Hills & Heat in Porto

Jon & Carol Dutton
Wed 5 Oct 2011 12:34

40:08.85N 08:51.58W


Wednesday 5th October 2011


On Monday, as planned, we took a look at Porto.  Bill and Jim, our American neighbours who had departed at 0700 that morning, saved us a bit of time and research by handing us their Metro cards (same sort of idea as an Oyster card) and explained how to put money on them, use them and where to get off the tram in Porto.  The half hour ride cost € 1.40 and could scarcely have been easier.


Not really sure about Porto.  It has to be said that it was a very hot day and the city is very hilly.  But, parts of its centre are very run down – the Lonely Planet Guide advises that this is because the young would rather move out into modern flats than hole up in the gloomy narrow passageways which contain quite a lot of the housing south of the centre and towards the Douro.  Yes; it’s atmospheric and authentic but you can see their point.  However, many of the blocks of flats we passed on the outskirts of the city would score few points for imagination or artistic merit.  The city centre architecture is a mix of colonial era magnificence juxtaposed with corrugated iron and everything in-between - all living cheek by jowl.  The R Douro is fairly busy with tourist boats – many of which are large, rather crude, motorized imitations of Viennese gondolas.  The river itself looked pretty murky and one of the reasons we chose not to berth there (but, rather, in Leixoes) was that the pilot book advised that it carries the untreated sewage of the city and several crew have become ill handling lines.  Not really on our agenda!  Looking across the river, over lunch, we thought about visiting some of the port caves on the opposite bank.  Here were many familiar names – Taylor, Sandeman, Croft, Cockburn, Graham, blah, blah.  But, it was much too hot to think about tasting port – or carrying any quantity of it uphill to the Metro.





Portuguese Metroland                                       Cheek by Jowl – Washing and Sat Dishes



Colonial Era Baroque?


Anyway, been there now; done that.  Back to Leixoes for a swim and a fairly early night in preparation for a 0600 reveille on Tuesday morning.  Again, little wind was promised and we had 70 NM to go to get to Figueira da Foz that evening.  We did manage to hoist the mainsail around 1400 but it did little for us.  Obviously, as we got to the last half hour or so of the trip – at about 1600 – the wind picked up to a really quite useful Force 5.  But, by this time, we were piloting our way into the Rio Mondego and trying to make sense of what we saw compared with what was charted.  They’ve been playing around with the layout of the entrance in a fairly significant way and that information hasn’t quite made its way to the Navionics digital chart.  And, the paper chart we have is too small a scale to be of any help here.  Thankfully, the pilot book is.


As a marina, Fig da Foz works but it’s all rather thrown together.  The reception berth is manned by the customs chap who does all the necessary paperwork and allocates the berth.  He’s helpful, if a bit big on instruction and gesticulation, but presumably hasn’t done the necessary government-run course to allow him to risk doing anything useful like handle a line.  The visitors’ berths are just off the reception berth – though not connected to it.  The marina office is at the other end of the marina – 400 yards away.  So, again, no help to anyone trying to get a 47 foot boat alongside a 30 foot finger pontoon in a cross wind.  Carol broke the first absolute rule of the marina by going swimming as she bridged the gap between boat and short, wobbly pontoon (What gap? A couple of inches, maybe – Ed).  The boat was left to its own devices for a minute or so as she was fished out – still, it must be said, holding the mooring line in one hand whilst the other held a shoe (Shows a proper sense of priorities – Ed).  Given the number of grey mullet in the harbour, surviving on God knows what, an early hot shower seemed appropriate!   


The reception arrangements appear to leave the marina office man with not much to do in the office.  Which means that ‘office hours’ and the hours during which the office is actually manned do seem, at first encounter, to be a bit at variance.  The usual facilities are functional and clean, if a bit basic.  There is an excellent enclosed market nearby and we’ll stock up there for the 100+NM trip tomorrow to Oeiras, just outside Lisbon.