Waiting out a gale in Viveiro and meeting up with Scandinavian vikings in A Coruña

The journey continued to Viveiro, a fisherman´s town with a medieval past.

Cruising life can be lonely, and travelling through France and Spain we have had a very limited social life because of the language barrier with the locals. But I have a feeling that it is all about to change. In Viveiro we moored up next to a Belgian boat that looked like it had been there a while. The boat owner, Renee, told us the tragic story of how him and his wife had been cruising for a couple of years when her health problems got worse and she suddenly passed away as they were cruising on the West coast of France. Renee continued across the Bay of Biscay and when reaching Viveiro decided to stay the winter. This was his second winter in the harbour and he hadn’t really found the motivation to continue sailing from there.

So when I accidentally bought way too much mussels in the supermarket we decided to invite him over to Mouni for some dinner and shared a lot of stories of our travels during the night. Galicia is known for its cuisine and also have a funny way of serving beer in the bars…


We decided to stay a couple of more days because of the near gale force winds that was sweeping along the coast. Renee recommended us to take a walk up the river and it was a nice break from the windy harbour. On one of our walks along the beach we had seen a British yacht anchored, now that the gale had arrived they shoved up in the harbour the next morning. Turns out Myra and her husband had already circumnavigated the globe for seven years in their 39 foot Hallberg Rassy. When coming back they did not feel like they were done cruising and soon longed out to sea again. Now they were on their way back from a “shorter” trip to the  Mediterranean. We made sure to ask them about the best harbours and anchoring spots on the way down to Gibraltar and we shared some stories of our best and worst experiences over some tea.


Viveiro had just finished their big-scale celebrations of Easter, and while the little boys were still drumming in the alleys we were admiring the sculptures that show the traditional costumes worn during the celebrations. We also got some help in a fishing store to improve our fishing gear on the boat, including a box of centipedes/worms to use as bait…


Early next morning, we set off for Cedeira, 37 Nautical miles west. We arrived just before dinner time (although with no fish) and were thrilled to drop the anchor for the first time since leaving Sweden. Finally the warm weather has caught up with us again and we don’t need a heating fan to keep us warm during night. There was a beautiful sunset and we enjoyed a cold beer while Jens was playing some tunes on the recorder into the night.


After a slow start we were eager to set sails for a shorter passage (30 Nm) west to A Coruña the next day. The wind was varying, and we sometimes needed the motor when the sails were just flapping in the weak wind. A speed between 2-3,5 knots is perfect for fishing mackerel. With the new bait we managed to catch two of them in a short span of time, of course they decided to bite the hook just as we were removing the Spinnaker boom and there were several other vessels close-by that we needed to keep track of. We approached the bay of A Coruña and was called up by the port authorities on the radio, asking us what direction we wanted to give way to the ferry that was approaching straight in our direction… Since it was a Sunday and nothing would be open, we decided to anchor on the other side of the bay, at Punta Penatoura. It was sunny, warm and the fish tasted great with some mashed potatoes and crisp bread!


Reaching A Coruña was a bit of a milestone, and we moored up in Real Club Nautico after breakfast. On the same jetty was a finish boat, and the owner yelled instructions on where we should tie up in Finland-Swedish when we arrived. He had spent the winter in Algarve and was on his way up to Finland again. A few hours later a Norwegian boat arrived, and all of the sudden most of Scandinavia was represented on the jetty (A German boat also tried getting into the community). The Norwegian guy, Jan, had been sailing straight from Gibraltar on his way to Norway, but out on the Bay of Biscay his main sail torn and the genua halyard did not cope with pressure of the strong winds. Dolphins surrounded the boat for two hours as he tried to sort the sails out before closing all the hatches and tucking himself in to await calmer weather. He decided to turn back and motor the hundred miles to shore and make some repairs before continuing his journey home.

The next day another Swedish yacht, Linnea, with four guys from Gothenburg that just crossed the Bay of Biscay joined the Scandinavian community. It was now clear that the rumours were true, this harbour really is a hotspot for cruising yachts on their way between northern and southern Europe. And it was also clear the Scandinavian countries plus Germany was a bit more eager to start the season early.


One evening we and Jan, the Norwegian, headed over to the medieval old town and the arcaded Plaza de María Pita, surrounded by narrow pedestrianized lanes full of restaurants. While I tried some traditional tapas they went for the steak and we talked about cruising in the Mediterranean and cruising life in general. Then we made the perfect trade, in exchange for dinner Jan gave us a pile of pilot books over Mediterranean Spain, Italy and Greece. The night before we left we went over to his boat “Quiet place” for a beer and got some great advice written into our guest book. He also gave us a really nice fishing rod since it was mostly in the way and not used much on his yacht.  Thanks a lot Jan for all your stories, helpful advice, lively discussions and gifts. It will for sure make us better prepared.

After some days in A Coruña it was time to continue south, sailing on the west coast of Spain in some of the strongest winds so far.. More about that adventure next time!

– Petra



In Rá de Viveiro you can choose between anchoring by Playa de S. Julian or Playa de Covas. Marina Viveiro is a sheltered marina up the river with helpful staff and big supermarkets closeby. We payed 16€/night.
In ría de Cedeira there is large anchorage, just East of the fishing harbour. Since it is behind the pier it is somewhat protected but if the winds are from SW swell can still make its way through. When we were there only two boats were anchoring but the pilots says it is a crowded place in high season.
Outside A Coruña you can anchor in Ensenada de Mera which is sheltered from North to East. There are several marinas, both close to the older part of town. We chose Real Club Nautico de la Coruna which is west of the old fort (we paid 15€/night). If you are looking for spare parts or other nautical equipment we recommend going to Pombas, a well-stocked chandlery which you can find by just following the main road by the water going south from the harbour.



Sailing towards Galicia

Where´s the sunshine Spain is so famous for? Our sail to Cudillero offered rain and no wind, so we had to motor the whole way. We threw in a fishing line and hoped for some mackerel but didn’t have any luck. When we go by motor we tend to go slow to increase the range, and with the grey skies we needed something to lift the spirit. So, I decided to make some apple crumble. Since Jens promised me an oven before crossing the Atlantic we still don´t have an oven, but it is possible to make an easy apple crumble just using a frying pan that is still as delicious! How?

Start with the crumble. Fry 2 dl oats in some butter until it gets some colour. Add some tablespoons of sugar and a little grounded cinnamon or cardamom for flavour. When the sugar has melted and it smells like heaven, pour the crumble into a bowl. Peel two big apples (or four small ones) and cut them into smaller pieces. Add some more butter in the frying pan and fry the apples for a couple of minutes. Add half a teaspoon of cinnamon and some sugar (adjust the amount depending on how sour the apples are). When the apples have gone soft, pour the crumble on top and serve with some vanilla custard. Yummie!


With the new energy, we made it to Cudillero in good spirit. We read that there was supposed to be visitor moorings in the harbour, but when we arrived they were not easy to find and we waited in a “Belgian” sailor that arrived just after us to ask if he knew where we could stay. He pointed towards the jetty and said we could moor there, even helped us remove a small dinghy that where in the way. Turns out he was not from Spain but a lot of Spaniards use the Belgium flag because they want to avoid the yearly tax that Spanish boats have to pay… When we were all tied up at the jetty we were about to head out to explore the town a bit before dinner. We started talking to some fishermen that told us about what fish we could expect to catch in these waters, as well as what bait to use. Then one of them gave us two mackerel for dinner. “There’s different ways to get fish!” Jens said, referring to the positive outcomes that a conversation on the jetty can give if you just make an effort…

Cudillero_harbourCudillero was the sweetest little town. They basically had only one street, that went steep up in the mountain. But instead, they had steep walking paths of stairs that was zigzagging up the hillsides where all the houses stood side by side. It is definitely worth the climb up to see the view!


On the opposite side of the harbour there was a big tent where a local band was going to have concert later on, the last party of the Easter. After rowing back to our boat in a dinghy we could lend from the boat club, we could hear them play about the time we wanted to go to sleep since the day after we wanted to get up early to match the tide.

Then it was time to continue. The day started with medium winds which then increased (up to at least 8m/s) and we were flying across the sea only with the Genua. Around 16 o´clock we arrived in Ribadeo and some friendly Austrian sailors that were also visiting yachts lent us the key to the marina so we could take a shower even though the office had closed for the week. This is the start of the Galicia region, the third region we will visit on the North Coast of Spain (after Cantabria and Asturia). We took a walk around town and finally found a store where we could by some Easter candy. But I must say that the Spaniards are way behind the Swedes on the sweets department 😛

Ribadeo_houses.pngThe sun was shining on us as we passed through the Plaza Mayor. There was some great looking buildings by the square, at least from that side. When we took a street down towards the harbour we saw the back of the house and was quite surprised that it really was in ruins. The windows crashed and the whole building sealed off since it was in a terrible shape. Surprising in a way that they don’t take care even of these architectural masterpieces. We have stumbled across a lot of buildings that have not been maintained for many years and seems totally deserted, even if the building next door is in perfect shape. I wonder if it is the bad economy in Spain that is causing this or if it is always have been common?

Up next – sailing through Galicia, anchoring and levelling up our fishing gear…

– Petra



The harbour in Cudillero is run by a boat club and is not very suitable for visitors. The entrance is narrow with rocks and is only recommended to enter in calm weather and on the top half of tide. Most of the moorings seems to be occupied by fishing boats and other boats that has a permanent mooring spot. We were guided to the short end of one of the two pontoons, which we shared with one other smaller yacht, and that was almost too tight. There are no facilities at all (besides electricity and water on the jetty. We would highly recommend to call ahead if you would like to go in here, either on channel 9 or by phone.

Ribadeo has a nice marina with good pontoons and hot showers. The town is also pretty nice. We only stayed one afternoon but it was a good stopover with easy access and good shelter (see photo below).DSCN1734.JPG



The haunting mountains of Picos de Europa and meeting fellow cruisers in Gijon

The Picos de Europa is a mountain chain with some of the highest peaks in Spain, up to 2600 meters. These snow-covered peaks have been the backdrop of our sailing the last few weeks all along the coast. Although we are maybe not missing the snow right now, we do love hiking, mountains and the views they provide. Early on we said it would be nice to rent a car and to explore and get to a good place for some hiking, but it has been harder than expected. Or maybe we are just being cheap? 🙂 The first time we looked for a car was in Llanes, but the rent was quite high at the local vendor so we decided to walk the beautiful coastal path and instead try to rent a car later on.


Ribadesella is situated in the mouth of the river Sella, which runs from the mountains down to the sea. It has some really nice houses in the entrance, and a cozy town. And as you know by now, the river tends to dry out a lot at low water. They didn´t have any car rental in Ribadesella, so we took the bus as far up the mountains as we could with the possibility to go home the same day – Cangas de Onís (changing in Arriondas). The bus ride took us through some beautiful scenery of the small villages, rivers and mountains on the way north. In Cangas they had a walking path to Següenco with some nice viewpoints starting from the city centre, it was steap!


We brought some picnic and stopped for lunch after a while. Just after I took this picture I was going to cut some peppers for the sandwich when I realized that there were at least 40 tiny insects covering it. Big mistake to put it on the ground for a few seconds… First I freaked out because it looked like tiny ticks, but in the end we think it was small spider babies. Anyhow we decided to continue walking and take a break somewhere easier to relax.


Higher up we actually decided to skip the common route and follow the trail of the cows up to a small peak. The sun was shining on the mountains on the other side and eagles were circulating above us. If it wasn’t because we needed to catch a bus, we would definitely had stayed longer and continued the hike.


The sail along the coast continued to Gijon, one of the largest cities by the north coast. We were happy to get out at sea again, but let’s just say that both me and Jens were rather tense as we attempted to leave the mouth of Sella for the second time.. It all went well and we had a smooth sail to Gijon. When we had arrived and was up at the marina taking a shower I came to talk to another woman using the facilities, and after a while I realized she was Swedish. It was the first Swedish sailor I´ve met since leaving Sweden! Turns out Maria and her husband Micke had set sail from Gothenburg in June and arrived in Gijon last September, where they decided to stay for the winter and wait out the storms (they thought the same as we did – that the storms were the worst in the autumn as they are in Sweden). We ended up sharing a lot of stories from our sailing adventures as well as enjoying some wine and tapas on each other’s boats some of the nights we stayed in Gijon. They built their own boat about 30 years ago and Jens and Micke had a lot to talk about concerning the rigging and different renovations projects.


We had some really sunny warm days in Gijon, and it wasn´t just us enjoying it. The beach was full of people, as well as the cliffs by the water. Not many were actually swimming, but it was definitely warm enough to sunbath and we rested after a long walk in the sun.

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After hearing Maria and Micke´s recommendations we still wanted to see more of the mountains. The second time we tried to reach the mountains we were once again not able to find a reasonable cheap car since it was Easter time and even though they had raised the prices there weren’t that many cars left. This time we took the bus to Oviedo – Cangas de Onís – Covadonga to hike and visit the cathedral and monastery they have there. It´s really quite weird/incredible that they decided to build this big cathedral so high up in the mountains where there isn’t even a larger village nearby. The Monastery is built into the mountain and has an outdoor church section over a small pool of water.


This hike didn’t have the usual scent of mint from the Eucalyptus, but rather an onion (!) scent of  a plant that we have at home too – “Ramslök” (English: Ramson or Wild garlic). I then realized that almost exactly one year ago, I was out hiking out in the woods in Sweden with my dear friends Kattis and Christian, picking the leaves of this plant to make some soup. While Jens was just finishing his expedition skiing the Swedish mountain chain, reaching the most northern point of Sweden that same day. This time in the Spanish mountains, we had done the same mistake as always – trying to fit in a hike during a day trip with a bus instead of letting it take time and spending the night somewhere to be able to hike further and in peace. But still, we walked up most of the way on the steap mountain and got some really nice views and rest in a glade that filled our souls with serenity.


On our way home from the hike, we walked from the bus station to the marina through the central parts of Gijon. I could hear some drums as we approached the old square, and when I saw a couple of policemen I immediately assumed it was some sort of demonstration. And in a way it was. A religious procession, where the men were carrying statues of Jesus, men, women and children wearing robes and pointy hats where only the eyes where visible for the observers. The drums were playing, they stomped their sticks into the pavement in a rhythm as they continued across the square. El Semana Santa (the week of Easter) is celebrated across Spain with processions and other ceremonies, parties, concerts and markets. We didn’t celebrate that much, but enjoyed some salmon, shrimps and eggs to take some of the Swedish traditions all the way to Spain.  During Easter we also continued sailing west, the last part of Asturia and into the next region – Galicia.



Gijon is very easily accessed for sailors. There are two marinas and we only visited old one located near the city center (low season price for our boat was 16€/night). Marina Yates is the other option located on the west side of the bay and even though we have not been it is probably just as easy. The only thing to keep in mind when approaching is that Gijon is a very busy commercial harbor with lots of heavy vessels. But they have two traffic separation zones so keeping out of the way is fairly easy. The marina staff says that Gijon is very busy and packed with yachts during summer. They have however never turned anyway away so it is a very good port of refuge and a nice stopover on your way west or east along the coast. Gijon is also a popular stop if you want to do a shorter crossing of Bay of Biscay, like we did, from e.g. La Rochelle or Lorient.

Hope you all had a great Easter! Now I’m going to cook some mussels for dinner for us and our new Belgian boat neighbour 🙂

– Petra

The story of how we became local TV-celebrities for the worst reason

Many long distance cruisers end up writing a book about their adventures. We have now decided the title of our book: What not do to when cruising.

Last Thursday the forecast was 2-4 m/s wind,17 degrees and our plan was to go our shortest distance so far – 10 miles from Ribadesella to Lastres. We were only planning to go by motor and this seemed like it would be the perfect lazy day. It wasn´t.

When leaving the harbour and just getting out on the sea – we ran aground.

Some of the mistakes that led us in the wrong direction was:

  • Trusting the depth information in the chart
  • “I have a bad feeling about leaving in low tide but the local marina staff have repeatedly ensured it will be okay so let us follow their advice.”
  • Leaving on a falling tide even though there is a sandy beach close by.
  • There is no wind and weather looks great so let’s just this once skip to stove away all the things before heading out.

If the above things are followed you might end up a local celebrity, see the following link:

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Since there is not much happening in town everybody will know your face and that you are German (do not know how they came to that conclusion but apparently so). If you would also follow the above advice be aware that the marina staff will have no clue at all what you are trying to say on the phone when you are trying to get quick help to tow you off the sand bar. The VHF will not provide much help either since nobody on air will understand you if you speak english. If the local fishermen try to help you and set you free make sure they are pulling in the right direction. Seems simple but believe us when we say it can be basically impossible. When you are finally safely moored by the local fishing pier make sure to quickly figure out a strategy to handle the local old men who will, with limitless perspiration, insist that you rinse off your clothes from saltwater with their freshwater buckets instead of taking care of more urgent business like getting rid of water inside the boat. Most certainly the spot where your tow dropped you off will belong to somebody else. Of course these fishermen will arrive with today’s local catch eager to start unloading and your boat is in the way. But also know that when the crisis is over, a lot of people will want to help you out and know that you have recovered.

Staying safe is harder than it sounds.

This was a short version of what actually happened to us outside Ribadesella last week. The day after we spent cleaning, drying and going through our stuff to see what is broken and what is not.  This grounding was our worst experience so far. The grounding itself was very gently but the friendly locals actually put us in a worse location after the first attempt to set us free where we were badly exposed to the breaking waves. We were bouncing around hard on the bottom (all sand luckily) and heeling at least 60 degrees first at port and then to starboard. Heeling towards the sea was very wet and the cockpit was filled with sea water every time a new wave was running to the beach. This is something that the self-drainage is supposed to take care of, but it did not work properly since we were tipped on our nose. According to our sea chart it should be at least 2-3 meters of water where we ran aground even at the lowest point of low water. We understood the sand could move around and therefore asked the local marina staff for advice and they gave us detailed directions. But, still we ended up stuck in the sand. An echo sounder is now very high up on our wish list. We will also make sure to trust our gut in the future, it´s just not worth it to take even a small risk just because the locals and the charts say it’s safe.

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Compared to our accident in Belfast this experience was a lot more stressful, even though we knew that we were not in danger of getting harmed we were very concerned about the boat and all the things that makes it our home. It took about three hours before we were back to safety again with the help of the Red Cross and Salvamento Maritimo.

COPE Ribadesella 98,3 FM

Luckily, the boat did not suffer too much damage but it probably will take a while before our trust in her being fully sound and healthy is restored. We intended to lean Mouni towards the local pier and set her aground on a ramp with the falling tide to inspect the keel and rudder, but since it wasn’t the best time of the month (concerning the tide) we went for the second choice – inspecting it underwater. Our new friend Sesu at the marina, who was the first that tried rescuing us went the accident happened, lend us a wetsuit and Jens jumped in. After inspecting the rudder and the keel the only thing we could find was that some of the paint had been scrubbed off.


The damages to the boat were instead mainly on the deck – some deformations of the pulpit because of the strong force from ropes as we were being towed, a bent stanchion (holding the guardrail) and a broken tiller. The tiller was really the only thing we needed to fix/replace before continuing and we were happy when Sesu said that he could fix it. We asked if he was going to do it in “su casa”, but he said no and 10 minutes later pointed towards his car and said that we should come with him. Since we have had very limited ability to communicate without google translate we were quite curious on where he was taking us. Turns out he had a big workshop a little bit outside the village which he had used for his company building kayaks. He had built over 800 (!) kayaks during his career, as well as paddles. The kayaks had been exported all over the world, including to Scandinavia. It was a really cool space and we were impressed with both the kayaks and the piles of awards that was laying around (both him and his sons had competed). Let´s just say that our tiller was in good hands. Some days later he returned the tiller that was now reinforced with new wood on all sides – probably stronger now than it was before!


In the end, we stayed five more days in Ribadesella, drying all the stuff that got wet inside the boat, doing some improvements and taking care of our souls by walking in nature. Jens worked on making a safe watertight box for all the electronics (besides the batteries) in one of the wardrobes that we have now completed here in Gijon.


But don’t get discouraged on visiting Ribadesella based on this report. They have wonderful beaches (if you’re not aground at least), nice narrow streets filled with restaurants and a lot of opportunities to explore the surrounding nature. The river is popular for paddling, we walked pass the beach to look at foot prints from the dinosaurs and there are lot of opportunities to hike along the coast or up in the mountains. And if you are visiting by boat, we just have to say that they have marvelous marina staff that will help you anyway they can. In fact, when we left the Presidente had told the staff that they shouldn´t accept any more money from us for the five days we stayed after the accident, they gave us a “Club Arra” flag and two t-shirts with their emblem. They also said that it had been really busy since we ran aground, because older ladies and others were calling them all the time to ask if we were all right. Let´s just say that Spaniards are really friendly people!


When investigating further it turns out we are not the only yacht that has run aground in Ribadesella. But, entering and leaving does not have to be a problem if you just consider that the charted depths are highly uncertain (the place we ran aground is marked with a circle on the picture below). The sand bars can, and do, move. Our personal guess is that the bad winter weather had moved the sand around quite a bit and since this happened very early in the season (we were their first visiting yacht) maybe there was still some uncertainty about where it was safe to navigate. That recognised the marina staff advice is to keep close to the pier, closer than what feels comfortable, they were talking about 20 meters only. Furthermore the current in the river can be strong, up to 4 knots, so when leaving it can be difficult to turn around or even to go slow. The swell can break heavily on the beach so calm weather is preferable and I would not enter during night time or bad visibility. Once you are in the river and turned around the sand reef there is a fishing quay along the pier but opposite there is a pleasure craft marina. The visitor spots are alongside on the outside of the long jetty to the left, feels like you are on the outside of the marina. Keep close the jetty when going around the corner as the water is only deep maybe 20 meters from that jetty. On low tide a big rocky break water appears scarily close but as long as you are close to the jetty the water is deep. The price per day in April for a 10 meter boat was 20€.

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A big thanks to everyone that helped us get loose from the sandbank, and helping us get back on our feet afterwards! Next time we will share the more positive experiences we´ve had since we ran aground, enjoying nature and meeting new friends in Gijon!

– Petra & Jens


Hiking in Llanes by high mountains, dramatic coast and Eucalyptus trees

Spain was treating us well since we left Santander. There was sunny weather every day, making it pleasant to be sailing and to be land bound. It was a pleasant sail from Santander to Llanes. We really enjoyed seeing the high mountains that lies right by the coast, much like the Norwegian west coast. The highest mountains a little further inland is still covered in snow, whereas the mountains closer to shore is green and covered in trees.


We arrived in Llanes in the afternoon, going through the mouth of the river and the tight entrance to the harbour. Just as you enter there is an artwork “The cubes of memory” where the artist Augustin Ibarrola has painted the big concrete cubes that shelters the harbour from the storm.


We took a stroll through town in the evening, reflecting on the architecture here that differs quite a lot from the French. They have a cosy square and quite a lot of restaurants and shops with all the Asturian delicacies. The cobbled streets have buildings ranging from the 13th century until today, including the church Iglesia de Santa Maria which is one of the waypoints on the Camino de Santiago that runs along the Asturian coastline.


The second day we took a small hike around town and enjoyed the views over the town. Walking out of the town you pass the old defense tower and the old town walls. We then continued on the cliff walk El Paseo de San Pedro which provides a panorama view over town and also great views of the surrounding mountains and the sea.


The tourist office lies just by the harbour and they gave us some directions for a nice coastal walk that you could take on either direction from Llanes. We decided to walk back towards Santander the next day. The hike took us through small villages, passing beaches and along small country roads with sheep, horses, cows or goats staring at us as we passed by.


Then the route turned upwards. One viewpoint was just above the perfect little beach, where we actually saw one man take a swim. It must have been rather cold in the water, but since the air was warm I still got a bit jealous. It was the perfect picnic spot.



We continued down the mountains through the eucalyptus forest and some small farms until we got to a bridge over a small river and decided it was time for lunch. It was nice to wash the feet that were hot from hiking in the cold stream.


The last part of the hike was right by the coast, passing a lot of “bufones” – holes in the ground that is shooting up sea water high up in the air when the tide is high and the waves are crashing in from the sea. We just heard the deep murmur, which I was quite happy about since of course Jens decided to climb down to it… When we arrived to the village Pendueles after 15 km hike we decided that we deserved an ice-cream and then took the train back to Llanes. The train in Spain is cheap! If you are ever close to Llanes, we really recommend walking a part of the “Senda Costera” walk.



The harbour in Llanes belongs to a boat club and does only have 1-2 spots for visitors (we could stay for free, but maybe it was because we arrived in the low season). You need to call ahead to confirm there is room and that you are welcome to stay. There is a  narrow entry where current depth is indicated on the pier on starboard side. Electricity and water is available on the jetty, but no other facilities. The tourist information next door has a toilet and free WIFI during their office hours.

Llanes really was a little gem and one of our favourite spots so far. Even if you don´t come here by boat, it is only a short train ride from Santander.

– Petra

Sailing across the Bay of Biscay


For the short verion – just have a look at the movie below!

We left the harbour in La Rochelle just after sunrise, heading out for our longest crossing since the North Sea. Excited and a bit tense, but with a perfect forecast – between 4-9 m/s from a favorable direction. That would mean that we could sail with the wind in our back all the way to Spain. The winds were weak until we saw the last land – the islands outside La Rochelle. We wrote down some of our expectations:

Jens – A lot of time at the helm. Hope I don’t get seasick and that we get a clear and bright night sky. Also hoping for some wind, in the current pace it will take us five days…

Petra – Looking forward to doing a passage in nice weather. Feels like it´s a good window if the wind picks up a bit.

Soon the routine started to kick in.

  • Steering– taking turns by the helm to hand-steer and navigate
  • Cooking some food to enjoy and keep the energy up day and night.
  • And of course resting and sleeping, when you are off duty

With the good weather we also had the time to entertain ourselves, playing games and reading. Too bad that Jens is so good at winning at “UNO” 😉 But also being entertained. I was laying out on the deck reading when Jens announced, the dolphins are here! I was sitting by the bow and cheered them on for at least a half an hour. They truly are magnificent creatures. But we also got another visitor. A small bird that landed on Jens shoulder after sunset and after a while decided that the best place to rest in the middle of the ocean was under the floorboard in the cookpit. There it sat for an hour until I came up to take over the night watch and scared it away 😉


After some dinner it was time to take turn steering through the night. Time to staying focused and time to think things through. You know the first star that becomes visible as then sun has set? This is the favourite of a night sailor. The incredible thing that even out in the middle of the sea, like in the Bay of Biscay, where no land or man-made thing can be sighted for miles and miles, there are the stars that guide us through the night. This night I was lucky, the only star I could see in the sky was conveniently placed a meter from the mast and a perfect guide, not to having to bother looking at the compass or vindex for an hour or so.

After 24 hours we collected our thoughts again, sailing on Biscay at 3800m depth.

Jens – A little tired after steering over 6 hours straight last night. The wind has not turned as we hoped, still risk of gybe all the time. Annoyed that I made a Chinese gybe last night. But now it’s OK. We are heading in the right direction and if I just get a couple of hours of sleep everything will be top notch!

Petra – Had a very good day yesterday when the wind finally picked up. Really fun and nice sailing. Epic moment with all the dolphins! I didn’t sleep well though, and the first night shift was pretty rough with a speed a little over my comfort zone. The morning was fine. Feels good that we have made it halfway in 24 hours.

In the end, the wind didn´t turn to east as it should, so we decided to change our course and head to Santander instead of Gijon. We didn’t want to risk getting stuck with no wind in the middle of Biscay. We arrived in the middle of the night, but after stopping at the marina in town we were told that all the spots were taken and we had to continue into the river for half an hour more.  At the Marina the Santander we finally could tie the lines and get some rest.

It took us 41 hours to do the crossing, and we were quite happy that we decided to change the course to Santander. Some final reflections from the day after we arrived:

Jens – We didn’t get to where we planned, but instead aimed for where the wind wanted to take us – which I think was a good decision. We were pretty tired when we reached shore now, if we would have sailed 24 hours more we would’ve been exhausted. Biscay has treated us well! Feels really good to be in Spain, even though I don´t understand anyone here either… Felt a bit strange that we didn´t see any boats out at sea, at bit lonely.

Petra – The second day we were a bit more tired, more easily annoyed and not so social. I got some stomach ache that kept me from getting any sleep all day. But it was fun having the sea all to ourselves, fun to sail fast but without effort. It also went pretty well for me at the night shift last night, I think it was because I knew that we would get into harbour and I would get to sleep later. It was frustrating that they told us off at the first harbour, and very surprising that we then sailed into a fishing line…

All in all, you could say that crossing oceans is not where we run into problems, it is when leaving harbours in the wrong time… But next up – sailing to Llanes and doing some hiking!

Hope you enjoy the movie!