Portugal - Part 1

After Baiona we left Spain and headed off to Portugal. The Portuguese courtesy flag was hoisted and we weaved our way between the endless lobster pots randomly deposited to keep us alert.  The fishermen who put bright orange flags on top of their pots were obviously the helpful, considerate type. The idiots who mark their pots with blue or black flags are just that, idiots.

We carried on to Porto and were welcomed at a brand new 5 star marina by a very helpful guy called Nono who helped us fuel up and then to berth in the marina. While chatting to Nono to help him practice his English we spotted Kika coming in to the marina and I got a ride on his super speedy boat to go and greet them. Great fun as we did some spins and wave hopping!  The marina delivered fresh bread to the boats in morning and this along with the other facilities made our stay very pleasant.

On their morning walk the boys had a good sniff in a newly planted shrub area and reverted to being jungle cats for a while. They had a great time and when we got back to the boat they looked exhausted and very contented.

Clive and I got a rickety ferry across the river and then a tram ride into the old town, it’s stunning architecture provided by the old buildings and steep narrow streets. We then joined an open bus tour of the town, eventually getting off to do some shopping in a huge department store that had everything!  I seem to be going through a transformation of some kind as I was surrounded by designer labels and some really serious fashion but I now can’t see the point in splashing out as I won’t have the opportunity to wear anything other than shorts for the next 5 years and by then whatever I buy will probably be out of fashion. I never thought I’d turn my nose up at least looking at what’s on offer but so far I’ve only had a half hearted look at some bags but the enthusiasm just isn’t there any more.

There were plenty of tours advertised for the port factories/distilleries but we didn’t have time to go to any of them. Maybe a return visit is required. I've included a favourite photo of mine of two old ladies walking home after a trip into town. I loved watching them weaving up the old streets, stopping to catch their breath and then walking out infront of traffic.  Not a care in the world. I took loads of pictures of them and managed to get Clive in a few so that I didn't look too stalkerish. I think I got away with it. This could be me in a few years.

After leaving Porto we started to sail to our next stop when the auto helm stopped working so we had to hand steer for 10 hours getting into Figueira da Foz in very windy weather which made it difficult to moor. James helped Clive to temporarily fix the auto pilot and then we ate on deck and watched another Homeland episode before bed.

Up at 7am the next day to head for Nazare where for the first time we were asked if we had any pets onboard. The customs guy looked quite taken aback when  told about the cats but didn’t ask for any paperwork. Which is a pity as I want to show off their pet passports whenever I can. The facilities in Nazare  were on the bleak side to say the least. It’s a small fishing marina and the showers were like something out of Bate’s Motel. Mosaic flooring and a worrying shower curtain, not to mention the cold water.

Nazare town itself is a bit like Rhyl.  A long promenade with gift shops selling all sorts of pointless goodies. We got the Funicular up the hill and did a bit of sight seeing before heading to the old town for tea.

We’e now in Caiscais and a splendid marina that has got several regattas going on today so it’s bedlam. We’re surrounded by teams of enthusiastic youngsters winching themselves up and down the masts. I’m not sure if it’s a test or they’re just eager for some sort of adrenalin rush. There are plenty of shops, bars and restaurants here so the best thing for us to do is go to the bar until the excitement settles down. We’ve got the air conditioning on so all is well downstairs and an added bonus is that the marina gave us complimentary bottles of local wine.

 

 

Goodbye Spain

 

When we left A Caruna our next stop was a very small marina called Camerinos. No English spoken so we communicated in French! A very small port but instantly loved.

Next stop was Portosin where we refuelled and tried to eat in the marina restaurant. There was some sort of committee meeting going on (wheel tappers and shunters) and they didn’t open for food until 9pm so we ate onboard with the boys and started to watch the series ‘Homeland’ recommended by Carina. No shops for days so I was desperate to get back to civilisation.

Final stop in Spain was Baiona which (praise the lord) had shops. I bought a perfect black bag to replace my tired Kipling rucsac and can now happily fit my camera, mini ipad, phone etc in it with ease. And a bargain at €22. We’ve also started to only buy bottles of wine under €2 in the supermarkets and so far we haven’t been disappointed.

Bit of a faux pas at elevenses on the first morning. We stopped for a coffee and ordered some croquettes. They were so cheap we got the quantity wrong and ended up with 17 of them! Eating out is ridiculously cheap here so I’m saving my M&S tinned meals for leaner times.

I have a confession to make.  I hurt my little toe and had to buy some comfortable shoes to wear as my flip flops were too tricky when sailing. And......... I bought some crocs. I know, the shame! I’ve always had a loathing for crocs but I have to admit (begrudgingly) that once I’d got over the look of them they are actually really comfortable. They may even become my favourite shoes. Ok, maybe I’ll wait until my toe is better before making such rash statements.

We had live entertainment on Saturday afternoon as there was a car parked on the marina slipway and the tide came in and creeping up the car. A huge crowd gathered to watch and eventually a tow truck turned up and after a lot of wheel spinning managed to drag the car to dry land. Round of applause for the driver.

On Sunday the Spanish equivalent of the tour de France went through town. Clive and I dutifully joined the crowds to cheer them on. Half the Spanish police force bikes went passed to start with and I can only imagine that criminals would’ve had a field day in their absence. The number of support vehicles was ridiculous and one of the medics was driving a sports car!

Peri managed to get tangled up in the fly trap paper that was in the kitchen. What a mess, poor boy. I've ditched that idea as a way of trapping flies and will revert to the fly swat. It's actually very rewarding.

 

 

Biscay blues

We left Kinsale on Sunday 11/8 and it was a bit wobbly to start off with. The tea and ginger biscuits in the morning managed to stay down but I made cheese/tomato on soda bread for lunch and things went downhill from there. Not because of my sandwich making, but the sea was wobbly and everyone felt it. I went downstairs to settle the cats and that wasn’t a good move as when I went back on deck I ended up feeding the fish. Sorry to be so graphic but sailing is a brutal game.

 

On my first night watch (12-4am) I had to wake Clive up as Phil and I couldn’t work out a set of white lights, what they were, what distance they were from us or what direction they were travelling. It turned out to be a trawler but even Clive had trouble working it out as it didn’t have any navigation lights on.

On my second night watch (12-4am) I had to wake Clive again as Ray saw a set of lights doing strange things and being unpredictable. It was a bit scary when we speeded up and then they speeded up as well, heading in our direction. It was probably coincidental but was a worry at the time.

On my next night watch with Ray we were surrounded by 7 boats at one point, and we were boxed in.. I was becoming the curse of the watch!!!

 

The pleasant side of Biscay included the phosphorescence in the sea at night, the starry night skies, the dolphins and the Minky and Fin whales, (my pictures of them are just sea). All of these have been amazing in themselves.

Also, we passed Kika late one afternoon mid Biscay when it was flat calm and they were playing saxophone and singing ‘I want to go home‘ to us.  Bless!

The down side? The sea was rough, choppy and rolly.

The motor cutting out just as land was in sight was a bit of a disappointment as the showers were beckoning, but we anchored in a lovely spot and opened a bottle of champagne as it was Phil’s birthday.

 

 

How are the cats?

Day one they were not happy chappies to start with and didn’t eat or drink or leave their beds. By Monday things were looking a bit better and they managing to walk a bit. Peri started eating but Thornton still wasn’t interested.  Peri even came on deck and sat on my lap for a bit as we headed into a calm Biscay. (He’s definately the adventurous one)

When they finally found their sea legs they were walking about with very wide steps, John Wayne style.

 

This is supposedly the worst sailing we will encounter in our trip around the world and it’s been a good shake down for us. We’re now in the marina and have booked in here for a week. We’ve already been up to the old town for lunch and have booked a nice restaurant tonight to thank the crew. We’ve taken the cats to the marina bar  and they’ve had a good sniff around and impressed the other yachties with their dog-like walking skills.

 

 

I feel very spoilt as this in itself would be a great holiday and very memorable but this isn’t a holiday, this is now our life!

 

A Coruna

 

Our first night in port and some serious celebrating was required. Clive took the crew out for a slap up meal in the main square where there was a festival and live entertainment.

We had Moet, plenty of wine and then I made the unwise decision to have a rum and coke. The waiter brought what I can only describe as a fish bowl half full of ice and then poured rum in to cover the ice.  I had two of those and then lamented that I didn’t have an Irish coffee when we were in Ireland so why not have an Irish coffee in Spain. I vaguely remember attacking it using a straw to try and suck the coffee out without disturbing the cream layer. The shame!  That’s how to celebrate crossing Biscay!

 

Phil and Ray arranged their flights back home so Clive and I were once more on our own. They were an absolute godsend on the trip over and made the night watches bearable. It was good to see Phil again and catch up with family news and Ray was such a good find, we were lucky to have his knowledge and experience for the crossing. They’ll both be missed.

 

My only experience of Spain to date was about 20 years ago when we were holidaying in the South of France and drove over the border one day to go to a beach and have paella. I couldn’t wait to get back to France but how wrong I was to judge the whole country by that one experience.

A Coruna is a lovely town, plenty of bars and restaurants so we’ve eaten out most of the time. The people are charming and their way of life is so different to ours. They work 10 - 2pm and then have a siesta and go back to work 5 - 9pm . Slightly confusing for us when we went shopping the first time and everywhere was closed but we’ve adjusted our clocks to their pace.  They’re very family oriented and at 9pm they all come out in their finery and parade around. The old dears look like they’re off to church and they stop and chat to each other in the square. Hence no feral youth!  We’ve also mastered the art of weaving in and out of traffic on our bikes. There’s no angry driving over here and I don’t think I’ve even heard a horn being blasted. They even accept bikes on the pavements.

 

The cats are totally chilled and enjoy their walks. This morning we went up to the marina cafe for croissant and coffee and there were some minute birds hopping around the tables to tempt the boys. Thornton went into shaking ‘I want to eat you’ mode and Peri just sat there mesmerised as the birds are so much smaller than the ones back in Wales. These  would be perfect bite size for them. If only......

Kinsale

We arrived in Kinsale last Sunday and have spent nearly a week here. We saw a few dolphins on the way in and that was a nice touch of wildlife. Originally our plan was to leave Kinsale for Portugal/Spain on Wednesday but as we’re dependent on the weather (and in no rush to do anything) we spent the best part of a week here and our departure date has gone from Friday to Saturday but we may still be here on Sunday. That’s life now.

We’ve been in to Cork a few times on the bus. The shops there are good and I did a few circuits of the Prada section in one of the posh shops. Not tempted enough though as I can’t see the point with all that as we’ll be at sea and Clive keeps reminding me how much I’ve got in storage. Good point, but still hard not to go crazy and spend, spend, spend for the sake of it.  We went back to Cork on Monday to meet Phil who’s joining us for the Biscay crossing and to buy a new flat screen TV as the rough ‘unprepared for’ journey over meant that we managed to get water on the TV and the screen ended up with lines across it. We got a taxi from Cork bus station to a retail park and the driver offered to stay while we went in to get the TV. We left our shopping and all of Phil’s luggage in the boot and ran in before thinking that maybe this wasn’t such a wise thing to do. Anyway, 10 minutes later we emerged with the TV of choice and to our relief the taxi was still there.On our next trip to Cork we bought a fishing net that is just perfect to scoop up a cat in the unfortunate case of one going overboard.

We have a healthy rivalry with the crew on Kika and after they invited us over to their boat for dinner one night and served champagne and salmon appetisers before the meal we decided to go one better.

We hosted a film night for them on Sephina and watched The Guard. (I don’t know how many times I’ve seen that film but I just love it and the humour is wicked, everyone loved it.)  We had champagne and nibbles on deck before retiring below deck for a 3 course meal. Clive cooked up smoked haddock mousse with scallops, I did chilli con carnie (friends that know me will know that this is all I can cook from scratch) and Phil did a swiss roll with fresh strawberries and cream. We managed to really get one upmanship over them as we have a printer on board and printed a menu for them, translated into Spanish.  We also had fresh flowers on the table and proper napkins!! This was the unveiling of our super duper table and I think we did it justice. Thanks to Paul and Barry for doing us proud with that.

How are the cats?

Last week Clive put a cat-flap in the door between our bedroom and the kitchen/galley so the cats can come and go during the night and they’ve taken to it straight away. It just means that we can have our door shut at night without trapping them in or out of our room and as they’ve taken to playing in the lounge/saloon during the early hours we thought with the door shut we wouldn’t get disturbed. Unfortunately Phil sleeps in the lounge/saloon so this  could be a true test of friendship. Will the cats survive or be thrown overboard by a sleepless Phil?  So far he’s been very patient and even seems to have warmed to Peri, who is an attention seeker and has found a sucker with Phil.

Everyone is so friendly over here in Ireland and the pubs are a great social experience. We’ve had a couple of nights out went out in pubs where an Irish band was playing and Vince joined in on the flute and Jon with his violin. I even had a bit of an irish jig with the locals and as I haven’t seen any photos I’m hoping that bit wasn’t recorded.

It’s not all been play though and on Wednesday I serviced one of the mast winches. I did the deck winches last year (with youngest daughter) but this was slightly different so I got Colin (from Kika) to show me how to take it apart. It works a dream now. My nails are no longer attractive but at least the winch works and we may be glad of that when we’re in the middle of nowhere.

I’ve had a few texts/phone calls from friends at home in response to me warning them that my phone may be disconnected in the next week, having contact with them made me feel a tad home sick.  That on top of not spending any money in the Prada shop is almost too much for such a shallow person as myself to bear.

Since I started typing this blog I’ve been told that departure may be Sunday night now. Do I care? Just got back to the marina and there was a Garda car outside the entrance. Much to our dismay there was a crowd scene on the pontoon by our boat. It got worse. There was a body on the pontoon that had just been found in the water by some kids. (Clive took the opportunity to speak to the Garda and explain that we have CCTV on our boat so no doubt we’ll be getting a visit from the boys in blue tomorrow.)

Mmmmm!! Life is unpredictable