October 03, 2012


I didn't actually realize that our first passage needed to be across an infamously dangerous bay until probably mid-summer. Up until that point I pictured and spoke of us leisurely sailing day hops down the coast of France, Spain and Portugal. Then I was reading a book this summer about Dee Caffari, the first women to sail non-stop solo around the world "the wrong way" and she mentioned in the book that her first crossing was the very dangerous Bay of Biscay. I stopped reading for a moment and thought to myself….hmmm…that sounds familiar. I looked it up and sure enough she started from the same town and marina that our boat was in and crossed the same bay that we needed to cross!! I think at that point I googled “infamous Bay of Biscay” and basically got terrified. I had a picture in my mind of us day hopping in the glorious warm sun and blue sky and building back up our sailing skills. Now as I googled I realized that our first sail needed to be over 300 nautical miles (approx 3 days) and that September is fall weather in France and variable and the Bay of Biscay could be really bad! Eye opening moment. Of course I asked Captain Graham…."What the heck?"….were you keeping all this a secret? He laughed and said, "geesh Julie, all you had to do was a bit of research!" ….gulp…he was right.

My tactic was easy though I decided to just not discuss it or think about it and just focus on my tasks at hand. Basically compartmentalize…pack house, move, join kids in Alberta, attend sister’s wedding, travel to boat, set up, tour Paris, provision boat…….UH OH…..time to think about it!

I am not sure what to write to help you all realize what a leap it is for me to overcome my anxieties and GO. Casting off the lines and leaving the dock and heading off to sea this time took something I was hoping that I had in me and I guess I did :-). I keep reflecting on leaving the first time we got on Artemo and think to myself how totally new to sailing and everything we were and we just left. I think it was harder now knowing everything that could go wrong. Needless to say as nerve racking as it was it felt exhilarating to be waving goodbye to France and looking forward to our next port and adventures at sea.

The passage was harder than I had hoped. We were lucky to have really mild weather but the waves were quite large and wind and wave were coming from behind making the boat toss back and forth. All of us except for Amelia got sea sick. For Graham and I this just means we can't spend any length of time down below and when we do we need to come up on deck and lay flat for a bit. For Alex it is "true" sea sickness, I felt bad for him but was happy to see that all of our sea sickness began to subside a few hours before our arrival, so at least I know that on longer passages we will prevail!

Amelia was a godsend. Making tea, making food, putting a cold cloth on my head, singing, even dancing, taking watches with Alex and basically lifting our spirits. She was really awesome crew.

When you are out at sea you truly realize that you are self-reliant. It is a bit overwhelming that there is no one to solve your problems except just us. On the first night out at about 2am I was on watch and we were motoring since there was no wind. I could see a boat many miles ahead of us on the same path coming towards us but moving very slowly. I could see that we weren't on a collision course but it still makes me nervous to pass within a close vicinity to another vessel. As we got closer I woke up Graham and asked if he would mind coming up on deck with me as we were within a couple miles of the boat. As we passed the boat he kept flashing his spotlight which we have never seen a boat do. Unfortunately just after we passed Salty Ginger started to rumble. Graham had that look on his face that scares me and immediately put the boat in neutral. We just sat silent for a moment….."What was that?"….We had been running the engine just below its max capacity to break it in as per the manual and we had also just passed that boat. It didn't take us long to guess or wonder if we had just run over a fishing net and perhaps it was stuck in the propeller. Graham eased back up the throttle and the boat vibrated and rumbled terribly. Quickly back to neutral. Then the discussion of what now begins.

We had waited for weather window where there was very light or no wind, so at this point sailing wasn't an option and according to our weather files wouldn't be an option until about 10am and would only be for a 24 hour period. We were almost a third of the way there but with no engine….the only option was turn around and wait for wind and sail back. You cannot imagine how awful this felt. At this point I am thinking in my head, "Why did we leave on a Friday!" I should have known better. Amelia woke up when the boat began vibrating and was sitting in the cockpit listening and worried. Whenever I feel scared my legs shake uncontrollably, so strange. Like my tears I can't seem to control it. I was worried about sailing back, no engine, trying to get back into port. I wanted to be brave for Amelia though. Then I had this thought…we watch this TV show about Japanese whalers called "Whale Wars" and on the show the Sea Shepherds always try to foul the Japanese boats propellers and every time they succeed the Japanese are eventually able to free the line from their prop…..so I say to Graham…."I am no mechanic but could we try just going forward and reverse at different speeds and try to work it free??" He says it is worth a shot and eventually after a lot of back and forth we are able to at least go forward without vibration!!!! Oh the joy I felt. We solved our problem.

Aside from this event the rest of the trip was pretty uneventful albeit FREEZING COLD. Yesterday a diver came to our boat and looked at the propeller and came up with a huge mass of heavy fishing net. I cannot believe we managed to still motor as much as we did. Our guardian angel is looking out for us. We are going to go out in the next couple of days and test everything out and make sure there is no permanent damage. A bit of an eye opener that even with a new boat you are going to have problems!

I have to say though it was so nice to arrive and to have a nice warm shower on board and a dry comfy bed to sleep in and a huge fridge and freezer full of goodies to choose from. I am enjoying all the benefits a new boat has to offer and today as I worked to clean the cockpit and was washing up my cup holder….I couldn't help but laugh remembering how much I use to hate watching other cruisers shining up their glossy boats as we dealt with bigger issues :-). This is my time baby!

Ps…I have been posting pictures the past few days and will be putting a few more up. Yesterday we put the name/logo on Salty Ginger and it looks so good…hope to have this pic up soon!


  1. This blogg sounded a bit terrifying. So glad that the crossing of the bay is over and that you didn't have to turn back. Sounds like Millie was your guardian angel looking after you all liked that. I know I would have gotten sick for sure.
    Glad to hear your enjoying the comforts of a new boat especially that hot shower.

  2. You made it!
    Glad you made it across and have some time to see Spain and enjoy the comforts of the new boat.

  3. So Glad that everything was OK and that you are all safe and sound. It sounds so scary to me....
    Enjoy Spain and keep in touch