Vigo and on to Portugal

I have discussed the repairs that needed to be done in Vigo elsewhere but this wasn’t our sole focus.

We were lucky to find an incredibly friendly and helpful at Davila Sport in Vigo. Vigo itself is a huge fishing town and so we had to try two of our favourites while we were there: fish and tapas.

Maria had been in the kitchen for a solid few days and quite rightly suggested we eat out. The first night we wandered into town and found a lovely corner bar that did a fantastic selection of tapas (La Bodega de Aguila). We tried a wide variety and they were all excellent so definitely a recommendation from Mariadz. The second night it was agreed we would find a really good fish restaurant and the marina recommended a few places. We booked one of these (Bar Rocio) and of course ate at a standard English time. Our experience has been that the Spanish prefer to eat a little later but we were surprised to be completely alone in the restaurant. We had a good chat to the waiter who suggested a selection of starters. One of which was cuttlefish which had our vet performing an autopsy on the first and refusing to finish the second. The mains were very good too especially the monk fish.

Maria had to go shopping for provisions and was accompanied by Richard and when the marina suggests the shops are walking distance, they may be for keen walkers. Maria found them walking distance there but a much more comfortable taxi drive home! The chandlery was in a similar place which Maria and I also walked, she’s a glutton for punishment. Still another cheap taxi home though. It allowed me to replace the broken block for the downwind rig and get some other essentials.

After a couple of days of mostly successful maintenance, we are ready to leave, albeit without a working autohelm. We have a good forecast of quite strong northerly winds pushing us down the coast towards Lisbon and our destination of Cascais. There is quite a swell which we will be mindful of as we hand steer down but we should have a good sail.

As we set off, we are quickly in the groove. We have decided to go goose wing at the beginning with the main sail out on one side and the head sail out on the other. It has been a standard downwind sailing setup for us on the easy coast and I think we weren’t 100% confident of the twin headsail setup after the recent problems.

By the end of the day, we are making great progress with a 20-25knot wind powering us along at ten knots with the current. The swell is probably 2.5m which we have to surf along as we progress which takes a bit of practice and to start with is quite unnerving, a 25 tonne boat trying to be a surfboard. It is incredibly rewarding though when the wave gently puts you back having surged it for some time. As night draws in and the wind remains strong, we continue our usual practice of reducing sail at night and go to half of the headsail and half of the main.

The next morning, and despite our deliberate slowing down at night, we have covered 170 miles, mostly under sail.

It is lunchtime the next day as we approach Lisbon, we are greeted by dolphins which we have been fortunate to see nearly every day. We are still in downwind sailing mode although there have been a few wind shifts. However, we will need to change to a port tack for the approach to cascais. This is the issue when downwind sailing, at quite strong wind speeds, it seems quite benign because the speed of the boat offsets the wind and makes it feel slightly breezy! Of course when you turn ninety degrees, it is directly across you and you get the full brunt of it. If you happen to have full sail up, it can be quite a shock.

For this reason, we know we will reduce sail to about half sail immediately prior to the turn so that we can have a nice sail on beam reach. Just prior to doing this, there is a sudden wind shift which takes hold of our main and tries to gybe it to the other side of the boat. The preventer for this is on our furthest forward mid cleat which stops the worst happening but the power of the gybe is immense and the preventer bends the stanchion near to the cleat. I am behind the wheel so it is definitely my fault but incredibly frustrating and any mitigating circumstances would sound like excuses! I get the sail back on the side but that is also quite uncomfortable. A lesson learned but the lessons don’t stop there.

You may recall we had all new running rigging and one of the things that John our sailmaker mentioned was that the halyard for the sails may need tightening as the halyard stretches a little. They are dyneema so we aren’t expecting much but we should keep an eye on it. The power of the gybe seems to have pulled at the halyard or maybe the strength of the wind, however, I notice a small few creases that we will need to sort out. To be fair, I haven’t really noticed these minor creases until we decide to bring the sail in and then it jams at the opening because of the creases. We go forward to lift the halyard but that isn’t happening with the amount of power in the sail. So we need to deposit the sail by going head into the wind. We decide that we should do that when in the shelter of the headland since the swell is still quite large and the headland will help us here too. We take down all other sails and turn with just mainsail up. It’s going to be a wild ride for a short period. Mariadz is heeled over a lot and the boys are loving the exhilaration but maria not so much. We know this will only be for a few miles until we get to the lee of the land but it isn’t great.

It seems an age but actually is only a few minutes until the sea starts to settle and the wind starts to reduce. Since we are going into cascais and the wind is in the north, I am thinking that we should wait for the turn towards the marina since we have to head into the wind anyway. Myself and Richard head to the mast to try and fix the problem. Having eased the main a bit we can then tighten up the sail with the halyard and that was all that was required to get the sail in neatly. Quite a bit of stress and distress for a short period for what was a simple fix but I now have a permanent reminder of my mistake with a bent stanchion, fortunately I have a spare.

As we go into the marina, we decide to top up the fuel, we have used quite a lot across Biscay and we are keen to fill up properly at Gibraltar. As we get there, the marina staff help us and take a stern line letting our momentum continue so that we get other lines on. Normally we would go with a mid line but they were insistent. Actually it worked really well and probably better than Our standard approach. Topped up, I pay and check which berth we are to go into. They have allocated us a berth well inside the marina next to a large motor boat that is poking out quite a way. They suggest that we come in astern along the whole length of the pontoon and then bring it in astern. This looks a difficult manoeuvre even without the confidence sapping experience in Plymouth. I suggest we will go in bow first and worry about getting out later. Maria isn’t happy and delegates the driving to me, which doesn’t inspire confidence in the ease of the task at hand. I come in and we are doing fine. The marina staff are waiting to take our lines again and this goes without a hitch. I ask for one of the guys to put the mid-cleat line on to stop me being pushed by the wind onto the motor boat, but that doesn’t happen. Fortunately the marina staff have fashioned this with our second mid cleat but it would have been a lot less nervy if we had done what we normally do. Afterwards I spoke to Maria about this, who had been told by one of them that they would do it and she wasn’t needed. The shame is that Maria is the most competent and knew what was needed to be done. I suggest that if that happens again she should tell me and we will stop that immediately. In the end I am grateful for the help of the marina staff and our bow thruster for keeping Mariadz nice and safe until we could get all lines on. We have a few scars but we are in Cascais, our original end point for the trip across Biscay, albeit a few days later than we hoped.

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