After our hull is fixed we head South down the Portuguese coast.
Leaving the fires behind we sail down to Davila Sport in Rio Vigo to have the hole in our side properly fixed, and then on to Lagos on the Algarve for winter, all the time hoping that vacancies will still exist when we get there.
Rio Pontevedra (13th August, 18 miles from Carminal)
Good sail past the Isla Ons, tempted to anchor for the night but the day is still young and the wind right for a good sail, so we press on. We have decided to anchor of the beach at Porto Novo, a lovely little bay just in the entrance to the Ria. We were able to anchor right outside the swimming area so had lots of visitors in pedalos go by, one with a crew who looked knackered requested a drink of water. It was after 2000hrs before the beach emptied and they were back again by 0900 next day.
Ria Vigo (14th August, 20 miles from Rio Pontevedra)
Good fast sail down the Ria taking the outside route round the Islas Cies and then a straightforward entry into the Ria Vigo. For the first evening we chose to anchor in the bay opposite Bayona behind the mussel rafts. This is obviously a good area to live judging by the lovely properties ashore. We anchored just below a split level villa which had a private jetty and a wonderful glass conservatory, full of tropical greenery, housing the swimming pool. Without being too intrusive, we had a quick look through the binoculars to see how the other half live. The following day we crossed the bay and moored in the marina. Good location, very central but quite a bit of swell from the ferries and trip boats. The marina facilities which are housed in porta-cabins are poor, and we where amazed to learn that boats anchored off, had been refused water, apparently its policy not to allow any one who is not paying marina fees access to water. Personally I think a better attitude would be to allow a short stay fee which includes filling your tanks. Most people anchored got water from the drinking fountains on the promenade by can. We enjoyed Bayona with its narrow streets in the old town and the castle which is now a Parador luxury hotel. For one Euro each we walked around the castle walls but missed out the art exhibition in the hotel. The hotel bar with its terrace overlooking the bay is open to the public and a great place to relax.
Isla Cies (15th August, 10 miles from Ria Vigo)
Lovely anchorage this group of three islands, two of which are joined by a causeway. We believe the islands are a nature reserve but you can land on the right-hand two in the photo. We anchored outside the group of small craft just off the beach and well away from the ferry landing.
We settled down for some serious sunbathing only to find that within half an hour we had been joined in the anchorage by another dozen local craft. Vessels of all shapes and sizes jockeyed for space, most had fenders out as they swung and touched one another. We could easily have reached out from the side decks and shaken hands with the crew on the boats who came and anchored on both sides of us. Two vessels where anchored on top of our anchor. What a melee, apparently its the norm on a hot weekend. After half an hour of this, we up anchored very carefully whilst fending off the neighbouring boats. Perhaps we will visit mid week. Such a pity as a trip a shore looked very inviting.
Vigo (15th August, 12 miles from Isla Cies)
It is here that we will get lifted out to have our hull damage repaired, at Davila Sport. The pontoon we where directed to was the marinas shortest, at 16 metres long, and with cleats that could have held the QE2. There were very few boats here and we realised why when we asked about the loo & showers facilities. They were actually the staffs private washrooms and we had to request a key to gain access. Apparently, due to a local government change, approval for the facilities was rescinded so could not be built. A crew member on a neighbouring boat had actual been locked in the ladies for over an hour on the previous day before someone heard her shouting. Additionally, the town was 75 minutes away on foot through the docks and fishing harbour.
Our first impression was that it was going to be a long two weeks whilst we had the work done, but the lift out area was fine, it even had its own loo and the staff where very helpful, the young guy who drove the marina rib often gave us a lift across the harbour so shortened our walk into town by 40 minutes. Here you can see how close the outskirts of Vigo are directly across the harbour. Barry was unperturbed and felt that either the tinker dinghy or his bike would get lots of use. I was not so happy as Vigo is a big city with very busy roads. But as I was going home for 10 days to visit family it wouldn't be a problem.
To get Janet to the airport at Santiago involved a taxi into town, a train to Santiago and then another bus to the airport but I only went into Vigo as I needed to returned for the lift out. The hoist guys were so pedantic, nothing was less than perfection as they settled Ruby into position on the hard. Then Victor, the English speaking liaison guy, took me for a coffee to explain what would happen in the days ahead and, believe me, it happened exactly as planned. Over a period of 5 working days the small hole in our side was opened up to reveal the inner hull of the sandwich. This gained an extra layer of lamination then the foam sheet was replaced and the outer hull re built. Biggest job was the gel coat and making it fair and colour correct.
Twice daily I had meetings in the local bar, often to discuss progress, but as work was on schedule it was a short discussion so then we ventured onto topics new. Victor was a really interesting guy with a wealth of varied experiences behind him, including a circumnavigation overland in a 2CV !! I really enjoyed life on the hard and the finished hull was perfect to my eyes.
One day I set of to Bayona on the Brompton, naturally waiting until the heat of mid day before departing, as is the tradition with the English. It was a mere 22 Km had I known the route but after 2 hours at speeds well above 15Km I finally arrived. For the last 5Km I had joined a cycling club group and they towed me along at frightening speeds, so much so, I was glad to arrive at Bayona. With no one in the anchorage that I recognised I had a quiet lunch and a sedate ride home.
Porto Novo (29th August, xx miles from Vigo)
Back in the water, what a great feeling it was to be free to move on again, we opted to leave even though it was late in the day and sail back into the Ria Pontevedra. Cracking 7.5 knots beat to windward, lots of heel but nice flat water so a very comfortable fast sail, we where soon anchored off the beach at Porto Novo. It was our second visit to this anchorage.
Sanxenxo (30th August, 11 miles from Porto Novo)
Today we sailed all of 11 miles to the marina at Sanxenjo to see our friends Mike & Kay who are moored here awaiting parts for their Volvo engine. Its a big swish marina with large visitors area and must be the-place-to-be as King Juan Carlos keeps a yacht here, and very impressive it is too. We had a really enjoyable time catching up with Mike and Kay's news, followed by a great barbecue on board their boat Cinnabar.
Bayona (31st August, xx miles from Sanxenjo)
Once again we are in Bayona, but this time we are anchored off the town, just to the east of the harbour. Lovely sheltered spot. You can however see how the local moorings are beginning to encroaching into the anchoring space. We where only intending to have one night here but the fog prevented us leaving, so we dinghy'd ashore and visited the Virgin of the rock, a local monument. We believe it is has some significance to the sea as the virgin is holding a ship, and if you climb the staircase inside the monument you emerge onto the ship. From here you get a great view of Bayona and the Ria Vigo. Unfortunately all the leaflets where in Spanish so we don't understand the details. Next morning the fog was once again thick and we dithered about setting off, it was coming and going with maximum visibility of 100m, right up until 1600, when it suddenly cleared. As the wind seemed right we decided to go and hoped to be in Portugal before dark.
Viana do Castelo (2nd August, 31 miles from Bayona)
Well the weather was good to us and the fog stayed away and we arrived at the entrance to our first port in Portugal just as it was getting dark. The entrance and channel to the marina are well lit. The actual marina entrance was more difficult as the lights from the quay side restaurants made it difficult to pick out the rather narrow entrance, we where milling about in the entrance when the marina boat came out and told us they were full. Great! As its not allowed to anchor in the river we asked what to do as by now it was blowing a force 6 and rising. Luckily we where offered the option of going on the wall, so we accepted and put our longest lines and fender boards to good use. The following day, after a night of loud music from the marina side bar, we quickly moved onto a berth that another visitor had vacated.
We had read the guide book and were looking forward to visiting the town. The town was very pleasant with lots of little narrow streets, amazing hardware shops with items that looked as if they had been there 50 years and as to there use, well it was anybodies guess. Barry could easily have become addicted, worse still actually have been tempted to buy under the pretext of well it might come in useful. We also visited the beautiful basilica on Monte de Santa Luzia.
There is a funicular which runs to the top but it was closed on the day we visited so we walked up the 630 steps, and it was worth it. There was a service in progress in the basilica and the singing was superb, despite us not being able to understand a word. After the service lots of the locals settled down on the grass and picnic tables beside the chapel and tucked into huge picnic lunches. Obviously a regular Sunday event. The views over the town and out to sea where an added bonus. Only another 630 steps back to the town!
Leixoes (Oporto) (4th Sept, 32 miles from Vianna do Castella)
We are looking forward to being in Leixoes, so that we could visit Oporto. We had heard that the water in the marina at Leixoes could be dirty with oil from the terminal and general wind blown debris, but there was no evidence of it as we arrive and were assisted into a berth by the helpful staff. Good pontoons, clean albeit small facilities, and only 18 euros a night.
The bus to Oporto runs right from outside the marina, and if you don't mind a 15 min walk you can catch the metro from Matosinhos. In Matosinhos there is a brilliant daily food market, complete with live chickens and rabbits. We opted to go to Oporto by bus and we had a great day. We walked around the town which had changed little since our visit 10 years ago. We visited the Cathedral, with it lovely gothic cloisters. The Palacio da Bolsa, which is the old stock exchange, it is very interesting and has different themed rooms all designed to denote great wealth, very opulent, especially the Arabian room inspired by the Alhambra in Granada. We had a quick look at the station which is amazingly decorated with blue and white tiles depicting early modes of transport, rural and historic scenes.
We also crossed the river to visit the port lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia. Here is the centre for the maturing and shipping of port. We had a guided tour of Crofts lodge, which included free tasting of both white and red port and sight of Crofts oldest port. If you wanted to you could spend a whole day visiting all the lodges, guess you could work up quite a hangover without much effort. We opted for a more leisurely river side meal which was excellent and gave us the above view of Oporto (this shot is actually 4 photo's merged together)
We only intend to stay two nights in Leixoes, before moving on to Figueria da Foz but thick fog stopped play. The next day was yet again foggy but Steve and Sue on White Egret kindly invited us to join them for a day out in their hire car to Coimbra an inland University town. We had a good day and visited the splendid university library, claimed as the second oldest library in Portugal and only 2 years younger than Lisbon's which is the oldest. Rather strange is the fact that bats are allowed to roost in the library, apparently they keep the wood and paper eating insects' numbers down. The library's elegant wooded tables are covered each night to stop bat droppings from damaging the wood.
We also drove along the coast to Figueria da Foz, to view the entrance in case it was foggy when we finally arrived. Along with many other frustrated crews we waited for 3 days before we had an opportunity to escape, but found lots to occupy ourselves.
Figueira da Foz (8th Sept, 65 miles from Leixos)
A fine morning, at 0800 the fog could be seen to be clearing so we went joined the procession of 5 other yachts on route South. 7 ships were anchored outside the entrance so in foggy conditions it would have been really tricky without radar. The wind was extremely light and so we all motored, White Egret with her long waterline length was soon away in the distance probably at 8 knots whereas we were happy at 6.5 which is what we regard as a more efficient engine speed. We did manage 3 hours sailing without engine during the 11 hour passage.
One week after our visit to Fig d Foz our friends on Morgan visited and were escorted by police launch into the marina when they tried to anchor just off the beach.
Peniche (11th Sept, 61 miles from Figueira da Foz)
During the 9 hour passage all but 90 mins were under engine. We left Peniche late in the morning with guardian angel White Egret maintaining a radar watch as visibility was only about 300-400m. But by midday the sun had won and visibility became about 10 miles, so we thanked White Egret for the escort thus allowing them to travel at a faster pace. Our plan was to head to Nazaire as we were fed up of motoring. Just as we made that decision the wind arrived as a W3 and so we reverted to plan "A" and shaped up for Peniche, we were sailing well. 90 mins later the wind died, on went the engine. A call to White Egret showed them to be checking out the anchorage at Berlinga but finding the bottom to be very steep they abandoned staying the night and so headed for Peniche.
Peniche is tucked behind a large headland and as we approached it fog started to form. It rose from of the sea becoming thicker and thicker until visibility was circa 100m but, strangely, it was only about 5m thick and so above it we could clearly see the cliffs and a yacht mast moving parallel to us. We followed the cliffs whilst Janet positioned herself at the bows to shout directions when pot buoys were encountered, good job as there were lots. Inside the harbour visibility was fine at over 500m so we quickly found the visitors pontoon and tied up just in front of White Egret.
Day Trip to Obidos.
No visit to Peniche can be regarded as complete unless the enchanting hilltop town of Obidos has been visited, and the journey by bus to Obidos only takes about 20 minutes. The town of white-washed houses is completely ringed by a 14th century castellated wall. Apparently the town was given as as a wedding present to King Dinas in 1282. Dominating the picture-postcard town is the imposing castle, now restored into a very splendid Pousada.
Peniche is a very busy fishing harbour, boats of all sizes come and go all day and night, there is lots of wake and the visitors pontoon is very mobile. We were amazed at the thousands of seagulls that filled the skies and streets around the harbour, far more than anywhere else we have visited. Otherwise the town is pleasant enough with good fish restaurants and we were able to watch local ladies lace making. The landscape on the periphery of the town is strange very arid, rocky and full of craters, not at all picturesque.
Cascais (9th Sept, 54 miles from Peniche)
Although visibility was about 500m, we intend to leave Peniche early and travel in company with White Egret, it was a comfort thing for us as they have radar. White Egret waited just outside the harbour and we both set off south(ish) making best course to windward. Steve and Sue later agreed we were maybe 10 degrees tighter on the wind and maybe 0.5 knots faster than the Malo 45.
Early in the afternoon we came upon a very confused sea; SW waves 1.5m tall and a NW swell of about 2m, these together meant we really needed to bear away to make progress as the wind wasn't strong enough for us to power through the waves. After an hour heading nearer West than South we rolled in the genoa and motored more directly towards Cascais. Strangely, visibility improved then it started to rain, I think the mist was preferable.
About 10m from Cascais are the 500m cliffs of Cabo Roca and they really funnel the wind turning an irritating SW 2-3 into a horrible, right on the nose, S 5 with waves now about 2.5m. Using our 40hp to best effect we charged into the waves and swell so creating quite a splash and alerting the dolphins to our presence. They maybe numbered about 10 adults and 4 young ones. Clinging to the furled genoa as the bows plunged downwards we could clearly see 4 dolphins who were soon to be clobbered by our 10 tons, but time after time they swam away milliseconds before each impact. We witnessed synchronised leaping and all manner of dolphin choreography along the full length of the boat, it was quite fantastic and diverted our thoughts away from the horrible conditions. Thanks guys you were all superb.
The marina was superb, clearly very new and with lots of vacancies. The only downside we found was that when we checked in the following morning we were asked for 62 Euros, well it did include 2 washing machine tokens. Maybe they thought we were wanting to buy the washing machine! We refuelled, said sad farewells to Steve and Sue who had decided to leave White Egret in Cascais for 4 weeks prior to them departing to Madeira, the Canaries and then crossing to the Caribbean. We anchored just off the towns beach for 2 further days.
Sines (12th Sept, 56 miles from Cascais)
We motored South across a mirror like sea which was the river estuary to Lisboa. 20 miles further on, having decided to put in at Sesimbra and so silence the motor, ripples appeared on the water and, as we passed Cabo Espichel, up came a F5 from the NW. So even though the auto-helm had gasped its last gasp, we decided to go for Sines and what a blast we had for the next 35 miles. We took turns to steer for 30 minutes at a time, both trying to catch the sail ahead of us, not that we were racing of course, just trying. In Sines we finally caught the sail, it turning out to be a 50 ft wooden racing machine, perhaps we had been trying harder than them because we almost caught them.
Sines had a splendidly new marina office and facilities block together with very friendly staff. It is also the birth place of Dom Vasco da Gama the famous Portuguese sailor/explorer who discovered the sea route to India.
Whilst there we saw the off shore world spear fishing championships. Each day the Brits would bag about 10Kg of fish whereas the rest seemed to bring in double this. Were our guys hopeless, or was the following fact contributory; the harbour now seemed devoid of the previously plentiful large Grey Mullets? Maybe some pre-event fishing was being undertaken!
Cycle ride to Vila Nova de Milfontes.
Down the coast was the small town of Vila Nova de Milfontes where we had holidayed 20 years previously. Wondering if our fond memories would stand the challenge we set off to check it out and see what time had done to it. Lovely day marred only by the arrogant Portuguese drivers, who don't seem keen on allowing bikes any road room.
Sagres (15th Sept, 66 miles from Sines)
It was still quite misty as we left Sines at 0645 in company with a Dutch owned Dufour 385 called Rodver, and wow did he gun his engine. We had decided to stick close in the misty conditions so as to present a bigger radar cross section to other vessels and we said we would travel at the speed of Rodver she being the smaller/slower vessel. By 0830 visibility was good and so we slowed Ruby to a mere 6.5kts and let Rodver zoom off ahead and so maintain his near 8 knot speed.
At 1315 we stopped the engine as a NW3 quickly became a NW4 and by 1500 it was a full force 5. A proper down wind sailing wind.
Rounding Cape St Vincent brought the wind nearer our beam so changing a leisurely run before the wind into a fast reach across it. The cliffs adding another force to it also. So much so our speed was regularly above 9 knots. Here you see Janet hand steering under full plain sail round the most S-Westerly point of Europe, and at about 9.5 knots. It seemed really fast and quite hairy at times. And, unknown to us at the time, the burned out motor in the auto-pilot was creating lots of resistance to the steering and so restricting Janet's attempts to throw the boat about. Good for muscle building though, he he!
We anchored in Sagres Bay by the cliffs and directly below Henry the Navigators original school of navigation. We were 15 minutes behind Rodver
Lagos (16th Sept, 15 miles from Sagres)
Up reasonably early, little wind but on the beam. We had a great sail all the way to the marina entrance, brilliant views of the rock formations by the lighthouse at Ponta Da Piedade. As we motored round to our allocated berth in the marina at Lagos we recognised Toujours and Khamsin, two yachts who had been members of our old yacht club on the east coast of England. Its a small world, as they say. We are intending to stay here until the end of March 2007.