38;41.8060N09;24.8910W The Portugese coast

Silver Bear
Ray Lawry
Sun 4 Oct 2009 19:54
Our first port of call in Portugal was Viana do Costelo after an unremarkable motorsail in light winds and hot sun. We were aided in our mooring aft-to attempts (Meditterranean style), by an enterprising Canadian husband and wife team who were making their way south and around the world, in what seemed to be a home made boat, caring for their 2 children under 5. That's the thing we have realised already; we thought what we were doing was unusual, but when you learn what people like this are taking in their stride then it makes you feel very ordinary and cautious. Having made safe for the night we stumbled to the top of the gangway and into a cafe complete with Welsh host. Viano do Castelo was alive with the annual fiesta together with cross dressing country dancers from around the world; obviously it lost a lot of appeal in translation and we were soon scurrying back to the Welsh landlord! (or was that him dressed as a Columbian female goat herder?)
One of the good things about Portugal is that the ports are spread out equally only a short day sail apart (usually around 30 miles). The wind in our experience always blows from the north and is not too strong. This can, of course, be a problem if you happen to be trying to head north. Our next stop was at Leixoes, a bit more industrial than some which the pilot book describes as having dirty water with dead cats floating in the harbour. Well he did'nt mention the wobbly pontoons because there was very nearly a forty someting year old lady floating with the cats! We overcame that one and spent the next day enjoying the delights of Porto, a unique town grafted on the side of steep gorge and famed as home to Cockburn, Taylors, Sandamans, Croft and Offleys to name just a few port producers whose names are carved into the side of the valley where the English producers once thrived. Well I could have thrived there if Ali let me, but we went on an open top bus tour instead!
We visited Aveiro briefly, anchoring in avery sheltered bay before setting off the next morning into thick fog. The radar served us well and by midday we were back into the sunshine and gentle NW winds. Next stop Figueira da Foz  where we spent two days. A seaside town with pleasant marina. We got chatting to Charles and Penny from Torbay and Exeter respectively. When Ali was asked where she taught Penny pointed out her first school was the very same Whipton Barton Infants. The picture shows me with Penny and Charles together with another ARC entrant and ex met man Ron who we also joined forces with on our journey south. The added coicidence is that Ron lives in Topsham- the world gets smaller and smaller! Ron is sailing his Sadler 29 and is likely to be the smallest in the fleet, a proud boast.
Nazare, our next stop, was unmistakingly a fishing port with a rich odour to match. We were greeted by the Captain a retired English merchant navy captain shouting at us in an undisciperable language (later learned to be English). He then took us into his custody to do the usual immigration things, not once but three times. Once with him, second with immigration and third with customs. I thought Portugal was a member of the EU. If it like  this here I shudder to think what the Caribbean will be like. Fortunately the town itself was very enjoyable. There were women in black traditional dress complete with thick cardigans (temperatures in 80's) drying fish in the sun on the beaches. Life in rural Portugal is clearly not changed very much for the elder generation except for the odd mobile phone. The old town is a funicular rail ride up the mountain to a picture postcard town some of which appears to be built on an overhanging rock. Another fiesta day with dancing and music of a traditional kind.
We need to head south to meet up with Ann and Iain Gibson, friends from our youthful adult days in Wembury. An overnight stop off the Isla Berlenga arriving as the sea was alive with jumping fish. Not flying fish, but quite large flattish fish and thousands of them. Unfortunately earlier I lost my tackle to the biggest fish that ever got away so I had nothing to use on the jumpers. Next day we had a 20 minute guard of honour from a pod of dolphins setting us well on our way to Cascais just west of Lisbon our next destination.