Whilst in Lisbon we are having a High Frequency / Single Side Band radio fitted and to operate such equipment you need to have a qualification.   So on the 16th and 17th I went off to Southampton to do my ‘Long Range Certificate’ training and then sit the exam.

There were 6 of us on the course which was run by a company called Yachtcom in Bursledon, and it was a varied group to say the least.  Two service men engaged in Service yachts, a guy working on the Challenger schooners, a soft wear programmer on a sabbatical who’d just bought his yacht and was off around the world, a professional schooner skipper living in Cabo Verde and me.

Following the 10 hour distance learning computer based training package we had a day of recapping, some group radio exercises and got to grips with the VHF, HF and Inmarsat equipment we were to be tested on.

The main thrust of the training was use of the radios in distress situations and which frequencies to call on and how to get the radios tuned to those frequencies.     This was the primary reason for having the HF/SSB radio installed so that once properly offshore we will still have contact with the outside world and can pick up weather reports and even receive email via the radio!    This won’t come into its own until we look at crossing the Atlantic, probably in 2017, but it gives me time to practice!

The second day taken up with some last minute revision and then the examination; written papers on VHF and HF Radios and Digital Selective Calling and Satellite Communications, a practical Voice Procedures exam followed by an Oral exam using the actual equipment.

Happily I will be able to practice as I passed but I had a moment when I did wonder, suffering a complete mental block!  I can guarantee I will never again forget how to adjust the RF Gain on my HF radio!

I can now say with conviction ‘Stay tuned for more riveting updates !!!’





After Alex and Clive left us we met up with a couple of Valeria’s friends, Rafael and Filipa.   We spent a very pleasant Friday evening with them and they came and stayed on board overnight.

Saturday was spent with a trip into the shopping district of Baixa.   We had lunch in the Praca do Comercio and then ‘hit the shops’.   This time we were looking for things like a coffee maker and a Portugese mobile phone.

Arco da Rua Augusta, Praca do Comercio
Arco da Rua Augusta, Praca do Comercio

On Sunday Rafael and Filipa invited us for Brunch at the Palacete Chafariz d’el Rei, a very nice hotel tucked away in a pedestrian side street in Alfama not far from the Praca do Comercio.   And I do mean tucked away at the bottom of an alley.   The front door is very impressive and Rafael told us he literally stumbled across it one day and rang the bell to see what the place was!   The inside was even finer, the  Brunch was delicious and was followed by coffee on the terrace; very relaxing.

Palacete Chafaariz d'El Rei
Palacete Chafaariz d’El Rei










DSC_0234 DSC_0232Alfama is one of the older districts and has a district character of its own.   Many of the streets are little more than alleyways in places, are very steep and narrow and generally only navigable by Smartcars and tuk tuks.   The tuk tuks are for tourists who don’t want the exercise and are a real nuisance blocking the streets annoying the residents and more energetic tourists alike.

DSC_0247The Castle of St George was more of a Keep, the original city was surrounded by a curtain wall down to the river.    There was little inside the castle walls to explain what the various sections of the castle had been used for, although we did identify the ovens.    The views were impressive and, with my long lens, I found we could just see Windependent in the marina.

Leaving the castle we got a cab to Belem and visited Filipa’s flat.  It was unfortunately raining by then but that didn’t stop us walking down towards the river for a bite to eat and then a visit to the Pastelaria de Belem, the home to the original Pastel de Nata, a speciality custard tart.  The Pastelaria claims to sell the best Pastel da Nata anywhere.  This is a very subjective claim but the Pastel de Belem were delicious.   It is a bit of a tourist trap with very long queues for a table but it was very pleasant.

At this point Rafael and Filipa left us, but we will be seeing them again in a month because they are planning to join us for the last leg of our journey to Faro.

Before we returned to Alcantara we took a stroll down to the Padrao dos Descobrimentos, a monument to the Portuguese seafarers who discovered most of Africa, the Far East and of course Brazil.

Monesteiro dos Jeronimos, Belem
Monesteiro dos Jeronimos, Belem
Padro dos Descobrimentos, Belem
Padro dos Descobrimentos, Belem



Lisbon is a beautiful city with many large and impressive squares and buildings but we had a guided tour of the ‘real’ Lisbon which was far better.

Porto to Lisbon – Day 2 and 3

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.

Ponta da San Antonio, Bahia de Sao Martino de Porto
Ponta da San Antonio, Bahia de Sao Martino de Porto

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.

Bay entrance at 4.30 pm
Bay entrance at 4.30 pm
Bay entrance at 8 pm
Bay entrance at 8 pm

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.

Me, picking my gap .....
Me, picking my gap …..

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!

Leaving Sao Martinho
Leaving Sao Martinho

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.

Cabo Carvoeiro at lunch time
Cabo Carvoeiro at lunch time

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 helming Windependent into the River Tejo
Alex helming Windependent into the River Tejo

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.


Porto to Lisbon – Day 1

Clive and Alex came out to join me for the next section of Windependent’s journey down the Portugese coast; Porto to Lisbon.   As neither were sailors I planned three one day passages with overnight stops in Figueira da Foz and Sao Martinho do Porto; the latter I figured would be an interesting stay as we would be anchored in a picturesque bay and would be able to take the sea boat ashore for a meal in a restaurant recommended to us.   Well it was both interesting and educational, of which more later.

Both my friends had come away for a sailing holiday and so I felt a little bad about turning them out of their beds at just before 6 am so we could get under way; we had a 60 mile / 10 hour passage ahead of us.   The day was disappointing from a sailing point of view with virtually no wind and progressively more overcast skies.   Fleeces and windproofs replaced the sun-cream.    We did get a hint of a north westerly breeze in the afternoon but not enough to get us to Figueira.

Clive at the wheel
Clive at the wheel

And so we motored again and I set my new crew to learning some new skills which we’d need when tying up on arrival.   Firstly some basic knots.    We started off with the ‘Left Handed Stokers Dhobi Hitch’. This complex knot can be tied by absolutely anyone as soon as they pick up a piece of rope.   It is never tied the same way twice, if pulled really tight it requires a knife to release it and has a multitude of uses in the ‘close enough’ category.


In very short time we were onto more useful Bowlines, Round Turn and Two Half Hitches, Clove Hitches and Figure of 8 Knots, which they mastered brilliantly, and so by lunch time they were onto Rolling Hitches and Carrick Bends!   Both are now planning work related applications for their return home!


"By Jove! I think they've got it!"
“By Jove! I think they’ve got it!”










After lunch I showed them how to catch hold of a cleat on a pontoon.   In most yachts you can step gracefully from deck onto the pontoon as the skipper places the pontoon at your feet and tie up that way.   Our deck is about 1.5 meters above most pontoons and so we have to throw a loop of rope to catch said mooring point.  Again, in the training environment, they mastered the skill perfectly.   Their first real test would arrive soon!

DSC_0146By 3 we were within 20 miles of our destination and had made reasonable time and so I decided to sail for a while.   We hauled the Cruising Chute up on deck and soon had it hoisted and managed to keep it flying for an hour;  with it and the Main we were managing 3 or 4 knots through the water in a 6 or 7 knot wind; a fair pace, but not when you needed to make 6 knots!

The Chute in action
The Chute in action


With the with the winds so light I took the opportunity of practicing a couple of gybes with the Chute flying, this time all the lines were in the right place and the sail bag was not caught up in the Tack Line.    And so having played with my new sail we dropped it and resumed our journey getting into Figueira da Foz at 6.

This was the guys’ first ever arrival and all their practice with ropes throughout the day paid off, our arrival looked planned and even polished!   Having booked in with the Harbour Master and armed with a recommendation for dinner we moved onto our assigned berth for the night, shut everything down and went ashore and had dinner in the ‘Sporting’ restaurant.   The three of us ate handsomely and had two bottles of Vinho Verde for a mere 43 Euros.



Arriving late on Thursday evening it was most definitely ‘beer o’clock’ and as soon as we were secure alongside and booked into the Marina we set off for a restaurant Mauro knew.   But as is ever the case the place was a little further along the river than we thought and wasn’t there when we arrived!    We did have a nice walk along the river bank though, very welcome after three days on a boat.   And the restaurant we settled on served a special dish local to Porto.  Called  francesinha…….. it is basically a steak sandwich with attitude.  Steak, egg, sausage, spicy sausage topped off with a special sauce.  Delicious!

Friday 4th September

First job was to clean the boat.   I am amazed at how grubby it can get after a few days at sea in nice clean sea air!   So we wiped, hoovered and cleaned and I started on the laundry.   I am so glad we had these machines fitted.   There is a laundry here, but it is a public hand laundry and you hang all your washing on lines strung alongside the harbour wall.   As Andy and Sarah had a flight to catch that evening I decided to leave the outside wash down for later and we went ashore to have a look around Porto.

Porto is on the north side of the Douro River, Gaia is on the south side.  We go a cab and were dropped off by the 12th Century Gothic Cathedral at the top of the city.

Porto Catherdral
Porto Catherdral

From there we walked onto the Dom Luis Bridge, one of 4 spanning the gorge around which Porto is built.   It was opened in 1886 and carries a train line on the top portion and the vehicle traffic on the lower section.   Both the Dom Luis and the Dona Maria Pia Bridge further up river were completed by Gustav Eiffel, he of the Tower fame, and his students.

Mauro, Sarah and Andy on the Dom Luis Bridge
Mauro, Sarah and Andy on the Dom Luis Bridge

Interestingly, they had so much iron left over that they then went on to build the Flower Market with it!

Porto Flower Market
Porto Flower Market

We wandered around for an hour or so visiting Sao Bento Station, the entrance to which is heavily decorated with tiled frescos before

Sao Bento Station
Sao Bento Station

walking down to the river side below the Dom Luis Bridge, an area called the Cais de Ribeira, for lunch.

Cais de Ribeira
Cais de Ribeira

With the time for Andy and Sarah to leave approaching we returned to the boat and I launched Windy.   It is a bit of a trek on foot to the Marina entrance from our berth and so I used Windy to ferry Andy and Sarah and their luggage to the pontoon right by the Marina Office.      Mauro and I spent the rest of the afternoon washing and scrubbing the salt and dirt from the outside of Windependent, while I continued to do load after load of washing; it is only 3 kg machine!

We then went out for dinner.   I suggested one of the local fish restaurants in the local fishing village.   Mauro wasn’t too keen and I bowed to his superior knowledge.   He wasn’t too keen until he smelt the aroma of barbequed fish wafting down one street.   The restaurant was a very local, family run set up with shared tables.   We found ourselves sitting next to an Angolan helicopter pilot and his Portugese friend.  We have no idea who his friend was because the pilot told us his entire life story, well, he told Mauro and I just picked up on the odd word!   It was a really good meal, simple, tasty and inexpensive.

Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Mauro returned home on Saturday and so I was left to my own devices updating the web site, checking my Passage Plan for the next few days and finishing off the laundry so I could make up the two guest cabins for my friends and going shopping for provisions.

Alex and Clive arrived on Monday afternoon and when they were settled in we went out for dinner.   A friend of Valeria’s, Danny Heartshorne, had sailed through Porto recently and gave us a restaurant recommendation for a place close to the Cais de Ribeira.   We found it but it was closed!   Thanks for the thought though Danny!


The Voyage to Porto


31st August.

Sunday morning Valeria had to get up early to get to the airport for her flight home.  Mauro and I spent the first part of the morning practicing rope work until Andy Barker, an ex-colleague, and his niece Sarah Shelton arrived.  After a safety briefing we left our berth and took on fuel then headed out for sea leaving the breakwaters at 2.10 pm, 31 August.   Full Away on Passage.

Unfortunately we were heading directly into a 20 knot north westerly wind, under overcast skies with scattered showers.  Hold on, this is Spain in the summer?  Force 5 winds and rain … I didn’t sign on for this!

The wind slackened off a bit during the afternoon but was still from the very direction we wanted to sail and so we ploughed on under engines.  Although the winds were from the North West the swell, the remains of big Atlantic rollers, was from the North and almost on our beam, side on.  Windependent is a stable boat but still rolled as the swells passed under her and the motion was not particularly comfortable and soon got the better of Sarah who spent the next 24 hours feeling sick and was unable to face going below to her cabin, sleeping either out on the aft deck or in the saloon.

Mauro, on the other hand was in his element and took on the role of Ship’s Cook, although, after the first meal he was promoted to Executive Chef, even had handmade meatballs for one evening meal!!!

With four of us on board we worked in pairs and split the night hours into 3 watches, 10 to 2, 2 to 6 and then 6 to 10, breaking watches from 10 to 10.   During the day if anyone felt tired they simply got their head down for a cat nap.   This system means you stand the First Watch until 2 in the morning, turn in and are back up at 6 after less than 4 hours sleep in a pitching boat, probably with the engines hammering next to your head.   Thank God for ear plugs!

We swapped watches each night to spread the load.  If you worked the First and Morning Watches you got less sleep but didn’t have to get woken at 2 for the Middle Watch.  The Middle Watchkeepers at least got a lay in!

And so we settled down for our first night at sea, Andy and Sarah on the First Watch, and with the wind still against us we had to motor the whole night.

1st September

The following day the wind came around to the north and then north east and was sailable, and so by 9.30 we were finally under sail and making just over 6 knots.  By 3 in the afternoon I finally got the Chute up; with Mauro and I on board we could truly say the ‘Brazenglish are Coming’ !!! We only brought the Chute down as the wind looked like picking up at about 5.30.   It worked perfectly.  I did end up with one sheet lead in the wrong way and a tangled sail bag but that was user error and didn’t affect the sailing.

At 10 pm, the start of the First Watch, we lowered the sails and resumed motoring.   This was a purely practical safety consideration.   Sailing a catamaran is different to a mono hull and where Andy was used to three controls for the Main Sail; the Vang, Sheet and Traveller each with defined roles, Windependent only has the Sheet and a much larger Traveller, the functions of which overlap the mono hull controls.   Rather than giving him this to contend with as well as a sick and inexperienced watch keeper, I took the easier step of motoring.

Overnight we were passing points along the north west corner of Spain, Punta Roncadora (Mauro translated ‘Roncadora’ as Snoring Lady),  Esataca de Bares, Punta del Cuadro, Punta Frouxeria and Gabo Prior.

2nd September

By 9.30 on the 2nd we were passing A Coruna and were under sail again, Main and Genoa wind to Port.   Sarah had effected a recovery and so we gave her and Mauro their first spells as Helmsmen, an hour each in 2 half hour stints.  Helming under sail is a very labour intensive and tiring task.  You have to be aware of the wind direction, the direction the boat is going, the direction the waves are pushing you and how much wheel you are using.  Putting all that together you then have to steer a straight course.   You also have to be aware of other ships around you, and all the time you have the Skipper looking over your shoulder …… basically, every sense you have is fully employed, except taste …. other than ‘I could murder a coffee’ at which point, by magic, Mauro appears with said beverage.

Sarah on the wheel
Sarah on the wheel
Mauro not cooking
Mauro not cooking
and Mauro not steering ...
and Mauro not steering …

As the afternoon wore on the wind began to pick up.  By 4pm were had winds of 25 knots a Force 6, and we were hitting speeds of 10 knots in gusts up to Force 7.   We were beginning to travel faster than the waves and slam into the back of the waves ahead and so we put in our first reef, we reduced the size of the Main Sail.   Even with a reef we were making 6 knots.

At sunset on the 2nd September we were passing Cap Finistere, with the wind a steady Force 6 behind us.  The Log reads “Passed Cap Finistere at sunset under 2 reef main and reduce Genoa with dolphin escort.”   It was not too warm and we had a proper 2 metre following sea but we had sunset and dolphins playing in the bow waves.   For the first time we actually had a school of dolphins playing in the water around us, and this time the Go Pro was in use.  Really cool.

Cap Finesterre
Cap Finesterre

We decided to sail overnight and so put the second reef in the main and reduced to 60% of the Genoa on the principal that you take one more reef than you need at night.   Andy and Sarah had the First Watch and by 1 in the morning we had run into a fishing fleet coming from our port side (from the left).   Under sail on a Port run, in a Force 6, at night with our only option to avoid the nearest fishing boats to turn towards them, Andy called me and we dropped the sails and motored again.

Fishing boats are a real pain.  They basically do whatever they want because, when fishing, everyone has to keep out of their way.   Basically, they show fishing signals all the time.    How they can fish ‘en masse’ at 10 knots is a mystery but they really don’t care …. at all, and my courses had apparently followed the depth contours they favoured.  Having said that, to work in the conditions they face throughout the year just to give us fish fingers, I reckon I will let that slip!

3rd September

By sunrise on the 3rd we had 3 metre swells behind us although these reduced by mid-morning and so when the Watch Below (Andy and Sarah) surfaced we raised the sails again.    That necessitates heading into the wind, which means turning across it to start with.  To do this with people sleeping, could have given them a rude awakening as the motion of the boat changed suddenly; so we waited until they were awake.  How kind and considerate am !???

Maintaining a proper and efficient lookout ………

We then spent the rest of the day sailing, running on a Broad Reach before a North Easterly Force 6 under full Main and Genoa and making almost 7 knots.   We weren’t heading in exactly the right direction but with a few tacks were made our approach to Porto perfectly.   I put Mauro and Sarah on the wheel again and this time had them steer us through the tacks (bringing the boat’s head through the wind); the wind was too strong to Gybe (brining the stern through the wind).   Another skill set developed.  To Tack, you turn up towards the wind, bringing it onto the beam (from the left or right side) to pick up speed, then you turn hard up into the wind.   As the Helm does this the Sail Trimmer heaves in on the Genoa and begins to move the Main Traveller up to the new windward side.   Windependent stops in the water as her head goes through the wind, but if the approach speed is right and the Trimmer has been good enough she will turn onto the new tack.   She will hesitate with the wind 30 to 40 degrees on her bow and then she will go.  And she goes.    If you are not careful she will end up dead downwind before you know it and Gybe (wind across the stern, Main Sail slams from one side to the other – Dangerous).   But our two novice Helms handled it admirably slowing the turn, picking up speed before bringing us down to the required course.


And so at 3 pm we tacked onto our final approach to Porto under sail, only dropping sail as we closed on the harbour entrance.  For this I put Sarah on the wheel, to complete her first real landfall (No Andy, Burnham doesn’t count) at Porto, and had her steer us into harbour while Uncle Andy worked on deck securing fenders and mooring lines.

Entry to Porto
Entry to Porto

End of Passage 1610 hours, 3rd September 2015.

Facts and figures.

  • Distance run 420 miles.
  • Passage time – 68 hours.
  • Maximum wind Force 7.
  • Night hours, Mauro 16, Sarah 20.

On a personal note, I would like to thank Andy, Sarah and Mauro without whom this voyage would not have been possible.   I needed to move Windependent, Andy loves sailing, Mauro wants to, and Sarah was dropped in at the deep end, and when I say deep I mean Abyssal.  Thank you for your help and your company.


On Friday, the 28th, we spent the afternoon in Bilbao.  It turns out that from the 22 to the 30th of August it is the Aste Nagusia festival, and each night it ends with a firework display; which we’d heard last night.  Seems that everywhere we go we are greeted with fireworks …….. They were due to start at 10.30 so we decided to stay to see them.   With that settled we had a wander around to start with then got one of the open top bus tours around the newer parts of Bilbao; the old city was closed to buses due to the festival.  Have to say Bilbao is not a beautiful city, it is pleasant, lots of narrow streets, and was very busy. We had a late lunch and then we spent a couple of hours visiting the Guggenheim Museum ……. the building was impressive, the contents were, well, er, educational. The prime exhibitions were of work by Jeffs Koons and some guy called Jean Michel Basquiat.   The Koons stuff was technically very good but lost on me; the Bassqiuet stuff, well the only things missing from the works were the signature, ‘Jean-Michel, aged 3’.   The museum described his work as revolutionary, opening new paths in contemporary art and lauded his innovative artistic perspective which asks questions that are still relevant ….. Only one relevant question springs to my mind ….. why?  I’m not an art critic, but then this wasn’t art !

The Guggenheim, Bilbao The Guggenheim Bilbao







Duly educated we wandered back towards the Punta de Arenal with a grandstand view of the fireworks.  On our way we engaged in the apparently uniquely Basque custom of visiting a series of bars and having a glass of wine and a tapas in each as we went.   I think in the UK we call it a pub crawl, but this was far more stylish and well, Basque!

We staked our spot on the bridge below the park from which the fireworks are launched and waited as the crowds built.    It was a good show, 45 minutes and nothing repeated.   Put NYE in London to shame!    They had smiley faces and what looked like jelly fish in three colours along with more traditional, but huge fireworks.   Very impressive.

The journey back was a bit of a melee. You could hardly walk two steps in a straight line the streets were so rammed full and there was a queue for the train station.  Weird as the trains and platforms were almost empty.

The following day, the 29th, we spent in and around the boat. Shopping again in the morning, this time for supplies for myself and my new crew for our trip down to Porto.   After lunch I launched Windy for a trip out to the fuel berth!  We needed petrol for the outboard and I wanted to give the engine a run as it hasn’t been used much.

Taking Windy fro a spin
Taking Windy fro a spin

That afternoon Mauro joined us and we had dinner ashore in one of the restaurants returning to the boat to play cards and watch a lightening storm on the other side of the bay.    We were then treated to a visit by the ‘Galernas’.   This is a local north westerly wind that picks up out of now where, blows old boots for a while, then disappears again.   Caused us a major problem though, we lost two playing cards over the side!

Back in Getxo (continued)

As I said before, we flew back to Bilbao late on Wednesday evening.

Thursday, the 27th, was spend in basic ‘house keeping’; shopping, cleaning the boat, sunbathing and preparing our new cruising chute. I say new, it has been sitting in its bag since the end of May and I have had no chance to rig it up – it is in kit form.   It is a very big sail, 94.3sq m, for down-wind sailing and so I had it stretched along the pontoon so I could get it inside its ‘snuffer’. This is a long case used to cover the sail so it can be hoisted, like a sausage, without it filling with wind before you are ready; the sail is deployed when you pull the ‘snuffer’ up to the top of the mast.   To douse the sail, or, snuff, it you pull the ‘snuffer’ down.   As the wind was light and from behind the boat I decided to hoist the chute and fly it while alongside to make sure it worked properly.  I also wanted to get a look at it because I had only ever it as design sketches for the sail maker, and it does look pretty good!   I am hoping to be able to use it on the way down to Lisbon.

The Brazenglish ensign
The Brazenglish ensign

That evening we sat and chilled on the boat over dinner and some wine and watched the moon rise.  In the distance we could hear what sounded like an artillery barrage; in Spain that means only one thing …. Fireworks!  Unfortunately we couldn’t see them!

Back in Getxo

Got back late on the 26th and have been busy shopping, cleaning, visiting Bilbao, testing  our new cruising chute, taking the tender for a spin and generally chilling. There being no WiFi here the full exciting up date will have to wait till I get to Porto next week or Valeria does updates when she’s home.

All is proceeding to plan otherwise and I set off for Porto on Monday.

Downtime 2

Another spell at home means Windependent being left in Getxo Marina. The marina website has access to cameras but they don’t appear to work.

During these three weeks at home we’ve been busy with making arrangements to move from Bilbao to Porto and then on to Lisbon. Whilst in Lisbon I am arranging to have some more work done to prepare Windependent for cruising.

The plan is that we return to Getxo on the 26th and will actually visit Bilbao; we will  also prepare the boat for the trip round to Porto. Mauro will be coming out on the 30th,  Valeria goes home on the 31st and Andy flies in on the same morning.   The plan is then to sail from Getxo that afternoon for the three day passage to Porto.

Once there Andy flies home on the 4th, Mauro the following day and that leaves me with a couple of days to prepare for the next leg to Lisbon.   Alex and Clive are flying out to Porto on the 7th and I plan to leave Porto on the 8th and make a slow 3 day passage arriving on the afternoon of the 10th.   Valeria plans to meet us as we arrive, and  Alex, Clive then return home on the 11th, leaving Valeria and I to visit Lisbon and liase with the boatyard before we fly home.

Whilst Windependent is in Lisbon I have arranged for some further fitting out work to be completed.   Well, when I say I have, I mean Valeria has been emailing the Portugese boatyard and translating their responses for me.   I want to put a division in the ‘anchor locker’ to keep the chain in one place, I want an HF/SSB radio fitted and while we have an electrician we’ll have the TV installed. (Will need to find time to watch it though!)

The biggest of these jobs is the radio installation.  We have a VHF but that is only useful for short range communication; the HF radio allows communications  over far longer, oceanic, distances and gives us access to emails and weather information when at sea.   To use this equipment you have to have a ‘Long Range Certificate’ and I’ll be returning home to do that course on the 16th and 17th of September down in Southampton.

Once that is done we can plan the last leg of our journey down to Faro.

Sailing south ….