Masquerade’s mooring


Masquerade in her new home





Mooring up

We’ve arrived, we’ve moored up, with only a slight hitch when James steered beautifully for Q7 when we are on Q6.

Lots of rope and fender manoeuvres – I actually helped on that front! – and the boys soon clamoured for beer.

James inadvertently christened the boat and lost his beer when he was tidying up a warp.

(For those concerned about litter, he did retrieve the can.)


The proud owner celebrates

So a little rest and relaxation before we clear out the boat and get her ready to go to the boatyard.


More celebration













The onshore power all ready for her!


Back in Blighty!


Approaching Cowes

We are now gently drifting up the Solent towards Masquerade’s new home in East Cowes. The wind and weather have been on our side for the past 24 hours or so and we have made very good time. Kevin and I had the 12-4am shift but I was sent by the skipper to rouse the others for the approach to Needles Channel.

It was still dark when we started off, and there was one exciting moment, caused by a combination of the headsail blocking the helmsman’s view and a confusion in communication whereby the critical word “don’t” wasn’t heard. There was a fair amount of shouting and bad language all round and I (quietly sitting there doing my chocolate teapot impersonation and wondering “what buoy?”) got a much closer view of a buoy than I ever hope to enjoy again.

That was the only tense moment and it has been all smooth since then. The boys did get the sails in goosewing mode briefly, though I missed the moment.

Let me get this online as we are soon to arrive in the marina.

Highlights, lowlights, and general observations:

Paul says he has a photo of Kevin’s pants (not sure if they are Danger Mouse or Pac Man) hanging up to dry, so hopefully that will make an appearance in the photo gallery. Kevin said at least it proved he washed them but I maintained he could have just been airing them out.

Paul makes a mean scrambled egg on toast and a very elegant lunch wrap. He also made me the best cup of coffee I have ever had; it came after 12 hours of misery with a migraine and two particularly wet night watches.

Kevin has excelled himself with dinners: we have had fish stew, beef casserole, chicken curry, sausage cassoulet, and chicken and ham pasta (did I mention the smoked ham we bought in Oporto? It’s still going strong). I’m tempted to get a pressure cooker for home.

Still no fish caught yet; Kevin teases Paul about that and Paul thinks the most satisfying part of catching a fish, if he does, is watching Kevin clean and gut it.

When I was able to put these thoughts online, various friends, relatives, and loved ones were given the link. one crew member said, “I’m being stalked now,” so we now jokingly refer to “the stalker”. In a nice way, of course – “Spoken to the stalker lately?”

There have been a few losses and mishaps along the way. I may have mentioned the disappearing fender; we also lost the outboard engine cover. The instruments have been playing up, and now the wind speed gauge has stopped working. The water gauge suddenly read virtually empty, though we haven’t run out of water. Another water mishap was when Paul was watering up in Camariña (finally! That coil of hose we lugged out Portugal was used!) and the end fitting fell into the tank.

Much of the actual Bay of Biscay crossing was a blur; you kind of lose all sense of time, so I can’t really say much about it other than it seemed like a very long time. It is very disconcerting, always having to grab something whenever you move. Choppy waves can also make for interesting accidents and spillages: Kevin’s waterproofs provide a pictorial record of what he has cooked for us. And I think the comment, in the fish stew moment when the boat was particularly frisky, was shouted up the companionway, “Pick a tack and stick to it!”

Perhaps the funniest spillage was when (not to shirk my turn at being chef) I was handing up bowls of cereal to the boys on the basis that it would be safer for them to add the milk themselves. There was a clatter and I looked up to see James peering down with the sort of “It wasn’t me!” expression that you normally see on the face of a small child. The bowl of cornflakes had clattered down the companionway and we are still discovering corn flakes in strange places around the boat. At least, as he pointed out, it wasn’t as bad as it would have been if he’d already poured milk in it.

Dolphins on the starboard bow

We are now in English waters and I haven’t been able to write this or post anything for ages so it will be one of those stream of consciousness posts with events in no particular chronological order.

We’ve just spotted land – land ho! Salcombe, to be precise. So we are sneaking up on our destination. We were originally supposed to go straight to the boatyard where Masquerade is having some modifications both essential (holding tanks) and boys’ toys (bow thruster).

But where was I? I am not going to reread or edit so please forgive typos and repetition. ( Don’t forgive bad grammar, though, there’s no excuse for that, and spelling mistakes only if they are typos.)

The sea and winds, though in the right direction when we left Muxia, were higher than expected, so Masquerade was more wind surfing than sailing for quite a while. It was certainly a vast improvement to be running with the wind as opposed to fighting against the wind with the motor on. We were making 5-7 knots rather than 3-4.

I also discovered much later in the journey when I got twitchy about forecasts of gale force winds, that we’d been sailing in gale force winds most of the time.

Before I forget, and I don’t want to sound bitter and twisted, but Kevin and I have mostly experienced rain on our watches, where the other two have been buzzed by a Lear jet and rescued an exotic bird that flew into the cabin.

Still, we were happy with our aerial display put on by half a dozen gannets, and we had many dolphin encounters. It looks as though they are playing chicken with the boat: they swim around the bow, diving under the bow and crossing back and forth. It’s not as though they catch up with us on their way somewhere: they approach from one direction and then head off somewhere else when they have finished playing.

The phosphorescent plankton were also an amazing sight: dozens of little greenish lights in the water around the boat.

It always rains in Muxia

We are now in the Bay of Biscay and, I believe, outside the continental shelf. For the first few hours (8am-noon, Kevin and me on watch) the winds were rather stronger and the waves rather higher than the forecasts had led us to believe but apparently it is all becoming calmer. I was rather white-knuckled for most of the watch, not sure whether to look at the sky (for a while the blue bits were never in the right place), the sea slightly unsettling at times), or the instrument panel, which held a grim fascination until, at one point, when the wind speed read 56.3 knots, I managed to tear my horrified gaze away.

Paul came up at one point (he caught a fish but it escaped during a particularly high swell) and cheerily announced that the panel was reading apparent wind speed so it was really over 60 knots. Chocolate teapot moment big time. Later, Paul and James both came off watch early and all the boys were very comforting and reassuring: the wind us behind us so it’s the most comfortable point of sale, we are making very good progress, and – the voyage mantra – Masquerade is a game old bird and likes it rough.

I’m back on watch soon so thought I would try and get caught up a bit on this.

Yesterday we provisioned up – not, I think, a pleasant experience for Kevin. He had an organized meal plan and proper shopping list and the other three, like naughty children, were chucking into the basket things that hurt the chef’s heart: instant soup, Pot Noodle, that sort of thing.

Just realized I am out of signal range so may not be able to post this for a while.

After the supermarket dash, James and I found a sports shop for extra layers. It’s the right time of year for that – all the warm stuff was on sale. We did confuse the nice lady in the shop when we said we needed to be warm but rejected a lot of the cotton (bad for layering at sea, I’m told) things she proudly produced. She spoke no English and my Spanish is not up to ‘thin layers of material that is manmade and wicks well’. She also seemed a little confused when I was happy with the less attractive, men’s items than the nice ladies’ gear.

Back at Masquerade the decision was taken to wait out a spell of bad weather and leave at daybreak. We thought we might try to go to the monastery – a local attraction – if there was a long enough break in the rain. During the first spell of rain we made it as far as the marina cafe, where our western villain had been replaced by a young lad who was keen to use his English. Unfortunately he used it to tell us it was always cold and rainy in Muxia. Interestingly, he had been playing ‘I Will Survive’ when we walked in and he quickly changed over to the 70s Americana mixtape they’d had on the day before. I guess disco, albeit also 70s, was not appropriate forvour vintage.

Kevin decided to go back to the boat and do the chef food preparation duties and the other three of us dutifully soldiered on. By now the weather was such that we’d given up on the monastery; now it was a case of looking for somewhere for dinner. That required field work in a few other cafes. In one of them an older gentleman who had been in the fishing tackle shop (oh, yeah, forgot we’d gone there; never spent so much time in fishing tackle shops as on this trip) came over trying to give (sell?) us an umbrella (which I am sure had also been in the shop). Maybe he thought it was ours.

The final stop was the restaurant virtually opposite the marina. It had a huge amount of local charm: there was on old boy at the bar with a bottle of red wine. He looked for all the world like a cross between Willie Nelson and Tom from our local village. Captain Pugwash, the boys said. Later on, a gentleman of similar vintage and level of facial hair wandered in – except this one had one. of those knitted hats that look like a tea cosy. In Rastafarian colours. When we left he gave us a beautiful smile and said, “Byee byee.”
The waitress spoke no English but did confirm that there was a set menu for 9 euros and ran through the options, of which I recognized only sardines and octopus.

Could do worse, we decided, and went back to get Kevin. It turned out that, after his bout of food prep he decided to have a little siesta – only to be disturbed by the old boy trying to get him to accept the umbrella.

Dinner was an experience: the waitress was still there but behind the scenes. Our waitress was short, broad, heavily made up, bleached blonde hair in a French plait, and dressed in skin-tight black leggings and top with multi-coloured, ankle cowboy boots. She spoke even less English than our previous waitress but was happy to repeat everything several times. Kevin was afraid we might leave him as a tip. Still for nine euros, it was pretty good value.

Holding in Muxia

The weather hasn’t improved yet so the decision has been taken to wait till daybreak tomorrow. We are thinking of walking to the monastery but the wind and rain have been lashing down. Bummer. So close to the home stretch. We’ve also had a slight hitch in our domestic arrangements – when I called the cattery to extend Perdy’s stayi was told that they are closing on Friday “until further notice”. Luckily our friends the Joyners are leaping to the rescue to collect her and rehouse her till we’re back.

The Internet is still painfully slow or I would try to upload a few random photos. I have also been working on my handy tips for the sailing wife.

Oporto to Camariña

Leaving Camariña 2

Leaving Camariña

Our plans to move from Camariña to Muxia were somewhat delayed by our marina men (Tweedledum and Tweedledee as Paul calls them) not turning up as promised to help us fuel up. We’d had a power cut earlier so the electrician needed to be called out. Tweedledum said “quatro”, which Paul optimistically thought was four hours, but I thought it might be 4 o’clock and it was nearer 4:30.

Still, we set off, we are in Muxia, and the plan is, weather permitting, to set off for the Bay of Biscay crossing around lunchtime. Four or five days at sea. My lips will never be the same again – I could grate cheese on them.

The monastery at Camariña

The monastery at Camariña

But for now let me backtrack and fill in boat stuff. It is no easier to keep track of what I have blogged than the actual blogging so please forgive me for repetition. Our trip from Oporto to Camariña followed the unfortunate pattern that has plagued us thus far: either strong head winds that slowed us down or winds behind us that were too weak to make any difference or allow for sailing.

There was one moment when the two members of the crew who were on watch decided that the wind was right for sailing. This was after Kevin and I had watched the lights gradually disappear from sight and we motored on in complete, disorienting blackness. When the sailing attempt was made the wind changed direction suddenly, something jammed the helm so it couldn’t be steered and Masquerade wallowed about for several minutes.

We arrive in Muxia

We arrive in Muxia

That is the drawback of the lovely, roomy rear owners’ cabin with the double berth: any noise above, such as winching, pulling sails, or indeed wallowing about, sounds as though poor Masquerade is trying to shake herself apart. So once again I did the foetal position and bleating routine, until I was reassured by the sound of the other crew member not on watch enquiring of those above if it was not possible to pick one course and steer it.

I think the decision was then taken to continue with the motoring.

Moored up in Muxia

Moored up in Muxia

We arrived in Camariña mid afternoon with relatively little excitement, and were moored up by T and T, which the boys said was something more of a curse than a blessing, but they meant well. Three of us headed off to the Club Nautico cafe bar (Kevin not being hungry and having a day of alcohol deprivation in preparation for his spell as skipper across the Bay of Biscay) for beer (coffee and brandy in my case), where we were also given a little racion of paella. The Spanish seem even more prone to handing out little nibbles of food with drink, which I like.

Checking in a the Muxia Marina office

Muxia Marina office

A tour of the town found us one of this shops withe everything, so we got some slightly deeper plastic bowls for eating out of, and I made a mental note that he sold fairly cheap and nasty, but presumably effective clothes that would serve as mid layers for the crossing. I’ve been just on the edge of being too cold on some of the night watches, so I thought more layers would be a good idea. We found lots of supermarkets (we needed milk) and various other stores.

Being somewhat jaded and tired we decided to leave provisioning and clothes shopping for the next day and went back to the boat to regroup. Kevin not being hungry the other three set off again in search of food. Everywhere seemed strangely empty for a Saturday night (yes, we hadn’t thought of that when we decided to leave shopping for the next day) and the one restaurant that the two boys thought looked good was closed for a private party. The nice man did recommend another place, where we had an exceedingly pleasant meal and were the only people in there until shortly before we left.

It turns out that the day was some kind of town holiday, seemingly connected with one of the local churches so most people go to a special dinner at that one restaurant.

Dovecote in Camariña

Dovecote in Camariña

The next day, it being Sunday, nothing was open so we were confined to wandering around the town. There are a lot of dogs in Camariña and an equally large amount of dog poo everywhere, though we managed to dodge it. We also noticed a huge amount of dove cotes, one of which had a very optimistic-looking cat sitting under it. I may not be able to upload photos for all this, as currently I have no internet connection, so you’ll have to take my word for it. In fact, you may not be reading this if I can’t even upload the text.

At least the bakeries were open so we could get something for lunch, and we then made the decision to move to Muxia. Which we did.

Camariña to Muxia

A beer moment in Muxia marina

A beer moment in Muxia marina

The marina here is a little more modern than the one at Camariña, with a very helpful man who assisted in the mooring up and also told us later that our springs were too slack. Kevin thinks that they were tied tightly enough at the time and that storage in the coconut oil lazarette changed their structure.

We had a beer break at the marina cafe, where our racion was some sort of pork rib and chorizo. The bartender was delightful in personality and in appearance like the villain in a spaghetti western. When there was one little chunk of pork rib left, he enquired (menacingly, one could argue, given aforementioned villain appearance), “You no like?” Indeed, we assured him, we liked, with the result that we were given more. “Local,” he said.

There was a little confusion at one point when James asked where was good to have dinner and he said, “Here,” and proceeded to tell us how well he would cook fish and meat for us. We did manage to leave without any unpleasantness and found a very nice restaurant with a charming waitress for dinner, where we had cook your own steak.

Between Camariña and Muxia

Between Camariña and Muxia

It was somewhat interesting in the night: the wind dropped off and then picked up periodically, and my body clock seems to have decided that it should allow for sleep only within 4-hour windows so I woke up at fairly regular intervals to a fair amount of creaking noise.

There is a book by Ngaio Marsh called Singing in the Shrouds and that came to mind when there was a constant, eerie whistling noise throughout the night. I presume it was wind through the shrouds, ropes, whatever the technical term. Now I can imagine what the siren song of mythology must have sounded like.

We have had breakfast, as cooked by chef Kevin, provisioned up at the supermarket, James and I have bought some more layers of clothing and it is currently blowing up a storm complete with hail.

Hopefully it will blow through and we will be able to leave on the Bay of Biscay stretch of the journey.  Gulp.