Dolphins, dolphins everywhere!

The last few days I’ve been day skipping, moving during day, finding somewhere to anchor, sleep. Repeat.

As I left Porto I was eager to get out sailing again, the weather haven’t been as cooperative though. The wind has been almost near non-existing and the swell coming from northwest has made the traveling frustrating. The reason is that it constantly rocks the boat and in combination with low wind the sails tend to invert and then – wham! – go back again. I rigged a preventer to alleviate the boom coming over to the wrong side, and thus avoiding a unprepared gybe. But the flogging of the sail is painful to listen to as I know it risks shortening their lives.

It is always hard to get everything right, especially when the ocean with its waves and swell is throwing the boat around like a cork. But it sometimes gives you plenty rewards back! Through out the entire sail, there was dolphins coming and going, swimming around and under the boat! Such magnificent creatures. And they are quite fast too, I was motoring the last bit – due to the flogging of the sails and the ever diminishing speed that wouldn’t let me get to my anchorage before nightfall – and they kept the pace at seven knots without a problem. All in all, it was a good sail and my immediate thirst for sailing was quenched.

The anchorage in Aviero was really nice! It wasn’t protected from the wind, but it was deep into the river entrance behind some breakwaters, and since it wasn’t much wind it was perfectly flat. As I entered the anchorage it was a bit crowded, mainly because a large carcass of a trimaran. It looked as it had a rather hard crash, no mast, pieces missing and long scratches on the sides. Trimarans are fast, even when things go wrong. After a pair of lapses around it I settled for a point to drop my anchor. It was about 6 meters deep and it was high tide, so there wasn’t any need for letting out an immense amount of chain. Later two more boats joined and now the anchorage was full, for sure. Time to make dinner and then prepare the boat to leave in the morning before going to bed.

As I woke up and looked outside it seemed as there was a thick fog and that is never a good sign for someone wanting to go sailing. I checked the weather and, yeah, it wouldn’t be any wind to speak of today. Aviero is indeed a nice anchorage, but not that nice so I want to spend another day there. I saw that yesterdays late arrivals were already off, so I had my breakfast and hoisted anchor.

On my way out of the safe harbor I met all the latecomers on their way back in again. One of them shouted “thick fog”. I agreed and continued. Compared to the fog as I arrived to Fisterre this one was not that thick. I mean, then it was hard to see the lighthouses, in the middle of the night. Anyway, the fog meant no wind, but as per usual the fog should lift around noon. At least it was my experience from Porto. Well, no. It was fog all day, and I was running my engine all day as well. My goal was to get to Figueira da Foz, only 30nm away, and I was doing about seven knots, so within five hours I would be at my next anchor.

As I rounded the cape of Figueira da Foz, the fogs grasp of my reality finally loosened. In front of me was a reasonably large town, in my mind I had envisioned something smaller so I was a bit surprised. They even had their own Paris wheel! My plan was to go upriver and anchor after a large bridge, as the charts didn’t say it was prohibited there, in contrast to the rest of the river entrance.

Since it was rather early in the day it was time to get working. The engines fuel- and oil-filter change was long overdue and now was the time, finally. The fuel filters was first, there are two of them. The housing of the pre-filter has a glass portion so that you easily can see the fuel going in. It looked clean, but there was some nasty gunk in the bottom of the housing. It smelled nasty! The procedure was very straight forward, I replaced all the o-rings and put it all together again. The other fuel-filter was merely a screw-on and with a little persuasion with a tool it came off with no issues. I primed the fuel system and started the engine. I was expecting it to take a few tries before it got fuel, but it started right up. What a pleasant surprise.

Next up was to pump out all the oil before removing the filter. I have a small pump for that and it took some time to evacuate it all, but a little more than seven liters was what I got out of it. Considering that the manual states that there should be ten and a half liter in the engine it was a bit on the low side. But then again, it isn’t possible to get it all out this way. The oil-filter came off easily, and it made a small mess even if I tried to catch all of it and its oil in a plastic bag. Why put an oil-filter in a sideways position? It is doomed to make a mess… Poured the new oil in, all in all almost eight liters before I was satisfied. Time to start her up! And, wow, she sounded so much better! Not at all as rackety as I have gotten used to. Even low revs was much better! I should have done this ages ago!

As I was finishing up, I heard someone shouting outside “Excuse me, sir! Hello!”. I popped my head out of the hatch and there was two policemen in a boat outside. They asked of my intentions and I said I was going to have some food, some sleep and then sail away. They thwarted that plan. I had to stay in the marina or leave. They even suggested that I might sneak in and out of the marina without paying. Maybe the guard wouldn’t notice. Funny guys. To the marina then… and, yes, the guard did see me. At least I managed to eat before he arrived. There was a real confusion when the paperwork was being done, since boats under 15m doesn’t have to be registered in Sweden. But after a while, many phone calls and discussions I was welcome to stay for a night. It only cost me €38. Oh, yes, docking… I haven’t done that on my own before. It was tricky, but i managed to get Away docked eventually.

The next day the air was filled once again with fog, but I had to go. I am eager to get to Almerimar, get Away out of the water and take a good look at the keel and what state it is in so that it can be repaired. And to be honest, I don’t want to be stuck in a marina, paying just to wait out a fog.

As I headed out I chose to go out to sea a bit, and after some time I could hoist the sails and turn off the engine as there was a weak, but strong enough breeze to keep the sails ahead of the boat. The swell was still there, but this was a nice relief from running the motor. After a while, some dolphins joined me and used the boat as a platform for hunting fish. It was quite interesting to see them hunt, they broke off from the boat, dove deeper and then jumped up over the surface to dive down on their prey. They seemed reasonably successful at it as well as I could see a dolphin now and then with a fish in its mouth. After a half-hour or so they disappeared just as fast as they appeared.

Little by little the wind also disappeared, leaving me with the dreaded flogging of the sails. It eventually got too frequent and no matter how I tried to adjust for the swells and wind it didn’t stop. So I checked the chart and saw that I had two possible anchorages within reach. The closest one was at the town Megadeath… no… Nasareth, about 17nm straight to the east with the swell, or Peniche 25nm south along with the swell. I opted for the first, mainly because it meant I would avoid having a boat rocking all the time and that it was closer. I later found out that this was a major mistake. Motoring towards what I was hoping for a safe anchorage I realized that the swell was about a meter and a half, with the ever so often two meter swell now and then. It was getting late though, and I was committed. Nazareth it was. As I approached land it was already dark, but the town with all its lights was hard to miss. I eventually found the blinking red beacon marking the tip of the land tounge that would be my shelter for the night and set course for it.

As I arrived I saw that the swell was going all the way to the shore, and more so, I also saw that the “sheltered spot” I was hoping for wasn’t that sheltered, but more importantly there was a floating swim platform just where I wanted to stay the night. There was also buoys and other things in the water, so I had to find another spot to anchor. The problem was that the rest of the area was quite deep, between 15 and 25 meters, unless I got really close to the shore, something I wasn’t too keen on going. But I moved a bit to the south where there was about 12 meters deep and tried to set my anchor. But as I was doing that the boat had moved, and apparently I had managed to set the anchor in a deep corridor, about 25 meters deep. At this point I was really tired and I just wanted to go to bed, so I thought that if the anchor for any reason lost its grip there would be plenty to re-set in around it. But I did let out quite a lot of chain, as an extra precaution. But having swell coming in and the boat turns its side to it means but one thing: welcome to tumbler-land. If it only was the “normal” swell it might have worked, but as I have mentioned earlier the swell has some super-wave every now and then, probably multiple frequencies of swell that is merging, and they wrought havoc in the boat. It is honestly the first time I have heard the china shifting in the cupboards. Things were rolling, moving, falling everywhere. I tried to sleep anyway. These super-swells rolled the boat so hard I had a hard time lying still in bed. The normal swell may have rocked the boat 10-15 degrees either way, but the super-swell doubled that. So it was 20-30 degrees, side to side, every three minutes or so. It was impossible to sleep. I would only be more tired in the morning if I tried to sleep in this madness.

I could only make one decision – time to leave for the other anchorage. It was more sheltered and with some luck I could have some hours sleep before it was time to move on once again. Time to start the engine. At three in the morning I arrived, madly tired. Another boat was already anchored there, so I took that as a good sign that it would be fine to anchor there. The swell was nowhere close to the previous spot. I fell asleep standing, I can’t remember going to bed.

I woke up at nine in the morning, felt like I could continue my journey after my breakfast. The wind or the swell hadn’t changed over the night though.

All this motoring was getting to me, it is really frustrating to have at least some wind that is kind of sailable, it was around seven knots so it wasn’t any amazing wind really, and at the same time have old sea tossing around the boat, making it impossible to sail in a direction I wanted. The two possible directions was either straight out to sea into the swell, or onto shore with the swell. Neither was attractive to me, so motoring it was.

The target for todays motoring was to get to Lisbon. It was definitely within distance, so I was eager to get going. My plan was to stay in a marina in Lisbon for three nights so that I could get some relaxation while stocking up on food once again, since it was running low. I noticed a pair of sailboats on the horizon as I got out to sea to try to find some wind. One was going in the same direction I was, the other was going the other direction. On AIS I could see that it was called Goose, and it was running at pretty much the same speed I was. It was hard to see, but it seemed as if they were motoring as well, so I decided not to go any further out since it didn’t seem to be any better winds out there. The swell was obviously as present as where I was.

Motoring for hours makes you numb to the wind changes. As we, Goose was just a hundred meters from me at the moment, closed in on the first cape marking out the peninsula where Lisbon is, they started fiddling with their winches an sheets. They were about to set sail! I checked the wind, and yes, it was about twelve knots! So they set sail, and inched away from me. Should I? I mean, it wasn’t that far to Lisbon now, was it? I checked Navionics. Well, it was more than two hours to get to the marina. And it would be a welcomed pause from the sounds of the engine. Alright then, I can at least set the head sail. The wind increased to fifteen knots, I was flying forward, doing about eight knots! Such a relief to my ears… Goose still managed to outrun me, I blame having a jib, they most likely had a larger sail. Must have been that. I pass the last point, turns the bow towards the river entrance and just enjoys sailing again. Until the wind once again dies down. After many hours motoring and so close to the goal I surrender, roll in the head sail and starts the engine once again. I was expecting a narrow but busy river, but as I approached it was quite wide and the traffic was not that bad. Mostly sailboats, and me. Motoring. Ah, crap… So, I rolled out the head sail again, since the wind once again had picked up.

And so, I sailed all the way to the marina. But that is a different story and I will cover it in a different post.

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