The 72 miles to Porto was undertaken in 12 hours and we chose to anchor at Leixoes. The anchor alarm started 8 times, keeping us awake the whole night. We investigated every single alarm as we were very close to the harbour wall. Eventually we could not sleep more so at 6 am both of us were wide awake. But the marina did not open until later so we had to wait until we could have some sleep.
The marina is connected to the commercial port so it was very noisy, dirty and smelly but cheap. The daily rate was euros 17 per night. The marina directed us to a berth; here we met our neighbour, Richard on Mirabel II. Richard is a nice guy, very friendly and knowledgeable about boats and sailing. He had a lot of stories to tell, some of them very amusing.
Porto is very famous for its own wine production. Graham was in heaven as he is very fond of Porto wine. So visiting some of the Porto houses was a must. The guide explained the process and at the end we were offered some samples. We left the Port house with 3 bottles, including a vintage. This vintage port would have to last until Christmas. Sandemans was also another good port house
Besides drinking wine, Porto is a very interesting city, full of contrasts. The city was built around hills and the Douro River. The buildings are in line with traditional Portuguese architecture, with blue tiles. By the river Douro the old Phoenician boats are still moored, in more recent times they were used to bring the wine from inland to the city to be matured.
Porto- Cascais (Lisbon)
This trip of 176 miles was going to be our first night sail without extra crew. We left at midday after a good breakfast and a shower. Since there was little wind in the first few hours, we both took turns to sleep. At 2am the little wind we had completely disappeared, so we started the engine, which stayed on for the next 17 hours.
Rounding the Cabo Raso the wind increased dramatically to 30 knots, then all happened very quickly. The 1st reef line frayed and failed. As Graham tried to lower the main sail, the halyard broke away and ended at the top of the mast. And as according to Murphy’s Law, all troubles comes in three, there was one more trouble to come. The main sheet freed itself pushing the boom so far out that we could not reach it. By the time we regained control, night has already fell on us and the wind was still very strong. Due to tiredness we mistakenly entered the wrong harbour, but sensed that something was wrong. When finally we found Cascais, the bay was infested with lobster pots, not a comforting feeling since the halyard was still jammed on top of the mast. Lobster pots popped up from everywhere, the navigation lights did not match with our charts and the city lights background made all more confusing to find the navigations lights. It was a nightmare. Eventually we arrived at the marina 2 hours later than expected, vowing never to enter a Portuguese harbour at night again.
The following day was spent sorting reef lines. Judit was hoisted to the top of the mast to retrieve the halyard. The day finished cleaning the engine tank. We were totally exhausted and thought it would be another early night for us, until we heard someone calling us from the opposite pontoon. It was Mike and Carol on Tyrant wanting to come over for a drink. We first met Tyrant in Bayona, four hours later we made bed extremely drunk!
Both of us woke up with sore heads but made it to Lisbon by train. The climb uphill to the Castle of Sao Jorge was tiring but we managed it the end. We walked to the Torre de Belem and the Monumento da Descoberta, two famous landmarks in Lisbon. Certainly Lisbon is a wonderful city.
The following day, we sailed up the River Tejo to see Lisbon from a different angle, from the sea. Sailing upwards was nice, with 6 knots of wind. However the return was different. From nowhere, suddenly the wind increased to force 8. So we limped back to Cascais fully reefed, sailing through a yacht race. These racing boats were enjoying the strong winds, full sails out. As soon as we dropped anchor the wind died down, we were soaking wet and shattered. Then we consoled ourselves with homemade sangria.
This is the birth place of Vasco de Gama, a renowned Portuguese sailor who first rounded Cape of Good Hope on route to India for the spices trade. In result, every building in town is named after him. The town has typical Portuguese buildings with a nice citadel, where Vasco was born. We anchored here for 3 nights. Judit even tried to swim lasting 2 minutes in the water, warm waters were yet to come. Although the shops had limited choice of provisions, the town is very unspoilt and kept its original character. There is a big fruit and fish market, by the time we found it, it was closing for the day.
By now we were wary of the famous Cabos or Capes around the coast. Around these areas the wind was always stronger then prevailing conditions. However Cabo Sao Vincente presented us no problems, just a little swell, but nothing like we have experienced before. Maybe getting up at 2am made some difference. This way we arrived to the Cabo before the Nortada started, usually at 1pm. The surroundings of Lagos are very impressive, with cliffs and caves. We found an anchorage just by the local sandy beach. The following day we headed for the marina. This was the most expensive marina so far, costing us 38 euros a night.
The town is like a typical British tourist resort, with the usual English bars, English breakfast. Did not feel like being in Portugal and we fear that there is more of these resorts further down the coast.
After provisioning we are planning to visit the surroundings including the Ponta da Piedade, might give the town a miss.
Well that is Graham's point of view. The town has a nice citadel with a fort, and although touristy it has lot of character with its cobbled streets and typical Portuguese buildings. The marina itself is a feature of the city; a lifting bridge links it with the town. Obviously the main features are the grottos and caves of the Ponta da Piedade. The next day we anchored again and with the dinghy explored the caves. The temperature is soaring, there is a big temperature difference from Lisbon. To cool down, we gatecrashed the hotel adjacent to the marina and used the swimming pool. The sea temperature is 27 degrees, now possible to swim.
We were lucky enough to be in Lagos for the 29 of August, on this day the city celebrates the Festa do Banho 29. At this day in the evening, farmers and locals descend to the beach for a dip in the sea. This tradition has been followed for generations. According to the tradition, after this ritual there is no need to take a bath for the next 29 days…
Anchored at the Praia do Sao Roque we heard the concert in the fort and saw the spectacular fire works at midnight from the best spot in town! On our last night a German boat anchored next to us, we were the only boats anchored on the entire bay. His name was Ditti, from Stuttgart. Apart from sailing he also had other hobbies. Free diving as deep as 25 metres and spear fishing.
Departing Lagos the wind was unfavourable which did not change throughout the day, so we stopped for one night in Albufeira. The marina was new and near the town, however it looked like a ghost town. There is a shopping complex adjacent which is empty. Also a few apartment buildings empty. Albufeira is 20 miles away from Faro, with good flight connections. Maybe in some years’ time it will be an exclusive place or not.
The passage to Faro was interesting. Along the coast there were many caves and sandy beaches carved in between rocks. We arrived at the entrance of the Cabo Santa Maria late afternoon. The entrance via a little channel surrounded by sand bars leads to an estuary. The anchorage that we had chosen was in front of Ilha da Culatra. It was very crowded with yachts, about 30 and different nationalities. Despite that the anchorage was very quiet. Unfortunately we could not get to Faro easily, but with a dinghy and a ferry ride we were able to visit Olhao. The town has two markets, a fruit and vegetable and a fish market.
During low tide the sand banks dry out completely and this is when cockle pickers and fisherman came out, changing the scenery from high tide. The following day was a rest day, especially because of the heat. In the afternoon we visited the Ilha da Culatra beach for a swim. The deserted beach stretched for miles. The Ilha itself was completely unspoilt, a real fisherman's village, with one chapel, two roads carved in sand dunes. Old tractors were used as local transport. Dinner was ashore and cost 21 euros for bbq and beers. Leave the best for the last. This is how we ended our cruising in Portugal.