Vasco da Gama
Viana do Castelo – Porto – 18/07/15
I know you’re thinking ‘why is this section called Vasco da Gama?’ well you may know lots of stuff about Portugal but unfortunately I don’t. I could hardly call this section ‘Port’ or ‘Ronaldo’ now could I? Besides Vasco da Gama was a very famous Portuguese sailor and explorer and one of the few names I remember from my history lessons in Kingsdale School.
Anyway we are here in Viana do Castelo the first safe port to stop in Portugal. There was another place we could have gone into ‘Foz do Minho’ if we were in trouble but the entrance is very shallow with shifting sand bars and we both decided it was worth adding an extra couple of hours onto our journey to enter a port that was safe to enter if the wind and swell increased. One of the things we have learned from talking to fellow sailors as we have moved down Northern Spain is that there aren’t many safe places to stop on the Portuguese coast. When you look at the charts there are long stretches between harbours and these are generally built on the banks of large rivers. This isn’t a problem in itself but should a large swell be generated by a storm in the Atlantic Ocean, large waves try to make their way into the harbour entrances causing damage to fishing boats etc. so if the waves are big the harbours are closed and that leaves you on the outside with nowhere to go, you either have to stand out to sea and try to weather the conditions until the harbour re-opens or move further down the coast hoping that the next one will be open.
We didn’t go into the marina itself as we were told by the lads on ‘Moody Queen‘ that the holding pontoon on the river which had water and electric connections was better as it was easier to access the town from there. A nice bloke called Dick aboard ‘Whispering Wind’ helped us with our lines, he was from Galway Ireland. Claire walked to the reception and paid while I tidied the boat and had a beer with our new neighbour.
The town was great with some very old sections dating back to the 14th century. There is a building in the old town, unsurprisingly that was built in 1468 to shelter pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. This port also saw many Portuguese explorers leave as they ventured far and wide discovering stuff. English fishermen also used this port exchanging their quality fishing nets for Portuguese wine which later was abbreviated(why is abbreviated such a long word!!) to Port wine. The trading links grew and the only reason business moved from here to Porto was because the river silted up. Another interesting thing here is the main rail / Road Bridge crossing the river near the marina is designed by the same team that created the Eiffel tower in Paris. My lasting memory of this place though has got to be hardware stores. I have never seen so many shops selling buckets, mops and pegs before!!
We had planned to stay here for two nights which was lucky as when we awoke the fog was thick all around us. Dick waited around to lunchtime confident that it would lift which it did a little and he set off in ‘Whispering Wind’ on a short hop along the coast to Povoa de Varzim. Unfortunately about an hour after he left it came in thicker than ever and I just hope he made it ok.
Below are a series of photos taken within a few hours of each other that show how bad the fog can be around here.
It was nice not having to worry about the sailing conditions for a while, the fog stopped us going to see the church and views from the headland but apart from that we were fine.
We set off in the morning (July 16th) in clear conditions; I was quite excited as we were meeting up with George in Porto. I had tried hard to put it out of my head till now as Claire and I had promised each other that nothing and nobody would make us sail when it wasn’t safe to do so.
George had got in touch a couple of weeks ago to tell us that he was going on a kayaking trip through a national park in Portugal for a few days with his mate Ed, then they were going onto a surfing school in a town about an hour’s train ride down the coast from Porto. He said he would delay his flight home by a week and make his way to the marina on the Douro River. All this was brilliant especially as it would mean that he would be with us on my Birthday. But it meant that Claire and I were being tied into a schedule. Fortunately there was a lot of slack in the timescales to allow for bad weather / fog and we were very pleased to be able to meet up.
We actually sailed for a bit on the way to Porto, this along with the fact that I was going to see my son for the first time in 7 months put me in a very good mood. The sun was shining Porto came up on the horizon and all was good in the world.
The Douro marina is quite new, built around 4 years ago it has made it possible for cruisers to spend time visiting Porto. Up until it was opened you could only stay for a few hours tied up to a fishing boat or ferry pontoon.
The staff were very friendly with a RIB coming out, eventually to guide us into our berth. We went to the office to sort out our details etc. then sat in the bar for a couple of hours drinking and catching up with everyone using the bars WiFi
George and Ed were arriving the next day around 18.00 so it gave us time to have a lazy morning, do some washing and more importantly get some food in as my son eats like a horse!!
July 17th George and Ed turned up around 18.00. They weren’t too sure how long their trip to Porto would take so apart from shopping Claire and I stayed around the marina. Not on the boat as there was a locked gate down onto the pontoons but in the marina office using their WiFi or in the bar. We eventually got a call from them around 17.30 asking where we were as they had been sitting on Red Rooster for 15 minutes waiting for us!!! So much for marina security!
It was great catching up with George and it was nice to see his mate Ed again. We decided to go into Porto for a meal as Ed was leaving early the next morning. We had great food and a few cocktails to cap it all off. Ed left the boat at 04.30 I was up to say goodbye and to check that he didn’t leave anything behind.
For most of the time that we had been in the marina a concert / festival had been going on just along the coast less than a mile away it was called the Meo Mares Vivas 2015. It was really loud but had good bands on such as John Legend and Lenny Kravits playing until the early hours. The three of us had decided that we needed to try and get in for what was to be the last night. Claire and George walked down to the box office at the venue around 1700 but was told that the show was a sell-out. They did suggest we went back around 2000 to see if there were any ticket touts. This we did but the only dodgy looking bloke there was me holding a bunch of Euro’s in my had walking up to groups of Portuguese people asking them in English if they had any spare tickets! I think I frightened them a bit and I was surprised that they didn’t point me out to one of the many policemen that were on duty.
Claire and George on the other hand had better luck waiting by the ticket office in case people with spare tickets tried to sell them back. At about 2045 we struck lucky and got 3 tickets for the face value. After a quick search at the entrance we were in. The line-up for the night was
20.30 ‘The Black Mamba’ A very good Portuguese rock band,
21.45 ‘Ana Moura’ very good traditional music.
23.25 Jamie Cullum, Brilliant
01.00 The script’ finishing just before 03.00
What a line up and it was a fantastic night the acts were brilliant and the crowd was up for it being very energetic and good natured. We spoke to a lot of people in there and all were kind and helpful.
I was completely knackered by the time we were walking back to the boat but it really was a special night so much better being there than complaining about the noise sitting on the boat.
Sunday was a jobs day, I didn’t get up till eleven and my feet were still sore from standing for hours at the concert in my very worn flip-flops. We all voted to start work after lunch. As George was here I put him to work. I had bought a new anchor swivel in Porto but the shaft of the anchor needed some metal removing before it would fit. Normally this would need to be done in the marina workshop but my very good friend Richard Warwick who is a director of Bradgates, the company I worked for before embarking on this adventure gave me a very comprehensive set of battery powered tools as a leaving / please don’t come back present, one of which was a 4 inch angle grinder! Thanks once again Richard. George couldn’t wait to get his hands on this but I went through all the safety stuff before letting him loose like wearing sunglasses to deflect any sparks and to take his flip–flops off as they were dangerous. It worked a treat and before long the swivel was fitted and the anchor re-stowed.
Next on the list was an oil and filter change. I normally carry this out once a year but we have been using the engine so much that I text my friend Adrian in Tollesbury and he informed me that an oil change needs to be annually or after every 100 hours of running time. We were quite a bit over the 100 hour limit so George did the work whilst I looked on. This sounds a bit bad but George wanted to be hands on as he had booked himself in on a yacht engine maintenance course in Palma Majorca as part of his training and wanted first hand experience.
We then trimmed some Perspex off of the side windows as they were binding when they expanded in the heat. Out came some more of Richards battery powered tools, a drill and a jigsaw. Perfect. Claire cooked us all a nice meal and we relaxed in the cockpit.
On Monday we were up and out by 10.00. We got the river taxi across the Douro, A tram into the centre of town, booked an open topped bus sightseeing tour which included a river trip and a port house tour and tasting session for my Birthday treat on the 22nd. Walked through the main train station which is great and was sitting outside in a café drinking coffee and eating custard tarts, which is a Porto speciality all before midday.
We had a wander through the shopping area; we got George a new pair of Oakley sunglasses for his Birthday which was on the 3rd July. We then made our way across the girder bridge, which was quite high back to our side of the river. There was a cable car back down to the river bank and we walked to the Churchill’s port house where, because we were staying in the marina a free tour and tasting session was organised. We were feeling a little squiffy when we came out and we walked back to the river and sat down for a nice meal with wine and a jug of sangria. A short cab ride later and we were back on the boat. What an absolutely brilliant day. I am plumb tuckered out now though, Good night.
Tuesday saw me and George helping Brendan, a nice bloke we had met in the marina take the mast off his yacht ‘Jacaranda’ as he was planning to go up the Douro river into the wine region on his boat. There are many low bridges and a few locks to navigate up there and a mast would just get in the way. Brendan kindly left a few Euros behind the bar as a thank you and George and I raised a glass or two to him when we found out.
In the afternoon we hired some bikes took them across the river on the water taxi and enjoyed a cycle along the beach to the end of the pier then onto a bar for a couple before making our way home.
My Birthday, July 22nd. Claire woke me with a few cards and presents before making me a coffee and a nice cooked breakfast for the three of us. The cards from home were great and I appreciated the forethought of my Mum and Wendy, Claire’s mum for giving the cards to Claire when we were all in Falmouth. I even got a card from George and the girls!! I think Claire helped out with that one a bit.
We had a very good day sightseeing on the opened top bus, lunch with a couple of jugs of sangria then a river trip, watched as the some young lads jumped from the bridge into the river for a few Euro’s, more drinks, a visit to the Majestic café, opened in the 1920’s and an institution in Porto for a few cocktails then back to the same restaurant where we had lunch for dinner as there was to be live music. Of course we had a few more jugs of sangria, Claire organised a cake with a candle and the singer along with the rest of the diners sang ‘happy birthday’ to me. What a brilliant day the three of us had.
George was going home today, the 23rd so he spent the morning packing. He and I then went back into town to get some last minute things while Claire tidied the boat.
I was sad to see George climb into the taxi for his trip to the airport and home. We get on very well and I am very proud of him. He was quite young when he left home at 18 to try to find his way into the superyacht world and was lucky to receive help and advice from Dan Tindale and Young Barry Duck. Now at 20 he has a good reputation and is looking for a new position to further his career but at the cost of being away from close family and friends. I was acutely conscious of the fact that it may be some time before I see him again given his work and the life Claire and I are now leading. This is where technology can help bridge the distance between two people but these last few days have proved that there is nothing like meeting up. I have promised him that I will make every effort to keep the periods between seeing him face to face as short as possible.
I had an unexpected surprise tonight, I was feeling a little bit down after seeing George climb into his taxi not sad really because he is OK just a bit blue if you know what I mean. There was this strange noise, it was my phone vibrating, not the usual ‘Captain Pugwash’ ring. I answered it only to hear my very good friend Pete Hawksworth’s voice; in the background I could also hear Guya, Dave and Raza. Pete put me on speaker, they were in a pub in London, the line was so clear I could hear the glasses clinking and the buzz of other peoples conversation. I have known these lads for many years and I miss not seeing them for a beer every now and then. We had a really good chat. The main topic being when we could meet up. After a bit of banter we settled on October/November in Southern Spain. It was great to talk to them. Claire and I agreed that not seeing our nearest and dearest was the hardest part of our new life.
A short time later Claire and I were walking the mile or so to the beach to watch the sun go down on a day of very mixed emotions. My phone was vibrating again!! Twice in less than an hour when it hasn’t rang for 6 weeks or more? This time it was my old mate Ali, he had got to the pub late, on hearing that the lads had called me he wanted to say Hi also. So I had another chance to talk to someone I miss seeing but he to promised that he would try to come out with the lads later on in the year when the flights were a bit cheaper. What a day.
It's typical that during the telephone conversation I had with the lads from London we were bragging that we hadn't seen rain for weeks but when I woke this morning the rain was bouncing off the boat and the whole sky was grey and overcast!
Still in Porto
After George left us the plan was to move onto Aveiro as soon as the weather would allow. This however had to be delayed by a few days as Wendy and Alan; Claire’s parents had kindly offered to post out our new credit card. We had applied for it before we left England and it had finally come through. As we were staying in the same place for a week whilst George was with us we thought it wise not to waste a good opportunity.
It should have taken 3 days to get here but we are now on 7 days and there is still no sign of it. We have a tracking number and that tells us that it’s in Germany somewhere and on its way to us!!
It is a bit frustrating but Porto is such a lovely place I really don’t mind staying a few extra days.
I had a problem with my beloved solar panels the other day. The little blue LED lights were off in the middle of the day? The LED indicators only go out if the panels are not producing electricity, at night for instance. Mmm... I thought I started looking for the problem and had Claire stand by the nav station where the control box is mounted. I touched one of the connectors and she shouted that the LED had come on. Brilliant an easy fix and quickly discovered………Oh how wrong could I be. I stripped the connector cleaned it all and remade it. I was so confident that I put all my tools away when I was done. I Looked at the LED’s again they were out!! I asked Claire to look at the LED’s again and when I touched the same joint she shouted that they had come on. So I got all of the tools out again. Stripped and cleaned the joint for a second time taking a lot of care this time, when I pushed the connector together Claire shouted that the LED’s were on again. This time I left all the tools out and went to look at the panel for myself. The LED’s were on…….but whilst I was looking at them the little buggers went off again. Right that was it, I started at the connections from the panels themselves, these are soldered tags that come off of the elements and onto a thicker cable to make it easier to connect and install. I got my multi meter out and confirmed that the panels were producing 12v. Good, so the problem was down the line from them. I slowly checked the wiring from end to end with my tester and it was all OK. I knew the fault was intermittent so I left the tester on for a while but it was still OK???????
Oh problems like these really try my patients. I stripped and cleaned every joint in the system cutting my thumb in the process. I then put it all back together carefully; please remember that I was a trained electrician in a previous life so I knew a good connection from a bad one. I asked Claire to look at the LED’s, she said they were on, great and then she said they were off, then on again. Bugger. It reminded me of the old joke about the Irish lad (No offence) being asked by his mate if his cars indicators were working. Claire knew I was stressed and wouldn’t joke, although I probably would’ve if the roles had been reversed!!
So I thought what should I do? We needed these panels as they charged ALL of our electrical equipment including the navigational stuff whilst we were at sea or at anchor. I decided to go through the whole system again just as I had done before because I had obviously missed something. I wasn’t going to bother testing the panels again as they were working but they were easy to get at so I did. The first one was fine and as I touched the probe of the tester onto the second one I noticed a small blue flash, a little spark. At first I thought it was from the probe as I touched the foil from the element but when I did it again the flash came from under the foil onto the element itself…..well I’ll be buggered I thought. I got a very small screwdriver and lifted the foil off the connector. It hadn’t been soldered properly at the factory. That was the problem. When I had tested it before I had pushed the poor joint together with the probe, making the connection!! I was so pleased to have found it but so annoyed that it had taken so long to resolve the issue. I got out my 12v soldering iron cleaned and remade the joint. I checked the other panel and that was OK.
About 6 hours of my life was lost sorting that problem out but the little blue LED’s are now on and they stay on.
Saturday 25th saw us back in Porto. As we were leaving the marina a few photographers were gathering to take photos of male and female models acting out James Bond type stuff. I had my camera with me but when I looked at the pictures I had taken it seems I only captured shots of the women.
We crossed the river by water taxi then caught the No 500 bus into the city getting off at the main railway station. We stopped at the tourist information centre which was very good and asked about ‘Henry the navigators’ house. (Henry is the patron saint of Pilot books) This, we discovered was back down near the river so after marking it on a map Claire and I strolled through the city heading up hill to a part that we had not been to before. As it was a Saturday it was quite busy with lots of street markets and the ever present café / restaurants sprawling across the pavements. We wandered around for an hour or two before spotting a very nice café in the middle of a toot market. (Toot, to me anyway is all the stuff no one really wants but everyone seems to have). The food was excellent and the large jugs of sangria were even better at 7Euro’s a go.
After we’d eaten we made our way downhill through the back streets to the river, pausing for 15 minutes to listen to a very good street musician called Moakley, I even bought his CD.
We found Henry’s house. It seems that he was the son of a King and didn’t really sail anywhere except up and down the river a bit. All this was a disappointment to me and I wondered where he got the title ‘Henry the navigator’ well it turns out that he organised and financed (by raising taxes I might add) expeditions from many ports along the Portuguese coast during the 15th century which became known as ’the age of discovery’ he ensured that these voyages systematically explored Western Africa and the islands in the Atlantic ocean. His title came about in more modern times when authors writing about his life wanted a catchy name for him!!
Sunday was a rest / jobs day. After resolving the problem with the solar panels I felt I needed to tidy up the cables leading from the panels themselves as I had now removed the factory fitted connectors in an effort to ‘fix’ the problem and had used basic connector blocks to ensure I had a good connection. If you care to look back at the preparation section in this blog you can see long black cables leading from the panels. It is these that I now removed and soldered the cables directly onto the solar panels tidying it up and removing unnecessary connections.
Claire sorted us out a bit of lunch and we went for a nice hand in hand kind of walk along the promenade, past the slowly disappearing stage / arena area that was being dismantled where the concert had been and onto the beach where we stood and watched the kite surfers play in the waves. We returned to the marina and had a nightcap or two in the excellent bar / restaurant there. One of the many good things about staying in the same place for a while is that the waiters get to know and look after you.
On Monday we decided to take my sisters advice to take the train from Porto to a village called Pinhao which is two and a half hours away in the centre of the famous Douro valley. The train was clean, air conditioned and on time. It cost just under £15 return each!! After leaving the city it ran alongside the river for over an hour giving us spectacular views of the river and all of those fabulous grapes on their vines clinging to the terraces as they stepped up the hillsides everywhere we looked.
The orderliness of the rows appealed to Claire’s overpowering OCD and she remarked that ‘it looks as if they have been combed into place’ There were huge signs positioned to effect advertising the various famous Port brands.
When we got off the train the heat was truly stifling it was over 30 degrees but with a strong breeze coming off the river. We made our way down to the water’s edge and enjoyed a pleasant few hours drinking port and eating lunch before catching the return train back into the city.
Tuesday 28th - Good news the post had arrived. We now had our nationwide credit card which meant that we wouldn’t be charged about £2 for every transaction as we had been when using our debit cards. It had taken 12 days when the post office said it would take about three!! To celebrate we visited a large supermarket to stock up and replenish the essential and the not so essential stuff we had used whilst being in the marina for 13 days!!
We intended to leave for Aveiro in the morning so once we had packed everything away we filled the water tanks and prepared the boat to leave. I looked up from my labours to see the marina RIB guiding a yacht into a berth nearly opposite us that looked familiar. It was Aurora a Dutch boat belonging to a couple called Johan and Millie. We had first met them in Coruna where they invited us aboard their boat. We saw them again in Muros where they again invited us on board for a beer and a chat. After that we kept tabs on them using our AIS system as well as the ‘Marine Traffic’ web site (this site is brilliant if you want to keep tabs on us and on anyone else you may know that has AIS on their boat. It’s easy to use and free) we had been leap frogging each other down the coast of Spain and Portugal and it was good to see them again. We said our hello’s and let them sort themselves out but arranged to meet them in the bar around 22.30 for a few nightcaps.
We went to the office to settle up…….we knew this was going to be expensive as 13 nights in a marina virtually in the centre of a major city was not going to be cheap. To make things worse as I have mentioned before it is the only marina on the river for yachts the size of ours. We had bought the staff a potted plant for the office and a pair of tiny booties as one of the receptionists was close to giving birth. I think if we had stayed much longer we would have been invited to the christening!! I was kind of hoping this might help with our bill a bit but no such luck. We did receive a 20% reduction because we stayed at their sister marina in Viana do Castelo but it was still just over £300. It is a lot I know but when you think that George had stayed with us for a week. It also included electricity, water and four fresh bread rolls delivered to the boat every morning at 0800 hrs I don’t think it was too bad, £23 a night for two in Porto? Come on, when I think about it we had payed £35 a night to stay in Ramsgate!!! I know it’s a jewel on the south coast of England but really, we had no reason to complain.
The drinks at the bar tasted good and it was great to catch up with Johan and Millie. It seems that we had stayed in all the same places as we travelled down this fantastic coast line from A Coruna but at different times only meeting up as mentioned above. Millie gave Claire a very nice shell as a gift that she had picked up from the nudist beach we had stopped at. It was typical that we were leaving in the morning but we agreed to try to meet up in Lisbon where Claire and I hope to celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary on the 10th August..
Wednesday 29th we were up early at 0800 I finally met the man who had been delivering our bread rolls for the last two weeks I said hello, thanks and goodbye!! We were a bit indecisive about leaving as it had rained hard in the night and there was thick fog in the harbour entrance. We decided to carry on with our plans then decide when we were ready to leave. We had a quick shower then moved the boat around to the fuel pontoon to top up on diesel. We also got some petrol for the outboard as we hoped to be anchoring for a few days. It was just after 0900 now. The fog was still in the hills, clinging to the trees like lumps of cotton wool but we could see the lighthouse at the harbour entrance which we could not see earlier. Let’s go. We motored out of the marina, Johan and Millie waved us ‘goodbye’ and we headed out to sea for the 35 mile trip to Aveiro. The fog still clung to the shore but as the day wore on it finally cleared to leave us in bright sparkling sunshine.
The pilot book warns of a very treacherous entrance to Aveiro should you get the tides wrong or if there is a large swell running down the coast. The reason for leaving Porto when we did was to ensure that we were going into the entrance at high tide and that the swell was under a meter so all was hunky dory as they say and we glided in passing the famous lighthouse and many small boats all fishing in the entrance. Following the suggestions in the pilot book we anchored in a bay near the ferry pontoon and close to a military airbase amongst the many small fishing / speed boats.
We sorted the boat out and enjoyed a quite night as we planned to get the ferry and the bus into the town centre tomorrow.
Aveiro is a very nice town with a nice mix of the old and the new. It has a Dutch feel to it this is mainly due I think to the canal running through the centre of the town with a few of the older houses having a similar ornate construction as those we had seen in Amsterdam and Harlingen. It has also been described as ‘The Venice’ of Portugal because of the Gondola looking craft that ferry fare paying passengers around for a waterborne sightseeing tour. Between you and me I don’t think Venice has anything to worry about but it really is OK here.
The town prospered from fishing until a huge storm closed the port entrance with sand in the 16th century. It wasn’t reopened until sometime in the 19th century. The type of boats that are now used for tourists were once used to carry seaweed, that was used as a fertilizer and sea salt that was farmed from the flat low lying marshy areas that surround the town. We saw sea salt still being produced from lagoons in much the same way as it has been done for hundreds of years.
We had a nice day and we caught the bus / ferry back to where Red Rooster was anchored. We had left our RIB tied to a pontoon in the harbour and both of us had worried about it off and on all day. It’s a shame because worrying about it has the potential to ruin your day. Tenders and their outboards are the two things that get stolen most frequently from the cruising fraternity. We have locks on the outboard and we use a wire strop and padlocks as well as the painter (the bit of rope you tie a dinghy to a pontoon with) to secure it. Don’t you worry though it was still there when we got back but I was just saying we were worried about it?
We got back on board and sorted ourselves out as we were up early again in the morning for the hop down to Figueira da Foz weather permitting. As I am writing this the rain is falling steadily and flashes of lightning are lighting up the insides of the cabin!!
We awoke at 0600 the weather was grey and overcast but no rain and no fog, halleluiah. We readied the boat for sea. This means that after getting dressed we put the winch handles in their pockets, we clip the handheld VHF radio to the helm position, the knife and hand bearing compass gets hung on the throttle lever. The covers come off the wheel and the instruments and we turn them on. I check the engine, oil levels, coolant and raw water filters etc. and start her up to warm up. Claire stuffs the saloon cushions into the cupboards that have plates, cups and glasses in to stop them shaking about. She also puts the flowers and the washing up stuff in a sink to stop them moving about. She also puts anything else away that may be broken if the boat moves about at all. The pilot book, log book and ipad are put into a pocket in the canopy. Lastly the monocular, sunglasses, camera and fog horn are put in the canopy pocket on the starboard side. This sounds a lot but we do it all in a few minutes. I then go forward and pull the anchor and chain up which is my exercise for the day whilst Claire takes her position at the helm, she takes us out down the river which is on its way out now quite fast through the rough water at the harbour entrance and out into open sea.
Once again this is only a short hop but we wanted to leave as near to high tide as possible because of the disturbed water at the entrance. One good thing though after a pleasant few hours we were entering Figueira da Foz just before 1300.
There is nothing too special about Foz. The marina is nice, there are fantastic beaches here, the people are very friendly and the food is unbelievably cheap. In the picture above you can see Claire at the market, we bought tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, cucumber, pears, a loaf of bread and a packet of these wonderful peanut biscuits all for well under £5!! It was ridiculous.
It will be of no surprise to you to hear that they have a festival on this weekend!! Everywhere we go the Spaniards or the Portuguese are ‘on it’ we have no idea what it’s about and I wouldn’t mind betting that a good proportion of the populace hasn’t got a clue either! It starts at 22.00 and goes on into the early hours. Once again the whole town seems to be involved. We intend to leave in the morning so we will stay up for a bit then get our heads down. We are not going to leave very early around 10 ish I expect with Nazare as our intended destination.
The wizard of Foz
We had a nice chat with a Spanish family that was sailing on a yacht called IXUXU ?? I know how would you even begin to pronounce that? Well you can if you remember that X in Spanish is sounded out like sh so it’s Ishushu which is quite a nice name really. We first saw this family in Sao Jacinto / Aveiro but as we were both at anchor we had little chance to talk. Mario, His wife Estella and their 15 month old baby daughter Eba (pronounced Eva) were traveling to the Mediterranean also and it looks like we will keep bumping into each other. We swapped email addresses as Mario was going to pass by Nazare and go straight onto Peniche. He did suggest that we visit Batalha whilst we were in Nazare and Obidos if we stopped at Peniche.
We had dinner on the boat and walked into town just before 10…… PM that is!! I know, our little internal clocks are definitely changing. We wanted to see the play that was going to be enacted on the sea front. We saw the preparations for it during a walk through the town earlier in the day.
When we got to the sea front it was already packed but we managed to find a spot with a reasonable view. It started about 30 minutes late and the crowd did get a little restless but it was free, the night was warm and there was a nice buzz about the place. It started with a lot of talking, in Portuguese of course, there was an elephant involved, he wasn’t talking an elephant handler who was, some soldiers and a lot of villager type people. After about 30 minutes I did ask someone what the gist of it was, it was apparently about a true event in Portugal’s history. Solomon the elephant was given as a wedding present to a Hapsburg archduke as a sort of sweetener in the 16th century and the story was of the trip made by Solomon. Although Claire and I didn’t understand a word we thoroughly enjoyed the 2 hour long performance. We laughed out loud with the rest of the crowd when funny things happened. It was a great night and we finally got into bed around 1 am.
Figueira da Foz is a very nice place and it has a little bit of everything. I also discovered that Wellington landed here in August 1808 during the peninsular war. I loved the books and TV programme of Sharpe which were of the period and I could imagine him creeping around the old fortress here.
We woke when we woke, no alarms for us today. The trip to Nazare was pretty straight forward; the swell was about 1m with light winds. We showered prepared the boat then Claire took us out to sea. I was desperate to sail today as I was getting fed up about motoring or motor sailing everywhere we went. So I pulled all the sails out and up even though we only had 6 knots of breeze. To those non sailors 6 knots is like the breeze you get in your face from one of those little handheld battery operated fans. It’s wrong to call it a breeze really it’s more of a sigh. (I wanted to write something else there beginning with F but Claire wouldn’t let me!!)
Anyway I turned the engine off and to give Red Rooster credit she was moving along at about 3 knots on a reach and we had about two knots of tide under us so about 5 knots towards our destination was ok. This had me smiling but after about 20 minutes of this the wind died away to nothing!! On went the motor, I wound in the genoa and sulked for a bit. Claire tried to cheer me up and we got into a discussion about sailing and passage making and I have to admit I think she is right. Her take on it was that if we were at home and we wanted to go for a sail and the weather forecast was for 0 – 10 knots of wind we probably wouldn’t have bothered going down to the boat at all but because we were passage making i.e. moving from one location to the next it was less about the weather and more about moving on. The weather was important in that if it was bad we would have stayed put but anything else means that you’re ok to go. What is odd though is that from when we entered A Coruna all those weeks ago we have only motored or motor – sailed!! That’s a long time without any decent wind. When you think about the month we sailed down the South coast of England we only had one day without wind. That brings me onto the type of boat you need for this type of trip. I remember talking to my good friend Greg Wilcox about this. The pros and cons of a light verse’s a heavy displacement yacht. We have met some people with big heavy yachts and their fuel bills must be huge compared to ours as there just hasn’t been any decent wind. Of course they would be better if they were caught in a bit of a blow but I think the weather forecasts are so good now that the chances of that happening without you being aware of what you’re getting yourself into are getting less and less.
Others we have met have waited for the wind and then travelled as far and as fast as they could before it dissipated but then they must have missed so much of this beautiful coast line by standing out to sea and sailing for 24 or 48 hours nonstop whilst the wind lasted. But that can’t be right either can it? We are here to see the country not just visit marinas.
The last thing I want to say about this is that talking to the marina managers we have met on our travels so far it is apparent that the fashion is for couples like us to sail bigger yachts. Where two people like Claire and I would have happily travelled in a 30ft yacht we are now in a 38ft boat and we are, almost without exception the smallest boat amongst the cruising fleet. The down side of this is that a lot of the marinas we have visited so far struggle to take anything over 42 ft. It’s not only the length but the beams are getting wider as is the keel depth and the older / nicer marinas were not designed for this size of yacht leaving the managers with no option but to refuse them a berth.
Getting back to our trip, the wind did start to fill in from the North which was dead down wind. I launched our asymmetric kite and we actually sailed for about an hour before the wind dropped again. Oh well we’re not sailing remember we are making passage!!
As we neared Nazare I had this nagging feeling that I had seen the distinctive headland before but it was impossible. I had never been here before but it was the fort and the little red lighthouse on the hill that looked so familiar. Anyway I prepared the boat with fenders and warps (The ropes you tie bigger boats to a pontoon with) both sides as Claire took us in. We saw a free place at the end of a pontoon, nice and easy for once but it was far too good to be true and before long the marinaro’s arrived and asked us to move. They asked our length and I said about 11 meters or just under as I always do. I removed all of the Etap 38i stickers that were on Red Rooster during our winter preparations for exactly this reason and I have never seen a marina manager measuring a boat before. Of course that’s a little bit of a white lie but there could be a cost difference if you’re above 11 meters. The downside of this is that sometimes we get put into a spot that’s a little tight for us. This was one of those occasions. They showed me the spot but I didn’t dare tell Claire how tight it was. She was nervous as usual and probably because it was a Sunday all the owners of the boats either side or opposite were looking on at this blonde woman manoeuvring this wide boat into a very small gap. What can I say; it was like a hand in a glove. Well done baby.
When we went to the office to book in I saw these posters on the wall showing pictures of this impossibly big wave just where we had rounded the headland. Then I remembered reading about this in the papers about a year or two ago the pictures showed the lighthouse and the fort like building. So I’m not going mad. Not yet anyway. (Look up Nazare wave on you tube)
Red Rooster is sticking out just a bit and like I've said, the swell can get pretty big around here after an Atlantic storm!!!
Nazare was a bit of a disappointment for Claire and me, it was just a beach town really crammed to the gills with tourists and all the paraphernalia that tourists need. The main reason for stopping here was to take a trip to Batalha monastery built in 1385. We had already heard that it was a ‘must see’ and Mario had confirmed this at our last stop so off we went to enjoy the beautiful architecture of this fabulous building but also as an added bonus to pay a visit the final resting place of Henry the navigator whose tomb rests within its walls.
We just missed the bus in Nazare the one that would take us to Batalha, it was very hot, my knee was hurting and I didn’t fancy waiting nearly 2 hours for the next one so we got a taxi. I negotiated a price before we got in the car as it was a long way; the bus took an hour apparently. It was 30 Euro’s a lot of money in the scheme of things but it was worth it. We got there in 30 minutes. We were dropped off right outside the monastery. Before we did anything else we wanted to find where the bus stop was for the return trip, what time the bus left and did we need tickets before we got on. In my fluent Marcel Marceau (famous mime artist) I engaged the lady at the fruit stall in mime and after a while she understood but instead of giving us directions she shouted to her husband to mind the stall, whipped off her apron and walked with us for a good 5 minutes to a café near the bus stop to find out the times and then pointed out the bus stop. How nice was that?? I gave her one of my best hugs. Before we left we went back to her stall and spent a few quid on fruit and those peanut biscuits things I like.
The monastery looked fantastic from the outside but the inside was unbelievably beautiful. I checked that there were not any services taking place before going in too far. I cannot comprehend how something this big, this beautiful could have been built in 1385. We wandered through the Monastery, enjoyed the tranquillity of the court yard; Stood in respectful silence at the grave of the Unknown Soldier flanked by two armed Portuguese soldiers on duty. Finally we stepped into the chamber that held our old friend Henry the Navigator. It doesn’t really matter that he wasn’t a sea faring man as he enabled the ‘age of discovery’ for Portugal.
We caught the bus back to Nazare without any problems. When we got back to the marina the harbour master informed us that a Dutch boat had just arrived and the skipper had enquired after us. Well we only know one Dutch couple that would like to meet up with us. It was our friends Millie and Johan from Aurora. We walked along the pontoon for a chat. They were both well and happy and we were very happy to see them. Claire and I had planned to go up the funicular railway to the top of the headland where the Big Wave was filmed so we arranged to meet them in the marina bar around 22.30.
It was a nice view from the top and we were pleased to have made the effort. We got back to the bar had a nice meal and a few drinks with Millie and Johan. Most of the conversation was about the wind as it was blowing about 15 knots, a nice wind strength for cruising and it was forecast to be the same all day tomorrow with a 2 – 2.5m swell. We were both leaving in the morning and it really would be great to sail between harbours for once.
I awoke to the sound of halyards (the ropes that you pull to hoist the sails) slapping against masts. I had not heard that sound for ages. That sound, in case you are wondering means wind. Wind strong enough to slap halyards against a mast is normally strong enough for a boat like ours to have a decent sail. I lay there with a big smile on my face thinking of the trip down to Peniche.
We got ourselves sorted; Claire took us out of our snug berth. We put some diesel in the tank although I was really hoping that we wouldn’t need it today and headed out to sea. The swell was noticeably bigger but once through the steeper bits at the harbour entrance we were out into a beautifully blue sea with a sky to match. The sails went up and the motor went off and it stayed off for the entire 4 -5 hour trip. Bliss.
We were sailing in company with two other boats, Johan and Millie aboard Aurora and Olivier and Dominique aboard their Alures. They are a very nice French couple we had bumped into a few times as we have travelled down the coast. It was a fantastic day. Peniche came up on the horizon too quickly. A lot of boats skip Peniche when on their way South and go straight to Lisbon and beyond and it crossed my mind to do the same so we could carry on sailing but Cascais, the marina just outside of Lisbon was nearly 50 miles further on and we would be entering a strange harbour in the dark. Whenever I think about entering a strange marina in the dark our arrival at Hayling Island pops into my head. That experience has ruined me.
We had a call from Aurora who entered the marina before us on the VHF to tell us that there was a space big enough for Red Rooster just behind them on the long visitor’s pontoon. Claire took us in, we filled out the necessary paper work in the marina office and relaxed with a beer in the cockpit.
I felt completely different having sailed into Peniche rather than motored. It was as if I had helped in the process of getting us here rather than as a passenger sat on a motor boat that was going there anyway. This gave me a sense of satisfaction that had been missing for a while and as I sat and sipped my cold Super Bock beer all was OK in the world.
Oh Guess what?? The marina office warned us when we signed in that today was the last day of their festival and that there would be loud music until about two in the morning and then, and then!!! A firework display at 02.30 for about 30 minutes, it was a Tuesday!!!! We showered and went into town. You could see the two stages from where we were moored and the fireworks were to be set off about 50M down the harbour wall from us. Everywhere was buzzing the roads to the harbour had been closed off there were people everywhere. They had two live bands and we stayed up to about 1. Johan and Millie came back to ours for a nightcap. When they left we got into bed.
The biggest bang I had ever heard woke me with a start a 02.30 and the fireworks lit up the sky. You can’t ignore fireworks so I got up and took a few pictures. The Portuguese go for loud over pretty and spectacular. I hardly had any wax left in my ears by the time I went back to bed. Its madness!!
We had planned to wave goodbye to Aurora as they were leaving in the morning for Cascais. We were going there too but wanted to spend a day in Obidos. I had got up and checked that they were still there. I made Claire a cup of tea as she was still in bed. By the time I had finished making it they had gone. Bugger, it’s nice to wave people off and wish them a safe journey. Oh well we would see them again in Lisbon hopefully.
We caught the bus to Obidos it was a nice trip taking about 40 minutes. This walled town is fantastic and we both silently thanked Mario off of Ixuxu for suggesting we visit this beautiful place.
I thought of Sea sick Steve my brother in law as he just loves castles and stuff like that. The best part of this place was that you were allowed to walk along the old walls that completely encircled the city. This doesn’t sound too special but you had the ramparts on one side and nothing on the other. There were no hand rails, nothing. Fortunately both Claire and I are OK with heights but we saw people clinging to the walls insisting that others manoeuvre around them. It made me remember my very good friend Dave Persaud when we were completing our Duke of Edinburgh award with a walk in the lake district across a very high, steep path called ‘striding edge’ We didn’t realise that Dave was scared of heights until we tried to get him to walk that path. I think Guya, his brother and the rest of us had to put his faithful ‘Peter storm’ cagoule or something over his head and lead him across. Claire also said that we would never have got her mother up onto these walls.
It was great and we were both very pleased not to have missed it. We caught the bus back into town, did a bit of shopping then settled back on board, tired but very happy. We are off in the morning to Lisbon, The capital no less…
We had a slow start on the morning of the 6th August which is getting normal now for us two. When I stuck my head out to look at the weather all I could see was our old friend FOG. We carried on with our preparations and by the time we were ready the fog had lifted and we motored out of the harbour into a clear sunny day.
After about an hour the wind started to fill in from North West which is the prevailing wind in this part of the world during the summer months. We were heading south so that means it was coming from behind and slightly to the right. Perfect, the kite and the main went up and the engine went off. We sailed like this for a couple of hours making about 5 – 6 knots in brilliant sunshine. I looked behind us and where minute ago I could see a largish fishing boat now there was just grey cloud. Ahead a perfectly clear, sunny day, behind grey cloud hurrying across the sea towards us. I told Claire about the book and film called the ‘FOG’ I think it was by Peter Benchley?? Not sure. But weird things happened and people were murdered when the fog descended. Our fog came on very quickly being carried by the wind across the sea, covering us and heading towards the land on our left. The wind was still OK so we carried on sailing. I would rather sail in fog than motor as you can hear another boats engine easier if your one is off. We were also flying our Asymmetric kite which is red, white and blue and very visible. We got the fog horn ready. Twice I heard engines but could see nothing then a large fishing boat appeared out of the mist quite close but no danger to us. The poles and flags that indicate fishing pots kept appearing out of the gloom and we changed course accordingly to give them a wide berth.
After an hour or so the fog bank over took us, we now looked behind and it was clear and sunny whilst in front of us we could see the fog, mist call it what you will moving away to sit along the coastline. Weird! The wind then started to drop so I took the kite down. We motored along the back edge of this stuff for 30 minutes or so I tried to take pictures but it’s hard to capture. It finally lifted off of the land and all was back to normal.
We had to pass a headland called Cabo da Roca, when mentioning to anyone that had sailed this coast before that we were passing this headland they all, without exception warned us of the very strong winds that blow down from this rocky outcrop. So as the main sail was doing little or nothing at this point we dropped it as advised.
Sorry, nothing happened, no strong wind, no squalls nothing. Oh well I will warn others about it though as you never know. On the plus side the wind did start to fill in as we carried on past, I pulled the genoa out and we were making 6 knots over the ground. Off went the engine. After 10 minutes the main came out also as we headed up and into the bay where Cascais marina is situated. We were making 7 knots, the sun was shining the wind was warm and as we rounded the harbour wall the anchorage lay before us with plenty of space for a couple who have sailed all the way from Essex on a boat called Red Rooster.
We had just dropped the anchor when a small RIB came up to us with our friends Johan and Millie on board, they said hi and announced that it was ‘Happy Hour’ on their boat starting at 18.00. As it was 17.30 we did little more than get our RIB off of the foredeck, I dropped the outboard on the back and we motored the short distance across to Aurora. There were two other Dutch couples on board, Yoop and Albertine and from a yacht called ZeeZot and Yaap and Ali from a beautiful boat called The Bull. I made our apologies for the fact that we had no Dutch and thanked them for carrying out the majority of the conversations in English for our benefit.
We had a very nice evening, we discussed where we had seen each other as we leap frogged down the coast from A Coruna, of our sailing trip to the Friesian Islands last year (you can read about it in this blog) and about ours and their plans for the rest of the year.
When we got back on board RR the lights went out and sleep took us very quickly. The morning was bright and sunny with a stiff breeze blowing across the anchorage. Aurora left to go up river to Lisbon. Claire wanted to clean the inside of the boat; I had some jobs to do so we decided to stay on board for the day. Claire cooked us a nice dinner, for some reason I cannot remember I had been going on about the Harry Potter films so we decided to watch the first one in the series, We have a lot of films plus TV series copied onto hard drives to entertain us when we spend the night in. I checked over the boat before it started as the wind had been building steadily peaking at 30 + knots which is enough to keep you up at night whilst you’re anchored. I was OK though as we had been here for about 30 hours with no problem. We were just in front of our Dutch friends yacht ‘The Bull’
We were enjoying the film with me sticking my head out of the hatch every now and then when the stronger gusts shook the boat. Most boats swing about at the end of their anchor chain, normally more as the wind builds. You need to get used to seeing the scenery changing through the windows of your boat as it moves around in the breeze.
We had got to the bit near the end where the lecturer took his turban thing off and he had another face on the back of his head. Anyway at that point in the film Claire shouted and pointed out of the window, all you could see was the side of ‘The Bull’ quite close, too close. We had got used to seeing the distinctive green and black boat move past the windows as we swung around but this was different.
We both rushed up on deck, the wind was howling through the rigging. Our anchor must have broken free, we were moving backwards at quite a speed. It looked like we would miss The Bull but not by much but what we wouldn’t miss were the rocks which formed the large harbour wall which were not too far behind us. This had never happened to us before. I told Claire to get the helm cover off and start the engine as quickly as possible. Then stop us from going backwards as well as keeping us away from the boats and the rock wall. She was very frightened, close to tears, shaking like a leaf but she got on with it.
I went forward to pull the anchor back on board, oh how I wished we had an electric winch. I started heaving on the chain, I soon noticed that we were holding position which meant Claire had the engine started and was motoring into the wind. This helped me a lot and the rest of the chain and finally the anchor came on board. I ran back to Claire, her eyes were wide, her bottom lip was quivering and her knuckles were white from gripping the wheel so hard. I had to shout above the noise of the wind, I didn’t think it was an option to try and get into the marina preferring to try and reset the anchor. Claire agreed and she took us around the rest of the boats to a nice position a bit closer to the shore in between two other yachts. I dropped the anchor along with all the chain we had. The wind was picking up the sea, hurling it at whatever got in the way. It really was a wild night. The anchor didn’t hold at first, I was in bare feet and I could feel the chain bouncing as I rested my foot on top of it, a sure sign that the anchor was bumping along the seabed. I really hoped it would bite the sand soon as we were heading towards another yacht whose owners were looking on no doubt wishing we would go somewhere else. I didn’t think I had the strength to pull it all in to start again. Then the chain went taught, bar tight the strain on it was immense as the anchor did its job checking the weight and the rearward motion of Red Rooster.
I stood like that for 15 minutes with my foot on the chain looking towards the shore at fixed points to confirm that we were holding steady. (Fixed points to me mean two objects one in front of the other which you can line up; in this case it was the corner of a hotel and a lamp post in front of it on the sea wall. If the gap between those two points grew it would mean the anchor was dragging and we were moving backwards.) I was shivering by the time I got back to the cockpit; Claire was still clinging to the wheel. I went below to get us some warm jackets to put on. I told her that I thought we were ok but that I would sit up to keep watch. After I prised her fingers from the wheel she went below to put the kettle on.
The wind blew all night we saw 43 knots at one point. I sat looking at my fixed points listening to my ‘wedding’ playlist music on Spotify. Claire was having trouble sleeping understandably popping up to check on me from time to time. I think it was more to do with making sure I was awake than concern over my well-being!! Then at just gone 2 in the morning the wind stopped. I don’t mean died down or slowly decreased in strength. It had stopped. I took my ear phones out and stood up. Not a breath. I went below and slept for a bit. Then I woke after an hour or so as I heard the wind start up again. It was moaning in the rigging but it didn’t regain its former strength. At about 0700 Claire took over the watch and I went to bed. When I woke Claire and I talked about the previous night, the owners of ‘The Bull’ came over to check we were OK. They were on ZeeZot with their friends watching helplessly as they saw Red Rooster careering, out of control towards their beautiful boat. Still all’s well that ends well. Once again we have learned a lot about each other and what to do when things go wrong.
We stayed on board Red Rooster all day as there was still a lot of wind around. The thought of seeing your boat sliding backwards whilst you stood onshore was too much for Claire, she ignored all of my attempts at persuading her into the RIB to visit Cascais. We were leaving in the morning to move up river to a marina in the centre of Lisbon so it was OK for one more day. We finished the end of the first Harry Potter film watching the second ‘The chamber of secrets’ immediately after. It’s funny for me to think that Grace and Joy are in these films somewhere. I can’t remember what film they were in but the scene was in the great hall at Hogwarts. My good friend Derek Clark along with his daughter Victoria and her husband David arranged for the girls to visit the film set and as luck would have it they managed to get both girls in as extras. So not only did we have a fantastic couple of day wandering around the sets, trying the sorting hat on, getting posters signed by all the stars the girls got in on the act and got paid for the privilege
On Sunday 9th we sailed / motored up the Rio Tejo into Lisbon. This was another big milestone for me. It is a very large river and it took us a couple of hours to reach the marina Parque das nacoes. The time went quickly though as there was lots to see from the river. We found the marina without any problems and were led to an easy berth by a marinaro in a RIB. We were just finishing sorting the lines out when we heard a now familiar voice calling across the pontoons. It was Johan and Millie from Aurora. The first marina they had been into was too noisy being close to the main bridge so they moved up to this one. Result we get on well with these two and after we had showered we spent a pleasant evening with them telling of the excitement we had a couple of nights before.
Well Monday 10th August is a good day for Claire and me as we get to celebrate the anniversary of our wedding. We left the boat around 10.30 first going to the marina office to ask them about good restaurants in the city, they came up with a few suggestions booking a table for 4 as we had invited Millie and Johan along in one that we selected. We then walked the short distance to the world renowned Lisbon Aquarium. It was fantastic in there with the added bonus of also being cool. It was 38 degrees in the shade outside. We had a nice lunch then wandered back to the boat to rest in the shade before getting ready for our meal.
We had booked a cab for 0830, Millie and Johan turned up at our boat with a nice bottle of champagne which we drank before making our way up town. I was a bit nervous about the place as I so wanted us all to have a good night. Well it was perfect. The restaurant was high up overlooking the river; all of the windows had been rolled back, like a sliding wall so we had good views along with a nice cool breeze. The food and wine were excellent as the place had a long list of Michelin recommendations. Johan and Millie were excellent company and the service was faultless. We rounded off the evening with chilled white Port and coffee.
We returned to the boat just after midnight. Claire and I were very happy to have celebrated in style with good friends in such a beautiful city. I wonder where we will be for our third anniversary??
Time to be a tourist. Aurora was leaving today to start moving down the coast towards the Algarve. We bade them farewell and hoped we would meet up with them again. It is tempting to try to arrange a time and a place but I think its best left to destiny.
We intended to ‘see Lisbon’ today so we got the 728 bus from the marina into the centre of the city. It was very hot, the bus was air conditioned with the fare costing just £1.10 each for a 40 minute trip. We got off near the big monument to the age of discoveries with our old friend Henry the Navigator at the front of the queue. We had seen it from the river but wanted to lookout from the top of this impressive structure. First though, breakfast. We found a nice restaurant in a park. Lisbon is very busy, far worse than anywhere else we had been so far add in the heat and I was happy to sit in the shade for a while.
Claire prodded me to my feet and we walked through the well-kept gardens to the base of the ‘discoveries’ monument. There was a surprisingly short wait then we were taken to the top in a lift, (56meters) where we had a wonderful view of the city. All the time we had been out I was thinking about Aurora coming down the river and how it would be nice to wave to them from the shore. I looked up river from this fantastic vantage point. In the distance there was a yacht, motoring against the tide. It would be great if it was them. After another 10 minutes or so with the people around us getting agitated because we weren’t moving from the best spot I could see that it was Aurora!! How brilliant was that. I started whistling, waving my hat to the concern of those nearby. They finally saw us with Johan getting his fog horn out and blasting it in our direction.
After they moved out of sight we walked back down to ground level and strolled along the water’s edge towards the Torre du Belem. There was a huge queue for this and it wasn’t moving very fast so we gave it a miss. We passed a monument to a couple of Portuguese airmen that flew a biplane with floats from The Torre de Belem to Brazil in 1922. We walked through the streets ending up in Martim Moniz which has a lovely feel to it with small bars and restaurants gathered around different water fountains and water features. There was a couple giving deep tissue massages and I persuaded Claire to have one as my efforts weren’t too successful to date. They were very serious and didn’t look too happy with me taking pictures!!
We then caught the No 28 tram which rattles its way through the city’s narrow streets finally ending up in the main square where we stopped for a very nice meal as the sun went down. Luck was on our side once more as we finished our food music started coming from huge speakers across the other side of the plaza, a large crowd gathered, street lights went out along with most of those over the tables, ours included in the restaurants that bordered the square. A fantastic animation was projected onto the ‘Praco de Comercio’ with music to accompany it. Brilliant. What a way to end a fantastic day. Then back on the bus for the trip back to the boat.
Still in Lisbon
We spent another few days in Lisbon taking the opportunity to stock up the boat with the heavier items, wine, beer, bottled water and iced tea etc. as the local supermarket was only a 10 minute walk away and provided a delivery service to your boat!! How good is that? I know we have only been away for three months but it felt strange heaving things into a trolley just like we used too when shopping at the Tesco´s in Maldon, Essex without worrying about how we were going to carry it back to Red Rooster. I was slightly concerned however about where it was all going to go but I had forgotten about Claire the ´super packer´ she had it stowed away in no time. I made myself scarce fiddling with important boat type stuff.
We went back to the shopping Centre (a bit like Lakeside) later in the day where Claire had her hair cut, we also bought a new laptop as our old one had crashed about 5 times with nothing to look at except the blue screen of death. We got another Lenovo, with the Pound against the Euro enabling us to get a great deal. It was really cool in the mall, as our American friends would say. I don’t mean trendy shops with fashionable people strolling around, although I was there. No I mean the temperature. When I looked up at the huge curved glass roof it had water, I mean a lot of water being sprayed along and over its entire length, I suppose this helped take the heat away?? My old mate Dave Pearce would have to come up with the technical details as I am only guessing. Shopping really exhausts me as it does most real men, I managed to make it back to the boat where we watched ´The Prisoner of Azkaban´ (Grace and Joy weren’t in that one either) before falling to sleep. Oh and I remembered why I started going on about Harry Potter in the first place. It was walking around the Monastery in Batalha it looked a bit Hogwartish.
We decided to go back into Lisbon today (14th August) for some more sightseeing. It really is a pleasant city not as nice as Porto in my humble opinion but ok all the same. We invited a young lad called Max along with us as he was on his boat alone (that may be an opening for a whole new set of `alone’ films) and we felt that maybe he could do with a bit of company. We left the marina at 10:30 and caught the good old 728 into the city. We decided to try our luck first with Jerome’s Monastery. When Claire and I first went there the queue was far too long to consider especially in the heat we were experiencing. As we walked around the corner the queue, if anything looked longer. I wanted to see inside as it was built shortly after Vasco de Gamma returned from India in 1501 it also houses the maritime museum, Oh well Max said he knew of a good yacht chandlers that was just across the road so we went there instead, no queue´s no entry fee and some might say, not me mind you that it was far more interesting!!
After perusing the store we hopped on a bus jumping off at a large covered market. It was very similar to the one we went to in Figueira da Foz but on walking through to the next hall we were amazed to find a huge, I’m talking massive here, food hall with dozens of small kitchens around the perimeter cooking and serving food whose main ingredients came from the market next door. In the middle of the hall were many long wooden tables and chairs where you could sit and devour your chosen concoction.
Out of all I could choose from I ended up with a pork roll!! I know not very adventurous, it wasn’t really that nice either, no apple sauce!! Whilst Max and Claire had sushi which looked and was very nice. I had serious food envy. I told them about my friend Rod who was the chef on Ptarmigan (the boat I sailed on with George when we crossed the Atlantic last year) serving fresh raw tuna, I mean fresh as it was on the table less than 5 minutes after George reeled it in, I think it’s called Sashimi which means raw fish it was delicious. Claire said she had never tried raw tuna so I went up to get us some. It was lovely and if you haven’t tried it you should.
We moved on from there, we had a drink in the main square then decided to walk to the Castelo de S Jorge which began life in the 11th century it was a beautiful castle on a hill that overlooked the city. I talked to Max as we walked, he had a strong American / Canadian accent but was in fact Norwegian. His father had bought a brand new 41.2 Najad sailing yacht called `Fryd´ which is a girl’s name, not a poorly spelt boys name. (I have been on it and its lovely) they had sailed from home to Lisbon but it had quite a few problems, some serious but many stupid annoying things. It made me think that the people who had put it together had never sailed in their lives. The extent of the problems required workers from Najad to drive all the way from Sweden with tools, equipment and spare parts to fix it. His father had returned to work leaving Max on the boat for about a month waiting for them to arrive and to help them sort things out. I’m sort of glad that we can’t afford a new boat as I would be really upset having paid out a serious amount of money only to have a list of problems to sort out once I took ownership.
The walk up to the castle was very nice, it was quite steep but there was lots to stop and look at on the way up which made it enjoyable. One of the distractions was a large paddling pool where people were sitting around talking whilst cooling their feet off in the water. We had to have some of that. Ooooh it was lovely.
The castle itself was great, Sea sick Steve popped into my head again. (You’ve got to get yourself out here mate). The views across Lisbon were not to be missed. After a pleasant few hours we walked back into the city stopping for a few drinks in the same square where Claire had her massage. We had a nice Chinese meal then caught the bus back to the boat. What a nice day.
Sunday 16th August. We had decided to move back down the river to Oeiras, another word that’s hard to say until you remember that if there is an `s´ at the end of a Portuguese word it’s pronounced as a `sh´. I must admit that even with that piece of information it’s still pretty difficult to say.
The trip down the river was great, we just popped the genoa out as we had the tide with us. We spent a pleasant few hours gliding downstream passing all those fantastic monuments. After we had tied up to the visitors pontoon in the marina I ran up to the office and was told we were in the wrong place and were in danger of going aground on the new slipway as the tide was running out fast. I told him that it was the right one as far as we were concerned as we had followed the instructions in our pilot book. The trouble was, we later discovered, our pilot book, an Ebay bargain was approximately 5 years out of date and things had changed a lot in that time We had to get to berth E26, I sprinted back (I know that’s hard to imagine) as fast as I could (which wasn’t that fast) so Claire and I could get the boat back into deeper water and to our berth. Soon after we were sorted we bumped into Heather from Kwanza a boat we had first seen in Muros and again in Porto. We spent a pleasant evening on our boat chatting. Tony had to go back home for a week so Heather was ‘on her boat alone’ (you can almost write the screenplay yourself) they were going to Madeira before heading to the canaries to join the Jimmy Cornell cruise.
Oeiras is OK but there really is nothing to see here so we are waiting for the strong Easterly winds which have been caused by the Azores high squeezing the prevailing winds over Portugal to abate. (I think that’s right) before moving onto Sines. Another word with s on the end so you know what to do when you sound it out.
On to the Algarve
The alarm woke us at 0700, we were up, showered and motoring out of the marina at Oieras just after 0800. It was a beautiful morning, with not a cloud in the sky. I think we will be mostly passage making today!! We motored through hundreds of large jelly fish that made me shudder when thinking what if you fell in.
As we passed the headland Cabo Espichel a breeze started to disturb the mirror like quality of the water and within the hour we had the main and genoa up sailing along on a beautiful blue sea with a sky to match.
Sines came into view and in no time at all we were anchored just off the beach. Just outside the marina. We had decided to anchor to save a bit of money. The pilot book informed us that you could pay a small fee to use all of the marinas facilities, showers, Wifi etc. We sorted the RIB out and I used a hoist that I made up in Oeiras to lower the outboard onto the back. It worked very well, the rope was a bit short so I had to manhandle it the last little bit but the principle was sound and it would help a lot as its quite awkward to move the outboard from the yacht to the RIB and back again. We motored to the marina office paid 22Euros for a couple of nights showered then went back to the boat.
Sines is a nice little harbour with a well-kept beach, a marina on one side and a fishing quay on the other. Outside of this harbour is a larger port with big ships in dock and more anchored off shore awaiting their turn to come in.
I wanted to stop here as Vasco da Gama was born in the town. There’s not too much to see, a small walled enclosure is all that remains of a castle alongside which stands a statue of the great man looking out to sea. But it’s a good place to stop, breaking up the journey south from Lisbon to Lagos (another place ending in ‘sh’) on the Algarve. We stayed for two nights, enjoying a drink in a really strange bar and chatting with four unlucky cruising folk aboard Eyecatcher. Whose engine had blown up leaving them stuck for 14 days and counting whilst waiting for the parts to be posted out. It was nice to rest up before the long trip around Cabo St Vicente to Lagos.
All seemed OK for our planned departure from Sines at 0530 on the 22nd August. 15 – 20 knots from the North West with stronger gusts near the corner. We prepared the boat the night before ready for the early start.
The alarm went off, the anchor came up shortly afterwards and we motored quietly though the other boats out into the open sea. Sunrise was at 06.30 but it was still pitch dark keeping Claire and I on high alert looking for fishing pots and nets. As it became lighter Claire took herself back to bed for a few more hours sleep and I sat enjoying one of the best times to be at sea. As the sun rose, colours that only the artist Monet managed to capture filled the sky. The sun eventually burning off the light mist that lay on the water revealing the coast line stretching away into the distance as far as the eye could see.
The wind stayed light, under 8 knots from the NW. Claire up and awake now spotted the unmistakable fins of dolphins as they sped towards our boat. They stayed with us for about 20 minutes with Claire sitting up front, chatting to them as if they were old friends.
We had the tide with us so it was easy to average 6 -7 knots under motor as we traveled towards Cabo St Vicente and Ponta de Sagres. Like all the other headlands we have passed these two are formidable and could be potentially dangerous requiring respect and good weather to make it an enjoyable experience rather than a frightening one. We needed to round these last two major headlands on the Portuguese coast before allowing ourselves to relax a bit. They were, for a time considered to be the end of the known world and it was easy for me to imagine the early explorers like Vasco de Gama sailing away from these two familiar landmarks into the vast ocean not knowing what if anything lay beyond. When we got there the wind was still light and we went in closer than planned. Claire announced that for the first time in a long time we were traveling East instead of South.
We saw strange cloud formations bubbling up on the other side of the land, the side we just came from. They looked odd, both Claire and I thought we were in for a bit of a blow and we started to put things away in readiness. The wind started to fill in as we rounded Ponta de Sagres building to a solid 25 knots in no time at all with stronger gusts. We had two reefs in the main and two in the genoa flying along on a beam reach. We had three hours of this as we flew down the coast to Lagos. We rounded up into the bay going head to wind to take the sails down. We were still seeing 25+ knots as we prepped the boat to go into the marina. We had to go alongside a visitor’s pontoon in the river, sign in at reception before waiting for a foot bridge to be raised allowing us into the berths.
For those who have never had to handle a boat in strong winds it’s a strange, often frightening experience. I don’t mean sailing in strong winds that too can be frightening. I mean maneuvering something that’s 40ft long in confined spaces, the spaces are often confined by other, very valuable boats with the wind blowing it around as you try desperately to keep it going in the direction you want it to go. It’s a bit like trying to push one of those rogue shopping trolleys with the dodgy wheel full to overflowing with your possessions through a Rolls Royce show room.
Claire managed to hold her steady in the river as we waited for the bridge to go up by giving her full power in forward and reverse turning the wheel this way and that as the wind tried to push her onto the rocks which formed the inlet. You have to remember a boat does not have any brakes, you need to use forward and reverse gears to get it to sort of stay in one place. The bridge finally opened and we motored through looking for E19 the berth we had been allocated. Because it was so windy we had asked at reception for a marinaro to wait for us at our berth to guide us in and catch our lines. I saw E pontoon and advised Claire to go a lot faster than usual as when she turned in to go in between the row of boats to our berth she would be side onto the wind which was still blowing hard, pushing us onto them if she was not careful. It was difficult to hear each other but we had done this many times now so all should be ok.
Well she did a fantastic job we flew down in between these gleaming yachts turning hard to port as we reached our spot, I quickly threw the bow line to the marinaro and made ready to jump onto the pontoon myself when Claire screamed ‘reverse’ - ‘Yes’ I said a bit sarcastically, we had done this loads of times and she should know what to do by now. ‘Hard astern’ I shouted, ‘give it loads as we are still going too fast’ and jumped. Claire shouted again and this time I heard the whole sentence ‘I have NO reverse’ I looked at her and for a second I saw impending doom written across her face as she imagined what was going to happen next, seven tons of boat was going to plough into and up onto the pontoon, possibly killing the marinaro who was looking up at this crazed, red faced English woman at the helm, definitely wrecking Red Rooster and the beautiful boat opposite.
Well none of that happened, I am not sure how but the marinaro, whose parents must have been stick insects he was so thin got his shoulder onto the bow of Red Rooster and pushed hard whilst I heaved on the stanchions of the guard rail with smoke coming of my shoes as they slid down the pontoon. Red Rooster stopped millimeters away from the main walkway with nothing hurt except Claire’s pride, oh and the marinaro’s shoulder and it wasn’t her fault anyway we later discovered that the throttle cable had snapped so although the boat was going into gear it was only ticking over.
As I have said before I was born lucky. I can understand how, in reading the last few paragraphs it doesn’t sound as if I am very lucky but if that cable had snapped whilst we were trying to hold position in the river then we would have definitely, seriously damaged our boat possibly written it off on the rocks. As it is we are tied up all safe and sound, I’ve taken the throttle apart, removed the broken cable and with a bit more of the old Williams luck I will find a replacement tomorrow and have it working as good as new in no time at all.
As luck would have it Lagos (pronounced Lagosh remember) has a couple of good chandlers very close to the marina and we purchased a new ‘Morse Teleflex’ cable, exactly the same length as the old one (very important that!) for 50 Euro’s with no problems at all. I disconnected the old outer part of the cable. (A Teleflex cable is very similar to the brake cables on a push bike. You have an ‘outer’ and an ‘inner’ cable. The inner runs smoothly inside of the outer, this allows the cable to be weaved around the bike frame, or through the boat without affecting the smoothness of the action, if you’ll pardon the expression) I then taped the new cable onto the end of the old and with Claire’s help we pulled the old one out as we pulled the new one in! Perfect. I connected up both ends, one to the throttle control at the helm position, the other to the accelerator arm on the engine and we were good to go.
We spent the afternoon posting a few cards and letters as well as food shopping stocking up the boat as we intended to try and anchor a bit more as there were some beautiful little spots to stop at along the coast.
We met a very nice German couple on the boat next to us. Emily was very pleased to see Artic turns diving for fish in the marina and lent us a book to read about them. I invited them aboard Red Rooster for a few drinks later that evening. Emily and Stephan were moving their boat ‘Baltimore’ down the Algarve a bit further before flying home for the winter. They intend to start their journey again next spring so we may see them next year in the Med. Their laptop had packed up so we let them have our old, old one.
The next morning, 26th August we paid up the marina fee’s 167 Euro’s for four nights, still considerably cheaper than Ramsgate, our ‘benchmark’. Left the berth, waited for the bridge and stopped for some fuel. Claire was very quiet during all of this. When I asked if she was OK she said she was very nervous about moving Red Rooster in and out of gear as she hadn’t quite forgotten the incident a few days earlier.
We intended to motor out of the river entrance and drop the anchor just off the beach for the night as we wanted to visit the rocks first thing in the morning. These rocks were quite an attraction here with a continuous stream of boats, full of tourists weaving their way in and out of the formations. The night was uneventful, we watched another HP film (Oh Grace told me that they were in ‘The prisoner of Azkaban) must have missed them!! But do you think we could sleep when we went to bed! It was quite windy blowing 5 -6 until around midnight when it started to die down a bit. I think we are both still a bit twitchy in case the anchor drags again. Oh well we are going to have to get used to it.
We both liked Lagos but we were both glad to leave. After spending the last two months in Spain and Portugal going days, sometimes weeks without hearing another English voice it was a bit odd, and in most cases not very pleasant to hear and see the typical English family abroad. I have never really been to a typical holiday resort abroad. I suppose the only time was when my good friend Ali and I went to Tenerife for a couple of weeks. I think I was still in my teens then.
It was a beautiful morning, very still with wispy white clouds in a china blue sky. The tide was low which was perfect as we could take the RIB in closer and even go through some of the rock formations. They were fantastic and worth the effort. After an hour or so we went back to the boat, had some breakfast then motored a few miles across the bay to a small shallow estuary which led to the town of Alvor. It reminded us of the back waters of Essex, except it was sand and not mud plus it smelled a bit nicer but apart from those few minor points, oh and the sun was out and very warm we could have been fooled into thinking we were back home! We edged slowly forward with the water getting shallower every minute.
It was quite crowded in this little creek and we had to move our boat once as we were in danger of hitting another yacht as we sung on our anchor.
Alvor founded by the Carthaginians, although small was a very important town. The Romans took it over, the Moors had it for a while then in the 11th century. The knights of the crusades paid it a visit. There’s not much to see now unfortunately as this area was devastated by the earthquakes of 1532 and again in1755. It’s definitely worth visiting Google for the full story if you’re interested in that kind of thing.
We didn’t go ashore as we were still worried about the boats position in relation to the others anchored. Johann and Millie popped over, we knew they were here. We spent a pleasant couple of hours drinking and talking. They were moving on in the morning but it was extremely likely that we would meet them again in Portimao I stayed up until 01.30 waiting for the tide to turn to be sure we missed the other yachts.
I had no inkling when I woke up (it was Friday 28th August) that it would be the day my luck nearly ran out.
We woke at 10.00 tidied the boat, jumped in the RIB and motored over to the yacht closest to us. ‘Anastasia’ she was called. I told the very nice couple on board, Frank and Sophie that I had stayed up all night to ensure the boats didn’t touch. They thanked us and we motored off to the town with two things on our mind. Fresh bread and a WiFi connection. Both were easy to obtain, the downside of getting the WiFi connection was that you had to sit in a very nice sea front café / restaurant order a nice coffee or a beer so you can ask the waiter for the code to log in!! This we did, after catching up with all the news, downloading a weather forecast (We have been using ‘Pocket Grib’ an app for the ipad and iphone. We have found it to be pretty good and very easy to use over the last three months) posting a picture or two on Face page. We bumped into Fritz the skipper of a large catamaran on the other side of us and he told us that shortly after we left the boat that morning it had swung with the tide and wind and would have hit ‘Anastasia’ if they hadn’t been on board to fend it off!! Bugger we headed back to RR having decided to move to a better spot. A few boats had left whilst we were in the café including ‘Aurora’ so we decided to go where they had been.
We apologised to the couple aboard ‘Anastasia’ lifted our anchor and moved RR to its new, less crowded location. At least we could relax a bit now as we were well clear of our neighbours.
For those that don’t know I was / am a very keen fan of Radio controlled aircraft. In fact I had about 20 or so of them before we left. Claire realising how much I would miss them bought me a sea plane with a 4ft wing span that has been packed away. Well this place was perfect, I put it together, charged the batteries (it has an electric motor) put the transmitter in a waterproof bag jumped in the RIB said goodbye to Claire with a huge grin on my face and motored down the river to where there was a kind of lagoon. I plugged everything in, put the plane on the water, I was a bit nervous as I had never taken off from water before and opened the throttle. Well she looked beautiful as she accelerated away, skipping over the small ripples finally breaking contact with the water and lifting off into the blue sky. I spent a very happy 10 -15 minutes before I realised that the wind was getting up and the battery in the plane was getting low. I circled a few times, glad that no one was watching and brought her slowly down onto the water, there were little waves now as the tide had started to run out against the wind. She bounced a bit but settled safely and I waited for the wind to blow her back to me as I sat grinning from ear to ear in the RIB. Brilliant. I will do it all again tomorrow weather permitting.
I motored back to RR and told Claire all about it (I love how she’s happy if I’m happy).
We were both hot and decided to swim to the sand bar that was slowly being uncovered as the tide ran out. The water was a lot warmer in this little estuary and we swam the 40 – 50 meters to the sand bar without any problems. We walked hand in hand along the tiny strip only 3 meters wide to the end and back again. There was no one else on the sand bar it was just us two. Around 30 minutes later we ended up back where we had started opposite RR. Claire walked down a bit further as the tide looked as if it was flowing faster. We were nearly at spring tides, the highest and lowest in the range as the moon was almost full. We both set off, Claire is a good swimmer with a strong breast stroke. I on the other hand used to be a very good swimmer but as I was soon to find out I’m not anymore.
Just over halfway across I realised that I was getting swept down with the tide and would miss the boat if I carried on as I was, the tide was a lot stronger than when we first swam across. I changed from breast stroke to front crawl but after a few minutes I was tiring so I flipped onto my back and kicked hard using my arms also. When I turned back over to breast stroke again it didn’t look as if I was getting any closer. I shouted to Claire who was about 20 meters up stream of me to keep going. I tried another burst of front crawl getting to within about 5 meters of the boat but when I stopped to look where I was and catch my breath I was swept away again. I started to worry a bit then, my breathing was very laboured, as George my son once told me ‘I’m strong but not very fit’. I shouted to Claire that I wasn’t going to make it but she should swim hard for the boat. She said I should try to get back to the shore but I was exhausted. I couldn’t swim anymore. I tried floating on my back to catch my breath but it was no good, the small waves kept breaking over my face. I realised, probably for the first time that I was in serious trouble. It was crazy, there were boats anchored all down one side with a beach down the other but the tide had me now taking me down mid-stream. In desperation I started shouting for help as loud as I could, hoping that there would be someone on their yacht that could help me. I was really struggling now I was trying to calm down, to regulate my breathing but I was swallowing lots of water in the process.
I looked back, I could see that Claire was OK, she was hanging onto our RIB that was tied to the back of RR. (Later when we talked Claire told me that while she was still swimming she could see that at least three ribs were on their way having heard my shouts. One went to Claire making sure she got back on board ok with the other two heading in my direction).
Then a small fishing boat came roaring past going very fast, I shouted for help and waved but the driver just waved back. His passenger though must have seen something in my face as he grabbed hold of the drivers arm and pointed in my direction. He spun the boat around coming up alongside of me with a boat hook in his hand. Boy that bit of wood felt so good, I couldn’t pull myself into the fishing boat but a small RIB came up behind me and I was bundled into that. The driver started shouting at me in English to look at him asking, did my chest hurt? Was I on any medication? Had I had a seizure? Had I lost consciousness at any time? I really couldn’t talk my chest was heaving but not hurting he grabbed my face to look into my eyes. He took me back to RR explaining that he was a cardiologist at the local hospital. He was on holiday on his boat which was next to ours, had heard my shouts and came after me in his RIB. After I clambered back on board. He said to Claire to whistle or shout across to his boat if my condition changed or deteriorated in any way and he would come right over.
Back on board RR it took me over two hours to recover, I was very sick after about 30 minutes bringing up a lot of saltwater and that morning’s breakfast. I was shaking and feeling a bit funny but slowly I returned to normal, (whatever that is) eating a nice meal and even managing to do the washing up.
This may be the incentive I need to get fitter. It was my breathing that I struggled with the most so perhaps some cardio vascular stuff? I am not really sure what that entails but apparently swimming is very good!!!!!!
We have both promised each other to be more careful and I suppose I am getting on a bit!!
The next day I felt fine, I went and thanked each of the skippers that came to help and all without exception said they responded because they may also need help one day. One of them had a similar story, his RIB had broken free from his boat whilst he was at anchor. It was very windy, without thinking he dived in to retrieve it but the dinghy was traveling faster than he could swim. When he stopped he was about 100 meters away from his yacht with the wind and tide against him. He knew he wouldn’t be able to make it back. Luckily for him another skipper had seen what was happening and was already on his way to pick him up. They also managed to catch up with his dinghy so it turned out alright in the end.
The cardiologist, (I feel bad that I don’t even know his name) left shortly after I thanked him, Carlos the skipper of ‘My Love’ and his friend Soraia accepted our offer of a drink on board RR later that evening and as he knew Frank and Sophie from ‘Anastasia’ we invited them too.
We had a good but eventful evening, we were getting on well and Carlos asked me to take some pictures of his boat as it looked good in the sun. It was a Bavaria 44. This I did but when looking at it a few minutes later it had moved. I said I think your boats moving Carlos but he said that he was on a mooring and he had his anchor out as a precaution so it must be swinging around as boats do, it was quite windy and the tide was running but after another 30 seconds or so it was obvious that it was on the move. Carlos and Frank jumped in a RIB to chase after it and start the engine. We watched as it slid past two yachts, then it stopped. We later found out that it had hit the bottom. It started moving forward again under motor, dragging its anchor and what was left of the mooring buoy.
I went across in my dinghy to help untangle the lines of a second mooring and handed them up to Frank when they got close enough. I then put his anchor in the dinghy and motored about 15 – 20 meters in front of his boat dragging the chain behind me, throwing it overboard when the outboard could pull it no more.
We all returned and had another few rounds of G&T to celebrate another lucky escape. Carlos said now that I have helped him out we were equal again.
Frank and Sophie left the next morning for Portimao. I helped Carlos sort out his mooring lines and we had an argument with the owner of the mooring that had broken free. Carlos paid for its reinstatement which I thought was the right thing to do.
Claire and I then went for a nice long walk along the beach, the waves were quite small about a meter or so but powerful with a strong undertow as the beach was quite steep. We saw a small girl about 10 or 12 with her mum or sister playing in the waves but the girl was getting pulled out by the undertow. The mum/sister was laughing and smiling but the girl looked frightened. We walked on a bit more but when I turned to look again the girl was crying and screaming as the waves had separated the two. The girl was diving into the bigger waves so as not to get knocked over but that was taking her farther from the beach. When the next wave knocked her flat I ran in and grabbed her, the undertow took my feet away and we both went down but I grabbed her around the waist, standing her up and got her back out of the water. I had a bit of a go at the other woman about going in the water here when there was a life guarded area about 50 meters away. I am not too sure if she could understand English but I think she knew what I was going on about.
We finished our walk with a couple of cocktails in a bar overlooking the harbour (Claire’s idea) watching the sun go down on another eventful day.
We intend to leave for Portimao on Tuesday 1st September so we will re-stock the boat today, update the web site and leave on the first tide which should be around midday. I know we have had a few problems here in Alvor but I really like this place and will be sad to leave.
The 1st of September!! I can’t believe how these last few months have slid by. It has been fantastic. To think we left Tollesbury on the 9th May and now we are in Portimao on the Algarve.
I did get to fly my plane again before we left Alvor, Claire came too this time and even had a swim around the RIB before we made our way back. Before we left we did a big shop and got a taxi back to the harbour. We had lunch and as Dick (Dick was the third skipper that came to our aid he was the one who made sure Claire was OK) was aboard his boat we invited him over and spent a pleasant hour or so talking about our plans with him as he has sailed this coast for many years.
The trip to Portimao was uneventful but nice as we sailed all the way. It’s only a few miles down the coast. We stopped at the marina fuel berth to fill the water tanks and was charged 5Euro’s for the privilege! We motored across the estuary and dropped our anchor a respectful distance from a Dutch boat called ‘Lovis’ (Not sure what it means). We had seen this boat a few times during our travels the first time was in Corme, just past La Coruna. We were hoping for a quiet night but the wind built to a solid force 6 by 1900 with the tide ripping out underneath us. I stayed up checking we didn’t drag until about 0200 when the wind started to drop. As I have said before anchoring isn’t always free you often have to pay. The currency being worry and sleepless nights!
We woke to a nice calm day in Portimao, we had been told that the little village of Ferragudo on the opposite bank to Portimao was worth a visit so after we had done our chores we jumped in the dinghy and motored into the little inlet. On the way we stopped to say high to the people on board ‘Lovis’ (sorry I can’t remember their names) they recommended a restaurant just off of the main square. It was a very nice town with a nice mix of traditional works, fishing, small shops etc. with very nice restaurants. We had lunch at the place suggested to us. The food was beautiful we had a three course meal with wine and a liquor to finish all for under £9 a head!!
As we made our way back to the boat the wind was already starting to build. The forecast was for stronger winds tonight. When we were back on board I checked everything was OK. I was sure that when we dragged our anchor at Cascais it was due to us moving around so much at the end of our chain. A boat can sort of ‘snake’ from side to side in strong winds when it’s at anchor. I’m not sure why exactly but I believe that ‘snaking’ slowly loosened our anchor until it pulled free. I have read that if you put a second anchor out, (we have three on board) with approximately the same scope (Scope is the term for length when you’re talking about anchor chain or warp?) as your main anchor it can help to stop the boat moving about so much. The idea is to form a ‘V’ with the two anchors and chains with the boat positioned at the bottom where the two meet. Just looking at the letter ‘V’ you can see how that would work so Claire and I had a go at doing it. I sorted a small, easy to handle CQR anchor out that had about 6 meters of chain on it with about 30 meters of 12mm line. I got in the RIB and Claire handed down the anchor and chain paying out the warp as I moved away from the boat. We had a rough idea where the main anchor was and I dropped the second one in when I was level with it but about 30meters to one side. Claire pulled the warp to ‘set’ the anchor but it didn’t bite so we did it again and this time it set firm. Back on board we made the warp off to a cleat after slipping a 500mm long piece of plastic tube over the line to stop it chaffing on the bow roller. It took a few minutes for the boat to get used to this new arrangement but it definitely did the trick. Compared to the other boats near us we were moving around a lot less. It has given me the confidence to go to sleep at a more reasonable time, that and the drag alarm we have set up using the GPS.
We took a trip into Portimao today, and was a bit disappointed. The beach was fantastic but the town was one huge apartment complex. After an hour or so we went back to the RIB which was ‘parked’ at the marina. We asked where the chandlers was and an attendant told us that it was up river near the old town! Now it made sense, where we had just been was the new development. We had a bit of time before it got too dark so we motored up river, found the chandlers, I was after a spark plug for our suitcase generator. We plug the generator into the boat and it’s like we are plugged in at the marina, we use it for hot water mainly and charging the bigger 240v stuff. The wind was beginning to build again so we headed back to RR. We put the second anchor out again, adjusted the warps, went below and watched ‘Patch Adams’ on the laptop before going to sleep.
We had a very lazy few days here, it all seems a bit of an anti-climax after the drama’s we had in Alvor but I must admit it’s been nice to relax, catch up on jobs around the boat, read and walk along the beach.
Onto Vilamoura- 5th September
As you probably know its Claire´s birthday on the 7th September. One of her requests for the special day was that she could get on and off Red Rooster by means of a pontoon in a marina. When you’re on a swinging mooring or at anchor you have to scramble in and out of a dinghy, very likely getting wet on the way to and from the shore. When you’ve just got normal clothes on it’s not an issue really but when you’re wearing your Sunday best it can be a pain. Vilamoura was going to be expensive but by the look in her eyes as she said this I knew not to argue the point (that’s what nearly 12 years together has taught me) and I agreed to take a berth in Vilamoura.
It had been windy for 4 days almost without a break, the morning we left we had nothing, not a breath of wind so once again we made passage, passing more wonderful rock formations. We also passed Albufeira where my parents spend a month or so each year during England’s winter months to get a bit of sun on their bones.
Vilamoura soon came into view and we made for the small twin towers marking the entrance to the marina. Claire brought us alongside the visitor’s pontoon where we tied up, booked in and were given our berth. E 44. It’s a big marina stuffed full of large power boats or gin palaces as they are known by the sailing fraternity. Most have the British Ensign on the back but we saw very few going out during our stay, most of the activity on board them was due to the small army of cleaners going from boat to boat washing and polishing them until they shone in the brilliant sunshine.
Sunday was spent cleaning the boat, Claire used the laundry in the marina to get up to date with the washing whilst I checked and adjusted the rigging tension. This is something I had been wanting to do for some time. I was happy that the mast was straight and that it had a bit of forward pre bend as detailed in a ‘Selden’ manual I downloaded before we left England. I used a ‘Sure Check’ gauge and adjusted both sets of shrouds, the forward and aft lowers as well as the back stay. They were all a bit loose actually and I am glad I went over them. You never know we may have to sail again now that the summer is coming to an end!!
Claire´s Birthday was sunny and warm, I made her a cup of tea and gave her a card. Whilst she relaxed in bed I walked to the supermarket to buy the ingredients for a nice breakfast which I cooked and we ate on deck in the warm sunshine. We then spent the afternoon on the beach, swimming when we got too hot and reading. That evening we had a nice meal and discussed, among other things where we might be celebrating her birthday in 2016.
We spent the next few days exploring a bit further afield visiting Faro by bus. It’s a very nice place with an interesting old town. Claire bought some more clothes, I know, I know, for her birthday and we enjoyed a beautiful traditional Portuguese fish dish called a Cataplana.
We paid to go into the cathedral (no services were on) a religious structure of some description has been on this site since the Constantinian period. The cathedral was refurbished in 1251 after the Christian re-conquest and has been done up a few more times since then. As with all of these beautiful, very old buildings it’s impossible to imagine how the works were undertaken. The large organ, installed in 1701 wedged between a wall and a column way above head height is another marvel of human ingenuity and I wouldn’t fancy being a page turner up there. In the garden were three small chapels one was called ‘The chapel of bones’ and is decorated with many human skulls and countless thigh bones to make a design for the end wall. Lovely.
We wanted to post some letters in Faro and tried to buy stamps in a few newsagents we were told that we needed to go to the main post office. This we found without too much trouble. Inside were quite a few people, none queuing but all just standing around then we realised that you had to take a ticket and wait for your number to be called. There was nowhere to buy stamps from a machine and we had to wait ages, I mean nearly an hour watching the staff move around as if they were playing a game of ‘ whoever serves the fewest people wins’ It really was frustrating.
On the 11th September we had a very pleasant surprise as we saw ‘Manuai’ at a berth in the marina. If you remember we met Neil Ragonsi in the marina at Moana in the Ria de Vigo a month or so ago. He had to visit family nearby but we arranged to meet up for a drink the following evening. We on the other hand met up with Carlos and Soraia and had a very pleasant meal in Quarteira.
The following day we went on a road train trip around Vilamoura, which was not very exciting but later we were excited to discover when looking on line at the web site ‘marine traffic’ that Aurora was on her way back to see us before they headed off to Madeira. We both get on very well with Johan and Millie and it was great that they were spending the time and money to come back to see us. That night though we went on board ‘Manuai’ and had a really nice time with Neil, his partner Erica, Neil’s Brother David his wife and their nephew Mathew. I can’t remember too much about it other than they had never heard of Pimms!!!? I know that they are originally from Venice but I was really surprised that they hadn’t heard of it as I thought it was a drink of international renown. So to set things straight I went back to RR in the dinghy, which wasn’t easy and got a bottle for them to sample. I love Pimms.
We woke up late, Aurora turned up just after lunch and we had a few beers on board before agreeing to meet up later that evening for a nice meal to celebrate our friendship and the parting of our ways for a while. We ended up back on board RR for a Port nightcap. It is sad to say goodbye but I think we will be seeing these two brilliant, friendly people in the years to come.
The 14th was a good day for me as I was being flown back to the Isle of Wight by my old company ‘Bradgates’ to take part in a corporate sailing event. I think the ‘corporate’ bit is a bit of a misnomer as we are all very good friends who enjoy sailing, eating and drinking, not necessarily in that order. Claire was happy to stay on the boat having a bit of peace and quiet for a change. I flew from Faro to Southampton and was on the IOW by 4 pm.
As an added bonus my daughter Grace was also on the island having attended the ‘Bestival’ so we arranged to meet up in a pub in Ryde and I spent a pleasant hour catching up with her and her boyfriend, Ash. I gave her loads of hugs for the ones she had missed and a few extra to tide her over until we met up again. I love her so much.
It was great to see Richard again and I thanked him for arranging and paying for this trip. He hadn’t told the others so when I walked into the bar at the Seaview Hotel they all did a double take. We talked long into the night whilst I got stuck into the Guinness topping up my depleted reserves. I was hoping Dave Simonson would be there but pressure of work kept him away.
The weather on the Monday was atrocious with strong wind warnings being posted all down the South coast but fortunately Tuesday dawned grey and overcast but with no rain and winds around 20knots. The sailing was still on and it was going to be lively!!
We had four boats, Colin Goddard was in with Julian Reese. (Colin had never sailed before and I think he was brave to go out in that kind of weather) Andy Sweet was with David Draude, Richard Warwick was in with Richard Fenton and I was with Ian Cuthbertson. The racing was close as always and we all got soaked but we had a fantastic time. We had a great meal back at the hotel going our separate ways on Wednesday morning after a full English. I count myself very lucky to be invited back by Bradgates. I had a brilliant time.
It was good to get back home though, seeing Claire again was great and we went out for a Chinese to celebrate. That trip was the first time I had left the boat since we moved on board back in April and I honestly do consider it ‘home’.
There were three reasons to spend two weeks in Vilamoura, the first was for Claire’s Birthday. The second was so I could fly back home leaving Claire safe in the marina and the third was that my sister Lauri and her husband David were coming here to play golf so we met up with them on Thursday 17th. Claire cooked a fantastic meal on board and we had a great ‘catch up’. On the Friday they took us for a drive in their hire car to see some of the nicer golf courses and to have a beautiful lunch in a lovely restaurant called GiGi’s.
In the evening we got RR ready to leave the next day and watched England open their Rugby World Cup campaign with a shaky start against Fiji.
We hope to see Rodger and Stuart, my nephews before we leave as they are joining Lauri and David for a bit of golf.
Saturday 19th turned out to be a beautiful day, we had the boat ready to leave by 11.30 we met Lauri, David, Roger and Stuart in a café by the marina at 12.30 where we had a few beers and a cheeky Ferrero Roche ice cream.
Claire went off with Lauri to spend her Birthday money from Wendy and Alan (her parents) on a very nice Bikini whilst I showed Roger and Stuart the boat. Dave went to the pub to secure some good seats for the Chelsea –Arsenal match he’s a big Chelsea fan. (2-0 to Chelsea. Arsenal with 10 men after a sending off just before half time) we left them in the pub as we wanted to get going.
There were tides to worry about in the entrance to Canal de Olhao our choice for an overnight stop. The sail there was uneventful but we saw two other Etap’s, the make of our boat. We haven’t seen many so to see two on the same day was nice. The sunset was fantastic but we had a restless night at anchor after spending two weeks in a marina. We left around 10.00 the following morning and had a great sail down to Ayamonte on the Guadiana, the River that forms the border between the Portuguese Algarve and Andalucía of Southern Spain!!
We have travelled the length of Portugal in Red Rooster. We have seen places and experienced things we will never forget meeting people along the way that we will remember and or keep in touch with for many years to come.
The problem is, what shall I call this next section??