Cascais sat on the hill like papa’s favourite child, all polished and pruned, bathed in shade, skin shinning, hair brushed twice. We arrived as the sun fell, spending our first night rolling around on anchor, watching from the water as the roadside cleared, as darkness descended and as the town slowly fell into a peaceful sleep. Little Coconut was creaking and rattling all night in a low swell, loose wires inside the mast were the main culprit, ticking away relentlessly, out of time and out of reach. We woke early and cranked the engine, making our way into the peacock’s nest, a grand marina where boats of plastic were staked up like dominos, all floating sickly sweet, baked off white in the sun. Surrounding the nest were streams of flash lit cafés, they jumped out from the black tarmac road, giant pots of honey, tempting us cruisers to indulge, to empty out pockets and quench the thirst. Cold beers, hamburgers, fresh coffee, it was all on our doorbell, less than a stone’s throw from the boat.
It is hard work at the best of times, keeping wallet away from wife, in Cascais it was impossible. Lisbon waited in the shadows, nets baited and traps set. The promise of a day in the city was looming, art galleries, tile shops, gardens and wine bars, there was no escaping it, we stepped too close to the quick sand, sailed too close to the bright lights. Miranda was running wild, caught up with the neon glow. She wanted the lot, the smart motionless shops, the tinsel wrapped confectionary, the lush green garden walkways.
Our first stop a modern art gallery. My curses are no doubt still echoing around those hollow walls. For me art is about escaping confusion not creating it. There has to be some glimpse of truth in there, something behind it all worth preserving, some light, some hope. Why bottle poison for the drinking? why frame a turd fit for flushing? it is crazy business. That work fell like hard rain, it blew in cold through the window, numbing the mind, stunting the brush. There was gothic metal wire bent into twisted shapes, piles of dead wood thrown on the floor in no particular order, there was badly drawn faces all cracked and shouting, broken cups, charcoal scribbles, off coloured shapes and mud sodden colours. The public seemed to enjoy it, all shackled together in huddles, cackling waves of discussion into the frames of confusion. It took me awhile to recover, we had lunch outside, I looked up into a beautiful canvas of green sun filled leaves, my head stopped spinning, my legs found their feet, and we bolted, out into the quiet shaded streets.
Lisbon was a maze of cobbled corridors, a patched quilt of pastel colours, it was alive, every garden, every walkway, every turn in the road, every step we took, alive with the buzz of people. It was a tiring day, we walked for miles, stopping for a drink, resting up in a cafe, we went to another exhibition then drank beer in a boutique bar overlooking the docks, returning to the boat after dark, time for a quick hamburger then straight to the bunk, out cold, done and dusted.
As the weeks pass certain things happen when cruising, when confined to a small boat. One thing for certain is two people slowly merge, they start dressing the same, buying the same rucksack, the same coloured caps, two for one T shirt deals become a reality, it just makes sense. It isn’t that one adopts the others style, not at all, both evolve to fit the practicality of a boat, fashion falls by the wayside. Bystanders will think I have rubbed off on Miranda, not so, Miranda has just slowly come to realise her bag of summer dresses hold no value. She still tries to hang on, hiding them away, keeping them out of my reach, protecting these relics of another lifetime from their enviable doom, Coconut’s rag bag, a bin liner full of oil soaked garments, full of diesel stained cloth. In Cascais it was bikes, luminous green on black foldaways. There was no way around it, only foldaway bikes fit on a 30 footer, with two options available only one had gears, ‘ two of them please,’ that was it, we cycled off looking like a right couple of lemons, two misfits, standing out like sore thumbs.
We spent about a week in Cascais, Miranda found a place she could relax and paint, Little Coconut was turned into her make shift studio. I ran errands, reworked our self steering, moving the blocks beneath the seats, buying new rope, greasing it all up, praying she would come good. It was a final attempt, one last crack at it. We hand steered all the way from Jersey to Lisbon, we did it with a perfectly functional stainless steel wind vane resting idle. Miranda had to watch German boats come in drinking cold beer, grinning ear to ear like they had been passengers on a cruise ship. We would come in exhausted, all energy and laughter consumed my the wheel. With 500 miles of blue water ahead of us it was time to get our eggs in order, get things sorted. We got the boat ship shape, went to church Sunday morning, then left, back out into the wilderness.