Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Exploring La Gomera

Yesterday was the only bright and sunny day on the forecast for this week so we hired a VW Polo from the most laidback rental company ever encountered and headed for the hills. The geography of the place is stunning - the island was described in one guidebook as being a bit like an orange squeezer, amost perfectly round with sharp ridges and valleys radiating from the centre. The flaura and fauna change dramatically - in the centre of the island the hills scrape moisture out of passing clouds and there is dense Laurel rainforest, to the north there are huge areas of cultivation (bananas mostly) on terraces painstakingly built over the centuries whilst to the south the land is dry and rocky.

The roads are a testament to the road-builders' art as they cling to the sides of ravines and climb in many hundreds of hairpin bends. The poor little Polo was in 3rd gear for most of the day, with quite a few 1st gear hairpins. Anyway we drove all over the island and absolutely fell in love with the place!

Here are some photos of our motor tour:

San Sebastian and our marina in the foreground, with Tenerife behind

Heading up towards the rainforest

A climber's paradise

The contrast of forest and barren rock below

Graham makes a new friend at the forest visitors' centre

Farming, the hard way!

Banana plantations at Hermigua on the north coast

The Valle Gran Rey - an incredible view but quite a touristy place

The clouds swirl in

Today, by contrast, has been wet and the hills above us are shrouded in mist so we've done food shopping and general boat jobs. The local forecast said Force 4-5 with gusts up to 57mph and they were spot on! We've just recorded over 50 knots on our windspeed instruments and the marina is a hive of activity as people try to tame flapping awnings and yawing boats. Glad we're snug in the harbour and not at anchor!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Photos of the passage to La Gomera

The red-sky-in-the-morning signs were all there for the last few days in Porto Santo as the gale approached but as we left the harbour on Thursday morning we had a beautiful rainbow behind us:

There was relatively little to photograph on the voyage - no dolphins and very few vessels but as we approached Tenerife and La Gomera at sunrise we had a brilliant view of Tenerife's volcanic mountain La Tiede in the half-light:

Having eaten very well on seafood at a local restaurant whose dining area was half room, half cave (the place was dug into the cliff) we collapsed into our bunk and slept the clock round. The weather is really on the odd side here, as well as at home (we've read about snowfalls in the north east) with rain coming though and high humidity. The mountains behind us keep disappearing in thick cloud so this isn't the day to go exploring inland but we hope that tomorrow will be better.

Looking forward, there's more interesting weather heading our way so it doesn't look as though we'll be moving from here for a few days. This is the forecast chart for Wednesday:

We're right at the bottom of the map, just below the '1004' and right in the path of the dark blue rainfall. So our recent theme of sailing then hunkering down to wait for the weather to clear seems to be set to continue! We just hope that all these strange weather patterns will sort themselves out before the start of the ARC in less than a month's time; we have no wish to be the first ARC to beat to windward all the way to the Caribbean.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Safely into San Sebastian, La Gomera

We're delighted that we had a really good crossing from Porto Santo – 309 miles in just over 48 hours and the first 24 hours under sail delivered a very respectable 165 miles, probably our best yet in Maunie. A few days of those sort of speeds would be very welcome on the trans-Atlantic.
As predicted, the wind gradually died away last night and we started motoring at about 19.30. Thankfully the swell dropped away as well so we motorsailed without rolling so each of us got good sleep off watch and we both feel in reasonably good shape. Gomera looks fascinating – almost a perfect hemisphere with banana plantations cut in terrace in the lower slopes and rocky hills inland. The marina has a good reputation and seems well organised so we've spend the last couple of hours washing the salt off the boat and our waterproofs and enjoying a cheeky little beer in the very warm sunshine. Rafiki should be in fairly soon so we'll look forward to comparing notes.
Photos to follow once we get the wifi organised (a code purchased from the petrol station apparently).

Friday, 26 October 2012

On Passage to La Gomera

It's 09.20 and Porto Santo is about 140 miles behind us. We've made brilliant progress in a Force 5-6, close reaching with 2 reefs in the main and averaging about 7 knots. We've been watching the rain clouds with interest (and even seeing them on radar) as they deliver a real extra punch of wind when they approach. The noise of the water rushing past the hull when we try to get some off-watch kip is quite startling but we both managed to get some sleep in the bouncy conditions. On deck the stars were incredible during the night and we now have bright sunshine.
Stormvogel left a day ahead of us, to get to the boat yards of Gran Canaria for expert opinion on their engine, but we have another British boat, Rafiki, following us. Rob and Cally have their two children, Emily and James, aboard who are loving the sailing and exploring. We are too far apart (about 40 miles) to talk on the VHF radio(which has a range of about 15 miles) but both boats have long-range SSB sets (capable of bouncing transmissions off the ionosphere around the world; we can pick up ABC from Australia); selecting the 2MHz frequency range we have 200 mile range so Rob and Graham chatted at 08.00.
We have just picked up the weather forecast from the sat phone so it looks as though the wind will gradually reduce during the day and we'll probably have to motor for the last 12 hours or so. We hope to get into San Sebastian de la Gomera on Saturday afternoon.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The gale passes, taking much of the beach with it!

We had another uncomfortable night on board as Maunie tugged at her mooring lines but the gale has now reduced to a still-windy Force 6. The boat was covered in salt this morning (from spray blown over the sea wall) and friends walked into the town and reported that a lot of the 4-mile golden beach had just washed away, leaving big holes and rocks.

The forecast suggests that there is a short weather window (just a couple of days) when the wind will go round to the west and reduce a little. Afer this window, there's another big low pressure system heading from the Atlantic which will bring more strong winds and rain. So, we have decided that we will have to miss on visiting the main island of Madeira (even though it's just 20 miles away) for fear of getting caught there for another week; instead we'll head south to the Canaries (about 300 miles so just under 3 days' sail. We'll look at the forecast again in the morning and leave tomorrow (Thursday) if it looks ok.

Whilst we've been here we've met lots of other boats doing the same thing as we are so we've all being comparing notes and debating when to make the break. We had a lovely drinks party on 'Rafiki' at lunchtime with crews from 5 boats today so we'll stay in touch via radio if we do set off tomorrow - we're aiming for La Gomera which looks really interesting. We'll let you know!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Exploring Porto Santo

Yesterday was a mix of moderate SW winds, sunshine and showers so we hired a 250cc quad bike and set off to explore.

Here are a few photos to give you an idea of this amazing volcanic island:

The harbour, with the marina bottom right. The entrance faces south west
(exactly the wind direction last night!)

Looking west along the beach....

.. and south east towards the lighthouse we watched for hours on the passage

Dianne leans on the safety rail of the viewpoint!

Fabulours driving roads through the barren hills apart from:
(a) Long drops and complete lack of safety barriers and
(b) the quad bike's reluctance to go round corners!

Dianne on The Beast

Our picnic spot on the cliffs of the north coast

Black volcanic rocks and golden sand at the SW tip of the island

Wild water - a taste of more to come!

We certainly picked the right day for our trip (just got rained on once). Last night it blew up to a full gale from the southwest (so we had a bit of a noisy and uncomfortable night on board) with really heavy rain. As you'll have seen from the photos, the island is pretty arid and all the drinking water comes from two desalination plants, so we're not sure what they'll do with all the rain. The forecast suggests a bit of a break from tomorrow evening until the weekend then the long-term forecast suggests more heavy weather next week. This is definitely not normal for this time of year and we must be careful not to get trapped by more gales so we may have to miss out on Madeira and head straight for the Canaries (2 days' sail from here).

So we'll set off tomorrow, possibly, or Thursday (to let the swell reduce a little). Meanwhile, we'll service our engine and sort a few other jobs.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Safely into Porto Santo, Madeira, after a bit of an epic!

Sunrise (day 2 before the gale)

Sorry, this blog entry was delayed by essential engineering work, as you'll read below, so here's a bumper edition!

The final 24 hours of our voyage Porto Santo to was quite an adventure. Once the wind returned on Wednesday morning we had some really good sailing, close reaching in a Force 4 westerly and averaging a decent 6 knots. The updated Grib files from the satellite phone suggested that the wind would swing round to the northwest in the evening (allowing us to ease sails out and sail at our fastest point of sail, a beam reach) but would also increase in strength as the southern front of a big low pressure system swept down to meet us.  Although the boat was heeled over, we managed to cook a good hot lunch and a hearty hot supper. so were well set up for the final night sail and whatever the weather brought.

At about 23.00, the wind changed to the northwest with a bang and a huge wall of rain. We saw it coming so reefed down early but, even so, the conditions (force 6 -7 and big seas) were a challenge and we rolled away the yankee completely and reached with just the staysail and two reefs in the main. After a while things settled down a bit so we were able to leave the autopilot in charge until about 04.00 when more rain squalls brought yet more wind and waves. Graham was then on helming duty with a big grin on his face for the next 5 hours in full foulies, with occasional big waves giving him a good salt water soaking (at least the water was warm!) and and then the rain giving him a fresh water rinse. The good news was that the three flashes every 15 seconds of the lighthouse at the eastern edge of Porto Santo could be seen, giving an easier reference point than when just sailing to the compass. The sailing was exhilarating  again under staysail and two-reefed main, averaging 7.5 knots and bouncing up and over the swell. It was probably a good thing that it was dark so we couldn't see the size of the waves but Graham did see a  line of white water to starboard - the crest of a breaking wave - and was helpless to avoid it, so it filled the cockpit and gave him another salt water bath. The cockpit has large drains at the back so emptied quickly and Maunie just shook herself and charged on. What a boat, she feels so secure in conditions that would have challenged bigger yachts!!

At 07.30 we rounded the south east corner of Porto Santo and sailed into the shelter of the bay, just as another huge rain squall arrived to rinse away the rest of the salt on sails, deck and us. Stormvogel was about 3 miles behind so we radioed them to say we'd wait just in case their engine wouldn't start. Sure enough, they called back to say that the engine was dead so for the second time we uncoiled our huge coil of tow rope and towed them (very slowly against a 30 knot headwind) into the harbour to face the next challenge of how to get them safely moored. Repeated VHF calls to the marina and harbourmaster yielded no responses so Dianne resorted to a general all-ships call: "Any vessels in Porto Santo harbour able to respond, this is yacht  Maunie of Ardwall. We are towing a larger vessel with engine failure and need assistance to moor her." A German yacht, Bella (who we later found out had spent 2 weeks in the same Vigo boatyard as Stormvogel having engine work done so were friends of Heidi and Peter), responded that they had alerted the marina staff who would come out and take over the tow. Sure enough a dory came out to us as we entered the harbour and said they'd take over but then their engine promptly failed! Laugh? We nearly cried! So we continued with Plan B, which was to tow Stormvogel slowly to a mooring buoy which Heidi successfully picked up, releasing our tow line at the same time. Much relieved, we hauled in the rope and headed for the marina until Peter radioed - "Help, this buoy is drifting! I am really worried." We turned back but at last the marina team had got their boat sorted and moved Stormvogel into a safe berth.
Towing Stormvogel into harbour, with the marina dory drifting with engine failure

We moored Maunie, went round to help take Stormvogel's lines, got big hugs from Peter and Heidi and a bottle of champagne was opened in very short order! Mathius and Ulrika on Bella invited us all round for a late breakfast aboard and it was wonderful to relax and share tall tales of the night's sail whilst outside the day alternated between bright sunshine and hard but warm rain and wind squalls.

During the afternoon we sorted all the paperwork with Customs and the marina, walked the 2 miles into town to find a very good supermarket that was absolutely crowded (we later realised that the ferry had arrived that morning with fresh supplies of fruit and veg) so we did a big shop and got a taxi back to the boat. We walked back into town for a meal with the Stormvogel and Bella crews and can clearly confirm that the Brisish held stereotype of Germans not having a sense of humour is entirely wrong. We laughed a lot and until the events of the past 4 days caught up and Graham suddenly began to fall asleep at the table.
So, into Friday morning and we both slept a solid 12 hours. The update from Stormvogel on the engine front wasn't good. Peter had checked the engine oil and found it to be white and thick - a sign of water in the sump. So we believe that the Vigo installation of the new motor, which included a new exhaust system, has a major flaw. Somehow In the big waves, sea water has been forced back up the exhaust pipe into the cylinders and past the piston rings into the sump. This is Not A Good Thing and will have potentially done damage to the brand new engine and explains why the starter motor couldn't turn the engine over. Graham spent most of the day working with Peter and Mathius trying to save the engine from very early death. Watching sea water shoot out of the pistons when we removed the glowplugs and turned the engine over by hand was shocking - the engine had become a 4-cylinder water pump. The immediate action was to change the engine oil and flush the sump as well as possible (using diesel rather than oil as a technique to flush it) and to drain the exhaust system of water to prevent it filling the cylinders again. In the process we believe that we found the very basic error that cause the engine to syphon sea water into itself and as darkness fell we managed to restart it.

So the thing is running again a but we assume that it will have done some damage to itself, particularly during the 40 hours of motoing after the problem first appeared since the lubricating oil must have contained sea water by then. Peter will have a battle with the Vigo yard take responsibility for their error (and maybe even replace the engine if it has done internal damage) but we hope he can now sail for Gran Canaria where there are good engineering facilities. What a nightmare, but we celebrated our success with a bbq and beer.

The beach at Porto Santo

The forecast looks as though we'll be here a couple of days at least but we are in good company of lots of other ARC boats so we don't think we'll be bored! Wifi connections require a 3/4 mile walk with the laptop to an 'internet lean-to' outside the marina office but we will update you when we have more news of our next plans.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Atlantic Highs and Lows

This is our first 'proper' ocean passage and, whilst we've sailed thousands of miles together, this has been the longest we've been out of sight of land. Such a trip does present you with a few challenges and they aren't all physical – your mental approach is important and we have found that you have to work hard not to become demotivated when normally trivial things become an issue.
Take yesterday, for example. All began well, in spite of the absence of wind, and we enjoyed showers and the chance to catch up on sleep. However things began to go downhill from lunchtime, starting with a pizza. We thought a fresh chilled pizza would be a easy passage snack and the ones in the Dia supermarket looked fine. Now Graham used to run a factory in Nottingham making pizzas for a major supermarket beginning with T and ending with o and he thought that the anglicised, down-to-a-price products were pretty uninspiring. Compared to the Oh Dia pizza we cooked, though, they were culinary masterpieces;  it was chucked overboard and we cobbled together an alternative meal. Normally it wouldn't be a problem, but food becomes an important highlight of the day at sea.
The afternoon took a definite turn for the worse when the wind arrived. Unfortunately it was dead on our nose and kicked up a really confused wave pattern with the wind waves from the southwest and the 2m sea swell from the northwest. The short, sharp waves just stopped us every time we began to build forward momentum so sailing proved fruitless and we resorted to motor-sailing (keeping the mainsail hoisted to give some drive and stability to supplement engine power). Progress was slow and uncomfortable, with waves crashing over the foredeck, the spray lit red and green from our navigation lights. We just had to hunker down and get through it, not knowing, of course, how long it would be before a more benign sea state would be found and the conditions made cooking supper a challenge too. There was some solace from VHF conversations with Peter on Stormvogel; they were suffering too and Peter summed it up when he said, with feeling, "These waves are shit!"
So onto this morning and the mood in both boats has lifted and all is well, we are glad to report. We finally switched engines off at 10.00 (after an unbelievable 43 hours non stop) having found wind and, after a couple of rain squalls, sunshine. We both slept well now that we have got used to the routine of 4 hour watches at night so this helps significantly with the positive mental approach. We are currently less than 90 miles from our destination, making good speed and on a good course so should be in the marina at Porto Santo in the early morning. We will have a cheeky beer or two to celebrate as soon as is decent and we'll swap tales of the voyage with Heidi and Peter. Hopefully their engine will start again when we arrive!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


Someone once described sailing across the Atlantic as MAMBA (miles and miles of bugger-all) and, certainly, as the wind died yesterday that's how it seemed to us at first. Night watches are monotonous under engine, without sails to trim, so we might have been forgiven for deciding to leave the boat under autopilot control and both get some decent sleep.
However, the photo, taken of our chart plotter at 04.40 this morning, shows why we would never run without a watchkeeper; after hours of MAMBA, we suddenly has 3 large ships crossing our track. The grey arrows are ships transmitting their AIS signals – the 4th one is Stormvogel – and the plotter tells us the CPA (closest point of approach). The vessel coming from the south, 'Darya Kirthi', had a CPA of only 250ft when we first saw her but she was a massive 751ft in length so, depending where her AIS transmitter was fitted, that could mean the middle of her deck. We were pleased to see her alter course by 10 degrees to port, so we missed each other by nearly a mile, indicating that her watchkeeper was doing his job!
Shortly after this we suddenly found ourselves with enough wind for sailing so the sails were set and, bliss, the engine stopped. Maunie left a beautiful luminous wake, with bright dots of phosphorescence tumbling in the disturbed water so it was a pretty magical but all-too-short moment. Half an hour later the engine was back on and the sails stowed but at least it gave Graham something to do on his watch.
Apart from a long, 2m swell, the sea has been very calm so we both managed some decent sleep and have enjoyed hot showers today. We also had a bonus display of dolphins in the smooth water, though they didn't stay long. The forecast remains for light winds for the next 24 hours (we've never run the engine for such a long period) but we should get some breeze on Wednesday afternoon.  In the meantime, a spot of sunbathing on the foredeck I think.

Monday, 15 October 2012

A message from the Atlanticm

Stormvogel in her element yesterday afternoon.
We're currently at a little place called 37 deg, 44.24 minutes North, 11 deg, 31.24 minutes West. It's 162 miles SW of Nazare, from where we finally left at 11.00 yesterday. The forecast was promising for the first day – fresh Northerlies at last - but it looked as though we'd then sail into a huge wind hole for a couple of days en route to Madeira, far from perfect. However the clock is ticking for us to get down to the Canaries and later we leave it, the more chance of adverse conditions. A big low pressure system bringing SW gales at the end of this week clinched it, so we made the move.
Sure enough yesterday and last night saw some fantastic sailing condition. Fairly rough seas and 2-3m swells made it interesting but we fair flew along. Unfortunately, as predicted, the wind began to drop this morning and it was then that Stormvogel made a terrible discovery – her new engine wouldn't start! The control panel showed a 'low battery' warning then died altogether, leaving Peter and Heidi in an uncomfortable rolling boat, trying to work out the cause of the problem. We offered them a tow, so Maunie became a tugboat whilst Peter made satellite phone calls to the engine makers and the boatyard that installed it; after about 3 hours of surprisingly good progress – a steady 5 knots without straining our engine – we got a call on the VHF to say that power has been restored.
So we are back motoring in company at about 6 knots and the sea is thankfully fairly placid. At this rate we'll arrive in Porto Santo (the small island 20 miles NW of Madeira) early on Thursday morning but we hope for some wind on Wednesday so we'll see.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Proper food shopping!

Whilst Nazare does have a large out of town supermarket, the savvy shoppers head to the huge indoor market which opens every morning except Monday.

Here's a Photosynth image of it:


On the main floor are fruit and veg stalls, plus bakers. In the outside alcoves there are three butchers and around to the right on the upper level are the fish stalls. You're expected to inspect the produce and select your own, so you can be sure that everything is top quality and the fish is so fresh that the the fish stalls don't smell at all fishy. A brilliant place to get your food!

Well, perhaps just one more day in Nazare!

We're beginning to feel like permanent rsidents here! Having got the boat (and ourselves) all ready last night for departure this morning, we got up early this morning to do a check of the updated forecast.

Unfortunately the outlook has changed and the Grib files shows a whole lot of no wind for the next 36 hours:

The Grib files are clever wind and pressure forecasts which show the wind direction and speed as arrows (the 'feathers' of the arrow show an indication of the windspeed and they are colour coded too - blue is light and red windier). The clever bit is that we can access a huge amount of data for specific areas of the sea via the satellite phone without the files being expensively large. As you can see from this forecast (for midday today), we have very light winds and from all sorts of directions and, sure enough it's millpond calm here now but we can hear the surf pounding on the beach outside the harbour so to go now would involve motoring and rolling - an unpleasant combination.

So, we're here for another night and hope that the forecast for better winds tomorrow turns out to be more accurate than the one we had yesterday! So, more boat jobs followed by a cheeky beer or two at lunchtime seems to be the revised plan. Hey, ho! 

Friday, 12 October 2012

Jobs done, wind's arrived, 538 miles to go

Today is definitely the last at Nazare and we've had a really busy few days. This photo is just a little example of the sort of things that have been filling our days – fitting bungee to the front-opening fridge to stop the contents flying out when we open the door just as the boat rolls! After the 3rd or 4th time it gets wearing to have to retrieve wayward jars and bottles so this little modification will make a big difference to our sanity as we roll across the Alantic.
The biggest success of the week, though, was the fitting of a replacement VHF aerial. The makers, Shakespeare / Vtronix in Lancashire, had no hesitation in sending a new unit free of charge when ours failed after 3 years atop the mast (wonderful after-sales service) so hopefully we'll be loud and clear from now on.
We were planning to leave this morning but last night we saw a familiar boat name on www. marinetraffic.com (it allows you to follow boats and ships with AIS transponders all around the world – slightly Big Brother but have a look at it and type in 'Maunie of Ardwall' under the 'Vessels' tab to find where we are). Our friends Peter & Heidi in Stormvogel were heading here from Porto after a long and frustrating time in Vigo having a new engine fitted. They arrived at 06.30 after a tiring night sail but plan to go to Madeira too, so it was an easy decision for us to delay our departure by a day so that we can sail in company again. The 'Biscay Alliance', as Peter calls it, is reborn!
Whilst we're very much ready to move on, we've really enjoyed our time in this part of Portugal. The marina, thanks to the wonderful Mike & Sally who run it, is a little oasis of calm in a busy fishing port and the costs have been a fraction of anywhere else we've visited. 164 Euros for 14 nights is a very unusual bargain in the sailing world and long may it remain so.
So we now face the start of a significant ocean passage in the morning. The distance to Porto Santo, the island 20 miles NE of Madeira, is 538 miles so that'll be at least 4 days and nights – a long time with just two aboard to keep watch. We are therefore slightly apprehensive of rolling sail ahead of us, really just from the inevitable lack of sleep. The forecast shows that we shouldn't get any adverse weather (the wind may be a bit light if anything) and, at least, the fridge shouldn't spill its contents!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Photos from Lisbon and Nazare

Here is a selection of photos from our Lisbon trip:

The Royal Barge in the Maritime Museum, built in 1778 and last used in 1957 when Queen Elizabeth visited Lisbon. Powered by 80 oarsmen

Our hotel, left, with the Monastery in the distance and the entrance to the Presidential Palace to the right

Sea Otters at the Oceanario aquarium

Back in Nazare, the fishing fleet is busy all around us:

Aboard Maunie we've had a new temporary crewmember helping out. This is Puskin at work:

Checking that the window seal has dried

Supervising the storage spreadsheet

We are getting cautiously optimistic that the favourable wind will arrive on Friday so, meanwhile, it's on with the boat jobs and planning. 

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Playing with Photosynth

We try to keep this blog visually attractive so, as well as photos and videos, we've been playing with an app on the iPhone called Photosynth. It stitches photos together into movable panoramas which can then be viewed via the website.

Here's a little test version so see what you think - it was taken in our new favourite Lisbon restaurant and was made from about 14 photos. Click on this link and you should be able to rotate the room around your screen!


Monday, 8 October 2012

Back in Nazare

We're back aboard Maunie after a wonderful 3 days in Lisbon. The Maritime Museum and the Oceanaria aquarium were fantastic and we really enjoyed the city. We'll upload some photos tomorrow.

We are now back aboard Maunie and still waiting for the weather. The normally reliable 'Portuguese Trade Winds' (northerlies) have buggered off and we are left with light winds from the south west. The strong winds out in the mid Atlantic have left a 2-3m swell here, so the combination of that plus motoring without wind assistance would make for very uncomfortable passage-making just at the moment.We definitely made the right call last week, though. As predicted by the long-range weather charts, Madeira took a battering at the weekend.

So, whilst we a feeling a little bit trapped, the forecast for the end of this week looks a little more promising so we are using the time productively. Dianne has produced a master spreadsheet showing where everything is stored aboard the boat (with options to search by locker or alphabetically) and Graham has removed and re-sealed the forward hatch in the pilot house which had an annoying drip in driving rain and re-sealed the remaining windows for good measure. They weren't leaking but the sealant was beginning to break down in UV light so this was a 'stitch in time' job.  There are plenty more things on the to-do list so, whilst it won't make thrilling reading on the blog, it should mean we get to the Canaries (eventually!) without having too many last-minute tasks.

Friday, 5 October 2012

A short cultural break in Lisbon

It felt slightly strange to leave Maunie to get the very good express bus to Lisbon yesterday morning (about 90 minutes journey for 10 Euros each) and we had a great afternoon wandering around the Belem area by the river. 

Our hotel is about 200m from the famous Pasteis de Belem bakery (their small tarts - a bit like custard tarts but with sticky filou pastry - are to die for, so we had lunch there with 2 each for pudding!). We walked the riverside so here are a few photos to give you a flavour of the place:

 Torre de Belem
 National Monument to those lost in battle

  Monasterio dos Jeronimos and Bald Head

After an exhausting afternoon's sightseeing we had a glass of wine in a cafe in the park then went to an absolutely brilliant little restaurant that had rave reviews on various websites. The food was superb and the two waiters very friendly and helpful. The place only has about 6 tables and the walls are lines with shelves full of bottles of wine and port - when you ask so see the wine list, they hand you a pair of binoculars!

Today (Friday) we'll visit the Maritime Museum, which is said to be excellent, and no doubt eat well again. I't forecast to be 26 degrees C so there may be a short siesta involved, too!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Some technical success!

We're still in Nazare and Plan B, as outlined in the last blog, is still on.

We've had a good couple of days here with yesterday being a particularly successful one. We caught the bus into town, wandered around the huge indoor market (fresh fruit, veg, bread, fish and meat from stalls all tended by grandmothers dressed in black) for some great (and amzing value)ingredients, did a supermarket dash for other essentials, collected our washing from the laundry and came back to the boat for lunch.

In the afternoon, a flurry of emails and Skype calls to the UK resulted in advice to find an internal fuse in the Sterling alternator controller. Sure enough, it had blown (probably when the alternator failed) so a 30c replacement sees the system restored to full health - marvellous. Equally satifactory was a conversation with the makers of our broken VHF radio aerial - they are sending a new unit free of charge to us.

Finally, Graham climbed into the cockpit locker to replace a broken fitting on the electric bilge pump. The fitting was one we thought we'd never track down in Spain but we were sent on a long walk in Vigo to find a brilliant plumbing / air conditioning wholesalers. We had a wonderful conversation with the guy at the desk (not a clue what he said) but he came up trumps and charged us 70c. So we now have two fully-functioning bilge pumps once again.

Today the sewing machine has been out again and another sun awning made (to shade the side windows of the pilot house) so we're feeling pretty good! We deserve a meal out tonight so have been recommended a little restaurant off the tourist track.

It's actually pretty good to be in a working fishing port as there's lots to see and, when the boats come back in in the evening, it becomes a real hive of activity. Looking at the long term forecasts it looks as though Tuesday might be good to set off for the crossing to Madeira. By then we will have probably exhausted the delights of Nazare but we'll use the time to start planning meals for the Atlantic crossing. That will be a challenge - producing meals for 4 people for around 21 days with no chance of stopping for a shop. Any (easy) menu ideas would be warmly welcomed!!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Waiting for the weather

One thing is certain, in this sailing game you can take nothing for granted. Normally at this time of year the Portuguese Trade Winds are nicely and reliably established - a steady northerly wind, perfect to blow us out towards Madeira. Unfortunately, a hurricane called Nadine, way out in the Atlantic, looks set to spoil our plans.

Nadine has been on the weather charts for a couple of weeks now. Winds near her are up to 85 knots yet her centre is only moving at about 9 knots, slowly up towards the Azores, as she slowly dissipates. Our plan was to leave here today and get to Madeira on about Saturday but the long term chart doesn't look good:

This is the forecast for 06.00 on Saturday, when we'd be approaching Madeira (the little brown dot just to the north west  of the red '1016' triangular pressure contour at the bottom of this picture) - the blue low pressure system would give us strong southerly winds to beat into and then a good blast of rain for good measure!

So we're not going just yet! Plan B looks like a couple of days here in the marina at Nazare to do some boat jobs. It's really a busy and slightly scruffy fishing port with a space for a few yachts in the corner but we quite like its complete lack of pretensions and the fact that it's cheap (about 100 Euros for a week's stay - Cascais marina near Lisbon is about 45 Euros per night!). A mile from the harbour is the town itself - it has a great beach and, once you leave the seaside tat and expensive seafront bars, the old town is quite attractive. There is an amazing funicular railway up the cliffs to the old town with great views to be had (you can see the entrance to the harbour at the end of the beach, sorry this was just taken with my phone so it's not brilliantly clear):

We'll use the time and the good weather (at the moment) to make some more sun awnings and do lots more little boat maintenance chores. We'll probably then leave Maunie under the care of Captain Mike the splendidly piratical harbourmaster and take an express bus into Lisbon (90 minutes or so) to explore the city for a couple of days before seeing what the weather holds for next week.

Plan B will probably change into Plan C, D or E but never mind. We'll keep you informed!