December – thinking about Spain

Spring Fever was taken out of the water on December 16 and put ashore at the Kingston yard in East Cowes, where we are planning to leave her until May. Idle thoughts now turn to planning next year, and to Spain.

We have given up our pontoon mooring on the River Medina for 2020 because we plan to stay away from the Solent for the whole season and it will be cheaper to take a visitor mooring for a few weeks before we leave than to pay a whole year for our own. The conversation is increasingly focussing on the wonderful hills and Rias of North-West Spain, though we do not need to take any decisions for a few months.

Tony has crossed Biscay many times in big ships but neither of us have done it in a 6 tonner, so it requires a bit of research on routes and weather planning, plus the purchase of the pilot book for Atlantic Spain and Portugal.

The whole passage works out at about 600 miles, but it does divide neatly in two if you take the option that goes close in via Finisterre in western Brittany and then direct to a Coruna in Spain. This shortens the Biscay crossing to 300 miles, or two to three days, which is within the period of reasonably accurate weather forecasts, so we can be more confident of not having to cross the steep (and as a result sometimes very rough) edge of the continental shelf in bad weather.

Another option is to head for somewhere like Falmouth or Plymouth and then direct to Spain, crossing the shelf early in the passage, but taking longer, which means information on weather when approaching Spain will be unreliable. That is one serious drawback. Two other things that persuade us towards the Finisterre route are some nice French towns such as Camaret and Audierne where we can wait for a good forecast for the crossing; and the fact that with a short-handed crew – both co-skippers in their seventies – it is probably not such a good idea to do a three or four day passage. (Having written that down, I now remember the Yachting Monthly on my shelf with the account of 77 year-old Jeanne Socrates solo non-stop round the world voyage!)

There is a third route to North West Spain, which is down the west coast of France to the border and along the Spanish north coast, which is nearly as long as Atlantic France. One tentative thought is to come back that way the year after.

It would be good to stay in the EU over the winter of 2020/21 because if we can prove we are there at the end of the transition period in 12 months time the boat will retain its EU VAT paid status and would not be subject to the restrictions of the temporary importation rules for boats from non-EU countries (see earlier posts on Brexit).

The plan is idle winter speculation at the moment, and on past form we may end up doing something completely different from what we discuss at Christmas. But it’s fun to think about it.

There are however some things we really ought to do to make sure we have the option: we ought to fit a holding tank for waste, and we should certainly make some improvements in our anchoring equipment before it causes an injury.

The problem is that the boat was set up for racing, so the Furlex drum is almost touching the deck, which means that the anchor has to be lifted very awkwardly round the side of the boat to lift it back into the well, a recipe for pulled muscles if waves are building.

The drum needs to be raised, which involves shortening the forestay and recutting the foot of the working genoa. That way we can pull the anchor stock through the bow roller and lift it out in a safer way with less risk to our backs, and we also can lash it down to the bow roller if we are in a hurry or reanchoring soon.

November – ocean going on a lake

Looking back at Spring Fever’s logbooks recently to pin down the wheres and whens of a good cruising story, I found they were so sparsely written – professional in the best sense, as they should be with a Master Mariner as a co-owner – that I could not begin to tap them as a surrogate diary. And checking my blog posts each year, I see these have been relatively few, with long gaps between them.

So largely for my own benefit I shall start a monthly diary post, in the hope that in another five years I’ll actually be able to work out what we were up to.

November’s most interesting sailing observation was nothing to do with Spring Fever.
This beautiful 60 foot yacht called Tioga of Hamburg was moored at the end of November at Kressbronn on the German side of the Bodensee, or Lake Constance/Konstanz which is way up the Rhine, near where it starts becoming a mountain river, and well above the navigable section, so cut off from the sea. It is a US  design from 1931 by the great Francis Herreshof, but the original was destroyed and this replica (or so we thought at first from Google) was built in 1988 in Maine and restored in north Germany, where it was recently for sale.

So how on earth did a yacht with those tall masts get to the 38 mile long Bodensee, where Germany, Austria and France meet round the shores? And what on earth would an ocean yacht be used for on a lake where it would take a morning to go from end to end? (A waste of a thoroughbred).


A double check then found a surprising fact: this magnificent yacht is actually yet another copy with the same name, Tioga. It was built in Radolfzell on the Bodensee recently, in 2013, and is for sale for €1.35mn, against a paltry €450,000 for the sea-going 1988 Tioga, which has been cruising the Baltic after crossing from the US.

The question remains: are they really going to sail this lovely wooden yacht just on the Bodensee? If not, how do they get it down the Rhine to the sea? Or do they just stick it on a low loader?
We were actually in Germany on a land yacht of sorts – son Will’s campervan, which had broken down in Austria, and we were on the way home after volunteering to collect it after the lengthy repair. It was fascinating to see how close all the domestic equipment is – including hot and cold water pumps, cooker and gas supply, 12 V wiring, diesel heater, lavatory, shower and bunks – to what you find on a modern cruising yacht.
For Spring Fever, not much happened apart from a decision to winter her ashore from mid-December at the Kingston yard in East Cowes, in reaction to rising costs at our usual Cowes Yacht Haven, which is specialising in the dry sailing of incredibly expensive looking racing boats, whose owners can’t bear dirty bottoms.

We decommissioned Spring Fever on her river pontoon and took the sails, lifejackets etc home, so she is ready to go ashore on 16 December.

This winter we’ve focused so far mainly on sewage! We will finally put in a holding tank after being shamed into it by a massive correspondence on the Cruising Association’s Biscay Forum: I simply posted to ask whether we’d need one for Atlantic Spain, and for some reason it seems yacht owners get more excited in the winter about sewage disposal than any topic other than Brexit. A recent arrival from the US expressed shock and horror to find so many  British boats don’t have tanks. Others deluged us with legal and technical advice.

Tony is boat plumber (I’m electrician) and has visited Tek Tank for a discussion and estimate. We’re finally going to be nice to swim near when we’re anchored in a bay.