We started our day happily underway tuning our like-new rig. We watched mainland Europe fade into the distance and reflected on our enjoyable stay in Portugal. Dusk brought dark clouds and heavier than forecasted wind which helped us log 170nm of the approximately 440nm passage. It was a cold night requiring the ski hat and full foul weather gear. During the night my captain rescued a squid transported on deck by one of the 2m plus high waves that hit our stern quarter throughout the night. I'm excited about visiting the Madeira archipelago which is an autonomous region of Portugal located off Africa's west coast.
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The weekend felt long as we waited to have the mast and rigging removed early Monday morning at high tide. Turned out Sopromar Boatyard needed to lift the boat to land in order to remove the mast. We were unprepared for this - living on the boat on stands in the boatyard and all the fun that comes along with it, such as managing our water supply and living without power, plumbing and heat just as the weather turned cold. Oh yeah, and there’s the climbing adventures associated with a steep step ladder required to get on or off my home. But in the beginning we were too stressed out about the mast and the impending exploratory surgery. By mid day the mast was removed and a team of specialists were making their diagnosis and suggestions for repair. To the Sopromar team’s credit, they were as concerned with why the crack occurred as they were with making the best repair. By Tuesday Eve was in surgery and has already made a fast recovery.
Meanwhile, while the mast was out, we decided to tighten up the keel bolts and since we were so impressed with the talent at the yard, have a centerboard sheave replaced. These were the cause of our boat woes this time last year. Never a dull moment living the boating life no matter how much preventative maintenance you do.
Just a week later we're back in the water and grateful we were next door to Sopromar when we found the crack. Otherwise we were miles from a boatyard who could handle the repair. We were impressed by their professionalism and proficiency, and the costs were very reasonable, even for us despite the current poor exchange rate of the US dollar against the Euro.
Happily afloat, provisioned and stowed again, we're setting sail within minutes. Next stop Madeira.
A couple of days before our - or any – departure my captain and I are like worker ants running about the boat doing our various last minute chores. This time our to-do-list was longer than usual given the extended period of time we expect to be at sea – we’re Caribbean bound. Hours before our departure, I hauled my captain up the mast for a customary check of the rigging. To our surprise and horror he found a crack in the mast just below the lower spreaders. We immediately contacted our network of experts in Newport, RI and located a local rigger to assess the situation, but we already know the rig isn’t safe for making the long passage.
My captain and I made the short 120nm sail to the Algarve coast, arriving in Lagos, another seafaring town now maintained through tourism. Among boaters Lagos (pronounced La-GOOSH) is known for the Marina de Lagos and Sopromar Boatyard, but it’s the stunning array of beaches that attract most visitors to Lagos and the Algarve region of Portugal. Due to our latest visitors and daily trips to a new beach, I can confirm that most of these beaches are worthy of your visit. Our visitors have departed and so shall we soon…
Custard tarts deserve their own blog for three reasons. First because I am a self declared custard tart ambassador, which is locally called pastiés de nata. Second, because this native Portuguese dessert (breakfast to some of us) is worth flying here to experience. And third, I figure it’s the least embarrassing way to defuse your shock upon seeing my recent weight gain due to these addictive delights.
What exactly are they you might ask? A custard tart is basically a small crème brûlée baked inside a flaky puff pastry shell, best savored on the day it’s baked, hot or cold.
One could spend days exploring Lisbon, or as the Portuguese say, Lisboa. I had no preconceived ideas and knew very little about this capital city, and like my fellow visiting boaters in Marina de Cascais, I was surprised and impressed by her which led to many visits before continuing on our planned journey. Lisbon’s steep hilled streets and cable cars first remind you of San Francisco but her architecture, long history and culture are clearly European. What I like most about Lisbon is her old world charm (narrow backstreets lined with old and often tiled buildings, small shops, and no high-rises) and modern living. Thanks to a friend also visiting while I was in the area, I got to live a little in Lisbon staying in an apartment in the trendy Bairro Alto area. The uphill street climb and four flights of stairs to reach the modern apartment were rewarded with stunning city views complete with traditional terracotta roof-tops and laundry drying off balconies that extended past the Rio (river) Tejo or up the hill to The Castle. We were surrounded by old Lisbon, vibrant with residents, students and other modern explorers like ourselves. Short strolls gave access to some of my favorite Lisboan things including dozens of small traditional restaurants where it’s actually fun to try the house wine, Bairro Alto’s street party nightlife, Solar do Vinho do Porto which is Portugal's Port & Wine Institute located in an old home with an impressive tasting room, unique shops selling Portuguese made goods including beautifully made shoes, textiles & pottery, and outside cafés & pastelarias providing strong coffee and local specialties such as custard tarts.
Forgive me for I have sinned. It’s been five weeks since my last blog.
We had just stopped in Cascais (pronounced kash-KAISH) to wait for more wind and introduce ourselves to Portugal. The wind arrived but we stayed – for a month! Cascais is a gem of a place. It’s an old fishing village that has grown over the last century into a sophisticated beach town. Colorful small fishing boats still fill the harbor but now the narrow winding mosaic-like cobblestone streets lead you through a charming downtown filled with tasty restaurants and modern shops. After 5 days at sea, my first day strolling the beautiful sidewalks that appear to roll like waves nearly sent me to the ground.
October begins this area’s off-season so the crowds are gone but according to locals the good weather has lingered longer than usual, which has been nice since we didn’t get a summer in Ireland. My captain continued to work long hours with his day job but I tried to take advantage of my new surroundings and explore as much as possible.
Nestled between mountains, the Atlantic Ocean and Lisbon, Cascais is a perfect base for exploring Portugal’s wonderful extremes. Cascais is part of a large stretch of coastline - a mix of cliffs and beautiful beaches - west of Lisbon that has long been a playground for the wealthy. Most of the coastline is accessible to the public and ideal for walking or biking. There is so much to see and do that each day it was tough to decide where to go – stay in Cascais or journey further a field. There are free bicycle rentals for exploring Cascais while public buses provide scenic rides to places outside of town, including to the Cabo da Roca Lighthouse, mainland Europe’s furthest point west or to the fairytale-like mountain village of Sintra filled with palaces and parks. Or I’d take the local train east along the picturesque coastline and within 30 minutes was in fascinating Lisbon, Portugal’s capital.
Occasionally I hauled the camera along and I’ve posted the fruits of my labor on Flickr.com.