Thursday 13th October 2011 - Lagos at Last

Jon & Carol Dutton
Thu 13 Oct 2011 15:04

37:06.38N 8:40.24W


Thursday 13th October – Lagos, Algarve


So, here we are alongside the boatyard in Lagos and here we stay until we are joined by Chris and Penny Copeland on Monday for the trip to Madeira and the Canary Islands.  And, we are due to meet David and Linsey Taylor on Friday, who just happen to be arriving for a few landlubberly days in Lagos then. 


We left you last alongside in Oeiras on Friday having formed initial very favourable impressions of the marina.  They were fully borne out by our subsequent experience there.  We had a very decent day out in Lisbon and would willingly have spent more time there.  Some of it is really very impressive indeed.  As an added bonus, it was Lisbon Fashion Week.  As many will know, Jon considers himself quite a pundit on the matter of ladies’ fashions.




Lisbon’s Answer to Blackpool Tower               Imposing Architecture around Main Square


The 50NM trip south to Sines started promisingly enough at about 1020 on Sunday 9th October.  We had a good Force 5 from the NE (Mrs D says this was her first experience of the fabled beam reach – she’s lying, of course!) and cracked along at 7.5 knots in glorious sunshine for a couple of hours under full mainsail and yankee.  But, the wind didn’t last and by lunchtime Mr Perkins had been invited to step up to the mark and get us there.  Endlessly obliging, he did so and we tied up at 1820.


We stayed in Sines on Monday.  Sines is fine and it works well as a marina but it’s a bit lacking in zest.  The loos and showers etc are excellent and it is adjacent to an extremely good and well tended beach.  The small town is a little distant, up quite a steep hill past an imposing medieval fortress, but is both quaint and interesting.  It boasts a huge modern (faux solid) marble library and arts centre.  Difficult (or, perhaps, not) to know from where that funding came . . . In addition, many streets are closed off as a major ‘regeneration’ proceeds.   But, there is plenty of attractive older stuff to charm and surprise the visitor – one slight surprise being the local branch of the communist party – a dreary bar with one occupant watching day time television.  We just hope that the ‘regeneration’ doesn’t produce the worst excesses of tourist trappery.


We met some interesting people there – you always do, if you have a mind to, on the pontoons.  That done, we set off on the final leg of our trip down the Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal at 1000 on Tuesday 11th October.  We were bound for Lagos on the Algarve and were preceded in departure by an hour or so by the 55 feet long HM Sail Training Yacht Dasher on her way down to the Canary Islands with a crew of UK servicemen – presumably filling in scarce time between less attractive engagements.


To begin with, the journey had a familiar feel: sun shining, wind too half-hearted, Mr Perkins doing his stuff below decks and us heading south.  But, at about 1730, as we rounded Cape St Vincent to head east to Lagos, we turned more into the light NE breeze.  So, the sails felt enough wind for us to make a reasonable fist of sailing.  Much more to the point, we’d caught up with Dasher and she’d just hoisted sail.  Now; we weren’t racing - obviously - but . . .




         Cape St Vincent                                                     HMSTY Dasher


So, that was fun for about half an hour, during which we wished that we’d been able to accommodate the full genoa foresail aboard in addition to the much smaller but more versatile yankee foresail.  What we’re intimating is that we think we lost.  But, obviously, we weren’t racing, so nobody could lose and anyway we weren’t really trying at all. In fact, we deliberately sailed slowly so that the young servicemen aboard Dasher could feel a sense of achievement even if they were in a much bigger boat. We trust that our friends will know this all to be absolutely true and that we are not being in any way defensive. Much . . .Nicely done; Dasher, and your largely completely novice crew.


Then the wind died.  Well, if not actually clinically dead, its perch-clinging capabilities were in Monty Python Norwegian Blue territory.  Mr Perkins was re-awoken. An hour later a big red light and alarm came on at the engine control panel saying, in effect, “Unless you close this engine down immediately it will metamorphose into a lump of molten pig iron”.  Investigation revealed that the engine bilge was awash with engine coolant.  Even the least technical will recognise that this stuff is best placed to do its job when it’s actually inside the engine.  Removing the heat exchanger cap (radiator cap to you car types) revealed no coolant left inside the engine at all.  Having had all the coolant hoses replaced before we left, we checked to see if any of those had failed.  They hadn’t.  So, it wasn’t a screwdriver and gaffer tape job to be undertaken by Dutton at sea.  We had 18 NM to do to Lagos (as the crow flies) and it was now 1900 or so.  The wind was all over the place and rarely at more than 4 knots from any direction.  But, there was little point in doing anything other than getting to somewhere that could sort this out.  So; Lagos it was.  About 9 hours later – at 0345 on Wednesday morning – we dropped anchor, under sail in thick fog and a very light NW wind, off the beach and just outside the harbour mole at the entrance to Lagos.  We’d entertained thoughts about sailing on, up to the marina reception pontoon but, given the 50m wide approach channel, almost three quarters of a NM long and the faint breeze blowing straight down it to seaward, it really didn’t make any sense.  We dug out a bottle of Mr Matthew Gloag’s amber infuriator and, following a brief consultation with that, retired to bed for a few hours until, first, the ensign would have to go back up at 0800 and, second, we could ring the boatyard at 0830.  Meanwhile, unbeknown to us, Dasher, having arrived at the marina reception pontoon much earlier, had shooed everyone else along to make room for us to sail onto it if that was what we were going to do.  It was a kind thought and had it been possible . . .     


The Sopromar boatyard despatched a boat to see us very shortly after we’d rung them and the two mechanics aboard rapidly diagnosed the problem as being a dead coolant pump.  To get at this involves dismantling quite a lot of the stuff at the front end of the engine (we’re back to Mk 13 Centurion tank days here).  So, a RIB was despatched to tow us in.  It briefly crossed our minds that a switch of ensigns might be appropriate for this evolution but felt, in the end, that we’d done honourably enough, in the circumstances, in getting to anchorage right at the harbour entrance, in the first place.  The engineers did their stuff quickly and the new pump and one or two other bits and pieces are due to arrive on Monday 17th.  They will take a couple of hours to fit.  So, we should be good to sail to Madeira, as planned, on Tuesday morning. 


The boatyard held a party last night and we were invited.  A very good barbeque, hog roast, beer and wine.  And, again, lots of interesting people to meet and chat with.  So, all in all, whilst being in this boatyard wasn’t part of the plan, it’s just fine.