We arrived in Faro ridiculously early on Sunday 6th March and drove straight to Vila Real de Santo Antonio, which is a small town on the Portugese Spanish border, right on the river Guadiana. Top job today was to complete the handover of Linea.
We went straight to our lovely Air BnB apartment in town and got settled in there briefly. Then, we walked round the corner to the marina where we met up with Pim Blokland, from whom we had bought the boat.
After a quick coffee, we set off to the boat and soon Ian and Pim were talking boat technical details. Having had such an early morning, I am not so sure how much of the important information that Pim had to relate actually went in but Ian was taking copious notes and hopefully that, together with a memory surge, will prove useful in time.
Helpfully, Pim met us the following day for our trip down to the boat yard. The tide and currents here in the river are quite ferocious and so his help was very much appreciated. The survey had thrown up an issue with the sail drive, which is the gear changer for the engine. It was faulty, which meant that it wouldn’t change from forward to reverse without switching the engine off first! Now,
normally that wouldn’t be too difficult to cope with, but, for an added challenge, the ignition switch had decided to work to rule and would only switch on, not off! So, I was in charge of delving into the Volvo Penta engine housing to manually switch off, if need be. My RYA diesel engine course was already proving to have been money well worth spending!
The marina staff assisted in our manoeuvres out of the tight space on the visitor’s pontoon. We were spun around so that the bow was pointing in the right direction and off we went down the pontoon and sharp left out into the bumpy waters of the river. I was suddenly and inexplicably at the helm. Before long we arrived at the jetty of the boat yard some 500m down stream.
We were all in position. Ian on the mooring lines fore and aft.
Me down by the engine, ready to switch off manually in case we needed to change gear.
Suddenly, I heard a shout and saw that Ian was dangling from the pulpit, clinging on with hands and feet, at the front of the boat having made an unsuccessful leap to the jetty. I rushed forward as best I could; leaping over fenders, sheets and deck paraphernalia on my way to reach him. He calmly asked me to take the mooring line from him so he could pull himself up. He tried to swing up and out, over the pulpit but the overhang (or his strength to weigh ratio) was too great. Conscious that he couldn’t hold on for much longer, I suggested that he simply slid in under the pulpit on to the deck to safety. I pulled his jeans legs, practically disrobing him in the process, but at least he was safe! The lads from the yard raised an eyebrow but there was barely a flicker of concern or amusement or shock at his predicament.
Soon we were tied up, despite the currents and choppy waters conspiring to prevent us.
Then a huge machine progressed towards the yacht. An enormous sling machine that rolled into the water and scooped us up, raising us up so that we were swinging free and dangling, suspended metres from the ground.
The whole contraption took us out of the water on to the hard and we were thoughtfully provided with a ladder to climb down. It seemed precariously high without water around.
Although the boat was only moored for eight weeks or so, and was not sailed or moved at all, it was astonishing how many barnacles had grown on the hull. The yard was to spray clean the underside of the hull and scrape all the barnacles off.
We were to polish the top sides of the hull with special UV resistant polish
and clean and sort out below decks so that when our boxes (15 boxes) arrived, we would have actually found spaces for our stuff to go!
After a very busy day, we headed back to the apartment and grabbed a bite to eat. Both of us were nodding off by 8pm so gave up the battle and went straight to Bedlington!
Up and at ’em in the morning and back to the yard. I continued my mission below decks and Ian headed off to the Volvo garage in Spain to be briefed about what the engine needs. Time flies. The day is done. We repeat the process the following day.
All day Thursday Ian carefully began the delicate process of refitting the propeller blades and shaft to the sail drive that had now been repaired and replaced.
Now, I have no clue about propellers, but I can safely say that whoever invented this piece of technology, was a serious genius. The precision engineering is amazing. Each individual propeller has an optimal angle at which to be fitted so that when it rotates it provides maximum propulsion. Ian and I spent a couple of hours sitting under the hull trying to make sure that the props went back on the shaft at precisely the right angle. Never having done this before it was a steep learning curve and there was always the faint shred of doubt that the prop would stay in situ once the engine was put on. A significant conundrum is that, of course, we could not test either the sail drive or our careful replacement of the props until we were back in the water and needed both to be in full working order!
On Thursday evening we received a call from the delivery company who were about to deliver our boxes of stuff to our rented apartment. After a brief negotiation they agreed to drop off the consignment at the boat yard. They drove the van straight to the boat and off-loaded the pallet. All beautifully tessellated, stacked and cling-filmed by Mr Paul Brennen – Many thanks.
We had all of them up on deck and lowered into the forward hatch in ten minutes flat! Fantastic! This saved us so much work, walking up and down the lengthy pontoon in the marina from the apartment. We were made up!
During the course of our five days in the boat yard we began to pay attention to the surroundings whilst having our morning coffee. Over the road opposite was a lovely evergreen wooded area stretching down to the beach front and back towards town. All along the street into town there is a mixture of buildings, some businesses in full swing, others derelict.
We noticed whole families of people living in semi-repaired lean-tos against the tall walls of the building next to us. There were probably three or four families, with grandparents, children and babies all living in a small community. They had a water supply from the fire hydrant. Plastic sheeting flapped and flew from their roof tops. A Shetland pony tried to snuffle around in the scrub for some grass. They had a horse and cart, bicycle, three cars and a shopping trolley for a full range of transport options.
There was also a pack of dogs, I counted twelve, roamed around the encampment. One dog was tied up to a post. Whenever its owner went off out of sight it barked incessantly and loudly and rapidly for HOURS. I couldn’t believe its stamina. The poor dog must have been exhausted and stressed thinking that it had to bark until it’s master returned.
Nobody remaining in the encampment batted a eyelid, despite the shrill edge to the dog’s bark. Our raised position on the tarmac in the yard amplified the sound and soon it was slicing through our heads and becoming unbearable.
We checked the times for the next high water and as soon as our propeller was fitted back on we were ready to make an exit.
Although our fire extinguishers had returned from being tested and serviced, our life raft , VHF radio and EPIRB were still to be returned. Nervous times lay ahead since we had to test our new sail drive and propellor without any of the normal safety precautions being in place. We both put on life jackets and luckily, had a hand held VHF radio from home. With some trepidation we were lowered back into the water and from the jetty were able to briefly check that the engine was performing, the propeller blades remained in place and the sail drive, changed gear and didn’t leak.
I was dispatched below to check whether any water had entered the hull.
‘YES! I can see water!’ I yelled with a panicked shout up to Ian,over the noise of the engine. The lowering was stopped and the engineer from the yard came aboard. He concluded that there had already been water in the bilges that was disturbed by being at funny angles in the sling. Nothing to be worried about!
So we continued to be lowered completely into the water, revving the engine forwards and back.
The lads released the lines and we were on our own. We were both anxious. However, gradually calming down as we motored steadily up river towards the marina. Ian asked if I’d like to take a turn up stream to the suspension bridge. All I want is to get back to dry land! We turned into the marina and the dock master was there to help us tie up. I have all the mooring lines prepared for a nifty leap onto the pontoon from amid ships, but there is no need for those heroics on this occasion.
On Saturday we feel we deserve a day off so we head off to Seville. There is an IKEA there and also a fair chance that we can find a bar to watch the England game in the Six Nations Rugby. IKEA was incredibly busy. We spent far more than we intended, on not very much and subsequently have found a fantastic shop in Vila Real selling all that we bought and more!
But Seville more than made up for the trauna of shopping. It is beautiful. The weather was a glorious twenty nine degrees. We came up out of our underground car park and there in front of us was an Irish pub showing the rugby. We had loads of time for a proper stroll round the centre of the city before heading off to watch the match.
A great result and the perfect end to our first week.