We had been the beneficiaries of various advice who had each advised us of efficient “jumping off points” on the Portuguese coast to make an efficient passage to Madeira. Many of the boats we had met along the journey thus far had elected to set off to the island from Figuera, or Cascais and some chose Sines, a few miles south of Cascais.
However, we wanted to visit the Algarve coast too and set a course from Cascais direct to Lagos, on the south coast. Our predicted journey time was 24 hours so this was going to be the first night sail since we crossed Biscay.
We upped anchor at around midday and motored off in calm conditions, hoping for the predictable sea breeze to kick in in the afternoon. Some minor engine uncertainty...the engine had developed a disliking for tick over or slow running, and Nigel was beginning to suspect the quality of the fuel in the tank…. we took a jerry can of 20 litres of clean fresh diesel in case we needed it.
After a few hours, the breeze started and we sailed on our southerly course, fairly close hauled in 10 to 12 knots when the boat was surrounded by dolphins, we were lifted too...we had not seen dolphins since Biscay, more than a month ago! As evening fell, so did the breeze and on went the engine again. Nav lights and steaming light on, Persephone ploughed resolutely on her way, into a clear night on an eerily calm, even oily looking sea. The canopy of stars revealed themselves with a seasonal smattering of shooting stars as well, but it was warm, humid even...Ever eager to sail, we remained vigilant and each time we suspected a breeze of more than 7 knots, up went the genoa and more attempts were made to sail. And this pattern continued until midnight.
As Saturday became Sunday, we were sailing silently on our course, about 8 miles off the coast, when suddenly or visibility in a horizontal plane simply disappeared. We were enveloped by a low lying sea fog, so that we could hardly see a boat length ahead of us. We could still see clear starry skies above, but gradually over the next hour, the fog thickened and we were enveloped. Looking up Nigel studied the loom of our tricolour light in the gathering mist. He could see red and green reflected in the fog, but no white? And the wind dropped off to nothing.
Genoa down, engine on again, Persephone continued. We were visited by 2 further pods of nocturnal dolphins and sailed through numerous “schools” of strange jumping fish. Nigel became concerned about a number of connected issues. We were obliged to motor...and the engine kept “hunting”...was it just a matter of time before it stopped altogether? The fog was thick, we could see larger vessels electronically, buy how would we avoid the litany of lobster pots so characteristic of this coast? Our course was planned to go fairly close in around the dramatic cliff face at Capo Vicente, the south west corner of Europe, but the last thing we wanted was to have an engine failure close to the shore, or be anchored by our propeller shaft on a lobster pot line in the fog!
As dawn broke, still motoring, and about 3 miles from the cape, Nigel decided to siphon the additional diesel supply into the tank and remove one variable...the chance we might simply run out of fuel..
We rounded the cape, and Sagres, the place where Henry the Navigator set up his school, leading, it is said, to the great discoveries in the New World...all without seeing a thing!
We changed watches and Nigel claimed an hour or two of sleep and as the sun came up, Karen was extremely pleased to see the fog burn off , to present another gloriously sunny day, we were able to sail for a few minutes, in the company of a huge pod of Algarvian dolphins....Sails down and a very warm greeting from the team at Lagos Marina, we arrived at midday.