Ribeira Ninho, Portugal

Caramor - sailing around the world
Franco Ferrero / Kath Mcnulty
Tue 22 Jul 2014 16:17
Our last night in Galicia was somewhat uncomfortable, we had returned to the lovely beach at Enseñada de Barra but the wind changed direction during the night blowing sea fog in and making the anchorage very lumpy as Caramor rode the waves. By morning the weather had definitely changed, the sky was grey and the temperature had dropped so we decided to head off early towards Portugal.

We started off motoring as the wind was straight on our nose but soon we were able to sail though still needed to tack. We had an impromptu race with another British yacht and they rose to the challenge, unfortunately the wind went very light putting Caramor at a disadvantage (she's got heavy bones).

We very carefully navigated our way into the Foz (river mouth) de Ninho 41:52.1N 8:51.54W, avoiding the extensive sandbanks and anchored off the beach. The river forms the border between Spain and Portugal but we anchored on the Portuguese side in sight of the small town Caminha. Less than an hour after we dropped anchor we received a visit from the Policia Maritima and one of the officers came on board, he was charming and spoke very good English. We filled in the standard form and he asked if we had a lift keel, then he asked how deep our keel was. He was clearly impressed we had tackled the difficult river entrance with 1.7m draught. He told us that they had had to look up our ensign on the internet, clearly few British yachts stop here.
Mouth of the Rio Miño

Next morning the weather was horrid and stayed that way for pretty much the next two and half days. We made the most of it to get some work done. Franco is editing a ski-touring manuscript by Bruce Goodlad which he hopes to publish in time for Christmas and which will be compulsory reading before our next ski-touring trip (in 5-6 years!), I installed the new (second hand) fluxgate compass for Otto the Mutineer autopilot (unfortunately we won't be able to test it until we have some sea room), wired up the immersion heater for our hot water cylinder and finished the mosquito nets for the skylight hatches.

Our pilot guide briefly mentions this anchorage and the restaurant on the shore but nothing about the small town Caminha which I must admit doesn't look very special from the anchorage. Saturday afternoon the weather brightened up and we wandered into town, hoping to buy a some fruit and various bits and pieces for Caramor. Once past the seafront row of buildings, the town is very pretty and really lively, in addition this week it is hosting a traditional music festival and next week there will be a mediaeval festival including jousting in the streets. At every street corner there were food, craft, jewellery stalls run mostly by local societies and volunteers for fun and to raise some money. By the time we got to the centre I had been laughed at three times for my attempts at Portuguese, something I am resigned to, the laughter was friendly and helpful corrections were offered.
Stalls in Caminha

Although just a river away, Portugal feels very different to Spain. The fishing boats are even more colourful, the architecture is more ... well, Portuguese, we are back on GMT + 1 and meal times are closer to what we are used to. You say "good afternoon" from 12 noon rather than sometime around 6pm! gone are the churros (elongated fritter) stalls, instead bolos (buns cooked on a griddle, often stuffed with chouriço) and bolas (corn bread baked with layers of ham and cheese inside) cooked at street corners, food portions are for one (rather than the whole family) and it is not unreasonable to expect salad / veggies with your meal, the music is completely different, the accordion takes pride of place in pop music, with sounds similar to 30s French music and so far, no loud explosions to draw people to the fiesta. 

Local band, and yes they have bagpipes here too!

I've been looking for a word to describe the difference in atmosphere and I thought maybe "more mellow" would do, except when it comes to rules, Portugal certainly does not do "mellow". We will be expected to check in and out with the police at every port and Franco has already fallen foul of the beach lifeguard; first he landed his kayak on the swimming beach rather than in the zone reserved for small boats, having been duly chastised he then decided to swim out to Caramor, maybe 100m from the beach, he must have swum over the invisible line, whistles, waving, more whistling until finally Franco reluctantly returned towards the beach. I nearly drowned from laughing.

Yesterday we kayaked up river for 12NMs with the tide, against the wind. The bay narrows into a river shortly after Caminha and small holiday towns are set back along the shores until the first bridge shortly after a Villa Nova de Cerveira on the Portuguese side. After that the river becomes wilder with densely wooded islands and banks, beyond the trees are fields of maize. After lunch we paddled back down with the tide and against the wind (it had changed direction!) and stopped off at Villa Nova de Cerveira which had a very nice old part and an impressive fort. At this point the river is at its narrowest and there are forts on both banks, a reminder of the bloody times when Spain and Portugal were at war. The river is patrolled by police launches, no doubt to prevent any illicit trade in Vinho Verde.
View from Portuguese Fort.

Decorations in Villa Nova de Cerveira

‘Sunbrella’ decorations, Villa Nova