Ares, Spain: Dart Warrior & Free Spirit    
Europe 2005 EUROPE 2005
Atlantic Spain & Portugal
La Coruna, Spain 4th - 14th August 2005
Ares, Corme & Camarinas 15th - 20th August 2005
Portosin & Bayona 22nd - 23rd August 2005
Cascais, Portugal 26th August - 11th September 2005
Lagos 12th September - 3rd October 2005

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4th - 15th August 2005: La Coruna, Spain


We've been here in this lovely Spanish city for over a week now. The marina is really close to the nicest part which is the old town. A short walk takes us to our favourite place, an ancient church with a tree-lined square; here we sit some evenings with a beer and cool down. The weather has mostly been clear and hot. This gets a bit much in the afternoons but other-wise is great. After being here a few days Julie (Nat's friend from Madrid) came to stay and we went to the historic town of Santigo de Compostela. It was busy there but a fascinating place. Another day we all went out for a sail around the bay.

More recently we have been working on the boat and getting some laundry done in the preparation for our departure and trip down the coast of Spain and Portugal. We intend to leave Sunday morning and do short day hops rather than long passages. Our departure is well planned as today we were informed that the marina fees will increase by 30% from tonight. This will take them up to close that charged on the South Coast, UK. Hopefully we can anchor more from now on. Better go now as we have a fellow British cruising couple coming around for dinner in an hour or so. Will report progress once we start moving.

La Coruna marina: Free Spirit's on the left
15th - 18th August 2005: Ares to Corme, Spain

After two wonderful nights at anchor on a wide sweeping beach (why did we stay in La C marina so long?), we travelled to Corme today in convoy with Kieron and Ellie on Dart Warrior. For the first time we used our cruising chute (a big lightweight downwind sail) successfully. We are learning skills every day at the moment.

On arrival at Corme we anchored next to Sam on Ramprasad - a person I had met years ago in Shoreham when building his boat and then admired later after several voyages. We invited everyone over for dinner and Nat did the black bean chilli affair with rice, chips and avo salad. Pretty good I can tell you. Off to Camarinas tomorrow. A shorter hop so Nat and Ellie are keen to get a walk in along the wild coastline on arrival. Happily tired.

Ares beach, Spain: Ele, Nat & Mark
18th - 23rd August 2005: Corme, Camarinas, Portosin & Bayona, Spain

Woke to find thick blanket of fog over this small port, Corme. Around 1300 it lifted and we left for Camarinas. Conditions were calm and we motored all the way to arrive around 1730. Shortly afterwards visibility deteriorated and a fine misty rain began. We anchored at the side of a group of ten other boats but soon noticed the wind was changing direction from NW to NE and getting stronger so making our position exposed. And so, just as dinner was ready, we lifted the anchor again (thank goodness for the windlass) and shifted to a lovely snug position on the protected side of the anchorage. Food now almost in our mouths we noticed that as the tide was falling a large bank of rocks were being exposed not a million miles away to port (to the left of the boat). Some heated discussion followed and before long food was again put on hold and windlass began whirring. By now we had become quite a source of entertainment for the other boats in the anchorage. This was not the first time we had repositioned our anchor repeatedly (we average around two per location) and we decided there and then to have a sign printed declaring 'Anchor Test Crew - please keep clear' for use in such situations.

The next day we stayed in Camarinas as it was very windy. We set up the wind generator which worked well. Later, while trying to gather courage to dinghy ashore, Sam from Ramprasad saved us the trouble by offering to act as taxi. We walked along the coastline and then had a drink with Sam and dinner with Keiran and Ele on Dart Warrior. The next day the wind had eased a bit but we decided to remain in Camarinas. We moved to the marina and had a walk to the lighthouse on Cap Vilano. We returned to the boat hot and tired and not keen to do the preparation required for the next day's sail. We managed it eventually and later went for a stroll to relax.

The following day we set off for Portosin. Although little wind initially, conditions improved and we sailed downwind to the entrance of Ria de Muros then beat into a freshening breeze all the way up the Ria to Portosin. The marina was small and we had some difficulty berthing in the strong crosswind. We wandered into the town after eating dinner to find throngs of locals enjoying a festival.

We then had a perfect downwind sail in good conditions to the well known town of Bayona. We stayed in the rolling anchorage initially then moved to the marina the following morning.

Corme, Spain: Dart Warrior in the fog

Corme, Spain: finally the fog lifts

24th - 26th August 2005: Bayona, Spain to Cascais, Portugal

We left Bayona and our friends on Dart Warrior on the 24th August and it took two days to get here to Cascais, a smart town on the outskirts of Lisbon. Not much to say about the trip really because we didn’t see much – just a lot of fog.  It lifted once for us just as we were approaching the Islas de Berengas off Peniche. The sun shone and we were keen to drop the anchor there for a night’s kip but, with eyes nearly shut, the fog came down again within a mile of the islands. We could not risk an entry in the fog. Although the pictures below are not of this leg of the trip, it gives you a feeling of what it's like to be at sea in fog. It's very eerie. We unhappily continued on into the night, the only relief being the company of some very, very cool luminous dolphins, jetting around Free Spirit like little spirits themselves. Beautiful.


We arrived in Cascais (pronounced 'kuhsh-kaish') just before dawn on the 26th August, after an interesting couple of hours dodging lobster pots in the dark. We anchored just outside the marina and immediately crept into bed, the two days and nights of fog finally behind us.

27th August - 10th September 2005: Cascais, Portugal

As Mark has had to go home for a week I am now on my own.  Today I found Portugal's answer to Habitat and I'm a very happy gal, although - luckily for our bank balance - with no house to furnish. There are only so many rugs and cushions you can have on a boat but believe me, I’m doing fairly well – my mother would be proud. Seeing as it’s all work while the Captain’s around I’ve spent my days sleeping, relaxing and visiting Lisbon.

Dan and Anne-Marie from the Danish ´Restless II´ invited me around for a drink. They have been lovely to me while Mark has been away, always keeping an eye out for me, and kindly helping me to secure the boat one windy evening. The Dart Warriors Kieran and Ele have also arrived, so we went for a wander around last night and also visited the 'Boca do Inferno' (Mouth of Hell), which is where the sea seeps into an abyss.

On Mark’s return we met David and Alison, Free Spirit's previous owners. They showed us around Lisbon and introduced us to Portuguese food and song (‘Fado’).  They also came to see us on the boat and gave us tips on many things including poling the yankee for downwind sailing. Finally we befriended Jade, an Australian living in London.

11th - 12th September 2005: Cascais to Lagos, Portugal

On Sunday 11th September we left for Lagos (130M) in company with Dart Warrior and Restless. Sailing in company had become familiar to us by now and we had learned a lot on previous passages with Dart Warrior. The first time we had sailed together was from La Coruna to Corme and as DW effortlessly pulled ahead our smiles became an effort to maintain. By the time DW was a spot on the horizon we were forced to consider "the cruising chute", a sail we had failed with several times before and basically didn't ever want to see again. Suddenly driven by a lust for speed we were transformed into a slick(ish) racing crew. The sail worked beautifully increasing our speed from 4.5 to 6 knots and we have used it many times since. We call it Big Bertha or The Secret Weapon (on the subject of names many pieces of equipment have been christened over the last months and we will try to introduce you in future logs).

So, as we left Cascais, Bertha was pressed into service within minutes and soon we were making good speed. The wind and swell increased through the day until by early evening we had to reduce sail considerably. The boat's motion as it accelerated in front of waves then decelerated as they passed all the time rolling from side to side made doing anything very tiring - something like climbing over a children's playground situated in the back of a transit being driven around town at speed. However when we saw Restless running well under twin foresails we decided that the middle of the night with these sea conditions was a convenient moment to pole out our Yankee for the first time. Surprisingly it went very well, due in no small part to our downwind sailing "master class" from David and Alison, and the boat felt set up for the night ahead.

Coastal night sailing like this tends to be an exercise in collision avoidance. Shortly after dark the boats along the coast start their engines cast off from shore and start heading towards you. The large ones are the most frightening, like on this particular night when a ship around the size of the Isle of Wight appeared behind us from among the lights on the coast and travelling at 24knots (info courtesy of Kieran's AIS system). "TWENTY FOUR KNOTS!" I exclaimed when he told me. But at least these large boats tend to follow a constant course, the tricky ones are the fishing boats (Do they have to fish only at night?) which travel on long arcs so that whenever you take your eyes off them they turn and try to run you down.

Surprisingly at dawn as we rounded Cabo San Vincent all three boats in our convoy were still within view of each other and after a brief lull the wind increased to allow an invigorating dawn beat to Lagos.

12th - 14th September 2005: Lagos, Portugal
Onboard Restless II: Mark, Rie, Dan, Ele, Nat & Kieran

Arrived on Monday and caught up on our sleep. Since then we've just been chilling out, doing the odd job here and there on the boat, and passing the evenings with Restless and Dart Warrior.

15th September 2005: Lagos, Portugal

We were supposed to be arriving in Chipiona, nr Cadiz, today but the other night we got the weather forecast and it didn't look too inviting - easterly force 8 in the Gibraltar Straits with rough seas. Checked the forecast again in the morning only to find it had got worse - force 7-9. The weather has clearly changed here. Although it's still warm, it has been thundery all day and we had a brief downpour of large hailstones.

We are enjoying visiting the local beach for a drink and walk most early evenings. Today it felt less like the sunny Algarve and more like our walks along the north Norfolk coast. Mark had some success on the SSB tonight and, after trying for some weeks now, it was really good to finally hear and speak to Nick and Ellen on Kika who are in Bayona at the moment.  We celebrated that and the eve of my birthday with ballons and homemade banana and walnut cake and not-homemade chocolate cake with Keiran and Ele. Yummy.

Mark on Lagos Beach, Portugal
16th - 18th September 2005: Sotogrande, Spain
We spent Nat’s birthday weekend with her parents who were staying with friends in Sotogrande (near Gibraltar ). Hiring and driving a left hand drive car provided some amusement; each junction found me fumbling at the door handle searching for the gear stick while Nat yelled “drive on the right”. The roads are great here – empty, smooth two laners which sweep and dip between the hills. A large bull statue - a cultural icon of Andalucia – provided an irresistible climbing frame en route.

Arriving at Sotogrande as the afternoon cooled into evening it was great to sit together, have a beer and catch up while Nat opened her presents. We all stayed at Jim and Jean’s attractive villa and are grateful to them for putting us up and especially for all the lovely homemade food, birthday cake, and constant use of their washing machine. Although at the villa it felt quiet and uncrowded the places we visited along the coast felt the opposite. We had fun with Rodger and Margaret visiting Estepona and Gibraltar. Memorable highlights included reversing up the Rock while trying to get down it, seeing hazy Africa in the distance, lazy coffees and cakes in numerous cafes, and having a strange feeling we were back in Stamford while shopping at Morrisons. Stocked up with goodies and clean clothes, we said our tearful goodbyes once more and headed home to Portugal.

Climbing the bull in Andalucia
19th - 23rd September 2005: Lagos, Portugal
We like it here! So do many other British yachts. It is a popular place to winter. Although busy and geared for tourists it feels unfinished, not fully discovered. Our last few days have felt like “a holiday”. We walked the beaches – Nat collecting shells. We took siestas and sat reading books. Today we started some urgent varnishing on the floors in the galley – get some varnish on it now before it starts to break up – the boat is a real tip with tools, sandpaper and no floor but we still feel chilled. Maybe we’re getting the hang of this.

The time has come to move on from here and if crossing the Bay of Biscay was the first big step of our trip then I think this must be the second. Leaving from Lagos here in the SW tip of mainland Europe we will travel south 600miles along the coast of North Africa to the Canary Islands. We plan to make landfall on the tiny, undeveloped island of Graciosa. Weather permitting we plan to depart early next week.  

26th September 2005: Lagos, Portugal
Today Rienhard* (a German) said “sailing is the sport of repairing your boat in the best places of the world.” And have we been repairing! Nothing major really, more like improvements. Over the last couple of days we have finished varnishing the galley floor, re-varnished and sealed the bathroom, tidied out the cockpit lockers, re-stitched a minor tear in the mainsail, re-stitched the sprayhood, fitted our second horseshoe lifebuoy and replaced the flag on our danboy. Flushed with success, we are now looking forward to setting off for the Canaries and to hopefully seeing some of the best places of the world.

*Rienhard and Ene are on the ARC too so we look forward to seeing them again, while probably doing some repairs to our boat, in Las Palmas.

Mark varnishing
27th September 2005: Lagos, Portugal
Today we celebrated being married for three years. Our anniversary isn’t actually until tomorrow but, with the arrival of friends then, we decided to go out and have a meal together today instead. What the Lonely Planet says about being veggie in Portugal is this: ‘are you ever a long way from home’ and they’re about right, except, we’re not really in Portugal here as there are so many Brits around. Being the intrepid adventurers we are, we settled on the culinary delights of the Fools and Horses pub. 1 vegetable lasagna with chips, 1 pepper steak with chips, 2 glasses of luke warm red wine, 1 flying cockcroach and the footie on in the background.

And they say romance is dead.

28th September - 3rd October 2005: Lagos, Portugal
Nick and I hired a car for a morning and drove into rural Portugal (i.e. more than 3 miles from the south coast) to buy some solar panels. The place was great (see www.ffsolar.com). Before long I had a 90W panel rigged on the arch over the cockpit and wired up. We now have a silent and effortless 3 amp charge over most of the daylight hours. I am most grateful to Ian from the nearby Vancouver 36 for the advice and encouragement on solar panels, water-makers and much else.

After discussing and comparing the SSB radio installations with Nick I decided to rewire my set (specifically the “ground”). Although it was hard work the reward came when we talked for the first time over the air the night Kika left Lagos. We really enjoyed catching up with Nick and Ellen and hope to meet them many more times during the trip.

Nat woke one morning as a seamstress and now we have a colourful fabric from India covering our saloon cushions. The boat looks really cheery and set up for tropical island landfalls.

Recently I’ve been studying astronavigation and some time between mid-morning and noon will find me sitting on the beach using the sextant to measure the height of the sun in the sky. See “How to..” site for details on this. Finally, I cleaned the living daylights out of our water-maker and it seems to be working okay. This is good news as we had given up on it and were about to order a new membrane at £400. The boat is now in a better state than ever before and we feel ready to set out on the next stage of our trip.

Our new solar panel catching the rays




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