Leg 1/5 – Europe (Departure Netherlands, England, Spain, Portugal)
Leaving IJmuiden was a highly emotional affair. Opa, Omi, Linda and Jur came to wave us off. After a short coffee in the cockpit full of forced jollity and great attempts to appear normal they helped us fill up the tanks at the diesel dock and we headed out into a choppy sea. Four very special figures waved wildly from the shore and slowly blurred into the coastline which in turn also faded slowly out of recognition. The impact of our departure had been weighing on us all for a few weeks but this was a moment that hit Seb particularly hard.
Biscay retains a reputation as a spooky piece of water. Weather forecasts today are accurate enough to allow for a solid planning of a 5 day crossing and August is a ‘safe time’ to navigate Biscay. Still I believe that even experienced sailors feel an uncomfortable churning in their tummies when they take on this passage.
And the clement weather on the dreaded Bay of Biscay had other wonders in store.
The toilet in the forward head (that’s what you call a bathroom on a boat) had mysteriously become blocked (I do know the culprit but will not name there here). Given the calm weather it seemed a perfect time to fix this. Opa has lost his sense of smell so he volunteered to act as plumber and dismantle, clean and unclog and, honestly, we did not try to dissuade him. The rest of us sat gagging outside as he set to work and successfully cleared a very challenging plug. In one word, shitty. Once again we were extremely grateful to have Opa on board.
Overall, a very enjoyable calm easy crossing of 4 days with dolphin, whale and shark sightings, wonderful sunsets and sunrises, good chats, yummy meals, enough sleep and general harmony and sense of well-being on board. Whew! Our arrival in A Coruña, Spain did not go unannounced as a dolphin escort came out to guide our way for the final miles.
As we settled into the Spanish time we also took a bit of a breather. Our entire journey so far had been a rush to get safely across Biscay and then take the time to get on with our new life on board. So this was a time to settle, make longer term plans, evaluate progress so far together and get started with school.
Costa da Morte is the name given to the long stretch of coast lying in the North-West of the Province of A Coruña which runs between A Laracha and Muros. This stretch of coast received its name both from the many ships wrecked upon its treacherous shores and as it contains the Cabo Finisterre which was believed to be the end of the world where everything sunk into the sea. It is an ominously beautiful stretch of coast but completely exposed to the swells and weather of the Atlantic Ocean and it is easy to see where the legends come from.
A short hop to Combarro, listed as an incredibly beautiful traditional Galician villages. It delivered. Tiny stone streets curling around tiny old fisherman’s houses and blending into tiny farmer’s houses as you moved deeper into the village. Incredible shapes and nooks and crannies and some creepy derelict houses for Emma to peer into. She has a great fear and fascination for these things. We had a walking dinner to enable us to test as many restaurants as possible. Our target was 4 but after the 3rd we couldn’t fit another bite and it was 2330 so we headed back to the boat to digest for the night.
The last time we were in Porto in 2009 we tied up 3 boats in a row with the Elena and the Mjolner to the high and dirty wall of the Cais de Estiva on the North Bank just downstream of the Ponte Dom Luis I bridge. The height of adventure, strongly discouraged by the more conservative pilot guides but all the more exciting for our 3 boats. Off the beaten path in the middle of Porto. Wow, we really miss you guys.
The monkies are, of course, not attending a traditional school this year. We have planned the following curriculum for this school year and will add to this as we progress and learn together.
Seb’s sister Linda or Tante Linda arrived in Porto on September 4th. We allowed her to settle in for a day and then motored out of the Porto harbour on the afternoon of September 5th. Linda has been absolutely priceless in supporting our move administratively, physically and emotionally and we wanted to show our enormous appreciation by sharing the adventure of an overnight voyage. Our intention was to leave in the early afternoon of September 5th and stop on the morning of the 6th, following a 18 hour voyage, at the beautiful Ilhas de Berlengas archipelago.
Oma, Oom Wouter, Tante Caroleijne and mini-monkey Avery joined us for a weekend while we were in Cascais. Even with a full house of 9 people on board we didn’t feel cramped. It was a super nice and relaxing visit and so great to see how Avery (just turned 2) is growing and developing and incredibly cute. Also nice to have the reminder that although we are no longer living in Amsterdam we can always get together.
Isla Culatra is a charming sand bank/ island with a massive lagoon that is great for anchoring and had incredible long stretches of perfect (and empty) beaches. There are masses of small fishing boats all along the shore outside the tiny village, a few restaurants and a small cement sidewalk leading through the village to a little school and community centre. In short, quite a sweet little place.