70 years of yachting recognised

THE DAY started with a touch of frost followed by hot sun and, after a sudden drop in temperature, a tranquil sunset. By the look of the forecast, the weather is set fair into the foreseeable future.

No muddy paws all over the kitchen floor and everything right with our small world. Both dogs lay resting after a good dinner but, as usual, kept one eye open. When the Boss crept past on his way to the log pile, Fred leapt into action, shot up the nearest hill and disappeared. Having whistled and called until nightfall, we started supper feeling anxious and, by midnight, bed was the last thing on our minds. Had he fallen foul of a wild boar? Or traps and snares or perhaps another dose of poison bait laid for the unwary truant? Nightmares stalked my early hours and at 6am I checked his basket inside the back lobby to find it still empty. Bess joined me on a fruitless search among the grey hills and later remained on watch when we left for church.

Home again to an empty kennel. So, following separate paths, we combed far and wide through bush and valley until dark. With little heart and no appetite, I started to cook a meal, dripping tears into the vegetables. Five minutes later, two filthy paws hit the glass door of the kitchen with a thud and Fred was back home! He was thirsty and exhausted with cuts and bruises on his pads, too tired to eat as he flopped down in front of the fire. Being a Podenga Cruz of Portuguese hunting stock, the instinct to follow a scent overrides everything else and perhaps he slept rough having lost his way, or maybe someone took him home as a foundling. Whatever happened, it is like having another child, with neither a dull moment nor any peace of mind.

Boats can be another cause for concern, although I rarely worry if the Boss is late back from sailing, because, unless he capsizes and dunks his mobile, he can always keep in touch. However, the other night, we went to a sporting fixture together. Lagos Câmara was holding its annual Gala de Desporto in the senior school gymnasium and we were invited to attend. Over 1,000 students, their families and various dignitaries were there to give and receive trophies for sporting achievements across the board. “Be there by 9pm and it will last about an hour.” We staggered out just before midnight having been wonderfully entertained by two comedians and, during the intervals, watched dozens of youngsters receive their prizes. A double stack of ghetto blasters broadcast pop music and the kids whistled continuously on their fingers – it stunned the senses.

Right at the end of the gala, the Boss was called on stage. Câmara President, Senhor Júlio Barroso, spoke a few kind words and presented him with a sculpture of a single sail dinghy – Um Troféu de Dedicação e Longevidade. This was in recognition of his dedication to yachting over 70 years, his long membership of the Club in Lagos and his successes in Portugal. Along with this fine piece of crystal, he was handed a microphone. Being a man of retiring disposition, his limited Portuguese deserted him – truly mortified, he gave his thanks in English.

Now, for the next three weeks, he will be racing in a series of regattas along the Algarve, kick started by this honour and speeded forward by the acquisition of a new sail for his boat. The appearance of another Englishman on the same circuit has given an added spice and incentive to the game.

Although competitive sailing has dwindled at the Clube de Vela de Lagos, the sailing school is in action over most weekends, the majority of pupils being under the age of 15. Training in either their own or Club Optimist dinghies, the crews, some being as young as eight years old, sail in anything from gentle breezes to a Force 3 and, if competing, go out in much stronger winds. Courses are also offered for adults if the demand is sufficient and, for this, there are two larger sailboats. The comparative warmth of the sea is a great incentive to beginners, capsizes being all part of the fun and a far cry from the chilly waters of the UK, into which we fell from time to time. During sailing, it was not unusual for clothing to be sheathed in ice and for ropes to stand up by themselves.

For those who wish to sail keeled boats and to obtain the necessary Royal Yachting Association’s qualifications, I believe it is possible to do so from Lagos, although I have no details. However, two days ago, I saw the yacht, which looked rather like a Square Topsail Schooner, leaving harbour under tan foresails preparatory to breaking out her mains once clear of the moles. A beautiful ship, no doubt built in the 20th century, yet reminiscent of the early 1800s when such boats were used for coastal trading. Many were built on St. Edward Island, off Nova Scotia, and sailed to Great Britain to be sold on. There was also a version with raked back masts, known as the Baltimore Clipper that was used during the 1812 war between the United States and Great Britain.