Friday, June 29, 2018

Aleria is a sailboat again

Re-rigging under way. Jorge, Alex and Jorge hard at work on the mizzen mast.

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.
The main mast flying through the air.
Alex chose a dorada and we thought it weighed in at €47 and were horrified but went for it anyway. I chose small local crustaceans that looked like mini lobsters which are eaten cold and clams cooked in butter and garlic. OMG, we shared everything and it was fabulous. The service was excellent and the waiters were so nice. A nice bottle of wine and it all came to about 75€, still less than a meal out would have been in Ireland.
In the morning, the riggers arrived to install the base units then worked all day well into the evening installing all the wires. The crane was scheduled for the morning and we were to bring Aleria over to the service area. The crane arrived at 2 and we were still there at 7 pm. Jorge and Jorge worked nonstop like dogs. And it was all coming together.
In the morning, they’d lift the boom, bend on the sails and sheets, and we’d go for a sail to test the rig. They were happy with a few minor adjustments. Back to the slip and they inserted pins to secure all the wires in the turnbuckles. It’s all very smooth and shiny – so different from the old stuff.

Jorge guiding the main into position. 
Jorge had one last job. He would come either this evening or tomorrow morning and install a mast boot to make it all water tight. So after 3 ½ weeks, Aleria finally has her new rigging. Was it worth it?  Probably but we’ll never know if the old stuff was still okay. But after about 20 years, which is how old our standing rigging was, and three Atlantic crossings, we think it was better to do. And frankly, I think the Jorges did a magnificent job.

At Vela Azul with John Duggan

Back in her slip with rigging in place.
Last night, John Duggan, the OCC PO for Cascais, invited us to dinner at his favourite fish restaurant Vela Azul. His friend Jaja, an Iranian American navy ex-pat working for NATO, joined us. What a riot! We laughed, and talked, and ate fish heads, the specialty of the restaurant. Drinks back on Aleria and the night was done.
So here we are, back in the slip. Masts in place, sails under cover, boat clean and tidy for the first time in weeks, months, maybe years.
Tomorrow, laundry and shopping. Friday is my birthday so maybe we’ll stay here one more day. Hey, we’ve racked up a fortune already. What’s another couple of bucks? Next stop, the Algarve.

After the seatrial when final adjustments were made. 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Beach hopping and exploring in Cascais

Beaches and anchorage of Cascais

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.
The fog was rolling in but I decided to go for a swim. I went into the water up to my knees but there was too much seaweed all cut up in tiny bits to be pleasant. The water was, however, considerably warmer than it had been the last time I tested it. No more bone chilling cold. Now more like the New Jersey shore in late June. Still ‘refreshing’ but doable.
I decided to try the next beach, which I believe was called Azarujinha. But this one had sand over rocks and was slippery and dangerous. It also had seaweed bits but also a lot of plastic garbage floating in it. Not pleasant. Every third wave was larger and could sweep me off my feet and on to the rocks.
The third place was one of the ocean swimming pools – Piscina Oceanica. Essentially, there’s a concrete wall with several platforms where you can climb up a ladder which encloses sea water in a rock pool. At high tide, the water comes over the wall and refills it. It was high tide, and there was a bit of a surge so I wasn’t comfortable going in.
Next to the Piscine was the Tamariz beach loaded with tourists. For the first time since we arrived there were loads of people in the water. The air was still hot but the fog was closing in. This beach had nice fine sand and no rocks. The water was clean and not too cold. That was it. I dove in and took a few strokes. Refreshing! I dove under again and took a few strokes. Now I was cooled off and had the experience of swimming in Cascais. 
We continued on and stopped at one of seaside restaurants for lunch. It was not very good. Tuna sandwich with no flavour. Burger, cooked right, but no outstanding features. Boring. Now the fog had rolled in over us and it was getting chilly especially since I had my wet bathing suit under my clothes.
We rode on among the hundreds of walkers and runners making use of this fine coastal amenity, but I did not go for a swim again on any of the ensuing beaches. When we reached Praia da Rainha, once the beach of the Queen and her entourage, the fog suddenly lifted and Cascais was in brilliant sunshine and teeming with people. You could see the fog fringing the bay just outside the anchorage. This beach is enclosed in sheer rock walls and you can see why the royalty would have chosen it as their own private playground.
You could also imagine the streets full of heads of state, diplomats and spies seeking refuge from the ravages of world war on these beaches instead of the bomb shelters in cities throughout Europe. There were beautiful yachts anchored out, kayakers and SUPs weaving between them, and bouncy/slidey toys for young people to swim out to.
We continued on back to the marina but decided to explore the side streets near us and to stop at the big house museum that was built by an Irish ex-pat. The tiny streets of this district wind up the hills from the town centre in a cobblestone maze. We stopped to admire the strange monument to the original walls of the royal palace which apparently once stood on this ground. Every so often we came upon a hidden restaurant or a house adorned with wisteria and bougainvillea. The views from the streets that spilled over into the city down hidden staircases were lovely. We spotted a tiny restaurant on a tinier side street off the Rua Dos Navigantes called Ratatouille. What the people were having for lunch looked divine so we made reservations for dinner at 8.
When we reached the walls of the old citadel marking the marina boundary, we continued on to the house and gardens called Museu Condes de Castro Guimaraes. It was built by a Jorge O’Neill of Irish descent, but he got into financial difficulty and had to sell this extraordinary estate. Complete with central courtyard, a private beach, views over the Atlantic where the lighthouse and marina now stand, a warren of ornate rooms, a pipe organ, an exceptional turret, beautiful tilework, a folly, and exotic gardens with rare breed chickens and roosters and peacocks with their babies roaming about, we were fascinated to know more about our Irish compatriot. I thought we had heard peacocks calling but we were told that people have these sounds coming from their buildings to keep the gulls away. Right. Behind the gardens is a public space including a football stadium. The grounds also have a chapel but there was a private wedding going on so we couldn’t get in to see it. Living in this house must have been amazing.
After a brief break back on the boat and a change of clothes, we returned to the Ratatouille Restaurant. It did not disappoint. Tuna ceviche was outstanding with strawberries, apples and caviar. My rabbit and aubergine tart was Michelin star quality, with succulent rabbit meat delicately spiced and interlaced with delicate aubergine; a hat of puff pastry was topped with wild mushroom and garlic garnish. Alex had the pork village style, which was nice but less inventive than the rabbit.  With an excellent bottle of Douro wine our meal totalled €47.
We walked home hand in hand. It had been another good day.

The lighthouse near the marina

Praia da Rainha

Above the praia

Beach and anchorage in Cascais

Main street Cascais

Monument to the castle walls

Tiny streets

House built by Jorge O'Neill of Irish ancenstry

The entrance courtyard

Shamrock ceiling in the reception hall

Beautiful tilework

Amazing ceiling in the drawing room

The drawing room with organ to the left

Murano glass

Hallway with Ming Dynasty jugs

Dining room with fountain


Illuminated manuscript

Turret with crests of all of Jorge's Irish family connections

Dedication of the Turret room

Jorge's ancestry
Outdoor fountain



Peacock posing

Friday, June 22, 2018

People coming and going

Me with Jill & Chris Mounsey on Pale Moon

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.

Alex went over by dinghy and introduced himself and then I shouted over as I was walking back to the boat, 'Ahoy Flying Fish!' We told them we'd wander over to introduce ourselves properly a bit later and they invited us for drinks. What I didn't know is that I had already met Jill at the laundromat, as we were both doing laundry yesterday, but I didn't realize it was her, if you know what I mean. I put on clean clothes and my RC pin.

What a lovely couple. They had circumnavigated 20 years ago and were now heading for Lagos where they were planning to leave their Moody 46 as a cruising base. They had been the organizers of the Blue Water Rallies, the last of which I followed with great interest when one of the boats veered away from the rally and was taken by pirates. It was interesting to learn the story behind the story. That experience caused them to discontinue the Rally, which is totally understandable.
Alex, Chris and Scott

They were staying for a couple of days and then heading on. We'd probably see them in Lagos next. But as we had scored some very nice shrimp at the Jumbo that day, we invited them over to Aleria for cocktails. We also invited Scott and Nadim and his wife but the Nadims had other plans. Scott's friend Susan joined us later and we had another nice evening.

Scott and Jill

Pale Moon headed off early this morning. I spent the day scrubbing the decks with two part teak cleaner and brightener. Alex did various chores including fixing chipped and delaminating veneer, cleaning out the dry bag, and sanding and painting the forward cabin. I still have to wash and wax the coach roof, paint the hand rail and trim on the hatch, and clean the aft deck and cockpit, but she is coming along nicely. Finally. I only have two coats of varnish on the coaming but I can add more along the way.

We have a firm commitment from Jorge that he will be here 9 am Monday morning to start putting our standing rigging back together. Just a few more days and we will be on our way again. Finally.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Climate Control in Belem

The marina in Belem and the monument to the navigators
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.

We needed to visit the chandlery first. It was an easy walk from the Belem train station. One gets off the train facing the Museum of Coaches where you can cross the busy highway. Turn right and walk to the colourful children’s playstation and turn left there on the first street that goes up the hill. Turn right at the first cross street and walk about two blocks; it’s a small shop on the right just past the house with the vine growing into the fence. It’s a very nice small chandlery and has a good supply of gear, a sample of which may be located on the floor, the rest in the back. He had all but one item on Alex’s list and a couple of things I wanted as well. Success.

The only things to do on a day this hot was to avoid moving, get into water, or go into an air conditioned space. We had missed out on Belem’s museums last time so we opted in this time.

Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art

First was the Museum of modern and contemporary art. It is a new complex and looks like a vast Mayan pyramid from the outside. It was hard to find an entrance and we stumbled into a small gallery displaying a most extraordinary work by Dali. Apparently, Dali had been commissioned to create a series of drawings to illustrate Dante's Inferno which would be issued as a book on the 400th anniversary of his death. But the sponsor pulled out and Dali was left with almost 100 original colour drawings depicting Dante's descent into the inferno, crawl into purgatory and ascent into the heavens. Several years later, a Portuguese sponsor came forward to produce the book. They issued 100 copies, each with 100 illustrated plates signed individually by Dali. Some years back, the book was released again in several countries in limited editions and one of the originals was taken apart and sold for about €3500 a plate, now untouchable. Each of about 30+ frames per episode was accompanied by several lines of text interpreted from the original work. Dali was the perfect mind to interpret Dante. It was an extraordinary collection and another fascinating chance encounter with Dali, which we have now experienced in several countries. Somehow, we just happen to stumble upon Dali collections. 

Inside the museum, the space is enormous and the art sparingly displayed across three floors. The main collection is well curated and begins with Miro and the evolution of cubism. 

Rooms upon rooms of artists experimenting with form, texture and colour, trying to dimentionalise a flat canvas or deconstruct a visual image. I must say, neither one of us gets most modern art and this was a very large dose – large enough to last about a decade perhaps before the next exposure. How does one react to a flat black painting in a black matt and black frame?  The artist didn’t even title it. I did not see any Picasso in the collection which was curious. There were several Warhols I hadn’t seen before, and a few of the more contemporary works I quite enjoyed as they strayed from the conception of ‘painting’ on a canvas, but there were only one or two works in the entire museum that I thought I could actually live with. Oh well. That’s me - and Alex, too. Our house is full of stuff we like that wouldn’t belong in a museum.

So although it was climate controlled and comfortable, we were exhausted and hungry. By the time we found a place to eat, we were dying of thirst as well. But we found a nice spot on the river overlooking a castle. Cold beer, cold Seven Up, quiche and a sandwich and we were ready for the next go. We had seen a maritime museum across from the modern art museum.

The Museu de Marinha and the Jeronimos Monastery

The Museu de Marinha on the Praca do Imperio in Belem was a sight to behold. It sits on the western end of the Jeronimos Monastery, the doors of which were closed, and very close to the Tagus River where the explorers’ ships departed for uncharted territory. It’s one of the main features of the Belem skyline. Possibly the best maritime museum we’ve ever visited, it is vast and holds the biggest collection of model ships we have ever seen. And with Portugal’s long history of maritime prowess, there was an enormous amount of stuff to see and learn. From the earliest contributions to navigation, to global voyaging and opening up of the trade routes, to traditional and modern fishing, flying boats and contemporary warfare and coastal management, the Portuguese made a huge impact. The building is at the heart of Belem and the museum was established in 1863 by King Luis. It owns more than 17,000 items, 2,500 of which have been selected for permanent display.
  •          The entrance hall has a gigantic statue of Prince Henry the Navigator and others who ventured into the Atlantic waters represented on a huge map of the Portuguese sea routes opened by Portuguese explorers in the 15th and 16th centuries
  •          The Discoveries Hall tells of the Portuguese contributions to navigational instruments, shipbuilding and cartography and documents Vasco de Gama’s voyages
  •          The 18th century hall contains amazing models of the  merchant marine fleet that plied the waters to the Caribbean, India and China
  •          The 19th and 20th century hall covers the rise of the Portuguese navy and its role in WWII
  •          The nowadays navy hall covers where the Portuguese are today with naval defense
  •          The river traffic room has models and tells stories of craft that carried merchandise to the interior
  •          The deep sea fishing room covers Portuguese feats in fishing the Atlantic, including cod fleets and whaling from the Azores
  •          The coastal fishing room demonstrates techniques used in trawling on coastal waters ad rivers
  •          The Royal cabin room houses the Queen’s and King’s cabins and much of the china, crystal and silver from the royal yachts Amelia and Sirius.
  •          The recreational crafts room houses models of the vast array of craft used by the royal family for recreation
  •          The merchant navy room tells the story of Portuguese merchant fleets throughout the centuries
  •          The gallery displays multiple traditional fishing and merchandise ships, as well as cannons and sections of ship’s hulls holed by cannon fire, some with cannonballs imbedded within
  •          The remarkable barge pavilion is the highlight of the museum. It houses the extraordinarily ornate barges and galliotes used by the Portuguese royalty as well as some of the more common fishing and pleasure craft of Portuguese origin and three seaplanes. This was our favourite part of the museum.

To our complete pleasure, we happened upon a display of ancient anchors near the WC, a hallway we would not have ventured into had we not had to 'go'. They had ancient Roman anchors from the 1st century and a reproduction in beautiful form. They also had an interesting depiction of the history of anchor starting with rock on a rope and ending with the CQR and Danforth. Hahaha. It was fun to see and added a new dimension of our historical account of anchor design.

We were completed exhausted after that and walked to the first café we found to rest and have a refreshing beer before returning home. We got on a train only to see about half way that the sign said ‘Fim de transit – terminus.’ We asked the lady next to us and she said we should get off and take the next train on the track beside it which would take us to Cascais. Several tourists came to us to confirm. When we got off the train, we couldn’t believe it. The air temperature was at least 10 degrees cooler in Cascais than in Lisbon, but we heard later that it had been hot, here too, earlier in the day.  At that moment, we felt chilled as the difference felt quite extreme. Amazing.

All in all, we’d had a good day. Belem is now checked off the list. Our memories from ten years ago came flooding back and they were good. Tomorrow, more work to be done, varnishing and installing bits and bobs on Aleria.
The beautiful central plaza of Belem

Duck and her ducklings hiding in the water lillies
Strange ducks with turkey skin


Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol Brillo

Andy Warhol Flowers in Blue and Judy Garland

Calder sculpture

Room sized three dimensional piece

Plant: art, reality and description

Pile of wood held in place by light

Stones coming into place

Aliens dancing

Graffiti near the museum - the best piece of all. 

Castle on the river

Cold beer on a hot day!
The planetarium - not open the day we were there

The maritime museum entrance

Prince Henry the Navigator

Map of the world showing Portuguese "exploration routes"

Key figures in stained glass

The statue of Archangel Michael that accompanied Vasco de Gama on all his trips

Early Portuguese instruments all designed 

Portuguese astrolabs - beautiful

Early charts

Very early globe

Ancient pirogues

Spice urns

Ship's treasures

The largest of the models

In the gallery of boats

A cargo vessel

A fishing vessel

Nice anchor set up

Anchors recovered thought to belong to the Nina

The barge pavilion

A simple barge

Getting fancier

The mother of all barges,
last service carrying QEII up the Tagus on her state visit

Gorgeous carving and guilding


Love the dragon figurehead

Flying boat WWII

Seaplane WWI

Pleasure craft

Sections of hull with canon balls and holes

Fishing hall

Teaching aid for mariners

Queen's compartment

King's compartment

Roman anchor

1st century Roman anchors

History of anchors

Getting bollos in Belem's famous patisserie

They were still warm out of the oven. Yum. 

Back to the train station.