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Time to do this Thing on our Own

20 October 2021 - Exploring Porto

With the boat safely tucked up in Douro Marina for a few days it was time to explore. The marina is about 5km from the centre of Porto, on the south side of the Douro river. There is a fisherman’s village nearby to the marina (São Pedro da Afurada) which is where we had dinner the first night. We took an Uber into Porto and spent the morning having a wander round. Meg left us that afternoon and Mike the following morning. We were on our own for the first time since Guernsey. The marina offered a port tasting tour at Churchills as part of the marina fee so we booked a slot. It turns out that Churchills is a reasonably dry port compared to others, which we actually preferred so we bought a half bottle of a 1997 vintage and a full bottle of a 10 year old tawny port. Got a couple of coasters thrown in. Port in Porto, ticked.

We climbed the 200 steps of the Torre dos Clerigos for some fantastic views of the city, then decided to go for lunch. In our best Portuguese we ordered a tapas plate of meats and cheeses and a small plate of Pastéis de Bacalhau (salt cod fritters), a speciality of the region. We weren’t too hungry so two small plates would suffice. What turned up was two massive plates of cod and chips, for 14 euros each! And the meats and cheeses! Our first menu fail.

After lunch we limped off and queued up to see the Livraria Lello, one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal. The queue and the fee are thanks to JK Rowling who lived in Porto in the 1990’s. Apparently she took a lot of inspiration from the red spiral staircase and walls full of books for the libraries in the Harry Potter stories. It was a beautiful store. After a drink on the banks of the Douro river, and witness to an Instagramer taking a million pictures of herself while her friend watched on, we wandered back along the bank and saw an intriguing place. It looked like another library but seemed to have lots of people inside. This was the Casa Portuguesa do Pastel de Bacalhau. We picked up our glass of port, and a cod ball (for 15 Euro each!), all arranged on a palette designed to be held in one hand, and sat down on the gallery seating listening to an organist doing his recital. Very random, very cool, see the video!

23 October 2021 - Porto - São Jacinto (31 nautical miles)

After trudging up a steep hill to find a large supermarket (turns out we do this a lot, living on a boat) we were provisioned for our next leg. We set off from Porto at 11:30am, destination São Jacinto. Unfortunately there was very little wind so it was a day of motoring. The anchorage wasn’t too big so when we came round the corner at 17:30pm were glad to see only a few boats. We anchored in 4.4m not too far from a green bouy marking the entrance to the channel. As it was late we decided on a BBQ on board and settled in to watch a stunning sunset, very peaceful.

The next morning, bright and early, Carl noticed a problem with our main halyard. We had motored round from Porto with the main sail ready to hoist, ever hopeful. Unfortunately that meant that the main halyard had been fairly loose and, in the swell, had become wedged at the top of the mast where the spreader connected to the mast. It would not budge. Carl announced that we’d have to get the bosuns chair out and that he would have to go up the mast to unhook it. My face paled. As we had electric winches sending him up would not be a problem. However lowering him down made me really nervous. We have two long lines going up to the top of the mast, the main halyard and the code 0 halyard. If going up the mast we could use one to hoist and one as a safety line. Unfortunately the main halyard was the one that was stuck so there would be no safety line. [Later on we saw on a L42 forum that others had disconnected the topping lift and lowered the boom onto the coach roof and used that line instead as a safety. It didn’t occur to us at the time unfortunately.] I quickly decided that I would rather go up myself and he could be responsible for lowering me down. I would have to get used to it at some point but at 08:00am that morning and so early into our trip, I just decided it was the right thing to do. Half way up as I had to go out and over the radar support bracket I had second thoughts. Definite sweaty palm moment. I had done abseiling before and trusted the harness but this bosuns chair seemed flimsy if you weren’t sitting correctly with your feet perpendicular to the mast. Awkward. I made it up to the top and freed off the halyard, no problem. Carl yelled to me ‘How’s the view?’ I replied, ‘Yup fine, great, I’ll come down now please’. I hadn’t strapped a GoPro to my head or taken a camera up, potential YouTuber fail. Ah well.

São Jacinto was a small fishing village, mainly a few restaurants and houses. Not many places open, given the time of year. It felt very local. Very local indeed when we took the dinghy across to try and tie up for a wander. The dock had fishing boats all along it and people fishing off it. Our YouTube research had told us of fishermen getting miffed about dinghies being in their space and had slashed one so we chickened out and tied up to a sea wall. Not the easiest manoeuvre to clamber over the boulders to get to the wall. As we wandered through town and had a beer, we watched another couple on a dinghy just motor on up to the dock and tie off. As neither of us fancied climbing back over the wall in the dark we decided to slink back to the dinghy and move it round. Safety in numbers. Maybe we were just too green and needed to take a chance. Maybe the cost of the dinghy was still floating about in our minds. Nothing happened to the dinghy by the way.

25 October 2021 - Aveiro - Cascais (137 nautical miles)

We had decided on an overnight sail to get us further south towards Peniche but before we left São Jacinto we took the dinghy on its first long ride out to Aveiro, the Venice of Portugal. It was about a 20min ride through a few branches of the estuary. These days things are so easy with Navionics on your phone. We tied up at the end of a small marina pontoon (again with the dinghy worry and whether they would lock the gates whilst we were out and about). It was well worth the visit. A very lovely town with waterside bars and restaurants and colourful gondolas with painted bows. Some of them with very interesting graphics.

We weighed anchor at 6pm that evening and headed out. As there was just the two of us and we’d be on watch we put one reef in the main sail with full jib. The wind was around 15kts from the NNW and we were achieving 5.3kn SOG so happy that if the wind did pick up overnight we wouldn’t have to wake up the other person to adjust the sails unless it got significantly worse. We did have a 2.5m swell which was interesting but the period was such that it didn’t cause too much of a problem. It was concerning that, as the sun was setting, we were still seeing lobster pots around us. We had come out from the coast a bit trying to get to deeper water to avoid them but as the light faded, we still saw them pass by on the ocean side. 150m deep! Come on! As was fairly typical of this coastline, the watch was taken up with looking out for fishing boats and altering course accordingly. We don’t have a decent downwind sail so always have to keep at least 10 degrees off the wind to prevent an accidental gybe. Especially with significant swell. The night passed with several ‘intentional’ gybes to keep us on course. As we neared Peniche it was still dark and we had read in Navily about the many lobster pots on the way into the port. We therefore decided to keep going past Peniche and on to Cascais. It would be another full day of sailing but we felt we might as well get on, the wind was in our favour. As the sun rose in the sky we attached a barber hauler to the jib so that we could hold the sail out a bit further and catch more wind. The self-tacking jib on the L42 is quite a small sail and we struggle to get a good shape going down wind. By 10am the wind had dropped so we attempted to fly the code 0 instead. After an hour it was not holding shape and fog had set in. As we were still in prime lobster pot territory we furled the code 0 and started the engines. After a brief period of sailing again we came round the corner into Cascais. It was the fullest anchorage we had seen so far, lots of boats. The anchorage is just outside the marina, next to a mooring field of fishing boats. We tried to anchor close in but ended up too close to one of the fishing boats so raised the anchor again. As I brought it up it was clear we had picked up a fishing net. I couldn’t lift it off the anchor myself so Carl came to the front to heave it off. I meanwhile was on the helm trying to keep us away from the fishing boats. Of course the boat we were nearest to actually had several guys on it who were yelling some advice in Portuguese to us. At least I am sure it was just advice, right?

We had tried to go in to try and get out of a bit of swell that was wrapping round the harbour wall but in the end opted to go further out as we did not want to pick up anything else close by the mooring field. We anchored in around 7m depth and the anchor set. 137nm in exactly 24hrs.

Our first anchorage next to a YouTube couple! We had actually been next to them in Porto (check out episode 278 of RAN Sailing for a brief cameo of Rockhopper at 0:04s in) but hadn’t realised at the time.

26 - 31st October 2021 - Exploring Cascais & Lisbon

The first night we ate on board to confirm all was good with the anchor. The next day we took the dinghy across to the fuel pontoon at the marina and tied up on the end. It was a beautiful hot sunny day. We walked around the bay and went for a drink in a little bar. People were sunbathing on the beach and as we looked out over the water in front of us, there was Rockhopper, bobbing about in the bay. This was what we had been waiting for. Sitting on a beach looking out at our boat. It was a lovely moment for us. After a walk round the town we went back to the boat for a few hours. There is quite an active sailing club in Cascais and they seemed to use our boat as a marker. We sat on deck watching as they came within arms length round the stern, trying to get the shortest line. We make quite a bit of a wind blocker so some did not fair so well coming that close!

One of our must-sees along this coastline was Lisbon, so Carl called up a marina that looked like it could fit us in. At first they were fine with the length of the boat but when we said the width it was a no no. We’d read, again in Navily (did I mention it was a great app?) That others had taken the train to Lisbon from Cascais. We decided that was our only option. It would be the first time we would leave the boat out of sight at anchor. She hadn’t budged in the two days that we had been there so decided we’d give it a go.

Lisbon was beautiful. So many architectural influences over the centuries. We had not been in a big city for a while and wandered around aimlessly for a while before finally deciding that if we wanted to see the sights we should do a tour. We opted for a tuk-tuk tour for a half a day. A lovely woman gave us a tour of the city, up steep and narrow roads, dodging trams, with cars and scooters squeezing by. Whilst it was expensive (100 euros!) We only had the one day and we would never have covered as much ground had we walked around. Carl got a bit ‘churched’ out by the end of it but the buildings were beautiful and the altars ornate. We went up to the highest point and looked out over the city and across the Tagus river at the statue of Santuário de Cristo Rei, inspired by Rio’s Christ the Redeemer. Our friend Tony, who has another L42 called Games Maker 2, mentioned that there was this cool rooftop bar where we could sit out and look over the city. We found the street but could not find the entrance to the bar at all. Just a multi-storey carpark. Having past by it several times we walked across the street and had a cocktail in a very pink bar. As we stared across the street we saw a few people walk down the street and into the stairwell of the carpark. Ah ha! I spotted a small sign by the stairwell indicating that the bar was up the flight of stairs. We’d found it. As we sat sipping a glass of wine looking out over the city the wind started to pick up and we saw some clouds rolling in. We had planned to have dinner out in Lisbon then get the last train home but it was 5pm and we both started to think about Rockhopper, on her own in Cascais bay, with the wind picking up. We cautiously decided to head back to the train station and have dinner back in Cascais. Of course, she was exactly where we left her and all was fine. The wind did pick up to 30kts later on and the swell was starting to build. A few boats had raised their anchors and headed into the marina. We decided to give them a call to see if they could fit us in but there was no room. We’d have to ride it out. As there was now a bit more room in the anchorage we decided to move closer in. The anchor set well the first time but as the wind and swell built we opted to sleep in the saloon to keep an eye on the anchor. Not much sleep was had to be honest.

By the fifth day we started to see our weather window appearing to head further south so we took the dinghy to the fuel dock and topped up our diesel cans to transfer them to the fuel tanks. 149 euros for 80 litres! We topped up the cans again so that we had some in reserve. The fuel tanks were reading just over half on each. Not too bad considering the amount of motoring we had been doing. After a really good curry in Cascais we got an early night for our sail to Sines the following day. We really enjoyed Cascais, a great base for us for a few days.

01 November 2021 - Cascais - Sines (52 nautical miles)

After a long stay in Cascais we weighed anchor just before 8am. Unfortunately it was a case of too much wind or no wind at this stage and we needed to make progress so we motored for the day. We were rewarded with some dolphins surfing the bow waves again. As we came round the corner to head into Sines, we saw a couple of tug boats heading out to a tanker which was waiting to come in. We dutifully held back to allow it to come in before us. It was fascinating watching the tugboats manoeuvre themselves into position to pull or slow down the tanker as it was coming in. As it got near the dock they positioned themselves either side and spun it round to come along side the dock. Very skilled. We dropped anchor close to the marina at 6pm which turned out to be a bit too close when we settled, so reset a bit further out in 5 m of water. We had arrived in Sines, the birthplace of Vasco de Gama.

We ate on board that night, watched a beautiful sunset through the harbour walls and slept soundly. We had some things to sort out (flights home etc.) and some washing to do now that there was no swell so opted to stay another night there. We also decided to leave very early the following morning so that we could arrive in the daylight at Portimão. Later that afternoon we headed over to the fuel dock of the marina so that we could go and explore the town. The gates would lock at 8pm so I guess it was dinner back onboard that evening. We did find a cool little microbrewery though. The Greenwoods, exploring the world, one bar at a time!

03 November 2021 - Sines - Portimão (79 nautical miles)

We weighed anchor at 4am saying goodbye to Sines. Once we got out of the harbour we had sufficient wind to warrant putting up the sails. We hoisted the main sail and full jib with the barber hauler set on the jib again. By 8am the weather had turned a bit squally and we put a reef in the main. We did witness a lovely rainbow though. Due to the squalls the sea state deteriorated a bit and we started to experience 2-2.5m swells. Once the wind settled we shook out the reef and carried on, experimenting with the autohelm driving to wind angle rather than heading. Pretty good but lost it a bit in the swell. By midday the wind had dropped sufficiently for us to roll up the jib and unfurl the code 0. We got a nice 6.3kn SOG. As we sailed around Cabo St Vincent the wind picked up again so the code 0 had to come down. We had 18kn AWS from the NW and were chasing the sun to get to the anchorage in Portimão before we lost the light. The sun had set as we arrived into the anchorage just beyond the harbour wall. It was a large anchorage but there were about 8-10 boats already there. We found a spot and dropped the anchor but again, settled a little too close to another boat so decided to raise and move forward a bit. Looking back on it this is probably me putting out more chain than necessary. By this point the darkness had set in and I was using a torch to see the chain come up. The second attempt was good though and we settled in a lovely spot. All in all, a good days sailing, it was time for dinner and bed. Portimão would have to wait til tomorrow.



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