Monday, 18 September 2017

Halfway up the river Douro

Sitting in a riverside restaurant in Pinhao, halfway up the river Douro to the Spanish frontier.
Around me are voices speaking Portuguese with its distinctive intonation and "sh" sounds (every time an "s" occurs...).
I feel I have eaten too much fish for lunch, accompanied by the excellent local vinho branco (white wine), cool and delicious and far from costly!
Ever since we left Porto five days ago the sun has accompanied us, dispelling the early morning mists and urging us into shady places at midday.
Now we have moored Stroemhella at a convenient pontoon, where she bounces happily and is admired by the local fisherfolk.
I attempt a pic at this point:
Yes, this is our mast-less Stroemhella moored at the bouncing pontoon, beneath a verdant weeping willow. We are presently just with the two of us on the boat. We were accompanied from Porto marina by Ricardo, a young Portuguese student who proved indescribably helpful and also very entertaining and of course utterly indispensable when it came to speaking Portuguese with the lock-keepers. I am somewhat trepidatious (!) about my Portuguese on the return journey... but Ricardo has offered to help. (Long-distance telephoning...).

From the very start the trip was beautiful. The river gently curving first through houses and winding roads, further on between steep rocky hillsides.
Here we are leaving Porto and chugging upstream.

On the second day we had left the paved streets and on either side was woodland or huge rounded hills, often scorched by this summer's devastating fires.
And then came the rocky slopes, the huge boulders and the cracked stones, with the trees beginning to claim their autumn tones.

At the end of each day we found a quiet place to moor and David prepared us splendid meals so that we did not envy the guests in the five-star hotels. We would sit in the back cockpit until it grew too dark to see... And the nights were still and rocked us gently into bright dreams.
Sleep is deep and soft and holds no anguished moments.Unblemished.
Tomorrow we shall continue gently further.

This reminds me of:
Swete Themmes runne softley 
Till I end my song...

Ah, but today is very windy...

White wavelets across the river.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Another try for pix

Here is the monastery at Lece do Bilhao, where for four days there was a splendid costumed medieval fair, with music and jugglers and wondrous-tasting food cooked in wood-fired ovens. I have more jolly pix but as this one took over a minute to position here, I refrain from more until I've found an efficient manner to transfer them!
The weather continues sunny and friendly and helpful for outdoor activities.
The mast has now been taken down and the rigging extracted and washed and hung up to dry.
We have introduced ourselves to the staff here and practised Portuguese and are feeling very cheerful at the prospect of several months in this area.
But first the river Douro. So with lots of wishes for a Boa Viaje we plot our trip upstream and apply to the first locks that we'll need to negotiate.
We have asked a young Portuguese student to come with us : very useful as interpreter when my Portuguese becomes too Spanish (!) and very helpful for the moments when ropes need pulling, tying etc., since I still have considerable pain in my shoulders.
I plan to sing a lot as my contribution to the journey...

Monday, 11 September 2017

Wide horizons

Out there is only sea, unceasingly breaking in rushing foamy runnels, whooshing onto the sand. I have got used to its sound and now do not hear it all the time. But when we have stopped talking (or singing) there it is, unceasing, scarcely comforting, except in its familiarity.
It sucks away the sound of our voices, our words shrivel and there is only a huge wideness.
So how can I write when words become so trivial? All I need is the wind on my face and the sun on my back, and no aches in legs or shoulders. And off we go, at a good pace, across the wet sand and the bumpy hillocks and the uneven rocks.
This place is full of grace and cleanliness. Our small boat is moored at a pontoon (weathered slats of black wood, sometimes splitting, always rocking as we walk along it) ad our neighbours are boats of similar length, from other European countries, often waiting to cross the Atlantic to the Caribbean.
Not us: we have taken down our mast (quite a to-do) and in a few days will begin our trip up the river Douro to the Spanish frontier. Six locks to negotiate, many bends and day after day of quietness (at least, that's the idea).
We have also been entertained by some urban delights, in the centre of Porto, things like ancient buildings (churches and so forth) and fine meals in good restaurants (I never knew how excellent the Portuguese cuisine could be!) and medieval music at a beautifully organized Fayre in an old monastery nearby, which I have a charming picture of but the internet connection is so abysmally slow here on the boat that I will stick to words, not images.
In fact I'll try tomorrow when there's not such an overload!

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

These autumn days...

I'm getting ready to return to the boat which is now in a marina in Porto (northern Portugal, on the Atlantic coast).
Change of life-style, no more space to twirl in but instead a rocking floor (!) and lullaby of the waves washing onto the sandy beach.
Bags packed, weight checked, should be just the right amount...
Too many thoughts chasing around in my head, stories friends have been telling me, tales of death and sickness, countered by the laughter of children playing in the street outside my window.
I must try to make a pic of me sitting typing at my long oak table, looking out across the narrow road, to where the roses climb up the brick wall of my neighbours' house.
Below: me looking from my balcony.
Last night I lay thinking about my life onland in contrast to my life on the boat. I still prefer a dry bed...
Something like this: how grand the sea viewed from the shore, how beautiful the clouds when not about to shower down and make the deck slippery ... and no space inside the boat to get dry...
(The painting above is of course by a Dutch master and presently hanging in Berlin.)
I love it, the soft colours, the huge sky, I feel the wind blowing, I hear it soughing in the sails (or it that only for the leaves of trees?). Very happy to be near the sea (where I was born, with the Rocky mountains on the other side).
We'll give it another try.
Seven weeks before the winter rains arrive in Porto.