Almost here a month, and I suddenly realise that I have let the blog go, a bit. Sorry about that, it isn't that there hasn't been time, it's just that other things have filled the time. Things like exploring the town on foot, and the peninsula on the little road train for tourists that takes people out to Ponte da Piedade, the headland south of the port entrance. We went there the other day, got off at the point, and walked back, partly on the cliff tops, partly along the road. At the point there is a lighthouse, built last century on the site of an ancient church, destroyed by an earthquake in 1755. Although there is no church there now, the road to the point is still set out with the stations of the cross, so we knew we were on the right road coming back into the town. The view from the cliffs is breathtaking, down to the countless small boats taking tourists to see the grottos which nestle under the cliffs, across the wide bay to the small town of Alvor and Portimao in the distance. In the other direction, Praia da Luz, and way in the distance, Cabo de San Vicente.
The walk was difficult for Ju, as she is having major problems with sciatica in her right leg. This started in earnest just after we got here, and got progressively worse until it was painful for her even to get out of bed in the morning. We cast around for what to do about it, and tried an alternative therapist, who did some good in one session, and suggested chiropractic for follow-up. This past week we have found one fairly near the marina, and Ju has started on a course of treatment. But it will be long job, I think.
It has clipped our wings a bit, because we wanted to be a bit more free-range than we have been able to be. Ah well, the local scenery will still be there once Ju is more mobile again.
In the meantime, we are getting used to marina life. We have been placed on B pontoon, quite near the entrance and the lifting bridge, so we can watch arrivals and departures. We listen in on channel 9 for boats hailing the marina office with requests to lift the bridge. Every Monday and Friday morning the Navigators' Net takes over the frequency for 15 minutes with what used to be called 'the intimations' when I was a young thing and went to church. Social events are organised for people like us wintering on their boats here. For example next week the local boatyard is hosting a barbecue for us, which will be interesting as it will involve a guided tour of what the boatyard can do, like GRP repairs, plumbing, joinery, etc. Portuguese classes start on Monday, and will go on for two hours a day every Monday Wednesday and Friday for four weeks. After which I hope to be able to hold a simple conversation in this interesting language.
There is a large contingent of Scottish sailors here, we can tell from the calls to the marina office on the radio. There are currently four members of the Royal Highland Yacht Club here, and one who just left.
Weather is mostly great, sunny and hot during the days, although it can feel slightly chilly in the evenings. We have had a short spell of rainy weather recently, but the rain is warm here, so we don't put raingear on as it just makes us sweaty. We live in t-shirts and shorts, with sandals or bare feet. Cuts down hugely on the washing, which we do in the marina laundry (lavanderia) then hang out gypsy-style on a long red washing line which I leave strung out round the rigging more or less permanently for the purpose. Everybody does it!
B pontoon is for boats under 12 metres, so most of our companions are small motor cruisers, fishing boats (game fishing) owned locally, and smaller yachts. Not many are occupied full-time like Little Else, although there is one guy who seems to own two boats, one of which is up for sale, and he lives here permanently. There is a huge shiny gin-palace on the hammerhead owned by someone big in Algarve Golf course development, and it is used to entertain golfing celebs as they visit the area. Haven't spotted any faces we recognise yet, but now the Ryder Cup is over that may change.
There is a lovely little English bookshop in the town owned by two yotties, where new and 'pre-read' books may be bought, read and brought back for a fraction of the purchase price, although there is a book-swap in the Navigators' Net which will prove cheaper, I think.
Every day RIBS full of tourists pass our stern heading out to see dolphins out in the bay. For a mere ?'?40 they get 90 minutes of it, guaranteed! I wonder how they do that? We saw them for nothing! And how!
This morning our foot-pump for fresh water at the galley sink lost its grip on the boat, and became unusable. Some jobs you can procrastinate with, others need doing right away, or RFN as we say. So it was off with the locker door, undo the remaining retaining bolts, and try to figure out how to fix it. When I installed it last winter there was one problem I hadn't fully resolved, and that was what had finally failed. Great that it had lasted until we were here, and didn't go belly-up en route. After much scratching of head, sweat of brow and utterances of bad language (all on my part), Ju departed to go shopping while I tussled with the problem. Everything in a boat is always inaccessible, impossible to insert hands, knees or elbows let alone screwdrivers, spanners and the inevitable magnet to pick up dropped nuts, washers and bolts. The magnet was even too big, so I devised a better system involving the handle of a skewer and some blu-tack. That worked!
Although the fridge compressor was fitted into the galley locker after the foot-pump, happily I could get the pump out of the locker to work on it more easily. A perfect solution finally came to me, and the system is now better than it has ever been.
Overnight we also tested out the water tank which failed in Biscay, by filling it up on the pontoon with water from the tap, and leaving it there. It was still full in the morning, but when I hung it up to dry it became clear there was diesel-contaminated water in the outer envelope still, as great oily splotches appeared in the marina water under it as it dripped down. Haven't thrown it away yet though, still on the case.
We have yet to find really nice bread here, since we haven't found the baker's shop everyone recommends yet. So I have started baking bread aboard. A refill of the Camping Gaz cylinder only costs ?'?11.50 here, so we don't worry about using too much gas. The first loaf was not too wonderful, as the bottom half-inch didn't bake at all, the second was a little better, although I got the water-to-flour ratio a bit wrong. The third was a major triumph, when Ju declared it tasted like ciabatta!
After all the terrific moules frites we had in Brittany we are terribly disappointed that the Portuguese don't think much of mussels, and don't sell them even at the fish market! They are thought to be poor people's food. They are of course all round the pontoons on the marina, but we wouldn't want to eat those anyway. We have bought a book on Algarve Fish types and recipes, and so far have tried one or two, including swordfish.
The marina wifi broadband signal is not good here, we can only use it at night at the moment, so that restricts surfing the net somewhat. The marina bars have free wifi so we tend to use them during the day if something is urgent.
With the thermometer reading 30 degrees, time for siesta, so that's all for now folks!
Jeff Wood, our delivery skipper, has made this movie of our trip, which you can see at:
Copy and paste this address into your browser, and enjoy the dolphins, the sunsets, the essence of the experience!
Rather upset to learn that this lovely boat, the Asgard II, which we saw and Ju photographed when we were entering Crosshaven near Cork earlier in the summer, has sunk near Belle Isle in the Bay of Biscay. Mercifully all on board are safe, but it is really sad to see the end of such a fine sail training boat. Our sympathy to all those involved, and our renewed awareness of how difficult a stretch of water the Bay of Biscay, or Golfe de Gascogne, as the French call it, really is.