Cloud Nine Adventures: Part Two
by Roger Swanson
The following is the final segment of a two part
excerpt of an annual holiday letter sent to friends and family of
Roger Swanson. Swanson describes his 2003 trip where his wife, Gaynelle Templeton , marked her first circumnavigation aboard
Cloud Nine, a fifty-seven foot ketch. Swanson was fulfilling a
promise he made to her during their wedding vows.
We left Spain and motorsailed south in light air through heavy fog avoiding fish traps and dodging fishing boats much of the way. We moored at Leixoes, Portugal, only a short bus ride from Porto, the second largest city in Portugal and its principal manufacturing and commercial center. Not having been destroyed by wars, Porto hasn't changed much in the past several hundred years and has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. Its churches date back to the 12th century and display a variety of architectural styles with interiors filled with beautiful hand carved gilded woodwork. One church has over 200 pounds of gold leaf adorning its ornate carved altars, pillars and ceiling. Porto is probably best known for its principal export, Port wine, produced from the grapes grown along the Douro River on which the city is located.
In Porto we saw the birthplace of Prince Henry the Navigator. I did not realize that Prince Henry, born in 1394, did very little traveling and exploring himself. But as governor of the province of Algarve in southern Portugal, he sponsored and encouraged many of the great voyages of discovery made by the Portuguese in the 15th century. Henry assembled the best sailors, map makers, shipbuilders, instrument makers and astronomers to properly equip and man his voyages. After discovering Madeira and the Azores, Prince Henry's ships continued down the west coast of Africa which at the time was thought to be the end of the world. As unease was mounting over Henry's lavish spending on exploration, his ships began returning from West Africa with gold and slaves. As this trade flourished, much of the emphasis turned from exploration to commerce, but the exploration continued as well eventually rounding the Cape of Good Hope, although not until after Henry's death in 1460.
We headed south again remaining well offshore to avoid the fog, fishpots and fishing boats along the coast eventually anchoring at Cascais, just outside Lisbon. Legend has it that Lisbon was founded by Ulysses, but was probably settled by the Phoenicians about 3000 years ago. Then came the Greeks, the Carthaginians, and the Romans followed by various northern tribes. The Moors captured and held the city over four hundred years until the Christians finally took it back in 1147.
A devastating earthquake destroyed the city in 1755 after which Lisbon never regained its former power and prestige. But today Lisbon is a lively mixture of past and present and considered by many travelers to be one of Europe's most enjoyable cities and the Cloud Nine crew would certainly agree. Of particular interest was Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. Gulbenkian was one of the 20th century's wealthiest and best known philanthropists even before he struck it rich in Iraqi oil. He put together a marvelous collection that is undoubtedly Portugal's finest museum and one of Europe's most prestigious unsung treasures. His entire collection has been made available to the public. We also visited the outstanding maritime museum at Belem, possibly the finest in the world, featuring many detailed examples of early sailing vessels as well as modern commercial and navy ships. Particular emphasis was on ships of the period of Portugal's great age of exploration, many of which sailed from here.
Heading south we rounding majestic Cape St. Vincent where Nelson claimed one of his most dramatic victories. In the Battle of St. Vincent a British fleet of 15 ships of the line under Admiral Jervis engaged a somewhat scattered fleet of 27 Spanish ships of the line. Nelson, aboard his 74 gun HMS Captain, acting independently without orders and with his foremast overboard and his wheel shot away, managed to lay his shattered ship alongside the also badly damaged 80 gun Spanish two decker, San Nicolas, boarded and captured her. In the confusion they had fallen foul of the 112 gun three decker, San Joseph, which Nelson and his men proceeded to board from the deck of San Nicolas ultimately capturing both ships. Nelson was knighted for this one.
We anchored off Lagos on the south coast of Portugal. Lagos' shipyards built many of Prince Henry's caravels that were considered the finest and most seaworthy ships of the day. Lagos was also the starting point of several of Henry's voyages of exploration. In 1444 Lagos was the site of the first sale of black African slaves to Europeans. A treaty prevented Spain from taking part in the slave trade leaving Portugal as the first major transporter of slaves, both to Europe and later to the Caribbean islands. Francis Drake made his mark on Lagos seriously damaging the city during one of his raids in 1587. Lagos was flattened by the same earthquake that destroyed Lisbon in 1755 ending its career as the slave capital of Europe. Its beautiful beaches have now made it a favorite of European tourists and its modern marina attracts many cruising sailors.
We had a nice sail to Cadiz, Spain, finally free of the fog and light winds that had been plaguing us along the west coast of Spain and Portugal. Cadiz is steeped in history having been founded by the Phoenicians in 1100 B.C. As in the case of Lisbon, it was occupied by the various maritime nations followed by the Moors until reclaimed by the Spanish in 1262. Columbus sailed from here on his 2nd and 4th voyages. Cadiz was also raided by Francis Drake in 1587 at which time he did sufficient damage to the Spanish fleet to delay the sailing of the Armada from La Coruna the following year. When the Armada reached the English Channel in 1588, Drake played a major part in its defeat.
We were underway at 0400 expecting to arrive in Gibraltar by mid afternoon. However, a few hours later after rounding Cape Trafalgar, we experienced the roughest weather of our entire summer encountering a Levanter, a strong easterly Mediterranean gale with headwinds gusting over 40 knots. It was necessary to tack back and forth in this weather through the Straits of Gibraltar in heavy commercial traffic - first we saw Africa, then Spain, then Africa again, and finally Spain as we made our way into Gibraltar Harbor shortly before dark.
But it was a historic moment for us when we moored to the immigration dock in Gibraltar on September 25 at 1915 hours. It marked the completion of Gaynelle's west to east circumnavigation of the world aboard Cloud Nine! This moment marked the end of a 7½ year effort to fulfill the commitment made when we were married on March 9, 1996. I believe I mentioned in a previous letter that the recessional music at our wedding was Anchors Aweigh. We finally made it! Once settled in Gibraltar's Queens Way Marina for the night, we broke out the champagne.
Gibraltar has always been and still is a disputed area for Spain and England. It was reclaimed by the Spanish from the Moors in 1462. The English took control in 1704 and it has remained English ever since in spite of determined sieges at various times by Spain to get it back. During WWII General Eisenhower directed the North African campaign from a command post somewhere inside the 34 miles of tunnels that honeycomb the 2 mile long Rock. Hitler also had a plan in place for taking Gibraltar called operation Felix, but he could not get the cooperation of Franco and the attack never materialized. Before leaving Gibraltar we accompanied our friend and faithful crewmember, DiDi, to the airport where he caught a flight home to the Philippines. He had decided it was time to rejoin his family after more than six years aboard Cloud Nine. We were sorry to see him go and will miss him.
On October 7 we started home across the Atlantic reaching the island of Madeira on October 12.. This was my third visit to Madeira and I consider it to be the most beautiful island I have seen in my entire sailing career. Founded by the Portuguese in 1419 it is perhaps best known for its famous Madeira wine. But it is also known for its unparalleled scenery. We toured the island admiring the tiny villages clinging to the steep mountain sides and marveling at the dramatic landscape where nearly vertical cliffs plunge up to 2500 feet into deep green valleys or precipitously into the sea.
But it was time to move on. We weighed anchor October 17 and headed southwest to catch the northeasterly trade winds that surprised us by blowing from the southwest for several days. We had a bit of all kinds of weather on our crossing, but generally light and fickle winds would be the best way to describe our conditions. We made the 3000 mile passage from Madeira to Chaguaramas, Trinidad, in 21 days. Our trip was over and it was time for Gaynelle and I to head back to Minnesota for the holidays. Future sailing plans are indefinite, but probably will not include another Atlantic passage in 2004.
Roger Swanson is from Dunnell, Minnesota. He has cruised Antartica twice, almost the northwest passage and circumnavigated four times.He has received numerous international awards for cruising and seamanship.