37 06.578N 008 40.485W
Date: Friday 9th October 2015
Position: Moored in the Marina at Lagos, the Algarve
One way or another, whether we like it or not, we all wear uniforms of some description! Sometime the job we do dictates the cloths we wear in order to identify us as doing a specific job or even to give us a presumed authority over others. Other times social convention compels us to wear cloths we might other wise prefer not to but not to do so would prevent us from being accepted by people in general. After all society has an expectation of what is acceptable and what isn’t acceptable given certain situations. If you went to see your bank manager and he was sitting behind his desk wearing torn jeans, a tee shirt, had tattoos all over his arms and neck and a ring through his nose, you might think to yourself this is not the bank for me. Then you have those people who prefer not to be constrained by the usual norms of society and choose to dress in a manner that identifies them as rebels, those who want to “stick it to the man” types. Or alternatively as a way of stating their affiliation with a particular collective of like minds. I cite as examples “skinheads” with their turned up jeans, Doc Martins, white tee shirts, braces and Crombie overcoats. Or the “Punk Rockers” or “New Romantics” of the seventies all of whom where seeking to be individuals but by doing so still ending up wearing a type of uniform just like the rest of us.
I suppose in one way or another I have experienced all of the above scenarios over my lifetime. My first uniform was grey, the typical convention of the school uniform. At sixteen I changed this for khaki when I left home and join the army to train as a Chef. For the next eleven years of my life the Company Clerk would post “Standing Orders” on the noticeboard each evening telling me what I had to wear the next day be it combats, number one dress, fatigues or, more often than not, Chefs whites. At twenty-eight I left the army and worked in the “The City”, City of London that is. When people say the “The City” they don’t mean London as a whole. The term “The City” referrers to the small central section of London often called “The Square Mile” which is really where London grew from and “The City” has it’s own dress code that is strictly adhered to. You must wear a suit any color you like providing it is dark blue or grey and preferably with a pinstripe. Once a month on Court Days, this was the day that, for the want of a better word, our board of Trustees met, I would wear morning dress. On these days I was responsible for inducting new “Freemen” into the company and that required a formal ceremony both at Fishmongers Hall and at the Guildhall, therefore more formal clothing was required on these occasions. When I would be on duty at one of the company’s many dinners I would dress in “White Tie” because I conducted the formal part of the evening acting as I did as the Toastmaster. All examples of the “social convention” I mentioned earlier. Now I wear a uniform of my own choosing that consists of flip-flops, tee shirt and shorts. I don’t even wear underpants if I don’t feel like it shock horror! Now, I am not suggesting I am a rebel because I’m without a cause. Nor am I trying to reject the usual society norms by become a sea gipsy. But I earned the right to wear this uniform and I do so with pride because it didn’t come cheap. I had to leave a little bit of my sole behind to pay for it and that takes its toll on a man. I suppose in the end we all leave a little blood on the floor as we pass through life! But, then again, I am not as green as cabbage looking either. I have tucked away in one of the lockers on my boat a pair of flannel trousers, a white shirt, club tie and a blazer. Just incase, you know, “social convention” comes knocking on my door again. Well, you don’t want to burn all your bridges do you! Always hedge your bets for another day I say!
I left Sines at 7 am on Friday the 11th September in order make the most of the south going tide and because it was seventy nautical miles to Lagos which meant a passage time of fourteen hours if I could maintain five knots. The wind had got up overnight and being solo I had some difficulty in leaving the pontoon. It took awhile to workout the best way to handle the situation but I eventually got the lines setup then quickly stepped on board, slipped the lines, put the engine in reverse and backed out before I could be blown onto the next pontoon. Once clear of the pontoon I set the main sail whilst still in the lee of the inner harbor but by the time I had cleared the commercial port and was in open water the wind died, typical. Engine on I motored sailed for the next two hours until the wind picked up sufficiently to set the sails again. With all the sail plan set, genoa, main and mizzen, I was making around five to six knots over the ground which was sufficient for my purposes. But as the tide turned against me and the wind became intermittent my speed over the ground began to slow. By 3 pm it was obvious I would not make Lagos by nightfall and I am never keen on entering an unknown port in the dark. So plan two, look for a safe anchorage for the night. The pilot book showed an anchorage on the east coat called Arrifana, which was reported to be a lovely spot in stable weather. I was already closing on Arrifana and it was only 3.30 pm so decided to push on and round Cabo de São Vincente before looking for an anchorage for the night. There were three possible places each of which I could make before dark. This sounded like a plan to me and so I pressed on. As I neared Cabo de São Vincente the wind dropped even more and became rather fluky so I started the engine again to help me get around the point. But I was in for rather a surprise as I rounded Cabo de São Vincente and headed east towards the Mediterranean. The wind picked up very quickly. Ten knots at first, then up to fifteen a few minutes latter and steadily increasing all the time. I realized that this must be a land breeze, which often happens after a long hot day. The land heats up during the daytime and as the temperature falls with the onset of nightfall it releases all that stored up energy in the form of wind, which I was now benefiting from. I rolled out the genoa leaving a couple of reefs in and soon we were flying along at seven knots. Now, as you know, I am no racing sailor but when you get your yacht flying along as we were now, you can’t help but have a big grin on your face and the old heart starts pumping. When I had rounded Cabo de São Vincente some minutes earlier the chart plotter gave an ETA of five hours to reach Lagos. It was now showing an ETA of less than two hours. The previous weather forecast had predicted the wind coming from the east by the next morning, which would be the way I was heading. That made my mind up, lets go for it, after all it is not that often I get Celtic Dawn performing so well. We raced on, wind on the beam and now showing twenty-five knots. I was still under full main sail with a double reef in the genoa but the gunwales weren’t quite under water yet so I left the sail plan as it was. As the wind picked up even more I got that “puckering” feeling from down below once or twice which indicating it was indeed time to think about putting a reef in the mail sail. But the wind peaked at twenty-eight knots and then began to steadily decrease as the land gave up the last of its stored energy. By the time I reached Lagos at 10 pm the wind was well below ten knots so it was time to stow the sails, start the engine and concentrate on the pilotage into the Lagos. I had identified the light (a flashing white light every seven seconds) on Ponta da Piedade from ten miles out and this was now abeam of me on the port side. There was a moment of confusion when I identified a port and starboard (red and green lights) fairway makers some distance outside of the entrance to the harbor. The lights were not marked on the chart nor were they showing on the chart plotter but it was obvious what they were and posed no danger to me. In fact they were of help as they indicated a safe passage into the harbor so I set a course towards them and picked up the fairway. Once you enter the harbor you go up the channel about seven hundred meters passing the fishing harbor to starboard and then onto where the marina is located. However, there is a bridge that controls access to the marina and at night, when the marina office is closed, the bridge is closed. So for yachts arriving after 7 pm there is an eighty-meter reception pontoon outside the office that you moor up to overnight. The problem was that when I arrived the night the pontoon was full of local fishing boats all preparing to go out night fishing so there was no room for me. I turned about and went out of the harbor and anchored in the bay just outside with one other boat that was already there. It was 11 pm and I was tired so I prepared a quick supper, spaghetti bolognaise left over from a few days earlier, had a beer, obligatory and off the bed. The next morning I made my way back to the marina stopping at the fuel pontoon to fill up my tanks and the empty jerry cans I had used along the way. This done, I went to the reception to book in and after that motored to my new mooring, number nineteen on E pontoon and settled in. The marina is a nice place but the one down side is that I am berthed right in front of a two-story block of restaurants and bars right on the marina walkway. Good for nipping off for a quick orange juice and an expresso first thing in the morning but not so good at the weekends when the new shift of tourists arrive on a Friday night and the next round of pub singers, karaoke hopefuls and general mayhem begins all over again. In fairness it is the end of the season so things are beginning to quite down a bit but I am not sure I would want to be here during high season or at lest not on this berth.
The other evening I was playing Dominos, yes that’s right Dominos, with a few of the long-term resident yachties in the marina bar. “They call this Port Velcro” Andrew said to me. Andrew was the convener of the evening’s entertainment and a good chap to get to know as I found out later. “What do you mean I said”. “Well, when yachties arrive in Lagos they tend to stick here and don’t go any further” and I can see what he means. It is a lovely place in fact apart from Cameret it is the only other port I have visited so far that I would wish to spend any serious time in. It is unashamedly a tourist town with all that goes with it. Streets full of competing restaurants and bars, street performers everywhere you turn and a myriad of sales people trying to pursued each passing tourist to opt for their boat trip to see the grottos and dolphins rather than the twenty other operators down the line offering exactly the same deal. But unlike other such tourist towns there is pleasantness about the place that just a nice gentle buzz and no real pressure selling. The marina is excellent although the Wi-Fi doesn’t work, what a surprise! I was under the impression that being booked into the marina gave me access to the marina hotel swimming pool but this is only for long-term berth holders as I subsequently found out. But no one has stopped me yet so will I keep using it until someone does. Then you have the beach, which is only a ten-minute walk from the marina. A lovely sandy beach with a few restaurants littered about the place and the usual beach furniture to hire for the day. Yes, it is certainly a place you could settle down in for a while. Even Ann, who had come out for a few days holiday the week before, reinforced Lagos’s reputation as “Port Velcro”. “Oh this is lovely, why can’t you stay here and we could invite friends and family out to stay”. She was right of course but I have other plans and I am not ready to put roots down anywhere quite yet.
This time of year yachties are returning to Lagos following their summer adventures to winter here and a kind of travelling community springs up. Andrew, who I mentioned earlier, is one of the organizers and runs a twice-weekly radio net for the “Navigators” on VHF channel 9. He gives out details of what is going on during the week and is generally very helpful. As well as the weekly events like line dancing, music group, bridge, Mexican train dominos, yoga classes (think I’ll give that one a miss) and many others there are a number of specific events held throughout the winter months. Portuguese cookery classes, drawing lessons, distress flare exercise, dinghy racing and organized visit to various interesting locations. There is even a Navigators website with plenty of information about what is going on, forums, items for sale etc., all the usual kind of stuff, so there is a vibrant little community here during the winter months. I invited Andrew aboard for drinks one evening. He and his wife have just returned from the Caribbean having completed the same circuit that I intend to do. They also spent some time in Trinidad, which is where I intend to layup over the hurricane season. To talk to someone with firsthand experience was really helpful. The various websites and published material are all very good and an invaluable source of information but they can sometime be out of date and give a misleading impression of a place. There is a website called “Noonsite” which is particularly good but even this relies on people to post their experiences and not all do so. We had a really good chat and he has given me some very useful information. Marcus also joined us remember him from Lisbon. He had got bored at home and returned to his boat to bring it down to Lagos. I also invited another chap along called Richard who was on his own. He had just returned from spending three years in the Canaries so I gleaned some very useful information from him too. Coincidentally, his favorite place in the Canaries is San Sebastian harbor in La Gomera, which just happens to me mine so we had a long chat about our experiences there. What started off as four strangers getting together for a drink ended up as a very pleasant and interesting evening for us all.
Now, you are going to love this little anecdote. I needed to get some repairs done to my sail boot cover and the mast climbing strap I have talked about in earlier blogs. The sail boot cover is a piece of canvas that wraps around the mast where the boom joins it. It is designed to protect the sails from UV light when they are stowed and not in use. Two of the straps had come away and needed stitching back on and the foot part of the mast climbing system needed reinforcing with better quality stitching. I could have done the job myself but the canvas and strap were pretty thick so it was easier to get a sail maker to do it instead. So I took the items to the chandlers here called Sopromar. Not so long ago this was a small family run business with only modest facilities but with the help of EU money it has become a huge concern with brand new premises and an amazing range of products. I discussed my repairs with a chap behind the desk who said yes he could arrange for the repairs to be done. He made a call and moments later another chap came in, bundled my bits together and off he went to the sail makers bits in hand. I was suitably impressed with their efficiency. I called in on the Friday to see if the items had been returned and spoke to the same man I had seen a few days before. He had a good look around to no avail and then made a call following which he informed me that the items had been returned but the sail maker who had brought them back was not in today and they couldn’t find them right now. Could I call back tomorrow? No skin off my nose so I agreed. The next day I returned but the man I had been dealing with was now on holiday. The young assistant on duty tried to help me but again no success so he asked if I would call back on Monday. No problem I said unsuspectingly. Monday morning I was back at the desk and there appeared to me to be a bit of humming and haring going on between a couple of the assistants until one of them plucked up the courage and approach me. “I am very sorry sir” he said politely, “your items have been delivered to our office in Portimao by mistake. We should have them back by tomorrow if you would care to call in then?” With a slightly irritated tone to my voice I agreed, after all Portimao was only fifteen kilometers down the road what could possibly go wrong. The next day like clockwork there I was again standing behind the desk this time with great expectations of receiving my goods. The young assistant I had dealt with the day before looked at me and I could see from his eyes as he approached that he had a kind of “oh well here goes lets get it over with” look about him. “Good morning sir” he said politely, “you will be pleased to know we have located your equipment”. “Thank you” I replied, “Where is it”? “In France sir”! Now at this point my brain divided into two trains of thought. The first thinking about an appropriate response to the news I had just been presented with and the other pondering on what possible bizarre set of circumstances could have conspired for my equipment to end up in France. Neither of these trains of thought had reached any firm conclusion when I blurted out “France” as I stared at him with a faint glimmer of disbelief. “Yes sir, France” he replied. Nope, the brain was still confused. Maybe there was a small town just down the road called France or just maybe France in Portuguese really meant “yes sir right here under the counter”. Yes, that must be it! After a pause I said, “You mean France as in France, France” in desperate hope I had misheard him for the second time. But the reply remained the same “yes sir, France”. With my head still reeling from this news I left the chandlers on the assurance that they would call me when they had more news. Later that day I received a call and things became clearer. The sail maker had delivered my items back to Sopromar at the same time he was returning a bimini cover (sun shade for the cockpit of a boat) for a French customer. He had put my items by the side of the Frenchman’s bimini cover in he store. You can see where this is heading already can’t you! The Frenchman had put his cover in for a quote but had decided not to go ahead. Therefore, when the items were returned to Sopromar although they were two separate orders there was only one invoice mine. So when the Frenchman came to collect his cover the assistant saw two items but only one invoice and thought it was all was all one order so folded my items into the cover and gave the whole lot to the Frenchman who subsequently sent the package to France. After much delay, raising of voices and the stamping of feet I managed progress my protest through the chain of command from the shop floor, to middle management and finally to one of the Directors of the company and the matter has almost been resolved. Apparently, the items are on there way back from France and should be here in the next few days. I have this awful thought though of returning to collect them standing in front of the counter and the young assistant saying “Yes sir we still have your items but they are in Russia now”. Lets keep our finger crossed.
I forgot it’s Friday night. I should have remembered because the restaurants and bars around the marina where full today and the excursion touts with their pads in hand were out doing a brisk business. Yes, of course, it’s a new intake of weekly tourists. I don’t mind the pub singers but they seem to have a limited repertoire and after five weeks I’m beginning to sing along with them and that is not a good sign. Yes, I’ve been here five weeks already I can’t believe it. I must be moving on soon otherwise I will become part of the permanent scene at Port Velcro.
Bye for now.
Signing off Ted
Rounding Cabo de São Vincente. You can just get a sense of the swell that moments before passed beneath me.
Lagos from the fishing harbour
The marina bars and restaurants. See how close they are to the marina.
The Saturday farmers market plenty of cheap fresh fruit and veg
Rabbits for sale at the farmers market. Pet or pot? One letter of the alphabet will decide their fate.
One of the beaches at Lagos. You can just see the entrance to the harbour in the background and the long beach behind.
Another photo of the beach
One of the walled entrances to the town.