“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over”


Nr 84. Round Cape St. Vincent

When we returned from the Azores back in the harbor of Lissabon on our catamaran, we prepared for our next big event: rounding the Cape of Saint Vincent, the most southwesternmost point of mainland Europe!

We did this long trip in 3 stages:

1. Lisbon – Setúbal

On the southside of Lisbon, is the city of Setúbal. It is quite a big city, nr 4 in Portugal. And it’s situated in a beautiful bay, surrounded by National Parcs.

To get to Setúbal, you first had to sail out of Lisbon over the river Tagus and passing Cascais. Then back on the Atlantic Ocean and into the estuary that leads to Setúbal.

When preparing this trip, I got an e-mail from Nina. She was travelling with her boyfriend for 1 year in Portugal and being a trainer, she wanted to expand her online training business and was looking to do some brainstorming with other digital nomads. She happened to live and work now as a volunteer in the National Park….next to Setúbal! So we adjusted our plans a bit to meet with Nina, and anchored close to the National Parc and took our dinghy to a beach café and meet to meet her. It became a lovely afternoon, where we talked about combining work and traveling. It was not only about growing a business, but also laughing a lot, for instance about being Dutchies trying to adjust and enjoying the Portuguese lifestyle!

2. Setúbal – Sines

The next stop would be Sines. It’s the birthplace of famous explorer Vasco da Gama. It’s a small town with a nice beach in a half moon shape and lots of memorials of Vasco da Gama can be seen there. For instance, the castle where he was born. He was from nobility. And descriptions of how he found the sea route to India via Cape of Good Hope.

During the time that we were in Sines, there was a strong southern wind, which made it hard to sail out to go the south to Cape St. Vincent. Especially since it would take us 12 hours to sail there. From 7.30u, when it would become light, to 19.00h when it would be dark again. We wanted to have a good sail and not an uncomfortable ‘fight’ against waves. So we spend a couple of days in the harbor waiting for the wind to become more favorable. And when it did, we started the 12 hour trip!

3. Sines – Cape St. Vincent

It was a good trip: the wind was southwest, so not completely to our benefit and there was also some ocean swell from the previous days of hard wind. So the trip was not very comfortable, but good enough. It was sunny and on the Atlantic Ocean we stayed close to the coastline, because there is still the warning of orcas attacking sail ships.

We came closer and closer to the Cape. The last 1,5 year we have rounded some ‘small’ capes (for instance Cherbourg, Brest, Fisterra) and with capes you always have to be alert. The current, wind and waves will change on a tipping point like that! So you have to be prepared to switch the position of your sails quickly or start your engine to come through strong currents. Now this was a larger Cape: switching from the western coast of Portugal to the south coast of the Algarve. So we were prepared and I noticed Gilles becoming more quiet which means more concentrated 😊. We saw the famous lighthouse of Cape St. Vincent, it’s two 1.000 Watt lamps can be seen as far as 90 kilometers away, so it’s one of the most important beacons for ships at the Atlantic Ocean.

The rounding to the Cape was a cool moment and it turned out to be easy: it was becoming high tide, so the waves where at the back of the boat pushing us forward. We were surfing!

Passing the Cape was a true milestone for us! We have been sailing the Atlantic Coast for more than half a year now along the French, Spanish and Portuguese coast. And now, all of a sudden you are at the Algarve, on your way to Mediterranean waters!

It’s also great to see the Cape and the lighthouse from the water looking up! I have done 2 cycling trips in this area more than 15 years ago, so I have only seen this part of Portugal from land looking over the water. And now we were on the water with our own catamaran. I was looking up at the cliffs of Cape St Vincent and I wondered why my mouth felt so dry. It turned out I was smiling the whole time while standing on the deck looking around….!

When we rounded the Cape it was about 18.00h, and according to schedule we would now go the direction of the bay of Sagres which is the first safe place for sailboats, 6 kilometers after passing the Cape. At 19.00h we lowered our anchor in the bay and at 19.15h it was sunset. We celebrated our trip to the Algarve and this milestone of rounding the Cape with a good meal.

Visiting Cape St. Vincent

The next day after a long sleep, the weather was still beautiful, so we took our bikes and cycled to the Cape. The landscape was totally different from Sines. Because of the hard wind around the cape and no houses or trees, the vegetation is mainly small bushes on red soil. It looked like a moonscape.

The cliffs also look spectacular when you stand on top of them! The water below is rough and the colors are bright blue and turquoise. A lot of surfers come here to ride the waves! In front of the famous lighthouse at Cape St. Vincent, we took a selfie.

Visiting Sagres

Sagres was our first acquaintance with a town in the Algarve. And since a lot of surfers stay here, the atmosphere is very relaxed, with cool little restaurants and bars. And at a bar where we wanted to have a drink and some snacks, we noticed ‘bitterballen’ on the menu. So we laughed and said: ‘Welcome to the Algarve, we will also meet a lot of Dutchies here!’

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