Portugal and sunshine!

The past few days have been rather mixed in a variety of ways: weather, wind, sailing mishaps and race starts. We left Baiona on Tuesday morning with a gentle breeze just outside the marina, pulled up the main, unfurled the genoa and crossed the start line about 15 seconds after the gun. It was possibly our best start ever! The forecasts were rather mixed, depending upon which one you chose. The reality was a mixture of all the bad parts, force 6 from the direction we wanted to go with big seas. Yuk. We battled to get two reefs in the main and rolled away a lot of genoa which levelled the boat a bit and knocked our speed down a bit as well. About two and a half hours into the passage I suddenly spotted our cruising chute floating away. These things are expensive so we did about six circles before I finally managed to snag the handle of the bag with a boat hook. While this was going on the fuel tank for the outboard also made a bid for freedom, another six circles getting ever closer to it but I couldn't grab it so we gave up. At this point I checked the GPS and found we had made 0.9 miles towards our destination in an hour, arrival time was estimated to be 0315 so we gave up and turned the engine on. During the evening fog banks started building up all around us as the wind dropped to nothing but at least the seas were flatter as we closed in to the coast. We tied up in the marina in Povoa do Varzim at about 2240, not the last boat to arrive. Wednesday was a completely different day, sunshine and very gentle breezes! This is why we came to Portugal. We spent the morning sorting out the boat then I went on a tour of the area in the afternoon while John went on a hunt for some plumbing bits to instal a bilge pump in the engine bilge. Thursday was a very short leg, about 14 nautical miles to a new marina in the Duoro river on the side of the port houses. The start was delayed by an hour to allow a front with fog and very strong winds to pass. We were a little late leaving the berth and hadn't shackled the halyard to the mainsail. The sea was quite rough and the halyard was whipped out of John's hand before he managed to shackle it on. The wire was flailing around, getting caught in the rigging, and proved impossible to catch so John did the sensible thing and just pulled it up to the top of the mast where it could do no damage. The downside was that we couldn't easily use the mainsail. The other result of this problem was possibly our worst race start ever, still motoring away from the line as the start was signalled! We pulled out the genoa and set off to catch up with the rest of the fleet. At least the wind co-operated, allowing us to sail down wind at a reasonable speed with a favourable current in bright sunshine. We'll still probably come in last on handicap in our group but someone has to, it was however a very close race. We are now tied up in the new marina, they were actually bolting a cleat down for us as we arrived. John has been to the top of the mast to retrieve the main halyard and that is now safely returned to deck level. Tonight it's a Tuk-Tuk ride to Graham's port lodge, a guided tour then a dinner. Tomorrow we have a guided walking tour and a Tuk-Tuk tour which sounds fun. Regardless of the sailing mishaps we are enjoying ourselves and are really pleased that at last we have found the sun! More later. Joyce

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