Water splashing everywhere

By Margaret Brown [email protected]

Margaret Brown is one of the Algarve Resident’s longest standing contributors and has lived in the Algarve for more than 20 years.

Having sailed with, or supported the sailing career of, the Boss since 1955 and with the pair of us now showing signs of passing from wrinkly to crumbly, my better half continues to challenge wind and sea whenever possible.

Sadly, although junior members of Lagos Club remain enthusiastic and undeterred, the adult section has either gone on to big boats or lost its youthful passion. This means that friendly club racing is a rare pleasure and not only in our home port, but at many other coastal clubs where fifteen years ago the Boss was able to race almost every weekend.

Towing his Laser dinghy east as far as Vila Real de Santo António or north to Porto, and at other clubs in between when they were holding a Campeonato, today the Boss is lucky to have any company on the water.

The drought of enthusiasm began long before the credit crunch. However, during August there were two consecutive days of racing at Clube de Vela de Lagos that were quite well attended.

Although no longer at the front of the fleet, he remains a worthy contender despite an occasional capsize, one of which happened during a recent three-hour race when the wind turned fresh and gusty.

With his boat upside down and only an inch of centreboard showing above the slippery hull, it took him 10 minutes to roll the dinghy upright, clamber back into the cockpit and continue racing.

No help came his way, the rescue boats being otherwise engaged. As usual, he arrived home with legs covered in raw patches and some nasty rope burns from being tangled up in the mainsheet.

Sitting in a room filled with Portuguese people at Barlavento Hospital the following week while waiting to give a sample of my valuable blood, the Boss’s legs came under covert inspection by a middle-aged man who asked him if he had been attacked by a dog. Mustering language skills, I explained as best I could what had happened.

Quietly this was repeated to the man’s neighbour, who mentioned it to the lady on his right and so on, the story passing from person to person until everyone had taken a discreet look.

Years ago, when we raced together first in a 12ft Firefly and then a Merlin Rocket, these boats being unforgiving and happy to capsize at the first crew error, our 21 years partnership was a source of many marital disputes.

Usually these were settled at the club bar although sometimes rumbled on at home, during which our daughters kept a weather eye open until the storm had passed.

Being young and fit, open wounds were rare but the bruises were large, painful and mainly on our legs owing to the cramped conditions and sharp fixtures on deck.

In many ways, they were halcyon days despite the agony: sometimes balanced by a euphoric glow when we worked as a team and did well.

At the time of writing, with autumn waiting in the wings and Lagos full of happy holidaymakers the sea is alive with boats big and small. Yesterday we spent a couple of hours in a beach bar high above the Bay, and from east beyond Portimão to west as far as Ponta da Piedade, the blue green sea was tracked with the wakes of fast launches powering a course among sailing cruisers, Optimist and Laser dinghies.

Total pleasure to watch the sea alive with lines of foaming waves rocking the little sailing dinghies and through it all kayaks being paddled like a huddle of ducks.

Meanwhile, back in the little hills, everything is dry, brittle and quiet except at night. Friends living some way from civilization have the dubious pleasure of a family of wild boar in residence on their land – close enough to demolish walls, in places blocking their drive and posing a threat to a lovingly tended garden, as yet undamaged.

Last year we were similarly honoured and would be happy for them to come back if only to dig over some rough ground ready for planting spuds.

As it is, the best we can do is to offer constant drinking water for birds while catering for all sizes – a small dish for little ones and a large earthenware cooking pot for rest.

In full view from the front of the house, they offer endless pleasure especially the splashing, squabbling young sparrows and blackbirds. Rather than use the big dish, ringdoves prefer to join a crowd of small fledglings, frightening them away.

This seems to have been a successful year for rearing azure magpies, a flock of about 40 young birds being regular visitors to our plot.

With a mixture of oak, olive, carob and eucalyptus trees on the land, several may have nested nearby the youngsters flying in for a quick communal wash, scattering spray until all the water has gone.

Best of all has been a visit from a number of swallows. For about 10 minutes, they flew in and out of the front patio, perched on lights and inspected the roof timbers.

Already lined up on the telegraph wires and due to migrate south, we hope they may return to nest with us next year and fulfill a hope not yet realised in 26 years.