Wednesday, 13 October 2010

A Strong Spirit

We departed A Coruna on October 11th under sunny skies, with a good 20 knots of wind off the starboard beam, followed by a single-handed yachtsman on his way to the Canaries to take part in the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers).  We made an excellent 7.5-8 knots of speed to round the first headland, by which time we had to change course further south to put us on a run/broad reach.  We set the preventer and continued uneventfully until dusk.

Our soloist friend
As dusk drew in, we took in the headsail and put another reef in the mainsail, after which we had a delicious chilli con-carne made by Rob.  We started our watches at 21h00 with a new system of 3 hour shifts, which have worked out well in giving us a better sleep cycle.  It was a beautiful clear night, with some heavy gusts from a north-easterly direction that took us up to around 8 knots in speed.  The clear conditions continued through the night, and as Rob and I were on watch again for the 06h00 to 09h00 shift, we saw a beautiful sunrise over the sea and the western Spanish coastline.

Watching the sun rise
As the morning of the 12th continued with very light winds (3 knots), we set the cruising chute to try and make the best speed possible.  Our following companion, the soloist, radioed to say that he was changing course towards Vigo, as he was tired and couldn't continue on to Porto without rest.  We wished him the best of luck - it takes great strength of spirit and deep reserves to do something like this on your own.  Soon afterwards, a pod of dolphins suddenly made their typically uplifting appearance, rolling and cutting through the water, challenging the boat to more speed.  I never tire of watching these beautiful, intelligent creatures in their wild environment.

More playful companions
Late in the afternoon, with the wind having died down to almost nothing, we decided to head further inshore to try and pick up a sea breeze, but after a few hours we realised that we'd need to continue through the night under motor.  So onwards we went, under an impossibly starry sky and sliver of moon towards Porto.  Sometime in the night, we crossed from Spanish into Portuguese waters.

About 4 hours outside Porto, as Rob and I started a second shift on this, our second night, we noticed that an acrid, sulphurous smell had started to fill the saloon of the boat, and I started to hunt down the source of the odour.  It turned out that the main engine battery was overcharging and overheating, giving off potentially dangerous hydrogen and sulphurous gas - a possible problem related to the new alternator repair.  So we cut the engine and tried to make the most of the faintest breath of air to get us further in towards Porto.

Eventually, as dawn arrived, we were able to restart the engine with the now cooled battery and motor into the very industrial Porto harbour, surrounded by incoming fishing boats with their catches and attendant flocks of seagulls.  Polluted waters and the stench of rotting fish filled our nostrils, but the yacht marina proved to have good facilities.

Fishing boats and their entourage
Apart from the battery problem, we'd had a relatively uneventful, though windless trip, and after mooring up and the official customs visit, we were able to walk up to the town and have a typically Portuguese meal of chicken, rice and potatoes, overlooking a sandy beach.  As we ate our meal I thought of our soloist friend, and wondered what challenges he might face further down the line.

Good luck to him and his vessel - may he have fair winds and sunny skies.


  1. Hope you had a chance to sample the local wine after battling the battery. ~Alan

  2. I'm starting to see why my hubby wants to do this... might just have to join him now! lol Go well, and may it stay uneventful! xxx

  3. So jealous of your adventure! You realise I'll be utilising your writing skills much more when you finally return to work! :)

  4. Howzit Spanner! Following your progress with interest. Watch for that whorenesting weather!!!Kelvin

  5. Hi There!!!

    I see you heading to Lagos :-) I am woundering how everthing is going and hope Vega A is in a perfect condition as well as you guys??


  6. See you have landed at Lagos at approx 6.30 Hope you had a good trip, it looked like you went likity split into Lagos after you rounded the western point of portugal looking forward to your update. Much love Dad n Val

  7. So far the journey looks great! We're following you from all the way down here... Big hugs!! Carlos, Shaun and Akash