The following morning, the 9th, we had a later start leaving at 9, the run down to Sao Martinho do Porto was just 40 miles. All hopes of sailing slowly evapourated as the wind was stubbornly absent. The skies were overcast and the sea was ‘burnished steel’ mirror smooth; Clive couldn’t believe the Atlantic could be flat! By lunch time we even had rain!
Our destination was a small bay called Sao Martinho do Porto. The Pilot Book said it was easily accessible in settled weather but would be a different proposition in westerly winds. I had the marina at Nazare, 5 miles back up the coast, as a back up plan but as the weather was most definitely settled and no winds were forecast we cruised into the bay and anchored without a care in the world.
The weather was average and became dismal. We launched Windy so I could go ashore to see the Capitania. Clive came with me and guarded Windy while I walked to the Capitania’s Office, to find it closed. Another ex-colleague had given Clive and Alex a restaurant recommendation and although easily found, it was shut. We returned to Windependent and Clive, a bit of a water baby, took a dip in the bay, borrowing my mask and snorkel for a hull inspection, informimg me it was a bit dirty. I missed a trick in not throwing him the scrubbing brush and pulling up the swimming steps until he’d finished.
With the ‘Swimmer of the Watch’ recovered on board and the Swimming Steps tested, drizzle set in for the evening and so I made dinner. My plan of pulling into a picturesque bay, dropping the sea boat and having a run ashore in a quaint local restaurant was unravelling rapidly!
By 8 pm, low tide, the conditions at the entrance the bay had changed dramatically.
There were now breaking seas across the entrance and I put this down to the shoals and the low tide. These waves then spread out into the bay and we were rocked significantly, Windependent wanting to lay broadside to the swells making for an uncomfortable night. I didn’t set an anchor watch deciding to get up at 2, High Water, and check our position at the change of tides. The bay was completely dark, apart for the lights from Sao Martinho. Clear skies and no wind but a continuous ‘roar’ of breaking seas from the direction of the bay entrance.
I got everyone up at about 7 am on the 10th, so that we would be ready to go on the next rising tide, but at first light the conditions at the entrance had deteriorated further. Low Tide came and went and the seas were now about 2 metres and breaking almost continuously. The bay has a shallow bar just on the inside of the headlands Antonio and Ana. Just outside was a deep spot and then another shallower bar. The seas were breaking over the inner bar but the bigger issue were waves breaking over the outer bar and then swirling across the deep before getting to the inner bar. I spent over and hour watching the waves and figured I saw a pattern. By 10 am with the tide well on the rise I decided to go. We weighed the anchor and I set us up just inside the inner bar, waiting for my spot. Half a mile of fun and games, maybe 10 minutes maximum.
And it was a challenge. The inner bar was a doddle, 1 or 2 metre swells which I got through before they broke waiting for my next gap between the head lands where we found the big waves. The first one was probably 3 metres and I throttled off a little late, hitting it harder than I would have liked, stopped us dead in the water making me throttle on harder and so ‘jump’ onto the next wave. There after it was more controlled, drive up the face of the waves, throttle back at the top then drive down to the next wave face and so on. Two 39hp diesels made this a lot easier than it could have been! Even through the breaking seas we found 3 metre swells headed in towards us but a wind a gentle Force 3!
Once clear of the worst of the rough stuff we put up the sails but the waves were shaking us around so much the sails wouldn’t hold the wind. We needed to be in Lisbon by the evening, under sails we’d have been there at 6 the following morning. Engines on, 3000 rpm, and off we went.
Clive and Alex told me later it had been one of the more exciting rides of their lives. Exciting, perhaps, educational definitely!
The seas remained ‘moderate’ for the rest of the morning. The under-laying swells were 3 metres tall from the north west with a wave length of about 20 or 30 metres; at the helm station we regularly lost sight of the horizon. Over that was a slightly smaller swell from the north and the then wind waves, gentle ripples by comparison raised by the infuriatingly light winds.
As the day wore on the wind began to build but only became ‘sailable’ for our purposes as we turned east to approach Lisbon. By 7 pm we were off Bugio Island in the mouth of the Tejo River dropping our sails. Alex took the wheel and steered us from there up to the 25 April Bridge.
Alex and had an interesting discussion on collision avoidance as we approached the bridge. I asked him not to steer directly for the bridge support, he said he figured it was the safest course as no one else would be daft enough to aim for it. He duly steered away but within minutes we encountered a sailing boat crossing on a collision course ….. Actions on? Steer to starboard and ….. aim for the bridge support.
“Told you so!”
It was dark when we got to the entrance to the Doca da Alcantara. The Almanac states the Marina listens on four VHF Channels but after trying all of them Lisbon Port Ops told me they don’t actually have a radio at all. Error report to follow!
We managed to find a berth for ourselves and I went ashore to find Valeria who had been waiting in a restaurant at the dock side for most of the afternoon and evening.
And so another leg of our journey drew to a close. Valeria has friends in Lisbon, another restaurant recommendation, and another wonderful meal.
The following day we had to meet with Siroco, the company fitting out Windependent, and to clean and tidy up so we had to abandon Alex and Clive to their own devices. We went shopping in the afternoon and when we got back Alex and Clive were chillin’ on the Aft Deck waiting for their taxi and formed an ad hoc ‘Side Party’ for the Admiral’s arrival.
It was good to see the pair of them. I haven’t missed work one little bit; it is the characters and ‘office banter’ which I have missed and so it was good to ‘catch up’. Having promised them a ‘sailing’ holiday I felt a little uncomfortable having motored almost the entire way. But they did have a good break and an invitation to come and do some sailing another time. I hope they will take me up on the offer.
Facts and figures.
- Distance run 178 miles.
- Time on Passage – 29 hours.
- Maximum wind Force 4.