Completing our journey of The Bay of Biscay

160714 8 The entrance to Hondarribia Spain160714 10e Birthday Celebrations Olivers Henndaye 5

From Port Medoc we farewelled France and entered Spain some 140nm south. Between Port Medoc and the Spanish township of Hondarribia there is little option for us to find a suitable harbour let alone anchorage. An early start of 5.30am - the first for a long time - saw us arrive into the township of Hondarribia just before sunset. Hondarribia is tucked into the southern corner of the Bay of Biscay and separated from France by the river Bidasoa.  The best advantage of Hondarribia is the small ferry that operates regularly between the two ports. Within ten minutes we were back in France for Lee's birthday celebrations enjoying the food of a French restaurant called Olivers. Later that evening onboard Katherine we were able to watch the fireworks for Bastille day across the bay from the comfort of Katherine's cockpit. 

While in Hondarribia we caught the bus to San Sebastian for a day. Here we got to experience the first of the real summer crowds. The beaches were full with the sun shining and of course school holidays. We were pleased we had made the decision to visit by bus rather than sail to San Sebastian as the harbour appeared full. We managed to find a cafe in a side street where the most delicious tapas were enjoyed for lunch. 

160715 11 San Sebastion La Concha Bay
160716 3 Bilbao Fireworks160717 7 Bilbao Museo Guggenheim Titanium Facade160717 Bilbao With the harbour master at Bilboa (3)




Next port of called was Bilbao which for some reason did not score well in the pilot books as a place to visit. We would say the record needs to be corrected. Starting with the harbour, Real Club Maritimo where we were secured alongside the only pontoon we would fit by the most helpful Harbour master Alvaro Basterra. We happened to arrive in harbour for the Virgen Del Carmen Festival. The festival involves taking a statue of the Virgin out to sea in a flower adorned boat accompanied by a flotilla of boats of all types and sizes. A blessing of the fleet and a remembrance to those who have died at sea is all part of the celebration that is continued on land with music and a continuous array of fireworks well into the early hours of the morning. 

We managed to catch up with Trish and Casper from Starfire BC who we first met in Hondarribia. This couple have been sailing since 1995 or there abouts, been around the world, all about the world and are now enjoying revisiting places of interest. They certainly were inspirational to spend some time with and we hope our paths will cross again somewhere between here and Lagos. 

160718 2 Sunset Santander

The Real Club Maritimo harbour is a short walk to the metro which provides easy access to the city centre. We found Bilbao to be a city worth visiting with the Guggenheim Museum, old town, interesting architecture and river walk. We particularly loved the water fountains in the city that have stood for generations and are still today used by everyone for a source of refreshment.We had the unusual status of feeling like a “rock star” in Bilbao before leaving as we were asked to sign a picture of Katherine from the 2015 calendar, that is now on the wall of the harbourmasters office. X Yachts should be proud. We are particularly thankful to Alvaro’s son Telmo who took time out of his day to act as Lee’s interpreter when a short trip to the medical centre was needed. Telmo is aspiring to be a professional sailor and we wish him well with his journey in sailing. 

A short sail west and we anchored overnight in the harbour of Santander. Though it looked beautiful from the anchorage we did not have time to stay and explore, despite the welcome from the President of the yacht club (wearing his blazer) who came in a tender to not only welcome us to Santander and offer us the facilities of the club, but to settle a bet that was happening in the bar as to how tall was our mast and how long the boat. (he was most pleased to get the numbers as he said he was the closest)

Gijon (heeon) was to be the final port of call that we would have Darb and Nell onboard as they left us here to head home to Australia. Three weeks certainly goes fast in good company. Gijon is the capital of Coste Verde or the Green Coast. It was here we were introduced to their Cider Culture - young and old enjoy tapas whilst sipping on cider poured from a height. It becomes very obvious very quickly who is local and who isn’t when it comes to cider pouring. 

We hired a "little blue car" and drove inland to appreciate the dramatic mountains that we had sailed past over the last few days along the Basque countryside. It was also in Gijon that we met Andrew and Carolyn Bellamy Australian’s from Fremantle sailing their new Oyster 475 Askari to somewhere warmer then England. Together we managed to enjoy some great food and atmosphere in the back streets of Gijon surrounded by local families. 

160721 2 Drive Day Gijon to Parque National de Los Picos de Europa
160723 8 Approaching Ria De Ribadeo Katherine160723 19 Ria De Rebadeo Pulpo


The next port of call was Ria Rebadeo - we had two options here, anchor out or head into the harbour if we could not fit under the 32m high bridge. It took three attempts to convince ourselves that our calculations were correct and that we would fit, as nothing looks more daunting then approaching a bridge with only a meter or two of clearance. It was certainly entertaining for everyone watching. We were so pleased we made the effort as Rebadeo was in full festival swing. Once more we saw the procession for the Virgen Del Carmen Festival, experienced the loudest fireworks, saw a concert that went  apparently to three or four in the morning and ate Pulpo (Octopus) at the Pulpo Festival. The sun shone so it was certainly a festive place to be. 

Our final night in the Bay of Biscay before we rounded the corner to La Corona was on anchor in Ria De Cedeiva surrounded by lush green hills. 

To finish off on a high we had a fast run in 20 - 25 knots of wind into La Corona, averaging 9 knots. Here we have decided it is time to catch up on paperwork, photos and recap what has been a great few weeks. Time for another hire car and another tour inland. 

Taking the time to sail this northern coastline of Spain has definitely been a great decision and one that has far exceeded any expectations that we could have had. We continue to meet the loveliest of people, young, old with families all achieving their own dreams. Certainly helps keep one feeling very positive and privileged.


(Click for more photos)

© SV Katherine 2017      Cover Photo: Katherine on Anchor Faro Portugal with Askari of Australia