I was grateful for the nearly full moon and all the stars lighting up our way as we left Sines about four thirty this morning. In settled summer weather, the wind blows from the north from about midday until sunset all down the Portuguese coast. This is obviously great news if you’re going south to the Mediterranean, but not so good if you’re heading home like us. So in order to avoid driving or attempting to beat into fresh winds on the nose, we decided to take the advice of leaving just before dawn and motoring in the calm hours of the day before the wind gets up. So far so good, although we’re not exactly at our fastest motoring. Getting up the coast of Portugal feels a little bit like Snakes and Ladders.* It’s all a bit slow climbing up the ladders and you know that at any stage a big snake from the north could come and blow you back down the board. But at the same time, each time you get to the top of a ladder you get past the snake that could push you down a level and so it continues. The coast here is fairly flat and there aren’t a lot of harbours along it in places, so once you leave somewhere you really don’t want to get stopped on your way. But the forecasts were right and the wind died away to nothing and we motored quite well through ever decreasing Atlantic swell until we reached Sesimbra.
There were lots of dolphins about and we tried to get photos of them, but every time we pointed the camera at them they hid. We took it in turns to have a nap and catch up from our early start, and I had just drifted off when I was rudely awoken by squeaking which sounded alarmingly like it was coming from the boat, and not in a good way. Half asleep, I tried to work out what it was. It sounded metallic, but it wasn’t the rigging, or anything from the direction of the bowsprit. Then I realised it was dolphins, pinging signals off our hull. I’m generally unhappy with anyone or anything that wakes me up from my sleep, but it’s quite hard to be cross with a dolphin.
Sesimbra is very nice, although more touristy than Sines. It must have once been a small fishing town, but there is now a big sailing club marina and there are various less attractive hotels on the hills behind the town. The fuel quay in the port was shut for the weekend, so we went on a bit of a marathon expedition to find diesel, and ended up seeing a lot of Sesimbra in the process and liked it very much.
It also got to the stage of being so desperate to find a petrol station that I decided to properly go for it with making up Portuguese, using a mixture of words I have heard and Portguese-ifying Spanish words based on the phonetic and morphological elements of the historical linguistics paper CS2: The Romance Languages I did at university. To my delight it worked, without any look of desperation passing over the face of the man who gave us directions, nor any attempt to try Spanish or English in frustration at the nonsense I may or may not have been speaking. And what is more, I found I could understand everything he said. I have been wishing I had bought a dictionary or phrasebook since we arrived inPortugal but cannot find one anywhere, and have been making do with what I can find online. But now I’m not so sure I want one. This is like the Ray Mears of foreign languages. Would Ray buy a knife with which to stab in the dark? No, he would make one up on the spot.
* I promise to stop using childhood games as analogies soon, but this one is definitely true.