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LOG OF PYLADES 2009 : THE ‘ORIGINS’ CRUISE:

For the six months prior to leaving, in fact since ‘Pylades’ got back to her winter moorings in front of our house in Dooneen we had been working on upgrading many elements of the boat’ to prepare for the journey ahead. Many minor paint jobs remained, but we say “ a sure we’ll get to them in Spain” ! We sailed t from Dooneen to Kinvara about mid May, a slow trip as the hull was very foul. There, with ‘Pylades’ leaning against the pier we cleaned down the hull, applied coats of anti fouling  , fitted new anodes.  We had had many farewell drinks with our family and friends over the period and they will all be missed as will the environs of the Burren and Dooneen.

 The reference ‘Origins’ cruise is to take cognisance of the 150th anniversary of the publication of ‘The Origin of Species’ and indeed the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. We shall attempt both in our travels and the log to relate, in our modest way, to his  works and conclusions.

6th June 2009: 04.30 A very quiet Kinvara, no one stirs in the town, the morning is very cold with a sharp wind from the North East and a hint of dawn in the North Eastern sky. We unbolt the leg that allowed lying safely against the pier wall. The tideflooding fast as we let go the final warps and start the engine. So it is with very mixed feeling we commence our adventure.

06.30 Sees Pylades in Galway Bay with most of plain sail set.  The Volvo Ocean race is due to leave Galway on this day, we had hoped to use them as sparring partners down the coast but they never caught up with us.  The trip south is moderately rough with the NE wind increasing and sail area decreasing to suit. A fast passage - about five miles north of Brandon Mountain a wave of interesting proportions materialises astern.  The skipper disconnects the self steering attempting to steer down the face of the wave but the rudder loses grip in the foam and we knock down enough to put the lee guardrails under and rip off our new dodger.  (Glad we bought the new sewing machine). Entering a very disturbed Blasket Sound, the tide with us, the skipper confidently predicted it would be calm, it wasn’t,  just when we were thinking of relaxing we were pooped...that is a wave breaking over the stern and filling the cockpit, Kay was sitting in the hatch and blocked most of the wave with her being which saved it flooding in below decks.  At 21.00 we picked up a mooring in Ventry the wind now blowing 40knots. A slightly chastened crew take wine, reflecting on the ways of the sea .

8th June: after two nights of peaceful isolation in Ventry we moved to Dingle - as always a great place to go for pints. We meet the proprietor of a well known local establishment who is a living example as to the dangers of such ownership, being in a perpetual state of plastership.  Then on to Valentia where our alternator stopped working  - our planned one or two nights here turned into a week with sourcing and fitting  a new alternator .  Justin, Trish, Cian and Ellen visit, great to see them.  We went down to the shore to see the astonishing trail footprints of the ‘Tetropod’  who lived, walked and left footprints  365 million! years ago on this shoreline, it’s worth pointing out that this ‘shoreline’ was about ten degrees south of the equator or to put it another way about 4000 miles south of its current position.  What a lesson in evolution and plate tectonics’ for creationists. This was the obvious place to start thinking of the ‘Darwin’ quest.  Prior to sailing we had emailed the Department of Education in Dublin to ascertain their approach to the teaching of evolution. We had enquired as to how they might be reconciling that with the previously thought ‘creationism’, no response of any kind has yet been received. We shall pursue.

16th June:  Pylades sails pass through the splendid Dursey Sound. More wind on the south side and a fine reach to Castletownberehaven.  The wind being a bit too fresh from the south, straight in the gap so to speak,  we overnight in the overpriced Lawrence Cove marina in Bere Island, once a base for the Glenans sailing school and a duller spot since their departure,  where the skipper was initiated into the rudiments of sailing with a very  fair French Lass  30 years ago.  It blows stink all night we were glad to be snugged up. The next day in lighter air we return to Castletownbere.

19th June:  Our neighbours in Dooneen, James Moloney and daughter Amy  join us for the run to Spain.   At 15.00 the anchor is cleared of entanglements and we head due south.  At the exit we pick up a force 4/5 westerly and with two reefs in the main and most of the genny we fly south. In the lively conditions which prevailed and would continue to prevail all the way, meals were served in bowls. The night watch was cold and grey with some of the crew laid low with mal de mer but despite the conditions the ship was skilfully served by them . We maintained four hour watches but nought was seen. 

The  Navtex gave warnings of gales in the sea area of ‘Fitzroy’ , no details of exact locations just enough  to put the scaries up us. The following day we were inspected by a pod of pilot whales before they proceed to their unknown watery remote destinations.   During the night the wind builds to 25/30 knots and the seas sharpen. Three reefs now in the main and the staysail set.  The Genoa is tightly rolled away.

22nd June: All day conditions remain wild, a pigeon seek shelter and cowers in the cockpit with the watch keepers enduring the occasional dumping sea.  At 17.00 we start the run through the shipping lanes. Not as many ships as the last few times we passed through, is it the recession ?  The wind  now slowly veering, it becomes harder to lay the course for La Coruna, plans are being made to move our target destination further west.  As night falls with the wind still increasing we start to furl away some of the staysail. At about 05.00 on the morning of the 23rd the wind drops away leaving the sea, the self steering and the crew completely confused.  It takes awhile in the dark to remove preventers, get a few reefs out of the main and thankfully ,now on course, head off under engine for the last 20 miles to the great city of La Coruna which we enter and tie at about 11.30 three days and 20hours and 537nm south of  Castletownbere.

23rd June:  After some mast climbing by James to reconnect stack pack lines which had parted during the crossing, we engage with La Coruna. A great evening and night was had in the city, après many drinks we walked across the beach where what seemed like tens of thousands of people were gathered lighting hundreds of bonfires, all in good humour and a great atmosphere prevailed.  At midnight a fantastic fireworks display. The skipper was in no doubt that all this had been organised to welcome us and honour our safe arrival !.

 On the 25 June we sailed the short distance to Ares planning to anchor off with a BBQ and swim  as we had many years previous but there appeared a new marina, indeed we were to find that in the ten years since our last visit to these waters many new marinas had emerged  on the coast of Spain and Portugal- we anchored off . We took a few drinks in the town and next day decided to go back to the fleshpots of La Coruna .  At the approach to the marina we were waylaid at high speed and boarded by Spanish Customs who were very polite but firm, going through all our passports  and ships papers.

On the morning of the 27th James and Amy left for home in Dooneen. 

In La Coruna we met Stephen Hyde and Aileen Hyde in their magnificent Oyster 56 ‘A Lady’.  Stephen is also planning to circumnavigate, but just a little faster. 

29th June:  Finally we leave La Coruna and anchor off the wonderful beach at Lage. The weather remained mixed with the occasional front coming in from the Atlantic giving us a taste of Irish weather.  Never theless new regimes are in place and the skipper swims around the boat a few times every day.  We remain contented swinging to anchor here for seven days hill walking and attending to boat duties.

7th July  2009; On to Camarinas  and tie at the  marina, close to the town –  this is a favourite amongst the yachties. Note : anchoring off  can result in your boat being thrown around by the wash of speeding fishing boats also dragging can be a problem - we spent over a week here. On around the great Cabo Finisterre to the town of Muros where we anchored off  with no problems of dragging etc. – no marina here. The town  was as good as ever except for the public disco  which commenced about 23.00 emitting excruciating noise until about 06.00 in the morning.  We spoke to a local Spanish man on this, he told us it was a very big problem in Spain, that is, the open air ‘music’ at fiestas, boosted with huge wattage. He had  double glazed his house with very heavy glass!!. It sounds to the author like a major democratic deficit.

17th July;  A truly classic sail, wind NW5 ‘Pylades’ at its best a broad reach under a blue sky tearing past other boats, gybeing at Isla Salvora and tearing close hauled up the Ria de Arosa in buckets of wind and no sea, the new main sail by Mr. Watson taking us more upwind than we have ever gone before. This Ria has so much to offer we spend time in Caraminal, Rianxo where we anchor  in the bay to the west moving  positions as the wind shifts. Here we met an intriguing couple in a 30’ timber boat who have been ‘out’ for 12 years. He from the UK paints watercolours, she  from Japan plays classical piano! and by such a complex combination they make a living.

23rd July;   We move into the marina at Rianxo.  Declan, Debs and Donnacha Connolly arrive and stay the night. They had sailed down from Kinvara to La Coruna , hired a car to see bits of inner Spain and visit us. A great night of chat as we caught up on all the home gossip. They sailed back to Kinvara despite the ghastly weather sweeping Biscay and its environs.

25th July  At the entrance to the Ria de Vigo at its north west there is a fine anchorage ‘Ensenada de Barra’. A very beautiful nudist beach where the fair and the not so fair Spanish of all ages dwelt in the clothes free area.  A proof if ever that the ‘Inquisition’ is well and truly vanquished.  After a few days in paradise we sail into the City of Vigo. Entering the marina we are directed back out to the docks,  discrimination  we think because we are steel – the marina is packed with white fibreglass boats – we tie at dock wall, will this herald a new era of  ‘white fibreglass boats to the port all others to the Starboard’.   This city has much improved since our last visit with evidence of major social improvement works. Everywhere we go there are new delights.

Adjacent to where we are tied is a major exhibition of the human body. ‘LaVida’  as we have spent a few days in the presence of the naked now we spend time in the presence of the naked and dissected. Preserved corpses abound, sliced up and explained in every way, from conception to demise.  A thoroughly amazing exhibition which must be recommended to every human with a curious mind, but a bit too much for the woman behind us who collapsed in a heap on the floor and was carried away to be dissected  ( jest .. she looked fine), we reckon the staff were being over cautious and may well have been used to this reaction.

30th July.  Anchor off the ‘Isles of Cies’ – these islands are a national park lying to the west of  the city of Vigo– swimming, walking, reading and the evening BBQ are the order of these couple of days.  Up anchor and into the town of Baiona -  where we met Ken and Aileen Cunnane   from Listowel on their Malo 42  ‘Rouletta’– the last time we met in the Caribbean  Ken and Aileen were on their honeymoon – now 10 years on they introduce us to their 3 children Paddy, Ellie and Stephen.   We all dined in the town.   Again, this is another great Spanish town with its narrow winding streets –you must keep your wits or feet could be lopped off by close passing scooters and cars.   Baiona, our last call in N. Spain, we adjust our watches again and head south for Portugal. 

2nd August;  Viana do Castelo -  tie outside the docks on a new pontoon and watch the youth of the world (including Ireland) compete in International events racing everything from lasers to sculls of all sizes. In Portugal we continue our hunt for gas fills but again ‘connections not compatible’. Over the next period we call to Lexioes, entering in a thick fog, on to Figueira da Foz and a fresh sail to Peniche  and had drinks with two English girls whose sparkling company  and conversation we enjoyed. 

7th August;  A fine sail  and slow entrance to Lisbon against the ebb tide. But it is so worth passing into this magnificent city under that enormous mile wide suspension bridge.  We spend three days enjoying the city with its myriad sights.  

We rounded Cape St. Vincent - the toe of Portugal on the Atlantic at 18.00 on the 11th August. Turning east always appears to be of some significance -  we were now on the Algarve with a huge increase in temperatures , people and a total decrease in cloud - we were not to see a cloud for many weeks. We skipped from anchorage and marina along the way – perfect sunsailing if not a bit too hot – all sun screens, awnings (a canvas cover over the deck) , wind scoop (a canvas thing which is made to scoop up the wind – if there is any – into the boat – in our case as in most, it is over the  hatch to the bed and hopefully will aid ones sleep, and most important of all the mosquito nets over all windows and openings, very necessary as these little noseeums can and did cause lots of discomfort – they especially liked K !!!   Brian Quinlan arrived out to stay with us for a week. First night of Brian’s visit we spent in Lagos marina excellent marina – good town – thronged with tourists but good atmosphere – would go back .  We sailed from Lagos to Faro spending the nights in different anchorages and marinas – Brian was flying back from Faro so we decided to investigate all the nooks and crannies of this area.

We tried to land in the town of Olháo – part of the Faro estuary -  but kept running out of water – prudence prevailed and we retraced our wake – hung a left at the cross and anchored off Ilha da Culatra also within the Faro estuary and the best anchorage by far.  Ilha da  Culatra is a small island with a superb beach. The town with its sandy streets, quirky little cafes, ok food, cheap,  treasure of a  harbour, friendly people, great light and amazing cats, should be seen – I would think it is possible to rent a little house there, clean warm water – NOT overcrowded.  This  was one of Kay’s favourite places. 

Faro town was most enjoyable if you survived the heat  - the old town in a good place to walk through - we ate a great meal there  compliments of Brian Q.  Also on this stretch we spent a night in Vilamoura  Marina, we would avoid  in future,  it had a  grabby atmosphere and a mean sense prevailed  although we did meet a good gang and Brian did a bit of the musicals to the delight of the company. Travel always begets many contradictions.

Brian headed back to the emerald isle on 23 August (I think looking forward to rain and a little breeze).  We headed up the Guadiana River and into the furnace of Spain.

We were on the River Guadiana for 5 days having sailed in from the Bay of Cadiz on Monday 24th  August . On one bank of this river lies Portugal on the other Spain. Our plan - to navigate about 20 miles up to the twin towns of Alcoutim in Portugal and San Lúcar de Guadiana in Spain.

Soon after crossing the bar from the Bay of Cadiz to the River and watching the display of the colourful kiters on the Spanish side winging through the air we entered a smart looking marina – manoeuvring into our allotted tight space required concentration but all was well and we were welcomed to the town of Vila Real De San Antonia  (Portugal) by a friendly Portuguese mariner o.  As we were to find out on our journey up the river nearly always a town on one side of the river will have its ‘twin’ on the other,  in this case on the Spanish side is the town of Ayamonte.  Beside the difference of jurisdiction there is also a time difference between the left and right bank of the river as Spain sets its clock one hour ahead of Portugal and ongoing on our journey we were to be reminded of this when the church bells on either side rang out their hours with Spain claiming an extra gong .

In the evening, we explored the charming San Antonia – with its old buildings, doors and windows and cracked paint in soothing shades of time washed blues and greens. We walked by the small shops with their outdoor tables piled high with beach towels, hand  towels, face towels – anything you could make in towelling and everyone seemed to be buying. There must be a towel factory here. We found the town square a generous open space filled with white ‘circus like’ tents selling books . Around the cafes old men playing cards.  We sat for a beer at a cafe outside the HQ of the local Communist Party who advertised a week long Socialist Fiesta whose events ranged from opera to symphonic works but the one which caught our eye was the act from Irlanda ‘THE MEN THEY COULDNT  HANG’.

We followed the river up over the next days anchoring for a night in the muddy hot river – taking sundowners in small villages mostly with one hotel, often only Fergus, and me sitting on the veranda and small lizards (real not lounge)  darting up the white washed walls  no shops - very atmospheric – on our way up river we passed the village of the ALAMO, but no sign of Davy Crocket or  the Mexican army -  on we went up to the twin towns of Alcoutim on the Portuguese side and San Lucar on the Spanish side.  For 3 days we anchored at this point – first entry in the Ships Log for each day our stay here is VERY HOT ....... and it was, otherwise we may have extended our stay here – of the 2 towns San Lucar inched ahead in the fav’s list with its white buildings, red roofs and up and down streets and gorgeous little square, it was beautiful– but it was in Alcoutim we had our sundowners  and it too had its magic! No swimming on the river – it looked too muddy and a dead fish hung around for the time we were there !!  There were some strange looking boats on the river – some had added  extensions – gone 2-storey – these boats  looked like they had no intention of ever going to sea again.  We were delighted we did this little voyaging inland – on Saturday 29 August we came back down the Guadiana and spent the night in San Antonia.  Next day sailed back into the Bay of Cadiz with its refreshing sea breeze– we were on our way to Cadiz stopping at Mazágon for a couple of nights on the way. 

1st September;  Sailed into Cadiz – tied up at the Marina. We were rightly snug in here and for the duration of 8 days we explored Cadiz – this city, once the Spanish capital – claims to be the oldest city in Spain.

A 20 minute walk into Cadiz from the marina –by the ocean.  It is a city of two parts with the older part by far the most interesting with its city walls, narrow streets and beautiful squares which are a gathering point for the people of Cadiz – on all nights of the week the squares were packed with families, couples, lads, tourists.  We found a wonderful restaurant on our wedding anniversary and had the best food yet in Spain.  Did our inter netting in the various squares which are all WIFI connected (the marine told us they are waiting for it). Our favourite square was at the Cathedral in the oldest part of the city where the steps in the evening were packed with people and their laptops.  Also sitting on the steps were the local down and outs, some begging and obvious drug addicts but never were we threatened – only repeated requests for handshakes sometimes bothered.  Our planned departure from Cadiz was delayed by gales in the Bay of Cadiz which emanated from Gibraltar – eventually the gale diminished somewhat and on .....

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 9th  September;  Depart Cadiz and headed in a fresh easterly wind which died off after about 25 miles but the sea increased which resulted in the rig been thrown around so on went the engine to get us out this – later that night we reached the western section of the Bay of Cadiz and encountered the Atlantic swell coming from the north and the Gibraltar swell coming from the south east – with the  two swells over running each other there was an uncomfortable ride for Pylades – these conditions continued all of the next day and on Friday the seas started to drop off and conditions improved – by Saturday we were on a glorious reach with a moderate to calm sea which stayed with us until our arrival at Porto Santo.  13th  September  we tied up at the marina around lunch hour – did the paperwork with Customs and the marina and celebrated K’s birthday on board Pylades that evening – delighted to be here. The -following day – Fergus Birthday- was celebrated with a fine meal in the small town of Cidade Vila Baleira,.The islanders however refer to it as a city.........we shall not contradict.

We repeat one of the walks we did on our last visit,  from the marina over the steep and very parched  to the valley that lies to the North East, from there we took the secondary road back to the marina via a tunnel. Well that’s what we expected to take, but by the time we reached the tunnel no cars had passed and many signs indicated rock falls and roads closed.  At the other side of the short tunnel the road we had previously walked ten years ago had disappeared. The top of the mountain had broken off and swept  all traces away, what was left was but a track only now passable by walkers and very scary it was with evidence of rock falls abounding.  We enquired with the locals and they said every year now for the last nine years it has been collapsing, it is most unlikely that the road will ever be reopened. 

W e hire a quad motor bike for 24hours €35.  It was brill! After three minutes instruction, the skipper driving and Kay hanging on we roar off into the blue. Every nook and cranny of the island is explored. On the magnificent NE route we see the thousands of acres of land the farmers tried to terrace and farm but all lost the battle against the drought. Now, only a forlorn but remarkable landscape of ruined farmsteads and endless dry scrub with the air patrolled by buzzards rising with the thermals.  

The other most memorable part of our quad patrol was to ‘Pico Castelo’. This is a perfectly  conical peak  like an album cover for “Night on Bare Mountain" by Mussorgsky,   a place where  covens of witches, troupes of trolls and other such groupings of the occult might dwell in abundance.  However, its more prosaic use was when the island was attacked by Algerian or French pirates (which would you rather) the citizens fled to the top of this very defensible mountain. We roared 2/3 of the way up a beautifully cobbled road as far as we could get on the quad and walked to the top, the whole wonderful island lay 360 degrees all-round, breathtaking.  On our way back to ( reluctantly) hand back the bike we stopped for coffee in the sweetest little roadside bar, for two excellent coffees and a kitkat  €1.00.!  But all good things including our stay in Porto Santo must come to an end, tomorrow 26th September, we hope to hoist our sails and press south.

Mileage to date 2081 NM.

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Posted: 4:46:08 PM - 9/25/2009

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