What happened to WHISCA's Secretary?
Spring Run's Winter Cruise 2001-2

This has been reorganised to read as one document in chronological order.


30th August 2001:
Spring Run is an Achilles 24, first launched in March 1973 for the present owner, J.H.(Ian) Wallace, currently Rear Commodore of Oban Sailing Club. She has been used for mainly local racing, cruising and, for the last 21 years, for skippered day-sailing charters out of Oban, under the Borro Boats banner. It frequently happens in these circumstances that she is sailed effectively single-handed, though with an attentive audience at very close hand!

She is 23 feet 9 inches (7.24m) overall length, beam just over 7 feet 1 inch (2.17m), draught 3 feet 9 inches (1.14m), displacement 2600 lbs (1180 kg). Headroom inside is a very limited 4 feet 6 inches (1.37m), but the main berths were made extra long to fit the owner. She is still in good nick and very competitive in handicap racing - unfortunately there is rarely a chance of class racing, the nearest fleet being at Loch Lomond SC.

For the purposes of this cruise she has had a roller reefing genoa fitted (the main already rolls around the boom), an additional bilge pump inside, and other minor modifications. She carries a 4hp outboard engine but it is not intended to use it much, due to shortage of stowage space for fuel cans. A wind vane home-built about 1975 to back-of-an-envelope design should allow some time off from the helm.

The purpose of this cruise (which is by no means unique in the annals of the design) is to head South Until the Butter Melts, stay awhile and then return in the spring. This will possibly entail coasting down the Iberian peninsula (after crossing Biscay....), then visiting Madeira, the Salvage Islands (if conditions permit) and the Canaries. When it becomes necessary to return, it is hoped to avoid the Portuguese Trades by keeping well out to the West and visiting the Azores.

A major factor in the decision to go is the arrival of cheap hand-held GPS: I have always had grave doubts about sextant work in such a small boat, even disregarding my unsteady hand and presbyopic eye! Another factor is the advent of email and WWW - it is hoped to keep in touch from internet cafes and periodically add to the information on this page.

Departure date (weather permitting) is immediately following the big spring tides of 17-19th September, when it is intended to lay-up (neap) the Borro Boats pontoon for the winter.


20th September 2001:
Departure date is currently delayed while certain necessary items (such as charts and certificates!) arrive. The pontoon has been laid up successfully as scheduled and the weather is better than we've had for months! The only consolation is that it's also flat calm.


Thursday 27th September 2001:
Set off - laden to the top of the boot-top. Weather fair, wind E'ly with prospect of veering S. Current intention is to go down by way of the Irish Sea.


Sunday 30th September 2001:
Arrived Bangor, Co Down at 10.00 exactly in a very wet state after an overnight sail from West Loch Tarbert, Kintyre in strong Southeast veering South winds. First night was at Crinan. Although I was pumping regularly and little came out it transpired when I opened the hatch that the saloon cushions were afloat. The pump intake was choked with soggy cardboard mush... Several days required to dry out! Only consolation is that the weather remains seriously adverse.


Wednesday 10th October 2001:
Arrived Howth at 10.00 precisely (again) from Bangor after another overnighter, this one fortunately much drier. Wind very much on the nose, especially in the later stages. On leaving Bangor, the wind indicator arms were seen to be wobbling back and forth, and since it is mounted on top of the masthead tricolor, I thought that too might be about to topple into the mighty Irish Sea. However, it survived still attached and will be attended to tomorrow.... Howth is absolutely crowded out with visiting boats attending their Autumn Series, but they did manage to fit me in. The place is much changed since my last visit in 1976!


Saturday 13th October 2001:
Arrived Arklow with failing electrics last night (10 pm for a change). Very slow sail against the tide most of the way - clocked 33 miles to make 15! Irish Sea tides should be taken a bit more seriously. Previous night at Wicklow on a borrowed mooring. Much more really solid sun needed to keep my battery topped up for overnighters and weather not obliging much except for the morning at Howth. (Mast successfully ascended)


Friday 19th October 2001:
Still in Arklow - wind obstinately Southeast or South and rarely less than f6. Tried to make a run for Rosslare or Kilmore Quay (round the corner) on Monday, but 2 hours was quite enough to change my mind on that! Have been searching assiduously for a back-up GPS, but this is an aid to navigation unknown apparently in Arklow, except to those who have bought a boat and found one built in.


Saturday 20th October 2001:
Left Arklow 1240 in hopes of making past Rosslare and round the corner to Kilmore Quay, first place on the Irish South Coast. However the SE wind fell light and progress, although pleasant, was slow such that it was only the favourable tide that got us as far as Rosslare, where we anchored off the beach well after dark.


Sunday 21st October 2001:
Awoke early to find the wind had swung through 180 degrees and we were slowly dragging shorewards. Should have chosen a better place and did so. Resumed towards Kilmore Quay as tide turned at 1340 but had to drift for the first two hours, when we got what soon settled into SW2. Interesting bit of pilotage through St Patrick's Bridge and a sharp turn right soon after got us into the marina under sail at 1927. No-one seemed to be about, and since one had to get a key to re-enter the marina, I was effectively locked in! Place very full with trawlers in the outer dock and lobster/crab boats in the marina (for the winter, as subsequently transpired).


Monday 22nd October 2001:
Got my run ashore after a very clammy night (must go somewhere warmer!). Kilmore Quay has a very good chandlery (albeit lacking in GPS's) where I picked up some other useful things, and a very helpful Harbourmaster who delighted in getting a 5-day forecast. Looks good if I can get 200 miles South before a depression arrives on Thursday. Decide to take the chance and set off 1408 in SSE3 and sunshine.
Work on compass light about 1800 and blow the main fuse, which loses the log's first 25 miles of the day. Sea full of lobster floats, mostly sporting little flags. Later it came on to blow harder so had to reef and many trawlers replaced the floats. Got seasick (slightly) and sheet lightning - with a curious windless few minutes about 2100 in the middle of rain squalls.


Tuesday 23rd October 2001:
A lot of banging about all day, boat leaping from crest to trough in confused seas, but continue to progress. Tacked to head S in early hours. Not inclined to eat but mindful not to get dehydrated. GPS reluctant to make its noon fix. Buzzed twice by a Nimrod about 1500 - didn't wave in case they thought I might be drowning! Night remarkably similar to the previous one, including lightning and 2100 calm moment, but saw only four trawlers. General plan working but need to be out of sea area Fastnet by morning to avoid worse winds.


Wednesday 24th October 2001:
Torrential showers just like a fire hose pour water through gaps round closed hatch top. Worse still, GPS develops an internal puddle and ignores all button presses. Lie ahull 0730 to consider position - could press on in reasonable expectation of eventually hitting Spain but do not have charts of North Spanish coast and might well really hit it if arriving in the middle of the night!
PAN-PAN calls do not elicit any nearby shipping for confirmation of position. Have a rest. About 1300 emerge to try for Scilly on basis of best estimated position in just nice time to see a smart coaster that had passed across our stern. Call on VHF and Danish captain says to steer 100 degrees for the Bishop Rock. Increasing distance and language difficulties prevent discusssion on whether this is magnetic or true, or allows for leeway, but do it anyway - and after 25 nautical miles, he was quite right, dead ahead and less than a mile away!
Thereafter, feel way up to Falmouth, arriving 1139 on Thursday. After going through the usual marina arrival routines, eating, etc., lie down for a short snooze and awake at 0400 on Friday! Not best pleased at having to divert 108 miles from intended route but nevertheless glad to be here.... Distance clocked since Monday night is 259.2 n mls.


Saturday 3rd November 2001:
Arrived in La Coruña, Spain, 1815 GMT - now we are getting somewhere!
Left Falmouth on Monday afternoon with the start of the ebb and a reasonable 5-day forecast apart from one cold front coming through about Tuesday night. This time have two GPS's: MLR SP24's I think, but only needed the one. Weather worked out quite well and was quite pleasant for the last two days - it came as quite a shock when the sea turned warm.... I was lucky to find a calmer spell on Wednesday night: the boat wouldn't go, so I took the hint, dropped all sail, closed the hatch and had a proper night in the sleeping bag. However the Atlantic was quite lumpy nearly all the time and winds on the quarter meant that full-time helming was needed. Shipping was always about, which meant little sleep, but only once did I pass something close and it was stopped too. Still trying to work that one out!
Clocked up another 518 sea miles getting here and not at all sure that I would like to do it again, but it was good experience, I suppose. Now having a rest in relatively mild and sunny weather and very glad to hear of all the gales back at home! Next stage will probably be to or around Cape Finisterre, when the weather suits. Manaña will do! (still here Monday, when this was posted)


Sunday 11th November 2001:
A nice warm morning with light NE'ly wind inveigled me into departing La Coruña and making for Camariñas about 45 miles down the coast. By the time we were actually under way, the wind was freshening, and we enjoyed a brisk broad reach (reefed) due West for about 25 miles, towards the end of which Spring Run's speed record had been lifted to 10.8 knots (on 36-second averaging). We then came on to a run until off Camariñas, in big seas, which resulted at some point unknown in the loss of the red ensign and staff, but fortunately nothing worse although we were pooped twice - fortunately the lower hatch board was just high enough!
This is posted on Wednesday, the wind not having reduced much, if at all, in the intervening days. Have been doing some walking, including a vain search of likely beaches for the missing ensign, and I can't see how they can make country life pay here!


Monday 19th November 2001:
Arrived Bayona, the last main port before Portugal, at 0444 this morning. Should have been about 1900 last night but was seriously becalmed off the entrance to the Ria de Muros, in which I had spent the two previous nights at Portosin. There were numerous meteorites to remember the sail by, but progress was slow. The cruise seems to be settling into the format of a sail followed by arrival in the dark somewhere, a day to look around/do repairs or whatever, another night prior to hopefully an early start,and then another sail of 40-50 miles. The weather since Camariñas has been generally more settled, with some sun, but still feeling rather autumnal temperature-wise. So I expect to be moving into Portugal on Tuesday......


Thursday 22nd November 2001:
Arrived in Leixões, say that if you can (roughly "Layeeshoish"), Portugal, this morning at about 0830, the same time as 12 fishing boats and a cargo ship with two tugs awaiting her! Needless to say, Spring Run came in last. The trip from Bayona (about 63 n miles according to the almanac) was mostly achieved under spinnaker (which at least kept me awake) in chilly northerlies between Force 1 and 4. Fortunately the lighter airs were made more interesting by a school of porpoises, who played around on either side, or elsewhere for all I know, for over an hour. The log, which was playing up on the way to Bayona, gave up with a broken wire and the man in the internet shop is trying to re-solder it while I busy myself here; hence the approximate distance given above. Had to use the engine to get into the marina today, first time for quite a while.


Tuesday 27th November 2001:
We are now in Cascais, having arrived on Monday early afternoon. I had hoped to be here by Sunday morning, but the trouble with cruising under sail only is that the wind doesn't always blow in a convenient direction or, worse still, at all. In this case, I had a slow first night out from Leixões and, although the porpoises aided by brilliant phosphorescence, did their best to keep me amused, time did drag somewhat. The repaired log worked fine and will, I hope, keep going for a long time with the re-soldered wiring coated in welly-boot-repair goo to keep it both flexible and dry. Anyway, by Saturday afternoon it was becoming apparent that we would not be in range of the Lisbon district (where we now are) without sailing a second night, which the battery was not up to. Despite my best efforts to vary the course so as to maximise exposure of the solar panels to whatever sun there was (and, yes, there is more of it), the charging system is not keeping up with the demands of the masthead tricolour - so, not fancying the possible traffic situations as Lisbon approached, even with a waxing moon, whilst in this unhappy state, I sheeted in and diverted to Nazaré (112 n miles logged).
This place has two great advantages: a) an artificial harbour open in all conditions and untroubled by swell or surge; and b) the harbourmaster is a Brit (Mike Hadley), which eliminates language problems and gives a vast amount of local knowledge to draw upon. He was most helpful and charged up my electrics (for free). Had I not been feeling the need to press on (winter is pursuing from behind, it seems, rather than the sun beckoning from ahead!) I would have been most happy to spend a week there at least but, as it was, I left next day when some wind did make an appearance and arrived just under 24 hours later at Cascais (79.14 miles logged). We have now rounded the westmost point on the European mainland in the process - Cabo da Roca at somewhere about 9° 30' West and, incidentally, passed the 1000 nautical miles from home mark during Friday night.
Cascais has the biggest marina that we have been in yet and a supermarket (Jumbo) that seems to cover about 5 acres, not counting the multi-storey car park. It furnished me with a battery charger for less than £25 and, from a variety of other sources, I have also got together a cable and plugs to connect it to the electricity points on the pontoon, so that is a partial solution to one problem. The town itself is great fun at least for pedestrians and is currently festooning all the main buildings, trees, street lamps, etc. with lights for Christmas. Which reminds me that I must be in the Canaries by then! Cheers.......
P.S: One advantage of the modest following winds is that I have had the time and opportunity to experiment with downwind sail configurations. I brought an old genoa that best matches the new roller genoa that Owen Sails made for this cruise (plug!) and, set on the spinnaker halyard opposite the new sail and with the main stowed, the result is remarkably docile so that the wind vane can control it (at least up to Force 4), although admittedly yawing about 20° either way. When one sail spills and the helm corrects, it does not refill with the bang one gets with a spinnaker, so there's the possibility of some sleep rigged thus. Time will tell, but I'm encouraged as I was not looking forward to a possibly long run in the NE Trades. There's a storm jib in reserve too.


Tuesday 4th December 2001:
Arrived in Sines, which is about 55 n miles down the coast from Cascais (or Lisbon) on Sunday noon after another very slow sail in initially calm conditions. Thinking that our recent performance was somewhat lacking, I enquired of the very helpful Harbourmaster if it was possible to dry out alongside a wall somewhere, and lo, they had just the place, so Spring Run was taken round at 0545 on Monday morning to enjoy a bottom scrub. Actually, there wasn't much to do, so from now on it will have to be either the roller genoa or the Skipper that gets the blame! Weather virtually cloudless every day and the light winds already mentioned do, fortunately, pep up a bit if you have the patience - or don't have the fuel! (Total petrol consumption so far is 4.97 litres).
The town consists of an old part, above a spacious beach, and has Roman and Moorish bits dotted around a mainly pedestrian Old Town. Its main claim to fame seems to be that Vasco da Gama was born here. Round about, it now has considerable industrial installations and can handle tankers up to 500,000 tonnes in the outer harbour. Now we're off to attack Cabo Sao Vicente tonight, and hope to arrive in the Algarve tomorrow.....


Thursday 6th December 2001:
Arrived in Lagos marina on Wednesday evening and had to spend the night on the Reception pontoon as, due to more light winds, the staff had already knocked off. The sail down was fortunately uneventful, as for some hours visibility was two boat lengths (i.e: 16 yards) and it didn't clear until 4 a.m. At 0048 I managed to get the Radio 4 forecast on long wave and it said for Sea Area Trafalgar "Variable 3 to 4, fog patches" - some patch! No moon, no stars: much diligent observation of the compass was required...
After due consideration of the onwards progress of the calendar, I have decided not to proceed further in the direction of Gibraltar but to head next for Madeira en route for Lanzarote, where my brother and his wife expect to be for a week immediately after Christmas. So, after a slight stock up, etc. we will head South-West probably on Saturday.


Tuesday 11th December 2001:
Still in Lagos! Saturday was entirely expended on writing cards for the Christmas mail, which took longer than ever, and ever since we have had SE Force 6 or 7 (or more), making departure through the breakers at the river mouth somewhat difficult... Obviously my earlier remarks about the wind have got its dander up. It has also been raining and the river and marina are now full of light brown muddy water. Still trying to make Lanzarote for Christmas, although it seems that my relatives now can't make it then after all.


Thursday 20th December 2001: Our first ocean island landfall!
We have now safely arrived in the island of Porto Santo as of half past midnight. (For those without an atlas ready to hand, PS is the island 20 miles NE of Madeira. It considers itself senior, having been discovered the year before Madeira.) The crossing, which is slightly longer than crossing the Bay of Biscay from Falmouth to La Coruña, was pretty uneventful apart from a couple of murky nights, forcing use of nav lights and thereby depleting the battery. Consequently in the later stages, I had to conserve it and arrived off the harbour using only the ship's torch and rolling up the genoa. Against the mass of lights ashore, I did not see until a very late stage a fishing boat on its way out (at full speed as usual): I'm not sure whether he saw me at all even after I did get the light on, but we missed by at least 15 yards.
GPS is wonderful - I spent much of Wednesday down below because the scenery I had seen already, and the two passing ships could be observed through the cabin windows. After doing up the log, I observed that it was now 34 nautical miles to PS, and thought it might be worth taking a peek just in case something was coming into sight. Madeira is a further 21 nm, so I didn´t expect to see that. However, on arriving on deck, the whole little archipelago was plainly to be seen - smack over the bow, of course! Three cheers!!!
The rendezvous in Lanzarote has been restored for 27th December, but it seems the weather has other ideas in the form of a Southerly Buster (translated into Portuguese, of course) tomorrow...


Wednesday 26th December 2001:
Arrived without any major frights in Lanzarote at about half past midnight, when I tied up at a pontoon in Playa Blanca harbour. This is notoriously hard to find a space in, so I wasn't surprised, after a very brief check ashore, to find us being firmly told to go away! We anchored outside while I reminded myself that "no room at the inn" was entirely in keeping with the season....
Fortunately the night was calm (and comfortable) following a day of decreasing wind in which there was little to do except try to sunbathe while we slowly closed on the South West corner of Lanzarote. Normally, one is led to believe, both Porto Santo and the Canaries are supplied with northeasterly (trade) winds, which should give a pleasant reach on port towards the Southeast. This time however it was blowing (after the "Buster") in exactly the opposite direction, so we had four days on starboard tack instead! After the third, the GPS revealed that it was exactly the same distance to Playa Blanca (in the South of the island) as it was to Arrecife (the capital, half way down the Southeast side). Since I did not particularly want to go to Arrecife and anticipated a possibly nasty beat down that side of Lanzarote, I hardened sheets slightly and headed for PB, with the hope of arriving on Christmas morning. After initially good progress, however, things fell light as already described.
Subsequently, Spring Run has been berthed in Puerto Calero, while I have enjoyed a few days ashore, showing some of the delights of the island to my brother and his wife. They found themselves an unusually short holiday and are flying back today (31st) while I hope to improve my suntan for perhaps the next 3 weeks. Sad to say, sun has been in short supply since Christmas and the butter hasn´t melted yet - although it is definitely soft. Today, breakers are splashing over the marina's breakwater, so this is a good pastime. A guid New Year to all our readers.


Friday 2nd February 2002:
We are still in Puerto Calero marina, Lanzarote but are now seriously thinking of abandoning the delights of the sunbathing, cafes and sunbathing and pubs and swimming in favour of starting homewards. This is because the last tides big enough to refloat the Borro Boats' pontoon come just before the end of April, so it has to be relaunched then.
Experience on the way out shows that we don´t have enough battery capacity or generating power in the solar panels to go more than five nights with the masthead tricolor light on, so the original intention of returning by way of the Azores has been dropped in favour of reversing the route out (more or less). Although in theory this means beating against prevailing wind and current, they are not so prevalent at this time of year (I hope!) and I will have the advantage of knowing where we're going and not having to do so much of the seeking-out or touristic thing.
Meanwhile I've been enjoying the more recent weather and working on Spring Run, which is benefitting from a good dry out (the first in years, I think) and cleaning and re-oiling of the interior teak, as well as exterior work. Many little niggles have been well and truly sorted out. Hope we don't develop a new set!
We have been confined to port by a failure in the roller furling gear, now replaced under guarantee, but this has taken a lot of time to get here. I have had to fall back on my other resources in Lanzarote, namely my mountain bike, to get around - not that the exercise has done any harm. Present plans are to return it to Playa Blanca tomorrow (Saturday), make a must-do trip to Isla de Lobos on Sunday and probably Monday, then leave for the North on Tuesday 5th, stopping at various points on our way up the island. Next likely bulletin from Madeira about 12th-15th February.


Monday 11th February 2002:
After some slight delays (they do seem to be inevitable!), we are now nicely moored up in Caleta del Sebo, Isle of La Graciosa, which lies off the north end of Lanzarote. This is as near "olde worlde Canarias" as one can get, I think - a bit reminiscent of Tiree of yesteryear, sandy, windy, no made-up roads (so the vehicular population consists of 50 Land-Rover Defenders and 7 all other makes) and the livestock wanders around much as it pleases. Since I was last here in 1983, they have built some proper breakwaters around the former anchorage and installed a couple of pontoons, berthing free for yachts but no water taps, electricity or "shore facilities". Almost heaven - some yachts have been here for months....

We left Puerto Calero two days late, due to my "plastic" becoming out of date, which necessitated making some rapid alternative arrangements, and sailed and motored in thick haze and almost no wind to Arrecife, the capital of Lanzarote. As luck would have it, they were in the throes of setting up and starting "Carnaval 2002" and many spare spaces normally used for carparks were being converted to Festival mode, with the most colossal sound systems and bands to try them out. It did mean that shopping became almost impossible.... I did a day's dinghy reconnoitring of the rockier bits of the harbour and left them to their party (I did manage to sleep through it a mile offshore, but the drums were still going at 0830) on Sunday morning. The day's sail up the coast was what every blue water cruising day ought to be like, with a warm breeze that soon veered onto the starboard quarter, serious quantities of sunshine, and the next port reached in good time in the afternoon.


Thursday 14th February 2002:
We are leaving La Graciosa reluctantly today - one little problem is that of getting up-to-date weather forecasts, and the best that I have been able to do is to buy a daily newspaper: they do at least give a synoptic chart in Canarias 7 and La Provincia. The conditions are perfect here with a SW force 3-4, although it seems I may be heading into (or hopefully around) a minor depression. La Graciosa has definitely expanded since my last visit. I have now found 5 restaurants, 2 supermercados, a brilliant bakery (bread in the morning, cakes and pastries in the afternoon!) and a bank... Presumably they all survive on the daily visitors coming on the ferry; they can't get all that much from the yachties!


Tuesday 19th February 2002:
Arrived in reasonable condition back at Porto Santo again, after just over 89 hours and 386.77 n miles logged through the water. It's noticeably cooler here - perhaps it's the depression. The passage started well but, after clearing La Graciosa and setting course for here, we got the swell right on the nose. A late lunch did not stay down very long. Apart from that, conditions were good with a beam reach and blue skies, starry all night.
Next day, the wind veered so that we couldn't lay the course on port, although it was still the paying tack and it was a question of choosing the moment when it swung further. There were occasional ships, but only one that caused an avoiding tack in the night. For the last 24 hours we were heading to pass between Madeira and Porto Santo, and I was hoping for a further veer to land us in the right place. The wind however made us beat for some 20 miles and then veered when it was no use - such is still the sailor's life!
The leak repairs done in Lanzarote got a bit of a testing and, surprise, surprise, only one was still seeping. However there was also a new, very minor one just to maintain interest!


Friday 8th March 2002:
Still in Porto Santo! I cheated and went for a weekend to Madeira on the ferry - one day in town in Funchal and one walking in the country. Now thinking of moving on again, but the urgency has been reduced by a kind offer to launch the BorroBoats' pontoon if I'm not back in time. Oh for a nice warm Southeaster! It is of course blowing on the nose for mainland Portugal meanwhile....


Saturday 23rd March 2002:
It was quite a wrench leaving some good cruising friends a week ago, in order to take advantage of a reducing northwester, forecast to back slowly to southeast. Funnily enough, other boats were heading for Funchal and La Graciosa, and the wind was in a good direction for them too, so there was quite a dispersal of the community. It had been blowing for several days, but too strongly (quite apart from the nasty showers). I had been doing a bit more leak stopping, and climbing a fair proportion of the hills on the island.
Left Porto Santo on Saturday afternoon (well, quarter past five, actually) bound for Cascais and found, as promised, a beam reach on port together with, what was not promised, a swell from the north. Having been too long ashore, the usual mal-de-mer insinuated itself later, thereby relieving me of catering problems for a couple of days while I subsisted on Cream Crackers this time and water. Initially there was a tendency to light showers still, but this wore off over the first two days and it was pleasant enough in between. On Sunday the wind went aft, so the main was furled and the genoa poled out. On Monday it was even more aft, so up went the "twin" genoa at sunrise until 0515 Tuesday. Meanwhile the sun had got its act together and life was very pleasant and unusually dry. A rare thing this winter, it was quite safe to take the charts and log into the cockpit to write them up!
Tuesday suffered initially from little or no wind, interrupted every 20 seconds or so by the disturbance of another swell passing, however the wind did as advertised and settled to the southeast, giving a beam reach on starboard for a change. By Wednesday it was a close reach and then it petred out awhile. While I was taking off the sails for dinner in the interests of peace and quiet, the mainsheet lower block suddenly took off heavenwards while little bits flew in other unknown directions.... Dinner was delayed for about an hour while I searched for each by torchlight. Remarkably, every bit was still on board, just, even the "retainer" that had flicked off in the first place. It was replaced with a conventional split ring. Such incidents do give one cause for thought! (for the want of a nail, etc.)
Due to lack of wind we had to lie ahull that night while the skipper checked for shipping every 20 minutes - there wasn't any. When it was possible to resume in the morning, we had apparently drifted north while pointing (mostly) south. Lord knows what would have happened had we tried to sail! Meanwhile our ETA was slipping off into the distance... Normal service was resumed on Thursday morning - starboard beam reach in rather thinner sunshine - but this didn't last, and most of the middle of the day was spent trying to prevent the boat from going round in circles or making 45 degrees of leeway. When we got going again later, I studied Portuguese Men of War (jellyfish). The only shipping seen was one 45-gallon drum. That changed drastically on Friday, when we were closehauled with the wind on the nose; we were crossing routes to much of industrial Portugal, as well as up and down the coast. This resulted in sightings of at least 22 ships. The nearest made a late and violent change of course and then blew his hooter at me. Since I was 30 miles from the nearest land, in over 4000 metres of water and bright sunshine, and sailing closehauled on starboard tack, I could only conclude that they hadn't been looking where they were going - either! Cheery waves were exchanged - at least they were British..... In the water there were two pods of dolphins, who gave us a cursory inspection, but plainly thought we were not much fun. They went off a short distance and then appeared to be rounding themselves up some lunch. Land was not distinguished in the low haze until early afternoon and we eventually ghosted (and tiller sculled) our way in at 0126 this morning.
Distance logged 543.3 n miles; time under way 152 hrs 9 mins; average 3.5 knots (it was 5.3 knots for the first 3 days). Leaks untested. One splash of water into the cockpit and, yes, the skipper didn't have his oilies on and got his Helly-Hansens wetted. I think this was a bit more like what blue-water cruising is meant to be!


Friday 29th March 2002:
We are now back in Nazaré , having left Cascais on Tuesday evening and sailed overnight to Peniche, a port skipped on the way south. I wasn't intending to go there, but progress was very slow (I left in a calm, in the hope of something better) and it looked an interesting place. Arrived at 1500 after clocking up some 61 miles and found it very busy. It is an old walled town on what is now a peninsula but was once an island and was reputedly originally founded by the Phoenicians. In miking about the more interesting shops, I found a new (nylon) Red Ensign and next morning a new staff to mount it upon, so Spring Run now looks much smarter - the previous "Spanish copy" flag got in Bayona being now blown into tatters. Departure was delayed, not only for this but also for a nasty unforecast southeaster blowing straight into the harbour entrance so we did not leave until mid afternoon. By that time the wind was veered west, then northwest and, by the time we trickled in here 23.5 miles later, it had managed the other two directions also. Just like sailing to Tobermory! To liven things up, we had an escort of outriding dolphins for about an hour and, after dusk, two blackcapped birds that very surreptitiously stole a ride from time to time on the self-steering gear. They flew in so quietly that I might not have noticed at all, except that one tried to perch in the middle of the vane, which tipped it off, and there was then a bit of a battle to share the remaining more secure spots! We did eventually arrive about 2315 and I was slightly surprised on a holiday weekend to find myself being promptly marched off by the Guardia to fill in all the usual forms in quintuplicate. Such are the joys of cruising round here. I expect to leave on Saturday for the next place north.


Friday 5th April 2002:
We have been here in Figueira da Foz since the early hours of Tuesday morning after 4 nights at Nazaré. This was longer than I had intended to stay there but a combination of nice weather, generally light or contrary winds, and a very nice adjacent beach resulted in the overstay. This time I got into some of the town and found a very good eating place with the guidance of Capt Mike Hadley, the Harbourmaster. The funicular to the Sitio (Old City) on the top of its escarpment was out of action, due to reconstruction, but the almost equally old town at the bottom was quite interesting enough, with some streets just wide enough for two persons to pass. Tourism is the town's main business nowadays and it has a very wide beach which a building site revealed extends right under the town to a considerable depth. On part of the beach are racks for drying fish - I didn't buy any, but did go for dried fruit from old ladies in traditional dress. Probably the supermarket would have been cheaper but it's nice to support local initiative sometimes.
From Nazaré to Figuera is just over 31 n miles as the GPS measures it, but this proved to be a beat to windward, albeit with few tacks, mostly in Force 4. It took 8 hours to lose sight of the Sitio: the first five and a half hours were all on one starboard tack to get westing with the result that we still had 31 miles to go at the end of it. Anyway after that we ate up the coast in better style and arrived in the usual failing winds at the harbour entrance at 0320 and motored in to the mouth (Foz) of the River Mondego and the marina. After the usual bout of bureaucracy I slept until 1315!
I hadn't been up long before I was hailed by a passing bloke who spotted the Red Ensign. He introduced himself as Roy Rodrigues, Portuguese born but having spent most of his life in the States and glad to get talking in English again. During the next few days he was extremely hospitable and helped in expeditions to the hypermarket, etc. as well as inviting me to his home to dine. He had just acquired an Albin Ballad, all fitted up for serious cruising, from a Swede who had decided to give up, go home and "swallow the anchor". I hope I made myself useful in finding out just what was in the boat, what it connected to, and confirming that it worked as Roy himself had never owned such a craft before although he had done a fair amount of dayboat sailing in the USA. I hope he gets the use out of it...
Since it is a longer leg to the next port, Leixões (60 n miles), it cannot be reached by day sailing and so I aim to sail overnight starting this evening.


Tuesday 9th April 2002:
This comes from Viana do Castelo, an attractive town and the last major one in Portugal as we head North up the Atlantic coast in which shelter is available. We arrived here on Sunday night from Leixões after spending one night there - I think it must be the most unattractive marina in Portugal, the water is filthy in the extreme and the toilets are carefully locked up at the weekends! (perhaps the two factors are connected). Nevertheless, as we left, a fleet of dinghies was setting forth for some racing; I hope nobody capsized!
Viana, although it has its industrial bits, is at the foot of a wooded hill (also with a funicular and also out of action) and has a rare collection of buildings from every century and style, with the centre mostly pedestrianised. The marina is at the effective limit of navigation for sailing craft, a bridge designed by Eiffel with road on top and railway underneath. There are brand new offices and facilities, which will be splendid when they are working properly. The sail up was done by day (well, mostly) as it is only just over 30 n miles - we set off with a leading wind and ended up with the usual light-winds beat, but at least, as we entered the harbour, it veered to allow a fetch up-river to the marina entrance. I found a whole lot of wee boats with no lights zooming around, one of which had to rapidly take up a drift net that he had just laid right across the river, quite illegally, I'm told, so I doubt if sailing was popular right then..... Sundry villages and indeed towns up the coast as we progressed were letting off rockets with thunderflashes, presumably in my honour or perhaps they were having a festa.


Friday 19th April 2002:
We are now back in Bayona, Spain, after an unremarkable daysail up from Viana on Wednesday. Cast off at 1100 with a light easterly to carry us out of the river, although it was raining sadly to prevent any photography and I had to keep the hatch shut. Once outside, it obligingly veered gently South, force 3-4, and so continued until arrival at 1910. For the first time in ages, we met a yacht going the other way - in fact, two yachts in rapid succession, both British and both motoring somewhat unhappily in the WNW big swell and headwind. I guess the season for delivering one's boat to the Med has now begun in earnest.
Not sure how or when to proceed from here: winds somewhat contrary for some time to come it seems. May have to resort to quick hops from one sea-loch (ria) to the next. There are several such between here and C. Finisterre.


Saturday 4th May 2002:
I have been in the wilds, out of reach of the Internet, for quite some time, one might say doing some proper cruising! We left Bayona on Saturday 20th April at a time when there looked to be a breeze building, notwithstanding that they were having a bit of a Regatta at the time (an April series). By the time we came to the other side of the bay and had to go through a narrow channel with a shoal in the middle and the swell coming through against us, the wind had virtually disappeared and much tiller-waggling was needed to get us to the Islas Cies. It took 4 hours to get 8 miles and anchoring seemed the right thing to do.
After blowing up the dinghy next day, I had a run ashore (and a sunbathe) in this very attractive location - mountainous on a modest scale, wooded, and several nice beaches where the sands sang like Laig Bay on Eigg. Wind still Force 1 northerly but since the groundswell got right round and had made a very rolly night, I thought to try elsewhere. There was a sheltered-looking corner of the mainland just 3 miles away, so we trickled around there. It took just over 2 hours, but the swell kept following, so after a trip ashore the next morning to the local shop, and another to the beach, where the dinghy and I got well and truly rolled over by a big one that broke much further out than the others (and washed off my sunspecs), we carried on again on Monday and clawed our way to Isla Ons which lies across the entrance to the next ria north, that of Pontevedra. Unable in the dark to be sure where the end of the jetty was - there are rocks sticking out just as far on both sides of it - we anchored a bit further north off a nice beach and rolled around there instead!
With daylight next day we made our way back to the jetty, where there are free moorings. The wind didn't improve much for some time, probably due to the seabreeze doing battle daily with the gradient wind, so I got some time to explore Ons (which is much the same length as Kerrera, but not so wide at the south end) in detail over the next few days and to visit the lighthouse, which is one of the bigger ones on this coast, perched up on the highest point of the island. There only seemed to be the one keeper and he, fortunately, speaks very good English and is a keen student of Rudyard Kipling, so I got quizzed on some of the odder words to be found in his writings...
Eventually a decent breeze appeared on Friday (26th April) and our progress resumed. A call was made to Porto Pedras Negras as it had been found that the outboard (from long disuse perhaps) was lacking sparks, but we were only there a few hours and then headed off again on an overnight sail under the full moon which ended up in our present location of Portosín.


Monday 6th May 2002:
I had been tempted to continue round Cabo Finisterre to Camariñas, since it would have added only about 23 miles to the leg, but diverted to Portosín instead because they have much superior laundry arrangements! For such mundane reasons are big decisions often made.... the winds have remained decidedly uncooperative ever since and, although in a better direction today (ENE), are very much on the strong side. The Club here is very friendly and comfortable, so the only hardship is the frustration. I have now located this "Cyberdrome" in Noya, the main town 8 km away, and am finally getting caught up with myself! Hopefully we will be rounding Finisterre tomorrow and looking for the right weather for Biscay thereafter.


Monday 13th May 2002:
Please be advised that we have now safely arrived back in Camariñas. Left Portosín in rather blowy conditions at 1500 on Sunday "just to take a look at it" and, finding that we could get down the "loch" on the one tack, continued on around Cabo Finisterre (1900) and so on to here, arriving 2255. Can't say I enjoyed the scenery much, as mostly it was cloud, low mist and rain. This because the wind was in the South and the easiest way (sailingwise) of getting here: I'm glad I took the opportunity when it was offered. The northerly swell that has been our constant and annoying companion ever since leaving the Canaries was not in evidence, but there was quite a tumble of southerly waves instead - up to about 3 metres in height. So we were well reefed but still scooted along quite briskly. The GPS worked and helped considerably. It also helped that I knew where we were going, as the hatch had to remain firmly closed for the duration.
Now I have to await a spell of suitable winds for crossing Biscay northbound. Most of the boats here now are going the opposite way for a Mediterranean summer. Now there's a thought.........


Wednesday 5th June 2002:
Our stay in Camariñas extended to over two weeks whilst a suitable weather pattern was awaited, but we finally left for Kinsale on Tuesday, 28th May at 1400. Much time (and not a few Euros) had been expended in researching the forthcoming weather but it was clear within 24 hours that all predictions of wind strength and direction were "off", although the general trend of the main Highs and Lows was probably not all that far out. Whereas I had been expecting moderate Westerlies to set in, what we got was mainly NE force 3-4's, so we trogged along closehauled nearly all the time, while the Shipping Forecasts assured us that it was either blowing 5-6 or variable 3-4. Not that I'm complaining really - it's the Met Office's own fault for making the new FitzRoy area too big to be easily summarisable. Every forecast except one, in the period that we were in it, had to divide the area up one way or another, and it got to be a real pain deciding which bit was relevant.... if any!
All in all, this turned out to be the second best passage of the entire cruise - the leg from Porto Santo back to Portugal being tops. Until the last day or so, it was dry and all we had to do was keep going North close to Longitude 10° West and see what transpired. There was remarkably little shipping after crossing the lanes heading round Finisterre, which took all of the first 24 hours - we had to tack up the coast until almost in sight of La Coruña before getting the shift that allowed us to head directly North. After that it was just a matter of watching the wildlife; dolphins and some other unidentified bigger cetaceans and birds. On the Saturday there was a tired racing pigeon making several vain attempts to land, followed two hours later by another two together, which were no more successful. I can't think where they could have been started from and hope that at least they knew where they were going. Oh yes: and I sewed up a berth cushion which had split along the zip due to old age.
The weather finally began to pay attention to the forecasts that same day, when a shift to the West was predicted. That meant 5 hours of flat calm first, during which the mainsheet block again took a flier and was reassembled without loss, other than the split ring which had pulled out straight. We then resumed under genoa only, reefing a bit as needed. In the morning the wind vane's "string" to the tiller frayed through. Replacing it is a tricky job involving splices and clamping screws, all to be done hanging over the back, so I left well alone until we started wandering off course about lunchtime, then took over the job of helming myself for the remainder of the leg. Needless to say, it soon rained. Then there were some squally bits - nothing drastic but at the same time the compass card apparently fell off its pivot and two successive fishing boats made charges at us to show who was boss! All in all, it made for an interesting end to the sail with not the least chance for considering sleep. Actually I felt fine, until it came to calculating our mileage by subtracting one 6-digit figure from another, when even pencil and notepad took about 10 minutes. It was just as well that the GPS (this time) kept doing its stuff because, having picked up the Old Head of Kinsale light about 18 miles out, and the compass failing, the light then disappeared again, and the GPS was kind enough to confirm that I was still well out to sea as well as which way we were going....
With a very chilly morning dawning not long after, all became tranquil and we ghosted into Kinsale very elegantly I'm sure, making fast to the Yacht Club pontoons at 0648 Monday, 558.4 n miles from Camariñas at an average of 4.1 knots. Tidied ship, hoist appropriate flags, etc. and retired to sleep 0820. Woken by loud thumps at 1500 - I was in someone's berth and had to shift, of course. The local fleet had just been away contesting some passage races and a regatta for the weekend (it was a holiday in Ireland too). I have since tested the Guinness and local food, both excellent, but find the prices a bit of a shock after what I've been accustomed to.... The Euros go round much faster here than in Iberia!
Wildlife comes right into the town, I found two tame herons strutting around the pontoon last night. Am now trying to trace a long-lost relative.


Friday 14th June 2002:
This comes from Arklow where we have again been most hospitably received, as indeed we were at Kilmore Quay, both places visited on the way south. Due to an unfavourable medium-term forecast, I had to give up the intended visit to my cousin, who was found to be resident near Westport, Co. Mayo, nothwithstanding that I had been to Cork and bought a chart thereof specially! However the same weather was quite suitable for going up the east coast. Left Kinsale on Monday late afternoon to sail overnight with a moderate westerly breeze and never even took the cover off the mainsail, just running under genoa alone. Got into Kilmore just after noon on Tuesday - for once the log made less miles of it than the charted distance (77 n miles) so obviously the tides were in our favour for once.
Encouraged by this, I carefully timed our departure on Wednesday for two hours before low water and found that this gave an inshore eddy to Carnsore Point (the southeastmost corner of Ireland) and then the flood from there all the way up to Arklow. It was spring tides, and a nice bright evening with a hairline new moon putting in an appearance and, this time with two sails up for the reaches and run, we covered the ground at nearly 8 knots (and how nice to get out of the Atlantic swell at Carnsore), arriving about 1 a.m. having taken seven and a half hours to cover what took 2 days on the way out. According to the log, the tide had saved us nearly 17 miles.
Later that day I was pleased to see another well-known boat from Argyll enter the marina - Besula Mhor IV - so there has been some exchange of news! It was intended to continue north this morning, but rain and promises of the occasional Force 7, even if astern, were sufficient to deter me. Perhaps tomorrow will do and the tides suit well for a morning start for a change; hope to get somewhere well north of Dublin Bay.


Sunday 16th June 2002:
Left Arklow at 0845 Saturday and arrived Ardglass at 0115 this morning. A little milestone for Spring Run was passed at 1052 off Wicklow when the log counter clicked over from 9999.99 miles to 0000.00! The last can of Guinness to survive from the start of the cruise was duly drunk in celebration. At the time the spinnaker was up and we were charging along in a not-very-warm southerly Force 4. Later off Dublin Bay the wind increased and it seemed reasonable to take in the kite and continue with the genoa instead, at times goosewinging. There seemed to be quite a lot of racing activity going on in Dublin Bay but no yachts came out to near our course. Not a lot else happened other than the passage of many miles and my only concern was that the wind was blowing straight into Ardglass. However the place is well protected with breakwaters and reefs and we ran in under genoa only, starting the outboard just as we came to the first breakwater, then did a little slalom around the buoyed channel into the marina. Nearly "collected" an unlit black perch off the end of the second pontoon, but saw it just in time and berthed without further problems. Total distance off chart is 90 n miles, we logged 78.67 (average 4.7 knots through the water). Today is building up to a near gale, so will have another night here at least. The marina is well equipped (including washing machine and tumble dryer) and you can get to use the office computer for the Internet. And we are now back in the Sterling area - I've had to put away my Euros for another time.


Saturday 22nd June 2002:
We are now back home in Oban after working the tides all the way. Departed from Ardglass at 1814 on Tuesday, and had a good run, with limited spinnaker work, to Bangor, which we reached at 0116, 30.98 n miles at average 4.2 knots. Stayed there during the day (Wednesday) and left at 1900 with the next high tide; found no wind outside, so broke the rule and motored as far as the contents of the outboard's fuel tank would take me, which was 4.85 miles, terminating just off Black Head. The Mull of Kintyre was distantly visible. Sailed on slowly in SW, S, NE and no winds and eventually stopped in Brown's Bay near Larne, a surprisingly rural spot, notwithstanding the Ballylumford power station chimneys poking over the rise behind. 9.14 n miles took 5 hours and 40 minutes, so we won't mention the average speed!
Left again on Thursday at 0915 in hopes of crossing the North Channel and noted that Larne seems very dependent on P & O - they had 5 ships there, juggling berths in the limited space. There wasn't much wind again and as we progressed up the coast I calculated that the tide would be changing just as we got to the middle of the North Channel. So a further diversion to Red Bay seemed the best solution and we arrived there just as the wind was piping up. Anchored nevertheless off the pier in the West corner, in rather shallow water (but it was getting near low water anyway) and were soon offered a fishing boat's mooring - so the locals are friendly. However the offer wasn't taken up as the hook was already well dug in and, after refreshment and a snooze, we resumed at 2025. The night was somewhat murky, wind southerly 4, and rain intermittent. Although no shipping had been seen from Red Bay, when we got nearer the Mull four ships appeared but did not require to be dodged. Arrived at Gigha at 0440 Friday, 47.70 n miles from Brown's Bay, and picked up a mooring - not a manoeuvre that I had had much practice in recently (and it showed).
Friday was not a very pleasant day, with wind SxE5 and rainy spells, so the joys of Ardminish were foregone and we resumed our progress at 2024 with the next flood and rather less wind. At the North end of Gigha this failed but we were treated to a spectacular sunset over Jura, rather surprising after the day that had preceded it. It had been hoped to get a lift on the flood right up the Sound of Jura, but in the absence of wind all we succeeded in doing was drifting up past Skervuile light - and then drifting down back again. Wind eventually returned from astern at 0750 when the kite was set. A temporary lapse gave me a chance for breakfast, then we continued with a Force 3 westerly and the kite still set. With the (next) tide now under us, brisk progress was made to Ruadh Sgeir and then up the Sound of Luing, Fladda being passed at 1220. I have to confess that this passage in home waters was as enjoyable as anything else on the whole cruise, but then there were more landmarks! With all the tidal gates passed, time in hand and the ship's stores well depleted, the idea came that it might be a good idea to stop for lunch at Easdale Harbour, so we picked up one of the Sea Safaris' moorings only to find the RIB returning round the corner before I could lower the mainsail. So I anchored instead and got a lift ashore with them and back out again at 1400 sharp after eating at the Oyster Bar. Hoisted all courtesy flags and set off again, using the spinnaker for a very brisk run back home to Oban. We were greeted with a series of hoots from the Sailing Club as we crossed the starting line en route to one of the visitors' moorings off BorroBoats, which was picked up at 1620. Distance from Gigha 43.23 n miles at an average of 2.1 knots. End of cruise!

Total distance logged since starting out on 27th September = 4843.16 nautical miles (not including some legs where the log was out of action). Apart from short distances when becalmed at the entrances to La Coruña, Lagos, Playa Blanca, and Figuera da Foz and the exit from Bangor above, the outboard was only used inside harbours (and not always there) and all passages were completed under sail. Total fuel consumed was 16.77 litres - quite an improvement on the 2.5 tons it usually takes to fly me to Lanzarote and back! The paraffin stove did the entire trip on one two-gallon can filled in Oban.