wind so as to easily enable ‘us’ to lift the anchor even if the wind dropped. That time had not yet come but when it did, he wanted us to be prepared. So he went through the ifs and buts whilst scratching his head. It then dawned on me that it seemed like our best and only option was for me to lift the anchor and for Ben to helm us in and out of it. And so he gave me the ‘how to lift the anchor’ lesson and left me stood primed to do my best whilst not pulling my back or feebly failing at the necessary task in hand. Another trial by fire I thought. Bloody sailing.

Around lunchtime, in fact as Olive was tucking into some baked beans, the wind seemed to reduce a bit. We had been ready to pounce since 9am. It was now 1pm. Alfi was asleep. Ben shouted ‘now!’. Olive was scooped up and locked in the foc’s’le to her complete annoyance and frustration. She looked like a crazed caged animal as I left her having tried to reason that mummy and daddy needed to drive the boat. Promising biscuits and crisps and all things naughty if she played with bunny boobaa.

I went to the bow, Ben was at the helm. I signalled where the boat should go to ensure there was slack in the chain so that I could pull up chain (and not simply pull the boat towards the chain). As it was it all went rather well. The chain was not as heavy as I thought it would be. I pulled it up feeling a bit like Boudicae. It must be that hairy chest of mine I thought. And then I stalled at the last few feet. Suddenly the chain felt heavy and would not move. I just could not lift it. Hmm not Boudicae after all. I shouted as much back to Ben and immediately he came hopping down the deck to take over whilst I hopped back to take the helm. Seconds later the anchor was up, Ben back in the cockpit and now all we had to do was get the boat to the pontoon. We did this and were able to tie up alongside a French boat whose owners we had met the day before. A family of 3, two adults and a 2.5 year old and a terrier puppy dog. Another family sailing with little people. A lovely relief to be tied up after bobbing about in the harbour.

Ever since we have been stuck here. In fact the wind that day was easily a Force 7…Im not surprised Ben was twitchy. But we have passed another test. Ben keeps saying ‘briliant! You can pull up 90 feet of anchor chain’ followed by a wise old chuckle.

The upside of being stuck is that we have met the lovely French family. Olive has played with their daughter, eaten some crepes, stolen a few toys, given a few back and said au revoir on the way out. We have all explored their boat and they ours. They have clothes on hangers in their boat! That is how much taller their boat is. I must admit I am a little bit jealous. And they have a bathroom – NO LOO EITHER! The bucket reigns supreme. They even have a play area which they call ‘Le Parc’ where their daughter plays…it is a brilliant boat – all designed and built by them. 4 years ago they had never sailed! What spirit…people in this vein of life are cool. I am loving this trip for the people I get to meet, the eyeballing I get to make on their lives, their boats, their choices. All of which reminds me that whilst our culture, language, religion marks out our differences we are also essentially the same. This is good.

So we await the forecast. Tomorrow, Thursday 28th August was supposed to be the day that the wind changes direction and stops being so damn strong…we shall see. I hope so. It is time to move on…until next time.

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7 Responses to 27 august

  1. dad says:

    so happy to hear fromyou all thefamily and the village family expect so we tell them all love as ever h&v

  2. Rachel says:

    Philippa you write so well that I see you all in my minds eye. It all sounds like a proper adventure and exciting in a rather nail biting, flying by the seat if your pants way. Ive started my new nursing job in Macclesfield and been for some amazing walks up in the hills and viewing the surroundings from fantastic vantage points and it is lovely. Olive sounds like she will be able to navigate by the stars and read the weather, identify all the wonderful things in the natural world arround her and speak a few languages by the time u have circumnavigated the globe :)))) keep
    On sailing and may your passage be safe and fun. Xxx love to u all

  3. Niki Skeldon says:

    Loving the blog! Tried to post yesterday after I finally read the Biscay Epic, but think I failed due to iphone running out of battery in the middle. Sounds like you’ve had so many adventures already, and sounds like you’re rising to the task admirably. I’m feeling guilty for having your nice cosy hoodie though – you clearly need it!
    Dan’s only managed to read half the Biscay bit so far, due to lunch break at work being far too short (much to his annoyance). I know he’ll be hugely impressed with you all. You’re making us constantly assess our lives.
    You can really write! Keep it coming.
    Much love, Niki

  4. Julia says:

    Really loving reading about your adventures! Your journey to Spain nearly had my hormonal eyes welling up! Well done you – love to you all. X

  5. Jane says:

    Well done you lot! I’m hanging on your every word while you’re hanging on to your anchor chain.

    We had a lovely trip to the River Exe Cafe last week. The passage was entirely without incident and the cod and chips were marvellous.

    Carry on with the not-being-lost-at-sea. I look forward to your next instalment.

    Take care xxx

  6. Hi Philippa, looking at the photos from Baiona, reminded me of my own trip there when I set off on a wooden Colin Archer from Ireland to Brazil via Norway. I met a man in Baiona and we fell in love.(not right away mind you) He followed me to Portugal and we continued and continue to this day to sail together. Sadly, we only do short trips now, but long for another great adventure. Life at sea in your small boat will be amazing. I hope you have one of the greatest times of your lives, all of you. Now to get back to my life again and think about all those little jobs that have to be done on our SHE 31. I’ll be checking in again soon.
    Fair winds.

    • How wonderful of you to share your special memories with us. Ireland to Brazil via Norway (?)! Wow. Hope all your little jobs get done (though I suspect perhaps they wont judging by our experience). Good luck and thanks for following us. The Jefferies Four.

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