||37 degrees 6.6 minutes North,
08 degrees 40.5 minutes West
The Coast of Portugal
We've been working our way down the coast
of Portugal for 4 weeks now. For the most part the weather has
been gorgeous. Except for a few days "bad" weather has
been limited to warm showers which are actually pretty refreshing.
The downside of such weather is that there has been very little
wind and we, as well as virtually all the boats we've met, have
motored pretty much the entire way.
Sister, Lynn spent 3 of those weeks with
us, joining us, September 5 in Bayonna, Spain and departing September
24 in Cascais, Portugal (near Lisboa).
We've "voyaged" from the north
down to Lisbon one-day at a time. It is incredibly, incredibly
GOOD to be in a warm climate. I haven't worn long pants or shoes
since August. The missing wind has started to reappear but we
are far enough south now that it is a good thing. It is refreshing
and, from radio reports, more and more boats are sailing rather
than motoring. Many say they've finally found the famous Portuguese
Along the way we had a few, too few, encounters
with dolphins. Everyone knows about dolphins; how smart they are,
how playful they are, how much fun they seem to have and how cool
it is too watch them but actually watching them for a while is
hard to describe. You sail or motor along at 6 knots constantly
scanning the sea for things that might get in your way. Your eye
is repeatedly distracted by movements of various sorts. The distraction
might be a bird, a whitecap, waves coming together but once in
a while it is the first sign of dolphins. You may only catch a
glimpse out of the corner of your eye but there's no question
about what it is. You focus on the spot where the splash was then,
since you know the dolphin won't come up again in the same spot,
you kind of zoom out so as to increase your field of view. Usually
she's up again within a minute or two and usually she's got company.
Before long dolphins surround the boat. They swim along side the
boat, they chase it from the stern and they, of course, lead us
along our way. They swim upright, on their sides and occasionally
upside down for a bit and of course they're smiling the whole
time and, frequently, whistling as well. That's right, they whistle
occasionally. They whistle in short chirps ... a sound that could
be made by a human. It's not eerie or weird in any since, it's
The dolphins appear to like two activities
more than any other. First, they love to lead the boat along through
the water. During a "visitation" there are constantly
4 to 6 dolphins swimming, slowly in the case of a sailboat, just
ahead of the bow. This is their favorite and they are constantly
vying for this position. As you watch them ... laying on your
belly on the foredeck is the preferred position ... they will
lead you for a while then one or two will do kind of a Blue Angel
move where they peel away from the others and dart off to one
side or the other. Virtually instantly two more are there to take
Second they love to charge the boat from
the side and shoot under her keel at the last moment. It is a
little unnerving. They look like torpedoes streaking through the
water at your midships ... imminent disaster. Even after deciding
that the boat is in no danger it seems that the dolphins are.
It is easy to imagine them misjudging the depth of your keel and
giving themselves a major headache or dorsal finectomy, or worse,
but it never happens. Time after time it looks like they're on
a suicide run and, they're going to swim right through the boat
but, as always, at the last possible second down and under the
boat they go ... they love it ... we love it.
Finally, inevitably, they leave. Departure
is, if anything, more sudden than arrival. Almost as if on key
the ones leading the boat take sudden 90 degree turns, right,
left or straight down, and they and the others are gone. I don't
know what makes them decide to leave. Whatever it is they're all
tuned into it 'cause they all leave within seconds. Then, it's
back to watching for obstacles. It occurs to me that if there
were ever an obstacle in our path during a time when we're watching
dolphins then we'd just hit it cause our total concentration is
on the dolphins.
For those that don't know, we're participating
in a sort of a group crossing of the Atlantic. The event is called
the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, the ARC. There are competitive
divisions but most of the 250 boats participating are not interested
in racing so they enter the less aggressive cruising divisions.
Participants, most of whom are European, only six from the US,
will meet in Las Palmas de la Gran Canaria in November for "pre-event
festivities" then, on the morning of Nov 21 we all head south
and west for the Caribbean. The first day will be chaos as 250
boats vie to cross the "starting line" simultaneously,
the second day we probably will see some other participants, but
by the third day it will be as if we were on our own. It is a
big ocean, after all.
Currently boats are headed for Las Palmas,
virtually all of them moving at a very leisurely pace, from all
over Europe. For a week or so now every morning boats on their
way to Las Palmas have been "meeting" electronically.
To do this boats tune their high frequency radios to a specific
frequency at a specific time and trade reports regarding position,
weather, sailing conditions and more important stuff like marina
costs and good restaurants along the way. The process is called
networking and this particular net is called, amazingly enough,
the ARC net.
This morning boats called from northern
and southern Portugal, Gibraltar, Madeira and the Canaries. The
information exchanged is indeed useful but the social interaction,
albeit remote, is even more important. By the time we get to Las
Palmas we will "know" several boats and crew and it
will be good to put some faces with the names.
Currently we're sitting in the marina in
Lagos on the south coast of Portugal. The Portuguese call this
region the Algarve. It is warm and sunny pretty much year round.
The marina is first class with facilities beyond the normal showers,
laundry etc. Here there are restaurants, a newsstand, other shops,
internet access and a couple of bars. The cool little town and
excellent restaurants are just a few hundred yards away. If I
were forced to stay somewhere in Portugal for the winter then
I think this would be it.
But we're not going to be forced to stay
in Portugal so tomorrow, or the next day, it's off to Madeira
and/or it's neighbor, Porto Santo. Madeira is 479 nautical miles
from here. When I plan a leg of the trip I assume that we'll average
a minimum of 5 knots and a maximum of 7 knots. Believe it or not
there is an incredible difference between going 5 knots and going
7 knots. For example, at 5 knots the trip to Madeira would take
us 96 hours, 4 days. At 7 knots the trip would take us 68 hours,
less than three days. More than a days difference in travel time
thanks to a little 2 knot difference in speed. For planning purposes
I'll assume that the trip will take us 80 hours. I'll let you
know how it turns out.