Chapter 24 Pottering in Porto

Tuesday 8th to Saturday 12th of August 2017

Airplane Over Train (1913) Natalia Goncharova

Airplane Over Train (1913) Natalia Goncharova

On Tuesday morning, after about 5 hours sleep, I wake desperate for the loo. Max is already up so we take the long walk from the outer pontoon to the marina office and facilities. Registering takes its time and once it is finished I’m again feeling sleepy. While I crawl into my cabin for more sleep, Max, who has loads of energy, hires a bike and heads off into Porto to explore. I wake in the late afternoon. Like a bear after a winter’s hibernation I move slowly and ponderously about the main cabin seeking food. Max returns from her adventures but then heads out to find some wifi to prepare herself for a job interview she has the following morning.

I’m still not really awake properly when Max comes back an hour or so later, hungry and keen to head off and find some food. We walk into the fishing village Afurada, but though there are lots of interesting looking little restaurants, with tables and barbecues in the streets, there are no menus and I don’t think my Portuguese is yet up to ordering in one of them. So we agree to head on towards the old centre of Porto. We are on the south side of the river where the Port warehouses hawk their wares. The place is rammed with tourists. After 4 days at sea and a few weeks away from cities, I find it all a bit much. To make it all easier to handle, I reach into my pocket for the makings of a cigarette, only to realise I have left I have my tobacco on the boat.

I had started smoking again with the hectic-ness of all the Brighton visits and by now, once again, I’m firmly addicted. The next hour is spent trying to track down a tobacconist. After many a twist and turn we find one, a fair way back towards Afurada. With a roll up in hand and some of my sanity restored, we head back towards a restaurant we have seen. I suppose we should really be celebrating our voyage but we are both tired so it is just a brief steak and chips then a cab back to the boat and, before you know it, I am asleep again.

On Wednesday morning I get to talking with my neighbour Bruno who has an aluminium sail boat. He is French and the boat is an Ovni made by Alubat in France. It is a make I am unfamiliar with. Bruno gives me a tour and I marvel at the boat, which is both beautiful and sturdy. I learn that he and his daughter, who is the same age as Max, are making the opposite journey to us, back to Brittany. At the moment they are stuck in Porto by the northerly winds. There is also a problem with the radar that Bruno wants to fix before crossing the Bay of Biscay. I ask him what the problem is and he says he needs a multimeter to find out. I pop back to Kite and lend him mine.

Back on my boat I notice the noise of a line hitting against the mast. I investigate and find that somehow we have managed to get the main halyard caught around the steaming light. We have then winched in the halyard pulling the steaming light away from the mast. I put on my climbing harness and get Max to work a winch providing a safety line. I climb up and investigate. I manage to unhook the main halyard but the steaming light is toast. I will have to fix this before moving on to Lisbon.

The rest of Wednesday becomes the celebration of our voyage. For lunch we head into Porto to Cantina 32 where we dine excellently with the accompaniment of a bottle of Prosecco. After lunch we call in at a cafe adjacent to Ponte Luis I. This double decker bridge carries metro trains on its high level and cars and pedestrians down below. As Maxime drinks her wine and I wash down my meal with the large beers that the waitress has convinced me that I need, we watch boys, ranging in age from around 10 to 16, climb over the bridge’s safety rail and perform various stunts before jumping and diving into the water. This carries on for a couple of hours with no intervention from the authorities, just the occasional gasps and rounds of clapping from tourists. I try not to look to avoid encouraging them.

I get a text from my Portuguese friend Maria who has just flown into Porto airport. Maxime and I invite her to come and join us, but she has to meet a friend on the way, so, by the time she arrives, I’m not the soberest I have ever been. We sit in the sun drinking for another hour or so and then decide to seek some food. Thanks to a friend that knows Porto well, Maxime is put in charge of finding a restaurant. She selects the excellent Flow. We arrive by cab to find that they don’t have a table, but that it is fine for us to wait at the bar. We loudly order martinis, but no sooner have we done so we are shown to our table. My memories get hazy after that, I recall the food was great, that we also drank Prosecco, that we got a cab back to the boat, that Maxime met up with Bruno’s daughter and they headed out clubbing and that I made up the middle cabin bed for Maria.

On Thursday morning I have a really bad headache and a general feeling of urrgh! I spend a lot of time thinking what I could have done differently, definitely smaller beers and probably a lot more water. It seems to take nearly all of the day just to find a supermarket and get some food. When I get back at around mid afternoon, I notice, Bruno, his boat and my multimeter have gone. Oh well I think, I’m sure it wasn’t deliberate and I guess it’s gone to a good home.

On Friday Max heads out to a surfing class and I explore Porto to search for a chandler’s that has a replacement steaming light. I eventually find one on the road into the old town but it is closed. As I walk away from the shop I’m hailed by an engineer from the workshop next door. I follow him to a third shop, that sells fishing tackle, where a phone call is made to the owner of the chandlers, keys are found and I’m taken into the shop. I quickly choose a new steaming light that I hope will suffice and head back to the angling shop to pay. By the time I get back to the boat, Max is already home from her surfing lesson which she has evidently enjoyed, as she plans to go again the next day. As we are eating lunch we are hailed by one of the guys from the boatyard, in his hands he has my multimeter. The day before he had been in a marina to the north of Porto, where he had been recognised by Bruno, who had asked him to pass on his apologies for absent mindedly leaving with the meter when the weather had suddenly changed.

Apart from drinking and eating and a lovely cycle with her on Thursday evening I don’t feel I have spent enough time with Maxime since arriving at Porto. So, as today is Saturday and her last day, I decide to go along to her surfing lesson. The instructor Mario’s attempts at encouragement, telling me that they have taught someone a whole year older than me, fail miserably in the early morning sunshine. I do enjoy it though, and a number of times I do manage to stand up briefly before crashing hard into the water. Maxime is in her element and doesn’t seem to find it half as exhausting as I do. I can’t help but wonder if I had that energy at her age.

After surfing we dine in the sun at the beach restaurant next to the school. Then we head back to the boat, Maxime packs and, after a quick drink in a bar overlooking the marina, we take a taxi to the airport. We get her bag checked and head out to have a final cigarette before her flight. All too soon we are at security, taking pictures for Facebook and having final hugs. I watch and wave as she heads off towards her plane. I had planned to get public transport back to the boat, but now, suddenly, I don’t feel able to. As I sit in a taxi on the way to the marina I realise how much I will miss Max, and that, from now on, I will have to make myself laugh and keep my own spirits up. Having children is a fantastic journey, but saying goodbye to them has often seemed one of the more bittersweet experiences, from that first day at nursery to just now at Porto airport.