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Leg 6-2001, Southampton, England to Lisbon, Portugal

Click on photo to enlarge

Hamble Point Marina

Cowes, Sept 21. 6 miles
In the week between Legs 5 & 6 while based at the friendly and efficient Hamble Point Marina we enjoyed the hospitality of Transworld Yachts, the U.K Halberg-Rassy distributor. Amanda had a social time catching up with old yachting buddies (she was based in Hamble from 1988-91) and I spoke with several of her old Whitbread Around the World Race crew, well experienced sailing in these waters, to gain more information. From their suggestions we formulated the plan of sailing 160 miles non-stop to Falmouth, on the SW tip of England. There we will wait for favorable winds to cross the Channel and notorious Bay of Biscay to make landfall in La Coruna, Spain, then coast hop south to Lisbon, Portugal.

On Wednesday we received a detailed seven-day weather forecast from Commanders' Weather, suggesting we get to Falmouth before gales with gusts to 40 knots would arrive on Sunday, then wait until Wednesday for moderate NE winds for the passage to Spain. The prevailing winds here are SW, which would mean headwinds, so we were delighted and willing to wait for the prospect of a broad reach instead of having to tack into headwinds.

On our motor across a surprisingly flat Solent from Hamble to Cowes, Isle of Wight, we passed several Volvo Ocean Race boats out practicing in the final days before the start of the race. It is now 12 years since I raced around the world on Maiden with 23 yachts, including a cruising division competing. This year the Volvo Race has had little public interest in the U.K as with no British yacht or race sponsor and only 8 entries of professionally crewed yachts on an old design there seems little new. Maiden was the first all-female yacht and we thought we were making inroads into sailing for women and perhaps in a small way we have, but there has been no stand-alone womens team since her and in this years Nautor's womens campaign the girls of my era were not accepted onboard as final crew for being too experienced. The future of this event is insecure as yachting looks to the new generation of sailors like Ellen MacArthur. Sometimes I'm still drawn towards the yacht racing scene but I know I'm the happiest I've ever been sailing aboard Mahina Tiare with John and choosing our own destinations.

On the other hand next door to the Volvo boats at Ocean Village the Southampton Boat Show drew record crowds. It's a huge and impressive show with over 100 boats in the water and three large shoreside pavilions packed to overflowing with booths.

The Needles - Western tip of the Isle of Wight

Falmouth, Sept 22
Sunny, and warm. Crew enjoyed Friday morning off to explore Cowes as we waited for the tide. A noon departure had us passing the spectacular white chalk cliffs by the Needles lighthouse in hot sun and the tide pushing us along at 11.5 knots for several hours. With only whispers of wind and flat seas, we motored along the south coast of England, passing Portland Bill lighthouse at midnight, on constant lookout in this area of heavy ship traffic.

Falmouth Harbor

Picturesque Cornwall

Arriving in the old seaport of Falmouth with sunny skies and the traditional wooden yacht race fleet leaving their moorings for a day of racing was a scenic sight. Falmouth is an attractive waterfront town
with commanding castles on the headland and after berthing in Falmouth Marina and conducting weather class we went exploring the busy holiday seaside town and it's trendy art galleries. Amanda cooked up a delicious shrimp stir-fry served over basmati rice and we all enjoyed a quiet evening onboard.

An updated forecast from Commanders Weather suggested that the period of SW gales might stretch for up to a week, so we queried them about leaving the following morning for Spain. They answered that we might expect gale force winds on Tuesday night, just before our landfall Wednesday morning, but we decided that was better than sitting for a week in Falmouth, with no guarantee of anything but headwinds.

U.K Navigation Notes
The charts we used for the past two weeks in Britain are the Imray series; (in order, coming from Germany) C 70, 26, 25, 30, 9, 15, 3, 12, 4, 5, 6, 10 & Y58. We used British Admiralty chart 4140 (INT 140) for overall planning from Sweden to England and are using BA 4103 (INT 103) and Imray C 18 for the passage from England to Spain. We will be keeping all of our charts from Norway to Panama in our office, and they will be available to rent with consultation in case you are planning a similar voyage.

Reeds Nautical Almanac

Example page from Reeds excellent Almanac

Macmillan Reeds Nautical Almanac contains all the nautical information for U.K and the European coast from Denmark to Gibraltar. With 1,072 pages containing color diagrams of harbors, lists facilities, contacts and general information, plus detailed tidal and current information this $50 book has proven invaluable and we are indebted to Leon Schulz for ordering it and delivering it to us in Sweden.

RCC's Atlantic Spain and Portugal cruising guide

Leaving Falmouth, Sept. 23
After a few last minute chores like replacing the water pump impeller, tightening alternator belts, topping up fuel and water, the tide was high and at 1030 we motored down the Fal River. We dodged moored and racing sailboats and after rounding the headland set a course of 205m for La Coruna, 430 miles away. Broadreaching in winds of 8-17 knots, sometimes we were able to sail, and other times we motorsailed to keep our speed up. Crew quickly settled into ocean sailing life with those not on watch studying the RCC Cruising Guide to Spain and Portugal and napping. This evening, as I listen to the VHF radio traffic, I'm reminded of Tahiti for a whistle or two always precedes a hailing call from the French. Its been two years since we left the South Seas and Amanda and I are always surprised at the small things that remind us of paradise.

Leaving England today felt like closing a chapter on a special year of cruising since making landfall in Ireland last September. We have many vivid and positive memories of the places we visited and the kind and generous people we met at each stop. For me, the strongest memories are of the NW coast of Norway and Spitsbergen. Something about the rugged, dramatic coastline and those Norwegians, so strong and proud of their country and never complaining about the harshness of their environment really impressed me. I will never forget their skill at boat handling and their pride in keeping their boats, homes and gardens immaculate.

Leg 6 crew - Shane Emil, Jim, Ken, Michael and Brian

Back to the present, here's our Leg 6 crew:

Shane Lydon, 38 originally from County Cork, Ireland is a vascular surgeon practicing in Ohio. He said goodbye to his wife Judy, an RN from England in London where she is visiting her parents with their three young sons. They dream of moving to Maine, where they have sailed several times and of longer voyages once their boys are older.

Jim Dutton, 47 left Cheshire, England for job opportunities in Canada when he was 24. Now he is procurement manager on a large oil sands operation and lives in Ft. McMurray, Alberta. He and

Brian Bickley, 56 who is a industrial relations manager (makes sure the oil company and unions get along) often charter boats in British Columbia together, and recently had a blast circumnavigating Vancouver Island. They are talking of making a trans-Atlantic crossing one day but I don't think their wives know about that plan. Brian's 17 year old daughter and Jim's 20 year old daughter enjoy joining them on some of their sailing adventures.

Emil Finch, 57, a retired orthopedic surgeon originally from Croatia, who now lives in Kansas City and whose company we really enjoyed on Leg 5 is back with us again after exploring England by rental car during the week between expeditions.

Ken Christiensen, 62 is a chiropractor from New Orleans who keeps his 33' Endeavor on a lake nearby. Several of his five children enjoy sailing with him. Ken has enjoyed living and working in several
countries including Australia.

Michael Brown, 62 is a retired businessman who also sails with Ken, now that he sold his own boat five years ago. Originally from New Jersey, Michael sailed to Cuba and crossed the Atlantic on his Morgan 41.

Crossing Biscay
As we neared the coast of Spain the wind increased and swung towards our bow and it was nip and tuck as to whether we would lay La Coruna on one tack. Soon we had 1-2 knots of current with us but against the waves that quickly built to a nasty chop, and thankfully before sunset on the 25th we sighted land. Unlike the rest of Spain, Galicia is a green mountain landscape criss-crossed with rivers and an ocean-chiseled high cliff coastline fringed with sandy beaches. Its history is rich with a legacy of conquerors from the Celts, Seubi, Romans, and Visigoths whose ruins still survive.

A Courna, Sept 25, 26
280 miles

La Coruna - Our Spanish landfall
It was nearing midnight when we arrived. Generally we don't enter strange harbors for the first time in the dark, but it appeared to be an easy, well-marked approach and as we had excellent electronic chart coverage on a Softchart CD, thanks to John Ness, we decided to go for it. Suspecting moorage in A Coruna might be tight, I had looked up the marina phone numbers in Reed's Almanac and had had our friend Leon Schulz in Sweden call to make reservations.

The famous Miradores (glass balcomies) of La Courna

As it turned out the two marinas were full but we were available to book a berth at Real Club Nautico Centro, situated downtown in a basin beneath the glass enclosed balconies of white apartments.

Real Club Nautico Centro

The entrance to proved straightforward and by 2300, with the help of the welcoming night watchman, we were bow tied to their floating dock. The yacht club is gracious enough to reserve a few berths for visitors and their building with polished brass doors, varnished teak outside rails and glamorous chandelier lit balconies is exquisite.

In the morning we checked in and discovered we were two hours behind on our clocks, already half the day had passed, so we went off exploring the old city. Time in Spain moves at a different pace and as we headed out we found that the shops had already shut for their 4-hour afternoon siesta but that the cafés, tapas bars, and fancy restaurants were in full swing. Sophistication was primo and snappily-dressed locals socialized over leisurely lunches or strolled along the expansive waterfront walking designer dogs of which two of the same breed appeared to be the trend. Not being in the Gucci shopping mode the other places we checked out were the world's only Roman-era lighthouse named Torre de Hercules situated on the city isthmus northern point and the white sandy beaches that span cities Atlantic face.

Lage Sept 27, 28
35 miles
After a run (it was dark until 0800!) we left La Coruna at 0900 with a destination of Camarinas. We knew the forecast of SW winds to gale force 8 might make this 45-mile passage difficult, and that was right! With only 10 miles to go the winds were gusting to 35, we had double reefed the main and headsail and the seas were ugly, so we turned and surfed back downwind to Lage, a small bay said to provide protection from south winds.

RCC's Atlantic Spain and Portugal cruising guides page on Lage

Tucked behind the breakwater we found shelter and set two bow anchors before swimming. This was the first time since Gullholmen, Sweden that we had swum off the boat and it felt great, if a little bracing!

Next morning the powerful cold front that we had been racing to La Coruna arrived, late, and with a vengeance! Gale warnings were up for all waters and Mahina Tiare strained at her 75lb CQR and 44lb Delta anchors, set in 20' sandy bottom with a total of 350' of chain and rode while torrential rains washed away all the salt from the previous day's sail. Making the most of the weather lay day Amanda taught rig inspection and spares and sail repair. As part of class crew sewed up a bag to stow safety harnesses in on our Pfaff 130 machine. Our guys did a great job running the machine, and Brian and Jim mentioned that they are really looking forward to attending Port Townsend Sails sail repair course in April.

Expedition members are put to the test

I'm always trying to create new methods to increase retention of safety procedures, and had the idea that if we told crew there would be a test, they would pay close attention to instruction. The test that we have been developing and crew sat after lunch was a great success ­ nearly everyone remembered the key points, filling two pages with answers.

Late afternoon the rain and wind ceased, and the sun reflecting off the sandy beach invited us ashore.

The village of Lage

Lage anchorage

Frank, Mirador Bar owner, with his yachties guest book

We found a delightful town of 1500 with a 14th century church, fantastic views out to Cape Finisterre from the ridge above the town, and friendly people. When Amanda and I returned from our hike, we found our crew well-ensconced in Mirador Bar where they claimed to have tried every seafood item on the menu! The owners, Frank and Celia, proudly asked us to sign their guest book for visiting yachts dating back to 1978. We too sampled the local seafood and chatted with Frank while gazing about the restaurant walls that are adorned with large striking black and white photographs of the village and harbor dating back to 1900, taken by Frank's grandfather and father.

Rounding Cape Finisterre and Cies Islands, Sept. 29
65 miles

Dancing dolphins escorting us at Cape Finnisterre

Secluded Cies Island anchorage

Having heard many stories about the formidable Cape Finisterre and given the weather of the previous days, I had expected that we would have to beat our way around this NW corner of Spain. We got lucky! Instead we had light winds and ended up motorsailing for the last bit.
Anchoring off the Cies Islands National Park, at the entrance to Vigo Bay in the late afternoon we went swimming before exploring the attractive islands who's eucalyptus and pine forest trails, white sandy beaches and rocky mountains reminded us of Catalina Island. With only caretakers living on the island, but miles of hiking trails, dramatic seascape vistas, we couldn't wait to get back ashore the following morning for more exploring.

Bayona, Sept 30
10 miles

Bayona waterfront

Monte-Real Fortress

Monte-Real Club de Yates

Typical seafood choice at any Bayona restaurant

Paella for four

Sneaky furler cleavis pin

This chic beach resort town nestles into the south shore of Virgo Bay and situated at the end of the waterfront beneath a high medieval stone walled forteress that surrounds the Point Buey is the equally chic Mont-Real Club de Yates. We were most excited to see foreign flags flying from the cruising boats anchored off the yacht club and were instantly greeted by old friends Tad and Joyce Lhamon who have been out cruising for 5 years on their Alden 44 Lyric. They directed us to a marina berth, agreeing to join us at one of the many fabulous (and inexpensive) seafood restaurants for dinner. Weather had been the dominating conversation of the cruisers in the anchorage as everyone had been waiting for the wind to switch out of the South. Not us. We were off early in the morning after lowering the headsail to secure the forestay pin that Shane noticed was halfway out having lost it's split pin. Phew!

Leixoes, Oct 1
63 miles
With the 20-25 knot headwinds we spent a wet and bouncy day motorsailing with a double-reefed main working our south by tacking in and out one to three miles off the coast. At 1630 we had crossed the border into Portugal and by 2200 we arrived in the commercial harbor of Leixoes and tied up for the night at the Marina Porto Atlantico's fuel dock. Clearing in the next morning was a breeze as the marina office handles the paperwork including customs and immigration. We obtained fuel and spent the morning exploring Leixoes in the hope that the wind would ease by the afternoon. It was not to be and the 30-knot winds kept MT in the marina and crew off exploring the city of Porto. A major 953 mb low is filling most of the North Atlantic coast with gale to storm force winds from Greenland to southern Portugal. Forecasts from Leon Schulz and Commanders' Weather both forecasted a cold front to pass us around 1800 with a 24 hour switch to northerly winds following it. Those northerly winds would be perfect for our remaining 165 miles to Cascais, just down river from Lisbon.

Surfing into Cascais

Cascais Marina (near Lisbon) October 3 165 miles The northerly winds did arrive after the front and held all the way to Cascais! They were light at first, and dead astern, but in the end the picked up to 20-28 knots and we had a sunny and glorious sail. The coastline south from Leixoes is populated nearly the entire length and shipping traffic and fishing boats were lighter than further north. We kept pushing to make it in before dark and arrived at the fuel dock at 1730, with daylight to spare.

Shane was the only one headed home, and Emil, Brian, Jim and Michael's wives were joining them for a week or more of touring Europe. Ken was off on his own for a couple of weeks traveling in Spain.

The beach resort town of Cascais

Friends had told us how nice Cascais Marina, only opened two years ago was, but we were still amazed at the surroundings, marina construction and services. The fuel and reception docks are located in front of the marina office as soon as one rounds the breakwater. Friendly and very efficient women run the ultra-modern marina office and they handle customs, immigration, harbor authority check in with one form, offer maps and will arrange rental cars, taxis and we even booked a bus tour with them. We were delighted to find a supermarket, three marine stores, boatyard, bank, internet café and a dozen restaurants inside the marina complex. Would you believe that the off-season rate is only US$15.50 per day for a 48' boat here?

Cascais Marina

Even more exciting is the town of Cascais, population 25,000 that surrounds the marina. Originally a fishing village, it became a favorite summer holidays spot for Europe's royalty and aristocracy during the late 1800's.

Lighthouse and Mansion on Cascais waterfront

Palaces surround us so many, that the locals don't even know who they all were built for. Some are owned by the original families and are operated as small, upscale hotels to defray the cost of upkeep, a few have been turned into magnificent restaurants or hotels but many are in a colorful state of decay.

Library Museum undergoing restoration

Cascais is filled with interesting little shops and restaurants, winding, cobblestone streets and gorgeous beaches and bays. The tourists are mostly Portuguese with a few Germans, English and North American voices to be heard on the streets.

Lisbon is 25 minutes away ($1.20) on the efficient train that runs along the coast and ends in the center of downtown waterfront.

We especially enjoyed the Museu Nacional do Azulejo (tile museum)

and Jerominos Monastery with it's tranquil courtyard

The Castelo de Sao Jorge at the top of the city offered panoramic views from where modern art and musicians were interspersed with 12th-century fortifications. But as a city containing nearly half of Portugal's 10 million population, half-day visits at a time are enough for us.

We found Sintra, a mountaintop town 20 miles north far more picturesque with its royal palaces and magnificent rural views.

After first seeing a large ceramic tile scene in an abandoned estate in the BVI's then several others in the Azores last summer and on hearing that Lisbon was THE place for tiles, we have been waiting and looking forward to going tile shopping here. It's been and educational process, first to go to the museum and see how this art form has developed to adorn public buildings, shops and homes over the centuries, and then to start tracking down the few places that produce tiles.

I jumped and bought a small floral scene on handmade tiles on our first trip into Lisbon, but Amanda was determined to enjoy the search as much as the tiles! We took the subway to the showroom of the largest tile maker in Lisbon, but were disappointed as the scenes appeared to be screened on, vs. being hand painted. Then we found some interesting scenes at a bookstore in the train station, but it wasn't what Amanda had in mind. Finally one of the girls in the marina office said she had heard of a small workshop near Sintra that produced tiles, she located them in the phone book and gave a cabbie instructions on how to find them.

When we walked through the door of tiny Artes de Fogo (ph 924 04 45), we knew are search was over!

The walls were covered with historic and modern scenes, hand painted on tiles.

and one of the three artists was extremely helpful in explaining their work and the prices were amazingly reasonable, half of anywhere else.

It was exciting choosing a dramatic bowl of fruit for the dinning room, a lemon scene for the kitchen, and a little scene with local lateen-rigged fishing boats for the garden. Never mind that we haven't yet built our dream house.

Back to the present, it's 0700 on October 11th and Leg 7 crew will be joining us at noon. We're provisioned and have waxed MT's hull until it glistens and are now looking forward to being back on the ocean and visiting islands instead of cities. Our landfall will be Porto Santo, 480 miles SW and 25 miles from Madiera. After exploring those two islands, we hope to obtain permission to visit the isolated Selvagem Islands, halfway between Madiera and the Canary Islands, where Leg 7 ends. There is a trough passing over now with rain and squally winds and light headwinds are forecasted after tomorrow night, so we hope that will change to something that will provide us with some good sailing.

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