An Easy Sail to Portugal and the Caribbean, 2017 – 2018

Newsletter #1, July to November, 2017

  The start of this year’s cruise was hardly auspicious; Fiona began at the bottom, or, more literally, on the bottom.  She was launched at Weeks Yachtyard late on a Monday afternoon, a quick check of the bilge seemed normal and we all went home.   On Tuesday morning she was resting on the bottom of the travel lift slip with water inside the boat about a foot above the engine.  A panic call from the yard when they started work got me rushing down, Kevin had already got pumps in the boat but they would do no good until the leak was stopped.  I splashed my way forward with water up to my thighs.  I could feel quite a strong current coming from the head, it didn’t take long to find a severe leak from a hose on the starboard side and I shut the through-hull valve.   Now the pumps would be effective and by lunchtime Fiona was floating again.  They maneuvered the lifting straps back under the boat and by mid-afternoon she was back on the cradle where she had been the day before, considerably the worse for wear.  I never put my finger on why the hose detached, it was one-inch diameter manifold that fed water to the head and wash-down pump.   I had done no work in the forward head plumbing the previous winter.

Water in the main cabin after Fiona sank on launching.

  It is crucial after a drowning in salt water to thoroughly wash down everything in fresh water before the sea water has a chance to dry.  Fortunately my son Colin was staying with me, the two of us rushed through the boat emptying lockers and washing the interior with a hose.  The deck was soon littered with gear from the interior drying in the hot sun.

Contents of the boat drying on deck.  Fortunately the weather was dry.

  The next priority was the diesel engine, we pumped out the sump and removed the starter, which was obviously ruined.  This exposed the starter ring, Colin laboriously turned over the engine after adding new lube oil by prizing the teeth on the ring with a large screw driver.  Eventually he completed six full revolutions.   The 12 volt system had destroyed itself by comprehensive electrolytic action, starting with four heavy duty batteries.   These we replaced and I bought many feet of thick marine style wire and large swage type terminals so that I could start to rebuild the backbone of the 12 volt distribution system. 

Heavy duty terminals destroyed by electrolysis

In the meanwhile I hired three teenagers, sons of a friend of my daughter, to thoroughly wash down the insides of lockers and the cabin furniture with detergent, all were covered with a nasty scum of dirt and grease.  All the electrical accessories; starter, alternators, shaft generator, etc were dispatched by the yard to an auto electric expert, some items were replaced and some rebuilt.   After a few days Fiona was refloated when the errant hose was replaced.  To my relief the engine fired up nicely after a new starter was installed and the lube oil was recycled again.  We turned our attention to the transmission, the fluid was replaced several times and then it was put into gear.   After a few trials we found the fluid was draining into the pan under the engine, clearly a leaking seal.  There was no alternative but to lift the engine and transmission out of the boat and have the transmission overhauled by an expert.

The crew from Weeks’ Yard remove the engine.

 By this time Colin had returned home and I had been joined by my new crew, Neil.  Instead of cruising the Atlantic he found himself working in a hot, dirty engine room, at least, temporarily.  The yard gang removed the engine using the travel lift once we had disconnected assorted wires, pipes, hoses and control cables, a task that took a couple of days.  We also disassembled the steering system as this had to be removed with the cockpit sole to gain access to the engine.   After Pat, the yard mechanic, had unbolted the Borg Warner transmission  it  took three people to lift the heavy unit into my car for a ride to the expert’s shop.  He estimated repairs would take ten days.  This gave us the chance to clean and paint the engine and engine room space, mostly carried out by my helpful neighbor, John.   A technician visited the boat to clear up a problem with the refrigerator left by  immersion.  Neil also took the time to spend a couple of days sightseeing in New York City.   I kept in touch with the  transmission repair, ultimately it was decided that the work would take too long and I bought a rebuilt unit of the same type. The technician had no firm reason to account for the seal failure which could be traced to the entry of sea water; it was never operated until the fluid had been changed several times. 

Neil celebrates completion of the engine paint job.

  After the engine was re-installed and all the numerous connections made I asked the third crew member, Tim, to join us and we made a two hour trial run on the bay, all seemed to go well and we left two days later, August 11, for a delayed start to the 2017/2018 cruise.

Eric, Tim and Neil , the crew for the first part of the cruise.

We were about five weeks later than the original schedule and I decided to head directly for the Azores rather than a stop in Canada as first planned.  The hurricane season was advancing and it was prudent to get into the eastern Atlantic as soon as possible.  Bob accompanied us down the river and into the bay aboard Fireplace.

  As usual I planned a stop in Block Island.  En route the engine badly over heated in the vicinity of the Robert Moses bridge.  We anchored and found the intake was pugged by sea grass.  Outside Fire Island Inlet we found a good sea breeze and we were able to sail until abeam of Shinnecock, where the wind died.  We powered the rest of the way to Block, arriving exactly twenty-four hours after we left Patchogue.   It was very crowded, we stayed two nights using a town mooring at first and then moving to a CCA mooring.  We made the traditional walk to the Southeast Light and had supper at Ballards.   The second day Tim rented a bike and toured the island.  After refueling we left for the Azores on Monday, August 14. 

  The trip to Flore took 16 ½ days; rather lengthy compared to previous crossings.  We had fine winds for the first week, a mixture of reaching and running but when we were about 600 nautical miles from the destination we encountered a slow moving high-pressure cell that tracked our course.  For days the sea was calm, the anemometer needle resolutely refused to lift off the peg and we made good about fifty miles a day, much of that due to the Gulf Stream current, I’m sure.  Tim learnt how to shoot a sight using the sun.   When we came to remove the old sextant from its box we found it had been inundated by the post launch flood, the half mirror was destroyed.   After thinking about this problem for a day I realized that we had a roll of aluminum foil on board, which is quite shiny on one side.  A little work with some scissors and we had a new mirror, although it only worked for the sun; the reflectivity was too poor to see stars.  Tim got quite proficient at plotting sights as we whiled away the calm days.   Neil strummed his guitar in the cockpit.  At last the high moved ahead of us and we waltzed to Flores with a nice starboard reach, ironically, we furled the jib for the last half day to slow us down for an early morning arrival.

  The marina at Flores was relatively quiet compared to previous visits; four cruising boats tied up.  Shortly after we docked a local sailor, Orlando, stopped by to welcome us.  He had been tracking Fiona’s progress on Facebook.  He offered to run me over to gas station in his pick-up so that I could refill the two jerry jugs we carried. An offer gratefully accepted as it was a steep climb up the hill leading to the port.  On the way across the Atlantic I had rhapsodized to the crew about the convenient pizzeria near the marina called Beira Mar.    It was a watering hole for years to visiting yachties.  Unfortunately it had closed.   We were told the owner had bought a new bar just next to the marina, a jazzy chrome and plastic building called Bar Trancadcor but it was closed too.  We eventually had several meals at a restaurant about a mile hike up the hill.   There was a small grocery store behind the restaurant which we needed anyway.  On the second day we took the mandatory taxi tour of the island, the mountain peaks were covered by cloud and the spectacular hedgerows of hydrangeas had faded, but it was very enjoyable , nevertheless.   At a coffee shop stop-over another couple recognized the Fiona name on my cap and said we had met years before when we were both tied up at Piriapolis, Uruguay. I remembered them, what an amazing coincidence.  We had lunch at a fish restaurant in the old capital, Santa Cruz.   The harbor, which nearly terminated Fiona’s sailing career, had been improved slightly by adding a barrier of large boulders at the northern end.    The next day was rainy, Neil and I did some boat maintenance and Tim hiked up to the top of a mountain.   After three nights at Flores we left at lunch-time for an overnight to Horta, on Faial island.

  The wind cooperated, we experienced mild, reaching sailing until we were abeam of the western end of Faial, when we started the engine.   Although the marina was quite full they managed to find us a slip.   Many boats were rafted to the wall of the breakwater, which has been my fate in the past, it is better than nothing but there is no power or water available.  There had been a few changes since my last visit in 2013; for example a magnetic card was required to access the dock.  The wi-fi extended to the slip area, but to get reliable internet I had to retire to the bar, which was fine; a bottle of Sagres beer cost one euro, about $1.20.   Neil and Tim loved the old downtown area with the traditional Portuguese buildings.   They also appreciated the modern marina facilities with warm showers and laundry machines after the somewhat Spartan marina at Flores.   I touched up the painted ‘Fiona’ sign on the breakwater wall.   I added the date, 2017, to the list of visits, making six altogether, starting in 1986.

Fiona’s updated sign on the dock wall, Horta.

 I also found a sign painted by the Cruising Club of America, the club had a cruise in the Azores earlier  in the year.

Painting at Horta left by the CCA cruise.

One day we took a taxi tour to the Caldeira, the remnant of the crater of a massive volcano.

The Caldeira, Faial Island.

From there we drove to the lighthouse at Capelhino , it had been inundated in a volcanic eruption in 1958.   On previous tours only the top half of the lighthouse was visible, poking out of the ash left after the eruption.  Now it has been dug out and a visitor center built nearby.  The troops made a ferry ride to Pico and Tim managed to climb to the top of the brooding volcano.   A technician came to fix the radar which died somewhere on the Atlantic, but he was unsuccessful.   After some food shopping at Contiente and book swapping at Mid Atlantic Yacht Services we were ready to push on to the east.   About this time hurricane ‘Irma’ was ravaging the Caribbean and heading for southern Florida.  The destruction at St. Martin was tragic; the home of my old friend Kay has been destroyed.   St. Martin was always a stopover during Fiona’s visits to the Caribbean, clearly the impact on the latter half of the 2017/18 cruise will be significant.

  We motor-sailed against a light head wind from Horta to Velas, the sleepy capital of St. Jorge island, it took five hours.   The office at the marina was shut up tight but we managed to get cards to operate the gate and toilets from a cleaning lady, that is all we needed.  On a previous visit years ago we anchored at Velas under a steep cliff, inhabited by thousands of screaming shearwaters.   Since then the government has built a small marina under the cliff and the birds had gone.  A bar near the dock provided wi-fi and beer.  Perhaps because we were there over a weekend we discovered the restaurants were very busy in the evening with every table full of locals, tourism was not dominant.  After a couple of nights we were able to find the marina manager, pay our bill, swap a few books and move on to Angra de Heroisma on Terceira.  The 55 nm leg was accomplished overnight over a calm sea using the engine at low rpm.   We arrived at sunrise and tied up at the marina, which was quite familiar to me from other trips to the Azores. 

  We tied up next to a cruiser from Connecticut sailing a Tartan 36.  Its skipper, Tim, gave us the low-down on the marina, which seemed little changed.  There were, perhaps, a half dozen cruising boats at the marina.  Later an English sailor, Linda, organized a cruising get-together on the dock just before sunset, about a dozen transient sailors exchanged stories and chugged the local wine.  Walking in the narrow, medieval streets could be scary, although barely the width of a car, drivers came barreling through at high speed, forcing oneself to press against the rough wall.    One day I climbed to the top of Mont Brasil, which overlooks the harbor.   It is a few hundred feet high and was fortified in the early days of the Portuguese colonization.   It is still a fort, as I passed the stone gate a bunch of disconsolate-looking squaddies were changing the guard.  In WWII the British installed antiaircraft guns on the summit, I assume they were intended to protect an airfield built at the eastern side of Terceira, although I do not know who was expected to attack, Portugal was neutral during the war with a bias towards the Allies, perhaps the Vichy French in Morocco could bomb the island but it was a long way to fly for the aircraft of the day.

WWII anti-aircraft guns on Terceira island 

One day with some help from Neil and Tim I re-wired the 12-volt connection to the refrigerator, it still wasn’t happy about its immersion in salt water.   Tim went off on hiking tours and Neil rented a moped.   On the evening of our last day we chanced upon a mad car rally; souped-up cars roared along the narrow streets, which had been partitioned off.   The noise they made on the cobbled passageways was tremendous.   The next day I paid the modest dockage and we left at lunch time for St. Miguel island, which I had never visited before.  

  We had a great sail to St. Miguel with Victor steering all the way.   The marina office was closed when we arrived, it took a couple of days for us to get a permanent slip right near the Esplanade called Infanta D. Henriques.   We were right in the down-town area, small medieval allies were mixed with modern streets.  Cars did their best in an environment that was never intended for them.  We ate in sidewalk cafes.  I toured the old fort, which is now a museum although the army still has soldiers there.  I found an art gallery, the paintings were contemporary modern, not my style, but the prices were modest.   Far more fun was a quaint museum in a convent then had been closed in 1895 (Museu Carlos Machado).  The walls still had the elaborate, Baroque niches with statues of saints, the floors had dozens of glass cases containing stuffed birds, fishes, animals and countless displays of insects and butterflies.  All were labelled with faded handwriting in Latin that looked a century old.  A unique place.  As usual, Tim hiked and Neil rented a motorbike. One day the three of us rented a Fiat and toured the island.   Our first treasure was a roadside sign that proclaimed ‘Hydroelectrique Museum’. We drove down a steep lane to a two-story building in a valley.  In 1911 an entrepreneur had installed a water turbine and 50 kW three phase generator. It was all there – meters, regulators and valves, just as it was a hundred years ago.

Electrical Panel at circa 1900s Hydroelectric plant.

In a massive cauldeira, several miles in diameter, we stopped at Lagoa Furnas.  Near the lake, boiling water and mud bubbled up.  Enterprising local restaurants cooked meals in the hot soil for tourists who wanted something unique.   The ground was warm underfoot and the smell of sulfur pervaded the air.  On the way home, we toured a small establishment that cultivated tea and prepared it for packaging.  Chinese experts had been imported in the 19th century to show them how to do it.  We stopped in several villages to sample the local coffee, which is very strong and served in tiny cups. 

  Our last island in the Azores was  St. Maria.  This was the first Azorean island to be discovered by the Portuguese, about 1430.  It was settled about 1440 but development lagged because much larger islands, St. Miguel and Terceira, were soon discovered lying to the northwest.  We tied up at the main town, Vila do Porto, at a modern marina with excellent facilities.  The town is built on an escarpment that overlooks the harbor. providing a very good defensive position against the numerous raiders that plagued the island for centuries.

The ramparts at Santa Maria island.

I marched up the steep road to the town every day.  Sailors from Connecticut that we first met in Angra, Tim and Bill, aboard North Star, were already tied up when we arrived.  A charming British couple, Linda and Jon, were living on their Sparkman and Stevens yacht just two slips away.  Quite a social Happy Hour developed, lubricated by our Mount Gay.   Tim hiked the length of the island, Neil found a motorbike to rent.  I did some boat maintenance.   I was surprised by the apparent affluence of the islanders; new-looking cars thronged the town and the restaurants were well patronized.   Apart from a little farming and fishing I couldn’t figure out where the money came from.  After three days we left for Madeira, nearly five hundred nautical miles to the southeast.

    The forecast called for a good wind for the first day, followed by the inevitable high, with little wind.  It turned out to be an accurate prediction.   Just as the wind died away Victor the Vane, who had been steering admirably, became erratic due to a large bolt working loose and falling into the sea.   We started the engine but then George, our electronic autopilot, also became moody and refused to engage.  We hand steered all night and the following day tried to fix the problem.  Ultimately we were successful and George steered the boat to Funchal. 

  I had been there before but it was after night fall when we arrived and I was confused by the recent addition of a new marina.   Somehow, we managed to find ourselves a slip for the night but in the morning we had to move to the old harbor, with which I was more familiar.  Tim soon discovered the many hiking trails and Neil enjoyed the Madeiran cuisine.  As usual I made the island van tour with Neil, it is a spectacular island.   One beneficial result of being in the EU was that I was able to buy a metric bolt to repair Victor without difficulty.  The chandlery was just north of the harbor, it was in a building that survived the demolition of the old waterfront to make way for the modern esplanade.  The wooden beams in the ceiling looked like they were installed when Nelson’s ships were anchored in the harbor.  Incidentally Madeira was very popular with the pre-steam Royal Navy, thanks to the climate, the wine, fresh food and, no doubt, the Portuguese ladies.  George’s failure was due to a ticking time bomb caused by the launch sinking back in June; a splice in a cable from the rudder position sensor slowly corroded and ultimately became open-circuit.   Some sweaty work In the engine room fixed that.  The day after we arrived I went to a classical music concert in the old theater.  The hall was modelled on La Scalla in Milan; four tiers of boxes arrange in a horse-shoe around the auditorium.   The first part consisted of a Chopin concerto played by a brilliant young woman, Vanessa Mosell.  After the interval the thirty piece orchestra played Elgar’s ‘Enigma Variations’, conducted by a rising star; Maxime Tortelier.  As an encore they bashed out ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ which brought the audience to their feet.  We became friendly with several other cruising boats including Nicky and Reg on Blue Velvet of Sark.  They were both retired RAF pilots, Nicky was the first female military pilot I had ever met.  I enjoyed several museums, especially the Museum of Electricity, which traced the development of the power system on Madeira.

  We powered in light winds to our last island before sailing to the mainland; Porto Santos, which lies about forty miles to the northeast of Madeira.  I had sailed there once before, in 2011, at that time the marina was very quiet.   Now many more local boats have squeezed the room for visitors and we were not able to tie up at a pontoon.  Instead we picked up a mooring in the harbor, this meant that for the first time on this cruise we had to rig the inflatable dinghy so we could get to shore.   When we came to launch the dinghy using the staysail halyard to drop it over the side, the sheave in the block on the mast broke into pieces and the wire fractured several strands due to the sharp bend.   It took us a full morning to replace that lot.  The marina is located about a mile from the small (and only) town of Vila Baleira. I made the trek into town every day for a little sightseeing and shopping.  Tim took his hammock and hiked all over the island, Neil toured it by renting moped.  Christopher Columbus married a local girl and had a house in the town before he sailed to the New World.   Credulous tourists can visit his alleged house, although I suspect it is a more modern structure put up somewhere in the right vicinity over an ancient root cellar.

The supposed house of Christopher Columbus, Porto Santos island, Azores

It was time to get to the Algarve, normally a beat against the prevailing trades.   But an approaching low gave the promise of fair winds, at least for some of the leg.

  A fair wind was a little late arriving but when it did we had a great reach with 10 to 12 knot  wind on the starboard.   We were in the SE quadrant of the remnant of hurricane ‘Ophelia’ which was lurking several hundred miles to the northwest.  After it passed the wind died completely and we powered to the coast.  About midnight on the night before we arrived we crossed the sea-lane to the Straits of Gibraltar.  We had to avoid four ships, the last being a huge cruise liner which passed a mile ahead in a blaze of lights.  Later we met about a dozen ships on the lane heading away from the Mediterranean and we had to jog from our course to avoid a collision with one ship. The blaze of lights on the coast was on view long before sunrise.  We entered the HUGE marina at Vilamoura about 10:30 local time and before lunch we were tied up snugly in a slip just yards away from a boulevard full of restaurants, shops and tourists.

  The marina is a very popular tourist destination, especially with Brits.   The numerous restaurants on the boulevard around the basin feature a lot of British culinary delicacies, such as beans and sausage breakfast, curry and fish and chips.  There are gaming galleries and dozens of shops.  The whole place is engineered to separate the tourist from their Euros, although providing good value, I think.   One day I took a 45-minute bus ride to Faro, an old seaport lying to the east.   The ancient center still has the old wall in pretty good condition.  Long ago Vilamoura was a site for many human settlements, starting with bronze age man. The Romans lived here for several centuries, not far from the marina is a very interesting excavation of a port area.  The foundations of the villa used by the local big-wig included an interior heated pool, the main room was tiled with mosaics, as were some bedrooms, although they were quite small, about a hundred square feet.

Excavated Roman ruins at Villamaura, Portugal.

The site also displays many public facilities such as bathing pool and sauna.    After the Romans came the Moors, but the port declined as the lagoon which was connected originally to the sea silted up.  Now the small bay containing the marina is all that is left.    Every morning we tackled a few boat maintenance jobs before splitting up for the day, Tim tirelessly hiked to nearby towns.  I made second visit to Faro, which is the capital of the Algarve, and popped into a unique church; Senhora do Carmo.    The church is Baroque, built in 1713, what is unique is an adjacent chapel made entirely of human bones!

Wall in the Chapel of Bones, Faro, Portugal

Apparently local townsfolk were given the option of being interred that way on sacred ground.  Must have been a popular choice as thousands of bones, including skulls, were used to make the structure.   Back at the marina I had a pleasant surprise when Frank and Barbara Fitzgibbon stopped by.    They had a boat at the marina and discovered Fiona was also visiting.   I first met Frank and Barbara during the 1995/97 circumnavigation.

Barbara, Eric and Frank at Villamaura, Portugal.

We had a great easterly wind for a downwind sail to Portimao when we left.  

  The marina was close to a famous beach; Praia  da Rocha.  Besides the great white sand it has many sea caves, tunneled into the cliffs by wave action over the millennia.  Several times I made the tedious walk along the bank of the Arade River to the old part of Portimao.   In years past the banks were covered in sardine factories, which were the major employer in the area.  One of them has been converted into a museum, the most interesting exhibit is an old movie depicting life as a worker in the 1940s.  The majority of workers were women who beheaded, deboned and gutted the fish.  The iconic tins were made by men who operated dangerous-looking machines to cut and press tin plate.  The machinery was powered by steam engines, unfortunately no relics survive although several boiler-room stacks are present on the shore, all crowned nowadays by stork’s nests.  Freshness was essential, when the trawlers came to port, a steam whistle summoned the workers, at any time of the day or night.  Child-care facilities were provided for mothers.  On the way into town lay a large, ruined building surrounded by a high wall, as I passed during my walk I puzzled what it used to be.  At the museum  I discovered it was a 16th century convent.   Neil rented a moped for three days and roamed the countryside. At Albufeira he knocked an item off his bucket list; he watched a bullfight! When he got back we powered the seven miles in windless conditions to Lagos, our last port on the Algarve. 

  Lagos turned out to be a very pleasant stopover, the marina was excellent, apart from the limited wifi coverage.  The town was not over-run with tourists, at least while we were there.  Tim and Neil made a couple of bus rides, I took a ride in a local dinghy to inspect the sea-caves.   Quite a swell was running, the helmsman was very skillful, he took us through narrow entryways into caves that were illuminated by holes in the roof.  There were numerous restaurants to choose from, including a good Indian place. 

Talented street buskers at Lagos, Portugal.

We left rather reluctantly after five days when a well-placed low promised fair wind to round Cape St. Vincent and head up the Atlantic coast.

  We arrived at Sines with a stiff southerly wind blowing, if we had known the weather that was coming we should have kept going and made it to Cascais, fifty miles to the north.   As it was we remained stuck in Sines for nine days as a stationary high pressure system brought stiff northerly winds, at times even a severe weather alert for northeasterly gale force winds and 3 meter seas.    We weren’t in any rush, so we just sat it out tucked up in the Sines Recreational Marina.   Sines is an old fishing port dating back to Roman times; the town is built on top of cliffs about 200 hundred feet above the docks.  The road to the old town winds past the defending fort.  I made the climb to the shops, restaurants and pastelerias many times, no doubt with great benefit for my old heart. They are very proud that Vasco da Gama was born in Sines, he was the first European navigator to round the Cape of Good Hope and open trade with India in 1498.  

Statue of Vasco da Gama, with friend.

As usual Tim roamed the countryside on foot, Neil caught a bus to Lisbon for a few days.

  Finally, we got a weather window and made the leg to Cascais, sailing about halfway and motor-sailing the rest.  We arrived at the marina just about sunset and by the time we had refueled and tied up in a slip it was dark.  As I had local knowledge I guided Tim and Neil to a food court at a mall for a quick meal.  As I thought they would, Neil and Tim loved the twisty streets of the old town.    After a day or two Neil moved in to a hotel and prepared to undertake a tour of some European capitals.   Tim and I took the train to Lisbon and did some general boat maintenance.     The evenings were chilly but by lunch time the temperature was about 70°F.    I arranged to get the Aries to a good machinist and on a second visit to Lisbon I took the sextant to an old-fashioned ship’s chandlery founded in 1860 to get the mirrors replaced.  Nearby was a museum devoted to communication, really the history of the Portuguese Post Office.   There were excellent exhibitions of undersea cable laying, telephones and radio.   I really enjoyed it but my day was spoilt returning to the train station; I had ten minutes to catch the next train to Cascais and was stepping out briskly along the sidewalk.  On my right was a busy street separated from the sidewalk by large, vertical metal poles.  Suddenly I found myself sprawled on the ground; two of the poles had been placed horizontally and I had tripped over them.  Presumably the poles had been rotated to allow a vehicle access   to buildings on my left, but they had never been returned vertical.  My hip was very sore, but I limped to the station and just made the train.  Sitting down took the weight off my hip joint, but it took a few days for the pain to subside.

  Every day I wandered into town to do a little shopping, usually for food, and ate lunch and sometimes supper at one of the dozens of restaurants.   The weather was benign with a day-time temps  near 70°F.  After a week the Aries was returned, the machinist had done a good job.    I had noticed the VHF antenna had disappeared from the masthead, I spent a couple of days trying to track down an auto parts place and ultimately I was able to get a replacement car antenna, which would do the job.  The machinist made an adaptor to match the metric thread on the antenna to the American on the masthead fitting but actually mounting the antenna turned into comedy of errors with potentially serious consequences.  My normal way to each the masthead when I needed tools up there was to be wound up in a bosun’s chair using the main halyard.   Neil had been the halyard grinder for the cruise, but he was long gone.  I briefed Tim on the techniques of operating the reel winch, but obviously not well enough, and started the ascent.  Halfway to the spreader the chair made few jerky motions and came to a stop. ‘What’s the matter?’ I shouted to Tim.  ‘Dunno,’ he replied, ‘seems to be stuck.’   ‘Wind me down,’ I suggested ‘and we will start over’.   But Tim could not move the winch handle, up or down.   I was suspended fifteen feet above the deck apparently permanently, despite efforts by Tim to free the wire rope on the winch with a screwdriver or pliers.  This is where the great virtue of having ratlines pays off; I was able to swing to the outboard side of the starboard shrouds, which are equipped with ratlines, unfasten the shackle linking the chair to the halyard and climb down the ratlines, “wearing” the bosun’s chair, so to speak.   To free the jam I had to unbolt the winch barrel from the mast and carefully ease the wire with a sturdy screwdriver so as not to break a strand.  Fixing the VHF antenna was put off to another day, or another crew.

  The next day we took the bus to Sintra, a traditional outing when we are tied up at Cascais.  We took the scenic route there, via Cabo de Roca, and the direct route back as it was almost dark when I left Sintra.  After the Sintra Royal palace and lunch we took the circular bus to the Moorish Castle , built around 500 to 800 AD when the Arabs occupied this part of Iberia. The battlements follow the ridge of the surrounding mountains, they must have taken millions of man-hours to construct, but the stones are roughly hewn.   Standing on top of the keep, the highest point, I felt very uneasy near the edge of the platform facing a 50 foot drop with no wall.   Also It was very windy, my sense of balance has gone to hell and I beat a hasty retreat.   Next stop was the Palace de Pena, a long walk up a steep road but I made it without a major heart attack.   At this point Tim and I split, he had more to see and I made my way to the bus station.  The next day I took the train to Lisbon to pick up the sextant which had been repaired by a nautical equipment company founded in 1860.  With new mirrors the image was brilliant and better than before the unintended immersion.   There was plenty to see and on my last weekend on the boat for a while; visit by a Russian square-rigger, replica of a 1703 frigate, dozens of yacht clubs, from as far away as Madeira, congregated here for a weekend of dinghy racing and two flea markets set up shop in public squares and parks. 

Russian Square-Rigger at Cascais, Portugal, replica of 1703 frigate.

  We got up very early on Sunday and Tim high-tailed to the airport by summoning an Uber car.  We heard from Neil, who was also flying home, he had visited several Spanish cities and Tangiers in Morocco.