Tag Archives: Porto

Alex and Clive “Two fish out of water ….”

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Alex Hewitt and Clive Austin.   7 Sep to 11 Sep 2015

Porto to Lisbon

The story of two fish out of water (unless Clive fell in!)
by Alex Hewitt

Our journey began with an early, but uneventful, trip to the airport with Clive’s comment of “Last early start for a few days then” to be re-visited later.   Clive’s amazement with having received the boarding pass on his iPhone continued as we went through security, although he managed to chuckle as I set off the scanner.  Forgot the watch, doh! The obligatory stop at the duty free uncovered a cracking deal on The Glenlivet Master Distiller’s Reserve, 2 for £70. As Clive mentioned that he was unsure whether The Captain drank whisky, I responded, “But we do!” He saw the validity of my argument and The Captain’s boarding present was duly purchased.

Our arrival in Porto and subsequent journey to the marina had been discussed in the days leading up to the adventure, with Chris having told us that a taxi from the airport would be in the region of €20-25. Now to put this in perspective you should know that I am Scottish, and Clive could teach me a thing or two about saving money! I had found that the local ‘tube’ would take us to within about a mile or so of the marina for but a few euros. No contest really, plus we both saw it as part of the fun of the journey, what could possibly go wrong? It has to be said that it didn’t get off to the best start on the platform, as Clive managed to knock over his case, into my case, which in turn knocked over the case of the bloke next to us. Clive being clumsy, who’d have thought it?

IMG_0334Our fortunes appeared to change as we passed over the Dom Luis I Bridge, built by a partner of Gustave Eiffel (Yes, he of the Blackpool Tower lookalike in Paris). We realised that we had arrived in the heart of the Port district, many well known producers names visible on warehouses.

We also found a cable car that ran from the station to the many bars visible below us, with the added bonus of a free sample of port included in the ticket. It seemed rude not to immerse ourselves in the local culture, so we did, deciding that the holiday couldn’t start properly without the first beer!

IMG_0336 IMG_0335It was at this point we received our first ship to shore communiqué from The Captain in the form of a text message, “You here yet?” The dilemma of what to say lasted all of a nano-second, with the decision to fudge the truth and say we’re making good progress towards you but don’t put the kettle on yet!

IMG_0339When we eventually found our way to the marina we found The Captain looking somewhat stressed by the rigours of retirement, boat ownership and moving from one exotic port to the next! This photo served a dual purpose, in response to a request for his presence in relation to his old employment, the tag line being GFY!

IMG_0340Beer and food consumed, it was time to be properly introduced to Windependent and be welcomed aboard. It was quite an impressive sight as we approached along the pontoon and Chris was rightly proud of it.

IMG_0342Not even 5 minutes aboard The Captain’s pride and joy found Clive polishing out a dent in the cabin wall, having bashed his suitcase against it going below deck. Told you he was clumsy! I was more surprised that Chris hadn’t thrown him overboard immediately. Perhaps he figured that Clive would naturally step up to the mark on that one, it would only be a matter of time.

The very pleasant first day was tarnished somewhat at the end of the evening when Chris informed us of his planned departure time, 6am, or in 24hr clock – O my god that’s early!

Come the morning (middle of the night really) we set off with weird looks from the seagulls and fishermen alike, but looking forward to the open seas. Unfortunately the weather didn’t play ball with regards to the wind but the big ball of fire in the sky made an appearance and we even got to steer the boat. Not until we were really far away from anything solid and the radar was clear for miles around, the memory of Clive’s suitcase still fresh in The Captain’s mind!

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A bit of tuition in knots had us both fascinated at how useful a skill this could be and much practice ensued. It has to be said that Chris displayed a degree of patience hitherto unknown to anyone who had worked with him previously! Don’t argue Chris, you know it’s true.

The first docking procedure went well, particularly when compared with a boat that was displaying a blue ensign (retired naval officer) and was making it all look a bit farcical. Even the Harbour Master had a look of despair about him! The evening was capped of with an excellent meal of local fish at a bargain price.

The following day didn’t start so early as it was a much shorter journey to Sao Martinho do Porto. We were both looking forward to this stop as it entailed being anchored and using the tender, Windy, to get ashore. I was particularly excited about this, if Clive was going to fall in then it was happening here!

The wind wasn’t co-operating again and the temperature had dropped in comparison to the previous day so it was more engine time unfortunately. It was easy to see Chris’s disappointment at being denied what he really wanted to do – proper sailing. It was still a great experience, and the water was so calm that it was difficult to acknowledge that this was the Atlantic Ocean. Chris amazed us with his culinary skills at sea, even the presentation impressed.  IMG_0351Some things never change on land or sea however. Chris thought his biscuits were safe in the highest, most inaccessible cupboard, at the back, behind the tins, under the pasta, wrapped in a tea towel, but no!IMG_0352

 

 

 

I thought dropping an anchor was just that. Splash, sinks to the bottom, job done. How wrong I was. It’s quite the process with far more cable (chain) than you would imagine, as it is the weight of the cable which actually arrests the boat’s drift. Anorak moment I know, but it was this sort of stuff which interested both of us enough to make the trip in the first place (so sad). The weather took a turn for the worse and we had to break out the waterproof gear. Definitely not in the original plan.

IMG_0369Windy was unleashed and my Kodak moment had arrived. Surely Clive wouldn’t let me down now, having been so reliable and timely with his clumsiness so far. It had to happen as I’d told everyone about this moment, and it’s expected outcome. Once the outboard motor had been attached to Windy and Chris had all his paperwork aboard for the Capitania, I readied my phone for the eagerly anticipated trip, slip and splash moment. Nothing, nada, nichts, niente, rien. So disappointed, as he showed his contempt while motoring off towards shore.

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We dined aboard that evening with another fine effort from Chris in the galley. The breakers coming into the bay made for a slightly rocky night’s sleep with more fun to come from them in the morning.

The conditions we awoke to were quite spectacular, particularly with the thought that we had to cross those breakers to get out and continue on towards Lisbon. Chris explained to us why the sea was doing what it was doing, using the impressive instrumentation as a show and tell. There was basically an iPad at the helm which could display a multitude of different instrument readings, very modern.

Chris told us we had to wait for the tide to rise a bit so Windependent wouldn’t suffer the risk of hitting the seabed. He watched the sequence of breakers for some time before he decided the time was right to head out. The pressure was on The Captain to get out of this bay, not least because The Admiral had expressed displeasure at the unexpected change to the timetable! We motored out to meet Mother Nature head on in what was reminiscent of a scene from The Perfect Storm (at least that’s what happened in my head!). The slightly disconcerting moment came when I nudged Clive and pointed out the crowd of locals gathered quayside with their phones trained on us. “Do you think they know something we don’t?” I said to him as the first wave rushed to greet us. “I have faith in The Captain’s abilities”, said Clive. I guess there really is a first time for everything! Needless to say, we made it through and into the open waters, although it was a proper roller coaster ride to get there. Standing by the helm it felt like we were almost vertical heading down the back of the waves, which I’m sure was exaggerated by our inexperience.

IMG_0372We managed to do a bit under sail before we made our final approach towards Lisbon, which was nice. Clive’s head had taken a bit of punishment over the past few days with the many corners and ‘sticky out’ bits to be found on board. It appeared that his cap cried ‘enough’ as it decided to end it’s suffering by jumping into the river. Clive swore blind it was the wind that caught it, but it looked happier floating off on the tide towards a less traumatic life! I took the wheel as we navigated the Tejo River, with Chris asking me to give the navigational buoys a slightly wider berth than I did for the first. Duly noted, as he is obviously far better at the navigation lark than me, or so you’d think.

Alex helming Windependent into the River Tejo

Chris advised of our heading and pointed out a landmark to aim for. I suggested aiming for the bridge support as it would give us a clear run because nobody else would be daft enough to aim for it. The familiar ‘Why me’ look appeared on his face and I was suitably rebuked. No more than 5 minutes later I pointed out a boat under sail coming across our path and was aware that, as we were under power, we had the obligation to avoid it. I confirmed the course of action with The Captain and adjusted our course starboard, straight for the bridge support that I wanted to aim for anyway! Did I have a seriously smug look on my face that said ‘Who needs years of Merchant Navy experience’, absolutely! Cue the ‘Why me’ look across his face again. HA!

The Admiral was welcomed aboard and both crew and vessel passed inspection. We had another outstanding meal that evening in a recommended restaurant off the beaten path, more fish.

The following day we both took a stroll around the centre of Lisbon, with suitable refreshment stops included.

IMG_0379Just the small beer you understand. We returned to say our goodbyes later in the afternoon and left with invitation to return at some later date. I guess we didn’t screw up too much for novices.

It was a cracking experience for the pair of us and we thoroughly enjoyed the entire trip. We learned some new skills and the knots could prove extremely useful with some of the more irritating people at work (You know who you are, Neil). A big thank you to Chris for taking the risk on a pair of half-wits (the polite version) like us with an expensive toy like Windependent. It was a blast and I would say to anyone who has the chance to experience it, JUST DO IT! (Hope I don’t have to pay a copyright fee for that)

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!”

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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.

 

Porto

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 !???

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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.

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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.