10-no-20-noo-30-noo-35 meter waves YES!!!! Porto to Cascais

I figured I’d get your attention with that headline.  More about that later. First, all the boring stuff. We left Leixoes early (6 a.m.) in the fog, naturally – this is Vinni and Carsten sailing after all, happy to leave and once well clear and a couple of miles out to sea, I started the watermaker and let it replenish our sunken water tanks.

Our watermaker really is great stuff. It just chugs away and makes 30 liters of fresh, good-tasting water. 7 hours later, I flushed it and turned it off now that it had made just over 200 liters.

The fog, meanwhile, had just gotten thicker (sigh). I don’t know what it is  – but the entire time we’ve sailed this Spanish/Portuguese coast, it has been veiled in fog.  Vinni figured out that it has been foggy over 80% of the time we’ve been here.

Did someone say sunny Spain? Get a tan in Portugal?

So we motored down the coast in the fog, with the radar going full blast and trying to keep an eye out for fishing nets.

By the way – look at these pictures of Zigzago, a Portuguese sailboat. This is the best argument for installing AIS I can find. For those who don’t know, AIS is a little gadget that you install on your boat that sends a signal showing your boat size, speed, course and lots of other neat info. The gadget costs about $500 and if you install it and have a chartplotter, you can see everyone else who has one.


Zigzago from the rear


Zigzago from the side



All ships over 300 tons are required to have, but leisure yachts are not and a lot don’t. Zigzago didn’t and was run down by a big freighter in the fog. When I say run down – he was not only run down – he was run over. He can thank his lucky stars that Zigzago is an aluminum boat – it survived the crash. Apparently, the crew did also. The big freighter would never have noticed it ran over them.

Capri has AIS and we’re very happy we do – especially in this fog.

Back to our story (ah – you thought I’d forgotten didn’t you?). We sailed down the coast and at one point the wind picked up, we set sails and things were moving right along. The fog stayed with us despite the wind (yeah, I know – fog and wind???) and suddenly Capri’s speed dropped from 6 knots to 5 knots to 2 knots to 1 knot and then even less.

Oh shit! Oh shit! Oh shit!!!!

Big time trouble. We had caught a fishing net with our keel. Vinni and I HATE fucking fishermen and their goddamned nets!!! There are so many of them along the coasts and try as you might – you’ll never spot all of them, especially in thick fog.

Ok – we need to try to get free. If we can’t sail free, then the only other option is for someone (guess who???) to don a wetsuit and go overboard with a knife (or hacksaw) and cut the damned net off. Which is nowhere  as easy as it sounds, especially in waves a couple of meters high. Capri would be rising and falling with the waves and being under there would require wearing a helmet (we have one on board).

So, the prospect of going overboard was not enticing, albeit it was daylight. Nighttime would have been really scary.

In these situations, it is almost always best to try reversing first. So Capri in reverse and full throttle.

Now we’re full throttle trying to go backwards against 2 meter high waves and that means they are crashing over the stern. Fortunately, we heard a “thump” and a fishing buoy popped up right alongside. This damned thing had wrapped itself around the keel and it had miles of net attached to it.

Finally free, we were able to get underway again. In the fog of course.

The weather did clear a bit in the late afternoon, but it only cleared to a haze for about 2 hours and then the fog came again.


The weather cleared just a little


I read up on Nazere harbor in Reed’s and it all seemed straight forward. There’s a lighthouse on a point and a large cove next to it and the harbor is in the cove. Reed’s notes that it is best to stay at least 2 nm from the lighthouse in a long curve into the harbor.

But doesn’t say why.

I looked at the map and there doesn’t seem to be any reason – lots of water. As a matter of fact, there are a couple of canyons underwater right there so the water is several hundred meters deep.

It was almost 11 o’clock when we approached the lighthouse. I decided to give it a 2 nm berth as Reed’s said, even though, for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why. The approach was pretty straightforward, but the fog made it difficult to see anything. We were almost on top of the harbor entrance before we could spot the red and green flashing lights denoting the entrance. We got inside, found a berth, tied up and then we drank a bottle of wine and slept until almost 9 o’clock the next morning (which is more than a little unusual for Vinni and me)


Ok, you twit (you say) now what about those 35 meter high waves?????

Well, Portugal is home to some of the highest waves in the world and in one place those waves can get as high as 35 meters. Guess where that place is?  Yup, it is Nazere. The reason Reeds says to give the lighthouse a 2nm clearance is that is exactly where those huge waves appear. Not all the time mind you – it does require a storm, but the combination of those canyons I mentioned before and the almost vertical shoaling of the continental shelf and the high cliffs here, means that you can be sailing right along in 3-4 meter waves (and NOT in a storm) and if you take the corner by the lighthouse too close – those 3-4 meter waves will suddenly be 12 – 15 meters high.


A breaking 35 meter (about 115 feet) wave


Which certainly will get your attention.


Here’s a video of a 35 meter high wave right there by the lighthouse – an yes, that is an idiot that is surfing down the front.


Nazare wasn’t much, but it is a beach town so we stayed a day over to rest and hope that the fog would disappear. Wandered around town (in the fog) and it was filled with restaurant and stores all selling the same things – none of which we needed. We bunkered fuel and the next morning we slipped our lines and headed out – early because we wanted to make Cascais (Lisbon) by evening.


True to form – you’ve certainly guessed by now – it was foggy as all hell. Yes dear friends, we sailed out into heavy fog.  Just lovely. Couldn’t see shit, to put it in the vernacular. But, hardy souls that we are, we sloughed onwards to our doom.


Onward to your doom?  What’s this shit, you ask?


Yes dear reader, I wrote our doom and I meant it. About 2 hours out of Nazere, Capri was grabbed by the ass and we stopped. Another damned fishing net. Shit.  And again SHIT!  Put Capri in reverse and give her full  throttle – no go. Try again – still no go. Try a third time – nada.

OK, so we’re in DEEP SHIT! Or we’re fucked. or something similar. At any rate, here we are in the fog, with a net wrapped around our prop and axel and god knows what else it has wrapped around or what damage it has caused. The imagined consequences cascaded down upon us. Not to mention the reality of the cost of having someone sail out, cut us free and tow in to harbour, get the boat lifted and everything cut away and, and, and.  Face the facts – someone has to go down and cut Capri free. “someone” on Capri almost always means me, moi, you know guy male type(sigh).

Are we having fun yet?

Damned right we’re having fun.

So I stripped off my shirt revealing my six-pack of abs, flexed my pecs a bit and clutching a knife between my teeth, I dove overboard, entering the water cleanly and swam under the boat. Cut through a multitude of rope, surfaced and climbed back on board, saying, “we’re loose”. Vinni threw her arms around my neck and said, “ooooh, you hunk of a manly man, you studly stud.” Then she rested her soft cheek lightly against the rug of hair on my chest, murmured, “my hero,” and sighed gently.

Or rather that is what would have happened if this were a movie starring Sean Connery (who, by the way is an incredibly lucky guy to bear the striking resemblance he has to me).  Back on planet earth, what really happened was that I donned a wetsuit and snorkel and slipped overboard to take a look.

Well fuck me. The entire prop and shaft was wrapped in line and there was a taut line going straight down to the net. Fuck me again. And the horse I rode in on. Nothing for it, big job ahead. So first we dropped anchor in 70 meters of water (here’s my smile at those that wondered why we mounted 100 meters of anchor chain – well – we could anchor here in 70 meters. Then we sent out a Securitae over the VHF.

Securitae, Secuitae, Securitae, All stations, all stations, all stations, this is the yacht Capri. We are caught in a fishing net at position XX degrees, XX minutes north, XX degrees, XX minutes west. We have anchored and are sending a diver down. Repeat we are anchored and sending a diver down.

Immediate response from the Portuguese coast guard – Did we need assistance.  No thank you – we’d try this ourselves. Then the Portuguese Maritime Police – how many on board, any injuries, any need for assistance?  No, we are certified divers and had the equipment and would try ourselves.  Then a commercial diver – did we need assistance?  (he would have cost big time money)  Again, no thank you.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I got out the BCD and air tank – this was a job that could take a long, long time. Got everything ready and slipped over the side again – this time carrying both a knife and a rope up to the boat so Vinni could send down the bolt cutter if I needed it. First I cut the line down to the net – good fucking riddance. And then, I got started on all the rope wound around the prop and shaft. I was wearing a helmet and good thing I was. Capri was bobbing up and down in the waves (1-2 meters high), and every time she came down, I got an whack on the top of my head.  I don’t really know how long I was down for. Vinni said at the start could see my flippers going, then I disappeared under the boat.  I had a line tied around me so I wouldn’t drift off in the current (flowing at ½ knot). She thought about hauling me back up when I disappeared, but she kept seeing long pieces of rope floating up from below and she decided that I must still be alright since I obviously was busy cutting away.

At long last, I had everything off, checked that the prop was alright and the shaft turned freely. Up I came and said, “we’re free” (see, part of the story above was true). Vinni did put her arms around me and say I was a hero – the rest about studly stud and manly man she just kind of forgot in the excitement, I guess.

I did manage to cut half-way through my little finger by accident – so when I came up – I was gushing blood all over the cockpit. Vinni, having been a nurse in a former lifetime – got busy bandaging me. But no sympathy – nurses have no mercy when it comes to things like that.

Here’s some footage.  Vinni was bit excited and accidentally turned off the camera as she was filming me getting into the wetsuit.  And since some of you keep asking for more dolphins – there is some dolphin footage at the end


But we were free and we could sail on, which we did. We were both a bit tired and with no sign of the fog letting up, we pulled into Peniche, a harbor about 25 nautical miles down the coast. Not a great harbor, but we went out for pizza and beer and so ended that adventure.

Don’t kid yourselves guys – getting caught in a net like that is no fun. We had gotten into Peniche and had some lunch when a Maritime policeman showed up and checked our papers. Just routine. But when he looked at our papers he said – “Oh, so this is the famous Capri”.  Uhhhhh – what do you mean by that? I asked.

“We followed you on the VHF when you got caught in the net.  Good job you got out by yourselves – not many do –  usually someone has to go out, cut the lines and tow the boat back in to be lifted to get all the rope off.”

Well damn, praise from a maritime Policeman – made me feel good all over.

Next morning it the goal was Cascais, about 50 NM away. Nothing to comment on here – it was foggy – again. So the next many hours were spent staring out into the fog looking for fishing buoys and staring at the radar looking for other boats. Late afternoon, the wind picked up and we were flying. And the wind picked up and we were flying even faster. And the wind picked up, now blowing 33 knots (still foggy) and Capri was blasting along at over 8 knots on just our genua.

Are we having fun yet?

Damned right we are.

Actually, we were having almost too much fun, Capri was surfing and planing on the waves. Finally we rounded the Cape and turned into Lisbon bay and guess what?  The fog lifted and sun came out and it got hot. The wind died and we motored right into Cascais for a well-deserved drink and dinner.

We’ve worked hard on all the items on our “wailing wall” and we leave on saturday for Madeira.  More to follow when and if we get there………………………..

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