We leave at 9am on the 7th November. Instead of exploring the Ria De Vigo (which we really do want to do) we agree we should continue South while the good weather is holding. It’s a beautiful day and a pleasure to sail across the bay with the islands to our right. We motor sail for a bit as the wind drops off but switch the engine off at lunchtime as the wind fills in again. We have to gybe (wind round the stern) and as we do so or gaff jaws break. The sail stays up but sets badly. We will have to fix it so we decide to head to Lexioes which is just North of Porto. As we approach the harbour we have a bit of a near miss with a fishing boat. They seem to be out to get us.
Entering in the darkness is not too intimidating and we anchor down at 2200 outside the marina. Strong winds are forecast so we decide to spend a day tied up safely inside. We can use the electric for gaff repairs and fill our water tanks. 35 Euros for the night so on our budget we better work fast.
In the morning Bryher wakes early so I take her for a long walk with her on my back down to the beach. There is big surf breaking today and I feel glad to be tied up safe alongside. In the afternoon we all explore the town and have lunch in a bar. We both eat and have a beer for 6 Euros. Nice.
I fix the Gaff jaws and Bryony does an epic clothes washing session. We bought a twin tub camping washing before we left Cornwall and it has proved to be a great thing to have. No more tracking down expensive launderettes humping heavy bags around. It runs off our solar panels too which is great and with the extra washing a baby generates we are counting our blessings. How far from the hardy days on the salt marshes of North Devon have we come.…!
We sneak another night in the marina as the staff leave at 7pm and don’t arrive till 7am. It makes for a 5am start but we are raring to go. We leave the protection of the harbour and into the usual rolly swell. Bryony and Bryher are both sick but they are resilient despite this and the cure of a fried egg sandwich seems to work. We see dolphins and Bryher now knows the routine. ‘Bow!’ she shouts. In the afternoon we sail through some acrid smoke blowing off the land. Some industrial process being the cause.
We motor through hundreds of small fishing boats as we enter the swampy lagoon of Aviero. There is a little protected bay inside opposite a military base and we anchor here for 2 days. A friendly guy ashore tells us we should visit Aviero town so we catch the ferry across and ride a bus into town. The town is pretty with some canals in the centre a little Venetian like. The buildings are interesting and there is a good fish market. I spend 5 Euros and get two kilos of local, fresh fish. We journey home and while waiting at the bus stop I take a picture down the street capturing everyone on their phones...zoom in to see. It's quite freaky how we have have all absorbed technology over the last few years. We all rely on our devices and we here are reliant on the internet for weather and communication. However, I fear the way were all heading with this stuff and I catch myself getting sucked in. I really dont want to be the last person in this picture - phone gripped in hand - but I am.
We BBQ the fish on the aft deck that evening and add salad from our deck garden made from an old liferaft container. Eating aboard does not get much better than this in my book.
We leave on the 12th and are bound for Peniche. This proves to be a bit too far so we change destination and at midnight we arrive at Figura De Foz. There is a dredger working in the entrance so we have to wait a while, with tired eyes, for him to move over a bit and let us in. There is no designated anchorage here but we drop the hook inside the harbour off to one side and I sleep in the wheel house to keep and eye on things. A few hours sleep and we are off again. Clean swell rolls into the entrance and South Star rises to it. A bit bigger and you can see how dangerous these harbour entrances become. The surf looks great on the beach. Years ago I used to surf this coastline from camper vans. It is great to be passing through again even if we have no time for a surf.
We gybe again later in the day and the gaff jaws break a second time. Must do a better repair job next time. I think the wood had a shake in it which made it weak. We sail all day and it gets windy off of the islands next to Peniche. We make it in though at midnight through a maze of lobster pots and with some wrestling down of the broken gaff and mainsail. We fall into bed exhausted but know we have to do it again tomorrow. There are many fishing boats coming and going all night so we are disturbed by the wash and engine noise.
I wake at dawn and do a quick repair on the gaff while Bryony makes breakfast. We leave the harbour at 0830 and were heading for Cascais. This is a posh seaside town in the entrance to Lisbon. We round the headland and into the shelter of the bay as the sun sets. An aeroplane which is flying around comes in low and fly’s right over us, fast and low. Bryher (and me) thinks this is great. We come into the anchorage as the big super moon rises over the town. Bryony takes some great pictures and we settle down to sleep. It’s a windy night and I’m up and down lots in the night so not so restful.
We up anchor early again and as we clear the bay South Star is sailing fast in the strong winds. The water is flat and we are making 8 knots. This is as fast as we have ever gone. Hold together rig! We sail for most of the day but have to motor the last few hours as the wind drops off. As we motor along I can see a periscope following us. There is a naval vessel close too but this is a submarine and it keeps up with us for a good while. It is a bit unsettling to say the least. We anchor down in Sines at night fall. It seems to be a nice place. Industrial on the outskirts but the old harbour is fringed with a sandy beach which should keep Bryher happy. She has done so well considering. It’s hard to be at sea with a baby when all they want to do is play on the beach.
We sleep well after 3 long days of travelling and wake to a lovely sunny day. We do boat chores in the morning – top up fuel tank, check oil, laundry, hoovering... and row ashore to explore the pretty town. We have a lovely sardine lunch in a bar next to the castle. We play on the beach but the hot sun drives us back to home for some shelter. We feel rested and positive about the next leg which sees us round Cape St Vincent and get round onto the Algarve.
I wake to the alarm at 4.30 am. I have done the calculations and we need a long day to make it round the cape in one hit. There is bad weather on the way in a few days so we have to press on. We have the wind and swell from behind as a perfect sunrise greets us on the port side. A scorcher of a day unfolds and the sea is blue under us. We dose ourselves in salt water and barbecue fish for lunch. The thermometer in the wheel house reaches 28.5 degrees. We round the cape in late afternoon and can get close for pictures as it is calm and clear. As we round the cape it actually gets rougher. There is a swell from the South which we were not expecting. All the anchorages are exposed to the South so we are in for an uncomfortable night. We anchor in Baleria in the lee of the harbour but it still our worst night for rolling yet. Not quite the Algarve we had in mind!
We leave early and motor sail to Faro lagoon and anchor off Culatra island at sundown. The entrance is narrow and the tide flooding so we race along at 9 knots over the ground. The fishermen wave a friendly greeting and we get a good nights sleep. Onwards again in the morning...we spend what will be our last day at sea before entering the Guadiana River which will be our home for the winter. We enter the river through a maze of lobster pots and anchor down off of Villa Real De San Antonio. We head ashore into a busy market day and are a bit overwhelmed by the hoards of people.
Well we made it. Our old boat and family crew have done so well. I have a huge amount of respect for Bryony – who has put up with some terribly hard days. She has kept Bryher safe, happy and entertained. She has breast fed on the helm, in the dingy day and night. For someone who says she has not done much sailing she sure has what it takes to do this. My hat is off to you sweetheart.
Bryher has also shown herself to be a proper little sea creature. In her year and a half on the planet she has crossed the English channel twice, Biscay once and sailed over 1500 miles. She has happily played while she puked, waved at dolphins, held crabs, learned about words and the world. She has learnt to use her potty and spends most days out of nappies. She has stayed sane as her crayons rolled away from her hand as we sailed along. And she has made people smile whenever we go ashore. Good on ya Bee.
And as for me. Well I am happy we have made it. My hard work on South Star over the years has all been worth it. She kept my family safe and sound for me and has shown herself to be an adventurous old girl despite her 70 years of messing about on the water. I feel we have been lucky with the weather and could easily have been stuck somewhere in an expensive marina wondering what on earth we have done. But we dared to dream and dared ourselves along every step of the way. We have gelled to become a happy cruising family and we can always say to ourselves that we didn’t just talk about it – we did it.
Coming next.... 'South Star Goes South'