Setting Sail from Portugal

If you didn’t read my last post feel free to check it out, it explains how I found myself being dumped onto the floor of a 45 year old sailboat while being tossed around in the middle of the sea.

About 24 hours prior to that I was meeting the boat’s skipper for the first time at a marina just outside of Lisbon. Captain Richard is from Sweden and got into sailing a few years back. He bought his boat and has been sailing around in the North Sea gaining the experience he would need for his big plan….to sail from Sweden along with his fiance Ivy to the Philippines where she is from. Not bad!

I felt comfortable with the crew right away. Richard turned out to be a super easy going mellow kind of of guy.

Ivy was the lively, expressive and spontaneous one.

Ivy

Richard had also accepted another crew member who was in the same boat as me (damn pun…literally and figuratively). Maksym was about the same age as me and aside from some sailing lessons as a kid had not been on boats as an adult and was also just curious about the world of sailing, wanted to do a decent size crossing to see what he could learn and how he liked it.

Maksym

I got a little introduction to the boat, went on a shopping mission with Max to get provisions to feed 4 people for a week at sea, and then when the wind started to pick up around midnight we hoisted the sails and floated out into open waters. I would spent 9 days aboard La Fortuna. So what was it like?

  • I learned a LOT about sailing. The most important and scary thing I learned? Just how much more I have left to learn
  • Max jumped into the freezing cold Portuguese Atlantic waters and swam all the way to the beach near where we were anchored. After this he was affectionately referred to onboard as “The Crazy Ukrainian”.

  • I watched a giant full moon rise out of the sea three nights in a row and bathe the boat and the water with pearly light
  • We set sail from Lisbon and traveled a total of 870miles/1400km.
  • In all my travels it has always been my way or the highway so to speak, well, actually it was my way AND the highway. But the trip was always my own or I had entered it with a partner and it was “our” trip. Now it was interesting for me to have to adjust to being the tag-along on someone else’s trip. I learned a lesson in letting go of control, that not every decision was mine to take.
  • I learned to cook in a tiny galley with waves tipping the boat to 40 degrees in each direction
  • This journey has been to learn to sail but also to learn how much sailing I would like to do. I don’t want to buy a boat and outfit it for a circumnavigation only to find that after 2 months of it I am bored. My hopes are this trip will let me know what my true appetite for sailing really is. I can say that on the first day, in 4-5 meter swells and feeling slightly seasick, I already had doubts just about finishing this one Atlantic crossing I had just set out on! By the end of the trip I had gained appetite for more, but still not for a full circumnavigation (something that would take 2.5-3 years). At the time of writing this I would say I am still excited to buy a boat and do a real sailing mission of my own. But I think I would have my fill of life at sea after 8 months or so. We’ll see how this appetite grows or diminishes as I the journey continues.
  • I had to make some adjustments to my bed so that I wouldn’t get dumped on the floor every 5 minutes.

  • Max and I tried for 30 minutes during the peak of “the high seas” to capture with the camera what a 5 meter wave looks like as it rolls towards the boat. We hung off the side of the boat from different angles and tried different perspectives, trying to include more or less of the horizon or the boat in the photo…we tried everything. But  camera simply cannot capture the depth of field necessary to get a feel for the height of the waves. So you’ll just have to trust me, they were big 😉
  • During one of the times we had no wind and were motoring the motor suddenly died. This will deliver a shutter of anxiety to any sailor. Luckily it was just a fishing net caught in the prop and we had a crazy Ukrainian onboard who didn’t hesitate to dive in with a knife and free us.
  • Seasickness. I have been on several boats in my life and on more than one occasion there were crew members vomiting off the side while I was making myself a sandwich. I thought I was well immune. But when we first set sail from Portugal in rough seas with swells of 3-5 meters….I did not feel well. Nothing to the point of wanting to vomit, but I was definitely “on the spectrum” of seasickness. I didn’t eat anything for almost a whole day. This was very disturbing considering that it was the first day of an adventure that was to keep me at sea for 6 weeks. I hoped and prayed it would not last

 

  • I pined for a shower. By the time I first got one it had been 10 days since I had had a proper shower.
  • We conversed with a pod of dolphins

  • When I was still on the boat but about to disembark, I remember thinking to myself that if someone offered me another ride across the Atlantic leaving that next day that I would find it hard to accept…I felt I really needed at least 2 or 3 days on land before just heading back to sea. But the next morning (after one night on land), I had already had my fill of land and would have happily joined another boat
  • While Max was swimming through the icy cold Portuguese waters to the beach, Ivy had already donned her wet-suit and was swinging from the halyard line into the sea. Feeling the pressure, Richard and I each took a pathetic swim barely making contact with the water long enough to get wet.

  • We reveled in the fact that with each day’s sail we were going further south, away from the European winter and the cold. By day 3 I had shed one of my layers, and by day 5 I was even walking around in shorts for a brief moment. But we were always hoping for weather that we never got. We just wanted one day of full sun. It would peak out here and there, but never for long. This shot was taken during the brief 40 minutes we had on day 5 when the sun came out in full and the water was nice and calm
  • For three nights after making landfall I would wake up in the middle of the night, in a bed, on land, feeling my body move side to side with the waves.
  • I listened to LOTS of podcasts and audiobooks.
  • Arriving in the Canaries I immediately sprang into action looking for the next ride across the Atlantic. I hitchhiked from the south of the Island to the north stopping at 3 marinas to leave my little flier on their announcement board. Even on this much-less-trafficked island there were already about 8 fliers up from other crew seeking boats. Competition was going to be fierce!
  • The seasickness I felt as we cast off from Portugal only lasted for about 18 hours. After that I was happily cooking down in the galley while 4 and 5 meter waves tossed us about. HUGE relief that it was something I just needed time to get used to.
  • On the last night in the boat we dropped anchor in front of a beach at about 11 at night after 6 days on the open ocean. The next morning, we piled into the dinghy to motor to shore and made perhaps the most disgraceful landfall ever. We totally botched the timing of the waves and came careening into the beach sideways getting totally soaked with people jumping over into the water trying to keep bags from getting wet everyone shouting conflicting orders….a total disaster. And when we finally gained composure and looked up, about 4 meters away was a couple in their late 60’s naked as the day they were born with big smiles on their faces having just thoroughly enjoyed a good show. We had anchored at the nude beach.
    Don’t be fooled, this picture was taken during the tiny 30 min. window of nice weather that we had

    So, the journey has begun! I don’t have many pictures from this first leg of the journey but there are a few more to see if you click this link.

    I don’t want to give away too much of what will become the next update, but lets just say that I rang in the New Year of 2020 right about here: Click Google Map Link  I’ll update when I can the story of the boat I ended up on and what’s in store for me next. Happy New Years to all 🙂

 

3 thoughts on “Setting Sail from Portugal

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