Rally Portugal 2012… a postscript..

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The Rally made a big impression on us.

It was of course partly the obvious. We had achieved a great ambition of crossing Biscay. Ok it wasn’t a F8 gale but neither was it a stroll in the park. We had kept watch day and night for almost 5 days non–stop. We had sailed our yacht, kept it and ourselves safe, navigated, fixed stuff that broke, cooked, laughed, taken snaps, seen dolphins, seen the phosphorescence in the surf, marvelled at the night sky and shown respect to the huge Atlantic swell.

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But it was more than that. As the WCC organisers left Lagos, and the crews started to make their plans for their onward journeys it started to dawn on every one how much we would miss each other. I had been a Grinch before the Rally. Not for me the forced jollity of club life. Why would I need other people? I wanted to do Biscay on my own terms – just Jaz and I.

What happened though was that we had learned so much from others. The watch rota from Ailsa, the seamanship of Katrina, the humour of Scarlet Lady, the fortitude of Usquabae, the friendship of Plane Magic, and even how to sail a Moody 44 from Seraphina.

RP12 Slideshow (289)We had learned what people could dream to do with their life – and that there is indeed life after 60. Yes, those with children and grand children missed them and were torn. The ambition to explore and live their life to the full was creating distance between them and their loved ones. For many the finances had been juggled and fine tuned to enable the purchase of a boat and the opportunity to sail. Yet others had overcome serious illness or were living with the threat of serious illness, but still finding the strength to sail.

Rally Portugal 2012 certainly delivered what it said on the tin, and then some more that you won’t even find in the small print.

It was a privilege to meet these people and I salute them.

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The trials and the tribulations… Skippers briefing, looks like a Pink Floyd concert…
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4 people celebrated their 60th birthdays during the Rally… Serious sailor talk….otherwise known as ….

Lagos–the end of the Rally..

RP12 Slideshow (317)We arrive at 1810. Entry to the marina at Lagos is down a canal with the pretty promenade on one side and the boat yard and bay on the other. Nick’s beaming face welcomes us together with the husband and wife team who run the marina and the apartment and hotel complex. A very warm and gracious welcome indeed. We tie up on the fuel pontoon. We have to wait for the elaborate footbridge to be lifted and allow entry into the inner marina area, so we fill up the diesel to save time later.

RP12 Slideshow (106)We motor through the bridge and into the marina, it is already feeling odd, I try to concentrate on the instructions being fired at me from the dockside –we find that we expected to be “starboard side to”– but now we are “port side to” – I reverse to give Jaz time to reconfigure the ropes and the fenders. We berth next to the smiling crew of Ravi – the lovely Norwegian couples who have bought a boat together to embark on a year of adventure. I see that Svein is sporting a marina shirt and pretending to be in charge of docking.

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Lagos marina Promenade next to the canal
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Entering the inner marina.. Lagos marina
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Final leg to Lagos…not Nigeria

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Its 0600 we are assembling along the start line I can see that the wind is going to be light, perhaps for half the day at least,  if past experience is anything to go by. The previous day Neil (Plane Magic) had helped me sort out the lines and launching process for launching the cruising chute. I had tried before to launch it but had always got myself in a tangle and given up. It is a tall order for one person with no experience of launching a chute – but I am determined to do it at least once before the end of the rally…

We cross the start line at 0620 with 3kts of true wind – perfect for the chute?. Jaz, pushing from below in the fore cabin  and I, panting from on deck, haul up the huge bag through the fore hatch and try to secure it to the guard rails, I secure the sheets to the clew (extremely long ropes that stretch back on both sides of the boat to the cockpit) and with some arm waving get Jaz to release the tack line that runs along the deck, through a pole and out of the bows of the boat, I attach the spinnaker halyard and make my way back to the mast to start the hoist. Then I realise that the  snuffer (a big plastic cone that helps get the sail down and bagged) needs to be tied down too. I go back and tie the snuffer line to the anchor windlass. I start the hoist and discover that although I have carefully lead all the lines “outside” of everything I am hoisting the huge sail in the middle of the genoa sheets. The wind catches the massive sail – still in its sleeve – but jumping around like a greyhound waiting for the gun and that pesky rabbit. I lower the sail and try to re configure – it wraps itself around me and I find I am wearing 1200 sq ft of sail cloth…it gets quite warm. I emerge from the sail to see most of the boats motoring away across the glassy calm sea, and then the final blow -  I see Scott on Katerina drop his deflated chute, bag it and put on the motor. This is the last straw – if Scott cant fly the chute today, no one can. My heart sinks, I admit defeat and bag the sail and leave it on the deck tied to the guard rail in hope that I will get another chance before Lagos – I don’t. That is a challenge yet to be overcome.

The sail to Lagos is calm as we approach the famous Cabo de São Vicente. Although this is mostly remembered for Admiral Nelson. It is worth noting that it was one Commodore Nelson who, after passing through the Spanish fleet in fog, was able to tell Admiral Jervis, on his flagship HMS Victory, the location of the Spanish fleet, but sadly not the number of ships in the fleet. It was Jervis who engaged the Spanish – forming the famous single line of attack behind the flagship HMS Victory – and engaged a fleet that outnumbered the British 2 to 1 – the year was 1797. It was a variation of this tactic that Nelson employed to great effect at the Battle Of Trafalgar 8 years later in 1805.

Cabo de São VicenteEnterprise was under full sail as we approached Cabo de São Vicente – ready to dip the ensign as is customary out of respect for the great Admiral Nelson. Within about 20 minutes the wind increased to 30kts and we were storming along with a list to starboard that put the toe rail in the water. I had to take the helm – relieving Sulu – and also try and hang on to the main sheet – letting it out as far as I could to try and reduce the force on the sails. I could see Plane Magic surfing along behind, they too  had been taken by surprise. The pilot book had warned that the Cape should be given a wide berth – but it had been such a nice sunny day and a great sail – I thought we could cut the corner and get to Lagos earlier. Wrong.

We did more than dip the ensign – we turned to face a 30kt wind – and then reef first the genoa and then the main – pretty demanding stuff for 2 people on a 44ft yacht. As we bore away Enterprise continued on with its regal progress hitting 9kts speed over the ground.  We sat relieved, looking up at the towering cliffs of the Cape and the lighthouse looking down its nose at us poor amateurs – you could hear it sniff “its not like the old days”.

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Full of hope… Up it goes…and the wind dies…
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time to reef… Cape St Vincent – on a calm day….
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The rocky coastline … Welcome to the Algarve..


Sines MarinaA welcome late start at 1000 for the sail to Sines. Wind fluky and weak, with true wind speed never higher than 12kts for most of the morning and afternoon, increasing to 19kts by 1700 when we were almost there. We arrive at 1800 looking forward to a rest and a day off the following day.

Sines sports another small marina in the process of being developed, but sited in the shadow of a huge oil and gas refinery and container port. Ships come from far and wide to disgorge containers and get them transhipped by road or by smaller container vessels to the rest of Europe. The small bay outside the marina is great for anchoring and has a small, family sized beach that the locals were enjoying – very picturesque. The marina facilities are excellent and the welcome friendly. A small town is within walking distance. All noted for the return journey to the UK.

Sines is also notable as the birthplace of Vasco da Gama, and provides a tenuous link to our own family history. My maternal grandfather was a Pereira, and there are many da Silvas, Fernandos and Flamer-Calderas in the family tree. Like many of the Portuguese in Sri Lanka they would have been descended from those 15C explorers and traders that followed in Vasco da Gama’s footsteps, after he had proved the route to India down the west African coast and round the Cape of Good Hope.

The weather is distinctly warmer now, and the Rally participants are becoming more relaxed and happy in each others company. There really is a tremendous feeling of camaraderie amongst the participants. Spurred on by Nick, Sally and Jaz start to prepare a “pontoon party” and all the crews knock up food and drink contributions…a lovely party…its as if we have been doing this forever and this is just normal life. Like a caravan of vagabonds sailing from port to port with no particular purpose.

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The bay and marina at Sines Vasco da Gama
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Pontoon party… Pontoon party…
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Pontoon party… Rally boats…


Oeiras marina3Another early start. We leave Peniche for Oeiras at 08:47. The wind is blowing today. True wind speed doesn’t drop below 20kts and gust up to 30kts – but we are sailing downwind for a change. We use the large genoa and romp along quite happily. This is the type of wind speed that gets the Moody 44 really storming along. The 50nm to Oeiras is completed in 7 hours.

Along the way we get a bit of a scare rounding the overfalls off Cabo Roca when the depth meter reads 2.0m and reducing. We have got used to ignoring the depth for the past couple of weeks since it cannot really register depths over 75m…but there seemed to be something insistent in its bold display. It steadily dropped from 2m, 1.9, 1.7, 1.5…. I charged up and down the companionway steps checking charts checking the plotter looking for some explanation…but I couldn’t see any reason for such a shallow reading. It even had me discussing with Jaz what we would do if we ran aground. It was a false alarm. The wind continued to pick up as we rounded the cape and headed for Oeiras.

But Enterprise just bowled along. It really is like driving an old Bentley. Nothing seems to worry it and it just glides over the waves or cruises down the face of following waves as if they were a minor irritation to its regal progress.

Oeiras Marina is a lot more upmarket than many we have stayed in since Baiona. Most of the stops have been interesting as refuges in bad weather, but you wouldn’t want to spend more than a few days at each. Oeiras is different. It is the first taste of that Mediterranean style. There is also evidence of money in the type of yacht, both sail and motor, that are moored here.

We get allocated a berth next to a large motor yacht called J.L Seagull. The Spanish owner is keen to chat and tells us he is on his annual journey from Spain to Italy to see his daughter – he must have left the oil tanker out in the harbour!

Since we appear to be on the super yacht pontoon we find we cannot plug our small lead in to the shore side power but the marina office happily loan us a converter – no questions. That would not happen in Brighton Marina! I must say that this has been a feature all along. Not only have the WCC staff been on the pontoons to take our lines and greet us at every stop but so have the marina staff. Simple customer service that seems so lacking in the UK and France for that matter.

There is another reception organised with fantastic food and the usual prize giving, at which we win the Smiley Miley prize for guessing the miles that the Rally crew would have driven from Peniche to Oeiras. Another tea towel but very gratefully received.


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Oeiras Marina.. Oeiras Marina…
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Smiley Miley winners… Berthed next to J.L Seagull…


PenicheAnother day another port. Having lost a week at the start of the Rally due to poor weather the schedule is relentless to regain ground and make up the time. No one blames the organisers they are doing a fantastic job of re- scheduling and providing dinners and interesting trips at every opportunity.

It is simply that none of us are in our teens and left to our own devices we would probably stay a week in each port rather than 1 or 2 days.

We left Figueira da Foz at 08:14 and arrived at Peniche at 17:45, tomorrow we sail for Oeiras. I think an early night is called for.

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Enterprise leaving Peniche for Oeiras.

Figueira da Foz

Up at 4am to get ready for a 7am start. The WCC have decided that we need to observe “race starts” for the “its not a race” Rally.

Figueira da FozThe early starts and the need to keep up with the Rally schedule are tiring. But everyone is in the same boat (ha) and we all comply with a good heart and eyes half shut.

The start is slow…no wind. Scott – who wins everything – announces on the rally channel 77 that it may be a good idea to motor. There is a chorus of agreement on Ch.77 and motors are duly started.

Later as the wind picks up – the maximum all day was 14kts – some of the boats deploy their cruising chutes and edge away. But we stick to motor sailing opting for the less strenuous and less risky approach to sailing.

Figuira has a small but nice club house where we have a large sardine dinner. Jaz and I sit next to a very large man who appears to be an interloper and who is helping himself to the Rally dinner. He is easily 7ft tall and the spitting image of Timothy Dalton. He is scouting locations for a rally that he hopes to organise for jet powered speed boats and which will run from Southampton to Monaco. There’s nowt so strange as folk.

The next day there is a trip to Coimbra. This time we opt out because I have started to get worried about my leg that I cut days before in Baiona. Despite having plenty of clean  bandages and trying my best to keep it clean, it does not seem to be healing. Its hard to judge if it is smelling (old B&W wartime movies come to mind)…I smell strongly of lemon wet wipes and sometimes of pine when I mistakenly use the floor wipes that Jaz has stored in abundance in the heads cabinet.

HospitalInstead we get a taxi to the local hospital. The hospital at Figueira is a model of efficiency. The receptionist asks me (in good English) for my NHS ID – a small credit card sized card. I hand it over. She types into her computer and prints a barcode that she attaches around my wrist and tells me to wait.

Jaz and I settle down for the customary 3hr wait. My iPhone bar code app informs me that I am a bottle of jam worth £1.84. My name is called after only 15 mins and I am taken into the inner sanctum of the emergency room and treated by nurses and 2 doctors – all of whom speak good English and are bemused when they tell me that I must keep the wound dry and I tell them I am sailing for the next 6 weeks. I am prescribed anti-inflammatories and anti-biotics. All very efficient.

Povoa de Varzim

A rude awakening as CH77 burst into life and Nick at Rally Control reminded us to be up and ready to leave at 6am.

Its Leg2 from Baiona to Povoa de Varzim – just 50nm…how bad can it be?…

Povoa-de-varzim1Well it was pretty bad in an odd aggravating sort of way. First we motored out against a lovely dawn sky and glass like seas; then the wind gradually increased to 25 knots plus, with choppy annoying waves. Wind and tide seemed to oppose every attempt at progress so we motored or motor sailed most of the way. We arrived at Povoa de Varzim at about 3.45pm.  There is another Rally dinner tonight in the Yacht Club.

The next day the WCC had organised a tour to Porto and the Taylors Port Wine Lodge. Unfortunately we had so much tidying up to do on the boat not least of which was getting the bedding dry from the for cabin that we opted to stay and sort the boat out.

We weren’t alone in our decision to stay in port, and as the day wore on we saw that the Norwegian contingent on Ravi had made there way over to the fuel jetty that was on the opposite side of the marina amongst the formidable and rusting fishing fleet. I watched with interest as the crew of 4 men struggled to get across the bay in winds which were now gusting 30kts and then position themselves to fill up.

Ravi knew I also wanted to fuel up, so I wasn’t surprised when they radioed me to come over – except they also said I should raft up against them and when I had finished would I mind pulling them off the fuel jetty because the wind was so strong they couldn’t get off!

I enlisted the help of Neil and Barry to help me and powered stern first off the pontoon and into the 30kts of wind. So far so good. Except I could not turn in the space available to get the bows round – so I opted to just cross the bay stern first!…we arrived at the fuel jetty stern first and rafted up next to Ravi.

Filling up was like applying for political asylum in a Soviet state. First I had to explain to an expressionless fisherman that I too needed fuel – remember he had just filled up Ravi. After some gesticulation and miming of heavy oil (don’t ask) he got the message and we filled up. Then he indicated I should follow him, and we walked 500 yards to a fish auction hall and over to an empty booth with a glass screen and a typewriter. The fisherman summoned another “official” who sauntered over and sneeringly made it evident he wanted my passport and 200 euros. I obliged. He sat stabbing at the typewriter and cursing, spat on the floor and then handed me my receipt and passport back. He clearly had flunked the Disney School of Customer Service and I was glad to get out and back to the boat.

Next followed the towing of a 45ft Beneteau and 4 large and concerned Norwegians off a concrete wall between two very large fishing vessels. Most of this was accomplished in astern which seemed to be the most comfortable way to approach a high wind in close quarters – probably not so good if you were at sea.

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Start line – Enterprise 2nd from left Enterprise, motor sailing

Relaxing in Baiona..

WCC have organised a prize giving dinner. It is reasonably formal – for yachters anyway. I wear a jacket, Jaz is in heels – and other clothes of course!.

I am so concerned about Jaz tripping on the pontoon, that as I follow her up the stone steps that lead to the raised terrace and lawn of the Monte Real Club Yates where the reception is already in full swing…I slip and graze the front of my left leg quite badly. Blood all over my cool man-in-Havana slacks. I tell Jaz to go on, and I return to the boat to patch up.

Needless to say by the time I get back to the reception all the rally folk are concerned and chide me for not getting it looked at professionally. There are 2 doctors in the group who just give me knowing looks. I decide I will ignore it and it will go away. This wasn’t a great decision, as I would find out in the days to come.

The reception and dinner is great and amazingly we win 3rd prize in the cruising group for Leg1 – crossing Biscay. Jaz gets a a tea towel and I get a prized club tie for the Monte Real Club Yates. Fair, I thought.


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Reception on the lawn Stella, Hilary and John
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Reception on the lawn Leg 1 – 3rd Prize

Santiago Street Scenes..

Various scenes from Santiago..


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Illicit grappa in the street market…we bought coffee flavoured grappa…in honour of Chris & Katie 🙂 Old  knife sharpener…
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Jaz, Neil & Hilary imagining they might like pigs trotters for lunch… Santiago is famous for jewellery made from Jet…
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Back streets.. St James was not the last to lose his head…