So I should have written this yesterday when we got here. Guess what? I was bagged after crossing the Bay of Biscay and spent a lot of yesterday asleep! Despite all the dire predictions the crossing was actually more boring than anything else, here are the highlights…….
[Imagine tumbleweed blowing through your living room………..]
Actually it wasn’t that bad and there were some moments:
1. The autopilot broke 30 hours out from Falmouth
2. The main sheet came detached from the boom 34 hours out from Falmouth (ask someone who knows about sailing)
3. One of the granny bars started to come loose about 34.5 hours out from Falmouth (see parenthesis at point 2)
Funny how things break in threes!
So how did we manage it without any major fuss? I spent three or four days prior to departure studying the forecast weather charts looking for a four to five day period of settled weather. Once the storm that flooded northern England at the end of September had passed the forecast was consistently showing the Azores high moving back over Biscay and the major problem appeared to be lack of wind. This is exactly what happened and after 48 hours of really good sailing we resorted to motoring, and motoring and motoring.
La Coruna, or A Coruna as the Spanish call it, is a lovely port town on the NW Spanish coast. The waterfront facade is modern and a block or two back there is an old town with narrow, winding streets and old stone buildings. The town hall plaza is particularly impressive. Unlike typical UK fishing boats the Spanish ones appear to be immaculately looked after and are generally painted in primary colours, red is a particular favourite in La Coruna…
We left La Coruna on Wednesday morning and motored around the NW corner of Spain into the first of the west coast Rias and anchored off Corme. Thursday was spent at anchor doing some small jobs on the boat. This morning we woke to a heavy dew and by 1030 were raising the anchor and making tracks southwards. Not a great day sailing as there was very little wind. We did 22 Nm and anchored off Camarinas…
The stay in Camarinas was much longer than we had planned. On Saturday 6th the wind was blowing a full gale from the south and this persisted almost unabated for three days. We eventually left this morning and motor sailed the 44 miles round to the Ria de Muros and the marina at Portosin.
Yesterday we had an excursion to Santiago de Compestella. This involved two buses from Portosin via Noia. Galicia is the wet corner of Spain, imagine the Lake District on a bad day, thats the way it was here yesterday. They say the granite of Santiago glistens in the rain but you need sunshine to make things glisten and yesterday it was more dull grey than anything. Still, the basillica was lovely and very impressive…I particularly liked the Disney bus train in the lower left of the picture, well there were a lot of Americans there.
Today the weather seems to be taking a turn for the better and if the forecast is to be believed we are in for northerly winds for the next few days so hopefully we can make some useful ground south without using too much diesel.
We have been here since Friday afternoon and had a lovely Spanish National day holiday weekend in glorious autumn sunshine. On the way here we passed the Isla del Norte which is one of the islands sheltering the Ria de Arousa from the Atlantic…This ria is particularly lovely and a cruising ground in its own right, you could easily spend a two week holiday here and never anchor in the same place twice.
Today we are heading south (for a change) and into Portugal. The plan is to be at Leixoes for Tuesday evening at the latest as there is a gale forecast for Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. I’ll provide a fuller update of the last few days when we get to Portugal and will include the story of rescuing a Frenchman and his wife!
Viana do Costelo, portugal
Strangely enough we met the aforementioned Frenchman and his wife when we got here yesterday evening. Having left Baiona about 1030 we headed out to sea with the expectation of a 10-15kt wind from the north. Well the north bit was right, 10-15kts? try 15-25kts. Not usually a problem but we had a large following swell so steering was hard work and as Sheryl is resting her sore right arm I spent the afternoon lashed to the wheel – well not quite but it sounds quite salty.
Viana is on the Rio Lima and we started upstream to the marina about 1800. As we approached the waiting pontoon we saw a familiar boat there, none other than “Octupus Mojo” (or something like that), the very same French yacht we had helped on Thursday. That afternoon we had been heading into the Ria de Aurosa and an anchorage at Ribeira. About three miles south of the anchorage I manoeuvered to avoid a Spanish fishing boat. He turned in front of me, I turned to avoid him and he turned in front again, very odd behaviour so I furled the sails and stopped. He came alongside and gesticulated to a yacht about a mile away. Even though my Spanish is very limited and his English was non-existent it became clear he wanted us to go and help the yacht, I still don’t know why he couldn’t. Anyway, we motored over to the yacht to see what the problem was. He had run out of diesel and as there was now virtually no wind was stuck in the middle of the ria. As I have form on the running out of diesel gag I sympathised and we offered to tow him to Ribeira. This took about an hour and we left them at anchor just outside the marina.
When we met them here in Viana on Sunday evening we were invited for a drink on their boat and spent a very pleasant hour chatting to them – Monique and Joel.
Unlike Spain, which uses the same time time zone as France and Germany, Portugal use the same one Britain does. As a result it gets light at a sensible time in the morning, around 8 and not around 9 as we had been experiencing in Spain. Whilst checking in at the marina office I looked at the weather for the week, not good, there is another depression coming through tomorrow and into Wednesday morning and after that the swell will be large enough to make the harbour entrance difficult and time at sea unpleasant. It seems we will be here until Friday.
Viana do Costelo, PORTUGAL
Well, as suggested above we are still here and have had quite an eventful week, well Sheryl has if you can call root canal treatment eventful! Last Saturday in Baiona she complained of extreme hyper sensitivity in one of her teeth. By Tuesday it hadn’t gone away so we found a local dentist and made an appointment for yesterday afternoon at the obligatory time of 2.30 (tooth hurty – get it!). She was in the chair for two hours and had no less than four different female dentists and dental nurses working on her – not all at the same time obviously! 75 Euros later and we were walking out with the work mostly done and a referral to a dentist in Funchal, Madeira to have the temporary filling done permanently. We can’t praise Portugese dental care enough!
My big challenge for the week was to get a Calor Gas cylinder re-filled. You wouldn’t think it was that difficult but Portugese gas bottles have completely different fittings to UK ones. Nevertheless with the help of an extremely helpful local chandler, Angelo Silva, the task was accomplished at the princely cost of 5 Euros (£20 in the UK).
Today, Thursday, we took a train from here (Viana do Costelo) to Oporto. We will probably be at the mouth of the Douro river tomorrow evening and could easily visit Oporto from there but having lost four days here, because of bad weather, we are keen to keep moving and so made the trip today. Portugese trains are excellent, well both the ones we have used were, and it only cost a little over 15 Euros each for the return trip. Oporto is fabulous and should be on every one’s list of places to visit. The Portugese are very friendly and seem quite pro-British, maybe something to do with us helping them to whip the Spanish on occasions. I’ll put some photos on the slideshow tab when I have more time and for now here is proof positive we went to a Port cellar for a tasting session…Tomorrow, Friday, we are intending to continue south and hope to make about 100Nm over the next three days. After that the weather looks like it will be bad again and we will have to hole up somewhere, hopefully there will be a WiFi connection available!
A wet Wednesday in Portugal. Sheryl is watching a film on TV and I am updating the website. Nazaré is 39〫35′ N so we are now over 600 Nm south of Falmouth. The last few days have gone well with progress of about 35 Nm each day. Since leaving Viana we have anchored at Leixões, Aveiro and stayed two nights in the marina at Figueira da Foz. Yesterday’s sail down from Figueira was one of the best we’ve had this month. Wind was offshore 15-25 Kts and hardly any swell, for a change. The sun shone and it was actually warm! We sailed most of the way and only had to use the engine for the last hour heading directly into wind to make port.
We could leave the Portugese mainland and head to Madeira from here or go about another 30 Nm down the coast to Peniche or even Caiscais. Much will depend on the weather, as always, and as soon as we get a window to make the 500 odd miles to Madeira we’ll be off. It looks like that won’t be for a few days and in the meantime there is always work to do on the boat!
Saturday 27th – Saturday 3rd November
Nazaré to Porto Santo, Madeira Archipelago
Rather than a detailed, boring monologue about a week at sea I thought I’d try and provide a flavour of what time in a sailing yacht is like. We left Nazaré expecting to be at sea for four nights to cover the straight line track of 524 Nm to Porto Santo, the nearest of the Madeiran archipelago islands to the Portugese mainland. In reality we spent 7 nights at sea and did over 650 Nm. So how do you add well over a hundred miles to the trip? First of all yachts can’t sail straight into wind (I guess you all know that). However, even when you can sail the required course, 225° in this case, the boat is constantly altering around that heading and all those little changes add up to a lot of extra miles in a week!
Weather forecasts are only really accurate (sometimes) for a day or two ahead and five days or more is certainly pushing things. We set off in a north easterly blowing at over 20 Kts with the prospect of hitting a south westerly of similar strength if the trip went passed Friday 2nd of November. In the event, this is exactly what happened and the last day was spent fighting into the teeth of a near gale. So, in fact, the weather forecast was remarkably good for a week ahead.
I usually get sea sick if I’ve been alongside for more than a day or two and the first day out is rough. Such was this trip and I felt decidedly unwell for the first 24 hours. This is manifest by a distinct lack of desire to go below and certainly not wanting to do any cooking. Sheryl wasn’t much better and so we skipped the evening meal on the first night out. This isn’t a great way to start a long trip but we recovered with a hot meal for lunch on the second day.
Because of the changing weather we didn’t really settle into much of a routine. The first 20 hours were fast sailing and we did 140 Nm in the first day. I plan for 120, so 140 is good going. However, after that we were beset by light airs for several days and only made about 3 Kts on average after the initial speedy start. One day was particularly calm and the sea was smooth enough to see yellow fin tuna swimming around and under the boat – none of them were interested in my fishing line though! We also saw tuna chasing much smaller fish – a shoal would jump out of the water pursued by a tuna. It was for all the world like watching the mechanical fish in the opening credits of Gerry Anderson’s Stingray puppet show! As the shoal landed back in the water they sounded like a sudden shower of rain, quite wonderful!
Other wildlife included dolphins, although not many on this trip. Sometimes you will see them charging across the sea in quite large numbers as they race to intercept you. We have seen groups of well over 50 animals on some occasions. We saw a few pelagic sea birds and perhaps surprisingly to some readers a few small land birds well offshore, over 150 Nm in the case of these little fellows…We have now sailed well over a thousand miles since leaving Falmouth and did nearly three thousand around the UK in the summer. In all that time we have yet to have a close encounter with any sort of whale, most disappointing. Whilst at sea Sheryl tends to pass the time by reading a lot. I simply think a lot, not about anything in particular, just whatever happens to come to mind. We also listen to music and when sailing have the cockpit speakers playing whatever the iPod shuffle selects for us. When the engine is running you can’t really enjoy the music so we tend not to bother then.
It is almost inevitable that things on the boat break whilst at sea and this trip had its fair share. The starboard navigation light failed on the first night, not a big deal as we have, in effect, two sets of nav. lights so simply employed the spare set for the rest of the trip (i.e. we used the tricolour on the mizzen mast for those of you who understand such things). Two slides broke on the main sail, part of the roller reefing assembly on the foresail went missing one night making letting the sail out somewhat difficult and worst of all the paddle on the self-steering has gone missing. This is a classic case of Sod’s Law in action. I have a safety line attached to the bottom of the paddle to guard against it falling off. The safety line undid itself a couple of days into the trip and I decided it was too difficult to lift the paddle whilst underway and re-attach the line – big mistake! Two days later the paddle dropped off and I am now faced with the prospect of having a new one shipped from California, that won’t be cheap!
The worst thing that happened though was running out of fuel with only about two miles to go to Porto Santo (regular readers will know this is not the first time, how stupid can one person be?). I had calculated we had enough to get in but got it wrong. We finished the trip sailing into Porto Santo harbour just after sunset on Saturday evening and it gets dark quickly at this latitude! Still, no damage done except to my already shaky reputation, with my wife, for making a habit of this.