I can’t remember who said it, but there is a famous quote that I’ve used many times throughout my life. “There is no joy in the journey’s end if there is no joy in the journey.”
Life is supposed to be about the journey, not the destination. Right?
For the first time in 51 years, I’m questioning this theory.
As we make final preparations to face the unbelievably challenging Bay of Biscay, I’ve decided that I’m just going to focus on our destination — Spain. I’ve never been there, and I always wanted to go. Now I get the opportunity! It’s the power of positive thinking. Right? I just need to keep brushing up on my Spanish and think about the pintxos and the paella, the historic sights and the sunny beaches.
I need to stop thinking about what it’s going to take for us to get there.
Ok, I can’t help but think about it a little. Frankly, I’m terrified. Seriously, crossing the Bay of Biscay is the only part of our 6,000 nautical mile voyage that has me shaking in my skin. It’s been called “The Valley of Death,” “The Vomiting Venus,” and “The Trunk of the Atlantic U-Boat Menace.” Jane Russell, author of “The Atlantic Crossing Guide,” was seasick for eight days while crossing the Bay of Biscay. This was the first thing I read when I began studying her book about a year ago. I’ve worried about the Bay of Biscay ever since.
The Bay of Biscay is a gulf located in the Celtic Sea of the northwest Atlantic Ocean between the northern coast of Spain and the western coast of France. The average depth is 1,745 meters and the maximum depth is 4,890 meters. There are also many dangerous shallow areas.
Some of the fiercest weather conditions of the Atlantic Ocean happen in the Bay of Biscay. It is home to large storms during the winter months, and there have been countless shipwrecks that have resulted from the gruesome weather. Depressions enter the Bay from the West. They dry out and then are born again as thunderstorms that look like hurricanes and crash into the Bay. When the wind and waves come in from different directions, they can collide and create confused water inside the Bay. Many sailors describe this as like being inside a washing machine.
Huge Atlantic swells can form near the coast, making many ports inaccessible. Because of the extreme weather in the winter, there are abnormally high waves at times.
The Bay of Biscay has been feared by seamen dating back to the beginning of the second World War when German U-boats ruled the area and many American and British ships sank in her waters.
Right now, we are sitting Brittany, France at Camaret sur Mer. We’ve been here nine days awaiting just the right weather window. This has given me perhaps too much time to think about and fear the Bay of Biscay. The first few days we were here, there was warm, sunny weather, and we had a great time exploring the area.
For the past few days, however, we’ve been sitting inside our bright orange, steel-constructed vessel, Seefalke, waiting out the harsh weather that has been passing through.
It has been stormy and rainy and very windy the past few days, but we have hunkered down inside Seefalke’s belly—warm and cozy and safe. It’s not been calm lately. Right now, it feels like what I imagine it would feel like to live inside a submarine. We can hear water echoing as the waves lap against Seefalke’s steel hull. We haven’t gone outside much, opting for the dry shelter of our bright orange cocoon. We are securely tied to the pier, but we are rocking and swaying as if we were at sea and can hear the angry wind howling outside.
Our plan is to depart early Monday morning.
Here is the good news…
· We have a favorable weather window, a solid passage plan that has taken nine days to develop, and a patient captain who won’t take any unnecessary chances.
· Our 43-foot ketch was built for this kind of blue water sailing. It has a four-foot deep cockpit in the center of the boat, which protects us completely from all sides. It has two masts with adjustable sails in many sizes to cushion the blows of heavy gusts and gale-force winds.
· We have a chance to see some cool sea wildlife. Many different species of whales and dolphins can be seen in the Bay including beaked whales, minke whales, fin whales, harbor porpoises, short-beaked common dolphins, striped dolphins, long-finned pilot whales, sperm whales, and the northern bottlenose whale. Scaleless dragonfish are native to the Bay of Biscay.
· I have Yvi’s potato ready to hold in my left hand to help me battle any possible seasickness.
· We have a passage plan that basically puts us on a straight course directly to La Caruña, Spain. Our ETA is sometime on Thursday.
· Soon, I will explore Spain for the first time!
Ok, so maybe we shouldn’t totally discount the journey. Perhaps I should embrace the opportunity and the challenge to be among those brave enough to sail on this incredible body of water. With exciting Spanish lands to explore on the other side, I have the opportunity to face another fear and challenge myself in ways I never thought possible. Perhaps there will be joy in this part of the journey, after all!
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain