Lagos sign off

Would you believe that after my last missive off Cape St. Vincent, as we rounded the corner, the wind picked up and we had a short sail in flat water to cap off our cruise in the nicest possible way.

We filled with diesel (for the nerds in the readership (?), we had used exactly the same as the previous time we filled the tanks, 3.18 litres per hour) and, having checked in, we passed through the opened footbridge into the Marina at Lagos.

Lagos is an excellent location. The marina is large but not vast with lots of space and good dockside facilities. The proximity of the delightful town and beaches is ideal and there is a station with trains to Faro. A number of the yachts were flying ARC flags, Lagos being the final destination of ARC Europe from the US & BVI to Portugal and ARC Portugal from the UK to Portugal. My ARC flag was therefore in good company.

Southerlies are wonderful yachts and Hejira performed exceptionally well on passage south. The generous windows in the saloon are a boon most of the time but with blistering sunshine and 40 degrees forecast, it was time to try the new blinds.


Thanks go to Ivan Bole, ex of Arun sails for the inspiration to fashion these blinds (and a bimini) from material used for conservatory blinds. They successfully reflect the heat while allowing sufficient light to pass so you would not know they are in place – perfect and thanks Ivan! You will see from the two spouts of water in the photograph that I am also running both Air Conditioning systems and this combined with the blinds result in a cool oasis inside Hejira rather than the usual yacht cauldron.


Another improvement not unrelated to Ivan is to the mainsail third reef cringle – Arun made my new jib and main sail fitted with Ronstan luff track ball race cars. These are excellent, strong and low friction but because of their bulk, fewer are fitted than the usual sliders so there are longer spacings of unsupported luff. This can result in some luff vibration even when the tension is right. Ordinarily this would be no more than a mild irritation but, instead of just an eye for the third reef tack as the third reef is too long for single line reefing, Ivan fitted a ring each side with webbing sewn between. This is a good job as if a reef eye is not passed over the ‘rams horn’ correctly it can result in a rip and this has happened to me in the past. The problem that we found was that, if sailing off the wind with a reef tucked in, the chattering luff rattled the ring relentlessly against the mast and in time this would damage the anodising and expose the aluminium mast to corrosion. Our solution was to serve the ring in rubber self-amalgamating tape – simple.m_009 (4)

It is true that I did achieve dry bilges, even after a long and choppy passage! Unfortunately, I have recently found water again, even when not running the AC (the condensate drains into the bilge) and this has been a great disappointment. So, checking the water; it was fresh, next question, what has been different over recent days – answer, I have been running the engine extensively. Any other factor – the water from the hot taps is scalding hot after a period under engine. So, I laid tissue paper under the calorifier where I could when running under engine and sure enough it became wet. The calorifier is boxed in but there is an inspection hatch and this revealed evidence of water leakage where the plastic domestic water connections are made off onto the brass valves. There is also a thermostat of the radiator type which was set to the hottest setting. Having turned this down, I am monitoring for water with tissue around the suspect connections and I will report back in due course.

Our delivery cruise to the Algarve logged 1310 miles, visiting Swanage, passing through the Chenal Du Four, Raz de Sein, visiting Loctudy, Houat, Les Sables d’Olonne and Royan in France, Ribadeo, Carino, La Coruna, Estorde, Muros and Bayona in Spain and Viana do Castelo, Porto, Figueira da Foz, Peniche, Cascais, Sines and Lagos in Portugal. The cruise was crewed by Dave Cooke for 835 miles, Mike Watson for 475 miles and Dave Wright, with Mike for 196 miles. We discovered a great deal about Hejira and we have a list of repairs and improvements to be made over the ‘lay over’ in Portugal before another test sailing south to the Canaries at the end of August. This will be the qualifying passage for the ARC crew leading up to the Atlantic crossing in November.

I have enjoyed writing this blog and it has been a welcome diversion on the passages under engine which have been an unfortunate feature of the Iberian west coast.


This will be my last regular missive until I resume in Vilamoura on the 26th of August.

Best wishes to all the readers – if you exist !

Balancing act

There is only the one practical port of refuge with a marina to break up the passage from Lisbon to the Algarve Coast and that is the shipping port of Sines. Thankfully, within the main arms of the port, EU funding has built a leisure harbour with an under-used marina. We were to be the only yacht on the outer pontoon and, with the strengthening wind, we chose a berth which would mean that we would be ‘blown off’ and not rub our fenders through the night.

A very welcome EU white elephant

Berthing up to this point had been slick with the procedure understood and carried out with military precision. We had selected the inner row of pontoon fingers so that we faced into the wind (selfishly) to prevent the ripples slapping under the counter which reverberates directly under my berth, the only problem was that these fingers were shorter than the outer fingers and, as a result, somewhat less substantial.  There being just the two of us on board, there was extra pressure on Mike to ‘do his job’ seamlessly and with the shorter pontoon, it was necessary for him to step onto the pontoon finger from a position further forward at the shrouds. Unfortunately, when he stepped off with his warp onto the very end of the pontoon, the finger was so unstable, he became frozen to the spot, unable to move, adopting the pose of a surfer or spiderman, crouched with his arms outstretched to balance on the unstable pontoon, his legs pumping up and down as the finger oscillated from side to side, unable to even contemplate securing  the warp to the cleat. Where is a camera when you need it, it would certainly have been in contention for ‘you’ve been framed’, the look of terror was priceless as he tried to avoid an early salty bath. Fortunately with an empty marina and the judicial use of bow thruster and prop thrust, the situation was saved with damage only to Mike’s dignity and his previously unblemished berthing record.

The lighthouse at Cape St. Vincente

We made another early start for the 77 mile passage south, around Cape St. Vincent and then eastwards to Lagos in very little wind once again. Although we willed an improvement, every time we made sail, the wind died away and we had no option but to resort to engine power alone, wallowing languidly along in the big Atlantic swells.


Remembering Lisbon…….

Our ‘lay day’ in Cascais was very welcome after relentless daily passages down the Iberian coastline. An unhurried reveille was followed by an amble through the pretty streets to the train station. There is a feeling of affluence to the town which appears to have an active fishing fleet while being a destination for the residents of Lisbon. The tacky ephemera that is usually associated with a seaside holiday resort is largely absent.


The trains into Lisbon are frequent and the journey is interesting, running along the coastline through the villages that line the Tagus estuary. I remembered driving to Lisbon on business and it wasn’t until we had taken the tour bus and I began to recognise familiar locations that I remembered visiting with my wife, Paula and her father only about 6 years before to watch England Students play the Portuguese National rugby team. It is probably my age but I have put it down to the arrival by sea being sort of ‘out of context’ and dis-orientating…………m_007 m_006 m_004

We made an early start on the 55 mile passage to Sines and, once again we have lacked wind.

It has been essential to keep a good look out all along this coast and the style of markers for the nets has evolved from the tiny corks further north to a string of water bottles in a line along the surface. Thankfully Mike has keen eyes and is happy to keep watch while I write this – and read the first newspaper for nearly a month.


It may be worth recording (for fellow anoraks) some of the ‘Nickisms’ which are mods that I have made to improve (or not) the yacht, particularly with the Ocean passages that I have in mind.


In this picture there are several visible. The insert into the small sink holds 4 thermos ‘cups’ (each laser engraved with crew’s initials) and a spoon – very helpful when pitching about. The black strip retaining the ‘rough rations’ lidded Tupperware is cut from square plastic downpipe and stuck in place using double sided tape. There is a stainless steel retaining rod in the cupboard (and in all similar cupboards) so that the contents don’t all crash out when heeled. A proprietary bottle holder (there are can holders and other ‘holders’) is shown stowed on a turned ‘button’ and elsewhere the standard 1” stanchion fitting has been supplemented by unique fittings for the binnacle grab handle and the ‘goalpost’ behind the helm so that drinks can be safely to hand around the yacht – see photo of me reading the Telegraph. Thanks for many of my ‘isms’ must go to the ATOM ‘marine division’ (non-profit making charity) which has helped with the development and manufacture of a large number of ‘improvements’.


While France was quite relaxed about paperwork (in contrast to 15 years ago), Spain and Portugal have been excessively bureaucratic, demanding ships details and copying the passports of the crew members – in every port. It has been conceded by several marina managers, when challenged, that it is an exercise in ‘jobs for the boys’. It has certainly been an inconvenience. This was exemplified when, after an exchange offshore with Coastguard boat number 42, we were then challenged to produce our documents again by Coastguard boat number 21 – in the same day! This was our third ‘brush’ with the authorities, having been boarded by the Customs in La Coruna.


The passage from Peniche to Cascais was unremarkable. We derived a little help from the jib for a while until the lack of wind led to it’s collapse and we had to give up our vain attempt to sail. What masqueraded as a breeze was northerly and chilly but the sun shone and the coastline was of more interest with hills and what looked like pretty coastal villages. We were entertained by a lone dolphin which accompanied us all the way until just short of Cascais, she or he seemed to delight in showing us some fancy ‘moves’ from time to time and for Mike, for whom this was his first ‘dolphin experience’, he was enraptured.


Cascais is a large, swish and expensive marina but for the purposes of having a ‘lay day’ and visiting Lisbon, it was ideal. With a bar at the top of the pontoon ramp and plugged into the mains with our AC working, it ticked all the boxes. Mike even paid a visit to the laundry and experienced another example of the endemic excessive paperwork. Before he could buy a token for the washing machine he had to give the name of the yacht, our mooring location and wait for a two part receipt to be printed !



Nothing to declare

Figueira da Foz was a very welcome destination after a pretty unpleasant, overcast day of motoring for over 60 miles into a headwind. The coastline south of Porto is just one long sandy beach and un-remittingly boring when you are just slowly plugging on. This was alleviated to some extent by a couple of episodes of Ed Reardon’s week and a Sharpe talking book. Having prepared and pressure cooked a chicken and lentil casserole prior to our arrival, it was a case of moor up, square up, quick dirty beer, food & bed. Eating on board, I produced (rather gingerly) a 5litre box of red wine which had cost 7.49 Euros. My hesitation was compounded by the fact that Mike, my only crew on this leg, qualified as a sommelier after his retirement. At only 10% alcohol content, I am not sure that it even qualifies as wine – loads left as you can imagine.

An early start and we are on passage to Peniche. It is another overcast day but with a light westerly, we have an angle to at least fill the mainsail and without the chop, we are making good progress with some assistance from Mr. Yanmar. The coast is continuous beach again but today, although initially low lying, it is backed by what looks like pine forest. We had some relief from the tedium when we were intercepted by a Coastguard Patrol vessel. After an exchange of details on VHF, they wished us safe passage and made off at speed.


Peniche has one long visitor pontoon and it was partially taken up with what looked like a semi derelict French yacht. We were beaten into the harbour by a 55 foot Swiss X-Yacht which clearly had a mission to get in first and the limited space justified his haste. We did however grab the last slot and thereafter, it was what has become the usual format…………


A slow slog

The fact that yesterday was the longest day passed us by but, in terms of seeming to be the longest day, today is likely to ‘take the biscuit’. We have a brisk wind on the nose and we are motoring into a lumpy sea which keeps knocking us back. We are not likely to reach our destination, Figueira da Foz until late evening by which time, the ebb will make our entry laboured. Oh well.

Dave left us this morning, flying back from Porto Airport but it is worth mentioning one anecdote of our stay in Porto. We were sat in a bar and the German people on the next table asked if we were sailors (why I don’t know) Dave and Mike were really chuffed that they were ‘mistaken for sailors’, their words! In actual fact, over the course of the week, Dave and Mike became very useful around the yacht and certainly qualified as ‘sailors’.

Lunch time and we are plodding south down the coast on around the 20m contour. The coast seems to be one long beach with sand dunes behind, no other punctuation. What a contrast to the scenery of Galicia with the stunning cliffs and Rias.

Port in Porto

Our passage from Viana do Castelo to Porto started in a promising fashion with good sailing in 14kts of wind – for 20 minutes! This was followed by a period of motoring on a glassy smooth sea. The clear water and smooth surface provided visibility as if through a pane of glass and this revealed a phenomenon I had never seen before. From the surface down as far as could be seen were crabs, loads of them, apparently swimming. They were about 3 inches across and, as we approached, adopted the ‘fight pose’ with their claws outstretched.

m_002 smaller

Douro Marina in Porto was another welcoming destination and this was enhanced by the 50% ARC participation discount. The delightful lady in the marina office pointed out that the expression ‘ejira’ in Portuguese means ‘attractive foxy lady’ so I was rather taken with that!

We could not understand why but the forward heads had become blocked again on passage. This required another ‘rubber gloves job’ after settling up and indulging ourselves in a ‘dirty beer’.  Unlike the previous day, there was no tangible explanation for the blockage. I reckon that the forward heads had been a headache for the previous owner as when I bought the yacht, he had used so much drain cleaner that the enamel was missing at the bottom of the toilet bowl. I think the forward heads may need the same designation as Turkish sanitary plumbing and necessitate the judicious use of a nappy sack.

An evening sortie into Porto by way of a ferry and an ancient tram was most enjoyable and we had some cardiac exercise up all the steps to the Cathedral – and back down again. The evening (and Dave’s last night) was signed off in style with a glass of PORT.


Portugal surprises

With no wind, we had to accept that the passage to Viana do Castelo would be made under engine alone. Crossing into Portuguese waters, we changed the Spanish courtesy flag for the Portuguese flag and, perversely, changed the clocks back an hour to Portuguese time.

Up with the Portuguese courtesy flag

With no (obvious) offshore hazards, we could just run down parallel to the coast and it was disconcerting to see semi submerged floats with a line of small brown corks between them. We were already committed to passing through by the time we spotted them so we took the engine out of gear and hoped for the best. The net must have been on the bottom with the corks to keep it in place as we passed through with no mishap. With Mike stationed in the bow, we managed to identify other situations and steer well clear.

Taking a berth in the river outside the Marina, the very affable Harbour Master told us that it was a festival day when the town celebrates its history from the 16th century with stalls in keeping with the period and the stallholders dressed accordingly. There were lots of straw bales strewn around the place which we guess is supposed to generate a medieval  atmosphere.

Striking a chord

It would not be a typical day aboard Hejira if something didn’t break or go wrong. Today the forward heads blocked and the pipework had to be dismantled to clear out wads of paper and other stuff – not a pleasant job. It is something of a rule that what goes on board stays on board so no naming and shaming – on this occasion. It would have been even more unpleasant without the AC as it was 37 degrees outside!

Returning to the quaint old town in the evening for a meal, the festival was certainly ‘hotting up’. What had been quiet streets were now thronged with people and it was clear that we were party to a special day in the calendar of Viana do Castelo.

It may be interesting to note that while not exactly medieval prices, our beers cost less than a quarter of those in Royan.

What a mess

Sailing along this coast is quite challenging with a capricious wind which can be blowing a gale one minute and dead calm the next. On passage to Bayona we put reefs in, shook reefs out and ended up ghosting along but we were relaxed and pleased to be just sailing on the level for a change.

Dave adopting his usual position

An exchange of Emails with the ‘Monte Real Club de Yates’ in Bayona secured a berth and our ARC participation qualified us for a 25% discount.  The Clubhouse was a very plush facility and was a welcome venue for our ‘dirty beer’. This was followed by a sortie around the town where we discovered that the old town has some charm about it and the locals thronged the beaches. Being berthed at the end of a long pontoon, the volt drop meant that the saloon AC would not operate reliably which was a disappointment in the blistering afternoon heat.

Determined to get to the bottom of the wind gen saga, it was time to inspect the external plug and socket for any issues. I now kick myself for not having taken this line of investigation from the beginning but, the plug was meant to be IP68 rated which means it should have been watertight at a depth of 10 metres for a period of 2 weeks – adequate you would have thought for the deck of Hejira. Well, it would have been had the correct size seal been used – grrrrrr, that little bit of sloppiness has cost so much time and quite possibly b——d the Air Breeze wind generator which is an expensive bit of kit.

Not surprising !

You can see the extent of the corrosion, what a mess!

Anyway, we are within striking distance of Porto where Dave (suitably rested as you can see) is due to catch a flight home. A 32 miler to Viana do Castelo tomorrow followed by a 38 miler to Porto should do it.


The morning started with a lively sail which even required a reef as we creamed along, touching 9 knots, bound for Bayona.

When the wind disappeared completely, we reached for the engine switch to be greeted by silence. With not enough wind for even steerage and surrounded by reefs we decided to deploy the emergency outboard as an immediate contingency while the situation was investigated. The process of checking the likely culprits proving unsuccessful, and after wallowing for several hours, it was time for a call to Barry to make sure that I would not live to regret the ‘hot wiring’ of the circuits which eventually started the engine to reach our shortened target of Muros.

What a gem we stumbled upon. The harbour master was the most helpful, willing and co-operative individual and soon mustered a specialist engineer to take a look at our problem. Not only did he turn up within half an hour but the harbour master attended to translate. The problem was diagnosed and the engineer disappeared to repair the wiring to a relay and, on his return, we were up and running again.

Time then to explore Muros which, behind the harbour front, was a very quaint, and homely town with a very comfortable feel to it.

Hoping for Bayona tomorrow unless something else contrives to divert us.

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