We departed from Hamble on Sunday night May 8th in a flat calm and made a very good
night passage arriving at Falmouth on Monday morning.
We had only launched "Christina" No. 121 on the Friday
prior to starting and she was a standard boat in every way with the exception of the extra
fuel and radio
equipment. Owing to the usual delays with British Railways the radio which had been sent
by passenger train from Scotland, had not arrived, so our departure from Hamble was made
with a jury set in the hopes that it would be possible to get the new set to Falmouth
before our final departure. This was just made possible by bringing it down by car on
Monday and Allan Phillips, my companion and navigator/wireless operator, changed over the
sets on Monday night as we lay in the Helford river where we had an excellent dinner at
the Ferry Boat Inn.
All was ready on Tuesday May 10th and we departed very early in the morning with the
intention of attempting the direct crossing, but the weather forecast was not ideal and,
after we had been going about 4 hours, the wind, was up to force 5 and freshening. Under
the circumstances we decided to go inside Ushant and put into Brest.
By the time we were in sight of the French coast there was a strong N.E. wind force
5/6 setting up a big sea with an east going tide. The following seas were most impressive
and, at times, you could not believe that "Christina" could lift in time to avoid being
pooped. But every time up she came and away we went with absolutely no tendency to broach.
After the first few times our confidence was restored and it was a most exhilarating ride;
in spite of the adverse weather, we maintained an average speed of 16.4 knots for the 135
In Brest we found a good berth and there was one other yacht waiting to make the
passage across. We refuelled and checked on the weather and found the forecast bad, so we
settled down to make the best of a bad job and await an improvement. We stayed at the
Merchant Navy hotel on the quay which was very clean and most convenient as it was only a
few yards from the boat.
By Thursday May 12th the weather had improved and we decided to have a go, but after we
had been out for 4 hours with a big head sea, and only making about 14 knots, we heard the
weather forecast which was very bad, and decided to turn back. We arrived in the Brest
Channel just before dark and found a very big short sea, with the tide running out hard
against the wind; in fact the sea looked most frightening, and we saw a big French fishing
boat coming out and making very heavy weather. But once again
"Christina" showed her
amazing ability to run with a big sea and the buoyancy, given by her big chine beam, made
it possible for her to run with these very steep and short seas, and only once did she
take any water over the fore deck. We arrived back in Brest feeling very crestfallen, but
as the wind freshened through the night, we realized that we had done the right thing and
were happy to be back in port.
We refueled and prepared to wait until there was a reasonable forecast, with hopes of
continued good weather for 48 hours, and on Saturday the picture began to look hopeful; we
made plans to leave on Sunday morning at 7:30. On-Saturday evening the 74—ton yacht
"Pamara" came in and we had a talk with the owner who told us
he was just going to stop for dinner and carried on bound for Vigo. This was useful to us
as we calculated that, if we departed early in the morning, we would be in radio contact
with her by nightfall on Sunday, and we made arrangements with them to listen for us.
We departed as planned on Sunday May 15th at 07:00 hours; the weather was fine and the
sea calm. We carried a good tide clear of Brest and at last we were on our way for the
long hop of our trip across the Bay of Biscay. We ran the engine at 2500 rpm, which gave
us 15 knots under full load conditions, and we had fuel to do just on 400 miles at this
speed. All through the day the weather was perfect and the swell was dropping away to
nothing. We were more or less off the main route and we saw hardly any other ships.
We were having some difficulty with our radio, as there was interference from the
generator that we could not eliminate, and we found it almost impossible to work Consul.
In order to use the R/T we had to shut the engine down to about 500 rpm, which was a great
nuisance, so we decided to run on dead reckoning using the automatic pilot, which was
steering a beautiful course. We kept going, with the speed slowly increasing as we used up
our fuel, and at about 17:00 hours we started to try and contact "Pamara
" and by 19:00 hours we were within radio range and had established contact.
The weather remained perfect and by Sunday night fall there was no wind and were making
good time with our engine r.p.m. up to 2600. The moon came up and we kept going full speed
through the night across the Bay until about 03:00 hours when we were given a fix by
"Pamara"Pamara. Her owner very kindly said he would steam
towards us with a view to establishing visual contact, which he did, and just before dawn
we met, and he gave us a position of 140 miles from Coruna. We were right on our track
line; we waited with "Pamara" till daylight and then set course
at full speed for Coruna. By now we were down to our main tanks and our speed was coming
up to about 17/18 knots. In the morning there was bad visibility and we were within about
two miles of the land before we saw anything; but we made landfall only three miles to the
East of Coruna, and we were in the harbour in time to have lunch on Monday at the Yacht
We were glad to step ashore but it had been a wonderful twenty-two hour trip across the
Bay and, other than the interference with the radio, completely trouble free. We decided
to refuel and stay the evening at Coruna, then depart in the early hours of the morning.
We set out again at 07:45 on Wednesday and passed Finisterre with a freshening wind and a
falling glass, but were unable to get any reliable radio forecast. Our plan was to got as
far down the coast as possible but, after two hours, the wind was heading us and
increasing all the time, gusting to force 6/7. We were forced to reduce speed to ten knots
and, at times, we had to ease right down to ride over the big waves. We now had about 35
miles to go to Vigo and felt that, at all costs, we would try and make it rather than turn
back and run to Coruna again. All along the coast there were rocks and the whole thing
looked very black, but from time to time, we came up with fishing boats riding out the
weather very happily, which gave one confidence.
At the time when the weather seemed to be at its worst I was glad to see well ahead
and right on our course a boat pushing head-to-sea, in the same direction as us, with
spray flying in all directions; it was not until we were nearly up with her that we
identified her as a large rock sticking right up in our track! After that we pushed out
to sea for half an hour and felt safer to be further off this very inhospitable coast. We
then settled down to a hard wet slog, head-to-sea, and the wind increased to force 6/7.
Although we got very wet, "Christina" behaved wonderfully and took only
spray over; but it took us 4 hours to cover this 35 miles to Vigo and we were glad to get
under the lee of the island and into the river, on Tuesday evening, after nine hard hours
We were made very welcome by the Yacht Club and there was an American sailing yacht
"Rolling Stone" of about 40 tons lying there; she had had a
very rough trip from Falmouth during the time that we had been in Brest.
One of our difficulties from now on was to get any sort of accurate weather forecast.
The Yacht Club produced something that told of winds in all directions but the word
"moderating" appeared and we felt that the only thing was to press on, and go
and look. So we decided first to have dinner ashore and send telegrams. I, in my
innocence, thought I would telephone home; after two hours wrestling I sent a telegram
telling home not to expect any further telephone messages, and that they would be lucky to
get even a telegram in future
We had a very jolly dinner with some of the people from "Rolling Stone
" and got under way at about 04:00 on Wednesday May 18th. The wind appeared
to have moderated and we were soon making good speed down the coast, but as the morning
progressed, so the wind increased. Fortunately it was on the beam and we were able to keep
at full throttle until about 11 o’clock when we were starting to get very wet and the wind
was increasing all the time, rising to force 5/6. Having had about eight hours of this, we
started to think about making port and, as we were now off Leixoes, we decided to go in.
There was a very big swell running and from where we were the entrance looked frightening,
to say the least of it, but luckily there was a tug with a large lighter entering and we
were able to watch his entrance and then follow. We came in on the top of the swell and
we were getting up to 2800 r.p.m. and surfing in. When you looked back it was a fine sight
to see these great rollers rushing up and we were carried on these waves right to the
entrance. Suddenly we got protection from the old destroyed outer breakwater; I believe
several boats have tried to approach across this partly submerged wall, with disastrous
Once inside we found M.Y. "Freelander" and we tied up
alongside and were treated with great kindness. We refuelled here and generally had a
clean up. The weather got worse and worse and the reports that we did get, gave us very
little hope. So we settled down to enjoy the local wine and the company of
"Freelander", both of which were excellent. We spent Wednesday
night and the next day at Leixoes and, after dinner on Thursday May 19th the weather
looked suitable so, aided by a good dinner, we set sail at 23:00 for Lisbon. We had a good
run through the night and the next day was fine and sunny; we made a good passage of
fourteen hours arriving at Lisbon Friday mid-day – having just exceeded our first
thousand miles. Going up the river we noticed a drop in r.p.m. and on inspection we found
that the pipe from the fuel pump to the filter was fractured.
We located the yacht harbour and arranged to refuel and make good the pipe. Here we had
great luck, because, while we were making up a jury pipe, one of the people on the quay
asked us in English about the "Christina" boat and told us that
his uncle was coming down shortly and that he would be most interested to see the boat. In
a few minutes he arrived and he insisted we stay the night. He said he would send his car
down in the morning and give the driver instructions to take us to a place where we would
get a new pipe and the necessary fitting. This was a great help, as the yacht harbour is
some way from the town, and we would have had great difficulty in finding what we
That night "Freelander" came in and once again we were
looked after and fed. In the morning our car arrived and, in no time, we found what we
wanted so at 12:30 on Saturday we were under way for Gibraltar. The weather was perfect
and by evening we were off Cape St. Vincent. As night came so the wind increased but the
sea was reasonable and we were passing plenty of shipping. At about 02:00 on Sunday we
were overhauling what appeared to be about a 12 1/2 knot cargo boat and, as the sea was
increasing, we decided to get what protection we could from him until daylight. We ran
along very comfortably just under his stern until daylight when we started to pull away
from him. He signalled "what ship?" and, I think, was a little surprised to see
a speed boat so far out, and even more surprised when we told him we were from England!
By now there was a fresh breeze and once again we were getting spray over, but we could
keep at full speed. As the day advanced the wind eased a little and we soon started to dry
out; but the visibility was bad and the first thing we saw was, what we assumed could only
be, the Moroccan coast, and a mass of fishing boats. We went over to them and have never
seen a more mixed bag of people or boats. The crew obviously slept, ate, fought, and
fished on the open deck while the captain, a far superior type, maintained splendid
isolation in a little box in the middle. We gathered that we were only about 5 miles off
the coast so we decided to make for Tangier and see if "Pamara
" had arrived. We got in at 11:30 on Sunday May 22nd – twenty three hours
continuous running – and there she was; we were given a very fine breakfast and heard of
their trip. We also had the opportunity of thanking them for the trouble they had taken
with us in the Bay. Apparently they had run into very bad weather during the time that we
were in Vigo.
We had a quick walk around the old town and then proceeded on to Gibraltar stopping for
a very enjoyable bathe on the way.
Gibraltar presented difficulties as it was Sunday and therefore it appeared no
arrangements could be made for a yacht to enter the harbour, in spite of the fact that we
had called them up on the radio and asked permission. After a lot of messing about we were
finally allowed to go over to the Yacht Club and pick up a mooring. By this time we had
run out of clothes so we decided to stay in the Rock Hotel and get some laundry done, to
be ready without fail by Monday evening. We also arranged to refuel and hoped to be away
by Monday night.
On Monday I began to feel restless, and after rushing around the town and buying a few
necessities, I arranged to refuel at 15:30, and I went up to the hotel to see about the
laundry. I found it was still in a bundle and would not be ready till Tuesday, so back it
went on board and we arranged to go with Mr. Capurro to Marbella for dinner – he in his
H.D.M.L. and we in "Christina". We arrived at about 23:30 and
went ashore to a very amusing little town, made up of night clubs and restaurants, where
we had a very good evening, returning aboard at about three o’clock in the morning – but
not before my navigator bad taken one pace too many at the sea end of the pier. After a
little difficulty we had the full complement aboard, and the clothesline rigged. A few
farewell drinks and we set sail as daylight came.
Tuesday looked like being a lovely day for cruising and dozing, but once again a head
wind sprang up and, by about 15:30, we were bashing into a big head sea with an increasing
wind, force 5/6. We decided to pit into Almeria and we tied up at the local Yacht Club
where we were made very welcome and managed to do some of the washing that we had brought
on from Gibraltar, and have a general clean up.
At 05:00 the next morning – Wednesday May 25th – we were away, and the weather looked
hopeful. We had been told that there was a fuel pump on the end of the quay at Villajoyosa
and, as this was just about at the end of our range from Gibraltar, we decided to make it
our refuelling stop. At the end of a pleasant trip of about twelve hours (with the usual
rough patches round the headlands), we arrived about 17:00 to find a very small and
deserted fishing harbour with no fuel pump in sight. After protracted sign language, it
was decided by the locals that a visit to the Captain of the Port was necessary, so I was
hoisted aboard a low powered motor bicycle and taken, at top speed, along a lot of unmade
roads up to the town. Here we found the Captain who spoke English and told me that no fuel
was available and we would have to go back to Alicante. By the time I got back to the boat
the Guardia Civile had arrived and we had to hang about for an hour while a few more
people had a look at passports that obviously meant absolutely nothing to them, but made
them all feel important.
We were now faced with a two-hour trip in the wrong direction and an uncertain fuel
position, but luckily we did not run out. We arrived in Alicante at 20:50 – just too late
to get fuel – only to be told that tomorrow was a holiday and that the pumps would be
shut. Once again we were lucky and a Mr. Fixit appeared and, with the aid of a wheelbarrow
and three 40 gallon drums, we managed to get the fuel on to the quay; but there was no
pump and no pipes, so we took out our bilge pump system complete and converted it to a
refuelling unit. By lunch time we had a reasonable percentage of fuel in the boats and the
balance over ourselves, but we had beaten the Fiesta. We had a quick lunch ashore and set
sail for Valancia at 14.00. The weather was good so we stopped to have a bathe end clean
up the spilt diesel fuel.
In view of the good weather we decided, to carry on to Barcelona and, at Cap San
Antonio, we set course across the Gulf of Valencia. But no sooner had we cleared the
headland than the wind increased to force 5/6 pushing up a big sea. As night was
approaching, we changed back to our original plan and headed for Valencia. After two
hours the wind dropped again but there was a big swell. By 22:00 we sighted the lights of
Valencia and headed for the harbour. About ten minutes later we could see nothing and
thought the lights must be obscured by a rain squall, but we later found that the whole
town and the lights on the harbour had been cut owing to a power failure. By 22:30 on
Thursday night we were on a mooring at the Yacht Club after a passage of eight hours.
Once again we were able to make use of one of the very fine Spanish clubs, and we settled
down to a meal. But we were disturbed by a call for our passports, which were on the boats
so we had to go and collect them and hand them over and then walk right up to the town to
get them back from the Police Station; by which time we had lost the sleep we had hoped to
get in port, and might just as well have kept going.
In view of the fact that our nights rest bad been spoilt by the passport incident we
got going at 04:00 on Friday 27th May bound for Barcelona. We started in good weather,
with a slight swell from the South; once again we encountered the usual rough seas at the
headlands but, in all, it was a good run of eleven hours or so, and we were in the
Barcelona Harbour at 15:30. We went straight to the Yacht Club to find out about
refuelling. Once again we received immediate help, and proceeded to a pump on the quay –
where our difficulties started. It appeared that, first, we had to go to the Oil Company
Office and pay, and then bring a chit back to the pump. So off I started, back to the
Club, and then a mile walk up to the town to the office. The officials here wanted the
ship’s papers, passports, etc. But we had no ship’s papers, and sorted this problem out
by presenting them with a nice "Christina" brochure to prove
we were the builders. I had a bad night thinking about this brochure sitting in their
files, and hoping no further action would be taken on it; then back to the oil agents in
the morning. I had meanwhile with great difficulty managed to conserve enough Spanish
money to pay, and this I produced. What a pity, they told me, that they could only accept
foreign currency! I still had a card or two to play, so I produced English money. This
looked hopeful, and was quite acceptable, but unfortunately it would have to be done
through a bank – and the banks were shut. Round one to Spain!
At 09:00 the next day – Saturday – I was standing outside the bank and, as the doors
opened, I was in and presenting the necessary paper to convert sterling to diesel oil at
very bad rate. Back I went to the oil office where they were very friendly, and a little
surprised to see me, but they soon got back onto the question of ship’s papers etc. So I
dished out a few more photographs and specifications, in the end they gave me a chit.
Even they could not resist the temptation to sell diesel fuel at that price! As soon as I
got back we went straight to the pump, presented our hard earned paper, and started to
fuel. This was not easy as the U.S. Navy had arrived overnight, and by now they had every
type of motor launch going, at full speed, in front of the refuelling station. We had
about 50 litres to go when the pump ran out, but this time I could see that I was not
going to win so we pushed off and set course for Marseilles. It was now 11:25 on the 28th
May and we calculated we had enough fuelto manage without the 50 litres.
The weather was reasonable and we made good time; by evening we were nearing Cape
Bear. We could see a thunder-storm approaching – and suddenly there was a force 6 wind
from the North. We would not be up to Cape Bear till dark so we decided to anchor just
inside France at Banyuls, where we would be protected from the weather. We had now
completed our second thousand miles.
By now the wind was blowing very hard indeed, and we were in the middle of the
thunderstorm, so I was glad that we had a reasonable place to run for. As we got under the
land the sea dropped away, at 20:55 on Saturday evening (after ten hours run) we found a
very agreeable anchorage with a steep beach with the fishing boats pulled up. We were told
by the locals to use the mooring in the middle of the bay. When we were secured we decided
to launch the rubber dinghy and go ashore for dinner. Soon we had the boat pumped up and
we went to one of the restaurants for a meal. We were presented with a simple menu with
soupe de poisson, fish, and langouste. I was most impressed and, feeling hungry, we
ordered the lot as it seemed to be so reasonable. I must here say that we were
immediately moved to a better table, and I thought what fun to have found a place so
remote that you could have a meal like this at such a reasonable price, so the two of us
let ourselves go on the wine, and sat back to enjoy ourselves.
Then all was finished I dug out my frs. 5000 (old), handed them over, and waited for
the change. There was some delay, and the waiter seemed to be orbiting a bit, but I
thought that perhaps in these remote parts they might have a little trouble finding
change. After about ten minutes the head man arrived; I felt that this was a nice gesture,
and I was preparing to shake him by the hand, when he handed me a bill for frs. 9000 – and
explained that the menu consisted of any one of the items on the list, and we bad had all
three, and also a sweet and coffee! As the frs. 5000 were all I had on me, I had to embark
on the rubber dinghy and set out for more funds. Half way over the bung came out of the
fore part of the boat and only by an all-out effort did I arrive at
"Christina" before all the air had gone.
After a quite night in this protected anchorage we got under way at 06:00 on the 29th
May and set sail for Cannes on the last leg of our journey. The wind was fresh but after
rounding the headland we were able to keep close in to the shore and as it was North West
we were protected.
As the day advanced the wind increased to force 7/8 and clouds of sand were blowing
off the shore but by keeping in as close as we dared we remained in reasonably smooth
As we approached Port Sete we were becoming more exposed and there was a big sea
running but we were still able to keep up our speed as the seas were long and we were
riding them quite comfortably. However, we decided that we would put into Marseilles as we
were getting worried about our fuel, so at 17:00 we sighted Marseilles and proceeded into
the harbour and secured alongside at the Societe Nautique. As it was a Sunday I was
doubtful whether we could obtain fuel, but after some difficulty I managed to change some
money and with jerricans we collected fuel from a garage. The old man who was working the
pump kept telling me how pleased he was with his new electric pump that bad only been
fitted that week and while I was getting the tins in position he started it up and covered
me from head to foot in diesel oil which was a happy start to the operation.
After a bath at the Club and a good dinner we were ready to complete the last passage
of our trip and decided to leave at 04:00 on Monday 30th May as I wanted to get to Cannes
for Lunch; the weather was perfect and we arrived at Cannes at 11:35 having completed a
grand total of 2,300 miles.
Feeling rather pleased with ourselves we told anyone we could find who would listen to
us that we had just brought the boat from England and we were then asked all about the
canals or what sort of trailer we had used!