Crossing The Border To Portugal

Got woken up by Lorraine who was bitching and swearing at Sam and me for leaving her at the party on the mainland. I have a vague recollection of stumbling around the club at 4 in the morning looking for Lorraine, who had decided to get to know the locals a bit more ‘intimately’, whilst Sam was complaining that if he stayed any longer he would fall asleep standing up. Not finding Lorraine and obviously thinking she must already have left, Sam and I stumbled back to the marina to pick up the dingy. We fell into the dingy, got the outboard going and motored our way to Ramprasad, anchored up 10 minutes from the marina. Then the engine stopped. Sam had forgotten to fill it with fuel so, pissed as bastards, we have to complete our journey by rowing. Ever rowed a dingy in the sea after a few too many? Not easy. Anyway, the point of the story is that when we got back to the boat there was no sign of Lorraine. ‘Don’t worry’, slurred Sam, ‘I’ll go ashore in an hour to pick her up’. Five hours later Lorraine is standing over us calling us every name under the sun, accusing us (rightly) of leaving her stranded on the marina with Pedro, who she’d brought on deck. Apparently Sam didn’t wake up an hour later to pick Lorraine up. Someone else from the marina had done that. Ooops. Although I had looked for Lorraine in the club, as originally planned, I was so pissed she could have stood in front of me and jumped on my head and I wouldn’t have noticed.


So there ends our time in Spain, for the time being at least. Hung over we refuel, fill up with water and make our way down the coast to cross the border into the Minho region of Portugal. Like my head the sky fills with fog and to top it all off we have to contend with no wind…..very annoying.


1After my watch and a snooze I’m woken to the sight of our first Portuguese destination, Viana do Castelo, which looks dreary and drab. How wrong I was! This town was just completing the four day fiesta Romaria de Nossa Senhora d’Agonia, or Our Lady of Sorrows. If you didn’t know the festival was called this you could have guessed by the local folk music that was playing from every bandstand and stage. Whilst the instrumental music is great it’s unfortunately accompanied by banshee wailing. This is normal, so I’m told, but it sounds rubbish.


21The evening, however, culminated in….guess what? Yep, that’s right. A firework display! This display, however, was something else. It started from the double decker bridge (designed by Eiffel, he of Parisian tower fame) and continued for a good half hour, putting our Millennium display to shame. By the end of the display there were about 20 car alarms going off and a street full of very happy but tired faces.





31The next day was spent checking out the town. Viana do Castelo is The Minho’s largest resort town, with a population of some 36,000 people. This was to be our first exposure to the standard northern Portuguese architecture: Renaissance and rococo. I’m not entirely sure what rococo means but the ornate, over the top buildings look like they should be rococo. They look fantastic but the first oddity of this town (aside from the now familiar wailing) is the piped music that’s played in the streets through speakers attached to the lamp-posts. Like something out of Brave New World the music is paused as a Portuguese voice orders you to do something. It’s probably just an advertisement but I didn’t like it as you couldn’t get away from it and I could just imagine the voice saying “today you will shop; tomorrow you will work”.






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71On the subject of music I find myself having a constant battle on two fronts: Conny stated that music is just a vibration of air waves in the ether and that it has little importance in life. This is something I can’t get my head round and it just makes me think he is more of a borg than I had originally given him credit for. The other constant battle that is doing my head in is Skipper’s music policy. Skipper is quite happy for either Lorraine or myself to put on music, so long as it’s soca. If it’s not soca then he gets annoyed and suggests that perhaps we should put some soca on. Skipper’s so-called ‘soca’ collection is huge – ranging from hardcore trance, reggae, salsa, hip hop, dance hall, bad boy ragga, ska and so on. In other words Skipper actually likes other types of music but to him it’s soca. One evening I put on some Jimmy Cliff (surely one of reggae’s finest) but Skipper said it was too slow. Next night he insisted on some soca, which was a Jimmy Cliff reggae compilation. Another time I put on some latino jazz and soul (the great Santana, for example) and Skipper tells me to turn it off because it’s too slow. ‘Let’s put some soca on’, he pipes up next day, and puts on some latino soul! Agggghhhhh! Every night Lorraine and I are allowed to listen to half an hour of music before we have to then endure 4 hours of SODDING SOCA!!!! If it’s not soca then it’s the same old Monty Python CD, which the other night we were ordered to listen to. It’s got so bad that Conny now tunes the radio into a seriously poor local Portuguese station. Even Lorraine admitted ‘I liked soca at first but now it just gets on my tits’. And you don’t want to get on Lorraine’s tits. Unless you’re Pedro.


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Music aside, Skipper, Lorraine and I made the arduous journey up to the top of the town to visit the Templo do Sagrado Coracao, an over the top church (neo-Byzantine don’t you know) that sits in front of an over the top James Bond-style hotel. With an entrance fee of 0.5 Euros we made our way up the claustrophobic spiral staircase to the top tower, giving us a fantastic view of the city and the coastline. We sauntered back down the hill via the staircase that runs down the side of the hill into town, and back to the yacht in time for tea.


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For the first time on this trip we have made some new yachting chums. I was originally a bit dubious of this poncy “oooh isn’t my mainsail lovely” kinda thing, but it turns out that Liz and Dave from Cornwall, and Gunila and Kristen from Sweden are just as down to earth as the Ramprasad Crew, and not the snobby type that I had come to expect. This is one of the beauties of sailing, especially working our way down a popular route at a popular time of the year – one tends to bump into the same people and, with a bit of effort, a fun evening can be had by all. We spent this evening with the Swedish couple, who were very appreciative of Skipper’s sailing knowledge as it sounded as if they had had a rather unforgiving crossing of the Biscay, and had even knocked the idea of a trans-Atlantic crossing on the head due to a lack of confidence. Skipper, as you know, is rather experienced in the sailing world. He was evening recognised by a German sailor who had seen him in a yachting magazine a couple of years ago. Our skipper’s famous!


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