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Out of the Med

It was with a heavy heart we left Barcelona. We had a fantastic winter living there right in the middle of the city. Although there was no cruising community, we met a lot of interesting people and had great time. Unlike typical live aboard communities in smaller towns where you make close friends with your boat neighbors, in the cosmopolitan marinas you must meet people differently. In Barcelona there is a fantastic organization we subscribed to called Meet Up and every night of the week there were events. Some were just wine tastings, comedy clubs in English, others were tennis get togethers, and often there were large get togethers in a pub. We met many very interesting people from all walks of life and all nationalities. Nonetheless, it was time to make tracks.

We need to be in Lisbon for a flight back to the states on May 7. This gives us two weeks to make our first leg of 550 miles to Gibraltar and then as far as we can get on the second leg, hopefully to Porto. All in all its about a 1000 miles. We want to be well north for when we return so we don’t have to battle the northerly winds that affect to Portuguese coast in the summer.

Our passage to Gibraltar was typical Med sailing. It took us four days of which we had wind for about 36 hours. The rest was motor sailing and battling flukey winds that change direction and intensity every 20 minutes. We did get one stretch of about 24 hours that was 20-25 knots right on the stern and we sailed wing on wing at full speed. That was lovely, and almost makes you forget about the rest of the passage that had lumpy seas with no wind. We filled up with fuel in Barcelona about 6 weeks before leaving. Since we run our diesel heater most of the time, and it was a cold winter, we burned through a fair amount of fuel before departing.

I wasn’t sure if we were going to sail straight to Gibraltar or stop along the way, and there are many easy in and out places to stop, so fuel wasn’t a big concern. Also, according to the Grib files we would have plenty of wind to sail most of the way. Being an optimist I kept thinking we would find more wind but in the end had to motor a fair amount. The last 12 hours were a nail biter for me as I never stopped for fuel and was not trying to make into Gib with no wind.

Well, we made it, and after fueling up I calculated we had plenty of fuel left in the tank so my fuel meter is not working properly. i need to figure out a way to determine my fuel level independent of the gauge and not just calculating the hours of use and theoretical amount left in the tank. Like a real dipstick. Well this is now on the to do agenda.

April 28, 2017

We spent 48 hours in Gibraltar and then had a weather window of 24 hours to make some distance. A low pressure system was coming through and would give us enough wind and time to make it to Lagos about 170 miles or so from Gib. The same town we first landed at after our trip from the Azores two years ago. The wind was forecast out of the SW with one area producing winds in the 30+ area but it was all from behind so we off we went. I followed the advice of the pilot book leaving Gibraltar 2 hours after high tide. Well, its flat wrong. We had current against for 3 - 4 hours and were only able to make 4 knots. I spoke with several other sailors about this after the fact to find out that indeed, they are wrong. If you look at the current diagrams compared to their advice, they are completely opposite. The wind guru was wrong too. We had 30 knots with gust to 40 but only for about 4 or 5 hours, then it died and left us an ugly lumpy sea with no wind. So we motored the rest of way popping around like a cork.

We arrived Lagos around 10pm and tied up at the fuel dock for the night. In the morning while filling back up on diesel, our old marina neighbors from Sardinia spotted us and called out a yoohoo from across the way. Otti and Rossi from sailing yacht Enya were here. We had a lot of fun with this couple when we were in Sardinia. We were able to spend a nice few days in Lagos and again had a quite a few laughs with Otti and Rossi. We hope to catch up with them in the Canarys next year, they will be crossing to Brazil the same time we make way for the eastern Caribbean.

Another weather window popped up with forecast SW winds for a few days so we needed to catch it make some more distance north. We left Lagos at 4 am so we could try to make our next destination, Sessimbra, which is about 110 miles. We pulled in just past dark into this small town not far south from Lisbon. An easy entry at night was welcome. The marinero met us at the dock and took our lines, collected our paperwork and bit of cash and we called it a night. Jess went for an early morning run and we pulled out with the sunrise to make another leap north of about 100 miles. The wind has been off and on. We started with a nice 15-20 on the quarter and then it turned to our stern. So we adjusted sails and made wing on wing. This is by far my favorite point of sail. Cadence does well with winds in the 15 knot vicinity up to about 25 on this point. Below 12 we might as well adjust direction off the rhumb line and over 25 things can get out of control, so for safety we usually will gybe back and forth down wind. The sail changes went on all day. We would motor, then the wind would pipe up and we would sail, then back to motoring, and on and on and on. Jessica has a bad shoulder from too much painting so I was the one doing all the labor. It actually got to a point of ridiculousness where the wind would come up and stay sailable for 30 to 40 minutes, then nothing, sails down, engine on, then 30 minutes later, sails up and on and on and on and on. As we have no electric winches all was done manually. Good for the core I guess. We made it into Navare with the slightest bit of light in the sky to see our way in. No one was there to tell us where to go or take money or info so we tied up at an open spot, plugged in the electric and went to sleep, only to wake up again and depart just before sunrise.

Jess was asleep as I pulled out of the marina headed to our final destination, Leixos Marina Atlantico. This is just north of Porto. We had a good wind forecast but as always were leery to believe it. It seems to be more wrong than right these days. Not sure why, we are using multiple sources of weather but I guess they are all taking the info from the same place. Directly north of our marina, only a half mile or so is the end of long trench in the ocean. It is only about a half mile wide but this trench is about 4 thousand feet deep and quickly goes to 20 feet creating enormous waves that break up on the beach. Apparently they are the largest recorded waves ever surfed at 30 meters, so says the guide book. We made certain to get far enough out to sea before crossing this trench. For the first hour or so I motored as there was less than 5 knots of wind. Weather prediction once again wrong. Then things got a little better, wind went to 10-12 knots so we were sailing. There were some ominous looking clouds moving in our direction but we were so excited to be sailing and not wanting to believe that this was going to be ruined, we talked ourselves into believing that maybe it wasn’t moving in our direction, and maybe there was no wind in the little weather cell. Well we were wrong and we both knew we were going to be wrong. The wind went from 10 knots to 35 in about 15 seconds. We had the entire head sail out and most of the main. Completely overpowered, we let our head sail immediately and furled it in and then hung on for top down wind sailing with our main out. Once the head sail was away and we had the wind deeply behind us, Cadence was in control and doing close to 9 knots. We could see on the radar that the cell was going to be short lived so we road it out for about 15 minutes then we had blue sky over head and big puffy clouds moving in. We were seconds away from putting up the asymmetrical sail when the wind picked up to 15-17 so we set sail. We had a wonderful sailing day, winds between 15-23 knots all day from behind. We sailed the entire day averaging 7.5 knots. We pulled into the marina, again just as the sun was setting. We did about 100 miles in 14 hours, a great sail.

Our marina in Leixos is in the middle of large industrial port with significant size ships as well as a large fishing fleet. The harbor has a lot of trash in it and the marina itself is rather run down. After we arrived we needed to stretch our legs before bed so we went for a walk expecting to be a seedy area by the appearance of our marina. We were pleasantly surprised once we got out. There were many restaurants on cobbled streets all full with patrons. The next morning we went for a run and just outside of the industrial complex of the harbor were rewarded with beautiful beaches with large breaking waves on rocks and sand, a boardwalk, and a lovely suburb of Porto. The area had a strong resemblance to the California coast line.

May 6, 2017

We spent the day getting Cadence ready to be left alone for a week while we return stateside to go to Graces graduation ceremony from CU Boulder. We left Barcelona on April 21st with the intention of getting as far up the west coast of Portugal before flying out. The predominant winds this time of the year are out of the north along this stretch of coast and we didn’t want to spend much time outside of our ultimate destination, Galicia. So we had a busy start to the season, we arrived Barcelona on the 20 from Israel, provisioned Cadence that night and the next morning so we could depart on the 21st in the evening. We sailed straight to Gibraltar, 550 miles, two days to recalibrate, get fuel and get some new batteries. Then an over night to Lagos, 170 miles, wait for weather to head further north, then 3 days all of about 100 miles each to arrive just north of Porto so the next day we can fly out of Porto to Lisbon, then to Washington DC and the Colorado. We pushed the limit and just made it in time to leave, about a 1000 miles, of course we probably sailed 1300 or so as we rarely are directly on the rhumb line. As I write this I am mid atlantic somewhere, looking forward to sharing this moment with my daughter Grace and family as she graduates from University. I am so proud of this remarkable young lady, so intelligent and so ready to make her mark on the world.

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