Faro Onwards 42:12.86N
I arrived in Faro on Monday to
re-join Fai Tira for final phase of the journey; the trip along the coasts of
Portugal and Spain, and then the jaunt! across Biscay before returning to the
original. starting point, Dartmouth. The aeroplane flight from Gatwick was
quite ordinary and surprisingly quick. It had me realising just how close we
were to finishing this epic journey. As touchdown approached I found myself
feeling strangely apprehensive, probably for a whole bunch of, mostly, obvious
reasons.......Well obvious to me anyway!
So here I was back in Faro some
two years after Dee and I had made the frantic journey back to the UK to visit
my desperately ill brother and as the taxi passed through familiar areas, my
feelings became even more mixed. Soon the we arrived outside of the large Old
Town church. It was at a restaurant, close by where I’d arranged to meet
Peter and his friend Barry. With a few gestures and words, the driver managed
to point me in the right direction. So after ensuring I’d left nothing
behind and settling the fare, I strolled under the ornate stone constructed
arch that marked the entrance to the church complex.
A short walk took me into a
cobbled square. Tucked in one corner was the un-exciting frontage of a small
cafe with its tables and chairs positioned lazily opposite as they nestled
under colourful awnings also gaining protection by the imposing backdrop of the
tall stone built and floodlit walls of the impressive church.
I stood for a while just taking it
all in. However, it soon became obvious that not only were Peter and Barry
missing...... so were all the other customers.
The cafe owner spoke very good
English. I enquired about the lack of customers. In response he cited the cold
temperature as the reason! It was now approaching 9pm and in my estimation
about twenty degrees, not the sort of temperature likely to deter me. So with
the place almost to myself I settled down for a cold beer.
Before long Peter and myself
were communicating. It seemed as though they had been delayed, I forgot to ask
him at which bar!! Nothing for it then, ordered another beer, ate a pizza,
people watched and waited.
It wasn’t too long before
they arrived. Then, after the initial greetings had taken place, we were off to
see if the once marooned dinghy was now floating, it was now beginning to feel
as though I’d never been away. With everything loaded and us on board, we
headed out into the blackness of the night aiming for a barely visible
lighthouse some 2 ½ miles away.
Climbing back on board, for me,
was a surprisingly emotionless event. Although I did find myself giving the
boat hull a warm and affectionate pat, probably out of gratitude for behaving
herself and keeping us safe during our marathon sail.
By the time we were finally on
board, it was well after midnight and we quickly fell into bed. The next day
start was to be prompt. We still had some preparation to complete before what,
we hoped would be, our first and final stop, La Coruna, before setting out
The grib files had been
scrutinised well and predicted that at the start of the passage we’d be
encountering a head wind. They also predicted that there was a good chance of countering
that with some good sailing weather later on and that’s just how it
turned out for the first couple of days!
Our plan was that we complete
the outstanding jobs so that we had plenty of time to leave as close to slack
water as possible. It was something that took place about 9am, if not we could
end up battling with a ferocious tidal race that screams between the harbour
walls entrance faster than we can travel under power. It all worked out and we
were soon underway.
The gribs seemed to be getting
it right and from early on we started to experience winds of twelve knots
directly on the nose. However, I’d forgotten just how robust our engine
is and it just seemed to resign itself for a long day at the office in smooth
mode. It then proceeded to spend the rest of the day and following night just
purring like a contented kitten.
We reached Cape St Vincent just
as the daylight was fading and straight away nostalgic memories sprang to life,
as it was about two years ago when we first witnessed this sight on the way
out. And as Peter pointed out, it also marked the position where the boat
finally stopped travelling West. This really does feel like the home leg now.
And then it was into night
watches and all the discomfort of interrupted sleep patterns.
My first real stint on was at
Nothing romantic or memorable
about this one though. As I stumbled out into the cockpit to be greeted by Barry,
it looked as though the whole boat was engulfed in a dark impenetrable
blackness. No moon, no stars and indeed no visible horizon. The only point of
illumination was the light of a single large boat as it steamed across our path
some miles in front. That’s just about how it remained until the much
welcomed approaching dawn cast long tentacles of light, having the effect of
turning a cold grey scene into a slightly warmer yellowish one.
By the time daylight had become
fully established, the predicted winds were beginning to make their presence
felt. Last night, thankfully, had been calm and uneventful, but now at last we
had the opportunity to hoist the sails and provide much overdue relief for our,
now, overworked engine.
The winds took some time to
establish themselves along with the innocent looking but encroaching band of
grey cloud that seemed to be building slowly. However, it wasn’t long
before the Westerly’s started to show their muscle, producing an
indicated speed of eight knots and with the sails conventionally set we were
able to sustain a healthy 5-6 knots to a backdrop of relative silence that had
the effect of provoking a sensation of serine tranquillity. This was sailing at
its best, all we needed to do now was sight dolphins...........and guess what?
The evening meal I’d
prepared was well received and seemed to go down well, that’s apart from
the burnt potatoes. The wind was now following and we were running with a
goosewing set-up. We were starting to feel good and even discussed the merits
of continuing straight on to Dartmouth. However, just as we were relaxing the
sea decided to give us a metaphorical poke in ribs, to ensure that we hadn’t
forgotten just who’s boss. That innocent looking cloud, that had been
gathering was now directly overhead and stretched as far as the eye could see.
Watches had just changed and Peter, now with full wet weather gear on, had the
cockpit to himself as the rain started..........The fun was about to begin!!
From down below the winds
didn’t appear that strong, although the dramatic rolling of the boat, the
sounds of rain hammering on the deck and the bangs from the backed mainsail as
it filled and snapped back into shape, gave just a hint, that things, up above,
might not be too comfortable!
At this point I donned my wet
weather gear and joined Peter who was standing at the wheel looking rather wet
and bedraggled and a bit like something that the waves had just washed on
board. The winds were now touching a speed of thirty knots and the swells so
bad that the boat was beginning to broach down them..... We needed to reef down!
It was about this time, for some
reason, that my brain decided to remind me of the down side to sailing!
Our reefing procedures are, by
now, well practiced and we could almost carry them out with our eyes closed (
just as well as most times they occurred at night) However, this sort of
situation never fails to provide that adrenaline rush as once more we prepare
to confront the elements head on. So with me at the helm and Peter forward at
the at the uncomfortable bit, I turned the boat into wind in order to stop her.......Now
it really did feel as though we were in a gale as we began to feel the full
force of the wind...... Exciting stuff this!!
The task was completed without a
hitch and after applying a corresponding reef to the genoa we carried on
feeling that now, at least, we were able to exert a little more control over
the boat and our destiny!.........Welcome back to the Atlantic Northern
Sunset last night.
What a re-union for me! The next
couple of days were back to the status quo of engine on heading into light
Northerly’s, but making steady progress
La Coruna tomorrow..........More