Of ships and seas

Ananda's blog
Keith and Stella Myerson
Wed 27 Oct 2010 10:05

37:06.76N 8:31.40W

Wednesday 27th October 2010

There it was, an upright, black cylindrical object, 2 miles off our port bow.  I passed the binoculars to Stella and went below to check the charts.  But there was no buoy listed for that position, and I knew our charts had all been recently updated.  I went up to take another look.

We were sailing southwards from Portinho de Arrabida, reputed to be one of Portugal’s most scenic anchorages in a nature reserve.  With its shallow approach, this bay had been rather tricky to enter but, safely inside, we enjoyed its tranquility along with one other (Swiss) yacht. 

Nice to see there are still some traditionalists cruising here in Bayona. Some bloke called Columbus, apparently…



Since leaving Bayona, our leisurely cruise had taken us down the Portuguese coastline in light northerly winds, allowing us to enjoy the wildlife.  Stella saw a turtle, and dolphins would come and visit us most days, playfully jumping in the yacht’s bow wave.  They appeared to be migrating northwards, sometimes in schools of 30 or more, in contrast to the gannets that were heading in the opposite direction.  The further south we travelled, the more we saw of these large and graceful birds, gathering in flocks on their annual migration southwards to Africa. 

Yesterday, we sailed around Cabo de Sao Vincente, scene of Nelson’s famous battle, when he disobeyed instructions and broke line to head off, and eventually defeat, the escaping Spanish fleet.  This huge and formidable headland marks the south western limit of Europe.  Here, the gannets appeared to pause, hovering over the gigantic cliffs before setting off on the final leg across hundreds of miles of ocean towards Morocco.  The more nervous ones would circle over our boat as she pitched in the swell off the headland, then fly back to the lighthouse as if for reassurance, before finally setting off.  Sadly, we saw one young adult that had died before completing the final stretch of his journey.

Cabo de Sao Vincente



The small back cylinder was still there, silhouetted against the misty coastline, and I raised my binoculars again.  What I saw was hard to believe.  It suddenly sloped to one side, and another larger blunt object appeared beside it – the bow of a submarine!  The vessel surfaced clumsily, its bow completely out of the water whilst its stern remained submerged.  Slowly it levelled out, and then motored slowly to the north.  Keeping its distance, it turned back on a parallel course, trailing Ananda for a while, before slowly submerging until only the conning tower– the object we had originally mistaken for a buoy - was visible.  Finally it submerged completely, disappearing into the depths.  Was it in trouble?  Or simply a novice helmsman learning the ropes…


The mystery submarine


Lisbon had been a cultural feast. We anchored at Cascais, a pretty fishing village that had been tastefully developed with pretty mosaic cobbled streets since our last visit only a year ago.  A 40 minute train ride took us to Lisbon, with its ornate Monastery de St Jerome, a Palace and numerous monuments to Portugal’s impressive historical explorations.

Monument to the discoveries, Lisbon



Off Sesimbra, a warship was conducting speed trials.  This was most impressive, particularly when he turned directly towards us – we got out of his way fast!  A helicopter launched from his stern and circled around us.  This was a little friendlier, and the two airmen standing at its open door waved at us.




The weather is becoming much warmer as we chase the sun southwards.  Once around the Cape, the Portuguese ports have a different character that is much more Mediterranean in feel, with tourism well catered for.  So from Portimao, it’s a chance to explore a little of the Algarve – an area we’ve always sailed by but never visited before.