Pasu’s Cruise from the Hamble to the Balearics

Nigel Swanston

This log won the Walker Cup for the best cruising log in 2002.



Pasu is a Jeanneau Sun Oddessey 31 owned by the Swanston family. She was bought about 5 years ago in Devon, and has been sailed extensively on the Orwell and Hamble.

We started at Hamble on 10 May and after a trip of almost 2,500 miles left the boat on Menorca in the Balearics, on 13 September. This is the account of our journey.

Hamble to Bilbao 10 – 22 May Distance 683nms. On board – Nigel and James Swanston, Paul Common.
Hamble to L’Aberwrach– 230 nms. Leave on Friday evening at 19.00 hrs and motor all the way in light but extremely chilly conditions, crossing shipping lanes interesting as always. Stay for one night and attempt to get through the Channel de Four but have to turn back to L’Aberwrach as conditions worsened and wind over tide conditions started to build. Very frustrating. Delayed here for a further 3 days by strong south westerlies.

Bottom of Chenal du Four St Matthieu LH

Bottom of Chenal du Four St Matthieu LH

L’Aberwrach to Cameret sur Mer – 35 nms. Almost forced to go outside the Kereon light but just managed to squeeze through the channel before the tide turned. The eddie which flows against the N going stream in the bay at Le Conquet was helpful.

Cameret to Audierne – 40 nms. Easy sail through the feared Raz d’Sein but soon after progress stopped by a strong wind on the nose forcing us to pick up a mooring for an unscheduled overnight stay at Audierne.
Audiern to Belle Isle (Sauzon) – 70 nms. Motored most of the way with occasional use of the genoa, drizzle and overcast conditions prevail, with strong NW wind at entry to Sauzon. Picking up fore and aft mooring buoys in the strong wind proves entertaining.Sauzon to Isle D’Yeu – 50 nms. Easy sail with sunny W 4 -5. Narrow entrance to harbour which would be tricky and dangerous in the wrong conditions.

Favourite watering hole, Sauzon, Belle Isle

Favourite watering hole, Sauzon, Belle Isle

Isle D’Yeu to La Rochelle – 60 nms. Uneventful passage making to the huge 4,000 berth marina, sadly no time to visit historic city.

La Rochelle to Bilbao – 195 nms. After 1 day weather bound set off on a strange weather forecast – SE 2 – 3 variable with SW 30 to 50 knots at times. Headed well of shore in anticipation. Plain sailing until 25 nms N of Spanish coast where a brief but very vicious thunder squall (45 knots + wind speed) finally arrives and propels us into Bilbao in the middle of the night in heavy rain. Luckily Paul is an expert Spanish linguist as no phrase books are carried on board at this time.

We all fly back to UK on GO!

Bilbao to Ribadeo 2 – 13 June Distance 203 nms. On board Nigel and James Swanston.

Bilbao to Santander – 40 nms. Uneventful sail to industrial port of Santander. Arrive in heavy rain yet again. Pleasant and friendly new marina.

Santander to Gijon – 90 nms. Overnight motoring against W to this bustling but pleasant Spanish town.

Gijon to Luarca – 43 nms. Easy sail to arrive in bright sunshine at this busy fishing port where no visiting yachts at all seem to call. NB – GPS position does not match chart at entrance, luckily visibility is OK. Sea urchin with omelette is offered at the local restaurant. Declined.

Luarca to Ribadeo – 29 nms. Increasing wind on the nose means a shortened trip and a forced visit to the picturesque Ria of Ribadeo. Now completely stuck as relentlessly bad NAVTEX forecasts arrive daily. NW 6 to 7 winds trap us until our time sadly runs out. To add insult to injury we have to take a 12 hour overnight coach back to Bilbao airport. End up disliking Ribadeo.

Fly home on GO!

Ribadeo to Lagos 22 June to 6 July Distance 564 nms. On board Nigel Swanston and Tim Cox.

Ribadeo to Sada – 80 nms. Arrived back to be again completely stuck. Gales are forecast in the Finisterre area for the next 3 days. Ribadeo still not popular, a local Spanish boat now needs my berth. On the fourth day decide to move after a slight moderation in NAVTEX weather forecast. Then, after waiting almost a week, we are caught in severe weather conditions in the night and are forced to run for a few hours under bare poles, luckily in the right direction. La Corona looked tricky in the dark under these conditions so we head into the Ria de Betanzos and marina Sada. Arrive in rainstorm.

Sada to Camarinas – 53 nms. Pleasant sail in sunshine and moderate NW. Arrive in time for pleasant supper at the very welcoming Club Nautico. A charming French lady acts as harbour master, cook and barmaid.

Camarinas to Sangenjo – 60 nms. Leave hoping to reach the much recommended marina at Bayonna but we are forced to turn into the Ria de Pontevedra by thick fog. It felt unwise to cross the Ria de Vigo and its shipping lanes and press on. We end up in the pretty Spanish resort town of Sangenjo.

Sangenjo to Leixoes (Porto) – 85nms. Pleasant sunny trip but arrive in darkness to an amazingly busy industrial port, dodge cargo ships under tow by tugs and make our first landfall in Portugal. Walk into town at 11.00 p.m. in oilies to posh restaurant, endure mild disapproval. The water in the marina is disgusting, and the marina staff prefer bribes of beer and cigarettes to help with the lines. A day off is spent in Porto itself, a great old city of faded splendour, the second city of Portugal.

Leixoes to Nazare – 25 nms. Start before light after one forced return due to bad visibility for long journey with big swells (3 to 4 m) and a NW 5 to 6. A fast pace is maintained, but this is a worrying stretch of coast line – in big seas all the ports of refuge close out due to breaking surf over the sand bars. However Nazare is steep to right up to the harbour and claims always to stay open. Arrive in remarkable time aided by southerly moving current. Greeted by Manxman harbourmaster who claims: We are experiencing the coldest ever June weather. Stuck for one day on bad forecast.

Nazare to Cascais – 66 nms. Another fast trip with wind and tide, averaging 6.5 knots, with big swell. Cascais is a beautiful new marina with all mod cons and Cascais is a pleasant satellite town of Lisbon. A day of rest is taken.

Cabo de Sao Vincente

Cabo de Sao Vincente

Cascais to Sines – 50nms. Easy day sail to small town of Sines. Endure serious interrogation by various officials (not uncommon in Portugal – forms are in quadruplicate; customs, immigration, maritime police and port/marina).
Sines to Lagos 75 nms. Long, hot trip mostly with engine on. Pass Cabo de Sao Vincente. Arrive late into a very British influenced holiday resort of Lagos. End of leg.

Fly home from Faro with GO!

Lagos to Ibiza 26 July to 4 August Distance 521 nms On board Nigel Swanston, Ben Handford, Claudia Baxter and Tony Noble.

Lagos to Rota – 120 nms. Arrive in Lagos with new crew. Claudia and Tony were found at the last minute on the Crewseekers website. Overnight to Rota, one of the marinas in the Cadiz area, pleased to have not experienced the “Levanter”. This is an ENE gale that can arrive without warning and last for 2 to 3 days with winds of 40 to 50 knots and an air temperature of 40C. As it happens the temperature in Rota is blisteringly hot.

Rota to Gibraltar – 70 nms. Leave Rota with an E 6 to 7 still blowing out of the Straits of Gibraltar. However NAVTEX assures us that it will abate by the time we arrive. This indeed happens and we have a dramatic sail through, in sight of Spanish warships guarding the disputed Moroccan/Spanish Island. We then thread our way to the “Reporting Station” in darkness, passing dozens of ships at anchor or manoeuvring with menace. Arrive at ” Marina Bay” next to the runway.

Gibraltar is very friendly and inexpensive.

Gibraltar to Fuengirola – 55 nms. Good trip with NW 5 to 6 winds in company with dozens of dolphins for about an hour. Arrive late in this typical British holiday resort. Marina completely full so overnight on fuel dock.

Fuengirola to Garrucha – 145 nms. Long hot overnighter to this pretty Spanish seaside town. Friendly marina.

Garucha to Cartagena – Easy day sail. Try to avoid tunny nets which can extend 7 miles off shore, sometimes uncharted and without lights. Start to see them everywhere (maybe) and avoid even the most insignificant lobster pot by miles. This starts to drive us mad and even now I cannot say whether I actually saw one or not even though the chart claims they are everywhere on this coastline.

Cartagena to Altea – 50 nms. Picturesque trip past Islas Hormigas. Wind astern for whole trip, arrive late at marina and catch 4 hours welcome sleep.

Altea to Ibiza – 80 nms. Leave before dawn. Perfect Mediterranean sailing – good breeze, auto helm, bimini and a few bottles of wine from the fridge. Arrive at Puerto Nuevo at 3a.m. to be told there is no room whatsoever, and that the first available berth is in a month’s time. However too tired to worry unduly, and in spite of helpful advice from the marina to go away, we raft up at the fuel dock. Soon afterwards young crew head for town with older skipper.
The next day, with bad hangover, decide to worry as the family are due to arrive at 11 a.m. However with persistence and good luck we manage to get a berth at the Club Nautico D’Ibiza. This marina cannot be booked at all so we hung around waiting to pounce on a newly vacated berth and after a couple of attempts and lively discussions we got ourselves settled. Ben, Claudia and Tony head home, swapping taxis with Margaret, Deborah and Dan. Boat and family rest up for 14 days. Contrary to all expectations and a bad press, Ibiza town is friendly, relaxed and interesting.

Balearic Islands 19 August to 13 September Distance 270 nms. Deborah leaves, James Swanston rejoins.

Port Söller

Port Söller

Ibiza Town to Puerto D’Andraitx – -60 nms. Motor across to Majorca in calm conditions to the dramatic natural harbour of P D’A, after having spent an uncomfortable night at anchor in Cala San Vincente on the NE coast of Ibiza. The swell unfortunately worked its way in to the bay which was beautiful.
Puerto D’Andraitx to Puerto de Söller – 25 nms. Add an extra anchor chain and set up stern anchor system as we motor towards the picturesque port of Söller. This coastline is by far the most stunning and dramatic of the trip. The thousand foot high cliffs are steep to the whole way. Söller is an almost completely enclosed bay with anchoring only for visiting yachts. Stay 2 nights enjoying natural shower during a severe cloudburst.
Puerto de Soller to Pollensa – 40 nms. Past Cabo Formentor to this bustling British resort. Stay a couple of days. Vicious rainsqualls and fierce winds alternate with the inevitable hot sun during our 2 day stay. Best meal of trip at Spanish restaurant in old Pollensa town (sea bass).

Pollensa to Porto Cristo – 40 nms. Easy sail to this comfortable and user-friendly marina, favoured by British charter skippers.

Porto Cristo to S’Estanyol – 30 nms. Expensive and uninteresting marina.

S’Estanyol to Ibiza Town – 75 nms. We return to Ibiza and its airport via an overnight anchorage in an idyllic bay on the NE coast of Ibiza where we swim ashore for breakfast. Trip pleasant but uneventful. Motored most of the way. Margaret, Dan and James fly home and Geraldine Swanston arrives for a couple of days during which Formentera, the smaller island to the S of Ibiza is explored for a couple of days. Geraldine flies home, Tim Cox returns to crew final leg.

Ibiza to Mahon – 150 nms. This is a very pleasant 150 mile hop, broken by a stop to anchor at the N end of Ibiza in company with friend and sometime islander Liam Sternberg and his 27 foot Benetteau, and also Ratjada on the NE coast of Majorca. Ratjada is a German influenced resort. Mahon is impressive and friendly. After lifting out at Pedro’s boatyard which is efficient and inexpensive (£60 per month hard standing during the winter) I finally return home to England almost 3 months and 2,391 miles after I started.

Pasu will remain here until Spring 2003, then after fitting out etc she will head for Croatia via Sardinia and Sicily.