27 Aug

We left Portugal on Wednesday 12 August, but I must backtrack to record our whistle-stop tour of the coast.

In summary, it went like this:

(Sunday 26 July: Portosin to Baiona – 45 miles)
Tuesday 28 July: Baiona to Leixões – 61 miles
Thursday 30 July: Leixões to Figueira da Foz – 65 miles
Friday 31 July: Figueira da Foz to Nazaré– 35 miles
Saturday 1 August: Nazaré to Peniche – 27 miles
Sunday 2 August: Peniche to Cascais – 46 miles
Wednesday 5 August: Cascais to Sines – 55 miles
Sunday 9 August: Sines to Enseada de Sagres – 62 miles
Monday 10 August – Sagres to Vilamoura – 39 miles
Wednesday 12 August – Vilamoura to Chipiona (Spain) – 88 miles

Stats – 523 miles in 18 days; average speed 6 knots.

PT arrived back to the boat on 25th July, just in time to crew for me and Berni on a passage to Baiona. The trip was uneventful as we headed south past the Rias de Arosa, Pontevedra and Vigo but the gradual change in climate was noticeable and the temperatures climbed. On arrival in Baiona, we chose the newer Puerto Deportivo de Baiona in preference to the swankier Monte Real Club de Yates marina, and on our approach we were helpfully met by marinerias in a RIB, who guided us into our berth (it was only later that I realised that they weren’t asking us over the VHF, “Are you the boat with the dinghy on the deck?”).

The marina was OK, but it lost points on the quality of the showers. We didn’t miss out on the salubrious surroundings of the MRCY clubhouse in the bastion of the Castello de Monte Real completely though and blagged our way in there the next evening for a farewell dinner with Berni. Very nice it was too!

PT & Berni at the Monte Real Club, Baiona

PT & Berni at the Monte Real Club, Baiona

Adapting to the heat curtailed any extended exploration of Baiona, but it didn’t stop me and Berni going for a final early morning run together before she departed for Santiago to fly home and we continued our journey south to our first Portuguese port, Leixões.

Both pilot books warned that the marina at Leixões (pronounced ‘layshoinsh’), which is in the corner of a huge commercial port, was very dirty with reports of dead cats and dogs floating around in the oily water. With that in mind, our plan was to make a quick overnight stop and continue on our way. In actual fact, the marina was absolutely fine. The security was good, there were friendly English-speaking staff and the water seemed to be free of corpses.

We opted to stay for a second night and hopped on the metro for a trip down to Porto, only 20 minutes away. Porto is the second largest city in Portugal, after Lisbon. There is some impressive architecture and the views of the Rio Douro from the top of the Ponte Dom Luis I bridge are stunning. We made our way down from the bridge to the waterfront to visit one of the many port warehouses for which the city is famous. Needless to say, we also took advantage of the generous discounts available on the tawny nectar!

Bulk buying after a visit to the port cellars!

Bulk buying after a visit to the port cellars!

After Leixões came Figueira da Foz. Just one night here; the marina was pleasant enough but the town was rather a puzzle. We went out for a stroll in the evening at around 8pm, hoping to get a bite to eat, only to find the place completely deserted and shut for the night. This was a complete shock to the system after Spain, where towns and villages are alive until late in the evening, with whole families strolling the streets or chatting over food and drink until midnight or later. It seems that Portugal is an early to bed, early to rise kind of place – unlike Spain where they like to sleep late.

A discerning shopper at the market at Figueira da Foz

A discerning shopper at the market at Figueira da Foz

Next on the list was Nazaré – a possible 2-night stop as the pilot book was full of praise for the town and the marina. The Irish marina manger was on hand to direct us to a berth and he helped us tie up in what was rather an awkward spot, in a corner rafted up against a large motor cruiser. He was also very efficient in advising on completing the necessary formalities with the authorities, on what was available locally and on the pros and cons of various different destinations further down the coast. Very helpful, but with an element of Harry Enfield’s Mr You-Don’t-Wanna-Do-It-Like-That……

I had a run into and around the small town of Nazaré about a mile from the marina. It was certainly livelier than Figueira da Foz, with loads of people around and live music on the seafront. However, the return run to the marina back through the run-down industrial estate with packs of not-so-friendly dogs roaming around in the gloaming was far from pleasant. Nazaré was not growing on me…Our mind was made up in the morning on the question of whether to stay or go when the manager stopped us on our way to the showers to announce that there was no water available (the whole town was affected, not just the marina). So, after paying our marina fees to the security guard on the gate (a decidedly odd set-up), we were on our way to Peniche, with dire warnings of the misfortunes that could come our way ringing in our ears.

We liked Peniche. The population was celebrating the local fiesta when we arrived – Our Lady of the Sardines apparently. The harbour was buzzing with decorated vessels of all shapes and sizes (even the Customs boat was dressed overall and the usually stern GNR Brigada Fiscal chaps were happy, smiley people taking each others’ photos!) and the quayside was thronged with people, the air was thick with the smoke of multiple sardine barbeques and a marching band accompanied by costumed stilt-walkers were parading up and down. The music and hubbub was enticing but, unfortunately, we were confined to the boat. Because of the holiday, the harbour office was closed so, not only could we not pay any dues, nor could we get a security key for the gate. The ‘book’ warns of impenetrable gates and of crews having to sleep on the quay, unable to return to their boats without the vital electronic card – we weren’t taking any chances….until PT had a brainwave! We circumvented the security system by launching the dinghy and headed for the other side of the harbour. It meant a longer walk was involved but it meant that we got to soak up the fiesta atmosphere first-hand, rather than watch & listen wistfully from afar. PT’s not just a pretty face, you know!



And so we headed around Cabo da Roca to Cascais (pronounced ‘kashkysh). After a week of quite long hops down the coast, we decided to stop for a few days to get caught up on shopping, laundry etc, to have a couple of late mornings and to generally chill out. Apart from the marina costs, which were the highest we had come across up to that point, Cascais is a pleasant place to take a break. The town is quite touristy, being only 30 minutes away from Lisbon, but is attractive and well-laid out with a wide range of shops (which I’m afraid I took advantage of! I found the comfiest shoes ever – Croc flip-flops.) Given that we were going to be stationary for a few days, I decided that a foray on the bike was in order. Alas! It seems that I had mistreated the poor creature, weeks of neglect and salt-spray had taken their toll. The chain and gears were well & truly seized, no surprise there, then! PT did his best to get things moving again but I’m afraid it was a lost cause, some serious surgery was going to be needed!

King Pedro I in Cascais

King Pedro I in Cascais

Duly rested, we headed down to Sines. As I’ve previously said, we liked Sines and ended up staying 4 nights there. But there were other places to see and we eventually headed off again, this time to round Cabo São Vicente and turn left towards the Mediterranean. We had a cracking sail down with a huge swell of over 2 metres. But with a distance of over 80 miles to cover to Lagos , we had to keep the speed up if we were to arrive in daylight, so we enlisted the help of the Yanmar (again!) to give us that extra push. We rounded the cape in good time and decided that, rather than do the last 18 miles, we would anchor for the night in Sagres Bay. It certainly was a blustery night and we were glad to get going in the morning, this time heading east for the first time.

We decided to by-pass Lagos and headed instead to Vilamoura, our last stop in Portugal. Vilamoura is a purpose built resort, established in the 1970s. In addition to a huge marina filled with equally huge gin palaces, it has acres and acres of hotels, apartments, golf courses, loads of bars, restaurants and shops and loads of tourists, all having lots of noisy fun. It’s interesting to visit, but not for long…. However, within a couple of hours of arriving in Vilamoura, PT got a call from the office requesting his presence back on the rig. It looked very much as though I would be spending 2 or 3 weeks in this high-decibel, high-cost, low-charm paradise! However, the next day a week’s reprieve came, allowing us time to move a bit further east to a more reasonable berth and a bit closer to our planned rendezvous with Elaine and Gordon in at the end of August. After 2 nights and a day of uncertainty as to whether PT was staying or going, we said farewell to Portugal and high-tailed it as quick as we could to Chipiona in Andalucia.

By the time we left, Portugal was really starting to grow on me. The people are incredibly friendly and gave the impression of being quietly confident with their national identity and position in the world. It was very noticeable that Portugal is culturally quite different from Spain. It feels somewhat poorer, with more grafitti, litter and people begging. The language is also very different; although the written language apparently bears a close resemblance to Spanish, when spoken it sounds nothing like it, even though they are both Romance languages. To my ear, Portuguese can sound more Slavic, with lots of ‘zh’ and ‘sh’ sounds. I found communication quite difficult, given the complexities of the pronunciation, and mostly resorted to pointing, gesturing and monosyllabic requests. It is fortunate then, that the other main difference from the north of Spain, is that many more people speak some English. However, I won’t let the language be a barrier because there is so much more to be discovered in Portugal than I have been able to see and experience. I’m absolutely sure that I will be back!

(Footnote: In an attempt to learn a little more about Portugal, I’m currently reading ‘The First Global Village: How Portugal Changed the World’ by Martin Page – very readable and interesting.)


One Response to “Portugal”

  1. Andrew Petcher August 30, 2009 at 1:55 pm #

    I found northern Portugal a real suprise and Porto a great place to visit – have been there twice this year already!

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