Departure: Porto, August 22, 11 am Arrival: Nazaré, August 23, 9 pm Nautical miles: 105
*Including overnight stay at Figueira da Foz
Spending quite some time in Porto also meant that progress had to be made in order to maintain our ambitious schedule and we didn’t have option to wait for the perfect forecast. Although the weather wasn’t bad, the wind was light and the hot moist air started to create light fog. As the clock approached midnight on our way to Nazaré we decided to pull the brakes. The vast network of fishing buoys and the depleting visibility called for a stop in Figueira da Foz, and we assumed the next day’s sunshine would magically make the fog disappear. But once again we were totally wrong, and the next morning we could not even see the marina office just a 100 meters away (which kind of worked in our favour as nobody came to charge us and we weren’t to keen to pay for just a few hours).
The fog did lift slightly around 11AM and we assumed it would only get better as we left Figueira for Nazaré, but rather than clearing up the fog only became worse. Without any radar, we relied solely on our AIS and the max 100m of visibility to avoid any obstacles. With more luck than ability, we were able to avoid a few buoys and managed a super scary blind harbour entry. So glad the super helpful harbour master assisted and guided us to a safe spot.
Once in Nazaré, we of course we had to go and see the epic surf spot – however the experience of a big wave surf point when there’s absolutely no waves comes of a bit, well, flat….
Departure: Nazaré, August 26 Arrival: Cascais, August 27 Nautical miles: 78
*Including overnight stay at Berlengas
After three days in Nazaré, sightseeing and re-uniting briefly with Tuuletar, the schedule called as we were very keen on catching up with our friends, who happened to be in Lagos on a surf trip. Although the forecast wasn’t great we made slow progress, spending a terribly rolly night in the Berlengas islands, although appearing very beautiful and wild, also overrun by tourist boats making constant waves – add to all that some noisy bats in the night and you get minimal sleep and tense nerves! But we continued with some light fog, 200m of visibility and made our way to Cascais, where we had a lovely calm evening and good night’s sleep anchored just outside the Marina.
Departure: Cascais, August 28, 12 am Arrival: Lagos, August 29, 6 pm Nautical miles: 120
*Including morning nap by Forte de Belixe
After departure all seemed rather nice, a nice breeze was pushing us steadily along, some very light periods of swells and dolphins. However, as darkness descended the wind decreased leaving the seas completely confused, and our speed kept dropping until it was simply set, just terrible. Especially in the middle of the night when the wind completely dropped and it was impossible to sleep, as it was very noisy by the engine and the flapping sails and a struggle to just hold on in the swell. In the morning we passed cape Sagres andstopped at the first possible anchorage by Forte de Belixe for a little nap before sailing the last few hours to Lagos to meet our friends.
The struggles and rush to make it to Lagos were quickly forgotten after meeting our friends, having some dinner and drinks. The next day we took our friends for a little cruise to the local caves, and had such a fun time exploring with our SUP’s and playing in the water. It is those moments that make such a trip worth while and will remain a very special memories.
From Lagos we sailed just a 3 NM to the nearest little lagoon called Barra de Alvor, which also happened to be an excellent kitesurfingspot (albeit too busy with beginners and idiot instructors). But it was a good place to spend a few days, waiting on the orcas to hopefully pass us. We knew that they were on the move passing the same area, so we “hid” in the lagoon hoping we could then avoid crossing paths with them directly.
Departure: Barra de Alvor, september 4, 10 am Arrival: Faro, september 4, 8 pm Nautical miles: 39
From Barra de Alvor we slowly sailed towards Gibraltar. As we still feared the orcas we decided to only sail during the day cos a) it will be a bit less scary to loose our rudder in daylight rather than in pitch darkness, and b) if we were to have an orca encounter, we would want to be able to at least see them (always look for the silver linings right?). We also decided to hug the coast, hoping that sailing in shallow waters would keep us out of the orcas’ way.
Approaching Faro in the evening and whilst motoring, we suddenly saw and heard a huge bubble emerging just next to us and panicked pretty quickly when we also saw fins in the distance. We decided to head for the near shallow waters and the orcas disappeared. We later learned that 2 other boats had had orca interactions, and unfortunately suffering some damage, in that exact area on the same day as we passed through. Guess we just got lucky.
Please note that on OrcaIberica website you can find plenty of info and safety protocols. Our recommendations (based on our personal experience) is to sail quietly (i.e. no motoring if possible) and stay in shallow water if able, especially when it’s calm. We understand that orcas can hunt literally on the beach, however they seem to migrate in deeper water, and perhaps shallow water also doesn’t transfer sound as well and thereby allowing you to stay incognito to the orcas. Furthermore, we though that if they attack we could still scrape them of by going very shallow or aground (half joking of course), but at the end of the day it’s cheaper to get a tow out of the sandy shallows rather than than a tow + a new rudder.
*For those not familiar with this absurd orca behaviour, note that it very uncommon and new. The interactions appear to be driven by curiosity play and hunting behaviour, however nothing is confirmed. Unfortunately the interactions are mainly with the boat’s moving underwater parts, so mostly the rudder, which can often result in costly repairs and delays. However, note that there has never been reported any aggressive behaviour directly towards humans during these interactions, nor any orcas hunting or killing humans in the wild in general.
As the Iberian orca, is a small sub population of a very small number, <100 specimen it is a protected, but still highly endangered species. It hurts us deeply whenever a boat gets damaged, but at the end of the day it’s just material damage. What hurts us more are the increased number of sailors developing aggressive ideas and suggestions towards the animals. This is a typical anthropocentric approach which only leads to far more damage than good. We understand the frustration and anger such an encounter and damage can cause, however every good sailor ought to know the risks and proceed accordingly, otherwise we will end up nuking the hurricanes – which despite Trump’s scientifically-qualified expert opinion (read sarcasm) would not go down well.
Departure: Faro, september 5 Arrival: Barbate, september 9 Nautical miles: 37+35+48+40
*Including overnight stays at Rio Guardiana, Mazagon and Cadiz
From Faro we diverted slightly on a detour towards Rio Guadiana (the river separating Portugal and Spain), but our departure from the river delta of Faro was the definition of bad planning and timing, as we only barely were able to push our lady through 4-5kts of adverse currents in the river mouth. We arrived in the middle of a small thunderstorm by the shallow river entrance of Rio Guadiana, but still arrived safely in the dark a few miles upriver and dropped anchor in nice calm waters. Due to some adverse winds we spend 2 nights there, getting some shopping done and being mostly lazy.
Our next stop was Mazagon, a small marina near Huelva, in front of which anchoring is permitted. The area is well known to seafarers as it was from here explorer Christopher Columbus commenced his expeditions. Unfortunately we did not have time to go exploring and lifted anchor the next morning, sailing towards Cadiz with a nice fresh breeze.
In Cadiz we found a kind of cool anchorage right underneath a huge bridge and near the centre, i.e. easy access to a Vodafone store and an overpriced sim card. Time pressure once more had us leaving already the next day to Barbate, but the following winds combined with pushing currents made for a nice relaxing sail there, and once on anchor the wind continued allowing Leo to get his last Atlantic wing foil session for a while.