From Praia de Luz we sailed through the night and all of the following day to the River Guadiana which forms the border between Portugal and Spain in this part of the world. We reached the mouth of the river after dark and had to follow the buoyed channel. Luckily Neill knows the river very well having spent four weeks based here during his sailing school days. With Heidi on the tiller, Max adjusting sail and Neill navigating, we ghosted our way up river with the Spanish coast on our right and Portugal to the left. The tide had just changed and, with the current pushing us and the last wind pulling, we just managed to reach Ayamonte before dropping anchor and sleeping for fourteen hours.
The next day we motored the half mile in to the marina and moored next to go-n-sail’s “El Rubicon” yacht on the pontoon. That day, with lots of help from Debbie and Shane (the owners of go-n-sail), we got our liferaft sent off to be serviced on the other side of Spain. There then followed two days of adventure holiday with stand up paddle boarding on the beach and a mountain bike ride in to the largely empty interior. We have learned to cycle early here in Spain so we were on our way an hour before sunrise and finished by midday.
Ayamonte marks the end of our “European tour”. We have now sailed nearly 3000 nautical miles from Scotland to here. Now we are off out in to the Atlantic – “island hopping” with our next destination being Madeira over 500 miles away. We have thetefore spent the last days ensuring that Artemis is as ready as can be. The worst job was definitely cleaning the blue hull while floating around in the dinghy. One of the best was stocking up with irish cream liquer at Lidl. Checking the rigging, moving the anchor off the bow in to the locker, servicing all the winches, reinstalling the liferaft and buying ten days food fell some where in between.
At the last minute a student cancelled with the sailing school so Max took the chance and completed his RYA competent crew course. He now has a piece of paper that confirms what we already knew – he is a good sailor. Heidi and Neill took advantage of being alone, a spring tide and a following wind to sail 20 miles up river to anchor off two villages in Portugal and Spain joined by the only “International zipline”. The wind was from the south so, with lots and lots of jibes, we sailed all the way. It is still amazing that you can sail an ocean going boat so far up river and be sat at anchor surrounded by land and the hills.
Back in Ayamonte, we continued our preparations and also took an afternoon to try a Parasailor sail out in the river. This is a huge downwind sail that kept the boat moving even in light winds. We were so impressed that we ordered one and should take delivery in the Canary Islands.
By Saturday we were ready to leave. But the weather had other plans. Hurricane Leslie was heading straight from Madeira to Lisbon where it arrived as the strongest storm since 1872. We tied everything down and waited for the outlying winds to pass over us. On the Sunday we caught the ferry across the river to Portugal for a Cappuccino and now we are enjoying the sun and writing our blogs.
Hopefully next time you here from us we will be in Madeira in a week or so.
We left Lisbon with repaired rigging and, after turning to port at the last buoy in tne river, headed south for one hundred miles to Saint Vinzenz Cape at the “end of Portugal” and “end of Europe”. If you don’t turn here there is nothing until Africa, America or Antarctica. We turned to port following the coast of Portugal to the East.
Immediately we could feel the difference. The swell was much smaller than the gigantic roller coasters of the last weeks and the wind was much warmer, having crossed the warm Iberian Peninsular. T-shirts and shorts for the men and mini dress for the lady are now standard wear. The boat shoes haven’t been seen since Biscay (which is good as Neill’s have fallen apart any way). Heidi is now so brown that every one automatically addresses her in Spanish or Potuguese.
After another fifteen miles we sailed in to the bay at the small potuguese village of Praia de Luz. Neill’s sisters in-laws live here so, after anchoring, we rowed to the beach and walked up to the bar that one of them own. We had ordered our drinks before we were recognised by any one. Not surprising as none of them have ever seen Max and June only met Heidi once before. About midnight we agreed a sail trip for the “cousins once removed” and the next morning Lily and Rosi were picked up by Max in the dinghy while Heidi finished a Baileys flavoured cake.
In a light breeze and sunshine we introduced the ladies to the intricacies of sailing during a short tour down the coast and back. Once we were at anchor we all went swimming. Amazing! The water temperature is such that you can enjoy swimming without worrying that you are going to freeze. The swim was followed by lunch and cake after which Max ferried Lily and Rosi home. Unfortunately Lily felt seasick during the whole trip which left Rosi to do all the work and showed us how lucky we are that until now we have not neen effected.
Next we all climbed in to the dinghy and from the beach walked up the local hill to admire the view and take photographs of Artemis at anchor. Cold showers on the beach and cold drinks at a beach bar completed the days holiday after which we returned to the boat, raised anchor, set sail and sailed east towards Spain.
There is something very satisfying about “parking your home” in the middle of town to visit friends.
Heidi was “on holiday” with her daughter in Lisbon and Max and I were heading south along the Portuguese coast to pick her up. The second night out the moon was shining, the wind was freshening and we were being followed by the Atlantic swell. Only another twenty miles to Lisbon as I lay down to get some sleep.
I had hardly closed my eyes when Max called that the Genoa (the large foresail) was “in the water”. He had heard a loud noise from the front of the bow and then seen that the sail was no longer properly hoisted and that the bottom was trailing in the sea.
Clothes on, headlight on, life jacket on, safety line on and up to the mast to try and pull the sail back up. The halyard (line that pulls the sail up) was jammed so there was no way to move the sail back up. Further forwards to the bow and I tried pulling the sail down but the sail was also jammed so there was no going up and no going down. Furling the sail (rolling it around the stay) was not an option with a third already on the deck so we gathered everything we could reach and rolled it all together with some spare lines. And this while being repeatedly doused in sea water and flogged by the sail.
Riggers at work
The top third of the sail was still loose and as the wind rose it flapped more and more crazily and filled with wind pulling us off course. The next twenty miles weren’t fun but at about six o’clock we were in the river motoring up and down in front of harbour control who had promised to have a pilot guide us to a sheltered spot at sunrise. But before the sun rose, the wind dropped and we managed to get the sail down and stowed before then continuing to a marina and tieing up on a pontoon.
Later that same day a local rigger came and repaired the damage. He explained that both foresails had been wrongly rigged in Scotand and that the failure was pre-programmed by that error. He also pointed out another mistake that had been made which would, at some point, have stopped us rolling up the sail. At least the failure happened near to land and not in the middle of the Atlantic and everything is now propery rigged.
I have mentioned that we have a windvane on board. This is an amazing device that just uses wind power to steer the boat. It is a she and she is called Ciara and she has been steering for a large part of the last two thousand miles. She was built in 1995 and while she still works she was a bit creaky and had a lot of wear in everything.
We originally planned a rebuild in south England but the UK agent went on holiday while we were there so just gave us a load of parts and tried to sell us a new system for thoudands of pounds.
Finally in Portugal we had time to dismantle the system and service it. The UK guy had told us it took about four hours if everything went well. It didn’t go well. Two parts were so corroded together that we ended up grinding and cutting them apart. Not good! We had to order new parts from California. Luckily Scanmar have an amazing emloyee called Suzy who told us what we needed and got it all out the same day. Fedex took a few days to get all the parts to us and the portuguese government charged us taxes and VAT.
With all the parts laid out in front of us we slowly rebuilt everything and with three pairs of hands got it all together and working with no play in the system. Difficult but satisfying. We then carried it back to the boat and reattached it. The final piece was having to make a rope loop with my first ever long splice. Not pretty but it worked first time.
Tomorrow we are off to see if it works at sea.
[29.09.18] it works! Quieter than before and seems to hold the course better than before. We are all agreed it was worth the work.
Even sailors need a holiday. Luckily we have great friends – Wera & Gremml -who organised an all inclusive cycling holiday in Finale Ligure in the Italian Mediteranean Alps for us. All we had to do was fly to Milan where they picked us up and transported us to our luxury holiday appartment. (As sailors, a washing machine, a dishwasher and a freezer is definitely luxury.)
The first tour Wera had planned was called “Nato base” and reminded me of my cold war days when I was “working” for NATO. We received the routes just before take off and the first day was “the fitness test” where we got on our bikes and cycled nine hundred vertical meters up to an abandoned mititary station on the top of the mountain. Once we had passed that test we followed trails all the way down the other side before doing another two hundred vertical meters back up hill. I had hired a “Enduro” downhill bike so had a bit of additional weight to add to the fun. I was also a bit under the weather from being ill in the days running up tp the holiday. The downhill sections were amazing fun and I survived the uphill – just.
The second day was similar but I gave up after “only” 600 meters of climbing and went back to rest in the appartment. The other three once again threw themselves down brilliant trails and we met afterwards for a beer in the old mediaeval town below the castle. Finale offers a beautiful mixture of interesting trails sprinkled with historic sights and stunning views.
On day three Wera took us out on some shorter but steeper trails. I was very glad I had my Enduro as it seemed to get down anything I was willing to try. That evening we finally managed to reserve a table at the local pizzeria. It was very good which explains why you have to book days ahead.
On the final day we cycled down to the sea and did a trail high above the Mediterranean. At one point it looked liked failing to get round the next rock would have us landing in the sea 500 meters below. Gremml and Wera finished with a swim in the sea while we both mumbled about “waiting for the Caribbean”.
A thoroughly enjoyable holiday in a stunning location with great friends. That is how life should be.
Originally we had planned on stopping off at the marina in Porto but, when they emailed us to say it was €44 a night, we went to Póvoa de Varzim just up the coast. Here it costs less than half the price and the train to Porto is €2.80. Additionally the staff are extremely efficient and very friendly and there is a Honda dealer to service our outboard after we dropped it in the sea.
Yesterday we caught the train to Porto for a day of “big town” tourism. The journey was through miles and miles of corn fields and past the huge aquaduct we had cycled past the day before. The aquaduct is 4km long and was built to carry water from a spring to a priory. Any one caught stealing water from it was excommunicated. There was no messing with the church back then.
In Porto we visited churches, the town hall, a monstrous bridge, the old town and a station. It was a bit of a shock to suddenly be surrounded by busloads of tourists feom all over the world and people trying to extract money from the tourists. The station we visited had tiled frescoes showing the history of the city and waves of tourists. In the cathedral a baby was being baptised amongst a river of tourists. Do the locals get annoyed or do the just stop noticing us?
60 meter high bridge in Poeto
The bridge was sixty meters high and offered stunning views of the surrounding city. It is a tram bridge and regularly trams would pass ringing their bells and hoping every one got out of their way in time.
We ate in a cafe on a street one back from the riverside but still paid a lot for a little. Living in small harbours and fishing villages, we had forgotten what happens to prices when tourism occurs.
By mid afternoon we had all had enough of city life and took the train back to the “real world”, peace and quiet. We al three agreed that citys are not for us.
Hallo ihr Lieben,
wie ihr sicher schon gesehen habt gibtˋs ein neues Album. Ja kaum zu glauben aber wir sind jetzt in Portugal und wollen euch natürlich auch von hier die schönsten Bilder zeigen.
Finally we have left Portugal – on the second attempt. The first time there was no wind so we gave up just before the border and spent the night behind the harbour wall at the spanish border town of La Guardia. The next day there was still no wind so we gave our motor a day out and motored south over the border and in to the town of Viana do Castello.
To enter the marina they have to swing an elegant cantilevered footbridge so we agreed to stay the night on the “reception pontoon” out in the river under the shadow of a railway bridge designed by Gustav Eifel (of parisian tower fame). We immediately swung in to action and aired all our cushions and bedding, cleaned the dinghy and went shopping to restock our supplies. As more and more boats arrived we were asked to move in to the marina. By now it was getting dark, windy and we wanted to go and eat. I was unhappy but we agreed and thus had our first attempt at bow to, mediterranen mooring. Cleverly, we had Max waiting on land so it wasn’t too dramatic.
Swinging and railway bridges
Once again Max did a great job of finding a superb restaurant at a reasonable price. We celebrated our arrival in Portugal with Caipirinha, Tapas and a portuguese lesson from the waiter. The building that houses the restaurant is built of absolutely massive stone. The walls are over a meter thick and the ceilings are stone beams on stone lintels. No wonder they don’t need air conditioning here.
As we were sailing south, we saw the imposing Saint Lucia Basilica set on a hill behind the city. This temple was built at the beginning of the twentieth century and can be seen from far out at sea. Obviously in the morning Heidi and Neill climbed the never ending staircase to reach it and, because the 200 meters of climbing was such fun, they then climbed to the very top of the temple as well. The view, despite the haze, was amazing.
Saint Lucia Basilica
Once back down in town, we wandered the old town, drank a Cappuccino (paid for with the money we saved by not using the funicular railway to reach the temple) and then went back to the supermarket to stock up on wine.
Back at the boat, we gave the decks and sides a wash and then left through the swinging bridge and headed back off down river and south using the afternoon wind.
Galacia is an autonomous region of Spain in the north west corner. We arrived here after crossing the Bay of Biscay and have now been in the region for twenty days. The sea is blue, the weather is sunny, the surroundings are beautiful and we are in “holiday mode”.
Every few days we sail a little further along the coast. Sometimes we anchor off long sandy beaches and other days off small fishing villages. Once we stayed a few days in the middle of “the big city”. The beaches all have fresh water showers which aren’t heated but free. The villages have shops and cafes that sell a lot for a little. It is great fun to be able to decide from day to day if you want to live in the country or “in town”. Yesterday we anchored just off a harbour across from the supermarket and restocked our fridge and larder before going to the dockside cafe for our evening meal. Right now we are floating just off the beach.
Atlantic beach discovered while cycling
We have been out cycling four times since arriving which has given us a chance to see a little further inland than the harbour and surrounding village. The decision to bring mountain bikes with us was definitely a good one. Without them we wouldn’t have seen half what we have experienced. We would have also missed a lot of exercise and be a few kilograms heavier. Heidi’s bike developed a strange “clank” and we visited three workshops trying to get it repaired. The third guy had it easiest as, by then, the derailer had committed suicide amongst the back spikes. All our routes are in Neill’s diary.
Fishing village in Galacia
The area is strewn with islands, islets and rocks so navigation is challenging. Just sailing one village down the coast can involve ten changes of course with six tacks. Sailing is fun and rewarding paticularly when you sail from anchorage to anchorage with no engine except to lift the anchor as you leave. We are permanently being overtaken or passed by sailing boats in “motor boat mode”. Just now our neighbour motored straight to the beach and anchored. We took three tacks to get there but used no diesel 🙂 Time and patience are great attributes for sailors.
We continue to eat in the best resturant where ever we are. This is invariably on the sailing boat Artemis of Lleyn. Home made cheeseburgers, home made pizza, home made scones or brownies. The menu is variable and the food amazing. We also ate out in La Coruna where Max discovered a great restaurant with stunning service and good food. Sometimes, during a long hard bike climb, there is nothing better than water straight from a roadside spring.
Obviously on a sailing boat you don’t have a connection to the grid. Almost as obvious is that you have devices that use electricity. The result is that you have to generate your own power and use less than you produce.
The diesel motor needs electricity to turn the starter and also generates electricity when it is running. It first charges its own battery (B2 in the diagram) and then uses anything left over to charge the services battery bank (B1). This means that the service batteries rarely get a good charge from the motor especially as we try to avoid running it and prefer to be a sail boat. Most sailing days we mange less than an hour of “motor boating” and at anchor it is always off.
We have a wind generator mounted on the stern and two 80 Watt solar panels mounted one on each side of the cockpit. All this produces a long term average of 2A day and night – so 48Ah a day. The solar produces more than the wind but the wind often blows when there is less sunlight.
So on the incoming side of the batterys we have 2A. And on the outgoing side we have:
- Fridge (uses 6A)
- Heating (about 5A)
- Navigation equipment (2.5A but loads more with radar on)
- VHF radio (0.5A)
- PC, 2 tablets and 2 phones
- Power tools
- Various pumps.
The trick is to minimize the use of any and all devices and charge them when there is power available.
The fridge cools best at night (when the ambient temperature is lower) so we cool that for about 6 hours a night and use up about ¾ of what we produce. The heating has been off since Scotland. The navigation equipment only gets switched on when absolutely necessary and the radio is on when we are at sea. The PC is rarely unpacked.
Tablets, phones and tools are charged up (as far as possible) when the system is fully charged. We have USB and power tool power packs to “save” extra power.
The tablets are the real “workhorses”. They have our charts on them, navigation software installed and the anchor watch (to check if we are drifting at anchor). Together with Google, we use them to blog, organise our photos, read books and communicate. They do all this while using next to no electricity. The phones are our “communication centers” and just as energy efficient.
All the lights are LED and the pumps very rarely run.
Right now the system is working and we don’t miss the electricity bill.