This post was going to be about the culinary delicacies we experienced in Galicia, but since we had an ‘interesting’ sailing trip from Baiona south, we decided that sharing the latter must take precedence.
After briefly experiencing Baiona’s happy lifestyle we set off south on a Monday morning. The weather forecast was (what we thought just right!) northerly and fair force winds (force 4-5 Beaufort) for the next 5 days. So we thought it would not be too ambitious to sail straight to Guadiana River boarding Portugal and Spain on the Atlantic coast (429 nautical miles).
Since the target was to cover a fair distance, we wanted to catch the best winds whilst avoiding hazards near to the coast (fishing pots and fishing boats). We therefore headed offshore. After a couple of hours motoring the wind picked up enough for a good relaxed sail on a glassy Atlantic in the sunshine and with regular visits from dolphins. It was so nice that I started asking myself how could we have stayed for so long around land, forgoing that paradise…
The agreement with Sorin was that he would do the night watch. After dinner I went to bed leaving him with a starry ocean. No hint whatsoever of what was going to follow.
He watched a movie and played with the star gazing app. Just after midnight the wind gradually picked up and so did the boat speed. The ocean waves formed and gained momentum very quickly. Since the wind was coming from the stern (back of the boat) the rolling right and left started increasing to an uncomfortable level. Sorin reduced the sails to slow Mehalah.
Down below, I was not sleeping like a log. Firstly, because I am not used (yet!) sleeping on my own. Secondly, because I could sense the sea state was deteriorating. After checking on Sorin once in the middle of the night I returned to bed. At dawn I went on deck to take over from him. By then the wind speed had increased to up to 30 knots. We had experienced this wind speed before but not out in the ocean – with the ocean swell and a spring tide that was rushing against the wind with a speed of 3 knots. These conditions were creating erratic seas – big waves coming from all directions forming breaking water pyramids everywhere. We checked the weather forecast and the wind strength was expected to increase in the next 48 hours. We had to reassess our plans of making it to Southern Spain in one go.
We mentioned in our previous blog that the Portuguese shores are not as welcoming as the Spanish ones. This is because, as a sailor, one has very few refuges. The rias are no longer there at every 30 nautical miles or so, to hop in and out a sheltered area. Moreover, in Portugal the very few harbours have hazardous narrow entrances with sand banks. In rough weather, in order to avoid dangerous situations (e.g. vessels running aground) the port authorities close the hazardous harbours.
River Tejo, the nearest safe harbour to us (due to its size) was more than 100 nautical miles away (around 24 hours sailing) so we had no choice than to press on and put up with everything.
We fully furled in the genoa to reduce the boat’s speed to a manageable level. Each of us dozed off throughout the day for short intervals. As it got dark everything became more of a struggle as the fatigue levels were increasing. We had already agreed that we will both stay on deck throughout the night. There was no point going down below as we couldn’t have slept anyway. We continued taking rounds of short watches.
On one of the rounds when Sorin was off watch, knackered as he was, he managed to fall asleep. It was around 3am. He slept for 1 hour and woke up fully recharged. Great relief for me, as l fell asleep straight away. And I woke up in another world altogether. The rocking and rolling was no longer there. The sun was shining. I looked around. Beautiful buildings on shore. Stillness. I had been hungering and thirsting for it! We were in Cascais (12 nautical miles west from Lisboa on River Tejo). Needless to try to express how happy and relieved I was!
We stayed in Cascais for almost a week, waiting for the heavy winds (which over a couple of days were felt even in the harbour) to ease off. Cascais and Estoril, in easy reach from Lisboa, are 2 very quaint touristy sea resorts animated by young people from Portugal and tourists. They are popular with the Nordics, French and Russians. The palatial buildings were abundant. We shared the bay with boats from all over the world.
After almost a week we left Caiscais. We stopped overnight in Sines (Vasco da Gama’ birth place) – not the best anchorage as the bay was exposed to the strong ocean swell, so it was rocky all night. Let alone that in the late evening a music concert started on shore. Our stay in Sines was not the most pleasant, so we made it short. We left at 7:30am and despite being tired we made it to the River Guadiana in just over 36 hours.
It was interesting that after we rounded Cape de Sao Vicente the wind picked up again (to up to 35 knots), but this time the sea state was much better because the wind was coming off the shore. So we pressed on and we had a fast enjoyable sail to Guadiana River.
The scenery and the climate in Southern Spain are completely different from Galicia – a lot hotter and the Arabic influence is obvious in the architecture. We went in the Ayamonte Marina. We got caught up on chores and we did not have time to explore much whilst in Ayamonte.
The next day we sailed up the river. The scenery was a lot ‘drier’ (not only metaphorically speaking!) than expected. Nevertheless we fully enjoyed a break from sailing, with late mornings and occasional trips on shore for walks (not for that long due to the burning heat).
After a few days, I guess Sorin got bored and he decided we should go further up the river where there were a couple of small villages on either side (Alcoutim in Portugal and Sanlúcar de Guadiana in Spain). That was a good decision as we took a break from the wildernesses. In the villages there were pontoons on either side (with access to water and electricity) and sailing boats from all over the world some tied to the pontoons and most at anchor.
When visiting Sanlúcar we came across a bar on shore and we hoped that the wi-fi was good enough for us to publish an update on our website. Sadly, this was not the case and after having our cold refreshing drinks we returned to Mehalah.
The next day we got lucky as on the Portuguese little village they had very good public WiFi. We made the most of our access to the internet.
Our ambition was to update on our progress weekly, but sadly this is proving to be wishful thinking. The access to internet is a bit of ‘touch and go’, especially as we move south. We pop into a marina hoping that we will have good WiFi and we have a disappointment. But we also can find very good WiFi where we expect it least (e.g. Alcoutim village on River Guadiana).
We abandoned our plans to head east to Gibraltar as we visited Gibraltar before. Instead from here once we have a good weather window we will be sailing south to the Canaries (600 nautical miles which we will cover in less than 6 days non stop).