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.

 

Rias !

Our time in Gihon was somewhat mixed. Much cooler than France with cloud cover all the time and the most expensive port to date at 55 euros a night… ouch! no wonder they don’t have many visitors.

We met Tony & Sue sailing “Mirabella” and had a couple of evenings together with them and Allegrini. One night we went ashore to a backstreet tapas bar where the locals go & consumed many beers and tapas & the bill confirmed this ! . There was a big fiesta somewhere one night with music pumping out until 6am. I was awoken at 5am to see a young couple skinny dipping off the finger pontoon we were tied to…. only then to see them both boarding Silhouette. Presumably they were looking for somewhere to sleep… or not !!! Needless to say they weren’t expecting me and left rather quickly to find their clothes 🙂

I needed some hinges, hasp, screws & bolts to fix the new doors we had made…. try asking for that in Spanish when you can’t and the shopkeeper can’t speak English…..  gotta love the Iphone ! Whilst I was practicing sign language, Caroline & Charlotte were boarded by Spanish customs who politely checked passports, insurance & ships papers.

Next port was Ribadeo 65 miles away. With light winds we finally agreed to fly our 145m2 spinnaker which is pretty big. Ours is a bit of a hybrid as mentioned previously so we can fly as a spinnaker or cruising chute, raised it looked great and the speed improvement was instant. We had hoped to anchor off but the swell had other ideas so back into a marina again.

The town was up a very very steep hill but what a surprise. The marina was so quiet but the whole town was out in fancy dress having a fiesta to celebrate the Spanish who set off to Cuba and made their fortunes. I think they just like having fiestas !!!

We only stayed in Ribadeo for 1 night as free anchoring was within sight so headed off to Viveiro which had a beautifully protected anchorage off the beach and behind a huge breakwater….. free anchoring at last! The town is about 1 km from the anchorage so our RiB & 15hp outboard came into its own perfectly.

A couple of days later Allegrini & Mirabella caught us up and we went into town for beer & tapas and were “treated” to a heavy metal/punk rock band playing in the square, really loudly. We also commented on the amount of locals all dressed in black leather with interesting slogans about death! The following day we realised Viveiro was holding Resurrectionfest 2018 and the whole place had gone rock mad. The venue was right next to the anchorage and judging by the sound checks, was not a place to stay… no offense to KISS, Prophets of RAGE & MEGADEATH along with the other 100 bands !!!

Caroline’s Iphone could’ve done with a bit of its own resurrection after she dropped it in the sea by the dinghy dock! We thought it had been stolen but Charlotte saw it in the water 24 hours later when we returned to the dock….. no amount of rice was going to resurrect that!

After 4 days we left (as did Allegrini & Mirabella) along with pretty much everyone else and sailed to Cedeira, a ria 35 miles to the west, quieter with even more protection. We arrived with 25kts and overnight the wind increased to 40 knot! I stayed in the cockpit all night as did most other boat owners with 1 yacht dragging at 1am and taking 3 attempts to re-set. The valley creates its own wind acceleration zone and is mentioned in the pilot books, we just didn’t read it !

Cedeira is lovely, as usual with lots of tapas bars and a good supermarket, we would’ve stayed longer than 2 nights but needed to push on to A Coruna as Caroline and Charlotte need to do a quick 3 day return to the UK before we head off to Portugal.

Here’s some non specific photos of the Spanish coast & for those of you interested, the current score on the fishing front is a big fat ZERO !!!

Biscay crossed

Our arrival in La Rochelle meant there was time to do a couple of jobs which involved tearing the cabins and cockpit lockers apart. Fortunately Caroline & Charlotte had flown back to the UK for 8 days so no worries about living in a mess with 3 on board!

Our ais has been very intermittent and I traced it to a faulty vhf cable. Our ais has its own aerial mounted on the arch rather than a splitter to the masthead vhf aerial, so running a new cable around the lockers and under the port aft cabin was no small task. Whilst in a mess, I also changed the wet exhaust hose which was going soft. There are always jobs to do on a yacht, the plan was and is to stay on top of them rather than let them build up.

The Minimes marina in La Rochelle is huge with about 4500 berths, the visitors section had a lot of Fountaine Pagot catamarans all brand new although there was plenty of space for us. One day we were talking to a couple on a new cat and they had completed a circumnavigation some years ago. It turned out they crossed the Atlantic in 1995 in company with Colin & Penny (my uncle & aunt) and remembered them well. We gave them their details to get back in touch…..  what a small world we live in!!

We made 2 purchases whilst in La Rochelle, 3 fold up bikes giving us more flexibility and we finally committed to ordering a watermaker.

This took a great deal of thought and research on which make & model along with location to go for. In the end we decided on the type we first looked at 2 years ago, Rainman. I will dedicate a page to this once its been working for a while giving all the pros and hopefully few/none cons. For now we have the 230v high output which provides 100-140 litres an hour, which is huge!

With Caroline & Charlotte back on board, we were looking for a weather window to cross Biscay, not helped by the fact that only 1 of the 2 boxes which make up the Rainman had arrived… British customs held one box up as the 2 jars of pickling powder which looked like a lot of white powder got flagged ! After numerous calls and emails to Dave at The Wetworks it arrived with 4 hours until our planned departure… phew!

In company with Allegrini we left La Rochelle and headed south west in the direction of either Santander or Gijon, a final decision of which port to be made after 125 miles. In the end it was a no brainer and we all agreed to push on the extra 5 hours to Gijon saving a 14 hours sail from Santander along the coast to Gijon a few days later. So this was our longest passage so far of 255 miles with 2 nights at sea.

Low swell and very little wind meant motor on for most of the journey but Biscay has a reputation so we accepted motor on over strong winds and big seas. We did see a large squall, tracked it on radar and managed to skirt around it which was good practice for the Atlantic, & the sea was soooo blue too. This picture of Allegrini shows how lucky we were with the weather when crossing the continental shelf!

We’re now in Gijon for a few days and will head off for Ribadeo on Saturday as there is a favourable wind to sail there. The weather is colder here which just doesn’t seem right now we’re in Spain !?!

Bit shallow here !

The port website in les Sables d’Olonne  said they were closed to visitors due to the golden globe event, so we had to bypass it and go straight to St Martin-de-Re instead. This was a journey of just over 50 miles which was yet again a motor sail apart from the last 2 hours when a lovely breeze set in allowing peace and quiet. Allegrini decided to while away some time so we had 2 quiz games on the vhf, one on british tv and the other on weather…. we really need to brush up on our general knowledge !!!

The approach to St Martin was a first for us. If a chart shows white turning blue there’s water there all the time, if not there’s nothing or less than nothing (raised areas). This meant we could only enter approximately 1 1/2 hours before a good high water due to our deep keel. The reality was we knew we’d be fine ( allegrini went in first 🙂 ) but …..

What a lovely port we found on arrival, extremely tight to get in though, we were directed to berth next to a beautiful Hallberg Rassy 46 which the owners had just sold and were praying we didn’t hit them. They must’ve been worried seeing us approach with our huge anchor pointing straight at them until the last moment ! The gap was about 50 feet so we literally shoe horned ourselves in between the other rafted out yachts.

The fee here was 43 euros a night so the prices are starting to increase !

I was going to post some pictures of the town, but with the very kind permission of Steve & Helen from Allegrini, we have added their video into this post. They have a camera at the top of their mast which captures beautifully us and other boats moving/leaving and some great shots of the port. Take a look at their blog www.allegrini.co.uk 

Leaving St Martin just before high water we headed off to La Rochelle which will be our base for 2 weeks to do a little maintenance and restock ready for our longest sail to Spain. I wanted to know what the thick black line was between the Ile-de-Rei & the mainland. It turned out to be a 30 metre high bridge which we were going under…. yet another first. Here’s how it looked as we went through, bit close from our perspective but there was at least 10 metres to spare.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s only one thing to do after a cracking sail and arrival in a new port……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medieval Vannes

The pilotage getting to Vannes was certainly challenging, and the narrow canal taking the final stretch was not without comments and expletives, especially as boats were coming in the opposite direction and there was only just enough room! That said, what a special place Vannes is. A beautiful city dating back 2000 years with a very proud history. Without doubt our favourite place so far. We stayed for 3 nights at a cost of 40 euros a night, it was funny being moored in the city centre with so many people walking by. We are also declaring Vannes the city of fit people, there were so many runners and groups exercising we were tired just watching!

We took a road train as a sightseeing trip with commentary in english which was well worth the price of 6.50 euros each and a great way to see so much, including the old washing house by the river which was where all the clothes were cleaned within the fort.

We could easily have spent more time in Vannes but really needed to start making tracks towards La Rochelle as Caroline & Charlotte have flights booked to return to the UK for 8 days. A stopover once again in Crouesty just outside the tidal effect of the Morbihan and we headed off with our cruising in company yacht Allegrini to Ile d’Yeu in the Vendee region of south Biscay. There had been winds of 25-30 knots the day before which we knew would create a swell but thought it would’ve died down after 24 hours…..  or not !!!

The wind had died off for 8 of the 10 hour journey meaning we had to motor sail yet again, but the 3-4 metre swell we encountered reamained with us! The picture is Allegrini and we all agreed on the radio this was something we’d just have to get used to.  The approach to Ile d’Yeu was strewn with lobster pots and a very choppy side wind making the seas even livelier until past the breakwater. The marina was very busy but we managed to get a good spot by reversing half way down the marina channel to a hammerhead berth. Allegrin weren’t so lucky having been directed to a really tight area next to a swiss yacht who refused to take their lines and was completely unhelpful. Eventually Allegrini moved to another berth near us and away from the idiot. We now all hope one day he needs help coming into a berth and gets the same treatment.

French sailors

The french are a seafaring nation and sailing must be second only to football (they don’t play cricket very well and rugby doesn’t count!). There are so many singlehanded sailors on the water, and they know what they’re doing….. until they stop sailing and enter harbours. Once in the harbour they abandon the helm and prepare fenders and shore lines oblivious to all around. We saw one poor motorboat hit three times by three different boats in one day, Allegrini was hit by a yacht “not under command” scratching her hull and we had a yacht hit our bow, get caught on our anchor which ripped out their safety guard wires. Two days ago I helped a motorboat come into a berth behind us once he’d bounced off the yacht behind, he just said “pas de problem” (no problem) tied up 2 lines only and buggered off on a bicycle!

But they’re not all the same, we saw a 32 foot catamaran shoehorn itself into a 34 foot space beautifully.

 

From here we may try to get into Les Sables d’olonne for a night before reaching La Rochelle but the Golden Globe race buildup is there and berthing maybe difficult.