Ponta Delgada to Cascais
Ponta Delgada to Cascais, August 25 - September 1, 2005
On August 25, 2005 Mike, Steve and I departed Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores and sailed to Cascais (pronounced KESS-KAI-SSH*) on the mainland of Portugal.  The chart below shows our route as derived from the ship's log.
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Sarah's Track From Ponta Delgada to Cascais, PT

This voyage, at 775nm on the rhumb line, was about the same length as the leg from the Bahamas to Bermuda, but it also presented some unique challenges.  The most significant challenge was to properly navigate the Portuguese Trade Winds and the Portuguese current.  The trades are created by two semi-permanent weather systems during the summer months.  Normally there is a thermal low pressure system over Iberia during the summer, similar to the thermal low pressure system over the SW United States.  Also the Azores-Bermuda high pressure ridge lies just off-shore of Iberia.  These two systems produce a funnel of northerly winds and current down the coast from Finisterre to Cabo de Sao Vicente.  When the two systems are particularly strong these trade winds can reach gale force.

Therefore the navigation objective is to normally to approach the coast of Portugal some distance north of the destination.  For us the destination was the Rio Tejo and Lisbon.  Our initial stop was to be Cascais at the mouth of the Tejo after which I planned to find a winter berth in the city of Lisbon.  As it turned out there was no space available for a winter berth in Lisbon and I had to accept a winter berth in the resort town of Cascais at a very high price.

Around 1400 on Thursday, August 25 we moved Sarah to the fuel dock at the Ponta Delgada Marina, toped off the tank and cleared customs for our departure to the mainland of Portugal.  Once out of the harbor we picked up a light NE breeze and set sail as Ponta Delgada receded behind us Click on picture to view at full resolution
Departing Sao Miguel
Photo by Mike Repass

The NNE wind was not what we really wanted as we needed to get well north of the rhumb line course to Cascais to allow for the winds and current off the Portuguese coast which would push us strongly to the south.  Initially we were able to sail slightly above the rhumb line, but by the second day the wind had shifted more to the east and was forcing us sail well below the rhumb line.  At that point we had three choices, continue sailing to the south, tack to the NNW and give up some of the easting previously made, or turn on the engine and motor to the NE to find better winds.  In the end we elect to start motoring.  This was the first time since we departed the Bahamas that we were motoring in winds strong enough for sailing.  This made the use of the engine even more frustrating than normal.

Consequently, after about 15 hours of motoring to the NE, we shut down the engine and started sailing east as soon as we detected the wind had shifted slightly back to the north.  This wind shift did not last long and a few hours later we found ourselves sailing to the SE.  During this period I was having difficulty getting a good enough Winlink connection to download some of the weather documents I felt were important to our navigation, but I had enough data to know that the Portuguese Trade Winds were not in effect along the coast.  Still I expected those winds would re-establish over the next few days as we approached our destination.  So I believed it was essential for us to get as far to the north as possible before we entered the area of the Portuguese Trades.  For that reason we once more turned on the engine and motored off to the NE.  This time I was determined that we get as close to 40N as possible before we started sailing ESE toward the Rio Tejo.  This took over 40 hours of motoring to cover about 190 nm.  By the time we turned east and started sailing we had transferred all of the fuel stored on deck in Jerry Cans to the main fuel tank and were down to about 40 gallons in that tank.  With nearly 300 miles to go, we did not have sufficient fuel to motor all of the way.  Fortunately we had sufficient wind to sail much of the time over the next 48 hours.  Finally, about 120 nm off the coast we started to pick up the trades.  Initially the winds were barely 10 kts, but they slowly filled in to around 15 knots and we were able to sail all the way into the Rio Tejo and then motor into the Cascais Marina.

During the day the trades continued to fill in.  By that afternoon the trades were reinforced by Katabatic winds off the local hills and were blowing over 30 kts. in the Cascais area, justifying our efforts to avoid a close reach or beat into the Rio.

Here is a link to our log of the voyage in an Excel Workbook.

Below are some of the surface weather charts from the period of the trip.

In December I was visited by friends in Cascais we did a land tour of Portugal via rental car.

A few days before our departure a 1033 mb high pressure system was semi-stationary WNW of the Azores.  This brought NE winds to region between the Azores and the mainland.  Just the direction in which we wished to sail to allow for the expected Portuguese Trade Winds and the Portuguese Current.  At the time the Portuguese Trades were blowing at 20 - 25 kts on the coast.
Atlantic Surface Analysis 18 UTC, 23 Aug 2005
Surface Analysis, 1800UTC on August 23, 2005

We waited for two more days before finally departing on the 25th.  We still had NE winds along our course, but they had diminshed somewhat as the pressure gradient weakened.  The Portuguese Trades had abated as well.  We didn't feel waiting a few more days would produce any great improvement, and with more than a 600 mile range under power in calm conditions we felt we could position Sarah for better winds using the engine.

Atlantic Surface Analysis 18 UTC 26 Aug 2005
Suface Analysis, 1800UTC on August 26, 2013
The 1800 UTC chart on Aug 26 shown above, a little over 24 hours after our departure, shows the continued presence of the high pressure over the Azores, but the pressure gradient between that high and the low pressure system over Iberian has weakened and the trades have all but disappeared along the coast.

We were then encountering light NE winds which hampered our ability to get north of the rhumb line course and we had started to use the engine more and more.

Atlantic Surface Analysis 18 UTC, 28 Aug 2005
Suface Analysis, 1800 UTC on August 28, 2013
By 1800 UTC on Aug 28 we had motored to 39N latitude and made our first attempt to sail to the east.  The pressure gradient was even weaker at this point and in a few hours we had to resume motoring to the NE in near calm conditions.
Atlantic Surface Analysis 00 UTC, 30 Aug 2005
Surface Analysis, 0000 UTC on August 30, 2013
By 0000 UTC on Aug 30 we had motored to nearly 40N and were heading due East hoping to find some wind.  By this time the Azores high and the Iberian low had all but disappeared, and we continued to motor in near calm conditions.
Atlantic Surface Analysis 12 UTC, 31 Aug 2005
Suface Analysis, 1200 UTC on August 31, 2013
Finally on Aug 31 we began to pick up a light breeze out of the N.  We were able to shut down the engine and start sailing ESE toward the Rio Tejo.  The Azores High had re-established itself and a weak low pressure trough extended from the UK down over the eastern half of Iberia.  The Portuguese Trades were beginning to re-emerge, and the winds held for the next 24 hours allowing us to sail into the Rio Tejo and arrive at the Cascais Marina Reception Dock before noon on Sep 1.
During the final two days of the passage we crossed the main shipping channels off the coast of Europe.  There we encountered an almost continuous stream of freighters and tankers moving between the Med and the English Channel.  As we got closer to the coast we also encountered numerous fishing vessels.  At this time the only tool I had on board (other than binnaculars and a hand bearing compass) to track these vessels was the MARPA (Mini Automated Radar Plotting Aid) feature on my Raymarine radar display.  This feature allows me to designate a radar return on the display as a target and the radar will track that target providing collision avoidance information.  That information includes the speed and course of the target and the Closest Point of Approach (CPA).  Unfortunately this information is very unreliable on the typical yacht radar system.  Raymarine generally did not promote this feature unless the yacht was also equiped with a fast heading fluxgate compass.  Sarah has the standard fluxgate compass, but even with the higher reporting rate I don't believe the target data would be that accurate and not of much use in navigating through the shipping channels. 
MARPA does provide a means to keep track of the targets on the display, which I found to be verfy useful.
Below is a 5 minute video I made of our encounter with ships on this passage and my use of MARPA.
 
A year later I added an AIS receiver to the electronics on board Sarah, which largely supplanted MARPA for tracking large vessels.  I continue to us MARPA to help me track the many smaller vessels, such as fishing trawlers, that often due not broadcast on the AIS frequencies.
Making this leg of the trans Atlantic voyage on Sarah were myself (top), Mike (middle) and Steve (bottom).  Steve joined us in Ponta Delgada to make this off-shore trip.  Although I had recruited Steve for this leg many months ago, by the time Mike and I had sailed together from the Florida to the Azores we had become very comfortable managing the boat without any additional crew.  We were initially a little concerned about squeezing in a third crew member.  Then we realized with three crew members we each would only have to stand one night watch.  The clincher was that Steve does not particularly like to cook (as Mike and I do) and he doesn't mind washing the dishes.  So Mike and I were the cooks and Steve was the dishwasher and we all were happy with that arrangement.  Of course we three have previously spent a lot of time together on Sarah (Bermuda in 2001 and the ICW in 2004), and Steve crewed for me earlier this year on the initial shakedown cruise to the Bahamas.

So it was a great crew.

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Myself
Photo by Mike Repass
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Mike Repass
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Steve Angst
Photo by Mike Repass
For most of the time since our departure from the Bahamas I dragged one or more fishing lines off the stern with no effect, other than the loss of about 4 lures.  Finally on our third day out of Ponta Delgada we hooked and landed (top picture) a small Dorado or Mahi-Mahi (middle picture)

This wasn't a lot of fish, especially after I somewhat butchered the filleting.  With the landing of this fish I discovered that I really hadn't prepared a method for cleaning any fish we might catch.  Cleaning a slippery fish while on my knees on the deck (bottom picture) turned out to be a little more difficult than I anticipated.  Still I was able to remove two decent fillets from the fish, which we cooked a day or so later - it was delicious.

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Hauling in the Mahi-Mahi
Photo by Mike Repass
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Catch of the Day
Photo by Mike Repass
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Cleaning the Mahi-Mahi
Photo by Mike Repass
 As we approached the coast of Portugal we entered a series of very busy shipping lanes.  This obviously empty tanker came up on us very quickly one bright clear afternoon such that we didn't notice it until it was within 2 nm.  We were on a crossing course and it was clear one of us would have to change course to avoid a collision.  Size counts so we luffed up for a few minutes to insure the tanker would pass well ahead of us. Click on picture to view at full resolution
Large Tanker Off the Coast of Portugal
Photo by Mike Repass 

On our last night at sea we crossed the main shipping channels off the coast and encountered an almost continuous stream of freighters heading north and south.  It made for a series of very nervous watches, but at least we had no trouble staying awake that night.

During this leg we had our final equipment failure.  I inherited a solid boom vang when I purchased Sarah.  Before I installed a Topping Lift for the main boom, the solid vang was useful in keeping the boom off the deck when raising and dropping the main sail.  Other than that, it provided no advantage over just a block and tackle vang (which was part of the solid vang).  A little more than half-way to Portugal the wire eye on the cable connecting the vang to the tackle broke (top picture).  We removed the vang and strapped it on deck (bottom picture), and just used the tackle for a van.  I will fix the cable, but I don't expect to re-install the solid vang.
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Broken Cable From the Boom Vang
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Boom Vang Lashed to the Cabin Trunk
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Landfall on Portugal
We approached the coast of Portugal during the night of Aug 31 and could see the loom of Lisbon in the early evening.  By the early morning hours of Sep 1 we could pick out the lights on shore.  After dawn we could see the coast of Portugal.

 

Once we entered the Rio Tejo we could see the resort town of Cascais to the north.  We dropped the sails, turned on the engine and headed for the marina at Cascais.

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Cascais, PT
Photo by Mike Repass

The Cascais marina is located behind a breakwater/mole that they are actively expanding (see the crane on the end of the breakwater).  The marina reception dock is the large white building in the middle of the picture on the right.

 I initially requested a berth for two nights to give me time to find a permanent berth nearer Lisbon for the winter.  The next day Steve and I took the train into Lisbon to check on the availability of a berth at the Doca da Alcantara marina near the city center and to do some sight-seeing. 

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Entrance to the Marina de Cascais
Photo by Mike Repass

The dock master at the Alcantara marina said he had no long term space as they were in the process of filling the marina with Portuguese boats.  Because of our mutual language limitations I did not get an explanation why this was being done, but I had heard from other cruisers that many of the marinas in Lisbon, other than Alcantara, were silting in very badly.  I suspect the marina operators were transferring boats from the silted marinas to allow them to dredge those marinas over the winter.

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Sarah Berthed in the Marina de Cascais

As a result there would be no winter berth for Sarah within the city limits of Lisbon.  Instead I would have to take a winter berth at Cascais at a significantly higher cost (€3,000 for six months) than the going rate almost anywhere else on the Portuguese coast.  Still this was less than I paid for a berth the previous winter in Fort Pierce, FL
* At least that's the way the name was pronounced by the recorded voice on the train between Cascais and Lisboa.