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Figs..or Flies

Its hard to keep up with this blog when a) your knackered b) the wifi is rubbish c) your thoughts are racing all over the place, like a demented fly.. I find myself narrating my life to myself, thinking of things I may write on the blog. It is as if I am doing a voice over for my life. Sometimes, when times are hard it is like the voice over in Apocalypse Now….except the voice is not always as steady or sanguine as Martin Sheen’s Willard…Other times it is like Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe in Sin City, but perhaps a  little less cynical. When I begin to lose my nerve – and that does happen from time to time – the only voice that will bring back order is the voice of God – Morgan Freeman.

I left Oporto on 13th October. The repairs were complete. The MD of the boat yard, “Tomaney” and 4 of his staff accompanied me as I took the boat back from the crane near the fishermen’s port to the marina. They cleaned the boat. They asked me if there was anything else they could do for me. Tomaney – actually “Anthony Manuel”, then took me aside and said I could have another 23% off for cash…Monday would be fine. I did not even have to negotiate. As the two main lads left the boat I used the “East-End-Handshake” that I had seen Dad use so many years ago, and that I have used to good effect at nearly every hotel I have stayed in the past 30 years (especially the 5 star ones.) The handshake?…A good manly stare direct in the eye; a 10 euro note (USA/Far East/Middle East $20; UK £10) in the palm; and a handshake to intimidate… that’s all it takes to change the level of service from “any star” to “Hollywood star”.

Oporto is a lovely city. Yes it is touristic. But, if you care to walk slowly; if you care to take the wrong turn; if you care to site in a cafe where the ancients sit; where the spivs zip in and out doing their deals; where the streets have not been cleaned for appearance sake…where no-one has heard of UNESCO or would care that Operto is a world heritage site. Yes, then you can say you have brushed past the heart of a lovely city. I commend it to you.

I made way to Figueira da Foz. Leaving at 0500 UTC and arriving at 1500 UTC. A good sail varying from 12kts and a lovely beam reach to 30kts out of nowhere, forcing me to reef once – and then again. Approaching the mouth of the Mondego River, about 30 mins after high tide, I was pleased with myself. The current would still be slack and there would be no problem with noted the cross currents at the marina. Sigh, it was not to be,.. a maritime police jet ski approached…and I was told to hold outside the harbour. Apparently a local fishing boat had sunk in a storm right at the harbour entrance on October 6th killing 3 and 2 missing. Divers were working on the wreck, I had to wait. Eventually, I was allowed in as the tide rushed out of the river, making the usual nerve wracking approach and entrance to the marina.

I don’t like Figueira. It may be named after a fig tree but I had flies not figs on my mind. Too many flies. I hate flies. I spent much of the evening and the night and the morning with a can of fly spray in my hand. By the way – buy Portuguese fly spray – it really kills anything you spray it on – instantly. Not like Raid and similar brands in the UK. Flies just laugh at that stuff. Well, they don’t laugh at “Insecticida” let me tell you.

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