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-- 10th to 24th August 2011 --
Long trips along a long sandy coast and day-trips inland – our route in Portugal avoids the boat-unfriendly-packed-with-tourists shores to explore the higher seas and older cities.
More pictures are to be found on our page "Pictures".

256 miles sailed in Portugal, 2091 miles since the start
Our stops, click on the names for more details: :
Povoa do Varzim (marina)Figueira da Foz (marina)Nazare (marina)Peniche (marina)Cascais (anchorage) Lisbonne, doca de Alcantara (marina)
10th August: Baiona – Povoa do Varzim (55 miles)
We had set that day as a deadline to explore Galicia, so now it is time to leave… we set the sails early that morning, under the sun but with very little wind. Nestor-the-Super-motor has to work to bring us further than the Rio Minho (the frontier between Spain and Portugal). This is no artificial frontier: the landscape changes very quickly as well. There is no ria any more, the high hills transformed into lower cliffs and infinite golden beaches.
Leaving Baiona early in the morning
Around noon, the thermal breeze picks up (reminder: this is an air stream generated by the difference of temperature between land and sea during the day. The land heats up quicker, the air becomes hotter than above the sea, tending to move upwards while the air from the sea blows towards the shore to fill this new gap. And at night, the contrary can happen, but less strong). We had read stories about the thermal breeze in Portugal, definitely fundamental in the wind system – if not the main component – it can reach up to 6 or 7 bft. So now we’re in Portugal, we better be cautious! We keep a prudent eye out for the next 3 hours, keeping little sail thus an annoyingly low pace. As nothing happens, we finally hoist the big balloon spinnaker up. It must be Murphy’s law again, the wind picks up at that moment and we have to bring it down... a frustrating but useful first lesson in Portuguese weather

Adios España, e bem vindo em Portugal
After changing the flag and setting our clock an hour back, we reach Povoa de Varzim (pronounce “Povadvarzm”). It is a beach resort, reminding us by many aspects our beloved Scheveningen… at the entrance after the mole you have to leave the little green buoys on starboard, but the west beacon on portside! Yes it’s narrow! Behind this trap we find pontoons full of other long distance boats ( mainly French and English, but also Irish, Norwegian and even from Malta!). The marina offers all the facilities, wifi onboard, new showers and a laundry – for 10 euros. Many boats can be dry-docked here as well for reparation work or waiting for the next big adventure...
Bem-vindo a Portugal!
11-12 August : Visiting Porto and Vila do Conde (onshore)
We must admit, Povoa doesn’t attract us so much as her neighbor the mythical Porto – to be reached in a small hour by metro. Good occasion to prove that we can still find our way in this weird mean of transportation that doesn’t float.
As the Imray guide reads: Povoa is very similar to Manhattan, but much less interesting !
First surprises: the city is built on the Northern side of the Douro river and the slopes are much steeper than we had imagined. “They ordered too many tiles for their kitchen and bathroom and are putting the rest on their outside walls?”, Camille-the-Nordist is puzzled. Indeed most of the facades in the modern streets of Povoa as well as the historic town of Porto are decorated with tiles, more or less sophisticated. Rather nice actually. Some are blue and look like delftware but are called “azuleros”. It must help isolating – which cannot be bad: it’s hot here, especially as we walk the steep streets of Porto, up and down, down and up… playing our favorite game of “connect the dots” on the 10 “must-see” list of our guide (we bought a Spanish guide, just to be a little bit more confused between languages). Nice decorated houses, countless churches filled with golden statues, little streets where cats are taking a nap, and of course port wine (the caves are cold :o) ) and the local delicacy “pastel de nata” (makes Laure’s mouth water “so we stay 15 days in this country right?”). Salted codfish (bacaloa) to validate our successful day of the perfect tourist.

Typical view of Porto and its wine boats

For dinner, bacalao (salted cod fish): cooked, fried etc.
We are not in Spain any more. Not only the language, but the culture and way of life are quite different. Shops opening times come back to some reason (people go to the market before 10 am and have diner around 7 or 8). The architecture is quiet typical, with strong influence of the exotic and wealthy lands discovered in the 16th century. The plants are different are well, some eucalyptus can still be seen in Porto, but nearer Lisbon it’s only palm trees!
On the 12th August the famous “Portuguese trade winds” blow at more than 30 knots… perfect weather to sleep longer and visit Villa do Conde, small town near Povoa. Nice old church, monastery and aqueduct – not quite comparable to Porto though...
Santa Clara monastry
13th August: Povoa do Varzim – Figueira da Foz (78 miles)
After yesterday’s strong wind we had planned to leave at 4am in a still strong but decreasing Northerlies… well when the alarm gets off it’s stunningly calm! If any wind at all it would come from the South!

The Portuguese weather keeps more than one disconcerting surprise in store for us. In Southern Galicia we had built up some understanding of the system: high pressures bring northerly winds. When the barometer goes down and cirrus clouds fill the sky, then the wind will calm down – precisely the opposite from Brittany! But here in Portugal the thermal breeze is almost stronger than the normal wind (called “synoptic”) and you can have a northerly 30 knots one hour and Southerly 1 knot the next – all unannounced by the forecast of course... not the most reassuring situation we have known.

So, the engine is on as we double the industrial complex and refinery of Rotterd... Leixoes. The thermal breeze picks up in the afternoon, but not strong than 10 knots: yet another good afternoon with our asymmetric spinnaker. Another surprise: in Brittany clouds are a sign of strong winds, here the gale starts when the clouds clear apart!

On this afternoon we enjoy one of the nicest gifts the sea can offer: we cross the path of a huge group of commen dolphins, jumping all around on their hunting trip. There must be a good hundred of them swimming next to us full speed, just their passing by takes 10 minutes, so big is the group. A couple of them come and play in the stem wave before getting back to their friends progressing with high energic jumps. Pictures as well as words are useless to describe...

At Figueira, your hull will be naturally cleaned by our very efficient personnel!
Around 7 pm the spi falls down together with the thermal breeze. We transfer 10 liter from our jerry can to the diesel tank and call Nestor on for duty again. Last weather surprise of the day: the fog also comes down – very thick. We can’t see further than 20 m. Laure changes into a figurehead and watches for buoy and fishermen’s pots, their ropes risking to get into our propeller and make a mess there. Thanks to modern technology again, our GPS guides us to the port, where fog is less thick. We can see the mole, the lighted streets... and weird green and red /green beacon system ;o)
Here we are, in Figueira da Foz – another beach resort...
14th August: visiting Coimbra (onshore)
No sooner moored than already gone again: crowded beaches and casinos are not our style, we much prefer hop on a train to visit the inland historic towns.

Today Coimbra, one of the oldest university in Europe (13th cent), it lives by and for the students – that’s to day how lively it is on a Sunday in August :-S The university has an impressive library with books from the 16th century. In one of the (as usual countless) churches covered with blue ceramic tiles, a lying statue without much publicity contains nothing less than the first king of Portugal.

A church decorated with "azulejos", classical portuguese style

The middle-age town of Coimbra
After a few days visiting the country we start realizing that Portuguese have been a very progressive nation for centuries: good education system, sophisticated architecture, wide horizons and eagerness to discover... at the same time France was still waging seigniorial wars and cutting heads off the protestants, deep dark middle age.
15th August : Figueira da Foz – Nazaré (38 miles)
That’s a day that started badly. A routine check on the engine shows dirt in the diesel. So we take the toolbox out. The filter is blocked, so well screwed in that we break the key trying to open it (for the second time in 2 months, starts being annoying!!). OK, so we can clean only the other filter (the one up the diesel circuit), but once put back in place it drops...

Cleaned, sealed with paste and put back again, it works finally and we can leave – in our favorite Portuguese weather fog-no-wind. With our spi on and welcoming the 0,5 knots of current (always favorable along the coast of Portugal), we reach Nazaré as the sun sets.
We tie Saltimbanque to the only free space: a short pontoon for a small fishing boat. Then we jump onshore and hurry to the officials building. Indeed Portuguese coasts are under close surveillance because of intense drug traffic from close Morocco. Every time we get to a port (and that means immediately after calling in, whatever time of the day or night) we have to go to the local police (sometimes directly to the marina) and fill the paperwork to get registered. They ask what we have to declare, often make a more-or-less friendly remark on the absence of men onboard... In Nazare, this pleasant routine is to be done at the other side of the desert docks guarded by growling watchdogs...
A small fishing boat on Nazare beach (check out the nice August sky from Portugal...)
16th August : Nazaré – Péniche (26 miles)
Short trip on the program for today. The sky is still grey and therefore the wind will not blow before the afternoon. In the morning we go do some shopping in the local market, fruits/vegies and fresh fish (we don’t fish anything ourselves here – we have to buy it!).

Back to the pontoons, the sails are set and off we go. The wind is on time and we sail at a pleasant 5 knots – it’s been a long time! The sky clears up as we double the cape North from Peniche and the Berlengas islands.

Approaching Peniche, in a maze of fish traps...
In Peniche we are lucky to find a space inside the visitors’ jetty! This jetty lies on the outside of the marina, exposed to the waves created by the fishing traffic going all day and night… inside the jetty, the waves are a bit less violent. On the same pontoon lies Ster-vraz, a Rush of just above 9m, on the way to the Antilles as well. We get on well with Lisenn and Julien, the first other sailors we meet in the category “boat shorter than 10m / crew younger than 30”. Not even one meter longer than Saltimbanque they manage to fit oven, fridge and real toilets onboard! (tss tss tss the young generation nowadays – not what it used to be!)
17th August : Péniche (onshore)
It’s the first nice-looking coast we see in Portugal. That combined with another unusual factor (visibility higher than 50m) convince us to stay onshore and walk around to enjoy the landscape!
Nice sand beaches with long-breaking waves (famous surfers spot), colorful houses. We are struck by the geology here: on the one side of what once was an island, flat spongy rocks, while the other side looks like piles of giant plates just about to collapse. The cliffs are 100m high – still not enough to deter fishing lovers, leaning fearless above the void to watch the end of their line in the waves below... at least here the fish has a chance to win as well!
Game: find out the fisherman...

The cliff on the right...

... and the one on the left
It’s very hot and after 6 hours walking in the sun, we are bound to stop at the beach. But the water is cold!!! Even colder than in Brittany and Spain – frustrating. Laure jumps in of course, and gets out blue as usual. Back to the boat she will go for a 1h30 run on the beach – otherwise we doesn’t sleep well you see ;o)
18th August : Péniche – Cascais (46 miles)
On the road again, to the South still, still powered by the engine in the morning, still watching out for fishing pots. The novelty of the day is the bright sunshine! And the fishing! Two Portuguese mackerels, a little different than their so familiar cousins (bigger eyes, meat redder and drier).
Even the mackerels are different, looks like we already sailed a long way from home!
No sooner they’re onboard and prepared than the wind suddenly increases to 20 kts. Speed , yeepee! We zoom by the Cape Roca, the true most westerly point of continental Europe (remember Cape Finisterre in Spain? Well they had their geography a bit mixed up in older times...)

We reach Cascais (pronounce “cash-kysh”) and we throw the anchor off the beach. Here a linguistic remark aside: the Portuguese language looks like Spanish when it’s written, but when it’s spoken, that’s another kettle of fish! Despite our books and CD’s, our progess are… well, slow. What’s more, most people here speak incredibly accent-free French. Maybe this is why there are so many French tourists here. Tourism is much more developed than in Galicia – and louder :-S

In Cascais we see just another beach-resort. Concrete buildings, bars on the beaches playing loud music until late at night... we take off on the next day without even setting a foot on the ground.

Cascais by night...

...and by day
19th August: Cascais-Lisbon (14 miles)
It’s not blowing very hard this morning... we wait for the tide going up the river to help Nestor on the way up to the city. Yet another capital reached by sea, up the river – we quite like this way of visiting I must say! The original plan was to follow the coast all the way to the river Tage – it was before we became aware of the traps prepared for us by local fishermen! Fishing pots are common along the coast and we are used to sailing cautiously between their little flags. But those tiny dots aligned on the water in front of us… it’s a net! Sharp u-turn (imagine the result of a net around the keel and the propeller…) Laure goes back to her figurehead role and tries to see a safe way out of this scary maze. We have to go very far to the South, much further than the official alignment, almost to the sandbank. Sea is smooth and sun shining – we do not advise trying it at night!

Once “safe “ in the river, it’s all straight ahead! Monuments are passing by on the shore: the Belem tower, where the Great Discoverers left in the 15th century; monument to the same Discoverers, built much later; this very tall bridge greeted by a giant Jesus statue… It’s so hot in the sun that Laure sets up the “bimini” for the first time (piece of cloth at the rear of the boat, creating some shadow in the cockpit). Camille is taking pictures, when she sees a vessel on the other side: “hey, look a seismic vessel! But but... those colours… it’s one of ours!!”. Going to Portugal to bump into a boat from her company! Well, many thanks but our sabbatical is not over yet – would you come back and pick me up in a year please? :o)

Belem tower and the 25th of April bridge

Seismic boat on sight ! (you'll notice the nice yellow deflector by her side...)
We reach the Alcantara dock, the closest marina from the city center. There are many spaces available and we settle for a few days here... a final word to fellow yachtmen: do get a public transportation ticket! The center is still 3km, through a not so nice area of docks not (all) yet converted into clubs. The newspaper kiosk outside the Cais de Sodre station sells them for example.
20th to 24th August : Lisbon (onshore)
Lisbon seems to be the latest trendy destination in Europe: we meet there with two Dutch friends, as well as Camille’s sister, all in holidays here. We also bump into Aumadatroi, the catamaran of a friend (Philippe) met at our medical stage in January. It’s a big aluminium strong beast built to sail around the world! Our social life is getting better those days :o) since we are in Portugal we see less “summer holidays” boats and more “long distance” boats, on a long travel as well.

Between drinks, diners and other social obligations, we share out time between visits and preparations. On Saturday we wander in the narrow streets of the old city under a heavy sky. Sunday is the cultural day (museums of the Belem areas are free on Sunday till 2pm). The Jeronimos Monastery offers a perfect example of the “manuelian” architecture (typical Portuguese of the 16th/ 17th: a gothic sober structure covered with lots of sophisticated decorations from exotic inspiration). The Belem Tower is so packed with tourists that we run outside to breathe. Next stop is much better: the factory of the “pasteis de nata”! They hot out of the oven, delicious!

Inside the Jeronimos monastry

Mmm pasteis are sooooo good!
Then we have to visit the Marine Museum of course, showing the history of the Marine from the Discoverers’ time till today. On every boat there is a flag: at this occasion we note the continuity of the national flag, revealing a certain continuity in the history of the country itself, where the memories of many centuries ago is still very present. On the central part you have five blue shapes, for the five last Moors kings killed by Alfonso Henrique (first king and founder of Portugal). In each shape there are five dots, for the five wounds of Jesus Christ. Around those, seven castles stand for the last seven fortresses taken back from the Moors. This symbol is present on building, statues, ceilings, since the creation of the country – and still used! As the monarchy was replaced by a republic (in 1911), it has been associated on the flag with the other omnipresent symbol: the navigators’ globe, reminding the Great Discoveries.
The flag ("Bougainville's flowers" and azulejos came for free)
One of the nights we go and listen to some fado in the old town Alfama (Camille: “sounds nice but can’t they silent the singers, to hear the guitars better?”)

As for Saltimbanque: the engine is checked, the filter unblocked, the winches and mast spread with grease. We found a map of Madeira (can come handy for our next arrival!). We have been desperately looking for a camping gaz as well, to replace ours where rust pads are growing, threatening to eat away the burners. Well, there is not a single one camping gaz exists in Lisbon; but there are nice people: in this camping store in the outskirts of the city, the previous customer as the salesmen were trying their best to help us and discussing amongst themselves the best alternative store. The customer invites us in his car and drive us to the next shopping center. Everything in Portuguese – not so bad after a few days. People are just friendly and try to understand our broken “Spaguese”. (Or they answer in a mixture of all the languages they know : « nein nein, we don’t have it, pero en la otra tienda, peut-être ils ont. Ma ché si ! »). In the end we have a good knowledge of the little and bigger shops in the city but still not camping gaz : we order it online to be delivered in the Madeira marina – they just answered by email, they keep it for us until mid-September.

Saltimbanque is still there hidden by his new sails !
Another fascinating experience: the laundry. We naïve French people take for granted that we can find a launderette in any smallish town. Well in some European capitals, you can’t! just like in Spain, the shops are attended by real people, no self-service machine. But here they charge almost five 5 eur / kg… we have two full backpacks… Puzzled, we go back to the marina to spend a pleasant afternoon between the sinks of the shower buildings (lucky us, they have big sinks and hot water here!). The next morning everything is dry, thanks to the sun and a few clothespins from the neighbors.
Water and diesel (from the BP station :o) ) tanked, the “fridge” and the fruit-net are full. The weather forecast is showing some good wind, from the back and not too strong… we will leave for Madeira (5-6 days on sea) soon – (as soon as we finish this article, for such is our sense of duty towards our beloved readers...).

Goodbye Old Continent... see you in one year!
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Your messages:

Joanna - 28/08/2011 22:10:10
Hi Laure, impressive how thorough you guys are in reporting about your trip - really, hats off! and thanks for the great pics! Good luck!

la mamou - 26/08/2011 13:33:10
la photo 33 de l'album du portugal contient le mot tabou ( et en français , en plus , lol )!! ne faudrait-il pas mieux la supprimer ?? ;-))

la mamou - 26/08/2011 09:12:02
deux beaux scomberomorus japonicus !!
communément appelé "maquereau espagnol" ;-))
les pasteis n'auraient-ils pas un petit air de kouin amman ??
vos articles nous régalent les neurones !!! un vrai bonheur que vous nous faites partager !!

Pet\'chi - 25/08/2011 16:38:50
hihi ! très kitch en effet le style Manuelin !!! et excellente ces pasteis tièdes de Belem... J'ai mangé les mêmes à peine quelques heures plus tard ;) Ca m'a fait extremement plaisir de vous voir sur place. J'vous fais pleins d'poutoux. Et bonne traversée jusqu'à Madère !!!!!!!!

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