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Fog Schmog… Sailing The Rio Douro

In spite of the crazy, dense fog in the marina, Marta and her family were still happy to go out for their day sail to Porto.

We could barely see the banks of the river as we entered past the breakwaters, passing lots of small fishing boats.

The first of Porto’s famous six bridges was barely visible overhead at 230 feet above us.

But as we moved further up river, thankfully the clouds began to disperse.

I don’t think the kids had seen the city from the water before.

What a spectacular afternoon on our first charter in Portugal!

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Cruising Coruña

La Coruña, a Galician port city on the northwestern coast of Spain, offered a fantastically welcoming induction into mainland Europe.

With its wonderful mixture of history with a modernista flare, culinary singularity and amiability, we found it absolutely impossible to sail on after the allotted three days were up.

And it’s a good thing too, as a chance meeting over a glass of Rioja and croquetas turned into the opportunity to show some lovely Gallegas a new perspective on their hometown.

Even though their father had been a merchant mariner for many years, he had never taken the Golpe sisters out on the waters surrounding the city. So it was our pleasure to take them out for the afternoon.

 

Strangely there was next to no wind as we cruised across the estuary of the Ria da Coruña, until we reached the outskirts of Ferrol, with its watchful twin sentry forts at the mouth of the river.

But we were as protected in our lunchtime anchorage from the wind, as the Spanish have been for centuries in Ferrol, by Castillo San Felipe.

Happily the wind was still there as we sailed back to town.

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Around Ireland and Back Again

Finally back where we started in Ireland, at the Royal Cork Yacht Club, Crosshaven, County Cork. We are happy, relaxed and ready to enjoy a few days before venturing into the English Channel and across to the historic seaport of Plymouth.

Crosshaven is such a lovely, welcoming town.

With more time to play with, we went to visit the local fort. For almost 400 years, Camden Fort Meagher played a key role as a strong strategic position for the defense of Ireland, the west coast of England and Wales.

65% of the fort is located underground in a labyrinth of tunnels and chambers.

We found some amazing homes in Crosshaven too.

 

We finally made time to go explore the city of Cork too – The Old City Gaol

But we were on a mission to go see some old friends, so it was time to venture on our first overnight since the Atlantic crossing and just the two of us for a 24 hour sail to England.

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The Wild West Coast of Ireland

They do call it the “Wild Atlantic Way”… but we really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into!

When the locals said “Oh, you must sail the West Coast, it’s beautiful,” we should have done a bit more research about the sailing conditions. Yes, it’s a truly beautiful place, but I thought it would be more popular with other cruisers.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It is a stunningly, desolate place. We were often very much alone out there. Additionally, the Northern Atlantic Ocean produces huge rolling waves we call a swell. We should have noted that there is no protection between that swell, the wind-driven waves on top of that swell, and the beautiful rocks and sheer cliffs onto which those waves smash themselves and everything they carry with them. Oh, and on top of that, the swell and waves bounce back off of the beautiful, sheer cliffs and produce another set of waves that make the boat bounce up and down twice as fast.

But wait, there is more. There is a phenomenon called an “overfall,” where the tidal stream rips around a picturesque, jagged point and creates a whitewater rafting experience. We were very careful to make sure the stream was running WITH us. We don’t think we would have been able to motor AGAINST one of those overfalls without nose-diving the boat into steep, stacked up waves.

We, well at least I, expected to see other cruising sailboats each day as we sailed down the coastline. Nope… almost none. We saw some near the towns, but no cruisers moving from one peninsula to another, until we were more than halfway down the coastline to Donnegal, and that was just one or two, until we were officially in Southwestern Ireland.

Happily we weren’t the only sailors out there with a desire to explore remote waters of the western Ireland, and we welcomed aboard Kathy and Carlos for a week exploring the heads and bays of Donegal and Galway.

We picked them up in the town of Donegal, County Donegal, and enjoyed an evening on land amid the wonderful restaurants and pubs filled with colorful locals.

The Singing Barman

[youtube https://youtu.be/8QuNGxQpHb8 rel=0]

We enjoyed some beautiful Irish summer days, with loads of low clouds, some rain and lots of wind, and a selection of pods of fun-loving Common dolphins. Beautiful cliffs, big seas and some mysterious sea creatures visited us.

So after two weeks making new friends, and with some rough and tumble sailing, we made it back to the beloved Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven, county Cork!

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Giants and Bushes and Mills, Oh My!

After an incredible 3 weeks sailing in Scotland, visiting family and friends, meeting new people and enjoying the spectacular landscapes, it was time to head south again. So on a day sail through the Sanda Island races, across the shipping channels, around Rathlin Island and around the headland, we sailed in and anchored in the Bay of Portballintrae.

A wonderful welcome to Northern Ireland

After a pleasant night on the anchor, time to go visit the giant!

Spectacular views on the coastal walk

 

The Giant’s home

Th Giant’s Causeway – about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption… OR…

The columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant.

The story goes that the Irish giant Finn MacCool, from Gaelic mythology, was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Finn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Finn defeats Benandonner.

But, in another, Finn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than he is. Finn’s wife, Oonagh, disguises Finn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Finn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Finn would be unable to chase him down.

And after a walk and some fun geology… Whiskey!!

Named for the old mill on the Bush River.

 

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Diving for BBQ

Sometimes, the sea gives and at other times she takes. In this case she took something but I was able to dive in and retrieve it.

When we arrived in Terceira, Azores, we were directed by ARC Rally Control to a commercial berthing area outside the protected marina. We had to tie up along a concrete wall. Then another rally boat was directed to tie up to us. It’s called rafting up. Their boat was heavier than ours and there was a large amount of swell and surge along the wall.When we tied up our lines we were very concerned about the amount of load the additional boat was putting on our lines, so we added more lines to other cleats on our boat. One in particular was running close to the dive tanks and the BBQ along the back deck and rail. Unfortunately, we didn’t take the tidal range into consideration. Overnight, the line dropped under the BBQ grill’s mounting bracket. When the tide came back up, it broke the bracket and the grill went 20 feet down to the bottom of the harbour.This is a video of me plunging in after the grill and swimming it back up. Lindsay asked me if I should take a line to tie it so we could pull the grill up from the surface. I thought it couldn’t be THAT heavy, but it almost was too much for me. I had to kick extra hard and swim with one arm as my lungs were starting to ache for a breath! I got it first try, though!

The funny thing is that after we brought it up and we were rinsing out the seawater, we found something inside. A creature had taken up residence during the night and was having a grease feast!

It’s a sea star like I’ve never seen. It has spines! I’m not touching that thing.

Crew member Charlotte Jones returns it to the sea.

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Sailing from the Azores to Ireland

Lindsay and I, along with up to three other crew members, sailed across the Atlantic Ocean from Florida to Ireland in three legs. The first leg stopped in Bermuda. The second leg stopped in the Azores. This is a series of short videos taken during the third leg, Azores to Ireland. The total distance traveled on this leg was 1184 nautical miles.

On June 8th, 2018 we departed from Ponta Delgada in the island of Sao Miguel. The wind had been strong from the northwest over the past couple of days and then it turned north, which is bad. I wish we could have departed sooner but we had to wait for a crew member to arrive. While we sailed northeast over large waves we were pounding the hull for 24 hours. During that time I downloaded an update for the weather forecast. It predicted 40 knot gusts and 14 foot waves when we were due to approach Ireland. I decided to turn back, even though due to his work commitments we would lose the crew member we waited for.

We waited for just a couple of nights in Ponta Delgada for the wind to subside and the waves to dissipate. Besides, it was Portugal Day and there were military parades and events going on to entertain us!

Here is a video of a helicopter fly-by.

This shows how close the navy helicopter was to our boat.

Lindsay and I make comments on the Portuguese Navy demonstrations.

Once we had our fill of Portuguese nationalism and military pride, we set our minds to sailing again.

In June 11th Lindsay and I departed once again but with only two crew members, Charlotte and Svein. Charlotte had joined us in Bermuda and Svein was new to the boat.

The forecast was for 5-10 knots of wind or the first three days. I expected we could fly the spinnaker. On the fourth day a series of cold fronts was coming to add wind from the west by northwest and strong at times. Since we were heading northeast that would put the waves behind us and at worst on the beam. I figured the boat would be fine with that so off we went.

We were able to sail with the spinnaker about half the day and the other half of the day we had to run one of the engines.

Dolphins were swimming with us many times during the day.

By Wednesday the winds are strong around 30 knots so we were surfing down waves on a broad reach in the afternoon.

As that first cold front passed the wind clocked around to the north and then slowed to the point where we could not fly the spinnaker, so it was a frustrating day having to deal with waves.

At dawn on Friday the 15th another cold front came. The rumor here is the remains of a tropical storm added to the front. The wind was steady at the levels of the forecasted gusts for three days, which was until we arrived in Ireland. The swell and wave height combined into levels as high as we have ever seen. The wave energy was much stronger than expected. The crew’s excitement went up with the swell.

The temperatures dropped to 61F and the humidity coated the interior of our cabins. The sheets felt cool and damp when we climbed into bed.

Here’s a view from the aft deck.

When the seas get so big the boat “surfs” down them, alignment to the wave is critical. Unfortunately, sometimes the auto helm would turn itself of by going to standby status. If the crew member on the helm was not watching carefully, or tried to push buttons to correct the heading instead of just grabbing the wheel and turning it, we would turn broadside to a wave. This is called broaching. It’s not good. In fact, with wind so strong and wave energy so immense it can rip sails, part lines holding the sails and break rudders or steering cables. Also, if the boat gets turned the wrong way around it will throw to boom over to the other side and slam the rigging. This is called an accidental jibe. That’s even more likely to break something.

Here’s another video showing stronger winds and taller waves.

Eventually, each of us would broach and accidentally jibe during one of our shifts. In hindsight it’s surprising we didn’t break anything until day seven. This is the last video before something went wrong.

Here’s another aspect angle.

Here’s a view from the aft deck.

Not long after I recorded that video, The autohelm went into standby and we broached. Due to the size of the waves, it was an especially hard broaching event. The steering cable broke and the wheel became useless. Charlotte was at the helm and I was on deck. Lindsay heard the loud bang and a few seconds later heard me yell below “all hands on deck NOW.” Lindsay yelled back “what happened?” “Steering cable broke,” I said, “we need to get the emergency rudder out.” While I was getting my PFD on I was watching the boat turn by the force of the wind on our sails. I was relieved and said loudly “It looks like she’s going to round up and go over the waves,” but I wasn’t sure and for how long it would last.

These waves were friggin’ big. I was pretty sure we needed the emergency tiller connected and propellers spinning to hold a safe course up and over the waves. If a big one hit us sideways it would rock the boat and shake the mast so hard it could break a shroud and cause the mast to fall. That would be very bad.

With lots of communication and good teamwork, we got the emergency tiller in place an tied on both sides.

Next I went about inspecting the damage, formulating a repair plan, and on plan number two feeling confident it will work. I bypassed a block (pulley) and clamped the broken stainless steel cable together with extra cable clamps I got from each of the ends at the tillers. Not without getting lots of water coming into the engine rooms and completely soaking me as well.

This is right after the port engine room got swamped.

In the end, even though it was not the roughest ride or the longest distance, it was the scariest leg of the crossing. Thankfully, we got new cables custom-made on the second day in Crosshaven. Lindsay and I were off the dock the next morning, headed up the Irish Sea for more adventures, hopefully of a more pleasant variety.

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Sail Across the Ocean with Us

Are you seeking some adventure in your life? You’d better hurry up and seriously consider this opportunity before it’s gone. Lindsay has already booked some of the legs of our Trans-Atlantic crossing this spring!

After two years of continuous upgrading (called refitting) and purchasing of new safety equipment, we are now on schedule to cross the Atlantic Ocean in May and June of this year. We are joining the ARC Europe Rally for safety and camaraderie in the marinas and anchorages along the way. We are only asking for a “cost share” on the crossings.

So far we have a couple of people that have committed to two different legs of the crossing. You could go all the way across the ocean, or just a part of it.

If you are considering taking a trip-of-a-lifetime, click on the link to our website below for locations and dates, then get in touch with us for special rates. Discounts for experienced sailors!

A Luxury Sailing Catamaran Chartering in Adventurous Places