21st October 2020
Ilha Da Culatra, Olhão, Portugal
Based upon our recent experience in Isla Da Culatra different nationalities prepare for storms in quite different ways.
Germans tend to carefully lay out their anchor and chain a respectable distance from other boats and in the right depth of water to give themselves the best ride. The British take a safety first approach doing all they can to secure themselves to the seabed and remove everything from the deck to reduce windage. The Portuguese take a view that seems to involve leaving a skeleton crew on board and simply rely on luck to remain on station. Finally, the French feel that safety is found in company so anchoring close by is essential.
Knowing that we were in going to be in for a bit of a blow and be boat bound for a bit, we felt compelled to make the most of the benign weather before the arrival of storm Barbara. Brock carried us seamlessly all the miles into Olhão where a market of the most monumental proportions waited for us.
The full fruits of the seas were available and the local populace seemed to know exactly what to do with every squirming creature, gelatinous lump and vital organs extracted from the creatures dragged from the deep. We however were somewhat clueless so instead took interest in pastries and coffees.
Now full of caffeine and sugar Fiona was in for another of Iain’s now infamous walks. In true Iain fashion we trudged through industrial areas, car repair facilities and the obligatory truck stop before finally getting to the most interesting of national parks.
The national park promised untold delights. Within just a few miles we’d be able to experience ancient roman ruins, tide mills grinding grain, salt ponds in full production and a unique experience of seeing both sea and fresh water birds happily co-habiting. The trudge had been fully worthwhile, although the novelty had very much warn thin on the return trip.
Returning to Ruffian we prepared in the most British ways for all that Storm Barbara could throw at us. To ensure we remained stuck in place we let out meter upon meter of chain, to reduce the load on our anchor, anything that wasn’t nailed to the deck was taken below and any canvas that threatened to blow away was lashed down. Downstairs wet weather gear was readied, lifejackets laid out and electronics turned on to monitor the developing situation.
We watched the rest of the anchorage prepare according to their national flags. Our German friends on “Pincoya” seemed ready with everything looking shipshape. The Portuguese schooner was 100% onside as they seemed remarkably relaxed and understaffed, while right on cue, a French boat anchored right next to us, with a tiny anchor and tiny amount of chain. Everything was set and now it was just a waiting game.
As expected, the calm before the storm swept across the anchorage. The sun rose on a glassy sea, the sand shimmered in the dawn light and far in the distance ominous clouds built as the sunlight hit them. Then it began.
The wind built to the forecast, then built some more and just to add to the fun a warming land added a few more knots. We could hear the waves crashing and moving the beach far to the south of us and watched as detritus from town blew across the lagoon. We held steady and praised ourselves for our good planning and preparation. Then all hell started to break loose.
The wind started to scream, making ourselves heard was difficult and we watched painful events unfold from under our sprayhood. The preparations the 100ft 3-masted Portuguese schooner had made were working as well as expected. It was dragging around the anchorage crashing into boats and forcing other, more watchful boats, to up anchor, battle the waves and wind, and move out of its way. (Well done “Pincoya”).
As expected, the wind shifted, built to heights that have never been experienced on Ruffian and kicked up a chop that broke over the bow and swept down the decks. The anchorage had turned from fresh to frightening. The worst of all was that with the wind shift we were now in the path of the dragging schooner. We readied ourselves for the onslaught, donning lifejackets, headtorches, and all our wet weather gear. The engine was turned on in preparation for anything and everything and, like hawks, we monitored the exact location of the schooner.
Our ranger finder had the schooner at 400 meters away. We resolved that at 250m we’d start our battle and make our way to safety. As the minutes ticked by the range clocked down, 350, 325, 300, 280, 272, 272. Could this be right? 272m again and again. The schooner was holding in the nick of time and the wind was dropping moment by moment, 45, 35, 30, 20, 10. As quickly as it began, it was over, the schooner was stationery, everything was still and Ruffian was safe.
Once again Ruffian proved to be a great British boat, kept us safe and has allowed us to continue in our adventures, under her red flag with the union in the corner. Phew!!!!!!!
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