A Farewell to Spain

August 27, 2009

I don’t know if any of you have ever tried to wake Julia up before she thinks that she ought to be stirring but, take it from me, it’s not a thing to be undertaken lightly.  This is even more the case when the evening before has been a fine one with a good quantity of high quality alcohol involved.  Suffice it to say that it almost qualifies as a blood sport.

Anyhow, the passage planning process had deduced that in order to arrive at Pavoa de Varzim, our first Portuguese port, in daylight and have a margin in hand to carry on to the next port, should there be no room, we would need to leave Bayona at about 0700 on 18th August.  This meant aiming to get up with the proverbial lark so as to get the boat ready to sail as dawn was breaking – not a popular move but at least Julia knew why we’d need to leave so early and accepted it…..

I’d managed to wake up before the alarm went so that I could wake Julia gently rather than the fairly loud and aggressive alarm on my phone.  Up we got and, on autopilot, moved on to getting sails ready, the motor started and the anchor winch prepared to lift the hook.  Time passed quickly and there was no noticeable improvement in J’s humour; unusual, as things do usually tend to improve.  Eventually, I foolishly asked what was wrong.  The drift of the complaint was that she thought we were getting up to leave as it got light, not whilst it was still dark.  It took some fast talking to convince her that we were not up earlier than agreed but on time; the aim was nothing to do with the light as we left but rather the light as we arrived, which meant we had to leave in the dark.

This explanation eventually sufficed to mollify Julia’s irritation and we left Bayona in a lovely dawn light, using the motor, as what little wind there was, was from the wrong direction.  Motoring is not the best mode of travel for a yacht; it is noisy, there’s a smell of diesel engine fumes and it costs money whereas the wind is free.  However, beggars can’t be choosers and we had to be in our next port by the end of the day in order to be ready to catch our flight back to UK for our niece, Jude’s, wedding.  So motor it was, until the midday wind arrived – only about an hour and a half late.  We then sailed on down towards Povoa de Varzim, a small port about 30 miles inside Portugal.

We arrived off the port by about 1600, although we did have a bit of fun deciding whereabouts the port was in relation to the rest of the town.  Eventually we got the right bit and headed in towards the harbour entrance under sail, intending to drop sails and start the motor as we got a bit closer.  In we sailed and switched on the motor power, pushed the starter and …. nothing happened.  The power to the motor had decided to take a short holiday.

I handed over the helm to David and dived below, trying to think how to solve this one.  David tacked the boat and then hove to, so that we effectively came to a stop in the water, facing away from land.  This gave me time to think and prod wires in a slightly less panic-stricken fashion.  Having changed a fuse and prodded the odd thing or two, we tried the engine again and it caught on the first attempt.  Now under power, the sails were brought in and we turned to shore and the port entrance again.

No further excitements were encountered and we were safely alongside by 1830.  The marina was pleasant enough, not too far from the centre of town and cheap – we ended up staying for a week for less than the cost of 4 days in Falmouth. 

The following day was spent on a mammoth wash, shopping and a recce to investigate the metro to the airport.  This didn’t prove too difficult, although the timings were less than perfect.  Our flight was at 0850 which when combined with metro timings meant getting the first available train which left at 0550; in turn this meant leaving the boat at 0520.  Not Julia’s favourite time of day (see above) so the fact that it all went well was a nice surprise for us all.

Indeed the entire trip to the UK went smoothly.  The wedding was excellent in every respect, venue, food, wine, band – the lot!  The bride looked stunning and her mother and bridesmaids looked lovely too.  An excellent time was had by all & for J & me it was great to be able to catch up with all the extended Thomas clan as well as our own offspring & their partners.  (I’m amazed the skipper and his sons remember anything of the day at all.  A half bottle of Glenfiddich thinly disguised as a bottle of Ribena helped to turn our group into the rowdiest & most badly behaved group of guests – and that was before we even reached the reception! – Julia)  Next day, after a swim in the hotel pool we joined Ian & Barbara (J’s brother & wife – parents of the bride) for a barbecue lunch with other friends and family.  Both looked considerably more relaxed, the festivities now having passed off so well after months of hard work and angst.  

J’s sister Liz dropped us off with friends near Bristol & we had a splendid reunion with Pete & Tig that evening helping to test the obligatory bottle of port we’d had the foresight to provide. Next day, (Sunday 23rd) we flew back to Porto and made our way back to the marina at Povoa de Varzim.  We found David, predictably, in the bar and felt morally bound to join him for a few nightcaps in view of the excellent way he had looked after Rampage in our absence.  I seem to recall getting into a long and involved discussion with the barman about the relative merits of various spirits around the world before weaving our way back along the (remarkably narrow) pontoon…


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