Position Report:

After three nights in La Rochelle, I was glad to get moving. The next few days weren't expected to be very interesting as I had to get past the boring coast of the Landes region south of Bordeaux heading for the Spainish border. This area is over 100 miles of a featureless sandy beach, with one stop along the way, a large shallow inlet called the Basin D'Arcachon. What makes the Landes even more bizarre is the fact that it is the site of a large milatary firing range which operates up to 45 miles offshore between Bordeaux and the Spanish border. For the long haul I had John Carlson, who I met when doing my Yachtmaster training at Easter. John was interested in doing some long hauls before meeting up with his wife and kids in Capbreton, just before the Border with Spain.
Click here to see pics of their mad gang

From La Rochelle John and I set off on a short hop to St Denis D'Oleron nearby. This was delayed a bit due to a difficulty with a new impellor but we did get in before the tide fell too far. The next day was a long spin to Royan, at the mouth of the Gironde River. Along the way we saw curious towers on the shore which were used to hoist and lower nets into the deep water to catch fish. I had only seen the like of this in photos from Asia. I just don't know what they were catching, but as the water near the shore was very deep, it could have been anything. The river was lined with serious palaces for the rich from Bordeaux and gave you the idea of just how much money there was in the area.
The river heads to Bordeaux a and for some sailors, to the Canal de Midi, which leads to the Med. Boats have to have their masts lowered for the trip to allow them to get under the bridges. We only saw one boat preparing for that trip, which seemed infinitely more interesting than the trip which awaited us. As it turned out, the trip to Arcachon was relaxing enough. The departure from it did not go according to plan as the firing range was active that morning, despite us being told days before that it would not be. We therefore had to anchor for a couple of hours on the exposed coast to wait before we were permitted to head south. Luckily, there was little swell so we decided to go for a dive. John had never dived before so it gave him the chance to do something new. Sadly there was little to see, other that the sandy bottom.

We expected to see missiles and fighters but saw little except for a few planes. We did hear a couple of explosions in the distance, though. On restarting south, we had a pleasant trip, though it did get hot enough that we had to get the sun awning up to give us a little shelter from the heat. I must say that it worked really well and we arrived in Capbreton relaxed, clean even as we had showered on the move. John's wife Trish, son Sean, and daughter Sinead were there to meet us and we had a great Carlson feed on board as a reward for our efforts.
A relaxing day in port followed, mostly spent on the beach. I am not a great sun worshiper, but it was good to chill after the previous three long days on passage. We left early to head to Hendaye, at the border. We managed to sail a little but it was back to the engine to keep seasickness of some crew to a minimum. Along the way we were briefly entertained by a large pod of dolphins heading north feeding on tuna which are running at present. We anchored on the Spanish side of the bay outside the harbour to await a rise of tide. The real reason was to go for a swim. The water was 24 degrees, 5 degrees warmer that it had been in Royan. Its great when you can get it!!! I finally realised why I decided to sail to Spain. Though we did not go ashore, I can finally say that I have arrived in Spain and I feel a strange sense of accomplishment. But I could not have done it without the crew who helped out along the way.
Thank you all

We spent three days in the Marina in Hendaye, swimming and surfing. The surf wasn't big but the shape of the waves were beautiful. My little Piranha Attack had a ball. Surprisingly, I was joined by an Italian Kayak Surfer in a Riot boat. I told him that I had never seen a paddler surfing in the Basque Country before but he said that interest in it was on the up.
A short 12 mile hop followed to San Sebastian, which is a real jewel: a long curving beach and a lovely old town with great tapas. Sadly, there was a sloppy swell rolling in which made sleeping difficult that night.
Zumaia followed which is one of the possible places for me to berth my boat for the winter in case the marina in Bilbao is either full or too expensive. It is a sleepy old town with a lovely quiet marina. There are boat supplies shops for any winter work I need to do, and I even found an English Language centre for possible work. THe only downside is the fact that it is 63kms from Bilbao, though by motorway.

The following day saw us mooring in the small fishing port of Lequetio which was the most beautiful place we had seen so far. Trish was quick to point out that Suckin' Diesel was moored directly outside an Irish Bar, which must obviously have been an omen of some kind. The beach was right beside the port so we swam until the eveing before doing the "Paseo" (eveing stroll) with the locals. Here we met Jan and Stuart, a Brit and an Aussie, holidaying with their two kids. After wine and beer in the Irish pub we agreed to all go diving the following day. And so ended another stressful day in Paradise.
The diving was pleasant, though exciting for the kids who were all first timers. After that it was a motor on flat seas ever closer to Bilbao. Along the way the scenery was breathtaking and photos cannot do it justice. The steep rugged mountains roll down to the sea with houses and small villages perched on their sides. Though I have been here many times before, I must say that I have seen a whole new side to Vizcaya.
We attempted to pull into Plencia, a suburb village on a river but the anchorage wasn't great so we sailed on and the kids did their usual.....,they slept until we had tied up in the marina in Getxo, Bilbao. The following two days were spent doing the touristy sights of Bilbao and shopping for the girls.

One day of cleaning and a little sightseeing and the Carlsons were gone. I hope they had a good holiday, their presence was certainly felt on board Suckin' Diesel....... She may never be the same again !