After spending three quiet days in Rota we decided to take advantage of a break in the strong westerly winds of the previous days and avail of light winds to move on to our next destination, Vilamoura, Portugal, one of our favourite ports and our winter base of 2018/2019 in the Algarve.
On Tuesday 04th August at 21:00hrs we departed Rota. We would motor through the night and arrive before lunch the next day. Not long underway we were treated to a glorious sunset which I will never tire of watching. To see the sun fall below the horizon and the beautiful red sky that stays behind for a while is just a wonderful sight. I have yet to see the Green Flash phenomenon that sometimes happens just as the sun disappears below the horizon. The next highlight was the moon rise at 22:20 and on a beautiful clear calm night it is like a torch shining the way although not always in the direction you are travelling.
Around midnight we could see light reflections off in the horizon and a lot of targets showing on the AIS. Initially we thought it was another drifting ship area as we were in the Gulf of Cadiz which is one of the busy ports in Spain, but as we got closer it was lots of fishing boats all using spotlights. Because they were so lit up it was very difficult to determine their direction of travel which changes rapidly. It took us about two hours to navigate through them.
At approximately 03:00hrs a High Voltage Alarm triggered on the Mastervolt battery monitoring system. This would alarm intermittently during the night. We switched on some internal lights to increase load on the batteries and once back in daylight we switched off the Solar Panels. We monitored the battery temperature regularly and at no time did the temperature of the batteries rise above 31 degC. This indicated a possible issue with our engine alternator so a replacement would have be ordered and fitted when we were in Vilamoura.
On Wednesday 05th August at 11:15am we docked at the waiting pontoon at Marina de Vilamoura. A total of 93.6nm travelled. The office assigned us to the same berth which we had during our winter stay so we were very happy it was free. As soon as we were settled at our berth Liam began the task of sourcing a replacement alternator. A like for like part was available through an Irish supplier who unfortunately do not deliver to Portugal so we arranged for delivery to family in Cork who in lightening speed had it on its way to Portugal the following day. A big big thank you Greg.
We had hoped that the new alternator would arrive on Friday but there was a delay at the DHL warehouse so delivery slipped until Monday. This gave us an extra few days in Vilamoura so we allowed ourselves a treat of a meal out in our favourite Indian restaurant which had outdoor seating and good distance between tables so we felt somewhat assured of keeping adequate social distancing. It was also very quiet with only one other table occupied. Certainly the numbers of visitors were down this summer but the marina area was busy in the evenings with some wearing masks and others not as mask wearing is not mandatory in Portugal like its Spanish neighbour.
As soon as the new part arrived on Monday it was installed within a couple of hours and we were set to move on again.
On Tuesday 11th August we refuelled and departed Vilamoura at 10:00hrs to head west to Sagres where we anchored for the night. It was a short trip of 40.3nm. It was also a good test of the newly installed alternator and comforting to note no high voltage alarms so problem solved.
We were up before dawn on Wednesday 12th August to take Schooner ashore for a quick walk and then stow the dinghy and outboard. We raised our anchor and departed Sagres at 06:45hrs. We rounded Cabo de sao Vicente at 07:30hrs and began our journey North to our next port of call at Sines.
About two hours after clearing the headland the sea state calmed to a more comfortable swell of about one meter high with eight second intervals and we were able to get the headsail out which helped steady the boat. At 17:15hrs we docked at Sines marina. At total trip of 63.7nm completed. It was an early night for the crew as another pre-dawn start was scheduled for the next day.
On Thursday 13th August we departed Sines marina at 06:40hrs, towards our next destination, Cascais. The first part of the trip to the headland at Cabo Espichel was pleasant but then (as forecasted) the wind increased to 20 knots against us so the last few hours was a slog crossing the bay towards Cascais. At 15:30hrs we were happy to dock at the Diesel pontoon at Marina de Cascais. A total trip of 53.9nm. Topped up the diesel tank to full and eventually after a 45 minute check in at the office we were assigned our berth at the marina. After a review of the weather forecast our next passage was planned to do an overnight sail to Aldan, Galicia and avail of the light Southerly winds. Also in the forecast was a large fogbank along the coast so we would need to go offshore by 20- 25nm to be clear of this.
At 06:50hrs on Friday 14th August we departed Marina de Cascais. Day 1 began a little cloudy but by mid-day we had a lovely blue sky. We could see the fog bank inshore so we were happy to be in good visibility. Our log showed that we were 11nm offshore at this point. We were joined by a playful pod of dolphins who swam along with us for a while. Schooner was not too enamoured at these BIG fish who smelled funny to be so close so he kept his distance and sat very close to me.
By evening we were motor sailing along nicely. At 22:00hrs just as we were settling into our night watch routines BANG and the engine rolled back. Liam jumped up and put the engine into neutral. Clearly we had hit something most likely a fishing buoy and the rope had fouled the propellor. I checked our position on Navionics and we were 25nm off shore opposite the port of Figueira da Foz in 145m depth of water in the dark. Not a good scenario. Liam checked around the engine bay and shaft to ensure we were not taking on water and all was dry which was a relief. We had enough wind to keep moving under sail so we decided to keep going. There was little sleep had through the night by the crew after that incident.
Day 2, after daybreak we were glad to be twenty five miles offshore as we could see a massive fog bank about five miles inside our course as far north and south as we could see. At 10am the wind had really dropped so we needed the engine but there was a vibration indicating that we still had something attached. There was only one option and that was to dive in and take a look. The sea was calm enough to do this relatively safely with a small swell so we dropped the sails (I think Liam was afraid that myself and Schooner would sail off…..as if we would!!). I marked the position on the chart and noted that the we were 22nm off shore and in a depth of 1700m with a water temperature of a cool 19 degC, glad it was Liam who was taking the plunge. After a quick scan of our surrounds for any predators, no shark fins loitering on this occasion, in he went. Once he had caught his breath after the shock of the cool water he ducked under and sure enough we had a coil of rope wrapped around the propellor and shaft. After a few dives the rope was free. With Liam back onboard we pushed the throttle forward and all felt and sounded good with the engine. We were on our way again.
The remainder of the trip was uneventful and a sharp look out was kept for fishing buoys which there were a few as we got back into shallower depths approaching the Galician coast.
At 21:00hrs on Saturday 15th August we dropped anchor in Aldan, Galicia. A total trip of 231nm, 37 hours at sea (allowing for the 1 hour time difference between Portugal and Spain). A quick trip ashore before darkness for Schooner to touch terra firma and then back onboard for a voyage complete celebration drink for the crew.