I'm now in Spain, have been for a few days, but haven't got far. In my imaginings - often an unreliable source - the Aquitaine coastline of France - that's the long straight bit heading south - was going to be particularly difficult to get past. But the weather was more favourable than I could have hoped for, help came my way from wonderful contacts, and additional humbling kindness arrived spontaneously. Good fortune smiled on me, the fog cleared, and I made hay while the sun shone all the way to the border.
There are now ports and harbours to head for. The gaps between landings are not so great. Sure, there are no landing options in between, but in theory this is a less complicated coastline to sail. That, at least, was my imagining for this stretch. An expectation that may have downplayed the complexities to be faced.
The additional difficulty now is mountainous terrain (first since Norway!). Wind out of the south has to pass over the high land. If the breeze is light that means there isn't really any - at least not until a few kilometres out to sea, and getting that far out is a problem, and getting back to land after is a bigger one still... Wind out the north produces a dog's dinner of a sea, rebounding off the cliffs; out the west leaves makes the going slow and lumpy. Easterlies? I guess they would be welcome (though probably rare, and probably light).
Combine unhelpful winds with the inevitable and significant swell that pumps into this corner of Biscay and the result is a big headache (and a touch of seasickness). Without the swell the paddle would be an option. With the chopped-up, rebounding swell, and the difficulty of keeping the sail balanced on the back of the board... Well, I gave that a go today and let's just say it didn't deliver reliable progress.
It's a tricky corner.
When I look back at this stretch I'll be glad for the extra days here. Itziar and Iñaki (José Marí, Marga, Julen and Mari) have fed, ferried and encouraged me with regularity; taken me to the hills, to San Sebastián (Donostia), Zarautz and beyond; and introduced me to one of their (the village of Usurbil's) local frontons and the game of pala (that mixes tennis, squash, and a lump of wood as bat/raquet). All of this has been great. I didn't mean to risk outstaying my welcome here, but am happy to have finally made a visit to friends I've known a long time.
And easier days will come.
As my navigational reference - John (aka Q - barrel carrier designer) - pointed out the other day: any progress on the coast at this time of year is a bonus. Looked at that way there's no big problem in a few days or even weeks in the same spot. Once spring comes, thermal breezes happen, day length starts to pull out again - progress should start to get easier. In the meantime small chunks every now and then are fine. Keep nibbling away. Every mile counts and only has to be sailed once.
Tomorrow who knows. Wind looks unlikely. I may try paddling with the sail de-rigged.