A Fast Passage to Portugal

Securing the dinghy the night before

Tuesday 10 September 08:00 Temptress departed Baiona for Cascais, Portugal (Cas-quay-sh). That is 08:00 BST, we tried but failed dismally to adjust to Spanish time and, knowing that Portugal and most of our other destinations this side of the Atlantic are UT/GMT, we basically ignored UT+1 for the week or so we were in Spain except when heading out for shopping, bars or eating! The sun was just coming up (another benefit of ignoring the Spanish clock is that it is actually daylight at 08:00 BST) and the wind in the anchorage was a worrying south easterly though not a lot of it. There were 218 nautical miles ahead of us on the by now familiar heading of 190 degrees (much the same angle of the dangle that had brought us to Spain from Ireland) and motoring the whole way against a light head wind wouldn’t be much fun.

A final Spanish sunset

Once out beyond the bay though things perked up. The true wind was a lively north easterly as per the forecast. Temptress kicked up her heels with a full genoa (no mainsail) and headed south at seven knots. Dolphins came to play in our bow wave throughout almost the whole voyage, we’ve never seen so many sometimes several dozen were prancing around us leaping out of the water side by side in fours! The Portuguese Trade Winds and the related Portuguese current sped us south through the morning, we were making better than planned progress. Temptress was soon crossing the International border meaning a change in courtesy flags. HMS Penzance passed us heading for Porto around noon (without the AIS we’d have just put her down as a local warship). By early evening we’d had nibbles, a boat risotto was in progress (mince, peppers, courgette, tinned toms, herbs and rice) and the sun was still shining.

The Skipper ready for his watch

Sunsets at sea are wonderful

It didn’t last; soon after Susie went off watch (three hours on three hours off through the night) the wind died and on went the engine for the rest of the passage. The night was cold, presumably the northerly wind had come from the Artic and it was damp with a heavy dew – oilies were de rigueur. At nine am the skipper woke the first mate just an hour into her latest spell in her bunk – thick fog and Temptress was fast approaching the gap between Peniche, a busy fishing port on the mainland and Ilha da Berlinga five miles offshore. We could divert and go round but with another set of islands further out again it would add miles to the trip. Radar on and almost constantly watched by one of us, AIS regularly checked and we managed to not get run down or to run down any of the small fishing boats around us (vessels under 20m don’t have to fit AIS but fortunately they do show up on the radar).

A fog-bow

What about pot buoy markers? Just as Kevin maintains they are taken in at night (most are rarely spotted until the steaming light high up the mast picks them out) we decided that they weren’t there in the fog either. Off every small port there were squillions of them some a polystyrene block with a bamboo flag pole others simply large grey containers. With visibility mostly less than a few boat lengths we simply had to ignore the danger until a marker hove into view when a quick press of the autopilot key ensured a rapid temporary course change if needed.

Cascais lighthouse

The fog continued almost pea souper-like until just north of the infamous Cabo Roca (last time Temptress was here in 2002 it took us five attempts to round it to head north as wind and waves conspired against tired sails and even with a heavy fixed prop we couldn’t motor sail round it despite being five or more miles offshore). What a contrast the fog cleared revealing a scorching hot day. Fortunately it had cos off the marina wall there must have been several hundred small pot buoys, a small forest of tiny blue flags you’d never spot in the dark and we had to weave course through them like a drunk after closing time to reach the red port hand marker that was our final waypoint before exploring the anchorage for a suitable spot. The tidal rise and fall here on neaps is two metres and it was half tide on its way in by Susie’s rough and ready secondary port calculation, six metres of water would be more than enough. By five pm the anchor was down with exactly 218 miles covered and an hour ahead of our passage plan, almost unheard of when sailing anywhere, both of us were chuffed though tired after the mental exertions of the fog. We’d returned to the pretty seaside resort of Cascais just a few miles west of Lisbon, from the water everything seems familiar with the exception of a few additional buildings.

An ugly addition to the Cascais seafront

This is how we remember Cascais

 Enroute the pair of us have had lots of debate on our next move. An unexpected problem we’ve found ourselves facing is one of insurance, our current supplier does not offer cover beyond the Canaries to any boat and we knew we’d have to look elsewhere before we left. Research has shown that whilst a handful of companies will insure us across the Atlantic provided there are at least three on board (we’re planning to have four of us), many won’t even consider that and only one will insure us for Brazilian cruising. The latter is at a huge premium of fourteen hundred pounds sterling, way beyond our budget. But almost anyone who covers the Atlantic also includes the Caribbean in the policy, presumably this is due to commercial demand of rallies like the ARC.

So do we change to third party only in which case almost anyone will insure us where ever we go (presumably the risks are low).  And what would that mean if something happened to our home and sole asset Temptress? Or do we change our long held cruising plans? Meanwhile we still have to investigate insurance costs for routes south of Brazil (we have read of some issues with UK registered boats in Argentina which might put insurers off). Then there is South Africa where recent reports of the overzealous application of regulations meant for commercial shipping to yachts has resulted in large fines a couple of months into a six month permit together with demands for temporary import duties of 14% of the value of the boat (the latter is supposed to be refunded prior to departure from the country) make us wonder whether we’ll be able to afford a whole cruising season there visiting Maddy, Marais and the grandchildren. Finally whilst we are pondering on where next… we are also considering exploring the Moroccan coast on the way down to the Canaries rather than a 500 mile passage out to Madeira.

Lots to think about over the next week or two, meanwhile we are enjoying the glorious warmth of a Portuguese Autumn (think the best of a UK summers day with a warm breeze and scarcely a cloud in the sky). By lunchtime on Thursday the boat was clean inside and out, a few repairs sorted (both our Spanish flag and the ensign needed a few stitches) and the laundry drying. After lunch we plan a run ashore to revisit old haunts – does the Jardim do Frango (chicken garden restaurant – much better than Nando’s) still exist, has the shopping centre construction been completed and is the council bike hire still free?