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Old 09-16-2013, 08:36 AM   #1
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Default Sailing in to the Bay of Biscay

Hello cruisers!
We are a couple who are planning a round-the-world trip, starting from Norway in August 2014.
The boat is starting to get well equipped, and we have now started planning the route in detail. Most sailors departing from Norway sail straight across the Bay of Biscay to get to Spain and Portugal as fast as possible.

We are considering sailing into the bay in stead of across it. From satellitte imagery, it looks like a nice coastline with many marinas and bays along the way, both in France and in Spain.

The starting point will be somewhere around Brest in the north of France, then south into the bottom of the bay (San Sebastian looks nice) and westwards to A Coruña, following the coastline all the way.

Has anyone here sailed the coastline inside the Bay of Biscay? What are you experiences with this stretch? What are the must-see's and what to avoid?
Do you mostly use anchor, moorings or marinas? And what are the average cost of moorings/marina in this area?

Any advice on sailing inside Bay of Biscay is highly appreciated.
Btw: the boat we are sailing is a Beneteau Oceanis 411.

- Kjell Arne & Kristine, Norway.
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Old 09-16-2013, 08:25 PM   #2
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I read in one the earlier magazine issues o(it was in one of the first 3 issues 2013 there is only 4 per year and that comes in November) of the Swedish Ocean Sailing Klubb (osk.org) about a couple that have recently sailed the Bay of Biscay.
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Old 09-16-2013, 09:23 PM   #3
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Hej Kjell Arne and Kristine,
first of all welcome to Cruiser Log!
And good to hear that you are about to set off for your great blue water adventure!

Crossing the Biscay is indeed the first bigger step on the way south. Most do the crossing on a direct way from Brittany/France to La Coruna (240 nm) for the reason that the entire coast line of West France and North Spain is very long and therefor takes alot more time than the direct crossing that generally takes 2 to 3 days.

The crossing of the Biscay should be done in August, a direct crossing in September is still possible when catching the right "weather window". Professional crews (Charter yachts) cross the Biscay even in Oktober, but they get paid for it...

As you plan to leave Norway in August, it might IMHO not be a very good idea to sail the whole Biscay "along the wall" as it might take several days more, maybe weeks, if you plan to stay a day or two here and there...

Another thing you should take into account is the accessability of the harbours along the way.

- The coast south of Brest to La Rochelle has many harbours and Marinas, general sailing direction is southeast. Nice sailing though with winds from abeam or astearn, but keep in mind that this puts you into a situation to make alot of west later on when the main winds come from the west...

- From the mouth of the Gironde-river all the way to Bayonne (180 nm) you find a huge firing practice area you have to cope with. That could mean that you have to do these 180 miles nonstop. And besides the firing practice there are not many harbours along the sandy, shallow, unstructured coast. At Cap Ferret there is only Arcachon that has an entrance with a sand bar: dangerous on on-shore wind and swell conditions...

- Once you reached the spanish coast you have only the ports of Bilbao and Santander that might allow access under mostly all conditions - many other harbours are small and maybe tricky to get in or out under on-shore wind conditions. And you have to make west for 260 miles! This can be a hard task to do in September/October or even later when frontal systems of the north atlantic lows reach as far south as northers Spain, leaving you with fresh to strong westerly winds! And the chances of gales are conciderably higher in fall and then you should not sail in the inner Biscay.

Sooo, maybe you have a chance to start earlier in the year and take the time to sail the nice part of the french coast, mabye down to La Rochelle, and then go down to the spanish coast. During the summer months the winds in the southern part of the Biscay have a more northerly tendency, making it easier to sail the north coast of spain.

Maybe you have the chance to grab a cruising almanach (Reeds or CA) for planning. Look at the passage notes and the harbour plans to get an idea of what is expecting you along the way.

Take care and keep on planning

Uwe
SY AQUARIA
Brittany/France
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Old 09-17-2013, 06:26 PM   #4
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Hi,
Sandy and I are planning to do the same and have undertook considerable research. Biscay crossings after mid August are not recommended as some of the strongest storms have been recorded. The recommended time to cross is May and July and then not if SW winds are forecast.
I have no experience crossing in a yacht but have several crossings during my time in the Royal Navy. I have see Biscay like a mirror - but only once. I have also experiecned it in a force 10 and even in a big ship would not recommend it as the continental shelf and reflection of atlantioc swells around the bay throw up very confused seas. Please go with the statistics, go to Falmouth and wait for a good weather window and enjoy your crossing.
Hope to see you in the Med next year.
Kevin & Sandy.
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Old 02-27-2014, 03:32 AM   #5
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Chapter 2 in the free sample of my ebook which can be found at bustedbike . Com
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Old 02-27-2014, 09:22 AM   #6
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Default Biscay and N Spain

We've cruised that coast (though in spring rather than autumn) and it's well worth it, given the right weather conditions. Our route was Ile d'Oleron (French Atlantic islands) to Royan then straight down to St Jean de Luz near the Spanish border (though Hendaye or Hondarribia would have been equally good). We then visited most of the smaller harbours along the N coast of Spain and wouldn't have missed them for anything. Our yacht is an Oyster 435, LOA 12.98 metres and draft 1.83 metres.

If you want information on the harbours, I've recently completed the NW Spain section on the World Cruising and Sailing Wiki (NW Spain - a Cruising Guide on the World Cruising and Sailing Wiki). The harbours are a mixture of Mediterranean-style (stern to) mooring, alongside, buoys and anchoring - many of the smaller harbours being free - and only the marinas made any significant charges.

Let me know if I can provide any further info when you've looked at the Wiki.

Lykke til.

GORDON
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