After 2 beautiful, clear and sunny days in Sao Martinho do Porto, and enjoying some time at anchor we were feeling adventurous. Between here and our next destination lies the Ilha da Berlenga, about 6nm off the coast and a 3 hour motor (sadly still no breeze to speak of). The island is fairly desolate, but beautiful and a polular day trip from nearby Peniche. It is a nature reserve home to seabirds including puffins (no they had not arrived from Iceland yet, from where they had already departed when we were there last year…)
A little mist sitting in the valley as we left our anchorage gave us a hint of what was to come - It wasn’t long before we were in a total pea souper. The overnight condensation on ITIKI had not yet finished dripping onto the cushions at the back before the humidity was up to 120%! Our clothes and hair are now feeling damp, the pages of the pilot are starting to wrinkle with moisture, the cobweb on the bow is heavy with droplets. Visibility is down to about 30m, RADAR is on and all eyes are looking forward for fishing pots, the kind that don’t fly off when you get close. Navigating in these conditions is not quite the same as sailing at night, you can’t see lights from any distance so you are reliant on your chartplotter to see where you are relative to land, rocks (charted ones) and other vessels with AIS. We can overlay that with RADAR to see other hazards such as more rocks (uncharted ones) and vessels without AIS. Also important to listen out for tell tale sounds of land above the hum of our own motors (boats, voices, waves, cars…) particularly as we knew the day trippers would soon be on their way in high speed RIBs.
The tell-tale sound of those “Doc Martin seagulls” (you know the sound I mean…) hinted that we must be close, just as the rocky headland emerged from the mist less than 100m from our starboard side! Next a small village and a sea of mooring bouys come into view, probably for the tourist boats. After a couple of quick laps of potential anchoring spots, still shrouded in mist, we chose our position and dropped the anchor in about 11m, hoping it would find some sand in the blackness below and not get wedged between rocks. A local lad in a dinghy assured us it it was indeed a fine spot to stop. After our morning tea/coffee (minus Portugese tart...) the mist lifted and the monastery was revealed clinging to the waters edge directly in front of us. The spectacular coastline of rocky outcrops is lined with small bays and caves, fringed with crystal clear water and teeming with fish (probably inedible, given there are so many of them and a lot of fishermen around). There is a path from the village up and over the ridge to the lighthouse and down to the monastery. Nowhere safe to leave the RIB so Keith dropped me off to check out the monastery alone while he bimbled around. After lunch we explored on the SUPs, paddling into caves and coming out the other side. I also had my first (intentional) swim in the Atlantic – and yes its cold!
Here come a boat load of tourists to say hi! The Aussie flag is well recognised even in these parts. “Are you guys genuine Aussies??” Yeah maaayte! “Have you sailed all the way from Australia?” No, just from France, we are on our way back to Australia. “How long will that take?” Oh maybe 5 years….“We live in Edgecliff, just up from the CYCA…” Yes it is a small world isnt it!
Just as we were wondering if the anchor was set well enough to stay the night, and whether we might get ourselves tangled up in one of the miriad of small mooring bouys surrounding us, and of course whether the cafe in the village sold Portugese tarts, some of the natives approached and advised us that we had outstayed our welcome in their mooring area. Oh well it was a nice day and Peniche is only 1 hour away. Out we go into the cold and misty pea soup that had descended again, heading toward the distant sound of foghorns coming from the lighthouse…
Not wanting to stay in a marina or even enter an unfamiliar harbour in the fog, we checked the chart plotter to see if any boats were anchored off the beach. Very helpful to see a 26m Cayman registered yacht already parked there – surely as sign of good depth and holding. When we finally spotted them 20m in front of us they assured us that it was a great place to stop for the night, and pointed out another yacht (no AIS) nearby. Anchor down, all set, although a little difficult to take a transit when you can’t see any landmarks! Seems the days’ excitement was not over yet though…
“Hello! Did you just arrive?” strong Swedish accent out of the mist from the yacht with no AIS. Yes, we didn’t see you on AIS! “No I don’t have it, I wish I did. I need to go to the supermarket but I am afraid I wont find my yacht when I come back!” Yes that can be a problem, better stay put. “I think I saw you last night too!”
About 10 mins later… “Hello…” Did you hear that? I think our friend is calling out again?Hmmm, I cant see anyone on the boat, maybe he is talking on the phone, sound carries across the water. Yeah I can’t see anything either. (They go back to preparing dinner…)
Another 10 mins pass… “Hello, do you think you can you help me?” There it is again, something is wrong! Oh shit I think he is in the water! Look, he is hanging on to the anchor chain. Quick, get the RIB in the water while I get some boots on! (Keith was in his uggs…)
Keith high tails it over to the Swedish yacht to effect our first marine rescue! Our Swedish friend, Arne, has capsized his dinghy getting into it, and has been hanging off the side of his vessel trying to get back on board for at least the last 10 mins. The quick release on his ladder had for some reason been removed and he did not have the strenght to pull himself over the side. Fortunately Keith was able to release the ladder for him and he climbed back on board. Keith flipped and bailed the dinghy while Arne changed into some dry clothes and all is now well. Poor guy had been trying to get our attention for a while and we were inside making dinner. He was just about to make a break for it and swim to the beach when we noticed he was in trouble. Could have ended very badly – I can tell you I was in and out of that water in 10 seconds and that was more than enough! Hopefully Arne’s supermarket trip will be more successful tomorrow!