Porto do Leixoes 41:11.09N 8:42.34W

Caramor - sailing around the world
Franco Ferrero / Kath Mcnulty
Sat 26 Jul 2014 16:14
This photo is dedicated to all those of you in tropical Wales complaining about the heat.

Leixoes Harbour in thick fog

... or so we thought, until we went ashore, and groped our way through the dense smoke arising from thousands of outdoor sardine grills. A word about sardines: sardines are not small fish that live cramped together in tins, in reality they are 10-20 cm long and are delicious grilled (how they get them to fit in the can is beyond me).

Contrary to our expectations, there isn't a town called Leixoes, it is purely the name of the all-weather harbour on the river Leça. Historically the harbour was afforded some protection from the impressive atlantic swell by an outlying reef called the "leixoes", a breakwater was eventually built on this reef and it gave its name to the new commercial harbour. We are anchored within the harbour, immediately outside the marina and our neighbours include some rather large cargo ships as well as a French yacht "Yao!" which is sailing round the world and a German yacht "Ghost".

On the north bank of the river lies Leça da Palmeira, this is where we row ashore to, the old part of the town is well preserved with a small fort. Across the lifting bridge is Matosinhos (pronounced Matozignoush if that helps in any way), a suburb of the city of Porto.

Yesterday we had a wander round Matosinhos, practising our Portuguese at the market and on innocent passers-by. Portuguese is basically Spanish spoken after too much vinho verde (young white wine, very refreshing) which we seem to be developing a taste for at lunchtime and we are now nearly fluent (though still can't understand a word when they speak back to us!). Matosinhos has miles and miles of beaches providing recreation for the millions that live here and is hosting the 2014 International Beach Volleyball University Championships. Promises of ice-cream were not enough to draw Franco away.

Photo of Matosinhos beach (the fog had cleared by mid afternoon)

Porto is the second largest city in Portugal and the sprawling suburbs extend for many miles in every direction. The recession has hit hard here, with many shops boarded up and a general impression of neglect, there is a lot of rubbish around and poverty is visible.

Back on Caramor we realised that our power supply is getting low. Up until now our solar panels have kept pace with our energy use, however with only two sunny days in the past ten, the batteries are down to 65% (they should not be discharged below 50%) so after dinner we rigged our wind generator. It is an ingenious piece of kit, the same generator converts to a tow-gen when you take the propeller off and attach a turbine which is dragged through the water from the stern. Unfortunately attention to detail does not seem to be the manufacturer Ampair's strength; holes not drilled to the right size, not enough bolts of the right length and engineering which hasn't taken account of the thick coat of paint. Once up though we were delighted and eventually there was enough breeze to start it turning and generating. It is even quiet which is a boon.

We heard somewhere that Port wine helps improve comprehension of foreign languages so this morning we promptly headed into Porto on the metro and got off at Trinidade in the centre. Franco spotted a poster for a free Fado festival which seemed like a good opportunity to find out a bit more about this traditional Portuguese music. The fog was still thick and between the red double decker sightseeing buses and the imperial architecture, we could have been in London! (the fog eventually lifted around 5pm but was back two hours later having drifted up the river). A short walk downhill brought us to the river Douro and the heart of the old historic town, a UNESCO World Heritage site which attracts tourists from all over Europe.

Photos of Douro.

The Port wine warehouses are located on the opposite bank in Porto Novo de Gaia as is a timber shipyard which we were interested to see.

Photo of wooden boat in construction using Portuguese pine (P. nigra)

Next we set off in search of a port warehouse, we had picked up a leaflet for Cockburn port which was offering a tour of the warehouse and tasting of two port wines for 3 Euros. Now, a sock is a 'sock', not a 'so' so why is Cockburn a 'co' rather than a 'cock'? Apparently some years ago there was an advert on telly involving some poor Russian sailor ... the more mature of you may remember. On the way we passed Churchill's port warehouse and thought we would give it a go, it was more about tasting very expensive port rather than visiting a load of barrels so we walked out. We walked up a long hill and then back down a steep cobbled lane and eventually made it to Cockburn's where the girl at the till convinced me (it didn't take much) to upgrade to the 20 Euros tasting (for 6 different ports) on the basis that Franco and I could share.

A quick whizz round the warehouse which involved big barrels, small barrels, large vats and we emerged into the tasting parlour.

Port casks

Surprisingly we were the only ones who had bought the deluxe tasting which turned out to be excellent value for money. We were also the only ones who were given a complementary glass of water (after our first sip!). The results don't need describing.

Franco before

Franco afterwards

The tour was thoroughly enjoyable and we learnt a great deal about port and our tastes.

Ruby ports are matured in very large vats so have little contact with the sides of the vat. The cheaper ones are filtered and bottled and will not mature further. The best ports are not filtered so will continue to age in the bottle, once the bottle is opened they need to be decanted and drunk within two days. The port regulator allows producers to designate three 'vintage' years per decade and this massively increases the price.

Tawny ports are matured in oak barrels which are much smaller than the vats, they have had more contact with the sides of the barrel and have more tannins and oxidation than ruby ports. They are sold as 'aged 10 years', 'aged 20 years', etc. These are a blend of several different years around the target age, so an 'aged 10 years' could be a mixture of 5 year old port with 14 year old port.

Once a bottle of port is opened, it should be kept in the fridge.

We tried:
Special Reserve £12, 2 years old ruby, very sweet - I liked it, too sweet for Franco.
Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) £13, 2007 ruby - our favourite, given our inability to finish a bottle of port in two days (without Tony Ferrero's help).

'Aged 10 years' tawny port £19, not nice - the taste that makes me dislike port.

'Aged 20 years' tawny port £40, worth the difference in price! - but we prefer ruby port.

Quinta dos Canais £36, 2007, ruby, will continue to age in the bottle - very nice indeed but can we finish the bottle in 2 days?

Vintage Port 2007 £90, 2007, ruby, will continue to age in the bottle - tasted the same to me as the previous port but Franco a.k.a Mr Fine Palate assures me it was superior. DEFINITELY cannot afford it though it was interesting to try it.

The next two hours are a bit of a blur except I nearly ordered us enough food for a small army, lucky for me our waiter had Alzheimer's lite (or is passionately in love) and forgot our main meal. We heaved a sigh of relief when they cleared our plates away after the gigantic starter. We were sat at a terrace next to a 'Cais do Fado' stage and dined in music. The Fado was very pleasant and not anything like the samples we had listened to on the internet (no cat wailing!).

Photo of Rita Ruivo Fado