24th September 2020
Seixal, Portugal – Sesimbra, Portugal via Cascais, Portugal
Apparently, 2 is company and 3 is a crowd. With Ruffian excited about new crew arriving in Cascais and with new friends in tow; 3 was going to be a party, 4 would be a gathering and 5 would be a fiesta. With the addition of a couple of cool kids and a couple of cats we have no idea what 9 would make.
Leaving Lisbon, storm Alpha still had a sting in its tail for us. As the ebb tide swishing Ruffian out of the harbour met the swell which had been kicked up by the storm, standing waves stood, white water foamed and Ruffian kicked and bucked her way through it. The smooth shallow waters fringed the raging torrent but there was no way to reach its sanctuary without putting Ruffian in danger. There was nothing to do but hunker down and push on. As the time ticked by, and the sea room increased, we were finally able to reach the placid seas of Cascais and start to turn our crew of 2 into a festivity of 11!
The hands of time had ticked by for John on Atea and he was celebrating another birthday. John donned the family ‘birthday crown’ and was treated like a king for a day (if being treated like a king includes boat jobs, boat school, and creating a party fitting of a king).
Just before Ruffian’s crew of 2 was to turn to 3, with very little research we nipped up into the hills to see the grand palaces of Sintra. Usually before embarking on an adventure we carry out extensive research and form a detailed plan. Our day in Sintra however had none of this pre planning.
Wandering around the bus station, after nearly boarding many wrong busses we finally found one going in the right direction. As the bus went higher the temperature plummeted, the arid scrub of the coast was replaced by lush green forests and views started to get longer and longer. It was at this point that we wished we’d read the guidebook, bought some jumpers and worked out where to hop off the bus.
Finally arriving in Sintra the palaces that graced the mountain tops looked down on us and Iain, in his role of chief spendthrift and mountain goat found a path to the top. Placing foot in front of foot we scaled our way up through the gardens and marvelled at the glimpsed views we were given. Making the final crest we then discovered that one should really read the guide book as it described the path as ‘a difficult ascent’ and that one should ‘take the free bus’.
Almost alone we explored the palaces resplendent with their rich histories and stories of extreme privilege. Every surface was tiled, carved, painted or adorned with grandeur and every inch of ground was manicured as to be unworldly. All this opulence was not without its human cost as we read of the lack of empathy from the privileged classes as they transformed the peasant’s fields and subsistence farms into formal gardens purely for their pleasure.
Returning from the palaces of Sintra the main event of the day was upon us. The bus dropped us in the centre of Cascais just as Clare was dropping her hire car. She’d looked danger in it’s face and hopped on a flight from Bournemouth, she’d braved Lisbon rush hour traffic and driven from Faro, but most importantly she’d dealt with our lack of commitment with regards to location and managed to rendezvous with us. Ruffian was now a party of 3.
Clare had high hopes for sailing in Portugal. She’d booked the blue sky, azure water, dolphin friendly, surprizing castle holiday; we managed to fulfil everything in our first day at sea! As we headed south the clouds parted allowing us to see the dolphins playing in our bow wave as the wind gently filled our sails and we then anchored under the protection of a huge castle. Before we’d even dropped the anchor in Sesimbra Clare had named the day ‘Dolphin Thursday’.
Dolphin Thursday should actually have been named “Epic Castle pre Friday”. Hidden in the trees on the top of the hills were battlements that were asking to be explored and so up we went. The scale of the castle was testament of the conflicts on this coastline as we had commanding views over Lisbon to the north and the Tróia estuary to the south. Inside we could almost hear the marching on the parade ground and the boom of cannons in the batteries. This was one epic fort.
With Atea still in company and Clare now on board, our little crew of 2 has really turned into a party of 5 (plus 2 amazing kids and 2 equally gorgeous cats) as we slowly head south to the fabled Algarve coastline.
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