Highlights, lowlights, and general observations:

Paul says he has a photo of Kevin’s pants (not sure if they are Danger Mouse or Pac Man) hanging up to dry, so hopefully that will make an appearance in the photo gallery. Kevin said at least it proved he washed them but I maintained he could have just been airing them out.

Paul makes a mean scrambled egg on toast and a very elegant lunch wrap. He also made me the best cup of coffee I have ever had; it came after 12 hours of misery with a migraine and two particularly wet night watches.

Kevin has excelled himself with dinners: we have had fish stew, beef casserole, chicken curry, sausage cassoulet, and chicken and ham pasta (did I mention the smoked ham we bought in Oporto? It’s still going strong). I’m tempted to get a pressure cooker for home.

Still no fish caught yet; Kevin teases Paul about that and Paul thinks the most satisfying part of catching a fish, if he does, is watching Kevin clean and gut it.

When I was able to put these thoughts online, various friends, relatives, and loved ones were given the link. one crew member said, “I’m being stalked now,” so we now jokingly refer to “the stalker”. In a nice way, of course – “Spoken to the stalker lately?”

There have been a few losses and mishaps along the way. I may have mentioned the disappearing fender; we also lost the outboard engine cover. The instruments have been playing up, and now the wind speed gauge has stopped working. The water gauge suddenly read virtually empty, though we haven’t run out of water. Another water mishap was when Paul was watering up in CamariƱa (finally! That coil of hose we lugged out Portugal was used!) and the end fitting fell into the tank.

Much of the actual Bay of Biscay crossing was a blur; you kind of lose all sense of time, so I can’t really say much about it other than it seemed like a very long time. It is very disconcerting, always having to grab something whenever you move. Choppy waves can also make for interesting accidents and spillages: Kevin’s waterproofs provide a pictorial record of what he has cooked for us. And I think the comment, in the fish stew moment when the boat was particularly frisky, was shouted up the companionway, “Pick a tack and stick to it!”

Perhaps the funniest spillage was when (not to shirk my turn at being chef) I was handing up bowls of cereal to the boys on the basis that it would be safer for them to add the milk themselves. There was a clatter and I looked up to see James peering down with the sort of “It wasn’t me!” expression that you normally see on the face of a small child. The bowl of cornflakes had clattered down the companionway and we are still discovering corn flakes in strange places around the boat. At least, as he pointed out, it wasn’t as bad as it would have been if he’d already poured milk in it.

Dolphins on the starboard bow

We are now in English waters and I haven’t been able to write this or post anything for ages so it will be one of those stream of consciousness posts with events in no particular chronological order.

We’ve just spotted land – land ho! Salcombe, to be precise. So we are sneaking up on our destination. We were originally supposed to go straight to the boatyard where Masquerade is having some modifications both essential (holding tanks) and boys’ toys (bow thruster).

But where was I? I am not going to reread or edit so please forgive typos and repetition. ( Don’t forgive bad grammar, though, there’s no excuse for that, and spelling mistakes only if they are typos.)

The sea and winds, though in the right direction when we left Muxia, were higher than expected, so Masquerade was more wind surfing than sailing for quite a while. It was certainly a vast improvement to be running with the wind as opposed to fighting against the wind with the motor on. We were making 5-7 knots rather than 3-4.

I also discovered much later in the journey when I got twitchy about forecasts of gale force winds, that we’d been sailing in gale force winds most of the time.

Before I forget, and I don’t want to sound bitter and twisted, but Kevin and I have mostly experienced rain on our watches, where the other two have been buzzed by a Lear jet and rescued an exotic bird that flew into the cabin.

Still, we were happy with our aerial display put on by half a dozen gannets, and we had many dolphin encounters. It looks as though they are playing chicken with the boat: they swim around the bow, diving under the bow and crossing back and forth. It’s not as though they catch up with us on their way somewhere: they approach from one direction and then head off somewhere else when they have finished playing.

The phosphorescent plankton were also an amazing sight: dozens of little greenish lights in the water around the boat.

It always rains in Muxia

We are now in the Bay of Biscay and, I believe, outside the continental shelf. For the first few hours (8am-noon, Kevin and me on watch) the winds were rather stronger and the waves rather higher than the forecasts had led us to believe but apparently it is all becoming calmer. I was rather white-knuckled for most of the watch, not sure whether to look at the sky (for a while the blue bits were never in the right place), the sea slightly unsettling at times), or the instrument panel, which held a grim fascination until, at one point, when the wind speed read 56.3 knots, I managed to tear my horrified gaze away.

Paul came up at one point (he caught a fish but it escaped during a particularly high swell) and cheerily announced that the panel was reading apparent wind speed so it was really over 60 knots. Chocolate teapot moment big time. Later, Paul and James both came off watch early and all the boys were very comforting and reassuring: the wind us behind us so it’s the most comfortable point of sale, we are making very good progress, and – the voyage mantra – Masquerade is a game old bird and likes it rough.

I’m back on watch soon so thought I would try and get caught up a bit on this.

Yesterday we provisioned up – not, I think, a pleasant experience for Kevin. He had an organized meal plan and proper shopping list and the other three, like naughty children, were chucking into the basket things that hurt the chef’s heart: instant soup, Pot Noodle, that sort of thing.

Just realized I am out of signal range so may not be able to post this for a while.

After the supermarket dash, James and I found a sports shop for extra layers. It’s the right time of year for that – all the warm stuff was on sale. We did confuse the nice lady in the shop when we said we needed to be warm but rejected a lot of the cotton (bad for layering at sea, I’m told) things she proudly produced. She spoke no English and my Spanish is not up to ‘thin layers of material that is manmade and wicks well’. She also seemed a little confused when I was happy with the less attractive, men’s items than the nice ladies’ gear.

Back at Masquerade the decision was taken to wait out a spell of bad weather and leave at daybreak. We thought we might try to go to the monastery – a local attraction – if there was a long enough break in the rain. During the first spell of rain we made it as far as the marina cafe, where our western villain had been replaced by a young lad who was keen to use his English. Unfortunately he used it to tell us it was always cold and rainy in Muxia. Interestingly, he had been playing ‘I Will Survive’ when we walked in and he quickly changed over to the 70s Americana mixtape they’d had on the day before. I guess disco, albeit also 70s, was not appropriate forvour vintage.

Kevin decided to go back to the boat and do the chef food preparation duties and the other three of us dutifully soldiered on. By now the weather was such that we’d given up on the monastery; now it was a case of looking for somewhere for dinner. That required field work in a few other cafes. In one of them an older gentleman who had been in the fishing tackle shop (oh, yeah, forgot we’d gone there; never spent so much time in fishing tackle shops as on this trip) came over trying to give (sell?) us an umbrella (which I am sure had also been in the shop). Maybe he thought it was ours.

The final stop was the restaurant virtually opposite the marina. It had a huge amount of local charm: there was on old boy at the bar with a bottle of red wine. He looked for all the world like a cross between Willie Nelson and Tom from our local village. Captain Pugwash, the boys said. Later on, a gentleman of similar vintage and level of facial hair wandered in – except this one had one. of those knitted hats that look like a tea cosy. In Rastafarian colours. When we left he gave us a beautiful smile and said, “Byee byee.”
The waitress spoke no English but did confirm that there was a set menu for 9 euros and ran through the options, of which I recognized only sardines and octopus.

Could do worse, we decided, and went back to get Kevin. It turned out that, after his bout of food prep he decided to have a little siesta – only to be disturbed by the old boy trying to get him to accept the umbrella.

Dinner was an experience: the waitress was still there but behind the scenes. Our waitress was short, broad, heavily made up, bleached blonde hair in a French plait, and dressed in skin-tight black leggings and top with multi-coloured, ankle cowboy boots. She spoke even less English than our previous waitress but was happy to repeat everything several times. Kevin was afraid we might leave him as a tip. Still for nine euros, it was pretty good value.