Still here in La Gomera

Yet More of La Gomera

25th to 30th November 

(Track Guernsey-La Gomera)

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View from La Gomera (of the tallest mountain in Spain – Teide on Tenerife)
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Rebecca and Vanessa run the marina

This island of La Gomera grows on us. There are sailor folk from northern Europe who’ve been here a long time. They didn’t get further than here on their Atlantic voyages – although incidentally, Columbus set out from here. An Irish couple, “…ooh! we got here 8 years ago and liked it, so haven’t moved on yet…”. And there were Danes alongside who’ve been here even longer. The pilot book suggests one of the problems is the little marina gets overcrowded because people arrive for two days and stay two weeks (or much much longer). The charming town of San Sebastian is on the doorstep. There’s regular music and cultural activity, good shops (at least until you need boaty bits), fabulous mountain walks, quiet beaches and plenty of sunshine. The marina staff, Rebecca and Vanessa, are fabulous and sometimes think we’ll be here forever.

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More mountain walks

P1010820 P1010810Notwithstanding all this, M and I do want to get a move on now. Before going south though, M is taking me back north to Tenerife for tricky work on my electrical innards. He can’t do it himself, despite many hours checking, testing, and reconnecting wires.

While staying around there’s been action: As well as some more long mountain walks for M, Andy Altenhofer, the delightful and versatile, law-a-bit-unto-himself, ever-in-demand German mechanic supremo has been on board and helped fit more solar panels on my stern. It has slightly detracted from the pristine beauty of my backside but, given the dire limitations of wind generators, it’s good to have peaceful daytime power from these panel things. (Really you know, us boats are better off being both beautiful and functional.) 

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Andy about to weld my new gantry
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On board chaos

A highlight for M has been that we’re in La Gomera as we near the start of another Transatlantic Rowing Race.The rowers will leave  from here for Antigua in mid-December. Twenty rowing boats are assembling on the quayside, right next to where my solar panels are being fitted. (Ben Fogle and James Cracknell may have drawn your attention to it when they took part as a pair about ten years ago). Chatting to several of the rowers is a delight. All appear calm, normal, modest and unassuming. Mind you, you cannot tell what’s going on in their minds. Most are in their 20’s or 30’s, fit young men. But there are very fit women too, and a boat with four rowers, all servicemen who’ve lost their legs in conflict. You can look at the website and find out more there. They are extraordinary and we really hope they’ll all arrive safely. Just give them a thought if you sit feeling overfed, indolent and sleepy after a massive Christmas lunch!P1010841

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Atlantic Drifters, David and Tom Website here
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Crew from Torbay getting their stuff ready

   P1010846 P1010838 Minor gripe though:- Why do so many major endurance-type events become commercialised? They cost a lot for participants to enter (for this rowing race it’s many thousands of pounds, I gather), the event gains publicity and popularity (some people have them on ‘bucket lists’), certainly they raise money for many good causes, and tend to be called ‘epic’, or ‘iconic’. I’d put things like the sailing ARC trips (about 1,200 sailors on over 200 boats left Gran Canaria last weekend) and even the London Marathon or climbing Everest into the same big commercial bucket. What happens to people who simply want to do these things without the fuss….

…..Which takes us on to telling you about Graham Walters of Leicester, who was sitting quietly in a local outdoor bar with a small cup of coffee. He is a long-distance rower like no other. He’s rowed the Atlantic several times already, twice alone. He’s even older than M and now wants to be the oldest man to do it. To talk to him, you’d think he was going to row over the Serpentine to feed the ducks on the other side; amiable, gently smiling face, unflappable. He’s not in the Talisker event (it’s too expensive, and it’s hard and time-consuming for a retired Leicester carpenter to raise the sponsorship funding); his freeze-dried rations, which he bought as a job lot from previous expedition, were ‘best before 2005’ – but he says they seem fine, “…not very tasty though”; his boat is old and low tech (not self-righting like modern ones, but Graham has “…fitted a couple of inflatable bags and a gas cyclinder…which should right it”, if he capsizes); asked him “What do you do if you feel like a day off from rowing?” A: “Well you can, and if injured you have to, but it takes longer to get there then…” (he hopes to do it in 100 days); to cap it all the local authorities here are saying they won’t let him leave (he wants to go the day after the Talisker rowers); apparently the last time he set out, a few years ago, “…they sent a gun-boat after me, impounded my boat and I had to pay 5,000 euros fine..”. If authorities don’t relent he reckons he may have to go back to Gran Canaria and start from there. Here is a web-site about one of his previous exploits. An extraordinary man, really extraordinary.

 

Waiting in La Gomera

Waiting in La Gomera

14th to 24th November

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Pleasant and calm – Marina La Gomera
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Rutland awaiting bits

(M is utterly wildly and obsessively exasperated with Rutland wind generator people. He reckons by writing about it, he might get it off his chest; so this is another post by M. I only hope he will get it off his chest a bit and he’ll calm down before he does something silly with a Rutland.)

Yes, with Anna back in England and more time alone, there’s more time to get Henrietta in shape for the next bit. (I’ve decided to continue single-handed for a while  and have turned down offers from friendly hitch-hiking sailors – even a lovely Spanish girl who’d have taught me Spanish (we all have our dreams!))

The list of things to do is long but, with notable exception of Rutland wind generator, I’m getting there. Sails sorted, engine ready, wiring fixed, some polish and cleaning, cracked ribs feel better too…….There are lots of experienced sailors and their wisdom on hand, which is good. Around half are going to Cape Verde/Brazil/Caribbean, half straight to Caribbean (oh! and half staying hereabouts…which makes three halves of course). I don’t yet know what I’ll do.

Meanwhile, can I tell you why you shouldn’t ever have a Rutland wind generator on your boat? (Unless maybe you keep it on a canal or in calm coastal waters with wind not more than F8) It might bore you or be libelous but it might calm me down if I do write about it, so here goes..

..….to summarise: said unit was on Henrietta at purchase; power generation a tiny fraction of advert blurb (Rutland didn’t want to know!); negligible power if wind under F4/5; exploded at F9/10, pretty noisy in between; Rutland suggested badly installed (the professional installer gave them short shrift I suspect); suggested I should have realised something was going awry in storm and perhaps slow the blades by rotating the unit with boat hook to feather to wind (these people may have a fine sophisticated lab designed device, but zero appreciation of life at sea in a storm on small boat). Unit was less than two years old, hence covered by ‘warranty’. I.e.  Theory: I post remains of thing from Portugal to Corby and Rutland fix it and send it back. Practice, I package, take to post office, record, arrange and pay posting by airmail, then wait over two weeks for fixed unit to be sent back to Tenerife (I’d both arrived and subsequently left Tenerife by then); later I sail back from La Gomera to Tenerife (San Miguel, conveniently near the airport, is not a pretty place) to collect it, pay various import and carriage costs,

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San Miguel on Tenerife (dire development under airport flight path behind an ok marina)

 sail back again to La Gomera (about 35 miles each way), open the box…WHAT? NO BLADES, NO CONE, NO BITS in the box to reinstall. Emailed Rutland…who offer ”sincere apologies” (bits had been forgotten…now, I await another package…Costs so far exceeding 200 euros for incomplete and non-fixed unit (i.e. total budget for a week living aboard). I’ve talked to many owners of Rutland 914is. Few are happy and at least one other will drop it overboard as soon as it goes wrong. There may be many happy owners out there, but in my view it’s an unsafe unsuitable generator for ocean sailing, and you’ll certainly get safer power from an earwig’s armpits.

I must tell you about Lewmar and the tale of the Delta anchor though. In total and joyous contrast to Rutland, when I told them and sent photos of my new 16kg anchor that had bent at a not-especially rough anchorage (16kg being confidently recommended as fine by chandlery in France), Lewmar promptly and without question sent a brand new 20kg anchor straight to Tenerife, where I collected it at no cost to me, about 10 days later.

So sailor folk, my future maintenance budget may go Lewmar’s way, but never another cent to Rutland/Marlec.

I could tell you a similar tale of Gil and Musto clothing, but you’ll have had enough by now. (In case you were wondering though: Gil the good egg and Musto the rotten apple).

Between boat chores and being sociable (and getting into a pickle over Rutland, and dilemmas over when to go, where to go and whether to go), I have enjoyed more wonder-filled walks on this lovely island of La Gomera. Buses are reliable, if infrequent, trails and paths are mostly well marked, the weather is mostly benign, choice of scenery great….Here are some pictures.. .20151105_141215

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Taken by passing walker
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Banana depot
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Camera on a rock

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A large motorsailor
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Closer to a motorsailor (it’s a cruise ship)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two more Canary Islands

Tenerife to La Gomera, on to La Palma, then back to La Gomera

1st to 12th November 2015

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Wonderfilled market in Santa Cruz

(Henrietta is getting M to write this blog post. He’s been with Anna and seems to have no time for me. I’m a bit miffed, but do accept most men seem to love their human friends even more than their boats. They really do!)

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Seemed strange….

Ok then! I found my way to the bus station in Santa Cruz, Tenerife, and met up with Anna who’d caught a bus there from the airport in the south. (Spanish coming on leaps and bounds these days and we can now get to a Canarian bus station!) Weary after our journeys and as the next day was windless, we stayed in Santa Cruz, sharing the city’s delights with the thousands of visitors disgorged from vast white cruise ships that docked nearby. The ships seem huge and ungainly, with hulls and backsides resembling unimaginative white housing blocks – P&O – Posterior xx Oversized. The city has a marvellous and colourful market, and unexpected charms on every street corner (see pics)

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A walk while anchored near Poris, Bahia de Abona

Next day we sailed off south, down the Tenerife coastline, till lack of wind and impulsiveness led us to head for shore and anchor (a pleasant bay, Bahia de Abona). In late afternoon we rowed ashore,deftly avoiding capsize and a swim as we landed in the surf; then had one of those hot hot humid dusty roadside walks into the nearby village of Poris (I presume it rhymes with Boris and might want a name change).

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‘Accelerating’ over to La Gomera

On south again next day to San Miguel where there’s a busy but welcoming marina. It was an afternoon where everything seemed to go right – so right that you get nervous that it can’t go on being so good! But the gods were on our side today: A new and bigger anchor had arrived thanks to Lewmar (It fits perfectly too). Diesel was available and we filled up. A secluded berth was vacant and we took it. The marina bar had useable internet service. A volcanic beach was nearby and fine for a refreshing swim. Just a slightly off-key note with local resort concrete blocks and food shops; I find it depressing to see UK produce available when there’s a good, cheaper and better local alternative. Some totally unadaptable Britons must presumably buy Tesco tinned sardines (2x local price), Buxton bottled water, and Heinz baked beans. (Don’t forget the Coco Pops either).

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Barren cliffs and a rolly anchorage, off La Gomera
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Valle Gran Rey

 

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Lunch break (double ‘selfie’)
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Bus journey out of San Sebastion de la Gomera (marina centre right, Tenerife in distance)
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Resting…at last

After a night there, we sailed over to the relatively little island of La Gomera. This included our first flirtation with an ‘Acceleration Zone’, where wind picks up quite quickly by 10-15 knots and you can enjoy some exhilarating sailing as you approach a new coastline. (I think this happens in bits of the Mediterranean too, but I’ve not been there.) Rather than go straight to the marina we opted to anchor off the coast. Alas! Coasts in the Canary Islands often have persistent irregular swell making them rolly. This one was no exception. But it was beautiful…rolling beneath the high and barren cliffs…stars twinkling as darkness moved in…..

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Admire my tail!

Next day, we overdid it, we overdid it…..Early into San Sebastion de La Gomera marina, berth ‘Henrietta’, pack up rucksacks and picnic lunch and find a walking map, catch a bus up a zigzag road to a high village (1,200 metres), jump out of bus, walk rocky path downhill miles and miles (this is two folk past 60 with dodgy knees, remember!), but we are entranced by the Valle Gran Rey: natural and manmade terraces, cactus, banana, vine, avocado and more, and, as we drop lower,  tidy white pink and terracotta mountainside huts and houses….after many sweat-filled hours we arrive at the seaside, find a beer, then find a bus back and, as night and darkness arrive, enjoy the cool switchback bus journey home with village lights twinkling beneath the high mountain road. (Knees are hurting a bit, but never mind!)

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Santa Cruz de la Palma
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Gentle walk – La Palma

After a day relatively resting in La Gomera, we sailed all next day to the next island, La Palma. It’s about 55 miles and I’d left a bit late (wanting to recover deposit for marina passes) – so we arrived after dark (always something that makes for anxiety when a port is new and unknown, and lights of the town obscure navigation lights). All went well though. Marina staff were typically fantastic and shone a torch to show where to go and a half hour later we were tied up. The marina is less than half full. It suffers surge and this deters many visitors. But the marina facilities are good, the town of Santa Cruz de la Palma is a gem, the countryside striking and a delight for walking and admiring volcanic nature (the last eruption in 1971)……

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Much photographed street in Santa Cruz de la Palma

You’ll have had enough of this rambling travelogue ….suffice to say we loved La Palma; we met lovely people (including Challenger 3 skipper Paul, and sailors Phil and Laura, quite newlyweds, also on a Najad, and sailing on the Islands Odyssey [15 boats going to Caribbean via littler islands than the ARC proper]); we stayed three days on La Palma, then sailed back to La Gomera.

Yesterday, we took a ferry, an hour over to Los Cristianos on Tenerife. It’s close to the airport but isn’t a place that holds much for us. We ate a simple meal, trudged past shoploads of sun-hats, buckets and spades, and Tenerife labelled T-shirts, then waited for an airport bus. It came on time and Anna climbed aboard. We had a hug, and felt listless and sad. A few hours later her flight landed in Bristol and my ferry docked in La Gomera. I’m back with ‘Henrietta’ now. A week of repairs, tidying, cleaning, researching, walking and resting (and a haircut) is needed.

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Los Cristianos from a safe distance

South to a Canary Island

At last – Tenerife

20th to 31st October

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Sailing South on a beautiful day

It’s just been me and M for the past ten days. I do the real work of getting us along while M sits around or experiments with my sails, spinnaker pole, Hydrovane, solar panels, electric bits, fixing bits, and cooking bits, and ropes all over the place; and deciding where to go nd how to get there. He does sit around a lot too – thinking or dreaming mainly. Bob left us in Cascais after several unforgettable weeks. He was practical, industrious and willing – beautifully watching my trim at all times (just a bit frustrated with my tell-tails, which he reckoned weren’t up to muchl!)

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Another victim of that storm
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Ocean sky (sun setting)
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Ocean sky (moon rising)

What has been going on? You’ll remember that I was a bit bruised after the attempt to reach Madeira, and had to return to Cascais, near Lisbon, for repairs. Cascais itself had been a bit battered by the winds too: apart from the oil tanker driven ashore, there was damage to fine old trees in the local park (here’s a picture of a grand and aged tree uprooted – it crashed onto the roof of the unfortunate building behind – all efficiently tidied up soon after). It took a few days for sail repairs, Rutland wind generator left-over bits sent to Corby, chips in gel coat repaired (cause: exploding Rutland = v. alarming), bilges and carpet dried, dodger sewn up. In a nutshell, local Portuguese people have been overwhelmingly helpful, fantastically friendly and generous of their time and advice; fellow sailors a colourful mix of hue and view; Lewmar? Brilliant and excellent service and they’ll send a new and bigger one to replace a bent anchor; Rutland? The jury’s out.

After the unplanned days in Portugal there was just enough time (if weather was ok) to reach Tenerife, about 750 miles away, before Anna’s arrival. Forecast was more-or-less ok. (In fact, if we’re fussy, I’d say the first three days were too windy, the next three too windless – but if you’re too fussy you’d be better off staying in bed anyway.)P1010549 P1010555

Before leaving Portugal the prospect of M’s first big single-handed trip was a bit daunting. How to sleep enough, manage all this stuff and keep healthy enough, happy enough and sane enough? (M will write more about this another time. In essence though, single-handed sailing a beautiful boat across a grand and wondrous ocean is a marvellous experience.)

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Happy skipper….(this is a’selfie’)
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…trying lots of ropes

 

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Anchored off northern Tenerife

Early days with F6/7, and well-reefed sails were fast and exhilerating; choppy seas, spray flying over foredeck, warm sunshine or heavy shower, the sky a riotous jumbled patchwork of clouds in palest washed out pale to darkest inky blue; the ocean swell unceasing and filled with grandeur and power. We are over-awed. At the end of day 6, we approached Tenerife at dusk, finally dropping anchor in the dark, off a remote deserted beach under a mountain, at the north end of the island.

Next morning was wet and windy in Tenerife. I sail a few miles south to Santa Cruz. Anna was flying from Bristol by now. We meet up late afternoon in Santa Cruz bus station….more next time…

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Approaching Santa Cruz, Tenerife
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….nearly there

Portugal – going backwards!

Portugal – we can’t get away

15th to 19th October

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View past Dom Vasco of Sines marina
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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

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It was much rougher earlier!
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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!

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

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

Still in Portugal

Portugal

6th to 14th October

Route

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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.

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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.

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Anchored at dusk off Cascais
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Bloodhound?
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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.

 

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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

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Panoramic view of Sines from anchorage
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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

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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!)

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A fine anchorage off Islas Cies (I. del Norte)
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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.)

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Another funicular (M walked up)
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Flamboyant Miserichordia, Viana (sp??)
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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. 

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


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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.

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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……..

The unreliable journal of a sailing voyage