WOW in Portimao

Mon 24 Sep 2012 07:45
Still having to spend time on the Algarve Waiting On Weather, oh hardship! 

Hurricane Nadine hasn't died out yet and actually looked as if she'd be heading straight for us at one time, though the five day forecast yesterday now shows her heading North. Until we know we're safe from her we can't shift. So instead of making for the Canaries we're having to stay here with the sun and the sandy beaches and the sea.

We've been pootling. We took the dinghy across to the town, visiting the museum and going for a bike ride. The museum was fascinating; it explained all about the sardine canning industry that was here. It was women, mostly, who worked in the factory and they have kept the old production lines and canning machines so you could see how it all worked. It must had been quite a social revolution having so many women in the workplace. They even had nurseries and wet nurses for their babies. We also found out about a huge stone age burial mound just North of Portimao. A wonderful display of portuguese guitars, showing how they're made, and a stunning display of an artists raku pottery made the visit even more memorable. 

On our cycle ride we went up the river beyond the bridge to where it widens and shallows and saw some lovely bird life: ringed plovers and stone curlews.... We also saw a pair of land birds we can't identify - about the size of thrushes, with brown backs and bright blushed pink chests. They had sort of crests on the back of their heads, rather like a flat top haircut. We also saw my first ever stork... we've been seeing deserted nests in Portugal, but this is my first sighting of the bird. They are huge! I knew they were big but I hadn't realised quite how big. Still, I guess, with all those babies to deliver they need to be big. The picture is the best I could do on my phone with zoom, sorry!

We've been body surfing. The Western beaches have powerful waves racing down them and the surfers and body boarders abound. Having grown up in Cape Town Phil loves the waves and is really good at catching them and riding them in, using his body as a surf board. I'm less good, a combination of less practice and less power to get that crucial speed just as the wave comes past, to get picked up by it instead of being left behind, but when it does happen it's excellent fun. There's that moment when you feel the water being pulled out from all around you, and you look up to see a massive wave streaming in towards you. Then you have to decide: bottle it and dive under or 'swim swim swim!' as fast as you can to catch it? If you bottle it you pull yourself as deep as you can, reaching for the sand, feeling the power of the wave on your feet before bobbing up and watching it crash towards the beach, wondering if you just avoided being dumped or if you missed a great ride. If you go for it you feel the curve of the wave lift under you, then you pitch forwards slightly off the top and get swept along, bobbing your head up for air as you go, till you're deposited in the sandy foam of the shallows. In our case it was more seaweed soup than just sandy water: the surf had deposited all the seaweed there and you come up covered in it, in your hair, in your costume, dangling from your watch, everywhere. We took a long walk yesterday in search of a surf shop to buy some short flippers to help us catch the waves. Long snorkelling ones get in the way, you need short stiff ones for that quick spurt to catch the wave. They did help: I caught more waves and Phil now caught every wave he went for, impressing the other chaps on the beach who were trying to catch them too.

It's been in the thirties everyday, lovely warm sunshine, perfect temperature under the awning in the cockpit or under a beach umbrella, hot enough to want to jump in the sea regularly. We had one rainstorm, lightning and thunder and a torrent coming down. We caught what we could to top up the water tanks, diverting the streams running down the gunnels so they flowed into the tanks. I got totally soaked closing hatches and bringing cushions and washing below, but it was no hardship as it was so warm. At night we just use an empty duvet cover as a sheet, and maybe pull over a lightweight fleece blanket in the early hours. So I finally decided that it was ridiculous to still have out the duvet and our 'womble suits' - sailing all in ones to go under oil skins. When we were sailing in March round from Dublin, even in good weather on night watch I had merino wool long-johns and long sleeved top, womble suit, fleece top, then oil skins on top of all that. I could barely move but didn't freeze! Our last few night passages I've put jeans on and worn a sweatshirt on top of my tee-shirt when I've been on deck, taking it off when I come back below. In the coolest of evenings here one might put a light-weight fleece on when coming back to the boat after dark in the dinghy. That's it.

So, the womble suits and the duvet have been put in those vacuum bags for deep store... long may they stay there!