Two marinas, two countries and a lobster pot

James & Amelia Gould
Sat 19 May 2007 20:48

6 – 15 May 2007: Baiona to Povoa do Varzim


We left Baiona excited to be sailing to the second country on our grand tour.  Our initial plan was to sail up the River Minho which forms the northern border between Spain and Portugal.  We had a lot of fun debating which courtesy flag to hoist when sailing up the river, and we decided that a flag on the side of the appropriate country might be best!


We had a great sail south, with the wind slowly building behind us all morning.  When it was time to turn east towards the river the large swell which had built in the now strong wind become much more noticeable, and the boat was pitching uncomfortably.  I was down below preparing my dough for the BBQ we planned to have at anchor later that evening when I heard James shout “Get up here now!”.  I rushed on deck, to find the boat still with sails set but not moving through the water.  We had a fishing pot wrapped around a dagger-board!  We quickly stowed the sails and started the engine, then tried to lift the dagger-boa rd.  However, because of the strong wind and large swell the boat had swung round on the rope and was well and truly anchored on its Starboard dagger-board.  No amount of driving forward or backwards could free us, and it was time for drastic action.  So James lashed a sharp knife to the end of our boat hook, and leaned over the side to cut the line.  As soon as it was cut the boat was free, and I motored us away from the coast.


We were both a little shaken and exhausted from spending 30 minutes trying to get the boat free, so we decided not to brave the difficult entrance to the River Minho (which by now looked pretty unattractive anyway), and to continue on to the comforts of a marina further down the coast.


(To non sailors:  The coast is littered with fishing pots sitting on the sea bed which are normally marked with a flag on a pole and a bright buoy.  The one we “caught” had lost its flag, and had drifted into deeper water, so the buoy was floating 1m below the surface and impossible to see from above.)


Later that week we pulled the dagger board out to check for damage.  We were surprised to see that the rope that had wrapped around it had cut through the 1.5” hard wood, leaving a gaping splinter.  James soon got to work on it, and like a true budding boat builder, executed a perfect repair (well nearly; we didn’t have any Mahogany but had some off-cuts of Iroko that I had scrounged off a boat-builder in Falmouth – I knew they would come in handy!!…J).





 Dagger Board Damage and Repair


After all that excitement we were pleased to get into the marina in Viana do Castelo, having fought the northerly Force 6 winds at the harbour entrance.  A beer or two later the saga of the fishing pot was forgotten and we were planning our sightseeing tour of this pretty town.


Viana do Castelo was a departure point for fishing expeditions to Newfoundland’s Great Bank, and the highlight of our visit was the hospital and supply ship which served these fishermen from 1955-1973.  The Gil Eannes had recently been restored, and it was fascinating walking through the decks seeing so much familiar equipment from our days in the Navy.  James got particularly excited at an exhibition of charts from various nations, and spent a long time explaining the differences to me… (she was fascinated, honest…J)


The Gil Eannes


We couldn’t escape the sight of the 20th century basilica on top of the mountain behind Viana do Castelo, as it was visible from nearly every part of town.  So we took the recently restored funicular up to the top, and wandered around the pretty basilica and admired the views of the town and harbour down below.  I decided to take a detour and try to find the ruins of a nearby settlement from 500BC, but it was shut by the time we got there.  The road we took back didn’t quite lead us where we expected, and we ended up walking through the grounds of a posh hotel and jumping over the wall at the end to make it in time for the last funicular back down!



Funicular Station                                                                    Basilica de Santa Luzia


On the evening of our second day in Portugal I went to have a shower and while chatting to the marina staff, I noticed that their clock was an hour behind “Rahula” time.  On my return back to the boat I checked the Portugal guide book, and found out that Portugal is not in the same time zone as Spain, but an hour behind!   We were very embarrassed to have not checked such an important fact, and annoyed to have rushed for the funicular when we had another hour to spare!  We did feel better when we found out that our new cruising friends had made the same mistake and didn’t find out until day three!


We have met a lovely couple, David and Fiona, who are sailing south to the Algarve at much the same pace as us.  We met them in Baiona, but realised that we have seen their boat on several occasions while cruising in the Spanish Rias.  They own a brand new Ovni, which is a lovely boat that we admired from afar several times.  Since meeting them we have spent several drunken evenings together, culminating in a particularly heavy session on James’ birthday when we managed to polish off a bottle of champagne and 4 bottles of wine…  Needless to say none of us surfaced very early the following day…


Before the drunken party for James’ birthday onboard Rahula we sailed the boat from Viana do Castelo to Povoa de Varzim.  This time we left early in the morning so that we arrived in port before the vicious afternoon sea breeze built up.  The wind had still built to a Force 5 by the time we were entering the harbour, and though it was my turn to bring the boat alongside I chickened out and gave James the helm.  Unfortunately as James was fiddling with the fenders and ropes he didn’t have enough time to appreciate the full force of the wind and the small amount of space there was to turn the boat.  As he turned the boat into the wind it stopped when it was beam onto the wind and wouldn’t turn any further.  Our little engine couldn’t fight the wind and turn the boat the rest of the way, so James reversed out into clear water, while I got the anchor ready.  We dropped the anchor on the edge of the harbour, and once it set the boat swung neatly into the wind.  James then powered up the engine, and revved us quickly alongside the end of one of the pontoons.  Shear teamwork, determination and an element of luck (quite a large dollop of it actually; for non-sailor friends, Rahula has one engine in the middle of the boat and nowhere near the rudders so she actually needs to be going quite fast to turn at all!!…J) ensured that we didn’t hit any of the other boats (just) in the marina, and made it alongside without any damage to Rahula.  We saw several other boats struggle to get alongside during our stay in Povoa, and they were nifty manoeuvrable “half boats” (monohulls) with big engines, rather than wide catamarans with one little engine in the middle!


One of the boats we watch come in was a huge Dutch catamaran.  The boat was so big it had a dog kennel in the cockpit.  We chatted to the skipper, a Dutch laid back seadog, who had been sailing around the world on his cat for 15 years.  He was a real character and fascinating to talk to, and I think James secretly hopes to turn out like that at the end of his days! (I particularly envy the gold shackle earrings, a-haaar….J)


A few stops down on the metro from Povoa do Varzim was the small town of Vila do Conde, which had huge aqueduct running through it, visible from miles around.  We walked along parts of the aqueduct that goes through the town, though James and Eleanor ignored my request to walk the full 5KM length.  The aqueduct supplied water to a convent at the centre of the town, on top of a steep hill, from which we had sweeping views across the pretty town and river.



Vila do Conde Aqueduct and Convent


Unfortunately as it was a Monday all the museums were closed, which is a shame as James was looking forward to seeing the Museum of Naval Construction.  So we passed a few pleasant hours wandering through the streets of the old town, and visiting some churches.  We came across a pretty little Moorish chapel, which had painted tiles depicting the Adoration of the Magi with several Moors in turbans.  An interesting mix of cultures!


Part of our time in Povoa do Varzim was spent visiting Porto.  More on that in the next blog…