Our Diary News from Lisbon, Portugal
The last time I sent an email we were in Figueira da Foz and we are currently in Cascais just outside Lisbon (the marinas in Lisbon are full!!!). A quick calculation makes our average speed about 10 miles a day. Me thinks you can walk faster than that! We'll have to speed up soon. So what have we done? Where have we been? What's the weather been like?

Well, the weather pattern is a little different from the UK. The temperature is around 24 deg. C. In general, bright and sunny for two to three days then a couple of days of wet and windy southerlies, followed by a day or so of heavy swells.(3-4 metres). So the pattern has been sail when its fine then hole up until it's fine again!

Last time we spoke we were waiting for bad weather at Viana de Castelo - well, it came! Between showers we explored the town which, like many of the towns in Atlantic Portugal, its heyday goes back to the age of discovery and the renaissance - when Portugal opened the routes to Africa and the Far East. There are lots of historic buildings all dominated by a large cathedral on the hill above the town. Apart from shopping/sightseeing etc. we took an excursion to Oporto with Paul & Marianne off "Zilver" by bus (which took around an hour). Oporto, famous for its port, was developed with the aid of the Brits as a concession for being allies against Napoleon. The port houses Crofts, Taylors, Sandemans etc are still active and we had a fun time looking around one, with a couple of free glasses thrown in. We had chosen the end of freshers week as the day of our visit and it is a tradition that the students parade around the streets making as much noise as possible, many of them were wearing the traditional cape, made famous by the Sandemans logo. We arrived back to Viana at about midnight and in need of a drink so ended up in the yacht club bar, where it was Karaoke night! so another late night!!!!
From Viana we headed for Leixoes (industrial harbour) about 40 miles away (Leixoes is at the entrance to the River Douro; although it is feasible to get to Oporto from here, the pilot books do not recommend this and recommend one should take a pilot on board as the sand bars keep moving!!). We sailed in NE 2-3 and arrived late, so anchored in the harbour. We then left early the next morning headed for Aviero, another sandy estuary, again in a NE 4-5, We made exceedingly good time and also met up with Akane on route so we decided to keep going to the next port at Figueira da Foz. Bad move because the wind freshened to 30+ knots and the swell built up. Although there was no real difficulty as we were running in front of wind and waves, it was our first major blow and tested us a little. The sailing was V. invigorating and we touched 10.3 knots surfing down the waves, probably had too much sail up, but the boat was very "comfortable" with one reef in the main and a small jib set - although one small broach did send a few things flying down below. The dolphins were also having fun, we were often visited. They put on a great display with some 4 or 5 swimming abreast and catapulting together out of the face of the waves. Another phenomenon we've been enjoying is the impressive phosphorescence in this part of the world. At night you can see what look like stars in the crest of the wake - and the tracks of the fish glow in the water! And when you flush the loo you can see what look like stars swirling around the bowl and, if you pump vigorously enough, you can get a glowing whirlpool going and fluorescent pipes!

We finally and thankfully arrived in Foz only to be met by Portuguese officialdom; who made us temporarily moor up and fill in forms etc, before going to our marina berth. Not fun after a hard sail, but the marina did have a nice bar/restaurant where we had a very nice meal that evening. Although Foz is a modern town it is a very pretty harbour with long sandy beaches. Close to the marina was a lovely market - so Paella was on the menu the next evening. Six to dinner and a huge paella made in the wok. We are finding the wok very useful for cooking lots of different meals, from stir-fries to traditional Spanish/Portuguese dishes. As in the UK, we are finding that the large supermarkets are outside town which, without a car, is a major expedition. Foz was no exception and ended up taking all day to reach the "local" store and getting a taxi back loaded with supplies. We spent a few days at Foz and the "flotilla" moved on to Nazare - again sailing a broad reach in 10 knots of wind. We really liked Nazare. The harbour master, Captain Mike, was English and it was a lovely working fishing harbour with a small marina in the corner. Very cheap at 4 euros/night on the fishermen's Quay and 7euros in the marina. We had lots of fun here, taking the rib and Tadorna the folkboat out for a day sail to a cove which was a little like Lulworth. Walking on the beach with huge Atlantic rollers sweeping in (again after a few days of high winds). Water pistol fights and long, warmish, nights chatting etc. The town is famous for its sardines and as the fish auction/quay is next to the marina, it was interesting and fun to visit these in the evenings for a little stroll. Captain Mike, the English harbour master, is trying to start a tradition such that visiting yachts paint their names/logos on the harbour wall - a little bit like Horta in the Azores. It started in about 2000 and Tadorna, Zilver and us spent a fun afternoon/evening with cans of paint and artistic licence - so now add graffiti artists to our cv's!

The route from Nazare to Lisbon passes near a group of islands called the Berlengas. These are basically lumps of rocks with no real harbours - a little like Lundy Island, I suppose. Settled weather is needed. We were unsure whether to go but decided that, if we sailed close to these and had a look, they were only 15 miles from Nazare. We arrived there and the weather looked good, but we were still unsure about the anchorage. Tadorna, the folkboat, was sent in close to survey the ground. A message over the VHF gave us the go ahead as there were moorings available. Three boats picked up a mooring each, with Zilver coming a little later. We launched the rib and went ashore. There were a few locals around who greeted us as we explored the main island. Not much to see except for an impressive fort which was built by monks who, fed up with being raided by pirates, made their monastery impregnable. While we were on the other side of the island we got a phone call from Zilver who had had a visit from a fisherman, indicating that they should get off the mooring. We saw Zilver disappear into the distance, so we made our way back to the harbour. Sure enough, we met up with one of the locals who was shouting and gesticulating about something. Luckily a second guy could speak French and it transpired that the problem was that some of the boats had put a loop around the buoys and they were concerned that we would pop them off in the swell. (We have found in general that the Portuguese language sounds a) like Russian, and b) quite aggressive - regardless of the topic of conversation!) There was no problem in staying as long as we moored directly to the riser. Tadorna decided to go anyway as the swell was a little uncomfortable. We stayed but left early the next morning for Cascais(Lisbon) after a lumpy night! We had a downwind sail in a constant 8 knots. So we launched the gennaker for the first time. It was great to get this out and we had nearly 7 hours of pleasant sailing under autopilot.

Cascais is about 10 miles from the centre of Lisbon and has great facilities, in the end we spent 6 days here and many boats stop here for a while, so party time again!!! One day a group of us hired a minibus to go exploring and to stock up on supplies. A visit to Sintra was a must with an incredible Moorish castle. The search for a restaurant was interesting! After leaving Sintra we took it in turns to select left, right etc. at each intersection. When we had done two turns each we went to the nearest restaurant. We arrived on the doorstep of a small family eatery and, much to the surprise of the proprietor (who looked exactly like Manuel from Fawlty Towers), had eight hungry mouths to feed. I think we made his day (he'd never had people from so many different countries before - 6 nationalities from 8 people!). And we had a great traditional Portuguese meal of soup, salt cod, veal and cake.

We also took some time to do some much needed maintenance, including buying a DVD player as the one on the computer was not very good - well, at 58 euros, I couldn't miss a bargain. A visit to Lisbon was a must and a leisurely stroll around the city was very pleasant - we were impressed by their wall of remembrance which had a lovely modern arch will a perpetual flame set in an azure pool.

We finally left Lisbon yesterday, 22 October and sailed to Sines (60 miles) for an overnight anchorage before we head south again to round the SW corner of the Iberian Peninsular to the Algarve. Between Sines and the Algarve there are no harbours with a rocky coast for another 60 miles - so we're doing it while the weather holds. Yesterday we again had 14 knots of wind from astern and sailed under poled out gib and main all the way at an average of 6.5 knots weather warm and sunny until the sun went down. Bangers and mash en-route made this a very enjoyable sail.

So what's ahead? Not much until we get to Lagos on the Algarve, where we will have another "holiday" waiting for mail, then a short cruise along this coast, hopefully with a trip up to Seville......The next instalment.