Extended sea trials

28:55N 13:42W

Lagos Marina was a bit of a culture shock after south Lisbon, being a hub for visitors from northern Europe, with English the lingua franca spoken more often than not.  We had been used to getting by with our limited Portuguese and meeting few tourists, other than fellow cruisers.

The balloons are coming (slowly).  Do they know how tall the masts are?

That said, we soon got into the swing of things, enjoying English breakfasts at one of the many cafes near where the tripper boats are moored, or having a quiet drink at one of the bars at the posher end of the marina.  It's only a short walk into the old town with its many small shops and restaurants but soon after arriving we bought ourselves a couple of old bicycles, allowing us easy access to the various shopping opportunities scattered around the outskirts of the town.  It was the first time Rachel had ridden a bicycle since breaking her arm - another milestone passed.  The nearby beach was another attraction (for Rachel) who has been missing her physiotherapist and making do with a brisk swim instead!

The month of October flew by as we tackled various tasks we'd set ourselves.  Inevitably there are still many things we wanted to change, including the dinghy and liferaft fixings, jammers for the furling lines and getting our heads round how to rig the gennaker tack and sheet.   Plus we wanted to make sure we ticked off as much as possible before leaving mainland Europe - and the relative ease of getting help and spare parts.  Frustratingly, small problems often take as long as big ones to fix.  Getting the sail-maker to put cringles in the main for the reefing pennants needed many reminders to ensure the task didn't keep being put off.  The local chandlery was not at all helpful when it came to basic stuff like service kits for pumps.  We found it both cheaper and quicker to get them sent direct from the UK!  Critically, when servicing the winches we found a bearing broken and had to order a new one from Australia.  We had a nail-biting time tracking the various parcels, particularly when a FedEx delivery van kept going AWOL.  The Portuguese postal service was a lot more reliable.  (Warning to readers - do not use FedEx to Portugal!)

As luck would have it the fridge stopped working.  We'd had it re-gassed before launching but there must have been a gas leak.  It was lucky because there is an excellent and reliable fridge engineer in Lagos who had repaired Lynn Rival's fridge in 2012.  Paul Kent was as helpful as ever.  He's a real gem. (Solution: cut out the 4 'quick-connect' O ring couplings - 8 potential leaks - and solder the pipes together.)

There was time for socialising, including some pleasant days out walking in the countryside with the Lagos Strollers.  And for a short while we enjoyed the company of Pam and Bruce on Osprey, a Rival 36.  We had met them in Lagos in 2012 and they are still speaking to us despite our not having a proper boat any more.

There was a lot of activity on our pontoon.  It was hard for anyone to walk to the end without getting distracted, and entertaining for those attempting to get on with projects.  We were able to reminisce about Patagonia with Geoff and Nikki of Spirit of Penmar, who remember Lynn Rival from her time in Greece when Bob and Jane were aboard.  We are also especially grateful to James and Gail on Wanderling who not only bought a copy of our book and various unwanted items but also lent us their wheels for carting our gas cylinder to and from the filling station.

Preparing to leave, full of good ideas - let's put the bikes in the tender

A week before we were due to leave Lagos we started looking at the GRIB files in earnest.  We were hoping for some gentle winds to start with while we mastered using the gennaker and got our sealegs, then moderate to stronger winds for us to practise sail changes and put Mystic through her paces.  It didn't look good, with the promise of a few days of stormy weather alternating with extended periods of high pressure calms.  We considered delaying our departure but the outlook continued unsettled and we were keen to get to warmer climes.

 

We're off! A nice calm day to back out of this cul-de-sac . . .                                         Photo courtesy of Geoff Phillips


. . . and motor quietly down the river

It was calm on the morning we left our berth, which made it relatively easy for us to manoeuvre out and appear in control.  However we were expecting westerly force 5-6 and as soon as we got out to sea we put two reefs in the main.  The wind steadily increased so we started with full genoa and staysail but by the afternoon they were heavily reefed as the wind increased, gusting F7 at times. 

This was not an ideal start, with Rachel turning an unpleasant shade of green.  Although catamarans sail more upright than monohulls, the swell and breaking waves still create a motion conducive to sea-sickness.  However, by the following morning we were struggling to make way in light winds and the motor was called for.  The winds continued to be light for two days as a ridge of high pressure followed us south.  We did manage to fly the gennaker for a while on our 3rd day at sea but we were worried about our lack of progress and the probability of getting caught by southerly winds.  And the longer we used the engine the more we worried about our diesel stocks.

On the 4th day the wind picked up as expected.  We were flying along in northerly force 4-5 - so much so that we were now worried about arriving in the dark.  We kept an extra reef in and by the following dawn were closing nicely on the Lanzarote coast, arriving at Puerto Calero Marina by mid-day.  We'd covered 590 miles in just over 5 days.

Time to brush up our Spanish.  Lanzarote landfall

Are we pleased with our first ocean passage in Mystic?  Definitely.  We're still going up the learning curve - not just the switch to a catamaran but simply learning about a new boat.  Having sailed on Lynn Rival for almost 30 years there is so much we took for granted.  We are having to learn new habits and forget old ones (including remembering the name of our boat when calling up on the VHF!).  And, it's not just a question of being unfamiliar with where things are - especially important at night - but also about the space.  The extra space is great, especially in the head and galley but when the seas are lumpy and the boat is bouncing around we both find the lack of handholds in the cockpit and saloon baffling.  Perhaps we're getting middle-aged?