I can hear the wind whistling outside and rattling the rigging, I’m glad we’re inside the marina and not anchored out in the river tonight. After heavy rain, some of which we’ve had today and more of which is forecast over the next two days, the river Guadiana can run fast with flood water, bringing trees and rafts of canes with it.
We’ve had a very strange couple of weeks tinged with frustration and indecision. We felt the strain going back to Portimao with the intention of fixing the propeller, when all we wanted was to head onwards and Eastwards, and knew it could be an expensive fix. The details may very well bore everyone to death, but in our micro world it has been all consuming.
Ben spent hours trying to work out the cheapest way of doing it, emailing and phoning boatyards in Lagos, Portimao, Faro and Olhao, getting quotes for parts, lift out fees, labour, living aboard on hardstanding etc. We’d chosen Portimao after much research and deciding it was the most equipped with chandlery’s and engineers on hand. If we were lifted we’d have to do the bearing on the rudder post which is leaking, and another coat of anti fouling,that we’d planned to do in the winter but we can’t afford to be lifted twice, so that would mean being out the water for a couple of weeks at least.
He reasoned the cheapest way was for him to remove the prop himself and take it to the boatyard for re shaping and balancing. It was risky being at anchor without the option of using the engine, and also he’d have to borrow some diving gear from another boat, so we went into Portimao marina. However to get the prop off he’d need a certain type of puller (so he could get it off without having to remove the rudder) which was way too expensive to buy, so again much correspondence was had with engineers in the yards. The cheapest quote came back at 240euros saying it was 4 hours labour!! Sickening, seeing as he could make it himself for around £30 at home. They wouldn’t even sell us the small amount of steel, only the whole sheet. Then there was the problem that it had been on there so long it might well not come off without a fight anyway. So the only option was to be lifted but no boatyard was willing to say how long the job would take, meaning it could really rack up. We went round and round in circles like this for a week or so, fed up of being stuck in the same place and not making any progress, but… even though the propeller isn’t fixed we’ve at least worked out how we did it! Whilst editing some footage we filmed back in Falmouth you could clearly hear the vibration from the engine in the background, meaning it must have happened soon after being put back in the water. So when we thought we’d hit the rudder coming out of Galmpton (see previous post here) we’d in fact hit the prop. We never got back off the boat to check as the yard guys said they could see a mark on the rudder and being more concerned about a hole in the hull, wouldn’t have noticed.
Anyway, being in the marina for a couple of days gave us the option to do some washing, get a big shopping delivery from the Continente (the nearest supermarket to this marina is a 30 minute walk) and attempt to fix the windlass, twice (but it still leaks oil!). We also had a really good sail over to Lagos for a change of scene, and our friends Ursula and Alex came along, then we anchored back off Ferraguda.
Whilst at anchor we had a bit of a blow come through and for the first time we dragged anchor! It’s funny how these things always seem to happen at 3 am? We couldn’t let any more chain out as another boat had anchored fairly close behind us, but the wind was dropping from then on so we didn’t have to re anchor until the morning.
During our time in Portimao we had a couple of other things that added to the low mood. My wisdom tooth flared up and I had a few days of agony and swollen face, it’s on the mend now but I’ve still got the headache and ear ache lingering but I’m hoping it’ll hold out until I go back to the UK in December. Our aft sea toilet keeps back filling because the valves have perished, a problem that’s been getting worse for a while, coming to a head when I went down to check it and water had been coming up and over the brim for what must have been a while judging by the amount in the bilge!! So that finally needs replacing, we’re keeping the sea cocks closed for now, but at least we can use the seat to replace the broken one on the other toilet! Also the outboard has been playing up ever since we sucked up a plastic bag in Northern Spain and over heating, so Ben with the help of Alex spent a whole morning trying to fix it, it’s a lot better but still a bit of a mystery. Ben has also got a very bad shoulder/chest which hurts so much he can’t take a deep breath, he thinks he may have done it crossing Biscay when he fell backwards landing awkwardly, which has been aggravated by diving on the propeller and holding his breath for so long. Boo hoo to us, I’m sure we’ll survive.
Our friends from the UK Amelia and Tom were coming for a holiday, so still undecided on the propeller we had a great few days with them on the boat. The first night we went to a tapas bar in Ferraguda, drank far too much red wine and ended up dancing on the tables with the locals, earning us an invite to the salsa night haha!
Ben had a go with help from Tom to try and bend the prop using a hammer a pump wrench, to no avail, but we mostly just ate and drank so we’re feeling a little over indulged but it was so lovely to spend some time with familiar faces.
We worked our way up the coast and anchored off Faro where they flew home from. We took the dinghy up to Bruce’s Yard the next day to have a poke round and are considering it as a place to lift out for December/January if we can leave the prop for that long. It’s so frustrating as if we didn’t worry about the money we’d have been lifted and fixed already, but as they say sailing is a rich mans game and is a whole lot harder for everyone on a poor mans budget. From what we saw of Faro, mainly around the old town area, it seems an alright place to spend some time over winter and we love Culatra on the other side of the lagoons, so it’s a possibility.
We took the dinghy up the channel to Olhao one day which is much less touristy than some of the Algarve, as we were trying to search out good Ferraterias (like home hardware shops that also stock decent tools, DIY and some chandlery stuff) for the prop problem, and went to the food markets on the seafront. On the way back we got waved down by a local clam digger who’d been cut off by the tide, and wanted a lift back to Olhao, taking us through a very shallow ‘channel’ cluttered with menacing submerged poles that threatened to take out our outboard prop.
Whatever we decide with the prop situation, and wherever we’ll spend winter, we’ll travel as far as Gibraltar to take advantage of the slightly cheaper fuel and parts, so we have come up to the Rio Guadiana which is the big river separating Portugal and Spain. We’ll hopefully explore here for a week or so, making our way 20 miles or so upriver where you have the village of Sanlucar on the Spanish side and Alcoutim on the Portugeuse side. The river is supposed to get more beautiful as you go inland and there’s a good liveaboard community between the two villages that we’d like to get to know, to revisit in the winter months.
For now we’re holed up in Ayamonte marina waiting out the heavy rain and winds that are sweeping through. We really don’t mind this change in weather, it feels snug on the boat, we’ve been catching up on emails, blogs, reading and spending some time editing the footage we’ve got, with the intention of posting some on youtube if it’s any good. We’re both also really pleased to be back in Spain! Portugal has been great but Spain has a certain something, and the Algarve where we’ve had to spend more time than anticipated isn’t what we’d call real Portugal. It’ll be interesting going between the two in the next couple of weeks switching between two time zones and languages!