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Monday, 3 December 2012


Junk “Oryx” set sail for Lisbon from Baiona after breakfast on the 25th of October 2012. The breeze was easterly force 3, soon to become ESE and squally so we reduced the sail area by putting a reef in each sail. We had just cleared the headland of Baiona when we saw William on “Shandoo” setting sail for the Guardiana. The day deteriorated with frequent rainy squalls, so we soon lost sign of William’s tan and white sails.

Little Brown Job

The easterly winds and squalls continued overnight but during Pete's dawn watch he had a very tame and welcome visitor. So tame that Pete took several really good close ups, before moving the LBJ, (as Pete tends to call them), to the cockpit, where it sheltered for a while. 

Can you believe the LBJ let Pete move him to the cockpit?

The little bird brought the welcome north wind with it and after spotting William and “Shandoo” in the distance, “Oryx” then kicked up her heels and we flew downwind with surges of up to 10.8 knots, with three reefs in each sail!

Running downwind en route to Portugal

We arrived in Cascais just before dawn on the Saturday had a good run of 228 miles in just under 48 hours, even with headwinds and Millbrook foliage slowing us down. We spent Saturday and Sunday on board, as the wind was pumping and the sea was choppy. 


The sun came out and it was a pleasant way to recover from the short passage. Boats of all shapes and sizes were enjoying the weekend on the water. There was a splendid red Dragonfly Trimaran called “France” with carbon fiber sails performing at high speed, as well as a wonderful dinghy sailing on foils with his hull clear of the water! The dinghy is apparently an International Moth.


International Moth

On Monday morning we were up at the crack of dawn and after breakfast rowed across to the Cascais Marina where we awaited the arrival of the Portuguese Immigration officer, not realising that the clocks in Portugal go back at the same time as they do in Britain! The wind chill factor dropped the temperature down several notches, but fortunately we found a warm place to wait and at exactly 09h00, the officer arrived.

Oryx in Cascais

He spoke fluent English and he is the gentleman who explained the working of my Schengen visa to me. He also said that if I were to apply for an extension, whilst in the Schengen States, I would be granted a 90 day extension, so long as I applied:

  • a) Before the visa ran out
  • b) Had sufficient funds
  • c) Had health insurance

  • We set off to explore the streets of Cascais before taking the train to Lisbon. Portugal is very different from Spain, although there are similarities, but I found myself reflecting back on my childhood holidays spent in Lourenco Marques and Ponta do Ouro, as well as the time spent with Pete exploring the anchorages of Brazil. The train wasn't as high tech as the one we took to Santiago de Compostela, it was more like the one from Jacare to Cabadelo, although less colourful and more mechanically sound. Familiar names flew by:
    Estoril, Alcantara and Belem.

    Traditional boat sailing off Cascais


    Lisbon is a wonderful city. Pete had an idea where the old centre of town was and after briefly visiting the cruise ship harbour we made our way up into the labyrinth that is old Lisbon. The streets were steep and the municipality is still running the old trams.

    Art in progress under a wishing tree!

    Coast of Fortune or costs a fortune?

    More Lisbon rooftops

    Many of the cobbled streets were being redone and we climbed up and down the hills stopping to take photographs from the various viewpoints. At lunch time we found a quaint local restaurant and went and relaxed whilst having a fine, but inexpensive meal, accompanied by a bottle of house wine.

    After the rain

    The weather had been fine, but shortly after lunch the heavens opened and we sheltered in the subways of the central city, sorting out our Portuguese internet connection. Due to the clocks having gone back, evening fell early it seemed, so we headed back to Cascais to do some shopping, before returning to Oryx. 

    We had decided to set out after breakfast the following morning, but unfortunately our departure was delayed by a fouled anchor. Pete tried all his usual tricks of using the engine to break out the anchor, to no avail. He then looped coils of rope, trying, in effect, to lasso the anchor, in an attempt to lift her free. No luck. Pete then tried rowing the anchor out, no luck. In the end he donned his old wetsuit, after fighting to free the zip. (Who puts metal zips in wetsuits?) He the dived into the not so warm water and followed the chain down to see if he could find the problem. He did. The chain was snagged on a bit of rusty wire. Pete managed to unwrap the broken wire from the chain, although not without cutting himself. Finally, we were free to leave.

    Approaching Cape St Vincent
    Cape St Vincent

    We sailed slowly away from Cascais, the forecast northerly didn't arrive until well into the afternoon. The day was warm, but our bad luck continued to dog us a little, as whilst having lunch we accidentally rode over a Dan buoy (or Damn Buoy as we tend to call them!). Fortunately Pete managed to free our prop with the boat hook and we went on our way. The passage was pleasant enough, but we were becalmed at times. We finally arrived to anchor off the beach at Lagos on the 1st of November a little after 17h00.


          The following morning we rowed ashore and explored Lagos at leisure,    managing to sort out our Internet connection and pick up some groceries.

    Marina at Lagos

    Fresh fish market Lagos with Scabbard fish.

    Castle at Lagos

     When we landed on the beach we did so with ease, but when we went back to the dinghy, it had just started raining and a squall was passing through. We tried to launch the dinghy through the now turbulent surf, only to get Pete and the groceries thoroughly wet. I then clambered across the rocky pier barefoot (my sandals were already stowed on “Crake”) whilst Pete steadied the dinghy getting more and more wet. We were unable to do our usual docking as the waves were bashing “Crake's” bow under “Oryx” bridge deck, but ever cool, wet and collected, Pete went to plan b and soon we were on board.

    The forecast front had come through ahead of time and the anchorage off Lagos was now untenable, so after drying off and donning oilskins we put on the engine and beat into the rain. The progress was slow, as Pete had lowered the pitch of our Kiwi prop, on advice of a friend, only to find that we had virtually no power going forward. Correcting this was one of the 'jobs' earmarked to be done in Alvor. Pete manned the helm, until we were safely within the channel to Alvor and after checking the drying banks, he decided to continue into the anchorage at Alvor, where we then spent the next ten days.


    Back breaking labour

    High and dry

    Alvor,was of course well sheltered from the southerly gales. Here Pete re-pitched the Kiwi prop to its original settings and the engine speed has increased from 2 knots on tick over to 4 knots easily! Pete also scrubbed the bottom of the boat. It had grown long fronds of green grass, which we hope is due to the remnants of Millbrook mud, rather than ineffective anti-fouling paint.

     Alvor is a favourite place to spend the northern winters and the anchorage was filled with many boats, although the Dutch seemed in the majority. We visited a Dutch couple called Ted and Millie on board a 38' modified Woods design, with asymmetrical hulls, called “Tinga”. They apparently have been living in Alvor for three years. The simply arrived one day,met all their compatriots and found an open spot to put down their own mooring and here they 'live', except for hauling out and visiting their daughter. In the summer they sail along the Portuguese coast.

    While we were in Alvor Pete calculated the size that our  Jordan's series drogue needed to be and we set about cutting out and making the additional cones.

    Cutting the cones

    Sewing the cones

    Making the additional cones

    Pete tying om the additional cones

    Although we always seem just one step ahead of winter, we always manage 
    to find a day of fine weather and in Alvor it was no exception. We packed up a picnic lunch and walked along a boardwalk along the estuary until we found a sheltered spot with both estuary and mountain views to have our lunch. Later we strolled back along the beach, spending some time lying back on the sand. Alvor has many visitors in the summer months, but late autumn the pace was quieter, although there were many, many small restaurants and a proliferation of Irish bars all competing for business.

    "Oryx" off Alvor


    Alvor by night

    The pot of gold off Alvor
    Traffic off Alvor

    We left Alvor on the 12th November, trying the engine with her newly pitched prop (20 degrees) and managed a comfortable 6 knots even with the current against us. “Oryx” herself was speeding along at up to 8 knots in a fresh breeze, so it seems that the clean bottom had helped a great deal.

    Nameless village en route to Villamoura


     We anchored off the beach at Villamoura and rowed ashore immediately, setting about exploring Villamoura and looking up old friends of Pete. We were very lucky to run into Joni as she set off on her bicycle to meet friends and attend to a few chores. We arranged to meet her later and explored the marina and nearby town. The marina was full of expensive looking power boats, but many were up for sail. There were a fair amount of yachts, too, but not much evidence of 'live aboards'. Restaurants of every conceivable cuisine lined the water's edge, but the trade was slow and one or two were obviously shut for the season. The prices on the menu boards seemed competitive and despite Villamoura's touristy façade, seemed very reasonable.

    Shamrock 22' the new owners now own Pete's previous dinghy called  'Caper' sold to Joni, then to Asmat  and now to this couple. Caper was built in Cape Town in 1995!

    We returned to the boat yard and had a cup of tea on board Joni's Oceanic 30' called “Pat's cat” or “P.C”. Pete met Joni and her late husband in the Scilly Isles in 1979 and intermittently again over the years, as seems to happen in the sailing fraternity. They have many mutual friends in common and after comparing notes and weather forecasts, Joni declined supper on board “Oryx” that evening, but agreed to sail with us to Culatra the next morning. Darkness had fallen by the time we reached the beach were “Crake” lay waiting. We had come ashore with no ado at high water, but getting back was a different story. The steep beach had receded and we were faced by two shoal banks with vicious little waves ripping along them. I waded out as far as possible, pushed Pete out and jumped on board only to find a wave breaking on Pete's back and soaking him again. Most of the time we were aground, but with every set of waves Pete gained ground until we finally cleared the second shoal, only to both be drenched by two large swells, which chose to break on “Crake's” bows. Our luck was running out, but fortunately the water wasn't too cold and we arrived safely on board “Oryx” without much further ado.

    Pete and Jonquil Skelton

    Unfortunately Pete had arranged to pick Joni up on the same beach the next day and foolishly we hadn't exchanged phone numbers. We breakfasted early and Pete set out for the dinghy dock of the marina, hoping to catch Joni before she left her boat. As it happened he just missed her and I watched as he rowed two and fro. Joni was on the self same beach and tried to wade out beyond the second shoal, but got wet up to her waste. I was washing the breakfast dishes and watched helplessly as Joni then made her way across the rocky pier to join Pete, much as I had done in Lagos.

    Soon Joni was on board and we set sail, almost before she had a chance to dry herself and change clothing. Fortunately it was another warm day, but with virtually no wind. After twenty minutes Pete started the engine, we had to arrive at the entrance to Culatra before the tide turned. Joni and I basked on the foredeck whilst Pete manned the helm. A light breeze arrived at eleven and we were able to put the engine off. We sailed the rest of the way doing up to 4 knots without noticing the motion. Dolphins appeared and frolicked about the bows and then we were at the swirling entrance to Culatra. Here we did up to 7 knots, but that was mostly due to current.

    Farol  the village at the entrance to the lagoon at the island of Culatra

     We anchored and had a leisurely late lunch, before taking Joni ashore. She took us to a lagoon where many people over winter, particularly for some bizarre reason, the owners of various Wharram's.

    Joni caught the six o'clock ferry to Ohlao and then took a bus home to her six cats, not wanting to leave them alone overnight. 


    Fishing fleet

    The forecast for Tuesday was excellent and we set off at eleven with our picnic and circled the island. There is a splendid boardwalk which makes the stroll to the main beach possible at all points of tide. We chose to picnic at the eastern corner of the beach, with views across the channel to the next island and of the distant mountains behind Olhao. It was mid November, but the temperature was well into the twenties and Pete and I were both wearing shorts and T shirts.

    Memories Dylan?

    Boardwalk to the beach


    Wharram, too


    Spot the Wharram

    Mid afternoon we wandered on heading for 'Seldom Seen' and the lagoon which we have dubbed 'Wharram Heaven' or 'Wharram Haven' or even 'Wharram Warren'.The pictures above should explain why.

    fording every stream...

     The tide had turned and we forded many streams trying to get to view the boats, but eventually went back to the boardwalk.

    The weather then changed again and we were confined to the boat for the rest of the week and the weekend. The wind was fierce and changed direction often and it rained and rained, but that was a blessing as we managed to collect enough rain water to catch up with laundry and have a leisurely shower. 

    Rowing to "Oryx"

    My "Dubai" guy!

    When the weather finally improved we caught the ferry to Olhao, on the mainland, intending to take a train into Portomao, but the trains were infrequent and in the end we opted to stock up at Lidl, explore the town, have lunch, shop some more and then take the 15h00 ferry back to Culatra. We found a little local place on the front, both had grilled mackeral with the table wine and espresso to finish. We ran into Greg, one of Pete's sailing friends on the ferry across, again outside Lidl and on the ferry back. His comment was that when he saw “Oryx”anchored off Culatra, he knew she must belong to Pete, even though they haven't seen each other since a winter spent in Alvor in 1997 - before Pete built “China Moon”.

    Storks galore in Olhao

    Off Olhao

    After comparing the various weather forecasts on Wind Guru and Passage Weather, we decided that we'd have to reluctantly skip Madeira and Porto Santo as there was a nasty depression just off Madeira with a forecast of strong southerly winds. The forecast for the passage to the Canaries seemed more favourable. We hoisted the anchor after breakfast on the Wednesday the 21st of November and after a slight delay where Pete had to cut an entangled rope from our anchor chain, we headed for the breakwater, motoring with the port side sail up. The tide was high and we left just before the ebb started. The clearance was fortunately uneventful, although Pete had my adrenaline flowing with tales of a huge wave that had swept 'Badger' some years previously. Once we were clear of the fishing boats beyond the breakwater, we pulled up the starboard sail and set off with a pleasant force 3 following wind.

    The good weather continued into the Thursday although the wind speed dropped and at times we were almost becalmed. Pete and I took turns to lounge on the trampolines on the foredeck. At night I listened to a selection of music on headphones that use a SD card. One of the songs, long forgotten, was John Denver and Placido Domingo singing 'Perhaps Love'. The moonlight was dancing and the stars were bright. The AIS was proving to be very useful, when spotting distant lights, I could now check the closest point of approach and relax and enjoy the passage. The lyrics of 'Perhaps Love' were confusing: I thought they ran '...perhaps love is like the ocean, full of conflict and full of pain...' I didn't get it.

    Pete's surreptitious photos are not on par with Jim Wharram's

    Just after midnight, the predicted south easterly arrived, but the sea was fairly flat and going to windward was fine. 'Oryx' was making 6 knots with her clean bottom. As the day progressed and the wind intensity grew, the seas became short and sharp and 'Oryx' was pounding away, despite her good bridge deck clearance, most of it caused by the windward hull. Saturday the wind headed us and we spent some time tacking off the Morroccan coast. Our daily runs were growing gradually smaller. Sunday we waited patiently for the wind direction to change, to no avail. Aeolus was not doing what had been predicted. Monday the wind increased, but had freed us a little, we were now sailing with top panels only. The sea was still choppy and nasty. I must've acquired 'sea legs' because I never felt nauseous, despite the churning motion. However, my head was pounding at times, my neck and shoulder muscles were tense and it felt as if my cerebro spinal fluid was about to froth out like hair styling mousse. I now firmly understood the 'conflict and the pain'!

    (Ladies , word of advice – don't bother carrying mousse on a passage, it doesn't stay in the can and although the resulting mess smells pleasant, it isn't easy to clean whilst the boat is skipping along!)

    We abandoned our womb like sea berth with its pulsating rhythm for our usual cabin and whilst sleep was almost impossible, the noise was a lot less. Monday brought an easterly and many, many squalls, but just after sunset the wind freed further and we started flying along. The wind direction was ENE6. Pete reefed right down to enable us to arrive in the Canary islands in daylight. For the first time in the six years that I've known Pete, we settled for a cold dinner. It was just too crazy to contend with cooking.

    I awoke to the distant sight of the islands. We were surfing along huge waves with two panels of the port side sail up and still managed our top speed to
    date - 11.1 knots bearing down on the channel between Graciosa and Lanzarote. We had planned to stop at Alegranze, but decided to continue to Graciosa as there was no sign of the wind dying down. We anchored in the bay off Playa Francisco, just beyond the town. Both Graciosa and Lanzarote were glowing with green, they must've had some good rains recently and the desert was blooming.

    I will end this blog here, but would appreciate some guidance for future postings. This feels a lot like a journal and as such gets a bit monotonous. It seems like an account of veni, vidi, we picnicked... and I'd like it to be more. I know my female friends would like to know about the facilities at marinas, but in all truth we haven't been to a marina yet. Pete prefers the privacy of our own little bays and I tend to agree. I'm not the one doing the rowing, after all and it is very pleasant to be tucked away in a protected anchorage, surrounded by volcanic islands as far as the eye can sea. Also marinas should have more than just water and electricity, I mean we have water and electricity. To get my vote, marinas need wifi, hot showers and a laundromat!  We plan to be spending about six weeks here in the Canary Islands.

    Merry Christmas to all our family and friends
    With love,
    Pete and Carly.
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