This was just a short hop. We awoke to bright, sunny and warm weather for the gentle run up the river estuary to Lisbon. Once again we had to refuel and managed to leave the berth for the refuelling pontoon without hitting anything, including a police boat which was filling up with diesel. That really would have been embarrassing! In a flat calm we were able to take in the scenery and the spectacular Lisbon bridge which spans the River Tagus at Lisbon. Back in the days of the Avro Shackleton, an RAF crew operating in the Atlantic and experiencing major engine problems flew under that bridge, as they didn’t have sufficient power to climb over it. As a former pilot of those machines, I was in awe of the skill of the pilot, Flight Lieutenant Mike Bondesio who carried out this remarkable feat of aviation. Landing safely at Lisbon airport, Mike Bondesio was subsequently awarded the Air Force Cross. Tragically Mike, a South African, died of a heart attack in 1983 at the controls of a South African Air Force Shackleton.
Passing under the bridge, we were heading for the Doca Alcantâra, a converted commercial dock which now serves as one of the several marinas along the banks of the Tagus. Contrary to the information in the pilot book, the swing bridge barring the entrance to the marina only opened on the half hour, so we had to hover at the entrance for 15 minutes until it opened at 1400. We moored up on the other side of the pontoon from ONEGIN, the British boat that we had passed and talked to two days before, but there was no sign of the crew. It appeared that they had left the boat for the off season as we saw no one around for the next few days. Shortly after we arrived MULLI, the German boat from Perniche and Cascais moored up behind us. We ate that evening at a marina-side Asian restaurant, which was remarkable for the appalling quality of the waiting service. There seemed to be far more waiters than necessary, but most of them seemed to be aimlessly wandering around taking no interest in their patrons.
20th Aug 2015 Lisbon
We were expecting a few days in Lisbon as my sister, Janet, was flying out from London to meet us and was not due to arrive until 23rd August, so we had some time to catch up with the routine jobs and to do some rubber-necking around Lisbon. We spent the morning re-stocking the boat and getting the laundry done. A minor disagreement with Jac led her to threaten to go home and take her Knot Book with her. The loss of such a vital reference tome could not be sustained so we patched up our differences and headed into Lisbon to find a chandlers, always a great source of entertainment for yachties. There were a couple of shops of interest and we purchased a small buoy and tripping line for the anchor and some new mid-cleat lines. From experience we had found that mooring the boat primarily using the amidships cleats produced the most efficient results but our current warps were a little short so we needed some more. Back to the boat with our purchases and worn out with miles of walking (my we were getting fit) we managed to find yet another awful restaurant serving the worst tagliatelle ever produced. Time for bed said Zebedee!
21st August 2015 Lisbon
The pilot book describes the Doca Alcantâra as a “quiet marina close to the centre of Lisbon.” The guy who wrote those notes must have cloth ears! The Lisbon, 25th April, Bridge is about half a mile away. The next marina along seems to be the centre of wild Lisbon night life and 100 yds away from Synergy on the riverside is a small container port. Furthermore, the marina is almost directly under the final approach to Lisbon airport. A combination of the constant drone of traffic, the clatter of containers being loaded and unloaded and the most awful racket from the night clubs until 2 am led to disturbed nights during our sojourn in Lisbon. (Is it me or is modern European rock music just a tuneless racket? Having grown up with Pink Floyd, The Stones and Led Zeppelin I just find it totally tuneless. My God! I’m starting to sound like my father in 1965!) Sleeping in was not an option as the airport opened around 6am, so we then had a stream of aircraft engines to ensure we rose early.
We decided to do some sightseeing. Taking the obligatory hop-on hop-off bus around Lisbon, most of the tour was pretty unimpressive, passing through some pretty dreary and boring suburbs. We subsequently discovered that the tour missed the most interesting and picturesque part of the city. Having completed the full circuit on the bus, we found a street side café in the centre of Lisbon and grabbed some lunch: squid for Jac and fresh sardines for me which were much nicer than the canned variety. We then hopped on a free tourist tram which took us around the oldest and prettiest part of the city and we even found a new towel to replace the one that we lost overboard in Muros. Then down came the rain – what was wrong with the weather? Everyone we spoke to said that rain in Portugal in August was very unusual, but it seemed to be following us around. Soaked again, we grabbed a bus back to the marina for another night of noise. The only difference was that the “music” continued until 6am when the aircraft started arriving.
22nd August 2015 Lisbon
We decided to spend the day giving Synergy some TLC and cleaned her inside and out giving all the stainless steel a good polish as well. We needed to stock up with more food. Shopping expeditions on a boat tend to be frequent as the amount that we could buy in any one trip was limited by how much we could carry back to the boat. Unlike a trip to Sainsburys when you can chuck it all in the back of the car, we had to lug it all 3/4 of a mile from shop to boat. However, the exercise was definitely doing us some good. We found a convenient LIDL not too far away, which had the added benefit of a local cafe outside, frequented only by Portuguese. We combined lunch with the shopping trip and gained another member of the crew. This was a mint plant which Jac wanted to provide the necessary additives for Pimms and we promptly named him Robert. (Robert Plant – geddit?) Robert was destined to live on deck in port and in the toilet when we were at sea and he seemed quite comfortable with the arrangements.
23rd August 2015 Lisbon
Today was the arrival day for my sister Jan. We spent the morning completing the cleaning and maintenance jobs until Jan arrived by train from the airport. She had planned to return to Lisbon from Faro on the Algarve and thence return to London on 1st September and we wanted to sort the arrangements and train tickets so that it wouldn’t be a scramble later. We eventually found the station where the ticket could be purchased, after which we wandered back through the old town, dining on swordfish steak on the way. Once again the rain came down and we abandoned plans to take the bus “home” and grabbed a taxi instead.