I remember it to this very day, some thirty six years ago we were sailing in a stiff Nortarda up the west coast of Portugal from Lisbon to Porto. Thalassa was five days late for dinner with the Symmingtons.

    Every morning after being on night watch I woke up to find the sea at forty-five degrees on one tack or another. Thalassa’s decks had opened up on her voyage to the Mediterranean and I was keeping the water around my sleeping bag reasonably warm. I looked across at Michael Smith who hadn’t got out of his yellow oilskins since we left Lisbon.

    “Come on” said Risky Richard, our gallant owner skipper, “You were meant to be on watch ten minutes ago”.

    ”This was the third day we had stood out in the Atlantic for fear of being swept onto a lee shore before we could get into the comparative safety of Porto de Leixoes.Thalassa was on her own. No shipping in sight, no fishing boats. The dear old lady was dutifully ploughing her way through heavy seas under a fully reefed main and stormsail jib.

    How Richard managed to find the mouth of the Douro river, I shall never know. Once we were in the estuary we found we were facing an armada of Portuguese fishing boats, who had been stormbound for the last few days, bearing down upon us. Thalassa’s engine did not work so we shook out some reefs to get some more speed and tacked towards the armada.

    Our valiant skipper decided that as we were under sail we had right of way. So forthwith, without showing the smallest element of fear, he picked up the loudhailer and bellowed ”I AM ABOUT TO GO ABOUT”

    Whether the fishing boats ever understood this British naval command or even heard it above the noise of their engines, we will never know. But they gave us a wide berth enabling Thalassa to sail up the river to Porto with consummate skill, which was much to Richard’s credit.

    The Symmington’s very kindly came and collected us and also took our wet clothes and bedding, which they had washed. After a delicious dinner we thanked them and went to collect our laundry, which to our horror had been washed but not dried!
The tide also played its part by submerging the dinghy, which had been left on too short a line.

Next day Thalassa was seen to be dressed overall with our laundry!
Jeremy Mackay-Lewis


    Richard was determined that Thalassa should get as far south as North Africa, so despite Denis having abandoned us, together with his Earl Grey tea, for an old flame on “ the Rock”, Richard, Vivian, Philip, James and myself set off for Tangiers.

    The Straits of Gibraltar have a complicated double tide system. Having successfully negotiated the first part, we did not quite make it on the second part. Even with a bit of wind the six knot tide was dragging us back. Rather than enter Tangier very late we turned with the tide and sped towards Ceuta.

    Richard produced a chart but nothing seemed to fall in place and then we realised that it was for some protectorate in the Far East! We followed the ferries in, but darkness was falling and we could not make out the yacht basin. Richard took the dinghy to do a recce while we bided our time going round and round the harbour (in reverse of course as the engine had jammed in reverse sometime before) trying to avoid the ferries rushing in from Gibraltar, Tangiers and Malaga. Eventually the familiar sound of the Seagull approached but the basin was not to be found .I went ashore, as instructed by the Skipper, to take Thalassa’s warps. I scaled the iron rungs, very excited, as it was also my first visit to Africa. I got to the top to find a Berber sitting leering at me with his gold teeth flashing. I thought, ”My God this is where the White Slave Trade begins!” However luckily Thalassa appeared before I was hauled off. We had a great evening with Philip and James as there was a fiesta in the town, with the French Foreign Legion, lots of Berbers and all the fun of the fair, which we enjoyed the next day.

    The yacht club was actually not far away and the Skipper signed Thalassa in.
Caroline Mackay-Lewis