Two Crew on Svalen write about the sail from Falmouth to Lisbon

Our 15 days with John -the highs and lows as told by Gill and mostly shared with David

We left Falmouth on Thursdayin the grey but it soon gave way to sun and great winds.


Leaving Falmouth: Photo by Gill

The 4 day 3 night sail from Falmouth to Muros, Galicia could only get better as our bodies became accustomed to the fickle waves.

Everything below deck was challenging while heeled to port on a beam reach, often making 8 or 9 knots but with the swell on the beam tossing the ship and us every which way.

Sleeping in the forepeak was like being bombarded by tennis balls (as if inside an MRI scanner) while riding on a roller coaster.


The Parasailor in action in the Bay of Biscay: Photo, Gill

I gave in on Fridayand took some Cinnarizine –regretted this as rendered me unable to keep my eyes open for the next 24hrs.

Morale was much improved by sighting whales and dolphins, eating John’s delicious fish chowder and, on Sundayafternoon, seeing the hazy outline of the Galician Coast and as we got closer a heavenly scent wafted from the land. (I’d read about sailors smelling land before and didn’t believe it). We hurriedly washed and repaired the Spanish courtesy flag.

Muros marina did not disappoint.  Pedro the marina manager was every bit as friendly as the pilot book promised, giving us a warm welcome on our arrival at around 8:30pm. (He even helped me do our laundry on Monday). It was wonderful to enjoy a lovely Gundry ginger salmon dinner (with G&Ts and wine!) in the cockpit with everything staying where we put it. The warm shower around midnight was a real treat.

Two photos from Gill are our first real view of Galicia after crossing from Falmouth, and sunset as we approached Muros, our first harbour in Galicia.


On Mondaymorning we visited the Church of San Pedro, with its lovely vaulted wooden roof resembling the keel of an upturned boat, and climbed the tower for panoramic views. We enjoyed an exceedingly hot walk through the sweet smelling pine and eucalyptus woods toward the sandy beach at San Francisco. To our surprise there were few people swimming but our surprise was quickly dispelled as we felt the cold, cold Atlantic sea. Cornish waters are much warmer!

John chose a superb restaurant for our evening meal in Muros – calamari, pimiento peppers, clams and turbot to die for.


The harbour at Muros: Photo by Gill



Today we had a lovely sunny sail to Baiona although the wind became very light. There were dolphins frolicking with the bow on and off all day. We enjoyed a moonlight stroll within the castle (now a parador) grounds viewing the bay and city lights from the ramparts.


Lights of Baiona from the Ramparts: Photo by Gill.


David Gundry sadly left us this morning and we sailed off in a fresh breeze into the sunshine, which rapidly changed to fog. We could have done with more philosophical conversations with DG today. Only the Ghost Ship (Polarix) and fishing float spotting to relieve the monotony. The fog was still with us when we arrived at our first Portuguese port of Viana do Castelo, where we waited some time before the marina staff opened the footbridge to allow us inside.


The ghost ship Polaris in the mist: Photo by Gill


It was still foggy at breakfast but this lifted as we explored the interesting old town with its many old and attractive buildings. We saw the famous Portuguese blue and white tiles – Azulejo – in one of the churches, topped off with baroque and gothic gilt work and paintings –a strange mixture. Coffee and pastel de nata (custard tarts) in a bustling pastry shop then buying bread, fruit and veggies in a tiny little shop before returning to Svalen. Persistent fog for our sail to Leixoes , some excitement when the outhaul snapped and needed replacement, no dolphins, no berth for us at the industrial looking marina. Rafting up next to the helpful owners of Polarix we recognised our “ghost ship” of Wednesday. The friendly couple were from Brazil.


We 3 had a great day out in Porto on public transport and foot. Terraces of tiled houses with terracotta roofs and traditional boats laden with port barrels. It was worth the scenic walk along the South side of the Douro to arrive at Taberna Sao Pedro (Pedro features rather often in Iberia) just minutes before closing. The grilled sardines and Douro wine were heavenly and the wacky washing lines alluring for photographers. The marina looked more tempting than Leixoes but would have deprived us of 2 bus rides and a peek into the fantastic covered market in Matosinhos on our way back to the boat.


The marina in Porto, the restaurant where we had great sardines, and the traditional port boats on the Douro river, Porto. Photos by Gill.


A sunny departure and Northerly wind but big sea and lolloping about.

David and John spent best part of an hour raising the parasail while I watched from the safety of the helm as they pitched and rolled on the foredeck. I ran through the man overboard drill in my mind and when the sail was finally flying we 3 talked about how we would manage to stop the boat with the parasail up in the event of MOB. Decided the only safe thing was to give it a try but alas we never got chance as the sail was ripped by a mighty gust. Made do with Genoa alone for remainder of the day and rued our loss as Polarix overtook us reaching Figuera da Foz marina well ahead.


Another amazing covered market in Figueira Da Foz. Many small stalls all selling wonderfully fresh salads, vegetables, fruit, eggs, fish and flowers. Bread, meat, clothing, hardware and toys in the more permanent units round the outside. Our purchases of lettuces, pears, oranges, peppers, bread and bananas cost less than 5 Euros in total.


The great covered market, Figuera da Foz. One of many modern clean public markets in the Iberian peninsula. Photo by Gill.

Sunshine and good wind for a fast broad reach all day. David and John amused themselves playing with the wind vane self steering –all fine and then every so often a big gust would blow us way off course and more fiddling would be required. We saw a large pod of dolphins with one or possibly two babies – one of them determinedly swimming away from the rest like a mischievous child.

We arrived at the impressive cliffs of Peniche having sailed across the extra deep cleave in the seabed off Nazare without signs of any change in the sea other than the depth sounder reading. After another very long day aboard we all agreed to eat ashore. Grilled fish and potatoes –standard Portuguese fare.


The fog is back! David and I deliberate about whether to go to the Berlenga Islands or catch a bus to Obidos (reckoned to be Portugal’s prettiest town). The Islands won. We explored the Peniche first finding an ATM and tiny shop, run by a very friendly elderly couple, that provided a simple picnic including some delectable green figs. At least 5 different companies sell tickets from their kiosks on the quay and randomly choosing one of them we got a place on a small ferry with 2 Portuguese families and a young couple. The inevitable happened as the rolling sea got steeper and hilarity gave way to quiet then handing out of black plastic bags to the greener passengers.

Our initial impression of the island was of barren landscape and guano smell. Then the rain started and we began to regret the whole thing.


Berlenga: Photos by Gill.

However the sun eventually burned away the fog and the fort looked wonderful. We were disappointed by the bird life however – we saw very many yellow footed gulls with their unattractive young and possibly a very few Cory shearwaters but no petrels or any other of the species described on the signboards.


Once again we left in fog and it stayed with us most of the day with no wind and no dolphins. Glad to reach Cascais with time to refuel, take down sails and book B&B in Lisbon for our last night before the flight home.


Scenes from Lisbon (including the iconic tram), and saying farewell to John in Cascais. Photos by Gill.


We took an expensive taxi to our B&B where the welcome was well worth the expense. We had a great time in the city especially enjoying Castelo de Sao Jorge and a new museum in the old prison Aljube that tells the stories of the Salazar dictatorship and Portuguese resistance movement.

An altogether remarkable and worthwhile adventure in great company!


Skipper comments:Thanks Gill and David for being a great crew, and great bloggers and cooks, yet again!  This is getting to be a good habit! I. will add a couple of photos of Cascais below. It is a lovely seaside town, very convenient by train from Lisboa. Yesterday I had a nice swim at the small rocky beach of  Rain. The sun was hot, but the water was cool and fresh.


Photo from the left. View of Cascais from the walkway above the Sailing Club. Then a view of the Fort, and finally, looking across the bay to Estoril.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s