Back in Portugal

After a little more than three months in the USA, we returned to Orontes about 1:00 AM Tuesday morning. The flight from DFW to London was an all-nighter – we left DFW at 10:00 pm and arrived in London at 1:00 in the afternoon. Our good friend from Aledo, Karen, is a flight attendant for American, but she was unable to change her schedule to make this flight with us. She did, however, have her friend Tina ensure that we were well taken care of. I enjoyed meeting her and talking to her during the flight.

We had a long layover in London, and had entertained the idea of taking the “Tube” (subway) into the city and sightseeing. However the weather was a very cool 30 degrees, so we stayed indoors and waited until our flight at 10:00 that night.

The flight to Lisbon was uneventful, and we cleared immigration and customs without a snag. Flying into the EU is much easier than flying into the US.

Let me talk about the immigration issue for a moment. Most of the EU countries subscribe to the Schengen Agreement, which is the legislation that essentially got rid of border passport checks between these countries. Once you clear in to Portugal, for example, you can go to any of these countries without having to check in at the border of each individual country. It is a great convenience for the citizens of these countries, and for those visiting on vacation. HOWEVER, the provision for most foreigners (citizens of the US included), is that you can only stay in these countries 90 days out of any 180 day period. In short, you can stay 90 days, and then you have to leave 90 days before you can reenter.

Our Christmas visit back to the US had taken 92 days (yes, we counted the days before booking our flight), so reentering Portugal was no problem.

We took a taxi to the boat, spoke to the guard at the gate of the boatyard and got him to let us in, and finally got home at 1:00 AM. We were whipped, but glad to be home.

It took us a few days to adjust to the time change of six hours, and also catch up on the sleep we were unable to get while sitting in the economy section of a 777. We had a lot of things to unpack and stow, and several things to do to the boat.

While we were gone, our freezer shut down, and we lost all of the meat we had stored. From what I can puzzle out, the electrical cord that supplies shore power to the boat was pulled out, and this shut down the battery charger. In winter the sun never gets to a high angle in the sky and the solar panels were not able to keep the freezer running. I believe once the battery voltage got to a low level, the unit just shut down. With the freezer gone, there was little load on the batteries and the solar panels recharged the batteries. What I do know is that when I arrived, the freezer was shut down, the batteries were at 98% charge, and the shore power cable was unplugged. The refrigerator had no problems, and was running when we arrived.

This was a mess to clean up. We threw the meat out and used a bulb syringe to suck out the bloody liquid at the bottom. This was real fun, and the smell was pretty rank. We finally got everything out, but it looks like we need to do some more work before we put anything back into it. Before leaving the US we had added several inches of insulation to the bottom of the freezer and covered it with a fiberglass panel. I caulked the edges with a marine sealant to make it watertight. Apparently, my sealant job wasn’t very good. It looks like the sealant bond broke free from the edges of the freezer, and bloody water leaked down into the area where I added insulation. I will need to remove all of this and clean it out before we turn the freezer back on. For now, the freezer lid is tightly closed to keep the remaining smell bottled up. This will be a project for next week.

We also had a leak in our plumbing system. We had shut down the water pressure while we were gone, so there was no damage from leaking water. However, when we returned we turned the water pump on, and a slow leak under our head sink soaked all of the things stowed underneath. We found it Wednesday after it had been dripping all night. Think of the cabinet under your bathroom sink, and whatever you have on those shelves – that is where our leak was. Fixing the leak took a couple of tries, but I fixed it Saturday before lunch. The fan is running now to dry out moisture before we stow everything again.

The boatyard had done a lot of the painting repair while we were gone, but they did not quite finish. The weather here is in the high 50’s and low 60’s during the day, so they were able to finish their painting this week. The boat is now rust-free again, and looks really sharp.

We met with a local company, Wavetech, on Thursday to discuss our replacement mast and rigging. We had a great discussion, and we now have a success path agreed on to get our mast ordered. Wavetech will provide a new quote with the changes we agreed on, and I will present this to insurance as soon as I get it. I think we are finally getting close to ordering the replacement mast.

So, we are getting used to being back in Portugal and things are going well. As much as we enjoyed being in Kentucky and Texas and spending time with family and friends, we are glad to be back on board and getting our boat ready for sea.

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