PORTUGAL - Povoa de Varzim, Leixoes and Cascais
It's been a while since the last update but wifi connection has been poor since leaving Baiona. However, as we are now in a super yacht berth in Cascais (more of this later) we have fast internet at last.
We left Baiona anchorage just before day break for a 55 mile trip to Povoa de Varzim, our first stop in Portugal. With calm conditions, we motored for the first few hours but then the wind arrived to give us a cracking reach down the last bit of Galician coastline. On crossing the border, we lowered the Spanish flag and raised the Portuguese courtesy flag - our third change of the trip so far.
By late afternoon we were approaching Povoa De Varzim harbour. From the sea, Povoa looked a dismal place, with a concrete mass of a seafront. The small marina was very welcoming and within hours of tying up, we joined a BBQ orgainized by other liveaboards who used Povoa as a permanent base. The facilities were good in comparison to Baiona and, better still, the marina charge was reasonable.
Despite our initial impression, Povoa turned out to be a charming town once we got behind the concrete seafront.
As Povoa had a brand new metro system, we decided to visit Oporto using the metro. A great experience: fast, spotlessly clean and very cheap. Of course, a vist to Oporto has to include Port tasting. On a recommendation, we chose Taylors which turned out to be well worth the uphill slog to the cellars. Initially, we were only going to take advantage of the free port tasting, but we happened to arrive just as a tour of the Taylors cellars started so went along. The tasting afterwards was all the more enjoyable.
The downside of Povoa marina was the lack of protection from the swell which on the west coast of Portugal can be significant. By our 4th night there, the swell had increased to such an extent that sleep became difficult and it was clear why they closed the harbour if the swell was big. With a forecast of increasing swell, we decided to head south before we got trapped in the marina. This turned out to be a good decision as a week later friends who had stayed on had a scary time of it when they had to leave the harbour.
With Ted (Edewsia), David and Marilyn (Citara 111) and Allan and Sue (Jolly Jumper) waving us off from Povoa, we felt a little sad to leave but knew it was the right time to move. After a short sail, we arrived at Leixoes where we intended to anchor for a night. Unfortunately,
the anchorage was non-existant as a new cruise liner terminal was being built in its place. Relunctantly, we went into the marina which stank of fuel,oil and garbage. We left before daybreak the following morning.
The intention was to stop overnight at Aveiro before heading for Cascais. However, it has a tricky entrance and with the swell increasing we decided to take advantage of the good breeze and sail straight for Cascais - about 160 miles away. By dark the wind had increased to around 25kts. With 2 reefs we hurtled through the night averaging between 6/7 knts. By the following afternoon we were very glad to drop anchor off Cascais. A fast but exhausting trip.
On booking into reception, we met more boats that we have seen over the past few months heading south. Jochan (Jurmo) organized a pontoon party which is a bit like getting to know your neighbours. An enjoyable way to start to our time in Cascais. After a few days exploring Cascais, we took the metro into Lisboa. Worth a visit but not as interesting as Oporto.
Our reason for going into Cascais Marina was to take refuge from a hooley of a gale and the ever increasing swell. We became increasingly concerned as the swell height increased to over 6m. When this coincided with a spring high tide, we knew we were in for an interesting time - to use English understatement.
Two hours before high tide, the booming of the waves breaking over the marina wall increased and we started to get thrown about in the basin as if in a cauldron. When the Marineros put on their life jackets, things were clearly going to turn nasty. An hour before high tide the boats nearest the wall were in danger of sinking. The Marineros did an outstanding job of getting the four boats closest to the wall out of the basin, timing the exit run between the green wall of water. The rest of us in the basin were trapped. Other than putting all fenders out and tripling-up on lines, we could do little more than watch our boats being thrown about as if they were small toys. We began to think that there was every chance that we could lose our boat. Pontoon fingers started to break off, lines snapped and cleats broke. There was so much water coming in from the huge waves, the marina basin was like a whirpool, similar to Corryvreckan in Scotland.
Cascais Marina - an hour before high tide
Somehow we survived without damage. However, the forecasted swell was even bigger for the next high tide. Along with 5 other boats, we chose to risk getting out to the east basin which at least did not have breaking waves over the wall. In the dark but with the help of the marineros in a 50 hp rib, we managed to manouvre out using max throttle to keep control, both in reverse and forward. Scary stuff. With a cross current of about 8 kts, parking in our new berth was fraught - thankfully it was a super yacht berth (very wide) but even then the rib had to assist us in. By 9pm we were sorted and exhausted - just moving 400m. Although we were still getting thrown about by the water movement, we knew we were safer than where we were before. We crawled into bed listening to the waves pounding against the wall, thinking of our friends who had chosen to stay put in the basin and stick out the next hight tide. Apart from more snapped lines and pulled cleats they survived the night.
Raising Portuguese flag.
Oporto - Taylors Port visit