This was my dad's first letter to Mum. As you will realise from the next post which is my version of some of the events, what really happened to us was a lot more scary, exciting and in retrospect, very funny, but of course, we didn't want to worry my mum by telling her the real truth!
Bristol to Vigo British Yacht “Stella Mira”
Real Club Nautico.
We arrived in Vigo yesterday. I had better start at the beginning. When we left you at Bristol we went to Avonmouth on the motor and then put up the sails. By mid afternoon we were off Lynmouth. The self steering gear was worse than useless and in fact made the boat very difficult to steer. About this time it started to blow up and was obviously going to get worse, so we decided to make for Ilfracombe.
We got in there about 6.30pm and by this time we were very tired. We then had gale warnings for the Lundy area for the next two days so we were stuck where we were, leaning against the quay wall, drying out at low tide. We had been identified, and were subject of much attention from both locals and visitors. We could lie in our bunks and hear people on the wall above discussing our courage or foolhardiness according to their point of view.
Incidentally, the anti fouling on bottom of the boat was perfect. Only the waterline was smeared with Bristol filth.
When we saw the self steering gear out of the water, it was obvious why it wouldn’t work. The tab rudder was about 6 inches from the main rudder and was far too thick and clumsy. We will try to right this when we get to some place with facilities. We are sailing with the blade lashed to the deck and have connected the blade directly to the tiller as in the phase 1 diagram. Even this will only steer the boat in about force 3 winds and only with the wind forward of the beam. So far, in over 500 miles of sailing, we have had to steer manually except for 4 short periods. We find this very tiring. Perhaps if this letter reaches you in time, you can ring up Tillerman and tell them what I think of their gear! In my opinion, the wind vane should have more area and the linkage should be more positive.
Anyway, back to Ilfracombe, on the Monday evening we had a good forecast and left at 6.30pm. Not much wind, so we motored for several hours. Morning found us becalmed, out of sight of land, somewhere S W of Hartland point. We then had about 5 or 6 days of variable winds, mostly about force 1, and estimated that we were making only about 20 or 30 miles a day southward. Most of the time we were not traveling fast enough for the log to register. We then had a couple of day’s reasonable sailing and then 27 hours hove to in bad weather.
When we got going we soon reached the Spanish coast east of Finisterre which we made for and rounded in winds building up to force 6 or 7. Reefed right down we tried to get into the harbour of Corcubion but making no progress against the wind, we ran S W away from the coast until we thought we were far enough from shore and then took down the rest of the sail and went to a rocking and rolling sleep. By this time it was about 1 am.
In the morning the wind had dropped to force 1, so we made slowly for land. We finally got into Vigo at about 3 am, by following a fishing boat through the surrounding obstacles. In the dark we could not find the Real Club Nautico so we tied up to a buoy and went to sleep (3 hrs only). When the alarm went at 6.30 I looked out, but no sign of life. About 8 am a chap in a rowing boat went by and I called out “Real Club Nautico”, he pointed down the harbour, so we started the motor and in about 30 minutes we had tied up against a motor cruiser in a small harbour.
After a wash and tidy up we went to look for someone in authority and eventually landed in the office of the club secretary who offered us the full hospitality of the club, showed us round and detailed his secretary to take Penny to the launderette at 4 pm. By 11 am we had showered and were swimming in the club indoor swimming pool (lovely). We are now shopping and waiting to water and refuel but are having trouble getting Spaniards to understand honest English!
We hope to leave here tomorrow, but it seems doubtful if we can reach Las Palmas in time to meet you, Penny has written to the Consul there to keep our mail, so if you can leave a letter there we will collect it. I hope you have got used to our absence by now and are enjoying your stay with Len and Vera.
I expect when you get this you will be dashing around ready to embark. I wish you could have come with us, the good things more than make up for the bad ones.
Well that’s all for now. Give my regards to everyone.
P.S Penny has just got back from shopping. The secretary lent her his girl again for three hours, to interpret for her. Judging by the prices the cost of living is much cheaper here than at home. I could have bought those shoes here for half the price. We have just bought fruit and greengrocery which would have sold for about ₤2-10shillings at home for 21 shillings. Chocolate is 10 ½ d a large bar.