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Portugal, Madeira

October 18, 2003     Latitude: 33°03' N     Longitude: 016°18'
Wind: W @ 16 knots     Temp: 80F     Skies: Clear and Sunny
  (Yesterday: Monsoon-Like Rains)

Since our last report, we slowed our pace dramatically and spent seven weeks exploring the entire coast of Portugal. And now we have just completed the 478 mile passage from Vilamoura, Portugal to the island of Porto Santo, which lies about 30 nautical miles to the northeast of Madeira. This marks the end of our sailing in continental Europe and the beginning of our journey across the Atlantic Ocean. Africa is now the nearest continent.

Stormy Night:
I suppose that no log would be complete without sharing some of our more humorous trials and tribulations? So this time we'll tell you about the stormy night...Lest you think this is life is glamorous...

The only real storm we encountered was fortunately not at sea, but while in a marina about five miles north of Porto. We spent most of a day trying to keep the boat secure in the 25-35 knot winds that lashed us for about 30 hours. Unfortunately, our boat "slip" had only one finger pontoon (skinny dock) and it was only about 40% as long as the boat. To make matters more challenging, the wind was coming from our boat's starboard beam (side), forcing us sideways on to the sharp metal corner of the little finger pontoon on the portside. We had, literally, 8 lines out in two and a half directions (our only options), five of six fenders concentrated on the potential "puncture" point and the whole boat was listing about 15 degrees with the heavy gusts.

Of course, the really bad weather began in the dark of night. Scott dutifully went on deck to check things out... in his shorts and a light coat. After about 90 seconds he was soaked to his skin with the 35 MPH rain pelting his bare legs and face. The crowning blow was that this is an industrial harbor that has not one, but TWO raw sewage pipes dumping a voluminous and steady stream of "effluent" AND it was low tide.

Scott eventually called me up to help. I was securing a line to the dock, with my face about 12 inches from the water, when, in the dull morning light, a big Portuguese you-know-what floated right under my nose. The stuff was everywhere! We could have taken a picture so you could fully appreciate the scene, but instead I scrambled back inside as soon as possible, scrubbed every inch of my skin, and went back to bed until high tide and most of the "shtuff" had been carried out to sea. Scott kindly took care of the lines until then.

The West Coast of Portugal:
The western coast was quite pleasant, dotted with small harbors and a few picturesque towns -- our favorites were Porto, Lisbon, Sintra, and the sights around Nazare. Sightseeing highlights included a visit to the Monastery of Batalha (a magnificent display of Portuguese and Manueline art and architecture); Port tasting at the wine lodges in Porto, and a trip to a Portuguese Bullfight (they don't kill the Bull, which makes it a little less gruesome - but we're convinced that the bull is drugged, and they do proceed with a slow torture -I don't need to see another one!).

The sailing conditions along the Atlantic coast intensified a bit, as the ocean can generate quite a swell by the time it reaches Portugal, and there is an afternoon sea breeze that frequently pipes up to 30+ knots.

Barco Rebelo The town of Porto, with a "Barco Rebelo" in the foreground. As recently as 25 yrs ago, these boats would transport the wines from the vineyards of the Upper Douro River to the lodges in Porto, where they would be made into Port. This was a dangerous 90-mile trip along a very turbulent river. We learned that they would leave plenty of air in the barrels so they would still float if the boat capsized. (Scott imagines that working on one of these is the only thing that would have enticed Wolfson to be a sailor).

For those of you following our culinary exploits, we found the tastiest dish in Portugal to be "Sardinhas Assadas" or Grilled Sardines. They are caught daily, prepared by brushing the fish with olive oil and salt, and then cooked over small charcoal fires. There are usually six whole sardines to a serving (it is a do-it-yourself gut and filet job), served with onions, green peppers and potatoes. Yummm! (There are no olfactory or taste similarities to the canned variety you find at home). Grilled Sardines

April Bridge Look familiar?
This is the 25th of April Bridge in Lisbon. It made us long for the Golden Gate!

Dinner At Asquina Nazare A huge benefit of our slower pace is that we had time to make new friends. Here we are out to dinner in Nazare with Italian friends Cynzia and Ricardo (both math PhDs so we let them divvy up the check), and fellow cruisers Craig and Linda from "Mona Lisa", a red 60 foot custom aluminum sloop.

Near Lisbon, we met-up with good friends from home. My San Francisco roommate, Kim Dempsey, and her fiancé, Gunther, met us for a great day of catching up and sightseeing in Sintra. Kim and Nancy

Southern Portugal: the Algarve
On September 19th, we rounded the southwest extremity of mainland Europe. - El Cabo de Sao Vicente - and began our sail along Portugal's southern coast, also known as the Algarve. Here we had our first "boat-guest" from home. Julie Smith took a break from here stint with the Germans to meet us for a fun and relaxing long weekend at the start of October. As for the sights, rounding El Cabo was spectacular, and the caves along the coastline are a sight to see. However, we don't rank the Algarve very high as a sailing destination -- the authenticity of the Portuguese culture is missing on the coastline, which has been overdeveloped and transformed into a second home and vacation destination for the British (plenty of satellite soccer and bitter).

El Cabo Sao Vicente
El Cabo Sao Vicente
A great visit with Julie
A Great Visit with Julie

Passage to Madeira:
On October 13th at 10:30AM, we began the near 500 mile passage from Vilamoura, Portugal to the island of Porto Santo near Madeira. The weather was sunny and clear for almost the whole passage. I had never imagined the ocean could look so calm! Initially, the light winds meant we put some miles on the engine during the first half of the trip. But the winds picked up on the last day, and we had a good sail into Porto Santo. Again dolphins greeted us three or four times a day and swam and played on the bow wake for as long as half an hour. The beautiful creatures never fail to put everyone on board in happy mood. We also enjoyed bright star-lit skies and one night with phosphorescent waves. We arrived at late night into the strange harbor, tired, but using the night vision binoculars and proceeding very slowly we successfully negotiated the breakwaters, found a spot in the marina and were tied by 1:30 AM on October 16th. We logged 478 miles.

We had aboard three new crew members. Christian Ungar is a recently laid off Danish SAS co-pilot (MD-80s) whom Scott met briefly in Sweden some four months ago. He turned out to be a great crew member (sjh: typical pilot attribute...), despite not having done much open-ocean sailing, and he was incredibly polite and conscientious (sjh: seemingly a typical Scandinavian attribute - can't be a pilot thing). Also joining us was David Howat, an experienced sailor with a half dozen Fastnets under his belt. David was a pleasure to have onboard, and we are looking forward to seeing him again for the Atlantic crossing in November.

Crew Dave and Christian
Crew Dave and Christian

So What's Next?
Well, now that we've made it 3314 miles from Finland to Madeira, it looks like we really are on our way across the Atlantic! We'll sail to Madeira tomorrow, where we will spend a week or so. From there, we head south to the Canary Islands. We are scheduled to depart Las Palmas, Grand Canaria, on November 23rd, with the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) - Next stop, St. Lucia, 2,746 miles non-stop! Yikes!

That's all for now. We miss you!
Nancy & Scott
s/v Apsara

See the photo gallery pages related to this message: Portugal, More Portugal, and Madeira.

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