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Portugal – going backwards!

Portugal – we can’t get away

15th to 19th October

View past Dom Vasco of Sines marina
Sunshine and calm sea at Sines

After another day or two in the sunshine and warmth of Sines, with skipper and me, Henrietta, as obsessed with weather forecasts as ever (Wind and weather are of course an obsession of boats and sailors everywhere), we left for Madeira or Porto Santo, which is a smaller island nearby. Alas, it wasn’t in said forecasts – at least not for our patch of ocean – but after about 20 hours and going well, we were hit by strong winds, and then by even stronger winds, and then even more, until it was plain Force 9/10, with gusts 55 – 65 knots.

I was hove to with no sails up and skipper and crew hanging on. As seas grow bigger and bigger I am thrown around a bit but I maintain a fairly steady course, rudder on full lock, sideways to seas and staggering downwind, occasional waves crashing into cockpit. (M has only read about this sort of thing in books so, looking on the bright side, it is all valuable experience for him.) Although I am a strong and thoroughbred Swedish boat and have no harm to my body, after several hours, damage was apparent on some of my bits: – clew of mainsail ripped off, genoa UV strip partly torn, wind generator exploded (yes, we were lucky that shattering blades caused no damage), one solar panel backing plate destroyed, one dodger torn, one stanchion bent, bilges flooded, one bilge pump not working….M is not being over dramatic if he admits to sometimes wondering why on earth he enjoys sailing. (Short answer: when it’s like this, he doesn’t!)P1010478

It was much rougher earlier!
Tanker across marina entrance with some tugs

Decision taken a few hours later in daylight, and once seas were more manageable, to sail roughly downwind about 120 miles to Cascais (near Lisbon) – i.e. closer to England than we were four days ago. Cascais has facilities, but as we approached the marina, M spots a tanker that seems anchored very close to shore. In fact, as we grew closer we see it is aground at marina entrance, with no less than seven tugs around (waiting for tide to rise and try towing it off). Later we discover this tanker, which was very big, had dragged its anchor in big waves and very high winds. Luckily not full of oil, and luckily not being swept onto Cascais beach or boat moorings, and luckily with double skin hull, disaster was averted. As local people are saying, it was a miracle. Anyway sailors, when you see a big ship in trouble, you know it really was very windy and rough. The worries of a tanker captain must be immense compared with those of a  yacht skipper. click here for tanker story

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Now, a day later, crew have had some sleep and proper food. A start has been made on repairs. The weather forecast obsession is back – with renewed rigour and vigour. Hope to be writing a happier blog next time!

In case you can’t guess, this is a Rutland generator minus the blades
Bent stanchion. There used to be a dodger too.
An important bit was torn from here.

Here are photos of some damage because some folk like to see such stuff.

Still in Portugal


6th to 14th October


Marvellous mural in Povoa

Povoa do Varzim – you may remember I had an uncomfortable stay there – snapped mooring line and later a snapped rubber shock absorber thingummyjig….plus sleeplessness for crew.

Povoa’s redeeming features? Delightful and ever-so-helpful marina staff, meetings with Nigel (from Exeter too, on a Vancouver), and Chris and Barbara (they live on their boat and have sailed nearly everywhere in north Atlantic [lots of tips], and Chris has climbed, potholed, kayaked – and taught all of them – everywhere else too…the sort of person who lives five normal people’s lives and remains totally normal, unassuming and friendly). My crew had a really good meal with them in downtown Povoa – not really sure if it was downtown but it was near the metro station.

Comfortable sailing down the coast of Portugal

Many harbours on Portugal’s Atlantic coast get closed when there is heavy Atlantic swell, so for three days, or maybe four, we weren’t able to leave Povoa. When at last we were allowed out, there was a quick exit through surf-bordered, rolly, swelly harbour entrance (did an aunt used to say “up and down like a roast leg of pork”? maybe not), it was a good sail – reaching and running about 180 miles south to Cascais – such a joy to enjoy good sailing after so much engine.

Anchored at dusk off Cascais
Anchored off Cascais, I think I served as one end of their starting line

Cascais? Cascais is a very smart holiday resort about a dozen miles down the Tejo estuary from Lisbon. The Almanac and various sailors’ sources warn of sky-high and mouthwatering marina charges in Cascais, so I anchored outside and did not enjoy three uncomfortable nights bouncing and snatching about on a windy lee shore – most of the time too wet and breezy for crew even to row ashore. Next day…enough of this…into Cascais marina. Pay attention and take note, sailor folk: after 1st October, it’s said to be ‘low season’ here and marina prices plummet. (About 25 euros for me…a bargain which must be half the price of most of England’s south coast marinas…and marina staff gave my crew a bottle of wine as well). It really is smart. I think there’s even the Queen’s old yacht ‘Bloodhound’ in the marina (see picture). And several super-shiney professionally-crewed yachts. 

As we waited and waited for better weather – at that stage intending to go straight to Madeira and Porto Santo (a long way), there was time for local interests and culture. A couple of days in Lisbon, an easy train ride, gave glimpses of Portugal’s distinguished history and current delights and plenty of sombre cathedrals…some photos below.


Tram no. 28, a popular tourist trip


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Wedding couples pose in front of the bridge

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Cascais too has more than its share of fine buildings, enchanting streets and those ubiquitous tiles.P1010398 P1010399

Panoramic view of Sines from anchorage
Posing with Dom Vasco…

By now, M wants to get a move on. We’re meant to be well on our way to the Canaries. In fact we’re little over halfway from Devon. Alas! big windy lows are destined for our patch of the Atlantic, and four or five days of rough sailing seem unappealing. We instead move south to Sines. This might be where Vasco da Gama was borne (see photo); but marina manager seems doubtful… but then he’s from Lisbon. (By the way, you don’t call it Sines as in Cosines, you call it ‘Cinch’ as in ‘a bit of a ~’ – soft cinch though. Portuguese pronunciation seems not at all straightforward.)

….and Portugal….early October

25th September to 5th October

Dawn on the river at Viana do Costelo (bridge by Gustave Eiffel)

M writes this very early one morning (not the one pictured above) after another sleepless night on creeky, snarly, bumpy, snatchy, rolly pontoon. I’m ‘tucked’ – not really the right word – in a corner of a harbour/marina in northern Portugal. My fellow boats bounce and bump about me while a gale whips overhead and swell rolls into the harbour of Povoa do Varzim. One of my mooring lines has broken too. (You see, it isn’t all sunshine, peace, and azure seas!)

A fine anchorage off Islas Cies (I. del Norte)
Viana mooring (between two other UK boats)

We’ve very slowly sailed and motored just a little way down the Iberian coastline, for, when it isn’t a gale, there are light and fickle winds. 

(Photos are rather all over the place. Will try harder next time.)

Another funicular (M walked up)
Flamboyant Miserichordia, Viana (sp??)
View across Viana do Castelo

Crew have seen some handsome and memorable towns (the towns are memorable, if not their names), brimming with historic and architectural interest: Muros and Puerta de Corrubedo (just anchored offshore there) in Spain, and then Viana do Castelo and this place, Povoa do Varzim in Portugal – with the varied mix of churches, monuments, markets and museums that go with 21st century tourism. (M likes these attractions so much he went on the metro to Porto yesterday – lots of delights in Porto). The Ciel islands off Rio de Vigo gave a more rural and picturesque anchorage than the towns we’ve visited – a long hilly walk ashore for crew too.

Here are some photos. There’s always a Lonely Planet guide if you want more. 

Fabulous hand-made dresses – a feature of the Viana area
Three views of Porto (here and below)


There aren’t so many boats and sailors about now but we have met many cheerful, knowledgable, colourful and well-travelled folk (and a dog or two or three) from most corners of Europe. It’s migration season: we boats head for the Mediterranean, or Atlantic Islands or over the ocean. And we see our shorebound cousins being lifted ashore for the winter.

Of course – the other thing that happens in Porto. Touring and tasting the port…….

Once, wind and swell abate I hope to be moving on south. The mark at harbour entrance tells us I can’t go in or out of here now. It feels a bit too much like end-of-summer in maritime Northern Portugal. Time for some warm sunshine……..

….on to Spain – late September

Chateaulin to Ria de Muros

12th to 24th September  Click for Route

Alongside in Chateaulin

We spent a while alongside in Chateaulin up the peaceful River Aulne while gales swept across the Bay of Biscay. I lay alongside my exclusive little pontoon and not a single other boat ventured upriver to this beautiful riverside town. The charming Breton lady in tourist office charged not a cent for my berth; yet M and Bob had showers in a metal box down the road, and I shared electric socket with passing campervans that stopped overnight on the road alongside.

…a pretty riverside town
…and stained glass

There were pretty and invigourating walks in rural Brittany for crew and cultural outing by train to Quimper. (Quimper has a distinguished history and buildings that go with being distinguished, esp. Catholic and distinguished {picture is bit of many fabulous stained glass windows in the Cathedral}) Thinking of the train journey, there should have been a photo of the ticket inspector. She was as glamorous as a majorette in an American high school – blonde, slim, smiling, and in a peaked cap – sweet and indulgent with M’s pathetic ‘O’ level French! However can First Great Western match that?



…anyway, back to me, Henrietta…after nearly a week, we left Chateaulin near HW in afternoon drizzle, headed downriver, through the lock, and on to anchor at dusk at a particularly beautiful tree-lined curve in the river, a big French training yacht anchored nearby.

Leaving Chateaulin through this lock, Guily Glaz – a delightful name

Now, because you don’t always want to hear tales (or read blogs) of blue skies, fair winds, sparkly seas, gorgeous sunsets while sipping wine, etc, I can now tell you a tale of doom, gloom, disaster and despondency (ie. the stuff of more readable journals).

P1010214As anchor chain was hauled aboard in this beautiful anchorage next morning, it, the anchor, stuck/snarled/would not budge. Sailors may guess the rest. For others I should say, we tried everything to raise the anchor: forward, astern, chain out, circles, tug, release a lot, tug, chain loop down chain, assistance of French yacht with enough horsepower to pull a cruise ship (it snapped the loop of chain!). We didn’t sink, no-one was hurt, nothing is broken. But after over an hour we applied the hacksaw and chain was severed. We were free but anchor was gone forever. This is M’s almost new Rocna (that’s a type of super-anchor). He wants to cry – but sailors don’t cry (except I suppose the famous Ellen). (We later learn that I’d been anchored on some sort of ship graveyard. Doubtless the wicked spirit of a sunken hulk had snarled anchor and chain – no mention in the Almanac though.)

Enough nonsense – but thought you’d like to know it isn’t all ‘plain sailing’. Although there are two other anchors on board, M decided to head for Moulin Blanc in Brest to find another super-anchor, this being one of the best serviced sailing bases in Northern Hemisphere, with chandleries, sailing schools and helpful experts on every corner….later, no Rocna but a good substitute and 40 metres of new chain (about 100m altogether now).

Heading for Spain
…a sunset or two or three on the way

Next day we left Brest. Three days and nights later we arrived at the northwest corner of Spain – Galicia. Crossing Biscay wasn’t dull. It was tiring. From exciting well-reefed sailing at start, we slopped to many hours motoring, before wind picked up again for lots of rolly-polly running across southern Biscay….then dropped again. A swell in Bay of Biscay with inadequate wind is very uncomfortable, as many of my fellow boats know.

First port of call was a spot in Ria de Camarinos (for Spanish experts, there’s a squiggly accent on the ‘n’). It feels ‘end-of-season’ and quite empty but there are shops and cafes and it’s M’s first sailing in Spain, and Bob’s first visit to Spain.

Camarinas was the first of our Spanish Rias. They’re said to be similar to Scottish lochs, and they are very attractive with wooded shores and high mountains as backdrop, but there are lots more seashore villages in Spanish rias – they’re warmer and no midges either, of course.

Into Ria de Camarinos as these boats were leaving (red ensigns I think)

After Camarinas… on next day round Cape Finisterre to Ria de Corcubion – an unscheduled but beautiful stop, necessitated because M despairs when the wind fails (he hates motoring), and he doesn’t venture into alien rocky approaches after dark.

And now, a day later, we’re at anchor off Muros in Ria de Muros. We seem to be in the company more-or-less of the same mini-fleet of three French yachts down this stretch of Iberian peninsular.

It’s a hard life, mending fishing nets

Leaving England – September 2015

28th August to 11th September

(For route Guernsey to Chateaulin click here . If link opens ok, click the left of three icons.)

From Lymington, M was with his all-time favourite crew, Anna. He was happy – just a bit sorrowful because Anna wasn’t aboard for long enough (she “has a life” as people say, whereas M’s life is all afloat).

Anna at sunset


Worbarrow Bay at sunset

From Lymington it was time to head generally south or west. Spain is quite a long way away and summer doesn’t last forever in Northern Europe. Via anchorages at Totland Bay, I.o.W., and Worbarrow Bay in Dorset – for a drizzly walk to Tyneham – we reached Dartmouth. Anna left for grandmotherly, motherly and daughterly responsibilities at home.

Rowan with new loose covers

Beautiful, smart new covers were delivered in Dartmouth and fitted by Rowan. Here’s a picture.

Ashore on Sark with Stuart and Bob
Ashore on Sark with Stuart and Bob

Bob H and Stuart G arrived and next day we headed west…then south. As a typical example of M’s mid-passage destination flips, ‘we’ changed our mind and headed not west to Falmouth but south to Sark in the Channel Islands, because wind was better that way. Arrived in middle-of-the-night darkness with strong tides among the big rocks of little Sark (this is where sailors and boats start to rely on their navigation magic and wizardry apps). Next day, a brief walk ashore. Over to Guernsey where Paul and Susan, fellow walkers from Exeter, were moored on their way home after summer in Brittany. They came aboard for supper and shared tips on ‘best places’ in Brittany. They have an immaculate Nauticat that’s their summer home. (Boats are always eyeing up one another to see who’s most prettily polished – or scruffily informal.) Their boat ‘Patience’ is very very smart – makes me feel in need of beauty treatment.

From Guernsey, south again to Ile de Brehat and upriver Trieux next day to the little town of Pontrieux, where Stuart found a train home to Ipswich. Actually, not one train but four or five, I think.

Anchored in La Corderie, Ile de Brehat
Up through the lock to Pontrieux

(At this stage I realise that all these place names mean nothing to most readers. Hence it’s all a bit boring. One day, M will get organised enough to find out how to put a map and track on this website – not yet!)

No time to hang about in Pontrieux – pleasant as it is. River dredging has not been up to scratch, we’re told, and moving towards neap tides, we might get stuck for ages. So we edge my bottom over the silt and escape back downriver to the anchorage in La Corderie off Ile de Brehat. (Sorry any pedant folk! There’s no time now to work out how you type with French accents in the right places)

The coast is well marked with some magnificent lighthouses

A sunny day ashore wandering among the immaculate stone walls, clipped hedges and profusely flowering pink and blue hydrangea. Others know of Ile de Brahat’s delights too and there are hundreds of day visitors who stroll ashore from the vedettes shuttling back and forth to the mainland.

Back with Henrietta, M swims and works on the sun-tan. (I suspect he’s vain.) Bob H washes scrupulously and is naturally tanned. It’s a joy to have odour-free crew and a tidy saloon. Just don’t look in M’s cabin.

A calm sea with swell to beat this lighthouse (Four, I think, this one)
Rusting naval vessels on River Auline
Heading upriver
We were ordered out of the way of this one
P1010184 Peacefully moored at Chateaulin

As I’ve said, it was time to head west and south. From Ile de Brehat, a fabulous windy sparkly day and helpful tide took us along the Brittany coast past Roscoff to anchor off a small island called Siec. There were some little boats and lots of pots, but no sign of people. Just a couple of wartime ruins and one house with a roof on. On west next day and round the corner at the top left of France, to end up in L’Aber Benoit. It’s a tranquil and pretty spot, strewn with the things you need to farm oysters (a shame that neither M nor Bob likes oysters and think it strange that some people start to dribble at the thought – yuk!)…a walk inland was good, though we coincided with early-closing for the local shops…..Next day, despite a pre-dawn departure, it became clear that, with gentle wind, we wouldn’t get through Chenal du Four before turn-of-tide would make it too tricky. Hence, a reason for another destination-flip….it’s Ile Molene in M’s sights now, not Camaret. As it turns out, Ile Molene is a gem just south of Ushant: lots of rocks, a sheltered anchorage, loads of blackberries, a well-loved Catholic church with flower-filled graveyard, sandy beaches, a cool beer. Apparently 200 people live here.….Next day another pre-dawn start for the sail – east this time – past Brest (we were politely ordered to alter course to let a submarine go by), and on about 15 miles up meandering river Auline, through a lock and on to Chateaulin. We seem to be the only visitors, but it’s very peaceful and there’s a huge Leclerc suermarket down the road. The weather forecast isn’t very rosy.


Setting forth – August 2015

Nearly ready to set off

My little adventure probably started on 11th August. That’s the date I was relaunched from Baltic Wharf Boatyard, Totnes. I was in good shape with lots of time, expertise and effort spent in smartening me up. (I noticed M had had a haircut too!) There was a cheery group of well-wishers for the River Dart trip down to Dartmouth.P1010007

A quick veggie supper in Dartmouth

And once in Dartmouth, friends from Exeter came aboard for a meal, while fine bright evening sunshine highlighted the pretty Kingswear shore. M and Nigel then sailed me east to the familiar waters of the Solent, IT expertise from Nigel enabling my AIS gadgetry to recognise me as Henrietta (this won’t mean much if you are not a boaty person, but matters to me).

Bob and Andrew with gannets behind (a long way away on the rock)

In Lymington Andrew A. came aboard. We then went west again to Weymouth and collected Bob H. Then on to Alderney, where I was anchored and the men were encouraged by Andrew to visit a gannet colony (A. seems very keen on gannets.) I think there’s a photo somewhere…

A shopping trip in Cherbourg

…then on to Cherbourg and back to Lymington, my waterline even higher with a load of bottles and French food on board. (Since a boat’s waterline is somewhat akin to your waistline, you can see why I am sometimes bothered!)

A farewell party
From the top of the cake

In Lymington, eleven humans (M’s friends and family) came aboard – a happy lively squash in the saloon. There was a special cake – thank you Lizz – with decoration that looked like me. It’s even got my name on it. (You can eat it, heaven forbid!)

Ashore for a spell

For four weeks from early July, I, Henrietta, sat ashore in Baltic Wharf Boatyard, a neighbourly and pleasant place on the edge of Totnes in Devon, with some expert boat people for wood work, engine work and other work. I have been prepared for a long time away. M went to his non-boat home (it’s made of brick and immobile) to tidy up and let it out for tenants. (His new home is aboard me and, as you know, I’m very mobile and made of GRP)

A lot happened during these weeks ashore. I officially became Henrietta, with new documents, new labels and new bits. My decks were cleaned and tidied. A layer or two of polish and lots of smart anti-fouling were applied. Engine serviced, electrical bits, a new solar panel, more handholds…….. You may not be interested in these details but they mean a lot to me, and boat owners know how long and pricey these lists can be!

Finally, I’ve been loaded with a mass of spare parts, tools, even more charts and books and clothes for M, and food and drink and……It makes a boat feel overweight…. though my figure is as fabulous as ever.

We know people who spend years getting ready for sailing adventures like ours, but skipper is a bit impatient, and he hasn’t spent much time pondering the details of what he plans to put me through. (Men can be like that). Anyway, we’re going to leave soon, and just see how we get on. If it doesn’t work out, we think we may be home for Christmas.

Ready for re-launch

Learning how it all works

From the launch in Plymouth in early June, there was a busy month with lots to learn. Rather than too much detail, I’ll post a few photos. We sailed to the Scilly Isles and up to the Solent, and across the Channel twice. Then we went up the River Dart to Totnes, and out of the water. Skipper and boat are getting to know one another.

Plymouth, before the sails are even on
Gentle sail to the Scilly Isles
Anchored off St Agnes, Scilly (all a bit busy in summer sun)
Anchored off Swanage
Brisk breeze to sail out of Alderney


Trying out Hydrovane – hands-free steering