17 september

We are still in Leixoes! Arrived here on 9th! We had not planned on being here for more than a few days, but there has been an enormous depression half the size of the Atlantic. It brought into the marina 3 solid days of 30-40 knot winds and incessant rain. This is what it looked like on the weather forecast – the orange areas show winds of 28 kots plus…you can see Porto just made out in the Northern coast of Portugal.

IMG_308621 sept

As such between 16th – 18th, we were stuck in the cabin trying not to kill each other! The girls fared well; Alfi got in some intense crawling practice; she now moves independently. She is progressing from the commando crawl / drag through gritted gums and many a grunt. Olive meanwhile did a vast amount of crayon colouring (not all on the page) and plastered the boat with stickers. Oh well…better than screaming their heads off I suppose.

How ironic that in amongst this I was receiving emails from some of you saying what a wonderful indian summer you were having and was I enjoying our Portugese holiday…wet? Windy? Not at the beach…enjoying it if totally bemsued by it. It seems we were having the English summer. Local reports are that this is highly unusual. the winds are usually from the north and the weather celment – trust us to get the sum summer when home got the high! It shoudl be us in shorts on the beach not your guys…!

The wind was so powerful in the marina, consistently blowing all day and on one day 42 knots was recorded. That is Force 9, a gale. I dread to think what was happening out at sea. Alas I cant post the videos as WIFI wont let me. Shame. So you will have to make do with words.

On 17th Sept, I wrote this; it is 2200 hours. The wind is howling outside. The water is jumping out of it’s skin. The halyards (sail ropes) are clanging. There are things flapping and banging and whirring outside. The boat is moving but as it is tethered, the movement is all jerks and thuds and thwacks as lines pull and strain. I feel like I am on a rickety tube on the metropolitan line. At least at sea the boat can move with the wind’s attack. That can’t happen whilst being tied up.

This is the third night like this. Last night Ben said that something, somewhere in this marina will break tonight. He was right. I woke this morning. It was my first day alone with Dhanu and the girls. Ben had left early to get some chores done which took him away all day. I stuck my head out of the hatch. Wet. With the crazy wind came intense rain. More wet. Pounding down. Bringing ridiculous amounts of water which seeped in here and there. I felt big solid unrelenting drips hitting my head. I looked up and saw a centimetre tear in the mainsail directly above the middle of the companionway. This caused rainwater, trapped within the sail lashed around the boom, to drip. Annoyingly, these drips fell exactly between the millimetre gap separating the edge of the hatch from the edge of the cockpit. They fell straight down, plumb, on to the companionway and into the boat. In 3 minutes I siphoned off 700ml of water….GRRR. Not wanting more water in the boat, I pondered the problem which involved getting very wet but resulted in victory. I was rather pleased with the bungy cord/plastic jug arrangement which TOTALLY stopped the leak into the boat. Ha! Smug and dry I will be, I thought triumphantly. Sadly the other leaks I could do nothing about…it is a wooden boat…they leak…apparently.

Anyway having dealt with my problems, I went to start the morning chores; (last nights washing up, wash Alfi’s milk bottles, ‘deal with the bucket’). As I was arranging the sequence of events in my head there was a knock and I looked up to see one of my French neighbours. He asked if I was ok and I said ‘ca va’ and returned the query. I then saw all 3 members of their boat, either on deck or on the pontoon looking sleepswept in their pants confused and bemused. These were men in their 60’s, who smoked fags and were clearly on a boys holiday. They had been utterly charming as neighbours and happily bereft of their womenfolk (perhaps they were too?) Anyway there they were all stood, getting wet whist holding bits of rope in their hands and pointing to various parts of the boat looking dumbfounded. I looked confused as I did not fully understand the French that was dropping like stones out of their mouths. They slowed down to explain that three of their lines had snapped last night under the pressure of the wind. Concerned (and wanting to look like I knew what I was doing), I checked all our lines and they were fine. I called Ben to check to tell him and to check we were ok. He said we were and that we had nothing to worry about as our lines were doubled up. Further that our rope was strong ones not like the flimsy ones the French boat had. (Amazing, people spend a fortune on a boat and then skimp on good ropes! I’m relieved to know Ben is not in this camp.) Phew I thought. Feeling safe and lucky and a bit ignorant.

There seemed to be boats a cropper everywhere I looked. The worst we suffered was boredom and the recently repaired wind vane, being ripped apart! To be repaired for the second time this week…oh well guess a gale will do that.

It is extraordinary to see the marina now, calm and under a blue sky. An entirely different place. We are all back in our cockpits, sun our now dry shoulders, reminding ourselves that this was what it was supposed to be about! The wind is finally on the turn so w2e leave tomorrow for Lisbon. A two day passage. Looking forward to getting back out there. It has been great being (safe and sound if a little wet) especially here as we have met some brilliant people some of whom I suspect we will know forever. The girls have climbed aboard a few new boats and Alfi has been cradled in the arms of many who have cooed over her. But we are supposed to be moving…so let’s get moving!

just lastly, to seagulls. I know everyone hates them but they really are amazing birds. Throughout three days of gale force winds they remained lined up in regiments on the harbour wall. All crouched down. All facing into the wind, at the exact same angle. Not moving. It is as if they were all part of a great plan, a marvellous secret that united them. How are they not being blown away when pontoons are breaking and ropes snappping and bows smashing? They can’t weigh more than a kilo and yet they are glued to the harbour wall. What are they waiting for? Have they no home? No nest to call their own? Where do seagulls live..? I’ve never thought about this before – have you? Answers on a postcard please. Suffice to say, Olive is starting to put two and two together on the seagull front, she now says ‘there’s Bob, and there’s another Bob’…that she is coming up with five is still totally adorable.

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