11 February 2019 | Portimao
El Rompido to Lisbon, then back to Portimao.
Stella and I drove out to El Rompido in April, pausing at Jessica's house near Ronda. And visiting Italica outside Seville b4 continuing to Aqua Blue moored in the Rio Pedras. Delivering some heavy items such as repaired sails and a new giant 180Ah battery, which we struggled to lug onboard! After some modest fitting out we returned via Merida. I particularly wanted to see the many Roman buildings again, such as the town centre temple, plus the Roman bridge, it must be the longest ever! And the Theatre /Amphitheatre were as impressive as I remembered!
I returned to AB by EasyJet in late May. And Wolfgang the marina proprietor arranged for AB to be hauled by rail sled at a fishing boat yard in Punta Umbria. Where the staff very thoroughly cleaned AB's bottom and applied 8 litres of bright red Hempel antifouling, for a modest price. I was well pleased with the result, and managed to service the finicky KiwiProp too.
Back at Rompido I spent several days sanding & glassing the stbd foredeck, then non slip painting the whole float deck. I'd been meaning to do it for years, and it was easily accomplished working from the pontoon. I was even complimented on my handiwork!! I also further improved the cockpit seats.
On Wed 13th June approaching midday I span AB round and reversed off the pontoon, Wolfgang having to jump off his bike and throw onboard one rope I'd forgotten! By teatime I was anchored in the Guadiana outside Ayamonte marina. A reasonable shallow anchorage altho it gets popply with chain noise when the tide floods against the overnight land breeze. It was still N20kts, and only 60F at 9am in mid June!! But the land breeze dies by 11am and we motorsailed slowly to anchor inside Faro lagoon at Culatra. A bit of a multihull graveyard, but they're interesting to me. RedandWhite an ex racing tri, now seemingly a fishing platform, and Swingalong a Westell tri I'd known in Andrews Boatyard Emsworth in the early eighties were still moored. Plus a much newer Harry Proa which had been built in Sagres. I stayed onboard, grateful for M&S tinned food. Now on Portuguese time I was up at dawn, struggling to extract the Rocna from the weed, and by 8am the spring ebb was flushing AB out over the bouncy Faro bar. Normally it can be a bit of a slog in a fresh seabreeze from Faro to Portimao, but this time the wind stayed light and off the land, so a pleasant sail along the coast had us anchored off Praia Grande in Portimao by mid afternoon. I'd also seen strange horizon effects, double images of boats and beaches!
I surprised myself by sleeping for 12hrs, I suppose I'd worked non stop for well over two weeks! The weekend 16/17th June was spent tackling the afloat job list. And on Sun morn it was 78F by 9am, tempting me into my first cockpit shower. I also met my brother and his wife for lunch at one of the beachside restos, then walked the length of the beach and had a siesta. Plus returning ashore for Frango PiriPiri, I was also on holiday now!
On the Mon morning I took AB up to the town fuel quay, altho singlehanded mooring in the current is not easy. Paul Wells working on the 50ft tri Trinity in RCS spotted me. I returned briefly to the Praia Grande anchorage to stow everything securely and consult fcsts, then by midday headed out west again. Motoring over a calm sea we arrived in Sagres bay before 5pm. I thought about continuing but decided rest was better. However by midnight a SE swell was rolling into the bay and sleep was fitful. I rose and dressed at 4am, but it was so dark I couldn't make out the headlands so lay down again! I recovered the Rocna at first light and motored over the Atlantic swell, rounding Cape St Vincent, by 6.30am, under very low cloud since a shallow low had formed over the Cape! But on the west side of the Vicentine promontory an easterly blew down from the towering cliffs and AB reached north under genoa alone. 3hrs later we were passing Arrifana, a very open anchorage where AB had spent one night the year before. The sky cleared and wind dropped for a blue afternoon and I motored up to Sines to anchor off the fishing boats in the west side of the harbour after 12hrs progress north.
The calm night was very welcome and in the morning I ascended the mast to unravel the genny halliard, caught on the very top fitting of the 20yr old Profurl, which is designed to prevent it! I then motored AB over to the marina visitor pontoon and managed to lassoo a cleat, with a slight wind off the pontoon. It rained all afternoon, and there were thunderstorms all night to herald the summer solstice, Thurs 21st June. I spent several days here, Sines grows on you. The marina has very good facilities and is not expensive, esp for a multihull. Plus the weather was not kind, with hail keeping the tourists off the beach one day! I also enjoy the screeching Swifts nesting below Vasco da Gama's stern statue. He's revered as the first european to round the Cape of Good Hope, altho Herodotus tells us the Phoenicians from Tyre may have beaten him to it in 600BC!
On Sun 24th June the normal summer weather returned and I motored towards Cabo Espichel till the NW wind enabled raising of the genoa and main. I was interested to see what AB could do into a modest Nortada (up to 22kts apparent) and with the windward rig trimmed tight we could indeed sail fast enough, due north parallel to the coast. In fact with a bit of a lift approaching the Cabo, AB sailed straight up to anchor off the beach at Sesimbra. The pilot book warns of very poor holding. And indeed AB sailed back out of the anchorage towing 80ft of chain plus a bridle. It was a good job I'd stayed onboard despite the tempting dinghy pontoon. It's a pretty town to observe and was used by Portuguese royalty. The katabatic winds blowing off the hills subsided by midnight and I slept surprisingly well. Repeating the process on Monday we managed to sail close hauled north again to reach Fort Bugio, before I started the Yannie to enter the anchorage off Cascais by mid afternoon.
I rowed the considerable distance to the fishing pontoon in the morning to admire the many fine houses along the seafront. The afternoon was spent puzzling over why Henry Honda would not start. I dismantled, cleaned and re-assembled the carb to no avail. A relaxed departure the following morning led to a slow sail and motor up the Tagus. Camera at the ready for the monuments and the spectacular bridge. We then turned right and followed the channel buoys to Seixal. There was one free mooring which I eventually managed to secure AB to. Why do I think I can use a boathook to hold 4tons against the tidal current!? The marinero soon arrived and towed the Honwave dinghy to the town quay where I paid for a week, at 7euros/night for the buoy!! I finally had a plate of Sardinhas and rowed back to AB, happy to have reached Lisbon.
I had another go at the Honda outboard carb in the morning. This time I removed the main jet, which does not have a needle. And cleaned through the row of tiny holes along it's side with hairs from a washing up brush! This had the desired effect and I was independent again. Although the mooring fee includes a marinero taxi service!
I called Igor at 9am and he came immediately to ferry me ashore leaving the Honwave perched on the stbd float. The fast catamaran to Cais de Soudre was only 5euros return, with good views of approaching Lisbon. I then walked up to Chiado, back down and up again to Fort de Sao Jorge, then returned via Praco Commercial. All most interesting, despite the pavement tiles being "slippery when dry"! Back onboard by 5pm it started raining and the weekend was bouncy with 20kts blowing against the flood tide. AB was towing a tyre to keep her off the buoy. I alternated days of maintenance with days in Lisbon. After visiting the Oceanarium I walked down to the Marina Nacoes. They had refused me a berth by email. And I was able to photograph the reason, a huge sandbank lifting pontoons high and dry!! I also found the anchor chain bar taut one morning, after hearing an unexplained bang hours before. The windlass had moved slightly! I then spent most of the day replacing corroded wires to and from the now faulty Lofrans control box. At least it operated up, if not down!!
On Tues 3rd July I took a metro to the airport to meet my wife Stella. And then simply wheeled her luggage from the cat ferry to the marinero's runabout in Seixal. Three more day walking tours of Lisbon followed, combined with evening restaurant sampling in Seixal, which really is a convenient and very affordable base for exploring the Portuguese capital. And the Tagus boatyard further up the channel will store and indeed repair your boat if nec. The Chandlers were using it while we were there. I had enquired, but they couldn't accommodate AB's 25ft beam. In Lisbon we walked though Alfama and re-found Catherine of Braganza's tomb, which used to declare "here lies the Queen of England", in St Vincent church which has great views once you've persevered in reaching the roof! There were also giant screens in both towns for communal watching of the World Cup.
On Sat 7th July we untangled the mooring ropes attaching us to the heavy chain to motor back down the Tagus. With Stella taking many photographs of Christ the King and the Belem tower. We even managed to sail to Cascais, where we were intercepted by a RIB guarding the GP32 racecourse. After motoring round to the anchorage, we could watch the hydrofoiling cats whizz by. Next morning Henry was now able to speed us to the fisherman's pontoon for sightseeing and walking in Cascais, the botanical gardens are pleasantly shaded.
On Monday we recovered the Rocna and motored then drifted under MPG back towards Cabo Espichel. The continuous furler is a huge improvement. The sedimentary layers north of the Cabo have been turned through 90 degrees! Bypassing Sesimbra we put the hook down in Portinho Arrabida and surprisingly had a quiet night free of katabatic winds. Just west of the entrance the Baixo Alpertuche seems to be reaching across towards Praia Alpertuche. Only 5ft of clearance at half tide in one spot! Thick morning mist burnt off slowly as we threaded our way directly across the sandbanks into the Rio Sado. Eyes glued to the echo sounder!
We eschewed Setubal this time and followed the coast round to anchor off the endless beach inside the Troia peninsula, and anchored off the moorings at the new development of SolTria, past the naval quay and car ferry terminal. Ashore it was like Florida. The second night ominous clouds appeared to the north over the hills behind Setubal and we had an uncomfortable night with quite a long fetch. But it is a great spot in settled weather. The Romans were here and exported salted fish.
Early the following morning we shot over the Rio Sado barra with the last of the ebb behind us, initially wearing oilskins! By midday the Yannie was off and we were broad reaching down the coast at good speed with the occasional dolphin, and Stella identifying seabirds. The sea got up a bit and I was keen to identify the covered breakwater. Anchored in Sines by 3pm, we were then able to move to the visitor pontoon, after a French boat moved up for us. Long hot soft water showers were enjoyed for some time. Sines marina is so welcoming.
A morning ashore, those seafront cliff steps exercise sailing leg muscles! Pm I bought diesel but it's quite a price, 1.4 euros/litre. Ask at the dive shop. There was a very modern cat moored alongside, a Marsaudon TS42 "Moea" sailed by a Brit in a wheelchair no less. Lots of very good practical ideas to simplify fast sailing. A good evening meal in restaurant O Castello, but the cheaper Sines Grill is fine too.
The Blackwell's Aleria was anchored in the harbour, and we followed them out at 7.30am. They were headed north to Galicia and were grateful for the absence of the Nortada. While we resented motoring south into a very light southerly for 12 hrs, although we were entertained twice by lengthy dolphin visits, I'm convinced they like multihulls. We rounded Cape St Vincent to re-anchor in Sagres bay. This time well occupied, including by Moea who had somehow overtaken us, probably by sailing offshore then back inshore at speeds unattainable by Aqua Blue. We'd been trying to photograph the well named Pedro do Gigante off the Cape, it really does look like a gorilla standing waist deep in water from the north!
A quiet night as Sagres should be in settled weather, but on 15th July it was still only 63F at 7am! The seasons seem to be trailing the sun by more every year! We had a lazy start and ran downwind under MPG alone to enter Alvor, anchoring just west of the moorings, by the villa with blue pontoons, a favourite spot. Ashore we noted the many Irish pubs and then found a quiet restaurant courtyard for a good Cataplana. Ashore again in the morning for convenient shopping and ATMs, we then motored out of Alvor at low tide, just rolling the centreboard up at the shallowest spot near the green buoy (3ft under the hull), which can't be in it's original position. There is an anchoring pool near the entrance if your draft requires it. We ran east along the coast under MPG alone, past an Aussie Crowther Spindrift of AB's age I'm sure, anchored off Praia de Rocha. We re-anchored off Praia Grande Portimao for a late lunch, rather more crowded than a month before!
AB's crew spent over a week here enjoying a beach holiday. There's a couple of reasonable beachside restaurants, plus shopping in Ferragudo within dinghy reach. Stella flew home, Paul Wells kindly taking her to Faro airport. And I arranged a haul out for AB at RCS. One more day sail encouraged yet more dolphins to do acrobatics between the hulls. Then AB was hauled by the giant 9mtr wide travel hoist for hull cleaning and winter storage. I escaped the late arriving summer heat to spend August in Brighton. But Portimao always beckons for the never ending refit! In fact I flew back in October and have just booked the Santander ferry for April.