Down the Portuguese coast

(It’s possible to click on the pictures now for a bigger version)

To sum up the last weeks, we were a little bit lazy and just did some short passages down the Portuguese coast. Nearly all Portuguese harbours are in river entrances and can get quite rough even with moderate winds because the Atlantic swell works against the river and tidal currents.

Porto
Porto
Port wine tasting in Porto
Port wine tasting in Porto

We had some great days in Porto with crews from other boats and our friend Moritz who joined us from Povoa de Varzim to Peniche. We explored the city, had an exceptionally good sushi and did a Port wine tasting that was included in the marina fee.

Dolphins
Dolphins
Motoring through the atlantic swell somewhere on the Portuguese coast
Motoring through the atlantic swell somewhere on the Portuguese coast
Sao Jacinto anchorage with Mila in the back
Sao Jacinto anchorage with Mila in the back

After some days we headed south to Aveiro and anchored in the nearby Sao Jacinto anchoring bight, because there is a high voltage cable crossing the river that goes to the Aveiro Marina. According to our charts the minimum height below the cable is 18m, but as Mila has a height of nearly 17m including the VHF antenna we decided not to try out the accuracy of the given cable height.

The entrance to the river delta was quite rough although there was nearly no wind and only about 2m of swell outside in the deeper water. But as we approached the shallower entrance the waves got steeper and quite chaotic. It didn’t help that we arrived exactly between high and low tide. When we walked to the entrance the next day at high water the conditions were a lot calmer.

Going to Sao Jacinto turned out to be a wise decision, because it is an interesting place that is much less touristy than Aveiro. We were the only boat in the anchorage at first, and then another french boat joined us. We went to the only existing bar in the village, which was only populated by locals and had two nice evenings with cheap beer and funny karaoke singers. As this was the only place to go to there were people of all ages, and on the second evening we noticed that there were not only exactly the same people but they even sat in exactly the same spot. So we wondered whose spot we occupied…

Moritz and me went to a fish restaurant and I ordered grilled sardines and got a delicious plate of six of them. This has been the first time in my life that I ordered fish in a restaurant and was not able to eat all of it, but fortunately Moritz was able to help.

Exploring Aveiro
Exploring Aveiro
Sao Jacinto beach
Sao Jacinto beach

From Sao Jacinto we went to Peniche and originally planned to visit the Berlengas Island which is about 5 nautical miles west of Peniche. But this island has no harbour and there was to much swell to use the dinghy to get to land, so we just motored around the island and then went to Peniche.

Peniche harbour
Peniche harbour

When we arrived we were welcomed by the norwegian girls of Paloma which we already knew from Porto. We had told them before that we are really sad about not being able to make pizza on board because we don’t have an oven and so they invited us over for a really nice pizza dinner.

We stayed for some days and walked around the peninsula, went for a swim and to a local bar. The weather was changing a lot between warm sunshine, strong rainshowers and extremely thick fog.

Next stop was Cascais in the Tejo river nearby Lisboa. We didn’t like this town as it is a rich people’s area and so were the prices in the harbour, not only the high marina fee but also 13€ for using the washing machine and the dryer. Because of the conditions on the river we had to stay some days but then went on to Oeiras closer to Lisboa as soon as possible.

Approaching Oeiras was as rough as the other Portuguese river approaches, but this time we had a funny encounter with a portuguese submarine warship. We arrived in the darkness and the submarine was black, had no AIS transponder, the wrong navigational lights (actually it had the lights that a sailboat shows when sailing without the engine running and therefore having the right of way). The lights were mounted so low that i saw the boat at first when it was only about 50-60m away. But all went fine, probably they saw us much earlier and kept clear of us.

Exploring Lisboa
Exploring Lisboa

In Oeiras we met up again with some of the other boats. The marina has its own pool that is naturally only open during daytime but as we decided that all of us are in need of a swim in the late night we unfortunately misunderstood the pool area fence for a pool area boarding ladder. This worked quite well for about 10 minutes until the very relaxed pool guard arrived. He approached in normal Portuguese guard pace (means extremely slow) and friendly informed us that the pool is closed till the next morning. So we went back over the pool area boarding ladder and decided to go to the next beach for another swim and the usual bonfire.

Partying on Landkrabbene with the Girls from Paloma and Tuuli
Partying on Landkrabbene with the Girls from Paloma and Tuuli

In contrary to our original plans we decided not to head to Madeira next but go further south on the coast and then cross the strait of Gibraltar to go to Morocco. While Madeira would definitely have been nice too, we’re interested in going somewhere that is a little bit off the normal cruising routes, so we plan to visit El Jadida and Essaouira because those are the only harbours that we can enter with our 2m draft and do at least have some sort of small pier where a yacht can go to. After Morocco we will get back on our planned route and therefore sail to the Canaries.

I ran the Berlin Marathon, we crossed the Bay of Biscay to Spain and now we are in Portugal!

Olá dear readers, I am sorry I did not write my blogpost sooner, we were too busy enjoying our life the last weeks and I never found the time.

We have a new crewmember since sunday, our friend Moritz came from Berlin. I’m pretty sure he will catch a fish before Lukas, who still caught nothing but some seaweed and a bird. But more about that later.
About three weeks ago we left Mila all alone in the harbour in Brest and went to Berlin with the Flixbus, which only cost us about 60€ per person but was of course extremely uncomfortable. It took about 22 hours, with a little break in Paris.
We were happy to meet our families and friends and to have some drinks in our favourite bar, the Flop. On the 25th I ran my first marathon in 3:56. Five days went over really fast and then we headed back to Brest to continue our journey. It was a strange feeling to return to the harbour, like dropping into a completely different life again.
After we made sure everything on the boat was fine we drove to Camaret sur mer, just 11 nautical miles from Brest. We arrived in the dark and I was super tired from the travelling but Lukas convinced me that we should go to the Irish pub and eat a pizza and drink some pints. When we arrived there it was too late for pizza sadly, so we just had the beers and watched the barkeepers’ impressing games of darts.
Camaret is much more charming than Brest. We were especially fond of the ancient ships rusting away on the side of the harbour.

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Camaret sur Mer

The next morning we got visited by some customs officers that were anchoring in front of the harbour. As they were a lot of officers coming to watch one guy filling out some forms Lukas didn’t invite them inside but let them sit outside in the rain. Fortunately they still found nothing to complain about. So we paid the harbour fee, got some water in our canisters and bunkered 150 liters of diesel for the crossing of the Bay of Biscay.
Due to our detour to Berlin we couldn’t cross it together with Tuuli and all the other boats with young crews that they met in Camaret, so we went on our own.
The leg started pleasant with about 10 knots and a crazy crowd of dolphins hunting for jumping fish around us in the first night.
The next night was less pleasant with about 35 knots in the peaks. We sailed through it with just the jib up and were racing along with up to 8,4 knots. I took this photo the next morning, when the waves already got smaller.

Waves on the Bay of Biscay
Waves on the Bay of Biscay

In the evening the wind died and we had to use the engine until the harbour. It took us 63 hours from Camaret sur Mer in France to A Coruña in Spain.

In A Coruña we had a great time partying with sailors from Norway, England, Sweden, Germany/US, Belgium, South Norway. One evening we tried to fit 12 people into a tapas bar.
For sobering out Lukas and I wanted to visit the Hercules tower, which is situated on a cliff north of the marina. The tower was already closed when we arrived there, but the view from the cliffs below the tower was amazing enough anyways.

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Cliffs north of A Coruña
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My headache disappeared and I made a handstand to celebrate 🙂

We also got out our snorkeling gear and went for a dive with Sigurd and Tobias from the Landkrabbene. It was fun, although the water was too agitated to see anything.

Snorkeling on the big beach in A Coruña
Snorkeling on the big beach in A Coruña

When we had enough of A Coruña we left the harbour together with the sail boats Tuuli, Rosanna, Landkrabbene, Divina Remi and Danae. We were starting a bit later than the others because we had to get some diesel in the morning. I am proud to say that we still arrived in the bay of Camariñas first 🙂 Our colourful booster did a great job in the steady wind from the north, driving us forward really fast.

Lukas booming out the booster
Lukas booming out the booster

Oh, almost forgot the fishing story. Lukas came to wake me up for my shift and suddenly we heard the fishing rod making sounds outside. When we rushed out we discovered it was a big bird, we think a kind of grey gannet that bit on the rubber octopus Lukas was fishing with on the surface.
My stomach flipped over at the thought of Lukas having to pull out the feathers of that bird, spill blood everywhere and eat it, because when it’s dead anyway you should at least eat what you caught. I helped him to carefully pull the heavy bird onto the boat, trying not to break its neck. When it sat there in the net in the back of the boat it was alive and we saw that it spat out the lure already so we didn’t have to risk our fingers getting near its sharp bead. We got him back to the water as quickly as possible and were extremely releaved to see him fly away. Unfortunately there was no time to take a picture for the blog. After we were not shaking anymore Lukas started fishing again with a heavier lure, that was not staying on the surface. And … had bad luck again. The reel broke when he caught a giant bulk of seaweed. I have to confess that I was happy he wasn’t able to fish for some time then until he bought a new reel.

All the boats were anchoring next to each other in the bay in Camariñas and we had two nice campfire evenings with two guitars on the surrounding beaches.

Anchoring with boat buddies in the bay of Camariñas
Anchoring with boat buddies in the bay of Camariñas

I also paddled into the river with my paddleboard and found a beautiful little beach just for myself. See here:

Lonely beach at the mouth of Ria do Porto in Camariñas
Lonely beach at the mouth of Ria do Porto in Camariñas
View from the top
View from the top

Lukas came by with the dinghy and we went for an exploration up the river. It was really interesting to see the colour of the water changing from the shallow mouth towards the inland where it got a lot deeper. We could see a lot of fish under us in the clear water.

Further up in the river
Further up in the river

We pulled up the anchor on Saturday midday and had perfect sailing conditions until the Cape Fisterra, where the wind picked up a lot and we had to steer by hand as the windpilot started to steer a zigzag course which caused the boat to lean from one side to the other side in every wave which was slightly annoying.

Cape Fisterra - the Romans thought it would be the end of the world before America was discovered
Cape Fisterra – the Romans thought it would be the end of the world before America was discovered

In the evening the wind decreased a bit until it died completely. We had to use the engine and had some dolphins visiting us again in the dark. After a while a heavy fog appeared reducing the visability to about 30 meters. I started to sound the horn every two minutes making it impossible for Lukas to get any sleep. But as we still didn’t install our radar I was a little bit scared we might run into a boat without AIS. Luckily there were almost no ships around us except of some fishers. When we reached the harbour of Póvoa de Varzim in Portugal at 8 in the morning everything was still covered in fog and the harbour was filled with hundereds of mullets eating stuff on the surface of the water. We slept for a while and then visited the city centre to get some breakfast. We got breakfast and 4 pairs of shoes for 50€. And we also went to a Portuguese Lidl to restock our provisions. In the night Moritz arrived with the metro. The next day he had a walk in the city while Lukas tidyed up the boat and I went for my first run after the marathon.
Well, that was yesterday, in the afternoon we motored about 3 hours to Porto. When we arrived we were greeted by Emilie from a Norwegian Hallberg Rassy. Had some lovely cheese and port wine on a big new German boat without the Germans, but with an Irish guy and the Norwegian girls. When we moved to our boat we also conviced the Crew of the German boat Kobold to join us and in the end had about 11 people in the saloon heating up the air quite a bit 🙂
Was a really cool evening, thanks to everyone for making our first night in Porto awesome. We learned that it is really more communicative to park the boat with its butt to the pier, so that other sailors can see the home port, which is a great conversation opener.

Puh, I think I’m through now. As soon as Lukas is back from getting our outboard engine fixed we can finally go and explore the city.

Adiós for now, don’t let autumn get you down in Germany 😛
Well to be honest, sometimes temperatures are getting lower here as well, so it’s not the weather for t-shirts all the time anymore, actually I’m sitting in the cockpit at the moment with a blanket wrapped around me.

Further West and a little bit to the South

Our next leg from Saint-Germain-des-Vaux was to Guernsey. We were accompanied by the Tuulis (check out their website). We motored the whole way through the so-called “Race of Alderney”. It’s called like this because of the very strong currents that can occur due to the tide. But we arrived a little bit early and so the Race was not as exciting as we expected.

Shortly before we approached St. Peter-Port which is the main harbour of Guernsey we had a small thunderstorm coming along our way. Wind speeds increased from zero to nearly 40 knots in minutes and decreased shortly after we finished berthing, which went surprisingly well for those conditions.

The marina has a very motivated harbour master. We arrived in the middle of the night at about 3:30 and he instantly came over in his small dinghy and pointed us to the right berth.

Guernsey was the first “country” where we had to clear customs, but it’s a quite easy procedure. You simply have to fill out a form with all your personal and ship data (and list all alcoholic beverages and all vegetables and meat onboard) and then put the form into a postbox when leaving your boat for the first time.

 

Guernsey
Guernsey

The yacht harbour has a sill to keep the water inside at low tide. Tidal differences are quite high.

The Sill at St.Peter-Port (Guernsey) at high tide
The Sill at St.Peter-Port (Guernsey) at high tide
The sill of St.Peter-Port on Guernsey at low tide
The sill of St.Peter-Port on Guernsey at low tide

 

Guernsey jetty
Guernsey jetty
Guernsey with the old fort in the background
Guernsey with the old fort in the background

Guernsey was nice to visit but at least St. Peter-Port was not as interesting as we would have liked it to be. For me, the most remarkable thing was the extraordinarily good Burger Menu i ate.

 

That's how home-grade "stainless" steel is looking after some weeks in a marine environment
That’s how home-grade “stainless” steel is looking after some weeks in a marine environment

We should have stayed for another night to explore the other parts of the island. Instead, we decided to continue Southwest and went back to France to Roscoff due to a very good weather forecast which turned out to be wrong, we had to use the engine most of the way.

We've been escorted by Dolphins while sailing to Roscoff
We were escorted by Dolphins while sailing to Roscoff

Roscoff is a nice little city with stores that have a quite long lunch break, and when we decide to walk to the next supermarket we usually arrive five minutes after the beginning of this. So instead of cooking we went to a creperie and had some crepes and coffee. Afterwards, we went to a marine chandler and got some emergency parachute rockets. We would have liked to buy them before we started our journey, but in Germany you are not allowed to buy these without a special license. In France (and probably everywhere else on the world except Germany) you simply go to the store and buy the stuff.

Roscoff
Roscoff

We stayed in Roscoff for two days and went to the beach both days. The first day it was a nice relaxing stay, the second day it wasn’t, because we arrived at high tide and there was no beach any more.

Roscoff harbour at low tide
Roscoff harbour at low tide
Roscoff beach
Roscoff beach

 

From Roscoff, we had a nice relaxing sail to L’Aber Wrac’h. We had to sail close-hauled again and made really good progress due to the wave patterns. While our french boat that has been built in La Rochelle in the middle of the bay of biscay really struggles to go upwind in the short and steep waves of the baltic sea or the english channel, it works like a charm in those long and even Atlantic waves. We’ve had waves of probably two to three meters and it was a lot more relaxing than sailing against waves of less than one meter on the baltic sea.

The next leg was through the Chanel du Four to the Rade du Brest (Bay of Brest) where we’re at anchor now about four miles south of the city. We went there by dinghy today and explored the city center.

The next step will be crossing the bay of Biscay, and we hope to get nice weather for the whole passage (about 350 miles) in about a week.  It gets quite cold here now at night so we hope to be in the warmer south soon.

From Dover to Isle of Wight and back to France

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Our track since Dunkerque

In Dover we stayed in the Tidal Harbour, which was with 30.80 pound the most expensive harbour on our trip so far. Unfortunately we were stuck there for 3 days, due to weak wind and fog. But during our stay we met the crew from sailing boat Milan. The skipper participated in the Tall Ship Race the year before and now also wants to cross the Atlantic. We could have seen them in Aalborg last year when we came back from our first vacation with Mila on the North Sea. We had a little bit too much Jägermeister from Helgoland with them.
We liked the promenade, with its yellow to orange stones on the beach and smooth pavement, perfect for longboarding. We didn’t like that you couldn’t even look down from the hill with the castle without paying the overpriced fee.

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Dover Tidal Harbour at high tide
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Dover beach

After some foggy days in Britain we were happy to get wind force 3 from South West on Tuesday, planning to sail to a wild anchorage in France and hopefully find the summer again.

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On Friday midday we had to use the engine as the wind faded. After some hours one of the seals in our motor started leaking, so we searched for a Vetus Service nearby and it turned out one was on the Isle of Wight. Lukas was a little bit happy that he got to see this sailor’s mecca even though we wanted to skip it in order to get to the Bay of Biscay earlier.

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Racing sailing boats on the Solent

We moored at Cowes Yacht Haven. A mechanic came aboard the next day and fixed the problem and also did the next engine service as it was due again.

The people from the marina wanted us to leave as soon as possible because the whole harbour was booked for the participants of a race. So we went to Osborne Bay just West of Cowes to anchor there. We had quite a bit of swell there but we were happy not to spend any money for some time after having to pay for the engine service. Over the phone payment, by the way, if someone from payleven is reading this 🙂 The bay is private property of the Queen, so we were not able to take the dinghy to land. We spend two relaxing days in the bay as the wind was too strong to continue our trip. Lukas tried to catch a fish and failed. I got the guitar out of the rear bunk and practiced a bit.

As soon as the wind decreased a little bit we pulled the anchor and drove to the western end of the Solent and out in the Needles Channel. The sea can be quite rough there when you don’t pass it in high tide, it was not too bad when we went through.

Driving trough the Needles Channel
Driving trough the Needles Channel
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We were out of beer and wine since Osborne Bay, so we had to drink this strange beverage
Our navigation table at night
Our navigation table at night

After about 16 hours we arrived at 8 in the morning in a cosy little bay in Saint-Germain-des-Vaux. We slept for some hours and then took the dinghy to shore in order to explore the area. I went running for about 30 km on a beautiful track on the coast. Lukas bought some fish from one of the fishers, I stole some corn from the fields and we had a barbecue on the beach. Yesterday we visited the closest supermarket, which was 8 km away. Luckily the longboard carried the heavy stuff for us again, hill up and hill down and through tiny old villages.

Port Racine, Saint-Germain-des-Vaux
Port Racine, Saint-Germain-des-Vaux, Mila in the back, anchoring next to the small fisher boats
Getting ready for the Berlin Marathon in this beautiful landscape is easy
Getting ready for the Berlin Marathon in this beautiful landscape is easy

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New accessory on our outboard engine
New accessory on our outboard engine

From Stad aan Het Haringvliet to Dover

We’ve been to Netherlands – France – Great Britain in the last days. While Belgium would have been nice to visit too, we decided to go to France directly and ended up in Dunkerque as the wind died and our fuel tank was nearly empty.

Dunkerque
Dunkerque
Dunkerque harbor, probably mullets
Dunkerque harbor, probably mullets

As we liked the beach we stayed for two days. Teresa took the opportunity to run 28km to Belgium and back. There are a lot of marine hardware stores and so we stocked up on fuel filters and oil filters. Unfortunately, Henning had to get back home from Dunkerque so now we’re on our own again.

Dunkerque beach
Dunkerque beach
Dunkerque beach
Dunkerque beach

Initially, we planned to go from Dunkerque to Isle Of Wight, but as the wind increased again we decided to stop at Calais. We arrived late at night and opposed to what we expected, there was nearly no ferry traffic. As the harbor only opens at high tide, we weren’t able to get in and stayed on a mooring buoy for the night. There was quite a lot of swell in the harbor but as the buoy was for free that was okay. At some times, it was impossible to have a can of beer standing on the table without holding it securely.

Calais
Calais

As the weather forecast predicted southwesterly winds with force 3 (about 10 knots), we decided to cross the english channel and then continue to sail west to Isle of Wight. But about half way of the crossing wind speeds increased and soon we found ourselves sailing close-hauled against force 8, we measured some wind gusts over 40 knots. So still no Isle of Wight for us, we’re in Dover now. And we’re having to eat massive amounts of eggs before they go bad. Very delicious!

Somewhere near Dover
Somewhere near Dover

So far, everything works great, except that we are wishing for more winds from the north or east. But considering the pilot charts for this area, those strong westerly winds seem to be normal.

We’ve sailed nearly 900 miles now and Mila works as we expect her to, except for a small leak (or leaks, who knows…) we haven’t found until now. When sailing close-hauled at force 5 or more our bilge pump removes about a small cup of water every hour. Nothing dramatic, but we would like to have a dry bilge.

Lukas

We’re on our way and the blog is finally there!

This is day 29 of our travel, we made 735 nautical miles and finally we have good wifi and some time to get started with the blog, thank you for your patience 🙂

We are in Stad aan Het Haringvliet at the moment, a little village south of Rotterdam.

What happened so far? Well, we untied our lines on August 1st in Hennigsdorf, thinking we would arrive at the Szczecin Lagoon in about 3 days. But as we arrived at the Hohensaaten locks, the water level of the Hohensaaten-Friedrichsthaler-Wasserstraße, the channel behind the locks, was too shallow for Mila’s 2m draught. So we waited there for 10 days and started to think we would never even get to the sea and just chill in Hohensaaten for 3 years. Luckily we got a cold beer delivery from our friend Andreas every few days and a visit from my brother, which made the waiting much less frustrating.

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Waiting at Hohensaaten locks
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Jump rope workout on our paddleboard

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When the water level rose over 2 meters on August 12th we were thrilled to be able to go through the locks finally. We stopped in Mescherin for a night and arrived in Ueckermünde the day after. Mila became a real sailboat again when we stepped her mast. My parents came with their caravan for our farewell and helped us a lot with cooking food for us, picking up our bimini top from the sailmaker in Greifswald and driving us to Szczecin for provisioning. My brother visited us as well and helped us with connecting the solar panels and getting the boat ready for sailing.

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Leaving Ueckermünde

 

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Hoisting our sails for the first time this year

 

We left Ueckermünde on August 17th and decided to sail directly to Kiel to make up for lost time. In Holtenau we took our friend Henning on board, who will spend 2 weeks with us on the boat. We drove through the Kiel Canal in one day and had to come alongside a group of 3 ships in Brunsbüttel. One of them wanted to leave the harbour at 5 in the morning, the other one at 9, tough night.

Next we headed to Cuxhaven, a nice and big harbour, which is quite expensive. We got the washing done, it was raining most of the time. Lukas made a pizza out of old buns in our Omnia oven. A seal was lying on the pier for half a day.

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Our next stop was Amsterdam, where went to the Sixhaven. The city is beautiful and we really enjoyed watching the small boats having traffic jams and partying in the canals. So we decided to take our dinghy for a ride trough the canals on the next day. It’s been a lot of fun but turned out to be a bit difficult because in a lot of canals you are only allowed to go trough one way. Lukas and Henning dropped me off at the Van Gogh Museum.

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Lazy beer transport with the longboard
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Amsterdam

In the night we departed for Stad aan Het Haringvliet where we met Kristy and Thomas from Sailboat Tuuli and had a great BBQ at the beach next to the harbour.

Our next stop will be France, probably Le Havre, let’s see what the wind will do with us.

Teresa