|The world's oldest transporter bridge, Getxo near Bilbao|
|Still transporting, after all these years|
We left Astillero reluctantly to be near the exit for departure when the weather suited and passed one more rolly night at the Santander anchorage before tucking into a tight but well sheltered spot behind a giant sandy spit. We thought we might spend a few days there, but the tides were large and the spot was so tight we ended up briefly aground at low water. Not really a problem in itself, but we were very near a steep ledge and I was slightly concerned lest the rudder end up on the ledge on the next tide and be damaged.
So, it was snap decision time again and we had an excellent, really excellent, sail to Bilbao. We looked in at Castro Urdiales on the way, as folk had recommended it and it's meant to have an interesting Templar castle, but it was very lumpy outside and we could see the masts of the boats inside waving wildly around, so we pressed on. 40+ miles in 7 hours on a lunchtime departure is a good day!
Biscay turns out to be a real sunfish hotspot. We've seen them on pretty much every passage since Ribadeo and even spotted them leaping right out of the water. They don't look like a jumping sort of fish, so we don't understand how they manage it.
|Guggenheim: nice building, pity about the entry price|
|Bilbao's Santander station|
The anchorage, indeed the harbour, of Bilbao is miles away from the city, but the superb metro system makes it very easy to get around. The suburbs surrounding the harbour are also quite wealthy (only place we've ever seen moving pedestrian walkways outside about town) and pleasant. They boast the world's oldest transporter bridge, which is the only way across the river for miles around and only €0.35 for pedestrians.
Bilbao, we decided, would be our last stop in Spain as the difficulty of getting a sailing breeze for Bordeaux only increases as the inside corner is reached and the distance to sail doesn't diminish further. It's challenging nevertheless, since westerly winds are generally accompanied by big seas that make the entrance to the Gironde impossible. Ideally, we wanted wind straight northerly, easterly or south of east but what prevails, and what we got, was northeasterly.
We made an evening departure, hoping for a two-night one-day passage, reaching the Gironde early on the second day. Contrary winds stretched the passage out to a full two days, but quite enjoyable.
It was lumpy for the first day, but the weather was fair and the nights warm and starry. It was good to be offshore again, for the first time since reaching Bayona 4 months ago. Quite a few sailors we've met in these parts have remarked on the absence of dolphins, but we've found that it's only the case in coastal waters. They, and not incidentally the fishing fleet, concentrate around the continental shelf.
|An uncharacteristically quiescent Biscay|
|Still still at sunset|
|France ho! Landfall at Gironde. Not much land evident.|
When the fog finally lifted, there was only two hours remaining on the flood, so we shaped our course for the small port of Meschers, accessible to vessels up to 9 m at high water +/-2.5 hours.
|The caves of Regulus, at Meschers|
|Mais oui! C'est la France, dahling!|