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Showing posts from 2018

Susanne Huber-Curphy - today's Moitessier!

I've been corresponding with Susanne Huber-Curphy who is sailing solo in the Longue Route. A few days ago. I noticed she was heading way east in the South Atlantic. So I asked her if she was heading to France with the rest of the fleet. I got an answer yesterday. She is following the track of the Longue Route as Moitessier did in the original Golden Globe Race when he continued sailing to Tahiti, even though he was winning the race, 'to save his soul'. She is heading into the Pacific. She is just short of crossing her track off South Africa today, which is her 200th day under sail. Keep in mind that she and s/v Nehaj started from Maine so she's already sailed more than a circumnavigation and she's been leading the pack the entire way. She's pulled a Moitessier!!! Or maybe a Nehaj!!! The name Nehaj comes from the Croatian term Ne hajati [nɛ xajati] which means as Susanne puts it, "I named her NEHAJ, that translates to: 'Feel safe here, Do not be afraid…

New Year's Resolution for Safer Sailing in 2019

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We have all made New Year's resolutions that we have more often than not given up on. But the best resolution for cruisers is to remind ourselves not to be complacent and to refresh our diligence about safety consciousness aboard. So here's my list of resolutions for cruising in 2019. 
1. Adopt the 'astronaut training' mentality when underway. Always ask yourself 'what if' in preparation for the worst things that could happen. For example:
What if someone falls overboard?What if the mainsail halyard jams while hoisting?What if the anchor drags on a dark and stormy night?What if the engine quits in a busy thoroughfare or crowded marina?What if a windward shroud snaps while beating?What if the backstay parts while sailing downwind?What if the spinnaker jams while dousing?What if we hit an object in the water?

Christmas at Sea (on a Lee-Shore)

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The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand; The decks were like a slide, me boys, where a sailor scarce could stand; The wind was a nor'wester, blowing squally from the sea, And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

Poem for everyone setting sail across the oceans

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This is so interesting. It was used in an ad to promote National Book Tokens and giving books as gifts in Ireland. It took me a while, but I realized that it's written mostly with the titles of books. How clever!  The copywriter has to be a sailor to have crafted something so meaningful to adventure sailing.

Life Afloat vs Ashore: 10 Ways Lifestyles Differ

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The life of a cruiser is 'slightly' different from a landlubbers' Sarah Steenland, the Cruising Cartoonist, just released a comic for Christmas that accentuates the differences between living on a boat and living in a house. It made me think back to the time when we took a year to sail the Atlantic circuit. While sailing, we missed our home in Ireland. When back in Ireland, we missed being aboard our boat. Which of course made me reminisce about the differences between cruising and land dwelling. They are such different lifestyles. Both have their merits. I now find it very compatible and satisfying to live half and half. Here are some differences to think about if you're thinking about heading out there.

STEM Education through Sailing

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You may have heard about wonderful success with early experimental STEM Sailing programs. I have been following the STEM sailing concept since I first heard about it through the VOR. It enables learning Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) through a sailing curriculum. 

Gifts for Sailors

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It's December 1st and the day I usually sit down to create a list of gifts I might consider for my sailing buddies. No one really wants just practical gifts, so I've concentrated on going beyond pure utility and have selected a few items that have some bling or tech gizmo appeal. Fortunately, sailing is often associated with gadgets that do evolve over time into things that make things easier and more fun. So here goes.


1) Luci Light from US$19.95, €18



Whale blow

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I saw this photo of a humpback whale in Norway on Facebook yesterday and it rekindled the moment when a fin whale surfaced right next to Aleria off the Azores. The stench of rotting fish was overwhelming and clung to our clothes all day afterwards. It was a magic moment. We got a photo, but not like this one, capturing water on fire. Beautiful.

Single-handed sailing

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2018 is a remarkable year for sailing around the world. There are scores of vessels out there crossing oceans in the Golden Globe Race, the Longue Route, the Route du Rhum and the Transatlantic Race as a start. These are all the folks that are racing. There are plenty of stories going around, too, with carnage befalling most of the fleets. On top of that, Randall Reeves has embarked on a second try for his Figure 8 Voyage and Jeanne Socrates has joined the fray aiming to be the oldest woman to sail solo nonstop around the world. You can follow them all on the Longue Route Fleet Tracker.

Happy 50th Birthday, Hobie Cat!

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This year, the Hobie Cat turned 50 years old. Developed by surfer Hobie Alter, who was credited with building the first one in 1965 with a design that could be easily beached. Since 1967, the company has been building a variety of sizes and styles, but it's the Hobie 16 that really revolutionized sailing. The Hobie 16 was easily trailerable, easily beached and didn't cost a fortune. It took a rich man's sport and made it accessible to all. Over 135,000 Hobie 16 Cats are sailing around the world. They were fun, they were fast, and they were accessible.

Camera etiquette

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As sailors who take our vessels to distant lands, we want to preserve our memories. But the rules about what is acceptable behaviour, especially behind a camera lens, are different in many places around the world. I have the belief that if in doubt, ask permission or don't take the picture.

What climate change means to sailing

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The last few weeks were extraordinary for storms around the world. It's a strange conundrum that although weather forecasting is getting better, the weather overall is getting worse - more extreme and less stable.

Weather resources

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As weather resources change and new ones are added all the time, I thought it would be useful to keep track of some favourite online sites. Most are for route planning purposes. With climate change, it's more important than ever to stay ahead of the game. 

Frank Singleton's Weather Page has everything listed and keeps it up to date. 

Plastics in the ocean

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The headline, "Plastic Can Take 500 Years To Bio-Degrade In The Ocean," caught my attention today together with an infographic that backs up the statement. The data was obtained from NOAA and Woods Hole Sea Grant and the infographic was created by statista. I'm assuming some maths genius calculated the rate of degradation of certain plastics and projected it on a timeline, otherwise no one would have actually observed the rate of decay over 500 years, unless of course he or she were time travelers. But it is a serious problem for the oceans and it seems people are finally waking up. Little did Dustin Hoffman know in The Graduate about the effect 'plastics' would have on our world.

World record number of boats in a regatta

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This past weekend, a race called the Barcolana took place in the Gulf of Trieste, Italy. It attracted a world record number of yachts - 2,689 boats crossed the start line. It was the 50th edition of this race and even the the Amerigo Vespucci,  a 270.34 ft. long tall ship, symbol of the Italian Navy, joined in. I don't know about you, but I'm a bit claustrophobic and not at all inclined to play bumper boats. The density of yachts and white sails is overwhelming. The winners were local brothers Furio and Gabriele Benussi on Spirit of Portopiccolo.

Aleria on the hard

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Our boat was hauled out at Astilleros Lagos in Bouzas near Vigo, Spain yesterday. The boatyard is legendary and has been hauling and launching vessels using a complex system of custom built cradles on a rail for almost a century. We were not present when they hauled her but it looks like they had good weather and plenty of water.

Marina in Bantry

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An Ocean Cruising Club friend and fellow member of the Committee Bill Balme was sheltering in Bantry. Since we haven't been there since the marina opened, I asked him for a report. Here's what he had to say.  Good experience at Bantry - very nice harbormaster, Michael.Very small marina - I reckon with all the local small boats, there's probably room for maybe 4 - 6 visiting yachts.One female and one gents toiletGood securityWater & Electric on the very solid pontoons. Good wifi - even reaches the moorings (but slow there).Cost us €20 per night.We were also on one of their moorings which he charged us €5 per night - though published rate is €10.Very sheltered harbour. Looks like we'll have to plan a visit. 

Staying put - loss of ambition with age

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For the first time in my life, I have experienced a loss of ambition. It happened just as we were heading off to sail for two weeks in Galicia. I had no interest in traveling or sailing, but I didn't say anything to anyone. When we got there, I had no interest in sailing off. As it happened, our 'niece' Joan was taking part in a race which was coming in to Portosin where our boat was. It suited me fine to stay put in the marina for several days, something we would never have done before.

September in Vigo

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We are docked at the Liceo de Maritimo in Bouzas, Vigo preparing Aleria for her winter at the Astilleros Lagos boatyard. We've removed the sails and other sundry items from the deck, stowed the dinghy, cleaned out the fridge, swept up and done the laundry. Yesterday, Alberto Lagos stopped by and we reviewed all the work we'd like done over the winter. He is such a gentle and kind man. We are fortunate to consider him and all the Lagos family our friends. It is very warm and dry but not unpleasant. The climate here is much to be desired.

Fog in Galicia

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We departed from the Ria de Muros y Noia with the Figaro fleet in the afternoon. The wind died so we motored to Illa Salvora, our favourite island, feeling pity for the poor Solitaire fleet attempting to round Finisterre.

La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro - the challenge!

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La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro single-handed race is run in stages of about 500 miles each. It is known as the preparatory event for sailors contemplating the Vendee Globe, the non-stop around the world solo challengethat is the ultimate test of endurance on the high seas. Our 'niece', Joan Mulloy has her sights set on the Vendee and this year entered the Solitaire to test her mettle.

Northwest Passage in 2018 - no easy transit.

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About a week ago, the Canadian Coast Guard sent out a message warning hopeful adventurers that ice in the NWP is heavier than normal and that, should a vessel get into trouble, the CCG might not be able to rescue them. They should be prepared to spend a winter aboard. That means they would have had to have packed enough food for the entire crew for a long winter in terrible conditions. 

Small old boats in the Southern Ocean

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If you are following the Golden Globe Race, then you are aware of the carnage out there. Several yachts have retired and it was announced overnight that Norwegian skipper Are Wiig's Olleanna was rolled and dismasted overnight.

Atlantic Hurricane Season

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This time last year, the Atlantic was chock a block with tropical storm activity. This year, as we head into peak season, the silence is deafening. We got our first TS remnants yesterday as Ernesto came through, dumping lots of rain but otherwise fairly benign. Friends had thought about spending more time in Ireland, arriving around next week but I advised against it, as the west coast in the autumn can be very wet and windy as the TS barrel their way across the Atlantic towards our west coast. Was I alarmist? Possibly. So I looked up what the 'experts' were saying.

Collaboration with WindGuru

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Our little sailing club in the west of Ireland has to deal with lots of weather. After all, everything that gets cooked up over in the states, crosses the Atlantic and picks up more punch along the way to dump it over here. So last year, when our anemometer was blown away in a storm, literally, we decided to partner with WindGuru to create a weather station that would deliver a community service as well. The result was a new weather station at Mayo Sailing Club with weather cam that now provides a feed to WindGuru for more accurate results on Clew Bay.

OCC Port Officer Welcome

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Yesterday, Alex and I put on our Ocean Cruising Club Port Officer hats to welcome two OCC members visiting our home town Westport by land. Duncan and Ria Briggs, circumnavigators, have sold their boat which they lived on for 12 years and bought a cottage in England. While waiting for their planning permission to come through for modifications to the tiny cottage by the sea they snapped up, they decided to tour Ireland. We don't get many OCC visitors to our neck of the seas, only 6 to date counting the Briggs - 4 by sea.

Chartering in the Med

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Alex and I decided that it would be much saner to charter in the places we want to sail in the Med rather than keep our boat there for the short times off season we'd be using her. The Med has been so hot in the summer, crowded and expensive. The fact that Italy is now turning away migrant vessels and grounding rescue vessels is a complication we don't want to have to deal with either.
Lo and behold, we come home and our friend Grant Headifen sends us notice of a new service he has launched. A global database of comparative yacht charter pricing. We trust Grant because we wrote the anchoring course that's part of his accredited sailing certification curriculum on NauticEd. 

Book review - Murder at the Marina

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While in Portugal, I downloaded and read Ellen Jacobson's debut novel.  I 'met' Ellen online on the Facebook group Women Who Sail Who Write. It's a wonderfully informative and supportive group for writers who mostly live aboard their boats. I have been very impressed with Ellen's contributions to the group and was very excited for her when she announced completion of her first novel.

I posted a review on Goodreads. I tried to share that review directly to my blog but couldn't get it to work. So here it is, with 5 stars. I loved it!  Well done, Ellen. And thanks for the entertaining read.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We're set to go

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Well they got us into our berth first thing this morning and we've been tidying up ever since. Alex has the lines tied and chafe protectors secured. The fridge is cleaned out, the bicycles are stowed. All the prep work that goes with putting a boat to bed for a bit has been done.

Last night, we decided to have dinner at the RCNP yacht club which has a beautiful club house. Shortly after we were seated, Alex and Tatiana stopped by and joined us for drinks as we ate tapas. We had a delightful conversation about crossing oceans and everything else in Russian and Ukrainian, which unfortunately Alex couldn't take part in. I periodically stopped to translate something funny or important, and every once in a while, Alex added some bit of information in English having semi followed the flow. It was an enjoyable dinner.


The final days

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We sailed lazily at least part of the way from the Ria Arousa to the Ria Muros y Noia. It was a beautiful day again, and there were loads of fishing boats out. Lazy relaxing sail.

We arrived at Muros in the late afternoon and spotted a yacht with an OCC Associates burgee. After wandering around the town, stopping for a beer, and finding a stall selling bread on this holiday feast day, we headed back and stopped by to meet Ian Moors, Caroline and Charlotte on the Beneteau Silhouette. They are new members of OCC en route to the Caribbean with the ARC this year. They were so excited to be qualifying as full members of the OCC. Nice bunch.

An official visit

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We were anchored alone in Salvora last evening. The other two boats had departed a short while before. When suddenly, the Customs boat made a bee line to Aleria. They pulled alongside and asked to board. We quickly deployed fenders and two men hopped across. Pretty good as it was blowing about 20-25 at the time, and kicking up quite a chop.

Back to our favourite places

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We’ve been to Combarro a few times now, Once anchored off the marina, once in the marina, once anchored off Ilha Tambo, and once anchored off the mole. We’ve loved it every time.  So when we raised anchor in Aldan, we chose to return again. Lots of birds were fishing as the fish rose all around us. Dolphins were feeding and porpoises jumping for joy at their find. Fishermen were actually catching lots of mackerel not just fishing. It was the most wildlife we had seen in our time underway and it was encouraging.

Seamanship on display

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We were treated to an unusual sight yesterday. As we cruised from Ria de Aldan to Combarro in the Ria de Pontevedra, we noticed a helicopter hovering over a boat in the distance. We wondered if the chopper was chasing a drug runner. But it turned out to be the Policia Maritima practicing dropping a crew member onto a vessel at sea and then retrieving a person from a boat in a basket. Cool. They did this right in front of us as we sailed slowly along the Ria. The maneuver was perfectly executed. It's nice to know that there is such skill and bravery out there.

Out to anchor

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Enough of marinas. Our next few days are meant to be swinging on a hook. On our way out, we buzzed by the Ilhas de Cies and saw Celtic Spirit anchored there. Michael hailed us on the radio and Alex chatted for a while. They were on their way to Porto in Portugal and would be back in September. We vowed to meet up then.

Friends in Baiona

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The weather forecast had suggested that it would be flat calm for two more days, after which time the Nortada – northerlies blowing 20-25 knots – would set in making any northern progress difficult and uncomfortable. So we bit the bullet and decided to push north from Cascais to Baiona, a distance of about 220 NM. If we left in the morning, we’d arrive the next day in the evening before sundown. We thought that would be perfect. We calculated the fuel it would take to motor all the way and concluded that we had enough to go all the way with enough to spare to make it a comfortable margin. We did not refuel in Cascais where it is very expensive.

Playing tourists

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We were anchored in Portimao again. The last time we were sorry we had not availed of the tour boat trips to see the sea caves along this section of the Algarve. It's apparently one of the most extensive cave systems in Europe. We saw the way the tour boats went in and out of the caves as we had sailed along the coast. We knew it wasn't something we could do in our own dinghy. So we went ashore and signed up with a small boat operator, one that did not take a whole busload o f tourists at once. Okay, so we were in Portugal and our operator turned out to be a German from Berlin named Capt. Reiner, but he was married to a Portuguese woman, had a grown Portuguese son and had lived here for 27 years. And he was entertaining. I think we actually had the best experience.

Change of plans

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So what are we doing back in Lagos instead of heading toward Gibralter? In Culatra, I dropped a bomb on Alex. I asked, “How would you feel if we forgot about the Med and sailed back home to Ireland? It’s hot, it’s crowded, and it’s expensive."

Lovely Windswept Culatra

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We pulled up our anchor at 9 am yesterday morning and were underway by 9:30. Hecuba had left long before us – they were gone by 7:30 when we got up. We set our sails close to shore and opted to follow the coast so we could get a look at some of the places we hadn’t had a chance to explore, places like Carvoeiro, Benagil and Albufeira. It was a beautiful morning and we had a nice land breeze filling our sails on a port tack heading down the coast.

Portimao – a bit past its due date

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After having vegetated aboard yesterday, we were up for shore leave today. Yesterday, we just needed a day off. We hadn’t stopped moving since we’d come down to Aleria. I was exhausted and no amount of sleep seemed to be redeeming. So we stopped for one day. Did nothing much but read, and wrote and played on the internet, and hung out. Lunch was excellent with fish cakes I’d made with leftover fish from the Marisco in Cascais. Alex out up the awning and it cooled things down.

Exploring Ferragudo

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The morning started off heavily overcast and cool, with sprinkles from the sky wetting the deck just before breakfast. The anchorage was calm; there had been a slight swell overnight which rocked the cradle pleasantly all night long. Aleria doesn't mind a bit of swell. At 30 tons, she rocks gently, pointing into the wind and swinging with the current. Some of the other boats weren't faring as well, rocking more energetically as the tide turned against the wind and kept the boats aligned beam to the incoming swell. We slept well as we always do at anchor.

Next stop: Portimao and the Algarve

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We left Cascais after 28 days in the marina, staring at the harbour wall every evening. We are finally in Portimao at anchor, the place I love most. We plan to anchor out a lot from now on. Hopefully go into marinas only when we need to take on water and fuel.

Birthday Celebration

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Alex decided we did not want to be at sea on my birthday so we delayed leaving Cascais until Saturday. What’s one more day when you’ve already been there 27?
After a lovely breakfast that I made for myself – eggs, smoked salmon, cheese – my style, we jumped on the bikes and headed out toward the beach I’d read about where all the surfers and kite surfers go. It was out the western end on the bike trail we’d ridden to the Fortalesa da Jorge. It was quite a long way out, about 10 km from Cascais. It was the perfect day for it. Overcast – not hot and not windy. We rode out past the inferno and the big house, now full of shops and restaurants, and past the Fortaleza. That road is lined with mansions on one side and rocky coast along the other. Beautiful. We kept going until we got to a block of buildings nestled around a converted fort that is now a hotel. Just beyond that was the beach – Guincho Surf Beach. Beautiful, backed by high dunes and rocky promontories on either side. From the…

Aleria is a sailboat again

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The riggers were to start reassembling our rig first thing Monday morning. Sunday we were preparing all day, doing last minute chores – I cleaning the cockpit and aft deck, Alex wiring and wiring and wiring and fretting and fretting and fretting. So we thought we should prepare with a fine dinner out. We chose Marisco, the seafood restaurant upstairs in the marina which everyone had been saying was wonderful.

Beach hopping and exploring in Cascais

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There was a light fog when we departed the marina on our bikes. We stopped briefly at the lighthouse near the marina first but as the visibility wasn’t great, we decided to keep going. We rode out along the southeasterly coastal route out of town. When we got to the end about twice the distance to Estoril, we turned around. Estoril and Cascais were once the haunts of royalty, world leaders and spies but today, Estoril is the site of a casino and the area between the two is a major tourist destination – an alternative to the Algarve – where the Atlantic sea breeze and cooler waters make the summer climate more bearable. There are still many stately homes, some of which are now hotels.

People coming and going

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A couple of days ago, a boat came into the marina bearing the OCC Flying Fish burgee. Naturally we had to make contact. After all, I'm Rear Commodore of OCC and Alex is Rear Commodore for Ireland. We were the welcoming committee.

Climate Control in Belem

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It’s been cool and breezy in the teen degrees centigrade until yesterday morning. We noticed the difference first thing on the way to the showers. We didn’t need a fleece. We had decided to visit Belem, a cultural suburb of Lisbon, and it was a Monday (fare €5 round trip just like to Lisboa). By the time we reached the train station in Cascais, it was 29C. By the time we reached Belem, the outside temperature reported by the train display was 36C. It was going to be a scorcher. Out of nowhere. No way to adjust. Just had to deal with it.

A few notes on the Marina Cascais

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When we first arrived, the marinieros and the women in the office could not have been nicer. They have remained so throughout our stay. Even when we complained daily about no internet access, they remained nice. The IT guy kept telling them he could see us logged onto the internet so everything was fine, but he never left his office to come down to where we were to see that with six internet stations distributing signal, we could not even see one - not on our laptops or our smart phones from below or on the docks. I had to go to the office with my laptop to sit on the couch to get some banking and work done. That's not acceptable in a high end marina today.

Cascais' beaches

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To work in Cascais, one must know at least four languages, and one must be able to guess the language of the person one is addressing. The receptionist at the marina tried three languages before she hit on me speaking English. It's fascinating to hear all the languages around us. Portuguese of course, but much English, French, Spanish, Italian, and German. It is a resort town and the beaches are crowded, even though it's just barely in season.