LAGOS APRIL TO JUNE
 

Lagos, Portugal
In April the weather began to improve with some hot sunny days. On April 10th John and Sue arrived for a ten day stay on their yacht Swagman. We had been looking after their boat during the winter but hadn't seen them since the Caribbean. We saw them most days, we helped them lift out for antifouling and then back in to the marina. We met up for dinner, drinks, John's birthday etc. It was a really good time and a shame when they left. Also in April the seagulls disappeared. During the winter there were always at least fifty in sight and often over one hundred. By the end of April there were about half a dozen. We think they left for their nesting grounds in the cliffs to the west of us.

When they left they hired a car to go to the airport and asked if we wanted the car for the rest of the day. So I drove them to the airport then we headed for Monchique, up in the mountains north of Lagos. Like most Portuguese towns the new buildings are concrete monstrosities but the old quarter is very pretty. Unfortunately many of the old buildings are abandonded and in disrepair. It's a real shame and it seems that it's a mix of the Portuguese not wanting to live in old houses the Portuguese property law, which is stupid in the extreme. When an owner dies the law says that the property is now owned by every member of the family. The lawyer has to contact every member of the famuly and if he can't find them all the property can't be sold. This may also expain why so many farm buildings are derelict and the fields uncultivated. It's mystery why they haven't changed the law. The hillsides around Monchique were stunningly pretty. A few were cultivated but all the others were covered in a range of different coloured wild flowers. It was one of the prettiest things we have ever seen.

After Monchique we drove to Alvor a small fishing village just along the coast from us. Well we thought it was a small fishing village but it was packed with tourists. Again the old quarter is very pretty and there is a lovely little fishing harbour. One particular thing of interest is the old (now disused) lifeboat station. We looked inside and they have just restored the old lifeboat(a rowing boat) which is now in pristine condition.

In the meantime we were still having problems with our freash water pump. Mike took it apart and found a problem that he fixed. However it was still drawing too many amps and kept blowing the fuse. Thus we knew what the problem was but couldn't figure out how to fix it - time to call in help. John, a marine electrical engineer and husband of my Portuguese teacher, came over. What he found was the electric motor was jamming intermitantly pushing the current right up. We had ordered a spare motor but it hadn't arrived so we had to use a foot pump for four days. In the meantime we sent the dodgy pump off for warranty repair. Mike fitted the new motor which worked fine for a few days then the fuse blew again - aaargh. Eventually John found that the pressure switch was was set too high, thus overloading the motor.

Our house purchase was moving forward slowly but we realised we had a possible timing problem - getting the boat back to the UK as close as possible to completion date. Our intention was to sail the boat by going Azores (stay for a few weeks) then UK. This would take too long. So we decided that Jane should fly back on May 24th to be available for the completion while Mike would sail the boat back direct. This meant finding crew. It's likely to be a tough upwind, upcurrent passage and Mike wanted two people who have been there done that. We contacted TV-Yachts a specialist yacht delivery company who have fixed us up with two very experienced people one of whom is an ex-Navy Commander and qualified ocean yacht skipper.

James Dodd and Janie Marford (the crew) arrived on the evening of 24th of June. After getting some fresh provisions we left Lagos on the 25th of June at 12.15 heading to Sines. The whole of the trip up the Portuguese coast is up-wind/current/waves, in other words a total nightmare with water all over the boat most of the time. At 12.00 the fan belt melted and broke. So we sailed into Sines in the dark and anchored off the beach next to the marina. We got a tow in the following morning from a dive boat. We we fitted a new belt and new alternator but weren't sure why the belt failed so Mike call Ralph in Lagos and asked him to drive up and take a look. He said the belt was too loose but he also found the alternator had been wired incorrectly - the engine rev counter wasn't working and the earth was in the wrong place. Ralph also pointed out that the more elctrical things you use then the higher the loading on the alternator and belt. So we stopped using the autopilot (which eats amps) and used the wind vane to steer.

We left Sines on the 28th of May at 08.30 heading to Sesimbra bay where we anchored at 19.25. The following morning at 08.30 we left heading to Cascais arriving 12.00. We left Cascais at 05.00 on 30th of May heading to the bay outside the fishing port of Peniche. We anchord in the dark at 22.00. The following day we left at 05.20 heading to Figuera da Foz arriving again in the dark at 22.10.

I haven't said much about the passages, suffice to say the type of sailing we were doing is very tiring particularly if you leave very early and arrive in the dark. We didn't see much: a few ships and fishing boats; a few yachts; a Caravela heading south; a few dolphins; lots of Gannets near some uninhabited islands. One thing we did have was fog - a sailor's nightmare. By watching the fishing buoys pass and disappear it was possible to estimate visibility. It ranged from one hundred yards to one mile - we turned the radar on.

In Figuera Mike slipped and fell against the corner of the hatch opening damaging his ribs. It's odd that I have also fallen and hurt my back (in Curac¸ao), both incidents occurring in a flat calm rather than (as you might expect) in big seas. It's seriously painful. Mike was on painkillers and anti-inflamatories for four weeks. You can only take six painkillers a day and two anti-inflamatories only after meals. The problem is each dose is only effective for six hourss thus you are in serious pain for the other six hours usually from 04.00 in the morning. Thus you don't get much sleep. The downside of the painkillers is you get constipated and a very windy, painful tummy for which you need Senokot and Windeze - total twelve tablets a day.

Needless to say he coulnd't sail so the crew flew home after hauling the boat out. There were a number of reasons to do this: we got water in the bilges (a leaking foot pump) but wanted to check if there was any other problem. Also a number of potential purchasers have asked if we have a recent ultra sound test for the boat and it was a chance to do that. In addition we hadn't anti-fouled the boat for over two years, we used to dive on it to clean it. So we decided to sandblast the hull below the waterline to remove the old antifouling and epoxy paint then repaint and antifoul.

It also gave Mike a chance to paint some of the bilges. The reason we do that is they get dirty so we clean and repaint. With one coat of paint a day it takes four days to paint a bilge. When you are living aboard you can only do one at a time and it stinks the boat out for a few days. On the hard that's not a problem. He also orderd a new foot pump and fitted that. After a month Mike was still taking one or two anti-inflammatories a day. Clearly he wasn't going anywhere for some time and this was a good job because the haul out yard took three weeks before even sandblasting the underwater part of the hull.

In the meantime I saw the house completion through and moved in on XXXXXX. From then on it was flat out: signing up for water, electricity, the council, Cable TV and Internet. Also I took delivery of XX boxes from both Portugal and storage in the UK. The reason we shipped things from Portugal was we needed to clear both cabin and cupboard space for the crew. It was a nightmare upacking and putting things away, it took weeks. In addition I had to work on the garden which was overgrown. I did discover we have two apple trees, a Victoria plum tree, a pear tree, a redcurrant bush, wild strawberries and about twenty fish and some frogs in the pond. I also had to buy a microwave, freeze and washing machine.

Odds and ends
Gold medal. As you know we don't often praise people in the marine industry and I think this the first time we've awarded a gold medal two quarters running. This goes to John who was very knowledgable, efficient and good value. If you need electrical help in Lagos call 914 902 538.

Fog. I mentioned that fog is a nightmare, the problem is that although ships sound their foghorns it's almost impossible to tell in which direction they are. On a scale of scariness lightning close to the boat is top, fog next and a full gale comes nowhere close.