Thursday, 20 October 2016

Seixal and Lisbon to Alvor and the Algarve

We went to Lisbon twice. The first time it was Sunday and we thought the city might be quiet. It was heaving by 10.30am, largely due to cruise ships. We did a self-guided walking tour around the old city, particularly enjoying wandering up and down the old, narrow city streets.
Kathy wends her way through the intricate streets
 Two days later, we bought a Moroccan courtesy flag in a shop that only sold flags and went on to tour Castelo do Sao Jorge. There were fabulous views of Lisbon and the river from the top of the battlements. After a morning walking walls and towers, lunch was required and our needs were well satisfied at a restaurant in Rue Saodiago. We had great difficulty finding the Musea de Lisboa and the exhibition I wanted to see called “A Tale of Two Cities”, which compared to histories of Edinburgh and Lisbon.

Local kids Bobsleigh
On our return from Lisbon, we met the crew from two other anchored boats in the mini market at Seixal. The wind was blowing a strong south westerly pushing us close to the moored trot of boats. Jeremy stayed up on anchor watch until 1.30am when the tide turned and Sal Darago swung clear. Two hours later the stern cabin smoke alarm started beeping loudly. Jeremy got up and removed the battery, replacing it with a new one in the morning.

Castelo do Sao Jorge
The next day was cold and unsettled with very heavy, thundery showers. That afternoon we were in the library checking emails and finances and finding out about Morocco hearing the rain hammering on the roof. What we didn’t know was a gusty wind of 30 knots accompanied the rain, pulled out Sal Darago’s anchor and she dragged about 100 metres close to the trot of moored boats, coming to rest not far from the pontoon. Sylvia had tried to phone us but could not connect, so it was fortunate that we went to her office that evening. We were assured that Sal Darago had not hit anything and had not run aground and she was OK now, but we would have to move her from the fairway. After quick showers we went on board to the relief of the crew of a moored yacht that was nearby with all its fenders out. We apologised, started the engine, weighed anchor, motored upstream and reanchored for our last night in Seixal. Will, from a British Rival 32, “Mangata” came aboard for drinks and nibbles and told us the details of Sal Darago’s unplanned trip. We had a late supper and felt blessed that no harm had been done to anyone’s yacht or property. The wind died away and we had a peaceful last night.

View over Lisbon
We were about to leave Seixal on 13th Oct at 8.30am, when Jeremy realised he had made an uncharacteristic mistake with the tide. We should have been leaving on the ebb but it was actually the start of the flood. We left anyway, dodging the ferries and keeping close to the south bank to avoid the strongest tide. Generally, we made 3.5 knots with a burst of 5 knots on an eddy at the mouth of the river, followed by a disappointing 2.5 knots. Rain threatened but did not appear and we had a pleasant motorsail to Sesimbra. The afternoon NW wind began to blow to 23 knots as we entered the harbour which put me off anchoring. The marina had a few empty berths and a staff member met us and took our lines. Jeremy had to go with him to the office immediately with the ship’s papers. He was pleasantly surprised by an English speaking, friendly woman in the office who asked him to pay 13 euros for the night (low season rates from 1st Oct). We filled up with water, had hot showers and used the free wifi provided.
Castle escape route
We left Sesimbra at 7.30am and motored in light winds and a decreasing swell to Sines, the birthplace of the famous Portugese navigator, Vasca de Garma. We filled up with diesel at the marina fuel dock and went to anchor in the bay within the harbour under the walls of a medieval castle. We weighed anchor the next morning in the dark at 7.00am. There were three tugs and two pilot boats heading to a large tanker waiting to enter the harbour. We kept a good offing and started a long motorsail to Cabo Sao Vincente. Lots of dolphins were looking for breakfast and some of them came over to ride our bow wave. Many seabirds swooped and dived nearby. During the passage two separate fishing trawlers were likely to collide with us, but despite trying radio contact, we had to avoid them. We rounded Cabo Sao Vicente, the most south westerly point in mainland Europe, at 6.00pm. It was very calm and we could go quite close in to observe the massive cliffs rising almost vertically from the sea. We were tempted to anchor just around the corner beneath a fort at Enseada de Belixe, but decided against and rounded Ponta de Sagres a few miles east and anchored in Enseada de Sagres. It was a little rolly in the swell, but very beautiful. The sun set behind the cliff and the almost full moon rose over the opposite cliffs. Magical.
Dom Vasco de Gama
It was only 20 miles to Alvor on the Algarve and we were attracted by its lagoon and calm anchorage. We entered at half tide on a rising tide as recommended in our cruising guide . A local fisherman waved at us and shouted in Portugese trying to tell us to turn away. We did turn away, but went aground anyway. We were close to a green buoy, which was supposed to mark the channel. I wanted to anchor and wait, but Jeremy was determined to find the way in. Once more we touched the bottom and then managed to sound our way into Alvor without incident. There were many vessels and it took some time to find a space to anchor away from moorings and catamarans. As expected, we had a peaceful night after a brief trip ashore for food supplies.

Moon rising over Sagres cliffs

Nazare to Lisbon and Seixal

  We left Nazare on 6th October after filling up with diesel. It was rocky rolly in the decreasing swell. We headed for the beautiful Ilha de Berlenga, which was only 10 miles away. We had hoped to anchor overnight but there was too much swell in the SE anchorage and the other one was filled with moorings. After motoring as close in as Jeremy dared, he turned away on a bearing to Peniche, 5 miles inshore.

Off Berlenga
The harbour is sheltered from the northerly wind and swell as is the long, sandy bay nearby. Our cruising guide said we could anchor off the beach, so we did. After a couple of hours, Jeremy decided to go for a swim, so he was wearing only his beach shorts when the Policia Maritima sped towards us in their fast, black RIB. “Forbidden to anchor here,” they said. We had to go into the harbour. We moved into the harbour and anchored in the SE corner.

Peniche Defences
We were up at 6.30 am, which was just as well, because a whole flotilla of fishing boats left Peniche at that time with continuous engine noise and wake for the next hour. We had a long day ahead of us and almost no wind and little swell. The sun rose but mist clung to the coast refusing to be burnt off. We put out two fishing lines and settled into our one hour watches. A few seabirds looked closely at our lures and ignored them but one cormorant-type dived on the lure and the hook caught on its beak. We were sure our line would snap, but it didn’t and by the time we’d hauled the poor creature into the boat it had drowned. I felt so sad as we gave it a burial at sea and went right off the idea of doing anymore fishing.

Christ overlooking Lisbon
On we motored towards Cascais where an afternoon sea breeze sprang up and we could fly our genoa. We zipped along at almost top speed (7 knots) and entered the Rio Tejo passing Fort de Sao Juliao on the north bank. Ahead were the Torre de Belem and the impressive Pont 25 de Abril suspension bridge with the city of Lisbon beyond. Just before the bridge there were many tall masts of large racing yachts. There was not supposed to be any racing until tomorrow, so we continued up river looking for a way through the pack. A support RIB came by and gave us safe passage through the “Extreme Sailing Series” fast catamarans.

We left these behind!
Our GPS lost its signal, as it tends to, as we approached a large, naval dockyard. Consequently, we lost the chart plotter as well, just at the point when we were about to turn off the river and go along a channel to Seixal on the south side. There were many fast ferries plying back and forth as Lisbon emptied at rush hour, so we spotted some green and red buoys and made for them. Jeremy revived the GPS and we made it to Seixal in one piece. Much of the anchorage is taken up with a trot of moorings, some private moorings and a pontoon. A French yachtie helped us find a place and we dropped the anchor just before 7.00pm.
Beautiful Belem

Much of the waterfront at Seixal and parallel street behind were under construction. However, much has been done to welcome cruising yachts. Sylvia, in the Tourism Office, speaks excellent English. For a small fee, hot showers are available and a washing machine. Free computer terminals are in a building behind and a well-stocked mini-mercado is just round the corner. It’s a 15 minute walk to the ferry terminal and a 15 minute ride to Cais Sodre in Lisbon.

Impressive Lisbon Square

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Bayona, Spain to Nazare, Portugal (Two Broken Teeth)

The wind was variable and only 4 knots at its strongest so it wasn’t worth putting up any sails for the 20 mile trip from Bueu to Bayona. We anchored off the Puerto Deportivo de Baiona having passed the impressive fortified headland, which houses the Parador Conde do Gondomar. There can be few hotels surrounded by medieval walls with 360 degree views. No wonder Ritchie and Catherine enjoyed it so much when they stayed there.
Jeremy relaxing on our walk round the headland

The marina manager was very helpful and gave us a map of Bayona, pointing out the nearby laundrette and filling station, where we might be able to have our gas bottles filled. No joy with the gas, unfortunately. They only had camping gaz.  Jeremy lost his sunhat that day. It failed to turn up in spite of revisiting the places we’d been to earlier.

Soon after 10.30 am the next day, we were in the almost brand new laundrette trying to translate the Spanish instructions and being helped by a non-English speaking, but helpful assistant. Later on, a restaurant called La Bouquetta was recommended for lunch. We had menu a dia again and were well fed Spanish style. We walked round the headland that we’d passed in the boat to walk off some of the excess calories. After stocking up at the local supermarket, we hauled the dinghy on board and made SD ready for our next passage down the coast.

It was barely light and quite misty as we weighed anchor the next morning and motored away from Bayona avoiding a multitude of small fishing vessels and numerous fishing pots. As the mist lifted, we said goodbye to Spain and hello to Portugal. By early afternoon we were entering the Rio Lima and the attractive town of Viana do Castelo.

Kathy on the battlements at Viana
We tied up to a waiting pontoon in the river close to Viana Marina. It was a long walk round to the office, as the bridge over the marina entrance was swung open. Jeremy was carrying two empty gas bottles. We checked in and were given directions to the shop that might fill our bottles – only 10 minutes’ walk away, we were told. At least 20 minutes later, after a walk in the hot, afternoon sun, we reached the shop and were relieved to find that they would fill out bottles by the next afternoon for 20 euros per bottle.
Templo de Santa Luzia
Since we were nearby, we explored the Castelo de Sandiago, a very impressive fort guarding the old port. The next day, we walked through the town and up 600 steps to the magnificent Templo de Santa Luzia. Again, there was no entrance fee, but for people like us, who wanted to climb even more steps, there was a fee of one euro each to go right to the top of the cupola. The views were superb.

The lighthouse at Aveiro
Early on the morning of 1st October, we left Viana in light winds and motored 70 miles to Aveiro, avoiding many fishing pots on the way. Jeremy trolled our fishing lines but we caught nothing and ended up with a hugely, tangled line. We made slow progress against the ebb in the Ria de Aveiro, eventually reaching Baia de Sao Jacinto, where we anchored a sensible distance from a Swedish catamaran. Later that night as Jeremy flossed his teeth, an upper molar broke.

One of the overhangs
Our early start the next day was delayed by thick fog. I had reservations about leaving at all, but Jeremy was confident, so we put on our radar, AIS, GPS, navigation lights and had our fog horn to hand as we crept out into the gloom. The ebb swept us along at over 8 knots as we followed the breakwater out of the river and into the Atlantic. It was 11.00 am before the fog cleared and we turned off the radar. Sunny, blue skies stayed with us for the rest of the 70 miles to Nazare.

The view of Nazare from the cliffs
A friendly, British yachtie called Julian helped us tie up in the dark at the marina and told Jeremy about a good dentist in town. Off we went the next day (Monday) and booked an appointment for 11.30 the following day. That evening, as Jeremy was flossing his teeth, a crown fell out next but one to the broken tooth. Jeremy was disheartened. He’d spent a great deal of time and money sorting out his teeth in the UK and now he had two broken ones (old ones, not the new implants).

Ornate transept at the Church of Our Lady of Nazare
After 1 hour and 20 minutes in the dentist’s chair, Jeremy’s teeth were repaired and we decided to explore the old quarter of town called Sitio. We took the ascensor or funicular up and admired the splendid views of Nazare beneath us. The cliff top had many overhangs, with houses perched dangerously close to the edge of the crumbling rock. After lunch in a local cafĂ©, we descended by ascensor and made our way through old, narrow, back streets to the supermarket. We checked the weather forecast back at the marina. The wind was good, but the swell was still running at 3 metres. I decided to wait one more day, so we hope to be off tomorrow (Thursday 6th October) to go further south.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Landlubbers to Sailors - Part 2

Our magic carpet
 The trip across the Bay of Biscay had its usual ups and downs, literally. We had northerly winds all the time and no strong winds or gales. However, the swell was very uncomfortable one day and I was glad I took Stugeron. Jeremy’s back was still painful but he was able to do all the necessary things such as raising the main, hauling in sheets, putting up a spinnaker pole for downwind sailing and coping with the rocky rolly motion.

We had a couple of ships on a collision course or about to pass too close which we called on the VHF radio. They had seen us and they were happy to alter course to avoid us. The worst hazard was the fishing vessels as we started to close with the coast in the dark. There were so many I thought I was back in Indonesia. Mostly they are brightly lit, but avoiding one puts you too close to another. There was a scary moment when I started the engine to avoid a fishing vessel as I passed through the fleet and another when I accidentally released the mainsheet and nearly lost the boom, but generally, all went well and SD performed well under sail and under engine.

Cabo Villano
After 3 nights and 4 days at sea, we reached the Costa del Morte rounding Cabo Villano and Cabo Finisterre. Eight years ago we met stormy seas here but this time it was calm as we motored gently towards the town of Finisterre in the Rias Atlas and dropped the anchor off Ensada de Llagosteira. “Jeremy,” I joked. “We’ve gone the wrong way and we’re in a Scottish loch”. The scenery could easily have been from the Western Isles and the temperature was similar in the chill northerly winds.

Cabo Finisterre
The next day we explored the town and enjoyed wandering through the narrow alleys of the old quarter. We met several people who had been walking the cominos or pilgrim paths to Sandiago de Compostela. Many had walked 800 kilometres. We went to see the Capitain to check in but no papers were needed. He recommended an “economical” restaurant on the corner near the harbour and we had menu a dia for 12 euros each. This included 3 courses, 2 beers and a bottle of water. After this we really needed a siesta.
Fabulous old alleys
Don't get lost

After two nights at anchor, we motored round to Ria de Muros, leaving in misty conditions and arriving in bright sunshine as the day warmed up. We anchored for lunch in Ensenada San Francisco and moved on to anchor off Muros for the night. The forecast was for SW gales so we were pleased to have good protection from the wind and good holding for our anchor. Muros was similar to Finisterre with a fascinating old town of narrow streets and alleys. We had lunch ashore choosing one course each this time. The portions were enormous and I was glad I had a doggy bag with me. I had enough left over for lunch the following day.

Roof tops of Muros
We left Muros at midday on 25th September and had a rocky rolly ride to Ria de Pontevedra . A tropical storm way out in the Atlantic sent a 3 metre swell our way so we took refuge off Playa de Silga near Sanxenxo. The outlying rocks and islands broke up the swell and we were fine. The next morning we motored round the corner to the marina and filled up with diesel and water before crossing the Ria to anchor between Bueu and Beluso. There is small marina in both ports. Beluso is pretty and quiet. Bueu is a busy fishing harbour with lots of shops and supermarkets. We stocked up on milk and beer.
Anchored in San Francisco Bay... REALLY.

Tomorrow, we hope to go to Baiona to have our gas bottles filled and it’s about time we visited a laundry.

If any PBO readers come here after the November article, welcome. Please feel free to contact us through the "Comments" section of the blog.

Landlubbers to Sailors - Part 1

Checking the house before leaving
 Before we returned to Sal Darago in La Rochelle there was much to do. Jeremy had several dental appointments to attend, I spent a week visiting my Mum and sisters in the Isle of Man and we both joined in the East of England Westerly Owners 50th Anniversary celebrations in Ipswich. All went with the dental appointments and Jeremy now has four new crowns on his implants and a big hole in his bank account.

I was stung by a wasp as the train was coming into my local station at the start of my 6 hour journey to the IOM. Fortunately, the buffet car had ice and I travelled to London with a bag of ice pressed to my neck. My Mum was as well as could be expected. She has excellent care from my sister, Sara and a team of carers. Pat helps out when she can. Sara was about to have a much needed holiday so Mum was booked in for respite care at a local care home. I was able to help out at home and later visited Mum in the care home, playing Bingo and singing songs from the 50’s and 60’s with Mum and the other residents.

I had a long, weary wait in Departures in the IOM as my flight from Gatwick arrived, circled overhead but could not land due to fog. It diverted to Manchester to refuel. After 6 hours, I finally boarded, reached Gatwick, had to wait ages for my bag as the carousel broke down and then fought my way through the London Underground during rush hour. It was good to be home that night.

Westerly Yachts at Ipswich
While I was away, Jeremy fell in the garage and hurt his back and shoulders. He had seen the nurse practitioner and was on strong painkillers. He was told he didn’t need to have an x-ray. Would we have to cancel our flight to La Rochelle?

All dressed up
The WOA 50th Anniversary dinner held at Ipswich Haven Marina was well attended. We didn’t recognise anybody but we were soon deep in conversation with other owners of Westerly yachts. The celebrations continued over the weekend and we were able to take our daughter, Emily and granddaughters, Ellie and Sophie to an afternoon BBQ. We were staying with Emily over the weekend helping out while Ben was away at the national dinghy sailing championships in Exmouth. The sun shone and everyone enjoyed tucking into the delicious food provided.

Ellie and Emily at the BBQ
Just the last minute things to do now – tidying the garden, packing, cleaning the house, washing, squeezing the car in the garage etc before we could be off. Jeremy’s back had eased up a little but it was still painful. Fortunately, all the trains were on time but the French decided to have a national strike (which included air traffic controllers) until 5.00pm, and EasyJet warned us to expect delays. We were booked on an evening flight and considered ourselves very lucky indeed to only be delayed by 40 minutes.

Tent city at La Rochelle, Can you see SD?
We arrived at the marina at La Rochelle on Thursday 15th September to find our part had been fenced off and of the 250  boats that had been there when we left there were now about 6. Sal Darago looked very lonely in her berth. We learned that the biggest floating boat show in France was going to take place in the marina, which was why many of the berths had been replaced by tents. One or two brand new yachts were there already.

Dried out for a clean bottom
The next day Jeremy collected two new batteries using our trolley and fitted them. He also fitted a new anchor light. On the Saturday we had permission to dry out on a concrete slipway, where Jeremy checked SD’s bottom and put antifoul paint on a few patches. On the Sunday, we left La Rochelle after paying our marina bill. That hole in the bank account keeps getting bigger.
That should make her go faster

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Sophie Heals Herself

Sophie and Jeremy at home

 The best news of the last few months is that our granddaughter, Sophie, aged 4 months, no longer needs an operation to correct her hips and has avoided 12 weeks in a plaster cast from her chest to her ankles. The operation was due to take place on 12th August. Jeremy and I looked after our other granddaughter, Ellie, while Em and Ben took Sophie into hospital. Sophie was put under general anaesthetic and injected with a dye so that her bones would show up on an x-ray. The x-ray revealed that her hips had healed themselves. We are still jumping for joy. Thank you to all our friends and family for your prayers or for keeping Sophie in your thoughts.

Sailor Sophie asleep in the stern cabin
Naturally, all our other news pales into insignificance when compared with this amazing healing, but there are two recent posts underneath that you might have missed.