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Brighton to Lisbon

Brighton to Lisbon

Hello, I'm Matt. I'm a prospective and hopefully soon to be new member. I thought I would check out the Brighton Belle with a weekend cruise. As it turned out, our dairies only matched up for the Brighton to Lisbon delivery cruise, a little bit more sailing than I envisaged but it sounded like a fantastic opportunity for an adventure and to get to know the boat and some existing members.

I'd already met Bob (the skipper for this cruise) but met the other crew and a few other members at Brighton the night before we set off. Brighton Marina just happened to put on a firework display to mark the start of our cruise.

With a fresh wind and good weather, Bob, Stewart, Gordon, Pascal and I left Brighton and headed west towards the Solent. I thought the boat speed indicator was over reading, until I checked it against the plotter. She was howling along in what seemed like not nearly enough wind for that sort of speed. The ride was comfortable and most importantly, we checked that the important systems were working - kettle, fridge & mugs! We spent the first night at anchor in Osborne Bay, as there was a classic powerboat event in Cowes and none of the marinas could accommodate us.

​We made a quick provisioning stop in Cowes the following morning for food & fuel before sailing out of the Needles (a first for me) and turning south, our destination St Peter Port. Fortunately there were no dramas crossing the shipping lanes and we made excellent progress, seeing the lights off the Cherbourg peninsula a few hours after sunset.

Bob and Stewart had been studying the GRIBs and forecast for the next few days. Conditions looked favourable for a Biscay crossing. It was decided to continue without stopping in the Channel Islands to make the best of the weather. A few hours after our course change the wind dropped and we had to rely on engine power. A few minutes after starting the engine, Bob popped his head up the companionway reporting a strange whirring noise from the engine compartment. Our best guess was it was something caught around the propeller. The call was made to return to Guernsey and investigate the issue. We turned around and arrived at Beaucette Marina later in the afternoon. It's a fascinating marina, a disused quarry next to the sea has been converted into a marina by blasting a narrow entrance (about the width of Brighton Lock) to the sea. The pilotage into it was a little tricky, but the marina sent out a small RIB to guide us in.

Gordon valiantly volunteered to go for a swim in the fairly cold water to clear the prop of any obstruction. After his dive he reported that the prop was clear and there didn't seem to be any play in the bearing. We scratched our heads for a while and started checking the engine over again. It was an excellent introduction to the engine for me, as it's quite a bit more advanced than those I've used before. We eventually found that the stern gland greaser was out of grease. Stewart filled it up and after a few good turns we pushed enough grease in and the strange noise disappeared.

​We spent the night at Beaucette Marina, Bob analysed the forecasts and the currents and we decided to leave mid-afternoon the next day. We motored a significant proportion of the way to Brest before the wind picked up as forecast and blew us across the Bay of Biscay at a fantastic rate of knots. We were recording a boat speed of 7/8/9 knots the majority of the time. The Biscay crossing took us five days from Beaucette in Guernsey to Baiona in Spain. It was a very primal experience to be so far away from modern life and all it's distractions. The only things that mattered for those 130 hours were sailing, eating and sleeping. We were treated to some incredible sunsets and sunrises. The most coveted watches were those watching the sun rise or fall. Stewart made an attempt to calculate our position using a sextant, getting us to within single digit miles of our position according to the chart plotter.

​As we neared the Iberian peninsular we were escorted by several pods of dolphins. One particular pod numbered about thirty dolphins and swam with us for several minutes. Every direction from the bow there were dolphins jumping.

​When we arrived in Baiona late Saturday evening, many beers, wine and G&T's (another first for me - thanks to Stewart for bartending) were consumed and well deserved rest taken. The next morning we explored the town and reprovisioned. Finding an excellent sailor's bar in the old town that served traditional food and Estrella. The local yacht club was also excellent and very hospitable to us, with a fantastic view over the bay.

​Tom Cunliffe's excellent guide book suggested that we stay a night at anchor at a marine national park called Parque Nacional das Illas Atlanticas. In order to anchor the night, a pass is required. Despite filling out the required forms and calling the office it was 'impossible' to issue the electronic pass until Monday morning. We decided to sail for Combarro (another good recommendation from Tom) to make use of the time. On the way there, we tried out almost all the canvas: cruising chute, genoa, stay sail, main & mizzen. It was a really cracking day for sailing. About an hour after arriving at Combarro, our 'impossible' pass was issued. Pascal found a local establishment that served excellent Spanish tapas, along with some strange looking huts, without entrances but with gaps in the wall. They were on all the postcards, but we couldn't figure out what their purpose was:

​We left Combarro under sail. There is an enormous satisfaction with managing to manoeuvre the boat using only the wind and with no mechanically driven assistance. We had another cracking day sail to the beautiful Islas Cies. We anchored in a beautiful bay on the eastern side of the island. Gordon went swimming, I fussed about how cold it was for so long the audience disappeared to get a beer. I managed to get in and do a couple of strokes before my body took over and I found myself on the stern having a warm shower. Another example of the importance of wearing a lifejacket. A shore party formed and decided to take the dingy to the beach. The walk up to the lighthouse was not nearly as far as it looked and the views from the top were fantastic.

​We had a beer at the bar on the beach before returning to the Brighton Belle for dinner.

​At sunrise we left the beautiful islands behind, with Leixoes as our destination. We spend a good deal of time on the way there debating how it is pronounced, I'm still not sure. It's just north of Porto and makes a good base from which to explore. We had a day trip to the city, the metro runs from a short walk from the marina right into the centre. We managed to see all the main attractions, the most important being of course the port houses. The Bodega Ferreira tour was informative and included excellent samples at the end.

​The final hop on our cruise was from Leixoes to Lisbon, a distance of some 180 nautical miles. Despite some light provisioning in Leixoes, within the first hour of our journey we ran out of tea. It is of the greatest credit to Bob that he managed to stave off a mutiny for the entire 26 hour trip.

Arriving in Lisbon was something of an event for us all, it was the end of our cruise and we were greeted by locals starting their first race of the day as we sailed in under the iconic Lisbon Bridge.

​Great thanks to Bob, Stewart, Gordon and Pascal for a thoroughly wonderful trip. Personally I had a fantastic time and it really was a great opportunity to get to know the Brighton Belle.

Matt Ledger



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