Reflecting on the past three and a half months since leaving Wales to sitting here, rolling at anchor off Sagres at the South West corner of mainland Europe, there are 2 overriding features of the trip which come to mind. Namely the forced slow pace of travel, and secondly the significance of our diverse social interactions.
The predominant winds down this coast should generally be Northerly – therefore we imagined a brief stop, if at all in Galicia before nipping down the coast to the Algarve to stock up before continuing onto the Canaries… but it wasn’t to be, We spent over a month in this beautiful part of Spain, the last 9 days in the Ria Aldan, off ‘Praia de Castinieras’, a lovely little sandy beach behind a wooded headland and behind an expansive mussel farm – wooden crisscross rafts about 20m by 20m with hundreds of hanging ropes on which the mussels grow.
With no favourable winds on the forecast, Rowena, Fi and Chris continued their shore adventures with some friends of Rowena, helping them with renovating a large house inland where they hoped to make a eco holiday lodge place… Jean-Marc, Nick and we 4 enjoyed a very relaxed 9 days on board, these times where theres a safe anchorage and nothing too pressing on the agenda, I find blissful, this is what I’ve missed!
Covid times were becoming more evident – apart from wearing masks ashore all has been pretty normal for us, here though town was especially quiet, bars were closed as was the local playpark much to the girls dismay! Though Morla couldn’t quite see the problem as the safety tape shutting off the park was too high… she could simply walk under it!
On one of Jean-Marcs walks ashore he noticed a wee field brimming with pumpkins and on a second visit with abit of loitering around the nearby house, the owner emerged with warm greetings – “Of course, help yourselves, shame you dont have a car to take more!”
On the last day we returned with a Nick baked cake and were showered with yet more pumpkins, after laughs, smiles and Nono understanding most of what they said, we returned to our beach.
Just as we jumped in Shelduck to row back to Lilly, a guy came running down the beach waving a sheet of paper and a bag, we turned back to the beach to see what he wanted and were given the note which read:
“Hello, I love to see your boat from the window of my house. I would like to give me and my family a gift so that you can celebrate your stay in this Ria of Aldan, Galicia. If you still do not leave I will bring it to the beach another day you collect”
obviously from some translate app as he spoke no English… In the bag were 2 T-shirts for Seren and Morla. He was sad to hear we were leaving the next morning but made us promise to meet him on the beach 8am before leaving… This time he came with his sister who’d baked an amazing traditional Galician cake plus bottles of wine and apple juice.
Its hard to describe the feeling of being recipients of these kinds of such random acts of kindness, from people who had no care for what type of people we were or where we were from… but they are profound! One immediate sensation is that you want to recipricate – to find the oppertunity to give someone the same pleasure, you feel happiness, enriched – it seems so easy to make the world a better place yet so easily forgotten, and the desire to recipricate exemplifies so clearly the ripple effect of being kind and how important it is.
It was just 3 days sailing down the Portuguese coast before winds dictated that we stop in at Sines, 50 miles South of Lisbon and the last good harbour before Cap St, Vincent on the Souwest corner of Portugal. Despite the mass of industry surrounding in harbour, the anchorage and small marina off the picturesque town and beach were nice and the industry soon forgotten. With no ideal winds on the horizon we decided to base ourselves here while missioning and exploring ashore.
Chris once again realized he had friends living nearby so he and Fi were soon whisked away while we set too researching car hire, flour mills, olive oil producers and vineyards.
The flour was an early success, Chris’ friends directed us to a small mill which only 2 years previous had stopped using wind power, at the end of a rough track were 2 old boys with floury aprons, happy to sell us 60kg of excellent flour.
We thought we’d lucked out with the olive oil too when on enquiring at a lovely veggie cafe in town were told we could tag onto their order which was coming a few days later, it lacked a little adventure but at 12 euros per 5 litres was too good to be true. We started seeing dollar signs… olive oil cargo by sail…! We ordered 100litres.
Close scrutiny of the label a few days later revealed it was indeed too good to be true, in fact it was mostly sunflower oil with mushed up olive residue added, it tastes great but its not olive oil, ‘Rodney you plonker!’
Jean-Marc and Nick had better success a few days later when they found a producer selling the real deal so got another 30 litres – we won’t be short of oil for a while! Plus they found a vineyard selling delicious boxed wine!
They also returned with Amber, a great bubbly friend of Nono’s from Cornwall who had spent the last fortnight walking with 3 horses, a mule and a friend from North Portugal heading for the south coast; she was keen to join us to the Canaries and is onboard as I write.
Before sailing down this coast of Portugal we were receiving alot of messages, many with news articles attached, regarding Orca whales attacking sailing boats. It was of mild concern, mixed with the appeal of seeing these beautiful creatures; instead, nearing Sines where the most recent attacks had been , we were surrounded by what must have been a hundred or so playful dolphins. In the boat yard in Sines however was a german boat without a rudder and another 28 footer in the marina. We befriended these 3 young French guys – who were pretty blasé about what must have been a pretty traumatic experience – 3 Orcas visited them at night nudging their small, light boat, they thought they’d got off O.K. til 20mins later they returned, this time targeting the rudder til it broke, Max describes wrestling over the rudder blade so as not to lose it completely, with an Orca… he accepted defeat! They also describe being spun 360 degrees by the playful mammals and seeing the thin hull flexing as the whales nudged it. It sounded terrifying, but seeing how light their boat was and how small the rudder fixings, I felt encouraged that big heavy Lilly B would be absolutely fine, plus that our rudder is a strong extension of our long keel. They continued at the first oppertunity and Rowena bravely went along for their overnight trip to the Algarve, then hitched back to join us.
We spoke to a marine biologist who had been following these attacks and she had no clear explanation but it seemed it was the same 3 young Orcas, they feed on tuna in this area which are heavily fished here… is this payback? She did mention that their wasnt so much evidence of them being underfed unlike in Hawai where 80 odd had died recently, of hunger…!
Finally the forecast looked good to head South, we rounded the Cape St Vincent one sunny afternoon, deciding to stop in at Sagres, 3 miles East of the Cape, just for a couple of days to let a strong blow with massive swells pass over (look at nov/dec surf at Nazare on youtube!)
Finally on the 5th Dec. We were ready to go to the Canaries, on starting the engine I thought it sounded a little strange (we’d had problems with the starter motor a week or so previous with it getting stuck engaged) I went to start it again…click! Nothing. It was another 12 days in Sagres before we got a new one sent out from the U.K. having had no luck trapsing round scrappies and stores in Lagos and Portimao.
By now I was becoming quite philosophical about thes delays and the unplanned slow nature of our travels, we had no fixed date when we had to be anywhere in particular, it was just a fabricated plan, but a plan in my mind none the less… so it took a concious effort to be at peace with these factors out of our control, and enjoy where we were at… and what was also becoming evident was that our lingering in places was bring us into richer interactions with others – the community of friends in Brittany, visiting friends of Chris and Fi and others of Nono in Galicia, the pumpkin lady, the very kind brother and sister on the beach, and now in Sagres we befriended Chris who ran a dive centre there – he helped us alot with lifts, info and postal address for the starter motor, Nick and others went and helped him with some patio work, it was a great interaction, plus a fisherman who gave us 2 big Octopi… many of these meetings wouldnt have happened or would’ve been too brief if we’d just passed through.
It was the 17th Dec. that we fitted the new starter motor and left mainland Europe behind, On board were Nick, Rowena, Amber, Fi, Jean-Marc, Nono, Seren and Morla and me, Chris sadly left us in Sagres as he was missing winter in Cornwall too much!