Rally Portugal 2005

Following last years adventure crewing on Swagman a Grand Soliel 42 – a crew member from another Rally Portugal boat made an offer and subsequently bought Swagman.

John and Sue then ordered a brand new Hanse 461 and called it…………….Swagman. A real beaut of a boat with a saloon like a modern Berlin apartment.


As they were planning on getting this Swagman round and into the Med for some more sailing adventures, they signed up again for Rally Portugal 2005 and offered me another chance to cross Biscay as crew – only one answer….

There were to be six of us, that is John and Sue, plus Sue’s mate from Oz called Robbie, Marcus and Angie who had sailed Rally Portugal the previous year in their own boat Csardas (and then sailed her all the way back home) and me.

Swagman Crew

Marcus and Ange were getting off Swagman in Bayona and flying home.
On the evening before departing from Plymouth there was the usual open air BBQ and beer drinking – now I don’t think I drank too much, but I did eat seafood paella – and whichever one was to blame I felt awful.

Anyhow of we went with Marcus and Angie being one team, John & Robbie another with Sue & I being the third watch. We were running the same watch system as last year in having 2 hours sleep, 2 hours stand by, and 2 hours watch.

Plan A was to cut inside between Quessant and the mainland, but approaching it in the dark it was quickly evident there was something not quite right as the shipping was running a different way from that shown on the chartplotter – a quick check on the paper chart showed a total conflict. Marcus then remebered that the shipping channel had been altered – and the paper chart was right – but the electronic chart wrong !!!

Anyhow John being the skipper decided, if in doubt bottle out – so off we went to the west.

Now I would love to be able to say that the days were spent in mountainous seas, bit this would be an absolute lie, because Biscay was as smooth as a billiard table, and a number of boats were at risk of running out of diesel due to the amount of motoring required to make headway.

Dolphins From Swagman

We ourselves arranged to meet X11 Bar Blues and pass over some spare diesel and as you will see in the photograph – the sea state hadn’t altered.

Swagman approachin X11 Bar Blues - Mid Biscay !!

The sky was so clear at night that apart from the amazing sight of the Milky Way, Angie and I were watching satellites arcing across above us – now I don’t know whether Marcus was at it or not – but he claimed he couldn’t see any of them……mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Fearless Angie :-)

Once again however when approaching Finisterre the sea did get up a bit and I found myself comparing the previous years conditions and finding these (relatively) straightforward – but they were not really for the faint hearted, but again being in such experienced company I was more than comfortable.

Sadly it came time for Marcus and Angie to head for the airport, but even though they had done all the next bit the previous year it was shame to see them leave.

Sara had flown out and booked into the local Parador Hotel awaiting our arrival, and we had a lovely couple of days in luxury before we both went onboard Swagman for the run down the Portugese coast.

The trip was absolutely fantastic with many mini adventures and sore heads along the way.

I thought the organisers did a remarkable job and it did seem to be good value for money given all the berthing fees and some drinks nibbles and outings were (from memory) all included. Santiago de Compostella, Coimbra, and Porto were some of the places visited and were worth the bus journeys – all superbly organised.

Sara at the helm

The only real drama was heading down the coast in fog and watching on the overlaid radar on the Raymarine E Series the relative course and speed of what were fishing boats. Now at one point we knew there was one heading towards us and we would be passing port to port – however when it appeared out of the fog with horn blaring about 200 yards away from us it did give everyone a jolt. God only knows what it would have been like if we didn’t know it was coming and it simply appeared !! Now have an E Series on the Christmas list !

All good things must eventually end and I left Swagaman et al in Cascais to head for Lisbon airport and fly home – I can tell you this much I really did not want to be going home.

As it was John Sue and Robbie still had a few weeks holiday left and when the rally finished they were heading off round Gibralter to Spain and then the Balearics – simply superb.