21 January 2019

Scott's First Sailing Adventure | Cruising From Majorca To Portimao

The postcard Scott wrote to me from Cabo de Gata. Notice how he didn't address it? Rather than post it, he handed it to me when he got back.

Did you ever find something when you were tidying up that brought back a flood of memories? Well, Scott found an old postcard that he had written to me from Cabo de Gata in Spain when he was on his very first sailing trip back in 2005. The trip that got him hooked on sailing and led to us eventually buying our first boat in New Zealand in 2012.

I thought some of you might be interested in hearing more about Scott's very first sailing adventure, so I decided to share a little interview I did with him. Well, it was actually less of an interview and more of the two of us lying in bed trying to decide what to watch on TV. I peppered him with questions while he tried to convince me that watching a WWII documentary would be a good choice.

* * *

1 - How did you get into sailing?

Back in 2005 when I was living in Glasgow, I had contacted a friend to see if wanted to go to an archaeology conference. He wasn't able to because he had plans to help bring a friend's boat back to Scotland from Majorca (aka Mallorca). I told him to let me know if his friend ever needed extra crew as I'd like to try sailing one day.

Little did I know that "one day" would turn out to be sooner than I thought. The fourth crew member had just dropped out and they had a plane ticket from Glasgow to Majorca if I was interested. I was working in Edinburgh at the time and had to make arrangements to take time off, but once that was sorted I packed my bags and left a couple of days later.

Port Andratx in Majorca - the start of Scott's sailing adventure.
2 - Where did you go on that first sailing trip?

We sailed from Majorca (one of the Spanish Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea) to Portimao in Portugal where the boat (a Westerly Oceanlord 41 named Dragonfly) was laid up for the winter. The trip took over two weeks, we covered around 800 nautical miles, and by the end I was hooked on sailing. Actually, I was hooked on sailing on day one.

The sailboat Scott sailed on - s/v Dragonfly, a Westerly Oceanlord 41

3 - What was your first overnight sail like?

My first overnight sail took place when we left Majorca and sailed 180 nautical miles to Mar Menor, a salt-water lagoon on the Iberian Peninsula near Cartagena. We had a great sail, averaging 7-9 knots. I thought it would be like this all the time - always under sail going along at a good clip. I later learned that's hardly ever the case.

My second overnight sail was quite different with gale force winds and thunderstorms. We inched close to the shore to try to avoid being struck by lightening.

Going through the drawbridge at Mar Menor

4 - What was the food like?

When I first got to Majorca, we didn't arrive at the marina until after ten that night. We met the captain at a restaurant that had just stopped serving food so we headed back to the boat to find something to eat. The choice was limited to out-of-date canned food. We opted for a can of salmon which we washed down with plenty of San Miguel beer. The beer definitely helped.

The food on board got better after that and we also had some great meals on shore with a lot of seafood and local wines.

Sailing along the Algarve

5 - What are some of your favorite memories from this trip?

I really enjoyed anchoring in the Guadianna river between Spain and Portgual. It was a calm evening with a full moon and we all enjoyed having drinks in the cockpit and taking in the views. That was when I decided cruising full-time was something I really wanted to do with Ellen.

A view of the Guadianna river from the boat.

Another favorite memory is when we were going around Punta de Tarifa, which is the southernmost point on the Iberian Peninsula. We had been motoring most of the time and we had finally got a bit of wind so that we could put out the headsail. By the time we got to the point, we had 55 knots sustained. Being a novice, I didn't realize it was that big of a deal and I really enjoyed helming through it.

When we finally got to the marina, it was completely full (everyone else seemed to have known about the storm and sought out shelter) so we had to tie up to the visitor's dock. We certainly got a lot of questions from folks about what it had been like to sail in those conditions.

Sailing past Gibraltar Rock was pretty amazing, as was seeing the old Phoenician city, Cadiz, from a distance. One thing I wished we could have seen was Morocco, which you can see on a clear day. Sadly, the weather didn't cooperate.

And then of course, the sea life was fantastic - dolphins and whales including an orca with a floppy dorsal fin. One of the dolphins even spyhopped in front of our boat. Pretty cool.

Sunset at Portimao, Portugal

6 - What did you miss the most when you were away?

You, of course. {Editor's Note: That was the correct answer.}

Is there anything else you want to know about Scott, like what his favorite cookie is or how people survive the cold in North Dakota? Put your questions in the comments below and maybe we'll have another interview with him.


  1. What a wonderful post. I would like to know why Scott works in Scotland (I think it's Scotland) so much? You're here and he's there. Seems like a lonely time for the both of you.

    Have a fabulous day and week. ♥

    1. Scott had a commercial archaeology business in Scotland when we lived there and traveled back and forth for work after we came back to the States. He's since closed down his business so no more trips back to Scotland :-)

    2. The mystery ends. Good that you're together again. Thanks for answering my question. Have a great day. ♥

  2. How did he convince you to sail with him?

    1. Do you mean "brainwash" me :-)

      We chartered a couple of times when we lived in New Zealand and I enjoyed it so before you knew it we had bought a boat there :-)

  3. It seems like you don't actually sail very much. Yes, you live on the boat... but I don't see very much actually sailing time.

    1. We weren't able to get out last season as Scott was working, but we did get out the previous two seasons. We had been all geared up to head out this month when we discovered a crack in our hull which has left us up on the hard in the boatyard :-(

  4. Im with Sandee about a question for Scott. And, I’m amazed at Scott’s memory about this trip on 2005. I generally remember what I did that year, but not in detail!

    1. His memory is so good. I like to think of him as my external hard drive. I can't remember anything so I just ask him for details of what I did in previous years :-)

  5. I'm amazed at the details. It shows he really loved the experience. But then, he wouldn't have convinced you to live on a boat if he hadn't. :)

    1. He loved it. I think it was one of the best experiences he's ever had in his life.

  6. I'd like to ask Scott about his penmanship. Really, I could read every word in that postcard. I can hardly read Greg's handwriting - sometimes he can't read it either. How did Scott learn to print so nicely?

    I'm not sure I would have gotten hooked on sailing if my first experience was going through a storm like that - especially with all of the hurling I would have been doing. But really it is amazing to remember that first time, the feeling of how incredible and special sailing is.

  7. And Greg wants to know if you ended up watching the WWII documentary - and if not can he come over and watch it - we can be there in about two months.


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