Atlantic adventure


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We have had the privilege of crewing on a 50 ft New Zealand registered catamaran, KiwiSpirit, this summer - 2013


Atlantic adventure 2013  - starting 27. July

 We arrived in  La  Rochelle, after a pleasant flight to Paris then express train to our destination, 12  hours in all. La Rochelle is one of the largest marinas in France with almost 4000 berths in several different harbours, from the ancient port dating from around  1100 ad to the latest, still under construction.

We spent 2 days as tourists climbing up towers, visiting some fantastic museums, dining well and enjoying the sights, particularly in the old town. One unusual museum worth visiting was the Train museum.

We visited the central market and bought champagne and wine from Louis, recommended by Michael Briant in his book about sailing gently from La Rochelle to the Med. The book turned out to be very useful during our trip, describing many of the marinas and anchorages along the route.   

Historically La Rochelle is very interesting, having had continual sieges and wars, mostly between France and England. 

The local, electrically driven ferry took us out to Les Minimes where Kiwi Spirit was moored. You can get more Info about this great catamaran if you google "Discovery  50" . Our friends Rosie and Richard Goord welcomed us aboard their luxurious ship.

Unfavorable weather conditions tempted us to spend a day in the vicinity of the marina, and wait for better winds, before sailing straight across the Bay of Biscay to the northwesterly tip of Spain - somewhat unexpectedly! A long haul, about 300 nautical miles with two nights at sea.


The sun shone from a gloriously blue sky when we left, and we had sufficient wind to sail most of that day and half of the first night. Life aboard was divided into watches when you were responsible for route navigation, sails, meals etc. Off watch, you are free to do whatever you please, relax or sleep as you choose. Not long after leaving port, the French customs arrived to examine the boat and passengers.

Three men came aboard, asked lots of questions, filled out pages of reports and left, satisfied,  after 45 minutes. Rosie saw a whale that morning. otherwise  many fishing boats at a distance  but no birds at all. What we did experience though was a fantastic sky during the night with stars, satellites and the Milky Way like we'd never seen it before. As we neared Ribadeo early morning the skipper had to move / hover around, avoiding fishing boats and equipment while we waited for daylight to enter the harbour. Once we got to Ribadeo, we reckoned we’d have plenty of time to cruise leasurely to Gibraltar, visiting  many interesting places on the way.

7 am, sunrise in the area, we moored up in Ribadeo  2.August. 

This is life - and we thrive living it!    

             

Kiwi Spirit, our luxurious floating home for a few weeks. Lunch at sea, in calm weather.


From Ribadeo 43.33,76n /07.02w to A Coruna 

The photo shows part of the rugged coastline we sailed along the Northwestern coast of Spain. It's quite dramatic in places with steep cliffs under the green slopes and occasionally a village or cluster of buildings. Windmills on some of the highest points.

The boat motion is very comfortable in the relatively calm weather we have had so far. The Bay of Biscay was a pleasant surprise!

Beautiful sunshine and rough seas as we sailed from Ribadeo to A Coruna on Saturday and anchored in the bay by the marina late in the evening. Both places are of historical an architectural interest and both have good marinas. We spent quite a while in the old city in Coruna, “feeling” Spanish life and food which is appealing and tasteful, as is the local beer.          

We lay at anchor two nights and spend 3 nights in the active marina. There were sailing schools with Optimists and Laser boats, a diving school and lessons for canoe and kayak paddling too. While in A. Coruna we met several sailing boats on their way to Las Palmas for the start of the ARC race over the Atlantic. One interesting couple, Leslie and David on their brand new Oyster 57, Ayesha II, invited us aboard for a glass of wine and we heard about their plight – a motor with serious problems. We wonder if they’ll reach the start.

We changed crew in A Coruna because the owners unexpectedly had to return to their holiday home in Sotogrande. Jon Erik and I were given the job to get Kiwi Spirit safely to Gibraltar! Quite an honour for two folk of our age and quite a challenge. But we needed at least one more person onboard, so we sent e-mails to several sailing friends and got a few positive replies.  Son Bernt was the natural choice as he had spare time and offered to fly over along with Gabriela to assist and that was great. Gabriela talks fluent Spanish and French of course and that was a big advantage, particularly with VHF use and getting into moorings. We spent a day sightseeing and shopping with then in A.  Coruna. Life isn’t just sailing, the larder has to be filled so groceries were bought in the local market then stored aboard. Our aim is to buy supplies for a whole week at a time.  

Thursday, 8th. August,, we sailed from A Coruna to Muros, a longish trip, passing Cape  Finisterre, the most westerly point in Europe We arrived at Muros  after twelve hours at sea. Pretty rough seas for the newcomers, but with the highlight of dolphins swimming around us several times.  

Swimming in the bay we anchored up in, was delightful and the anchor dram afterwards even better!  Muros was a relatively large village, with fishing and farming for a livelihood. Lots of fish or shell farms in the bay towards Portocin, another village in this cruising area. This is apparently one of Spains most popular coast stretches. A longer cruise in this area would be really interesting.


Glorious weather on Friday, dolphins swimming around and through Kiwi Spirit's tunnel. We stopped to let Bernt have a go at swimming with these large creatures, a fascinating experience.  The sail to Bayona was relatively short, giving more time to visit the old town and fortress. The youngsters had a run around the fort then a swim, while we investigated the town. 

Later, Gabriela found a typical, busy, packed “Tapiera” in one of the narrow streets, run by a family who certainly knew how to work fast and how to tackle all those waiting for a table!  We enjoyed a delicious, tapas meal there.

Holidaytime has started in Spain and Portugal, folk everywhere swimming and surfing on the beaches, shopping and enjoying freedom from daily routines. No hurry, apart from in restaurants in the evenings, where they normally give good service and get you out again to make space for new guests.

We sailed on to Portugal and chose to stop at Leixiøs, recommended since it is smaller than Porto, and cheaper, only 50 euros. It has yacht clubs near the old fishing village. We were given a berth, nerveracking for the skipper, maneuvering between two rows of pontoons filled with large yachts leaving barely enough space for Kiwi Spirit to pass, then turning 90 degrees towards a pier where there was just room and no more, for us. Leixiøs itself was an industrial town, not very inviting, but a useful stop on the long coast. We found a fine beach just near the harbour. We saiedl mainly  in daytime in Portugal, partly because of the fear of getting poorly marked fishing gear in the propellor, and partly due to the fog. The fog clears up later than fog in UK. It can last until well after noon. However afternoons and evenings are delightful.                

Our next port of call was Figuera d. Foz with plenty of space for visiting boats and helpful marina staff, the only snag being that we discovered the day we left,  that the office doesn't open until 10am, so we had a long wait to deliver our keys and get our deposit refunded. We had a lively chat with two Swedish couples in the sailing club restaurant in the evening. They were Hallberg Rassy owners (same make of boat as our boat Siller Lass) and one was a consultant from the boatyard assisting boats preparing for tha ARC cruise over the Atlantic in the autumn.

Gabriela lhad to return home to start work at school again. Transport to Lisbon by bus or train, then plane home functioned well. We missed her, as we did Rosie and Richard. In Fig. d. Foz we met the crew of Duplikat, a catamaran on its way to Las Palmas from Southampton and we were invited aboard Marijose, a French boat also sailing the ARC race this autumn. The owner kept contact later and was very helpful in finding a sailmaker for us. 

Bernt and Jon Erik spent the day fixing cooling water problems to the engines.  Everything takes time; walking into town, finding special shops for specific types of spare parts and hosepipes, remembering siesta time when all is closed etc. Even with a boat in immaculate shape with everything well organized, you seldom have all you need there and then!

Our next sail was to San Martinho, a little bay washed out by the Atlantic seas from the surrounding sandstone rock through hundreds of years. The little fishing village has grown into a very popular holiday resort for the Portuguese. What a narrow entrance though, into the idyllic bay, shallow,  rocks on either side and only possible to enter in good weather! Duplikat followed us and both ships lay at anchor. We had a fine swim and amused ourselves with all the activity around, surfers, folk sailing all sorts of boats, an enormous bathing  park, some slalom skiing down one of the colossal sand banks, some on paddling boards etc. Followed by wine aboard Kiwi Spirit for Wendy and Gerry Addis from Duplikat – interesting, active and inspiring people.

It took us 7 hours to get to Cascais next day. We managed to sail part of the way only, due to lack of wind. Life onboard is varied, lots of space for sunbathing, reading, making meals , navigating and helping to keep an eye on fishing gear. The latter must be avoided- not much fun to get in the propeller!    Cascais  has a large marina and a fine place to stop if you don't intend to sail into Lisbon.  The ruins of a castle dominate the entrance and the old town is charming.  

Cascais marina had no berth for our large catamaran so we anchored in the bay outside and spent the evening aboard, planning the next few days' cruising. Internet in the marina is non- existent so we had to row into the old town to try an internet cafe and buy some groceries. Later in the day we sailed off on a 20 hour sail planning to arrive at Lagos midday. The coast of Portugal is less fascinating than more rugged coasts with fjords and islands around, therefore longer hops chosen, marina to marina.

Life aboard is still challenging, fun and we enjoy it immensely.

We sailed from Cascais late in the afternoon since the trip was going to take over 15 hours and we wanted to arrive at our next port in daylight.  We sailed past Sines where the explorer Vasco da Gama was born in the castle in 1460. He was the commander of the first ships to India.

Sailing through the night is always exciting, you never know what lies ahead so have to keep your eyes fixed on the sea and surroundings, plus radar and AIS signals on the chart plotter (AIS stands for Automatic Identification System).  It is possible to follow any ship with AIS out at sea by Googling AIS and Ship Finder or something like that.

We used a 3 hour watch schedule - 3 hours free, 3 hours reserve/navigator then 3 hours skipper.  This functioned well and we all had had sufficient sleep so we decided not to stop at Lagos but sail on for a few more hours, , ending up at Vilamoura in preference to the marshlands at Faro.

This is an amazing , colossal, completely manmade marina complex with over 1000 berths, several hotels and an enormous variety of restaurants,  cafebars and shops along the waterfront. It's a very popular holiday resort for those who use Ryanair, Easy Jet and other  companies to get to Faro airport.

We were given a mooring right up front, just by the finest restaurants where we indulged in a delightful meal. one of the photos shows the view from our cockpit in the evening.

 Party makers continued in the outer harbour until we left next morning at 5 am! The weather couldn't have been better. The fog had gone and the sun shone all day. A stop out at sea to cool down a bit was popular.

 Puerto Sherry is our next port of call. We spent a free day, no sailing, but walking along the long shore to the town, exercising on the way. It is the oldest, largest and best marina on the Adriatic coast. It is better known though for its sherry production and export.

Christofer Columbus visited El Puerto in1480 and Juan  de lanCosa, who made the first map of the world, in 1500. The area is historically of interest also because of the battling between the British with Adm. Nelson leading against the Spanish and French in 1805. Nelson's flagship, The Victory, gave the memorable flag signal, "England expects every man will do his duty". Then "Engage the enemy more closely". Nelson won the battle the battle of Trafalgar and we sailed round Cape Trafalgar, quite an occasion.

We had a lively time sherry-tasting both at the large, typical Spanish sailing club, and at Osborne's Sherry bodega before we found a classical, little 200 year old inn for lunch.

Our next trip, to Barbate, turned out to be much rougher and challenging than expected with currents in one direction and strong wind in another. Kiwi Spirit passed the test for high seas, rolling the ship from side to side and up and down. Almost like being in a washing machine!

We got into the marina safely whereas a German boat came in with a motor that didn’t work, a ripped sail, went aground, then lost its anchor when being righted up at high tide and was towed into the fishing harbour. Barbate itself is rather dusty, isolated and the marina is far from food stores and other fascilities. 

All the boats in harbour were a bit dubious about sailing next day, round Tarifa to Gibraltar, as the wind was against us from the east, ithough not forecast too strong. Bernt talked to some British regatta sailors, well known in the area,  who advised us to leave early in the morning if the wind had subsided somewhat, then hug the coast to avoid the current and pass Tarifa before the afternoon wind increased to 40 knots as usual.

 We sailed out at 5.30 am in pitch dark and had actually no bother rounding Tarifa i a five hours later, steering clear of fishing gear on the way, as well as possible.   

The Straits of Gibraltar  were  much less challenging than expected, perhaps because we had to motor all the way, and KiwiSpirit has enough motor power to keep reasonable speed (ca. 4 knop) against then current. Skipper and crew became a little anxious though when mist, then fog limited our sight and our radar stopped functioning!   We could hear but not see, any of the many ships around. Just as we neared The Rock though, the fog cleared and we got a wonderful view of it, as the foto shows.

A couple of hours later we sailed into Sotogrande marina, in the Med., where Rosie and Richard have a house. Three happy sailors had completed their mission and were met by a relieved Richard, who took Kiwi Spirit into its mooring, far inside the marina.

 What an amazing trip we have had, 1058 nm in just over 3 weeks! This was quite different from the cruise originally planned in the eastern Mediteranean, and quite an adventure for us. 

A big thanks to KiwiSpirit and its owners for trusting us and enabling this adventure.




Norma and Jon Erik

22.08.2013