Porto

I arrived Saturday 22 July in Porto, together with sailing friends Floor and Casper with their sailing boat Summerwind.  I have met Floor and Casper earlier in the Spanish ria’s where they enthusiastically greeted me when I anchored next to them in the bay. Since then, the two ships sail together towards Lisbon, where they will go to Morocco, eventually around the world for four years! Good for them.

Porto is a vibrant city with many historic places and a distict warm and welcoming atmosphere which we found in Portugal. Portugal really has an culture apart from Spain. It seems more relax and open. Although Porto is a big city with international allure, visited by many tourists, it also shows the mundane live mostly focused on fishing and of course, wine making.

Naturally, I had to taste the port to find a good port for Vanessa. We had a white port, a ruby and a twany. The latter usually being the one Vanessa and I like the most. Not to sweet. However, there was also a vintage ruby, melting on my tong.  Specialty of this wine house Churchill, only existing for 38 years, is the long fermentation time, making their wine less sweet that comparably wines. My wine indeed!

You find many nice sites in Porto. Of course the river Douro is featuring the city with different bridges, this probably being the nicest.

Many touring boats, barges for wine transport and  the average speed boat you can find on this river. Also we saw many many fish swimming in the river.

You can find nice lively market places and historic squares to stroll about. Very nice indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, like in most cities, you find narrow streets and in Porto a very nice park on difference levels in the city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I really like Porto. Also Marina Douro is very welcoming to her guests and most friendly to us. For a change, I have good working internet all the way in the boat! Not many marina’s make that true.

We will sail Thursday again to hop in three or four day trips to Lisbon. You can see in the pictures, the weather is great. Lucky for my, not really fond of warm weather, the nights are really refreshing.   

Spanish Ria’s

Once you pass La Coruna, the Spanish ria’s are awaiting you. Five or so large inner waters connected with the Atlantic Ocean, offering delightful and sheltered cruising. Of course, piloting can be tricky with all the rocks and islands, but beautiful and relaxing nonetheless.

But also Cape Finisterre awaits you on what the Spanish call, the coast of dead! Often the wind reaches gale force around cape Finisterre rendering it a dangerous cape to pass. Cape Finisterre hold more meaning to me, having lived in a beautiful apartment building with the name Finisterre. Also partly in the water as a real cape. But anyway, once rounded the cape, the relaxing ria’s are there.

 

 

 

Interesting about the ria’s is that it is not compromised for mass tourism as you may experience it on for example the Costal del Sol. Here, in the ria’s mainly Spanish are having holidays and enjoy the sea, as long the weather permitted, which is not always the case. But thanks t that, the Spanish have the ria’s almost to themselves, save for the sailors who have embarked for longer travels. In the ria’s you still find the Spanish way of live and architecture. Almost.

For my, being preoccupied with my journey to the North Cape, a Dutch couple I met, proved to be a good inspiration for relaxing sailing and wonderful anchorages, part from being also very good company. We spend several anchorages in small bays and villages, sometimes covering for the often north east near gale blowing in the summer along the Spanish and Portuguese coast.

In many villages we found strange stone houses on pillars with discs around it. We asked about it and they are grain silo’s with the discs preventing rodents to pillage the grain. Interesting.

Anchoring also proved to be a bit of a challenge for me.

 

In Morus I had to anchor four times in vein, and finding better luck away from the harbor. I also noted my Anchor winch, which is new, increasingly stopped working! Apparently, according to the company who installed the winch, my battery is broke. So now I am in the harbor of Sanxenxo. Who does not know this holiday resort?

The beaches around this city mainly consisting out of hotels and restaurants, where packed with sun loving Spanish. Not my cup of tea, but genuine Spanish which I can appreciate. More important for me, I can buy my new battery here. Hopefully the winch will approve.

The coming days will be anchoring more and test the winch, before I set sail to Portugal. First planned port of call, Oporto. In this historic city I plan to stay for several days. I am still ahead of my schedule.

A Caruna

La Coruna proved to be a very nice city. The old city very close to the harbor with tranquil squires, monasteries and churches, and a city center near the harbor  with very typical houses consisting out of a very large window wall ratio.

Strange, considering most of the windows where blanked against the sun. La Coruna is a large Harbor city and from sea the light house Hercules is very impressive. Particular at night, the way I experienced it.

 

I would typify La Coruna into four areas. The old city as mentioned, The city with apparently very traditional building, and the big city with flats and nondescript buildings.

One thing amazed me was that there seemed to be very little fresh food being sold. Most of the stores where jewelry, clothes, electronics and chocolate. But no food market to be found. I must have missed it.

 

Conspicuous are the two towers build on the concrete pier against which the Coruna Marina is build. It is already recognizable from sea.

La Coruna is 30 minutes train ride for Santiago de Compostella.  So, in need for some blessing for my undertaking I took the train. Staring with the bus which dropped me off in a place with big roads but now railway station to be found. Walking for a while I stopped a taxi, who smiling drove me the other direction for one minute to the station. I could not get the right direction and no signpost anywhere. Anyway, I bought a two way ticket, which did not exist. You buy a ticket for a particular time and seat. While returning I had to buy another ticket because I did not want to wait hours which was on my return ticket.

I got in the cathedral after an hours line up, not to bad I found. Within the church a mass was going on and indeed, the big incense pot was slung from one side of the church to the other side, almost crashing against the ceiling. They have a lot of experience.

No pictures where allowed but the whole interior was illuminated with cellular phone screens. One of them mine.

After the ceremony, I when for lunch. Many tourist places where screaming out, but my eyes fell on a nondescript café which the most delicious tapas I have seen. Only Spanish people insight, I though, this must be good. And indeed it was. For little money I eat a magnificent lunch with beer and coffee to close it off.

 

 

 

 

A day well spent.

Biscay

I left Brest on Saturday afternoon and expected to be in La Caruna (or as the Spanish write, A Caruna), somewhere in the afternoon Tuesday. Well, it was not just Monday save for 30 minutes. Again, Favorable winds was given to me. To start Saturday with north west wind, between 3 of 4 Beaufort, which lasted till Sunday 8 pm. All the time I had change to get into single handed sailing again. Alarm going off every 20 minutes for a sweep around for traffic and weather changes.

First nights at sea are never very good for sleeping for me.  I rest, I need it, but I do not get into a real sleep. Meanwhile the Gulf of Biscay looked like the North Sea. Nothing special telling me I am at the Gulf of Biscay. I did not know what to expect but this was surprising. Also, there was very little traffic, except there where to depth plummet from 200 meters to an incredible almost 5 kilometers in less than a few miles! Just imagine the mountainous geography under water. A mountain ridge which goes almost vertical for 5 kilometers.  Imagine what this does with the waves in a storm as the one which we had a couple days before! Probably the depth and the amount of water amazed me the most. Fishing is apparently good on this mountain ridge, taking into account the number fishing boats keep coming on head on course with me.

Sunday night proved to be a quiet night, just motoring which gave my the opportunity to sleep in my bed apart from the 20 minutes break. I actually slept a few minutes each period and rest well for what was to come. Monday the wind would return from the north each, with some force, about 5 to 6 Beaufort. Well, make it 8 Beaufort. From afternoon the wind was hauling in the rig and I was reefed down to two reefs in the main and a stay sail. Once again I had arrive at the end of the abyss where the bottom rise from 5 kilometers depth to a few hundred meters. And boy do the waves like this! My boat was assaulted from different angles being thrown aside each time. Big hollow waves, sailors know what I mean here. Since I was going already from Saturday and still had to go another half day, I decided not to steer myself but leave it up to the electronic steering automat. I sat insight with a book, tucked between pillows and a border so I could not fall out of my bunk.  Nothing I really could do anyway, and I better get used to this type of wild rides. More to come, bigger too.

That Monday night, while I was worrying how to approach the harbor with this wind, the wind actually abating and very relaxed I was able to sail into save haven. La Curona, here I am!

Brest

With Hans our final port together was Brest. I am confident that we sailed a good speed to Brest out of the canal, with can be a big hurdle with our often blowing south west wind.  But not for us. Mostly north east winds helps us sail in little over a week to Brest.

Now, Brest is a city I have been last year with Vanessa. We visited the fort with also is a museum. Brest is most of all a naval base. The city has a very purposeful atmosphere. Not very romantic. After Hans left I stayed another two days, strolling around in the big sober streets. I have to admid, the weather did not help. So much different from the people in Brest. There were ever so helpful.  Giving directions, trying to explain things without a word of English, let alone Dutch, taking letters for me to post and so on.

One thing I find interesting of cities, is getting a feel for the atmosphere. Brest certainly has a very practical feel about it with some failed tryouts for street art. Another thing speaking for Brest is the genuine  France shopping. Little or no tourism garbage, many hairdressers and many pharmacies among clouding stores which seems always a priority shopping!

Another thing special for sailors to keep in mind is the tide, around six meters between low and high water. Making shore lines and bays totally different. Rocks and islands which you did not see before or boats suddenly tilted dry on ground. One advantage for sure, you can use this tide differences for your benefit to clead the hull.

Communications

For long distance sailors probably not unfamiliar but perhaps interesting anyway for everybody else. How do you communicate from a sail boat? So far, along the coast, I had mobile phone coverage. Possibly we will once forget how it is when you have no coverage, but setting of to sea, we all know, about three miles from shore, the coverage drops significantly and even cease to exist. Let alone wifi. Even in yacht clubs providing wifi it is often impossible to get wifi from the place you are moored. However, in this yacht club, Marina Du Chateau in Brest it works reasonably.

But once on open sea, no wifi and no coverage, leave a sailor without all these ordinary pleasantries we all take for granted. Well, at a cost this can all be delivered on board of a sailing boat, possibly added up to 20.000 euro’s installation and 1.000 euro’s per month data fees.

But just have a look at the possibilities for less loaded sailors. Of cource, almost every sailing ship is equipped with VHF. Very High Frequency receiver and transmitter. You but these things already for just over 100 euro’s. However, the technology of the waves, I will not get into that, gives you the possibility to communicate with other stations equipped with a VHF, mostly other boats and harbor stations. The range is about 20 miles. But not for communication with home!

There are two often used possibilities, the SSB (long range transmitter and receiver) here on the picture and a Iridium device for communication via satellite. I my case a small box working as a hot spot for my normal smart phone, Tablet or Laptop. The SSB requires quite an installation as you can see. There is the SSB radio, a modem and I use a laptop the control the frequency. In this setup I can send and receive emails and receive weather forecast (so called grib files. However, everything needs to be small in data because the speed of data transmission is very low. An additional feature is that I can communicate with other sailors over long distances, sometimes 1000’s of miles. As long we tune in on the same frequency at the same time. That needs some arrangement. Enough reason for me to install my SSB.

 

The iridium device is much more compact. Just the small box provides  a wifi (great!) signal and you can use a normal smart phone, Tablet or laptop. A bit disappointing is that you can do not much more with this new technology as with the SSB. Sending emails, SMS, requesting weather forecast and of course the large difference, you can call people on their normal phone whenever you want.  The software component proved to be a bit of a challenge for me. I have been working on this for over a month. Nevertheless, it is less cumbersome to operate and being able to call my wife to tell her I love her, is enough reason to have this aboard as well.