Finally off again! We spent an extra day in Faro waiting for some ‘drop nosed clevis pins’ for my bow sprit to be delivered but predictably they never came and so we decided to leave Faro on the evening tide on the 29th and make an overnight passage to Rota.
We said our farewells to Michael and Iva, our hosts and some-time boat keepers and slipped our mooring at 5.45 pm.
As we travelled down the Canal de Faro night fell and it was completely dark as we passed Cabo Santa Maria lighthouse, this time with the tide behind us. It was a clear and virtually cloudless, starry night and the forecast was good, so, when the radar decided not to work I decided to continue on our way. As there was little wind we motored and I took the first 3 hour watch up till midnight. I had Orion for company for most of the watch and then at about 11 the moon rose lighting our way. Mauro took the second watch till 3 in the morning and then John was on deck for the 3 to 6 watch when I surfaced again as we approached Rota.
With Valeria unable to leave the UK due to out building project, but our need to move Windependent into the Med, I returned to Faro with Mauro and John Margesson on the 26th January. Coincidentally, Michael and Iva were returning on the same flight and the photo of the Faro moorings is curtosy of Iva; Windependent isin the centre of the shot.
We arrived back on board in the afternoon and went shopping, had dinner ashore and then an early night,n the 26th and immediately went shopping. I had emptied the fridge when I left, but left it on; now I know the solar panels alone won’t support the fridge, so we’ll need to run the generator on longer passages. Good to know. We had dinner ashore then an early night.
This morning I went to finish our shopping, bottled water and toilet paper while John and Mauro visited the old town. I also borrowed Michael’s water cans and we took on 180 litres of fresh water; can’t run the water maker here as the water is not clean enough. So now all we are waiting for is three small pins I need to complete the modification to the bowsprit. Even though they were ordered last week, they won’t be here till tomorrow ….. So our departure may be delayed ……
The moorings outside Faro are all privately owned and as this is a nature reserve and the home of specially protected seahorses anchoring is prohibited. The river bed is soft mud and grass and wouldn’t be any good anyway. The area is completely flat and you can watch the sunrise and the sunset, to the accompaniment of jets landing at the airport. Other than that the moorings are quiet and secluded, idyllic.
The biggest ‘problem’ is the floating weed and grass in the water clogging the intake filters on sea water cooled equipment such as the engines and the generator. Not sure how the toilets will hold up because they take in sea water to flush. So one of my jobs was to close all the un necessary sea cocks and to pull the echo sounder / log head and replaced it with a blank. As this is underwater it was a rather damp process, but necessary so as to prevent it getting all clogged again. My jokes about a fish getting stuck in it on the way to Sao Martinho do Porto weren’t far from the truth.
I also rearranged our mooring lines, and started doing the laundry. I had run the watermaker for 4 hours on the passage down and made almost a full tank, I used just over half of it on the washing. With the washing in progress I went over to Michael’s boat and assisted him repairing the lines on his mooring. A diver had been engaged to clear the ground tackle which had become entangled in an abandoned fishing anchor and chain. With each turn of the tide the mooring lines had become progressively more wrapped around the old fishing anchor, shortening the mooring line significantly. The diver unwrapped the mooring chains from the fishing anchor and as watched from deck the diver’s bubbles got progressively further from us as he untangled possibly 20 meters of fouled ground tackle! We recovered the offending obstruction which was a 15 kilo lump of rusted, tangle chain and small anchor. Michael and I then pulled up the now freed swivel which joins the mooring rope, called a Riser, to the ground tackle up to the surface, replaced the old, badly worn riser with a new one and then lowered it back down to the sea bed. So with the big boy’s salty seamanship task completed I went back to my laundry!
With a new load in a then took Windy out for a spin to take some photos. I went over to the nearest sand bank, parked Windy and went for a short walk, very refreshing.
I returned, finished the washing and drying and then went to visit a neighbouring yachtsman who lives aboard his boat. We spent an hour swapping stories over a beer.
I then went over to Michael and Iva for a glass of wine at sunset before we went ashore for dinner to a Brazilian restaurant. The journey back was entertaining as it was pitch black; but Iva and Michael knew the route through the shallows like the back of their hands.
And so to bed, looking forward to an early start in the morning to bring Windy back up on board and close down the generator sea cocks before leaving and returning home.
Cynthia left us at 8.30 on Monday the 12th and we set off at 9.30. The wind was from the south west and with no spare time to tack out from the coast to get sea room to get passed Cap St Vincente we motor sailed as close to the wind as we could. With 20 knot winds forcecast we set off with one reef in the Main Sail and a full Genoa were making 3 knots under sails alone and so used the engines to add the extra 3 knots we needed.
As we sailed south we began to encounter rain showers, missing some, and properly encountering others. The showers were dense enough to show up on the radar and reduce visibility to less than 100 metres as they came across us. The wind also increased a couple of knots in the showers, hence the precautionary reef in the Main Sail.
By mid-afternoon we had mostly clear skies, no rain and diminishing wind. As the wind dropped I decided to take the reef out of the main sail, only to find the block at the head of the Main Sail had become entangled in the cordage which attaches the head of the sail to the mast runner, called a ‘car’, and this was not running properly; basically I couldn’t raise or lower the main sail. The only solution was to clamber a 6 feet up the mast, loop a line around the next car, clamber down and use my 13 stone to drag the car down as far as it would go, clamber up, loop the line round the next car, clamber down, drag the next car down, clamber up …. You get the picture. All this with the boat pitching and wallowing around in the 3 metre high remains of the swell left over from Joachim. I am composing my email to the yacht dealer………
We had lunch of spaghetti Bolognese, which Valeria knocked up in these conditions and with the main sail down, and no time to figure out the problem, we motored.
We reached Cabo St Vincente by sun set and rounded St Vincente and Punta Sagres in the late evening under clearing skies. As we turned west the stars were out and I saw the Milky Way for the first time in ages. By this time we’d been under way for over 12 hours with another 8 or 9 to go. Valeria and I took it in turns to grab an hour or so sleep at a time, me more successfully than Valeria because I can generally just switch off. As the night wore on we got rained on by passing showers again and the swell and wind began to die right down. We passed hundreds of sleeping sea gulls in the water and with the stars out it was a delightful way to spend a ‘Night Duty’, apart from the engine noise!
Once we passed Punta de Sagres the aim was to set a speed which would get us to the entrance to Faro, the light house at Sta Maria by sunrise, 7.30 on the 13th, and so as we sailed east I began slowing the engines down, once an hour checking our ETA and adjusting the engines accordingly. We were bumbling along at 4 ½ knots for the last couple of hours and arrived dead on time, crossing the Barra Nova at 7.40 with the new daylight lighting our way. The Barra Nova was a shallow bank preceeded by a deeper pool and as we approached we encountered some impressive tidal rips and overfalls and had to fight a tide of up to 5 knots at times as we entered. Once into the river the tide eased off to 2 knots and it took us just over an hour to reach our mooring buoy. Michael, the owner of the mooring met us and guided us in. Once secure we formally introduced ourselves to Michael and Eva, then Valeria tried to get a few hours sleep while I put the tender in the water and did some tidying up. At about 1 pm I took Valeria ashore in the tender and she caught a cab to the airport to meet up with Cynthia.
I returned to the boat and rearranged our mooring and found one of our deck cleats had worked loose. The biggest socket spanner I had was too small to fit the securing bolt, so I hoped into Windy and went see my new friend Michael. He leant me some big boy’s sockets and I fixed the problem, returning them and was offered a beer, well, what could I say?
As we sat and chatted a yacht arrived in the mooring and promptly ran aground on one of the mud banks Michael had guided us through earlier. He and I jumped into our tenders and whizzed off to assist the unfortunate yachtsman; between the three of us we got him afloat and headed towards the deeper water. Then back to Michael’s boat for tea and medals and then ashore of a beer and introductions at the yacht club.
Sunday morning, the 11th, started wet and mild. We left Alcantara at 7.30 and stopped off at Doca de Belem for fuel. This is a standard fuel station for road vehicles, but which backs onto the marina fuel berth. We left there at 8.30 and then things started to go awry.
Firstly the wind, as usual was just exactly, teasingly, in the wrong position for us to sail south and not strong enough to make the hard work of tacking worth the while; so we motored again; arrggghhhh.
Leaving the Rio Teijo the sea was ‘confused’; I counted 3, possibly four swell and wave patterns which gave an unremittingly, irregular and uncomfortable motion and one by one our guests succumbed to sea sickness. By lunch time we had passed Cabo Espiche and decided to head for Sines rather than continue to Faro as Rafael, Filipa and Cynthia were all very poorly.
We got into Sines at just after 6 pm and Filipa and Rafael went ashore to a hotel before returning home; Cynthia stayed for the night but arranged her travel from Sines to Faro and a hotel overnight to await our arrival; she and Valeria were to catch the same afternoon flight home on Tuesday.
We took the obligatory crew photo before Rafael and Filipa left. Compare this photo with the one taken 24 hours earlier.
I was really gutted that our guests couldn’t make the whole trip with us. They had started the day eager for the challenge but at least they know now that sailing may not be their thing. Open invitations to come and stay with us when we are tied up in a Marina for a week or so somewhere; St Tropez sounded favourite!
Valeria and Cynthia made dinner and I sat down and re worked the courses from Sines to Faro, planning to arrive at sunrise on Tuesday; I didn’t fancy navigating the nature reserve at night. Unfortunately we would be arriving on a falling tide and battling it to get into the mooring but hopefully we’d be there by 9 or 10, giving Valeria time to get ashore, meet up with Cynthia and then catch their plane home. We needed to leave Sines by mid morning on Monday and would be doing another overnight passage.
Valeria, Cynthia, Rafael and Filipa arrived at varying times on Friday the 10th of October and got settled in before a late dinner on board.
On Saturday we had a day of enforced leisure as the remnants of ‘Joachim’ poured down on us. Valeria has a favourite phrase of ‘Nada bem Feito’ which translates to ‘doing nothing, done well’. So we spent Saturday doing nothing, well. Apart from the safety briefing of course.
The advantage of sailing with Filipa and Rafael is that, living here, they know all the places to go, and so they arranged an evening of Fado for us all; Fado is the local folk music. The restaurant was in a ‘cave’. It actually reminded me of a room with a bad render coat on uneven walls it was vaguely cave-like when they turned down the lights.
The restaurant was very crowded and had a very local feeling, the food was good and the company too; we were joined by a couple of Rafael and Filipa’s friends. The musicians were quite a talented bunch and sang solos accompanied by guitars. Fado is generally melodic and doleful but this was more reminiscent of a 1950s pub sing song! Overall an enjoyable evening, and a very late one.
Having kept a constant eye on the forecasts I decided that Sunday was still our day to go, the winds predicted to be westerly up to 20 knots all the way. I’d explained that with such a long passage I would be cat napping every now and then and that Valeria and Cynthia would be on one Watch, with Rafael and Filipa on the other, once the sun went down I’d be up for the Night Watches which would see us rounding Cab St Vincente and Punta Sagres. We’d then have a long run towards Faro when I’d be cap napping again.
I’ve been emailing Michael, the guy we are renting our mooring from, keeping him updated with our changing plans and getting local pilotage advice in return. The best time to get into the lagoons around Faro is on a rising tide, and as luck would have it we should be arriving mid-way between low and high water, rising tide, current behind us, if we can keep up a speed of 6 knots.
And so, tomorrow, we will be up at 0MG630 hours to leave here by about 7 hoping to stop at Doca de Belem (next door but one marina) to take on diesel. I’m hoping to sail all or most of the way and arrive at Faro with virtually full tanks; we’ll be on a buoy with no electricity or mains water and so will need to use the generator if we want 240 volts for such things as the microwave, kettle, laundry, dishwasher (joking).
Anyway, that’s the plan, let’s see what actually happens ……
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?
Our 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!
It 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!
When 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!
Beer 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.
Not 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!
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. Some 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!
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.
Windy 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.
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.
We 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.
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.
Just 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)
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.
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.
Alfama 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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
By 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!
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.