Porto to Lisbon

Despite the computer dramas, I managed to enjoy Porto. The untouched traditional centre by the river appeared unchanged for centuries. But like many places I have and am still to visit, there was not time for anything more than a ‘taster’ visit, and this one went down as another ‘must return’ destination .

My schedule at the time was dictated by arrangements and the new crew arriving in Lisbon on 11th Sept. It was the 6th, the wind was forecast light and we had a fair distance to cover. After a couple of days motoring to get here we were determined to sail the next bit even if it was to be slow. So as we set off from the entrance to the river around midday, we had the full main and the assymetric, and were happy to be making 5 – 6K in a lightish breeze. Destination was Nazare.

Over the next couple of hours the wind increased a bit. Not much, but as the assymetric is around 1150 sq ft (as much as all the other sails together !) we soon found ourselves doing 8K plus. The problem with this sail is knowing when to take it down. The speed is very exhilarating and we wanted to put the miles under the keel, but after a point it’s very hard to control the sail when getting it down. Plenty of crew is a help, but on this occasion there were only the the two of us. The self-steering is worth it’s weight in gold at times like this, and with the Monitor steering the boat Chris and I went up on the foredeck in some trepidation . We managed ……………. Just…………….. but I promised myself not to leave it so late again.

Progress was good all afternoon, mostly covering more than 6M each hour, and over 7 for a couple, until midnight, and even then it only dropped to less than 5M for one hour. We were going to reach Nazare before dawn and so decided to keep on to the next port which was Peniche. So with 113M on the log we arrived and were tied up to the pontoon by 8.30. Chris went off for a surf and I hit the bunk! Incidently Nazare is the place where a surfer has just surfed the world’s biggest wave. Around 80 feet I think. So I’m pleased to say that the surf was not up the night we passed by.

After a day of rest it was on to Lisbon. Sailing along this coast at this time of year is usually relatively easy. The coast runs roughly North South and the prevailing wind is northerly, and so it was on 8th Sept., northerly F4 to 5. We put a reef in the main and with the No1 jib set, off we went. Only a bit over 40M to go today. And after a bit we decided we could do with a bit more canvas and so set the tops’l over the reefed main. This is the first time I’ve tried this and the idea was that it’d be quicker to drop the tops’l than to put back a reef in the main. It all worked well except that our next sail change was to shake out the reef, and not drop the tops’l in which case the total amount of work was greater, but it was worth a try.

In the approaches to Lisbon we rounded the Cabo de Roca. As usual around headlands the wind increased a bit. Well more than a bit actually and with the full main, tops’l and No 1 jib (the largest) we soon found ourselves overcanvassed. But there wasn’t far to go and we had the wind behind us so I decided that we would just ‘ride the rollercoaster’ for a bit. The Monitor had been steering faultlessly all day but when we were sustaining over 8K I decided that Chris should take over. He soon became the first helmsman to take Holly Mae to 10K! Exciting.

A couple of miles after the Cabo there was a smaller headland that we had to go around and as the wind had swung around Roca a bit we were now sailing by the lee, on a port tack, and keeping offshore enough was getting tricky. The alternative was to gybe, but in this wind I wasn’t happy. I took over the helm to try and work the wind with every slight shift and keep us off the rocks. The adrenaline was pumping, and as the wind increased more, we touched 10.7K but managed to round the point with only 100yds to spare (but never less than 20ft under the keel). 20mins later we were completely becalmed. The sun was still shining and it was a beautiful evening. A special moment!!!

The wind then came and went for the next hour as we sailed past the Torre de Belem (see picture) and up to the bridge. But by then the ebb had started to run and as we still had 7M to go upriver we resorted to the motor. By 7.30 we had tied up in the marina at Parc de Nacoes, close to Patna. We had been hoping to catch Greg and Katie on Patna in northern Spain, but as our departure from Cornwall had been delayed this was the first time we had seen them.

Chris was to leave the boat the next day, having come all the way from Penzance. With his climbing experience and knowledge of ropes he’d been a great crew. (Thanks, Chris, come again sometime) That evening we went off to a local bar to celebrate with a glass or two (or was it three ?) of Port.