Blogging on a boat ain’t easy

Captain’s log: star date 2016.4.9.

Between that and the fact that Kevin let me say, ‘Klingons on the starboard once when I was on lobster pot lookout, I have momentarily quelled my childish Trekkie-wannabe urges.

Poor Masquerade is being put through her paces after a few years of relative inactivity. We have been asking quite a lot of her, particularly a lot of motoring against strong winds. It was like that pretty much all the way from Cascais to Oporto and now again as we head from Oporto to Camarinhas to wait out some more bad weather. Although, once again we seem to end up going through pretty crappy stuff to get somewhere.

We had a great time in Oporto, but this is supposed to be more of a nautical record than a travel diary, so I’ll try and focus on boaty stuff for now and backfill later with touristy details. Besides, I don’t want to go on about port tasting and fado music and make it sound too much like the only fun part of sailing is the not sailing part.

So, some boaty things I may have neglected to mention: we managed to lose a fender somewhere between leaving Cascais and bringing the fenders in. On the dolphin, starry night evening watch, iI also saw phosphorescent plankton – dozens of little, greenish-white lights in the water alongside the boat.

We reached Oporto around 8am on Wednesday (I think, forgive me if I’m wrong as I have lost all track of time. A few days ago, anyway) and moored up on what we thought was the visitors’ pontoon. That having gone well, apart from a stern warp coming loose at a critical moment, we settled down for a breakfast beer. (Super Bock mini, a bare soup├žon per bottle.) Just as we’d finished them (I don’t want to tell tales but I was the only crew member who had one rather than two), a nice young man from the marina office came along to tell us there was a better pontoon, closer to the facilities. So we upped sticks and moved.

That was the point at which the boys discovered the engine wasn’t turning off; I won’t bore you with the full details but it went something like this over our time in Oporto. Phone call to Ralf, who had serviced the engine back in Lagos, or possibly to John. It was probably a wiring thing or a solenoid thing. The boys twiddled a wire, which provided a short-term fix and (I think) indicated that it was most likely the solenoid. A visit to the boat repair place on our way into town, which involved James shouting over the fence to someone working on a boat. The someone didn’t have a solenoid but could send someone round to the boat at 9am tomorrow. An engineer with less English than our Portuguese turning up the next day, poking around for a while and then saying the solenoid needed to be replaced. James being grumpy at the 30 euro cost and even grumpier with himself for not returning to the marina in time to get it ordered the day before (see comment above re port wine tasting). Deciding the short-term fix would have to do going forward till we could get a replacement. James twiddling wires when we stopped for fuel on our way out, fixing the problem and then being even grumpier about the 30 euros.

Kevin has continued to feed us in a grand fashion. Have I mentioned beef stew? We have also had cooked breakfasts and pasta with smoked ham – said ham being part of the future touristy backfill – and broad beans, not only podded at sea, but double-podded. (I helped.)

But back to my opening line, ok, title, be picky. This blog thing is not easy when you’re at sea. Although I have written things when I’ve been all at sea, which is different. I’ve had to snatch windows of opportunity as and when I can, on various devices in dark conference halls, around seminar tables, and on various forms of transport, but with the 4-hour watch system I’m either on watch, sleeping, or being hurled around the cabin too much to hold a device, far less type anything.

Last night, for instance. Kevin and I had just finished our midnight to 4am watch and I thought I would just write a little so my few faithful readers didn’t get bored and give up on me. Let me just add that the weather had gone from strong head winds to not such strong ones, to some reasonable weather to a not very nice evening, and we had watched all the lights on the coast disappear gradually until the visibility was so poor we could no longer see the lighthouse lights, and it was raining. The boys upstairs decided the wind was finally in the right place and raised the sails. Just about the time a squall hit and shifted the wind direction completely. It can’t have been fun for them up there with no visibility and rain and I think there may have been the occasional slight sense of humour failure, but it certainly made it impossible to write anything.

Once again, if I don’t get this up there may not be another chance for a while so more anon.

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