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Starling sails across Biscay

Posted in : Starling

Starling’s crew have had a jam packed time this past week. After the acclimatising safety briefs and intense day of sail training, we spent our first night away from Falmouth anchored in the pretty Helford River – although not for long, as a 5am start called. We set off downwind across the English Channel, sailing most of the way through the busy TSS lanes, getting to grips with monitoring the passage we had planned and refining our knowledge of the IRPCS as we dodged looming tankers. The real excitement was still to come though: a night time pilotage through the Chenal du Four. Although possibly intimidating on the chart, our crew realised how simple following the buoyage and and directional lights could be with the right preparation! It was beautifully led by Martine and Shirley on the nav with lots of new hints and tips to pick up too. We eventually pulled into Brest just shy of 24hrs after setting off. A nap, shower, and glorious fry up in the sunshine rewarded us for our late night efforts, and after an updated weather forecast it was clear that our Biscay-crossing weather window had sprung up. Exploring Brittany will have to wait another day! With no time to waste we left Brest before dinner and motored off into the sunset, and by the following morning the wind had filled in from astern and we were surfing down the swell headed south. It was a fantastic passage – phosphorescent dolphins, a following whale, beautiful stars, and an interesting moment where the French navy called up on the VHF to ask us to change course a few times…. plus a lots of sail plan changes to keep up with the fluctuating conditions. Possibly the highlight of the 48hours and 430nm was Susan’s brilliant double layered Victoria sponge birthday cake, made for Lynne’s birthday – a seriously impressive feat in the rolling swell!We made it to Ria de Viveiro just in time for sunset, inching our way down the channel to the marina. Celebratory beers quickly followed! On Friday the crew enjoyed their first real bit of down time, exploring the quaint Old Town and valley of Viveiro. We sat down in the cockpit for a couple of hours of theory work on col regs and radar, appreciating the heat of the lower latitude, then went out for a really lovely seafood restaurant dinner. (Where it turned out the waitress had thought we were journalists reviewing the food!!) The following morning the crew poured over the charts and books to find possible anchorages and marinas, with the briefing of needing to head west towards Finisterre in good time in order to soon best place ourselves for an opening weather window to get south. Despite heroic efforts John and Mike were unable to make the WiFi work for the England rugby game at the same time… (but very happy to hear the final result!) After lunch when we had sufficient tide to clear the channel, Simon reversed Starling out of the tight berth and off we set to Cedeira. With headwinds and a slight time schedule we motored into the swell to make it in before dark, breaking up the afternoon with running fixes, sail theory, and some hearty sea shanties. The darkening sky and newly flashing transits into the Ria made for an excellent pilotage, with the crashing sounds of the waves on the pinnacle rocks either side keeping the crew on their navigational toes! It’s been a big week of developing our skippering skills on board, tackling the areas the crew want to individually build their confidence in.Last night Morris and Susan whipped up a cracking roast with all the trimmings, and it was big grins and laughs all round as the crew created a rather varied “Starling Playlist.” Perfect for rocking away gently at anchor with a cerveza in hand and new friends by your side.