September is at an end and we have travelled another 584nm which brings the total for our trip so far to 1841nm. We left Spain on 4th September and sailed into Portugal. We left Portugal for Spain on 28th September for half a day and then back into Portugal for another night before arriving in Rota in the Bay of Cadiz on 30th September.
23rd – 30th September Portimao to Rota
23rd September We left Alvor with a very sorry sight in the background – a British yacht had misjudged the tidal range and having anchored with water beneath the keel at some stage during the night she found herself very firmly aground by 7am. Nothing you can do in these circumstances except hope it never happens to you! We motored through the narrow entrance and wondered about the wisdom of our departure as we faced stiff wind and large seas. It was a challenging sail to Portimao, especially as we were beating into winds gusting 30knots. However, once in the Rio Arade everything was much calmer. We took a tip from Freya of Wight and went up into Portimao itself to moor on a pontoon rather than drop anchor. However, this did mean that we missed Feragudo which was a shame but you can’t stop everywhere and hope to make it to the Cape Verde Islands by November. We found a good supermarket in Portimao within easy reach of the boat so Jon Lister benefited from a resupplied Ocean Rainbow when he joined us for supper.
24th September We left Portimao – having had a whistlestop tour around the town on bikes – and set off to Faro as planned. It was a bit of a struggle as the promised wind failed to materialise so we had Charlie flying, then Red Passion, then we used the engine (now known as Victor – our crew is expanding ready for the Atlantic crossing) and had to motor for 3 hours to get to the Canal de Faro. We anchored in the pool near the entrance to the Canal and spent a really peaceful night. The birdlife around the marshes was fabulous to watch. White Cranes, Egrets and Curlews were the main attraction. Jon treated us to supper on board Hecla so we launched Puddle and enjoyed a gastronomic feast. He makes a mean tortilla!
25th – 28th September We up anchored in the morning and negotiated our way up the Canal along what turned out to be an extremely narrow and wiggly route – we did find ourselves temporarily restrained by a sandbank at one point – but the pool where we eventually moored was a good depth. We then went ashore to investigate, did a bit of shopping and got our bearings. We loved Faro, the cobbled streets and mosaics were everywhere, the folk were really friendly and we had a great look around the castle, cathedral and old part of the town. Bit of a shame to have to spend time finding a dentist but all worked out and Dr Eunico Abreu was lovely and managed to sort things out very quickly. Unfortunately it did mean that Claire had to go ashore when the winds had started to get up and the sea was becoming choppy – but she made it. In fact one of the other boats commented on her skills, so there has been an improvement in her driving skills since the early days! James, on the other hand, didn’t fare so well later in the afternoon after the worst of the storm had passed over and managed to puncture Puddle. He was mortified – all is well now though as Puddle has been repaired. On Friday night we had a Fleetwood Mac Party – Jon Lister had hoped to get back to UK for the Fleetwood Mac Concert but it all proved too difficult so we held an FM appreciation evening for him on Ocean Rainbow. It was all great fun as Jon assembled the crews of neighbouring boats to come and share supper and we had the chance to share sailing stories and pick up tips about future stops on our route. Although we could have continued into the wee small hours discretion prevailed as 3 of the boats were leaving early the next morning … Ocean Rainbow being one of them!
At first light on 28th we weighed anchor and set off on a truly great sail to Ayamonte on the Rio Guadiana. The weather wasn’t particularly brilliant but we didn’t have rain and we did see a huge pod of dolphins. An amazing sight – perhaps a superpod it was so large? Our entry into the Rio Guadiana was exciting as the depth kept changing and we really didn’t have too much water under the keel on a couple of occasions. The entry was made all the more challenging by a dozen or so Opis exiting the river on some kind of suicide race! The seas were enormous but the children just took it all in their stride – we think their instructor was some kind of nut! We then went up the river to the marina at Ayamonte where we moored on a pontoon alongside Hecla. We decided to move on the next day and go back down the river to Vila Real primarily because we found the staff unfriendly and the facilities didn’t match the price tag!
29th – 30th September We had a lovely stay in Vila Real with a real laugh over James’ order of a small beer! We’d no idea they made beer glasses that small!! Once again, back in Portugal we found cobbled streets and mosaics. Our abiding memory of Portugal will be the streets – and their churches. We have never seen so many extraordinarily intricately decorated churches with numerous equally decorative side chapels. Sadly the time has really come to move on from Portugal and continue the adventure along the Costa de la Luz. At first light on Monday we slipped the pontoon (actually slipped is not accurate – we sprang from the pontoon having been wedged in fairly seriously by a steel boat and a huge great monster of a yacht) and made our way back down the Rio Guardiana and on to Chipiona. And, thereby hangs another tale – the winds were so good and we were making such excellent progress that James decided we should keep on going! So, Claire’s visit to the tallest lighthouse in Spain and the 17th tallest in the world was reduced to a long distance photo! However, the sail was great and well worth missing the lighthouse. On the other hand the parking of the boat was not great – ‘could do better’ would have been the school report – and Claire got seriously wet in her endeavours to tie lines in the right places and secure Ocean Rainbow to the shortest pontoon in the whole wide world while the wind was doing its level best to blow her off! Hecla came into the pontoon alongside us but she was blown onto the pontoon which made life a little simpler for Jon, but it was just brilliant to see Lorraine and Paul from Freya of Wight coming along the jetty to lend their able hands – and weight – to ensure a swift berthing. We arranged to meet up with Freya for coffee and a catch up the next day. In the meantime, all thoughts of going ashore for supper disappeared and we decided to join forces with Hecla and have a pot luck pressure cooker sausage goulash on Ocean Rainbow. A great decision – it was delicious.
16th – 22nd September Lisbon to Rio Alvor
16th September So much for staying in Lisbon for a couple of days. We did our chores in the morning which included doing the doby (really good value wash at €1.50 per load), washing the decks, ascending the mast and checking all possible snag points for the parasailor and cruising chute (Claire’s gone off mending!!) and helping Jon repack Hecla’s cruising chute. After lunch we set off for Oerias train station on our bikes heading for Lisbon. The trains aren’t quite up to the metro standards but they run on time, they’re bike friendly (except for the barriers where a bike or a human can get through, but not both at the same time! Claire got a very squashed head and had to forcibly push the gates open to release her ears! No permanent damage done as not much between the ears to damage!!) and a return trip to Lisbon only cost €3.60. Not sure British Rail could match that one! We arrived in Lisbon and James did his stuff as a Recce Officer and this time he mastered the contour lines of the tourist map! We must have seen every sight there was to see and all in the space of an afternoon. Lisbon, like London, needs days to explore. We did spend a wee while going around the Castle of St George but everything else (except for ice cream consumption!) was done at top speed (which is not so speedy as Lisbon’s streets are totally cobbled and the pavements are all mosaics so riding bikes is a tad painful!). Having zoomed around the centre we took the train back to Belem to see the Arty Quarter but again, unless you have hours to do the museums, the best you can do is soak in the atmosphere. Below you will find pictures of everything we saw at close quarters but we did also see Jeronimo’s monastery (Belem) but couldn’t get a good angle for a picture. Having done all the culture we managed to make it to the chandlery before closing time and had a great half an hour buying yet more bits for the boat!! Seriously successful day!
17th September Having conquered Lisbon we moved from Oeiras on to Sines. We had thought about going to Setubel but the wind was good so we decided to carry on. We had the normal pot buoy slalom and if I ever meet Miguel I shall have a serious word with him about his pot buoys – none of them had flags! We did have one slight excitement as were buzzed by the Portuguese Navy but they moved on fairly quickly. Other than that our adrenalin rush was provided by Ocean Rainbow. There’s nothing to beat the feeling of coursing through the water with the boat in her element. We flew Red Passion then later, when the winds were stronger and Red Passion had been put away, we goose-winged and simply flew down the waves. 53nm was covered in no time at all and we were soon packing away the sails and anchoring in Sines bay. Sines itself was very industrial and the town appeared really new with a modern fort built as a backdrop. Not very inviting so we decided to keep on going the next day and take advantage of the forecast winds to round Cape St Vincent.
18th September Not sure what happened to our forecast weather but the wind was from the south not the north for the first 5 hours of our trip and was too light to propel Ocean Rainbow so we put on the engine. Finally we were able to hoist Red Passion and for the next 3 hours we had an amazing trip with more sparkling seas against the backdrop of the harsh coastline. We managed to get Red Passion down before the winds soared to 30 knots and for the final hour of the trip as we rounded Cape St Vincent and into the Algarve we had some of the most exhilarating sailing we have had since the Whitsundays. Who would have thought that dear Ocean Rainbow would surf in excess of 9knots – perhaps with less stores on board she would have gone even faster! We also caught sight of the Portuguese kite surfer who broke the world record for the longest distance travelled on a kitesurf – 300nm from Porto to Lagos. We finally dropped our anchor in Baleeira after a trip of 64.5nm.
19th – 20th September Anchored in Baleeira and enjoying our first taste of the Algarve. The water is warmer, clearer and altogether more enticing than anything we have experienced so far. We got out our snorkels and fins and had a really good look at the bottom of the boat (no barnacles have dared to try and attach themselves!) and we are planning to move on to a bay where the rocks look good for snorkelling amongst. A bit of a disaster on Friday afternoon as Claire practised her diving – she got her arm caught up in the ensign as she took off on what should have been a graceful swallow dive. Sadly it turned out to be an almighty splosh with the ensign staff snapped off at the base. The next two hours were spent with James painstakingly chiselling off flakes of wood and sanding the staff. With no vice on board he resorted to mole grips on the cockpit table which worked superbly. The finished result looks so professional and is actually an improvement on the original in that it now fits the socket and doesn’t have to be bolstered with masking tape! Perhaps this is how he can earn some pocket money when funds run low?
21st September We had a great BBQ last night on OR and we think we have managed to persuade Jon to finally mount his BBQ on Hecla (the one he bought at the same time as us at the Boat Show!). Time will tell and we will report the occasion and give it due prominence in our diary! We left Baleeira at midday in the company of Hecla and headed further down the coast looking for a bay for snorkelling and an overnight anchorage. The rock formations are awesome and have to be seen to be appreciated. By its geographical position (east-northeast to west-southwest orientation) and lithological diversity, the Algarve stands out as a unique stratigraphic and morpho-tectonic region. A peripheral carboniferous unit of the Varsican orogeny, it constitutes the Mesozoic and Cenozoic sedimentary layers, deposited onto two totally distinct superimposed basins. We hope you appreciate the information (purely added for the benefit of Andrew, the geographer son, who has been trying to educate his mother) and the photo collage we have made of the rocks we have passed. Anyway, back to sailing, we failed miserably to find anywhere suitable to anchor and went from potential bay to potential bay to finally anchor in Praia da Luz in azure waters but off a very small beach. We were only anchored a couple of hours before James pulled the plug and we moved on. The rollers were increasing in size, the amount of water between us and the bottom of the ocean was decreasing alarmingly and there was more wind forecast for the early hours of the morning. The rolling was a challenge and compared admirably with Tongue Bay in the Whitsundays! We moved on to Lagos and entered the river through an extremely narrow entry in the dusk/dark with the most wonderful sunset as the backdrop. We made our way up the river and anchored outside the marina on a floating pontoon. As neither boat had eaten, we combined our resources and ate together with the background music of an itinerant flautist on the other side of the river.
22nd September We set off early and made our way to the Ria Alvor which is a lagoon just a couple of miles south of Lagos. We entered towards low tide through another very narrow entrance and were greeted with miles of sandbanks and thousands of birds plus a few yachts anchored in a pool of deep water. We joined them. Puddle was launched and we (OK, James) rowed to the sandbanks on the Lagos side of the lagoon to investigate. This scenery was much more what we had expected of the Algarve with trees, hills and gentle mountains in the background. After lunch we went with Jon in his dinghy to have a look at the town and check out the moorings there. It was an interesting experience but something of a shock to find that every voice heard in the restaurants and cafes was speaking English! We had a wonderfully cold beer in the local Sports Bar (James needed his footie, rugger and Formula 1 fix!) but we decided that we would stay in our pool for the night and not anchor near the town!
11th – 15th September San Martinho to Oerias
It was a relief to leave Nazare early on Thursday and head off to San Martinho which was a lovely bay just 8 miles south. We enjoyed it so much we stayed an extra day and had time to walk the beach and investigate the town. The main employment appears to be the harvesting of seaweed for the pharmaceutical industry. It’s labourious work and the men spend up to 5 hours under water gathering the seaweed by hand and placing it in huge nets that are lifted to the surface. Portuguese fishing superstition says that womenfolk can gather seaweed along the shoreline but the men shouldn’t get their feet wet! The men we saw seemed to get around this taboo by donning really thick wetsuits to dive from the fishing vessels – presumably finally to come back to shore with dry feet! It was also mind boggling to see all the new San Martinho holiday homes that had been built on the side of the cliffs – right above landslips. Not our idea of a good investment!
Saturday 14th we set off for Peniche and really had a cracking good sail in sparkling seas. We even managed to get the last crew member out of his bed – Charlie Cruising Chute. It was great to see the Regimental colours flying in all their glory as we sailed down the spectacular coastline. The rock formations are stunning but are an indication of the storms that must hit this area. We entered Peniche marina in high winds and were relieved to find a space on the visitor’s pontoon. The Guardia Nacional greeted us, inspected our papers and passports and then proceeded to give us all the information on supermarkets, breadshops and suitable watering holes – plus a slight rant about the current government as we are adjacent to a political prison! Peniche appears to be a great place for the kite surfers – the young definitely outnumbered the oldies on the beaches.
Sunday 15th We set off at 0845 for the longer sail to the River Tejo and Lisbon. Red Passion started the day but we noticed a tiny rip in the wing so she came down and up went Charlie for a couple of hours until the wind died off and we put on the engine to stop us wallowing around in the swell –and to ensure we got to Oeiras (the marina we are staying in for our Lisbon visit) before dark. We didn’t have long to wait until the wind came back and then we experienced some wonderful sailing with sparkling seas and boat speeds of up to 8.5 knots and the wind gusting 35 knots. Exhilarating – especially when goose-winged (one sail on each side of the boat for the land-lubbers amongst you!). Claire spent the afternoon down below mending the parasailor. Bit of a nightmare as the rip was along a seam so a simple patch wouldn’t do the trick, instead the seam had to be unpicked, the rip patched and then restitched. 3 hours later the job was done. James is going up the mast as soon as possible to check all the spreaders again and make sure there aren’t any sharp edges – Claire’s fingers need a bit of time to recover before then next repair job! The entry into Oeiras marina was a dog leg, very narrow and with the added challenge of a 3knot tide pushing us past – so another case of ferry gliding. Once around the corner and moored on the reception pontoon all was peace and tranquillity! We are now safely moored on a finger pontoon and will stay for a couple of days (we think) so that we can go and investigate Lisbon and further educate ourselves.
9th and 10th in Figueira da Foz
7th – 8th September
We left Povoa de Varzim at 9 in the company of Hecla for the day’s sail to Rio Aveiro and the little town of Sao Jacinto. There wasn’t much wind to start the day but we put up the main with two reefs to steady us in the North Atlantic swell and in anticipation of flying Red Passion later on. We had to choose our moments to hoist sails because of the lunatic number of pot buoys littering the coastline and it was a miracle we didn’t snare one – Hecla wasn’t so lucky; you can read Jon’s tale is on his blog. Once Red Passion was flying we left our reliable helm, Humphrey, in charge and only had to correct him a few times, but there were some very near misses! We sailed about 5 miles off shore to try and avoid the worst of the buoys which meant missing some of the astonishing Portuguese coastline with its long deserted silver beaches that sparkle in the sun. When we neared Rio Aveiro we doused Red Passion – not so easy in the swell with the boat dancing around like a yoyo. We managed to catch the snuffer downhaul lines in the shrouds and, as is the way with ropes, the wretched thing knotted itself and wouldn’t be freed. This meant we couldn’t bag the parasailor and in the winds we were experiencing it was a recipe for disaster so the solution was to send Claire up the mast! Thank goodness for the Banks Bosun’s Chair. What a fantastic design with the back straps – you feel totally secure even though you’re hanging out over the boat trying to free a line from the outside of the shrouds. Once sorted out we headed for the entrance to Rio Aviero – we entered the river doing 8.5kts and thought we were back in the Bristol Channel again with tidal overfalls and ferry gliding our way to the entrance to Sao Jacinto. Once in the basin everything was calm and we found ourselves a lovely anchorage just off the ferry landing jetty.
4th – 5th September Well we didn’t stop off at Bayona (also spelt Baiona) after all but we did get a tremendous view of the castle and ramparts as we sailed past. We also saw the goose-necked barnacle pickers at work – what a dangerous way to earn your living.
We flew Red Passion a lot of the way down and crossed the Spanish/Portuguese border in style. Well, in a certain amount of style as thereby hangs a tale. About an hour before we were due to cross the border, Claire dug out the flag for Portugal – it didn’t resemble the flags we had seen recently in Spain nor could we find anything that looked like the flag in our reference book! A minor panic as we checked through our flags to see what we could use instead! Claire selected the ‘B’ signalling flag and the Italian flag and set about creating an approximation of the Portuguese flag! It looked fine as long as the wind wasn’t blowing!!
We got to Viana do Costello in the evening – a really pretty town with a lot of history. National Geographic declared the view from the Santa Lucia Basilica the 3rd best in the world and the Basilica is the most famous monument in Portugal (or so the blurb said!). The Eiffel railway bridge was also a surprise – great to be moored just under it. We had supper ashore with Jon (Hecla) and tried some great wine – food was good too! After a whistlestop tour of the all the sights we set off on the 5th for Povoa de Vazim. However the winds were so fickle and light we were extremely unsailor-like and stuck on the engine!
We arrived in Vazim at the marina to find friendly and helpful staff and the rates were extremely good value too with excellent facilities. We had a fairly riotous night on Ocean Rainbow with Jon – luckily the photos haven’t come out as the flash wasn’t working! – and made our plans for our expedition to Porto. Croissants and coffee on Hecla started the day and then we were off with the bikes to the metro and a trip to Porto. The metro is amazing – clean, swift, and fully automated. The tracks are lined with mown grass and look like something created by an architect at the planning stages – but this was reality. I have to say the Spanish train system was equally impressive. We arrive in Porto and set off armed with a tourist map down the hill towards the river. We found a great place for lunch which was fortuitous as we really did need sustenance in order to survive the sightseeing. We had no idea the city was built into such a steep hill, there aren’t any contour lines on a tourist map so we found ourselves free-wheeling downhill only to have to turn around and climb back up to see the sight. It was a fun day and we have some superb memories and a bottle of white port as a temporary memento!
3rd September We had supper on board Hecla last night and were treated to Jon’s first tortilla which was truly scrummy. He also made a carbonara for us which was equally delicious. This morning we woke to flat calm seas and no wind which was a shame but we still decided to set off to Bayona sailing in company with Hecla. We stopped off at Isla de Monte Agudo for a swim and lunch. James also had to blow up ‘Drip Drop’ in order to go and rescue our mackerel line! Before we could do anything else the island police rocked up and we were told in no uncertain terms to up anchor and disappear and definitely NO fishing! We took the line of least resistance and set off across the bay to the next little cove – Praia de Melide where we were allowed to stay! We then made our way to Bayona but Claire spotted a cathedral spire in the distance and we are now anchored off Panxon, enjoying a beer, having visited the Church of San Juan Bautista. The mosaic ceilings are glorious and well worth a visit for anyone passing through this way. We will probably pop in to Bayona tomorrow to top up the water tanks and refuel and then it is on to Portugal.
1st – 2nd September What a great start to the month. We arrived in Praia de Beluso, which is a little beach in the Ria de Pontevedra just west of Bueu,after a lovely sail from Ria de Arousa. The sole purpose of the trip was to help Jon Lister get Hecla against the wall of the harbour so that he could change his sacrificial anodes and mount his rope cutter. We were really lucky as it was Sunday and the harbour was really quiet so Hecla was manoeuvred into position with the minimum of fuss. We then had to wait for the tide to go out to allow Jon and James to sort things out beneath the boat. While waiting we were entertained to a great display of pipes and drums from the locals – under the eagle eye of their tuto . It was such fun and we were even invited to join the feast and partake of the wine … well, not sure you could call the green alcohol wine! It was seriously fortified and could probably have given potcheen a good run for its money! Writing this after the event we are pleased to say we are not blind!
After that little interlude the fun under the boat started with Jon and James up to their knees in cold Atlantic water trying to remove barnacles and anodes. They gave up on the rope cutter – all too fiddly to take off the prop with water underneath – a recipe for disaster. Meanwhile, Claire created a sustaining supper … a risotto with sausages and meatballs – a tad unusual but just what the Doctor ordered. However, the wine that was consumed at the same time probably led to the next barmy decision. At 3 in the morning we would not only help Jon to reverse out from the harbour wall on the high tide but we would then make way for him on the pontoon and then reverse Ocean Rainbow i to the harbour and tie her alongside so that we could replace our anodes and remove the barnacles. We were successful and all went like clockwork. We are now celebrating the fact that we have very shiny clean bottoms on both Ocean Rainbow and Hecla and their anodes should protect the propellors for a good few months! All we need to do now is catch up on the beauty sleep before we head for Porto and make sure we are rugged up before the weather deteriorates. We are about to enter another country!
Here are some photos to record the last two days!