Povoa do Varzim to Cascais

James & Amelia Gould
Thu 24 May 2007 12:31

16 - 23 May 2007: Povoa do Varzim – Cascais (Lisbon)


We sailed from Povoa very early in the morning (it was still dark!) in order to make the tide at our next intended port of call, Aveiro.  We had a pleasant sail south, watching the sun come up over the flat, featureless coast of Portugal, with its seemingly endless sandy beaches. 


Mid way through the morning we passed a couple of large ships at anchor waiting to go into the commercial port at Matosinhos.  James took a great interest in one of the ships, and was rather unusually steering the boat to pass very close to it.  As we neared it James had realised that this was MV Arcacia, the sister ship of the MV Arcadia, which James had boarded in 1998 following an explosion onboard.  James and a team from HMS SHEFFIELD had to secure the ship, an LPG tanker, from any further danger and dealt with the carnage and bodies left behind by the explosion.  They got her to anchor in a bay on Grand Cayman.  The coincidence was that only a few weeks ago James received a letter telling him that he had finally been awarded £1000 for salvaging the stricken ship.  And here was the identical sister ship, laden with gas again.



The MV Arcacia


As we approached the entrance to Aveiro harbour we wondered if it was worth going in.  We knew that the forecast for the weekend was for strong winds and a large swell, which meant that we had to push south in order to be in Lisbon in time for my mum’s visit on the 24th.  We realised that we’d only be able to spend a night at anchor in the harbour, and wouldn’t be able to explore the many creeks or the town at the top of the harbour.  If we stayed any longer in the harbour we risked being stuck inside until the bad weather abated at the harbour entrance, which could be any number of days.  It would then be a long slog down to Lisbon.  As we left Povoa early, we still had plenty of daylight left, so we decided to push on to Figueira Da Foz.


We readied ourselves for the strong afternoon breeze, reducing sail and making sure all the hatches were shut.  Then it just kept building and building (up to a Force 6-7), with the boat surfing downwind at 8-10 knots with only a scrap of Genoa up.  It was great fun, but hard work!


By the time we reached Figueira Da Foz we were exhausted, having covered 80 Nautical Miles in 12 hours.  My whole body ached, and I could barely lift a beer up to my mouth!  We balked at the price of berthing Rahula at the marina – more expensive than on the South Coast of the UK in the height of summer, but by then it was too late to move on.  So we couldn’t stay for a rest day, and had to leave early the following morning to sail to (cheaper) pastures new.


After the strong winds of the previous day, we were disappointed not to have much wind.  We managed to coax the boat into doing 5 knots in 7 knots of wind, but it wasn’t enough if we were to make the next port before dark.  So we motor-sailed some of the way picking up speed as we surfed down the waves.


At around 12pm the radio came to life and a Portuguese navy warship transmitted a safety message about some live gunnery firings taking place in the area.  The message was very broken, so we figured that the ship was far away and we had nothing to worry about.  When the message was repeated we heard more of the puzzle, and realised that we had sailed right into the firing area!  James tried to call the ship up several times on the radio, and got no reply.  We debated turning around but that would have meant going into the swell and wind, where our progress would be slow and uncomfortable.  The firings were due to finish by 1pm, and we figured that as we couldn’t see the ship, they probably wouldn’t be firing near us.  Then the ship came up over the horizon.  We tried to call them again, and this time they replied.  When calling them up James put on his best pompous Royal Navy voice, and nearly called us “British Warship” instead of “Sailing Yacht Rahula”!


James explained that we were in the firing area heading South, and asked if it would be all right to carry on.  The Portuguese radio operator repeated his message that all ships mush be clear of the area.  James, slowly and politely, explained that by the time we cleared the area the firings would be over.  Then another voice came up on the radio (probably the captain) identifying us, and eventually a grumbly “OK, we will stop the firing for you”.


We were very pleased to have been allowed to carry on our way, and to have stopped a firing.  There have been many times where the tables were turned and we have been on the warship trying to do a firing, and being blighted by yachts everywhere!


Then with 15 minutes to go to the end of the firing, we heard machine gun fire, and saw smoke rising from the beach we were sailing past.  They were firing over the top of us!  So it appears that we didn’t stop them firing after all…


Luckily the Portuguese navy didn’t sink us, and we made it into Nazare without any further incidents (apart from a small marital tiff when I messed up bringing the boat alongside…).   Nazare is a small seaside town with not a lot going for it, especially in bad weather, when even the huge beach looks dull.  It is full of scary old Portuguese women selling nuts and tourist tat, and bored holidaymakers unsure what to do without the sun.  We got the bikes out and went to explore the town and the fort at the edge of the cliff.





 Fish Drying on the beach


Shopping in the Market


Bikes at the Fort


An hour’s bus journey from Nazare took us to the town of Batalha, where the UNESCO world monument of Battle Abbey is located.  The beautiful honey-coloured abbey was built between 1388-1434 and is well worth a visit.  Before we even went inside we spent ages admiring the intricately sculpted pinnacles, parapets, windows and flying buttresses.



 Batalha Abbey (and Ed the Duck sightseeing!)


The inside of the church didn’t disappoint after such an awesome exterior.  The stained glass was simple but looked beautiful against the stark stone interior.  The nave was huge, and reminded us of some of the large cathedrals in England.  In a chapel on the side of the church we found the tomb of Prince Henry the Navigator, who helped in the discovery of Madeira, the Azores and some of the African coast (James got very excited…).  Even the cloisters had beautifully carved stone grills in the gothic windows, each one following a different design.  I had better stop enthusing about how lovely this place was; well worth a visit if you are in the area!



Batalha Abbey Nave


Batalha Abbey Cloisters


Batalha Abbey Cloisters


Batalha Abbey Unfinished Chapel


During our stay in Spain and Portugal we have seen some very low tides exposing parts of the piles holding the pontoons in marinas not normally seen.  Certain events relating to these piles have meant that James has now nicknamed me the “Starfish Saviour”.  I’ll explain.  The big, ugly, mean seagulls see these beautiful pink-orange stars clinging to the side of the pile, and think “mmm, food”.  So they swoop down and pluck a starfish from the pile.  They land on the pontoon with it (normally right next to Rahula!) and have a nibble.  Invariably the seagulls discover that the starfish aren’t as tasty as they look, so they leave them and fly off to seek some other tasty morsel.  Then, when I step off the boat I am confronted by half eaten starfish choking in the sun on the pontoon.  I check that the starfish is alive and call James to put it back in the water (It’s pretty, but icky!).  A few times I have caught the seagulls at it, and have chased them away, thus saving the poor starfish.  All the starfish I have saved have been named Flo, though none of them talk about root canal surgery (Too much time spent watching Finding Nemo, I think…J)


James has also found the holy grail of sandwiches in Portugal.  It’s called a Francesinha (The little French thing) and comes in two basic forms: the 1.5 Euro and the 6.50 Euro.  The 1.50 variety is a small grilled baguette filled with a thin steak, chorizo sausage, ham and cheese, and smothered in a tomato sauce.  The 6.50 Euro is sandwich a good 18” long and 6” wide filled with a large fillet steak, sausage, ham, cheese, and tomato.  All this is then covered in more melted cheese and a beer and tomato sauce.  Served with a portion of chips, and a complementary defibrillator to start your heart once you have eaten it all!  This monster sandwich is a speciality in the Porto area, and James hopes he will continue to find it as we sail further south.  I am refusing to replicate this monster onboard, as it will use up all our food for lunch and dinner for a week! 

Finally after four days in Nazare we had a gap in the weather to continue further South.  The strong wind and large swell were finally forecast to die down, which meant we could escape.  As we had such a (relatively) long way to go in a day (70 Nautical miles) we had another early morning start (0600).  We sailed into a windless sea, but with still a bit of a swell running.  Slowly the wind appeared, but unfortunately from the South and not very strong, which meant that we couldn’t sail.  It was a miserable, dank and wet day, and to top it all we had to motor most of the way in order to make it to Cascais before dark.  We kept watched to save us both getting wet in the rain, and amused ourselves by doing Sudoku (J) and reading about Lisbon (me).  The only thing which marked the passage was that on the way we rounded Cabo da Roca, the most Westerly point in Europe.

We are now in Cascais, where we plan to stay for at least a week so that we can visit Lisbon.  My mum and her husband are also coming to visit, so we are looking forward to being pampered!