HotRIBS - The online RIB Magazine
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Spain - White Lady To La Coruna  Part 1/2
Deep sea adventurer and HotRIBster, Richard Rumney recounts an interesting voyage

It had seemed like a good idea. We would trail my Ribtec 8.15m Yamaha diesel powered RIB from Fort William to Portsmouth, take the P&O ferry to Bilbao, then cruise along the North coast of Spain.

The ferry was booked in January, for July, and arrangements made with the Real Club Maritimo del Abra in Bilbao to use the slipway and to leave the Land Rover and trailer there. My crew on White Lady was to be my good friend John Meilleur who lives in Calgary, Canada. John's experience was limited to a fast waterjet powered river patrol and underwater rescue in Alberta. The due date arrived and the ferry was
  boarded. We joined a tour of the bridge on the second day and it became apparent that one bridge officer was quite hostile towards leisure boat owners. His view was that they should not be at sea!

After berthing in Bilbao at 0730 hrs we were able to clear Customs with only a slight hold up whilst John filled in a form that was then attached to his Canadian passport.

At every harbour we subsequently visited the authorities proved to be very strict. Passports, manufacturers invoice, registration document, insurance
certificate, VHF radio licence, operators licence, engine details and my International Certificate of Competence.

After a journey of about 10 miles around the harbour we arrived at the very welcoming yacht club and launched the boat. Then we completed the first leg of our cruise, 125nm to Gijon, in relative comfort and found an old but well-appointed hotel for the night.

For our Westward passage to Ria de Muros, some 221nm, the forecast of light north-east wind seemed ideal. For the first 85nm the conditions were indeed very pleasant and we made good time. However we soon were running into some much stronger wind and bigger seas. At first this was fun, with the bow just going under as we surfed down the waves, but soon the seas became big, steep, breaking and ugly. Our situation became serious.

(Left) Launching at Real Club Maritimo del Abra with the Club House in the background

(Right) Start of the threatening seas

John asked why I didn't open the throttle so we could climb up the back of the waves. I told him that the throttle was wide open and it was taking all 165hp to stop us sliding back down the waves. Cabo Villano lived up to its name of the "Villainous Cape" The wind was now a steady 40 knots and the seas very large and threatening.

On the back of one wave, John said that there was a boat length from the bow to the breaking crest and looking astern said that there was a boat length from the transom into the hole. I looked and quickly decided that it was a bad idea to look astern!

Going through the breaking crests was a 
  tricky business. Lumps of water the size of a 4m RIB were being picked up by the wind and were overtaking the boat as we eased off the power for a controlled downhill run. There was a definite danger of pitch-poling or, if we crossed a wave at the wrong angle, of rolling.

When on the back of one wave I remember the wave collapse on top of us. We were pinned in our seats and could see water and bubbles above our heads. It seemed a long time but eventually we could see the sky again. The water was still a half metre above the tubes with the engine case covered up to the navigation lights and we had been pushed down into the trough. This was repeated a further four times that
afternoon. Instinctively I had closed the throttle thus reducing the amount of water that would enter the engine case.

The automatic electric bilge pump controlled the situation extremely well although I would have liked an air intake the length of a periscope.

John didn't say much but I sensed he was perhaps not enjoying the ride. I may have upset him a little when I said that this was probably the first time that he had been scuba diving without leaving the boat.

Looking across La Coruna harbour
towards the Real Club Nautico

Drying out after having been submerged five times in 40 kts of wind and 12 metre breaking seas
Our main aim now was to get to La Coruna. Mile after mile and wave after wave we eventually made our course change. The wind and waves were so strong that it was necessary to add 60 degrees onto our course to avoid being swept past La Coruna.

Later, when we were enjoying a few beers in the Yacht Club we learned that all local boats had been restricted to the outer harbour....