So originally, we had planned to head to Lisbon, Portugal and check out the city life. Once we survived the storm, we made a crash landing north of Lisbon in Peniche instead (read about the crazy weather here). We stayed in Peniche two days waiting for the weather to clear up so we could leave. When we docked in the 30 knots winds with tide against us, it was a real challenge! Here’s our track looking for a place to tie up and finding only this offloading dock spot without cleats!
We got to see much more of Portugal than we expected, which was great! Here’s what we learned during our brief stay in two Portuguese ports. Including why we’re wary of ordering the local specialty!
Peniche, Portugal is a small fishing city, with not much of a marina. As I mentioned, when we crash landed there, it was in the middle of terrible weather and there wasn’t one place to dock our catamaran. We managed to tie up on these frustrating round things that were not traditional cleats. The small coffee shop/minimart next to the dock was open and Pietro asked if we could stay to ride out the weather. Apparently there’s some sailor code that says if the weather is shit, the marina can’t just turn you away to go die on the high seas! Yessss! It was Saturday afternoon and they allowed us to stay for the weekend without paying for the non-existent spot, and that was really nice since we weren’t able to hook up to shore power or refill our water tank. (For our non-sailing friends, when you go to a marina, they set you up in a designated berth where you can hook up to power and water, and they have bathrooms and showers, so you pay the fee to park the boat and use all of those facilities while there. If none are available, you have to hook up on a mooring ball in the middle of the water, where you don’t have access to the shore power or water lines, but you use your dinghy to get to shore and can use the toilets and showers.) We found a good bar with hearty sandwiches, watched a little Portuguese TV we couldn’t understand, and went back to the boat desperately in need of some good sleep after our 18-hour debacle.
Since we didn’t have access to any amenities, we had to use our heat very sparingly. More cold nights…yay… There wasn’t much sleeping that first night; every noise made us wonder if we’d float away! Thankfully, our fancy rope-tying held us safely in place despite the winds. They definitely don’t have many catamarans stopping by because by the next morning, we had many visitors walking the docks or driving to the end of the dock to check us out. They must have sent out the town crier or been chatting over their morning coffees since there wasn’t much internet to be had… 🙂
We decided to venture out to get some food and try to replace our French press that we’d purchased in France. Since Bodum is a Portuguese company, we thought this would be pretty easy. We thought wrong. We scoured about 10 stores to no avail. We couldn’t find a single French press – of any brand! Totally disheartened, we realized we’d have to stick to our Nescafe instant coffee a few more days. I’m not the most avid coffee drinker; most who know me well know my preference for a good chai latte. Thankfully, I had purchased hot cocoa before leaving France, so I’ve been doctoring my coffee with that! We were in dire need of laundry after 5 days of sailing and anxious sweating during the storm, so we wandered off to a laundromat. Blissfully, it was a really nice place with good comfy seating and free wifi for customers! Score! We managed to update our social media page that day to let everyone know we were still alive!
After hauling our laundry about a mile back to the boat, we were in need of dinner! Group consensus was that we should obviously have fish since this was a fishing town and marina. It had to be good, right?!? Pietro found a good looking restaurant on one of his venturing walks and it looked good so we went in. Here’s one thing I’ve learned about European restaurants – they bring you bread and oil, cheese, meats, etc at dinner and it’s not free! I don’t want to sound like a cheapskate here, but in the U.S. if they bring it to you automatically without you ordering it, it’s called a free appetizer. What are we going to do, not eat the food in front of us? LOL! So yeah… Luckily, we really enjoyed all the little snacks they put in front of us and we were stoked for our upcoming meal! We ordered some traditional salt cod with potatoes, which was actually quite good. Definitely lived up to it’s name and required lots of water consumption! Our waiter confirmed that the traditional rice and seafood dish was a speciality and would easily feed all three of us, so we took the plunge. How can you go wrong?!? When it arrived in it’s big fancy covered bowl, it looked a bit like a paella and we had high hopes
When they brought all the metal tools, we got a little nervous – we didn’t want a meal we had to work so hard for! Unfortunately, the “seafood” in the dish was mostly shells with very little seafood actually there. I was determined to be adventurous and use the tools to have a traditional experience. When I finally pried some meat out of the chunk of crab (or was it lobster?) shell, and tasted it, it was mushy, extremely fishy and just plain weird. It certainly didn’t taste like any crab (or lobster) I’d ever had. The guys examined the shell I was working on and decided I was eating crab/lobster brains. Ewwwww…. I am still not sure if they were messing with me but it was terrible enough for me to give up. We mostly ate expensive fishy-tasting rice. Pietro had some bad luck with his portion as well…splattering all over his freshly cleaned jacket!
After all that frustration, we threw in the towel and headed back to the boat for some rest. We had to move on to Cascais the next morning to meet up with the rest of our crew! Sunday night and Monday morning were largely uneventful. It was a lot easier leaving the fishing dock in Peniche than it was getting in, and we were happy to sail away for warmer weather and new adventures!
By the time we arrived in the Cascais marina, our new crew members were waiting for us at the reception dock. After we let Wilfred go, we had to fill a spot on the boat and we were looking for someone experienced. So far, it was just Bob, Pietro, and I. Pietro came to us from Italy, an experienced captain, who was willing to change his plans and fly up to France to help us sail down, instead of meeting us in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria as originally planned. He requested that he be able to bring his little brother along, and they would share a cabin. Arturo doesn’t have any blue water sailing experience, but has been sailing small craft his whole life and teaches sailing in the summers. He’d be an excellent addition to our crew, but he is at university and wouldn’t be able to join us until we were in the Canaries. We needed to replace Wilfred to help us get there. Since Pietro and his brother were willing to share a cabin, that left us with a free cabin for whoever would join us. We were still receiving emails from people interested on Ocean Crew Link, but most didn’t have much (or any) ocean crossing experience so that wouldn’t really help us.
And then, magic happened! We got an email that this couple was interested in sailing with us. Chris and Amanda had been on boat sailing from the Mediterranean and headed for the ARC, but their boat’s owner had a family emergency and had to withdraw from the race. They were closing up the boat for the owner in Gibraltar and looking to board another boat in time for the ARC. Chris was an engineer in the British navy for 14 years before leaving to pursue other engineering roles where he’s lived in many different countries around the world. His wife, Amanda, had most recently worked at a sailing charity in Glasgow, where she was able to get her day skipper’s certification after sailing with Chris for years on a monohull. Like us, they were looking to change their lives – they planned to crew on a boat across the Atlantic, get their dive instructor certifications in Malaysia, work a while, and in a few years, get their own boat and charter. How cool! After a few brief phone conversations, we decided we were the right fit. Worst case scenario, if we all got to Las Palmas and decided it wasn’t going to work, they could find another boat and we could find different crew. Originally, we thought to pick them up in Cadiz, Spain, but since we were a little behind schedule with our bad weather encounter and delays, they decided to come to us. They rented a car and drove from Gibraltar to Cascais, and the three of us sailed down to meet them. So here we are, floating into the reception dock in Cascais and meeting our new crew!
It took about an hour to check in – the marina office was scrambling to catch up after a power outage. The marina stuck us in this crazy corner spot next to a massive curved stone wall which was NOT ideal for a catamaran. With the wind and current against us again, we struggled to get our boat onto the dock. Part of the problem was the massive mooring lines that Lagoon had given us with the boat. They’re 2 1/2 inch tai-braided lines that are about 15 pounds. Imagine my 115 pounds trying to throw these to the dock – they only went about two feet forward before crashing into the water… Chris, Amanda, the dock master on duty, and several nearby boaters helped from the dock, and after a very scary 45-minutes or so, we were finally in place. Exhausted, relieved, and VERY thirsty for a solid drink, we helped Chris and Amanda gather their luggage from their rental car and then searched for dinner. Bob had asked the lady in the marina office for recommendations for dinner and she pointed us in the direction of the places the locals go! Yesss! After our stressful seafood mess last night, we were burnt out on all that and decided the local famous chicken was the way to go. The meal was fantastic and they served large beers! It was perfect and well worth the walk to get there. A well deserved good night’s sleep was had by all.
Day two in Cascais we did some exploring by the divide and conquer method. The guys went to the marina shop (apparently also called the chandlers or chandlery) to get some new lines (yay!!) and other much needed things. Amanda and I decided to check out the shops, try to find the grocery store, and look for a French press and pepper grinder. Somehow in France, I bought a pepper grinder that wasn’t refillable, so the big container of peppercorns I bought was useless until we found a grinder that we could actually refill! We saw some amazing little shops and some beautiful tiles and architecture!
That evening, the boys came home with lines and splicing tools, and started on some amazing knot theory and splicing education by Chris! Truth be told, this is fascinating to watch and I’m hoping to learn some when I have some more time! Since Chris and Amanda won’t be with us forever, I’m pretty sure a good book on knots is in my future! I convinced everyone that tomorrow, we should spent at least a few hours touring Lisbon; we could all use a little recreation time before our we’re captive on the boat during our five-day sail to Las Palmas. This is supposed to be our honeymoon, right?!?
Day three in Cascais started with my first marina shower! Read that story here. Then we did more exploring – still searching for a pepper grinder and French press. I mean, come on! How hard can this be?!? Bodum is made in Portugal!! Desperation had me on Bodum’s website looking for authorized retailers and sadly there are NONE in Cascais; only in Lisbon. Unfortunately, the weather did not support our goal to go sight-seeing in Lisbon – the weather was cold, windy, and rainy. Iy bummed, so I guess we’ll be back to Lisbon someday after all! More splicing and knots ensued before we headed off to find refreshment. We stumbled upon a British pub and holed up there for quite some time, having drinks and appetizers and trying to decide what to do for dinner on our last night in Portugal. All of a sudden, a guy comes into the pub to deliver a huge bag of peanuts and maiz (roasted corn kernels). Bob, being the outgoing and adventurous guy he is, started asking the guy to bring us some too! At first, he didn’t take us seriously, but Bob managed to convince him to come back with the maize and have a beer with us. We chatted quite a while as he asked about our journey, why we wanted so much maize, and we learned about his shop.
After the beer, he had more deliveries to run, so the guys left Amanda and I at the British pub to guard the treasured snacks while they went to his shop to grab a bunch of dried fruits so we could make trail mix on passage. They came back with bags of goodies – dried apples, kiwis, ginger, bananas, apricots, cashews, and more! It was getting late, so we decided to venture out for dinner. Walking around, it occurred to us that hey, it’s Halloween! We had no costumes or anything, but there were quite a few people out and about dressed up for a party. We wandered a while, but couldn’t decide on anything. We spotted a Burger King and figured a quick meal and a taste of home was the perfect dinner before 5 days at sea! We donned our crowns during our meal and pretended to be Game of Thrones characters (or at least, I did!). I think Pietro made a pretty convincing Mad King, don’t you?!? The next day, we sailed for Las Palmas. Stay tuned for those updates coming soon!