Having offloaded Maree back in Figueira da Foz to fly back to the UK for the “Shengen Shuffle” and dropped William in Lisbon it was solo time on Red Roo.
The plan being to get quickly down and around the Portuguese coast and back into Spain where Maree would rejoin as Aussies can have an additional 90 days in Spain over the 90 day Schengen limit. I was also on the lookout for but some surf to drag out my surf board. (Portugal being famous for it’s waves on the Atlantic Coast). Unfortunately there was a lack of swell on the passage south so the board stayed in its bag. John and Kara on Sentijn travelling a week behind and having a more leisurely cruise were able to get a few waves, and a few weeks later the 2018 Rip Curl Pro World Surf League competition was held at Peniche on the Portuguese coast (just above Lisbon), a place where Red Roo had anchored on the journey down.
Sailing solo on Red Roo is pretty straight forward as she has been set up for it by Didier, her previous owner who sailed her solo from Europe to the Caribbean and back – a fantastic accomplishment. With daylight only passages along the coast and anchoring in safe harbours or bays the solo sailing was enjoyable. (No fatigue issues like when night sailing or multi day sailing and no stress of having to enter and depart Marinas by ones self).
I spent two extra days in Lisbon, seeing more of the sights and waiting on westerly winds to abate. Once out of Lisbon I anchored again off the lovely town of Cascais waiting for some wind with a northerly component to head south. On one of the days in Cascais I had taken the dinghy to shore and while at the supermarket somebody stole my outboard fuel tank. Very disappointing, but a lot better than having had the outboard motor taken or indeed the whole dinghy stolen. I reported the theft to the maritime police but there little they could do. Fortunately I had bought a case of beer which I was able to use as a seat to row the dingy back to the boat.
While in Cascais I took a bus trip inland to the historical town of Sintra. Catching the early bus and pre purchasing entry tickets at the Sintra train station which meant beating the large tourist crowd queued at the Pena Palace. I then enjoyed a lovely walk up the big hill through the gardens and bush and was admitted straight into the palace before the days rush.
Sintra was a longtime royal sanctuary. Apart from the old town itself the forested terrain is studded with pastel coloured villas and palaces and lovely gardens. The main sights are the National Palace in town, the hilltop Castle of the Moors and the hilltop Pena National Palace and Gardens.
Also while in Cascais I took the opportunity in the warm water to scrape some of the barnacles off Red Roo’s undersides to help her move through the water better.
After four days in Cascais I sailed south the 26nm to Sesimbra and anchored off the lovely beach for the night then the following day sailed 34nm to Sines where I dropped anchor off the beach in the inner harbour. I spent 2 nights in Sines which has an outer industrial port and an inner port accomodating an active fishing fleet, small marina and sandy beachfront. Walking around the town I had the feel that its best days have passed. Sines one claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of the famous Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama who in the year 1498 was the first European to reach India by sea. His discovery of the sea route around the south of Africa to India enabled Portugal unopposed access to the Indian Spice routes for several decades.
While I was rowing back from shore in Sines one of the row locks came unglued from the dinghy and sank to the bottom where in 5 metres of murky water it was lost. With a second person in the dingy it is easy to take an oar each and paddle like a canoe but with only the one person and only one row lock I was rowing around in circles! The dingy without a fuel tank and with only one rowlock became unusable.
The next leg was 61nm south from Sines to Sagres. This passage was variable with light winds early, motor sailing then sailing in good winds from behind the beam which slowly built to a maximum of 25kts before dropping almost to zero which meant more motor sailing.
The last part of this passage took me around Cape St Vincent, the south western most point of Portugal and mainland Europe. I was now pointing eastward towards the Mediterranean!
What was pleasant about rounding Cape St Vincent was the noticeable change in sea conditions. The rolly, sometimes uncomfortable northwest swell that is feature of the west coast of Portugal was replaced by the calmer seas of the south coast – The Algarve as they call it.
Just a few miles to the east of the Cape I anchored for the night in the Bay at Sagres, just off the lovely sandy beach. I moved 16nm the following day to anchor for one night off the beach at Lagos which is a large resort town and river port with boat yards, fishing harbour and marina. The following day I motored 7nm to Portimao another resort town with similar facilities to Lagos but having a nice safe anchorage inside the river breakwater that has a nice beach and is very popular with cruising boats.
I spent 5 days on anchor in Portimao where without use of the dingy (no outboard fuel tank, no rowlock) I swam to shore each day towing my shoes, clothes, money etc in a waterproof drybag. I was glad the water was warm. During this time I was able to order a new fuel tank for the dingy and inspect the boat yard with view to hauling Red Roo out for a long overdue bottom scrub and antifoul. Four days later I had my new fuel tank and the seller was kind enough to give me couple of litres of fuel and even had his yardman ferry me back to Red Roo which saved me a 4km walk and a 250 metre swim.
After inspecting the boat yard here the idea of hauling out for some long awaited care and maintenance was now seriously coming into play. For the last two years this has been on our minds but due to the area’s we had been sailing we hadn’t stopped for any length of time until winter. The winters in Ipswich UK were great but cool and wet, at times snowy without any real chance of getting a couple of weeks of stable warm and dry conditions that we needed for bottom maintenance and antifouling of Red Roo.
Moving east 36nm I entered the large estuary of Ria Formosa and anchored amongst the many boats off the island of Culatra. Inside the estuary are the two towns of Faro and Olhao. One reason for stopping in this area was to catch up with friends Reg and Joan. We met Reg when visiting Padstow in Red Roo in 2016. Reg is a long time friend of my cousins Wendy and Michael. Reg and Joan have lived near Olhao for many years. I arranged to met Reg in Olhao and he showed me around the town and also the bus station where I took a short bus ride to Faro where I inspected the next boat yard which is known as Bruce’s.
After inspecting both the Portimao and Faro boatyards, getting prices, talking to other boat owners and getting a general ‘feel’ for the yard I decided to haul Red Roo out of the water in Faro.
After 204 nautical miles solo, split into 7 passages Red Roo motored into the slip at Faro boatyard where she was lifted out of the water with weed growing along her waterline and her bum covered with thousands of hitchhikers (little barnacles). There was certainly lots of work to be done.