Sunseeker Chapter 21
After a couple of nights in the harbour of Sesimbra we were ready for the next hop. Sunseeker’s crew was awaiting a weather window to make the crossing to Madeira. A nice steady northerly would be just fine. Each morning though brought only more calm, sunny weather. Even the strong southerly, which we were supposed to be sheltering from, never materialised. In early morning sunshine we sailed in company with our buddy yachts Catnap and Kylie, leaving behind the steep, lush, tree-covered coastline. Heading for the seemingly commercial harbour of Sines with the whole day stretching before us, we leisurely ticked off the miles, closing once more with the coast around teatime.
The approach to Sines was quite dramatic as the huge Atlantic rollers hurled themselves at the oil terminal’s massive breakwater. Gigantic fountains of snow-white foam leaped high into the air before cascading once more down the tiers of weatherworn concrete blocks. Enormous oil tankers were manoeuvring into and out of their allotted berths through the calm waters of the outer harbour.
Rounding the harbour light Sunseeker settled to the altogether gentler motion within the embracing harbour walls and we strained to see the entrance to the fish dock. About a mile in front we identified the two light structures, red and green, that mark the outer ends of the two inner breakwaters. With Sunseeker’s red sails stowed her motor carried us along the fairway with fishing boats surging past and seagulls squawking raucously in their wake, ever intent on sweeping up every morsel of fishy waste flung, seemingly carelessly, from the fishing-boats’ decks.
Approaching the quickly widening gap in the inner seawalls we were amazed to find that the area marked on the chart as the fish harbour is, in fact, a large bay bounded to shoreward by a beautiful, sickle-shaped sandy beach. Late evening sunshine bathed the cliffs beyond and lit up the imposing citadel and white, stuccoed church perched, all seeing in their commanding positions overlooking the entire harbour.
Catnap and Kylie were already anchored in a spot which, to us, appeared very close to the cliffs flanking the bay. We cautiously dropped the hook well out from the shore but still sheltered from the worst of the swell by the breakwater. Made up of many tons of large boulders seemingly just dumped into the water to form an all-embracing arm the massive structure effectively calms the waters of this side of the bay.
A few days later we were waving goodbye to our friends aboard Catnap and Kylie as they sailed out of the bay to head south for Cape St Vincent and the harbours of the Algarve, there to spend the winter. Sunseeker and her crew were left to contemplate the weather forecasts waiting a suitable day for their departure to the Madeiran archipelago some four hundred odd miles out in the Atlantic Ocean.
The latter half of October was upon us and we really should be making a move. The benign weather stubbornly refused to provide us with either a northerly wind, or, indeed any wind at all. The sun shone warm and the swell rolled into our little bay to hurl itself half-heartedly at the golden sands. Each day we made the journey in the rubber dinghy, landing in a quite corner, to make our way up the hill into the town. Our purchases included a local newspaper that carried a colour weather chart. Using our, very, limited knowledge of Portuguese we deciphered the weather forecast, confidently predicting that ‘Tomorrow there will be a wind’. Some days, as we returned from our shopping trip to town, we would sit at the beach bar making a glass of chilled beer last for an hour and make believe we were rich tourists.
The 19th October dawned bright and warm just like the previous day but today the papers were forecasting a light northerly breeze. We rushed back to Sunseeker with high hopes of leaving this lovely place. But still the sun shone and the blue sky remained devoid of clouds. Each day we remained cost us more money at the shops. Each day we remained put us back a day on our supposed schedule for crossing the Atlantic in early December.
So Rene stowed our shopping and I fired up the engine. With the still lazy swell rolling in we raised the anchor and motored across the vast outer harbour making our way to the ocean. Our course would be southwesterly on a line drawing us gradually away from the Portuguese coast and out into the Atlantic.
End of Sunseeker Chapter 21