Scout Around The World

Our journey from buying a trimaran in France and the voyage and adventure sailing her back to Australia


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Sines to Gibraltar and those fishing pots

The plan was to depart at a time, that with our calculations would have us arrive at the straits at dawn. We didn’t want to miss or to contemplate it in the dark. Sines had a customs department so we were able to check out of the Schengen zone as we were heading to non Schengen Gibraltar. This would help us to preserve the 90 days that as Australians we are limited to in Europe. Gibraltar is a big hang out for non Europeans who are also trying to be compliant with the rules. If you would like to read more about our restrictions here is a link to our previous post on it. So we would have 2 days sailing and perhaps 3 days in Gibraltar and perhaps another 2 days sail until in Spain again. At this point we have to be in Greece by the 1st June but now we could push it back another week.

11 am was departure. The early afternoon began with next to no breeze. Although we were motoring it was lovely to be out in the still glassy sea. No swell, a dead flat sunny day. By 3 pm we were sailing in what I would describe perfect conditions. Full sails out and and 9 to 10 breeze abeam us and we comfortably doing 8 knots. It was magical this is what we were here for. Mike was in his element. He was supposed to be resting but couldn’t help himself but be out at the helm sailing. He really enjoyed the afternoon wanting to constantly trim the sails to learn more about Scout and how she responds. It was our most delightful afternoon so far and at this rate we would be at Gibraltar way before our planned time. It was calculated on an average of 5.5 knots because of the light winds forecasted on our nose and we thought we were going to have to motor a lot.

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So, just over a month into this sailing life and I am loving it. Apart from the obvious traveling aspects, visiting different cities, the food, speaking and understanding different languages, what I am loving the most is getting there by sail and learning a new skill. I have always loved numbers, procedures and maps and even though I knew would love the obvious wind in my hair analogy, what I have really loved more than I thought I would, is increasing my understanding of wind angles, bearings and headings, the difference between true and apparent wind speed and I love keeping a log. Every hour calculating averages- speed and remaining distance and logging our position in relationship to the rest of the world. This is our little world on this boat and it is like we exist completely independent of everything else but I love plotting and searching our location in relationship to it.

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Cabo Sao Vincente. Sth Western point of Portugal

That evening we made it to the point of Cabo Sao Vincente, the south western point of Portugal where we start turning east towards the Straits of Gibraltar and the Med. We had to go around 2 headlands to get on this heading and the first one we arrived at just on sunset. A beautiful majestic large lighthouse at this headland had just turned on its light as we approached. The sun was setting to our right  as we made our way around the cape. I love the slow anticipated rounding of headlands, even this one as it was becoming dark. As soon we turned, lined up on our next heading, we could see the second headland and there was the full moon just rising over it. It was breathtaking!  My night shift started and the wind had dropped. We dropped the sails and we became (what we fondly call it) motor vessel Scout. For the next 90 minutes I motored directly into its path. The moon straight ahead rising. It’s lit path across the glassy sea became my path to travel along. A memorable moment!

Well it’s is such a shame that that path of light turned away from me as I changed course an hour later because shortly after, in the dark, that tranquility and pleasure subsided….We hit a net or fishing pot at 22.30. What a fright. A loud crash and then a sickening noise from the engine as the prop churned with something wrapped around it. There was also a loud banging as the float attached to it, was hitting the hull. Immediately Mike turned off the engine, tried it in reverse but no luck. We just couldn’t free or see it underneath. No wind, no engine, not much choice but to sit there and drift for the night and wait until daybreak- 8 hours. As a positive there was no wind, no current, no drift, calm seas and we were only 3 NM from shore. I had always wanted to go to Lagos and here we were bobbing off the coast. We may even yet have had to pull in there for repairs. We had no idea what to expect. There was a full moon to light outside and the pretty lights to light up the coast. Mike and I just took turns sleeping and lit the boat up like a Christmas tree so no one could run into us. It was a long, very gently rocking calm still night.

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Us drifting- black boat in the centre. Fortunately not too far off our intended black path

At dawn Mike braved the cold water and dived under with his knife to cut free the rope and float from a fishing net. I was so proud of him. Not because I think others would not do. It was because I don’t think I could do it. 10 mins later we were on way again. 8 hours behind our schedule we decided to use the motor more than we had planned to and set course for the rest of the way at an anticipated 7 knots average.

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The culprit. What Mike cut off the propellor.

We did it. The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. I became completely paranoid about fishing nets and pots and eyes were peeled for the rest of the trip. Portugal- we loved your seafood but ahh those nets! Well it was just another challenge and obstacle to overcome.

Mike awoke me from my sleep on the Thursday morning at the start of the Straits of Gibraltar. We had both been looking forward to it and he didn’t want me to miss it. The sea was choppy like bath water with currents escaping so unevenly from this narrow channel of water between two large land masses. There wasn’t as much ship traffic as I had anticipated but there was certainly one of the largest freighters I had ever seen with containers stacked about 6 high on the deck. Didn’t look too stable to me if it encountered rough seas. On our right was Africa and to our left Europe. Both continents so close. At its narrowest it is only 14 kms. The view was a bit hazy so unfortunately not much of a photo opportunity but nevertheless it was a memorable moment.

Gibraltar was just around the corner and was spectacular on approach. With the hazy morning it actually reminded me of Hong Kong. Low visibility, steep elevated cliffs, tall buildings and of course lots of ships in the Harbour. Unfortunately Gibraltar was not to be. There was no room at the marina, which was no surprise as it is popular for those with visa restrictions like us. It was the same just over the runway/border into Spain where both marinas were full. Nevermind. We were so excited to be in the Mediterranean that we decided to keep on going. The Costa del Sol was waiting for us

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 Pretty Portugal, where fish and catching them is everything

Its always exciting when we arrive in a new port. Coming around a headland, entering a river, not sure what beholds us around the next corner, excited to get off and explore… and Portugal in the 3 ports that we visited did not disappoint.

Our first destination was Porto. We had been forewarned to make sure that we approached the river mouth at high tide and Mike had exactly timed our arrival for an easy entrance to the port. Sleep eyed, excited, the view as we approached the marina was grand! I knew that Porto was a city of bridges but there right in front of our marina was bridge number 1.

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These bridges set the scene for the rest of our visit. We walked into town, 3 kms along the river and around each corner we were amazed by the view. Porto is set up along steep banks up from the river and thus the need for these very high bridges. 6 in total. It creates a very dramatic backdrop for views and picturesque photo opportunities. Lots of tourists didn’t dampen our enthusiasm and we explored the sights and ate and drank too much seafood and wine. The highlight for me was us stumbling across a local football club bar with their verandah perched over the river and right beside the main bridge in town. It is set in a path that climbs high from the river and is entirely of steps. As you walk up the path you pass by people’s front doors, see into their lives and you wonder how these little old ladies climb up and down this path everyday to go about their lives.

We said good bye to James in Porto and it was sad to see him go. We loved him being with us at the start of our adventure and we were very grateful for the help he gave us while we were finding our way with handling Scout.

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So we set off from Porto with just the 2 of us for a 24 hour crossing to Cascais (pronounced Cascaish). 10 minutes out of Porto and we couldn’t believe the amount of fishing pots everywhere. I suppose you can’t have all that great seafood in Portugal and not find it from somewhere. There was one about every square kilometer. The computer game minesweeper came to mind as we dodge and weaved our way out to sea. We did have an altercation with one and the noise as it scraped between two of our hulls was sickening. We decided to get out as far as possible where we could safely navigate our way south.

Just out of Porto we were also joined by a group of very large bumblebees. Harmless, they buzzed around us while we were trying to get out the sails and were a real nuisance. After an hour or two of their persistence, I realised that these poor creatures had taken refuge on our boat and now there was nowhere else for them to go! They hung on and placidly sat on our deck  and it was so sad to see some of them dead the next morning. I wish I had been able to do something to assist them.

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This sector went well, but along this coast we seemed to have either the wind right in front of us or not enough right behind us, so there was a lot of motoring. A memorable moment was when we rounded Cabo Da Roca. This is the most western point of mainland Europe and where the world believed, for many centuries from the Roman times that this was the end of the earth. Aptly named ‘Lands End’. Well, we rounded that cape and we thought we had nearly got to the end of the earth. Crazy wind change, high seas… and we bashed and crashed our way for the next few hours into Cascais. We and Scout were covered in so much salt that when washed off the boat in port it resembled a thick briny solution. Mike was absolutely exhausted and after a lengthy check in procedure at the marina, we were relieved to have arrived.

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Cascais is a beautiful town. A quaint city, beautifully maintained houses and gardens with interesting laneways that work their way around the inlet beaches. Lots of energy and excitement, very picturesque and it was packed – Lots of tourists. I am only glad that we weren’t there in the heart of summer. There would be no room to move. A very busy, expensive marina with, need I lament again, dreadful internet. The highlight for me was my run out along the cliffs one morning with breathtaking scenery.

Our next sail was a 9 hour day sail to Sines. I think it was the first time that Mike really got to relax and enjoying sailing Scout. Not only was he becoming used to her but we had some favorable sailing winds where we could just sail for a change instead of just battling to get where we wanted to go. Mike was also becoming now more capable and relaxed with docking Scout. We arrived in Sines relaxed and high again on the adventure and thrill of what we were actually doing and what this is all about for us.

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We loved Sines. A small town perched high on a headland with a beach and harbour dropped down below it. So high, there is even a lift from the ridge of the city down to the beach. From the sea, you approach the two rock walls and you round the inlet into the calm, pretty, quiet harbour. Again another delightful surprise for us on entering. The weather window forced us to wait out here for 4 days and we couldn’t have picked a better place to rest. We were regrouping for our next big stage, which was going to see us do another 48 hour hop- this time to Gibraltar.

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Below Vasco’s Castle at the beachfront

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My own Vasco da Gama looking out to sea from his castle birth place wondering what awaits him.

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The lift from the town down to the beach

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