Three crew members and a chocolate teapot

Leaving Cascais

Leaving Cascais

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.

Cleaning the lazarettes

Cleaning out the lazarettes

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.

Rough seasThe 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.

Oporto approach

The approach to Oporto at sunrise

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.

 

People do this for fun?

Group breakfast Lagos

Breakfast in Lagos before we left

We’re in Cascais now, having made it in just under 24 hours. My first 24-hour passage. Once we were in the marina, albeit just in the reception pontoon, I was thinking that I perhaps I could manage the Bay of Biscay after all, even if it is three of those.

Group preparing for the off

Preparing for the off

“What did you think of your first 24-hour passage?” Paul enquired, and while I was trying to formulate a not-too-negative answer, he said, “Just think, two more of those and one that is about four of them.”

James had neglected to mention the plethora of 24-hour passages before.

On the way out of Lagos5

Leaving Lagos

It was certainly an interesting experience, best perhaps outlined as bullet points rather than stumbling prose.

Lowlights first:

  • The weird lights that didn’t get any closer and that turned out to be a boat that overtook Masquerade dangerously closely. (The overtaking was on Paul and James’s watch.)
  • Being cold and wet.
  • Feeling slightly sick a lot of the time.
  • Not being able to eat more than a couple of mouthfuls of the amazing fish stew Kevin made for dinner.
  • Feeling tired a lot of the time.
  • Taking 10 minutes to have a pee, while being hurled around the heads,fighting with a life jacket, wet weather jacket, and the zippy drop seat ladies’ wet weather salopettes, with hands that don’t work properly because they’re too cold.
  • Struggling out of the berth half asleep, having wedged myself in so I didn’t get thrown around while trying to get some sleep, and trying to get dressed with various layers of outer and safety wear (see peeing process above), also while being hurled around the cabin, getting too hot and then going too cold upstairs.
  • Being totally disoriented in the dark with swells that blocked out the horizon and no way of knowing what lights were, how far away they were .

Highlights…

Well, here we are in Marina de Cascais.

Cascais mooring

Mooring in Cascais

Seriously, there were a few highlights:

  • Being able to say now that I’ve done a 24-hour sailing trip. Even if I didn’t realize how many more overnight, non-stop voyages there were to be on this adventure.
  • Seeing Kevin filleting fish with a brand new, lethally sharp ceramic knife while being hurled around the galley. (No chefs were harmed in the making of this stew. Much)
  • Cascais breakfast

    Breakfast in Cascais

    Gazing at a night sky that was filled with more stars than you generally ever see from land.

  • Being escorted for a few miles by a pod of about six dolphin who came alongside and played around the boat virtually within touching distance.
  • Having breakfast on the boat once we moored up on pontoon F21. Bacon, eggs, tomatoes, bread with guava jam and rosemary honey from the market, fresh oranges and coffee with Portuguese brandy.

Welcome to the world of boating

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Farewell Lagos

That’s what everyone kept saying yesterday as potential problems reared their little heads. But more of that later; we are now underway.

The weather forecast looks bad for Sunday afternoon for a couple of days so we set off from Lagos this morning with the hope of getting to Cascais tomorrow and settling in to wait out the weather. It is a voyage of about 120 nautical miles so I have been plunged right into the world of sailing with a non-stop 24-hour journey on four-hour watches.

I’m off watch at the moment: Paul and James are doing 12 to 4 and then Kevin and I take over. Unfortunately we are still motoring as there is little wind. So there we are for now.

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The marina bridge opening up for us

Yesterday was supposed to have been simple: go out for a short sail so the other two could see how she handles and John could make sure that all the equipment he has fitted works A little lunch at that amazing fish restaurant, stock up with provisions and then we would have a nice meal out in the evening with John and Ana Paula before starting our adventure.

We did have a great breakfast at the Oasis cafe, so the morning started well. Then all the ‘welcome to the world of boating’ started.

First, the lee cloths hadn’t all been fitted, so we had to wait for Antonio to come back and finish that off. (He did. And brought a nice bag for the dinghy so we could store it rather than leaving it on deck. But the pelican clips he had ordered for us never turned up.)

Then it turned out that there was what looked like a diesel leak somewhere in the engine. So we had to wait for Ralf to come out and check it. He did and it appeared that it was nothing major so that worked out fine.

DSC_6442Eventually, after foregoing lunch (I gave John a chocolate bar as he usually packs his lunch when he is working in the marina but hadn’t today because of proposed lunch in fish restaurant, and I felt guilty) and not getting any provisions, we made it out for a quick sail, which mostly went well. At one point when we were somewhat heeled over, the latch in one of the galley cupboards went. Probably due to the weight of all the plates slamming against it. Broken dishes everywhere.

“That,” said Kevin, “is why you don’t have proper crockery and glassware on a boat.” To be fair, we inherited it, and had been dithering about getting rid of it. Masquerade’s previous owners hadn’t sailed her much if at all in the past 10 years and used her more as a holiday home so there is a lot of non-sailing type stuff, and a lot of things that we had to find room to stow.

Back to the marina, where we had to wait for the last of Antonio’s visits, and then it was a mad dash to get to the supermarket: Kevin, Paul and I went on foot while James and John went to the chandlery for some last minute bits and then met us there.

Then a mad dash back to the boat where we turfed Kevin, Paul and the groceries out of the car and left them to it while James and I fled to return the hired car before 6. We just made it. Then we got back to the boat just after the other two had managed to find room for all the provisions and it was off to the Amazer cafe for a well-earned beer. Or two.

IMG_2960I thought it was time I had some sangria, but when the bartender asked Paul if it was small, medium or large, he assumed it was a glass so I had a huge pitcher of rose sangria. Very nice it was too, and the boys did help me finish it.

We regrouped in time to head off with Ana Paula and John for an excellent meal in a very good fish restaurant in Lagos – 2 Irmaos – and then back to Masquerade for port and dessert.

And then to bed.

Kevin and I were in charge of finalizing the provisioning up and we went to the farmer’s market across the bridge from the marina where we spent relatively little on a wonderful variety of food items, from salad and vegetables to the wonderful Algarve oranges and dried figs, olives, nuts and local honey.

Now I’m up to date for today. It’s 2:30 so I have another hour or so to catch up on some sleep before my first watch.

Last tweaks and we’re nearly ready to go

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The intrepid crew members

The other two crew members arrived last night and before I say anything else, it turns out that Kevin’s sister lives in Huntington, Long Island, which is where my mother and her nine siblings were born and raised and many of my cousins were born and raised. One of my cousins still lives there and I’m hoping his sister is reading this. What a small world, eh?

Thanks to the French air traffic control, the flight last night was delayed by an hour, but Paul and Kevin arrived safely and we were able to get back to the boat, unload their stuff, and get to a restaurant across from the marina by 11 o’clock for dinner. The Adega do Marina, incidentally, which was very good.

IMG_2938So today we have to go over the boat, start planning our passage, provision up and hopefully we’ll be good to go. Kevin and Paul are both exceptionally experienced sailors, so that is a great comfort to the spouse and me. I have done my snivelling about being an inexperienced and unconfident sailor and they have been very kind and reassuring.

Maybe at this point I should say that many of our friends and relatives have been very positive about our awfully big adventure, but other reactions have ranged from ‘why do you want to take the boat from Portugal back to the UK?’ and [sharp intake of breath] ‘Bay of Biscay, hope it’s not too horrible for you’ to just weird looks. I was getting stressed enough that John rang Keith, who took the boat out for her sea trial when we first saw her, to come and reassure me. Which he did very well. So between him and the other two I feel slightly better.

But back to Wednesday, which is where I left off: that was the first night we have slept on the boat and the excitement and tension finally got to me – I woke in the early hours with a horrendous migraine, resulting in me keeping the spouse awake as I moaned pitifully and demanded medication.

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Beautiful example of a tiled building in Lagos

There are no holding tanks on the boat (yet) so when it finally reached that terrible stage of a migraine where it hits your stomach I had to leave Masquerade at 1am (still moaning pitifully) to head for the marina facilities. Amazing how noisy wooden pontoons are at that time of day when you are trying to tiptoe. I’ll draw a line under my suffering but by breakfast time I was fully recovered.

It’s a testament to Masquerade’s comfort that, in between the piteous moaning and sneaking out to the marina in the small hours, I slept really well.

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Algarve oranges are about the best ever

Thursday was a day of final tweakings – lee cloths being installed, testing the radar, buying more seasickness tablets just in case, and dashing off to the supermarket because they had pressure cookers on special offer. Kevin is a chef and has offered to do the cooking on the voyage; he had suggested that a pressure cooker was a good idea for ship cooking. I had assumed that on-board catering meant eating stuff out of cans.

Yesterday we had lunch at an amazing restaurant just behind the marina; just grilled fish (choose your own) with salad and boiled potatoes. And I had the chance to wander into town a little bit.

It’s now Friday, so I’m pretty much up to date. We may, depending on the last tweaks, have a little test sail today.

We arrive in Portugal, and luckily so does essential equipment

imageLast night (back to dinner) was a very pleasant evening: drinks in the bar, a lovely meal – the chef there obviously knows his or her stuff. We both avoided duck, having admired the white ducks in the hotel grounds, just in case they were hotel pets.image

The morning went relatively smoothly apart from nearly missing the hotel transfer bus (we had booked it but the other passengers obviously boarded early and were agitating to leave before the designated time). Meanwhile I was struggling from the room with my share of the recalcitrant baggage, the spouse having (luckily) gone on ahead to secure the bus.

Check-in went smoothly and security was packed but we managed to choose all the right lanes and were through in plenty of time for breakfast (full Engulish for him, Eggs Benedict for me) and boarding when again we managed to be near the front so were on practically first (after all the speedy boarders).

The flight proved uneventful, which is sometimes the best you can ask for these days, with a slight delay due to strong head winds. Our bags – all four heavily laden of them – were among the first out, and we were good to go. Oh, wait, we had to go to Europcar for the rental car James had booked. Nearly an hour later and we were on our way from Faro airport to Lagos marina.

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Good thing we had an estate car – it took all the bags. John and Ana Paula were at the marina when we arrived. John, who was the broker when James bought  has been doing a lot of work on the baot and co-ordinating a lot of the other work. No of course nothing major, just tidying up stuff.

Ana Paula, John’s wife, has been a godsend with helping to unravel Portuguese red tape and rushed off to the post office with us to get a series drogue. That’s a vital piece of equipment for when things go horribly wrong, so I am hoping we never have to deploy it.

imageThere is such a long story behind that and the red tape that my one glass of vinho verde is not enough. Suffice it to say it has taken ages, including the two weeks when the marina office didn’t tell imageJames he had the letter from customs telling him it had arrived.

The other drama has been the radar and again one glass of wine isn’t enough but the important bit arrived today. Again, with help from John and Ana Paula after James had a hissy fit online with everyone because they tried to deliver it to the wrong address. That has involved Ralf up the mast in one of the two bosun’s chairs (another long story), and pliers and cable ties also featured heavily.

imageAt that point I became a dedicated landlubber, having started the tedious process of unpacking and trying to find places for everything, and headed into town for a little mooch. And I am now sitting in the sun writing this and realizing that it is going to be difficult to continue this level of blogging once the adventure is underway. But I’ll do what I can. If I have time, given all the unpacking and washing up.

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Packed and ready to go

Packed

Ready to go!

There’s quite a lot of luggage when you’re packing for a boat as well as two people, but we managed it.

We probably have far more clothes than we need but (a) I figure you can never have too many layers and (b) they help pad out sharp corners on essentials like sets of hex keys.

Dress rehearsal

Ready for wet weather

A(nother) dress rehearsal of the wet weather gear went well; I can get my salopettes, jacket and boots on in the right order and (mostly) without assistance.

So it seems we’re pretty much good to go, and hopefully everything will be hunky dory at the marina.

Two days should be enough to get everything ready at that end, and I am looking forward to a well-deserved (I think) Portuguese gin tomorrow night. Late afternoon. Maybe lunchtime.

Speaking of gin, I heard today that it is becoming even more popular in this country and the number of gin distilleries has doubled in the last few (10 I think they said) years. I wasn’t much of a gin drinker till I tried Nao when we were first in Lagos and I am now a convert.

 

By way of background

It all started over breakfast coffee one day when the darling spouse said, “I think we should buy a boat.”

In time-honoured tradition, I said absently, “That’s nice, dear,” while looking in horror at all the online polls showing how well Trump was doing in the race for Republican candidate.

When we had first gone sailing with friends in the Med many years ago, the spouse was so taken with the experience that he determined to buy a yacht and moor it in the Med so we could live on it a few months of the year. Provided he could get internet access constantly so he could work on the boat. Not wanting to sound dismissive, I had always viewed it along the lines of my occasional comment of, “When I win the lottery.”

“There’s one in Portugal I want to go look at,” he persisted. “Want to come out with me and look at it?”

That got my attention very quickly. It seems that over the years, rather than losing the desire to own a yacht, the criteria had been crystallizing in spouse’s mind. It had to be a Moody 40 with the big rear cabin, with in-mast furling, and it had to have a blue hull. All of which boxes Masquerade ticks.

And here we are: from seeing the details of Masquerade online to buying her, getting all the work done, and preparing to sail her back to the UK has been a process of less than six months. I guess when all the pieces fall into place it all moves along quickly.

Incidentally, though that first sailing trip was nearly 11 years ago, we are what ‘proper’ sailing people scornfully refer to as part-timers: our experience has been limited to a week or two a year in non-tidal waters. The spouse is rather more experienced that I am, as on those trips I tended to be more bartender and scribe than useful crew member.

So it may be a doddle for many of you out there to sail from Portugal to the UK, but for us it is an awfully big adventure.