Generally speaking, we are day sailors. At least if you consider 12-hour stretches to be a day. But sometimes we want to get further and set out on a longer passage even though there are harbours along the coast that enable day sailing. The thing with longer passages though, is that they never really turn out the way we think when we plan for it. And afterwards, I always end up with “hindsight bias”, thinking that we should have known it would turn out this way and chosen another strategy. But no matter how much planning one do, there are things that you could not have known and that you just have to face and accept. Before telling you about our time in Lagos, let me illustrate the many faces of longer passages with two of the trips we have made the last few weeks.
Lisbon to Lagos – 163 miles, 55 hours
A racing start and rocking through the night. The goodbye to Lisbon was delayed since we realized that the technician who had been testing our systems left a bug that meant we couldn’t recharge our batteries. To get us in a better mood, I cooked some dinner and opened a bottle of wine, just to notice the technician walking down the jetty once more. And so it happened that we left Lisbon just before sunset, in a strong easterly wind. Leaving the river, a huge tanker blowed the horn and surprised us as it sneaked up just besides us in fast speed. The wind was fierce and decreased the sails. The wind decreased shortly thereafter, and soon it did not hold up the sails very well. The night felt incredibly long, a lot of sounds that kept us awake and you lie in bed trying to hold on as the boat is rocking back and forth. It was one of those nights where I wonder if it’s worth it, it is just so uncomfortable.
Close encounter through the hull. But then, when lying in bed trapped in ones own thoughts that sound appears – the sound of dolphins. It’s fascinating to lie inside the boat hearing the water rippling and knowing that just on the other side of the hull they are swimming next to us, those high pitch noises that they use for orientation and communication piercing through the hull. A sense of wonder appears and at that time it is all worth it again. The next day we are all in some kind of zombie mode, but being three onboard makes it easier to get some rest and the tasks are not so daunting when shared. When the second evening arrives we still have a long way to go.
A few miles that takes forever. The whole day passes with a wind that slowly takes us south, but the low speed means that we don’t manage to get back into shore until the forecasted heavy easterly winds hits us. After fighting the north going stream and tacking for hours we finally arrive to shelter on anchor next to a beach on the last stretch of the Portuguese west coast. But don´t we have the best crew that decides to play some ukulele as we are beating against the roaring wind? 😀
Fishing by the beach and arriving at the Algarve coast. We rest until sunset, and Stine manages to get two new types of fish on the hook which we can enjoy for dinner. When the wind has turned again we round the southwestern tip of Portugal where dramatic cliffs in grey, red and black face the Atlantic sea. Finally we pick up some speed, and arrive in Lagos at the same time as the drunk youngsters are walking home from their partying. The passage that we thought would take about 30 hours ended up taking 55 hours and there were three happy zombies who finally could get some sleep.
Lagos to Cadiz? Tarife? Barbate! 190 miles, 42 hours
A racing start. The second passage was leaving Lagos and heading over to Spain, this time Stine had left us and Jens mom Lotta joined us onboard. We left around 10 o´clock in the morning and that first day of sailing was just perfect. The first 12 hours we had a mean speed of 6 knots and was racing east towards Spain and the Med.
A close encounter with Spanish warships. The next day we still had some decent speed as we were passing through a lined area at the chart that I realized was a military area. There were some ships in a distance, one which were dragging something 20 meters after that looked like a red net? But we were leaving the area and no one had called us up on the radio. But then suddenly that was exactly what happened –
“Sailing vessel Mouni, Mouni, Mouni this is Spanish warship, Spanish Warship, Spanish Warship. You are in a military shooting exercise area, with NATO warships. Alter your course to 280 degrees and increase your speed.”
Bummer! Of course it was a course that decreased our speed on the sail, so we started the engine as well. Shortly after leaving the zone their exercise started BOOOM! And I realized that this red net was probably the target they were aiming for, and we were previously right in the middle between the target and the other vessels :-S
Africa in sight! This became a large detour that we had not planned for, and once we got out of the Military area, we were in a totally different position. The wind died and we decided to change our destination once more – aiming for Barbate. On the other side of the bay we could now see mountains on the shores of Africa.
A Mediterranean sailor’s nightmare? On the radio they now started calling out a different type of message – Pan Pan – 10 people are drifting out at sea in a raft. We never got it confirmed, but since Africa was in sight it probably was one of the refugee rafts that you always hear about on the news. The problem with going on your own boat is that according to the law you are always obliged to help someone in danger at sea. But in a small boat like ours, there is danger in taking aboard a big bunch of desperate people that are more than the boat can take. We never did see a raft, but we did hear similar messages in the coming days, sometimes up to 40 people drifting out at sea. Such a tragedy.
A new forecast that changed our minds. Out at sea we don’t have enough reception to update the weather forecast. But when we came closer we decded to try and update it via the phone and got some bad news. Tough wind from the East was approaching, and the harbour/anchorage we intended to go to was no longer a good idea. Yet again we needed to change our course and head towards a harbour in between Cadiz and Tarife – Barbate. Since the wind was to weak Jens and Lotta was sitting up all night and slowly approaching the harbour by motor and with help of the generator. Before arriving, there was a “moonset” as the moon climbed down from the sky and below the horisont. Beautiful!
So there you have it. Longer passages are the best and the worst of cruising. But one thing is for sure, something new will always happen…