Las Palmas

We were only going to stay in Marina Rubicon for a couple of days but it was such a great place we decided to make it a base for 3 weeks giving me the opportunity to fly back to England for a week to surprise family and pick up some items which were much much cheaper in the UK. Rubicon offers discounts for ARC participants, OCC members, CA members……. I do think they would offer discounts if you showed them ANY card !!! To be honest they don’t need to as the facilities are first class, but naturally we took the discount. One thing we did notice was, this was the only place where they actually measure your boat so if you have a dinghy on the back or a removable bowsprit, it can easily push your price banding into the next one up!!!

While I was running around like a headless chicken in the UK (still don’t know how that’s possible?!) the ladies were relaxing by the marina pool and generally socialising with other boat owners. When I got back we began looking at the best time to head out towards Fuerteventura. We were booked into Las Palmas marina (the ARC start point) on 15th October but had time to spend a few nights anchoring…. or so we thought! We’d noticed hurricane Leslie which had developed to our west, couldn’t make its mind up where to go but was due to hit Madeira on the 13th with 7 metre swells. This was going to be an issue for all of the Canary islands too with big swells developing from the 12th-16th. With this in mind we decided to leave Rubicon late afternoon on the 12th and get to Las Palmas at first light on the 13th before the weather hit in force.

The first half of the 96 miles was beautiful sailing hitting nearly 8 knots at times, we saw our first whale too as it breached the surface and its huge tail flipped up. By the time we’d got the camera out it was gone… Because we’d sailed so quickly earlier on it looked like we were going to arrive at 4am which was way too early, but the wind completely died at midnight so we motored very slowly reaching the very very brightly lit port at dawn. Caroline felt she was being stalked by the “Independence of the Seas” as it kept turning towards us then bearing away. As it turned out we were both going into port at the same time and I think we were in its way !

Check in  was much slower than it should’ve been as the staff couldn’t access our file which they’d asked for months ago (to make check in quick!) but eventually we were allocated a berth. It’s a big marina with ARC yachts spread out all over it. We did think all the ARC yachts would be in one place but its a mammoth task for the marina to fit everyone in, so mustn’t grumble !

The area is hugely commercial with oil rigs, tankers and cruise ships all around. There is a small anchorage just to the north of the marina entrance with a beach but not very appealing. That said it is certainly the place to be if you want any work done as literally everything is on hand.

So here we are almost 6 months & 2349 miles after leaving our home port, at the start point of the Atlantic crossing. Our crew Nick & Carol arrive on the 25th with the formal process beginning on the 2nd November. We have a few small jobs to do including clearing their cabin out of all the junk, filter changes & fit anti chafe on the spreaders, but the socialising has already begun with a meal in the famous Sailors bar with Simon & Nina (Safena) who I did the sea survival course with back in March… small world eh!

It has also been decided that I need to do more cooking ………

Lanzarote ho !!!

We left Lagos bound for Graciosa, a small island just to the north of Lanzarote, a distance of around 540 miles in company with Allegrini & eMotion. The forecast was for northerly winds between 12-18 knots which was pretty much what we got….. eventually.

The day started off with winds from the west which gave us a very quick start with only a couple of metres of swell. The first night we were treated to clear skies and so many stars we didn’t know where to look first! Settling into watch pattern was 3 on 3 off which we did crossing Biscay and worked well. Day watches were fairly relaxed with quizzes between the 3 yachts passing time and discussing the highly charged topic of our power generating abilities through wind and solar…… (this topic will get a VERY in depth entry shortly). The children on eMotion asked us to guess their parents age….. don’t think Sven was too impressed when Allegrini said he was 75 !!!

eMotion downloaded a weather (grib) file through their sat phone on day 1, Allegrini via SSB on day 2 and we did via SSB on day 3. Interestingly after Allegrini’s download they lost their AIS which is a transmit/receive piece of equipment detailing vessels in the area. We lost our receiving ability when we downloaded on day 3 which was very odd.

eMotion lost their ability to charge their batteries with their engine alternator relying on their solar panels, meaning they switched most electrical items off at night. We all stayed within sight of each other though which was reassuring.

Our 4th night left us with about 100 miles to go and shipping started to appear with one very large one crossing our bows 0.3 miles in front…. I can assure you in the open seas pitch black, it looked “really close” !!!

As dawn broke we were treated to the sight of Isla de Alegranza the first volcanic island of the canaries. For some it was “just” 540 miles, for us it was really quite something & a huge milestone. An hour later we were anchored in a bay on the south side of Graciosa in the clearest water we’d ever seen. In fact when we first saw the seabed we thought we were about to hit bottom only to realise we were still in 10 metres.

After a celebratory full english breakfast onboard Allegrini, I decided to dive under the boat in the clear water and found our maxprop anode literally hanging off. We carry spares but were lucky not to lose it and the bolts which we don’t have spares for…. note to self !

The next day after a good rest we sailed down the west coast of Lanzarote and are now in the stunning marina at Rubicon to make some minor repairs and improvements. There are worse places to stay as the marina has a swimming pool too!

 

Downtime in the Algarve

Our route to the Algarve on Portugal’s southern coast meant rounding the Cape of St Vincent which can be a pretty rough place. We had calm winds until reaching the headland which is the most southwestern point on mainland europe, and instantly the wind built up to 26 knots blowing from exactly the direction we wanted to go…. Welcome to the Algarve!

We emailed the marina in Lagos to ask about a berth but as they were nearly full we were quoted 142 euros a night….. “I don’t think so!!!” so we carried on to Portimao and anchored inside the harbour.

Portimao is actually set a couple of miles back from the beach area and is very pretty, what you see on arrival is the beach area of Rocha and it’s party central with thumping music until 4am and lots of fast boat rides screaming out all day. The beach and small town of Ferragudo to the east of the harbour was simply stunning though and meals ashore very reasonable at 11.50 euros for choices of 2 courses and drink !

We moved on east to Culatra an island near Faro some 35 miles away and anchored in a lagoon where we were to meet up with friends we last saw in Cobbs quay back in March. James & Bex on “Hepzibah” left before us heading towards Greece but in the end they slowed down and we realised there was a chance we might catch up…. well catch up we did. I’m pretty sure we’d all been peeling onions as we saw them 🙂

Culatra is beautiful with no vehicles, just a few tractors and a few people live on the island all year round. The small harbour is built up around fishing but there is certainly a tourism presence too but not tacky at all. Tourists come for the quiet and beaches.

After 6 great days it was time to head back towards Portimao which meant saying goodbye to  James & Bex yet again…. more onion peeling. We did a sail past playing the “Pirates of the Caribbean” theme tune hoping to see them there one day!

Caroline managed to meet up with a couple of old work colleagues Chloe & Alana along with boyfriend, mum & partner. We took them all for a day sail & played in the water on the RiB and SUP which was hilarious, another great day catching up.

As you can read, the last 3 weeks have been fairly static not sailing too far. Originally we thought about going to Gibraltar but felt we might get stuck there with strong winds which are a normal occurance at the gates to the Med, so decided to have downtime instead.

As I write this Steve & Helen on Allegrini have caught up, and we’ve been in Lagos for the last 2 days (the price much better now the season is over). Today we leave for Lanzarote about 540 miles away which will take around 4 days. There are 3 yachts leaving here together, as we have become friendly with another ARC+ yacht from Norway, a family with 3 young children.

 

Next post from the Canaries!!!

 

From Foz to Fonz

Figueira de Foz was a lively town, like most in this part of Portugal it’s set up for tourism with plenty of hotels and a huge beach with walkways across the sand to the sea as it’s so far from the promenade! Live music was on every night and on our last night a stage was set up over the town centre mini lake. The “as usual” free entertainment was really good and completely full.

The marina was a little odd in that you had to stop at the reception pontoon to check in and receive a fob to get through the pontoon gates in & out. This is fine until you check out as you hand the fob in and can’t get back to your boat! I couldn’t be bothered to wait for someone to let me back in so rowed the tender across. Security was excellent though so can’t have it both ways.

There aren’t too many places to stop down the coast as it the swell is relentless so after leaving we went straight to Peniche missing out Nazare as it can be prone to fishing boat swell. We arrived at Peniche and tied up next to “Festina Lente” another ARC+ yacht. We did feel a bit bad tying up to them as they were much smaller than us (37 feet) so used shore lines to ease the pressure on them. Other than meeting another ARC+ boat, we couldn’t wait to leave and headed off at first light to Cascais.

IMG_0502What can we say about Cascais? In our last post we all agreed Vannes was the best place we’d visited. Cascais has now taken top spot! It’s like Saint Tropez but without the high prices. A beautiful town with a great free anchorage and an expensive marina. We stayed for a week which was perhaps 3 days longer than we thought we would… but it was so lovely there it was rude not too. Another huge stage set up for a week of live music from some big Portuguese bands which we heard for 2 nights before leaving.

Those of you at a certain age will remember the US tv comedy series “Happy Days” starring Henry Winkler as the “Fonz”. It was based around the 1950’s and a diner called funnily enough “Happy Days”. Cascais has a Happy Days diner set up exactly as the series and was great, the statue of the Fonz marking the entrance. We did stay in the Marina de Cascais for 1 night as we wanted to catch the train to see Lisbon. For a premier marina in a premier location we were very disappointed with the facilities. The toilet and showers were very tired and really need replacing immediately. The staff were excellent though. There was a jetty which the local fishermen used but it was also a useful dinghy dock. Very important to remember the tides though…..

One of Charlottes old friends from school works on a super yacht and by coincidence it was in Cascais when we were so she managed to get the evening off and visit. Great to catch up and for Charlotte to spend time with someone her own age too.

Lisbon is a very busy city with sightseeing tour buses, trams and tuk tuks everywhere. We knew we’d never get to see a lot if we didn’t join in so hired a tuk tuk for 90 minutes at a cost of 60 euros. The driver bombed us around back streets and up hill to see many historical churches and land marks. We stopped at a site which was going to be high rise apartments but as the foundations were being dug, a 1st century roman theatre was found. The development never happened and the theatre has been exposed and secured as an attraction. I reckon the developers were hugely out of pocket there though!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way back from Lisbon we got off the train early to visit Belem where the Portuguese war memorial is and a huge sculpture of Henry the Navigator. This Monument to the Discoveries was built in honor of Henry the Navigator, who was instrumental in the success of the Portuguese explorations during the fifteenth century, a period now known as the Age of Discoveries.

After a week we said goodbye to Cascais and sailed off for a quick overnight stop in Sines. Mainly a petrochemical port, there is a small inner harbour with a marina and an anchorage which is open to swell . We anchored and it certainly was “open to swell” with a poor nights sleep rolling around.

At dawn we left heading for Cape St Vincent and the Algarve!

3 months review

So we’ve been away for just over 3 months now and so we thought it might be good to do a short review ….

Making the decision to sail away wasn’t a quick one as there was/is so much to consider such as health, wealth & happiness, that said we have no regrets. We look back to where we were and remember getting home from work to sit down for dinner followed by the great british soaps Emmerdale, Coronation Street & Eastenders then realising the evening had disappeared…. bit like groundhog day, especially in the winter when there’s little to do!

We are so lucky now, sure we have a big television onboard and see foreign channels or watch movies but feel no longer chained to it. We wake up each morning to a new adventure and meet new people almost every day…. and we socialise with them. These are interesting people with like minded attitudes and become friends we know we’ll see again as we follow similar routes.

Of course there are 3 of us onboard and we don’t get along all the time, I’m sure at some point there has been thoughts of mutiny but it passes (I think/hope). Silhouette is not a small boat but she is home to 3 personalities!!!

We have been surprised at the amount of motoring we’ve done, too much in fact as there has been either too little or just too much to safely sail on. We knew we’d spend considerable time in marinas this year and the prices so far have been as expected so no real surprises there. Food shopping in France was more than the UK, Spain was much cheaper including eating out, as long as it’s where the locals eat. So far Portugal seems to be the same as Spain as long as there’s large supermarkets or local markets around.

We have been surprised at how few ARC yachts we’ve seen. To date the count is 5 out of about 300. We wonder if we’re too early or too late?

3 months has gone in a flash and we have seen so many places we would never have had we not set off on this adventure. One thing we all agree on is our favourite place to date was Vannes in the Morbihan. Such a stunning medieval town with the marina smack in the middle, the “very” narrow entrance was worth it.

We are very lucky to be able to do this. Many have this dream but few get to actually set off & live it. If you think you can, you can!

 

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

New courtesy flag!

Once the wind calmed, we left Bueu and headed straight to Ria de Vigo which is the most southern of the Spanish rias & only a 3 hour sail in beautiful conditions. We spent 1 night in the Club nautico marina in Vigo which was certainly in the centre of the city, but we found it too commercialised for us. We then sailed back down the ria to Baiona which was something rather special. The entrance to the bay is littered with rocks, some just under the water which creates big confused seas & swell as we found. As we rounded the last cardinal mark indicating clear water we must’ve leaned 45 degrees each way which is quite something to be in! We called the marina and were allocated a berth. Here’s yet again where I made a mistake….. I do own up to them 🙂 As part of the ARC we receive good discounts in some marinas and in Baiona it was 25%. When I went to the office and filled in all the paperwork which takes about 15 minutes, I was told there would be no discount. Disgruntled I walked back to Silhouette to get the book and show the office…….  oops wrong marina! The one next door (the posh one) gave the discount, and when I said that I was sorry but it wasn’t their marina he just shrugged and told me to leave. Their marina was almost empty and the businessman in me feels they’re missing something as the Real Club Nautico de Yates was almost full and very posh too with a stunning clubhouse. The price with discount was less than the other marina too ?!?

 

I could do a full blog entry on Baiona including the great walk around the Fort which protected the area for so many years, but the best compliment I could give the town is to suggest you google it and visit if you’re in the area.

Baiona was our last Spanish stop which meant a new courtesy flag as we entered Portuguese waters for the first time. There are few anchorages down the coast but we will look for them! Povoa de Varzim was our first stop mainly as it offers 50% off for ARC boats meaning we paid 11.70 euros a night including electric & water. The town was much bigger than we ever thought it would be with live music pumping out until the early hours every night. Fortunately the marina is about a 15 minute walk from the centre but sound travels. A new marina is just under construction which will be literally connected to the main square opposite the casino…. hmmm !

Oporto or Porto was only a 40 minute metro ride from the marina so we became fully fledged tourists for a day. 7 euros each for a 24 hour ticket and a very efficient transport system took us to the top of the city. Truly a tourist destination with souvenir shops everywhere, we headed downhill to the river where the famous wine/port cellars were. Taylors port cellars became our choice and for 15 euros each you get a tour of the cellars with full commentary on the beginnings of port through manufacturing and finally the tasting! We bought a bottle of course but Charlotte found a 1998 vintage which was her birth year so had to buy it ready for a very special occasion!

So many picture opportunities including the train station, town hall & monuments to name a few…….

 

 

We stayed for 5 nights and then in company with Heike & Udo on Endo2 a German yacht doing this years ARC, sailed 85 miles south to Figueira de Foz just before some very strong winds were due, ( as I write this they’ve arrived). We’re now about 100 miles from Lisbon so not too far from the Algarve!

A new town to explore.

Turning south again

We stayed in a Coruna for a week allowing Caroline & Charlotte to return to the UK for 2 days for an appointment. Our first night was in the Club nautico marina in the centre of the city, we were moved 3 times including a berth way too small for us and after a moan from me, finally placed in an appropriate berth for our size. The swell from passing boats & ships was really uncomfortable so we moved the next day to another marina an easy 10 minute walk from the centre. The price was better too as staying 7 nights invoked a 25% discount meaning we paid about 37 euros a night. The main square hosted “street stunts” exhibition along with live music which was really entertaining, especially watching the wall climbing attempts…. fail and you get wet!! The live music was brilliant as was the beer, which delayed our departure by a couple of days 🙂

The town has a large cruise ship terminal attached to the marina in the town, we were amazed to see how big the P&O ship “Britannia” was sitting alongside for a day!

The much talked about rias of Spain were around the corner and our first was Camarinas. The wind was a very light 10 knots until we turned into the ria when it suddenly increased to 28 knots and caught us out, having too much sail out, reefing the genoa away a block caved in making life a little interesting for a minute as we carefully winched the sail away safely…. more lessons learned!

We anchored in the northeast corner of the ria off a small beach and stayed there for 2 nights in beautiful scenery. Click on the above panoramic to see how lovely Camarinas is !!!

Caroline & Charlotte even braved the cold water too!

The town although small had 3 small supermarkets well stocked 5 banks and lots of tapas bars. We could have stayed much longer, but wanted to get past Finisterre in good weather. The call this area Costa da Morte … coast of death for good reason. So many ships have been lost on this coastline in bad weather, we had no intention of joining them so another light wind sail it was. Uneventful until we saw a fish pot at the last minute with a floating line to another some way away. Watching the pot line get snagged in our keel is very worrying, we quickly turned 180 degrees to stop Silhouette then another 180 and luckily watched the marker fall away.

Passing Finisterre  in calm weather but in the ever present sea fog.

Our next Ria was Muros and we  anchored just to the north of the marina in 15 metres, totally protected from the winds. Spending 5 nights there, we caught up with Nick & Carol on Sea Spine who had started their return to the UK in preparation for them flying out to Las Palmas to sail to the Caribbean with us. We have also noticed how many yachts we’ve seen before & take time to say hello. Their plans vary, most are turning into the med but one Swedish yacht with 3 very young children are heading to the Caribbean via Cape Verde so we expect to see them along the way.

Currently we’re anchored in a small bay by a tiny marina in Bueu  Ria de Pontevedra avoiding some strong southerly winds. We were checked by the marine police AGAIN and this time handed our papers over via a net !!! All smiles and very courteous.