The long sail to Berlenga that got us all the way to Cascais

One of the goals with taking on crew on Mouni was to sail longer stretches without stopping. As we left Leixões we wanted to make an attempt of reaching Berlenga islands outside Peniche, a journey of 112 nautical miles. The islands are represented on a list of the top natural wonders of the world, and is a national park of Portugal so we were pretty excited! The start was slow, but at least we could sail. After a while however, we could not. The sun was hot, the sea was calm and the sails flapping. Time for some motor sailing. The advantage of going slow is that it´s perfect conditions for fishing mackerel, and we had the line hanging after the boat the whole afternoon. When we got too hot and bored, I suggested a swim. Jens was up for it, Stine gave in from “peer pressure” and I was the responsible “someone has to stay on-board”-person 😉 We threw in a line that they could grab after the boat and turned off the engine. After a chilly first swim they actually decided to jump in again and Stine took some great shots of Mouni out alone at sea.  There was no other boats or land in sight.

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After lunch we caught fish after fish and decided four mackerels were enough for dinner. It really gives another dimension to sailing to catch your own dinner, and it has made a lot of slow passages a lot more fun. The fish was served with home-made potato mash and lemon and life was good! Sitting out at sea, listening to music and keeping watch-out for all the Portuguese fishing buoys and boats. We all established our own style of sitting by the helm and protecting ourselves from the sun.

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The night offered very little wind but a clear sky of stars to guide us. Out on the big sea we often wonder how come it always happens that you have to give way to other boats when there is so much room to play with? When Jens took over for the first night watch he had to quickly start the engine since a fishing boat was coming in high speed on collision course with us, probably they just turned on the autopilot and went back taking care of the fish thinking no one would be in their way…?

When the new day dawns there is finally a bit of wind and I take over the helm by sunrise, steering south in 3-4 knots as the night watch troopers try to get some sleep down below. Also the second day is calm, and we are starting to long for arrival at Berlenga. At last the wind picks up and we sail with the Genua on the spinnaker boom in 5-6 knots. When we reach a valley of really deep sea, about 2500 meters, Stine finally get to sail with dolphins for the first time. It’s a big pod that comes and goes for a couple of hours, racing in the waves by the bow, jumping in the distance and providing a lot of entertainment.

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Finally we could see the steep neighbouring islands of Berlengha in a distance and are looking forward to drop the anchor. We got an anchoring permit (the islands belong to a national park) but when we got closer we could see that the bay where you are allowed to anchor isn’t very sheltered and since the wind was picking up it didn’t feel safe to stay. As the sun begun to set and without having had any dinner yet we made the decision to continue sailing (you can clearly see the frustration on the picture below). Before dark we managed to finish cooking the dinner – “svensk pölserätt” which Stine introduced on the menu (but that we have never heard of in Sweden). It consists of potatoes, sausage, tomatoes and onions in some type of stew.

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We continued south to Cascais through the night, only with the Genua up but still cruising between 4-9 knots. And so the sail to Berlengha islands turned into the sail to Cascais. After 180 miles we dropped the anchor and got some rest.

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We woke up to a sunny warm day in Cascais, which lies just north of the river mouth that goes into Lisbon. It is popular among tourists and also a popular anchorage among cruisers passing by (e.g. the German boat on the picture above with a very unusual mast). We spent a couple of nights here, enjoying the sunsets, scrubbing the water line and waiting out some gale force winds before it was time to head into Lisbon and explore the big city. We would have used the dinghy to go into shore in Cascais, but I managed to make a scratch that made a hole in one of the inflatable pontoons when I was trying to scrub the waterline…

Oh well, it gave us the push to continue to Lisbon, which is probably one of my favourite European cities from now on. More about that next time!

Hope you all are enjoying the warm weather back home!?

– Petra

 


NOTES FOR SAILORS

To get an anchoring permit to visit Berlenga islands you need to contact the Port Authority in Peniche. But there really isn’t much space or shelter to be found there, so probably more suitable for a day visit.
Cascais is a really exclusive harbour which we were not willing to pay the price for, but the anchorage outside is decent enough. The marina police gets a bit fuzzy if you put your anchor down closer than 200 meters to a beach, so keep the distance. From Cascais there are excellent transport to Lisbon and Sintra.


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A sailors guide to Porto

Bon dia!

We never really planner to go to Porto, but the winds wanted us there so we obliged 🙂 Out by the coast west of Porto lies Leixões. It’s a busy port both in terms of freight ships and ferries, so it was a challenge entering at a time where we weren’t in the way. Entering the same time as us was another sail boat “Pegasus” and after tying up we celebrated another safe passage with its owner, Stuart, from England.

Leixões is a modern town that lies along a long sandy beach by the sea. It is convenient to explore Porto from Leixões, you just have to cross the bridge and jump on a train that takes 20 minute to the city center (Trinidade). The crew of Mouni and Pegasus were ready to explore the town!

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This is the city where even the train station is worth a visit to admire the decorative tiles showing part of the history – battles and city life. Continuing up the hill the obligatory touristy thing to do is to climb up and walk across the large bridge of Ponte do Luiz. It offers breath-taking views and on the other side in Castelo the different brands of port is seen by the river, offering guided tours and tastings.

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But we spent most of our time on the Porto side, enjoying the architecture, watching the locals watching the tourists, and stopping for a treat on some of the countless restaurants and bars for a treat. There is more types of port than we can count 😉 And there is reason to take a break once in a while, since the town has several hills that you climb up and down.

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Back in Leixões, we decided to do a bit of boat work and sent Stine up the mast to attach some covers on the spreaders to protect the sail. There was a nice community among the sailors in the harbour. We talked to Irish, Finish, Norwegian, British and French crew. Some were on their way south like us and some were on their way home after sailing a few years. The Norwegian couple a few boats down from us gave us a shackle we needed to finish some improvements on the boat, big thanks for that!

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The next day we embarked on a long sail that would provide sunny weather, varying wind and dolphins on our way to Caiscais. But more about that next time!

– Petra


NOTES FOR SAILORS

Since the entering Porto can be tricky in rough weather and at certain tides. Leixões can be a better option (We paid 15€). Be aware when entering Leixões that there is a lot of commercial traffic (keep the VHF on) and there can be large breaking waves close to the breakwater. The marina has a visiting pontoon straight to the left as you enter the marina. There is a small chandlery next to the office.


 

First impression of sailing in Portugal and the day I shouldn’t have left bed

Let me tell you the story of how we sailed to Portugal, visiting the towns of Viana do Castelo and Póvoa de Varzim and enjoying the cruising life together with our Swedish friends (besides me that had a whole day of bad luck). A week ago we finally got the winds that could take us to Portugal. It wasn’t that much wind but straight from behind so we could sail butterfly south to Viana do Castelo. The sun was shining all day so the main challenge was not to get sunburned. There were little waves so I even managed to sit down and sketch a portrait of Jens when sailing. It´s always a special feeling to raise a new guest flag, and now it was time for Spain to go down and Portugal up!

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We arrived to Viana do Castelo just before dark, and as we approached the waiting pontoon there was a man walking towards us and greeting us welcome – Tryggve from Linnea. We are getting quite used to getting their help as we enter a new harbour since they are always a little bit faster than us 🙂 Turns out that they had been sitting on a pub drinking beer when they saw that we were approaching on the AIS, paid for the beer and ran off to greet us. We tied up alongside Linnea and joined them in the cockpit.

The next day was one of those days when you wonder if you really should have left the bed at all. I woke up with a little headache but got ready to join Stine to check out the town. Found out that one of the straps on my sandals had disappeared so had to go with another pair. As I was climbing off Linnea I stumbled and managed to strain my ankle. Since the pain subsided after some minutes I decided to continue downtown anyway. The same day I also managed to drop the basket so that all the groceries fell out in the Supermarket, and somewhere on the way home lost the camera (someone must have stolen it from my bag, but I will never know for sure), which we realised only after we had sailed away so there was no way to turn back to look or report it. Too much bad luck for one day!

Now that you also had to listen to me whine about it let’s go on to the more positive sides of life. Viana do Castelo doesn’t look like much when you come for the sea, but the old town is really cozy with cobbled, narrow streets with colourful houses and arches.We sat down on the square to enjoy some Portuguese coffee and sweets, but mostly the high-speed WIFI… There were some things that already told us that we had left Spain for a new country:

  • The architecture in Portugal differs a bit from Spain, the most apparent being the colourful tiles that covers a lot of buildings.
  • Another difference is what they sell in the shops, here we have found a lot more shops with handicraft, clothes with a lot of intricate patterns and lace.
  • Hearing the Portuguese speak the language sounds like a mixture between Spanish and Russian and we really don’t understand anything (besides Hola and Obrigado!). When you see the words written down it is usually easier to understand (if you know a bit of Spanish).
  • On the other hand they are much better in speaking English than their Spanish neighbours!

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After lunch the wind turned to North/Northwesterly and we could continue our sailing south. We left just 10 minutes before Linnea, and the advantage of sailing together is that you can actually take some shots of the whole boats when you are out sailing! Since Linnea is more of a racing boart she of course passed us after an hour or so. We had really nice winds as soon as we got further out at sea, but Mouni slows down if you have the wind straight from behind.

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After another great day on the water we arrived to our second harbour in Portugal – Póvoa de Varzim. Anders and Tryggve had invited us over for dinner and I´m pretty sure there is nothing nicer than climbing over to a neighbour boat for a three course dinner just half an hour after tying up the boat after a day on the sea. No cooking, no dishes, just a night with friends and entertainment. These guys actually wrote us a song in our guest book, based on the Swedish song “Vem kan segla förutan vind” (Eng: Who can sail without wind?). When we heard that Anders had a ukulele onboard, Jens brought the flute over and just like that we had a band 😉

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We didn’t know much about Póvoa de Varzim, but we got a link from a friend of a fellow cruisers´ youtube-video about his experiences here called “Where boats come to die”. There definitely were some real wrecks on the dry here, but also beautiful ships. The old town is just by the Marina and just as Viana do Castelo it has a lot of nice buildings, cafe´s and shops. There are beaches all along Póvoa and the heritage of working on the sea can be seen on many places, especially the artwork on the tiles. There was even a picture of a traditional sailboat on the decorative tile on the church!

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Besides enjoying the town we made sure to treat Anders and Tryggve with some cooking too, but it was hard to get even since Anders knocked on our boat every morning to hand over a bag of fresh bread… Póvoa de Varzim was also the town that our ways would part, as Anders was leaving the boat to fly home and we continued south towards Leixões/Porto. More about that next time!

– Petra

 


NOTES FOR SAILORS

There was a dramatic increase of fishing buoys as we entered Portugal, we basically had to sail zigzag between them and wouldn’t recommend sailing closer than 10-15 miles from shore without constant lookout or enter a harbour by night. There aren’t many sheltered harbours along the Portuguese coast so it requires some extra planning and a careful look at the weather forecast. Sometimes there is no shelter to be found in less than 70 miles., especially since a lot of the harbour can’t be entered in high seas (a lot of them close the entrance). Viana do Castelo is a friendly harbour with good shelter and close to the city. To get in they need to open a walking-bridge but if the marina does not reply on the VHF there is a waiting pontoon outside (we paid 13,57€).  Póvoa de Varzim is a rather large harbour a little bit south of the city center, it has reasonable shelter but when we stayed there during a period of strong southwesterly winds it was rather bumpy and noisy. It cost 15 €/night for our boat.


 

The last days of Spain on paradise islands with new crew

Now it’s been six days since this journey took a new twist as we got a new crew onboard. Maybe you remember that we posted some months ago that we were looking for some additional crew? Through the crewbay website we were contacted by Stine, a Danish girl who had seen our ad and was looking for some sailing opportunity in May. For us it’s been very important to find someone who was rather flexible in terms of time and did not demand of us to know where we would be a long time in beforehand. We also preferred to have our first experience with taking on crew with someone from a country with a culture similar to ours, to avoid unnecessary confusion. Since Danish and Swedish is similar enough we can usually use our native tongue. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we were rather anxious and excited the day she arrived, but everything went well and we had a relaxed dinner and evening onboard to get to know each other a bit and do some planning for the coming days. If you want to know more about Stine we might do a short interview later, or ask her to write a guest post about what it’s like to sail on Mouni with us!?

To introduce Stine to life aboard Mouni with us we had the perfect(!?) idea to visit the national park of the Cies islands outside Ría de Vigo. That would give us a short sail and some relaxing days on the hook until the wind would change to a more favourable direction. We prepared by getting an anchoring permit and buying loads of food (including a birthday cake for Stine that we managed to smuggle in without her noticing). The sail out from Vigo went smooth with the fair winds and not too many big ships to avoid. The coming days would treat us with magnificent views, the first swim of the year, some epic failures and all types of weather. Plenty of time to get to know each other 🙂

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We dropped the hook off Isla de Faro next to Linnea and launched the dinghy for the first time to row ashore and explore the island. We had heard about a nice walk up to the lighthouse and took off up the hill. Crossing the beaches, passing the eucalyptus trees, hiking up the mountain we got magnificent views of the cliffs, and the surrounding islands. All in all, we met one person on land. A Galician paradise.

But it was a sweaty walk and I really got in the mood for taking a swim. Throwing off the clothes and running down into the chilly water was definitely refreshing! With all the clothes on again it was time to jump up on the dinghy and row out to Linnea where we were invited for some beer. The first attempt was a failure, a breaking wave crashed in over the dinghy once we all had jumped in leaving us all wet with salt water up to the waist and stuck on the beach. There was a drop in the sandy bottom just a meter off the beach which caused the waves to break. The second attempt we went further out and managed to get out before the next breaking wave. Epic failure nr 1 – be careful when taking off in the dinghy from a beach with breaking waves. 

But we needed to get back to Mouni to change clothes before we could row over to Anders and Tryggve on Linnea to relax with some beer and Mejillones en Escabeche (pickled Galician mussels). Life was good.

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All the other boats left in the night, but we stayed and battled the wind and waves through the night. After not so much sleep we got up at five and moved the boat to the neighbouring island, Isla San Martiño, after breakfast. Here we found better shelter from the wind and after a couple of hours of additional sleep we were ready to wake Stine up with singing, flute and cake for her birthday. It was a rainy day so we spent it relaxing on the boat; reading books, playing games, indulging in the pancakes Stine made and ending it all with a movie night. During the day the wind was roaring while the rain poured down and at one point Jens discovered that the dinghy had turned itself upside down in the water. Now that isn’t in itself a big problem, but the oars were still on the dinghy and one of them got loose and floated away in a rapid pace. Jens jumped into the dinghy and paddled after as fast as he could to save it, but lost track of it in the waves and rain. Finally I could see it through the binoculars and Jens could salvage it and return the boat. Well done! Epic failure nr 2 never leave the oars in the dinghy.

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But life is not all easy in Galician paradise. After yet another night which didn’t provide the best sleep we decided to make a run for Bayona, just a few miles away. But since the wind was turning to straight by the nose and we were surprised by a strong current against us we had to give up after a few hours and turn back. After hours of zigzagging in three knots we now raced back in over six knots. Epic failure nr 3 – spending five hours tacking but getting nowhere. 

Back on the hook on the Isla San Martiño we decided to instead jump into the dinghy and explore this island too. Well, Stine actually decided to swim ashore and therefore could help us get in and out without getting wet this time…

 

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Isla San Martiño is basically completely unexploited. While Faro has two restaurants and a ferry in high season, San Martiño only has one residential house by a beach and the rest is jungle, cliffs and mountains! Even though Jens forgot to bring his shoes we hiked through the jungle up to the top of some cliffs that offered a great view over the island and the sea. Back on the beach the sense of harmony settled as we enjoyed a beer and a salsicca before heading back to the boat. How precious to get these moments after all the hardships that cruising life also involves.

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The final night on the islands was really calm so we were well rested and ready to start the sail towards Portugal the next day! More about that next time…

– Petra (Jens & Stine)


NOTES FOR SAILORS

Islas Cies is part of the Atlantic islands of Galicia national park (also including Isla Ons), which means you need to get a permit to enter and anchor. This can be done through a marina, their office or online. Both Isla de Faro and Isla San Martiño is worth a visit, Faro for its famous beach and viewpoint from the lighthouse and San Martiño for the secluded nature that is only accessible by your own boat. The anchorages are on the east side of the islands and can provide reasonable shelter from westerly to southerly winds .

More information on this link: Parque Nacional Illas Atlánticas (click on the UK flag on the webpage to get the instructions in english)


 
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Racing towards Vigo

Coruna – Camariñas, 59Nm, top speed 11,3 knots

Leaving La Coruna we knew that it would be a tough day, with between 10-14 m/s in our back. We had prepared the jib and two reefs in the main, but when we got out of the harbor there was almost no wind. Steering further out to sea than our planner route to get some winds in the sails the strong wind finally kicked in. but by then we had changed to the Genua. The winds were fierce but the waves were quite okay and after a while we raced south in six knots with only the jib.

Did I hear someone call our name on the radio?

The wind was roaring and we were surfing the waves which pretty much demanded complete concentration. Next time I heard something on the radio I listened more closely.

“Mouni, Mouni, det är Linnea här!” Said Anders from Gothenburg on the VHF.

We decided to respond a little bit later once we got a bit further in from the sea, assuming it would be calmer then. It was still rough as we entered the bay, and the waves grew as it became more shallow but we managed to call them up on the radio. They had called us to say that they were moored up in the harbor in Camariñas and had saved a spot for us. We had intended to anchor, but it didn’t look sheltered enough in this wind direction so we were quite happy to moor up next to them and get some help to tie the boat in the strong wind. Later we joined Anders and his three friends at the restaurant by the harbour for some gambas and “carne asado” (which was marveoullous) and a beer. Two tired sailors went to bed to get some sleep, after racing 60 miles.

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Camariñas – Ensenada de Sardineiro 34Nm, top speed 10,6 knots

The next day the winds should be equally strong, but we only intended to make a shorter trip around the tip of Finistére and therefore took a slow start. Started off only with the jib but there were weak winds in the bay so we considered to raise the main too, luckily we didn’t. As soon as we left the bay the wind picked up (20-25 knots) and it was quite thrilling to see the log showing between 5-8 knots in approximately three meters of swell heading straight south. The sun was shining and since we had the wind and swell in our back it was quite enjoyable, until we rounded the peninsula of Cabo Finistére and had to tack against the wind towards the anchorage. Roughly the last four miles took equally long time as the previous twenty. Choppy seas made a wet and bumpy ride. Our anchorage was just by a long golden beach with a village and hills in the background. There was quite some wind in the anchorage, but no waves so good enough for us. Thank you Gunnar for making sure we didn’t miss this beautiful place!

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Ensenada de Sardineiro – San Vicente do Mar 44,8Nm, average speed 5 knots

The next day when the wind direction changed to southwesterly we needed to keep up as close as possible to the wind. The strong sun quickly evaporated the all the spray, which gave us a very salty surface on the deck, sails and everything else. Since the forecast said there would be strong gale force winds the next day we needed to make sure that we settled in a harbor with good shelter. At one point we considered to go straight to Vigo, but since we already had sailed pretty far we settled for the ría before Vigo, at Porto Pedras Negras. When you approached the harbour and the village it looked like a typical modern resort town, with lots of apartment buildings and villas with balconies towards the sea. Sandy beaches surrounded the bay. But when I decided to take a walk along the water I quickly realised why this was such a popular place – the views were stunning! I took the pathway around the peninsula to get a good look at the sunset. When the winds hit the next day the weather stations close-by reported winds up to 50 knots (25m/s) and we were happy to stay in harbour. We used the time to do some projects on the boat, I did some paint jobs and Jens installed the last speaker. We are now ready to throw parties onboard 😉

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San Vicente do Mar- Cangas (Ría de Vigo) 30,5Nm, Top speed 8 knots, average speed 2,1 knots

The last stretch to the bay of Vigo was probably the most tedious passage we have done in a long while. The wind was straight on our nose so we were tacking back and forth but the winds were weak so the speed was low. The only comfort was that we got a close look at the national park of Illa Ons and could take advantage of the slow speed to do some fishing. The bait delivered once more, and we managed to catch tree mackerels for dinner (a fourth one were lost). Once we got into ría de Vigo we intended to anchor by the beach in Bouza, but we got called up on the radio by Anders once again letting us know that he was staying in the harbour on the other side, Cangas. Once we realised that his crew had flew home we asked if he wanted to join us for dinner to eat the fish we caught, and we ended up having a nice evening in the cockpit of Linnea instead. Just before we entered the harbour of Cangas we were greeted by a pod of dolphins, the biggest we have seen so far. It felt like we indeed were destined to stay in Cangas.

Although Cangas was a nice place and the yesterday we went to the beach just outside Cangas for a night on the hook. We have now moored up in Vigo (Porto Deportivo Real Club Nautico) for a very special reason – our new crew arrives today! We are very excited to have another crew onboard, and hope to enjoy both winds and sun going south over Portugal the next few weeks. Welcome Stine!

– Petra & Jens

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NOTES FOR SAILORS

This stretch of coast is very beautiful and it is really recommended to not be in a hurry. We heard about sailors spending several years around this area exploring the different Rias (rivers). Some of the places that we visited this time have small marinas (Camariñas 11€ and San Vicento do Mar 13€) so during summer it is probably important to call ahead on the VHF to make sure they have space available. Since we were a bit scared of the strong winds we only anchored twice but anchoring options are plentiful. If the proper preparations are made with food and water, there is no need to go to the marinas. Navigation is easy but one thing to look out for is nature reserves which extends out to the water around some of the islands. Permits are required to sail through these waters. Take your time and enjoy.

Vigo is of course a big city with at least three different marinas and also big commercial harbours so look out for the heavy traffic. The marina where we stayed (Porto Deportivo Real Club Nautico) is the fanciest place we have stayed so far with an indoor pool and sauna. This is reflected in the price though. We had to pay 23 Euro for one night, the most expensive so far in Spain (but compared to the west coast of Sweden and Norway still very good value). Opposite Vigo lies Cangas, and here we paid 15€ but if you want to go to Vigo there is a ferry that costs about 2,2€.