02 May 2017 | Ihla da Culatra
14 November 2016 | Lisbon
13 November 2016 | Figueira da Foz
04 November 2016 | Porto and Leixoes
31 October 2016 | Viana do Costello
31 October 2016 | Sanxenxo and Baiona
21 September 2016 | Muros
14 September 2016 | Cedeira
14 September 2016 | Avilles
14 September 2016 | Gijon
22 August 2016 | Laredo and Santander
22 August 2016 | Bilbao and Castro Urdilares
Ilha da Culatra
02 May 2017 | Ihla da Culatra
On 24/04/17 we departed Portimao at 0900 and mostly motor sailed to Albufeira; there was a negligible amount of wind and quite an uncomfortable swell which had been whipped up by the previous high gales. A strong cross current made the entrance into Albufeira marina quite interesting! The extremely bouncy reception pontoon was difficult to tie up to. We were warmly welcomed by Clare and Andy (Ula) who we hadn’t seen since Christmas; they took us on a little walk to the Intermarche to stock up on supplies and also to a hardware store which offered all sorts of chandlery bits and bobs! We only stayed here one night and did not venture into the town but I believe it’s rather touristy; the multi-coloured houses around the marina were quite interesting.
The following morning we fuelled up (still paying ridiculous Portuguese fuel prices) and headed for Ilha da Culatra, an anchorage. Again only one knot of wind, with bright sunshine, so we had to have the engine on to maintain 5 knots so that we could enter the Formosa Ria, at Cabo De Santa Maria, at half-tide on the flood ( the ebb can run at 7knots through the entrance on springs, which we were on). Ula was behind us and they decided to use their cruising chute with the engine off: they could catch us up later as they have a more powerful engine than us. We cruised along and enjoyed the view of the multi-coloured cliffs which reminded us of Alum Bay, this sparked happy childhood memories for both of us. With four miles to go and having just gone past a vast fish farm the wind picked up and we goose-winged along. Just before the entrance we headed into wind to drop the main sail, the wind was then crazy- 20 knots (why couldn’t we have had this earlier?!); we struggled a bit and after that a fisherman motored into Paul’s fishing line, which he had forgotten to haul in. We got in just on high tide and then had to swerve a cargo ship which was coming out; we radioed Ula to warn them and they informed us that they had turned back under sail as they had an engine problem. We found somewhere to anchor ,turned off our engine and settled down nicely after a couple of hours when the bouncy wind over tide effect subsided. Several sand banks appeared at low tide and we could see people foraging for shellfish; there were lots of fishing boats coming in and out and small ferries which take people to Faro and Olhao nearby.
15 knot winds were coming in the next day in the afternoon, so we took the dinghy to shore in the morning to explore the flat island; there are no roads or cars, only tractors and bicycles! We had to scramble across piles of fishing nets on the quay. Apparently there are 3000 residents here; there certainly appear to be quite a few dogs judging from all the little ‘parcels’ on the paths! A wooden path, and little bridges over the sand dunes, led us to the beach which was a 20 minute walk to the other side of the island. The long sandy beach was adorned with shells and the sea was beautifully clear .We walked back to the town, which has a couple of tiny supermarkets, a school, a social club, a red cross centre, a post office, a church, several bars and restaurants and a cash point; the boats come in daily to deliver supplies for the shops and restaurants; they also bring in frozen bait for the fishermen. We enjoyed a lunch of grilled fish and ventured back to Swallow in the dinghy; by this time the wind had got up so it was a rather wet, choppy ride! Rain and wind was forecasted for the next few days so we decided that, although this was a beautiful place, we would head for the Guadiana River tomorrow, the border of Portugal and Spain.
Portimao and Ferragudo
23 April 2017 | Portimao
On 19/04/17 we reluctantly weighed the anchor at 0800, one hour before high water, and set off for Portimao. We carefully followed our track in on the plotter and at times had only 1m under the keel; fishermen were returning from their night's work and signalling to us about the high winds coming. Once outside the entrance Swallow was bouncing around, the wind was on our nose so it was to be the iron sail today! The trip was supposed to be just over 4 miles but the moderate face on winds and waves impeded us somewhat and the log's trip reading was 7.5 miles when we arrived at 1000. The rocky coastline, with its grottos, is beautiful, but as we near Praia de Rocha the high-rise hotels blight the landscape but I guess they are a necessary evil as tourism is important for the economy; families flock to this resort for the beautiful, long, sandy beach. I have happy memories myself of bringing Gemma and Jack here on holiday twenty years ago! The Algarve was the first place that Jack had squid risotto!
Today I am a little disgruntled that the forecasted high winds have caused us to moor up in the marina at Praia de Rocha rather than anchor at the much prettier Ferragudo on the opposite side of the river; but hey that's sailing!
The winds came in as forecast and were pretty formidable; Swallow was bouncing around and the fenders were rammed tightly against the pontoon; the solar panel awning became detached on one side and Paul struggled against the 40 knot gusts to do an emergency repair; I was in danger of being blown into the water when I braved the gales to go for a shower. On our third day here we saw the lifeboat crew getting ready to go out on a shout, their blue light was on; we wondered who in their right mind would be sailing in this! We switched on our vhf radio and Paul watched marine traffic on his I-Pad; a navy ship was trying to assist a 12m Polish yacht who had got into trouble trying to sail into the Force 7/8 easterly winds; they had clearly tried to seek refuge at Lagos but all marina entrances were closed as entry conditions were too dangerous. The lifeboat reached them and we heard them say "get ready to jump into the water"- this really upset me as I know this would have terrified me and I really felt for the crew, it's horrible to know that fellow sailors are in trouble ; the Polish sailors obviously refused to abandon their vessel and were then advised to change course and sail north until the winds changed for them to continue to their intended destination of Cadiz. We watched the lifeboat crew return, all in all they were out in the ferocious conditions for four hours, they then all proceeded to phone their families to let them know they were safe- these men are so brave. We did hear of a yacht that grounded at the breakwater of Rimini marina in Italy a few days ago they were not so lucky, the keel snapped and they capsized, four people died. I did then feel glad that we were in the safe haven of Portimao marina.
Whilst here we caught up on boat chores in readiness for anchoring at Culatra further along the coast. We took a bus to Ferragudo , much to my delight; this is a small unspoilt village with minimal tourism; here we enjoyed a quayside lunch of rock fish which was grilled outside, we then walked along the beach- it was still rather blowy so we were covered in sand! On our last day we met up with Shon and Liisa (Lotta), they were further up the river at the boatyard polishing their boat; we all watched the powerboat grand prix F1 down at Portimao quay, the more agreeable old part of town , the winds had now dropped and we celebrated with ice cream! Tomorrow we will be moving on to Albufeira for a night and then on to Culatra, near Faro.
21 April 2017 | Alvor
On Easter Sunday we left Lagos at 14.45 in bright sunshine; a bit of a tricky departure as the wind blew the bow onto the pontoon - Paul carefully negotiated a six point turn! Our genoa pulled us downwind for the 4.9 miles to Alvor; we arrived here on the half flood so that we could see the sandbars, this is a very shallow anchorage. As we slowly and carefully motored towards the town we saw an amazing house on the bank with its own pontoon (see the photo album)- wow, what a setting, I want this house!
We spent three nights in this beautiful spot and it didn't feel like we were at anchor, so still ( apart from late evening and early morning when the fishermen sped past us). Paul enjoyed a spot of bird watching through his binos: he saw storks, herons, egrets, swallows, swifts and the highlight for him was an, as yet, unidentified large falcon which was taking down prey over the sandbank and devouring it. Paul also has finally had success with his fishing rod and caught several Dorade( Sea Bream) which were very tasty. We used our Cobb bbq whilst here too.
We took the dinghy ashore to the small town which, for our liking, had one too many Irish bars for its size, although, Paul did partake in a Guinness!
We felt like we were in paradise here and would have stayed longer but extremely high easterly winds were coming so we decided to make our way to the next marina, Portimao, which also has an appealing anchorage called Ferragudo- hopefully we will make a stop there too.
Sesimbra, Sines and around Cabo Sao Vincente to Lagos
21 April 2017 | Lagos
On 01/04/17 we said goodbye to all of the friends we had made over the past five months and wrenched ourselves from the wonderful city of Lisbon. We had become too comfortable here; the marina had everything we needed: clean, hot, powerful showers and a good washing machine, great transport links and nearby shops. We made our way to Oeiras, being a convenient stopping place before Sesimbra, and sailed back down the River Tejo past all of the fantastic landmarks of Lisbon; the sunshine was gleaming across Alfama, my favourite district, and its Pantheon; we then past Commercial square with its impressive Augusta Arch; we sailed under the extremely noisy 25 April bridge, which resembles the Golden Gate bridge; after that was Belem with its fairytale tower and Monument of Discoveries. I am sure that one day we will return to this awesome place.
We were a little early arriving at Oeiras and there was too much tide action, hence our approach was a little traumatic! The swell was horrendous, I was helming whilst Paul put the main sail down and got thrown around a lot, so in fear of falling in grabbed the harness ( or strap on, as I like to call it!) to secure me to Swallow- the clip had seized up over winter, classic faux pas, should've checked it before leaving. I feel we have become a little out of practice but know that we will soon get back into it! What should have been a simple sail was terrifying for me! Ridiculous!!!! (as Paul would say).
Four days later we sailed 30 miles down the West coast to Sesimbra; there was a 2m, beam on swell as we departed the river and we were on a beam reach, port tack. We looked back to Lisbon's skyline: beautiful diamonds were sparkling on the sea's surface and the sun was illuminating the coloured buildings. As we rounded Cabo Espichel the tide was dropping and the swell on our port quarter slewed us round; the waves were crashing into the caves in the sandy coloured cliffs. We moored up at the Clube Navale de Sesimbra which had excellent facilities.
Sesimbra has a busy fishing harbour, a beautiful beach and quaint town. We walked up to the medieval castle and enjoyed views as far back as Lisbon, stunning!
On 10/04/17 we made the 36 miles further down to Sines as the last stopping point before rounding Cabo St Vincent and heading for the Algarve. This was a motor sail for most of the way as there was not much wind at all; the rippling sea resembled corrugated cardboard. To our delight, after a couple of hours, six bottle nosed dolphins appeared and were playing on our bow wave. We only stayed one night in Sines, as we were keen to use the calm weather window to round Cabo Sao Vincente, so we didn't venture ashore. The town looked rather industrial but there is a nice beach and Locomotion, who were there a couple of weeks before us, told us that there is a great local restaurant. We met a Welsh man, Martin, who has been living aboard in this marina for eight years!
The next evening we had dinner and togged ourselves up with our warm, wet weather gear and set sail for Lagos. We departed at 22.40 with a full moon to guide us across a calm sea. We had a good run for 57 miles down to the point with 8 knots of wind and watched the welcome sunrise. The wind died as we came around the point at about 0900, but we didn't mind as this point has a reputation for being very nasty with wind and swell. At this time we had encouraging texts, which spurred us on, from Ula (Andy and Clare), who were further round in the Algarve and also from Drew (Madness), who is our Ground Control! Next we had four and a half hours of a hard slog into the wind blown current, we were so tired; Paul had stayed awake the entire journey and I had had two hours sleep ( testing out the lee cloth). As we approached Lagos we sailed past a fish farm and what I can only describe as a sea bass graveyard; there were loads of dead fish drifting by us, this is a probably due to overcrowding within the nets resulting with disease spreading among the fish and they are then discarded as useless; even the gannets weren't interested in them! We arrived in Lagos at 13.20, stopped at the reception pontoon to complete the necessary formalities and then they raised the lift bridge for us to proceed to our berth, which, to our delight was next to Lotta, our lovely Swiss friends, Shon and Liisa.
After a very long sleep we caught up with Shon and Liisa and celebrated with a few beers! We were
Shake down to Oeiras
23 March 2017
We will be leaving Lisbon at the end of this month; it will be emotional as we have become very attached to this city. Christmas and New Year were great, the city was tastefully decorated and the atmosphere was low key but still magical.
We have visited so many places and have never been bored here. We have even taken up baking; Paul has been making bread and I made my first ever madeira cake! Paul also had a go at painting and produced an impressive watercolour of some Portuguese washing!
We returned home to the UK at the end of January for five weeks; this was a busy time in which we spent five days preparing our house for new tenants, visiting our friends and families and stocking up on various boat parts from You Boat; we also bought Swallow's injectors back to be serviced, as we had a lot of smoke when the engine was on. It was lovely to see everyone, especially our beautiful grandson who had his first birthday party the day before we left - thank goodness for Facebook video!
Our bags were stacked to maximum capacity and weight for our flight home! - we also took back loads of tea bags ( they're never the same over here)
A few days after returning back to Lisbon, Swallow was lifted out of the water for her annual scrub and check-up. The lift out was done at our marina; they did us a good deal for this and also hard-standing and a jet wash. Paul worked really hard cleaning the hull ( we are copper coated), polishing, changing the anodes, anti-fouling the prop and sorting out the speed log paddle wheel, which was encrusted with barnacles; there were also remnants of rope wrapped around the prop shaft! Paul also put the injectors back in. We were back in the water within four days. As most female crew would probably say, living on the boat in the yard is not ideal as it involves weeing into a bucket and carrying the bowl of washing up down the ladder! The winds were pretty high too, I didn't feel as safe as I do on the water.
Just before we went away Paul contacted Westaway Sails in Devon who had supplied Swallow's original sails; they still had all the details and so we ordered a new Premium Dacron main sail. To Paul's delight this arrived the day after we were dropped back into the water so, with the help of Ken, another UK sailor, he successfully fitted it. We tried out the new sail a few days ago; Drew and Jackie (Madness) flew over from London for four days and we sailed to Oeiras, stopped for a lunch of Greek salad and king prawns on board( the marina didn't charge for the mooring), and back again.
We had a fantastic three hour sail to Oeiras; the wind started as a F3 to 4 and increased to a F4 gusting 5; we flew along on a close reach to starboard, achieving 7 knots. The sail back was pretty much the same on a port tack; we have realised just how tired and stretched our old main sail was, bearing in mind it was twenty years old, it's done us proud getting us all the way to Lisbon from Gosport. Now Paul is coming up with ideas on how to recycle it; he may make a hammock/ sunshade- sounds good to me!
It was wonderful having Drew and Jackie here; as well as a day sail we took them to Cascais on the train, enjoyed an evening of Fado and on their last day we devoured a delicious fish lunch of red mullet at Senor Peixe in Parques das Nacoes. The day before they arrived was my birthday and our third wedding anniversary- we had a lovely lunch in our favourite place, Alfama. Sounds like all we do is eat and drink- ummm, yep, about right.
Today, unusually, it's pouring with rain, hence me catching up with the blog. We will spend the next few days preparing ourselves and Swallow ready to move down the coast and round Cabo St Vincent into the Algarve; exciting times ahead. Millie, Ula, Kady and Locomotion have already made it to Lagos, we are looking forward to catching up with them. Stay tuned!!!!
Christmas sail to Cascais
28 December 2016
We've been in Lisbon for two months now and it already feels like home; the extremely friendly Marina Parque das Nacoes is ideally situated, the bus stops outside the marina and takes us to the centre of Lisbon in 20 minutes.The supermarket, in Vasco de Gama shopping centre, and metro/train station are a 10 minute brisk ( as we need the exercise) walk; the promenade which leads to a nature reserve, along the river ,is ideal for walkers, runners and cyclists - there are loads of bars and restaurants, a casino, cinemas, shops and a concert arena. Our favourite area is Alfama which is about ten minutes by bus (the buses run all night); this is the old town which is really quaint with its sloping, cobbled streets and pastel coloured houses displaying the inhabitants' washing! Alfama houses the cathedral ( Se), the Pantheon, St Jorge's Castle, many museums and lots of restaurants and extremely entertaining Fado (traditional Portuguese guitarists and singers) houses.
A week before Christmas we took the train down to Cascais (about 40 minutes) to visit Ula and Kady; we had a delicious pre Christmas roast dinner at a local Irish bar, a good day was had by all. We then decided that it would be lovely to sail there for Christmas so that we could all celebrate together. So on 23rd December 2016 we set off at 11.30 ; we left in slight fog which lifted after an hour; there wasn't much wind but the tide took us down. There was a 2.5 m swell across the bay before heading into Cascais- it was a bit uncomfortable but, after a three our sail, Cascais welcomed us with brilliant warm sunshine.
We enjoyed an ice cream whilst walking along Cascais beach on Christmas Eve, it was blissful. Christmas day was great fun, Clare and Cath had already been shopping and managed to find all the ingredients for a perfect Christmas dinner (including sprouts, parsnips and cranberry sauce!). All three boat crews worked together using all of our ovens to produce a fantastic meal which we devoured aboard Ula. It was a special day; delicious food, great company and of course copious amounts of alcohol! On Boxing Day Andy made us a scrummy turkey curry.
On 27th December we enjoyed a three hour sail back to Lisbon; there was a bit more wind this time and we managed to tack up the river. The river shone across Commercial Square as we sailed past it; Lisbon is built on seven hills and its skyline is stunning from the river with the vibrant colours of the red roofed buildings (red, orange, yellow, pink, mint green and sky blue ) and of course Belem Tower, Jerome Monastery, Augusta Arch, the Pantheon, the 25th April and Vasco de Gama bridges.