Much has happened these past few weeks – we’ve sailed over 200nm along the Portuguese coast, visited some small harbours with scenic towns; indulged in too many yummy custard tarts and cheap wine; explored the shadowed lanes and sunny heights of Lisbon; dodged getting hit by a dragging boat; dropped a winch handle overboard; hauled the boat out for essential maintenance; shattered a wind generator blade; slammed into by another dragging boat; and snagged a fish farm…
Making our way south from the marina at Povoa de Varzim, we expected a quick sail in 15-25kn, helped along by a south flowing current. The wind remained lighter than expected, so for 75nm the boat yawed from side to side, winged out sails flapping as the boat dipped over each swell. As soon as we had the entrance to Figueira da Foz in our sights, the wind finally strengthened to over 20kn. The entrance can be difficult in large breaking seas, but fortunately we had good conditions. We motored to the marina and stayed only one night; enough light to walk around the town before sunset.
The small fishing village of Peniche is 57nm south of Figueira da Foz, and an affordable place to stop for the night at the small marina.
With so many fishing pots, ropes and flags dotted along the coastline, we agreed that sailing overnight could result in a rope catching around our prop. We’ve seen the trouble this can cause while sailing around Indonesia and Malaysia and we didn’t fancy jumping in the Atlantic darkness to clear the prop in the middle of the night.
From Peniche, we experienced the thickest fog of all our voyages (except for the time in Lake Michigan in 2015). The fog was so thick we could see no more than 0.25nm ahead; the radar picking up boats and even the smallest fishing float. Assuming the fog would clear by mid-morning, it wasn’t until we rounded Cabo Raso and the final stretch to the Cascais anchorage in late afternoon did the sun appear as the blue sky opened up.
Over the previous weeks, we’d noticed our bilge going off now and again – very unusual for our boat. While sailing along, Wayne investigated and could see sea-water coming out of the purpose telltale indicator hole at the top of the rudder suggesting the lower rudder seal was leaking. Bugger!
After a night at anchor at the busy Cascais anchorage, we headed into the Parque das Nações marina to the east of Lisbon. Here we could look at the problem in a calm environment and give us a place to stay while we explored Lisbon.
Cascais anchorage to the Parque das Nações marina is 18nm and the currents run strong along the Tagus River – up to five knots during spring tides. The bridge – Ponte 25 de Abril – resembles San Fran’s Golden Gate bridge. It has a height clearance of 70m and the traffic above sounds like a hive of bees as we motor underneath.
We make sure to reach the entrance to the marina at slack water. A guy in the welcome rib guides us and we follow him through the zig-zag entrance. Easy enough at slack water, but notoriously difficult during fast flowing spring tides I’m told.
The Parque das Nações – Park of Nations Marina – offers a 10% discount for OCC members so the daily rate was less than the four marinas along the Tagus River run by the Lisbon Port Authority. The thoughtful welcome-pack offered to us on arrival contained everything we needed to enjoy our stay in Lisbon – bus times, maps, sites to visit, and so on. The Parque das Nações was created for the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition so the area is quite modern and handy to catch buses or trains into the centre of Lisbon.
There was little we could do to fix the rudder problem on the water – believe me we tried! So, sight-seeing was on the agenda until we could get hauled out. After breakfast of Pastéis de Nata, small custard tarts, we walked around the old part of Lisbon admiring the old tiled buildings, then caught the 15E tram down to Belém Tower, a 16th century fortification on the northern bank of the Tagus River – one of the few remaining buildings after the Great Lisbon Earthquake in 1755; the resultant fires and tsunami pretty much decimated the entire city.
The Monument to the Discoveries (Padrão dos Descobrimentos) erected in the early 1960s looks over the Tagus River. At the prow stands Henry the Navigator who led maritime discoveries and initiated the period known as the Age of Discovery. Behind him is King Alfonso V of Portugal and next is great explorer, Vasco da Gama. Behind the monument looking towards Jerónimos Monastery is an impressive compass rose constructed from red, black and neutral limestone.
Conveniently for us, the Centro Nautico boatyard in Alges (3kms west of the Belém Tower) could haul Blue Heeler that week. This is the first time we’ve had to be hauled for unscheduled work and the fact that we’d only been out of the water four months ago purposely for an insurance survey was unfortunate.
The staff at the boatyard are super friendly and helpful, and speak excellent English. The train station is close by, as are shops and laundries. The boatyard is clean and spacious and they didn’t have a problem with us staying aboard while we did the work. Once Blue Heeler was hauled out and plonked on a cradle, we began the routine of setting up for life in a hot boatyard.
After stripping the aft cabin, of spinnakers, mattresses, and all the other crap we have in there, Wayne spent the next day horizontal, stripping the steering system from the rudder shaft; then removing the rudder bearings and seals. New seals were ordered from Hallberg Rassy in Sweden and delivered the next day. Within two days he’d replaced the seals with new ones and reassembled the rest of the steering system. Sorted.
With our launch date set after the weekend, this gave us time to do some minor jobs, while also taking time to further explore Lisbon. A heatwave over the Iberian Peninsula that week had the temperature up to 35degC, while interior Spain it reached 47degC. Next to the boatyard is a beach so I spent an hour or so there to cool down – the water is still a chilly 17degC and few people were in the water despite the hot conditions.
The launch was successful and with the rudder working okay and no seawater entering the boat, we headed south 27nm to the anchorage at Sesimbra where we could relax. Or could we?
Later that evening as we were watching TV, I saw a forestay passing close to our boat as it dragged by in the 25+kn winds. I was surprised it didn’t hit us, as we’ve been smacked into by dragging boats so many times. It wasn’t a surprise that it dragged in the windy conditions as we’d watched the owner anchor ahead of us and lay a short amount of rope rode. It wasn’t possible for us to help the boat in the windy conditions, but I contacted the authorities who turned up within an hour. Miraculously, the boat managed to snag its anchor and stop some distance away from the safety of the anchorage. Fortunately for the two young boaters who had gone ashore, the police had tracked them down and took them out to their boat whereupon they re-anchored. It’s good when this happens.
A 32nm sailing day from Sesimbra to Sines was pleasant. Sines anchorage is quite small and exposed to the western swell; still we had a good nights sleep. Other boats had similar thoughts to leave early for the 65nm sail to get around Cabo de Sao Vicente – the most southwestern cape of the Iberian Peninsula, and Europe. The wind was light, but eventually increased giving us a great sail. Somewhere along this trip one of our winch handles jumped ship and descended into the depths. It happens…
Around the cape, the wind increased to 30kn as expected, but with reefed sails, we rode the conditions well and sailed our way into Enseada de Sagres where the strong north wind persisted all night. At some point during the night, one of our wind generator blades ejected itself into the stratosphere, disappearing into the night, ultimately joining the winch handle in the depths I expect. Seems that corrosion deformed the aluminium, causing one of the plastic blades to split and shatter. This sometimes happens. Good job we have spares aboard.
With our impotent wind generator sporting a new look, on the way to Portimao, we found ourselves in the midst of a newly created fish farm. So many buoys and not one marked on the chart. At first we thought the buoys were independent of each other and motored our way through. But the last line of buoys were connected by a thick rope. Oops!
Our keel snagged the rope and there we were. A boatload of workers came by shaking their heads; ultimately, one guy jumped in and freed us from the trap. After thanking them for helping us, we continued the final few miles to Portimao. This also happens…
So, now we are in the Algarve – beaches adorned with sun worshippers and masked tourists. It’s quite surreal to think there’s even a pandemic, but masks are worn and venues are still under restrictions. From what I’ve read, Portugal is doing well with their vaccinations too – 65% of the population vaccinated.
After contacting Portugal’s Immigration office (SEF), we were advised of a Decree from 17th March that will allow us to stay in Portugal beyond our 90 day Schengen expiry date, due to Portugal’s State of Emergency regarding the pandemic. Morocco is still closed to foreign yachts, and with the relentless Orca attacks on boats still an issue (to the point where Spain declared an exclusion zone for yachts in an area between Barbate and Tarifa closer towards the Strait of Gibraltar), we have little option but to stay in this region for now. The last thing we need now is to have our rudder chewed off by ‘playful’ cetaceans. That does not normally happen!
Until next time…
(I kid you not – while typing up this on my HP laptop this afternoon, a loud bang from outside. A small power-boat had dragged anchor and thumped into us in this busy anchorage. This we expected to happen!)