On leaving Gibraltar we took time to visit some of the Andalusian coast. Having visited Cadiz last year, we headed this time for the area around Tarifa. This area of Spain is famous for its wind swept beaches and therefore attracts lots of wind and kite surfers. We stayed two nights at anchor at the beach of Bologna. The beach there has an enormous sand dune and is backed by lush green forests. The boys have been rating beaches out of ten as we travel and this one definitely deserved a nine and half. With Africa as a backdrop we once again marvelled at how far we had travelled. We also visited the beautiful Andalusian town of Rota. It is an historic, friendly town with a long sweeping promenade; it was our kind of place. Having heard about a chameleon habitat along the beach, we spent a hot and sweaty day searching for them but to no avail! The summer heat was pretty stifling and we were glad to get back to the shade of the boat.
Although we would have loved to cruise around more in this area (there is so much to see), our main priority in this part of the trip was to get up the Portuguese coast early in the season before entrenched northerly winds set in. So from Rota, we undertook a 36 hour passage through the gulf of Cadiz along the south coast of Spain and Portugal to arrive in Portimao in the Algarve. This was a beautiful sail downwind with the spinnaker. It was good to be on the water in such glorious conditions.
On passing Cadiz however we were approached by a motorboat with two guys onboard. Although they had no appearance of a military outfit they asked us to sail further offshore as there were carrying out military practice. We were unsure of their legitimacy, as there had been no radio warnings, but we reluctantly took heed and headed offshore. True to their word 30 minutes later thundering shots could be heard and explosions seen on the water, very near to our position. After the initial shock, we eventually saw the funny side of things; but it had been a little too close for comfort!
Weather checking was however our main preoccupation in this period, looking for the right window to turn the corner of Portugal. Although there are weeks that go by without the conditions that we needed, sooner or later, weather windows do appear. From Portimao we hopped to Cabo San Vincente (the south western corner of Portugal) and dropped the anchor for the night. At 5am on June 27th we sailed out of the bay, dodging fishing pots and started our trip up the long Portuguese coast. It was going to be full on and busy, a 350 nautical miles (650 km) coastline.
From Cabo San Vincente we hopped in short succession to the following places: Sines, Sesimbra, Cascais, Nazaré, Figures da Foz, Leixoes (Porto) and finally Baiona in Galicia. We were very pleasantly surprised by the beauty of some of these towns. Nazaré was a firm favourite. Home to big wave surfing, this lovely town boasts beautiful beaches and stunning Atlantic scenery. We visited the surfing museum there and marvelled at the videos of the enormous waves which arrive there with the winter storms. The geography of the seabed in the area is very unique with a deep water canyon which end very close to the shore. At this point, sea waters collide to form up to 30 metre waves. This really is an extreme sport; the boys in our house are pretty enthralled by it. In order to best understand the spirit of the place, Patrick and Sean took some surf lessons which they really enjoyed; an unforgettable memory for us all of an iconic place.
Nazaré aside, in this period of our trip we were in pure passage making mode – sailing/ motoring each day and often stopping in the afternoon as northerly winds set in – hence the lack of photos of some of the places. Sea states were not always great but we pushed on through. This coast line is full of small fishing craft and fishing pots. It means that we had to be constantly on watch; not wanting to get lines caught in our propeller. There were moments of cabin fever; a feeling that we were trying to do too much, but somehow we kept it together. We have learned over time that our family prefers undertaking longer passages, rather than numerous hops. When passage making, it often takes at least 24 hours to settle into a rhythm. Breaking passages into short hops, as we had to do in Portugal, is tiring but in this case it was our only choice.
Seasickness affects Nora most, but her tolerance to dodgy sea states has vastly increased over the year. Whenever we know that the sea state may be rough, she takes a low dose of seasickness pills. Although they make people very drowsy, there is no comparison to being unwell underway. As for the other crew members, Filippo and Sean have stomachs of steel. Patrick gets queasy every now and again (mostly when reading down below) but has been sick only a few times all year. We are careful of what we eat when passage making, with rich foods, alcohol and soft drinks off the menu. We have learned the hard way.
And so, on July the 8th a tired but elated Tabasco crew arrived in the bay of Vigo in Spain and the relative shelter of the rias of Galicia. We had done it. We had made it up the coast quickly; our weather watching and careful planning had paid off. We were thrilled to arrive back in beautiful Galicia. We could now rest up, with one of the most difficult passages home now firmly in our back pocket. We have never been prouder of our small family and our commitment to achieving a goal.