Temptress in The Med (2001 - 2)

2001- September, October, November, December
2002 - January, February, March, The Hurricane, April, May, June

September - The Beginnning

Back in 2001/2 Temptress and her crew Kevin, Susie & Will sailed to Barcelona and back... we kept a regular log of the voyage to share with friends back home via email & the web whilst we were away. I thought I'd dust it off and post the installments here without any edits:

September 2001 - Leaving Home

Temptress left Falmouth after lunch on September 27th heading for Milford Haven. The first miles down to the Lizard were a beat into a F6 after then it was a comparatively 'comfortable' reach north across the Bristol Channel. Will's first long offshore passage and he was not well retiring to his bunk before supper. The rest of the crew took 2 hour watches through the night - Kevin saw lots of fishing boats and Susie dolphins, porpoises and towards 7am land! At first she thought she had spotted a mast - what on earth is a boat doing out here without sails? Then to the East the dark shadow of hills - looking back the mast had become several.... then it became clear they were the oil refinery chimneys!  

With the 2nd reef & the no 3 genoa put up on leaving Falmouth we continued under clear bright skies through the Heads and into the Haven chased by a tanker which thankfully got there first and choose the other channel. With all three of us on deck it was a great sail down the Haven towards Neyland Marina - akin to the Solent windy but with flat waters. Hills rise on either side and despite the presence of the oil industry nature seems to triumph. As we passed the oil jetties the Irish ferry came up behind us so we tacked away. Thus we continued until short tacking became too much like hard work and the sails were put away and the engine on. By lunchtime on 28th September we were snug in the marina 170 miles covered in just over 24 hours. Neyland Marina is in a valley below the village across the Haven from Pembroke Dock. Fortunately for us it is sheltered as the weather rapidly deteriorated - gales and storm force winds swept in from the Western Approaches for the next week or so. Whilst there we made ourselves at home at Susie's parents...going there to eat, do our washing and watch their telly (TV reception down in the Marina was poor at high tide and reduced to a snowstorm as the water level sank!). Susie's Mum & Dad also took us out to the pub in Dale (a pretty village just inside the Haven whose main industry seems to be sailing!), to Tescos and regularly acted as a taxi to bring us home from lunchtime sessions in the Ferry Inn (a mile or two west from the marina) when the weather was too foul to walk home.

October - Heading South
On October 5 our house sale was finally completed and two new deep cycle batteries were installed on the boat - hopefully these would solve the problem with the auto-pilot which had been regularly complaining of low batteries after only a few hours work. We also had to re-seal a dorade vent in a forward hatch after it leaked in all the rain we had!!

Nearly a month later we finally recorded in our log that we were eventually heading for a port in the direction of our planned destination of Portugal!  The weather was awful throughout October - gale after gale swept through from the Atlantic and some hung around for days before giving way to yet another low. We left Wales on October 8 motoring in a F2 heading for Benodet in France. Around 5 pm the log records us as sailing with no reefs and our no 1 genoa up in a F4 westerly. The log is then empty until almost 20 hours later - we were too busy during the night managing the boat and sorting ourselves out to record anything more than a quick plot on the chart! At around 2 am the on-watch, Susie & Will heard a thud and the main came rattling down seconds later. It had split some 18 inches below the head leaving a small white flag flying at the masthead. We quickly sorted ourselves out and put the engine on - it was a good job the batteries had been replaced as the seas were now big meaning a lot of work for the autopilot but what a waste of a good north-westerly motoring southwards! We headed for Falmouth some 40 miles or south of us. The first mate succumbed to mal-de-mare on this trip and the cabin boy was promoted to stand watches on his own after a sterling performance.

The local sailmakers couldn't start a repair for us for nearly a week but fortunately at the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club they recommended a sail maker in Penryn who not only collected the sail immediately but returned it the following day. On October 12 we finally made it away from the UK with a good forecast but a bit light on wind - what there was came from the east.

We left shortly after 9:00 am motoring south to Cameret on the Brittany coast. During the night we recorded 6 hours of sailing out of a total passage time of 23.5 hours (144 nautical miles). The sun was shining and it and the succeeding days in Cameret were mostly warm sunshine. However Cameret is a very open harbour and with heavy winds once more forecast the following day we made the trip up the Rade De Brest past the city to the shelter of the marina there. Big mistake... firstly the shops in Cameret were a pleasant walk past the cafes and bars on the seafront - in Brest it took a 30 minute bus ride into the city to find food. Secondly there was little room on the visitors pontoon so we were sandwiched between two fishing boats and a 100 foot grockle boat - one fishing boat left at 4am or so to work, returning around 9am! The final and biggest mistake became clearer later!

As Brest was wet, windy and not particularly interesting we returned to Cameret  - at least there were people to speak to and a choice of reasonably priced restaurants. One sunny afternoon the crew walked over the headland between the showers passing a French TV film crew at the top of the sand dunes. The Atlantic facing sandy beach has large notices forbidding swimming (dated June 2001!) and the dunes behind are a nature reserve.   On the top are the ruins of a house that was obviously used to house a couple of tanks during the war...according to the sign it has been in ruins since. The ground all over the headland is pockmarked with craters and gun emplacements are on every corner of the cliffs.

There were many boats in the harbour waiting to go south and the weather forecasts grew worse and worse. Eventually Oct 19th looked like offering a 24 hour window in which we could make a good way south towards Spain. We had contemplated heading around the Bay following the coast but realised that the distance to La Corunna or Baiona from the south-east corner were much the same as from Cameret! So we headed out - motoring again... by now it must have become apparent that we either have too much wind or not enough! It stayed that way until early November!! The log records that we managed to sail for an hour or so the following morning and again for a few hours during the afternoon but mostly we motored with a couple of reefs in to enable whoever was on watch to cope with the frequent thunderstorms without having to wake up the others. For the first time in his life the Skipper was sick - now all three of us have suffered during a passage and since then everyone has been fine. He put it down to stress!! By late evening on October 20 we had completed around half of the miles - our celebration quickly came to an end when at 1:30 on Oct 21 our biggest mistake in Brest came home to roost... we'd taken on board very wet diesel ....14 litres of water in 160 litres of fuel - as the engineer who helped us sort it out later said " Yanmar engines are very reliable but even they won't burn water".

We sailed whilst Kevin struggled through the night with the engine - the filters were clean, the water separator showed no division between water and diesel. It turned out later that the separator was actually full of water! Hours were spent beating up and down off La Corunna - it always seemed to be 27 miles to go according to the chart plotter. At one point Temptress was doing 3 knots through the water against a 2 knot current. Everyone was frustrated - the land east of La C appeared and then disappeared again as we tacked west until eventually the wind moved round and we were able to head straight in to the harbour. With the help of a Yacht Club Bosun we picked up a mooing buoy under sail - Will dropping the main at just the right moment otherwise boat and buoy would have danced off across the bay! We had covered 464 nautical miles - almost 120 more than the direct route!! The bosun was just the right person to meet - he rapidly organised for a Yanmar qualified engineer to visit and two days later the engine was fixed - a small hole in the exhaust was also welded. Meanwhile we explored La Corunna's narrow streets and the Sedov, the worlds largest tallship, which just happened to be in town on her way to Seville and we met up with some of the boats from Cameret. We also began to adjust to Spanish time - not just one hour ahead of the UK but a completely different time table. Hearing 2pm described as 'this morning' about sums it up... lunch is from 2-3 pm, restaurants and bars don't start to open until around 9pm. The main square in La Corunna in the evenings though was full of people (families) walking and chatting to one another - promenading I suppose. Don't expect to pop to the shop for milk or another forgotten essential between 12:30 and 3pm as they are firmly shut - even the local Spar!   After a full Spanish lunch in the Yacht Club (3 courses plus a glass of wine or beer and coffee around £5.00) at 8pm on Oct 24 we headed round Cabo Finnesterre for Baiona - the King of Spains Yacht Club.

What a glorious trip - yes again we were under engine as it was F2 from the south or south west all the way but when the sun came up on Oct 25 there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Temptress headed in between the Ilas Cies and the mainland as we approached the Ria de Vigo. The scenery is rocky and high with pine trees on the tops and golden beaches below- if you ignore the waves it is very like the Italian Lakes!   Baiona is a fairy tale location - the castle walls around the headland, the yacht club building just to the left of these but part of the grounds and then to the left again the town curves around, complete with a replica of the Pinta (the boat that accompanied Christopher Columbus and brought back news of the discovery of the New World).   Behind the more modern seafront buildings are a myriad of narrow cobbled streets and old granite buildings. Most of the town used to be inside the walls until for 'defence purposes' in the 17th century it was rebuilt half a mile of so away in its present position - apparently whole buildings were taken down, moved and rebuilt!

Once again the weather forecast was not good so we bided our time so******ing with the other crews, walking the castle walls, climbing up inside the Virgen De La Roca to stand in the boat she holds in her hand. It supposedly takes 7 but was uncomfortably crowded with 4 adults and small dog! The statue is not high - only 15 metres but it stands on the headland 100 metres above sea level so the views out over the Ria are unrivalled. In amongst the pine trees on the ground below are an odd mixture of crosses, an altar table of granite and picnic tables!! We and the crew of Autumn Breeze then walked the length of the seafront in search of a roman bridge which we never did find - a look at the map later indicated we turned around just 200 yards short of it! However we did have a good lunch in a seafront restaurant.

Finally on October 30th Temptress of Down and Autumn Breeze 'sailed' south to Portugal at long last - but yet again asking ourselves why we either have gale force winds or nothing. Autumn Breeze is the first boat Pat(rick) and Angie have owned. She was built in the 1970's as a wooden racing yacht but around 15 years of so ago was converted into a gentlemans cruising yacht with oak linen-fold panelling in her saloon and a complete dinner service from a Dartmouth pottery. The only amenity is a baby-blue Baby Blake (for the uninitiated this is the Rolls Royce of boat loos with chrome levers and valves and a full sized porcelain bowl) standing like a throne in the middle of the forepeak!  On deck Autumn B has a myriad of fittings some of which Pat has no idea what they could be used for - Kevin managed to solve one of them - the 2 foot long highfield levers are to tension the runners that hold up the mast when going downwind! The boat has an interesting history - the previous owner bought a bigger boat but couldn't bear to part with her so built a boathouse on a creek up the Dart from which, with her more than 8 foot draught, she could only leave on an Equinoxial Spring tide!! Hence Angie and Pat having purchased her at Christmas had to wait until March to actually get her home to Suffolk.

We spent a couple of nights in what must rank as one of the world's dirtiest marinas - the port of Leixeos - the second largest port in Portugal but you won't find it on a map. The local towns have different names  - the one outside the marina entrance is Leica de Palmeira. A 45 minute bus ride to the wonderful old city of Oporto, it was good to escape the sight and smell of the marina (fishing boats and oil jetties guarantee that the air is foul). For some reason Will decided not to come - he missed a treat. Narrow "streets" cling to the sides of the valley and tumble down towards the smelly river Duoro. Everywhere is dusty, in need of a good coat of paint. Designer shops rub shoulders with those whose goods and fittings seem to have changed little since the early 20th century. Many of the tall narrow buildings are covered in traditional yellow and blue coloured tiles. It's a jumble of wholesalers, retailers, tourist shops and workers cafes. Lunch was 2 courses plus coffee and wine and port (of course) - excellent quality for a little over £3.50! As we turned each corner convinced there could be no more down hill there was the river way down below... eventually we made it in the hot afternoon sun across the lower bridge (several of Oporto's bridges are two storied). We sat outside Sandemans Port House in Vila Nova de Gaia with cooling drinks, enjoying the view of Oporto as it climbs dizzily up the hills opposite like a crazy multi-coloured patchwork. Then off to a Port House where you didn't have to pay for a tour and we wandered around enjoying the cool, dank air past barrels of 40 year old port before tasting some of the produce and purchasing a bottle or two.

It was a long climb back up the hills to the square by the University to catch the bus - the queues here were like those in London at rush hour as everyone seems to travel by bus. In the morning Temptress left her new friends as they wanted to explore the city some more and we wanted to head south once again.

November - Life in Portugal

November 1 is a national holiday when the Portuguese visit their family graves with flowers and candles in little red pots so everything is closed - a good reason for being at sea! We headed for Figueira Da Foz - it seemed interesting from the guide books but the marina was bleak and had little to offer. The town had a market the following day which was fun - lots of little stalls all seemingly selling home grown produce - we bought potatoes here, cabbage and onions there and so forth. Having decided to have fish for supper we ventured down the aisles of fishwives in black with knitted capes and embroidered aprons - one squid and one large unidentifiable fish later we headed back to the boat.

The coast here is one long, long beach with only the occasional port. We planned to head for Peniche which the guide book extols as one of the best towns on the Atlantic coast of Portugal but having left later than intended after our trip to the market decided to make the short hop to Nazar; instead. For the first time since we left Portsmouth we actually managed to sail most the 30 miles or so but having arrived we're not certain we want to be here. The town of Nazar; is some 2 km from the marina. The marina is in an industrial wasteland south of the town and is almost as bleak as Dunkirk (which still retains its place at the top of Will's list of places not bother to go back to). The 3 pontoons are across from the fish dock so the evenings til late and the very early mornings are full of comings and goings of fishing boats small and large emptying their catches. The ensuing auction in the shed behind is just as noisy.

Our market catch from F Da Foz made an enjoyable supper but we still don't know what it was we baked with onions and a little olive oil! In the morning (Saturday) Kevin and Susie walked into Nazar;  - very definitely a seaside resort even though you apparently can't swim off the beaches as it's too dangerous. The sand at the waters edge is ridged very deeply - more like small cliffs than a beach. The funicular railway to the old town was closed for repairs. The sign said 15-17 September but it was still shut on Nov 3. All of the restaurants seem to have the same prices and they were pricey for an out of season seaside village. The Harbour Master here is one Captain Hadley of HM's Navy and he is trying despite the odds to make the marina hospitable and put it on the yachties map but I'm afraid this is one place we won't return to in a hurry. Peniche (the next port down the coast) is apparently very oily and the fishing boats arrive and exit very fast making it bumpy and uncomfortable so we headed on down to Cascais on the outskirts of Lisbon for a few days. We left early in the morning and sailed all the way with a NE F5-6 making it our best trip yet. The good weather was holding with a big high sitting out off the Iberian coast giving us light winds, warm sunny days and cool nights.

Cascais is the first true marina we had visited since leaving Spain in fact it is more like Port Solent or Brighton. Purpose built a couple of years ago with shops, cafes, supermarket and gin-palace dealerships it still somehow seems to retain an air of not yet being complete. Very few of it's hundreds of berths were occupied and we were allocated a berth in the inner section normally reserved in summer for local boats. Cascais is a suburb of Lisbon it is the Kensington or Richmond of Portugals capital with expensive villas up in the hills amongst the palm trees. It has a one-way system which makes Richmond or Kingston appear traffic-less and to cap it all a new shopping centre is being built just north of the station. Building sites in Portugal take over no provision is made for either the hapless pedestrian or traffic white vans and cranes double or triple park, the pavement simply stops (by the station it ends at a large hole in the ground big enough to swallow a car or too with little or no fencing!) and even the traffic police with their whistles seem unable to restore any order!

On Tuesday (November 6) the crew of Temptress headed into Lisbon public transport is cheap, very cheap. The 30 minute train journey from Cascais cost just £2.50 and a one day travel pass for the metro, buses and trams of Lisbon's centre even less. Our first stop was the former Expo 98 site a glorious riot of modern Portuguese architecture and home to Europe's largest aquarium. The Oceanarium is stunning a strange building from the outside, it sits in the middle of a lagoon closer to the River Douro and looks like something from a James Bond film. Inside there is a central enormous tank representing the ocean deep it is huge with sharks, shoals of tuna and many other large fish you view this at every turn. At each corner of the building is another tank representing different habitats the Atlantic complete with puffins, the Antarctic with penguins, the Pacific with otters (including a baby) and the Indian Ocean with multi-coloured fish. Each of these is separated from the main tank by glass so from the lower level you can see through to the ocean deep with its sharks and big fish beyond. Three hours went by very quickly!

Afterwards we explored the city centre a little taking rides on an elevator (one of the tram-like cars which go up and down Lisbons steepest streets) and on the old fashioned number 12 tram. We found a very ornate church, Sao Joao Baptiste, where every surface seemed to be gilded or painted and the cathedral (the S) which was a complete contrast of honey-coloured stone. Sitting in the main square we had sticky doughnuts and coffee watching the chestnut sellers and marvelling how the locals wear jumpers and leather coats when we were hot and in our shirt sleeves! It would take days to see everything as it was all three of us had very sore feet. The following day we all had sore heads too after being waylaid by O'Neils bar as we returned to Temptress from a restaurant in the centre of Cascais.

Wednesday was spent changing the engine oil and lazing in the sun, recovering from the excesses of the night before and then on Thursday we headed off towards the Algarve. What a sail. Initially there was no wind and we motored sunbathing on the foredeck (yes Susie was wearing shorts and a bikini top in November!). The forecast was for a F4 Northerly increasing to F5 or 6 later by and large this is what we got mid-afternoon. We passed Cape Espinchel at a distance to avoid the anti aircraft fire! We later discovered that Portugal is currently defending it self as part of a NATO exercise!

After dark (around 7pm) we settled into watches 4 hours on and 2 in your bunk, with Kevin & Susie taking the first session. It got windier and the Navtex reported a strong wind warning. Running directly downwind gradually became more difficult so to avoid the accidental jib we altered course slightly and shortened sail. By the middle of the night Temptress was averaging 7-8 knots and after rounding Cabo De Sao Vincente, the wind was gusting 30-35 knots so we put in the third reef a good job too cos shortly after we recorded a couple of gusts of around 50 knots! The seas were large and confused the autopilot just couldn't cope so the Skipper at the helm, got very wet when for the first time ever, Temptress was pooped. Round the corner from Sagres the most south western point of Europe acted as shelter from the worst of the weather. The seas became calmer and the wind, now blowing off the land to the north of us, was almost balmy at 4am! At 5:30am we tied up in Lagos, retiring to our bunks to await the opening of the pedestrian bridge and the marina reception. At 10:30 we were woken by a knocking on the hull and our friend Richard, who has been in Lagos for weeks, joined us for coffee. During the trip another milestone was passed the three of us have now sailed 1500 nautical miles since leaving Southsea in September.

So after many adventures here we are in Lagos (pronounced 'laar-gosh'). It is another new-ish purpose-built marina but very clean and pleasant...where else would you find marble walled loos and showers with frosted glass doors? Many marina residents who came here for a month or even a week are still here after a year or two!! Unlike some of the other marinas on the Portuguese coast Lagos actually feels finished. The weather is clear and sunny during the day and hence it can be very warm out of the wind but quite chilly after sunset. Our days mostly are spent doing absolutely nothing - breakfast, coffee & newspapers at 11, lunch, a walk or a bit of boat maintenance and then supper and a round or two of mah-jong before bed.

We are stuck in Lagos with our halyards holding up the mast after our push button technology failed us! The electric furler (which rolls away the foresail) stopped furling.... Removal of the unit revealed water inside and as we all know salt water and electric motors don't mix too well. A new motor had to be ordered (it eventually arrived via Paris from the USA!) and we are now awaiting the return of the local engineer who had booked an Atlantic passage for his holidays and won't be back until mid-Dec.  But, if we feel the need for a sail we can take out a friends Swan 38 "Dolfijn" (many thanks Richard for trusting us with her).

Meanwhile Kevin has been practising his 'plumbing' skills - hot air from our 'central heating' system just wasn't reaching anywhere forward of the aft cabins. Having emptied the lockers in the saloon he found that one of the pipes had come apart... nice warm locker, seating and water tank though! As per usual on a boat fixing it was not a simple task - to put it back he had to take out the joint it should have been attached to, from the main run of pipe and the other end off its outlet vent - four jubilee clips instead of the one and reassemble it in a confined space you can't see into! The job required two pairs of hands but no heads!!

Lagos is warm and friendly with an endless supply of restaurants and cafes. If we miss anything Brit then we can always head for Luis's bar with cable telly (sport...aka rugby), Guinness (expensive) and toasted sandwiches. Lagos has a large ex-pat community and most of the locals speak English. Which is good as the local dialect almost unintelligible ("obligado" is Portuguese for "thank-you" but here they say "rigado"). The supermarket has cornflakes and baked beans!

We've taken the opportunity to explore the Algarve. Our first trip was the train along the coast to Faro - really for the ride through the orange groves. Faro's 'old centre' was pleasant to walk through. The medieval buildings are being restored and as it is enclosed within walls with very narrow gates (mostly about the width of a mini) there are few cars. The main square was lined with orange trees - in a month or two the town hall will have quite a crop! We saw our first storks in a nest on top of the bell tower over one of the town gates and they posed for photos.

Friends from London came for a long weekend in mid-November. The girls arrived in time to have a beer before lunch at one of the local fishermans' cafes; anything you like to eat as long as it is fish - cooked to order on a charcoal grill in the open air. On the Saturday it rained for the first time in weeks, an understatement as we were like drowned rats after the five-minute walk into town! We now understand how the Algarve gets its entire annual rainfall between November and March  at a rough guess it only has to rain on about 6 days! Together we explored yet more of Lagos seeking shelter in the wonderful museum, quite an eclectic mixture of local crafts, coins, roman remains, paintings and weird things preserved in jars (a goat with 8 legs!) plus a wonderful gilded baroque church!  On the Sunday, having promised our visitors some sailing, we packed a picnic and borrowed Dolfijn for the day there was little wind so we gently drifted away from the land all morning and motored back later to view the caves and grottos from closer to. The headland here is made of sandstone so waves, rain and wind have made the top a series of mini canyons whilst at sea level there are fantastic caves that the grockles visit in small boats from the quayside in Lagos.

A few days later Kevin hired a car at great expense (65 euros for four days.... so not that great really!).  The first day we headed for the wild west of Cape St Vincent where they allow tourists  into their working lighthouse right up to the light! Outside men fish off the cliffs - some 200 or more feet above the water just how they land their catch we don't know. The roads here are amazing - if they have a number and a colour on the map then there are some signposts and tarmac, otherwise dirt tracks take you down to wonderful unspoilt beaches. The coast here is much like Cornwall with high cliffs, rock pools and golden sand. Afterwards we drove inland up into the Serra de Monchique - the Algarve mountains (they just qualify at 900m or so). The mountains to the west are covered in forests of eucalyptus trees a heavenly smell as we drove along in the warm sunshine and cork oaks (one of Portugal's major exports).  The land to East is quite barren here there are many young forests newly planted with some sort of spruce whose branches form a bright green, compact, round ball rather than the tall pines found in Forestry Commission plantations in the UK. Another day the three of us drove along the river border between Portugal and Spain and found cafe prices ridiculously low away from the coast. It was here our map let us down having covered several miles north along a dirt track towards the first bridge across the Rio Guadiana north of the coast we found it was an iron wreck hanging into the water from the other bank; unable to cross to the village on the north side we had to re-trace the track back to the main road. Later another map correctly showed the road ending at the river but had the village we were aiming for on the south side of the river!

The Portuguese are finally investing in roads. A new length of the E1 joining Portugal, Spain and France has been opened since we arrived. Meanwhile the N2 has 157km of re-surfacing from Castro Verde south to Faro as we discovered when we drove along the entire length one evening! There are large yellow signs proudly proclaiming the renovations are funded with EU money every 5 km or so. It is a typical Portuguese project  they have started at both ends but not completed much. At first there was a new surface but no lines, making this twisting mountain road treacherous in the dark. Eventually this ended abruptly and we were back on the old road, tarmac worn thin over cobbles with potholes at the edges but at least it had faint white lines. Only a few kilometres north of the new E1 at Faro had both new surface and white lines.

Kevin commented that water was much more freely available than it had been ten years ago when he last sailed this coast (so far we have only paid for water in La Corunna). A quick glance at the map shows why, there are now several large reservoirs in the mountains that divide the Algarve from the Alentejo (the next region north). We got hopelessly lost trying to find the local dam the only sign was the one on the main road. Once there it was incredibly quiet we could hear the water trickling out of an overflow several hundred feet below us.  We had hoped to walk along the waterside but this is not the UK and there were signs everywhere forbidding access to the land around the flooded valley.

Gypsy markets are another feature of life here. For several days towards the end of November we had the local feira both a fair and a market next to the bullring on the municipal fair site on outskirts of the town. Loud music from the rides and commentary from the stalls kept us awake until gone mid-night. The market sells mainly clothes (huge mounds of "designer" jeans and cheap white socks predominate), kitchenware and shoes. There are a few stalls with cheeses and hams plus the local doughnuts which are either 6 inch hollow tubes filled with chocolate sauce or 12 inch diameter puffs coated in spicy sugar;  it's a challenge to eat one without making a mess.  On the first Saturday of December all the same stalls plus a few hundred more (selling the same stuff) returned without the fairground rides for the monthly market the gypsies tour the Algarve towns with their wares.

By the bus-station in Lagos each Saturday morning is a more interesting produce market. The floor of the covered hall is marked out in small squares. The locals bring their wares by bus one might be selling lemons and greens, an elderly lady complete with apron might be selling potatoes, oranges or dried beans. Cages contain a couple of live chickens, ducks and/or the occasional turkey! Honey, cakes, cheese and toys were also on sale. The cheese we have bought has been delicious. There are no stalls, the produce is on the floor or an upturned box and the well wrapped up vendors perch on folding stools or another wooden crate.

It is winter here in the Algarve but you can tell the ex-pats, holiday-makers and boat crews by the way we dress. With temperatures often close to the average English Summer, we wear shorts, t-shirts and sandals. The locals dress in typical Northern European winter garb - woolly jumpers, leather coats, long trousers and boots, leaving us wondering how they manage without succumbing to heat exhaustion!

Another feature of life here has been the entertainment of the election campaign for the local mayors and presumably councillors. Democracy is still fairly new here (Portugal was a dictatorship until 1974) and we can only conclude that this is why banners and advertising hoardings for each of the local parties have decorated every town we've visited since arriving in the country in October. Almost every day in Lagos there is a motor cavalcade with music (the oddest being a Van Gellis track from the film "1492"), flags and loud hailer announcements. Even the local school fence and the town square are festooned with banners inviting people to vote for one of the parties or to attend public meetings. The election is apparently on Sunday 14 December.

December - Christmas & New Year on the Algarve

As Lagos was a good safe place to leave the boat we returned briefly to the UK for the annual race-crew reunion on Dec 5 at the Royal Ocean Racing Club dinner to celebrate (again) Clarionet's success in this years Fastnet. The weather on our return to Portugal was not as we had left it; the river that flows through the marina was close to tomato ketchup in colour and the rain monsoon-like. However despite being dark, overcast and very windy it was still much warmer than the UK. So we decided with Richard to head for Sevilla for a couple of days. Much, much warmer and certainly dry. We visited the Cathedral, wandered round the Santa Cruz area full of very narrow streets and pretty squares, nearly got run over by the horse and carriages in Plaza De Espana and ended up in an Irish Bar. The following day we drove back via the Sierras to the north, cork oaks and pigs everywhere. The pigs feed on the acorns and then become Serrano Ham! When we arrived back our furler was almost back together and by Monday afternoon it was fixed onto the forestay once more - hurray we can go sailing again!

A week or so later we met up with David, Cherry and Alex from Minima, who were staying in a villa at Country Club near Vilamoura  - actually the same place that Chris Evans has recently bought a hide away or two in; Quinta Da Lago. It was hell being forced to use the swimming pool, jacuzzi and sauna but we coped. Will decided to stay an extra day or so with Alex who is the same age. Later in the week we all tried to go sailing but the strong Southerly wind meant we couldn't even attempt the entrance to Lagos as it had huge breaking waves. Instead we walked along the quay to the same place and watched the seagulls diving into the tops of the waves and emerging the other side with fish in their beaks!

Christmas in Portugal was fun the local Intermarche (yes, we know it is a French supermarket but they have them in Portugal too!) had mincemeat and Mrs Peeks Christmas puddings.  Susie's sister Pat and her husband, Pete, arrived spending some nights in their hotel at Albufeira and some on the boat. A hire car enabled commuting the 20 odd miles to Lagos.  The Portuguese celebrate Christmas with a large meal after midnight mass on Christmas Eve and many people go to work on Christmas day itself. Christmas cards are not sent and even present giving is low key all a very pleasant change from the commer******m of Christmas in the UK. It was odd to be able to go down to the beach after lunch without needing thermals etc! (The meal itself was roast duck followed by Christmas pudding with a Portuguese starter cod cakes).

Having never been to Calde Monchique, the thermal springs in the mountains north of Lagos the five of us piled into the little car we'd hired and headed off into the mountains. After a pleasant walk we had a coffee in Monchique itself and then drove up to the highest point in the Algarve - Foia - the views were fantastic, the cloud was lower than us and the peaks poked through it just like being in an airplane!  Afterwards we followed the signs for a restaurant which somehow we missed and Pete rapidly began to regret volunteering to drive. These were the worst roads we had found yet; we rattled and rolled up and down hills, round bends all on loose gravel and absolutely no signposts. We noticed that every little hamlet seemed to have been by-passed, so were not surprised to see the predictable EU-funding sign announcing that the road was being "improved". Eventually after an hour or more five extremely hungry people were relieved reach the smooth ride of the main west coast road and a restaurant was found within minutes.  The lady owner/chef spoke little English so fetched her student son down to help translate and serve us huge plates of pork and beans.
After Pat and Pete returned to the UK we finally moved on from Lagos. It was a tougher than expected trip down the coast to Vilamoura - we decided that the New Year celebrations might be better there than in Lagos and anyway all three of us needed a change of scenery! We sailed in company with Richard on Dolfijn. Predictably the wind (SE 6 to 7) was against us all the way (not what was forecast at all - S 3 to 4) so instead of a short 4-5 hour trip it took most of the day as Vilamoura is SE of Lagos. It was after dark when we arrived - the reception closed so we couldn't clear in....every cloud has a silver lining though as we weren't charged for a night on the reception pontoon and we had a great night in the Yacht Club.  Richard's boat was due to be lifted out in Vilamoura later in Jan. New Year wasn't too wonderful for Susie who felt ill after supper so went to bed whilst everyone else partied the night away until 6am and then spent the day sleeping off too much alcohol....Will had found some teenagers of various nationalities and went to a nightclub and a couple of bars, Kevin & Richard went from bar to boat to bar to boat!!! 


January - House Guests

On Thursday Jan 3rd, having recovered we left Richard and motored down towards Cadiz. It was quite warm overnight as we motored across the Baia Cadiz - no thermals or oilies required. On the way down we caught our first big fish - a bonito (a type of white tuna) - it probably would have fed around 8-10 people - we cut some steaks from it and returned the rest to the sea! Made a very nice supper baked with a little oil and herbs.

We arrived in the early hours of the morning and then managed to leave the marina we had originally tied up in before Will awoke - which must be some sort of record. Puerto Sherry was a victim of the 80's property crash in the UK when the builders Brent Walker went under (the people who developed Brighton Marina). Basically P. Sherry is in same unfinished state it was in 1988!  There is a shell of a second hotel and lots of partially completed houses and apartments. We arrived at 4am and tied to the reception pontoon to sleep until the office opened - it was very bumpy and noisy as the pontoon moved a huge amount in the Atlantic swell coming in round the corner of the wall.

There was no diesel (algae in the tanks) or camping gas (try the town - see below), no laundrette (it's closed) and no supermarket (never built!) - as there was a lot of swell even in the marina making it more than a bit uncomfortable we decided to try the Yacht Club pontoons in the next town, El Puerto Santa Maria, only a couple of miles away up a river. Here it was much nicer - swimming pool (empty of water for the winter), tennis courts, restaurant and outdoor bar plus they kindly sent our laundry out to be done!!  There were plenty of shops (we failed to buy gas though) and zillions of bars within walking distance. This is a Spanish Spanish town with no tourists - not even another foreign boat on the pontoons. The weather was warmer than it was in Lagos - clear blue skies and temperatures close to a Summer's day in the UK.

Here we discovered that the Spanish take Epiphany more seriously than Christmas - on Saturday we stepped off a bus (having been exploring Cadiz) into crowds waiting for the Procession of Kings through the town - a series of carnival floats following a couple of bands and a troop of mounted "Kings". Later, when going out to eat, we found our way across the main square blocked by a huge crowd out to see a big firework display. Only in Spain would the fireworks be let off inside the castle with the audience outside of the walls and Carmen blasting out over everything!

On Sunday the Yacht Club where we were moored, had their own parade complete with a bugle band, three kings, the Virgin Mary plus assorted royal courtiers strangely dressed in Georgian costume and wigs - no idea what they were about!! Anyway, this being a yacht club the parade was initially by motor boat up and down the river with other boats blowing their horns augmenting the bugles and drums. The band remained on dry land. Then the whole lot marched along the half-mile or so of river frontage to the clubhouse and lunch. Monday was the Spanish equivalent of Boxing Day so was very quiet (closed) everywhere. We managed eventually to work out the timetables and get a train into Cadiz to meet our next visitors (Will's Dad and his wife June) and on Tuesday they commuted over to us by ferry from Cadiz. Cadiz is worth an explore.  The streets are very narrow  don't contemplate taking a car there - and mostly to a grid plan. The Camera Obscura in Torre Tavira gave us an excellent view of the city rooftops in brilliant sunshine and the guide managed a commentary in both English and Spanish!

We still find it difficult to cope with shopping or anything official here as they close for 'lunch' from 12:30 til 17:00 or there abouts!  On arrival at every marina we have to wait on the Reception Pontoon to be "cleared in " - mostly the marina staff work office hours with a typical Spanish lunch break but in Chipiona, they surpassed themselves - 9am to 12 noon then 16:00 to 17:00. Still we had a great sail to get there and were able to tie up far enough away from the fishing boats whilst we were waiting that we could enjoy the spectacle but not the smell!  A short trip into town later and we were in pocession of two rather tatty looking full gas bottles so could cook our supper.

From there we were off to Sevilla (over 50nm inland) in the boat. Unfortunately we had to go up the river with the tide in order to get all the way up without fighting the river current - this meant getting up at some unearthly hour (like 5am).....  As the whole crew by now was well into the Spanish way of life - lunch after 2pm and supper after 10pm - by getting up later and later in order to recuperate, getting up 'early' was going to be tough. It was very chilly and dark when we left Chipiona and headed north across the Bay for the channel bouys that mark the river entrance. Over the next hour or so the entire Bonanza fishing fleet came down the channel towards us, worrying us more than a little by some of their lights which indicated the boat was trawling with outlying gear of more than 150m when the channel was less than 100m wide!!  And yes the town really is called Bonanza!

The trip up river was uneventful. It is wide and the landscape flat. Over the levee on the port-hand side is one of Spain's major national parks - the Donana - it is large wetland and hosts many migratory birds every year. All along the river we saw plenty of wildlife - hundreds of herons and even a red kite. The local fishing was odd craft (difficult to describe some of them as boats) with huge black nets hung from wide poles high over their stern which when lowered simply filter the water as it flows through. They look like large bats moored on both sides of the channel.  On some the fisherman had a little cabin with a stovepipe sticking up obviously they spend some time aboard. Big ships also use the river but we only met a couple at the lock below Sevilla, though sharing the lock with a 100ft long coaster was a bit daunting but they were helpful. Their pilot managed to contact the lock authorities on our behalf after we had failed to raise a response!

Sevilla was a bit colder than last time we were there. Once tied up it was good to meet up again with Zeehund another Southsea boat which had left a month or so before us and has been over wintering in this oasis. Viola has been taking Spanish lessons and she and David spend several hours a day teaching Rene their teenager. A few hours later our next visitors and Richard arrived and we spent a couple of days visiting more of Sevilla's sights before heading back down the river to Chipiona. Jenny had booked her passage with us before we left the UK in a late evening phone call to say she had always wanted to sail through the Straits of Gibralter.  So she, Laurence and Marcy joined us for a week's sailing. And what a week it was. After Chipiona we sailed under spinnaker in brilliant sunshine virtually all of the 50nm to Barbate (bar-bate-ay) and as we arrived we spotted a flock of flamingos flying north across the sunset.  During the trip Will indulged in another bread making session the results of which were devoured almost immediately. There is something special about sailing along with the smell of fresh bread coming up the companionway.

For the last few days a Levanter had been blowing (gale force winds around Gibraltar had actually prevented the Moroccan ferries running for several days) and it was a bit chilly and overcast (all relative at 14-15 degrees!!). The wind didn't last though, we motored most of the way through the Straits the next day. What a wonderful sight as the Rif mountains of Africa come into view not on the horizon but way up above the coastal clouds. We took the obligatory photos looking due North at Tarifa Lighthouse the most southerly point of Europe and then sent a text message to Maddy; "Europe to left, Africa to right sun shining" - it was not well received in grey wet Kingston! The Rock then crept into view on our left above the Spanish hills. The photos we'd all seen had not prepared us for just how big and imposing it is. The town and the docks below are diminutive in comparison when you finally round the corner into the bay. Gibraltar town is amazing  sort of colonial, sort of seedy British High Street of 20 years ago all mixed with a touch of Spain and Morocco.  Sheppards Yard, where we moored, is the oldest Mediterranean marina a bit run down and full of live-aboard boats looking like they couldn't ever move anywhere again, with an active boatyard and the best stocked chandlery we had seen since leaving Falmouth.  After a couple of days exploring we took the cable car to the top of the Rock, photographed the apes and then killed our legs by walking down the Moorish Steps (an almost vertical stone staircase), we headed over the Strait to Ceuta, our first African destination.

Ceuta is one of two Spanish enclaves in Morocco the Spanish equivalents of Gibraltar! All very topical as during our time in Gib the Spanish and British Foreign Ministers were discussing Gibs future! Ceuta though is even more seedy and run down than Gibraltar. After a stroll through the town to the Yacht Club for a superb lunch (no one wanted supper that night!) we found that though full of historic buildings nothing is open to the public. We returned to Gib the following day so that on Saturday 19 Jan Kevin could play taxi delivering the Coxes to Sevilla airport and then drive over to Malaga to collect Pat and Tony! He thoroughly enjoyed the long drive over the Sierras covered in snow. Viola, David and Rene drove down from Sevilla that afternoon so we had a grand Southsea Marina reunion.

The next day five of us sailed from Sheppards to Sotogrande, a Spanish purpose built marina east of Gib which was clean and pleasant but in the middle of nowhere! Good job we stocked up on food at Safeways in Gib!  We then crossed the Strait again to Morocco for a couple of days. It was a spectacular trip - we stopped to let a tanker pass and were surrounded by pilot whales for about 20 minutes!

Morocco was amazing and very different to all the places so far. We berthed in a marina called Smir - just a marina complex so not on the map (built apparently by the Rumanians in return for phosphates). The fishing village nearby is called M'Diq. The people were very friendly and always said hello whenever they could, the main problem was that they ran out of French and Anglais before they ran out of things to say. Since even Kevin cannot grasp Arabic this was most amusing. Smir is the only marina we know of with its own tour guide - he knocked us up at 10am the first morning and then Tony and Kevin haggled over the price of a taxi to the nearest town (10 km away) and a guide for the day! Tetuan is some way in land, through lots of rocky mountains, all green at the bottom and grey on top. The mountains are the start of the Rif mountain range, if you go back far enough you get to Atlas mountains and then the Sahara. Tetuan itself is a very old Muslim market town (kasbah or souk) surrounded by a modern one. We had a guided tour of the market, including the tannery and the cloth makers houses (where they charge tourists thousands of pounds for carpets they don't want). It was all little narrow streets between two storey buildings and thankfully our guide knew his way around else we would have been lost and sold things to for the rest of our lives. As it was we escaped lightly with only one very cheap carpet purchased (it now adorns the saloon table) after being entertained in several establishments selling everything from carpets to handbags to Berber herbal remedies (I kid you not!). Everything was in shades of white because it was always warm, the wind from the Sahara was really hot so we were in t-shirts, but no shorts because of the Muslims' habit of throwing the infidels in jail if you show ankles or shoulders (they really do). Lunch was a multi-coursed affair featuring goat kebabs, broiled chicken in a wonderful 'pie' and yet more chicken on couscous (we decided that ancient cockerel was probably a more appropriate description for the latter meat). The 'pie' was full of sultanas, cinnamon and other spices plus loads of chicken and the case was filo pastry - the whole thing was over 18 inches in diameter and divided in 5 portions - one for each of us...how we managed to walk after all that food and a dessert we don't know! All in all the trip was a real eye-opener, but we didn't think much of the drainage system, the open air tannery smelt better than quite a few streets we visited!

Later some of the crew tried to walk off the excess of lunch by walking up the mountain behind the marina. Scattered across the hillside was a Berber village - we even saw people wearing the odd looking hats that were on sale in the town - like small brimmed sombreros with bright coloured wool tassles. This was a very agricultural place, lots of goat herders and of course lots of goats, as well as loads of chickens all about the yards. Again everyone was friendly but soon ran out of words - we met kids playing hide and seek in amongst the boulders and women returning from somewhere on donkeys - all very different from anything we normally experience. Meanwhile back in the marina Kevin entertained a camera crew who did a magazine shoot on board Temptress!

From there we hit tourist-land...we set off in warm sunshine back to Spain but by late afternoon it was pouring with rain - three of us needed full oilies for a trip to the supermercado! Estapona was very nice and not too touristy - it is a holiday resort for the Spanish. Whilst there we took a bus further along the coast towards Torrid-molinos - yuk high rise hotels for 100 nm! We spent the day riding the cable car into the mountains - great fun and superb views. Then it was time for tapas and beer/wine in the sun before the trip back to the boat.
We had booked a spot in Sheppards Yard to give Temptress some TLC so planned to return there. Richard rejoined us in Estapona but having taxied Pat and Tony back to the airport on Saturday, he left us in Gib to explore some more of Spain by car for a couple of days on his way back to Villamoura. He said didn't want to get his clothes dirty!! Temptress was lifted out without a hitch except that in order to extricate the boat hoist once we were on the hard, we had to remove the windvane and its pole from the back of the boat - it was only inches but it was the only solution! Will spent half an hour or so tucked up behind the steering gear inside the transom holding the fixing nuts whilst Kevin undid the bolts on the outside. The yard were very helpful - no pressure to extricate their hoist and they lent us a ladder and hired us a scaffold frame with two planks big enough for two of us to work on the topsides at the same time. The weather was overcast and quite windy (F4-5) so a bit chilly. We did wonder whether you get hypothermia washing boats?

Once the pressure hose had done its work on the bottom we were pleased to see the anti-foul wasn't too bad. It then took the three of us a couple of hours to sand it down to give a key for the new stuff. We also managed to wash the topsides ready for polishing - which proved to be a longer task.  A quick trial with the polish revealed that it wasn't going to remove all the gunk - yellow oil stains around the bow etc so we had to resort to one of those oxalic acid based cleaners. This lifted the dirt a treat but it was almost impossible to rinse off the white powder afterwards!! So we let the boat dry and rubbed it off with a cloth and then polished like crazy - the net result was very clean, shiny topsides and we were proud of ourselves.

Some minor osmosis (water under the gelcoat) work was required on the rudder though but the yard only took a couple of days to do the work and also fixed a chip in the very end/bottom of the transom below the boarding ladder too. After the polishing we put on a couple of coats of anti-foul - a democratic decision was taken to replace the black with dark blue cos it looks better! It seems this seasons colour is navy blue - almost every boat was having it applied! Or perhaps its that Micron is on special offer and the large sized tins are navy only?

It was very odd living life up a ladder on a boat! We could use the sinks and showers - the boatyard like soapy water as it washes the crap off the yard. But you just can't be in a hurry for the loo as it is down a ladder and then a long walk across the yard avoiding the puddles in the dark!

Everyone eventually came clean but we were exhausted after four days of hard labour.  Temptress looks smart again - all we needed to do now was clean the deck and give the cockpit a polish! Water is not easy to come by in Gib - they apparently generate it all from a de-salination plant on the dock. Therefore we delayed boat washing (it was prohibited anyway) until later.

Back to those gas bottles one wouldn't work at all it seemed that something was jamming the valve shut and the other had so much gas in it that we had a huge wild flame at the burner. Very dodgy so we were relieved to find that Sheppards sold gas and were quick to acquire two more refills.

February - The Costas & Balearics

We stayed in Gib until Monday, Feb 4 as Kevin & Richard (who drove over from Portugal again) wanted to watch the 6 Nations rugby on Saturday and Sunday the Clipper does an excellent Steak and Ale pie. On Monday we skipped the Costa Del Sol - that visit by bus in January made this decision easy for us.... from Estapona (about 20 miles east of Gib) to beyond Malaga the sea front is solid high-rise hotels. Over 100 miles of coastline in total to be avoided!  Late afternoon after doing battle with the forward head outlet pipe (loo 2 humans nil) - Kevin and Richard both bore scarred knuckles, we discovered the pump too needed replacing so it was quite late when we left Gib. First stop the diesel pontoon at 28p per litre we couldn't afford to miss it - plus they sold ice creams!!

It was a splendid night passage - not too much wind and only half of it spent motoring. The dolphins were plentiful - eventually we even got bored with watching them. At dawn 30 or more were seen swimming in small groups to seaward of us - heading west...why do they know something we don't?  We moored stern-to in Puerto Motril at the Yacht Club and it was shorts and t-shirt weather all day. Having walked 2 miles into Motril itself past fields of sugar cane, Kevin & Susie managed to acquire bus timetables for both the trip to and from the harbour and for Granada. The weather was to have other ideas the following day despite the forecast it was just too windy to leave the boat safely in the morning, so Granada will have to wait. We attempted to clean the decks but a fine grey dust was blowing in the wind covering everything and undoing our efforts within minutes.  On Thursday we headed east for Almerimar. First impressions of this, yet another purpose-built marina were good. It was warm and sunny and this was probably the largest marina we have ever visited with over 1000 berths and very full at 47 feet Temptress was by far the smallest boat on our quay! But like many such marinas in this part of the world it was miles from anywhere boats, hotels, restaurants and bars but not a lot else the next morning dawned fair - time to go!

We planned to sail to Garrucha, east across Baia Almeria, round Cabo Gato and north (yes north) for about 40 miles. The wind, once we cleared the harbour wall was most definitely from the east and much stronger than forecast-  quick decision, a new passage plan and Almeria (al-mah-ria) some 17 miles into the bay was made. Good choice nice town and it was carnival time. The Alcazar (Moorish Castle) high on the hill was huge, beautiful in the sunshine and occupied us for most of the following day (Saturday). In the evening we joined the locals in the carnival procession- a mass of people, floats, music, pink hairdressers, dutch "ladies", a PVC clad ???band, a fire eater, pirates on stilts and more complete mayhem in the main streets for a couple of hours, the traffic in the centre was stopped not diverted, simply stopped by the Guardia Civil (local police)! Great fun. Many of the kids were in fancy dress and some parents. A great night was had by all the streets looked like it had snowed confetti!

Tapas is the way to eat in this town so that is what we did; here a drink (with tapas included in the price) and then on to the next bar until you can't eat or drink any more. The following day we recovered by setting off for Garrucha once more. As we rounded Cabo Gato the scenery attracted us - very barren scrubby foothills and secluded bays. So once more it wasn't to be Garrucha  we picked a bay and dropped the hook. Will even went swimming. Where else in Spain can you find a beach with no hotels in sight? Clear blue water we could see the anchor on the bottom. On Monday morning we headed north once more, passing Garrucha.

It was an interesting arrival in Hannibal's home town (yes him of the elephants), Cartegena.  There we were in shorts and bikini tops (or at least Susie was) most of the day and motoring 'cos there was no wind. However as we approached the rather Plymouth-like (but much narrower) entrance of Cartegena (about 60 miles SE of Alicante) a huge fog bank rolled in from the East (we had been travelling parallel to it most of the day)...net result:- approaching a strange harbour with a 300 yard gap between the mountains as an entrance, with 10 metres visibility and the sun setting... first fog we've had since last Spring!  At least no ships decided to leave as we were coming in, although we were closely followed by a deep sea tug. Good job the radar worked!

Once tied up it cleared a bit but was rather like London on a foggy autumn evening - damp and gloomy but what we could see of the city from our berth looked good and people in the Yacht Club were very pleasant when we went to clear in (had a couple of glasses of wine whilst we were there!). It is odd being in a mountainous place though - the tops are above the fog and the floodlight buildings up there look for all the world like UFO's suspended in the sky!

It took a few days for the weather to improve - gales were forecast and it looked like we might not make it to Alicante to meet Paul and Eileen at the weekend. However Jan 14 dawned reasonably clear and calm and the forecast had improved so we motored out of Cartegena and headed north. Once round Cabo Palos (we went inside the Islas Hornigas) the wind picked up to F4 ESE so we were able to sail. Our course was virtually due north (010 degrees) and we sailed until the wind died at sunset (as it often does in these parts) passing inside yet another island Isla Tarbaca in the dark. Pilotage was fun as the Spanish aren't hot on bouyage, just two lights to guide us. Alicante proved to be a glum reception; despite many obviously empty spaces the office said we had to stay on the reception pontoon. Fine in that it was close to the loos and laundrette but the next day we rapidly began to feel like animals in a zoo as tourists and locals alike stopped to stare down at us. Kevin spent the day oiling the decks in the sun. Paul and Eileen arrived from Heathrow late on Jan 16 and the following day (Sunday) we headed out of the most expensive marina we have stayed in so far. The one highlight was the huge "mercardo"- the market was full of wonderful fresh veggies, meat, fish and cheeses. Kevin and Susie returned to the boat absolutely laden with produce. Even Paul tried the artichokes at supper.

From Alicante the plan was to head north to Calpe with its huge rock just behind the marina but the wind on Sunday was blowing hard from the direction we needed to head so once out of the marina we rapidly changed our plans and decided to head south back inside Isla Tarbaca and the mainland again (the channel is mostly only 4-8m deep). Round the headland it was blowy so Torreveja was rejected in favour of the closer Santa Pola. The yacht club were cautiously welcome they were happy for us to stay a night or two but no longer as a major offshore race ("200 a 2" -a two handed 200 miles to/round Ibiza and back) would be leaving from there in early March and they were filling up rapidly as the race boats arrived. They needn't have worried an evening walk through the town showed us that Santa Pola is a collection of Franco-era concrete tower blocks and a beach. We left the next morning heading north past Alicante to Altea an altogether nicer place with a lovely old fishing village climbing up the hill to the blue roofed church in the square at the top. Tuesday was market day so or exploring took longer than expected; the seafront is a narrow promenade and the stalls were on both sides and thronging with tourists and locals. Eventually we reached the square and had coffee in the sun before wandering down the steep narrow streets to a bakers for empanadas (like flat, tasty pasties filled with tuna and tomato) for lunch. Afterwards we set sail for Calpe just 6 miles away across the bay. The wind was blowing directly from Calpe so we tacked back and forth across the bay timing each tack to avoid one of the many fishing boats trawling. The rock dominates the port. It is not quite a mountain and is connected to the mainland by a narrow neck of land covered in holiday apartment blocks. The whole town is a building site but never the less has quite a lot of character. Between the port and the town of Calpe the land has not been developed as to the north there is a Salina (saltbed) complete with flamingos and to the south some archaeological remains including a roman fish farm. Will decided not to climb the rock, the rest of set off believing it would be a pleasant afternoon stroll  - well the first couple of miles were. The road was steep and then from the visitor centre became a windy path zig-zagging across the hillside through the pine trees giving wonderful views of the sea on either side. We met a couple with a young daughter, they were carrying a climbing rope and we soon found out why. Beyond the tunnel the "path" became a rocky scramble with a rope banister rail attached to the cliff for support. No wonder the path is closed on rainy days - the white rock has a shiny surface. We climbed higher and higher backwards and forwards across the "less steep" northern face (the southern face is a huge overhanging cliff). The seagulls were everywhere and the path became less and less walking and more and more scrambling. Eventually we reached the top - magnificent views up and down the coast and far inland. They say you can see Ibiza on clear days but it was too hazy for that.

The weather deteriorated with gale force winds predicted for the next few days the marinaria (the yacht club bosun) came to advise us to pick up the second mooring line and to move slightly further away from the motor boat on our port side (we were on the seaward end of the pontoon). The five of us rapidly decided a trip by car to the ports of Javia and Denia were more advisable than sailing there so for the remaining few days of Paul and Eileen's holiday we explored Murcia and Valentia (the Costa Blanca) by car. Inland both provinces are mostly mountainous and barren. The almonds were in blossom giving everything a pinky hue and out of the wind the sun was warm. There is little water in these parts and the rivers are mainly dry but Paul navigated us to a waterfall - The Fuentes del Algar - and then to Gaudalest where we looked down on a virtually empty reservoir. Denia proved to have a wonderful restaurant; about five courses of mariscos (food from the sea). On the Saturday we travelled down the motorway to Orihuela a rather grubby town off the tourist routes. It is in the process of renovating itself and has a very large number of historic buildings for a town of its size; we wandered around the old University (now a school) and the cathedral before heading out of town to find lunch. In a nearby village we found another great eatery and once more stuffed our faces.
Eventually the weather forecasts began to improve and having spent Sunday driving up mountain passes on roads only suitable for goats we returned the car, got in some provisions and headed off for Ibiza, 60 nautical miles away to the East. An uneventful sail found us entering San Antonio after dark where we were hailed by another boat (a junk in both senses of the word) asking us if it was ok to anchor here. In the morning the elderly Finnish couple came over in their dinghy, they had no detailed charts of the area or of places further south. Kevin lent them a pilot guide for the Southern Spanish coast so they could make some notes. We wondered how they got this far?

We didn't go ashore despite this being according to the Rough Guide the party town and set off for another anchorage just down the coast. The large, old sailing boat, anchored ahead of us the night before, had beaten us to it and the Spanish school kids on board gleefully shouted at us as we circled them. There simply wasn't room for us as well so we headed off round the coast to find another anchorage - Puerto San Miguel proved to be empty and so clear we could see the anchor on the bottom even though it was over 6m deep. The next day we continued our clockwise circumnavigation of Ibiza by heading round the northern end and then south down to Ibiza town. Initially we sailed with the wind behind us, round the top the wind was all over the place and as we headed south at first we had to beat and then it was dead ahead and F4 so rather than tack we rolled away the jib, put in number 2 reef and motored the rest of the trip. Despite being a major holiday resort the town seems to have retained its character, the hotels are on the other side of the harbour. Why is it that the Spanish put their marinas as far away from the town as possible, mostly the fishing boats and commercial docks are in the town proper leaving us a long long walk to town? In most UK and French ports the commercial docks are away from the town and the quays are devoted to yachts. In Ibiza Town the marina is a mile or so around from the town on the other side of the bay. Taxis though are quite cheap,  about £2 for trip back to the marina.

We climbed the hill to Dalta Villa the old walled city is now a World Heritage Site but that didn't stop every other building being a bar or night club. The Cathedral and museum close at 13:00 each day, it being just after we walked round the outside, the castle is closed for renovations. On both our forays into town we spotted some of the oddest people we had seen on our travels - Ibiza Town is obviously the last resort for ancient, rich hippies. For example whilst sipping coffee in the main square, two tall, long-haired sisters walked past. Dressed in jeans and skimpy tops they appeared twenty-something but both looked very wrinkly, either they had partied too hard or were well over 60!  

Having explored the town in the morning we decided to continue our circumnavigation after lunch. The forecast looked good for a fast trip round the bottom of the Island through the Freu Grande but unfortunately once at sea, the wind was not as strong as expected nor from the direction predicted. The result was a beat up the western side in a F3 until the wind died away as it often does in the early evening and we had to resort to the iron sail once more. As supper was cooking we passed through the spectacular gap between Ibiza and Vedra. Vedra is a 382m high rock pinnacle rising straight out of the sea about half a mile off the coast and the Ibiza cliffs are almost as high. The channel between is 20-30m deep at its shallowest point. With darkness descending a decision was made not to try the passage inside of the next set of islands so we left their lighthouses to starboard as we approached San Antonio Abad once more. We arrived after dark and anchored almost exactly on the same spot as previously according to the GPS. 

March - Adventures in Spain

Having arrived back at San Antonio Abad, the next two nights were spent at anchor but our idyll was soon shattered. Late on Friday 1st we were puzzled why, when the evening was so still that the harbour was like a mirror, there seemed to be a bit of a swell working its was in. In the early hours we began to find out, Temptress began to rock and roll as the wind blew in from the North West (the open direction of the harbour) needless to say it wasn't forecast. By 6:30am it was blowing F6 and gusting more. We weren't dragging our anchor at all but to say it was uncomfortable would be an understatement. The Skipper said we should head for the Yacht Club pontoons across the harbour as at least they offered some protection by the ferry quay to the north of them. As we approached rather cautiously, the only spot was bows-to on the north side of pantalan 4. Boats, like planes, need to "land" into the wind otherwise you approach the pontoon too fast with no real means of braking so the approach was hairy.

A word of explanation for those unfamiliar with boating in the Mediterranean: here bow-to or stern-to moorings are the norm so the boat is a right angles to the pontoon rather than alongside as is usual in the UK. A usually barnacle-encrusted muddy line attached to the pontoon enables you to pick up a mooring line. Once this is attached to the end of the boat furthest from the pontoon and pulled tight it holds the boat away from the pontoon. So here we are backing into the berth with wind blowing us in, fenders out on all sides (our new neighbours are two large steel motorboats), including one on the stern. Fortunately all Med Yacht Clubs have marinaro's (bosuns) who assist every berthing and are generally helpful with info on laundrette, restaurants and more.

Here was no exception; the Marinaro waiting on the pontoon spoke some English and immediately became part of the team, handing Susie the pickup line and taking the stern lines from Will as Kevin fought to control Temptress's backward motion with the engine (dodgy as the pickup line and the propeller are rather too close for comfort). Despite our best efforts we veered off sideways to port so Will & Susie had to fend us off the large white motor-cruiser, leaving Kevin to go forward and tighten further the mooring (the pickup line had led to a very heavy chain which needed our anchor winch to pull it tight). Meanwhile Temptress skittered backwards once more towards the pontoon, Will dashed to the engine controls and surged us forward again. The Marinaro asked for a line from our starboard midships cleat which he tied further down the pontoon - at last sideways movement was prevented and with the front and back secure we were safely in the berth, it was blowing F7 by now. It had taken us only about half an hour but it seemed like a lot longer. The weather was predicted to get worse.

Friday had been one of those public holidays that seem to catch up on you at the worst moments in Spain. Despite knowing that Spain does "Bank Holidays" without any announcement we were unprepared for March 1st! Early on in the morning Kevin took the dinghy to visit the Finnish couple (we had jokingly asked ourselves on our way in whether they were still here see Feb above) only to find that March 1st is a National Holiday in the Balearics. There had been no sign of the impending holiday although our Spanish calendar does actually have the day in green as "Balaerics Day". Unlike the UK, holidays here mean a complete shut down of businesses, schools and shops.  A walk round "San An" resulted in a copy of the Daily Mail (it was either that or the Mirror) a loaf of bread and three meat pies for lunch plus two birthday cards and a gift wrapped present. It'll be UHT milk on the cornflakes in the morning.

Therefore on Saturday, once we'd recovered from our struggle to tie up, we headed off for first the Yacht Club office (where we found a group of members discussing the recent VHF weather forecast which was at complete odds with what was actually happening) and then a supermarket. As we arrived back we bumped into, on the pontoon, crew from a "200 a 2" committee boat which had retreated from the worsening weather off the south of Ibiza. Soon after a race boat came in - they had decided to retire rather than do the return leg to the mainland. We definitely were not going to go anywhere today. Kevin took himself off to the "British Pub" (yes that really was its name) to watch the rugby.

Sunday's NAVTEX forecast was for NW F3-4 with more northerly winds or even north easterlies later. As, after some debate on our next port, we'd decided to head north-east to the mainland rather than east to Mallorca, it seemed a good time to leave. In fact in the harbour at lunchtime it was blowing from the South-east. A supper of chilli con carne was prepared before we left and it was a good sail all the way with 2 hours watches started at 7 pm. By 6:30 am the following day we were tied up snugly in San Carles de la Rapita. Entering the harbour had given the Skipper a few worries though - he took a look at the map in the Pilot book and decided it was too shallow to enter safely, a view not shared by the navigator who had read the text in the Pilot book. In fact a well-lit channel to the cement works a mile or so west of the harbour and good lights on the harbour wall made the approach simple despite depths of only 5-8 metres over most of it. What a huge harbour it was once inside; acres of sheltered water with the only occupants a few yachts, four deep-sea tugs and a lot of fishing boats looking rather lost in it. They obviously didn't get that many visitors and were surprised to see us. The marinaro woke us up and took our papers at around 8am then left us to sleep, "come to the office when you are ready". The town was pleasant without anything of note.  On a grey and overcast Tuesday morning after filling up with diesel and water we left heading towards Barcelona.

The log records that we left at 11:46 and at 13:00 we made the decision that it was too cold and wet to spend a night at sea so the naviagator made a quick update of the course on the chart plotter and we headed instead for Tarragona. It was pouring with rain but little wind. The waters from the Ebro Delta had turned the sea an odd creamy turquoise colour only returning to a more normal Mediterranean blue north of the actual river mouth. As we headed north the wind rose and we sailed. After 30 mins of so they died away and we resumed motoring. By 3 pm the wind was sufficient to sail again, by half past we had the 2nd reef in and had rolled up a bit of the jib as it was gusting F7. An hour later and we worked to let the sail out again only to have to reef again within 20 minutes as the wind rose to a F6 and veered northwards. By then it was obvious the wind was coming from almost the direction we needed to go so we rolled up the jib and motor sailed.  Soon the winds were gusting over 30 knots and life became uncomfortable as the 1-2 metre high waves were coming in from the East and breaking over the beam wetting anyone who dared venture aft of the sprayhood. The wind was cold and the black clouds ahead were ominous. Then it rained, we put in the 3rd reef which reduces Temptress's huge mainsail to storm-sail size and altered course slightly to give a better angle to the ever growing waves. Will had long ago retreated to his bunk with a good book leaving Kevin and Susie on deck in lifejackets and their harnesses clipped on. The wind rapidly reached F8 and our speed over the ground was reduced to under 4 knots - progress past Cabo Salou just to the west of Tarragona was painfully slow. Beyond the headland the waves eased a little and we slowly motored along the outside of the huge harbour wall peering into the murk for the lights of the Puerto Esportiou (the marina for visiting yachts which is outside the main docks). The entrance being very narrow and with little room inside we decided to take what remained of the sail down outside - we simply tied it quickly to the boom using an oddment of rope rather than struggle with the zipped cover that usually keeps it tidy. Tied up alongside and showered three relieved and hungry sailors devoured pizzas in a restaurant all of 30 yards from the boat then retired to bed.

Tarragona is a wonderful city. In addition to the usual churches and Moorish remains it is absolutely full of roman ruins including an ampitheatre, a roman circus (an indoor chariot race track) and the forum (main square). The marina is on the other side of the railway (station announcements can be heard from the cockpit) to the city. Relatively new. it has restaurants and night clubs on two sides, a very high sea wall on the third and the outer wall of the docks across the bottom.

The following morning we discovered that the other boats on the 'pantalan' were two Brit motor-boats and a Canadian catamaran (47 feet of catamaran which dwarfed Temptress who is the same length but only a third of the width). They were a friendly bunch who had been there all winter and, we suspect, were desperate for someone new to converse with.  Temptress's crew were invited to join them for a birthday supper at the pizzeria. A great night was had by all and the following day we bade adieu to our new friends and headed off for Barcelona. The forecast was for North or North-Easterly F3-5 with showers. To begin with the winds were light from the West so we motored and eventually motored all day in the same light winds. The coast was rocky with little of interest except the trains running in and out of tunnels on the coastline to Barcelona. It was grey and a bit damp so all in all we were glad to see the harbour entrance.

In Tarragona we were warned that Barcelona harbour has a new bridge that isn't in the Pilot Guide. The harbour is several miles long with the marinas in the northern end, furthest from the entrance. Off the entrance the main sail was taken down whilst waiting for a couple of large ro-ro's to enter and then we followed them in. Yes, there was the bridge gleaming white with just 17.5m clearance - we need 23m minimum. Kevin called Barcelona Port Control on the radio as we had no idea how to get it to open for us. They said to call the marina. The Pilot Guide advised use VHF 9 for the marina - no reply...Kevin called Port Control again - 'It's changed to VHF 68'. Eventually a nice lady at the Bridge Control told us that the bridge opens at 16:30 for 10 minutes everyday and as it was now 16:20  we hung around just off HMS Fearless (whose crew gave us cheery waves on spotting our red ensign). The road traffic stopped, the bridge opened on time and Susie steered us through. A team of marinaros met us on the pontoon so we were soon tied up and plugged into both electricity AND telephone. Although we don't actually have a telephone on board, the latter item meant that we could plug in our laptop and spend some time updating our website (ED 2010: now sadly defunct).

Barcelona - how to describe it? - full of tourists, sophisticated, elegant, loads of beautiful buildings. Both Kevin and Susie have been here with work and it is one of our favourite European cities. The locals know both how to work hard and how to party; many go straight to work on Monday morning from the night-club. There are hundreds of restaurants and night-clubs - between Port Vell and the main esplanade is a peninsular containing two yacht clubs and a huge modern complex with IMAX, aquarium, cinemas, trendy shops, eateries and night-clubs. A short walk through Barcelonetta (the old fishing quarter) is Port Olympic, another marina surrounded on three sides with yet more places to eat, drink and dance the night away. Barcelona has its downsides as with any big city, Barcelonetta is not a place to walk at night and Port Vell is not only currently upgrading its security gates but has the most obvious security guard presence we'd seen in any marina; truncheons and radios hanging from their belts. One of the handy phrases on a marina handout is "Ladron en mi barco" = "there is a thief on my boat".

On Friday the three of us did a bit of sight seeing and visited the Sagrada Familia - Gaudi's masterpiece. Only in Spain could a building site become a world-famous tourist attraction "the cathedral" was begun in the 1880's and today is only just half finished. The front which Gaudi lived to see almost completed (he was run over by a  tram in 1929) has several huge towers like upside down ice-cream cones. Climbing the 400 or so steps up inside these gives the most wonderful views over the city. Kevin was not so keen though when he found that the route included a walkway high up between the two tallest towers!

After partying over the weekend (Maddy, Phil and Will managing to stay out until 6am), on Monday we decided to go sailing. Well more of a drift really until even our new crew decided that it was too frustrating. On with the engine again motoring westwards to Villanova i la Geltru home to a large Pirelli cable factory. Having walked up past the factory and wondered what sort of town this could be - a tourist map in the marina described it as "romantic" - we discovered a lovely old town with elegant squares and narrow streets. It was around 7pm so everywhere was bustling, the shops open and the locals just walking and gossiping as is the Spanish custom. We bought new chopping boards and some bread before returning to the boat for supper. The following morning Maddy & Phil found a supermarket and acquired the makings of a BBQ then we motored west again finding a quiet bay some 16 miles away to drop the hook in. Our first BBQ lunch of the year. Later we decided it was too rolly to stay the night and continued on to Tarragona. As the weather didn't seem to offer anything more than motoring for a few days and as it was rather overcast too, our visitors decided a trip inland was called for. We browsed through the guide books; on the train line to Llieda were a couple of monasteries and the countryside was recommended. A quick trip to the station revealed that the only train from Tarragona didn't leave til 13:00 and the next one back was the following morning! Valencia was chosen instead - Will decided not to come, so four of us hurried down to the station. "Sorry sir the train is fully booked" crestfallen faces,"however you can take that train leaving in two minutes, its slower but it is going there". Boy was it slow - 3 hours including a trip up a branchline and back. We took the precaution of booking seats on the 20:00 express back as soon as we arrived. It was Fallas time. The Valencians spend all year building 30-40 foot high papier-mache statues which they set fire to on March 19 - during the week before these are assembled on street corners and every afternoon there is a ten minute "display" of noise in the town square (large bangers are set off) - the city comes to a halt for a couple of hours as a result.

Another night of partying on Friday, this time in Tarragona's night clubs and then on Saturday afternoon, after our guests had caught the train back to Barcelona for their flight home, Temptress set sail once more. We had fancied a couple of longer passages reaching Gibraltar for the weekend. Well, we did arrive in Gib on Friday evening but not exactly as planned. Our first planned stopover was supposed to be Cartegena two days sail south. As it was, Sunday afternoon found us motoring straight into the wind and the waves - it was only F2 but very uncomfortable so we altered course and headed into Calpe for the night, having sailed for some 24 hours and covered 160 nautical miles. The next morning we filled up with diesel and headed onward. All morning the wind was up and down; now full sail and half an hour later 2 or 3 reefs in. Eventually in the afternoon the wind became more settled and guess what? It went round to dead ahead with waves to match. The slapping and banging was just too much so we put into Alicante - unlike our last visit and despite only being there for one night we were given a berth, so had to move from the reception pontoon. Early (7am) the following day it was totally still; time to go. By 8 am we could sail and did so most of the day. Off Cabo Santa Pola it was gusting F7 but soon dropped again as we pulled away from the headland. Late afternoon found us motoring round Cabo Palos some 50 miles south of Alicante. Cabo De Gato was on a course of 230 degrees now so we carried on motoring south-west passing Cartegena. That evening we lost our fishing gear - a brand new lure in the shape of an 18cm silver and red fish that we had been promised virtually guaranteed a big tuna - well it probably did but we never saw it! 

In the wee small hours of Wednesday the log records "FOG" - what an understatement. All day the greyness lasted. The sun beat down on us but apart from upwards we were surrounded by pale grey, damp wallpaper. Sun-bathing in the fog in shorts and t-shirts is very odd.

At night we usually have one watchkeeper and two asleep, swapping round every two hours giving the sleepers 4-hour stretches in their bunks. The watchkeeper wears a lifejacket and harness at all times, clipping on to the boat before leaving the safety of the companionway. If sail handling is required or the watchkeeper simply needs another pair of eyes, they wake up the new watch early. In fog however, it takes two to watch - one on deck listening every often (with engine in neutral) and sounding the horn if shipping is close, one long every 2 minutes unless we are actually sailing. The second watchkeeper (usually the Skipper) stares at the radar screen, tracking objects around us and uses the remote for the auto-pilot to steer us. Briefly during the day the fog lifted, snowy mountain tops came into view as did villas along the beach. A glance at the radar as the fog closed in again showed four or five small boats stationary directly ahead of us. As we altered course around the first of them the visibility improved momentarily, a white object attached to a round pink fender; what on earth was a small boat doing fishing out here? Closer inspection revealed not a boat but a very large white plastic canister. The next dot on the radar proved to be similar and then we spotted a rather tatty day boat with two occupants in white oilies (including sowesters!) hauling in another canister. It looked rather fishy (pardon the pun) - drug smuggling or simply cheap tobacco, we didn't stop to ask.

Eventually that afternoon we gave up the battle. After over 24 hours at sea the prospect of another night with visibility less than 100 yards seemed rather grim. Changing course we headed for Marina Del Este somewhere on the Costa Del Sol. By following the 40 meter contour we thought we could find the entrance regardless of the fog. In fact the fog lifted as we closed the land to reveal a fishing boat slowly motoring across us from our port side � he was trawling. We altered course to starboard � no joy so we stopped and waited for him to pass, he stopped � impasse. We altered course massively to port and as we started forward once more the �Maria Lopez of Motril� began reversing! There was no way we could get round behind him so we stopped again. The seagull flock that had been following the trawl settled down on the water ahead of the trawler. Will pointed out that he was probably pulling in the trawl net � resulting in backwards movement � correct. Eventually we turned again to starboard and passed ahead relieved that at least we�d been able to see him and weren�t relying on radar and our ears for navigation.

Soon we were tying up just three boats from Dolfijn. Quiet at last without the engine on. As we approached the land the fog had cleared to a slight haziness and in the marina it was glorious sunshine � too hot even. In 32.5 hours we had (mostly) motored some 208 nautical miles. The pretty marina was 2 miles over hill from the nearest shops and several more from the nearest town, Almunecar. We spent two lazy days there doing little beyond walking to the village market over the hill to buy some veg, meat and fish, Kevin took a swim and we just generally rested in the warm sunshine. Snuggled at the bottom of a rocky hill with a large lump of rock some 80 or 90 feet tall forming part of the sea wall we had found ourselves a friendly suntrap that was difficult to leave even though we discovered on Thursday morning that the mains water had been �cut off� (by builders working further up the hill) at about the same time as Temptress� water tanks ran dry. Fish Stew al la Temptress � soften some onion, thin sticks of carrot and courgette in a little olive oil with some dill, freshly ground black pepper and garlic. Add half a pint or so of white wine and a seafood stock cube and bring to the boil � simmer for 5 minutes or so until the veg is almost cooked. Add one firm white fish fillet cut into chunks and simmer gently for a few minutes more. Add half a kilo of clams and then quarter a kilo of fresh prawns. Stir and add a little water and salt if necessary. Once the clams and prawns are cooked (5 minutes is probably all they�ll need) serve on a bed of spaghetti.

Friday 22nd March dawned bright and still � there was still a residue of fog to sea so we stayed fairly close to the coast. No wind meant motoring again � no problem except that mid-morning George (the autopilot) took ill � very sick. At first it beeped occasionally saying �no main power� an intermittent problem we have had on and off since our first Bristol Channel passage. Eventually despite turning George off and on, resetting the trip switch and other usually helpful things we gave up. Susie took over the helming whilst Kevin started a hunt for the problem. Will resigned himself to having his cabin turned upside down again. Temptress� starboard aft cabin is home not only to Will and his two guitars but also to the batteries and any cabling running to things at the back of the boat � autopilot, stern light, GPS and Navtex aerials, wind generator, engine controls and more.  Only the night before he�d had to vacate whilst Kevin packed away a newly acquired dive tank and wet suit in the space under his bunk. Now his bunk mattress and lee board were removed again as was the panel to the service area under the cockpit plus the cupboards emptied�. The saloon looked like a complete mess. Eventually the problem was located � the power cable from the �computer� of the autopilot to the control and display box in the cockpit had come loose. Everything was put back together and George took over the steering once more. Without an autopilot life on board would be so much more difficult � at night we�d need two people on watch one to helm and one to keep look out and navigate - with it one person is sufficient. Helming on long passages is monotonous and very tiring, even more so when motoring � that said we all like to take over when it is exciting.  �Exciting� can mean different things to different people � sleigh rides down wind in force 7�s brings Kevin or Will to the helm, Susie enjoys beating in moderate breezes when trying to get the best possible performance is a challenge for a boat with a large fixed propeller and some of our guests have insisted on helming under sail in almost flat calms � very odd!

Mid afternoon and still no breeze � the diesel is beginning to get low and a quick calculation shows we�ve probably not enough to get us to Gib as we are fighting 1 or 2 knots of current now we�re closer to the Straits. (The myth that the Med has no tides is untrue � it does but they are very small. What does make a difference though is the wind and the Straits of Gibraltar, both of which set strong currents). We check the charts and the pilot guide � Marbella, heart of the Costa del Sol is close so we alter course by 50 degrees to starboard and head north-west. An hour or so later and we�ve 100 litres more diesel. A casseroled chicken supper was eaten at sea (this followed on from chicken pies for lunch � we know how to eat a varied diet!) and we eventually anchored a hundred yards or so north of the Gibraltar runway soon after 11pm. Saturday brought washing, replenishing stores of fresh food and bread plus stocking up on things we know will be difficult to find before we return to the UK � Ribena, catering size piece of Cheddar cheese (�6.50 for 2kg), Hellmans mayonnaise, Dettol and IntensiveCare Hand and Nail Cream. The laundry we took for a service wash (3 machine loads � how can three people create so much dirty washing in just eight days?) and the shopping took two trips � the little Tescos just behind the marina and then a walk to the huge Safeways on Queensway for the things they didn�t have. It was HOT � too hot to stay in the sun for long and so hot that the decks couldn�t be walked on barefoot � Kevin went to watch the rugby whilst Will and Susie retreated to the shade of the saloon (the latter after a trip to M&S for a shopping fix). We have a new gadget � a windscoop � a tall triangle of spinnaker material that is hung over a forward hatch (a length of doweling holds it in place) and set facing the breeze to direct it into the boat� it actually works and cools the interior nicely. The only problem on Saturday was a lack of breeze until early evening. After Will cooked supper we settled down to a game of mahjong.

Sunday morning dawned a little misty. We weren�t certain whether the clocks had gone back � our only info says �last week in March� which we technically were now in. By 9 am it was calm and the sun was beginning to peep through the Levanter cloud hanging round the Rock. A nice Easterly to blow us through the Straits and up to Barbate, the first marina on the Atlantic coast of Spain. We hadn�t even reached the Spanish shore of Gibraltar Bay when Tarifa Traffic Control broadcast their routine weather message. Current weather at Tarifa (the other end of the Straits) � East Gale 8 with fog patches. Huh? It�s only blowing F2 where we are (less than 10 miles away) � we carried on sailing. The Straits funnel the wind � the hills of Spain to the North and the Rif mountains of Africa to the South. By the time Tarifa Lighthouse came in view Temptress had very little sail up and we were still travelling at over 8 knots � it was blowing F8. The sea was a mass of white horses although the waves were actually not that high despite the tide flowing strongly in the opposite direction. It was a glorious downwind sleigh-ride in the sun. We turned the corner and gradually over the next few hours both sea and wind subsided � the last mile or two requiring the iron sail to take us into Barbate. As we motored to a vacant pontoon trying to remember how to moor to a finger berth (our first for several months) familiar voices shouted �Temptress�. There was the crew of Zeehound � they had finally escaped from Sevilla � it was great to see the three of them again. We caught up on the news and met some of the other boats from Sevilla over a few games of cards and wine that evening. Monday morning dawned clear and sunny so it was decided to hold a BBQ on the pontoon that evening inviting everyone to bring some meat and some salad plus what ever their preferred tipple was. Viola and Susie set off on Zeehound�s bikes for the Mercado and a spot of fresh food shopping for the BBQ. David and Kevin later walked to the supermarket armed with rucksacks for wine and beer.

The afternoon was very quiet - Will went gone off with Rene somewhere (Town?) and Kevin visited the American cat �Double Up� to sort out Captain Trish�s PC. Susie prepared food ready for the pontoon BBQ - marinading chicken in orange juice and mango chutney (tastes lovely) and a job lot of veggie kebabs plus some tomato and couscous salad. As artichokes are very cheap (it must be the season), Susie had bought a bag of little ones whilst at the market - cut in quarters and roasted in oil and garlic they were great, cold with the BBQ.

The following morning we hoped to head further up the coast to a little river called Sancti Petri - it is quite remote and the entrance shallow but we wanted to give it a try as it is supposed to be very beautiful. There is a village there but mostly uninhabited. Our guide book says the cause is unclear - either lack of tuna to fish or Franco may have cleared it for military purposes during the 50's. After that we planned to head for the Portuguese border to meet Annie & Nick on Easter Monday. When we awoke � a little late after a BBQ which began at 5pm and ended sometime close to 1am � the Levanter was blowing strongly once more. We returned to our bunks. Will and Rene were sent to replenish the beer supply which they and the American girls had demolished the night of the BBQ � 20 Euros bought 20 litre bottles of Superbock. Later at around 10pm Viola and Susie cycled off to see the second Semana Santa parade in Barbate. A group of us had been to see the first the night before. Two large �passeo�-�s are carried by 40-50 men each, in a procession accompanied by a group of costumed people looking for all the world like members of the Klu-Klux Klan who�ve forgotten to starch their hats! The priest and some incensor swinging choirboys head the whole procession. The passeo�s start off inside the church � explaining why all the churches in this town have doors thirty or more feet tall. Behind each passeo is a group of penitents in everyday clothes and behind them a brass or wind band. Each passeo is different � the first night a plain wooden one depicted Christ�s suffering on the cross and the other was a silver platform with the Virgin Mary surrounded by candles. The second night the first depicted the Transfiguration, complete with a real tree and the other supported another ornate Virgin surrounded by white flowers. Each night virtually the whole town turns out to follow the procession taking around four hours to slowly follow a route around the parish. One amusing oddity is that in front of each passeo are two costumed people bearing long poles with a �V� at the top � their job is to lift the power cables high enough for the passeo to pass underneath!

The Hurricane
Wednesday it was blowing even more so we resigned ourselves doing a few jobs around the boat. By bedtime the wind was blowing around Force 8 � a gale � Kevin did the Skippers bit of checking the warps before we retired. Sleep though was almost impossible as the noise was horrendous. Temptress was bouncing around, the wind was roaring in the rigging and the pontoon creaking and groaning. Just after 12:30am unable to sleep, Susie put the kettle on for cocoa and slipped into the chart table seat to take a look at the chart plotter graph of the wind � it was constantly blowing Force 11. Kevin put his clothes on and went out to check the mooring lines. He rapidly became worried that the finger we were tied to was taking a lot of strain and twisting relative to the main pontoon so he took a line from Temptress�s midships across the empty berth the other side of the finger to the main pontoon. By 1am the wind was blowing force 12 � a hurricane - and gusting more. How much we couldn�t tell as our wind indicator has a maximum of 70 knots (force 12) � the chart plotter repeater was showing 0.00 knots: �it must be off the scale� Susie yelled up against the noise.  As Kevin came back on deck there was a loud bang � he shouted a very rude word, Susie stuck her head out of the main hatch and we watched as the boats on the opposite side of the marina came heading towards us � or were we heading that way? In fact the entire windward pontoon � the opposite side of the basin to us had left its mounting posts and complete with about 30 boats was heading across 50 metres towards us. As the left-hand end came up against the catamaran the pontoon started to break into sections. The twisted metal ends of two parts hit the lowest part of our transom and one piece began to edge around to the port-hand side of the boat whilst the other was moving round the starboard-side. �Get Will up quick� Kevin yelled � Will was asleep in his aft starboard cabin and Temptress could be holed fairly shortly only feet from where he lay. Will and Kevin worked to move as many fenders as we could muster into the gap between boat and the jagged aluminium ends of the broken pontoon. We even borrowed two huge ones from a Junta de Andulucia patrol vessel just down our pontoon � one for us and one for our German neighbour who by now had the bow of a boat from the other side of the marina rubbing up and down his midships. By some odd quirk it was another Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 47 just like Temptress. Later we realised it had come to rest on the diagonal line Kevin had just put on and acted as a huge fender holding the worst of the weight off Temptress.

Meanwhile it was mayhem everywhere. Most of the crews were like us already awake but nothing prepared them for what they saw as they came on deck. To our left further into the basin Karsten & Tina�s �Aquavit� was only attached to the main pontoon by the extra lines they had put out earlier. Their finger pontoon had turned turtle and was sinking with their boat still attached. Between them and the patrol vessel lay several yachts. �Pavlov� was sitting serenely untouched by anything and the other two had a large 50-odd foot wooden motorboat pressing against them. To our right, David & Viola�s steel �Zeehund� was being �leant� upon by a large steel motorboat coming in at right angles to their stern. We later discovered that the Dutch Skipper a retired merchant navy man had been woken by the bang and the only thing he could think of doing was to put his engines in full reverse. It was probably this that lessened the impact when the windward pontoon hit. At the seaward end �Double Up� had two large motor boats pressing against her starboard hull � her bow fittings had in fact gone through a port hole in the larger of them.

It was a spring tide (the highest sort of tides) and close to the March Equinox so with the wind behind it at around 2am the water was within a couple of feet of the top of the basin. In the car park beyond were the blue flashing lights of the Guardia (police) cars and Barbate�s one fire engine (a volunteer force). A young policeman was shouting at us against the wind. Susie went forward to hear what he had to say: �You have to leave your boat now� was the gist of it � looking left toward the inner end of the basin it was obvious why. Our pontoon was beginning to buckle under the press of boats and wreckage. Already planks were coming out. Along with our friends we had no choice but to abandon ship. All the seacocks and hatches were closed, the power systems switched off a �grab bag� containing the ships papers, our passports and wallets was packed and a change of clothes pushed into a rucksack. We stood shell-shocked in the cockpit as the washboard was put in for maybe the last time � it is hard to say good-bye to your home. One of the things that every sailor is always aware of is that one day he or she may have to climb up into a liferaft but we never ever expected it to happen in a marina. With heavy hearts the three of us made the short two-foot step up from the pontoon onto the quay. The policeman told us to head for the marina office on the seaward side of the basin. Walking against the hurricane with the salt spray lashing our faces was hard work. The wind was such that the outer harbour had three or four waves in it even though it was only a few hundred yards across. Once in the office we were warm and dry � everyone was gathering. The teenagers disappeared up stairs whilst the adults stood or sat around the reception area. No-one knew what to say but we were all glad that nobody had been hurt and that we were all there. The delivery skipper from a 60 foot new motor boat that had spent the night so far tied up to the reception pontoon came in to offer a couple of spare bunks. We were all too shocked to take them up but were amused to hear that they were going to be keeping an �anchor watch� in case their pontoon too decided to go walkabout.

The young lady that ran the office was busy phoning berth-holders to tell them what was happening. One German couple drove twenty odd miles in the storm from their villa further up the coast. Their brand new Halberg Rassey was on the windward pontoon. Eventually the manager turned up � he was reluctant to do anything until daylight. Kevin, David, Karsten and Cap�n Trish (from Double Up) were determined otherwise. His grasp of English was not good so Viola and Trish took up the argument in Spanish. Eventually things started to happen. The firemen tied some long lines to the windward pontoon and tied them to pillars on the seaward quay. These were rather slack for our liking but it was something.

As the tide went down so the wind began to ease. Trish�s American pushiness paid off - she persuaded an army of marinaros to help put in more fenders. But she was still desperate for the load on her Catamaran to be eased and the owner of the largest motorboat, who had been called from his bed, wanted to extract his boat. A small jeep was driven round to the seaward quay beyond the office building. What followed was farcical but had some success. A single rope from the windward pontoon was tied to the jeep which had about ten feet of quay in front of it. The driver revved his engine but the small vehicle was no match for the windage of a high-sided motorboat. Even if it could drive forward it couldn�t go far without falling into the harbour! Eventually some movement was made and the marinaro army were able to extract both the motorboats at that end. Meanwhile both David and Kevin were pleased that their insurance companies answered the phone at 3 in the morning and offered both sympathy and constructive help. We struggled through the wind around the basin to peer down at the carnage. So far Temptress had not sunk but Kevin�s inspection of the damage did not hold out much hope. By torchlight he could already see the fibreglass matting poking through along the starboard transom edge � was there a hole below this? Fenders and wreckage obscured his view.  Gradually the crews braved the rickety pontoon and went aboard their boats. Karsten managed to free �Aquavit� from the capsized finger but not before the cleat had gouged great lumps of gelcoat and GRP away below the waterline, fortunately not actually making a hole.

About then staff from the fishing harbour arrived bringing huge rolls of polypropylene line from the fishermen�s cooperative. As dawn broke a web of lines was strung from the posts on seaward side of the basin to the rogue pontoon.  David was down on the wreckage trying to ease the strain on Zeehund and he quickly realised that by heaving on the lines the pontoon pieces could be moved back towards the wall from whence they came. Soon everyone was working together to heave and bit-by-bit the gap between our boats and those that belonged on the other side widened. There were a few panicky moments. A large wooden motorboat became entangled in all the gear that a typical long distance cruiser has hanging off its stern � Kevin climbed up onto the motor boat to cut it free only to find the bow section was rotten, within seconds it was academic � the diving platform-like bow fittings simply ripped out of the deck taking with them a large section of the stemhead.  There was comedy too, two small motor-boats of the style beloved by the Spanish for weekend fishing had been so far unaffected by the turmoil. They were on the endmost section of the wayward pontoon which was still in place but as the wreckage had moved down the basin they were now in danger of being crushed! Heaving stopped whilst the marinaros decided what to do. The owners weren�t around so no engines. Viola suggested to them that they get their own substantial �tin� dinghy and use it. First though they had to saw through the service pipe containing the mains power and lighting supply for the pontoon which had somehow encircled the boats � good job that the power had gone off when the incident first started. Meanwhile on another boat an elderly Spaniard in his carpet slippers was anxiously trying to sort out his lines making ready to leave which he did as if it was completely normal to motor out of your berth with bits of pontoon floating all around you.

As the small boats were towed to safety a cry went up from Karsten. He and Tina had managed to move Aquavit to a safer berth just opposite. The team on the quay had decided to take a break from heaving whilst the boats were dealt with so put down their lines. Once more the wreckage was floating downwind towards Aquavit.  Eventually the wreckage was reasonably secure and we gradually all retired to our bunks � it was 10 am and it had been a very long night. In the late afternoon we inspected each others boats. All in all despite the serious nature of the �Barbate Incident� as it was now being referred to, there was surprisingly little damage. No boats sank and no one was injured. We later learned that out in the fishing harbour one traditional 50-foot wooden trawler at the end of a raft of trawlers sank earlier in the night.

Friday dawned bright and clear with the easterly wind still blowing but much moderated. Virtually all the boats decided it was time to leave � most were heading through the Straits but Temptress sailed north to Rota.  We were joined by the ex-merchant seaman, his crew (a young black Labrador) and his steel motorboat. A few glasses of wine were drunk that evening, going over the events of the night before, which may account for the embarrassing event of Saturday morning. As we motored away from our berth Kevin realised that we were still attached to the pontoon �. by our 50 foot power cable. It was already too far to jump ashore so Will scrambled to unscrew the plug at the boat end. Our Dutch friend, stood on the pontoon to wave us off, grabbed the cable from the junction box and waved it as Will threw his end into the water. The Skippers intention was to return to collect it all. Too late we realised that it had already snapped and that �90 of screw-on plug was now sinking into the marina mud! Never mind we had a glorious downwind sail to Vilamoura tying up just after mid-night.

April - Heading North Once More

Sunday evening, the last day in March, Richard joined us for dinner at our favourite Vilamoura restaurant �Perna de Pau� (translates as something about pirates but literally means �leg of wood�). Dark wood panelling, silver service from cheery staff and good food make this place a bit of an oddity in this brash tourist resort. The following day Richard and Kevin were up early to drive to the airport to pick up Annie and Nick who�d been up even earlier and flown out to join us for eight days sailing! Lured by our reports of sunny Portugal they picked the wettest week imaginable, made worse by the fact that the high pressure which should have been sitting over the Iberian Pennisula had drifted north to the UK. London was warm and sunny but the Algarve certainly wasn�t. Perhaps you shouldn�t start your holidays on April Fools day?

Tuesday 2nd April saw us heading for Portimao, at this point it was actually sunny with light winds from the direction we wanted to go. At lunch time the top of the mainsail began to flap oddly. Taking it down we realised that the top batten (a carbon fibre rod) had disintegrated at one end. Meanwhile in yet another embarrassing moment, as Nick had tacked the boat so we could bring the sail down, our fishing trawl somehow wrapped itself around both rudder and keel � nice one!  The jib was furled and we drifted for a few minutes whilst Kevin used his brand new wetsuit for the first time and soon had it sorted out. He claimed the water wasn�t too cold but it is the Atlantic and it is April so we didn�t feel tempted to join him.
During the afternoon the wind rose to a F7 still from the north-west so having not made much progress we decided to call it a day and return to Vilamoura where at least we could get a new batten. Back in the same berth in time for supper. The following day Will opted out of walking to Quarteira for lunch. Four of us ate a huge fish and loads of the garlicky, butter new potatoes that the Portuguese love before venturing back into the wind with 3 litres of assorted olives (can Annie or Kevin explain their impulse buy?)

Everyone was determined to do some sailing what ever the weather so when Thursday dawned grey but calm we made an early start west for Lagos. This was despite the fact that three of the crew had only been to bed at 2am having spent the evening in various karaoke bars. Nick made porridge for breakfast � the first we Mediterranean-ites had had this year. Eventually the rain started and it continued for most of our time in Lagos. It was so heavy that the usual first Saturday of the month gypsy market was curtailed to just a few disappointing stalls. Annie and Susie found the farmers market in town more fun and bought carrots and other veg as fresh as if we�d picked our own. Autumn Breeze was in Lagos still and it was good to see Pat and Angie again. They too weren�t happy about the weather as they had planned to spend the week varnishing. Nick and Annie explored the town whilst Kevin and Susie caught up with old friends. Kevin took himself off on Saturday afternoon to watch the rugby in Luis�s � it is amazing how quickly we fell back into the pattern of life we had had here back in November and December.

From Lagos we retraced our steps and visited Portimao � a place Temptress hadn�t been to before. It was blowing a hooley as we approached the entrance close to high water. The waves were breaking right over the breakwaters so that the light towers were disappearing in the spray. We�d only covered less than eight and a half nautical miles but it felt like many more with winds gusting at over 44 knots. And of course it was pouring with rain for the whole trip. Temptress of Down surfed in between the protective walls and then motored up the river where two marinaros expertly caught our lines before we blew away. The marina is very new, building it still going on all round, in the basin there were few boats but the staff were friendly. The next day we took advantage of a brief period of sunshine to explore the town. Portimao is not really a tourist town although Praia de Roche nearby was the first Algarve resort back in the 60�s. Most of the main shopping streets are narrow and pedestrianised. We found a very odd supermarket which appeared to have a lot yet managed to have nothing we needed. The veg section had probably seven or eight varieties of apples but no onions nor could we find cup-a-soups. The meat shelves wouldn�t yield up enough chicken portions for five for supper, yet there was a comprehensive selection of electrical kitchen gadgets and a large booze section. However a short walk away we found most of the provisions we needed and then stood in the warm sun waiting for a taxi.

Monday morning was rather grey again but not too windy. Annie chatted to the old fellows getting ready to take the boat alongside us to sea � the crew had a combined age of over 350 years and the �baby� was a mere 65 years old. Their banter was reminiscent of �Last of the Summer Wine�. Off they set only to return a few hours later as the �baby� was seasick! After lunch we bade them farewell and headed for Vilamoura once again. Annie and Nick were to return home on Tuesday, Temptress was to be repaired and we were going to Marina Del Este on Wednesday.

First the repairs � before leaving Barbate Kevin had booked Temptress into the yard at Vilamoura for the work to take place. In Rota we had been able to look under the transom and found that much to our surprise the damage was mostly confined to the edges and the upper surface of the lower step. It appeared to our inexpert eyes to be mainly superficial although we had some fears of crazing or cracking underneath. In Vilamoura the French �fibreglass man� Martin confirmed had that it was mostly superficial and amazingly said he could repair it without recourse to an expensive lift-out. The only difficulty would be matching the gelcoat colour � Susie always thought that white was white but no, this was Jeanneau 1992 white � Martin had contacts and thought he could find some. Meanwhile our bedraggled spinnaker was finally offered some TLC by Doyles sail loft and we ordered a sock for it so that the anchor-wrapping incident (back in January) wouldn�t be repeated. The spinnaker would live inside the sock until after it is hoisted. Once up, a string is pulled and the sock gathers at the top of the sail. To take the sail down you reverse the process � lowering the sock to snuffle the sail (hence the sock is also known as a snuffler) before lowering the whole lot to the deck.

We accompanied our guests almost to the airport on Tuesday getting out at the Avis office to pick up a hire car that needed returning to Spain. After washing, packing and cleaning our boat we left her for the first time since last December and drove towards Malaga and Marina Del Este. Our home for the next week was to be Dolfijn, Richards Swan 38. We were taking a busman�s holiday to deliver it to Barcelona. The weather continued to be rather grey and except for a couple of days in Almerimar there was little wind so we motored most of the 477 nm. It was rather odd navigating along coasts we were familiar with. We stopped over one night in Garrucha � it was late on Saturday when we arrived and raining. No lights showed in the office. We left as planned around 7 am the next day without seeing anyone. A couple of days later we headed into Denia for provisions � again it was raining and again this is a partially built marina but everyone was friendly. From there we motored straight for Barcelona.  The sun came out and the water was covered with blankets of tiny jellyfish with purple-y transparent �sails�. The following day we spotted whales � probably fin whales and stopped to motor slowly round the odd looking sail-fish. It looks like the front foot or so of a dolphin and has a tall thin fin which it holds up out of the water.

We text�d Richard � �how high mast?�. �Ah well� the luff of the sail is 45 feet� : so probably 16 or 17 metres was the consensus of opinion. Dolfijn just had enough clearance for the Barcelona bridge (18.5m max) and we were soon tied up alongside in Port Vell. The delivery crew hosed the decks, put the covers on (Richard inherited canvas covers for virtually everything), cleaned and packed. After supper in a restaurant with an identity crisis � rural d�cor meets gilt mirrors meets techno music we had an early night. The next day a taxi to the airport got us a Portuguese car from Avis and the three of us set off on the long drive home. Our route took us right across Spain. The scenery was fantastic and ever changing the first day - we managed to reach a Parador some 100 miles south of Madrid. Friday April 19th found us firmly on the Plains of Spain (where the rain mainly falls) � it was boiling hot and the air conditioning didn�t work. The autovia was dead straight and pancake flat for probably 50 miles. Driving was almost as boring as motoring a sailboat in a flat calm across the Channel. Eventually we crossed into Andulucia � the autovia splitting into two. Our side followed the old road curving along the gorge side and the other was elevated over the river in the bottom hundreds of feet below us. The views were spectacular and only in Spain could viewing points be provided on a motorway! We crossed the border into Portugal on the now very familiar E1 route and then found a lunch stop. It advertised itself as a restaurant but looked shut. The entrance was not the main door but a barn door a little further along. Once inside it was cavernous. The first area filled with plastic garden furniture and a large wood burning grill. Next came a bar on the left and the kitchen on the right. Beyond some large baskets displaying fruit and veg was a huge barn with seating for over a hundred. A few lorry drivers were the only occupants. We sat at the checked cloth covered table near a large fireplace. The food was superb � frango piri-piri cooked on the aforementioned grill, chicken and mushrooms in a creamy sauce (tasted more like garlic accompanied by chicken and mushrooms), grilled pork fillets all served with chips. We didn�t need to eat again that day.

After sailing (or rather motoring) long days last week the crew decided just to relax. We collected our newly repaired spinnaker and hoisted in the early morning calm to try out the sock. Martin finished off the transom � the colour match was perfect and it all looks as good as new. It was a little more expensive than expected � to be exact, double what we had originally been told - but still so little that it has proved not worth claiming on our insurance. It is very hot and sunny � the high has returned to its more usual location and we had nice easterlies so soon we should head off west. The three of us spent an couple of hours planning possible stops up the West coast of Portugal. The more settled Spring weather means that we can visit some of the anchorages that would have been untenable in the Autumn gales.

Lunchtime on Monday Temptress took advantage of the easterly wind and with the 2nd reef in and the jib poled out she headed off on the 80-90 mile trip round Cabo Sao Vincente to Sines (pronounced Si-nesh). Various reports of this harbour had been received � the Rough Guide says Vasco De Gama would turn in his grave if he knew what his home town was now like, the RCC Pilot Guide claims it to be a �pretty town�. After a fast passage we dropped the hook in the early hours of the morning when it was still dark and retired to our bunks. In the morning the beach and town above it proved �pretty� with white and blue traditional buildings, the obligatory fort etc.  But to the east are an oil refinery and chemical works and to the west is an oil terminal so the wider view was not so good. The approach by car must be horrendous if the smell when we sailed up the coast north of Sines the following day was anything to go by � rotten cabbages had nothing on this and we were several miles out to sea.

Wednesday was spent motoring in blazing sun � we weren�t surprised to find when we arrived in Cascais that the Lisbon forecast was for 29�C that day. For the last hour or so, as we approached Lisbon, the breeze was sufficient to sail at a spanking pace across the bay. Behind us the Portuguese Navy were going home for tea � eight or nine warships like a row of ducks making their way up the channel and into the River Tejo. That night we were pleased to be able to sit outside the Jardim do Frango  (the Chicken Garden) restaurant to eat, as it was still too warm to contemplate indoors. The following morning seemed to offer more of the same. Totally calm with a forecast for F3-4 for the northern quadrant. By 9:30 Temptress was filled up with diesel and we were motoring through the maze of lobster pot buoys towards the headland west of Cascais. On the horizon the Skipper spotted breaking waves � Susie checked the chart � nothing dangerous to report. We carried on and as the boat rounded the corner someone flicked a switch � it was blowing Northerly F6-7 with 2-3 metre high waves and further ahead we could see a thick bank of fog rolling off the mountain and pouring out to sea. Not being on an endurance test and cowards at heart, another 45 minutes found us tucked up safely back in Cascais Marina where it was still sunny and calm. Lady Veronica a 36 foot centre cockpit Oceanis, who had arrived in Cascais just before us on Wednesday had tried the same trip twice earlier in the morning � we compared weather notes with her crew (Skipper Barry, brother Richard and Phil the postman) and it was not looking good. Cascais, sheltered by the hills of Sintra to the north was warm and sunny but out at Cabo de Roca the situation was unlikely to change for the next few days. Sunday�s forecast offered the least wind but still predicted wave heights of over 2.5m, we decided to give it a try.

Seven am, both boats motored out of the marina and along the coast. Temptress with her main-sail up but the 2nd reef in, Lady Veronica under full sail. By the time we reached the first headland it was blowing hard although the waves seemed a little easier than on our previous attempt. Lady V, by now motoring under bare poles, radioed to say she was turning back but we decided to carry on, determined to reach Peniche. The waves were from the north-west and the wind was a bit west of north so we hoped to make a north-north-easterly course (about 20 degrees) once round Cabo de Roca. We put in a lot of west first so our course would take Temptress well clear of the headland. When the red cliffs from which the Cabo gets its name were well over our right shoulder we tacked towards our destination, Peniche. At about the same time the wind swung a little to east of north. Yuk � now the best we could do, direction-wise was 40 degrees which was taking us into the rocky coast a few miles north of the headland. The waves here were bigger, seriously impeding forward progress even with Temptress� big propeller and the engine going flat out we were only managing about 3 knots. It is difficult to describe to anyone who has not been to sea but one minute we were up on the top of a wave looking over everything. The sea was blue-green with sunlight picking out the white-tops. Then as the wave moved away behind us Temptress would point downhill into the front of the next wave a metre or two from the crest. A wall of saltwater rolls up over the deck crashing into the sprayhood and rushes under the deck through the gullies where the sheets and halyards run from mast to cockpit. This water spills over onto the top of the companionway hatch and into the cockpit. The rest of the wave rushes along the side-decks sometimes splashing up over the windward side and into the cockpit soaking everyone. The next wave picks the boat up 2 or 3 metres high and then as it disappears behind us leaves Temptress hanging in the air. �BANG�, down the bow comes into the front of the next roller which rushes up the deck in a sheet of green stopping the boat dead. It is a bone-shaking, uncomfortable, wet ride that none of us want to endure for long. The helmsman has to work hard to keep Temptress on course and to try to minimise the crashing off the waves tasks that are often incompatible. The wind was increasing, gusting F8 at times. A quick debate and we reluctantly point the boat for Cascais once more � oh how quiet it was travelling with the waves under full sail � it was a quick trip back to yet another berth on �L� pontoon.  The internet weather forecasts predicted the same weather well into the week. Will we ever get round this headland?

With little else to do, Kevin & Susie took the train into Lisbon on Monday morning and then out to Sintra where the rulers of Portugal built their summer palaces high up in the hills. The old town with its narrow cobbled streets, winds its way up the hillside and unlike the Portugal we�ve been used to for so long, it is lush and green with deciduous trees and grassy fields. In fact the town with its Victorian architecture reminded us of Matlock Bath! All that was missing were the amusement arcades and the leather clad bikers. At lunch-time we were kidnapped by a middle-aged lady waving a menu. She escorted us down a steep path to a hidden gem of a restaurant where we devoured fish fillets and Portuguese smoked sausage both accompanied by rice and chips.  From Sintra half an hour on the bus brought us to Cabo de Roca. We were pleased to find it so windy that standing up was difficult. This is the most westerly point in mainland Europe (the far west of Ireland is further west) and apart from the light-house there is a restaurant cum shop and a tourist office plus coach parking for a few thousand tourists. We refrained from buying ourselves a certificate to say we�d been there � we�d prefer to buy one in Peniche that stated we�d rounded the Cabo!

Tuesday�s forecast from the Portuguese Institute of Metrology was not good � predicting occasional F7�s with wave heights of 3 to 3.5 metres for Sao Vincente, the sea area that Cabo de Roca is the northern boundary of.  Further north the outlook was bleaker with 4 metre plus waves. We had begun this trip north with full hopes of settled weather and pleasant anchorages but how different reality was.  We were beginning to sympathise with the Bellman in Lewis Carroll�s Hunting of the Snark....
          'But the principal failing occurred in the sailing,
          And the Bellman, perplexed and distressed,
          Said he had hoped, at least, when the wind blew due East,
          That the ship would not travel due West!'

It looked like Saturday was the earliest date we could round Cabo de Roca. If not then or Sunday then the forecast predicted even more wind on Monday and throughout the following week. Still it wasn't all bad - Barry, Richard and Phil from Lady V are good company and Delos (an American boat we met in Sevilla months ago) had just arrived enroute for Norway. Her crew includes four kids so Will was happy to renew his friendships with the teenagers - swopping computer games and so forth.  There is another boat that deserves a mention - St Christopher - a wooden 50+ footer designed by Sparkman & Stephens. Last time we were here she was languishing in her berth sadly neglected and for sale. Now her varnishwork is mostly rubbed back, her teak deck is clean and Gordon, the skipper, is looking forward to her being lifted out for a much needed paint job on her topsides. Over the winter this classic yacht has acquired a new UK-based owner who is paying Gordon to lavish her with the TLC she has lacked. Once the work is complete she is off to the Med - it is great to see a beautiful old boat coming back to life again.

Meanwhile with Lisbon easy to reach by train and a list jobs to do round the boat there was plenty to keep us occupied. However we despatched our April Journal by email, we were still hopeful that next time we wrote we would be in the north of Biscay heading for Brittany having explored a well kept secret, the beautiful Ria's of North West Spain.

May - Inside Biscay

April is over and here in Portugal May 1st, is the second national holiday in a week. Last Thursday's (April 25th) celebrated the 1974 revolution when they overthrew the dictatorship and this one is May Day. As we�ve mentioned before everything closes on national holidays so we enjoyed the sun. Kevin oiled a bit more teak deck (one of those �Forth Road Bridge� tasks) but little else was achieved. The following day Temptress�s waterline lowered by about a dozen bottles of wine, twice that quantity of beer and a good many tins following a jumbo-sized shopping trip to the appropriately named hypermarket � Jumbo. More exercise was had on Friday with a trip into Lisbon. We walked miles � Lisbon is built on several hills along the River Tejo. The elavadors (trams cum funicular railways that run up narrow cobbled streets so steep that walking would be impossible) take you up the steep bits but even the top is not flat. Old Lisbon on the hill is a maze of little streets but fortunately the locals are more than willing to help lost tourists. Lisbon in the valley was rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake (as was most of Southern Portugal) in an elegant grid pattern. We spent a couple of hours in the hot houses of the Eduardo VII park before we realised that Portugal never had an Edward as King - the park was named after Edward VII of England but why?

Finally we escaped � plan A had been to leave at around 5am as the wind was forecast as light for then. The enter-card and electricity adaptor were once more returned to the office before 8pm (closing time) and our deposit of 32.5 euros retrieved. We then went to bed early with the wind howling in the rigging�when the alarm went off at 4am it was still howling so we stayed in our bunks. Later having paid for the night�s mooring (on May 1 Summer prices started and moorings now cost almost three times the price we paid in previously) and got ourselves a replacement enter-card and another electricity adaptor the wind seemed to lull. Delos decided it was time to go so Temptress followed her out (via the office to return card & plug and get our 32.5 euros back again). Suffice to say that it was a hard trip. The wind and waves were easier than before in terms of their combined directions but it blew 30 knots from the north most of the day and the waves were over 3 metres. Initially we headed out and out � well out to the west of the dreaded Cabo.  Sixteen miles out from Cascais we finally tacked northwards and then slogged on to Peniche arriving soon after 8pm. Just short of 60 nautical miles but it felt like twice that distance.

Peniche is apparently a pleasant town but we didn�t even leave the pontoon! Too tired when we arrived to do more than eat and sleep, the relief of having managed to successfully leave Cascais drove us onwards on Sunday. At 8am it was grey and overcast � typical British weather in fact.  As we motored out of Peniche the rain began to fall but at least the wind was light. A classical example of a cold front was passing over us heading southwards and by the afternoon both boats were once more motoring in the sunshine. On queue at noon, the sea breeze kicked in and slowly the seas built again but by now we were enjoying ourselves and reached into Figuiera De Foz in plenty of time for supper. The following day we decided to have a bit of a rest. Temptress�s crew desperately needed some clean laundry � how can three people generate two sailing bags full of dirty clothes and bedding in such a short space of time? Once again we were to discover how much more difficult even basic tasks can be when you live on a boat. The Marina Office directed us to a couple of laundries � the closest a good 15 minute walk away proved to be a dry cleaners (they were willing to do our cleaning on a price per piece basis � goodness knows how much that would have cost). The second, on the other side of town were happy to wash our clothes but couldn�t do it today � they were to be ready, clean, dry and neatly folded at 5pm the following day. We trekked back to the marina and had a beer with Lady V�s crew who had finally escaped Cascais and arrived via Nazare. Barry�s mind was made up � please would we deliver Lady V back to the UK for him?

The following morning Delos headed off north. Kevin & Susie were invited for coffee on Perfect Lady � the Westerly that featured in the company�s last adverts before succumbing to yet another bankruptcy. Her proud owners, Tim & June, spend a few summer months each year sailing her a little bit further south before returning to the UK and work.

Eventually we had our clean clothes and could leave by which time it was raining! We sailed through the evening with some useful (I jest) wind instruments � something must have sat on them whilst we were in F. Da Foz as we now registered a F7 when it was blowing F2 or 3! Kevin & Will tried to re-calibrate them but eventually had to settle for the dial to show the apparent wind angle correctly and everything else wildly wrong. It was just before 4 am when we arrived in Leixeos (the port part of Oporto) yet there was an elderly Marinaro on hand to help us tie up. In the morning Kevin made arrangements to leave Temptress for ten days or so � paying berthing fees in advance. She was then moved to a safer berth close to the root of the pontoon, tucked up in the corner of the basin and we tripled up the mooring warps.

Our new home for the next week or so was to be Lady V. Barry and Richard caught the afternoon flight back to the UK and we carried our sailing bags and perishable food stores along the pontoon. It was odd to be leaving our home for the first time since our brief trip back to the UK last December. What of our temporary lodgings � Lady Veronica is 36 feet long but for the most part just as beamy (wide) as Temptress. Someone Her sprayhood, cockpit cushions, upholstery and bedding are all green as are the pans, kettle and table mats. Aft there was a huge cabin with double bunk and a long curved sofa. Her centre cockpit means that down below on either side of it runs a long �corridor�. To port this is a well appointed galley with far more storage than Temptress and an electric toaster (green). Kevin is now determined that this is an essential piece of kit. To starboard is the heads � long and thin with loads of room. Unfortunately the shower pump wasn�t working and Kevin had to spend an hour or so in Viana do Castello a couple of days later unblocking the loo. We had a smashing evening in V. do C � fortunately we didn�t bring Temptress in for our first visit as there simply wouldn�t have been room for her but Lady V fitted snugly bows-to on a crowded pontoon just a boat or two away from an old acquaintance from the Autumn. At first we couldn�t remember where we had met before but when Graham mentioned his Polish girl friend was back in the UK taking her exams, we placed each other in Baiona last October! After supper and a few beers together we had an early night before heading north for Baiona.

Talk about whistle-stops, we tied up at the diesel pontoon shortly before lunch and by three fifteen were underway once more. Before we departed we held a weather conference with Steve and Chris from Delos. The various forecasts (Met Office animated outlook, American Navy 84 hour predictions, the European Centre for Medium Range Forecasts and WeatherOnline) seemed to agree. There was a large low tracking in the Atlantic which would give us strong south-westerlies in the latter part of the Biscay crossing but after that the next low was even deeper and would give storm force winds for several days. We were agreed if we didn�t leave now then it would be too late � so it was now or wait probably a fortnight or more for another weather window. Lady V set off that afternoon with Delos following her out the next morning.

Friday afternoon and Saturday were fair and sunny with little wind � sunbathing in the cockpit as we motored northwards. Kevin had already calculated that even with a full tank of diesel and the extra canisters Lady V carried we would need to sail at least 100 nautical miles of the trip. He needn�t have worried � we sailed all of the rest. By the early hours of Sunday it was blowing south-westerly as predicted and full sail was set. Gradually the swell increased, the rain began to pour down (it rained almost solidly for the next 36 hours). Coming off watch with wet oilies there was nowhere to hang them. They fell off the shallow hooks in the heads so we just piled them on the floor before falling into a bunk � resigned to putting on dripping wet clothes four hours later. We were beginning to realise that Lady V was not our ideal boat for a stormy Biscay crossing � down below the one bunk with a lee cloth was the windward one and it was so short and narrow that Susie had difficulty sleeping in it, Will and Kevin simply didn�t fit. Will tried sleeping in the forward cabin but it was too noisy so he retreated to the leeward bunk � relying on the cockpit cushions to wedge himself in. This proved the best place to sleep off watch and was very cosy wrapped up sleeping bag-style in a double duvet. The vast aft cabin was OK but occasionally you were shot across the double bunk and onto the floor! As the wind increased the sails were decreased until eventually just tiny storm sails were set. One of the good and bad things was that Lady V has a furling main as well as a furling genoa � good because shortening sail was easily achieved by simply pulling on a rope to roll it away but bad because the un-battened main didn�t set very well � Kevin likened it to sailing with two genoa�s.

By the early hours of Monday our route began to converge with the big ships heading for Ushant (Ouessant). The swell was enormous, one minute we were up some 5 metres above the water and the next Lady V was sliding down the back of the onward rushing wave. The effect was heightened by being in a centre cockpit which elevates its occupants far higher than Temptress�s aft cockpit. At the top of the wave we could see huge supertankers, at the bottom walls of water surrounded us. The force 7-8 wind from behind meant that it was a very fast Biscay crossing � making up for the five days or so we spent at sea last Autumn. By Monday evening we were eating supper in the Styvel Hotel in Cameret. Delos arrived a couple of hours after us having made an even faster trip across the bay.

Delos� crew decided to head from there to Falmouth as Steve had need a couple of weeks in one place to make some conference calls. First though Kevin had to give them an initiation into tides in this part of the world. Tides along the Channel coasts are amongst the most notorious anywhere. No wonder the Brits and the French have been so successful at seafaring �cos if you can make it out of the area then anywhere else is a doddle. Delos had spent the last two years in the Med where there are no tides and prior to that they had sailed in California. Lesson number one � don�t leave Cameret to head north when the tide is going out even if it seems the most logical thing to do. The Chenal Du Four (which provides a neat 30 mile or more short cut avoiding Ushant) flows at over 5 knots south with the ebbing tide! �So when should we leave?�. �Well�, came Kevin�s reply as he looked at his watch, �probably about eleven o�clock ie about now!� �Can we navigate the Chenal Du Four on this?� asked Steve waving an Admiralty chart of the Western Approaches? Nope � lesson number two � the French do some wonderfully detailed charts (they are ornate too with line drawings of the major transits actually on the chart). Steve set off to the bookshop (another lesson � you can buy charts much more easily in France than in Spain and Portugal � more on this later) clutching our copy. Unfortunately, this being France they had shut for lunch. We swapped our chart for some torch batteries and later bought ourselves another copy from the Fisherman�s Co-operative.

The following morning after a bit of a diversion for diesel we motored up the Chenal du Four. The diesel pump in the marina had broken down so the helpful marina staff took Kevin, Will and Lady V�s cans by car to a garage. All night we motored � after the wind and rain of the days before this was frustrating. What wind there was came from the North East � just where we were heading�Guernsey. We tied up on the diesel pontoon an hour of so before �Boat-X� purveyors of chandlery and diesel, opened. By the time the staff arrived for work there was quite a queue including another Beneteau Oceanis 36CC (green and white) identical to Lady V � the man at the top of the wall working the pump took a double look thinking he was serving the same boat twice. We left the pontoon and headed into the marina. The berthing master shouted down to us as we crossed the sill � back already, do you want the same berth? We laughed and pointed out that we were not the Oceanis that left an hour or so before. A quick tidal calculation had shown that there would be enough water over the sill soon after 7pm so we could leave St Peter Port that evening (as we weren�t staying over night we were not charged for our stay either). Meanwhile we spent a quiet day enjoying the sun and followed a fish and chip lunch with a pint of real beer in the Yacht Club. Marks and Spencer provided gammon steaks for supper and then we motored across the Channel to Chichester.

This was probably the hardest part of the trip with shipping lanes and the Bar at Chichester to be crossed. Could Susie do a secondary port calculation and work out when Lady V�s 1.5 metre draft could get into Chichester Harbour� it was the first for many a month but with a quick check in the relevant section at the start of MacMillans Almanac it was worked out that we couldn�t get over the Bar until 11am so had to hang around for a couple of hours in company with a dredger that had turned up early for work. It was blowing hard and drizzling by the time we motored up past Hayling Island Sailing Club � the Bank�s sailing regatta that our friend Paul Seaman was organizing there had abandoned plans for another days racing. Another Paul (March) had been about to drive to Port Solent when we phoned so he met us on the pontoon at the marina lock and promptly dropped his glasses out of his shirt pocket into the muddy harbour waters. Lunch was the first of a series of meals in Chichester Yacht Club � excellent food. Later in the afternoon there was a �Coo-ee, anyone home?� Susie left her galley cleaning tasks and went on deck � Rita and Alan introduced themselves as good friends of the couple who were buying Lady V. We invited them on board for a cup of tea and later they were instructed by the new owner to take us out for supper (meal number two in the yacht Club). The following day after handing over Lady V to Barry and yet another yacht club lunch, Noel (Kevin�s Father) and Maddy drove us up to Richmond via Alton where we stopped in on Kevin�s Gran (Polly) to wish her a Happy 93rd Birthday.

Thursday 24th May found us back in Oporto � the airport was almost within walking distance to the marina with only an oil refinery separating the two. It was good to be back home but now there were only two of us. Will had decided to stay in the UK to pursue his desire to join the Police. After doing a bit of shopping in Leica del Palmereira, Temptress headed north sailing along the miles of beach that make up most of Western Portugal. It was predictably raining as we left but soon cleared and we were surprised to be sailing nicely, downwind. After supper the wind dropped and the rest of the trip to Baiona was under engine. More rain and a marvellous rainbow to landward (east) as the sun set. The smell after the rain was amazing a peppery mix of pine, eucalyptus and wet earth. The departing rain clouds above the rocky hills turned purple as darkness fell.

As we drifted around off the harbour tying on fenders and warps and trying to remember how to do stern-to mooring when there are only two of you, a faintly lit dory appeared alongside.  The elderly marinaro had one of those wide beam torches face down in his boat giving everything a ghostly gleam. He pulled ahead of us waving the torch from side to side to illuminate vacant mooring buoys, small sailing boats and so forth. His speed was such that Temptress nearly ran him down as he dodged back and forth under our bow � we have to keep quite a lot of way on otherwise Temptress looses steerage, not something to be desired when manoeuvring amongst moored boats. There was another elderly figure on the pontoon � tall and thin, strangely clad in a blue boiler suit and a long flapping overcoat, closer inspection revealed him to have a huge bushy beard. He and his ancient companion who had abandoned the dory further along the pontoon, took our stern lines and handed over the mooring line for the bow. All in almost complete silence � weird. This being Spain where people don�t eat until after ten in the evening, it was easy at 11:30 pm, to find paella for two just a short walk into the old part of the town.

When we were planning the next stages of our journey during the previous week, we had reluctantly decided to make a push on towards A Corruna, missing out the Rias of Galicia. However the weather forecast in Baiona made us think again. Saturday found us sailing in amongst the rocks of Ria Muros just south of Finnistere, towards Portosin and the Yacht Club there gave us a warm welcome. After Southern Spain everything is so green. The wind was from the North so according to the local weather-lore it should be dry but unfortunately northerlies were of no help for us trying to get to A Corruna. (Wind from the south - apparently the only other they get - means it will be wet). Galicia is the wild, wet corner of Spain, a cross between the Lake District and Cornwall with the rocky outcrops making pilotage just a little less demanding than Brittany. There are fewer hard bits to hit here but unlike Brittany or the UK almost all are unmarked so you have to concentrate. Also, unlike further south, the Spanish are not tired of tourists and are so very friendly and welcoming that it is tempting to stay longer. Sunday evening we had to move � the yacht club had sent 12 boats to a regatta in the next ria (Ria Arosa) and now �Gundian� wanted her berth back. The marinaro pointed the route to an alternative berth � round the motorboat on the end, passing the large lit buoy about four metres from her bows on the inside�.�are you sure about that� yelled the Skipper over the wind. He was � there was a tiny buoy about two feet from the motorboat�s bow and just enough room between the buoys for Temptress. Time for another beer in the yacht club before supper.

The next morning we set off in the early morning rain and northerly winds to round Finnesterre for A Corruna (so the local lore doesn�t always hold true). We attempted a shortcut inshore through the Canal de Meixeodades (just don�t ask us how to pronounce it) but the wind and waves were on the nose. After an hour or so we had made little northerly progress and had to retrace our steps to the headland off Ria Muros. Temptress motored westwards out to sea leaving the waves breaking on rocks to the north of us. By late morning we were bowling along under full sail until, 30 miles later, the breeze died and we were motoring again. A liner leaving A Corruna passed us � heading for the Canaries or Maderia we wondered? Then the Torre de Hercules hove into view. This tall, square lighthouse is the symbol of the city and a light on this spot has marked the harbour entrance since Roman times. By 8pm we were rafted up alongside �The Great Escape� in the old fish dock. What a transformation since last October. Most of the fishing boats had gone and the dock was full of brand new pontoons � so new that they weren�t yet connected to any services or to the land but at least next time we visit there should be comfortable pontoon berthing at long last (they�ve been threatening it for over 20 years). As for our neighbour, she was over 18m long, built of steel and according to her owner a very famous English boat! Apparently she won trophies in a London-Sydney-London race in the seventies and also in a Round Britain Race. Now Dutch registered and German owned she is currently being restored whilst they sail south � Thailand is their ultimate destination where the owner said he was going to build a marina!

Does anyone know where you buy charts? Our extensive collection didn�t give us any detail for the north coast of Spain (we have better info on remote Caribbean islands onboard). In A Corruna no one was able to help and the one chandlery we found seemed to be permanently closed. In Gijon (He-Hon or He-Hong), our next stop we tried again  - the chandlery had two copies of the French equivalent of our Imray Biscay chart (mostly water like the chart in the Hunting of the Snark) and nothing else. How do the Spanish sailors manage to navigate? Or does this explain why you rarely see the Spanish ensign anywhere except Spain?  Or worse, perhaps there are only three ports on this coast: Gijon, Santander and Bilboa?

Gijon is a pretty town or rather city. It is the capital of the Asturias - the kingdom from which modern Spain was conquered. Well off the beaten track as far as tourists are concerned, wealthy with many designer clothes shops and upmarket deli�s and a huge modern port across the bay. The marina has a lovely setting, almost French � in the old port surrounded by stone quays topped with white railings. Close by are the �Termas Romanas del Campo Valdes�. Not many tourists get to this part of Spain, not even the Moors made it thus far north but the Romans did and their huge bath house is now an award winning museum. Even though we could understand little of the commentary or read few of the signs (everything is in Spanish) we appreciated what it was and the dedication of the archaeologists who managed to preserve it despite the ravages of the Civil War on the surrounding city. Apparently the local coal miners bombarded the garrison with sticks of dynamite so the Colonel ordered a navy warship in the harbour to bomb the town! Somehow the Roman ruins survived and today are preserved under a tree-lined square. It�s all very civilised with opening hours from 10am til 14 and then 17:00 til 20:00 and we were surprised how many visitors there were even on a weekday evening.

As the guide book put it, Gijon is a good place to indulge in a bit of shopping. We explored a cavernous deli, Oblanco�s, where the smell of the hams hanging from the ceiling and the cheeses piled behind the counter made us hungry. Up the broad wooden staircase was a bread counter and shelves of wine. We bought some Sidria, the local cider. It was very sharp and almost flat but once used to the tartness very apple-y and quite pleasant. Apparently the local bars make it �fizzy� by pouring it from a great height. Looking for a supermarket to buy shower cleaner we spotted a car park sign for a store-name we recognised, close to the newly refurbished Market de Sur. Laden with our clanking bag of sidria we wandered round outside of the building. Eventually having walked all the way round we found it, just feet from where we had been standing � the store was underneath the market building and was huge. Everything you could have wanted and more. It was obviously brand new. Like the deli the shelves were packed with lovely things to nibble � olives, nuts, boxes of chocolates. There were cheese counters, cooked meats and hams, a butchers, a fish stall, shelves of olive oil and wine and much more. It was nearly an hour later when we emerged with local cheese, a litre of Kefer (a brand of runny plain yoghurt in a jar) and of course, shower cleaner.

The wet, overnight trip to Gijon had exhausted both of us � three hours on and three hours off for watches wasn�t too bad but whilst in the UK we had both managed to acquire bad colds and with little sleep in A Corunna (the few remaining fishing boats in the dock left noisily at intervals starting at around 4:30am) we were now paying the price. Despite sleeping from when we arrived at 10:00am until the afternoon, it was an early night that night. The next morning there was a strange yellow ball in the sky � we hadn�t seen the sun since leaving the UK as the low in Biscay had covered the northern Spanish coasts in cloud for days. Where next?  With no detailed charts exploration of this pretty coast was impossible. The harbour master pointed us in the direction of a nautical bookshop � what we found was an Admiralty Chart Agent! At last we were spoilt for choice, in addition to all of HM�s UKHO offerings for this coast; the lady who served us had Spanish and French charts plus the British Pilot Guides for North and South Biscay. We settled down to coffee and churros (long, thin doughnuts) in a nearby caf� with two new detailed charts and both pilot books only to discover that most of the little coves and rias are inaccessible in strong north-easterlies or a big swell. We currently had both. Still it is an investment for the future, this rather �Cornish� coast has a magnetic appeal and we know we�ll be back one day. Further reading has shown us since that we really need a little boat that can dry out as most harbours are very shallow with not much space� a �trailer sailer� on the ferry to Bilboa then spend a summer month or two exploring this coast � well we can dream!

June - Home Again in Southsea

The last Friday in May, the 31st the wind was blowing from the north-east and yes we were heading north-east. Initially we motored round in circles in yet another attempt to calibrate the wind instruments before motoring off across the south east corner of Biscay. The sunset that evening was spectacular very red, very gold and accompanied by dolphins. The wind was pretty constant for the trip � F3-4 from the north-east but at least the weather was good and just after midnight on June 2nd the engine was finally turned off when tied up rather appropriately on the diesel pontoon in Les Minimes Marine, La Rochelle. It was our intention to head for the Vielle Port as soon as there was enough water in the channel. The �Old Port� of La Rochelle is right in the centre of town with probably the best harbour entrance anywhere. You sail up the channel and then between two grey granite towers with slate roofs like something from a fairy tale. There we tied up next door to an Aussie boat heading for Cardiff! Apparently the young couple have a house there. He is a professional diver by trade and as well as his wife Louise, onboard were their two young children (2 years and 6 months) and his mother. Seashell, their 36 foot wooden boat had just brought them safely through the French canals from the Med.

La Rochelle is beautiful and highly recommended to any who have never been. Obviously very wealthy in the past, most of the town is built of a grey/silvery stone. The streets are narrow and the buildings arch over the pavements. The town hall has a high wall all round it ornately carved. After eating in the local Indian restaurant (we fancied a change!) the Rough Guide recommended an English-speaking bar owned by Barry. What we found was an Irish pub owned by a Glaswegian (Barry) with a French wife. The wife played the flute and there was an impromptu folk session going on with locals on banjo, guitar and squeezebox. The music was mostly Breton but they were happy to play requests. What a night � we met Barry�s sister, on her way back to Paris from a wedding in Spain, her husband (who originated from Almeria in Spain) and many locals. Susie got stuck with a French optician who insisted in conversing in French so conversation there was reduced to schoolgirl level about the weather etc.  It was a late night.

Two nights in La Rochelle mean a third night free of charge which as well as reducing the berthing costs was good as the F5-6 north westerlies were not encouraging us to head north-west along the Vendee coast up towards Brittany. With over 3000 berths Les Minimes is one of the worlds largest marinas and is home to several well known boat builders including Amel with Beneteau and Jeanneau factories only a few miles out of town. We took the water taxi down there one windy afternoon and after a shopping spree in the chandleries we were able to do a pile of boat jobs giving Temptress some much needed tlc. With new lazyjack �strings� (over 100m of string was required), a new catch on one of the hatches (this last had needed replacing when we bought her four years ago but until now we had not found a replacement)  a pair of shiny folding bikes in the forepeak we headed out of La Rochelle on late morning on Wednesday.  It began to rain as we untied and motoring down the channel towards the sea it poured and blew like mad. Yuk � visibility reduced quickly to a few yards which was not what we needed in order to find our way across the sandbanks off the coast here and under the bridge, up the Rade de Pallice inside of the Ile de Re. After a couple of miles we gave up and after playing again with the wind instruments, returned to La Rochelle, this time finding ourselves a berth tucked safely inside Les Minimes marina in amongst a clutch of brand new 50 foot catarmarans.

The next morning dawned bright and clear and it was in glorious sunshine that we tacked back and forth up the Rade de Pallice enroute for Sable d�Olonne.  One huge bottle-nose dolphin entertained us for much of the trip swimming some five metres or so off the bow and leaping right up out of the water to land with a tidal wave of a splash on �his� side before repeating the gymnastics. Sable d�Olonne is the marina that the Vendee Globe competitors come back to so we expected great things but after cycling round the town of La Chaume (Sable D�Olonne is the other side of the river to the marina!) we found just one bar in the marina open! The following day Kevin decided we should head for Ile d�Yeu, the island furthest offshore in Biscay. Port Joinville was reached in the rain after a fast windy reach all the way. The island looks like it could be a beautiful place if the weather is nice.

After a quick trip to the supermarket on a wet windy Friday morning the sun came out. We got out our new bikes and with a map from the Capitainaire and some advice from the crews of a couple of other red ensigned boats cycled off across the island. Yeu is about 15 kilometres long and 9 wide. A short distance from the town we came across the Citidelle. Part of Frances massive fortifications in their long wars against both the English and the Spanish this grey granite edifice is now well hidden despite being on the highest point of the island � since Napoleans era trees have been allowed to grow all around. You cycle up the hill through the green woodland and suddenly come upon a draw bridge. Crossing over and under the towering gatehouse we came into a gravel covered courtyard larger than a football pitch or two. Four small boys were kicking a ball around, their shouts echoing off the surrounding walls. Turning around every window sill contained a box of red geraniums. The place was now a series of slightly scruffy homes. An ancient Citroen Dianne started across the open space and we followed it out across the drawbridge and down the hill. The countryside was rather like Cornwall or South Devon only flatter.   Small fields, front gardens packed with summer flowers � somehow we had forgotten what an Northern European Summer was like � roses, hollyhocks and lavender. The west coast of Yeu is wild, covered in gorse and heather. This is where the Atlantic meets its first obstacle since leaving the USA. The low cliffs are wrought into fantastic shapes and the small coves are beautiful golden sand and heaving breakers. The cycle path turned south across the cliffs dipping steeply down and narrowing � we had to carry the bikes down and up between the brambles. Once back on the top again there were fabulous views and eventually we came to the second little port on the island. The tiny harbour is narrow and shallow with lots of gaily painted wooden fishing boats tied front and back to moorings. A bar on the waters edge served cold beer and massive baguettes packed with ham, ementhal cheese and gerkins. After lunch the path led us back onto the sheltered east coast where there are more holiday homes and a couple of dinghy sailing schools. Then it was downhill into Port Joinville and supper on board.

On Sunday the northerlies had eased and another island, the Belle Ille beckoned. Temptress arrived just in time for the lock to open so we were able to tie up on the left hand quay in the commercial basin. Le Pallais is like Trumpton on Sea. The main harbour sees regular ferry visits from the mainland bringing stores for the supermarket and hoards of French OAPs each morning. Towering over the north side of the harbour is Fort Vauban � the great fortress builders majestic masterpiece.  The harbour winds around the granite walls and behind opens out with quays on three sides opposite the fort. Along the quay runs the road and behind that a mixture of art galleries, butchers, greengrocers and gift shops. Past the lifting bridge and through the lock - on the right hand side of the commercial basin are a couple of small warehouses belonging to a shipping firm and the local fisherman�s co-operative. The final warehouse in the row is occupied by the fire brigade with collection of shiny red engines and a couple of ambulances. Beyond that is the modern building containing the post office and the telecoms centre for the island. Our side of the quay is mostly houses with an occasional bar frequented by the fishermen. Through an arch opposite our berth is another street with a tiny well stocked supermarket and a couple of boulangeries. Most of the product we bought (meat, bread and veg) was produced on the island. In the late afternoon the tides were right for the ferry to leave. A forklift truck loads pallets of Atlantic salmon and various other items to go to the mainland. The OAPS queued in the drizzle wearing their matching plastic rain hats. A small line of cars were loaded, the one transit van had to go on last as it only fits in near the on/off ramp! The post arrived and the Captain came down from his bridge to sign for it. Trumpton in real life!

Belle Ille lives up to its name � inland was lovely reminding us of the Channel Islands. A little further north was another harbour smaller but still able to take tourist ferries in July and August and with a few yacht moorings. We tucked into moules frite after a mornings cycling before being blown back to Le Pallais. The next day was another wet and windy one so we climbed the hill to the fortress which dominates the town. It was fascinating and despite having little in English to aid us we learnt a lot from the informative displays before braving the mizzle to explore every nook and cranny � dungeons, wells, an incredibly designed powder room with weird acoustics where if you whisper in the middle of the room it is amplified to almost a shout whereas speaking normally around the edge you can hardly be heard by someone standing in the middle. To ensure that any explosion is contained within the room it is separated from the rest of the fortress by first a gap of around 1.5 metres all the way round its circular walls and then a thick secondary wall. The roof is a dome so that again an explosion should go up and not outwards. Vauban�s design was supposed to be impenetrable but in 1761 or 2 the English subjected it to a barrage of fire from just off the harbour walls and breached the defence. Before they could enter, the Governor of the Island marched out with full military splendour to surrender. The island remained in Brit hands for a couple of years before being part-exchanged for Menorca! What of the Arcadians? We managed enough of the French labels to understand they were deported from somewhere in North America by the English and landed in Southampton, Liverpool and other places. From there they managed to escape to St Malo and La Rochelle despite the war going on. An Archbishop took up the cause of the families and eventually some were given land on Belle Ille. Does anyone know where they came from or why they were deported? Both of us were fascinated and would love to know more. The museum listed all of the Arcadian families on the island together with the British port they passed through, where they escaped to in France and which village on the island they settled in. Most of the families still live there today several hundred years later.

From Belle Ille we aimed for another lovely spot, Benodet but the lumpy seas, grey skies and later, heavy rain were too much so we headed for the mainland. L�Orient might once have been a lovely city � as the name suggests it was home to the French traders who sailed to the East Indies, India and China. Then the Allies bombed it � all that remained were the U-Boat pens. Today it is a soulless, open, airy 1960�s city but we found a good TexMex place for lunch � steak au poivre, chips peas and carrots with wine and coffee for about 8 euros.

The next morning we motored back down the river in the drizzle, through the narrows and threaded our way out of the rocky channel and up the coast. The grey dampness eventually turned to warm grey dampness as we reached the entrance to Benodet. The long pontoon on the port hand side of the harbour offers free berthing except during July and August. There we met five boats from St Mawes. The crews� sorry story was like ours. Having left the UK for a couple of months cruising around La Rochelle this was the furthest south they had managed thanks to appalling wintery weather in the Channel. We were invited for drinks on board �Rameling� � 12 people crammed into their tiny saloon for a long session and the conversations went on into the small hours. The next morning we decided that as it was still and sunny we must head northwards so said good bye to our new friends amid promises to call into St Mawes sometime. Six miles later we turned back � you could hardly see the front of the boat through the thick damp fog. It was drizzling and we could hear the buoys letting out their mournful cries but even with radar we decided that it was too dangerous to continue especially as our course lay through the Raz de Seine one of the most treacherous pieces of water in this part of the world. Back in the sunshine we spent the rest of the day lazing around reading and chatting to the other crews. That night Temptress�s spacious saloon played host to yet another drinking session.

Slightly hungover we departed early as the tides dictated that we had to be at the Raz soon after lunch. A few vestiges of mist hung about but we could at least see the rocky shoreline. Then the sun came out and a southwesterly breeze sprung up � out came the spinnaker and we careered madly through the Raz and on towards the rocks off Toulinget Point. Using our new SHOM charts where 3 inches of paper represents about half a mile of water we were able to thread our way round the �Pots of Peas� and up the main channel off Toulinget itself. Well pleased with our navigational efforts we sailed on towards Cameret. As we rounded the corner we saw a forest of masts the marina was very full. Kevin spotted a space at the back behind the main run of pontoons on the far side of the wave break. The harbour master recognised us from previous visits and allowed us to stay put. Rameling arrived an hour or so later and the four of us had a superb meal of roast lamb with smoked garlic in the Hotel de France and then got completely soaked walking home none of us had brought a coat! All night and the following day the wind howled in the rigging and the rain poured down. Then the sun came out and the mass of boats waiting for a suitable window to cross Biscay left. Suddenly the marina was empty. Late afternoon the tide was once more flowing north and the Chenal de Four awaited us. It was foggy and the rocks of St Matthiue's were rather close on one occasion leading to a lot of shouting from the skipper but we made it to l'Aber Wrach safely. Yet another beautiful location that we didn't do justice to we must go back one day. The entrance calls for a cool head as it winds through the rocks then the harbour opens out into a remote 'lake'. We should have headed up the river to a quiet anchorage but needing to depart early the following morning we choose a visitors mooring for the night. The harbour master was quick to collect his fees bearing down on us almost as soon as we had fastened off the last warp on the cleat.

199 miles to Southsea ten hours of day one was under spinnaker. It was a busy passage for the on watch with lots of shipping. Just what was that brand new Limmasol registered tanker doing drifting mid-channel? Her officers came out on the bridge as we passed and watched us through binoculars watching them through ours! It hardly became dark the moon was bright and being June the sun set but left a pale gloom round the horizon which before 4am became the dawn. We had motored through most of the night as the wind had gone with the sun but by lunchtime as we approached Yarmouth we were able to set the spinnaker once more and drift lazily up the Solent in baking sunshine until the wind died completely off Osbourne Bay. As we made our way up the narrow muddy channel to the marina the Skipper commented that it felt as if we were coming home after a weekend away not ten months. Rupert was on the waiting pontoon to welcome us home and soon we were having a beer in the Topdeck.

After a little over 5000 nautical miles Temptress of Down is now tied up just two spaces from her old berth and her crew are settling into life in the UK. That four letter word w-o-r-k beckons meanwhile we plan to visit Ireland and Kevin�s family, join a dinghy club nearby and simply enjoy as much of the summer as we can sailing. Oh and if anyone knows of a flat on Southsea sea front for sale we are interested in doing a buy-to-let.
Susie & Kevin
Temptress of Down