Yacht Fathom - Setting off from England in May 2016 on a single-handed voyage somewhere a bit warmer

Archive for July, 2016

Figueira da Foz – Peniche – Cascais

I was aiming to arrive in the anchorage at Cascais last weekend to meet up with Claude who after completing the Jester Azores challenge was passing through on his way north from Canaries and Madeira. I had the option to do the trip from Leixoes direct over a couple of days or stop a couple of times on the way. Non stop would mean heading offshore at least 20 miles before heading south in order to avoid the fishing markers and other unlit coastal hazards at night but I decided to do day trips.

First stop on the 21st was Figueira da Foz. The wind for the 60 mile passage was again very light and after departing Leixoes at 06.00 managed a few hours of sailing in about 9 knots breeze from astern. As I was sitting eating breakfast in the cockpit there was a splash alongside and a dolphin came to say hello. Somehow I managed to get a photo just as they jumped out of the water alongside. Only later when I was looking through some photos on the laptop, did I notice that exactly one year ago to the day, I was sitting in the cockpit eating breakfast a few miles south of Jersey when a Dolphin did exactly the same thing – the two photos are almost identical. In the afternoon I’m pleased to report Manuel’s magic lure worked and the first fish was caught – a decent sized Mackerel or similar. Hopefully on a roll now… The entrance to Foz is renowned for being dangerous when a swell is running and water can break in the entrance but all was calm on arrival. Unfortunately there is nowhere to anchor at Foz and I was disappointed that the marina charged 23 euros for the night so only stayed one night. Didn’t get a chance to explore the town but enjoyed eating the fish for dinner finished off with a glass of Port from a few miles north.

Early the next morning departed on another 60 mile trip south this time to Peniche. During the morning the wind hovered around 10 knots and as I was out of bread decided to bake a loaf. Nothing quite like the smell of baking bread when at sea. By lunch the northerly wind had piped up to a good 20 knots and Fathom flew south at 6 to 7 knots over the ground, really fantastic sailing. A large sea was running as we rounded Cabo Carvoeiro but the anchorage off the breakwater at Peniche was nicely protected and a good place for the night. Very few other yachts spotted at sea except a 50 footer ‘Christine’ who for the 2nd day running had blasted past Fathom at 9 knots with help from their huge Parasailor spinnaker. I never like being overtaken by another boat even if they are nearly twice the size!

The trip from Peniche to Cascais was shorter than the previous days but the conditions were far livelier. While trying to hoist the main I realised that it had flipped itself around the radar reflector at the top of the mast which would have required a trip aloft to free it. Could have used the topping lift to hoist the main but just the headsail poled out was sufficient. Very exhilarating sailing and for the last couple of hours into Cascais the wind topped 30 knots with decent sized waves. On rounding Cabo da Roca and heading east towards Cascais the coolish air which had been blowing down the coast over the sea was replaced with wind that had been blowing south over the land. It was suddenly like a hair dryer had been turned on but unfortunately at that very instant a huge swarm of flies appeared out of nowhere and covered the boat both inside and out. Luckily after anchoring they disappeared as quickly as they had arrived. Being a Saturday the anchorage at Cascais was rammed with locals as well as cruisers. Claude was due in the next day and the town looked liked it would be a fun place to spend a bit of time.

Posted on 28 Jul in: Logs 2016, Portugal

Leixóes & Porto

The 35 mile passage from Viana do Castela to Leixóes was not the most relaxing. Monday dawned beautiful with a light westerly breeze and sunshine but soon died and the engine was on again. Manuel from the chandlers in Cangas had sold me some new fishing lures which he assured me would guarantee success along the coast. I gave one of these its first outing and after pulling it in to check an hour later found something had bitten the lure in half and just missed the hook.. Lucky fish! I’m getting closer though…

A couple of hours later a thick blanket of fog descended and never again lifted. The huge numbers of fishing markers and flags which are a nuisance in perfect visibility become a right pain in the fog because they are only seen when a few metres away. On the approach to the busy commercial port of Leixóes I put my trust in the AIS and radar with our course passing several large container ships at anchor outside the port. The visibility was so poor that I never saw any of the anchored ships we passed less than 100m away. The eerie sound of the fog horn on the end of the breakwater and those of the ships entering and leaving the port added to the atmosphere. After holding position for a few minutes the AIS showed the the entrance to the port was clear and no ships were leaving or close to entering so Fathom made her way in slowly and only when within a few metres of the marina could I make out any features of the shore. Certainly the worst visibility I have ever witnessed and a sigh of relief once all tied up.

The reason for visiting Leixóes was that it is the nearest and cheapest place to moor up in order to travel to Porto. Yesterday I took the bus for a 40 minute ride into the city. It really is a fantastic place and I went on a three hour walking tour to take in the main sites. One of the highlights was strolling out along the top of Dom Luis Bridge and looking down on the city. Before catching the bus back in the evening I enjoyed a Francesinha, which is a Portuguese sandwich originally from Porto, made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage like chipolata, steak or roast meat and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce served with french fries. Damn good. Couldn’t resist taking a bottle of Port back to the boat too. When in Porto…

Posted on 20 Jul in: Logs 2016, Portugal

Viana do Castello

The Southwest Rias (Rias Bajas) and offlying Islands have been an amazing place to cruise and I am very happy I ended up visiting them. Would recommend to anyone wanting beautiful anchorages, pretty towns and of course some of the best seafood anywhere. Could have easily stayed longer but decided it was time to head south so on Friday departed Cangas for Viana do Castello in Portugal – a trip of around 40nm. Pleased to discover that on paying the mooring fees for both visits to Cangas I was only charged an average of 6 Euro a night so happy with that.

After exiting Cangas a nice 10 knot breeze pushed Fathom down Ria de Vigo towards the open sea and we made good initial progress with full main and headsail poled out (see selfie below). But the breeze soon died and the engine was required. For the next few hours as we headed south the wind occasionally increased to 10 knots at which point the engine was turned off and headsail poled out again but just as we started making decent progress under sail the wind would die. Quite frustrating as the strong northerly winds, known as the Portuguese tradewinds, should be blowing consistently at this time of year. One notable difference after crossing into Portuguese waters was the huge numbers of fishing buoys and markers. There were so many in fact that our track resembled a slalom as we headed down the coast. Important to keep a look out at all times and definitely not somewhere to sail at night. Ironically on the approach into Viana do Castello in the early evening the wind suddenly built to a good 20 knots out of nowhere and we weaved our way through a  flotilla of kitesurfers and windsurfers as we went up river.

It is not possible to anchor in the river but there is small marina behind a swing bridge about 1.5 miles from the harbour entrance. While waiting for the bridge to open the pilot book mentioned a waiting pontoon outside so I tied up alongside a large Norwegian yacht who it turned out were heading back home after a circumnavigation. Within seconds of tying up I had been invited aboard and it was nice to have a chat and couple of beers with them.

Viana do Costello gained its importance in the 15th century as one of the main ports from which Portuguese explorers set sail. In the 16th century it became famous for exporting ‘Port’ to the UK. Yesterday I walked around the pretty town of grey granite and white stucco houses and watched some traditional Portuguese dancing in the town square. In the evening took the funicular up to the temple which overlooks the town but was too late to go inside and up to the observation deck. Fantastic view looking down on the town nonetheless. On the way down a local told me there was a free music concert on the harbour front with an “excellent Portuguese performer”. I was intrigued so headed down there later on but was disappointed to discover the singer sounded like a Portuguese Peter Andre and after he started his own cringy version of Robbie Williams ‘Angels’ made a swift exit.

Heading south again tomorrow cross fingers for some breeze.

Posted on 17 Jul in: Logs 2016, Portugal

Islas Cies

The weather has been very settled for the last 10 days or so. Daytime temperatures are reaching 32/33 degrees and the wind has not gone above 5 knots. Very good anchoring weather but not much good for sailing.

I spent a very relaxed few days last week anchored off Playa Arena das Rodas on the northern island of Islas Cies. This beach was voted the best in the world by the Guardian newspaper a few years ago. It is a fantastic spot (though Compton beach on the IOW still gets my vote). Unlike the southern island of San Martin which I anchored off the week before it is possible to go ashore on the northern island. In fact it is a hugely popular tourist destination and every day ferry loads of sunbathers and bird spotters arrive from local harbours. There are no cars on the island and only a handful of permanent inhabitants. I made sure I went ashore early one day before the first ferry arrived to get a photo of the beach.

When I arrived Fathom was the only boat in the main anchorage but on average over the next few days were between 5 and 6 other boats. I climbed up to the lighthouse with the crew of a Dutch boat which at around 180m was perfect for stretching the legs. Great view looking down at the southern island and the anchorage I had been the week before. While ashore I also met a friendly English couple who were anchored next to me and they invited me round for drinks and a very nice dinner that evening.

I decided to head back to Baiona for the weekend and anchored off the marina again. I like Baiona it has a good vibe yet is not too big and crowded. Went for drinks onboard ‘Maggie Drum’ owned by Duncan and Caroline who I had first bumped into while walking on Islas Cies. They are heading south through Portugal so no doubt will bump into them again.

I returned to Cangas on Monday in order to pick the mainsail up from the sailmaker. He has strengthened the repair I did so hopefully no further issues.. Yesterday I was approached by an Irish family in the harbour who needed a wind transducer installed at the top of their mast. The local tradesman was busy for the next week and they wanted to leave the next day. I agreed to go and install it for them. All went well but drilling holes 60 feet in the air and trying not to drop screws whilst rocking to the constant ferry swell was certainly interesting. As a thank you they took me out for dinner last night.

I am currently anchored off Ensenada de Barra which is a very picturesque spot. In fact it is another nudist beach. I am not intentionally seeking nudist beaches it just so happens they are some of the nicest anchorages! I am going to swim round the boat (in my swim shorts) this afternoon and clean off the slime which is growing along the waterline before it really takes hold. Portugal next.

Posted on 07 Jul in: Logs 2016, Spain

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