Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Oeiras and Onward

Oeiras and Onward

After our sightseeing tour of Lisbon we repaired back to Oeiras for some R&R and laundry! The pool at the complex was lovely so we stayed a couple of days longer than originally planned while we decided where to go next.
Oeiras beach and Castle

We had read in the pilot book about a beautiful anchorage (The best in Portugal?) under the cliffs at the mouth of the Rio Sado. This was confirmed by a couple we met at the marina, we were warned that as the area is a marine reserve there was some confusion as to the areas you were allowed to anchor in.
 Leaving Oeiras we were surprised at the roughness of the water even though we were in the main channel, the spring ebb was running hard against the onshore swell and really kicked up a big sea even though we were in 30m of water! Usual story in the morning, little wind but a hooley by mid afternoon!

We worked our way in to the ‘anchorage’ at Portinho de Arrabida between the castle on the shore and an offshore sandbank. (A gap of about 200m) Pretty scary as at anything other than a couple of hours near high water the waves break over the bank! We inflated the dinghy and went to go ashore.  Landing was difficult, the only likely place has nowhere to tie the dinghy to, the main beach is roped off for swimming and everywhere else has a very rocky shoreline.
At Anchor at Portinho de Arrabida

We managed to get alongside close to what was originally the harbour wall and met a Canadian guy who lived there; he suggested we speak to the boatman who was ferrying people to the small craft moored close by.
The boatman spoke no English but a little French, one of his passengers spoke a little English so we deduced that we were not allowed to anchor as it was a nature reserve and they were trying to protect the sea bed. We could pick up one of 3 visitors buoys and the only place we were allowed to land was by the rocky steps we had previously considered too difficult. The water that was supposed to be ‘crystal clear’ was rather muddy and we couldn’t see the bottom close in so wading ashore was not on. We bashed against the rocks several times on our second attempt to go ashore the following morning and gave up. Pity as it is quite a beautiful spot although there was a lot of rolling and very windy early evening due to the katabatic winds off the cliffs.

Slightly disappointed at our visit we left after 2 nights to sail the 30+ miles to Sines, the birthplace of Vasco da Gama.

Entrance to Sines was easy as was the sail, motor at first, all canvas up then reef before we arrive. (Same as same as!) We were met at the marina and directed to a berth on the outermost pontoon. The pilot book says berthing here can be ‘exciting’ they are not kidding! Having had enough excitement we walked up to the old town.
Trigger fish - Permanent marina residents

Sines is quite a surprise as on arriving it looks a commercial port, but as you get into the inner  harbour, you arrive at the beach with the castle, palm trees and old town rising in front of you. The industrial areas fade into the background.
The town is a real hotch potch of old and new, restored and derelict.
There are some streets with black and white cobbles like Lisbon, here the designs are nautical – galleons, compass roses, etc –reflecting their illustrious heritage.
The new promenade along the beach is done in the same style. But, most of the streets are narrow and very uneven, old ones still have a gutter in the middle. You really have to watch your step. The houses are mostly tiny often only one storey and quite colourful although the new ones are mainly white with terracotta roof tiles.
The castle walls still stand and are open all the time. Through the castle is now our short cut to town.  There is a pub inside in one corner where we had a drink looking at the walls, trees and turrets. Amazing.
Inside the castle walls - Note the bar in the corner

We have spent a couple of days exploring the town and visiting the Museum. Sines has been a port since the time of the Phoenicians and inhabited since time began. Anchored in the bay we could have been in the same spot as a trading ship millennia ago, a humbling experience.
View from the anchorage

The town still trades on its most famous son, Vasco da Gama. There is a whole section in the interesting museum dedicated to him, all in Portuguese so we did not get the best out of it.
Time to move on and face Cabo St Vicente and the tourists of the Algarve. We have mixed feelings about the Algarve having heard good and bad reports. We will find out for ourselves soon enough.


Friday, 24 August 2012


The sail up river to Lisbon was spectacular. The bridge was in view as soon as we left Oeiras and the huge statue of Jesus on the south bank. Soon we passed Torre de Belem – a real fantasy castle – then the monument to the Discoverers leaning into the river. Soon it became just another port and we were looking for Doca de Alcantara.
Torre De Belem

As we passed under the bridge the noise was intense and we hoped we would not be able to hear it from the marina. It soon quietened, fortunately, and though we could hear it later it was just a gentle hum and we soon got used to it. We motored on but could see no sign of the marina. We had tried email and phone to book a berth but always got no reply. Now we tried all the VHF channels given in the almanac and pilot book. Still nothing. Just as we thought we would have to go back out, we saw the marina, well concealed behind a container port - again!
The Doca de Alcantara
Tagus river view
While not luxurious, Doca de Alcantara has all the basics except a washing machine! However, access to town is great. Lots of mullet and shellfish as usual, but there were also several large jellyfish in the marina all the time. A few minutes walk there is a tram/bus stop making access to town quick and easy.

 Lisbon is a fascinating city as those of you who have been will know. It is like a series of villages with different character and atmosphere in each part. Like Porto it is also up and down all day long.
Outside the Maritime museum - Don't think we have room for it

The pavements are black and white cobbles with varying motifs depending on the area. Buildings are of all ages, some completely covered in coloured tiles, some Art Nouveau, some Art Deco, something for everyone. Lovely squares with tall trees and statues of all the heroes, with pavement cafes adding life to the scene. The old fashioned trams everywhere are quaint, but very efficient.

We had a great week exploring and catching up with the family. It was lovely to hear Lukas learning new words. My favourite is “turtle” learned at the excellent oceanarium. They had a special exhibition of five rescue turtles they are rehabilitating to re release into the ocean.
Outside the Oceanarium
On the riverfront                      

We moved back to Oeiras on Wednesday afternoon and we all spent the last day together at the pool and beach. All too soon the week was over and we were left on our own once again
Lukas at the helm!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Onward to Lisbon

Towards Lisbon Tuesday 7th August

We slipped Leixoes at 0715, bound for Figuera de Foz some 65 miles away. We had to wait to exit the harbour as an oil tanker was being backed into its berth near the entrance. While waiting we chatted to two British guys on a German registered yacht named Jura, heading south to Spain. We were both bound for the same destination that evening so with a cheery “See you later!”we were off.
For the next 3 ½ hours we were motor sailing, there is just never enough wind in the morning and if we try to use our cruising chute the wind falls out of it with the swells. With a distance of 60-70 miles between stops each day we need to keep moving at at least 5kts.

A pretty uneventful sail until we arrived off Cabo Mondego when we saw the yacht in front of us (Jura) get flattened by a huge gust of wind. Before we could shorten sail we were hit by 30kts from a gentle 12-15kts, totally over canvassed we rounded up hove to! Not really the place to be as we were surrounded by fishing floats off the headland! Reducing sail we had a brisk beam reach to the harbour entrance, turning North around the harbour wall we dropped the sails and motored up the river, looking for the marina basin on the north shore.
On the wall at Fig de Foz
Entrance was easy enough, we had to wait for another yacht to move off the reception wall and we were checked in by the GNR policeman and allocated a berth. We then had to go to the marina office to pay. The GNR office also issued the key to the pontoon gates but the marina office has the code for the toilets and showers. This means we have to go back to the reception pontoon to return the key and get our €30 deposit back in the morning. (The joys of cruising!)

The marina office is next to the yacht club, where Jura’s crew were sitting outside enjoying a beer (recovering from their ordeal), so we joined them for dinner. Prawns then grilled cod with baked new potatoes, Rowena had the alternative pork fillet option with olives as a starter. Simple food well cooked an excellent end to the day.

Wed 8th August

 Not quite so early a start today as we only have 40 miles to our next stop at Nazare. The log shows we left at 0945 and arrived at 1730. We motor sailed in light winds all the way. About 2miles off shore we had a surprise visitor: a big green dragonfly crash landed under the sprayhood! He seemed quite exhausted and stayed with us until lunchtime. No idea where he went.

The only other thing of note is I have now identified the shearwaters -  Coreys. Down here they seem quite tame and stay sat in the water very close to the boat. I could see the yellow and brown bill which is impossible when they are flying.
Nazare entrance - The speed limit is 3Kts!

Nazare is an interesting marina, we never saw the town as we were only there for the night. Berthing is organised by Capt. Mike Hadley who not only allocates your berth but helpfully lets you know how the tide is running and the best way to come in. Years of parking super tankers must make yachts seem tame by comparison but he is always right.

After checking in at the marina office there is the very useful Louis grocery store and bar next door. Fresh bread is delivered twice a day and everything from fresh fruit and veg, milk, beer and bottled gas is available in a shop the size of most peoples front room! If we didn’t have to be in Lisbon by the 10th we would have stayed a few days. Nazare has been in a drought for several months as there has been no rain since November 2011. We could have drinking water if we needed but definitely no washing of boats.
On our way back from the store we helped Jura’s crew moor up and advised them of the water restrictions. Naturally we invited them for a drink later. We now have a severe tonic drought!

Thursday 9th August Almost Lisbon.

 An early start at 0645, Lisbon river entrance is some 75 miles away. We were advised by Capt. Hadley to stay some 3.5M off the coast to catch a southerly flowing current. He was right, keeping midway between the Isla da Berlenga and the mainland and keeping 2 miles off Cabo de Roca we alternated between sailing and motor sailing. As we rounded Cabo de Roca we were overtaken by a Portuguese Navy frigate some 400m away! (A Portuguese man of war??)
We also had a telephone call from our friends on Sandpiper asking where we were. They were in Oeiras marina at the mouth of the Tagus river. We were heading for Cascais having a gentle late afternoon sail but as there was a BBQ invite we dropped the sails and motored the additional 5 miles to moor next to them at Oeiras marina.
Fort at Oeiras
A real surprise as we didn’t expect to see Anita and Cliff again on this trip. A long day, 13hrs sailing and 76 miles, but a great welcome – fog horn as we arrived and then a lovely chicken BBQ with friends.
A welcome beer and BBQ

Tomorrow we will motor up the river and find a berth in the city centre for a few days sightseeing.





We had arrived in Leixoes on the Saturday lunchtime. The plan was to spend the Sunday exploring the city of Porto and a visit to a Port Wine cellar!

The marina was quite a walk from anywhere, 15mins to the little adjacent town and about 20mins walk to the metro on the other side of the river. Interestingly the marina claimed to have Wi-Fi but we never managed to get a good connection for very long.
Our marina is behind the container port on the left

A 20min walk later and an altercation with an automatic ticket machine which took our money but didn’t issue us a ticket, we finally managed to buy tickets and boarded the tram to the city centre. I suppose we should have asked where to get off and find tourist information at the marina office, however we got off at what looked like the city centre and asked for tourist information.
Commercial district

By a stroke of luck we had got off at the right stop and tourist info was a short walk away. At the information office a very helpful young man suggested that we didn’t take a bus tour (at €20 each ) but he pointed out the main sites and suggested we could walk.  So it was to be the architecture of the main commercial district, town hall, Cathedral and old town, bridge across the river, lunch at a cafe looking back to the old town and a Port wine cellar tour with tasting to finish off!
Views from the Cathedral

If you are not fit before you get to Porto you will be after your visit, it was up and down hill all day. Porto is a town of contrasts – some very imposing buildings, old and new, cheek by jowl with high rise residences also old and new. Some of them are well kept some in a very poor state , others are right next to a completely derelict building. You feel they would fall down if not joined to the neighbours. It is all very interesting with loads of history. We saw one 19thC house which inside has remains of Iron Age, Roman and Medieval settlements.
Porto Contrasts

The day climaxed with a tasting of 5 different styles of Port. (15 year old LBV, Ruby, white, a 12 and 5 year old Tawny). The history of port is fascinating, a totally British invention adding brandy (now clear spirit) to keep the wine on the long sea journey back to the UK. French wine was either heavily taxed or we were at war with France.
Lunchtime view

We visited the Offley wine cellars who have been making port since 1737 and learnt all about their history and James Forrester who was made a Baron by the King of Portugal.He did a lot for the wine trade including making the first map of the Douro river, studying diseasesof the vines and growing requirements and he was also an artist. Interestingly, the majority of port wine producers are still UK family owned.
Not even I could drink that lot!
A tip for those tempted to think you may get a bargain at the wine cellars, think again! We could have bought the same wine much cheaper in the town than at the cellars.

The Port wine Caves
The town as viewed from the bridge

Having being exhausted by Porto we got the metro back. Tomorrow shopping was to be more mundane as we needed to victual the boat for the next few days and fill up with diesel. Our next few stops would just be overnight with no real opportunity to refuel or replenish our supplies.
The beach at Leixoes

After our shopping trip we walked back along the lovely beach adjacent to the marina. A pity the Atlantic water is so cold.
Seen in the Marina - We never found out what plan A was!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Portugal at last

Friday 3rd August. Viana do Castelo

We are now on a mission. We are meeting up with Ryan, Dawn & Lukas in Lisbon on the 10th for a week of sightseeing, the Port wine cellars of Porto in between so we really have to press on.

We slipped Baiona at 10.00 and motored out into 2-3m swells. The swells were so big that small fishing boats were disappearing in them! We past Cape Silleiro and turned south, motoring with very little wind. Eventually the afternoon winds started to blow and we were able to sail.
Hoisting the courtesy flag

Sailing on a very broad reach with the full Genoa and mizzen in a F4/5 we crossed the border at about 14.00 and hoisted the Portuguese courtesy flag. Next stop Viana do Castelo.
The best fishing marker we saw!

The whole of this coast is littered with fishing floats, some mark crab pots and fish traps, others are attached to nets. They can be very difficult to spot especially in the swells and often the top flag has worn away so it is just a stick in the water. When you spot one you end up playing a game of “Chicken”; watching the pot, holding your course trying to decide if you will miss it. Then at the last minute, dashing to the stern to alter the autohelm. The prize for hitting one is a fouled prop or rudder.

There were a few gannets early on and then quite a few shearwaters. I am still trying to identify which they are, but there are so many so similar it is almost impossible. I have discovered why we are seeing so many immature gannets. Apparently the young ones all fly to the North coast of Africa until they return for the breeding season.
At the entrance!

To enter almost all the harbours down the Portuguese coast you have to turn north around the breakwater, so in 30kts we turned north around the breakwater and motored up the river into Viana do Castelo. Ho hum! 30kts true wind plus 5kts boat speed add 2kts of tide against 2-3m swells equals a pretty bumpy ride! I forgot to add the entrance is full of windsurfers falling off in front of you.

 We arrived at the marina expecting to find shelter but although the waves had died down the wind was still very strong. We were hoping to tie up on the holding pontoon outside but it was full. The marina has an opening pedestrian bridge across the entrance and this was shut, we circled deciding what to do when the bridge opened and we were called in. Our mooring spot was bows to with a stern pickup line, not alongside a pontoon. The marineiro was coming to help as in 30kts this was going to be difficult. Several minutes passed and no sign of help. Eventually the bridge closed so we were trapped inside a tiny marina with little room to manoeuvre. When the guy turned up he apologised as he had been having difficulties opening and closing the bridge. I wondered if we would get out in the morning!
Marina entrance

On checking in we realised we had crossed a time zone as it was only 17.00 not 18.00, Portugal being on the same time as the UK. As the shops were open until 19.00 we had time for a quick walk around the town and to get some fresh bread and milk.
Our berth

Viana do Castelo is obviously an old town, beautiful churches and some magnificent tiled frontages, but unlike Spain there were a lack of small cafe’s and bars, just restaurants touting for custom with hardly any customers. The Tourist information is in a hospital built in 1458!
One of many squares in the town

We were leaving at 08.00 in the morning for Leixoes (Porto) and given our experience with the strong afternoon northerlies we wanted to be on our way early.
Cathedral square

Typical architecture

The bridge was left open all night and closed at 08.00. As we motored down the river we heard the church clock chime 7? I was confused was it 0700 local time or was the church clock on UT?

Given yesterdays experience we had an uneventful motor sail in a SW F2 all the way. There were many pot markers again with the best one being a plastic milk bottle! We arrived just after lunchtime and were met by the marina staff on entry and directed to a berth in the marina. Not the prettiest of spots behind the container port, obviously an old dock that had been converted into a marina. It was quite interesting watching the containers being loaded though. It never stopped all the time we were there.

Leixoes was to be our base for exploring Porto. Our plans were to spend the weekend here exploring Porto before moving south towards Lisbon.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Ria de Vigo

Sunday 29th July 2012

A Sunny day for our sail to Baiona, the home of the Pinta (Columbus’ famed boat) where he returned after discovering the New World.

Now I have mentioned good holding at the anchorage at Combarro, well after 3 days our anchor was well and truly stuck. We had to drive over it to break it out and it came up with a huge lump of clay/mud attached.

With hardly a breath of wind we motored down the Ria, seeing all the things we had missed on the way in. The paper mill at Marin, nice beaches on both sides, the holiday resort at Sanxenxo. Out of the Ria the wind arrived so we started to sail. The plan is straight to Baiona. On browsing the pilot book there looked to be a nice marina at Cangas (with a washing machine), so we changed our plans and went there.
We had a brisk sail in a F4/5 all the way, sailing between the mainland and the Ile de Norte, dropping our sails close to the entrance to the harbour. We motored in only to be told they were full and we should try Baiona! So much for changing our plans.
The beach at Cangas
As we had not had lunch and it was now 1400, we anchored off the beach which should have been sheltered from the North but was still very windy and decided to spend the afternoon and the night there. We could sail to Baiona tomorrow in search of a washing machine. The beach was very busy with a handball tournament in progress, many people on the beach but not many in the water. Later we discovered why! Burrr, bloody cold!

 The sail to Baiona was uneventful, a  beautiful sail down the ria with a good view of the islands, we were sailing so well and fast and were enjoying ourselves so much that we almost missed our turn into Baiona. (Left hand down a bit!)
Baiona arrival

We had been advised that the Puerto Deportivo Marina was the place to go. We saw the fuel dock and decided to get some diesel. The office was closed (siesta time) we could have fuel but needed the correct cash. The office opened in 20 mins but we couldn’t wait at the fuel dock we would have to move to the visitors pontoon. We moved off to the long visitors pontoon, we could always get fuel in a can later.
View from our mooring
On checking into the marina we discovered that there was no washing machine and pretty poor Wi-Fi too. We would have to go offsite for both. We found the lavanderia but as they wanted €15 for 5kg, washed and dried but not ironed, they did not get our custom.

 The upside was that there was a rigger available to repair the forestay that was coming apart. This has been a problem for over a week now and so far attempts to repair it have proved unsuccessful. What had happened is that the screws holding the three sections of the foil together had fallen out, allowing the sections to slide apart and twist slightly when the sail was rolled away.

With the rigger up the forestay holding a pair of molegrips and me holding the bottom section with another pair of grips we managed to undo the twist, all that was needed now was some new screws. Easier said than done as the old screws were an imperial thread and in Spain they only have metric threads! A little engineering later and everything was fixed. Many thanks Ismael!
The next repair was to fix our electric autopilot that was working erratically. Often course changes wouldn’t be seen, a bit of a concern! At other times we would wander off course for no reason.
The permanent solution was to get the new tiller pilot working with the Hydrovane, for which we needed a suitable piece of tubing. Luckily the handle from an old bilge pump was just the right diameter and could be cut to fit. A few holes later and a wooden bracket for the tillerpilot to sit on and we were done. Our old Autopilot unit was consigned to the skip. As the wind was forecast to be from the south west and there was the likelyhood of fog for the next few days sea trials would have to wait. When we eventually tried it it worked perfectly!
'Arry's mate in action

We stayed in Baiona until Friday, when the swell eventually dropped to only (?) 2 – 2.5 m, but it was no hardship. Another lovely old stone town, but the front has mostly been redone at least on the ground floor. The front is full of the usual holiday sort of shops like ice cream parlours, swimming costumes and cafes which cater for all the locals on the lovely beaches.

One street back and you are in the old town with narrow streets, some shops and lots of bars and taperias. There are old churches one C12th and other very old public buildings, many C16th. Definitely the place to go to mix with the locals and soak up the atmosphere. We had a few nice beers and lovely food –pimientos de pardon, chorizo infrerno, moules, calamari – sometimes in the company of crew from other boats in the marina.

We had to visit the “Pinta” of course, but a bit of a disappointment. It looks good from the pier, but its very poorly maintained and the few props they have here and there are rather comical. The poor helmsman has his feet firmly nailed to the deck. Colombus has lost his big toe. The two Indians down below must be frozen in their loincloths, but I expect the two cockatoos help keep them warm.
A much better attraction was the castle. The walls were begun in the C9th and are still all standing, but also enclose a Roman well and cistern. We had a scenic walk along their 3km length with views of the town and then out to sea. We could see all the breaking waves on the reefs and were glad to be on shore.
View from the castle walls
Fridays weather looked good for a passage south, so Portugal here we come!