August 2000 Camaret-Sur-Mer, France
When I arrived at Camaret-sur-Mer in France, from where I was to cross the Bay
of Biscay, I decided to wait as long as necessary. I wanted the perfect five day
weather forecast. According to various books, the worst storms are registered
from mid-August to late September. I arrived on August 9 and stayed until August
16. Every day started with me going to pick up the weather forecast,.for which
they charge 10 francs. Then a walk back to the boat to translate it (available
in French only). The first few days in French waters, I didn't think too highly
of the French weather forecasters, which later turned out to be unfair. When
they had been forecasting east winds and I went out, I always ended up having to
turn to windward in west winds. I thought that ouest means east, but in fact it
The same books also tell you not to cross in southwest winds, since there is a
risk of getting too far into the Bay of Biscay. But that was where the winds
were - day in, day out.
Finally, on August 16: Northeast winds of Beaufort Force 3-4 the
next five days. I quickly paid and unmoored, only to go around the corner to
find out that it is a southwest wind. I was hoping for and counting on a weather
On Day 1, I travelled quite far. Around 100 miles. On Day 2 the wind eased.
Still southwest though, but now only about Beaufort Force 2 to calm. After 48
hours I was drifting (around) in the middle of the Bay of Biscay.
Damn, I don't think the fog will clear.
Drifting around in France
An easy day's sailing in France
This was also where I heard the weather report. I hate it when forecasts begin
with storm warnings. Even if you are not in the particular area where storm is
forecasted, you're somewhat impatient until they get to your area to hear if
it's going to have any consequences (for you). But on this particular day, they
started by forecasting storm in the Bay of Biscay. Winds of Beaufort Force 10-11
(25-32 m/sec or 48-63 knots). By then I had already heard enough.
According to a passing coaster, I had a little less than 24 hours before the
storm was to hit the centre of the Bay of Biscay. They were heading for shore,
full speed ahead. They advised me to get out of the area, wished me "a good
trip" and told me to be careful. I decided to use all the remaining gas, hoping
to get out of its path. With the sea as calm as it was, I went by engine while
preparing the boat for the storm, which didn't take very long. The rest of the
time I spent eating, sleeping and wondering how it would turn out. I had never
tried more than a strong breeze and actually thought that that would be enough
The wind started blowing so I set sail and turned to windward on course 210
degrees, which would take me to A Coruña. Soon I had to reef for the first time,
and before too long I was going, at minimum sail area, course 210 degrees.
An hour later I was considering running with the wind. The sea had risen to an
extent where the boat was actually at a standstill when it hit a wave.
My boat is reinforced and water-proof. And I'm convinced that if I ever get in a
situation where I can't go on - either because of the weather, damages or simply
due to my limited skills - I will just go downstairs, close the door and wait
until it is all over.