Saturday, December 29, 2018

Great Sail to Cascais

December 29, 2018

We had a  great sail to Cascais yesterday - sailing overnight from Porto.  AS predicted, the wind was initially on the nose and clocked overnight to give us a downwind sail in the early morning with 15-20 kt winds.

The boat did great, with speeds around 7 kts and up to 9.5 down waves - it was stunning.  We passed by the steep coastline near Cascais/Lisbon and arrived safely in the very protected Cascais Marina.

So far, only a little exploring.  But the town looks tasteful, but a little touristy.  Quite different to Porto which was very traditional.  We like it.  Should be here a few days as we need to get engines services on the baos and holidays will of course delay that.  This is also the spot we are picking up extra crew - Ron and Julie and our of course our son Austin!  We are all very excited to see them.

BTW - I will not be able to post to this blog while we are at sea, but we have managed to establish a Facebook page for Midnight Sun III.  We will be able to make short text posts to this, but we will not be able to see any feedback until we have internet in port.  Please check it out on Facebook.  i will try to post more on Cascais in a couple of days.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Merry Christmas!... Feliz Nativ!...from Midnight Sun III

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the Crew of Midnight Sun III.  Thank you to everyone that has sent us emails wishing us well on our trip etc.  It's great to hear from you.  We probably had emails that we have not seen, as I found out the other day that the contact form link was not working - so I have fixed that and included my email on the right pane of the blog.

So from the crew of Midnight Sun III, we wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

What were we up to on Christmas Day?.......well its a boat and there are always projects.  Even on a new boat (especially on a new boat).  So today, while the girls made a fantastic Christmas feast of turkey (peru in Portuguese) with most of the trimmings, we also got the name on the boat.  We had brought it with us to install, but still need to give her an official naming ceremony.  I think we will save that for New Year when we have more crew arriving and I think that would be a fun thing to share!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Looking Like Christmas in Porto!

Although we liked Povoa de Varzim a lot, we decided to move on after just one night  - and yes, I have probably spelled the name of the town a couple of different ways, but I think the former is correct.  Marina Povoa was very nice and certainly reasonable to cheap (23 euoros for a cat is not bad at all).  However, our big surprise was that although the marina shares a harbor with a small fishing fleet, there was apparently no fuel dock and the closest spot was 12 miles away - maybe.  This was a big surprise, and with Christmas Holidays almost on us we didn't want to be caught low on fuel.  So, with near calm seas and no wind we decided to motor the 18-20 miles to Porto and Marina Douro, thinking that at a bigger more modern marina, the fuel issue would be solved.

It was a beautiful day - still a little cool, but remarkably better than anything we had experienced since leaving La Rochelle.  In these conditions and based on our last few passages, motoring was a pleasure - even though we are a sailboat!.....I think.

Arrival in Porto, Marina Douro

As suspected, fuel availability was not an issue at Marina Douro.  Once again, we were greeted by super nice staff and everyone seems to speak great English.  We were given maps, local information etc. by the marina office.

The marina is situated about a 1/2 mile inside the breakwater to the Douro River.  The river entrance was ok, but we were just after high tide and the current was running pretty good against us.    Nonetheless, it was a straightforward entrance , but I bet it could be real sporty in any kind of weather.  The marina is situated just west of a very spectacular concrete arch bridge, Ponte de Arabida.  The marina is actually located in the town of Gaia, and Porto is on the north side of the river.  Access to Porto is by small ferry boat, by walking 3.5km along the river to the Eifel Bridge.  It can also be done with a combination of taxis, busses and/or trams. 
We enjoyed a brisk walk along the river to the old part of Gaia, and explored the small streets, local shopping and  the Croft Port  Wine ceWe were given a great tour by our guide Maira together with samples of pink, tawny and ruby ports.  Excellent!  We also had a spectacular lunch at the adjacent port cellars restaurant (Taylors).  

So - today is Christmas Eve!  hard to believe.  Since we still have more exploring to do locally, we will be staying at Marina Douro.  And who knows, Turkey on the boat?  we will have to see what we can find today before the stores close!  Merry Christmas!
Traditional boat building on the river Douro

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Rounding Finisterre - the End of the World

A Coruna to Viana do Costello

We decided that we had seen a brief weather window for the next leg of our trip and this leg was quite a daunting one in that we needed to get around the headland (top northwest corner) of Spain and around past the notorious Finisterre Rock.  Finisterre is renowned or notorious for fierce storms and seas and indeed the Romans thought it marked the end of the world.

Lagoon 45 passes by us 

Stock photo of Finisterre - it was dark!
As we left the dock and raised the sails we had our first minor rigging issue.  The shackle at the end of the boom came away and we also managed to break a rope clutch on the reef line.  After some maneuvers and work, managed to replace the shackle and rig a temporary solution for the reef line.  We were then able to make way.  The winds were not too cooperative so we were motor sailing, but making progress.  During the night as usually is the case, the winds clocked on to our nose and we had to drop the sails to avoid flogging.  We motored on through the night.  The sea state was not pleasant at all and progress was slow but steady.  Hard to say what our speed was as the boat slowed to less than 4 kts going up the big disorganized swells, then raced to 7 or so on the downhill side.  Winds stayed in the high teens, to low 20s with occasional bigger puffs.

Unfortunately it was dark as we rounded the notorious rock, but we had a sad reminder of the fierce nature of the seas.  We heard announcement of distress calls in Spanish and English.  Unfortunately a fisherman had been lost overboard and all mariners were asked to keep a look-out.  We saw search and rescue operations in progress - a 230 ft long boat appeared on the scene from somewhere.  The announcements continued through the night until we were no longer in radio range of Finisterre.  

As daylight came, it was cloudy with some rain.  The coastline was changing to smaller hills.  We decided to pull in at Viana do Costollo in Portugal - we had made it beyond the end of the world and were ready for some rest.

Viana do Costello

The marina is located on a river and since our plan was to stay just one night we stayed on the reception pontoon.  The weather was settled and this was ok.  The town of Viana was very friendly, neat and well decorated for Christmas, with piped music throughout the town streets. 

Definitely a roman flavor to this town with great architecture and quaint streets.  They had even put out the red carpet for us!
We wandered the streets, visited some extremely ornate churches; of course we found a bar or two and then scoped out a restaurant for dinner.  Getting used to the European way of things with timing of meals etc is a bit different.  The town tends to close for a long lunch around 1 pm, then again, things start to close at around 4pm and the restaurants start to open at 7pm.  But we are slowly figuring this all out!

We had a wonderful dinner at "Three Pottes" which we found a recommendation for.  It was excellent - the crew all shared Fondue before turning in for a well needed rest.

Povoa da Varzim (Dec 22, 2018)

After and overnight stay in Viana, we headed south with the goal of making Porto.  Unfortunately the seas were very disorganized and while not huge, we were crashing and slamming in the pouring rain with winds around 20.  It supposed to get better after Finisterre!  What's happened!!!

Making very slow progress in the churned up messy seas, I elected to cut our day short and try heading in to Varzim - its always good to have a bail-out plan!  The entrance was a little tricky in the high swells with wind from the south.  We were surfing in on rollers reaching up to 11 kts in speed.  We made it in ok and found a spot in the marina.  First we were told the marina was closed, then we were offered a discount to stay!.....i am not sure what the initial confusion was but the people are nice - another great town, but more of a summer seaside resort I would say.  Not so picturesque as Viana, but still seems great.  We will do more exploring tonight.  We did have perhaps our best meal of the trip so far last night at a restaurant called Theatro - very much recommend this place if you make it to these parts!
Downtown Pavoa de Varzim

Friday, December 14, 2018

'A Coruna - Spain.... Big-ass seas!...nice town

The Bay of Biscay has a reputation that I was aware of....and last night it lived up to it.

We did our "due diligence" on weather checks and it did not look great - but it did look about as good as it gets for this time of year.  15 kt winds, and...errrr 3-4m seas?

We left the river mouth of Ria Ribadeo after an amazing lunch at a reasonable price at the "green restaurant near the marina".  San Miguel's I think it was called.  This was the beast meal we have had so far!

I guess it was around 5pm after we had fuelled up and cast off the lines.  Exiting the pass,waves were big, but organized and Midnight Sun III rode up them quite happily and ran down the other sides.   While the waves were big, it was smooth.  So big waves were not bad at all.

Marina - Ria Ribadeo
But alas, as is typically the case, after dark, things went pretty bad.  The wind picked up into the 20s, the waves got very disorganized, and the boat crashed around pounding into the seas.  It was very noisy, at times quite scary, as it sounded and felt like the boat was being dropped from 10 ft above the water.  if you have never experienced pounding and crashing like this - you are lucky.  While pounding and hobby-horsing is an issue with catamarans in general, these wave conditions would have put any boat - cat or monohull to a test.  We also had a lot of commercial shipping on AIS, so had to keep a vigilant watch.  The night was long and grueling - but the boat did fine, despite the pounding.  I don't think any of the crew got much rest, and a couple were sick.  Fortunately not too badly.  To help put in perspective - at one point in the morning when things seemed to be improving, we made coffee.  The pot was clamped to the stove, but as we crashed down a wave, it leapt 2 ft. into the air.  Yes - big clean-up in rough seas!

As daylight boke, we were about 3 miles offshore.  Really not enough for "comfort", but I had found that there actually was a little more "comfort" in terms of pounding by keeping closer to shore.  As we approached the entrance to 'A Coruna, the waves started to organize somewhat more, and although they built in height, they were predictable.  I think its fair to say without exaggeration, these were the largest waves I have sailed in.  They had to be 20+ ft.  Put it this way, when we were in a trough, a wave ahead of me obscured mountains on the shore.  And at one point, we had a 450 ft tanker, about a half mile ahead of us, and again, I could only see it when we were on a wave crest..  of course, no photos, but they would not have done justice - and I had white knuckles holding the wheel.

I steered and Larry watched for traffic.  We  played chicken at one point with the 450 ft tanker - not by choice.  He did a 360 degree circle waiting for his escort, and was escorted in by a convoy of tugs.  We followed as waves started to  break onshore in a spectacular, but  scary display of the power of nature.

But, we made it in and are now docked at a great marina in the heart of downtown A Coruna.  The town is a lot larger than I anticipated, and seems delightful, with friendly locals and great bars- - yes, what would you expect after a day and night like that!!........multiple bar visits before I crash in about 5 minutes!  Here's a few shots of town......goodnight for now!
Town Square - A Coruna

Downtown A Coruna

A Coruna - near harbor

By the way - track our real-time location at:

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Off the Dock. On to Spain!

We left the dock in La Rochelle on Monday, Dec 10, 2018. And set out for Spain across the Bay of Biscay. Growing up in England, I knew the reputation of Biscay. We had watched the weather for days with winds of 20 +, but the local sailors were not deterred.   We waited, and finally a small window between lows presented itself. Our goal was to get to La Coruna, Spain, but this was not looking good.  So we decided to strike out for Gijon.

We left with little wind, but swells were every bit of 15-20 ft generated in the Atlantic from days of low pressure systems and high winds. We motored for 10 hours or so until winds filled in. Then we soon had 15-20 kt winds. This gave us speeds of 6.5 to 7.5 kts average, with a maximum surfing speed of 11.5 kts recorded. Wow,! This was nice. But alas, with the winds, the rollers got disorganized, and although less in height, became more like the Gulf if Mexico on a bad day.  Meaning 6-8 ft with no direction - just “lumps and holes” in the sea surface. This meant constant bashing on the boat - which just feels and sounds awful.

Nonetheless, our awesome crew made it through with no issues. While we had planned on Gijon as a stopping point before La Coruna, we were ahead of schedule, and arriving at midnight was not a good plan. We elected to continue on to Ria Ribadeo, and arrived at about 9am. As of writing this, we have been here abou 12 hours and love it. Friendly, great bar prices, and all bars we have visited have provided complimentary appetizers!  Just loving it here!

Midnight Sun III at dock (Cat in center)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

La Rochelle - Update No.4

It finally feels like we are making real progress and getting closer to leaving.  Of course, when that happens panic sets in and you realize all the things we should have been doing waiting around!

Harbour at Honfleur
As reported earlier, our pallet of equipment that we shipped from the US got stop in an administrative "do loop" in French customs - meaning that it was stuck in L Havre (northern France), so  We made a road trip to go deal with the needed temporary importation permit.  Had we known we needed to do this, we could have done it earlier!    We stayed overnight in the cute town of Honfleur, which was a real treat.  It looked like a town where Beauty and the Beast could have been set.  But alas, we got the temporary permit, hand delivered it to the shipping company and our goods were promised to be delivered Friday, then back to La Rochelle (about a 5-hour drive each way).

oldest wooden church in France 

Several days passed and Friday came around.  Sure enough, as promised, our pallet arrived at Dream Yacht's storage facility.  We rented a van and voila!  we had stuff!.  This set in motion a couple of larger projects.  I installed the watermaker which we had shipped over (we love our Rainman watermaker!), and Larry and Mike set about rigging the code zero sail that we had made in Pensacola by Schurr Sails.  At about that time, more weather set in and with 30 kt winds gusting to 50 and 15-20 ft seas - yes we have stayed put pinned to the dock

As I write this, it is Sunday and things are supposed to settle down today- but seas will remain big and another front approaches on Wednesday/Thursday.  So as of writing this, our plan is to depart tomorrow morning (Monday).  Several delivery crews on the dock are planning a similar strategy leaving either today or tomorrow and headed in the direction of La Coruna, Spain.  We have figures our "bail-out" plans for Gijon, Santander, or Viveiro if we need to, and I think it is likely that we will duck into one of those locations just short of La Coruna - but we shall see.  Its 2:30 pm locally here on Sunday, so we have some last minute preparations to make while we have daylight and while a few shops are open (we hope).  So hopefully, my next update will be from Spain.  Wish us luck and hope for some better weather ahead of our 3-day trip across the Bay of Biscay.

Friday, November 30, 2018

La Rochelle - Update No. 3 - Sailing!

Midnight Sun III
We have been watching the weather closely and trying to understand the local conditions.  Its quite different than back home with 15-20 ft tides every 6 hours - actually its very much more like my "old" home town of Blackpool, England.

We have a nice "side tie" spot outside the Capitainerie here in La Rochelle, which so far nobody has asked us to pay for (even better!).

I am sure DYC will ask us to vacate as soon as we work through our punchlist.  But until then - here we are with a couple of other delivery crews headed to the Virgin Islands and Croatia.

This morning, as forecast we had rain and gusty winds, but just before noon we were able to get out for our first sail on the new boat.  Immediately before that, we gave our friends Annie Dike and Phillip Warren a hand letting off dock lines as they set out on almost the same  journey as we have
Farewell  and Fair Winds - Annie, Phillip, Syrus and Kate!
planned.  Annie and Phillip are also from Pensacola (Annie of "Have Wind Will Travel" fame).  Annie and Phillip are crewing for new friends and fellow Dream Yacht clients, Kate and Syrus who took delivery of their Lagoon 42 a week ahead of us.

But finally, we got a break in the weather this afternoon and took the boat out for its first sail.  Conditions were near perfect.  We left the harbor and went out into the bay with about 12 kts of breeze and 2-3 ft seas.  We traveled south along the coast approximately 7-8 miles on a beam reach making 7.5 kts. 

The boat performed flawlessly and the ride was so comfortable.  In fact after a glass of celebratory champagne, the girls made a great lunch of toasted sandwiches.  Soon we found ourselves racing a monohull, and flew by it without effort.  With its self-tacking jib, Midnight Sun III tacked effortlessly for the return leg back to the marina.  With the ease-up in weather conditions, many other small craft were taking the opportunity to enjoy a Friday afternoon sail - so there was a fair amount of boat traffic on the way back into the marina.  But with over 5,000 boats in this marina, that was no big surprise.  It is apparently the largest marina in Europe.

So Midnight Sun III had a very successful maiden sea trial.  So far our punch-list is relatively short and most items are minor.  Certainly nothing that would delay departure.  What is delaying our departure however, is the pallet of equipment we shipped from the US - which is still stuck in customs in Le Havre.  Hopefully we can resolve this early next week and get our stuff delivered to us. 

Unfortunately weather conditions next week are forecast to deteriorate even although we are anxious to get moving, we don't have a good sense of when that will be.  With predicted seas of 5-7 m (yes metres not feet!), next week is not looking good.   Especially since local sailors tell us it typically takes at least 2-3 days for seas to subside once weather like that has gone through

But still, there are far worse places to be holed up!  Of course, we may not be saying that next week.

Now if we could just have a little more luck dealing with French Customs - life would be really good. 

Tonight we headed to a small French Bistro for dinner adjacent to the marina which turned out to be good and reasonably priced.  We had hoped to stop in at the local Yacht Club for a drink - but at 7pm on a Friday night it was what type of a yacht club is that!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

La Rochelle - Update No. 2

Late Breaking News - Sneak Peak!

We found her!

After several miles of walking the docks - yes there are over 4,000 boats in the large marina in La Rochelle......we found our boat.  Hull # 45, Midnight Sun III.  Just before sunset.  So we climbed on board and had a bottle of champagne! - thank you Larry and Tracy.

our agent emailed us to say she is being cleaned and we will meet Monday morning.  In actual fact, we convinced they guy cleaning the boat to give us the keys and we have had a look around.  Here's a quick sneak peak

its the one on the outside!