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The Long Coast of Portugal

Having already sailed across the Atlantic, all the way down the wild coast of Western Ireland, and across the English Channel, we were in search of some time day sails, but that wasn’t always easy. A lot of the Atlantic coast of Portugal is famous for it’s surfing, which means there aren’t always as many safe harbours for sailors. Nevertheless, we found some amazing spots.

Private sailing catamaran charter Atlantic Portugal
Private sailing catamaran charter Atlantic Portugal

After a whole day of wonderful sailing and calm seas, things started to pick up during the hour before we arrived at the rather narrow entrance to São Martinho do Porto.

Private sailing catamaran charter Atlantic Portugal

With the sun setting behind us, we squeezed in through the headlands, surfing slightly on the back of 6 foot roller. Safely inside, we anchored up with the local boats and relaxed for the night.

Private sailing catamaran charter Atlantic Portugal
Private sailing catamaran charter Atlantic Portugal

From here it was another day sail to the Islas Berlengas. Situated 10km west of the fishing town of Peniche, the stunning and secluded Berlengas Islands are home to the Arquipélago das Berlengas nature reserve. 

Private sailing catamaran charter Atlantic Portugal
Private sailing catamaran charter Atlantic Portugal
Private sailing catamaran charter Atlantic Portugal

The Berlengas Islands form part of a dramatic natural landscape, and contain Portugal’s most scenic fort, while the crystal-clear waters are teeming with sea life.

Private sailing catamaran charter Atlantic Portugal

The islands were an amazing stopover, if somewhat tricky anchoring.

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The Vienna of Portugal

Just a day sail south of Porto was the surprising town of Aveiro. So small we almost missed it, and that would have been a great shame. Beyond the coast lies a maze of canals and lagoons, alongside an industrial port. But if you persist inland, you reach a colourful town where the Portuguese version of gondolas, moliceiros, would have traditionally carried the local harvests of salt and seaweed, but now carry visitor along the canals to explore the city.

Private sailing catamaran charter Aveiro Portugal

We found the perfect place for lunch with the local speciality of roasted piglet. Yum!! The set lunch menu came with a mini jug of wine… not too shabby!

Private sailing catamaran charter Aveiro Portugal

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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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Pea Soup Fog

We were very sad to leave Galicia and all the wonderful food and wine, but it was time to start moving south again. Vana de Castelo, just across the border into Portugal, was a wonderful first stop with it’s flower-filled streets, leafy boulevards and imposing hilltop church.

                                            The church at the top of the hill has it’s own funicular!

Amazing views of the Rio Lima estuary

 

Not a bad place to catch the sunset

The Templo do Sagrado Coração de Jesus

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So many flowers adorning the buildings of the old town

The uber-modern swing bridge / boardwalk closing off the marina from the river

Our early morning departure from the marina gave a hint of what awaited us…
Hours sitting on the bow looking for fishing boats and crab pots!

As soon as we emerged from the river’s mouth Makara was engulfed in crazy thick fog. I ventured up front to keep watch, while Tadd set the obnoxious, but oh-so-important fog horn on automatic. This is how we spent the whole day!

The fog was so thick that the moisture condensed on my eyelashes and made it seem like I was crying…. all the way to Porto!

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The Death Coast of Galicia

The name “Death Coast” certainly isn’t exactly welcoming, and the conditions were challenging on occasion.

Although we never got a definitive answer as to the origin or true meaning of the name, we decided it was best to remain several miles offshore as we sailed to the next anchorage.

We finally made around the last headland, Fisterra, and into our chosen anchorage in Sardiñeiro de Abaixo. But while we were relaxing with a cocktail, we spotted a huge plume of smoke… followed by wonderful flying circus of firefighting planes as they killed the fire. We were glad to watch from a safe distance.

Galicia was just filled with little bays for us to explore. Sometimes near a village that we could explore, sometimes pleasantly remote.

We hardly ever saw boat traffic here.

While anchored near Baiona we enjoyed our dinghy ride with a view of the Castelo de Monterreal.

The view from the castle was impressive.

Due to the rocky and windward shoreline, it would have been very difficult for any invading forces to make landfall here, even without guns pointing at them.

Here’s a view to the south, towards Portugal.

The lichen and moss add a characteristicly ancient texture to the stones.

The ramparts went on and on. This was a seriously big undertaking to build, so long ago.

A view of the marina and modern buildings in the distance stand in contrast to the old castle.

We had a wonderful time sailing down the coastline and walking around Baiona with our very private guests.

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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

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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.