Having told you about MBB and their arrival in Portimao, here’s the blog of my journey.
We (my pal Jane and I) should have been on the flight to Faro from Gatwick leaving about 2 pm on Saturday 7th September, but when I turned my phone back on at 5.30 am that morning (just to check Race Viewer you understand) I had messages from BA telling me it had been cancelled. They were offering me an alternative on Sunday via Madrid arriving about 8 pm. No, I need to be there now! MBB are on their way! They are currently first and second! The latest ETA for them is Sunday morning. I can’t wait!
Me, panic? Make a drama out of a crisis? Well, this whole blog is here for a reason. Once I’d let the world know via Facebook, WhatsApp, email, text etc I set to work. First phone BA to see if they can get us on the Heathrow flight. The irony is I chose Gatwick because I thought Jane would find it easier to get there, but she had to transit London so Heathrow would have been better. Needless to say, when I eventually get through, after 40 minutes, the two Heathrow flights were full. The Gatwick flight was not cancelled due to the impending strike but for technical reasons. Lots of suggestions from my pals: train, drive, other places to fly from. To cut a stressful couple of hours short, we returned to my new favourite place, Southend. The airport this time, to fly with Ryanair, four hours later than planned but still Saturday. As a comment in Post 44 said, I go to all the glamorous places, not once but twice!
On arriving at Faro, about an hour’s drive from the marina, we collected our luggage and headed to the passport check. On turning the corner it looked like the queue to get into Glastonbury. Thousands of people and no one going anywhere. The electronic automatic passport gates were not working and of course the staffing levels have been cut down as they’re no longer needed. We reckon there was one chap on duty.
Forty minutes later we were lucky to spot our driver. Thank goodness I’d booked a car and he’d waited. Even though we took so long he was very cheerful and understanding. A high five for Favourite Arrive Transfers of Portugal, especially when we found out that the hotel had not told him of our delayed flight so he’d done the trip twice that day! On arriving at the hotel, 21.55 Saturday night, we asked reception when the dining room closed. In five minutes was the reply, and he then took ten minutes to check us in. We dropped our bags in our rooms (via golf buggy) and rushed to get a drink, having had very little to eat due to the disruption. (We had popped into Tate Britain and had a beetroot wrap and a jackfruit wrap about 11 in the morning. We cannot recommend jackfruit). Thank goodness for Ana on the bar, she told us we could have room service until 23.00 (what, back to our rooms? No, she offered us room service at the bar). I cannot remember what I had but Jane had a club sandwich which was enormous. In the restaurant people were still eating, then they had some Strictly-style dancers. Ana moved us into a quiet corner so we could watch them, and found us a couple of puddings that were spare.
We didn’t sleep well as there was a disco opposite our rooms that went on until the early hours. It didn’t help when I discovered that my bedroom window had been open all night. Never mind, the boats were not due in until the afternoon so we took life easy. At 1700 we rendezvous-ed with other supporters also waiting. After two hours, with the ETA going back and back, we decided to go and eat. After a very raucous meal (imagine six very restless women who had been drinking for over an hour) on the top floor of the hotel (so we could see the boats arrive) we realised it was going to be a LONG night and adjourned to Sandra’s room where she had a bottle of fizz cooling to drink with Geoff when he arrived. At midnight we signed onto the alert set up by Clipper and went to our beds.
I woke about six, checked Race Viewer and saw that Unicef were about to arrive. I’d totally slept through any alarm we may have had and missed Punta del Este coming in about half past midnight. As you already know, Qingdao were third around 3 am so I missed them too. Unicef were sixth. Go back to the previous post for more details.
The next day, MBB slept and /or cleaned their boats then had briefings regarding the prize giving ceremony that evening. Jane and I decided to top up our Vitamin D by the pool. For this we needed the dull pale brown towels everyone was walking around with. Off to reception to see the chap who booked us in on the desk. “Where do we get the pool towels from please?” “By the pool” “Ok, thanks”. As we start to head towards the pool he tells us we need a token. We ask where we get these and he (reluctantly) produces them! He tells us to go left but we cannot see anyone or anywhere that looks like it may have a heap of towels. We head to the far end and ask someone there, only to be told we get towels from reception. OKAY. We sit on a lounger and hope we’ll get told off for not having a towel (there is a sign telling us not reserve loungers). Eventually we find a pool boy who takes our tokens, heads off to (you guessed) reception and returns with towels! Victory!
The prize giving was in a restaurant by the marina and it was great to see Qingdao receive their pennant for coming in third. Every team member received a small one. I did offer to bring George’s home so he wouldn’t lose it but no way was he letting it out of his sight. They were rather damp, having been dropped in the pool before the presentation, but they got a lot wetter when the whole crew started to dance in the pool!
The next day Jane and I had a tour of Unicef and pretended to helm. I’m not really that much taller than Jane, there’s a board at 45 degrees that becomes the floor when the boat is heeling over.
I may give you a more detailed report of conditions on board in another post, but meanwhile here’s John showing us his cabin, with his storage space by his side.
The next day we went around the Museu de Portimao, an old sardine and anchovy canning factory, which was not too big and very interesting. As well as the commercial aspects of canning there was an exhibit on a famous accordionist of Portimao, the history of the region and some information on the underwater reserve that’s been created by sinking four naval ships some years ago.
George had planned to go and dive in the reserve on the Friday but the water was too murky; some others went and said they could not tell if they were inside the wrecks or not, the visibility was so poor.
We also had drinks provided by the Marina as a welcome on most nights and a wine tasting with oysters at the other end of the marina. Apparently they were the best, creamiest oysters ever tasted. As I lost half a stone last time I had fresh oyster I demurred. I prefer to lose weight by lots of walking in beautiful weather.
Mostly during the day we sat by the pool whilst the sailors did maintenance on the boats. The day we went over to Unicef, one of the support crew from Gosport had to go up the mast to repair something. It looked challenging when moored up, I dread to think how it would feel at sea.
Whenever John and I go on holiday we try to buy two mugs and a tea towel as a reminder of the place. This trip was no exception. I tried to find a trinket to go onto the Pandora bracelet John’s daughter Penny gave me as a memento but no luck, so I’ll see if I can find a “3” on the internet to commemorate the podium finish of Qingdao.
On Saturday we said goodbye to George and on Sunday morning John left at 9.30. We supporters had lunch next to the pontoons so we could watch the fleet leave. It was pretty emotional waving them all off, their team songs blaring away in the background. We saw them go upriver then come back but missed the race start as we had our flight back. I forgot to mention the techno pop festival that was on the last three nights from 1400 to 0600 the next morning. Once again, no sleep. Here we are enjoying some relative peace in a beach bar.
Now back to normal, slept late, did laundry, bought food, had my last Hepatitis B injection and ordered yet more stuff to take to the next stop for John. I was reading “Piano Man” by Charles Beauclerk on holiday, a book given to me by Caroline, my piano teacher. If anyone in the Yeovil area wants to learn I can recommend her, as long as you do not steal my slot! Not particularly light reading but a compelling story and heart breaking. I am now listening to recordings of John Ogdon playing Rachmaninoff and Bartok whilst typing. Meanwhile, back to Race Viewer. The fleet are off the African coast above the Canary Isles. The next excitement is which route they chose through the Isles and who goes for the Scoring Gate.