Mon 22 Jun 2009 17:08
We are close-reaching in bright sunshine and 32 knots of breeze, with five
miles to run to Marina Lagos. This will be our final destination in the
Portugal Rally and our Nauticat 42 'Volare' is bounding along with an easy
motion at 8.5 knots, shouldering aside the foaming blue water. The yacht
feels alive and it’s exhilarating. The land is sliding by at a good rate
and we can see sandstone cliffs and grottoes lining the coast, blasted for
centuries by wind and waves into remarkably life-like shapes.

Two hours behind us is Cape St Vincent, a rocky promontory jutting out of
south west Portugal, which is marked by a lonely lighthouse. This is where
the long Atlantic coast of Portugal comes to an end and where we turned
Volare east towards Gibraltar and the blue water of the Mediterranean. It
feels great to be finally pointing (roughly) at our destination. In bad
weather, Cape St Vincent has a fearsome reputation but today there was
time to enjoy the spectacular rocky coastline as we sailed by.

In the two hours since we passed the cape, the wind has been increasing
steadily. We round the final headland well reefed and head north,
straight into 30 knots of breeze. We can see the marina entrance quite
clearly but that’s exactly where the wind is coming from, so we start
beating towards it. But it has been a long day and this very quickly
ceases to be amusing, so we furl in the sails and motor the rest of the
way to the breakwater, past sheltered beaches flanking the narrow
entrance, packed with holidaymakers soaking up the sun. One is called
Potato Beach, because of the tuber-like rocks scattered about on the

After checking in at the office, we motor under a lifting footbridge to
get into the marina, which is big and looks well organised. There are
shops, bars and restaurants all around, and the tourists are strolling in
the sunshine and looking at the yachts. Now for the final (and very
public) manoeuvre into the dock in the crosswind: not too disgraceful and
lots of help anyway from fellow rally crewmembers.

With Volare safely tied up, it was time to follow the usual arrival ritual
and enjoy a nice cold beer in the cockpit. With the Rally Portugal now
ended, it was also time to look back over the last three weeks. We had all
come a long way from Plymouth (exactly 1003 miles in fact) crossed the
scary Bay of Biscay, made new friends and learnt a bit more about sailing.
It felt like a real achievement and ahead of us lies the Med and all its
charms…can’t wait!