Received 13th September:1600

Cascais and the Passage South to Lagos

As soon as we arrived at Cascais (26th Aug) I booked a flight home to visit my family for a week. Nat stayed in Cascais to "watch the boat" (sunbathe for a week). On my return I was introduced to Dan and Anne-Marie from Restless II who had kindly helped Nat secure the boat one windy night while I was away. Also we met David and Alison, Free Spirit's previous owners, who showed us around Lisbon then came to see us on the boat and gave us tips on many things including poling the yankee for downwind sailing. Finally we befriended Jade, an Australian living in London.

On Sunday 11th Sep we left for Lagos (130M) in company with Dart Warrior and Restless. Sailing in company had become familiar to us by now and we had learned a lot on previous passages with Dart Warrior. The first time we had sailed together was from La Coruna to Corme and as DW effortlessly pulled ahead our smiles became an effort to maintain. By the time DW was a spot on the horizon we were forced to consider "the cruising chute", a sail we had failed with several times before and basically didn't ever want to see again. Suddenly driven by a lust for speed we were transformed into a slick(ish) racing crew. The sail worked beautifully increasing our speed from 4.5 to 6 knots and we have used it many times since. We call it Big Bertha or The Secret Weapon (on the subject of names many pieces of equipment have been christened over the last months and we will try to introduce you in future logs).

So, as we left Cascais, Bertha was pressed into service within minutes and soon we were making good speed. The wind and swell increased through the day until by early evening we had to reduce sail considerably. The boat's motion as it accelerated in front of waves then decelerated as they passed all the time rolling from side to side made doing anything very tiring - something like climbing over a children's playground situated in the back of a transit being driven around town at speed. However when we saw Restless running well under twin foresails we decided that the middle of the night with these sea conditions was a convenient moment to pole out our Yankee for the first time. Surprisingly it went very well, due in no small part to our downwind sailing "masterclass" from David and Alison, and the boat felt set up for the night ahead.

Coastal night sailing like this tends to be an exercise in collision avoidance. Shortly after dark the boats along the coast start their engines cast off from shore and start heading towards you. The large ones are the most frightening, like on this particular night when a ship around the size of the Isle of Wight appeared behind us from among the lights on the coast and travelling at 24knots (info courtesy of Kieran's AIS system). "TWENTY FOUR KNOTS!" I exclaimed when he told me. But at least these large boats tend to follow a constant course, the tricky ones are the fishing boats (Do they have to fish only at night?) which travel on long arcs so that whenever you take your eyes off them they turn and try to run you down.

Surprisingly at dawn as we rounded Cabo San Vincent all three boats in our convoy were still within view of each other and after a brief lull the wind increased to allow a invigorating dawn beat to Lagos. More about Lagos - external link


14th September Lagos

Arrived on Monday and caught up on our sleep. Since then we've just been chilling out, doing the odd job here and there on the boat, and passing the evenings with Restless ( and Dart Warrior.

On board Restless (from left - Mark, Rie, Dan, Ele, Nat and Keiran)


Received 16th September: 0030

15th September - Lagos (but different berth)

We were supposed to be arriving in Chipiona, nr Cadiz, today but the other night we got the weather forecast and it didn't look too inviting - easterly force 8 in the Gibraltar Straits with rough seas. Checked the forecast again in the morning only to find it had got worse - force 7-9. The weather has clearly changed here. Although it's still warm, it has been thundery all day and we had a brief downpour of large hailstones. Enjoying visiting the local beach for a drink and walk most early evenings. Today it felt less like the sunny Algarve and more like our walks along the north Norfolk coast. Mark had some success on the SSB tonight and, after trying for some weeks now, it was really good to finally hear and speak to Nick and Ellen on Kika ( who are in Bayona at the moment. Celebrated that and the eve of my birthday with balloons and homemade banana and walnut cake and not-homemade chocolate cake with Keiran and Ele. Yummy.





Received 23rd September: 1800

A holiday in Lagos

We like it here! So do many other British yachts. It is a popular place to winter. Although busy and geared for tourists it feels unfinished, not fully discovered. Our last few days have felt like “a holiday”. We walked the beaches – Nat collecting shells. We took siestas and sat reading books. Today we started some urgent varnishing on the floors in the galley

Varnishing in Lagos

– get some varnish on it now before it starts to break up – the boat is a real tip with tools, sandpaper and no floor but we still feel chilled. Maybe we’re getting the hang of this. The time has come to move on from here and if crossing the Bay of Biscay was the first big step of our trip then I think this must be the second. Leaving from Lagos here in the SW tip of mainland Europe we will travel south 600miles along the coast of North Africa to the Canary Islands . We plan to make landfall on the tiny, undeveloped island of Graciosa (29deg 13.8N, 13deg 30.2W). Weather permitting we plan to depart early next week.  


Road trip to Spain

We spent Nat’s birthday weekend with her parents who were staying with friends in Sotogrande (near Gibraltar ). Hiring and driving a left hand drive car provided some amusement; each junction found me fumbling at the door handle searching for the gear stick while Nat yelled “drive on the right”. The roads are great here – empty, smooth two laners which sweep and dip between the hills. A large bull statue - a cultural icon of Andalucia – provided an irresistible climbing frame en route (yes Mark IS up there).

Bull Andalucia


Arriving at Sotogrande as the afternoon cooled into evening it was great to sit together, have a beer and catch up while Nat opened her presents. We all stayed at Jim and Jean’s attractive villa and are grateful to them for putting us up and especially for all the lovely homemade food, birthday cake, and constant use of their washing machine. Although at the villa it felt quiet and uncrowded the places we visited along the coast felt the opposite. We had fun with Rodger and Margaret visiting Estepona and Gibraltar . Memorable highlights included reversing up the Rock while trying to get down it, seeing hazy Africa in the distance, lazy coffees and cakes in numerous cafes, and having a strange feeling we were back in Stamford while shopping at Morrisons. Stocked up with goodies and clean clothes, we said our tearful goodbyes once more and headed home to Portugal .



Monday, 26 th September, 2005

Boat work

Today Rienhard* (a German) said “sailing is the sport of repairing your boat in the best places of the world.” And have we been repairing! Nothing major really, more like improvements. Over the last couple of days we have finished varnishing the galley floor, re-varnished and sealed the bathroom, tidied out the cockpit lockers, re-stitched a minor tear in the mainsail, re-stitched the sprayhood, fitted our second horseshoe lifebuoy and replaced the flag on our danboy. Flushed with success, we are now looking forward to setting off for the Canaries and to hopefully seeing some of the best places of the world.

*Rienhard and Ene are on the ARC too so we look forward to seeing them again, while probably doing some repairs to our boat, in Las Palmas



Tuesday, 27 th September, 2005

Fools and Horses

Today we celebrated being married for three years. Our anniversary isn’t actually until tomorrow but, with the arrival of friends then, we decided to go out and have a meal together today instead. What the Lonely Planet says about being veggie in Portugal is this: ‘are you ever a long way from home’ and they’re about right, except, we’re not really in Portugal here as there are so many Brits around. Being the intrepid adventurers we are, we settled on the culinary delights of the Fools and Horses pub. 1 vegetable lasagna with chips, 1 pepper steak with chips, 2 glasses of luke warm red wine, 1 flying cockcroach and the footie on in the background. And they say romance is dead.


Wednesday, 28 th September, 2005

‘Still’ in Lagos

We seem to always be “departing a few days ago” and always find a good excuse not to go. The old weather one always works a treat, but on this occasion we delayed setting off for the opportunity to catch up with friends. We last saw Nick and Ellen - sailing on Kika - in England so it was quite cool to be sitting on a Portuguese pontoon in the midday sun drinking cold beer and swapping our tales (or in boat speak, having a good old yarn.) With an interesting mixture of liquid refreshments along the way, this carried on until midnight when the yarning turned into yawning and the prospect of an early start dawned on Mark and Nick. They were off to Aljezur in the morning, about twenty miles away, in search of solar panels.


28 th Sep-3 rd Oct Lagos

Nick (KIKA) and I hired a car for a morning and drove into rural Portugal (i.e. more than 3miles from the south coast) to buy some solar panels. The place was great (see Before long I had a 90W panel rigged on the arch over the cockpit and wired up. We now have a silent and effortless 3 amp charge over most of the daylight hours. I am most grateful to Ian from the nearby Vancouver 36 for the advice and encouragement on solar panels, water-makers and much else.

Solar Panel in situ

After discussing and comparing the SSB radio installations with KIKA I decided to rewire my set (specifically the “ground”). Although it was hard work the reward came when we talked for the first time over the air the night KIKA left Lagos .

We really enjoyed catching up with Nick and Ellen (KIKA) and hope to meet them many more times during the trip.

Nat woke one morning as a seamstress and now we have a colourful fabric from India covering our saloon cushions. The boat looks really cheery and set up for tropical island landfalls.

Recently I’ve been studying astronavigation and some time between mid-morning and noon will find me sitting on the beach using the sextant to measure the height of the sun in the sky. See “How to..” site for details on this. Finally, I cleaned the living daylights out of our water-maker and it seems to be working okay. This is good news as we had given up on it and were about to order a new membrane at £400.

The boat is now in a better state than ever before and we feel ready to set out on the next stage of our trip.






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