Sunday 6 April 2003.



We are back on board! We left UK Saturday 29 March with a one way car hire from Malvern to Stansted then a Ryanair flight to Biarritz and hire car to Hendaye where we arrived at about 7pm. Ryanair were on time (actually ten minutes early), didn't lose our bags and didn't charge for the 20 lbs of excess baggage we were bringing so for £30 each (one way) we were impressed!

At Hendaye we had an apartment booked for a week - Sokoburu Mer & Golf - which sounds very impressive and it was indeed quite nice, two rooms, with cooking facilities and balcony overlooking the marina. It was very comfortable and more than adequate for what we needed. We had it at the last of the winter rate so it was a reasonable price and it meant that we had somewhere to work from while we prepared the boat for the water, including using the bath to soak the salt out of the mooring warps. Next door is a Thalassotherapy centre (French hydrotherapy) and every time we went down to the underground car park there were people drifting between our hotel and the centre dressed in long white towelling robes looking for all the world like some strange religious sect. I indulged as an Anniversary treat. There are pools ranging from 18 degrees to 34 (lovely) and jets of water aimed at various parts of the anatomy in each pool. I particularly enjoyed the one that played on my feet.

The boat was in remarkably good condition after a winter ashore. The only damage was that the wind-vane had disappeared off the top of the mast - presumably blown off in a gale. However this could be a fairly major problem as replacing it will necessitate Mike going right to the top of the mast and stretching precariously upwards. Not a favourite activity for someone who doesn't like heights. There was virtually no mildew inside the boat - a problem after UK winterage - and it was relatively clean on the outside.

We got all the land jobs done (antifouling and greasing) and then launched on Friday 4th at 10 am, having reserved a place in the marina for the next two weeks while we tackle all the other jobs that need doing before the off. It was a perfect day - brilliant clear blue sky and not too much wind. We put the sails on, including the Packaway into which the mainsail falls and on which we now have "Sundancer" writ large so we are easy to find when visitors (or the rescue services) are looking for us.

We took half a day off and went exploring in the Pyrenees taking a scenic route through rolling green hills, wooded valleys and past spiky mountain tops. There are lots of big houses here built in a vaguely Tyrolean style - white, with orange/red roofs and balconies. We ended up exploring some Grottes - huge caves once occupied, so they say, by pre-historic man who must have been a pretty hardy beast since water was dripping everywhere and it was very cold.

Wednesday 23rd April.

By the end of the second week we were all cleaned up and ready to go apart from the problem with the wind vane. We had sent for a spare from England, which was supposed to come out Express mail but we have been held up for over a week including the Easter break waiting for it to arrive. It is a very simple but fairly crucial piece of equipment which you need when you are sailing close to the wind to make sure you don't 'pinch' and lose speed, when you are running to make sure you don't gybe and also when I am trying to hold the boat into wind while Mike is on deck trying to get the sail down. It can get pretty dicey for him at this time if I don't hold the boat headed straight into wind. While waiting we did some more exploring, went for a bike ride to a lovely garden, sunbathed, read a lot, and Mike 'enjoyed' two days in bed with a chesty cough! Hendaye was very busy with visitors enjoying the sunshine over the Easter holiday. After 12 days the spare vane still had not arrived. Our friend Jackie has negotiated for the English chandler to accept it as lost and to send another spare to us, to Bilbao this time. So yesterday we celebrated our last night in Hendaye with a gourmet meal. Mine was all delicious and Mike's was fine apart from his main course which consisted of a little turret of white fish surrounded by a sea of luminous green sauce with equally green 'pudding' rice to go with it. There were more waiters than customers and the ladies menus had no prices on! Very posh!

Today we tied various bits of tape on to the stays to give an indication of wind direction and set off at 7.30 am for Zumaia- about 25 miles west, past San Sebastian. It was a lovely day with lots of sunshine. ESTAMOS EN ESPANA! The scenery along this coast is very dramatic with high green cliffs and occasional narrow clefts into little harbours hardly visible from the sea, - all backed by the mountains of the Pyrenees. We passed San Sebastian which sits in a large bay with a big green hump of island in the middle with a white monument on top. There was little wind so we had to motor all the way, which meant the lack of the wind vane was not a problem. We have seen no evidence yet of oil pollution from the sunken tanker Prestige, though there do seem to be unusually few pot buoys along this coast. Zumaia itself has a new marina and you enter the harbour between two long 'training walls' which have been built out into the bay to keep a dredged channel open. The marina sits in a bowl almost completely surrounded by hills so is very sheltered. Most of the town is modern, with a lot of high-rise flats which don't look as shabby as the British ones, and there are a lot of open spaces with seats etc but I have a feeling these will be occupied mostly by delinquent teenagers as in England. We did see four teenage girls sitting in a doorway going through a wallet and throwing out what looked like a man's identity card.

Thursday 24th April.

A Frenchman told us there was a nice walk over the hill to Guetaria where there is another marina we had visited by car from Hendaye. It was indeed a lovely walk, in cool sunshine, past vineyards just coming into leaf, meadows full of wild flowers, trees in blossom and with the constant tinkle of goat bells in the background. However, it was much further than we had expected so we caught a bus back. Mike then fitted a new echo sounder as the display on the old one hasn't been working properly since last Autumn!

Friday 25th April.

We set off for Bilbao (an eight and a half hour trip) in warm sunshine with a nice Force 3 blowing. We sailed happily along for a couple of hours agreeing that this was definitely what it was all about. Then the wind dropped so Mike switched on the engine and almost immediately the wind got up again and within a few minutes we were scudding along at nearly 7 knots with the boat heeling way over. We put our harnesses on - a sure sign that things are getting fraught. Mike fought to take two reefs in the main and rolled the genoa half in and we were still doing 6 knots. The wind tends to funnel down the valleys between the hills along this coast and is a bit unreliable. Then it rained a little and then the sun came out again. We eventually had to change course into the wind so motored the last third of the journey. Never a dull moment!

Bilbao is a big city lying at the end of a large estuary - probably a similar size to Plymouth. To get into the harbour from the east you have to go almost past it to a very narrow entrance between one breakwater built up above water and another unfinished one which is completely submerged and a danger to the unwary. Once in, there is a fishing port, lots of ship building, an oil terminal and a couple of yacht marinas, all still some way from the city which lies further up river. We went into Getxco Marina where there was plenty of space and tied up to a finger berth that would have happily taken a 60 ft boat. The only problem was that every time any boat went past the pontoon it bounced up and down in the wash. The marina is large, with over 800 berths and is backed by numerous cafes and restaurants, a multiplex cinema, a Macdonalds and lots of chandlers - but not a fresh food shop in sight.

Saturday and Sunday, 26th and 27th April.

We took the Metro (seemingly fairly new, clean, cheap and very efficient) from Getxco into Bilbao and visited the Guggenheim Museum - a fantastic modern building with some, to our uncultured eyes, very dubious modern works of art in it. However we really liked the exhibition of mobiles - Mike thinks this is because we have an innate liking for balance. I think it is because no one in previous centuries has made mobiles so the artists don't have to be way out to make a statement about being modern - they can just be beautiful. Outside the museum is a very incongruous but rather fun, 40 ft high 'statue' of a dog covered in flowering plants! We wandered round the old city - very tall buildings and very narrow streets and lots of gloomy, dark bars with laughter and music floating out, but we still didn't find the city as attractive as some of the old French ones we had seen last year. We planned to eat out in the evening and discovered that in this part of Spain restaurants really do not open their doors until 9.00pm. We then found that we should have booked, but finally the waiter said that provided we could manage to eat our meal in an hour and three quarters we could have a table, which was booked for 10.45! We had a chat with the crew of the only other British boat we have seen called "Bit Buy Bit". They have come all the way down from La Rochelle without the lift pump on their engine working properly - they have been gravity feeding diesel from a can into the engine, and having to catch the surplus fuel and return it to the can every quarter of an hour - often in rough seas. Good game this sailing!

We returned to Bilbao on Sunday and did the Museum of Fine Arts which has Spanish art from all periods from the 14th century to today - we then cruised past the Oxfam 'day of support for the coffee growers' which made me feel quite at home - and took the funicular railway up the hill to view the city from on high, a view that showed us more high-rise flats in which the vast majority of inhabitants in this part of Spain seem to live.

The temperature got up into the eighties today, so we collapsed in the cockpit with drinks when we got back. Sightseeing will have to be confined to the early morning in the near future with a siesta afterwards. Then perhaps we will be awake at 9.00 pm to dine out.

Monday 28th April.

We rang the marina at Hendaye to find our spare wind vane had arrived at last and at lunchtime the other one arrived at Getxco. Mike spent an hour trying to follow the instructions on how to put it together and is resolved to face climbing the mast when the weather improves. It has been blowing a gale from the south today, quietened down for an hour around five and then swung round to the west and blew even harder together with lashing rain and thunder. I expect Helen McArthur would have gone up regardless.

Tuesday 29th April.

Another English boat arrived last night manned by a young man called Nick, a single-hander. He did the 130 miles from Royan in the gale yesterday. Apparently the forecast was for Force 4 when he set out! On board " Sundancer" the deed is done. Mike bravely went up the mast with the help of a neighbouring Frenchman on the winch. I was very glad of the offer of assistance because I don't think I have the strength to winch him up on my own any longer. Once up there it wasn't too difficult a task and we now know from which direction the wind is blowing again. Hopefully it will blow us to Santander tomorrow.

Thursday 1st May - Bilbao to Santander,40 miles, 7 hours.

We set off at about 9.30 am, closely followed by Nick in "Timaru Star". There was a good wind and only slight sea and we sailed for about an hour and a half. Then the wind dropped and we had to motor the rest of the way. About three miles out of Santander the wind began to pick up but too late to bother with the sails. The Marina del Cantabrica is up the river about 3 miles past Santander. As we approached the wind strengthened still more. Most marinas have an Accueil, or 'Welcome' pontoon for visitors where you stay until the staff have told you where to settle. As we reached this one, we realised it was occupied by a sailing school boat so we decided to go round the other side onto a finger berth. This was a big mistake as the finger berths were minute and the wind was in an awkward direction. We hit the pontoon and though I got the front warp on the cleat I was too slow to catch the back warp and the stern of the boat blew out sideways beyond reach. All this was watched by the sailing school pupils who were probably being told 'that's how not to do it'. Eventually Mike worked a way out of the situation and we secured. He then set off on the bike for the three quarter mile trip round to the marina office. Meanwhile Nick arrived and hit the pontoons even harder than we did. When Mike returned it was with the news that the marina staff were on holiday as it was Mayday. By this time the sailing school had moved on so we decided to move both boats round to the other side where we could moor up alongside the long pontoon which is much easier to do. We spent a quiet night there and very helpful marina staff arrived about 9.30 next morning and moved us to excellent berths nearer the office and facilities. It is a very comfortable and quiet marina but it is a bus ride to the town and there isn't even a bread shop handy.

Friday 2nd to Thursday 8th May, Santander.

On Friday we provisioned from 'Eroski' the biggest supermarket we have ever visited. It was a long walk there but we shared a taxi back with Nick and lots of stores. Mike also managed to replace an empty Camping Gaz cylinder at the local ferreteria (ironmonger) so we are assured of cooking gas for a while now. (If you think British building suppliers are slow, try a Spanish ferreteria!) We have also swapped some books with Nick. He has lent us Harry Potter, book three, which we have since both enjoyed.

On Saturday Mike and I caught a bus into Santander and we wandered round the shops. The old part of the city was mainly destroyed in a fire in 1941 so not much remains but the modern part is pleasant - much more attractive than Bilbao. After lunch at a tapas bar we caught a bus to a little village called Santillana del Mer which Jean Paul Sartre apparently called the prettiest village in Spain. It dates back to the fifth century and has lots of very old buildings, a big church with a Roman crypt, and all the streets are cobbled. There was a wedding going on at the church and all the young female guests were dressed in long dresses - very pretty. When the bride and groom came out they were met with a shower of rice and rose petals. They then opened a large box, wrapped like a wedding gift, which had been sitting in the sun for at least two hours at the bottom of the steps. Out of the box flew two white, rather overheated, doves. The town is certainly extremely attractive and has a plush Parador if you feel like staying over. However there were lots and lots of tourists even this early in the season and every other building is a gift shop or cafe. When we got back to Santander we managed to get on the wrong bus to the marina and ended up with an extra hour's walk when we realised our mistake.

Monday 5th May.

My birthday and it rained most of the day. We did wander up to the hypermarket again to try and buy a jumper for a birthday present but couldn't find anything. There were lots of e-mails for my birthday and a card and pretty necklace that Katey had made for me - thanks everyone - but on the whole, it wasn't my best birthday.

On Tuesday we went off to the Caves of Altamira - back near Santillana. These were once occupied by pre-historic man and archaeologists have carbon dated the remains of animal bones and artefacts and seeds etc back to 14500 BC and have built up a picture of what the people ate and wore and did. I was fascinated by the bone needles in the museum, which were used for sewing fur clothing. The caves have apparently been called the Sistene Chapel of pre-history because of the wonderful paintings of bison, pigs, deer etc drawn in charcoal and ochre on the ceilings. Everyone thought they were fakes when they were first discovered. I like to think of some pre-historic cave-wife who said to her bloke - 'it's too cold to go hunting today - why don't you decorate the lounge?' In the eighties the Spanish decided that the breath of thousands of tourists was causing the paintings to deteriorate so they built a replica cave. Now only 60 people a day are allowed in the real cave and I expect you have to wait for years for a ticket. We thought the replica was very good - the paintings were great and the rocks were realistic with apparent damp patches and sound of dripping water. Afterwards we returned to Santillana and went inside the church, which had been shut after the wedding on our last visit. We visited an exhibition of sculptures by a famous son of the village - Jesus Otero. This displayed wonderful carvings and drawings of animals and people and biblical scenes dating back from his first exhibition when he was only 16 years old until he died in his nineties. They were in a modern style - i.e. generally not naturalistic - but very beautifully executed.

Wednesday - The weather map looks awful, and it has rained all day. We have been talking of hiring a car for a few days but haven't felt like venturing out in the rain to do anything about it - and if this weather continues it wouldn't be much fun touring even in a car. Gloom, gloom.

Thursday - Nick wants to push on and he and I cycled to the supermarket to buy provisions while Mike went to the airport to investigate car hire. He reserved a car and in the evening we both cycled back to pick it up, putting the bikes in the boot - tight squeeze in a VW Polo but they just went in.

Friday 9th - Saturday 10th May, - Picos de Europa by car.

We said goodbye to Nick and then drove to some of the harbours we might have stopped at en route to Gijon if we hadn't already been delayed by the bad weather. San Vicente de la Barquera - pretty town but not easy to find a berth, Llanes- less appealing (it was raining again by now) and the quayside was closed for repairs and/or alterations, and Ribadesella. The latter is a delightful town (the sun was shining again by now) BUT we arrived during the ebb and even though there was little swell the seas were breaking right across the entrance to the harbour. We could see why the pilot book insists that entry should only be attempted in settled weather and on the top half of the flood tide. On the whole none of the ports were particularly inviting from a sailing point of view and we are now even more convinced that we should sail direct from Santander to Gijon, some 85 to 90 miles (17 hours possibly).

From Ribadesella we took the N625 through the Desfiladero (mountain pass) de los Beyos to Riano. Here we were in the Picos de Europa with most magnificent scenery rivalling or beating anything we have ever seen in Scotland or even New Zealand. The passes cut through the mountains following river valleys with towering cliffs on either side, water falls, overhangs, salmon rivers bouncing and sparkling over rocky beds - you name it - it's got it! The cliffs are streaked in wonderful colours - black, rust, brown, grey and cream and trees cling into all the crevasses. At Riano a pretty church is set on a rise, overlooking a lake within a circle of snow-capped mountains. However, right next door to the church is a monstrously ugly modern sculpture consisting of 12ft high white rectangular blocks with industrial looking bars at the top from which hang several bells. We wonder if this juxtaposition of incongruous objects is a sort of Spanish joke - remember the flowery dog at the Guggenheim? From Riano we took the N621 to Potes. There were wild flowers everywhere, gorse and heather on the hills and tiny wild daffodils along the river's edge (surely out of season?), poppies on the walls and bluebells in the beech woods. Unfortunately as we gained altitude along this road so the cloud base lowered and for a while it got a bit stressful with visibility down to 25 to 50 metres though at least we couldn't see how far we were going to fall if we lost the road. I ended up scared and shouted at Mike as he wouldn't slow down to my choice of speed. He, of course asserted he was in total control.

At Potes the weather had improved a little so we decided to go on to Fuente De where we were able to check into the Parador for the night. We both had baths - a luxury after 6 weeks on a boat - a good meal, an excellent night's sleep and in the morning we couldn't believe our luck when, drawing the curtains, we saw the mountains all around us swathed in mist but with clear, snowy covered tops bathed in the morning sun.

From just above the Parador we took the cable car up to the mirador on the mountain (1,926 metres). For someone averse to heights this was another achievement for Mike. The car seems to start the trip fairly horizontal with only a slight climb but as it nears the mountain it's ascent appears to get near vertical, clawing its way up the mountain face. There are great views from the top and we climbed a little higher on foot to get an even wider view from the ridge.

After making a few snowballs we came down again, paid up for the night at the Parador (35% off for being 'jubillado' = retired/ancient - what a lovely word for OAP that is) and drove to Potes again where we had coffee. This is a very lively and pretty little town with lots of advertisements for exciting things to do - white water canoeing, parascending, caving, rock climbing, quad bikes, and horse riding. We then drove through another magnificent, narrow pass, Desfiladero de la Hermida, back to the coast. From Cabezon de la Sal we headed inland again through the Saja-Besaya National Park. This is very different from the Picos, much more verdant but still quite exciting as the road deteriorated the further we progressed and there was a deep ditch over the broken edges on our side of the road and a steep drop into the valley on the other. It would have been nice to get out and follow one of the tracks, but sadly we did not have time.

Back at the marina we discovered Nick has still not left so we have agreed on an early start, 0430 am tomorrow for Gijon.

Sunday 11th May - Santander to Gijon, 90 miles, 15 hours.

We made our early start as planned with an interesting bit of pilotage following the lights of the buoys out of Santander and avoiding one ship coming into the main port. We had carefully noted what the various flashing rates of the buoys should be on the way out but someone obviously had changed them since our chart was printed. There was no wind and a light shower before daybreak. It was cold and we were dressed in full gear - thermals, mid-layer and wet-weather jackets. With winds forecast as variable 2 to 3 going N3 to 4 later in the day it should have been an ideal west going passage. However the wind never got above F2 and what did get up was from the west, on the nose. So 15 hours on the motor saw us into Gijon at around 7.30 in the evening. At least the sun shone all afternoon, although it was still quite cool. The entry into the marina was very easy with plenty of room. We moored to a finger berth off a long pontoon. Just as we moored I heard a hissing noise from the cupboard over the hot water cylinder. Mike got down to find out what it was just as a water pipe, softened by the heat from the engine, slid off the pressurised cylinder and deluged him in hot water!

There is a beautiful 50 ft yacht, 'The Silkie of the Seas', alongside the main pontoon, which has obviously come to grief in some bad weather here. It seems likely that its stern line parted allowing the bow to fall against the pontoon and get mauled by some bolts that stick out on that side. There are large areas where all of the gel coat has been gouged off the fibreglass hull. There was a large British flag flying on the back but no sign of the crew.

Monday 12th to Wednesday 21st May - Gijon.

Gijon is a lively city with lots of shops, a long beach and modern sculptures all round the place. Every evening and at the weekend crowds of people go for a passeo around the edge of the marina. Old and young alike sit out in the sun in the evenings watching the world go by where in England they would be at home watching the TV.

I have been suffering from cystitis so decided it was time to see a doctor. It is very difficult being unwell in a foreign language. The Information Bureau gave us a number of an urologist, though all I wanted was a GP, and we managed to make an appointment. When we go there it was obviously not the Spanish NHS. It was a large building, occupied by about 20 different specialists with some in-patient beds upstairs, and the receptionist had no interest in my E111. She was totally confused by my attempt to tell her I had an appointment with a Doctor Mozzarah. Eventually she called in another young doctor who had done some training in England and could speak English. He took us into his office but wouldn't prescribe an antibiotic without lab tests to see which bug was involved. It is obvious this is going to take a while so it is going to be a few days before we can leave. However, friends who were to join us at Coruna, have decided they cannot do so, so we are now in no hurry and we want a forecast of some three settled days of weather before moving on from here as the next two ports we plan to use are anchorages and might not be comfortable if the weather turns foul.

Wednesday 14th May. Nick decided to press on today, as he wants to get to Portugal by June. It was a lovely day and Mike and I went for a long cliff walk past a variety of modern sculptures, ending up at one that looks like the prow of a ship way up the cliffs at Cabo San Lorenzo. We had been recommended to try a fish restaurant nearby the marina which was cheap and good. However when we got there, there was a notice saying the owner was having a descanso (rest) so went next door to a sidrerea - lots of the local restaurants advertise themselves as cider houses. Several people were drinking the cider, which appeared very cloudy. When they wanted their glass topped up, the waiter, a portly, red-faced and somewhat greasy gentleman, grabbed their bottle in his left hand and stretched up in the air as high as he could reach, with their glass in his right hand, which he stretched down over a bucket and held at an angle of 45 degrees to the floor. He then proceed to pour from the bottle into the glass - a distance of 4 - 5 feet, and then handed the customer an inch of frothy cider in their sticky glass which they drank with gusto. We wondered how long it had taken him to perfect this technique. The meal was expensive and not very good.

There is another English boat on our pontoon with two men in their late thirties/early forties. One is going home today and the other expects his wife and four month old baby to arrive tonight. He has been bringing the boat south for a week or two, thus missing a lot of broken nights no doubt. She is on maternity leave at present so thought it would be a good opportunity to try the cruising life! I am not sure what he does that allows him to disappear off for several months.

Nick phoned in the evening to say he had had a good sail to Cudillero and to get the forecast for tomorrow from Mike. Mike is downloading the reports from the Internet using a laptop computer and mobile phone on gprs. This seems an economic system for mobile phone operation since you only pay for the data you transfer and not the time you spend connected. It therefore doesn't matter that the mobile phone connection is slow.

Friday 16th May. We have finally finished with the medics at the centre here. My first test was inconclusive so I had to repeat the process and meantime the doctor prescribed a broad based antibiotic - wish he had done that in the first place! All in all it has cost about £80 so far and several days in port. We spent a large part of today getting them to give us receipts to claim off our holiday insurance. In the end I think the secretary just typed something up to make us go away. We also visited a museum - more modern art including a sculpture, seemingly of someone who had thrown him or her self off a balcony. As you look over the edge, you see a dark cloak spread artistically on the floor with one black-stockinged leg sticking out. No blood though, a missed opportunity there.

Another Brit boat, "Midnight Drifter", flying the Scottish flag has arrived - Shirley, the female crew is an ex-social worker like me but a higher flyer (and also missing the Archers). Ken is a radio ham which means Mike is interested. Thanks to chatting with them we now know how to get written weather forecasts from the web for current day plus two days ahead instead of just the current day we have been getting up to now. I don't really know why we bother because the forecasts bear no relation at all to the weather you get. We have also managed to swap a few more books. Like us, they are drifting slowly south with no timetable in mind, and avoiding rain and strong winds where possible. Shirley is very envious of all the room on our boat and of our back cabin. They have a Rival 32 which they dearly love. It is only a little bit shorter than ours but very cramped inside. They have to live and sleep in the main cabin, as the front is full of bikes etc. She is trying to talk Ken into buying a bigger boat next year. We jokingly told her that Mike has been eyeing bigger boats hopefully ever since I inherited my brother's bungalow and might be willing to part with ours.

Sunday 18th May. We joined forces with Ken and Shirley and hiked out to the Museo Evaristo Valle. The building houses lots of pictures and personal effects of the painter. We liked the paintings, which often show the people and places around Gijon at the turn of the century. The people are in an almost cartoon style but have lots of life and colour. The gardens are very green and attractive with many old trees and dozens of modern sculptures, mostly done in rusty steel. There was one sculpture in stone of a figure bent over in 'the thinker' position under the weight of a heavy stone pressing on his head and shoulders. I decided this was a social worker on Monday mornings with a weight of paperwork on his head. On the way out and back we went through a pretty park with big lakes and a huge collection of different varieties of wild fowl and about 20 peacocks. The males were all happy to show off their tail plumage. We went out to eat again in the evening to the cheap fish restaurant nearby but unfortunately the owner was having yet another rest-day and we ended up in another sidrerea where the waiter talked us into a very expensive but absolutely delicious fish called Rape which looked like a miniature hammer-head shark and was absolutely boneless. (We later found out this was monk fish which we had never had before but now know is our son Jon's favourite.)

Monday - Winds in west so no go for Cudillero which is our next planned stop.

Tuesday - same - did a bit more culture.

Wednesday 21st May - Gijon to Luarca, 46 miles, 9 hours.

Winds were forecast as N3 to 4, ideal for our move to Cudillero, a little fishing harbour about 25 miles away. We left just after 10am and in fact the winds were east which made it a run (behind us) which meant rigging a preventer and hand steering with the genoa goose-winged. 'Midnight Drifter' left before us but we passed them en route and entered Cudillero about 3pm.

The entrance to the harbour is interesting - a narrow passage with a tight dogleg with rocks either side within the harbour walls - and then this pretty little harbour opens out with lots of fishing boats anchored and lying against the quayside and two pontoons with some vacant berths for visitors to lie to. There was very little room to anchor so we headed for one of the pontoons. The pilot books do warn that Cudillero is subject to swell, which can make berthing to the small pontoons 'interesting'. There was about 1.5 to 2 metres of swell outside but we never expected that much to bother us - wrong! Mike seemed to be having big problems lining the boat up with the finger berth while I was hanging on the edge of the boat, ready to leap off with the mooring rope. As he approached he kept misjudging things since one moment we were too close and the next too far away. Eventually I managed to leap ashore and tie the bow and Mike got the stern line fast. Then we realised what was happening. The whole pontoon was moving sideways by several feet in the swell which was surging into the harbour. Since the pontoons were small, light, and seemingly poorly moored, their movement tended to be far greater than the movement of our relatively heavy boat. This meant that the lines were snatching alarmingly and the fenders were in danger of bursting. Mike gave one look and said 'No way, we are off out of here!' We left as Ken and Shirley in 'Midnight Drifter' entered and we told them we were going on to the next harbour, Luarca. This is about 20 more miles and has buoys for visitors but is also subject to swell and the buoys are said not to be yacht friendly being made of steel. We sailed most of the way and when we arrived we found Luarca was fairly quiet inside to our great relief - the next harbour would have meant continuing to sail through the night. We picked up a buoy and launched the dinghy to take a line ashore to keep the boat from banging on the buoy. This was quite an adventure as it involved Mike standing up in the dinghy while it went up and down on the swell, and stretching up to reach a ring on the harbour wall while I held on to a crack in the wall - to the detriment of my finger tips - with one hand, and Mike's trousers with the other. 'MD' came in an hour later, having also given up on Cudillero. We helped them moor up and then they joined us for a spaghetti dinner. We showed Ken the back cabin (salesmanship) and he sat at the chart table wondering where his ham radio could go!

Thursday 22 May - Luarca to Ria de Viveiro, 52 miles, 10 hours.

Luarca was a staging post for us since we wanted to move on to our first ria. The day dawned bright and sunny but with little wind so we had to motor all the way. 'Midnight Drifter' stopped off at Ribadeo but we decided to make the longer trip to Viveiro. With little wind and lots of sun, Mike was able to strip off and enjoy the sun while sailing for the first time this year. We saw a triangular fin off the port bow and I got a glimpse of a round grey/brown body. It was either a big shark or a small whale!

We are now in Galicia, which is ria country. The 'rias' are drowned valleys, which have been cut by a river and then filled by a rise in sea level. Some of these are quite small with only one harbour at their head but others cover several square miles, and are mini cruising grounds in their own right with many harbours and anchorages to visit. In northern Galicia, where we are now, the rias are known as the 'rias altas' and the 'rias da costa da morte' (the coast of death) the latter referring to the many shipwrecks of the past but also in recent times to the deaths in winter of local fishermen who work along this coast. Around the corner, past Coruna and Finisterre, we will be into west Galicia with the 'rias bajas' to explore. These tend to be the bigger ones.

Viveiro is about two miles up a pretty ria within which are a couple of small islands off which you can anchor in settled weather. At the town, a new marina has been built adjacent to the fishing port and it still has lots of spaces for visitors.

Friday 23rd to Sunday 25th May - Viveiro.

We spent Friday cleaning the boat, shopping in the hypermarket, which for once is very close by, and doing the laundry - and of course having a siesta in the sun, then out for a meal in the evening which I thought was OK but Mike found disappointing. We are missing French food since we have yet to be really impressed with any of the local Spanish fare apart from the fish in Gijon.

On Saturday we intended to walk but the weather was pretty awful with very heavy rain in violent squally showers so we spent most of the day planning the next few weeks sailing. I went to the local market (just missed getting caught in one of the squalls) and bought a huge turbot for dinner tonight (expensive) and fresh caught sardines for tomorrow (cheap). We eat well onboard with lots of fresh produce always available. On Sunday we went for a long bike ride looking for some waterfalls. We didn't manage to find them (not a very good map and no road signs) but we enjoyed the ride nevertheless.

Monday 26th of May - Viveiro to Cederia, 34 miles, 6 hours.

We had to hang around the marina until 10.30 for the staff to arrive so we could pay, so we had a late start for our 35ish mile run. The forecast was for North-East 3 to 4 veering East. NE would be great but E puts us on a run again which makes the helming difficult, especially when the swell keeps throwing the boat off course, The wind did go E so Mike did most of the helming with the genoa goose winged. The wind was stronger than forecast, at least top end of 4 if not 5, and we had 1 reef in the main and 6 rolls in the genoa. Off Punta Candelaria we were able to head more south into the ria on a broad reach which was excellent.

We anchored in the harbour at Cedeira in plenty of space but had a very uneasy night because the wind didn't ease up at all and howling gusts were coming down off the hills causing concern about whether the anchor would drag. Anchoring sounds very romantic and something real cruising people should be doing. Also it has the advantage of being free but I am afraid I do really prefer to be tied down firmly to a pontoon at night, plugged into the electricity, with showers at hand and able to amble round the harbour when I want.

We have had an e-mail from Ken and Shirley saying they might be seriously interested in buying our boat. Are we seriously interested in selling to buy bigger? I don't think either of us are sure. I have said to Mike that if we find a Moody 376 going cheap between here and Lagos because the owners have decided they don't like the life and have gone home, then it will be fate and meant to be. He isn't at all sure it matters whether it is cheap. My father, a very careful man with his money, would revolve in his grave if he knew there was a chance of the proceeds from the sale of his hard earned house being used to fund a boat!

Tuesday 27th May - Cedeira to Sada, Ria de Betanzos, 34 miles, 6 hours 45.

Last night's forecast for today was again Easterlies, 3 to 4 in the morning increasing to F5 during the day with the sea state rough becoming very rough. Being awake early anyway we decided to go for an early departure to try and beat the weather. We lifted the anchor, complete with a large quantity of mud, at 7.30 am. The wind was still howling down from the hills in the ria but as we got into open sea it dropped to a very pleasant force 3 although still directly behind us. We were running before the wind again but this time with some engine to help. A big problem in this part of the world is the sea swell. There is nearly always a swell running of some 1 to 2 metres, usually from the N or NE. This adds to the discomfort of running because the swell is always lifting the stern of the boat causing it to yaw and roll a lot. We had some 2 hours of this today before our course turned more south and we were able to sail on a broad reach and the motion eased. As we entered the Ria de Betanzos the swell died and we had the best sail yet, beam reaching at 7 knots to within an hour of our destination when the wind died completely - so much for Spanish weather forecasts!

Our marina in this ria is at Sada. This is a short way from Coruna and close to the NW corner of the coast of Spain. Some friends of ours from Worcester - Gordon and Julia, who left their boat here for the winter, arrive tomorrow and will be staying on board with us for a few nights while they get their boat ready to go back on the water.

Oh - and summer arrived today with a vengeance. It is now too hot, up to 80 degrees in the cabin. Who is never satisfied?

Wed 28th May to Wednesday 4th June - Sada Marina.

Summer continued for a second day, and our friends Julia and Gordon arrived at about 7.30 in the evening, having got up at 3 in the morning, driven to Stanstead, flown out to Bilbao and then driven a hire car to Sada. Since Julia was in decline with a cold, Gordon had to drive all the way, and they were both pretty tired. We had a very cheerful evening and went reasonably early to bed.

Leaving them to work on their boat, Mike and I went off to Coruna next day, (still summer) and discovered it is a large, busy and noisy town. The 'Saga Pearl' cruise ship was in port and we wondered how long it would be before we had to do our cruising in that kind of boat. We went out for a long walk to the Tower of Hercules lighthouse - said to be the oldest working lighthouse in the world, but actually largely re-built, though still a very splendid building. We also explored the Castillo San Anton which has a museum with lots of Roman remains in it.

On Friday Julia and Gordon's boat was launched, at 20.00 Spanish time instead of 17.30 as promised so we ate rather late that night and got through three bottles of red wine in celebration before they retired to 'Semaj' for the night. I met the cruising man with the 4 month old baby and the wife on maternity leave, in the laundrette and discovered he fits kitchens and bathrooms for a living when he needs money, and swans off on his boat when he has saved enough. He says there are always plenty of kitchens and bathrooms waiting for him when he gets home.

On Saturday, we all got up early and went off to Santiago de Compostela to return Gordon's hire car. (After a misty start, the summer continued). The car had to be returned to the 5 star Parador in Santiago, (166 Euros for a double room for a night) so we had a coffee in luxurious surroundings. The cathedral in Santiago is very splendid with a flight of grand steps leading up to a beautifully carved facade and huge towers. Inside there are graceful pillars surmounted by carved bosses supporting the vaulted ceiling. The main pillars consist of eight fairly narrow ones joined together to make one huge hexagonal one - (I expect there is a special name for this). Towards the altar there are the usual Spanish overdone gold painted carvings of cherubs etc but most of the interior is very attractive. There were very many tourists and several very tiny, very elderly priests sitting in the old confessional boxes round the edge of the church. We joined a queue to go up behind the altar where lots of equally tiny Spanish OAP ladies were kissing a statue with much enthusiasm. We abstained. Our pilot book says that the Apostle James came to Northern Spain to spread the gospel, returned to Rome and was put to death. His body was brought back to the area and buried in a secret grave covered in scallop shells. The grave was found in 813AD and the King of Spain ordered the body to be re-buried in Santiago and a cathedral built. Subsequently lots of miracles occurred and the place became a centre of pilgrimage. Many of the priests wear scallop shells and there are several large silver ones in the treasury along with the usual crucifixes etc. We wandered around the old city, which is pedestrianised, and admired the many handsome buildings built in granite blocks. In a couple of the squares we came across groups of traditional dancers doing very lively dances, the men dressed in waistcoats and leggings with fancy red hats, and the girls looking very pretty in Spanish dress. Most of them were wearing their hair in long, thick, black plaits, and were dressed in very full black lacy skirts with colourful tops and shawls. They must have been terribly hot in the costumes because it was warm just watching them. The girls swung their hips in a way that set their skirts swaying and swirling, while the band played bagpipes and tambourines.

We had a drink in a square and then went into a restaurant for a light lunch. We sat upstairs by a window overlooking the sunny square, with the sounds of a very good modern jazz guitarist drifting up from below. While we discussed the menu, the waiter came to the table and we thought he asked (in Spanish) if we would like the special mixed starters so Mike said "why not" without fully understanding all he had said, and we went on planning what we would have for main course. The 'starter' dishes kept coming and coming - crab, mussels, fried small green peppers, octopus, various other shellfish, then when we thought we had had more than enough, a whole lobster and then clams in a tomato sauce. We refused pudding, but had coffees and liqueurs. It was all delicious, apart from the enormous bill which the waiter then presented with a smile saying the coffee and liqueurs were with the compliments of the management! Moral - never say "Si" unless you have fully understood the question and asked the price. Still, it was a memorable meal and well worth it for the ambience and good company. Perhaps we won't eat out again for a while.

Sunday - hasn't it rained today? - positively tropical. Mike has been working on the problem of air in the engine fuel line and seems to have sorted it (again - I think this is the third attempt). He also has spent several hours preparing routes for the next hundred miles or so of coast so the day has by no means been wasted. He had intended to have a day off the alcohol but Julia and Gordon invited us round for a most delicious roast Sunday dinner so that was another good resolution sunk without trace.

On Monday we left G & J working and took a bus to Betanzos - said to be the old Roman town of Brigantium Flavium. It boasts three elegant churches in the old centre, one of which has a stone sarcophagus borne on the backs of a pig and a bear.

My notice asking for paperback swaps, hung from the pulpit in every port, has suddenly borne abundant fruit. A lady on the well worn boat opposite said she had books to swap. She wanted to know if we swapped by books - or by inches of books. I said "Books" since inches had never occurred to me and seemed a bit parsimonious. I went over to see what she had, and then called Mike over since they offered a drink. I firmly asked for coffee for us both as Mike was definitely having a day off the drink. "Ah well," said the Captain "I'll have a refill darling" whereupon she completely filled his long tumbler with wine from a box. They looked to be in their seventies. He is an ex submariner - short, wiry, very brown and wrinkled. They left England in 1996 and went across the Atlantic and round the Caribbean for a year or two. Then they sailed back and have been in the Med since then. They are now working their way back to England as they feel they were getting a bit old for the life. When the conversation got round to cruising friends who had recently dropped dead en route, Mike and I decided it was time to go.

A second couple, this time in their forties, came over in their dinghy from their little catamaran which was anchored inside the harbour wall. He said he was desperate for books as he had got through all their stock. They had worked in England for a while but been unhappy and had sold up, bought the boat and set off to return to the Med. They seemed to be going even more slowly than us and had wintered in the isolated marina outside Santander, where they were very bored. They had however been befriended by the natives who brought them food parcels, somewhat to their embarrassment, took them skiing and improved their Spanish. They gave the impression of being short of money and I thought she looked a bit tense and unhappy whereas he talked cheerfully and non-stop. Their books were somewhat more highbrow than ours, tending to Iris Murdoch and Henry Miller. We rejected the little red one entitled "An Introduction to Anthroposophy" which he admitted he had been trying to get rid of for some time, but accepted the rest. Mind you, we could see the sense in inches not number of books, as several of theirs were less than a centimetre thick. However, in view of his desperation we were generous and swapped book for book.

On Tuesday Mike helped Gordon try and sort out his rigging, which apparently vibrates, along with the mast, since it was re-rigged by experts last summer. They re-tensioned the rig and then they went out for a test sail. Mike also did some modifications to our anchor since this year, for some reason, the electric winch no longer sucks the chain up like spaghetti but allows it to fall into unhappy little puddles between the winch and the down pipe which leads into the anchor well. Perhaps it is because the chain is now sticky with a year's salt and doesn't run so freely. He has put some pads on to the deck to support the chain as it runs from winch to pipe.

Wednesday Mike greased the winches while I did shopping and laundry. There seems to be a slot in the weather that will allow us 2 or 3 days to get past Finisterre so we intend to leave tomorrow. G and J joined us after supper for a farewell bottle or two of wine and much laughter.

Thursday 5th June, Sada to Lage (Ria de Corme y Lage) - 42 miles, 8 hours.

Departure was delayed again because we needed to pay for our berth and had to wait until 10am for the marina office to open. Gordon and Julia still have work to do and are getting an expert in to help with the rigging, which still vibrates in certain wind conditions despite Mike's attempts. They helped us cast off and we promised to meet up again later, probably in the Ria de Muros. The wind as usual was against us and we motored all day in bright but cold weather. It was an uneventful trip ending with an easy entrance to the harbour in the Ria at Lage where we anchored for the night off the beach. The anchor chain stuck once on the way down, but the winch generally managed, with a little help, to pull it up next day with only a couple of puddles, so Mike's modifications have improved matters.

Friday 6th June, Lage to Portosin (Ria de Muros) - 53 miles, 14 hours.

We are round Cape Finisterre!!!

Mike got an update on the weather late last night using his mobile phone and lap-top and of course things have changed. The forecast for today is W or SW Force 3 with possibility of rain and/or mist, not ideal for the next stage we had in mind. The forecast for Saturday, however, is worse, with winds W or SW 4 to 6. None of the anchorages nearby are ideal in strong SWlys and we didn't fancy rounding Finisterre in a F6 so we agreed we would go for it today, taking the long trip direct to Portosin in Ria de Muros in one go missing out both Camarinas and Sardineiro which we had originally planned to visit.

We left Lage at 0830 after a comfortable night at anchor. The weather was fine with little wind but we had to motor into a fairly large swell which at times knocked our speed down to 4 knots. Nevertheless we made good progress and checked off the 'capes' of the Costa da Morte as we passed each one - Cabo Villano, Cabo de la Buitra, Cabo Toriana, Cabo de la Nave and finally, at 3pm, we passed Cabo Finisterre, where we celebrated by opening a bottle of sparkly to toast ourselves rounding the corner. At last we are going south again!

All round these cliffs in Galicia there are lines of white electricity generation windmills, wind farms, on the mountains. I quite like the look of them - better than some of the modern sculptures we have seen.

At Finisterre, the sea became like a mill pond, the skies cleared completely and we had a marvellously relaxed motor-sail with main and genoa set doing 6 knots in the dead calm sea for the next 2 hours to Ria de Muros with another hour sailing up the ria to the marina at Portosin. In the marina, helpful staff took our lines so mooring was easy. Arrival was at 6.45 pm, a long day for us, but because the weather was fine and the scenery very beautiful, the time passed quickly!

Saturday 7th June to Monday 16th June - Ria de Muros

On Saturday we shopped in the little village of Portosin, discovering no less than 5 tiny self-service stores. Portosin is not particularly attractive but what beauty it might once have possessed is being ruined by the erection of large numbers of blocks of singularly ugly flats, which are clearly to be holiday homes. The men are also working very hard, laying a promenade round the port. When the flats are full for the brief holiday season, doubtless the beautiful local beaches will all be heaving.

I went to the laundrette to do some washing and met a 35 year old Australian girl there. She and her husband left Australia in their 45 ft boat 10 years ago and made their way via Indonesia and the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea to the Med - which she didn't like - and then through the French canals to England. Here they stopped for two years, living on the boat on the Thames in London, in which time she produced a baby who is now two. Her husband brought the boat down through the Bay of Biscay shortly after the baby was born (because she was frightened of the reputation of the Bay of Biscay!) and she joined him down here. They have since done the Algarve and are pottering back up to England to try and settle down for the baby's sake. There is also another very young couple from Zeeland in a large boat, which they live on back at home. They have taken leave of their jobs to go cruising for 4 months, inspired to do it by the fact that one of their friends just died at 27. They are stuck here at present, having taken on some dirty diesel in Portugal, which has caused engine problems. They have lent us Treasure Island, which is a rattling good yarn. After lunch we cycled up hill and down dale to nearby Noia at the head of the Ria. This is a pretty little town with a very old centre - but appears to be completely dead on Saturday afternoons.

Sunday was so nice we just sunbathed all day on the boat which Mike had given a quick wash down first thing while the dew was still wet. Then we got invited for sundowners onto the boat next door, together with the couple from the boat next to that - all spending retirement slowly sailing south. Another couple have also arrived in port complete with a poodle and a cat on board. Apparently the cat moped at being left with Grandma so they brought it along but it is not very enamoured with sailing either. I wonder if they have a cat tray on board and if so what happens to it when the boat is heeling over in rough seas.

First swim!!! Monday was still fine so we cycled to Porto da Son, the next village seaward of Portosin in the ria, and stopped off at a beautiful beach, Playa Aguiera, where we swam for the first time this year and sun-bathed on white sand which equalled anything we saw in the Caribbean. Some lucky person has a holiday house here, reached by a little arched bridge and built on an island with a garden full of palm trees, its own little quay, white beach - and aquamarine sea - at least it was today.

On Thursday we decided to explore some of the anchorages in the Ria and had a lovely peaceful day in a pretty bay off Punta de San Anton. We had a bit of trouble as the anchor would not hold - eventually after the fourth go Mike said "Let out 25 metres instead of 20" and I suddenly remembered that the marks on the chain represent five metres, not ten. I had only been letting out 10 metres when he wanted 20, so it was no wonder it would not hold. Thank heavens for the electric anchor winch. We were boarded by Customs at 10.45 that night! There is reputed to be a lot of drug running round here so they presumably check on anyone keeping out of the way. Unfortunately the wind got up towards evening so we had a very uneasy night and Mike had to get up to let out more chain at 3 in the morning.

We decided to go back to the marina next day as force 6 was forecast and we need some sleep. On the way we visited two more anchorages, Ensenada de Bornalle (still not well sheltered from the NEly) and Ensenade de Esteiro (which was). Here we anchored off the beach and a couple of hundred metres to seaward of us there must have been some thirty small fishing boats anchored in a circle. The fishermen were scooping shellfish off the bottom using large 'shrimp-nets' attached to very long (15 metres or so) whippy fibreglass poles. At 1200 they all packed up and went across to the small harbour - siesta time!

In the evening we had a text from Gordon to say they were in Camarinas. The sailing had been very tough. They had had some strong winds, big swell and rough seas and he had had to keep reminding Julia she was on holiday. They were keeping company with friends they had met last year, Roy and Rita on 'Fair Nicole'. When they arrived eventually in Portosin on Saturday they told us they had anchored in Camarinas and gone down for a sleep, but were awoken by shouts from a neighbouring boat to tell them their anchor was dragging and they were heading for the rocks. When they had taken up their anchor they found it was covered in seaweed! When they were finally settled the man told them that he had tried to anchor in there in the first place and had the same problem. Julia felt he might have told them this before they anchored, rather than waiting for them to get into trouble! All four of them joined us for dinner on Saturday night in Portosin and we had another really good evening.

On Sunday we decided to set off at about 11am for the Ria de Arousa where we are meeting our daughter, Katey and her partner, Mike. We said fond farewells to the others on the pontoon and waved goodbye. It was pretty misty to begin with and got steadily worse especially when we got out of the mouth of the Ria. About 12.30, when visibility had got down to 100 metres several times, Mike said, "It is an hour and a half back or five and a half on - which do you want?" Somewhat embarrassed we turned round and motored back to Portosin, .

The next day, the forecast was for fog again and drizzle so we decided to stay on land. We set off for Muros, a fishing village on the other side of the ria, by bus - in fog and drizzle. By the time we arrived there was blue sky and no sign of fog. We explored Muros, which is a maze of narrow, shady, streets, flights of steps with washing hanging from balconies and little narrow passages between houses. It is probably a nightmare to drive a car in, but very pretty to wander in on foot. We had a nice lunch of pulpo - octopus - and more little fried green peppers. Once again, the authorities seem to be trying to turn the place into a tourist centre. They are building a promenade all along the front and appeared to be importing a beach!

Back home, the young Dutch couple with the engine trouble have been told by the engineers that they can fix the blocked engine parts. The couple have bypassed the dirty fuel tank by putting a big barrel of diesel in the neighbouring loo with pipes from the engine. They intend to sail back through Biscay with this and get the fuel tank cleared out back home. I do hope they know what they are doing.

Tuesday 17th June, Portosin to Vilagarcia (Ria de Arousa) - 42 miles, 8¼ hours.

On Tuesday the weather forecast didn't look too bad, still F6 and rough, but only out to sea. Inshore we assumed we would be better off so we set off in company with G and J and R and R for Ria de Arousa. We are dying to see dolphins, and though we have caught the odd glimpse of a fin, I don't think it counts unless they leap out of the water and play around your boat. We left first and on this trip the dolphins ignored us and played beautifully for both the following two boats. Am I cross! The day did however give us the best sail we have had this year. The wind was in the North at Force 3 to 4 all day and as soon as we were out of the shelter of Muros we were able to shut down the engine and broad reach SSW to Cape Corrubedo where we ran South goose-winged for some 3 miles before gybing onto port tack for another reach into the mouth of the ria past Isla Salvora. Most of the time we were doing 6 knots. The other two boats then went to Pedras Negras, but we motor-sailed the last 10 miles up the ria, NNE to Vilagarcia, where we are meeting Katey and Mike. There was plenty of room in the marina, but the surroundings of the marina and Vilagarcia itself leave a lot to be desired - gas tanks, numerous huge cranes, a railway siding, a disco, and a Macdonalds around the marina and a lot of litter and a collection of very ugly, often decaying, buildings in the town. However, we had a very peaceful night and spent next morning clearing out the front cabin and doing shopping in preparation for our visitors.

Wednesday 18th June to 25th June, Rias de Arousa, Aldan and Pontevedra.

Katey and mike (whose name I will write with a small m to avoid confusion) arrived about 4.30pm on a very hot afternoon having had an easy journey from Heathrow to Santiago and then by train to Vilagarcia. Next day, Thursday, was even hotter with a strong NE wind blowing. We set off along the ria with two reefs in the main and six rolls in the genoa but over a smooth sea and then turned and motored north to anchor off the Playa de Barrana for a lunch stop. Katey bravely swam off the boat, though not for very long as her feet were freezing, so the rest of us decided not to bother. There was less wind in this part of the ria and we tacked back to Rianjo still with reefed main but full genoa and Mike was pleased that we were able to make 110 to 120 degrees between tacks. Every so often we were hit by gusts of hot air and we got hotter and hotter. We have been worrying for some time about the manoeuvres involved in mooring stern or bows to, on pontoons with no fingers. Here it is necessary to pick up a haul off line that runs some way out to a mooring weight. Hauling in on this then stops the boat from being pushed onto the pontoon by the wind and holds the boat straight and two mooring lines to the pontoon stop the boat blowing off. In Rianjo we had to do this for the first time and conditions were perfect - there was virtually no wind in the harbour and no current and a nice Spanish man was there to take our mooring lines and hand us the haul off line. Mike reversed up to the pontoon beautifully, (no easy feat with our boat which does not like reversing) and we tied up with ease. Another first! We were all really hot and set off as soon as possible to try and find a beach for a swim. Turning to the right we walked about a quarter of a mile past some rocky coves, which looked very sea-weedy. We then staggered off in the other direction for half a mile before deciding there was no luck that way either. In the end we dived into the not very salubrious marina showers and doused ourselves under the cold water for ten minutes, then sat in the bar and had cold drinks and ice-creams. Eventually the day cooled and we sat in the cockpit enjoying the delicious evening and talking until late. We realised it was 10 o'clock when we finally ate dinner. We seem to have adjusted to Spanish eating hours at last.

Rianjo is a port with lots of boats involved in collecting mussels from the many viveros in the ria, and other kinds of shell fishing. The viveros are large wooden rafts from which hang hundreds of ropes covered in mussels. The boats moor alongside and use their cranes to lift the mussels on board. The town itself is very pleasant with a big shady square and cool streets. The local women were selling fish and vegetables at the edge of the road and we bought some sprats for lunch.

We left Rianjo at about 11 o'clock and once more had blue sky all day long, though fortunately there was a cooler breeze from the SW and we tacked down to Isla Rua and then motored to Santa Eugenia de Riveira where we anchored for lunch. Gordon and Julia came over to see us in their dinghy from the marina where they were moored. In the evening we went into the modern marina at Pedras Negras by the little town of San Vincente del Mar. This is a really beautiful spot with lots of expensive houses along the front. Stretching west to the point, are a series of delightful little white sand beaches divided from each other by huge heaps of smooth, rounded boulders. Along the back of the beaches, the local council have built a wonderful board walk, which must be two or three miles long and there are walks inland through woodland as well. We decided we would love to come back here for a holiday sometime perhaps when we are too old to sail. There are lots of holiday flats built up the hill, but very few people around. We had an enjoyable swim in one of the bays and Katey and mike treated us to a good dinner in a local restaurant.

We had difficulty in finding anywhere open but Mike asked a local in his best Spanish and he gave us directions, which were quite complicated, to a restaurant some way off. As we walked we were conscious of a small boy on a bike following us, Whenever there was a fork or turning in the road he would go ahead and look back expectantly. Eventually it dawned on us that it was the man's son who he had sent to make sure we got safely to our destination. People are sometimes so amazingly kind and thoughtful!

On Saturday the day dawned bright and sunny yet again. We have had the best weather, some of the best sailing and the best scenery of our whole trip so far while K and m have been with us. We set off towards the Ria de Pontevedra, stopping for lunch at a bay on Isla Ons - an almost deserted island, but patronized a lot by tripper boats. The beach was white sand again, backed by green hills and pinewoods and sported quite a few naked bodies. We then moved on to anchor again in the small Ria de Aldan. This is a narrow V shape, very green, with wonderful beaches all down each side. It is incredible how many magnificent beaches there are in this area.

Sangenjo was our stop for the night, a large, modern marina in quite a big town. The arrivals pontoon is so high that it was almost level with the boat, which is nice and easy on my dicky hip and the showers are superb. There was one 100 foot gin palace in here when we arrived and another arrived later and tied up on the other side of our pontoon. We arrived at 5.30pm and regretfully waved Katey and mike off in a taxi taking them to Pontevedra and then by train back to Santiago where they were to spend a couple of nights to see the cathedral and the town before flying home. Once again they were lucky with the weather because the sky clouded over next day so they were able to explore the town in comfortable temperatures. We went off on a local bus for the afternoon to the neighbouring port of Combarro, which is supposed to be an unspoilt Galician fishing village. In fact it is now a small town but down by the harbour there are several narrow, winding streets of very old, very small, granite cottages built onto the rocks. Some are turned into bars and we peered into dark smoky interiors full of the noise of Spaniards enjoying themselves. There is a tiny, ancient church in the middle.

This weekend is a fiesta weekend and in the morning the villagers had laid pictures made of flower heads, seeds, fir and privet leaves, and shells in a half mile long carpet through the village. Unfortunately by the time we arrived a parade had walked over it, but it was still fascinating to see, and some of it was still intact. It seems to be a Galician custom and the same thing was happening, though on a lesser scale in Sangenjo, where we were moored. Every so often, through the day and evening, loud air-burst fireworks made us jump. For some reason the Spanish seem to prefer bangs without pretty colours. G & J told us later that the same festival was being celebrated in Rianjo where they were moored. At midnight on the Saturday the locals were still working hard on the long flower carpet, including one old lady on her knees, carefully placing seed after seed individually along a stencilled edge to mark the pattern, which was to be filled in with flowers. They were lucky enough next morning to see the beautiful result of all these labours one hour before it got trampled underfoot. They took one really beautiful photo, which looked like a sumptuous Persian carpet. They also said that the fire cracker man holds the huge rockets in his hand, lights the blue touch paper and lets go at the last minute.

Mike has managed to lose another filling from a tooth. I tell him that by the time we have finished cruising the Med he will have learnt to say "I have lost a filling" in about 8 languages. So far he has done France and Spain, and Italy when we went there for a short visit last year. We tried to get a temporary repair kit, but they don't seem to have reached Galicia yet. On Monday we managed to make an appointment with a Spanish dentist for 7 in the evening. We went off for a cycle ride in the morning and later Mike spent three quarters of an hour in the dentist's chair, but was most impressed by the care taken and the smooth white filling which resulted. There were five disgruntled Spaniards in the queue in the waiting room by the time he left and it only cost £25. On Tuesday we woke to another grey Galician day and pottered about. Four other Brit boats arrived in the evening. They call themselves the "Guildford Sailing Club" and are sailing South together and are on their second year like us. On Wednesday we caught the bus and explored the medieval part of Pontevedra - quite a large area with some nice buildings but I think perhaps we are getting a bit blasé about medieval towns as we have done so many.

The forecast is good for tomorrow so we are setting off for Bayona. We are now leaving the main rias, with only Ria de Vigo to go. Many parts have been very beautiful, particularly the beaches, but as Kate's mike said, an enduring memory will be of cranes - they are everywhere - huge cranes in the big harbours on the docks, small cranes on the many fishing boats involved in the mussel trade, tall cranes in every town and village building blocks of holiday flats. There can't be any unemployment for builders in Spain - it is one big building site. The villages are gradually spreading to cover the green hillsides and in a few years even the attractive parts of the rias will doubtless be spoilt. At the landward end of the Ria de Pontevedra, opposite the lovely ancient village of Combarro, there is a monstrous paper factory painted, for some obscure reason, a bright blue, and belching sulphurous fumes from several chimneys. Although we were worried about the oil spillage from the tanker Prestige we have not been affected at all. There are signs that the authorities are sometimes turning over the sand, and individuals do seem to be inspecting the beaches and there is often a mention in the newspapers, but there seems to have been a very effective clean up job, at least on the surface.

Thursday 26th June, Sangenjo to Bayonna

We set of on a lovely sunny morning and managed to sail a short part of the way at about 4 knots but when the speed dropped to 2 knots, Mike put the engine on. We anchored off the beautiful white beach, Arena das Rodas, on the Islas de Cies and Gordon and Julia, coming from Pedras Negras, rafted up alongside. These two pretty islands have virtually no permanent inhabitants and the smaller southern one is a bird sanctuary, but very many trippers come over each day from local towns by ferryboat. The Spanish don't seem to laze on beaches like the British, but continually parade up and down doing their 'paseo' along the edge of the sea. The air was the clearest we have seen and the colours in the hills and the sea were bright and beautiful. We had lunch and then went ashore in Gordon's dinghy and swam from the beach. Despite the hot sand and the sunshine, the water was very cold. We then motored off to Bayona with some interesting pilotage through a narrow gap, the 'Canal de la Porta,' between the Monte Ferro penisular and an island called Estelas de Tierra, with a very shallow patch of only 0.9 metres depth to avoid, somewhere around the middle. In Bayona we helped each other moor bows to, with a pick-up line again. It was fairly crowded in the harbour and we are seeing more and more British boats, many of which are only on an annual holiday and have taken from days to a week or two to come the distance that has taken us two seasons. Next to us was a single-hander in his seventies who had come from Chichester, non-stop in five and a half days. His wife has let him off the leash for a month. Next day he announced his intention of going to Portugal for the day. His club have a meet at the end of the season where they fly the flags of all the countries they have been to and he wanted to be able to put up his Portuguese flag.

Friday 27th June to Wednesday 2nd July, Bayona

On Friday Mike and I walked along the battlements of the castle next to the marina in the grounds of which is the 4 star Parador Conde do Gondomar. Later Mike and Gordon rigged Gordon's Tinker dinghy and took it out for a sail round the harbour. By this time the wind had got up to a Force 4 to 5 and even sailing round the marina was quite hairy but they enjoyed themselves, only once getting themselves entangled with a moored boat. On Saturday we decided not to set off South even though an ideal NE 4/5 was forecast. This was a good decision as it turned out to be a SW 6, which would have been most uncomfortable. We all walked up to the huge statue of the Virgen de la Roca on the hill, which dominates the harbour. In the harbour is a replica of Columbus' Pinta in which he sailed to America. Mike and I bought delicious sardines in the market for lunch. In the afternoon Roy and Rita arrived in 'Fair Nicole', sailing on to a buoy because their engine had packed up as they were coming through the narrow Canal de la Porta.

One poor lady jumped off her boat on arrival today and suffered a compound fracture of the ankle. Fortunately her husband is a doctor, and managed to do first aid until she could be taken to hospital.

Saturday night/Sunday morning it blew a gale and poured with rain! Mike had to leap about early morning when the wind was at its worst because our boat was in danger of being blown on to the pontoon and he had to pull in the haul-off line another two or three feet, pulling the boat out against a 35 knot wind with some difficulty. Mike demonstrated eye-splicing to Gordon who was setting up gybe preventers - otherwise it was a pretty boring day. Monday morning was a repeat of Sunday with lots of wind and very heavy showers - where has Summer gone? I took two showers, one in the shower block, the other walking the last 50 yards to the boat when the heavens opened. The wind was so strong that horizontal rain blasted right through the saloon and into the forward heads in the time it took me to climb into the cabin. We had a very nice dinner aboard 'Semaj' with G & J which ended the day well.

There is no laundrette in this marina so today, Tuesday, I was on my knees on the pontoon with my two bucket laundry system, doing the washing, when a young woman (40ish?) off a very splendid 50 foot yacht, offered me the use of her washing machine! There, tucked behind the beautiful teak woodwork was a little machine, which washed and span really well. She said that she has winkled her husband out of the office into retirement (he looks about forty-five and is probably ex-city, presumably having made a million or three) and they are heading rapidly for the Med. She says she insisted on a washing machine because she didn't fancy her smalls going round in communal machines in laundrettes. It must be nice to be able to afford to be so per-nicker-ty! Today has been a little less windy with no rain but still too rough to tempt us to leave. Mike spent the morning resealing two port lights in the back cabin which have been leaking for a while. The forecast for the coming days is better and tomorrow we hope to set off for Portugal. We have only two more stops before we intend to take a summer break and leave Europe to the local holidaymakers for July and August.

2nd July, Bayona to Viana do Castelo 38 miles, 7½ hours

Estamos em Portugal.
We woke to drizzle and delayed our start until 11.00, by which time the sky was clearing. Gordon and Julia left at the same time. The sea was calm though there was quite a lot of swell and as usual we motored for the first couple of hours. We spied dolphins about 400 yards off and one or two did little leaps for us, but they never came any nearer so in my book this still doesn't count. Eventually the sun came out and we succeeded in sailing for about an hour at 4 knots. We played around taking photos of each others' boats for a while and then, as our speed dropped, we put the engines back on.

At Viana do Castelo once again there were no finger pontoons so we had to use the haul-off line system. As there was no one to help this time, I balanced precariously on the prow of the boat while Mike motored in very slowly - then I leapt off, and we successfully secured the boat. It was pretty easy but we have yet to try this in windy conditions. The marina is fairly small, but is right in the busy town, immediately before a train and road bridge. Despite this, the noise was no problem. The back streets have many attractive old houses, which show evidence of the previous wealth of the town, based on fishing and the port wine trade before the harbour silted up and the trade moved to Porto. There is a splendid fruit and fish market. The town is very flat, but immediately behind it is a high hill called Monte de Santa Luzia on which a neo-Byzantine basilica, built early in the 20th Century, looms over the town.

On Wednesday Mike and I set off to find the funicular which the information leaflet says goes up the mountain. We trekked for what seemed like two miles trying to get round the railway line to reach it. This also involved finding our way round a building site - which sported a notice saying that when it was completed, it was going to have 27 restaurants and 129 shops. When we finally found it, it was clear that the funicular had not been in use for many years. By this time it was getting pretty hot. We hailed a passing taxi and got him to drive us to the top. The church is a very striking building with some beautiful rose windows and a huge dome with paintings on the inside. There are splendid views over the river valley and the coast. We contemplated climbing down the thousand or so steps back to town, but decided against it and instead climbed up to the Pousada (Portuguese equivalent of the Spanish Parador) and treated ourselves to a delicious lunch, by a window overlooking the church and the view. Then we took a taxi back down again. Later we found that G and J had followed a passing native, climbed over a wall and walked straight across the railway line and then climbed all the way up a set of steps leading up the mountain and all the way down again!

In the afternoon Mike and I found a travel agent and booked our tickets home from Porto for the 8th July. We really don't want to come home, especially as the Azores high pressure area we have been waiting for seems to have established itself at last, but the insurance period on the house has already run out, and I must do some gardening and clean windows etc in my brother's bungalow which is up for sale. In the evening we said goodbye to G and J who are going further south before their brief return home. We shall miss their company when we return but may catch up again in Lagos.

Thursday 4th July, Viana do Castelo to Povoa da Varsim - 21 miles, 3¾ hours

It was a lovely day but with no wind during the morning so once again we motored. The shore is not so steep-to now, and we are gradually loosing the backdrop of mountains. We were some 3 miles off shore for most of the way but still only in 30 to 40 metres of water which meant negotiating a path through about 200 pot buoys. The hills are gradually disappearing and there is one long continuous beach along the shore. Povoa looks like a mini Manhattan as you approach it, with block after block of tall apartments sticking up suddenly out of the flat landscape. The marina at Povoa is very new with lots of empty spaces and nice long fingers on the pontoons, so mooring up was easy.

Friday 5th to Tuesday 9th July - Povoa da Varsim

We are laying the boat up here for some 6 weeks while we go home to validate house insurance and to miss the really hot weather - if it ever arrives! The marina seems fine, well sheltered and secure but there is a noisy funfair about 300 yards and we seem to have arrived during some sort of pop music festival which means that music is playing until 2.30 in the morning. The marina is absolutely alive with mullet. You can hear them grazing on the seaweed on the pontoons and the bottom of the boat - making a sort of wet kissing noise. Apart from all that it is quite quiet!

On Friday and Saturday we started clearing up and doing laundry and explored the town a little. There is an old part but it is not particularly attractive. Many of the houses are faced in mosaic tiles, which we do not like. Roy and Rita are also here in 'Fair Nicole' and Mike tried to repeat his success in putting eye splices in some gybe preventers for Roy but failed miserably as his rope had too tight a lay. On Saturday evening they kindly treated us to dinner in the local yacht club. We had a text message from Gordon and Julia to say they had had a wonderful sail on the 60 mile stretch to Figueira de Foz and - would you believe it - had the company of dolphins again for about 10 minutes!

On Sunday we said goodbye to Roy and Rita who were also sailing off south and then caught an early bus to Porto. A 55 minute ride on a comfortable bus cost 1 euro. We had to use the modern Metro for the last few miles (integrated with the bus service) and got into conversation with a young Portuguese woman who worked as a receptionist in a big hotel and spoke excellent English. She said that the reason that so many Portuguese people speak English is that they do not dub the British and American films the way the French and Spanish do, but have the original soundtrack with subtitles. When I commented on how cheap the public transport was she said it did not seem cheap to the locals which is perhaps an indication of how low wages are here.. She showed us to the tourist office where we were able to get a map of the city and find the 'must see' sites to visit.

At one time Porto was very rich, with Portuguese traders taking port wine all over the world and bringing hardwoods back from their colony in Brazil. There are many opulent buildings in the centre but a lot are showing signs of needing repair. The Cathedral in Porto is built at the top of a very steep hill, and clustered round it on the slopes are a higgledy-piggledy collection of tenement buildings in a state of advanced decay, rising from narrow and dirty streets. Many of them, especially higher up on the fifth or sixth floor, have corrugated tin walls, and washing hangs from the dilapidated windows. There were a number of drunks/druggies and beggars around. We decided we couldn't take another richly ornamented church in the centre of such poverty, so walked on down to the river to take a ride on a riverboat. We enjoyed the river trip, which took us under several elegant bridges (one of which was built by M. Eiffel of tower fame) and gave us a good view of the steep banks of the gorge on either side. One bank is lined with very tall, elegant, narrow houses, which must once have belonged to wealthy merchants, but are now mostly dilapidated. The other bank is lined with the wine cellars and warehouses - many of which again seem derelict.

There are some 18 port wine 'cellars' on the river bank, all offering free tours and samples. We went on a tour of the Calem cellar. The grapes for port are grown in the Douro valley, which is terraced, and all have to be picked by hand. Nowadays the fermented wine is brought down to Porto in lorries but it used to be ferried down river in small gondola like vessels, many of which are still moored in the river today as tourist attractions. In the cellars, the fermentation of the grape is stopped by adding strong brandy (about 70% alcohol) and the resulting sweet wine is turned into port by ageing it for up to 40 years in huge oak barrels and then in smaller ones. We were shown marks on the wall, where floods have entered the cellars, but because oak is impermeable, the manufacturers simply tie down the barrels and wait for the floods to recede. We tasted the free samples afterwards, which confirmed our view that we don't like port.

Back at the boat we were surprised to find Roy and Rita still in port. Apparently they had been about three miles south when Roy's engine packed up again - he thinks that it is air in the fuel line. They had to sail back to the marina and even succeeded in sailing into the berth. They were looking a bit depressed. As you can imagine, it is very worrying not to be able to rely on your engine.

On Monday we did the final laundry and boat cleaning. While in town I was amused to see a woman from the fish market loading open plastic trays of fish into the luggage compartment of the local bus. We were glad our luggage wasn't in there! On Monday afternoon Roy and Rita set off again, having hopefully fixed their engine. That evening the fun fair and pop concerts in the town finally went quiet but we were kept awake most of the night by a fog siren in the port that sounded continually from 2.00 am to 6.30 in the morning.

On Tuesday 8th July we took the 0810 am bus to Porto airport, and 1040am flight to Heathrow, where we were met by our kind friend Brian, and we were home by 4.30pm. It was clear from the brown state of the lawn that there had been more hot weather in England than we had in Spain. And oh what a wonderful crop of three foot high thistles we had grown in the garden!

Wednesday 20th to Friday 22nd August - Povoa de Varzim

On Wednesday 20th August we drove back to Heathrow in an Avis car, one way hire from Malvern. At the airport Mike was made to unpack one of the overweight bags because the baggage x-ray revealed a bomb shaped cylinder (actually an expansion tank for the hot water system) together with control electronics (another new echo-sounder). Then there was a fire alarm and I had to "evacuate" to another floor when Mike had gone walkabout, leaving me wondering if I would ever find him again. Apart from this the flight was without incident and more or less on time and we arrived in Porto in a very pleasant temperature. Since our baggage was so heavy and cumbersome we took a taxi to the marina, about a forty minute journey. In the evening we went out to a local restaurant and had a delicious fish dinner. Then, about three in the morning, the fog came in and the siren started again, and went on howling until lunchtime next day. Fortunately my earplugs are very effective.

The boat was very dirty, mainly dust and sand but also mildew on the non-slip deck covering which we hadn't cleaned properly at the start of the season so Mike hired a pressure washer from the marina and on Thursday morning we spent a couple of hours giving the boat a really good clean. Then we went to the local fish and produce market where we bought a whole monkfish plus accompaniments. This must be the most ugly fish around with a large flat head and a great snarling mouth - normally in England you only see the tails. I enjoyed practising some of my 20 words of Portuguese during our purchases. Back on the boat Mike gave the engine a 100 hour service. We chatted to a couple who came in at lunchtime after sailing all morning in thick fog. They are in their early fifties and sold their house to buy their boat. They have already spent two winters on it in Burnham and left England in May. I asked what they planned to do when they had had enough of sailing and they said they would think about that when it happened. They are obviously a lot more intrepid (mad?) than we are, though she confesses to not particularly enjoying the sailing - just the bits in between and says happily that he sails single handed really as she leaves it all to him.

On Friday we had planned to set off for Leixoes but the fog did not lift until about 4.30, so we lazed in the cockpit most of the day. It was hot and steamy - a bit like having a Turkish bath. Despite the fog, several boats arrived, including a 56ft British one with mast so tall it was lost in the fog, a clumsy looking superstructure like a greenhouse over the steering wheel, and a heavy boom under both the main and the genoa (Mike says it is called an aero-rig). At the foot of the mast is a very large swivel mechanism, which enables the whole mast with booms to rotate. Not a pretty boat by any means. Later, we were told by someone who had been on board, that the galley boasts a large front opening fridge, a freezer, a microwave, a washing machine and a tumble drier! Happily for one's jealous bones the yacht also has engine trouble and an oil leak and costs a fortune in mooring fees every time they go into a marina.

Saturday 23rd August - Povoa to Leixoes - 12 miles, 2½ hours.

We were quite glad to leave Povoa de Varzim as the foghorn sounded day and night for a lot of the time we were there and a strong smell of sewage hangs over the town and the many crowded beaches. Leixoes is a small port about 10 miles further on, recognisable, as you approach, by a forest of tall industrial chimneys. The port has both an oil terminal and a container terminal and we had to take avoiding action to miss two container ships - one going in and one coming out. To the north of the town is a long beach divided up by heaps of low rocks, and backed by more ugly holiday flats. Built into the rocks is an open air swimming pool in which there were a solitary swimmer and numerous sea-gulls. The town is a bit scruffy but not as bad as Povoa. Fog followed us into the port. We wanted to leave on Sunday to do the long trip to Figueira de Foz but when Mike checked visibility at 6am it was still foggy so we stayed in bed for another couple of hours. There is a big supermarket in town so we got the bikes out and did a large provisioning run later in the morning.

Monday 25th August - Leixoes to Figueira de Foz - 68 miles, 12 hours.

At 6.30am it was a bit murky and wet (scotch mist) but not actually foggy so we set off for Figueira de Foz. By 10 it had brightened and the wind got up to a nice force 3 from the NW and we managed to sail a good part of the way in bright sunshine. A pod of dolphins paid us a flying visit, diving past and under the boat but did not stop to play. The coastline is very boring at present, being one long beach so I plugged my tape player into my ears and listened to a story tape when it was my turn to steer. Figueira de Foz is a holiday town with a fishing fleet but much less industry than in the previous ports. It is certainly more pleasant, which is fortunate as we were beginning to think that we had run out of attractive places to visit. At low tide the marina is alive with mullet - we have never seen so many - they are so close together they keep bumping into each other and they swim like a lazy current around the boats with their heads out of the water.

Tuesday 26th to Saturday 30th August, Figueira de Foz

On Tuesday we bought delicious sardines for lunch in the huge market just over the road from the marina and then relaxed in the cockpit enjoying the sunshine. Mike played with the bits of string that control the spinnaker pole, not for the spinnaker, but to prepare for poling out the genoa on all the down wind sailing we are supposed to be doing now in front of the prevailing northerly wind. He was obviously being watched from above because now the forecast for the next few days is for strong South Westerlies, on the nose for us, and a swell of up to 3 metres. We decided that we would sit it out and visit the nearby University town of Coimbra next day, but were put off by the rain that woke us at 7am. It cleared by 11 by which time Mike was involved in fitting a pump-out to the shower tray in the forward heads - a job that has been on the "to do" list for the last 12 years. After lunch we cycled north along the busy road beside the beach - and discovered, at the end of it, at least 50 blocks of holiday flats in various states of incompletion. The swell was pounding into the beaches so we were glad we had decided not to sail further, though several boats had gone out into what must have been a very uncomfortable sea.

On Thursday, despite intermittent, and occasionally torrential, rain, which we were fortunate to miss, we made a trip to the ancient university town of Coimbra. We caught a local train, slow but on time and clean. Indeed, when we climbed on it, three ladies were energetically dusting and polishing and picking up any rubbish. The journey cost only 3.10 Euros each for a 48 kilometre journey and return. Much of the old town of Coimbra has narrow cobbled streets leading up to the University, which is set upon a hill high above the town. The University was founded in 1290 though most of the buildings here now date from the mid 17 hundreds. These are very attractive and set around a large square containing a statue that looks remarkably like Henry V111, but is in fact, Dom Joao 1st. There is a splendid Grand Hall, which is still used now for important ceremonies with uncomfortable looking red velvet bench seating and a magnificent painted ceiling. There is also a very grand library containing some 300,000 ancient books, most covered in gold tooled leather. All the woodwork is intricately carved and gilded and there are several long, very beautifully carved and inlaid tables. We walked down to the old cathedral, dating back to 1162, which has wonderful arches and pillars, some very old tombs, a very ornate, carved and gilded altarpiece and lovely peaceful cloisters. The antiquity was most striking and it felt very serene with Gregorian chants being played quietly in the background.

Saturday 30th August - Figueira de Foz to Nazare - 35 miles, 7½ hours

Friday still wasn't fit to sail, in fact the port was officially closed to small traffic because of the dangerous breaking water at the entrance, but on Saturday we left at 6.55 am for Nazare under a cloudy sky. The wind was again in the SW, Force 1 to 2 so we motored all the way on a fairly calm sea in mainly poor visibility. Things improved by lunchtime and we arrived in harbour at 2.30 pm in hot sunshine to be met on the pontoon by Captain Mike Hadley, a wiry, energetic 70 year old who came by in his boat 5 years ago and hasn't bothered to move on since. He seems to have something of a power complex, dashing hither and thither and ordering boats about. He and his wife now speak fluent Portuguese and run the harbour. He claims he has been retained as a consultant to advise on extending the harbour, but every time the Government changes, the plans have to be resubmitted so nothing happens. His wife says that they don't worry as they get paid again each time. The marina is pretty crowded so we are rafted alongside another British boat with a couple who look to be in their late thirties who have 6 and 2 year old boys with them. They left England this year and are planning to winter in Morocco and after that who knows? The 2 year old is a sturdy little tinker who can't swim and who runs around the pontoons waving his stick, unsupervised and without a life jacket, with his parents seemingly totally unconcerned. Well I suppose it is too hot to wear a life jacket and he would be impossible to confine on the boat. At nine o'clock another yacht arrived and tied up alongside us so we were then three deep off the pontoon. Very friendly.

Sunday 31st August - Nazare

On Sunday we woke to torrential rain, which eased for a while around 10am. We had arranged to share a car with another couple and set off, despite the rain, for the Monastery at Batalha which was founded in 1388 by King Joao 1st to fulfil his vow that he would build a monastery in honour of the Virgin should he beat the Castillians at the battle of Sao Jorge, which he did, thus separating Portugal from Spain. It is amazingly ornate with battlements, towers, archways and windows all built in a style evocative of lace work. The central nave is very long, lofty ( some 32 metres high) and narrow, with two parallel naves at either side, and has tall, narrow, brightly coloured, stained glass windows. The roof is supported by 8 beautiful cruciform pillars. There are also tranquil cloisters and a large chapel with huge tombs of various kings. As we left a wedding party arrived, another picture of the bride for Mike's growing collection - and this one looked less like a meringue than usual. After lunch the sun came out and the rest of the day was rather hot and sticky. Alan, our driver, took us on to the walled city of Obidos, where there is a Pousada in a splendid old castle and lots of narrow streets, rather touristy shops and cafes, and a nerve testing walk along the narrow path atop the city walls. Next we went on to Alcobaca to see another monastery. This was very large and quite plain compared to the one at Batalha, but with lots of interesting things to see, including a large Lavabo or washroom with a central fireplace and chimney, a communal bath and several very large stone troughs set round the edge which we presumed were either baths or giant wash-tubs, each with a gargoyle head housing the faucet. Back in Nazare we took advantage of the car and collected a load of heavy items from the local supermarket - beer, wine, vodka, tonic, water etc all of which were remarkably cheap.

Monday 1st September - Nazare to Peniche - 25 miles, 5 hours.

We left Nazare just after 10 am. Wind forecast was 3 to 4 from the NW which should have been good, and indeed was for a while, but our speed soon dropped to 3 knots or less so it was motor on again, keeping an eye open for any 'brigada fiscal' boats (police) since we had read in the office in Nazare that they were stopping boats and giving on the spot fines for not showing the regulation shapes and lights for motor-sailing or anchoring. Motor-sailing requires you to hang an inverted pyramid shape at the front of the boat which Mike did not want to do while the genoa was set although he did rig it later when we were motoring with only the main-sail raised.

We were into Peniche just after 3pm and winkled our way through a narrow gap into the last available berth right on the end, on the inside of the visitors' pontoon. 'Lucky Star', also out of Povoa, was already in, having left after us but motored all the way, and Pat took our lines. Peniche is a large and busy fishing harbour, with a few pontoons for yachts and small boats at one side. None of the commercial boats seem to take any notice of the 3 knot speed limit which is supposed to apply. The visitors 'pontoon' is effectively the wave break for the marina. Most visiting yachts find they have to berth on the outside of this and are then subject to the full force of the wash from the passing fishing boats. 'Lucky Star' had passed up the chance of our berth and was on the outside being bounced around fairly alarmingly and Alan was not happy. Despite the probable discomfort, lots of boats use the port, usually just for one night, and they were rafting out 3 deep by nightfall.

Tuesday and Wednesday, 2nd and 3rd September - Peniche

Our berth on the inside was relatively well protected, which we now had cause to fully appreciate since Mike, who had not been feeling well en route, now ran a high temperature due to a chest infection caused by some bug, possibly caught from the neighbouring boat at Nazare, and had to take to his bed. We had to spend 3 nights here while antibiotics (one year past their expiry date) got to work. A lady on an adjacent boat said she used to run a health food shop and proffered Ivy and Thyme drops to clear his chest. On Tuesday the flock of Brit. boats we had been keeping company with for a while, set off south, leaving us with a few Norwegians and French. I shopped, did the laundry and waited on the sick.

Thursday 4th September - Peniche to Cascais- 45 miles, 9 hours.

By next morning Mike was feeling a lot better so we set off at 0845 and motored for several hours in no wind and poor visibility. Eventually the wind got up and visibility improved and we had a couple of hours of really good sailing and rounded Cabo de Roca, the westernmost point of Europe before heading into Cascais. The marina here is very smart and comfortable, certainly not cheap but the showers are great! Lots of people have chosen to anchor outside in the bay because of the expense but we have decided to have a few nights here and to use it as a base from which to explore Lisbon.

Friday to Sunday, 5th to 7th September - Lisbon.

On Friday we caught the local train - once more cheap, comfortable and on time, from Cascais into the centre of Lisbon. Lisbon is built on 7 hills, like most fabled cities, and we seemed to walk up most of them. The streets are cobbled so it is hard on the feet, but it is a lovely city. We rode down one hill on a funicular and then took a ride up in a very elderly lift, the 'elevador St Justa'. This rises up through a wrought iron cage in a narrow space between high buildings to give a great view of the city from the tiny café at the top. We 'did' a couple more churches and then climbed up to the Castelo de Sao Jorge and walked around the ramparts looking out over the old medieval town. After lunching in a small restaurant in one of the narrow streets around the castle, we visited the Monasterio de Sao Vincente de Fora which is generally quite austere apart from some large tiled panels illustrating some Portuguese fables and one extraordinary chapel which was entirely covered in a complicated flowery pattern done in inlaid marble. We then wandered back through the twisting cobbled streets and under the arches of the Praca de Commercio trying to keep in the shade. Next day we started in Belem, where there is a fantastic Monasterio de Sao Jeronimos, built in the 16th Century by King Manuel I and financed by a 5% tax imposed on the import of pepper. This is in the same highly ornamented style as the abbey in Batalha - called Manueline apparently after the King of that name. The amazing pillars in the monastery are covered in carvings illustrating aspects of the discoveries that the Portuguese made around this time with poppy heads, pineapples, snakes, gourds - flora and fauna from the Americas, India and the East Indies. The arches and pillars in the cloisters are also covered with similar carvings. Leaving the monasterio, we had a look at the hugh prow shaped monument from which Henry the Navigator stares out over the river and then climbed to the top of the Belem Tower which sits on one side of the Tagus River guarding the entrance. Finally we caught a tram and then the new Metro (clean, fast, comfortable, frequent and cheap!) to the Gulbenkian Museum. This is set in very attractive gardens and we saw two more wedding parties so it must also be the 'in' place to get wed. Gulbenkian was an Armenian who obtained British citizenship and made a fortune in the oil industry (a bit like King Manuel apparently, taking a 5% rake off on many of his deals!). He collected all sorts of beautiful objects from the Chinese and Ottoman empires - paintings, furniture, wonderful illustrated books, silver, carpets, wall hangings and ceramics. During the war he lived in Portugal and when he died his will provided for the setting up of a foundation to house all his treasures in one place which is now here in Lisbon. It truly is a magnificent collection. We made a cursory tour of the associated Museum of Modern Art (still not our scene and not even any 'mobiles' to amuse Mike) before taking our tired and aching limbs back to the boat, feeling that we still had not been able to do justice to this truly beautiful city.

Monday 8 September - Cascais to Sines- 50 miles,9 hours.

With winds forecast to be Northerly veering to NorthWest, Force 4, we were looking forward to a fast run down to Sines. Mike had spent time last evening setting up all the string for the running rig - gybe preventers for the main and downhaul and guys for the spinnaker pole together with an extra long sheet for the genoa that meant it could be led aft to a block right at the back of the boat. We left Cascais just after 7am, as might be expected after such preparation, in no wind. However, around mid-day the wind did get up and the preparations bore fruit and we had a splendid sail, goose-winging downwind for about 3 hours with only a moderate swell. Rounding the corner to enter Sines harbour did give rise to some adrenaline rush as Mike fought to lower the pole and revert to 'normal' rig. The situation was not helped by my gybing the boat - the preventer had just been removed - while he was up on the foredeck. One day I will learn how not to do this. In the harbour it was still blowing hard and we did consider anchoring but the marina staff were cheerfully waving us in so we went in to find ourselves berthed next to 'Jubilant 2', a Moody 40, which we had seen in Nazare and again in Peniche.

Tuesday 9 September - Sines

Normal harbour routine - shopped and washed the boat am. Mike sunbathed in the cockpit pm while I sat waiting for the marina's washing machine and dryer to complete their cycles. We got chatting to Derek and Susan of 'Jubilant 2' and they let us have a look round their boat. Very nice! They have a small holding in UK, currently being looked after by a friend, and are planning to sell the boat in a year or two when they go back home. Mike seems to think it would do us nicely if we can persuade 'Midnight Drifter' to wait for ours, and if we can raise the somewhat large cash difference - oh what dreams are made of! Derek and Susan have been sailing along with 'Pagos', the boat with two young children previously mentioned, for a couple of months. Apparently Adrian, the owner of 'Pagos', comes of a wealthy family and they have inherited a couple of expensive houses so money is no problem. He is thinking of going through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea despite the fact that yachts have been attacked by pirates while doing this. In fact the family set off yesterday for the 250 mile trip to Morocco even though they gave failed so far to find any information on marinas down there where they might be able to spend the winter. Perhaps facing pirates is nothing after coping with two small boys cooped up in a boat on a trip like that.

Wed/Thurs 10th/11th September - Sines to Lagos via Sagres - (70+10) miles, (9+4) hours

We have now rounded Cape St Vincent and are travelling east at last towards the Med!
The winds today were forecast F3 from NE or ENE, ideal for our last long leg south before turning the corner into the Algarve and we were looking forward to it. In fact the wind was in the NW, which was OK, except there was not enough of it and we had to motor virtually all day. Nevertheless, the sky was clear and the coastline scenery improved with more cliffs and a backdrop of hills rather than the flat beaches of further north. A second plus is that for every 5 miles shown on the log we seem to make at least 6 miles between our charted positions. Either the log was under reading or we had a knot of southerly current helping us along. We had left at first light as usual, 7am, and at 4.30 in the afternoon we took pictures of ourselves, drinking a toast in 'champagne' to our rounding of the corner with the lighthouse of Cabo de Sao Vicente in the background.

Since it was likely to be dark by the time we made Lagos we decided to anchor in the bay below Sagres where Henry the Navigator had his 'school'. This is a lovely deep bay, well sheltered from the prevailing winds, but not, as we soon found out, from the swell which came round the corner with us. The clear sky at sunset looked like a watercolour painted wet in wet. To the east alizarin crimson was melting into ultramarine, and to the west cadmium yellow greened into cerulean blue. A huge crimson moon came up at 8.00, slowly turning to yellow and then silver and making a sparkling pathway over the sea towards us. That was the good bit! We then rolled and rattled all night because of the swell and had very little sleep. Mike got up at three am and hung a bucket off the boom into the water to damp the rolling, making a marginal improvement. We were glad to see dawn.

Next morning we motor-sailed, and drifted, eastwards the 10 miles along the Algarve coast to Lagos, arriving in stiflingly hot weather at 3pm. This coast was now very different from the west coast with cliffs permeated by caves and isolated pillars of rock standing off small secluded beaches, just as we remembered it from a holiday taken here some 15 to 20 years ago. The same memories did not apply to the town of Lagos. Gone was the small fishing port with its little harbour. Now it is a major holiday town with an enormous and very expensive marina! Surprisingly, there were two other Countesses here. One was a 33 like ours except with ketch rig, the other was the bigger 37.

Late in the afternoon, we were visited by Ken and Shirley from 'Midnight Drifter'. They are now based in Portimao but had been lunching with friends in Lagos and decided to look for us on the off chance we had arrived. They planned to fly home for the winter in a week's time.

In the evening we went ashore for an 'as much fish as you can eat for 7.50 euros'. Basic, but very good value.

Friday 12th September - Lagos

We provisioned before it became too hot - 10am. Then lay around until about 5pm when the temperature became more bearable again. There was a scattering of ash on the boat, which we first thought must be from a local barbecue but there was also a thick bank of 'cloud' through which a blood red setting sun could still be seen. We realised that the 'cloud' was smoke from the forest fires burning on the hills just a little way in-land and the ash was also from these fires blown several miles by the wind. We went out to eat again in the evening and found a rather upmarket restaurant in the old part of Lagos where I had a wonderful grilled sole and Mike had a delicious fillet steak. The forecast for tomorrow was Easterly F5, which is on the nose but it is only 7 miles to Portimao so not a problem.

Saturday 13th September- Lagos to Portimao

There was no wind when we awoke nor when we left at around 10am. There was, however, a considerable swell as we crossed the bar out of Lagos at near low water, so we bounced up and down over the waves and this worsened rather than got better as we made towards Portimao. As we sailed east we could now plainly see the fires on the hillsides and the smoke haze falling downwind. The wind now got up, approaching F5 as forecast but there was no problem entering Portimao as it has a deep entrance between substantial breakwaters. In fact a large cruise liner entered port before us. Tying up at the marina reception was 'interesting' with the strong wind pushing us off the reception pontoon but luckily we had raised 'Semaj' on the radio and Gordon and Julia were there to help us together with one of the marina staff. Not that Gordon can do much at the moment having slipped on the pontoon and cracked some ribs. After completing the formalities at the marina office we had a few beers together in the sun.

The marina setting is attractive. As you look across the river there is a nice beach complete with a castle on a cliff and you are protected from the view of the concrete jungle of Praia de Rocha. It is about a 15 minutes walk to the town and the shops but only 5 minutes by bike. Apparently there is a college where you can sign up for Portuguese classes, yoga or Tai Chi, and a cinema that shows all the latest films, mostly in English with Portuguese subtitles, so the many live-aboards will have things to do, but we still don't fancy the idea of staying on the boat in one place all winter. Maybe we will change our minds when we are back to the wet and cold of England. One of the nicest parts of this way of life is being outside so much and living in shorts and t-shirts. You are always meeting new and interesting people, all with different stories to tell, who are all very friendly and helpful. It will be strange to be tucked away in a house on an estate in Malvern again.

We have booked into the marina for 6 months so the boat will now be here until mid March 2004. We intend to have a restful time after all our travelling - do a few jobs on the boat and perhaps do some day sailing. We have two sets of visitors for a week each, starting next Monday and we will stay on after they have gone until we get bored or the weather breaks.

Monday 22nd September until Thursday 23rd October. Portimao

Our friend Jackie joined us on Monday 22nd October. She is very easy to please - doesn't care what she does or doesn't do as long as the sun shines, she is out of doors and isn't forced to indulge in any culture. The weather was great all week with lots of sunshine but not too hot.

On Wednesday we sailed gently at three knots along the coast for 6 miles back towards Lagos and anchored off the Point do Piedade, along with several tripper boats. This stretch of coastline has some wonderful rock formations and the tripper boats disgorge their passengers into small boats with outboards in which they are then driven in and out of caves, under archways of rock into pools surrounded by towering sheer cliffs and around fantastic huge rock pinnacles. We tagged along behind them in our inflatable. Mike managed very well since the dinghy's directional stability is not all it might be and I took lots of photos. We went under one archway into a huge pool to find a group of three or four of the 'taxi' drivers lying back in their little boats, taking their ease with sun umbrellas up, waiting for their next load of customers. Nice way to work!

One day we motored the dinghy across the river from the marina to Ferragudo and had barbecued sardines on the quay. Another day we sailed along to the pretty estuary of the river Alvor, just along the coast. The pilot books say you should go in just after low tide so you can see where the sandbanks are. We followed the advice and anchored in what we thought was plenty of water, planning to stay for the night. We watched the birds diving for fish, read a little and sunbathed all day and then at about a couple of hours before the following low water we noticed that the depth gauge was showing just 2 metres and we need 1.8 metres at low tide. We decided to move and in doing so got stuck on a sandbank. Jackie and I leant off the side of the boat to try and make the boat heel while Mike revved the engine and eventually the wash from a passing motor boat lifted us off. We settled in what was probably less water than we had before but were afraid to move again. We sat up until 10.30 with the keel occasionally bumping on the sand but we never actually grounded. Next day we planned to leave near high tide, after lunch, but some 'neighbours' from Portimao. Tony and Lyn on 'Knight-in-Gale', arrived on the rising tide and they managed to miss the channel and drive straight onto another sandbank. Mike and I rowed over to the rescue and helped them perform the standard procedure by rowing out their anchor up-tide (very hard work) so that they could haul themselves off when the tide had risen sufficiently.

On Monday 29th - Mike's birthday - we hired a car and drove to Faro airport for Jackie to catch her flight home and to meet Brian and Irene, our second lot of visitors, off the same incoming flight. Brian has a history of disastrous holidays and sure enough as he landed the clouds came over and a good part of the first half of the week was either wet or very wet.

We went to a Pousada near Faro for the first night, and having deposited our luggage, went for a tour of the countryside, which is very hilly with some great views. We stopped at a little village called Cachopo for lunch and found a very basic restaurant crammed with locals enjoying their dinner. On offer was pork off the barbecue and chips and not much else so we had a two person serving between the four of us and it was delicious. That, with drinks all round cost about £3.50 each. We carried on driving and went down a bumpy side road and up a track to visit the Fonte de Inferno - a local beauty spot with waterfall. There were two bikes at the top of the track but no one else in sight. When we finally found it, there were about 90 steps down to the fall so Irene and I rested at the top while Mike and Brian went down and found only two other people there - the son of one of our friends from Malvern with his girlfriend. What a small world this can be!

The night in the Pousada was less than successful. The rooms were fine but the service in the bar and the restaurant was pretty awful. We waited about an hour for our starters, none of which were very good, and then both Irene and I were served with uneatable meals. Brian and I had both ordered leg of lamb - his was delicious but mine tasted and chewed like cardboard. Irene had ordered a local dish of pork and beans and the pork consisted of pieces of skin, chunks of fat and bone. Mike had pork, supposedly stuffed with clams but which were so miniscule he couldn't find them and he had no vegetables at all. No one came to ask if we were enjoying the meal so eventually I waved at a waitress who clearly saw me and then retired behind a pillar and ignored me. No one else was in sight so after about 5 minutes I lost my rag and went and hammered on the kitchen door. This finally got me some attention and I announced very loudly that I wanted to complain about the food. The waitresses then started running about and said they would replace my meal and get Irene some decent meat, but left her plate congealing in front of her. Mike went off to complain to the manager and after waiting for a quarter of an hour with no further attention from the staff, Irene and I walked out of the restaurant saying we had lost interest in eating. Mike eventually managed to negotiate - over the phone as the manager was too busy preparing for a meeting to come down to see us - that we would pay for only one room and no meals - which saved us a lot of money at Pousada rates. The manager had the cheek to say he hoped we would stay an extra day so he could have dinner with us the following night. I should say that this event was highly atypical of the service usually provided at Portuguese Pousadas.

As the weather continued unsettled and we had the car, we did some more exploring, including a visit to Sagres where Henry the Navigator had his Navigation School in 1600. We called in at the Pousada there, where we had a large pot of tea in very luxurious surroundings with lots of attention for 6 euros. What a difference from the previous night's experience. We also did Silves - unexciting - Caldas do Monchique - very elegant Spa village - and Monchique where we sat in a traffic jam and then drove through the village and out the other side without stopping. A lot of the hillsides were black from the recent fires though most, but not all, of the houses seemed to have escaped.

The weather improved at the weekend and we did manage to go for one trip in the boat to the caves again. It was rougher than on our last visit and Irene was very brave as a non-swimmer in the dinghy. Actually this was a day when one wondered if we should have all stayed in bed. It started with me failing to remove the cover over the cooker before Brian made toast - so the bottom side of the cover got grilled as well as the toast. Then we set off out of the marina and realised the depth gauge wasn't working. We turned round, and since, after 12 years I am trying to learn how to park the boat, and it looked easy alongside the long reception pontoon with little wind, I took her in. Unfortunately I forgot to stop and we now have a 10 inch scratch on the side of the boat. Mike couldn't find what was wrong with the depth gauge but found it worked from its internal batteries even if not from the boat supply so we borrowed the ones out of Irene's camera and got it going. Half way across to Lagos the engine rev counter suddenly stopped which usually means the fan belt has snapped. Mike switched off the engine and went downstairs - found there was nothing wrong with the belt, and came up and turned the engine on again. It worked for the rest of the day with no problem. Finally, when we got back to Portimao he checked the bilges to find there were 2 gallons of water where there shouldn't be. He emptied it out and no more has entered since, so we think it must have come in when the engine was revving like mad trying to get off the sandbank in Alvor.

We put Irene and Brian back on the plane on the Monday and by 12 o'clock the cloudless skies had returned. How does Brian do it?

The next couple of weeks were mostly very sunny. We went for a couple of nice cliff walks - found some lovely villas over the hill from Ferragudo which we fancied - half a million euros minimum - and did a lot of cleaning of cupboards and taking off sails etc to prepare the boat for the winter.

There is quite a community of Brits in the marina and we joined them in an Irish bar one evening where Roger from Fyne Time played the guitar and Julia, his wife, sang very beautifully. Mike decided to leave after the audience demanded an encore of Danny Boy - he's not very good with sentiment! We went to a jazz evening where a group of ex-pats played some lively traditional jazz - a bit reminiscent of the Perdido Street Band back home as one musician played the banjo. The average age of the audience must have been well over 60.

Everyone is ready to lend assistance to other boats when needed. The lad on the boat over the way lost his skateboard off the pontoon into 6 metres of murky marina water. A man from another boat who had diving gear came to the rescue, at some risk to his health I would imagine, and managed to find it in the two foot of mud(?) on the bottom. Mike has been up a couple of masts with his trusty electric meter and soldering iron fixing electrics for people. Channel 68 is kept open on the VHF on all boats so that one boat can call another round for drinks or assistance. Minuet appealed for Windows 98 to fix someone's elderly computer and within seconds it was on offer. We hope Bill Gates isn't tuned in. However, listening in is a bit like being trapped on the London to Malvern train with a coach load of mobile phone users - it is amazing how banal most conversations are - but you do gather important information like who has a hangover from the night before. There is a fast trade going on between boats in paperback books and DVD's. Most of the couples staying on board all winter have invested in TVs, some with satellite aerials. On a neighbouring Dutch catamaran there are a couple, plus three dogs, one bird and, reputedly, a 90 year old grandfather. His wheelchair is under a cover on deck, but no one has ever seen him in the flesh. We think perhaps he is in the deep freeze and his pension is funding the sailing. When the owner wants to exercise the dogs, he puts on their life jackets, throws them into the water, climbs in the dinghy and then motors away with the dogs paddling like mad behind him. One small yacht, with about 4 foot of headroom, is occupied by a young couple, who have come all the way from Germany, with no cooker and no on-board loo. They must be in love.

We are surprised by the number of couples we meet who have sold up and bought their boats with the house money, leaving themselves out of the British housing market and with no security back home. Also it is amazing how many have little or no previous experience of sailing or of what it means to live aboard. A quick course in navigation and boat handling is all they have had before leaving. There appear to be a high proportion of second (or higher) partnerships. But there again, so there are at home nowadays I suppose. Some of the women talk romantically of 'living the dream' while many others are a bit half hearted and would secretly rather be at home seeing the grandchildren and playing golf. Several panic quite severely when anything goes wrong while sailing, but thoroughly enjoy the marina life. It may be that the 'real' sailors keep themselves to themselves and shun the marina social life.

Mike and I have really enjoyed the months we have spent on board. The lack of tension - apart from when we are arriving at an unfamiliar harbour - is amazing. Life becomes very simple and gets pared down to a few basic essentials - like shopping for food, laundry and boat maintenance - with lots of time over for exploring, sightseeing, relaxing, meeting new people and making new friends - and occasionally a bit of sailing on to new places in between.

We fly home on Thursday from Faro to Birmingham where Brian is meeting us at the airport and driving us to Malvern. We hope the drop in temperature won't be too much of a shock to the system.

Mike and Pauline Nixon

'Sundancer'

Marina de Portimao20

October 2003.