Lisbon to Portimao via Sines

We are now behind on the clock on our delivery trip to southern Spain and as we know you shouldn’t be pressured by the clock when sailing. However, the weather is starting to come in from the Atlantic and if we don’t leave quite soon we could be stuck in Cascais for some time. Cascais is nice but at over €100 a night, we couldn’t stay for long!

The next part of the trip will take us down the Portuguese Atlantic coast and around cape st Vincent into the algarve. The trip would take nearly 24 hours skirting the coast with the risk of lobster pots to catch our propellor. We decide to do this in two hits having found a safe anchorage along the way.

On our second day in Cascais, we quickly get the boat ready to go. There are a few annoyances as one of the crew releases the spring line stopping Mariadz going forward despite my questioning it. Mariadz hits the pontoon in front of us and leaves a lovely dent in her bow. Funnily enough, I was then told that I had approved it when I absolutely hadn’t. It also wasn’t the other person pulling the boat hard either! The frustration grows when I find that my iPad has been locked and deleted by someone trying to get through its security. The crew deny all knowledge but in all our experience with iPads we have never known one security lock itself without anyone touching it!

Putting these frustrations to one side, and the loss of all of my data and photographs for six months, we head out of the marina at 2:30pm and head down the coast. We are making good progress with a following wind pushing us along at 7-8 knots. As the afternoon turns into evening, we are touch and go as to whether we will reach the anchorage before sunset especially when the wind dies down.

It is an uneventful trip down the coast and as we approach Sines, we can see the big commercial terminal just outside the anchorage with a number of ships waiting like expectant fathers outside the maternity unit. We turn towards the anchorage as the sun slips down and we have the last of the light to guide us in. The anchorage itself is delightful with a wide beach, being groomed as we arrive, protected by two walls, one of which has a small marina tucked behind it. We head directly to the centre of the anchorage away from the other three smaller yachts nearer to the marina. The anchorage is renowned for having a slight swell as the large boats come in and although were only there overnight, we didn’t have any problem and it was very picturesque towards land even if the terminal out to sea was a little less so.

The next morning we are all rested, the shenanigans from the day before have been put behind us and we are ready to move on to Portimao. We have decided to leave at first light since we have 90 miles to go which could take 15 hours and we always like to arrive at new places in daylight, the day before being very close to breaking that rule.

The wind has died down and the bad weather is well to the north of us, we are grateful we left when we did. However, sailing is not an option is 8 knots of wind, at leant to make your destination in daylight. This will be the whole of the morning so we motor down making good progress against our plans. After lunch the wind changes direction and picks up a bit which gives us the opportunity to get some sail up.

Gerald has been down to the furthest tip of the algarve where it meets the west coast and it is a look out point where you can watch the boats rounding the corner. This is an opportunity for Mariadz to unfurl her sails and show off her beauty.

She is a lovely sight under full sail carving through the water and I hope there was someone up there to see. Four hours later we arrive at Portimao at 8pm so shortly before dark and see an incredibly full anchorage. There seem to be a few gaps as we wander around looking for a suitable spot. We decide on one just in from the edge with boats on all sides. It is difficult to come up with where to drop the anchor in these situations. Our general rule is to look at the way the boats are pointing and recognise that their anchors are likely to be in front of them so place ours favouring the stern of another boat over the bow of the boat behind. As we all turn in unison we should find ourselves in a good place. We take two drops of the anchor to get this where we want it and some of the boats are not lining up the same which points to features underwater which are changing the way that the water is flowing. I’m still not 100% happy but decide to keep an eye on it for the next thirty minutes while Maria prepares dinner. One of our neighbours, a Dutchman, is also not happy with us, as is often the case when people anchor anywhere near each other. He finishes off by suggesting that we had better have good insurance, really quite rude. We are settling nicely and everything looks fine but we will need to be careful at the change of tide and I am not convinced I will get the rest I need. After a short time we agree to move to outside of all of the other boats where we will definitely have enough room and can have a solid nights rest. We eat dinner and get our heads down preparing for the long journey tomorrow to Cadiz.

However, this is not before we convince the boys that the water is lovely and warm so they both go for a swim. A couple of laps of the boat and a shower down on the swim platform caps the evening

As described previously, our standard approach is to attach a buoy to our anchor to show us and others the location of our anchor. We have various snubbers to protect the windlass and put on an anchor alarm that constantly monitors your position compared to the anchor to confirm that it hasn’t shifted. We always have a lot of chain out which means we go round in a bigger circle but we never drag our anchor. So it is somewhat of a surprise at 2:30am after an early night to hear the anchor alarm blaring. Usually when this happens it is because I have made the arc that is monitored too small for the amount of chain and the length of the boat. On waking the first check is that we are nowhere near any other boats and we are a good distance away and not dissimilar to when we anchored. I check the anchor watch, reset it and go back to bed after a short while to check that everything is as expected.

On waking the next morning, I come out on deck and we had moved. Although the distance to the boat that I checked last night is the same, we have moved across them by about 25 metres. I also can’t see our anchor buoy and I am reminded of the Dutchman’s comment the previous evening that they used to have one of those and it was stolen. Surely he didn’t get up in the middle of the night, steal ours and trip our anchor accidentally… of course not. As we prepare to depart and the instruments are switched on, Maria points out that we are now in ten metres of water. We wouldn’t usually anchor in that depth despite having more than enough chain to handle it. However, it does explain the buoy problem. Although I have twenty metres of line on this, it is doubled to a length of ten metres which is fine for most of our anchoring. However, now it is slightly under the surface as I find when I pull in the anchor and it pops up. It is good to see it back although our assumption is that someone, probably drunk in the middle of the night, pulled at it thinking it was a a lobster pot, with a 40Kg stainless lobster in obviously. They must have been disappointed to find an anchor and dropped it. It then took twenty metres for the anchor to reset properly. Lucky we had moved or we would have been speaking to the insurers of other boats!

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