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Mahina Expeditions, Offshore Cruising Training

Southampton to Lisbon

Leg 6-2007 Update 1
September 16, 2007, 1100 hrs, 51.10 N, 04.48 W, Log: 112,394 miles
Closehauled at 7.2 kts into 20 kt headwinds, 2' - 3' seas
Baro: 1013, Cabin Temp: 68F, cockpit 64F

Charging Down the English Channel!

Mahina Tiare is once again in her element, reefed down and charging to windward like a race horse, sending walls of spray flying. Strong wind warnings have been posted from Norway to France as the tail of an active cold front whips by some time today. We have been watching this system approach for several days and originally only planned on sailing 30 miles yesterday afternoon when our Leg 6 crew joined us in Hamble Point Marina, near Southampton, England. However, since all of our crew had previously sailed with us before, orientation went quickly and we took advantage of clear, warm and calm conditions coupled with a powerful 5 kt ebb tide and decided to carry through the night, 165 miles to Falmouth, just at the western entrance of the English Channel.

Falmouth seemed the perfect departure port for our crossing of the Channel then the notorious Bay of Biscay and an added bonus is the new National Maritime Museum that we've been dying to visit, is located next to Port Pendennis Marina.

Last week our time between expeditions was compressed into two days at Hamble Point Marina, home of Trans World Yachts, the very active HR dealer for the UK. Thursday we motored over from Cowes to provision at the large Tesco supermarket near Hamble Village and Friday we visited the HUGE Southampton Boat Show, perhaps the largest in-the-water boat show in the world. Amanda visited with friends from her Maiden Whitbread Around the World Race days (Maiden's home port was the Hamble), we watched the new British America's Cup challenge first boat racing up and down the harbor in a stiff breeze, and we saw lots of new gear that hasn't yet reached the North American market. Of particular interest was meeting the founder of, Ed Wildgoose, and seeing his impressive display of satellite and SSB-based email compression services which we are keen to test.

Before we knew it, noon Saturday had arrived, our crew was aboard, and we were headed out the very busy Southampton waterway into the English Channel. As darkness fell, we passed several prominent headlands and happily our wind filled in very early in the morning so we reefed down and laid Falmouth, close-hauled.

As we sailed into the harbor we watched the start of the Sunday oyster work boat races. Dozens of brightly painted

The Falmouth oyster boats racing
gaff-rigged work boats were all flying topsails and seriously over canvassed. They looked terrific, and we enjoyed watching skillful helming as we witnessed many near-misses. A little to keen to view the action, we had to gybe and run out of the way to stay clear of their race.

Port Pendennis Marina gave us their last available slip and we set out to scrub a thick layer of salt of MT and our bodies. As gale force winds were predicted with a cold front passage that night, we were pleased to be in a secure slip. The new

Port Pendennis Marina and Falmouth waterfront
National Maritime Museum is located right next to the marina, and the historic waterfront, chokka with pubs, shops and restaurants dating back hundreds of years is a five minute walk away. Jake, whom we had earlier met in the Azores and Sweden was waiting for Amanda and I. He had traveled down the river by dinghy and we were whisked back up to their gorgeous little cottage with a panoramic view of the harbor. Judy had arranged for us to have tea at friend of theirs who lived up the top of a river at Coombe, their 250 year old house only accessible

Devonshire Tea
by driving along the beach at less than high tide or by boat. It was a treat for us to be far away from the boat, enjoying visiting with old friends and meeting new ones, hearing their cruising plans and relaxing. We had hot showers back at Jake and Judy's, then enjoyed a great dinner that Jake made while telling us stories and showing us souvenirs of his days as captain of a Royal Navy frigate and destroyer. Judy, formerly a fabric and fashion designer in London showed Amanda her many art projects before Jake and her gave us a little tour of Falmouth on our way back to Port Pendennis.

Sometime around midnight the front passed with some rain, but the bulk of the maritime museum sheltered us from the winds.

Our plan had been to wait about 36 hours until the front and near gale force winds following it had passed, then to set sail on the tail end of the northerly gale for La Coruna, Spain. As it turned out, the winds following the front were not as

Sue G presents the weather analysis
strong as had been predicted, so we set sail that afternoon. We ended up rocketing along, broad reaching with winds pumping between 30 and 40 kts and very rough, crossed seas, thanks to the relatively shallow waters and opposing currents of the English Channel. We set a course to try and stay clear of the busy shipping channels but still had our hands full dodging errant ships and plenty of fishing boats.

September 20, 2007 0800 hrs, 43.52 N, 08.15 W, Log: 112,790 miles
Broadreaching at 6.5 kts in 15 kt NE winds, 1' seas
Baro: 1020, cabin temp: 70F, cockpit: 68F

Sunny Skies and Spain Ahead!

Our great sailing winds lasted for a day before we had a day of motoring. Yesterday the wind filled in and we have been sailing along nicely on a broad reach, catching up on class, enjoying the sun and trying to catch a fish for dinner. We have the outline of the Galacian coast of Spain ahead and now have less than 20 miles to go. With an excellent long-range weather forecast we are looking forward to more great sailing and to exploring new little bays and villages over the next week as we sail to Lisbon.

Leg 6 Crew Tom, Lynn, Sam, Sue F, Ron, Sue G
Here's our Leg 6 crew. This is the first expedition in 18 years where everyone has sailed with us at least once before, and as many as nine previous times!

Tom Baer, 43
I enjoyed sailing from Hawaii to Canada aboard MT two years ago. Had a great time and decided to try a European leg. I'm a chemical engineer by training, currently living in Albuquerque, NM but I'll be moving to a new job in Cincinnati, Ohio. I'm hoping to soon purchase a 30' sailboat for weekend sailing on the Great Lakes next year.

Sue Grimm, 49??
I'm a busy orthodontist from the upper NE corner of Ohio. I have an 18 yr old daughter starting college and a 16 yr old son who loves racing Lasers. I recently purchased a 46' Beneteau which I sail on Lake Erie. I enjoy my pets including a puppy, two ducks as well as colored pencil drawing and photography.

Ron Poulton, 59
When the going gets tough, the real estate brokers go sailing! This is the best of both worlds, sailing and seeing Spain and Portugal. Ron is a desert rat, living near Palm Desert, CA.

Sam Parker, 60ish
Hi. I am sight seeing. My wife has locked me out of the house so she could have her girl friends over, play golf and spend money. (Sam and Ron explored England together before the expedition and will be traveling down the coast of Portugal to Gibraltar and Morocco following our arrival in Cascais.

Sue Fandel, 57
I've been working as an environmental and safety planner and auditor at PG & E for the last 29 years. I grew up in St. Cloud, Minnesota and have now lived in San Francisco for 35 years. Lynn Magnet and I are part owners of a Cal 29 which we sail on San Francisco Bay.

Lynn Magnet, 59
I am a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety disorders and have worked for Kaiser Permanente for 25 years. Sailing is one of the things which keeps me sane and happy. I have sailed since I was a kid but took up the sport in earnest when I moved to San Francisco, and now I teach sailing part time at Club Nautique.

September 21, 2007

Our wind held nearly all the way to La Coruna, and we enjoyed a quiet afternoon landfall. The marina ( had expanded, installing visitor floats, restrooms and laundry.

We loved walking around this vibrant city - the Latin influence instantly takes us back to places like the Azores, Panama, Mexico and Puerto Rico that we have enjoyed so much. One thing that is similar with all of these places is what a large percent of the population is out strolling along the waterfront or about the plaza until 10 or 11 at night; families with

La Coruna marina and waterfront
small children, young and old and young lovers, arm in arm - everyone is delighting in the magical evening. It was also surprising how many people, even entire families, out running, roller-blading and cycling along the malecon, decked out in the latest sport fashions. The malecon makes a circuit around the town peninsular that is home to the world's only Roman-era lighthouse, the Tower of Hercules, where we all took a visit.

Back in town there were tons of places to choose from for dinner. Crew chose a tapas bar that specialized in ham with many

A Coruna city beach
dozens of them hanging from the ceiling while Amanda and I enjoyed a tiny sidewalk seafood cafe. This morning on our run we stumbled into the municipal market, a few blocks from the marina, something we totally missed last visit. We found rows of seafood vendors setting up their stalls with every type of fresh shellfish and fish imaginable, flower sellers, fruiters and tasty looking baked goods. Amanda enjoyed chatting and visiting with Sonja who was selling bread and insisted on giving us free samples of all of her different treats. A funny thing happened - there was a woman

Crab lady
selling seafood and she was trying to pile up crabs on her counter, but the crabs kept jumping off the counter and scurrying across the concrete floor. The woman just kept laughing and laughing as she chased them down only to pile them back on the counter.

We had a late start the following day - well all starts are late here in Galacia as is does not start getting light until 8:00. We sailed to Lages, where we had hoped to again visit Frank, owner of the Mirador pub-restaurant on the waterfront. We'd met Frank on the last visit and he loves sailors asking them sign the guest yachtie book, just as his father did

The town of Lages
before. When we arrived and Amanda saw all the new construction along the beach and town, she joked that Frank had probably cashed in and headed for the south of Spain. We found his Mirador Bar all closed up at dinner time, and learned that Frank had left town in June and no one knew if or when he was coming back!

Our 37 mile sail to Mugia, a few miles north of Cape Finisterre was in very light air and sunny conditions. We found a tidy little harbor with a new substantial new breakwater where a fisherman indicated that we could raft to the fisheries patrol vessel, which we did. He said the patrol boat was paid for with EU funds and that the crew rarely went out. It's a short stroll to the 17th century church La Virgen de la Barca we had passed at the bay entrance and the vista is stunning. Huge breakers smashed into the rocks on either side of the point and the ornate church was packed and overflowing with a wedding. I listened to a stunning rendition of Ave Maria as the bride and groom knelt in front of not one, but three priests. All of the locals were dressed in high fashion and were obviously enjoying the festive occasion. One of the lovely unusual aspects of the church are the many ship models suspended from the cathedral ceiling; modern fishing boats with lights on, old sailing fishing boats, and even of a navy vessel.

La Virgen de la Barca church

Inside the church

Boat model

Ladies making lace

We left Mugia at 0600, two hours before dawn, in order to have plenty of time to sail to Combarro, 70 miles south, before sunset. And sail we did! We ran wing and wing downwind for several hours, then broad reached and finally beam reached, touching speeds of up to 8.4 knots. Sam, who was aboard for his tenth expedition offered to steer so we could concentrate on our weather class and Sue Grimm did an excellent job of explaining the weatherfax charts from England that showed a 977 low with four cold fronts rolling off from it headed toward England. It's amazing how much better understanding and involvement with weather planning our expedition members have since Amanda suggested having a different person analyze the weatherfax, Navtex and GRIB file data each morning, making a presentation to the rest of the group on their own. It's amazing how much different the weather is this year from our 2001 expedition which covered the same route at the same time. We've stable conditions with continuous favorable N and NW winds compared to before when we were always looking for weather windows between powerful fronts.

Sue Fandel:
At around 12:15 just south of Cape Finisterre two dolphins were spotted off our port bow, jumping through the water going past us. About ten minutes later, three dolphins were swimming near the bow of the boat. MELONIE Should be Sue not Fuse Grimm and I went to the bow for a better view and to encourage them to stay. We talked to the dolphins and they responded by swimming in patterns, jumping out of the water and making high-pitched squeaking sounds. Shortly later, a half dozen more were swimming north buy changed course to join the others on our bow. The pod of dolphins stayed playing in the water with smiles on their faces for at least half an hour. It was awesome!

Sue G and Sue F chat with the dolphins

Chatty dlphins

Our quest has been to find small traditional harbor villages on the Galacian coast. Jake, our friend in Falmouth recommended Combarro, at the top of Ponteverdra Bay, as one of his favorite stops during his previous year of cruising the coast of Spain. The RCC Atlantic Spain and Portugal cruising guide said, "Combarro claims to be the only Galacian fishing village still left unspoiled…" From the anchorage we off the mussel farms we weren't surprised to find the start of yet another marina and the town looked similar to many Spanish coastal villages: prosperous and thriving with the construction of apartments.

After an early dinner we all headed in to explore and look for ice cream. What we found, as we followed the throng of local Spanish tour bus visitors along the waterfront, was a labyrinth of little narrow twisting streets, tiny restaurants, a few pubs, and souvenir shops. But it was like we had stepped back in time. Everything was built of granite and old; the streets, the narrow two-storied houses with stone pillars and wrought iron balconies, corn storage bins raised up off the ground so the rats couldn't get in, and the pillared grape vine-covered courtyards. We found delicious gelato, bought several tasty deserts, and shared the packed alleys with Spanish families who were also appreciating the town's old charm. The sunset lingered for a few long warm hours, slowly going down behind vineyards on the distant shore while bathing the village and bay in a warm glow. Ahh… this is just what we were looking for, Galacia at its best!

A glimpse inside a typical Combarro tapas bar

Combarros streets

Combarro souviners - witches and local brew!

Leg 6-2007, Update 2
September 29, 2007, 0100 hrs, 38.53 N, 09.33 W, Log: 113,147 miles
Closehauled at 6.2 kts into 9 kt headwinds, flat seas
Baro: 1012, Cabin Temp:70F, cockpit 64F

Sue rigs the preventer
What a Ride!

From Combarro we motored in flat calm 10 miles out to the head of the bay then 5 miles out to the Cie Islands, a national park on a group of offshore islands. Sue and Lynn dove in for a swim and everyone headed ashore to check out these barrier islands with white sand beaches and even a little beachside café.

We had been watching a cold front off a powerful low headed our way that was forecast to bring strong winds that evening.

View north from Bayona to the Cie Islands through Las Serrallerias
When MT started dancing around in the moderately increasing gusts, we decided to abandon our idea of staying the night and quickly motored 7 miles to Bayona before nightfall.

In 2001 Bayona's sole yacht club-marina had been packed, and we'd been lucky to find the last available slip. We half expected to have to anchor out so were surprised to view a huge new first class marina filling the bay with at least 100 out of 319 empty berths as we rounded the substantial breakwater. When the dockmaster zoomed out in an inflatable to invite us to tie up anywhere we liked we learned that a local sailboat builder had built the marina.

The town of Bayona

View of marina housing a replica of Columbus's caravel

That evening it never did blow that hard and what a magical evening we had. The moon was nearly full as it rose over the huge 15th century Monterreal fortress that guards the harbor entrance standing on a site that has been home to the Celts, Phoenicians and Romans. Being tied dockside our crew were free to see the sights of Bayona which bulged at the seams with

Lynn enjoying the sailing
fancy shops and people, making the small waterfront town exciting. The next morning our crew decided they wanted time to explore before sailing 35 miles to Viana do Castelo so we didn't set sail until 1300, and by that time the northerly winds had filled in to 25-35, gusting to 40! We reefed and unreefed and reefed again, keeping Mahina Tiare charging down the waves short, steep seas at up to 9 knots, enjoying dozens of dolphins surfing alongside us and the cloudless, warm sunny day.

The narrow, shifting Lima River entrance to Viana faces directly south so I knew that things would get very interesting once we turned into the north wind which had increased to 37 knots, so we tucked the third reef into the main and furled the

Entrance to Rio Lima and Viana
headsail with 1.5 miles to go to the turn. Through the binoculars we could see things flying back and forth across the end of the breakwater, and as we got closer I could see they weren't seagulls, but were kite boarders and windsurfers, reveling in the high winds. Great, I thought, this should make that narrow channel even more interesting!

So, we made our turn, sheeted the main in tight so it wouldn't flog, and Tom was doing a great job countering the 3 knot ebb current while dodging the flipping kiteboarders and windsurfers. We then heard a loud, low roar overhead and looked up to see not one, but two huge identical Grumman Albatross amphibians hurtling our way, just above mast height at 150 knots! As they roared overhead, their huge old radial engines strained as the pilots banked them into tight (for these old planes) turns before they came roaring at us again! I thought they were doing advertising photo shots but Amanda pointed out the forest fires burning on a distant hill and suggested the airplanes might be water bombers picking up water in the calm river to put out the fires.

After getting the main down at a wide spot in the river, we headed up 1.5 miles up river to the marina basin when we looked up shocked to see one of the huge planes hurtling down the narrow channel, just touching the water and leaving a huge cloud of spray behind it. Tom did an excellent job steering, getting over as far as possible as the plane thundered by with a deafening roar. What next, we thought!

We discovered a very fancy new cantilevered footpath bridge blocked the entrance. Fortunately there was a pontoon just before the marina entrance so we prepared to join two other cruising boats moored there when suddenly, an inflatable zoomed out of the marina, coming alongside just long enough for the skipper to say, "You must come inside, we have one space left for you, and I will open the bridge in ten minutes!" We didn't really want to be trapped behind the bridge, but the guy in the inflatable seemed official and insistent, so, we hung alongside the bridge while preparing fenders and lines.

Soon bells and lights went off and we waited patiently for the half mile futuristic-looking footpath bridge to open, struggling not to have the current set us on the concrete entrance wall. But it wasn't until the marina manger exited his control tower and started waving us away that we realized the bridge actually swung open out into the river. When the bells stopped we crabbed our way into what turned out to be a tiny, jam-packed marina basin.

Lynn spotted the marina manager motioning us to an impossibly tiny opening at the end of the first pier. I knew we were approaching low water and watched the depth sounder show less than 2' under the keel. I asked if there was 2 meters of depth in the slip and the harbormaster said, "Sure, no problem!" The sounder read 0 and I felt us touch the mud, still half a boat length from the slip. As we struggled to fend off from the overhanging sportfising boat which featured a knarly-looking huge grapnel anchor on the bow, two maritime police roared up in an inflatable, started speaking excitedly and loudly in Portugese and gesturing to our Spanish courtesy flag. I yelled back for them to at least let us get into the slip first, as Amanda ran below and produced our Portuguese flag. At the same time we managed to JUST squeeze MT a 1/3 of the way into the slip, squished between the dock and the sportfishing boat, while the harbormaster left in a hurry, saying, "Bring your passports and boat papers to the office before we close".

WHEW! We had arrived! In the nearly-finished port administration building the same guy handled immigration, customs, and port check in and welcomed us to the town. In wandering around Viana we realized we had found "Old Portugal". Quite a difference from the bustling, flashy under construction Spanish towns and cities and although Vianna appears more subdued

The deserted central plaza
its friendliness and quiet pace are delightful. Although, as we walked much of the charming deserted historic old town in search of dinner we began to wonder if we'd ever find an open restaurant. Eventually we did and having cultivated a taste of the marvelous Galacian tapas we all ordered our meal with gusto. Oh my goodness! As our huge plattlers of country food, all looking rather similar, arrived at our tables we most certainly realized we were in different country. We managed to do a little justice to the dishes before they were boxed up and taken back to the boat…dinner tomorrow?

Our crew was pleased to find showers, laundry, internet while Amanda and I spotted a cathedral on a distant peak and decided

View of Marina and Eiffel Bridge
it would provide a good vista of the city and river, so we spent the morning running and looking.

After another relaxing late start we had a higher tide and no problem leaving Viana. Our 35 mile passage south to Leixoes was another fast one with excellent following winds, more dolphins and non-stop sunshine. Leixoes, the commercial harbor for

Downwind sailing to Porto
Porto, Portugal's second largest city had the first purpose-built marina for yachts, built in 1992. Although we would love to take MT up the Douro River to the city of Porto, everything that we had heard or read said this was difficult to impossible, due to silting and removal of the only dock sailboats were allowed to tie to.

We easily found an empty slip of the visitor's pier in Leixoes Atlantic Marina, and no sooner had we tied up than a maritime policeman handed us a form to complete. Thursday morning we completed checking in with the marina office and our crew jumped in taxis and headed off to explore Porto, a 20 minute ride away. They booked a double-decker bus tour, then a river boat tour and enjoyed a fun lunch on the banks of the river. When taking their lunch order, the waiter said, "Will the 10 year old Port do?" they said yes, not realizing it was a 50 euro ($70US) bottle!

Porto's waterfront

Sam and Ron taking in Porto's sights

Port lunch

Sue F's Porto journal entry

After Amanda and I finished some chores aboard, we enjoyed a taxi ride and river boat tour. We all enjoyed a dinner out in Leixoes and a few hours sleep before pushing off at 0400. We had been watching an active cold front spinning off another substantial low offshore, and the GRIB files showed the cold front should hit Cascais between 0600 and 1200 on Oct. 29, bringing 25-30 knot headwinds, rain and seas to 13'. Wanting to avoid these conditions was high on everyone's mind, so nobody protested when I suggested the early departure with the idea of sailing the 170 miles and hopefully reaching Cascais before 0600.

With winds of 8-15 knots, we enjoyed sailing on flat waters with some moonlight to help our lookouts spot and avoid lobster pot floats. We had some fishing boats and ships to avoid, but overall it was a lovely night, and by 0340 we had tied to the

Cascais Marina
clearance dock at the entrance to Cascais Marina, This gorgeous new first-class 638 berth marina had just opened when we arrived in 2001 and most importantly for visiting cruisers, it keeps over 100 berths reserved for visiting yachts. The rates dropped from VERY HIGH (49 euro per day) to very moderate (by European prices) of just 20 euro per day on October 1.

Our timing was perfect! Soon after the office opened at 0900 and we had cleared in, it started to blow and rain, and it was a day before the winds abated and sun poked out again. Everyone had booked hotels close to the marina so we enjoyed some more dinners together and Sam booked a two day tour that Ron, Amanda and I joined him on, meeting up with Lynn and Sue at a fabulous royal palace in the mountain top town of Sintra.

Of the many impressive, castles, basilicas, convents, churches, bridges, palaces, gardens and monuments we viewed one of the highlights for us was returning to the intriguing tile making shop, between Cascais and Sintra. We were happy to find the owner producing even finer tiles than what we had seen in 2001 and that most of his business caters to designers' world wide. We were shown into the workshop and watched as the women artists carefully apply different color powders that when fired change color and glaze over, a tradition that has gone on for centuries.

Sam and John learn about tiles

Tile artist at work

The lively Café A Brasileira
If you're off on a tour of Portugal, or anywhere, we can, as always, highly recommend Lonely Planet guide books for the bare facts. If you're looking for more color the Eyewitness travel guides deliver the right amount, and for Lisbon, the Eyewitness pocket book Top 10 of Lisbon is a fantastic asset. Our busy Lisbon city tour ended with a snack at the famous literary Art Nouveau Café A Brasileira and Amanda created this black and white image of her, Ron and Sam at the bar to acknowledge it's 1920's heyday.

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