Western France, Northern Spain - Winter months


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Bill Balme
Bill Balme
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Looks like our cruising plans are changing yet again!

We're in the Azores and looking at heading to Scotland for the remainder of the summer. Question is where to over-winter - and bearing in mind that we are full time live-aboards. We're looking into western France and Northern Spain...
[ul][li]Is it normal to continue cruising through the winter months in these locations? (We'd like to move around from place to place if possible - rather than over-winter in one location.) We'd plan to stay in each location for 4 - 6 weeks, so have the ability to wait out bad weather.[/li][li]Are there specific harbours that would be recommended for live-aboard cruisers?[/li][/ul]
Appreciate any thoughts you might share.


Cheers!

Bill Balme
s/v Toodle-oo!

Dick
Dick
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Hi Bill,
Atlantic France, the Spanish Rias, and the Portuguese coast are not regular cruising grounds in the winter, and many of the entrances are closed and or dangerous an uncomfortable percentage of the time. Getting caught out is always a real possibility. In fact, even in the Med, most cruisers hole up for the winter and choose not to move around. The same can be said for Northern European cruisers: most hole up in some good location. We spent 3 years at St. Katherine Docks and relished every moment. When we left the boat in Lerwick, The Shetland Islands, for the winter, we went back to the US: too cold, windy and not enough sun for us: great place and people though.
It is in Northern Europe where an enterprising boat might cruise during the winter. Northern Europe is largely protected from the winter Atlantic swells, although moving means dealing with cold damp weather. All that said, we got better and better with cold weather sailing over our years in Northern Europe, so much so that we returned to N America via Iceland and Greenland and are now in Newfoundland where it remains impressively chilly. The English Channel is only an overnight and weather windows for an easy-ish passage from the UK to the Netherlands do come up regularly all winter. We crossed from the River Orwell to Cuxhaven, Germany in a sleety April. Also we would regularly spend the last month or 6 weeks (mid-Sept till Nov.) of our season cruising the Netherlands having a great time protected from the storms that certainly were raging regularly in the N Sea. And then leave for the UK when a good weather window came up.
I would consider the Netherlands for all or part of of a winter. Six-Haven in Amsterdam could provide a home base and it usually has a cruising community: it is nice to have company. From there, most of the Netherlands is protected water, mast up, and, we found, an utter delight (and it is impressively large and most speak English. Each town was as interesting, or more so, than the last. With under 6 feet draft you can consider getting into Germany (thinner water sometimes in the canals to the east) and with a good weather period the outer islands (Erskine Childers “Riddle of the Sands” territory) would be quite workable, again in protected water. Belgium borders on the S and can be got to on the canals. You could start with a month in the UK, say Ipswich or London. The River Orwell (Ipswich) has excellent marine facilities (Suffolk Yacht Harbour for one). While London has… well: London. What’s to say. And then cross to the Netherlands. Lots of possibilities.
Enough for now. Come back with questions. If I think of further ideas, I will post.
Exciting plans. We miss Europe.
Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
GO

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