A quick visit to the boat to complete a few maintenance items and bring the car back to the UK before we resume our summer sailing. We are returning via Santander so a Biscay crossing albeit a bit quicker than the time Ruby will be taking.
Arriving in the rain is not what was planned but at least the boat was intact, a bit different to the last time we visited when we found the new Rocna anchor had been stolen.
Within an hour of arriving the sun was back out, normal service was resumed.
The "To do" list was actioned and after delivering the liferaft to Orey in Alcantrhilla for a service we raided the new Iceland store at Guia to start stocking the boat with tins and long life products.
Back on board the diesel filters were next on the list and after a fair of swearing at the French for making them so inaccessible we eventually got them replaced, the system bled and a sigh of relief as Mr Volvo burst into life.
Wednesday dawned With a clear blue sky and a F3 it seemed too good not to go sailing but on the other hand I still had to service the WC so a tough choice had to be made and on the basis that we have a bucket on board should the WC play up we went sailing!!
Thursday saw a trip up the mast in the bosuns chair to check the rigging and nav lights, fortunately all in good order so another tick on the list.
Time certainly flies on the boat and all too soon it was the appointed hour to load the car and set off on the 650 mile drive to Santander and back to the cold UK.
Every once in a while you stumble across a tradesman whose work is more about pride and enjoyment rather than trying to wring every pound from your pocket.
A couple of years ago in the RTIR we had a bit of a ding which resulted in a gouged and creased stainless steel bow protector. Now given that Dufour wanted £400 for a replacement I was in no hurry and thought I would get some prices to get a new one manufactured. After a few phone calls a friend recommended a fabricator in Olhao, so with the damaged one as a pattern we went to see Antonio Baiao.
My request for a price for a new one met with a firm "No" , " I will remove the crease and the gouge, polish up and it will be like new"
Now, being a bit on the fussy side I voiced my reservations but Antonios offer of €60, if you are not happy you do not pay saw a deal struck.
We returned a couple of days later and he presented us with a bow protector that appeared new, the guy is a true tradesman. The photo shows the repair.
After two months in the boatyard it was a joy to get Ruby back in the water. The marina at Portimao proved a suitable base to get the sails bent on and the other myriad of small jobs needed before a test sail.
We had got several quotes for a winter mooring and Albufeira proved the most competitive so Sunday saw us move the boat to her winter home. Tim Day joined us on the short trip but our reluctance to use the engine saw us taking 4 1/2 hours to complete the 14 mile trip. On a glorious hot September day with a gentle south westerly and with no time or tidal constraints it was a joy to be back on the water.
With Ruby safely berthed we adjourned for a few beers, hopefully we can enjoy some daysailing before our return to UK.
Looking back on our trip now we have had a great time and learnt a lot. The biggest disappointment was the amount of time using the motor, it has been down wind all the way and you could really do with a spinnaker but that is not practical for just the two of us so a bit of research on that topic, we were given some advice by a cruising couple we met of basically poling out the genoa using the boom, this is very useful in large swell withe wind a few points off
The scariest moment was on the second night of our Biscay crossing when all the boat electronics died, we knew where we were and had paper charts but having to hand steer the boat for 18 hrs did not appeal, luckily we managed to start the engine and with this running the autopilot returned. This problem was to haunt us for a further few days until another lovely couple from Ireland spent 4 hours on the boat trying to find the problem, we had just about given up and Kaye had gone to phone an electronics engineer when I noticed a small spark on the battery terminal when the engine was cranked. Our problem all along was a bad connection on the only earth terminal that was common to both service and starter batteries.
The funniest looking back now was Kaye having "the early bath" in La Coruna. Kaye was trying to pull the boat one way and the stronger Marinero that was helping us dock in strong winds pulled the boat the other way, Kaye with hands on boat, feet on pontoon but the gap got bigger, enough said!!
The most infuriating was being grilled and the boat searched in Every Portuguese marina. No two asked the same questions and wanted the same information. They are trying to combat a big drugs problem but in these days of electronic surveillance surely they could use communications to better effect, they all said the information was passed to central government, probably by pony express, which begs the question why they don't have a standard form and talk to each other and playing host to a reluctant sniffer dog that had to be physically dragged aboard the boat and then shed hair everywhere was akin to a cartoon sketch, obviously a middle aged English couple are the right demographic to arouse suspicion in Portugal!!
Spain was not quite as officious but at least you did get a signed form that said all details were in order and the boat had been searched, now doesn't that make sense and save a lot of time wasting. France, well France is France, laid-back and did not want any paperwork at all just the Euros.
And the most amazing moment was meeting up with one of Kayes old school friends in a marina in Portugal while both on passage and all courtesy of a chance conversation by Sue Brookes. The other memorable moments were the dolphins, we had never seen them before but the memory of them racing the boat and performing tricks will last forever.
So now on dry land, the boat is in the boatyard at Portimao awaiting a few jobs on our next visit and its out with the planning charts to look at next year.
The forecast was the usual N F4-6 sea state moderate possibly rough in the south but as that seems the norm there seemed no reason to delay so Thursday it was for our final leg to the Algarve.
Wednesday evening and while walking round the marina staring at boats i was engaged in conversation by a wizened old fella from Wales who asked where were on passage to. By coincidence he was headed the same way and offered some advice that was to come in very useful, he told me that whatever the strength of the wind put in one more reef before rounding Cape St Vincent, advice noted.
Thursday morning at 4am, dark and windy but if we want to make Portimao by sunset (87 miles) we must go. As we left the marina and into the main harbour it was like daylight with the massive floodlights illuminating all the oil tankers unloading the liquid gold. Out into the open sea and one target on the AIS appeared to be moving and we quickly established that the green starboard light that was going to cross our bows was a 600ft cargo ship bound for Montreal, once he was clear we established our course and unfurled the genoa but with now only 10kts from astern we had to keep the engine running to assist the 5kts per hour required to reach Portimao before sunset.
After six hours the wind freshened and we were able to turn off Mr Volvo and still maintain our speed, eventually up to 6kts all the way to Cape St Vincent but with a 2m short sea we were unable to utilise the main sail and had to rely on Genoa alone. About 10 miles north of the Cape we had an unexpected escort by what we think were probably bottle nose dolphins, they were all around the boat performing a gymnastic display for a grateful audience.
As we rounded Cape St Vincent I recalled the old fellas words and at that time the wind dropped and the sea calmed down, I had half a mind at this point to head up the boat and raise the main for a bit more speed but we decided to give it ten minutes and boy are we glad we did. From 10kts almost instantly the wind was up to 27kts and it was as much as we could do to furl in some of the genoa and on our new course east along the south coast of Portugal with only half genoa we were away at 7 kts withe wind just behind the beam.
This was a stunning sail all the way to Lagos and until we were an hour from Portimao when we were stopped and boarded by the Portuguese Navy for a boat inspection, after spending an age checking boat and paperwork they decided we did not have the requisite numbers of flares on board as per Portuguese law and we would be reported and met by maritime police, a great end to the day.
The police officer we met was very pleasant and told us what additional flares we needed and explained that if we bought them on Friday and took them to the police station they would take photograph of them (I kid you not) and tell the Navy we now have them, this we did and hopefully if their motive is safety and not revenue generation we will escape the fine.
A grey day with drizzle and little wind. We slipped at 7am and catching an unexpected breeze on the starboard bow we set off close hauled making 5kts but it did not last and the majority of the passage was motor sailing. As we turned east on the final leg the wind piped up to 15kts and we enjoyed a pleasant sail with just the genoa but still making 5kts+
Cascais is the most expensive marina we have encountered so far but the facilities are excellent and at least the Wi-Fi works, we are just going to sit and enjoy the bottle of free wine the marina hand out to visitors.