Captains Blog 51 – The lone Piper of Portimão

We relocated to Ferragudo 7 nautical miles along the coast. It had to be done, mooring in Lagos is expensive during the summer and we’d be almost next door to the boat yard where Slick Hull are based in Portimão. The anchorage was pretty busy but we managed to squeeze into a spot and caught up with A&E one last time before they moved on.

Elice was due to be lifted in less than a week and I was struggling to get a response from Slick Hull regarding the plan! We dinghied across to the beach and walked over to the boat yard to try and find Vasile who I’d been liaising with for the best part of 9 months. We located the Slick Hull office and met Vasile’s sister Maria. She said he was around somewhere and suggested we grab a drink at the café and return in 30 minutes. She also said “he’s hurt his back, so won’t be able to run away from you.”

We did as suggested and just like the shop keeper in Mr Ben, he appeared on cue, as we got back to the office. I’d met him before, the previous year and was impressed with the work he’d done. I introduced myself and said I wanted to confirm arrangements for lifting Elice on the 29th August. He gave me a glazed, slightly quizzical look, but before I could elaborate further, he excused himself and was out of the door. Within minutes he returned to confirm that Elice couldn’t be lifted on the 29th however, she was booked in for the 30th. I honestly don’t know if he’d remembered our text exchanges, or he’d just winged it on the day? It was all a bit skin of the teeth, but we were sorted.

The pressure was off, for now, so we could get to know Ferragudo and Portimão a bit better. We enjoyed exploring our new surroundings and it wasn’t long before we needed to go into Portimão marina to prep Elice for the lift.

The 2nd September was a blowy affair. We’d managed to leave the marina without incident and headed straight to the biglifting crane. We motored in circles just off the crane locationand 2 O’clock soon arrived. There was no sign of anyone and I started to wonder why I’d had to remove the stays as this crane was huge and wouldn’t have fouled them. Just gone 2 and still no sign of anyone.

It was then that I twigged the smaller lifting crane a little further along, with a group of blokes around it. I was clearlyin the wrong spot and relocated with a sheepish apologetic acknowledgement to those who’d been waiting. I needed to reverse Elice into position, in between the crane uprights and over the huge strops. Now Elice has her own ideas aboutreversing, which, coupled with really gusty cross winds didn’t bode well for a text book operation.

My first attempt was a total cock up. We were blown so far off that I aborted the manoeuvre and retreated to a safe distance. I decided to use the bow thruster on my next attempt, if I couldn’t hold my course. I couldn’t hold my course, so engaged the bow thruster. Jesus, the thing was naffin useless. I was convinced it had broken as no excessive overuse or threatening with sweary outbursts could pull the bow back inline. Several more attempts were made, each with a starting position even further upwind and closer to the shoreline. This was becoming embarrassing!

Eventually we managed to get it close enough to put some revs on and try to slot her in. The bow was being blown off rapidly forcing us in at a skewed angle. We were destined to hit the dock and ended up partially wedged across it. A call came to “throw the docking lines up.” The first mate tried this but based on how low we were compared to where the crane operator and boatyard staff were located, it was never going to work. Thankfully they had lines available and dropped them to us so we could secure Elice and mitigate the chance of any further knocks, bangs, clunks or scrapes.

Suddenly the boat stopped swaying and we realised we were becoming airborne. It’s a weird feeling being lifted out of the water on your home/ transport but full credit to the operators, they were very skilled and efficient and engaged in some cracking banter about my boat reversing skills. When we’d cleared the dock, a ladder was put up and we climbed down to terra firma. We followed Elice to where she was set in a cradle and chocked. The dodgiest, most rickety ladder was then deployed to enable us to get onboard. I thanked everyone for their patience and Sarah gave the crane operator a big hug and said “thank you.” When Vasile came to see us, he climbed up and after welcoming us said “you need to get them to change this ladder for something more stable” but we became quite fond of the swingy lollopy ladder and just accepted it in the end.

It is a good set up at Portimão boatyard. The people who work there are really friendly and helpful and the bathrooms must be some of the cleanest you’ll ever see in a boat yard. We settled into life onboard and climbing up and down the jelly wobble ladder each time we needed the loo and made full use or our folding bikes, which have undoubtedly seen better days, but still move forward(ish) when peddled.

There was a stack of work that needed sorting while we were out of the water, including completing the installation of the black water tank. I know what you’re thinking! We’d managed to get by to this stage, so let’s move on and not dwell on it. I also needed to sort a welder, a mechanic, analternator wizard together with a sail maker, canvas expert and rigger. As luck would have it, we’d had some canvas work done on our previous boat Gianti, by Antonio at Fofovelas, who would also be able to repair our big Genoa. He came to take some measurements for a quote for both the canvas work and the sail repair and as we were chatting about other jobs we needed to sort, he was in like a flash saying “I can do that” at the mention of a removable stay. He left no room for discussion and flashed me a look that clearly indicated the job was his and no other rigger need be consulted. I wasn’t going to argue and it just so happened that I’d had a quote from a rigging company. It wasn’t a realistic quote, so in fairness the job would always be his, though I opted not to tell him at this stage.

Jobs were getting ticked off thick and fast. Unfortunately, more issues were being uncovered as we progressed, but better to discover and resolve them now. We got into the habit of enjoying a sundowner, while sitting in our comfy cockpit seats which we relocated to the coach roof and watching everything happening in the fishing harbour. 

It all sounds idyllic. And it was, until the bloke practising thebagpipes piped up. I’m someone who hears pipes being well played and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. There’s some kind of Gaelic tribal thing that draws me in every time. Iknow you have to start somewhere when learning to play, I just didn’t expect it to be a boat yard in Portugal. It wasn’t all squawking and wet fart sounds, but there was still a way to go. I did discover that he used to bike across from another boat yard, so as not to upset his immediate neighbours!!

I needed a stainless-steel welding repair and discovered Lionel, who sorted me out for €20. I needed both large aluminium spinnaker poles welding, which Lionel sorted out for €20. What a top fella, nothing ever cost more than €20, so if you need some welding doing in the Algarve, go and find Lionel.

BY now we were nearly two weeks in and everything was going well. All that is, except the topside paint job, which was yet to be started. I needed to have a word and find out why things weren’t progressing as sitting on the hard costs money and the complete job was scheduled to take 4 weeks. 

Seems like a good point to stop for now.

Thank you and goodbye

Captain Mac

2 Replies to “Captains Blog 51 – The lone Piper of Portimão”

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