Oeiras to Sines and the end of the Rally in Lagos 37:06.62N 08:40.48W

Sat 28 Jun 2014 12:13
Oeiras gave us some happy/fun memories. From our berth we could sit and view Lisbon, the tour de Belem and the bridge through the often turbulent marina entrance.
You could not imagine that a factory built over two hundreds years ago to produce dynamite for multi purposes not the least being to blow up the enemy, could today be a place of such beauty and tranquillity. Built understandably a long way from the nearest homes, in a river valley (to provide water in case of accidents, and there were a few, the last being a few years ago and killing six was the deciding factor in closing down the production) the factory embraced beauty in architectural style along classical Portuguese lines. Workers valued their jobs and their lives intermingled with their work through marriages and births. A water catchment area was built as a lovely pool and these days the areas used for drying the powder on wooden tables sitting on concrete posts is bordered by foldaway rows of seating and has become an open air concert theatre. The surrounding countryside is now recreational parkland for families to escape to and the excellent museum with 14 minute video, tells the story in a brief and colourful way.
Our second stop with our charming lady guide was the Poets’ Gardens. Recently completed and near the centre of Oeiras, each famous Portuguese poet, mostly men but with one woman, had their own garden of remembrance designed to reflect the home and character of the poet. The Azorean garden had stone sculpture references to the waves of the sea, and another had a massive marble head of the poet sat on the ground with the top of his head taken off. Apparently he was a bit of a womaniser because two women (used to be three before one was stolen) sit permanently on his mind!
Finally the Palacio dos marqueses de Pombal caught our attention, with its beautiful grounds and canalised river that was once navigable and complete with mooring dock. Sage bushes bordered the path up to the Olive and wine press and the large stable block provided protection for the horses used not only for transport but to work the big home farm. The Marquis at the time virtually ran the country for the king and redesigned the centre of Lisbon after the devastating earthquake of 1755.
Back in the marina we were entertained one evening with an al fresco sardine supper and prize-giving hosted by Joel and Zoonie got a mention as third in our class! Andrew was away at the time attending a wedding back home and on another absence he hosted the end of the ARC Europe Rally in Lagos a few days before we arrived.
On our second day we painted our Zoonie logo on the harbour wall for posterity as did many others and came third in the painting competition! The last time I did this was in Horta in the Azores and it is fun to be involved in creating legitimate graffiti which we may well see when we pass by again next year.
Back at sea on route to Sines we tried to sail but after two and a half hours had only made just over seven miles and were getting sucked into the next headland so on went the iron topsail and we could alter course to clear Cabo Espechell. Dolphins visited us and the word was passed through the fleet that they were about. We made the depressing discovery that the grey water tank is not pumping out properly and some has seeped into the bilge. (Thought there was a bit of a hum about) The wind dropped to 6 knots and this lady cannot be bothered with it, she needs 12 knots before she will lift her skirts and start running! But the dolphins kept us entertained.
As we approached Sines in the early evening we heard on the radio that our sister ship, Nikita had engine problems so we readied ourselves to do her the same favour she did us back in Oeiras.”Nikita Nikita this is Zoonie, in view of the swell I think an astern tow would be better than alongside, over.” Rob rigged the long white line as a bridle at the stern with one of our 125ft Panama Canal warps as the tow line. Her engine was reaching only 900rpm and then dying. Robin turned the fuel filter a couple of times and the second time it enabled her to creep into Sines under her own steam with us at the ready behind.
So the first night ashore we were busy until half ten washing out the bilges and on the second evening Nikita was busy having her tank emptied only to discover exactly the same cause as ours, flakes of paint from the walls of the fuel tank. Eddie at Oyster told us the paint used when our Oysters were new would have been state of the art but would by now have deteriorated and need to be replaced, he even gave us details of the type to be used. Our other option is to put a flexible Plastic liner that will expand on filling. We just hope the bio-diesel we have filled up with out here will not erode the fibreglass tank too much. Apparently the diesel bugs found in modern diesel, that can block the fuel filters causing obvious problems, are thriving out here and mutating to survive our efforts to kill then with chemical additives. There’s always something!
It is partly EU grants, municipality funds and the Portuguese Government who have, over recent, years financed many of the little harbours and marinas we have used on route down the coast. For many miles the coastline is long sandy beaches backed with sand dunes and in front of pine forests, or rocky cliffs like our jurassic coast, with no natural inlets. Of course the facilities of a small harbour create opportunities including offshore swimming and jetski competitions, and visits from other vessels including, at Sines in 2017, a tallships race. Like many English the Portuguese embrace the sea.
You may think that to visit little harbour after little harbour would be boring but they all have something natural and different to offer. In Sines it was the crackling water. It literally crackled all the time as tiny molluscs tapped away at the weeds on our hulls.
Navigator Vasco da Gama was born here and he is famed for his voyages of discovery through the north west passage and to India. As we were shown the museum and entertained for lunch at an ultra modern library and art centre the thunder clouds were brewing around us.
This short but sweet visit ended as we set off on our last leg to Largos. 78 Miles as the dolphin swims. We slipped our lines at 5.39am and by 0700 were half way to the tropics, from 50degrees Lat now we were at 37 degrees and 108 miles from north Africa. Torsten and Hille in Infinity flew their blue parasailor and Nikita her cruising chute but us, well we struggled to get our main out of the mast. It came in the end but the sagging leech needs to be recut. Another job for the list.
As we rounded Cabo Ste Vincente we started on one of the best sails we have had yet, barring the storm! Off the wind in 14 – 17 knots of winds the lady liked that and gave us 7 – 8 knots under sail alone. We saw a flying fish, its blue translucent wing-fins shimmering in the sunshine and John and Chris on Serenity saw an orcha, one upmanship I call it!
After seventeen miles or so and approaching the turn for Lagos we reefed and then stowed the sails heeding warnings from the lead boats that the winds around the corner of Ponta Piedade were accelerating to 23 knots plus. So the last couple of miles was a hard push against the wind force under motor to the Ribiera Bensafrim where we moored alongside the pump out point full of hopes!! But the grey water tank would not pump out, no matter how they tried by priming the pipe with seawater. So we had two jobs for the engineers at Sopromar nautical centre. But enough of that, next was to get topped up with fuel and then moored, then bar, in that order.
We relaxed in an English owned bar, were joined by retired doctor John and new lady wife Chris, watching the folk pass by who were either very chic or old salty seadogs like me with my hair looking as if I’ve been electrocuted! We were famished and had a fish and chips supper which marked the start of a lovely stay languishing in Largos.