It is time to do some catching up! We are a bit more then two months into our trip at the moment and we can say it has been a trip with ups and downs. In our last blog about our trip you can read how we reached France and how we have spent our time there. After this, it was time to cross the Bay of Biscay! Do you prefer to watch a video instead of reading (or both ;)): check our video on YouTube
We planned to leave France late in the afternoon, but the marina wanted us to be out at 15.00h. We planned for later, since the wind and waves would have been calmed down a bit, but since we had to leave and we really thought we would be able to handle it, we left. We had a lot of wind and big waves. Because of this, we made great speed. Downside of this was that we were staying in this weather front for longer. So our fist day was fast, but very uncomfortable. On the second day the wind died down. There were still pretty big waves and because of this, the sail kept on flapping and the boom kept on moving (even with the gibe preventor it still moves a bit). We reefed our sails to reduces the strain on the boom and the noise. At times the wind was very variable, which made the gibe preventor an absolute must. This prevents the boom from coming over the boat, to the other side when there is a sudden wind change.
After a while however, we had to turn the engine on. We are getting better in being okay with making little speed, but we did not want to be stuck in the Bay of Biscay. We have heard to many stories about sudden wind changes, weather changes and how this can build up quickly to bad circumstances. With the engine on we could still keep on going on a decent speed to make full use of our weather window.
The third day was the hardest for both of us. We were both getting tired, and having the engine on is not as satisfying as sailing.
When we arrived closer to Spain we had to decide where we were going to go. We had talked about A Coruna, but since there were such light winds, we decided to round Cape Finnistere straight away. This cape is known for its strong winds. When we where there the wind did pick up, but only to 20 knots, which is great for us! We passed here during the night. As I said in our last blog, nights shifts are usually amazing: quiet, all the stars, moonlight. But when we are closer to shore, it gets a bit trickier. The lights on shore seem so close, but then I check the plotter and land is a couple of miles away. So it is important to pay a lot of attention.
We arrived at Muros early in the morning. We docked Saetta and went straight to bed.
As soon as Miguel’s family heard we where in Spain they wanted to come by. We expected 5 people, but when they arrived, we saw that there were 17 of them! What a nice surprise. Our boat is not big enough to keep all this people in, specially keeping in mind the whole Covid-19 situation. So, we all went out for lunch. Because there were so many people we sat in different restaurants, but on the way there it was still nice to catch up!
After two days in the marina we decided it is time to get to an anchorage. We choose one close by, but during the evening the wind was picking up and since we did not feel very protected, we left to another anchorage, a couple of hours away. Here we arrived in the dark, which was a whole experience for us. We saw a couple of boats around us, and some lights, which I presumed where on shore, so we had to be careful where to drop our anchor. We find it hard to gauge distances during the day, during the night it is even harder. But we found ourselves a spot and went to sleep. The next morning, we looked around and found out that the lights that we presumed where on shore, where actually all boats! They were all anchored very close to shore and we both agreed that we would not feel comfortable with that: what if you are dragging, those rocks look very uncomfortable!
We loved this anchorage (Praia da Barra) and stayed here a couple of days: reading, sleeping, relaxing.
Dealing with a dinghy
We already mentioned this on Instagram but whilst being at Praia da Barra we realised that we find the whole dinghy situation quite complicated. A dinghy is so easy to steal! We have a lock, but that is easy to cut. When we bought the lock, the guy asked us if we had chain or cable. We have a cable and where wondering if chain would be better. He looked at us and said: they will cut a cable, but if they really want your dinghy, they bring the tools to cut a chain as well. So: no matter how you lock it, there is always a chance for it to get stolen. And this is at places where you can lock your dinghy. At this anchorage (and many more) there is no way to secure it. What people do is to leave it on the beach and hope it will still be there when they come back. It is good to have faith in people this way, but we aren’t there yet. And on Facebook someone commented saying that it is not only the stealing part you can worry about, but also vandalism: puncturing the dinghy, sand in the engine. We hadn’t even considered that!
But we also realize this is something we need to get used to. More and more we are getting comfortable with leaving our yellow dinghy in places where we can not lock it, although we still prefer it to be locked!
After a couple days of rest, we decided to leave to Porto. Before we came to this decision, there was a lot of back and forth: the weather wasn’t great, but we thought it would be doable: around 16 knots of wind and at the start 1.4 meter waves, which would build up to 2 meter. But we did want to give it a go, so off we went! It was uncomfortable: the waves felt much higher, it was dark and foggy at times. After 1,5 2 hours, Miguel said it did not feel right. Specially knowing the waves would keep on building up. That’s why we decided to go back to our anchorage. We were both slightly frustrated and disappointed, because we really, really want to get to Porto and having seen the weather it might take another week before the weather is right for it. But we do not want to keep on going because we want to be there. If we are unsure or if something doesn’t feel right, we want to be able to say: this is not right for us. We went back and we enjoyed a couple more days of rest. Now we had time to visit Cíes Islands, which was very pretty, although very busy as well. This is a national park and the ferries where going on and off to deliver people of a day trip. I did not expect it to be this busy, so we mostly stayed on Saetta and enjoyed the sun from there!
When we did see another weather window to go to Porto, we went for it. The beginning was a bit rolly again, but after a while the conditions got way better. We thought it would take us around 18 hours to get to Porto, but we had great speed and 14,5 hours later we arrived in a very foggy Porto. A fishing boat told us to follow them onto the Douro, which was very helpful!
And how are we feeling about everything?
As I said in the beginning of this blog: there has been ups and downs. On Instagram and Facebook there are a lot of photo’s, mostly happy photo’s, or photos of Miguel fixing things. I find it hard to show the struggles we meet. Even in writing this blog: I write about what we did and maybe a bit about how it felt and why we are making certain decisions. But truth be told: sometimes we do struggle. We struggle with finding a balance between being on the way, exploring the places where we are, editing our video’s, writing this blog and relaxing, doing nothing for a while. There definitely have been moments of relaxing (Praia da Barra for example), but mostly we feel we have been on the way and we have been pushing to get to the next destination as soon as possible. Porto was a big destination for us. Miguels family lives here, and we kinda felt that if we would be in Porto the holiday feeling would start. Quick preview of our next blog: it does not exactly feel like this!
So is this trip what we expected it to be? No, it definitely is not. Does that make it wrong to be on this trip? No, it definitely is not. We learn a lot. We realize we do not like longer passages as much as we thought we would. And so far, most of our sailing has been longer passages. We much prefer day trips. We know that if you want to see parts of the world by sailboat, there are going to be longer passages. But we will have to work out how we can have enough time in between them to enjoy day trips, exploring land and do other things we enjoy. At the moment we are toying with the idea to skip going to Madeira and go for the Canary Islands straight, since this will give us more time in Algarve to enjoy ourselves.
So yes, we will keep on going. We are still planning on crossing the Atlantic the end of this year. But we are also aware that we might have to change plans along the way (like skipping Madeira) and find ways that makes our lives more balanced. We already found one thing that really helps us: using the right weather window. We both get so tired and annoyed if we have to turn the engine on for hours. That takes so much more energy then sailing.
We will keep on learning and exploring and we will find a way that works for us. And in the meantime, we will enjoy Portugal! In our next blog you can read about how our time in Porto was and how much we enjoyed being in Algarve!