Enjoying Lagos and Barbate with family and friends

The days with our crew Stine was coming to an end. After the long slow passage to Lagos we had a couple of days before saying goodbye. The sole (a flatfish) that Stine caught on the passage was turned into a nice barbeque dinner on the beach nearby. Lagos is a popular spot om the Algarve-coast both for sailors and tourists, with beaches, caves and lots of sailing opportunities around the corner. The river Ribadeiro Bensafrim divides the modern part of town where the marina is situated from the old part of town with the surrounding town walls, churches and restaurants.

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On our second day in Lagos I got visit from my old friend from university, Cissi, with her baby boy who was born just a couple of weeks after we left Sweden. We strolled down the cobbled streets, enjoyed some lunch on one of the plazas and visited the beach “Praia do pi. Vhao” on the far end of the old town, which is beautifully surrounded by cliffs and caves. It is quite a luxury to have access to shade right on the beach even without the rent-out umbrellas that are very frequent on this coast.

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Then it was time to say goodbye to Stine, and we celebrated over three weeks of sailing together with a dinner out on the town. She left us early morning to fly back from Faro, and it truly was a bit sad to say goodbye, and we feel lucky that with our first attempt of trying on crew we have also made a new friend. In the guest book she left us a guide to the most similar flags that we always seem to confuse – Holland, France, Luxembourg (and Russia). Did you know that Luxembourg and Holland has the exact same flag, but only with different shades of blue!? 😀 Thanks a lot for these three weeks Rally-Stine, a.k.a. Danish_Deckhand, you are always welcome back to sail with us!

Lucky for us, we didn´t have to feel lonely for long, since Jens parents flew in the same day for a visit! They rented a car so the next day we could take a tour inland and out to Cape St. Vincent, the most westerly point of Continental Europe. The lighthouse provided stunning views over the landscape that we passed with the boat just a few days earlier. The steep cliffs have up to 50 meter drop down to the sea, and the stone ranges from beige sandstone, dark ancient rock and red sandstone layer on top. It was clear that we had arrived to an area popular among tourists, since there were street stands, buses and cars all around. In the evening we had some nice dinner on the restaurant on top of the Mercado in Lagos, and then it was time to say goodbye to Jens father who was just visiting over the weekend.

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The sail to Barbate you could read about in the last post, and since we didn’t plan on going there we didn’t really know what to expect. This small town across the Spanish border and just before the Med, is not as exploited as the Portuguese coast before, or the Costa del Sol which starts after Gibraltar. It is however famous for something else – the Bluefin Tuna (also called Red Tuna). It is caught in the “almadraba”, using an artisan method of fishing with labyrinth of nets, that’s more than a thousand years old. Along the beach in Barbate all the restaurants are bragging of their tuna specialties, and we tried it barbequed, boiled and pickled. They also have really good mojitos on the restaurants along the beach, which seem like the most common drink here after beer.

We also had a really nice dinner on a restaurant close by the harbour, and the last night we did our own barbeque by the harbour together with sailor-friend Stewart (who we first met in outside Porto) who arrived the day after us. The amount of foreign boats is steadily increasing (especially the British), even though we still see most the neighbouring countries such as Spanish, Portuguese and French boats.

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Next time we’ll tell you more about our sail through Gibraltar, and Costa del Sol!

– Petra

 


NOTES FOR SAILORS

Lagos is a sheltered harbour with good facilities for sailors. They have 460 spots but also very popular, sometimes called “Sticky Lagos” because sailors tend to stay longer than they expected. There is a very well-stocked chandlery by the fishing harbour next door, probably one of the best we have passed on our journey.

Barbate also provides reasonable shelter, we had strong easterlies when we stayed there but was protected by the large buildings by the harbour. It is a good place to stop between Lagos and Gibraltar. There are showers and washing machine, but no WIFI and a bit of a walk into town where you can stock up on the large supermarket just outside town. We paid 12,91€/night low season-price and 23€/night high season price (started 1st of June).


 

The many faces of sailing a longer passage

Hi there!

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.

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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? 😀

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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…

– Petra

 

Sailing to Lisbon, a city to enjoy!

Sailing into Lisbon you meet the countless ships that take tourists out on Rio Tejo to see Lisbon from the water. In the distance the large bridge “Ponte de 25 Abril” frames the river and makes the city look a bit like San Fransisco. With the steep cobbled streets and varying architecture, it is actually not so far-fetched. Some of the popular sites can be seen from the river, like the castle Torre de Belém, that looks like it moved in straight from a fairytale. Museums line up next to each other by the river, and just after the big bridge the “Docas” with pubs and restaurants give a first glimpse of the nightlife in Lisbon.

DSC_6102.JPGWe moored up at Doca de Alcantara, which is pretty central but also next to the industrial harbour. One advantage of having Stine onboard is that I get an ally to explore new cities with (Jens rather keep his distance to city life). Walking into the old town on the East side was hot, and everywhere the Jacaranda was in full bloom giving the city an extra boost of colour. After walking up to Barrio Alta and down again to the shopping district around Baixa we were definitely ready for an ice-cream, and Café Chocolates provided really yummie ones.

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There is a lot of pretty architecture in town, and since this was our fourth Portuguese town we visited we could really tell that the capital was in its own league. Big squares with monuments and magnificent buildings, embassies, countless restaurants and all types of shopping everywhere you could see. Finding a supermarket was not as easy 😉 And of course, a lot of tourists. But I found Lisbon to be a very charming city, with friendly people and a lot of things to do. Walking up to Castelo de Sao Jorge is worth the effort to get a nice view over town.

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On the way back we walked along the river past Cais do Sodré where the drink and food stalls lined up offering all types of tasty drinks that would make anyone passing really thirsty. It almost felt like being somewhere in Asia with the heat and exotic drinks. Definitely a good place to take a break and enjoy the sun.

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My only mission that day (except exploring Lisbon) was to find a pair of comfortable shoes for walking and sailing. Living on a sailboat, it is very important that they are good for jumping onshore and are white underneath so they don’t leave marks all over the boat. After trying out all the types and colours of shoes at Paez, both me and Stine got a pair of comfy shoes. The staff was amazed that we had managed to get a sunburn on the feet this time of the year and laughed at the fact that we had so white skin compared to them 😀

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Back at the harbour Jens had got back from his visit to the Mastervolt office to see what was wrong with one of the units we have onboard. One of the boats that were on the hook in Cascais had also arrived in the harbour and Jens had got to know them a bit better. Turns out that despite the Belgian flag it was a French boat with three different types of therapists that were on a mission – “Voilier Taka”. They were on their way to Africa to sail along the west coast and offer free sessions to people there as well as visiting schools and collecting information about what types of therapies are available in different countries. One of their goals are “Bring therapy (medicine, Chinese medicine, acupuncture and osteopathy) to some regions where health access is not so easy” . They are looking for more funding to support their project, if you want to know more about Voilier Taka, have a look at their web page or Youtube!

Just a day trip from Lisbon or Cascais lies Sintra, which several friends and family suggested as worth a visit. So one day when we got bored at lying by the hook at Cascais me and Stine jumped on the bus for an excursion to the mountains. The national park surrounding Sierra de Sintra is huge and probably worth a whole day visit, but on the few hours we had we prioritised hiking up to the Moorish castle (8th-9th century) that was once a military fortification and used as a watch tower to protect Lisbon and the surrounding area. On the way up we got nice views over Palacio de Sintra which just like the Moorish castle has Arab roots.  It is astonishing to think about the trouble they must have gone through building this large construction so high up in the mountains. As we climbed the towers, we also got to see the Palace of Pena which King Ferdinand II built on top of the Sintra hills. Then it was time to get back to the boat and have dinner with the captain!

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I must say that I am quite impressed with Portugal, and have learnt quite a lot about their history that I had little clue about before we arrived. Did you for instance know that Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer, was the first Europeans to reach India by the sea? That was done in 1948 and is just one of the accomplishments that made Portugal one of the leading countries exploring the earth over the seas, the new sea routes opening up for trade and colonies. After Lisbon we set sails towards Lagos, to meet friends and family!

– Petra

 


NOTES FOR SAILORS

There are several harbours in Lisbon, but not all welcome visitors. The harbour in Alcantara is probably one of the most central, taking the tram you are in the center of the old town in ten minutes. There are some chandleries but they are very hard to find and don’t offer much. When going up and down the Rio Tejo, keep a lookout for the many ferries, tourist boats and freight ships. There is an anchorage by the beach near Caxias, but the depth on our chart wasn’t consistent with the depth we measured so we didn’t dare to drop the anchor there. There are also anchorages further up river on the East side that we didn’t try this time.


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.