Around the Atlantic, Atlantic Coast of Portugal
At around 09:00 UTC we crossed the border with Portugal and changed the courtesy flag. We were welcomed by 15 kts of wind and a pack of dolphins that came playing at our bow. We had all sails out including the stay sail and doing 8 kts over ground.
Crossing the border also meant we had to change our watch. Portugal is an hour behind Spain. It then struck me how much my life had changed since we had left. Time was of no importance anymore. It really didn’t matter what time it was and actually it didn’t matter what day it was too! I remembered telling someone leaving Brighton that we weren’t coming back again. He too was a sailor and obviously a bit jealous, but the realization that I was leaving Brighton now and not to come back was striking. Whenever I set sail before, I always knew that I had to return at some point rather soon. Eventually we’d be back but that would be sometime next year. To me, time and days was of no importance any more, had lost all meaning. That gave me an indescribable feeling of freedom. I really did step into another world and it changed my life.
Soon after we crossed the border the wind dropped to 3 kts and we motor sailed for a while. Then the wind picked up a bit but from the East. It was a broad to beam reach so we set the gennaker. By the time we had it set, the wind had backed to North-West so we set it on the pole. That didn’t last too long either…. and we were back to motor sailing. Sometime later we could sail again with the spinnaker this time. This time the wind stayed steady for about the rest of the afternoon and we really enjoyed the sail. After some 70 or so Nm we arrived in Leixoes and moored up, finding the office to be closed till next morning.
Leixoes: birthday in Porto
We arrived in Leixoes oct. 10th early evening. The marina in Leixoes is where you’d go if you want to visit Porto. Porto itself has no really facilities for yachts and the current in the river Douro is very tricky. We waited till midnight to have drink to celebrate my birthday. Next morning when I got back from a shower Monique had decorated the boat. That was really nice although it took a hint from Rutger for me to notice it 😮 We left after breakfast and took the bus to Porto. The half hour trip was sort of a site seeing ride. It was a beautiful day and warm too. Walking in Porto means going up and down narrow and very steep streets and we had to walk in the shade because of the heat. Porto is really worth while visiting and with Monique being our on shore navigator we got to see almost all the places that were in the book! We had lunch at the banks of the river Douro that runs through Porto and went on with our tour, crossing the old bridge to the South side. Of course we there visited one of the port cellars ! We went to the oldest one which happened to be founded by an Englishman in 1790, called Sandeman.
Next English spoken tour however was not until tomorrow, so we did the first one that was on and that was in French. None of us speaks French so apart from the few words we could pick up we were clueless about the story the guide so happily told us. Nonetheless it was nice and for sure worthwhile to be there and see all the huge barrels full with port. Some of those are itself ancient. All the guides were of course dressed with the Zorro cape and sombrero so we had about a dozen Sandemans running around. The tour included a small tasting session of course. I had only once before drunk port and I didn’t like it too much, too sweet to my taste. This port however was much better! Because of the heat we took a break several times to chill and enjoy the scenery. The ebb tide runs at an amazingly strength. In the pilot book it said that with heavy rainfall it can get up to 8 kts. We had no rain but it was close to spring tide and that you could see!
Anyway after having tapas we went for a restaurant for dinner. My desert was served with candles on it which was a nice surprise and Monique had bought me a nice present ..a Sandeman cap. We took a taxi back to the marina. I must say that all Porto is not expensive at all. The cab ride was only € 13 and dinner for 4 including wine and desert € 70 and a bit. We had a little sip of port when we got back to end a really wonderful day, and a very special birthday!
We left Leixoes next day in the afternoon heading for Ilha da Berlenga about 115 nm SSW. Ilha da Berlenga is a group of 3 [very] small islands which according to the pilot book were worthwhile visiting. The trip was okay but we had to motor a lot. Twice the wind picked up enough to set sail. We even hoisted the spinnaker but that didn’t last long as the wind died again. For downwind sailing we need at least 10 kts.
Ilha da Berlenga
We arrived next day in the afternoon and dropped the hook. It was indeed worthwhile! The ‘main’ island has a lighthouse and is inhabited by a handful of people. The islands are a national park/bird sanctuary with trails for walking. Also there is an old monastery which seemed still in use according to the lights that were on at night. We launched the dinghy, went over to a small beach and walked around for a bit. We didn’t see that many birds but for the rest the view was great. Rutger walked over to the monastery were Monique and I picked him up with the dinghy later. We did a short tour around the cliffs in the dinghy and went into a cave that was in fact a tunnel. The steering was a bit special because of the funny waves and eddies but we managed to avoid the rocks and the walls.
We had a very nice barbeque that night and stayed for the night. The wind had picked up a bit, so we hoped that we could have a nice sail to Lisboa the next day. Actually, we’ll be heading for the marina in Oeiras at the entrance of the Rio Tejo. From there it´ll take about 40 minutes by train to get to the center of Lisboa. According to the pilot, the marinas more upstream are very crowded and don´t have any berths for visiting yachts. Only in high season there might be some open spots from boats that are away. Cascais is the marina where most passing yachts go to, but that is a pretty long ride to Lisboa, and also very expensive.
When we left the beautiful anchorage at Ilha da Berlenga, the wind had died again so we were back to motorsailing, hoping the wind would pick up later. However, since we left Scheveningen, we have had no rain, apart from a few lost drops, only sunshine and starry nights and that´s really nice, too!
First fish caught
Early afternoon we finally got some luck in fishing. We’d been fishing almost all the legs but so far caught none. The reel suddenly started rattling like crazy and then it stopped again. There wasn’t lot of tension on the line but Rutger wanted to check it anyway. When he hauled it in there was obviously something on the hook but it seemed not a fish, there was no resistance at all. But, it was a real fish. We got it in and killed it with a single smack on the head. It looked like a mackerel but when we checked the book later it looked more like a bonito. Anyway, while I was cleaning the fish, Rutger had set the line again and by the time I was finished he got another one, and another one. I cleaned them all and put away the rod. Three was more than enough. The biggest one was about 50 cm and the other 2 only slightly smaller After we got in the marina at around later that afternoon we had a great catch of the day dinner.
We moored in the marina in Oeiras, about 10 Nm west of Lisboa just at the entrance of the Tejo river. Next day Monique, Rutger and I went into the city of Lisboa. Andy decided to stay on the boat, working for a bit. It took us about 40 min by train to get there and again it was a nice ride. Guided by Monique, our onshore navigator and a little help from the lonely planet, we did a magnificent tour that took about whole afternoon. Monique had read something about tram 28 we had to take as a starting point and that was an experience. The trams look a bit like the ones in San Francisco but then smaller. It sometimes drove so close to the buildings you definitely could not lean out of the window!! The tour we did took us to all the beautiful places. At a flea market, described as the theft market in the lonely planet.
Of course we wanted to have dinner in a fado restaurant. We had walked by a few and went back later. We obviously had no reservations and the first 2 were fully booked. We were advised to try at Pedro street and there we found this tiny restaurant that had put out all its tables on the little square and there was this woman singing fantastic!! It turned out to be a group of 4 singers and two guitarists that played very good. They were singing right in front of our table. Monique instantly fell in love with one of the men. We ended up staying the whole night, missing our train back but whatever. Taxi’s aren’t that expensive at all and we had a really great night.
Back at the boat we sat with Andy for a while and after a few more drinks we went to bed. Tomorrow we’ll sail for a bit to an anchorage off the Praia Vasco da Gama near Sines, about 30 nm South, where we’ll barbeque the rest of the fish. We left Oeiras oct. 16th, heading for the supposedly the most beautiful bay of Portugal some 30 nm South. We had a nice trip to Arrabida. Getting in though was a bit tricky as we had to avoid the Baixo do Alpertuche, a drying sandbank, that could have moved or grown over time. Because we hadn’t had much wind we arrived in the dark so the directions from the pilot were a bit hard to follow. Rutger managed very well to set out the course on the plotter and with a close eye on the depth meter, we got to the exact right spot to anchor.
Next morning at sunrise it was indeed a very beautiful anchorage! Just when Monique wanted to go for a swim, the maritime police came by, telling us that we were anchoring in a national park which was not allowed. They were very polite and I chose not to explain that our pilot book said otherwise. Since it already was late morning, we left the bay after Monique had a little swim around the boat heading to Praia Vasco da Gama just near the town called Sines. At some point we had no wind at all. Best time to get up the mast to check the jammed top swivel of the genoa furling. It turned out to be broken. I cut the line from the genoa to the swivel so we can use the genoa but we have to hoist it like in the old times. hopefully I can replace the broken part in Lagos, otherwise I’ll have it fixed in Las Palmas. In the mean time we can always use the staysail if we have to reef.
Praia Vasco da Gama
At Praia Vasco da Gama we anchored and had a real nice evening and a nice barbeque. Next morning we left, heading for an anchorage at Arrifana. The wind had picked up we hoisted the spinnaker. Also the swell picked up and by the time we entered the bay, the swell was what the pilot book said what it usually is … making this bay the place to be for surfers! The boat was swinging like a roller coaster but the waves were spectacular!! Rutger regretted very much not to have taken his surfboard with him. I for sure didn’t want to stay here for the night, the anchor alarm kept going off and the rocks looked scarry. So we decided to move on after dinner and head to Lagos.
When I came on watch around midnight, we had just passed Cabo de Sao Vincente. Actually we were just south of Sagres with a nice and sheltered bay where we could anchor. It would be nice to get to Lagos in daylight, so we headed North and dropped the hook for the rest of the night. After a nice swim we left for Lagos, with… 15 kts of wind. Unfortunately the wind died again after an hour or so. Anyway, Rutger went back to fishing again and caught a beautiful fish. It looked like a tropical fish and we could not find it in the book. Later we were told it was a dolphin fish.
We arrived at Lagos next day afternoon The plan was to stay there for a couple of nights. When I checked in at the marina, I asked if they would know someone to look at my furling system. They gave me the number of Antonio. He was in fact working on a boat on the next pontoon and came over to have a look. He went up the mast and when he came down again, it was fixed. He told me to use the uphaul as a genoa halyard because of the better angle and that was it.
When we were moored, our neighbours told us there was a big storm forecasted with massive rain for coming Sunday. A very deep low at the Azores was heading due East, which is a bit out of the ordinary. They’re supposed to go North-East. Anyway, I downloaded the gribfiles at Ugrib and Zygrib and they were consistent with the forecast. So we decided not to stay in Lagos but leave the next day. That would give us time enough to go South and West to Madeira and avoid this bad weather. So unfortunately we won’t get to see much of Lagos … It looks like a very nice place. Anyway we had a very nice dinner in the old center. It was Monique’s last night. She’s flying home from Faro.