North Atlantic Sailing

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The initial plan was for me to fly to Tenerife, where I'd meet Michael, el capitán, along with Gábor the other crewmate flying in from Hungary. Any good adventure includes some changes of plan and for this one in particular the changes began right from the start!

Sailing from the UK, Michael & his southbound crew encountered some unfavourable weather conditions that delayed them during the voyage. This meant that reaching Tenerife by the scheduled date was unlikely. We had to come up with another plan. With flights and other arrangements already booked it added a bit of stress to the situation. As an alternative we elected to meet in the south of Portugal, the intended destination from Tenerife. This meant having to forfeit the open ocean passage which was part of the draw towards the job. Gábor wanted to complete the passage in order to log miles to qualify for his Yachtmaster certification exam. During the open ocean passage we would also have the chance to learn some astronavigation from Michael, which I was really hoping to put into practice.

I changed my ticket so my outbound flight from Dubai would take me through Barcelona, the most economical destination that could connect me with a flight to Faro. From there I would catch a bus to Vilamoura to meet the boat. Gábor opted to pass on this trip as he couldn’t log the open ocean miles and had some other options on the table. This meant it would just be me & Michael sailing the coastal waters of southern Portugal and Spain—familiar territory for me as that’s where I first learned to sail back in 2009. However, plans had to change again! More nasty weather held up the boat coming south and they couldn’t make it around Cape St. Vincent, the southwestern-most point of continental Europe (the bottom corner of Portugal.) This meant Vilamoura was out. I still had my ticket to Faro and it was much too late in the game to change it. I had to relinquish the bus ticket from the airport to Vilamoura but it wasn’t a significant expense. I would instead take a bus or train directly from Faro to Lisbon.

My flight from Dubai to Barcelona was pretty easy; just over seven hours. I spent the majority of my flight reading a book, listening to music, and catching a few winks. The meal was okay, but the elegant culinary description out-weighed the true quality. Lamb with rosemary sauce served with wild rice and stir-fried vegetables. Potato salad with green beans, and for dessert black currant cake served with vanilla custard. Meh. Later on the snack served was a barbecue chicken roll with tomato and mayo—a snack worth skipping. But it was followed by a white chocolate chip cookie for dessert so who am I to complain? The lady sitting beside me was from India and was part of a group of senior women going on a cruise vacation from Barcelona. She was pleasant to make small talk with but her attitude with the flight crew was slightly abrasive. I’ve never seen anyone so picky about every little nuance of in-flight service. From our conversation it seemed she’s very well travelled but I still had to point out which button to press to recline the seat. Go figure.

It was late in the evening when we landed in Barcelona. I collected my luggage and scouted the area for where I would be able to camp out, charge my phone, and hopefully get some sleep to pass the time. All the shops in the airport were closing so I bought a couple bottles of water. It wouldn’t be worth it to take a taxi into the city in the middle of the night only to come right back to the airport to be in time for my early morning flight. It just meant spending five hours on a hard-tiled floor. No problem. I was just glad to be able to walk outside the doors of the airport and breathe the fresh European air—a stark contrast to the summer sauna of Dubai. But my short night spent on the airport floor felt long. I thought about the people that live on the street and must feel that every night. The airline counter opened at 04:30 in the morning so I was one of the first in line to get my bag checked in and through security.

On the other side, only a couple of coffee shops were open but I still had a headache and slightly upset stomach which I’d had the past couple days. I didn’t have an appetite yet so just sat and started a new book since I finished the last one during the flight in. By 06:00 there were more options to choose from and I was feeling more alert. I found a place serving fresh Spanish orange juice so ordered a glass of that along with a salad of greens, walnuts, raisins, and brie, and a whole wheat croissant on the side. Gate information wouldn’t be available for another 50 minutes so I took my time enjoying breakfast, people-watching, and looking forward to sleeping for the entire flight to Faro.

The flight was just under two hours and I managed to snooze for most of it. Before take-off I had a brief chat with the girl sitting beside me. She was an American who had been in Spain with her university class for a project and was now taking a mini holiday to Portugal on her own before heading home for the summer to find work in landscaping. Her plan was to fly to Faro then find her way to Sagres where she had a place to stay, and see the sunset at Cape St. Vincent. I had driven there from Faro back in 2009 so was able to give her a few pointers, but with the weather news Michael had to share about the cape, seeing the glorious sunset was a gamble for her. I wished her luck then pulled my hat over my eyes to try to get some sleep. She put her earbuds in and went back to munching her Doritos.

Faro airport hasn’t really changed in eight years and I doubt the city has either. While waiting at the baggage carousel I heard the couple beside me speaking Swedish so decided to strike up a conversation with them and hear their story. I would have guessed they were on holidays but they were just coming back from a holiday in Spain. A few years back they left Sweden and retired to the Algarve to become ostrich farmers! Wow.

From the airport information desk I learned the best way for me to get to Lisbon was actually by bus rather than train. I hopped on a bus that would take me to the main station in town where I could then get a ticket for the near four-hour ride north. The ticket cost €20 and I got it with just two minutes to spare before the bus pulled out. The route out of Faro was a milk run to pick up small numbers of people, mostly seniors. But by time we were on the highway the bus was near full. I had an elderly Portuguese man beside me that didn’t speak a word of English.

Halfway to Lisbon the bus made a rest stop at a place where I could finally get connected to wifi since arriving in Europe. This allowed me to let Michael know where I was and get his update on the grand plan! Upon arrival in Lisbon I would make my way to Cascais where he was now moored with the boat, resting up from his exhausting attempt to sail to Vilamoura.

 

From the dirty bus station in Lisbon I followed my feet to the taxi loop. There was a driver there who said he could take me directly to the marina in Cascais for around €40. Simple enough. It seemed a bit pricey but he had a fare meter in the car. My chauffeur was friendly to converse with but drove like a maniac. He told me he’s just a cab driver on the weekends but his real job is a policeman. I had my doubts. With Portugal’s weak economy he just can’t earn enough to save any money with just the one job. While on the highway we were cruising at 140 km/h. He remained casual about it. We even sped up faster than that—I’m sure we peaked at 160! We were flying by the other traffic. I didn’t look over at the speedometer though, my eyes were locked on the road ahead! Cop or not, I guess he didn’t worry about having to pay speeding tickets. It was a relief to arrive safely at the marina in Cascais. I paid the driver his money and wished him to drive safe, then walked down to the pontoon gate. I was able to send a text message to Michael and within a couple minutes he appeared on the pontoon.

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It was great to meet Michael. We took my bags down to the boat and then walked back up to the wharf promenade and sat down for lunch and a drink at the restaurant on the corner. We traded stories of sailing adventures, piloting, and living abroad, getting to know each other a little more before setting sail the next morning.

 A pleasant, cool morning at Cascais Marina

A pleasant, cool morning at Cascais Marina

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That night I was glad to get settled into my bunk and get a much better sleep than my night in the airport. The forward cabin would be mine for the next week and a half, and though not very spacious, it was still comfortable… as long as the seas weren’t too rough. But hey, when the seas are rough there’s no respite but the fast land, so you gotta tough it out!

 Camping at sea.

Camping at sea.

In the morning I went up to the marina for a shower and came back to join Michael for breakfast.  Galley stock was a little low at the moment so it was All-Bran or Hobson’s Choice. Fine by me, I was just glad to be on an adventure holiday! Weather forecasts for the trip ahead were looking fair. We would fuel up and leave Cascais behind us, sailing north towards Porto.

 Michael checking the weather on his iPad before we departed up the coast.

Michael checking the weather on his iPad before we departed up the coast.

The Boat

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Michael's boat "Marika" is a Maxi 95, one of the sailing boat designs from Swedish Olympic medalist Pelle Petterson. Michael has added a few additional pieces of gear including the Hydrovane which made for a lot less work at the helm. The duct tape patch on the side of the hull isn't stock hardware either, that's just covering the fuel filler port since the pump jockey in the UK dropped the cap in the water just before Michael left England. Oops!

 Fuelling up before departing Cascais.

Fuelling up before departing Cascais.

My first day back on the water I had to find my sea-legs. I felt good for most of the day but then later in the afternoon my stomach wasn’t quite feeling right. I felt gross for a few hours as sunset approached. I didn’t have an appetite for supper. I didn’t get sick but I just had to let it pass and hope that my body would adjust sooner than later! I tried to eat some “Cup-a-Soup” and just keep myself feeling warm. As the sun was getting low we were treated to a visit from a pod of dolphins swimming and jumping alongside the boat. The views were fantastic. We passed by a couple of spectacular islands off the coast; The Berlengas. If we had the time I think they would have been interesting to check out.

I went to bed at 21:20. Still feeling ill but I was confident I would feel better after a little bit of supine rest in my bunk. My shift on watch was from 01:00-04:00 in the morning. It was uneventful. The weather became overcast for the majority of the period and I only spotted one other boat on the horizon. I slept again from around 04:30-07:30. With just the two of us onboard, we were taking 3-hour watches for the long journeys. We had breakfast together in the morning. Michael served up scrambled eggs, pan-fried canned cocktail sausages, toast with butter, and tea. I think my stomach was glad to get some food in it again. Actually, my feelings of seasickness had passed since the middle of the night. Following breakfast I did the dishes then had watch from 08:30-11:30. On my break I tidied my cabin, made tea for Michael, ate an apple, and wrote some notes in my log. Feeling fine.

From Cascais/Lisbon, we sailed up the coast towards Porto.

Our sail north continued into the night again. We decided our plan would be to head past Porto and anchor in Leixões. It would make our journey a 20+ hour sail but would allow us to have a couple of days in Porto.

Tuesday, May 30th, 01:10am - Bedtime. We anchored in Leixões at a safe place close to the wall of the marina. Had we not moved from our first point of anchor we would have been mowed over by the convoy of fishing boats heading out for the early morning work. It was like something out of a cartoon when the lot of perhaps 20 Portuguese fishing boats came roaring out of the Rio! It must be a kind of game they play to see who can get out to sea fast enough and create the biggest wake for any nearby vessels. It would be a quick sleep for us though as we planned to be up at 05:30 again and leave at first light, southbound for Porto. It would be easier to arrive there in the daylight, but Leixões, being a commercial port was better for our night arrival. It had been a long, cold sail in tonight. Just having a hot cup of tea and a biscuit before hitting the hay was a delight.

We made our early morning motor-sail to Porto and got to the fuel dock around 07:00. It was a beautiful morning. We sat on deck and ate cereal, yogurt, and fruit for breakfast. The marina office wasn’t open when we arrived so we had to wait to get a berth assignment.

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Coming into our spot in the marina we had a close call on the neighbouring boat’s anchor. Luckily Michael has a bow-thruster installed on his boat that allows for better turning agility. After such a long sail it felt good to get back on land and wander around a bit. There’s plenty for tourists to discover in the Porto region. Most of it revolves around the wine but since that’s of zero interest to me I was just happy to explore the city by foot with my camera. I went and walked around the nearby part of town, scouted a bakery, grocery store, and a place we could grab some lunch, meanwhile Michael took care of some boat business and marina paperwork. After lunch I would have a siesta then would meet up with Michael for dinner some place.

 One of the local bakeries.

One of the local bakeries.

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 Ponte d'Arrábida (Arrábida Bridge)

Ponte d'Arrábida (Arrábida Bridge)

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 Just a day in the local neighbourhood.

Just a day in the local neighbourhood.

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 Granny making herself some grilled sardines for lunch.

Granny making herself some grilled sardines for lunch.

 Granny suntanning her toes.

Granny suntanning her toes.

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 We found this place "Taberna do São Pedro" nearby the marina which was a good spot for some local food. Watching the scruffy staff serve the tables was part of the entertainment while waiting for our food.

We found this place "Taberna do São Pedro" nearby the marina which was a good spot for some local food. Watching the scruffy staff serve the tables was part of the entertainment while waiting for our food.

 Michael inspects the fresh catch.

Michael inspects the fresh catch.

 Fresh, salted sardines ready for the grill.

Fresh, salted sardines ready for the grill.

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 My plate of sardines.

My plate of sardines.

 The salad was nice and fresh, the bread was pretty dense—oil & vinegar was a must.

The salad was nice and fresh, the bread was pretty dense—oil & vinegar was a must.

 When I first saw this spot there was an rough-looking RV parked beside all this and I thought it was a Gyspy camp. As it turns out there's a public laundry facility next-door and these are the drying lines.

When I first saw this spot there was an rough-looking RV parked beside all this and I thought it was a Gyspy camp. As it turns out there's a public laundry facility next-door and these are the drying lines.

 Crossing the river in the ferry boat.

Crossing the river in the ferry boat.

 This bridge actually has staircases on the arches and guided tours are offered.

This bridge actually has staircases on the arches and guided tours are offered.

 While wandering around Porto I got lost in a neighbourhood and found this place. I love these green tiles.

While wandering around Porto I got lost in a neighbourhood and found this place. I love these green tiles.

 Dom Luis I Bridge

Dom Luis I Bridge

 Great spot to sit by the river, watch the sunset, and have some dinner.

Great spot to sit by the river, watch the sunset, and have some dinner.

We sat down to have a nice meal at a restaurant along the river. We ordered the platter for two that the server recommended to us. Undercooked steak, spinach purée, grated carrots, and potato chips, with rice on the side. What a combination. We sent the steak back for a few more minutes on the grill. During dinner I remarked how I’ve never been too impressed by the food in Portugal, and I wouldn’t call it one of their strong suits. Michael concurred naturally speaking his Queen’s English “Well, that’s one way of putting it. Some of it’s bloody awful!”—I can always count on the Brits to crack me up!

However, despite whatever culinary shortcomings the Portuguese have, I must admit they make up for it with their pastéis de nata. Portuguese custard tarts are worth every calorie and not to be missed any time passing by a bakery on a morning walk from the marina.

After dinner I went off on my own again and walked all over the city until I got back to the boat just before midnight. I must have gone about 25km. It’s so nice to see the relaxed summer social life the Europeans have—something not so prevalent in other parts of the world, Dubai being one of them!

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 Serra do Pilar Monastery on top of the hill.

Serra do Pilar Monastery on top of the hill.

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 The view from the monastery.

The view from the monastery.

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We enjoyed the time in Porto. It’s a very photogenic city with a pleasant atmosphere. The Douro Marina is very nice, the clean facilities and the helpful staff make it one of the better marinas I’ve been to in Europe. But it was time to keep moving north.

The sun setting on Douro Marina (Porto) our last evening before departing in the morning to make our way further north up the coast.

On our last evening we decided we would sail north to Spain and mark Santiago de Compostela as the final destination. Santiago is quite a popular airport thanks to the pilgrims and tourists to the area. I was able to find a cheap flight out to London that worked with the dates in mind.

We departed Porto for Baiona Thursday morning.

Baiona and The Wolf of Cape Silleiro

Another long sail was ahead of us. From Porto we made our morning departure sailing north up the coast of Portugal, with the aim of making it all the way to Spain. It would take 20+ hours, so we were back on our 3-hour watch shifts. Sailing into the night it got pretty rough on the water and it was cold. We had to have our salopettes, raincoats and lifejackets on—even a toque. As Michael said, we're sailing on the North Atlantic in summer but you’d never know it! It’s always nice to have some hot tea to keep you going through the watch. There wasn’t a lot of traffic on the water, some fishing boats passed in the vicinity every now and again and the lights of the land were in the far distance, but for most of the time it was just rocking and rolling over the waves in overcast darkness, three hours at a time. On break I’d hop in my sleeping bag, set my alarm, and let the noise of the diesel engine lull me to sleep. The wavy movement of the boat wasn’t exactly gentle enough to aid sleeping, but I still managed to recharge just enough to be ready for the next shift.

It was not long after dawn that I was finishing my last shift and we would have a little snack of breakfast so we could both be up for the entry into the bay and arrival in Baiona. I had been studying the chart and spotted a cluster of rocks just off the cape. The cluster was labeled El Lobo de Cabo Silleiro, or The Wolf of Cape Silleiro. I figured there’s probably a century-old story about these jagged rocks that eat ships. It’s not a spot you want to get too close to. I could see it in the distance as we neared the coast. The wind was a little erratic during this long stretch from Portugal and didn’t quite allow us to sail at the speed we needed, so we had to motor sail for the duration. Marika doesn’t have a working fuel gauge, however Michael calculated that the distance was in range. But… the resistance of the current, waves, and wind caused us to burn fuel at a higher than normal rate. And guess what, it caught up to us at the worst possible moment.

We were in no position for taking photos so I found this one of the cape from a similar position to where we were stuck with no engine. Photo from http://guias.masmar.net

We were just a few miles out from the bay, both in the cockpit, Michael at the helm, when all of a sudden the engine stopped. Silence. Michael & I gaped at each other, both with the look of shock, feeling the same disbelief but knowing exactly what just happened. He tried to start the engine again and I went digging in the locker for the jerry can of spare fuel. The engine wouldn’t start again. I found the jerry can only two-thirds full. We had to peel off the duct tape “cap” on the side of the hull and carefully pour in the contents. Then we held our breath and turned the key. After a few tries she turned over and Michael eased the throttle forward. Slowly we moved ahead and were just hoping the seas wouldn’t be too rough and we could just coast in on what we had. Our line for the end of the bay took us within a half mile of the Wolf. I looked over at these rocks and the waves crashing on them… and the engine quit again! A simultaneous shower of expletives and all we could do was act as fast and smart as possible and not panic. We tried radio calls to nearby boats but there was no response. We could see a little powerboat with a couple crab fishermen nearer the rocks and tried to signal them. Michael dug out the box of flares and fired a couple off. They didn’t see them. More cussing. The boat just bobbed with the waves, slowly getting pushed towards the Wolf. Another sailing yacht was coming our way from the harbour, we got them on the radio. They made a close pass by us as we communicated and asked for help with spare fuel. Nothing. They continued with their departure. There was just a slight breeze and our only hope was that it would be enough we could sail on. I frantically jumped on deck and prepared the main for hoisting while Michael was at the helm shouting out commands. I got it cranked up and from the cockpit we cycled glances between the closing distance with the rocks and the main sail feathering in the wind. Hearts racing, time slowed. Silent prayers for the wind to get us moving forward. Ever so slightly we crawled forward on the sea, feeling the sense of relief as we distanced ourselves from what felt like the gravitational pull from the hungry wolf. As we moved closer into the bay we got the authorities on radio and notified them of our situation. There was a finger pontoon we could come alongside where I would be able to hop ashore with the jerry can, get it filled up at the pumps further in, then take it back to the boat and give us enough to motor in to the fuel station. What an exhausting sail that was. And what a relief that we made it through in one piece!

Trouble on approach!

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After arriving safely in Baiona, fuelling up and getting a berth at the marina we wandered into town and found a fantastic meal. The Spanish know how to do it right!

 Tasty langoustine pasta.

Tasty langoustine pasta.

 The Chef's Salad; more than enough for one person!

The Chef's Salad; more than enough for one person!

In 1493, the caravel ship La Pinta returned to Europe to share the news of Columbus’s discovery of The New World. Its port of arrival was Baiona. There’s a replica of La Pinta that sits in the harbour and every year the town celebrates the event. If we had had one extra day in Baiona, Michael & I would have gone aboard for the museum tour. They also have other monuments around the town exalting historical nautical voyages and achievements of Spanish explorers.

After having a rest in the afternoon I went for a run in the evening. I went around the old castle, saw the amazing views and knew I’d be coming back the next day with my camera. I did a mental calculation of the distance to the cape and decided I’d run the 7km out there. It was interesting to see it from the land. I stopped and admired it and took some photos with my phone until the battery died, then I ran 7km back to the boat. It felt so good to get my body moving again after the long haul up the coast and stressful arrival.

 A nice view of the Baiona Marina from the old castle.

A nice view of the Baiona Marina from the old castle.

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 Cabo Silleiro, Spain

Cabo Silleiro, Spain

Looking back out to the rocks which could have spelled nautical disaster for us.

 The sunset from our boat on the first night in Baiona after I got home from my run. I had scoped out all the places I would return to the next day with my camera.

The sunset from our boat on the first night in Baiona after I got home from my run. I had scoped out all the places I would return to the next day with my camera.

A Namesake Surprise!

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Sometimes marinas offer a communal bookshelf for seafarers passing through or mooring for an extended period of time. From one of the marinas we passed through, Michael had picked up this Clive Cussler novel called “Dragon”, one in the Dirk Pitt series. I’ve only ever read one before and that was about 10 years ago, but a funny coincidence occurred with this novel as I appear to be a character in it! And not just any dowdy clown but Special Assistant to the President, how about that! It was at breakfast on the boat Michael was telling me that he had started reading his book last night before falling asleep and was only a few chapters in when he saw my name right there on the page. He couldn’t believe it, nor could I. I had to see for myself—sure enough, there it was at the start of chapter six. “Dale Nichols, special assistant to the President, puffed on his pipe and peered over his old-style reading spectacles…”

 

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I joined Michael for dinner again the next night. We went down a couple narrow back alleys and found a delightful place on the corner where we could sit on the patio and enjoy the local cuisine. It was so tasty! It felt like a true reward for our challenges at sea the previous day.

However, the troubles at sea would continue. On our last afternoon in Baiona, we left the marina and anchored in the bay. As we took it easy and ate our lunch of sandwiches and potato chips in the sunshine we noticed the boat was drifting. We were sure we had put enough chain out but were oddly still moving towards the shore and neighbouring boats. So we had to pull it up and try again. I was up on the bow with the work gloves on pulling in the remaining fathoms of chain, feeding it into the locker when it seemed stuck. It made no sense. It should have just been a soft bottom so how could the anchor be jammed? I pulled even harder and to our utter surprise the anchor was caught on an old fishing net from the bottom! Michael, not so agile with his arthritis, was still at the helm. I was pulling with all my might to bring up the anchor to release the net but it was a couple hundred pounds in weight! I couldn’t hold the chain with one hand and release the anchor with the other so shouted out to Michael to come up to the bow and bring the boat hook. The idea was that we could use the hook the alleviate enough of the weight to release the anchor from the net. It worked, but then the boat hook was knotted in the fishing net! Try holding up a couple hundred pounds of weight by a broom handle and keep your centre of gravity low enough so you don’t fall overboard! Michael had to return to the helm to make sure we didn’t drift into the other boats and I lost the battle against the fishing net as my muscles fatigued to the point where I couldn’t hold the handle of the boat hook any longer and had to surrender it to the sea. I was disappointed to have lost the boat hook, it was one of those solid vintage ones with a steel hook and heavy wooden handle, not like the aluminum & plastic junk they sell these days. I returned to the cockpit, defeated, muscles twitching from exhaustion, while Michael joked that I wouldn’t have to go for a run tonight. Ha! :)

 I ordered the scallops. They were nice.

I ordered the scallops. They were nice.

 The appetizer Michael ordered. It tasted better than it looks.

The appetizer Michael ordered. It tasted better than it looks.

 Garlic Butter Prawns. If you need a reason to visit Spain, this is it. Best I've ever had.

Garlic Butter Prawns. If you need a reason to visit Spain, this is it. Best I've ever had.

 Just as I had anticipated the evening before, I would have plenty of great vantage points for capturing beautiful photos at sunset.

Just as I had anticipated the evening before, I would have plenty of great vantage points for capturing beautiful photos at sunset.

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On my way back to the marina I heard some fireworks starting to go off. I ran up to the castle to get a view from the top of the wall. I was able to get a few decent photos of the fireworks. Not too bad considering I didn’t have a tripod with me! With all the cheers coming from the pubs along the street I figured some members of the town were celebrating the victory of their favourite soccer team.

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 The replica of  La Pinta  moored in the harbour at Baiona.

The replica of La Pinta moored in the harbour at Baiona.

Bye-Bye-Baiona!

 If you look closely you can see the old boat hook that now lives on the bottom of the sea. I wonder if anyone else will ever haul it up with their anchor?

If you look closely you can see the old boat hook that now lives on the bottom of the sea. I wonder if anyone else will ever haul it up with their anchor?

 Nice views of the old castle yacht club as we leave Baiona.

Nice views of the old castle yacht club as we leave Baiona.

Rainy Ribeira

We left Baiona with a full tank of diesel enroute to Ribeira. Weather was fair and we had blue skies for half the trip but in the early afternoon it started clouding over. By the late afternoon as we were approaching the entrance to the bay the nasty conditions were moving in fast. It turned into a stormy arrival. The last few miles in to Ribeira were pretty hairy. Visibility dropped significantly, ranging from about half a mile to a mile. Rain was coming in from the side, and the waves had us rocking and rolling! We had to keep a close eye on tiny islands and rocks that were indicated on the charts but not showing up on the GPS plotter. The biggest risk were the rows of mussel farming platforms that always seemed to be in the way. It was a narrow route we had to navigate around the lit buoys as there were several spots of shallow depth to avoid. We were tired, hungry, uncomfortable, cold, and wet. All the boxes ticked for a proper challenge! But we pressed on and made it to the safe and stable area near shore and made contact with the authorities at Porto Deportivo. The helpful staff assigned us a berth and we motored in to shelter.

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It was sure nice to get to the marina and get warm and dry. Michael had a pint and I ordered my water, and we were both served a complimentary dish of Spanish rice. It was a bit strange but tasty. We wanted to order a full meal but the kitchen was closed. There was one other restaurant in the building that was still open so we wandered in there. I don’t think they expected many customers. It wasn’t anything special and was being run by one lady on her own. She didn’t speak any English so I had to do my best with my broken Spanish to order us our menu selections. They didn’t have half the stuff we asked for. I ended up with a deep-fried piece of chicken with the palest fries I’ve ever seen. But it was hot food and satisfying none the less. We were the only guests in the joint and were kept entertained by the obnoxious game show on the TV. We admired the size of the tuna boat out the window and heard the sirens of the port notifying the arrival of the ships. Ribeira is a canning town and a large portion of the population work at the factory atop the hill.

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 This picture doesn't quite do the size of this tuna fishing boat justice. When you consider this is just one big boat that comes back every day full of tuna it's no wonder they're being over-fished.

This picture doesn't quite do the size of this tuna fishing boat justice. When you consider this is just one big boat that comes back every day full of tuna it's no wonder they're being over-fished.

 It's better to be looking out to sea from the land when the weather is like this. Not the other way around!

It's better to be looking out to sea from the land when the weather is like this. Not the other way around!

 On our way to the marina office.

On our way to the marina office.

 Complimentary Spanish rice with ham at this bar.

Complimentary Spanish rice with ham at this bar.

 Lovely day.

Lovely day.

 That's Michael sitting at our table being stared at by the lobsters in the tank.

That's Michael sitting at our table being stared at by the lobsters in the tank.

 I guess the salad looks okay, don't you think? Not sure about the rest of it though. When you're hungry...

I guess the salad looks okay, don't you think? Not sure about the rest of it though. When you're hungry...

After our dinner I went for a walk to get some air, a couple groceries, and see what else I could find in town. I had to be quick about it though as the rain was on its way.

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Once I got past the marina area and onto one of the city streets I finally saw some people. There was a couple about my age that I asked directions to the nearest grocery store. They explained the way but as the weather was coming in they kindly offered to give me a ride as they were heading that direction. It was just a few minutes' drive but an opportunity to get to "know" some locals—enough that we could have a conversation in Spanglish and exchange details of career and origin.

The main supermarket was closing but I got to a decent little confectionary store and found some milk and strawberries for breakfast, and they happened to have a white chocolate ice cream bar, which despite the weather, called out to me to be enjoyed!

I made it back to the marina before dark, and retired to my cabin to read a book and call it a night.

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Final Port, Portosín

Just when we thought the tense sailing was over and done with we were in for more today. We didn’t have any ugly weather to deal with but navigation was nail-biting at times. Leaving Ribera we followed the coast out of the bay where, when rounding the corner, Michael opted for the shorter route through the groups of islands. The charts had indicated sufficient room to pass through but warned about the hazardous rocks scattered in the area. It’s one thing to read about it in advance but when you traverse the area without a fully-functioning GPS plotter and start to see small islands that don’t appear on the screen, one's heart rate becomes elevated! The water was getting choppy around the corner and that doesn’t make it any easier when trying to make it through safely, keeping an eye out for any white water breaking that could mean rocks below the surface. It was certainly a relief to make it through the narrow passage unscathed but for the rest of the afternoon we were in for an uncomfortable sail up to Portosín with the boat getting bumped around by the large waves and strong wind. The "Naughty Norte" north wind as they call it, just wouldn't give us a break. It was hard work maintaining course. Michael and I took turns at the helm until we made it further up the Ría de Muros e Noia, the conditions calmed down and made for a steady sail up to our destination. Michael napped on deck and I just held course until it was time to turn inland and make our radio call to the marina.

Our route from Ribeira to Portosín.

 Approaching our final marina of the trip, Portosín.

Approaching our final marina of the trip, Portosín.

It was nice to have Portosín as our final destination from the boat. It was much prettier than the industrialized Ribeira. We got settled in and I made my way to the marina showers and was happy to put on some clean clothes. I got a map from the lady in the marina where she pointed out the best places to eat. It was quite a jaunt from the marina so not so easy for Michael, but we were rewarded with some tasty cuisine. It was just a tiny little restaurant that seemed to be the place for the local seniors to hang out and play cards. After dinner, Michael stayed to enjoy a little more wine then take his time walking back to the boat. I wandered around the village and discovered a nice beach to watch the sunset at. As it was getting dark I made my way back to the boat and soon fell asleep.

 Thank you "Marika" for getting us here safely!

Thank you "Marika" for getting us here safely!

 I had to have one more shrimp pasta before leaving Spain!

I had to have one more shrimp pasta before leaving Spain!

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Santiago de Compostela

June 7th we arrived in Santiago de Compostela. It was only about an hour bus ride from Portosín. Upon waking in the morning I packed my bag, we had some breakfast then walked to the middle of town where we would catch the bus.

After arriving at the main bus station in the city I got a locker to store my bags and we took a taxi to the cathedral where all the pilgrims trek to on their, often month-long, camino de Santiago. You see the usual bunch of hippie-types, some devout Christians, and other people just on the pilgrimage to experience the journey and perhaps discover something about themselves or life in general. The façade of the cathedral was under renovations so there wasn’t much for photo opportunities but Michael & I walked through the interior. There was a service going on and the place was packed with hundreds of people.

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We went into a couple of the tourist shops so Michael could buy some souvenirs for his family then we found a place down the alley to eat some lunch. We both had a craving for those exquisite garlic butter prawns. They did not disappoint! The tapas and bread were great. We enjoyed our meal together, watching all the characters wander past on the street. As Michael would be on his own for the remainder of his time in Spain he offered to buy my Spanish phrasebook from me since it was unlikely to find anything in the shops here but pilgrimage trinkets. A taxi drove us back to the bus station where I collected my bags, Michael & I exchanges farewells and gratitude for the nautical adventure we shared. I caught the bus for the airport and Michael would take the next one back to Portosín.

Thanks Michael & "Marika" for the sailing adventure!

Well, that’s the end of this blog post. We logged 11 days onboard and 300 nautical miles. I hope you’ve enjoyed coming along for the ride!

One tidbit of information I'd like to add as I often get asked how I find these sailing opportunities: There’s a website I used called CrewSeekers.net For a reasonable membership fee you can respond to advertisements of boats all around the world looking for crew to help on nautical voyages. Sometimes certain skills and qualifications are required, and other times not. So if you’re looking for adventure, it’s a good place to start. I just had a quick peek at the website again now… oh look, there’s a traditional square-rig Silverland from the Netherlands looking for crew to sail around Tahiti! Hmmm…

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Dale NicholsComment