Big Boaty Bolt to Baiona

Lagos was not a bad place to be locked down, in fact there were some significant benefits! We weren’t confined to the boat and could explore the gorgeous coastline in the sunshine and because the bars were closed, we’d not had to cringe as the English pub singer crooned Delila or the local jazz ensemble churned out their umpteenth rendition of Green Onions!

Although we were still locked down, we had an opportunity to head North. A rare chance where the winds had switched from being Northerlies, their predominant direction, to dithering about. No matter, they’d be light and it was a chance to get going!

E-mails were sent confirming our intentions to the various authorities and provisions “victualed”! We were primed and ready for what would be our biggest voyage to date, from Lagos, Portugal to Baiona, Spain.

On the morning of departure, we prioritised last minute purchases. This consisted of food shopping. In hindsight, it was a mistake. A large drinks superstore had just opened across, from the supermarket and there were some good deals to be had. I know I will regret this decision soon.

Eventually we were all set, so slipped the mooring lines and waited for the bridge to open. It wasn’t long before it was up and we left Lagos for the last time in Gianti. As we exited the harbour entrance, we spied our travel companions in the distance.

David and Nicky on Whimsy, were heading in the same direction. In fact, they were heading all the way back to England, a journey they’d undertaken many times, so we were confident about the decision to go. Well, that and the fact that our Irish pals Liam and Maggie gave us the nod.

And so, we were off, motoring along quite happily with Whimsy just ahead. Suddenly they’re headsail was unfurled. Whoa, there’s no wind, what are they doing and why’s it filled? Seven knots was all they needed to start inching ahead. No way, “Sarah, let’s get the headsail out.” “Really! how much wind do we have?” “Not enough, but they’ve been sailing forever and they must know something we don’t.”

This established the pattern of things to come over this first stage of our return home. Constant monitoring of wind direction and strength. I actually managed to get the headsail out about 10 minutes before they clocked a wind shift at one point and started to gain on them. It was short lived. They were too savvy and deployed the headsail and, to add insult to injury, turned off their engine!

I should perhaps point out that they own the sporty (Jeanneau Sun Fast) version of Gianti. A lean mean, turbo charged, wind gobbler of a Jeanneau. I constantly tried to catch up, despite knowing there was not a hope in hell!

As the sun began to set, we remained in sight of one another. It was then I noticed that the starboard navigation light was out. I needed a temporary fix and my solution was to smash a beer bottle, empty of course, and tape the broken green glass over a head torch. Not only did this work, it withstood the rigours of the next 2 nights until it could be replaced.

Into the second day we started to make out Lisbon, off in the distance.  It had all been a fairly straight mixture of sail and motor sail as we made steady progress along the Portuguese Coast.

By nightfall, we’d both taken different courses past Figuera da Fos. Whimsy stayed closer to shore, while we stayed out. This stretch of coast is a notorious maze of fishing pots, which are difficult to spot in daylight, never mind the dark.

The last thing we needed was to catch a pot and wrap a line around our prop. It’d happened on our journey South in 2018 and I didn’t fancy jumping into the Atlantic to cut or untangle a line in total darkness with the added menace of angry Orca gang, who’d been causing havoc with sailing vessels in recent years.

Our offshore plan wasn’t a total success. There were masses of fishing boats, off in the distance, focusing on an area where the Atlantic shelves and descends rapidly. Suddenly I heard voices right next to me. The shift to flap mode, sent my book and phone flying into the air.  A boat with two fishermen prepping their catch came in from our port quarter, totally oblivious to the pending collision course we were on. I quickly steered Gianti away looking over to see if they’d noticed, or even seen me. They didn’t bat an eyelid or even break their conversation, just continued on their course.

Nerves tattered; I continued my watch without distraction. I watched boat after boat zip across our track and spotted two fishing pots (30 miles offshore) pass beside Gianti. My watch finished around 1:45 and after heading down for some rest, the first mate took over. Just over an hour later, Sarah clocked a pot just aft, followed by a small flag appearing on the starboard side. We’d caught a pot! Thankfully, after knocking the revs off, Sarah managed to untangle us without too much fuss. Her reward was a light show of bio luminescence from a pod of Dolphins, that stuck with her for most of her shift.

Trying to avoid fishing pots hadn’t been our only incentive to keep well out from shore. The wind was predicted to back to a NN Easterly the following afternoon and I had a cunning plan!

True to form the wind direction began to switch and build. It became more North Easterly rather than what had been forecast so we were now tacking in at a far greater angle than I’d anticipated. We were heading towards Porto and the winds were building. If nothing else, the course gave us options to head into port if we needed to.

We didn’t, and as the wind shifted to an Easterly, we started making good progress. The wind gradually eased as the sun began to rise and we passed seamlessly from Portugal into Spain. It was a relief to round the peninsula to reach our anchorage just off Baiona.

I eased into auto pilot as I put Gianti to bed. The lights were on, but I’d gone into walking doze mode. The next few days would be a potter through the Galician Ria’s as we headed North, to where we’d take on our first full Biscay crossing on passage to our final destination.

Captain Mac

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