From Bretagne to Britain

Sailing, Travel

Brittany is what the English think of when they conjure up the quintessential romantic image of rural France – complete with the stripy T-shirted Frenchmen cycling about with strings of onions around their necks.

It’s picture perfect villages of whitewashed stone buildings with their pastel shutters are burrowed in among lush green meadows and woods of oak and pine connected by winding lanes and tree fringed rivers.

It is the home of the crêpe and ‘moules frites’ is written large on every restaurant sandwich board.

Young men sit outside cafes at midday enjoying lurid green crème de menthe.

To English eyes it is oh so very, very French.

Which is funny really because the Bretons are Celts who in some ways have more in common with the Cornish across La Manche than many of their fellow countrymen.

In fact, if you removed the crème de menthe, the ubiquitous crêpes and perhaps the Bretons themselves, you could easily be in Cornwall.

The countryside and villages bear a striking resemblance to England’s south west peninsula.

Like Cornwall, Brittany is a glorious place to explore on a boat with countless pretty river inlets, bays and seaside towns.

Also like Cornwall, Brittany attracts many wealthy urbanites who flock there for their weekend and summer breaks, buying up second homes and lending the more popular seaside destinations an air of chic affluence usually reserved for the city. Brittany has the price tag to match its popularity as we quickly discovered on being charged €4 for a small beer. This may have been less of a shock had we arrived from our own expensive British Isles but coming from Portugal then Spain it caused us both to gulp silently.

Sadly for us, but possibly not for our wallets, we did not have the time to do anything more than poke our nose into South Brittany for a couple of days before we headed for home waters.

But after crossing Biscay, Brittany was a brief heavenly respite.

We moored up in Sainte-Marine on the mouth of the beautiful River Odet which snakes it’s way up to the small city of Quimper.

A more picturesque spot than Sainte-Marine would be hard to find. The village clusters around a tiny river cove where a handful of café bars and restaurant terraces offer views across the Odet and its hotch potch of little boats to the larger resort town of Bénodet.

Every house in Sainte-Marine seemed to have been designed and built for the sole purpose of preserving and enhancing the prettiness of the village. Purple wisteria draped itself elegantly over stone walls, blossom fluttered from gardens to the roadside and wild flowers bloomed from every hedgerow.

Keen to stretch our legs, we walked for four miles along the coast to Île Tudy, another gloriously postcard village squeezed onto a spit of land on the mouth of the Pont L’Abbé river estuary.

A pristine white beach lined most of the route across which little wavelets gently fizzed as they advanced and retreated over the hot sand.

Behind it thick golden meadows were grazed by cattle casting long shadows as the sun sank low in a cloudless sky.

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On Saturday we decided to head to Quimper. It was only about 10 miles up the river and we’d read that one could easily take a boat to get there.

What we had not factored in was that we would need to cross the river to Bénodet to get anywhere at all, that the only boats to Quimper were not ferries but tourist tour boats that charged a small fortune, only left twice a day and took you to about three other places enroute and lastly, that we were in France, the land of the Gallic Shrug.

A small ferry usually ran throughout the day between Sainte-Marine and Bénodet. But not today it seemed. The ferry had temporarily stopped working due to celebrations taking place across the river over the launch of a new lifeboat.

We were told by the local harbourmaster it would resume service at 12.30pm. In two hours’ time and too late for us to catch a boat to Quimper.

We asked about buses.

He shrugged, maybe from Bénodet, but not from here.

Could we take a taxi?

Again from Bénodet. But, shrugging, it will cost about 50 Euro.

Both ways?

One way.

We went to the tourist information office. It was closed, of course, I mean, it was the weekend after all when no tourists ever need assistance.

We went to try and bribe a local rib owner to rent us one of his boats for the day. Not to Quimper, he said, too shallow.

Could he take us across to Benodet? We asked.

Non. He’d like to but if he did he would have to start saying yes to everyone. Shrug.

We asked him again about the ferry – it will start running again at 12.30pm yes?

Well, pff, he answered, shrugging. Maybe 12.30, maybe 1.30pm, maybe not. You know, ‘e is French.

Ah okay, we understood. What about the buses from Benodet? They are quite regular oui?

Well, another shrug and a grin. They are French bus companies…

We understood.

We decided in the event, to walk to Bénodet which involves following the river a couple of miles to the nearest big road bridge outside both towns. It was actually a lovely hour and a half’s walk and we kicked ourselves for wasting the previous hour and a half trying to get there by lazier means.

However, having struggled to reach a town that was quite literally 150 yards across the river from us, we felt a bit defeated at the prospect of battling to get to Quimper. And more importantly, getting back. Our French advisors had not filled us with confidence.

So, shrugging, we settled on visiting Bénodet for the day.

It turns out there isn’t much of Bénodet to ‘visit’.

It is a great example of where the tiny original town or village has been grossly expanded with residential holiday homes, apartments and hotels largely thanks to the huge sandy beach next to it. Being French, it is done with more tact and style than what one finds on the Costa del Sol but much of it definitely felt like a ‘resort’ rather than a town.

After eating some of the best crêpes France has to offer – smoked sausage with cheese, tomatoe and sweet onions followed by the classic chocolate and banana with a sprinkling of coconut – we ambled along the Bénodet seafront, browsing the overpriced shops and looking down at the early summer tanners sweating on the sand.

We agreed we had chosen the superior side of the river.

That evening, being our last night in foreign climes, we treated ourselves to dinner in the Bistro du Bac overlooking Sainte-Marine’s cove. A starter of six of the freshest oysters Pete had ever eaten while I enjoyed sardines from a town just a few miles up the coast, confirmed this as a good decision.

We both oohed and aaahed over the delicately cooked local fresh fish served as our mains – lobster, scallop, cod, prawn and others I couldn’t confidently identify – washed down with a delicious bottle of Mâcon-Villages.

Les desserts? Mais oiu! Bien sûr!

Pete went for his favourite, crème brûlée, while I opted for a more unusual pistachio mousse and raspberry cake which was delectably candy sweet.

We left sunday morning with the tide to sail north around the Brittany coastline then towards the Channel Islands before crossing north to the Isle of Wight.

The forecast had warned of a notable absence of wind but we had a wedding to get back for so accepted our lot and prepared to motor most of the way home.

The sea was glassy calm as we chugged out of the river Odet. Hardly a ripple disrupted it’s silky surface.

We needed to get past Ushant with its notoriously strong tidal race while the tide was favourable so we remained under engine throughout the afternoon reaching our target by early evening and turning north east towards Guernsey.

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As we drifted further from land a swallow, clearly exhausted, swooped down and tried to land on the boat. The movement of the sails and probably our presence on deck spooked it so it flew off again but, desperate, returned and this time flew straight past us into the saloon. It sat on the book shelf for a few minutes surveying its surroundings before hopping off and disappearing into the bow of the boat. We accepted our stowaway for the night, left him some water and hoped the rest would do him good. He flew off again at 5.45am while I was on watch, hopefully this time reaching land.

The wind remained weak and patchy throughout but the next morning we killed the engine and got the sails out, determined to try and make some of the journey under sail power alone.

We drifted about tacking, letting the sails out, getting them in again, switching north then east as the wind, like a true trickster, leapt about. It blew confidently for 15 minutes from one direction then veered around 90 degrees before dying entirely and repeating the whole charade from a new direction.

Just when I was on the verge of giving up and putting the engine back on, it would gear up again with a healthy breeze from where it had started.

Pete was enjoying some sleep down below while I waged my own personal war on the wind, whooping and cursing intermittently.

Happily by the afternoon a light breeze settled from the north and we sailed along at a relaxed pace past the Channel Islands which loomed briefly out of the haze then disappeared again.

By dusk the wind had once again fallen to a whisper so we engined across the busy shipping channel as cargo ships, cruise liners and other floating giants ploughed towards the traffic separation zone dwarfing little N’Tiana.

The English Channel – or La Manche if you are French and are damned if you are going to assign ownership of that shared stretch of water to the English – had returned to an eery calm.

There was mythical ghostliness to the still silent water as the sun melted into the blue horizon and the sea melted into the sky.

We were suddenly in a new realm with no beginning and no end.

When darkness fell, the stars were reflected on the water so that we could have been sailing through the night sky.

I felt I might wake up and, instead of the Isle of Wight, find we’d arrived in Atlantis or the Underworld, although I didn’t feel we’d behaved sufficiently badly on this particular trip to deserve the latter.

It felt like we were being silently borne somewhere – hopefully home – by some inexplicable mystical force.

So it was that the lights of the South Coast and Needles Channel bought us back to reality with their distant glow at about 3am the next morning as we glided towards them.

For me this was the perfect home coming. Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight is the place I have visited every summer, rain or shine, with my family since I was a newborn babe.

It is the place where my sisters and I learnt to sail. The place where I learnt to love to sail. A place of happy memories. A safe haven.

So it seemed fitting that Yarmouth should be our first landfall in the UK. The first harbour in her entire seafaring life where N’Tiana has not had to fly a courtesy flag. We had finally bought her home.

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Crossing the Biscay

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No-one crosses the Bay of Biscay for fun. At least no-one with anything approaching a normal sense of enjoyment.

It is like the M25, a rather grim necessity worth enduring to reach the lovely places to which it leads.

If you are heading from northern Europe to the Mediterranean or the Canaries for an Atlantic crossing, or like us, bringing a boat back from southern Europe in order to explore the British Isles and the Baltic, Biscay is the sailing super highway you must take.

The only other options are to travel through France via the Canal du Midi, which though undoubtedly beautiful would take a few weeks and mean missing out Portugal and Spain – thus the untold pleasures of Galicia – altogether. Or if you have a casual couple months to spare you could avoid a Biscay crossing by coastal hopping all the way around Atlantic France then northern Spain but not all of this coast is terribly hospitable to yachts.

Biscay by contrast can be crossed in a few days and, since our time to get back to the UK was limited, this was our only viable choice.

The Bay of Biscay is a name that sailors utter with trepidation. Biscay has a tough guy reputation which it works hard to maintain. The reasons for Biscay’s fear factor are multiple.

Depressions formed over the Atlantic whip up strong prevailing westerly winds, often blowing as gales throughout the winter months, which have flung many a ship onto Biscay’s 310-mile lee shore.

Blowing over an ocean fetch of nearly 3000 miles, these westerlies have ample time to create huge seas.

This is combined with Biscay’s geography which sees the deep ocean of 4000 or so metres meet the continental shelf, shallowing to a mere 200 metres in just 30 nautical miles meaning any ocean swell can stack up quickly into big steep waves.

Lastly, the rocky nature of much the coastline reflects the waves creating messy, confused seas.

This is why any sensible sailor planning a Biscay crossing will firstly not do so in winter and secondly will watch the forecasts with hawk like focus to grab the first weather window that appears.

Having said that, the perfect weather window of sunny skies and kindly winds to see you all the way across on a pleasant beam reach is unlikely to present itself, ever. Our attitude was, if it’s safe to go, we go, come rain or shine.

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Rather than return direct to the UK, we headed for southern Brittany, a three-day sail from the Ria de Arousa, to break the journey and catch up on sleep.

The forecast had promised force four to six south westerlies for the first day and night veering round to the west then north on the second day but dropping slightly, eventually coming round to the north west.

This seemed simple enough, we’d head north as quickly as possible on the south westerlies, then be able to turn off north east towards Brittany on a close reach when the wind veered to the north.

The forecast had also promised rain, lots of rain.

Now I have a small piece of advice for anyone planning a sail in the vicinity of Biscay or indeed Portugal and Galicia, based on my sample of size of, ahem, one.

Whatever the forecast predicts on the Beaufort scale, add on another one of two for good measure.

The force four to six we had been promised from the south west gained strength as the first afternoon progressed into evening, 25 knots, 30 knots, 35 knots and more. By about 11pm, it was a force seven gusting gale force eight. With the boat as tightly reefed as a corseted 18th century maiden, we flew north, surfing down the waves to reach a maximum boat speed of 10.3 knots, thanking our ocean gods the wind and waves were behind us.

At 8pm, the rain hit, working with the violent waves throughout the night to seep through every tiny gap in our waterproofs leaving us cowering under the spray hood, wet and cold, peeping our heads up every ten minutes to check no collision was imminent.

By 6am, rain persisting, the wind had calmed to a more manageable force six and began to slowly veer to the west settling into a strong northerly breeze which we beat into throughout the afternoon.

It was cold, wet, bumpy and, frankly, miserable. Low grey rain clouds merged with the seemingly endless grey waves making it hard to tell where the sky ended and the sea began.

As we sat, shivering under the spray hood, hoofing down the soup which was about the only thing possible to rustle up with the rolling of the boat, looking out at the grey world which had enveloped us, I commented to Pete:

“This would be a lot of people’s idea of hell. Actual hell. And yet here we are, doing this for fun!”

He agreed. There was little else to say.

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That evening we finally spotted a tiny suggestion of blue through the clouds. The rain, at last, gave us respite relieving us of another night being soaked but by then the chill had got into our bones and only a long hot shower on land would cure it.

The third day buoyed us with bright, rejuvenating sunshine and we were able sail close reached towards Brittany in the happy knowledge the bulk of the journey was behind us.

At about 5am the next morning the twinkling lights of the coast became visible. Even the wind had finally exhausted itself to a whisper so we motored serenely up the River Odet to moor in the picture-perfect Breton village of Sainte-Marine drained but elated to have completed our 400-mile journey across Biscay.

Two things sustained us through throughout this passage.

One was biscuits. On land I am not a big biscuit eater. Show me a pastry in any form and I am yours. Offer me chocolate and I’ll snaffle it without a moment’s thought. A freshly baked loaf of bread I cannot resist, in any circumstances. But biscuits, meh, not bothered.

However, when you’ve been woken from a couple of hours of fitful sleep at 3am knowing you have three hours of sitting alone through the sodden bitter cold night ahead of you, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, more comforting than a cup of tea and a digestive. Perhaps two. I savoured every blessed bite. We have onboard an array of biscuits which would make Mr McVitie blush and oh my, have we been grateful for them.

The second, was dolphins. We were escorted virtually the whole way across the Biscay by these amazing creatures. At all times of day, in the stormiest of seas, they would come and greet us then dance through the waves alongside us, darting under our bow, leaping out of the sea just yards from us, surfing the waves behind and in front of us. Big pods came and swam with us for up to an hour, then set off again on their merry way, to be replaced an hour or so later by some more of their fellow maritime playmates. We mused that perhaps it was the same pod, seeing us safely across this perilous bit of sea. Who knows. All I do know is that the common dolphin has shot straight to the top of my favourite animal list. There is something deeply comforting when you feel very alone, to suddenly find yourself with such company. Seeing the dolphins extracting such joy from the same waves that made me shudder as they came looming towards our suddenly very small seeming boat, made the waves themselves seem less unfriendly. The dolphins provided moments of pure magic which would be worth many a stormy day at sea to witness.

For me, the nerves and discomfort are an intrinsic part of sailing. I won’t pretend we weren’t very pleased when the seas calmed and sun shone again but if it were all plain sailing, where would be the sense of adventure? And that’s why we do it, right?

Farewell Galicia

Sailing, Travel

I have a stark warning to anyone who sails to the Galician Rías. There is a very real risk that you may never leave.

Some would argue this is not a risk at all but something to welcome with open arms.

Simply befriend some locals, set up shop and you’ll no doubt pass a very pleasant few decades as a bona fide Galician.

However, if you have a journey to complete in a timely fashion, Galicia’s almost irresistible lure can be dangerous.

We met a couple who had set off from Southern Ireland bound for the Mediterranean two years ago. Yet there they were, entirely content living aboard in the Ría de Arousa, by this time so friendly with the boatyard owner they were off to his grandson’s christening. But more of them later.

The Rías Baixas – low estuaries – which are sandwiched between Portugal and Cape Finisterre, offer that perfect blend of beauty, history, fabulous food and of course, great sailing. There is both tranquillity and bustle, depending on your preference, with lively fishing towns such as Pobra do Caramiñal and Villagarcia hemmed in by the stunning countryside of dramatic green hills and countless quiet coves and inlets.

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Famed for its seafood, the region is also home to Spain’s delicious Albariño wine. More specifically, Cambados, a lovely old town on the shores of the Ria de Arousa is where the wine originates from and is encircled by small vineyards on every side. We spent a happy afternoon there tasting the local tipple and replenishing N’Tiana’s cellar.

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In the Rías, there is no need to pay out for expensive marinas. Whatever the weather, you will be able to find an anchorage to keep you safe and snug.

We moved north from the Ría Vigo up to the quieter Ría Pontevedra to visit the historic fishing village of Combarro for a night. Combarro is famous for its impressive collection of ‘horreos’ – these structures are synonymous with this region of Spain and look like miniature houses standing on four legs. They were originally designed for grain storage. By holding the grain above the ground, they had the double advantage of keeping it dry in the damp Galician climate and warding off rats. Horreos vary greatly in size and style as their grandeur traditionally reflected the owners’ status. Combarro has a fine collection of historic horreos lining its waterfront. But as a result it’s higgledy-piggledy granite alleys also suffer a bad case of tourist congestion so after a quick walk along the Rua do Mar to admire the town’s rocky eccentricities, we turned tail and beelined to a local tapas bar with our newly acquired Norwegian friend Marius.

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Marius’s boat was stuck in Combarro marina indefinitely while he waited for new sails that never seemed to materialise. It was thought they were now stuck in a Spanish customs office somewhere. He took it all in good spirit and appeared to pass the time by befriending whoever passed his way. He was heading north having reached southern Spain then decided there was more interest and fun to be had in colder waters.

He regaled us with tales of his misadventures during national service in the Norwegian navy which saw us through several ‘gin y toniques’ and much moreish tapas.

We stumbled home giggling in the darkness and awoke with sore heads to cloudy skies and a force six rattling through our rigging.

But we were keen to get into the next Ria – Arousa – and the Porto do Xufre, for reasons I will soon explain, before taking on Biscay so we swigged some water, shook ourselves down, donned our waterproofs and headed out.

An amazing fact about the Ría de Arousa – the biggest of the Spanish Rías – is that it is responsible for about 50 per cent of the entire world’s mussel production.

And this is evident when sailing because the estuary is heaving with ‘viveiros’ – huge floating rafts from which the mussel ropes hang. These are easy to spot during the day so present little hazard but I would not wish to try and navigate any of the Rías at night.

Second amazing fact about the Ría de Arousa – it was, for a short time, home to three, yes three Oyster 435s. Since there are only 60 or so of these boats dotted all over the globe, to get three sailing in unison in one small Spanish Ría is quite an unlikely achievement.

We were enticed to Xufre by fellow Oyster 435 owner and enthusiast Bob and his wife Maureen, who were living on their boat Modus Vivendi and had made Xufre their home for several months.

Bob, being in touch with another Oyster 435 called Speedwell that was also making its way north back to the UK from Portugal spotted an opportunity. A photo: three Oyster 435s sailing alongside with the Galician countryside as their backdrop. Whether the timings would work, who knew.

Being Irish, Bob lured us there with promises of abundant booze and great craic, and being English we swallowed the bait unhesitatingly, set our sails towards Xufre and allowed him to reel us in… the words ‘the Albariño is waiting…’ ringing in our ears.

Well, Bob and Maureen lived up to every promise. Much G&T, Albariño, Rioja and Port was consumed, stomachs left aching with laughter and heads just left aching. Through the melee we did also manage to swap some invaluable cruising tips.

Happily Pete was able to repay their generosity with the virgin flight of his drone at sea.

Pete’s drone is a ‘no messing about’ drone. It’s a DJI Mavic Pro, if that means anything to you.

Basically, it’s pretty good and thus, pretty expensive. And we hadn’t tested the theory but we were fairly confident it wouldn’t like being dunked in seawater.

The difficulty of flying the drone while sailing – or more precisely, trying to land the drone on a sailing boat – is that the drone wants to be static according to its GPS controls, but you are trying land it on a moving target.

We talked at first about me catching it but I was a little averse to having all my fingers chopped off just before sailing across the Bay of Biscay. Even more importantly, I was damned if I was going to take responsibility for dropping the thing in the sea. I’d have had to make Pete sign a disclaimer accepting blame for any drowned drones ahead of such a plan.

Then when discussing the whereabouts of an old net hammock we used to have on board, Pete alighted on the idea of a drone net.

Bob kindly offered some old green garden netting he had to hand and so, landing strategy in place, off we set.

Airborne the drone captured some beautiful shots and footage of N’Tiana and Modus Vivendi wending their way down an otherwise empty Ria de Arousa, despite an almost total absence of wind which is apparent in the images from our sagging sails.

Three days later, in the nick of time as we were departing that day to cross Biscay, Speedwell* made her stately appearance.

Owners Helen and Andy sailed her across the Ria to meet Modus and ourselves so N’Tiana had a grand escort of two fellow Oyster 435s to see her off on her 400-mile journey to Brittany. And we finally managed to achieve the photo Bob had first dreamt of at least five weeks before: three Oyster 435s under full sail, lit by the sun, cutting through the water alongside one another, surrounded by the deep blue of the Galician ría.

Drone landed safely.

Then a whoop, a wave, a shouted farewell and on we sailed alone.

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*Speedwell’s owners Andy and Helen, who we first met when moored up in Lagos, run a fantastically informative website – oceansail.co.uk – which is well worth a look for anyone wishing to know more about Oyster 435s and pick up helpful sailing tips.

 

Baby onion and mushroom ‘cassoulet’

Hungry?

This dinner was devised in Portugal then created and eaten in Spain. Below is what happened and how to make it should you so desire.

Method

I like it a lot when you see an ingredient and base a meal around that. In this case Local baby white onions from a random corner shop in Seixal (Portugal). They were in a cardboard box, grown round the corner and very muddy, awesome!

I though they would go well with mushrooms in a sort of casserole type thing, time to hunt for some mushrooms… I found some assorted mushrooms in Bayona (Spain).

Oyster mushrooms, check.

These ones with a fat stalk, check.

Unknown ones I have named jellyfish mushrooms as they look like and have the same squishy texture, check.

Also some normal button mushrooms to bulk it out. Check. 

Happen across local ‘raw chorizo’ sausage, bingo! But any sausage will do. 😉 or pancetta to compliment the meaty mushrooms.

Back on the boat find a big pot, preferably nonstick put on high heat and with Olive oil

Chop sausage into large chunks and add to pot. 

Peel onions but keep whole, add to pot.

Allow both to brown for 5min ish stirring quite regularly so they don’t brown, or you can just give the pot a good shake every so often.

Add a knob of butter and the mushrooms along with some mixed herbs (Provençal or Mediterranean mix is good) anything with thyme and oregano. and again allow to brown.

Tip: If your pot is not big enough or your heat not high enough you won’t be able to brown the ingredients and they will just stew. This is not good, especially for the mushrooms. You may wish to fry each ingredient separately in a frying pan before adding to the pot. 

Deglaze with about 1/3 bottle of decent red wine. 

Squeeze in whatever tomato paste you have left, there’s always half a tube at the back of the fridge. A table spoon of Dijon mustard. And a glug of Lee & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce doesn’t go amiss if available but not essential. And some veg stock, cube, powder bouillon anything will do.

At this point you realise you forgot the garlic so roughly chop 4-6 cloves, throw in and say nothing more about it. 

Add enough water to cover everything, bring to the boil, put on a tight fitting lid (important), and turn right down to a gentle simmer. 

Allow to bubble away for at least 30min but preferably an hour. Stir occasionally but be gentle so as not to break up the onions and mushrooms. After you have cooked it for long enough remove the lid and crank up the heat to reduce until you get the consistency of a quite thick strew. I don’t think you need to add anything to thicken it as I think the mustard does quite a good job of this. Don’t forget to stir so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.

A few minutes before you want to serve chuck in a load of spinach because you can’t be bothered to cook separate greens, turn off the heat, stir and put the lid back on. 

Only now season to taste with salt and pepper, stir and put on table. 

What to serve it with? Many things were suggested and boiled or mashed potatoes would work well I think, but in the end we just went for big hunks of bread and butter which was fantastic! And the rest of the bottle of red wine if the chef hasn’t already drunk it!

Yum yum, now we’re not such hungry sailors. Until tomorrow at least!

Ingredients

I never really know the exact amount of ingredients I use so the below is a rough guess. 

The following makes enough to feed two hungry sailors for dinner with enough left over for a small portion each the next day. Like chilli and curry this dish is possibly even better a day later!

20 baby onions
A good handful each of 4 different types of mushrooms
4 big bangers cut into quarters
2-6 cloves of garlic depending on how much you like it
If your using the dried mixed herbs from a jar then about a heaped teaspoon
1/3 bottle red wine
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 glug = 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 veg stock cube or equivalent
Some amount of water
4 handfuls of spinach (optional)

Poem: A Sail

Sailing, Travel

I don’t generally impose my poetry upon the public at large but this little ditty is the best explanation I can offer as to why I love sailing.

It was written for my dad who – although he may not always know it when we are on a boat together – is the person who ignited my love for being on the water.

It seems a good omen to share it the night before we leave the sheltered waters of the Galician Rias and set sail across the notoriously tempestuous Bay of Biscay in the hope Poseiden, or whoever else is in charge, is listening.

We will be three days and three nights at sea, hopefully making landfall somewhere on the coast of south Brittany on Friday.

Hasta luego!

A Sail

Let’s sail away, let’s cast astray

Until the moonshine’s ghostly ray

Steals the shadows from the day

And lights its spell on ocean’s spray.

We’ll know not where, we’ll know not when,

We’ll aim alone for space and fen

And ride the silk breeze with the wren,

Singing to tides’ mystic pen.

We’ll rule the world with sails unfurled

Unto us their secrets hurled,

Then whipped into a thousand pearls

And back to sea’s dark heart encurled.

We’ll grab a rope, we’ll grab a smoke,

We’ll leave behind the rules that choke

And nurse the dreams that life has broke

With fair winds’ whisk and seas that soak.

Cradled in her green embrace,

Her proud waves dance with modest grace

Beneath their veils of bubbling lace

Then leap to kiss us on the face.

We’re free at last to sit and gasp

As ocean’s inky fingers grasp

Our lives, bound tightly to the mast

Swaying strong against the past.

And each fair breeze we try to seize

Lures us with flirtatious ease

To where the gleeful currents wheeze

Ready to extract their fees.

To bear us helpless towards the shore,

So once again we pitch and moor,

And hoist our sea dreams back before

We’re reeled and netted at life’s door.

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Kalima II: The boat where it all started.