Chilling behind the wheels of a plough, that is what we needed across Biscay, not sweating behind the rake, which is what the crossing felt like to start with, we were raking up them old salty graves alright. This trip, for the short time we have been travelling, it has brought back that sobering smack of reality, like a cold sea bass to face. Everything heavy fell to the seabed, those wind blown nights of yesterday all lay buried beneath the sand. Star studded pictures remained, romantic projections of a distant wilderness. See cruising for me is like panning for gold, you sift through that ocean of hours to hand pick the minutes, you bottle them up, add a splash of red, dine out on them for years to come.
Once we fought past the last of those crafty French tides, once France had dropped off the edge of our world, we were free to settle into the crossing, The trouble began with that word ‘settle,’ I just couldn’t do it, my mind was always ticking, always awake, tense, irritable, ill at ease. Our self steerer had much the same vibe, it wouldn’t settle either, she just couldn’t keep straight for love or money, spilling us back into the breeze, or endlessly trying to gibe the boat. Under the direction of our wind vane we would have slid across Biscay like Bambie on ice. The only option was eyes on the compass, hands on the wheel, it sucked us in like a giant octopus, hungry for hours, 10 at a time gobbled up in a mouthful, so bottomless the belly, so torturous the melody, dark, cold, sleepless. There was times I wondered what we were doing out there, me and my bride of three weeks, ‘ we should be on a beach or in the bedroom, this is bullshit,’ I thought to myself. Midway through the second day our fuller turned into a bird’s nest, Little Coconut was parked up, heaved to, I was out on the bow spirit trying to bring the whole show down, our gib was flapping violently, shaking the rigging, I looked back at Miranda, she was holding the wheel into the wind, frightened stiff, brought into the clutches of an unforgiving place by her barking mad fella, it was hard to see her like that, a hard pill to swallow. She was a real trooper, up when I needed her help, fighting sea sickness, adjusting to the the rolls and pitches of a boat on the move. I’d forgotten just how hard the sea can push you, how unforgiving it is when you make a mistake, tuning them strings takes patience, it takes time on the water.
By the end of day three, there it was, Spain!!!! rising from the blue, Spanish hills, faint, far away, but unmistakably land. The sun was shining, we had found a rhythm, it took a few days but there was a beat behind our feet. I had sorted the fuller, Miranda was on the wheel allot of the time, I was cooking good food, cutting onions, cracking pepper, opening cans, the gas burner was swinging, we were moving like we should have all along, after dinner we washed, soaked a sponge in fresh water, wiped away the cobwebs and the salt. In our approach to land we found that memory, even now it rises so high above everything else, it came straight off those Spanish hills, a rich scent, the smell of land, it was alive, fresh eucalyptus, like I’ve never smelt before, light at the end of the tunnel, it welcomed us in like an old friend, our first leg finished, Little Coconut and crew safely in Spain.