We left Rochefort at 6am with Northwesterly winds to carry us all the way down to the Basque country, destination: St Jean de Luz. I really wanted to see it again, having been completely charmed by the region nearly 30 years ago.
On almost a single tack, we made it, with Peter up on deck all night, alternatively barring and using the auto pilot. We barely crossed another boat. We sailed past Biscarosse, Cap Breton, Biarritz, and 36 hours later, we made a very slow approach to the Bay of St Jean de Luz, protected by several sea walls from the large Bay of Biscayne, known for its turbulent swells, thermal winds and choppy waves. From somewhere around Cap Breton, Peter spotted mountain peaks in the distance, and they guided us in.
What a sight! The mountains in the Basque country rise from the sea in shades of emerald green and grays, punctuated by the red rooftops of homes and buildings. When we made it through the seawall, we found a visitor’s buoy and tied ourselves up for a good rest. 36 hours non-stop sailing is no mean feat!
Today we got out the dinghy and motored into the inner harbor. It turns out that we were actually at the port office of the small town of Cibourne, which shares the bay with St Jean de Luz and Socoa. Charming streets, restaurants, butcher and baker.
Our first day in the bay was lovely, and we’d planned to go to the Yacht Club in Socoa for supper. That sounds chic, eh? Well, we git dressed up and hopped in the dinghy, only to find that the @!$$$%@&!! Yamaha motor that we left out in a storm in the Scillies was on the blink again. Peter has taken it apart countless times, and we keep thinking it’s fixed. But then…
So, supper on the boat and we fell into bed just in time for that boat to start rockin! What ensued was perhaps the worst night I remember on Opsi in terms of torturous boat movements caused by tide and swell at the most painful angle possible. This, I believe, is what the Bay of Biscayne is known for, the wild ride!!!
The next day, we moved in to the port, desperately seeking sleep. We’ve had a lot of churning, sleepless nights so far this summer, and they do take their toll. Cibourne has a lovely little port, maybe 10 visitor slips, nice sanitary block, and above all, a very warm welcome. Since we arrived in the bay, we’ve received the kindest of service and information from Arthur, a young harbor master who has been extremely helpful.
On our third night, we went out for tapas in Cibourne at Ataliai, a cute and obviously authentic local bar in a small street near the church. We sat at a high table, outdoor in an alley covered in vines. I loved it. For 12€, we shared 6 different tapas, all beautifully made and presented, and called it supper. Same plan for tonight. Tortilla, toasts, sausage feuilletes. I have a feeling that tapas are going to be our go-to dinner for the next few weeks. Considering the level of gastronomy we enjoy on board, 12€ for supper is not a bad deal!
After that, we rowed across to St Jean de Luz, which I found unbelievably hip and hipster. Peter found it crowded and noisy. It is July, though, and in summer, the place really comes alive.
At night, on the St. JEAN DE Luz side of the inner harbor, the fishing boats start getting ready. From our berth in Ciboure, which hosts the leisure craft docks, we can see thror comings and goings.
The SNSM also has a unit here, with the Pierre Loti IV at the ready. We saw them go out this afternoon, so we know the area is well-guarded.