Heron sailing is a story of Lili and Tomaz and our sailboat Heron.
We were cruising for two years, now we are land lubbers for a while. We still try to go sailing as often as we could.
We invite you to be part of our dream. Read about it, feel free to write a comment or send us an email.
So, our crew has arrived on board, weather forecast has been studied hard for last week and decision has been made - we are leaving tomorrow morning. The supplies have been stocked up, morale is high and we are all anxious to experience true ocean sailing. Forecast doesn't promise much wind, but plenty of swell, but otherwise the weather should be fine. We are hoping to reach Canaries on wednesday and we will post our coordinates each day of passage.
So bye for now, and wish us good wind and calm seas!
Oh boy, what a night.... and it wasn't the first stormy one.
We survived storm on sunday night quite well, we were up a lot, checking on boat and anchor and things, but by morning the wind slowed down and all went back to normal. We heard though that there was some damage in the airport, some people even got injured. And Tomaz have seen many small boat half sunken from the rain in town marina.
Yesterday's storm was worse. Wind started already in the morning, but wasn't to strong. From the forecast we knew that it will get worse during the day and that the worst was to come in the night. In early afternoon we moved from Culatra to anchorage at commercial pier and by the time we arrived wind was blowing violently, for the first time in my life i've seen numbers above 40 knots on wind instrument. It was also first time for me to anchor in such a weather - and we had to do it twice, we moved from first spot to behind a small island in hope to get a little protection from waves. Wind was very strong the whole afternoon, there were longer periods when it didn't fall below 30 knots. And it was strange to see the tidal current holding the boat so it was sideways to the wind, so the boat was healed as if we were sailing. I had to cook with my stove unhinged and the pots were swinging around as on high seas. One would think that strong wind like that would manage to turn the boat into the wind. Wind managed to produce some unpleasant short waves, in the evening it also started to rain heavily with thunder and lightnings, so all that kept us up in the night. There were periods of calmer weather in the nigh, just long enough to fall asleep, to be woken up half an hour later by the howling of the wind again. This morning the wind is still strong, but it's "only" 20 knots, and at least there is some sun coming from behind the clouds, so it all looks a bit friendlier.
I didn't ordered weather like this and i want my money back! (local joke)
From monday afternoon, when we moved to Culatra, till yesterday the week was good, we spent a lot of time with Richard from Johnatan Livingston and we very much enjoyed his company.
Here are some pictures from sunnier and warmer days - the first storm on sunday cooled down the air and the sea, so bathing season here is over.
Our two boats in front of Culatra.
Captain and admiral swimming back to Heron - going against the tidal current was quite a challenge....
Last weekend was really nice, with Tomaz's birthday on saturday and very nice and lazy sunday. We swam, read books and had a wonderful evening with pretty sunset and freshly baked muffins.
During the week we stayed anchored near Culatra island and were trying to finish boat projects that were on to-do list.
On monday and tuesday we finished work on solent stay (reinforcement plate etc) and I pulled Tomaz up the mast to put stay in place. We pulled up the storm jib to see if existing genoa tracks are also right for it. Luckily they were, so we changed our planned installation of additional tracks for storm jib and the flock. Instead we were going to install genoa blocks to pull the flock down half meter in front of the existing tracks.
This we did on wednesday and thursday, as well as changing the lines for the flock - the old ones were stiff with salt and heavy usage.
On friday we first moved to the anchorage the closest to Faro and then installed the attachment rings for spinnaker poles on the mast and did a number of smaller stuff. Friday was not good day for our equipment, because first Tomaz's laptop died and in the evening our outboard died as well, just when we wanted to go in town for some shopping and a dinner. So i had to row. But the evening was still very nice - we had our 3rd cataplana here. They were all great, but i think the first one was the best.
On saturday morning we tried to fix the laptop, without any success. Also just cleaning the fuel filter on our outboard didn't help - so i had to row to Faro again. We were meeting our friend Richard that Tomaz got to know on Anything sailing forum. We had a lovely day together and we never ran out of topics to discuss about.
On sunday we managed to get the laptop working again and after doing a full maintenance on outboard that one also started working again. We were very happy about both. While we were finishing some small stuff around the boat in the afternoon the wind got stronger and stronger and black clouds started appearing. It all gave the anchorage and Faro very dramatic look.
The stormy weather was forecast, and some locals even pulled their boats on the shore.
We got a lot of wind and rain in the night and didn't get much sleep, since the boat was circling around the anchor, shaking and moaning, so we needed to check it regularly. We stopped checking the wind speed at some 30 knots, we estimate the gusts were 40 - 45 knots. This time forecast was very accurate. Hope it stays that way, since it is promising some nice weather from saturday on when we want to start our passage to Canary islands.
Coming from the Adriatic sea I never cared much about tides. Half a meter up or down - who cares.
Atlantic is different.
Faro have a tidal range of more then 3 m and a large lagoon which empties and fills via two narrow channels. This is a good mix to experience strong tidal streams on its own, but adding to this relatively shallow ocean in front, swell, waves and wind and you get a nice playground.
Here is how a pier looks from a dinghy at low tide:
And this is same view just a few hours later:
This is the view from Heron towards Faro airport at low water. You can't really see the airport.
And later with flood the "island" disappears and the airport is visible in the background.
This tidal changes creates strong currents and form channels and ever moving sand bars. One needs some skill to navigate and anchor there. There is a good write-up about anchoring in Faro in anything sailing forum - see this thread: How-to-enter-and-anchor-in-Culatra-Faro-Portugal
I recommend this forum to all sailors - it is packed with useful information, lively discussions and some healthy arguments.
Here is example of what can happen if you are not careful. This boat was anchored in the narrow channel and they were fine for a day or more. They stayed inside the channel as they were riding on water, not on wind. The wind was E anyway, so they were fine. Last night the wind was N and when the tide changed there was no current just long enough to allow wind to push them over a sand bar.
With water going down they had no other chance but to wait for next high water.
You can see someone picking clamps in the background. The water was knee deep at the boat at low tide. With no swell and soft bottom the boat was not at risk.
All went well on the next tide, they were afloat again. I went over to ask if they have closed all sea-cocks - after all one does not want the boat to go down as the water is coming in through a galley (kitchen) sink or or head (toilet) ... They did close them all and everything was OK.
The life was back to normal:
Evening was better then normal:
This is how we celebrated my (captains) 50th birthday - with fresh fish, cataplana and nice bottle of wine.
We sailed towards Faro on monday at about noon - we wanted to have high tide to get from the Guadiana river delta to the sea, since it is so shallow there. There were big rollers on the ocean so we were glad we waited for the high tide. We knew this would not be optimal for entering Faro lagoon though, but it was not possible to have high tide in Guadiana and ingoing water in Faro lagoon, both in daylight. We hoped entering Faro lagoon would not be to bad.
But already when approaching the entrance we were surprised by huge waves pounding on the lighthouses on both sides of entrance.
But we couldn't stay outside and wait for the tide to change, so we maneuvered our way in. There were some scary moments, but captain managed to bring the boat and the rest of us safely to the lagoon.
We spent first night anchored in the main anchorage in the middle of the lagoon, but it was like being in the middle of the busy road, with fishing boats motoring by all night. After not finding the berth in marina in Olhao we moved to the anchorage close to commercial dock near Faro. It was the most convenient spot to get to Faro and to the airport - Matjaz was leaving us on tuesday early in the morning. We were happy to have such a competent sailor to make our lives easier on the way from Alicante through Gibraltar to Faro. Thanks again, Matjaz!
On friday we got a visit from captains friends - we were happy that they decided to make a long trip from Lisbon and back by car just to see us for a day. We had a lovely summer day - swimming near the island of Culatra, and having a picnic on the boat.
I am really enjoying it here - there are so many birds here, i could spend entire days watching them through my binoculars...
Even this looks like a family, it is not - the big guy on the left is a seagull (galeb), and the smaller guys to the right are sanderlings (beli prodniki).
Our gennaker poles were successfully delivered to Mazagon and in a spare day - while we waited for delivery - we managed to install AIS antenna, so it was a time well spent. On friday early in the morning, still in the dark, we sailed towards Villa Real de San Antonio, where we planned to spend the next night. It is a town on a Portuguese side of Guadiana river, opposite of Spanish town of Ayamonte. Approach to Guadiana river delta is very shallow, so we planned to be there at the time of high tide, at arround 1 pm. We got there in time, the water was high, but we were still quite nervous sailing through water less then 4m deep with only few buoys very far apart marking the channel. But it all went well and once there we changed the plan and continued sailing up the river to the anchorage between the towns of Sanlucar on Spanish side and Alcoutim on Portuguese side. The river is very beautiful and peaceful, a big change from windy and bumpy sailing on the sea.
In the evening there was a perfect sunset to end the perfect day. The river banks are very green and home to many birds, there was a colony of little white egrets (mala bela caplja in Slovene) right in the high water grass on the right side of the picture below. Unfortunately the light was to weak to get them on a photo.
Next day we made a little sight-seeing tour. This is Sanlucar, photographed from Portuguese side.
The river was full of boats, many being left there for winter.
In Sanlucar we found exactly the same scooter as captain once owned - it put a wide smile on captains face.
And this is Alcoutim photographed from Spanish side.
We quickly made some friends - after eating up all of our old bread and cooked potato peels, the ducks came back every couple of hours to check if there is more ...
On saturday afternoon we sailed down the river to river delta again. The way down was even more beautiful then up, we saw countless birds, among them many herons. Unfortunately they were very shy so we couldn't get the decent photo although we tried.
Shortly before reaching the river delta we passed under the bridge - again, and again it looked as hairy as on a day before... The bridge height is 20m, out mast is 18m high....
We stayed on anchor in Guadiana delta for two nights and went to visit both towns on either bank on sunday.
We arrived in Rota in marina at about 7 in the evening. From sea town looks like most of the Spanish coast - hotels and tourist development of medium uglyness. After the dinner we still went on shore to stretch our legs. And we were very surprised. Behind the first row of modern concrete buildings there was beautiful old town center. It was getting to dark to make photos of all the beautiful old buildings and pretty streets, so we decide to get up early next morning and make another stroll through the old town.
This is a covered market place - the inner yard.
This is one of the entrances.
Few shots of the streets.
A pretty entrance to a house.
Even some modern buildings were made with more taste than most we've seen.
This is probably called "Geranium alley".
On main square there is a church and a beautiful palace.
This is how palace looks from inside.
And this is one of the entrances to the church.
Rota was a real revelation and we were thrilled to discover such a beauty. From Alicante we were making 30 - 40 miles per day (with an exception or two) and we did not have much time to explore the land and this was a nice change.
Next day we planned to get to Mazagon. The wind was very weak, so we motor-sailed most of the day. Again we did stop for swimming, water was calm and warm - 27 degrees C. Atlantic ocean presented its gentle side again.
Right in the middle of our lunch we saw a dark grey speed boat coming toward us. It was Guarda Civil, the Spanish police. They told us, that we were in the army firing practice area and that army wants us to move towards south. They were very polite, telling us exact course and range to were we need to sail to get out of the dangerous area. We altered our course, but the feeling that Spanish army has something against us got stronger and stronger. I mean, it is one thing that they circle around us with battle ships and fly the helicopters 5 m from our mast, as it happened at Garrucha, but do they really need to shoot at us? We reached the border of the shooting practice area in about an hour and the minute we reached the coordinates the shooting begun. They were obviously waiting for us to clear the area.
We reached Mazagon at around 7 in the evening. We stayed on boat, since there are only tourist developments around. Again marina is behind two giant breakers, lower being 7 - 8 m high. It made us think how it really looks here when Atlantic is not so benign.
We are staying here for two nights since we are expecting a delivery of gennaker poles we ordered in Almerimar. And then we are sailing towards Spanish - Portuguese border.