I had a serious chocolate teapot episode, starting shortly after we left Cascais: we were barely underway when, in going up the companionway, I lost my grip when the boat bucked suddenly. I swung around and slammed into the chart table, a manoeuvre that knocked the wind out of me for a few seconds and dispersed any tattered shreds of self-confidence that may have remained regarding my ability to do anything on a sailboat.
The first watch was midday to 4, which was Kevin and me, though the skipper and other crew member remained above with us. The weather started to get squally and the sea became much choppier, and the comforting explanations of why the experienced crew wouldn’t go out in that weather in a different boat wasn’t always that comforting.
Also not so comforting were the conversations about ways of people drowning and dying at sea, which made me exceedingly nervous. I carried out my watch unable to take the helm, even under Kevin’s patient and expert tutelage, and was reduced to doing nothing more productive than spotting the occasional lobster pot.
As soon as the watch was over, I fled below, curled up in a foetal position, bleating pitifully, and refused to leave the cabin for the next 12 hours or so. That resulted in the 4-person, 4-hour watch system being trashed and the boys having to do four hours on, two hours off through the night. A very wet night, as it transpired. Mea maxima culpa.
Unlike our luck from Lagos to Cascais where the wind favoured us and we sailed virtually the whole way, the wind never did go right for us this time and we ended up motoring into the wind for the entire journey to Oporto. The seas were rough and choppy, with waves and spray crashing over the deck soaking the boys, who never warmed up or dried out for some time. While I stayed dry, the motion of the rear cabin is far worse than the cockpit, so I spent most of my self-imposed exile convinced that something horrible was going to happen.
Let us draw, for the moment, a veil over my shame and hark back to happier times.
Our day in Cascais was a day of getting chores done: James mended the galley sink, which was leaking to the cost of the new, unseasoned cast iron skillet. Skipper Paul and first mate Kevin (James and I are just crew, or maybe I should say ‘were’ in my case) cleaned out the starboard lazarette, which was a twofold mission.
One was to help James cull unnecessary items that were taking up valuable space (Kevin having already done so with the port lazarette) and the other was to remove the smell of rotting seafood caused by the razor clams loving stored there by the chef who had planned them as part of Saturday night’s dinner. (You may remember the image of him filleting fish with a ceramic knife on a rocking boat.) The clams didn’t survive to be part of the meal after all, but the plastic bags that should have been binned were. Hence the smell.
Luckily some sort of coconut-smelling oil, a leaking plastic 5-litre bottle of which we had thrown out, had dribbled into the lazarette. Apparently it made a good cleaner and also helped with the smell. Regarding chores, I, of course, had been writing the blog. Always an important chore.
That took care of most of the day, during which time the weather steadily got worse. It did not, however, stop the intrepid travellers from heading into Cascais town for a drink, I mean a stroll around, starting at the Skipper bar in the marina.
I dragged everyone into a charming local wine shop, insisting that we get Portuguese for the boat, and bored everyone with my knowledge of the spirit. We left, however, without buying any, though I do have some secret stashes on board to take back to the UK. Not all of them are secret: apparently Kevin is good at ferreting out that kind of thing.
In the time-honoured tradition of international travellers of all nationalities, the skipper decided we should stop off for a quick one at the Irish bar and the dutiful crew obeyed. A couple of pints and a few minutes of singalong to ‘Whisky in the Jar’ and ‘Wild Rover’ and we wandered back to Masquerade (still raining) for the fish stew that I had not properly appreciated the first time around. Delicious.
We narrowly miss being arrested
The following day (Monday), despite the lousy weather (grey and drizzly), the intrepid travellers set off for Oporto, having been fed a cooked breakfast of bacon, eggs, tomatoes and bread.
We had a slight delay when James when to pay up and check out at the marina to discover that we were not compliant. Apparently we were supposed to have given the marina in Lagos passport details of everyone on board. We did tell them we were going to Cascais, so staying in Portugal, but when when the police in Lagos said we were non-compliant, the marina in Lagos was told to advise Cascais not to let us leave.
Luckily the marina staff were very helpful and said that, as they had copies of our passport, they would scan those and send them to Lagos for us. So our brush with the Portuguese police never materialized, though it makes for a dramatic section heading.
The weather was forecast to be a bit rough, with westerly winds (or possibly southwestern) turning to northerlies later, which meant that we should be able to sail for a little while and then motor into the wind.
A brief return to my inglorious episode: first of all, the boys were wonderful, and it was strangely comforting in the depths of my misery to hear Kevin bustling around the galley cooking the most wonderful-smelling beef stew. I figured we couldn’t really be
James kept coming below with messages of comfort and reassurance: “Kevin says he’ll cook you scrambled eggs on toast if you want,” and, “They say if you want to stay in the cabin for the duration of the journey, that’s fine.” I did at that point sent out silent prayers of thanks to my Pilates and yoga teachers for all those exercises that I figured would allow me to slam my pelvic floor tight enough that I wouldn’t have to leave the berth, far less the cabin, even for a pee, till we got to the UK.
The irony of it all was that, though everyone assumed I was seasick, at no point in my most wretched state of mind did I feel ill. In my defence, and reconstructing the chart table incident, it appears that I hit my head as well as my back and gave myself a slight case of concussion.
48 hours to Oporto
By daylight of the next day (Tuesday) I had recovered enough from the above mentioned and mitigating concussion to emerge sheepishly from below and normal watches resumed. The weather conditions didn’t improve, unfortunately, so poor Masquerade battled on through the wind and the waves of three metres or so for another 24 hours.
Other than the weather conditions, there were no dramas as far as I could tell. We hear one man overboard message on the radio, but unfortunately we were too far away to do anything. It did transpire, however, that fishing vessels seem to have a penchant for trying to get in Kevin’s way when he is at the helm. There were a couple of episodes where there were vessels not only going the opposite way to that indicated by the AIS system, but also changing course whenever Kevin tried evasive manoeuvres. Despite their best efforts, he managed to miss them all.
Incidentally, if it appears that I am acting as though there is no-one else on board, it’s only because on the watch shifts I only ever see Kevin unless the others stay on when their watch is over.
Time passes in a strange way when you are non-stop motoring at sea. Without the distraction of sails to tinker with, motoring against the wind is pretty much the same all the time, except that some waves may be bigger and the boat may lurch more on occasion.
So I can’t give a very good chronological version of events, and there isn’t much in the way of photos, but we did make it to Oporto early Wednesday morning. Dinner Tuesday was around watch changeover (the dog watch time , but I’ll have to do more of this marine terminology later). I was finally able to enjoy the beef stew that had so comforted me in its creation, and it lived up to its smell, being a great way to end the fast that I hadn’t even realized I’d undergone: I realized later that I hadn’t eaten since Monday’s breakfast in Cascais.
I may never get this posted on the website if I don’t stop now, so let’s leave it here and return to Oporto in the next post. The internet in the marina here is playing up so I may have to add photos later in a random fashion.