Just a month and two weeks ago, I was leaving Saint-Jean-De-Luz. Here I am now in the Algarve after 900 nautical miles of sailing. A look back at a beautiful journey full of life, strong in landscapes and strong in emotions.
You may be a little disappointed with the photos. Unfortunately, I am not well equipped for this. The photos here give only a brief glimpse of the landscapes encountered.
The north coast of Spain
The Basque country is known for being a bit capricious in terms of the wind. Indeed, the whole region from Arcachon to Bilbao is often without a well-established wind, so I was very happy to be out of this area. I was able to enjoy a beautiful window of wind from Bilbao to Viveiro.
These were easy and very enjoyable sailings where I had little to do but admire the landscape. I saw Los Picos De Europa from the coast, it is a mountain range located between Santander and Gijòn that must really be worth visiting while hiking. The whole coast is pretty. These are cliffs with sometimes small villages standing up there, small fishing villages and a few coves.
It seems to be good to live here, but I am moving forward because autumn is fast approaching and I do not want to linger too long in the Bay of Biscay.
Gijon, the city of cider
I stayed three days in Gijon. It was a retired merchant marine mechanic who advised me to visit this town. I had met him on the pontoon of Lorient, he had his boat that he had built all by himself. In fact, he was also the one who gave me a lot of advice for the maintenance of my engine. So I paid myself the luxury of going to the port to visit and do the engine drain.
I was greeted by a Belgian who helped me to moor Øya, he made the same route as me but in the other direction. Then it was a Luxembourger, then a Swede with whom I could to practice my Norwegian and finally two French boats. Gijòn is a common destination to land after crossing the Bay of Biscay. It’s nice to see people traveling and living on board like me, the last time it was the friends at the island of Yeu! In fact the vast majority of travellers do not bypass the Bay of Biscay as I did. Besides, I think they’re right!
The language barrier
If Gijòn will not disorient me for its specialty which is cider, the first cultural shock was the language. I don’t speak a word of Spanish and few Spanish speak English. It’s quickly complicated.
I end up with my bottle of cider at a table, I thought I ordered a glass but anyway… Another customer starts to speak to me in Spanish with a lot of vivacity, obviously I do not drink cider properly. After 10 minutes of explanations in Spanish and mimicry I finally understood the proper service of the cider: you have to use the glass and the spout provided by the server to aerate the cider. The cider should therefore be poured very high into the glass, and above all not serve more than one centimeter. Later, I would observe the waiters on terraces supposed to be classy do the service behind kinds of urinals to avoid messing around.
Curious tradition, I’m not convinced by their stale cider…
The lonely guy
I’m noticing something. From Brittany I find that the waiters do not see me! I don’t exist: they look at me, see my neighbors but not me, even when I call them! I always have to go into the café and tell them to come and see me. When they come out they sweep the whole terrace once or twice to finally spot me.
A lonely guy? Put him at the bottom left in the shadow between the door of the service and the one of the toilet.The lambda restaurateur
There in Spain it’s the same, I don’t know if they don’t do it on purpose, but they do!
Well, the citadel is pretty, it’s a city worth it, adiòs!
Speed record towards Viveiro
In the space of a few days I was able to break my speed record thanks to a slight swell coming from the 3/4 rear and a steady wind. I registered a record of 9.5kn ground speed over an hour, it was off Figueras and Foz. I did not believe it and checked several times but the GPS points do not lie, this is well produced. Even admitting that there was 1nd of power in my favor, I am still satisfied with my steel boat.
It’s September 8th when I anchor in the rià de Viveiro, I know it’s the end of the first part of the journey. I’m happy with this road, it passed quickly but there are still a lot. Galicia awaits me and its coasts are reputedly rather technical.
Proud of my performances on the north coast, I raise the anchor of the rià de Viveiro to go to Cedeiro and tread on the Galician land. Between me and my destination is the first cape I will cross in my life as a sailor. A cape named Ortegal that I had not particularly heard of, which is the northern end of Spain. I am not prepared and I am making bread quietly in a calm sea when suddenly the wind rises at 20nd and above. So this is the passage of a cape! I reduce the surface of the sail, I remove the front sail rather than changing it … It’s not very clean, but the bread hasn’t burned!
I have a very good memory of Cedeiro, a nice little town where the waiters don’t see me either. A very well protected anchorage without any swell.
The system has changed: the high pressure that gave me this wind carrying for more than a week is gone. A poorly established low pressure system looking like mid-summer or mid-autumn had the effect of not having exploitable wind. So I stayed almost two weeks in Ferrol and La Coruna.
I took the opportunity to work, visit the fortress of San Felipe and change the diesel filters of the engine. I do not meet many people, it is grey and fresh, the water is dirty and cold, I get a little bored. Since Gijòn I have not spoken to anyone. The week before was still the summer holidays while here the atmosphere is in the fall and back to school. Admittedly, it’s consistent with the calendar…
It is at the time of presenting my papers to the harbour’s master office of A Coruńa that I recognize Manon of the sailing school Les Glénans! She convoys “a friend’s boat” from the Algarve to Concarneau, France. Raphaëlle, who had done the same training as me, joined her the next day.
After an evening in a punk bar in A Coruña, our paths separate: I go toward south, they go toward north. They will also suffer a memorable gale in the Bay of Biscay. I would receive news after two days of worry, apparently it was quite technical to change the front sail on the bowsprit out in waves of seven meters …
La costa del morte
I finally leave A Coruña at a speed of 1.5nd in a shy trickle of air that pushes me to the west. It’s slow and painful: 4 sailboats overtake me at the engine. I spend the night in a nice anchorage in Malpica, but I already yearn for raising the anchor the next morning to advance at least to Laxe.
At dawn, I pass between the Sisargas Islands and the coast. It’s a magical moment: under sails, with extraordinary lights, I pass in this beautiful landscape. The swell crashes against the rocks here and there, they are both close enough and far enough away that the moment is memorable without being worrying.
Satisfied with my departure I continue my route and then the wind stops again, it was planned. A reversal is supposed to happen and I’m in between. So I wait in a sea of oil while tasting my omelette with potatoes. Four dolphins come to play around Øya several times, it’s a good company! As the forecasts are good I decide to go a little further to Muxia and not Laxe. It is the last harbour before Cape Finisterre, the western end of Spain.
During my advance, I hear on the radio a pan-pan call from a French sailboat called Atao. He’s in rudder damage, 15Mn south of me. I would have help them, but it’s too far for me and others offered their help before me.
The more time passes the more I realize that I do not meet at all the conditions announced by the weather report. The wind is contrary, stronger and it’s degrading. In the end I would have spent 5 hours against wind and current to enter the rià of Muxia. An unexpected night arrival in the rain is always a highlight! Slaloming between fishing boats coming out of the rià also contributes to the pleasure… If I had a hard time distinguishing in the rain the tiny sector light that indicates the right path between the rocks, I had no bad surprises! It was good to arrive and sleep warm while it’s deluge outside.
The name of this coast is quite revelant!
Orcas get involved
The next day, I calmly tidy my boat and then go ashore with my dinghy on the beach. I barely set foot on the sand as a Frenchman comes to meet me. We will sympathize, he is a cross-country ski champion who has traveled almost all over the world and who already pictures me arriving in Brazil. I would also receive a visit from Xulia, one of the students of my first internship that I had supervised at the Glénans sailing school, she is Galician. I would have finally met a lot of people in Galicia!
As my weather window arrives, I learn in the local hardware store that the Spanish government is banning sailing because of orca attacks. It’s starting to get painful! Moreover, it is likely that atao’s rudder was in fact damaged by one of these orca attacks…
I find the official message of the authorities and read it in detail. The ban is for the area north of A Coruña, and I am to the south. On sunday morning, September 27th I leave Spain towards Cape Caboveiro in Portugal, 250Mn further, heading south.
I made the choice to go offshore to leave the orcas area and not stop to visit the Atlantic Islands. I’d rather postpone it to another time when I could take full advantage of it. For the time being there was talk of moving south, towards summer.
After 2 days and 2 nights at sea I stop at Peniche where I would work. Then another small jump for Caiscais next to Lisbon. I spend my Saturday visiting the city because if I passed Porto without stopping, I would not miss Lisbon.
A pretty town
This is the end of the stingy Vincent who doesn’t want to pay the tourist stuff. I go to the Basilica of See, I pay for the museum, then I go to visit the castle and I pay for the entrance, then a postcard and even a restaurant’! It doesn’t matter I’m a tourist, I assume!
The waiters wait for their customers on their terrace and offer their menus to passers-by. I’m skeptical at first, but I see they’re doing that with everyone. The locals chat with them and laugh. It’s just a good atmosphere. I’m having lunch in a small, unpretentious restaurant. On the terrace a man offers me canabis and cocaine, I politely refuse. He comes back five minutes later, I refuse again. Then a third time, and I just but firmly say “go away.” This time he disappears for good! I wonder why he doesn’t also ask the other guy on the next table? The menu was excellent and cheap.
I stroll, visit the alleys, it’s a pretty town and the Portuguese look really friendly. There are a lot of Germans and French, it’s a capital after all.
The city of drug dealers
I’m going to have a beer in a bar in the evening, and then it’s five times that I’m offered cocaine very insistently and with always the same speech and once heroïn.
Special price only for you, you’re french you like cocaine I know it.The dealers of Lisbon
I meet an over-excited Frenchman who obviously consumed the substance of the devil, I feel ashamed. One last dealer speaks to me and I send him back away. I’m fed up and decides to take the train back to Caiscais, I saw what there was to see and there’s no point in getting mad at these idiots.
It’s 9pm, I regret Spain where no one saw me.
The Swedish-style Covid
In Caiscais, on my way back to the boat I see an Irish pub where it looks like a great atmosphere with a concert. I enter, order a beer and the band stops playing. No big deal, the beer’s pretty good.
I introduce myself and two of the three guys don’t see me while they go outside to have a smoke. The third one is completely drunk but I’m still trying to have a discussion. He invites me to his house and asks me if I’m really sure I’m not interested in men. Then he coughs on me.
I had actually heard that they managed the Covid-19 differently in Sweden, but come on!
I go to the bar to get a shower of hydro-alcoholic gel in front of the intrigued look of the pretty waitress with whom I would not talk and this time I go back to the boat for good.
While leaving the harbour I meet a Belgian boat called Marie. His very friendly crew goes around the world by the three capes. At the time of writing this article they are in the Canary Islands, it makes you want!
Last sailings before the Algarve
I feel like I’ve been back in summer since Cape Cabo Da Roca: the sky is blue, the barometer rarely below 1020Hpa, and in addition there is almost always wind coming from the north… These are the Portuguese trade winds.
I’m leaving Caiscais on October 7th for Sesimbra. Then I leave Sesimbra on the 9th for Sines. I would come across at sea a boat that will overtake me every day, it is Jollity. A Swiss couple who by the way take a few shots of Øya with their drone. We’ll meet several times at the anchorage, it’s nice! They leave for New Zealand via Panama.
Navigation in light weather
I was pleasantly surprised by the performances of Øya in Asturias. There I had a strong wind, but on this part of the journey it was much weaker. I have often had a bitter taste of frustration and jealousy. Notably, I saw Jollity leave two hours after me, overtake me under asymmetrical spi, make a beautiful drone video of this action, and then arrive three or four hours before me.
I need a spinnakerØya’s Logbook
I have often written this sentence in the logbook. The spinnaker is the largest sail of the boat and also the most beautiful. I sailed many times in the ideal conditions to establish this sail… But now I have to do some small work to be able to hoist it. This change has been part of the improvement program for a few months. It will be made, and soon!
Cape Saint Vincent, gateway to the Algarve
I leave Sines on the evening of October 10th because there are 65Mn to do. I spend the beginning of the night corking without wind. You should know that when there is no wind and a little swell, it is a very uncomfortable position because the boat is rolling. It’s also very irritating because the sails slam, the fitting squeaks as well as the ropes. I haul down the mainsail so that it stops spoiling unnecessarily and above all that this unbearable noise becomes a little less. I find the trick to leave the Genoese hoisted and tangoed, so it will make little noise and when there is a small breeze the boat will go alone in the right direction. The wind finally settles around 1:30 in the morning and I then slowly advance towards the last cape of my journey, which bears my name.
Despite this, Cape Saint Vincent will not spare me. If I had too little wind at the start, the cape effect will greet me here with 25 knots as it does to everyone. Based on my experience at Cape Ortegal, I had prepared my move well this time: in 10 minutes I reduce the canvas gradually, everything goes on like music paper, I’m very happy with myself! But, just when I have to take the third reef of the main sail, its rope get stucked at the end of the bomme. As this one is above the water, I am stuck. I had to change the heavy Genoese for the foc but I wasted time trying to take my third reef. Too bad, I’m upset so I haul the Genoese down and finish the last 500 meters with the engine. Missed again!
I anchor in the middle of cliffs with beautiful colors, on land the vegetation reminds that of the Garrigue: I am in the Algarve.
The beginning of the end
Here I meet two other nice crews: a Scottish family and a German guy. He has travelled from northern Norway until here while learning how to sail on Youtube. In fact, he bought a boat because his van broke down. We’ll meet on land and at each side for an aperitif. They will continue their journey to Madeira or the Canary Islands.
Another little sailing along the beautiful coast and I find myself in Lagos. It is here, between Lagos, the Alvor’s lagoon and Porto that I would spend the winter. My goal is to run my own business, it’s a part of the project that is important to me and that I was looking forward to!
So, do you like it?
This trip is the culmination of this vilain project that I embarked on two years ago. Also, it was a conveying: reach the Algarve to work all winter. At the same time, during the trip I was already working part-time, that was the initial idea. It was a big jump into the unknown.
Travelling without a visit goal
I left without a particular tourist objective: I enjoy the present by discovering great landscapes, visiting a metropolis, a picturesque little village, a fortress of the Middle Ages. I’ve done all this and it’s fabulous!
The downside of this approach is that only superficial visits are made. To go ashore and make a trek of a week for example, you have to plan a minimum because it requires logistics. You have to get the boat to safety, know where to go, possibly by bus, know if you can plant your tent anywhere etc.
It’s a shame to pass by without stopping
The whole coast I’ve been along is beautiful. We want to visit all these places that everyone praises the beauty of. But we have to face the reality: we can’t stop everywhere because it would take a lifetime!
I have often found myself in front of myself, very often in moments of indecision where I don’t know namely what I want. Sometimes when I decide, then I’m finally unsatisfied, I come to regret my decisions to feel downhearted. When the winds are not good, I have finished my work and have nothing left to do, I have sometimes wondered “what I was doing there”. It’s an unusual rhythm where everything changes all the time you have to get used to.
To sum up, it is better to make choices in advance, to separate the holiday part from the sailing part. It’s obvious.
I love to leave and I love to arrive.
I found that I had no problem making crossings over several days. I actually feel pretty good offshore. I take care of the boat, I think while looking at the horizon, the wake of Øya, day and night succeeding each other. I’m trying to understand the clouds and the sea, their evolution. It’s actually a several day meditation. Even if I never sleep more than 15 or 20 minutes, I pick up the pace quite easily. I am always surprised to find that once I arrive I do not sleep especially more, I do normal nights as if nothing had happened.
When miles have been covered there is a change of scenery and a sense of accomplishment that there is not when you do coasting. When you do small flea jumps, the landscape changes slowly and it becomes a bit monotonous. In addition, while sailing during the day I realized that I was getting impatient to arrive.
To sum up it’s quite simple: when the moment comes when everything seems to me to be boring, I leave and when I arrive everything feels better!
Out of time
I have often wondered why all these sailors philosophize about the sea. Now that I’m dealing with it a little better, I regularly find myself making discoveries about myself.
There are times when everything is beautiful and everything works perfectly, then others when fatigue is felt even after a big night’s sleep. There are those times when I don’t have the wind I expected, so I have to be patient and watch everyone else overtake me. They, with their lightweight plastic boats and carbon sails that surf in 5 knots of wind.
It must be noted that on the water one can call himself into question and rarely the fatality. When a problem happens it is never through the fault of the elements, they are what they are. It is also not the fault of the equipment because it is we who chose it. When these rules prevail over everyday life, the confusion in which we bathe in society decreases and it becomes easier to distinguish what for us is essential from what is superficial.
On board the quartz
Sometimes I have memories that come back to me without warning, as if I were reliving them again. My best childhood memories were built during the first nine years of my life aboard the Quartz, our family sailboat. In so few years I have had the chance to taste the best things in life: family, friends, nature, water, air, comfort, danger, discomfort etc.
Happiness, this one in any case had remained intact as if I had decided to leave it in the sea when I was eight years old, just before we sold the Quartz. It is twenty-four years later, after having dropped everything that from time to time a small artifact as fleeting as impalpable pops out from the water and presents itself to me. It is precisely in these moments and alone, with no one to disturb me that I relish and resume my marks. I had clearly not turned the page of Quartz!
Sailing is cool, there’s nothing vilain in there!