As the dinghy heads towards the slipway I notice the sea front is teeming with people, and the slipway is covered by more crowds. A quick scan on the bins confirms that there is a military brass band accompanying a crew of religious types who are carrying some religious thing down to the waters edge.
Am convinced I have developed scurvy of the feet. Every few days I treat myself to a good old strip down wash (yeah, I know, call me obsessive about personal hygiene – you should smell the others), yet despite smashing my toes on deck from five times a day to two my poor feet get very little attention.
Camarinas should be renamed ‘Retard Town’. Its 2,000 inhabitants appear to all be related, many not legally I’m sure. From the kid who rides his bike round the streets shouting obscenities to the local lace-makers who line the streets outside bars, to the ‘Happy Bus’ day out, to the familiarity of each and every shop assistant, I felt a little wary of Camarinas to start with.
A brief note on Corme. Corme has lots of beaches but is a rather primitive fishing village, which is why, for the second night running we didn’t set foot on land. For the first time on this trip, however, we have crickets, indicating a move to hotter climes!
El Ferrol is a major naval and commercial port, though there is little to entertain the yachtsman on land. That said the ria has a spectacular entrance, lined by forts either side. We anchored up but didn’t go ashore, which is why I didn’t send a postcard from El Ferrol. Instead we watched the red moon replace the golden sun and change the landscape from a heady mix of green vegetation and mountains into a twinkling Rupert Bear bay.
Boy do the Spanish love to party! In the main plaza of La Coruna, Plaza de Maria Pita, a huge stage had been erected to host a number of Galician bands who played into the night: I think they eventually turned the music off at 1am, which is completely unheard of in the UK considering this was in the town centre.
I’ve already mentioned the mysterious fog and its novelty factor when we first had to navigate our way through it, but one watch I undertook from 12 – 4am was no laughing matter. With the engine running due to lack of wind the sea was still but the fog extremely thick. So thick I could only just see the end of the boat, so with everyone else asleep I had no one looking out for me. I had nothing to look at except the phosphorescence illuminating the wake of the boat
“We want to refuel, why can’t you move the boat, get it out the way” and so on, now with some added comments regarding the English thrown in Now they’re starting to p!ss me off. “Look, it’s what the English call queuing”, I pipe up. “We had to wait, now you can wait. We’ll only be a few minutes, so what’s the rush?” After all, this is sailing, not the F1 pit-stop. Now they’re cursing obscenities at me, whilst some English sailors on the pontoon join in. “Aha”, I smile, “some support from some fellow English chaps”. Turns out they’re starting to have a go at me as well.
Leaving L’Aber Wrach we’re totally surrounded by fog. Not just patches of fog, as the shipping forecast had warned us, but fog banks. This reduces visibility down to around 50 metres, making our first leg of the journey very taxing. As I said previously L’Aber Wrach is notorious for its rocky banks and hard-to-negotiate channels, so with limited visibility we really were relying on the Skipper’s expertise.
Now I’m not sure whether it was Conny’s belly flop or the fact he was complete naked but the dolphins pegged it immediately. To attract a dolphin’s attention one is supposed to swim underwater in circles making whooping noises. I told Conny to do this about 5 times but he insisted on splashing around like a flid shouting “this water is fteezing”. No, Conny, that really isn’t gonna work mate.
Did another night watch, which was very tranquil. The only thing to look out for are other ships, spotted only by their port and starboard lights. Very strange as one crosses your path – quite eerie. Talk about ships passing in the night.
Whilst spending a pleasant afternoon walking round St Peter Port minding my own business I stumble across Sam and 5 other volunteers with the local town crier outside the town hall.
Each is taking it in turns to don a three pointed hat, ring a hand bell and shout at the top of their voices “Oh yey, oh yey…..”
Remember that whilst we’d like to believe boating should be for everyone it’s still a rich-man’s sport, so when a bunch of reprobates turn up in a home-made cement boat and moor up next to some bling bling million dollar yacht we’re not exactly greeted with open arms. At first this bothered me. It bothered me that we didn’t look the part and it bothered me that we didn’t have leather hand-stitched upholstery and a fridge that prevents the smell of ripe Camembert to fill the entire boat as soon as one opens the fridge door.
After tempers had dropped we all apologised to each other, including poor Lorraine who I think felt partly responsible for the incident, though it wasn’t her fault. It was no one’s fault, it was just a learning process but we very quickly learned that Sam’s temper can be short under stressful situations. Personally I kind of expected this and don’t have a problem with it, but I’m worried about Conny and Lorraine. Conny actually asked Sam to be more patient with us, and to Sam’s credit he apologised and said that he understood we wouldn’t learn anything with him shouting at us. Let’s hope it was a one-off incident.
Alderney is a Channel Island where it rains a lot. However the beer is good so we hit a couple of cosy snubs in St Annes and supped local ale. Back on the boat I cooked beans on toast, making it four days in a row that I’ve been chef.
5.30am: Woke up to Danny Boy this morning. NO!!!! Not the ******* shipping forecast again! Also Cherbourg smells of rotten fish and I’ve developed a cold. Went into town and acted French. Ate mussels, bought Camembert and French sticks. A trip to the booze shop ensured a library of drink to browse over in the next few weeks, and we … Read More
Woke up to Rule Britania at 5.30am this morning. Very loud. What the **** is going on? Is this Sam’s idea of a bloody joke? It was only after Rule Britannia had finished that I realised he was tuning into the shipping forecast on Radio 4. Obviously essential to our safe passage but please don’t let this happen every day – I can’t handle it! Just to make things more difficult I have decided to give up smoking.
Whilst the food went down well I think there was still a lot of first day nerves, at least for me. Had I made the right decision to leave the comfortable surroundings of home? What’s Sam really like when it’s blowing a force 7 in 20ft waves? Would I get on with Conny and Lorraine? Is sailing for me?
A qualified Royal Yachting Association (RYA) offshore yachtmaster, Sam has already crossed the Atlantic a number of times. His piece-de-resistance, however, must have been sailing the original Ramprasad (a traditional open Indian fishing boat made from teak) from India to Australia single handed. Check an Atlas to put into context just how mad this bloke is.
This introduction was written by my brother when the original FTB website was put together, preceding the Europe and Atlantic trip undertaken in 2003.
Tim helped communicate my adventures to family and friends by setting up a small site to contain these stories. This is the very original introduction that preceded the FTB web site.