Friday, 10 October 2014

The 15th year begins

We left Fig Da Foz hoping one day we might get back – great veg market not far from the marina and an interesting town too. We set off also hoping to get to Cascais but frustrating winds or lack of, saw us beating slowly one way then another as we tried to make it south. At one point we thought of anchoring off Berenga Island but one look at those already anchored and the rolling they were suffering put us off that and we motored into Peniche for the night. The harbour was smaller in memory than it actually is but, like before, crowded enough to require boats to raft up. Luckily the big steel one we rafted to was unoccupied. In truth it isn't much of a harbour as the wash from passing boats causes too much movement but it was only for one night and then onto Cascais.

The winds were stronger although still from ahead as we beat south. The radio was alive with chatter as boats sought to find better conditions from friends. Those closer in seemed to be getting a smoother ride but the only option for us was to keep beating, using the engine to improve the angle on the outward leg. With some 15 miles to go the wind died and we motored against a fading day toward the anchorage, arriving in the dark and dropped anchor happily amongst 10 or so other boats.

 We stayed at anchor for several days with little wind but a persistent swell which sometimes eased but still made sleep restless. For us it was bad enough but a square rigger that came in had a hard time of it. In truth it is not a great anchorage but we remained. 

The evenings entertainment being a light show from a nearby beach.

No idea how this was done...

 With the prospect of a stiff 25 knots from the south forecast we upped anchor and headed for Seixal, about 17 miles up river. Interesting to sail past Lisbon and onto the narrow channels that took us to our destination, jostling for space with innumerable ferries and high speed cats that ply the waters – shades of New York only sunnier.

We arrived a dusk following a very pristine wooden ketch and were advised that the holding was poor and a buoy should be picked up. This we duly did but a small German boat was at anchor and I rowed over to ask him about depths etc. As this was his sixth visit over many years we preferred his take on the anchorage – good holding, very safe – and moved off the buoy at first light. When the southerly came through it reached 30 knots and we were more than happy to be at anchor and away from Cascais.

This is an interesting area - a small river off the main Lisbon artery with a couple of boatyards with a lot of boats already hauled for the winter. The two adjacent towns have prominent Portuguese Communist Party buildings/presence/flags, are slightly run down but have a charm for all that. 

The area where we were anchored had several buildings which, we were assured, dated back several hundred years and were being left to rot or being surreptitiously used by the homeless and dispossessed of the area. A flock of pink flamingoes wandered the shallows at low water busily feeding and looking photogenic.

With the wind promising to switch to a more favourable angle we headed back to Cascais for the night, leaving the following morning for either Sines or Cape St Vincent. In the event the winds were neither favourable or particularly strong and we opted to keep going through the night by drifting rather than anchor in Sines. In fact we drifted a second night as gradually worked our way down to the Cape. This particular leg seemed to throw up a number of issues and made us realise: a. I'd become a tad complacent; b. A lot of our gear is in need of replacing.. Complacency: We were below when we heard a loud bang on the foredeck and rushed up to find the bottlescrew on the outer forestay had unscrewed itself. As this sits on the end of the bowsprit almost 3 metres off the bow it presented a bit of a problem. Luckily the wind was light enough to enable us to drop the genny without any real issues. Or so we thought... Anyway we sorted out the bottlescrew using the jib halyard attached to the traveller to support the bowsprit whilst I slid along it and secured a line to the forestay whilst Bee cranked it close enough to be able to re-screw the whole lot together. I think that's when we found the genny had torn though old age and until we repair is unusable. Bit of a bummer but it did have us experimenting with the drifting sail we had made...
 We rounded Cape St Vincent accompanied by a heavy rain squall that had us closeted in oilies (something else that needs replacing) and then passed on leaving no wind. We motored onto Portimao arriving a little after sunset and anchored, glad to have finally made it round the corner....we seem to have been beating since the Orkneys.

Couple of other issues have raised themselves. The downhaul we use to tighten the luff of then heads'l has a habit, when a heads'l is being changed, of swinging wildly about the mast. At its least serous it wraps itself around shrouds or baggywrinkle and is a pain to unravel. For more serious is when it delivers a glancing blow to Bee's head as she changes or lowers the sail. For years we have resisted the logical step of reducing its length as this also reduces the amount of tension you can exert but enough is enough. The leg to Cape St V had her being battered on 3 separate occasions. And that wasn't then end of her releasing the mainsheet arrangement it momentarily jammed and she made to free it. At the same instant it freed itself and slid across the horse catching the end of her finger between the shackle and an immoveable object...... I have never seen her so stunned or, worse still frightened, as the pain hit her. For her part she had visions of the end of her finger being torn off as happened to a friend of ours. Well it wasn't torn off but was badly split – blood everywhere - and we rapidly doused it liberally in hydrogen peroxide and then covered it. Ideally we could have coated it in super glue to aid the healing but for some reason didn't think of it until much later. Whilst it is now healing it remains slightly flattened and bruised. We're replacing these shackles with grommets which will be far kinder to all concerned.

The journey from Portimao gave us the best sail for many a month, possibly the whole year. The wind was favourable and with everything from topsail to mizzen uo we romped through the water. Most boats we saw on this passage now appear to be heading back to northern Europe and will face a slog back up the coast as the winds are now switching back to the NW... Our wind didn't last and I wondered whether we could just duck into Faro and anchor for the night...the coast past Faro has miles of fish farms and the prospect of getting caught up with them or drifting 'til the morning lost out to an anchorage. I knew we were late and as we approached our speed slowed from 5.2k to 3.8k. OK so far but the strongest ebb lay ahead of us. Across the entrance a wall of water pulsated and we gradually got into it and we fought our way into the channel getting knocked about in the process and made it to an oh so quiet spot where we dropped for the night. In the distance dozens of yachts could be seen at anchor between Culatra and Oleheo but we were far enough in for a quiet time. The journey out was a lot quicker although still lumpy but no wind for much of the day. With yet another tide gate to reach we opted to motor, sailing only when we were able to maintain a reasonable speed, got to the entrance and into the river. We'd intended anchoring off Ayomonte, the big Spanish town but with a favourable current running we opted to go up river as far as we could. In the event it was all the way to Alcoutim/San Luca and in an odd coincidence anchored 11 years to the day that we were last here. So many boats are now on the river; not simply at this end but as we came up. Where we anchored alone around the bend a little north from here has a dozen boats, some on moorings. Few abandoned finca's (small Spanish houses) as most have been bought, rebuilt and inhabited. In terms of the local economy the influx of yotties must have had a huge impact...Alcoutim now has free public showers. The downside is twenty miles from the coast it is significantly hotter and summer temps can reach around 45C-50C/113F-122F which for us is a real nono.

Later we'll head further up river to see friends who live some of the time here, some of the time at sea before we make a decision on what we do next.

No comments:

Post a Comment