Lisbon (19th September - 4th October 2008)

Our 15 day stay in Lisbon meant that we were able to get quite a few jobs done on the boat. The companionway step had broken just as we arrived in Lisbon and had to be repaired, re-screwed and glued, the watertight hatches to the water tanks which weren‘t watertight were replaced, the peeling paint on the gunnels stripped off, a number of deck fittings which were leaking were re-laid, additional guard rails to the pushpit were installed, net baskets to hold fruit and veg were made up and probably plenty more odds and ends that I can‘t remember.

As I was working on the boat Selma and children were beavering away at school either on deck or down below depending on the weather and what I was doing on the boat. Selma has covered this in a separate chapter.

Doca De Alcantara was a 10 minute train ride away from the centre of Lisbon so we visited the city nearly everyday either for shopping or seeing the sights; no touristy stuff though, oh no not for us. It’s a great city with loads to see and do. Jack has produced a ’Classic Jack Productions’ video of the main sights that if I can get my ‘You Tube’ sorted will be in circulation shortly. Similarly the kids have produced an above and below deck tour of the GSB. All classics!
During our stay in Lisbon I experienced one of the most traumatic experiences of the trip so far. A shiver runs down my spine as I recall the horror of a trip to IKEA. To fellow members of the exclusive ‘Men Against IKEA’ Club I can only apologise but I was between a rock and a hard place. Devoted Blog followers will recall that Paul E lobbed our grill pan over the side whilst crossing the Biscay and since then we have been starved of grilled food and have been on an eternal quest to find a replacement. The search for the holy grill pan resulted in us scouring every shop in Lisbon for a replacement but with no success. Finally, we were informed that we would definitely, definitely, be able to buy one in that hell-hole of a shop … IKEA. My worst nightmare had come true. The whole experience felt like some sort of medieval quest where we had to go through a number of physical and mental challenges if we were to find the holy grill pan and this was the final and toughest of them all. I had no choice but to prepare myself and venture forth … Selma, Jack and Ella, unaware of the dangers of IKEA seemed delighted by the plan.

We had hired a car to travel inland to visit some of the sights outside of Lisbon, do a big shop before the trip to Porto Santo and to fill up the diesel cans so once all of this had been done we headed towards IKEA. We had no map and some rough directions from a non-English speaking shop assistance in the supermarket. In hindsight our approach was not great but I think that subconsciously I had hoped we would never find it and having no map and little idea where it was seemed like a good start.

Our crude understanding was that we had to leave at the first exit of the motorway after the supermarket and we would see IKEA immediately. What a complete load of *****cks; the lady didn‘t speak English but she seemed sane which we now knew was not the case. What actually happened was that we turned off the motorway and entered one of the worlds most complicated one-way systems; the system, designed by a close relative of the shop assistant, prevented you from going anywhere you wanted to until you were completely lost by which time you didn‘t know where you wanted to go anyway. In the end it took 2 hours to travel the half a mile to IKEA; I cannot believe that I spent 2 hours driving through some of the dodgiest looking suburbs of Lisbon in search of my most hated shop but there it is. Nonetheless we did finally arrive and so the real trauma began.

Before we left the safety of our car I briefed Selma and the kids with some basic rules. Stick together, never stray off the arrowed path, stay focussed on the single purchase of a grill pan by repeating the words ‘we only need a grill pan’ out loud as you walk and under no circumstances pick up one of those enormous yellow baskets. We stepped out of the car and were immediately sucked into the abyss.

The H Team lasted about 4 seconds. In that time I’d completely lost Jack and Ella and could see Selma in the distance admiring a wickerwork bread basket shaped like a giant elephant … all was lost, I had no choice but to abandon them. I followed the arrows relentlessly, occasionally spotting one of the family caressing a piece of laminated-furniture-rubbish but pressed on until I arrived in the kitchen section. I then ventured ‘off-piste’ to track down the holy grill pan which IKEA ‘definitely sell‘. OFF COURSE THEY ****ING DON’T, WHY IN ****’s NAME WOULD THEY, THEY‘RE A ****ING SWEDISH FURNITURE SHOP; the whole thing had been an evil plan to lure me into the shop where once trapped I would be forced to fill the GSB with useless tat, I had been well and truly duped. Fortunately, by now the IKEA current had washed the rest of the family up to me and I was able to coral them. Of course sufficient time had elapsed for them all to be under the evil IKEA spell and it was with great difficulty that I managed to force them back to the safety of the car. They all sulked for several hours afterwards but that was fine because we got well and truly lost leaving IKEA so they had plenty of time to get over it before we got back to the good ship - the quest for the holy grill pan continues.

Whilst at Doca De Alcantara we met Gordon and Anne Campion who are at the beginning of a trip round the world in their yacht Equinox. Gordon is one of few people to have circumnavigated Spitsbergen in a yacht and one night we were entertained by a quite excellent video of the trip. Several nights of yarning and drinking followed but fortunately for our livers Equinox departed a few days before us bound southwards. We hope to meet up in the Caribbean.

Whilst in Lisbon we carried out our first, planned, chart exchange. We knew there would not be room to carry all the charts we would need for the trip and so the plan was to send used charts home and get the next bunch sent out. Trish at Imray’s did a great job and apart from the fact that the Portuguese couldn’t find the marina it all went very well. The next change will be in the Caribbean which could be more interesting.

With new charts delivered we were ready to move on. For some time we had debated where to go next and in particular whether to go straight to Madeira/Porto Santo or head further south to Spain. The decision really depended on when we intended to cross the Atlantic. If we were going to leave before Christmas we needed to crack on, if we were leaving after Christmas we had a month to spare. In the end we decided to head for Barbados before Christmas so with that decision made our next passage was decided for us. Time to move on.

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