Saturday, September 19, 2020

Hilton Head Island: A Night in the Cabana

 Jason, who wisely migrated from the US to New Zealand with his family six years ago, emailed me an article, A Night in the Cabana, that I wrote for SAIL magazine thirty years ago. I had completely forgotten it, though I did remember the place and the story once I started reading.  I thank him.  It may be that the best gifts cost nothing.  I am very appreciate of this one and that Jason remembered the article all these years even if I didn’t.  I suppose I have forgotten a lot of what I have written over the past half century.

I have photographed the pages and reproduce them below.  I hope you can enlarge and read them. 

If not, Douglas has provided me with the text which I have added beneath the images.  I thank him

In the 1980s when Vilamoura Marina was being developed there was a shanty town of mostly Angolan refugees along the beach to the east.  The Cabana was located there.  When Carol and I were in Vilamoura in 2001, all that had been replaced with high rises. 

A night in the Cabana

By Webb Chiles

The Cabana is a restaurant — well, perhaps an eating place is more accurate—in the old section of Quartiera, about a mile east of Marina Vilamoura in southern Portugal. It consists of one large room with a high, thatched roof, an open fireplace where the food is grilled, and four rows of rough tables. In the five years between 1983, when we first visited the place, and 1988, when we returned after a circumnavigation, the only changes were that the rows of tables had been moved to right angles from where they had been; some improvement had been made to the chimney, for the place was less full of smoke; and the thatched roof had been covered with tin. Not replaced, but covered. Also, some of the people who live permanently aboard boats at Marina Vilamoura seemed to have developed a snobbish attitude toward the Cabana, which, one British lady sniffed to me, is “rather basic.” These people do not sail; they just reside on a boat tied to the dock. Basic, such as on a boat during rough weather at sea, they do not know.

I assume they mean that if you go to the Cabana you will find yourself sitting with— perhaps, horrors, even next to—Portuguese fishermen, which is the essence of the place. Although the boys who wait on the tables speak some English, the Cabana isn’t for us; it is for the Portuguese fishermen and laborers. And that means the food is good and inexpensive. Our poverty far exceeded our snobbishness. When in Vilamoura, we ate there a lot.

One night we took a group of people with us. This is necessary. You will never find the place on your own. Five years ago someone else first took us. And while waiting for the food, we began, as sailors will, to tell sea stories. One man volunteered the following. Perhaps I should comment at this point that in matters other than this story, he is a seemingly reasonable man of mature years and good judgment.

“Three of us left English Harbour, Antigua, the same morning for Bermuda on the first leg of our Atlantic crossings. Our boat being a little bigger and quicker, we pulled away and didn’t see the others again until Bermuda. But the other boats were both about 35 feet long, heavy, with full keels, and moved at much the same speed. Both, as I recall, were British, and neither had a radio transmitter.

“For the first few days, they remained within sight of one another, but then it got squally and they were driven apart and didn’t see one another again until port. Even so, they arrived only a few hours apart.

“The first to come in were Bill and Linda on Plentiful. When they got settled, we went over to them. Both were subdued—more than just the usual fatigue at passage end. ‘We lost Clarence overboard during a squall,’ Linda finally said. ‘He was sleeping beside the cabin when the wind came up suddenly. Plentiful heeled in a gust, and then there was some heavy rain and he was gone.’

“ ‘How far out?’ asked stupidly, for it made little difference.

“ ‘In the middle. A long way from anywhere. We reduced sail, but the rain lasted until dark. There was simply no visibility. No way we could find him.’ Bill smiled sheepishly as he continued. ‘I even released the man-overboard pole and buoy. Just to mark the spot. I don’t think I’d ever realized how difficult it would be to recover anyone in those conditions.’

“We arranged to meet later for a drink and went back to our boat.

“A couple of hours later we heard some noise. Susie went on deck and called down, ‘Lola Too is coming in.’ This was the other boat that left Antigua with us. We didn’t ever know them very well. Frank and Joan, I think they are.

“Well. anyway, they powered slowly by Plentiful, and the woman called something, which we couldn't hear; apparently, neither could Bill and Linda. But instead of continuing on, Lola Too powered in circles until finally they used their fog horn, which got everyone’s attention, and Linda’s head appeared in the companionway.

“Joan pointed at something sitting contentedly at her feet. ‘Here’s your cat.’ she called.

“Clarence!” Linda cried and all but leapt across the water. But Clarence merely stared at her inscrutably. It was in fact a very long time before he forgave them.

“Just before dark the mid-passage squall had ended for Lola Too, and Joan caught sight of a man-overboard pole. The waves were not big, and they changed course, not expecting to find anything. They assumed the pole had fallen off some boat by accident and they might pick it up. As they approached they saw one wet, unhappy cat clinging grimly to the float. Naturally, they recognized Clarence and spent the rest of the passage contemplating how surprised Bill and Linda were going to be when they arrived in Bermuda.

“‘By the way, Joan called, as they powered off to tie up Lola Too, ‘we also have your cat-overboard pole.’ ”

Just then the boy brought our food. “It is a true story,” the man who told it declared. “I swear it.”

As I have said, he is otherwise a reasonable man. If you are ever in Vilamoura when we are, we will take you to the Cabana and show you where he sat.

Circumnavigator Webb Chiles is sailing along the U.S. East Coast.


1 comment:

Deadlion said...

Great story, scan is easily legile. Thanks for posting it. Glad no cats were harmed in the generation of this piece.