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Nostrodamus
02-04-11, 06:57
After years of dreaming we have finally sold our house, bought a boat and will soon be heading south to the Med.
We have no time scales and the journey is every part of the adventure as much as the destination.
The only decision to make now is should we sail directly across the Bay of Biscay or take our time and follow the coast round.
Although I have a lot of sailing experience my family have far less. (wife and two boys of 17 and 15)
What are the advantages and disadvantages associated with each option and which way would you go?
I would really like your advice on this and I know there are others this would help.

rallyveteran
02-04-11, 08:45
The only decision to make now is should we sail directly across the Bay of Biscay or take our time and follow the coast round.
Although I have a lot of sailing experience my family have far less. (wife and two boys of 17 and 15)
What are the advantages and disadvantages associated with each option and which way would you go?
I would really like your advice on this and I know there are others this would help.

This is a frequently asked question, especially at this time of year. Here are some posts giving the information you seek, all from within the last year or so:

http://www.ybw.com/forums/showthread.php?p=2442188
http://www.ybw.com/forums/showthread.php?t=265261
http://www.ybw.com/forums/showthread.php?t=230298
http://www.ybw.com/forums/showthread.php?t=265790
http://www.ybw.com/forums/showthread.php?t=197847
http://www.ybw.com/forums/showthread.php?t=258498
http://www.ybw.com/forums/showthread.php?t=253491
http://www.ybw.com/forums/showthread.php?t=247693
http://www.ybw.com/forums/showthread.php?t=226099
http://www.ybw.com/forums/showthread.php?t=226418

Probably worth a read of these and then follow up for anything missing ;-)

jordanbasset
02-04-11, 09:04
Hi,
we did a compromise. We coast hopped along the French coast, thoroughly ejoyed it. If anything wish we spent more time on this coast, helped we had good weather.
When we got to Port Joinville on the Isle De Yeu we went direct to Passages, Santona (just east of Santander), leaving early in the morning and getting there about 5pm the next day (210 miles) having sailed/motorsailed.
We did wait for the right winds and weather window and the crossing was very uneventful and enjoyable. But not particulalry impressed with Passages. As you can see from the other posts there are all sorts of options, it is very much down to personal preference.
Enjoy it and fair winds.

Sy-Revolution
02-04-11, 09:05
We coast hopped all the way from Cherbourg to La Rochelle on our way south. Some great places to see on the way. A few highlights were Cherbourg itself, (coulda missed out Alderney) Lezardrieux, Roscof, Chanel du Four, Carteret, Belle Ille, Ille de Re, and La Rochelle.

It's an adventure so, if the weathers fine why rush past? Northern Spain is also worth a look but once you're into Portugal, going south, you'll be sailing longer.......cos it's boring.

http://www.sy-revolution.com/zen/northern-france-and-brittany/

http://www.sy-revolution.com/zen/north-biscay/

http://www.sy-revolution.com/zen/ile-de-re-1/

C.

Baggy
02-04-11, 09:58
He,s my penny’s worth,
Leaving from the east coast.. weather permitting..;)



You will have to make a stop off at Ramsgate to await the tide to get thro the Dover straights

Places not to miss

Have a stop at either Brighton or Eastbourne
Make way into the solent, explore the river Medina, Yarmouth, Lymington ( town quay ).. etc
then thro Hurst point to studland bay.
Weymouth
Dartmouth/Salcombe
Fowey
Falmouth
Scilly's..
Camaret..

Only a 3 day weather window to cross Biscay to north Spain

And the added bonus of leaving spring/early summer, you will have the luxury of not having crowed ports and harbours..

25931
02-04-11, 10:06
We coast hopped all the way from Cherbourg to La Rochelle on our way south. Some great places to see on the way. A few highlights were Cherbourg itself, (coulda missed out Alderney) Lezardrieux, Roscof, Chanel du Four, Carteret, Belle Ille, Ille de Re, and La Rochelle.

It's an adventure so, if the weathers fine why rush past? Northern Spain is also worth a look but once you're into Portugal, going south, you'll be sailing longer.......cos it's boring.

http://www.sy-revolution.com/zen/northern-france-and-brittany/

http://www.sy-revolution.com/zen/north-biscay/

http://www.sy-revolution.com/zen/ile-de-re-1/

C.

For sight- seers Portugal is great with a variety of harbours/marinas.

GrahamM376
02-04-11, 10:07
Much depends on fast you want to get to the Med and blow your savings. We've done the west coast of France as far as LaRochelle several times and there are still places we haven't been, so much to see.

LaRochelle to Coruna direct took us (IIRC) around 60 hrs but LaRochelle to Gijon which we prefer is only around 40 hrs at 6 kts and you can easily spend a few weeks between there and Bayonna in the Rias with plenty of free anchoring. There's plenty to see down the Portuguese west and Algarve coasts and SW Spain to Gib.

Whatever you decide, it's best not to be too late down the west coast of Portugal as many ports can get closed with high swell from autumn onwards. It can also be very foggy in summer.

charles_reed
02-04-11, 10:11
I opted for the scenic route - mainly because I'm usually single-handed and insurers have a neurosis about Biscay and go psychotic when you mix single-handing with crossing the Bay.

The S Brittany coast is a fantastic cruising ground (IMHO infinitely better than anything in the W Med) and right the way down to la Rochelle is a delight - Arcachon, though interesting in its own right, saves nothing on the journey, so I'd suggest working your way down the French coast then doing the toddle from les Mimimes to Donostia (San Sebastian to Castilians). The latter could well claim to be one of the gastronomic capitals of Europe - don't speak French there, they're still exacting reparations for the 1812 French retreat.
That N Spanish coast, from Bilbo to Cediera is unspoilt with easy day sailing between anchorages and ports. Do watch the entry line into Gijon, though, there are unmarked rocks awash in areas of 12m depth.
Unless you're doing a delivery the one-hop from Brest to la Coruna is strictly for masochists (or sado-masochists if you have a crew).

phantomlady
02-04-11, 11:15
or you could go through the canals......just a thought

Robih
02-04-11, 12:17
The S Brittany coast is a fantastic cruising ground (IMHO infinitely better than anything in the W Med) and right the way down to la Rochelle is a delight

seconded. do not miss south brittany at any price, it is at least one season's cruising in it's own right. winter at La Rochelle/LRB/Rochefort then n spain the following year.

vyv_cox
02-04-11, 13:38
seconded. do not miss south brittany at any price, it is at least one season's cruising in it's own right. winter at La Rochelle/LRB/Rochefort then n spain the following year.

Exactly so. We took a whole season, April to end September, to reach Rochefort from Holland. We knew the northern part well, so we were in Cherbourg within a few days. There is an enormous amount to see on this coast and some maintain the French Biscay coast to be the best cruising area in Europe, so it would be a pity to bypass it.

Eeyore
02-04-11, 13:45
Not being a great lover of anything French......I opted for the 'straight across' route. It was late October, so as previously mentioned, the insurers get a little twitchy. I chose a three day weather window (if I were to do it again, I would want a five day window) before leaving Camaret for Bayona. The first two days were great. On the third day, bad weather came 24 hours early and we got hammered! I understood from Falmouth coastguard later that five boats were lost that night - including a boat with a couple who were sailing just a mile from me.

I suppose if you have no timetable, then it's sensible to opt for the coastal route!

maxi77
02-04-11, 16:12
When time is not a consideration following the coast is without doubt the best, there are lots of super places to stop. Follow the coast to the Gironde then head for Spain.

BoyBlue49
02-04-11, 16:42
Hi Nostrodamus,

I have sailed both straight across and down the coasts, unless you or your crew have a strange fascination for looking at waves all day and knowing you are in water up to 3 miles deep, the coast is far more interesting and enjoyable.

Where you jump off from is up to you but to get foreign as soon as possible is my idea of getting away from it all.
Do not miss Brittany and any port or small harbour to Royan and then include Cap Ferret-Arcachon and Hendaye further south.
There are so many interesting places, too many to name all but, Benodet, Lorient, Belle Ile, Pornic, Les Sables, La Rochelle are just a few worth looking into.

Spain's north and west coast has a small port or anchorage just about every couple of miles, Portugal has few places to stop until rounding Cape St. Vincent so plan accordingly.
Good luck and fair winds but keep a weather eye on the navtext.

Plomong
02-04-11, 17:06
After years of dreaming we have finally sold our house, bought a boat and will soon be heading south to the Med.
We have no time scales and the journey is every part of the adventure as much as the destination.
The only decision to make now is should we sail directly across the Bay of Biscay or take our time and follow the coast round.
Although I have a lot of sailing experience my family have far less. (wife and two boys of 17 and 15)
What are the advantages and disadvantages associated with each option and which way would you go?
I would really like your advice on this and I know there are others this would help.

In this thread: http://www.ybw.com/forums/showthread.php?t=253491 I gave a list of French and Spanish ports -- might be worth a read ??

But do note that some of the comments about weather windows relate to a proposed crossing in November/December !!!

Plomong

Plomong
02-04-11, 17:10
But not particulalry impressed with Passages.

Could have tried Hendaya/Fuenterribia (more correctly Hondarribia) or maybe better Guetaria or Zumaia ??

Plomong

Nostrodamus
02-04-11, 18:20
Thank you all so much for your responses, views and links. It will take some reading but I will get there.
It is interesting to note the total lack of anyone opting for the direct route and I am now surer than ever that the costal route is the one we shall follow.
We may get to the Med this year or we may not if the coast is that good but at least we will be seeing and cruising some wonderful places along the way.
Now has anyone got any charts they want to part with?

sundancer123
02-04-11, 20:47
Hi...I have come up from Gib to Portsmouth singlehanded 2 winters in a row.in a 12 metre boat...am at present in Port Medoc ...far better than Royan..heading north tomorrow..go round the inside,some amazing places to stop,especially in the rias of northern Spain,and indeed in France,,dont mess with Biscay,get it wrong...and you may not live to regret it...If it is of interest I can give you details of where the Dolphin will probably find you...between the Gironde and Cape St Vincent...there are 5 or 6 areas they regularly turn up for 1/2 hour or so...the Western Med. is an expensive disappointment to many like yourselves...when you get there...the Atlantic seaboard is much much better...do not miss out the Isla Formosa anchorages at Faro,or indeed the Guadiana.....bon voyage

dougg
02-04-11, 22:54
We are leaving arround the 15th April and still undecided re the route. Having read the above posts I think its got to be via la Rochelle. My view, fwiw,is to get south quickly as its going to be warmer.
If im going to spend a winter in France I may as well be at home.
We could spend all summer looking round the atlantic coast or spend all summer looking round Balerics sardinia etc etc.
Interesting to read peoples different thoughts though.

BoyBlue49
03-04-11, 10:44
Hi dougg, I can see your point about getting to warmer clims asap but I hope you have deep pockets if you are intending to use marinas in the western Med.

dougg
03-04-11, 21:20
Boy Blue. Im hoping to perfect my anchoring tecniques.:)

Vilamora quoted me 130 euros a week in may inc water and elec, low season.

tarik
03-04-11, 22:03
We were talking about this today at the club, a couple of members who have travelled south have gone down the Channel and then round Lands End to Cork, Southern Irelend.
From there it is a more or less a straight run either down to the Spanish coast or direct to Gib.

Might give it a try in reverse when I return from Gib next year.

David

GrahamM376
03-04-11, 22:57
Boy Blue. Im hoping to perfect my anchoring tecniques.:)

Vilamora quoted me 130 euros a week in may inc water and elec, low season.

Anchoring on the Algarve isn't a problem, no need to use marinas. Med Spain is a problem though, lots of tales of police insisting boats go to marinas.

kaymak
04-04-11, 07:54
I think it depends on what you want to do, which might depend on what you have or have not done in between.

We have sailed pretty much everywhere in North and South Brittany, and have enjoyed it immensely. It truly ranks as one of the world's greatest cruising grounds -- but so for that matter do our UK waters. So definitely take your time :-)

But my wife is from the Mediterranean, so eventually I had to give in, and we headed out from the Hamble, southbound last August. Having sailed all the northern bits, we thought to make some quick southing, so departed direct from The Cove, St Agnes, Scilly, to La Coruna. I recommend that routing, if the weather is good and you want to go straight to La Coruna or the Rias Baixas. With a little bit of westing, it gets you out and off the continental shelf quickly -- and besides, Scilly is just plain gorgeous -- magnetic for us any time we get as far west as Falmouth.

With proper planning, a decent weather window and reasonable crew, don't be put off. We were nervous, but it was all in the anticipation, as usual. In our case in addition to myself the crew consisted of my wife, 13yo daughter and 8yo son -- plus we asked a strong friend in his late 20's to come along to lighten the load, as far as La Coruna.

Here are a few words on ports of call along the way (all pure opinion):

- La Coruna: great landfall, a town that grows on you, great place for full range of Galician food, and plenty to do for w a few days or more. We stayed in the inner marina (Darsena) and recommend it, for its location alone, as the best place for a short visit.

- Rias Baixas:

Camarinas: frankly disappointing relative to what we had been led to expect; plan to eat on the boat; beware 25-30+kt afternoon sea breeze building rapidly as you round the point and head E'ward in the approaches. World's smallest marina office (most memorable feature); should have anchored off.

Muros: more interesting, and a nice sheltered anchorage under the lee of the land north of the harbour.

Islas Cies: beautiful, definitely anchor there if conditions are suitable -- nice walks ashore.

Baiona: lovely dignified town, we stayed a couple of nights at the MRYC, very nice; the other marina looked fine, too; nice anchorage, where we also stayed, and it proved a good sheltered place for the children to enjoy watersports.

Passage south:

OK, I am going to be attacked for saying this, but Portugal is the odd man out in Europe, a distinct and "unique" country, and its Atlantic coast is rather inhospitable, with swell and/or fog in summer. We elected to move right along, as far as possible with family crew, on a family holiday:

Leixoes: pronounced "Lay-shooinsh" (feel free to correct me). Funny enough, we thought the marina here was fine (shows you that it's all about expectations). Sure, everything was dilapidated and broken, but it provided decent shelter, and the water was not as visibly filthy as we had been led to expect.

Porto: we travelled there by taxi, and it is a unique place, with a very distinct feel, interesting architecture, well worth a visit -- really almost unmissable in a sense. (Povoa de Varzim: we did not go, but others have said it may be a better place from which to visit Porto -- by new metro.)

Nazare: some like it, but we were not enchanted; most interesting thing was the extreme depths, even just outside the breakwater heads.

Cascais & Estoril: nice Portuguese seaside towns, Cascais is a great place from which to visit Lisbon by cheap pleasant train.

Fish & water temp: We noticed on arriving at Cascais that the fish had changed completely, as had the water temperature. There were "tropical" looking fish, and for the first time the water temperature was noticeably warmer than the UK south coast. (In contrast, Galicia, with less Gulf Stream benefit than the UK, had water temperatures well below those of Cornwall.) We were finally sort of "south".

Sines: pronounced "cinch"; anchored off the beach, north of the marina, did not go ashore (but looked interesting).

Note on pots: vast numbers of these, many are comically badly marked, so it was a constant game to avoid them; also nets with lines of floats -- lots of detours to get around these. You really have to go pretty far offshore to avoid the pot markers in particular. For example, there are plenty of pot markers in 40, 50, 60m -- and we even encountered some in 150-200m!

Cape St Vincent: we were in thick fog all the way down from Sines, then popped out into brilliant summer sunshine just as we passed by the Cape close inshore -- truly magical! We were suddenly well and truly "south". Ten minutes after rounding the Cape we had our fourth shark sighting of the trip, and our first big one: a truly massive hammerhead, fin out of the crystal clear blue water, lazing along abeam of us -- wow! We literally could not speak. And then, as we neared Lagos, a superpod of literally 50-100 dolphins. We have seen a lot of dolphins, but never so many at one time. It was rather exciting and beautiful.

Lagos: we have been there since late August (the boat has, that is), and we are returning there this week to leave -- bound for Cartagena. I am very happy with the choice of Lagos as a place to leave the boat over the winter. The marina is very safe and sheltered, and the town is not bad at all. Yes, the price is not cheap, but it's not that bad, either -- especially relative to the Med.

Now if someone has a recommendation for a great (and secure and sheltered) place to leave the boat for 2011-12 winter in the Western Med, that would be great. We will cruise the Balearics, and possibly Corsica and/or Sardinia this summer. I am intrigued by Ragusa -- or perhaps somewhere in southern Sardinia? -- but would be very open to other suggestions. Given that we will not be living aboard, easy flights to and from the UK are a factor (and based on painful experience, I no longer do Stansted).

fwiw, I think we might before long find that we have had enough of the Western Med, to the point where the elastic band snaps and we head either (a) straight for the Lofoten Islands or (b) eastwards.

jordanbasset
04-04-11, 08:13
I think if we were doing it again I would spend much longer in Brittany and overwinter in the Algarve. There are so many safe anchorages on the Algarve you do not need to use marinas, if you do want walk ashore comfort in the winter the prices are not unreasonable and weather will be as good as other places in the western med.
Like the previous poster I am not a fan of the west coast of Portugal there were limited anchoring opportunities (were a couple) and we ended up in Marinas most of the time. However I did like Camarinas and when we were there it was calm However, in contrast, we anchored off Muros for 3 nights and the wind was so strong that we could not launch the dinghy. Most ran to Portosin Marina for shelter, as we did eventually. It just goes to show it does depend on the weather when you are actually there and where the wind is coming from.
The following year it will not take long to get to the med and onwards.

Roaring Girl
04-04-11, 08:44
Absolutely agree it depends on your eagerness to get south, which begins at Cap St Vincent, or possibly Lisbon. We went straight across and missed all the wonderful sights, and in some ways wish we had coat hopped and waited another winter for the warm. (Much less frightening to the less commited crew for a start.)

Camarinas is a great spot to wait for the weather to abate for Finisterre. We ended up spending 2 weeks there is dreadful weather, well sheltered at anchor and rather bored except for the planes fishing water from teh ria to put on dreadful forest fires.

If you are looking at getting a far as Sardinia etc for the winter than look at Cagliari as a good place to stop and to do the inevitable work on the boat in the spring.

youen
05-04-11, 08:00
If you have a lot of time and you can leave early in the season you must cruise along the French coast and then along the north coast of spain which is beautiful and not crowded with a lot of harbour or anchorage.

jimbaerselman
05-04-11, 16:41
Oooh, definitely the coasts! Spend three months just working around to Bayona!

For lots of detail on just the north coast of Spain, see http://www.jimbaerselman.f2s.com/n%20spain%20cruising.htm . OK, it's a long time since I last edited it, so some places now have better facilities (Bilbao, Zumaya, Gijon). But the coasts from Cherbourg to Bilbao are great, and good value, cruising areas.

SHUG
06-04-11, 12:39
An Interesting thing.
All the ports on the French Atlantic coast down to La Rochelle are about the same distance from La Coruna (about 340miles). So... you can meander down the coast (and islands) until you get nice conditions and then go to Spain.

CornishSailor
09-04-11, 12:06
Hello

We left the UK last year destined ultimately for the Med. Like you, we have the luxury of no time scale, so are following many recommendations like those on this thread and are taking our time. We have spent the first season cruising Brittany (plus the SW of the UK and a bit of Normandy) and have thoroughly enjoyed it. (Details on our website)

We too have deliberated on the Biscay crossing, which we plan to do this coming season, most likely crossing from La Rochelle to Bilbao. We have the charts and pilot guides, and also purchased Michael Briant's (of this forum) 'Gentle Sailing Route to the Mediterranean' http://www.michaelbriant.com/gentle_route_to_med.htm which seems an excellent additional source of the information and worth buying (no connection or commercial interest :-) )

We have cruising guides and Imray charts covering the SW coast of the UK to Brittany - not sure what the postage costs would be or what a fair forum-spirited price would be. PM or email if interested (email address on website), though we are currently on the hard at Arzal, but do try to check emails once a day.

Cheers and fair winds
Ann (& Andy)

P.S. I've added your website to my favourites and will follow your travels with interest. It's always good to read of fellow liveaboards' adventures!

johnbev
09-04-11, 12:13
we did it last year and because it was a delivery trip stayed well out off the continental shelf,a must though to see are the spanish ria`s,we did mouros and alas only briefly. portugese coast is long and hard and watch out for the lobby pots!! bon voyage

Ional
09-04-11, 17:37
We did it two summers ago. 6 weeks to Royan. We know, and love the French coast. Then an overnight 3 miles offshore, on a beautiful night, to Hondarrabia, first port in Spain.

Then 2 months to slowly cruise the north and west coasts of Spain. Agree with all previous posters, Isle de Cies my favourite spot! Portugese coast took time, to avoid nasty swell, and fog. Liked Porto, by train from Povoa. Disliked Nazare, especially packs of feral dogs....... Overwintered opposite Lisbon in a brilliant boatyard Tagus yacht centre. Very cheap compared with anywhere else!

Last year spent 5 months circumnavigating Spain........Liked the Algarve, but no where as pretty as SW France and the Spanish rias. Extremely expensive marinas, nowhere to anchor except in Ibiza with dragging power boats in every cove, either no wind or a gale and HOT hot Hot! Overwintering Port st Louis and this year we are coming back through the Midi, we have a lifting keel. The W Med was an experience.....but we look forward to doing some sailing once back in the Atlantic!!

dougg
21-04-11, 00:03
We just arrived at coruna having motored for 48 hours from camaret no wind no waves 1 meter ish swells all a bit boring really!

Sy-Revolution
22-04-11, 21:47
Glad you made it safe 'n' sound!

C.

mdrifter
23-04-11, 18:32
In agreement with others: French coast not to be missed. We spent our 2nd season exploring after previous year's delivery to Rochefort. 3rd season we sat in St Denis and took off towards Royan (Arcachon might be best left out - we came across a Sadler crew still traumatised some time later...) but forecast stayed good so we crept down outside the Landes firing range (beware straying exocets!) and put into Getaria after which we strolled along the Northern spanish coast which now has, I believe much better facilities; Luarca had steel buoys requiring a line ashore - may still be there? Rias unmissable - we were told you wont spend enough time there and we didn't - not that we rushed down Portugal but apart from Porto, Lisbon & Nazare we wouldn't rush back. Guidiana also unmissable as is good pasage through to Gib. After that we turned left and eventually fled the Med via Canal du Midi. Now in Baltic - spoiled for choice of anchorages...