The next morning anchored off Cambados was really misty, and we decided it was too much of a hassle to get the dinghy and engine off the back and set up to go ashore as it felt like a weird place. So when the wind picked up we took off back to the other side of the Ria again but to Caramiñal. We had such a fantastic sail! When we got out of the shelter of the anchorage the wind was blowing 20 kts and we whipped along at 8 kts, along with a load of local racing boats and others coming into port. It was really good fun, the boat was heeled right over, the sun was shining and a small pod of dolphins joined us for a while. Ben was in competition mode and we kept up nicely, even in our 15 tonne old girl against race boats a third of our weight.
Caramiñal was lovely and retained much of the old town feel. There was a big tree lined park with water fountains and a busy, happy people feel. We anchored off the beach and had dinner out at a back street taverna. We’re never sure how big the tapa plates are as some places can be super cheap but huge dishes, and others more ‘touristy’ prices with small dishes, this was the former as we found out a little late after ordering. It was a simple, family run place and they watched us polish off the lot with a hint of surprise on their faces. We went to a couple of bars and stopped to watch a bit of a music/comedy gig at one which was obviously highly entertaining, if only we could’ve understood it! Next day we had a lazy day to recover from the generous wine measures, and once again forgetting it was Sunday and all the shops closed I made some bread and bodged together some dinner from whatever lurked in the coolbox. The swell started to build up so we moved around the corner to Escarbote for shelter.
We sailed out of the Ria de Arousa next morning gib and jigger, which made for a happy Ben, and after 3 hours we were entering the next Ria (de Pontevedra). As we turned to take our sails down some dolphins came to say hello, which were absolutely massive close up, at least eight feet long! However we weren’t moving at any speed to keep them interested and we watched them make for a boat going out to sea. We were having to go into Sanxenxo marina here to fill up with water and do some washing. It was hard having to pay nearly forty euros when we’ve been so used to anchoring for free. The next day we got a few small jobs done but it was far too hot in the sheltered marina to expend much energy. In the afternoon we moved further up the ria as I wanted to visit Combarro which had a really old part to it. We anchored outside the marina and went into town for a wander, finding a fantastic little bar on the beach where I sampled the local wine (Albariño), and made our way through the old winding back streets. There were loads of tourist trinket shops which all seemed to sell witch related things, with most having a stuffed witch outside the door too, from what I could find out it’s to do with local folklore and is common in this part of Galicia. Here the houses all face the sea, as they were all once the fishermans cottages, and there are many scallop shells carved into the stonework with the town being on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. We ended up in a maze of alleyways which winded through backyards and big allotments full with lemon trees and a lot of grapevines, and had to follow some local children to find our way out!
We next went to Baiona, it was an uncomfortable roly motor sail. We stayed her for three nights which felt a bit long, we usually find after a night or two we’re ready to move somewhere new, but we were in a bit of a no wind hole so decided to wait it out. One afternoon we looked across the bay and noticed a small boat had ended up on the rocks, so we decided to take the dinghy across with a tow rope to try and help. The local man had his young son with him and a motor boat, presumably family, had come out to pick the boy up, they dropped off another guy and with them both pushing and our rope and another rib pulling we managed to tow it free from the ledge. It was actually a little scary trying to keep our dinghy from being washed up against the rocks too with the surging waves, and both of the Spanish guys were covered in cuts and grazes from losing their footing in the swell, and these were fairly calm conditions…I can’t imagine how terrifying it would be with a bigger boat and heavier seas in that situation. Anyhow, they got towed in and in broken English seemed very grateful of our help.
From here we had a 7 hour motor sail across the border to Viana do Castelo. We hate having to motor, the cost, the noise, the pollution. Ben had to apologise to the engine for the long slog and she’d leaked a bit of oil as usual as if in protest, but we need to make progress south and there was no wind forecast for another few days. I was also going to miss Spain, and the free anchoring that goes with it, as from here on the coastline is very exposed so the only real choice is marinas which is frustrating. We were a bit worried about Portugal because of the language barrier, we’d managed to jumble our way through Spain with the little we know (even though we’d had to adapt slightly to Galician) and I was just starting to feel a bit more confident, and now it was all change again. Portuguese sounds like a cross between mainstream Spanish and Dutch. But we had nothing to worry about, they all speak amazing English and even though in bars and shops we keep trying to use our Portuguese they all jump at the opportunity to practice their English!
Viana do Castelo is just great. Situated on the banks of the river Lethe-the river of forgetfulness- you really can forget you’re near a commercial port with the superb old architecture overlooked by an impressive castle way up on the hill. The marina is very small with a lifting bridge you have to radio ahead for them to open, and we had to squeeze in and raft up against a boat on the old fuel dock. I had a fantastic run along the river front one morning, then went into town to get some bits whilst Ben cycled up to the fishing port with two gas bottles and got them re filled (at a place called Angelo Silva’s which seems sells everything you could ever want to do with fishing, boats, mechanical stuff etc and they can order in anything you need) then we took the dinghy across to a beach where Ben went surfing.
One problem we’ve had is being able to leave the dinghy unattended. We’ve taken to using a chain rather than a rope to tie it up but there’s also tides which stop us from being able to go off for more than an hour or two.
We had to motor again to get to Povoa de varzim, but only about 3 hours this time. It’s really funny as the cost of marinas don’t reflect the place at all. This at 18 euros a night was the cheapest yet, but it had fingerprint entry to the pontoons! We’d wondered what was going on at the beach on the way in, we could see the huge beach almost entirely covered by striped tents. They seemed a bit perplexed when I asked in the office, then told us they’re just for shelter and people hire them out I suppose like beach huts in the UK. We met Juan and his wife on the boat next to us, he gave us some useful advice about areas down this stretch of coastline, he told us a lot of people end up living at the marina and travelling around using it as a base. It’s got a quick Metro connection to the centre of Porto so it’s useful. There certainly were quite a few British boats, one even had The Archers blasting out one afternoon…that was a bit much for us! Another thing we’ve realised is there aren’t many others our age doing this.
We had a good sail to Leixoes the next day after an amusing (for us) exit from the marina. It was a tight space to turn in, backing out meant we would be working against the prop walk which sends our stern to port, we couldn’t use the pontoons to spring off from as these didn’t seem strong enough, so it took a bit of urgent last minute manoeuvring, producing a bit of smoke from the old engine, and I looked back to see our other next door neighbours running round with fenders just in case! As we arrived the wind picked up (typical) and it was nearly dark. We set the anchor but weren’t really happy with the position, then got a call on the radio from a Dutch boat called Isabelle, who I’d chatted to in Viana, to say they’d been there a couple of nights and to move on the inside of them where it was more sheltered and deep right up to the harbour wall. He was right, we’d sleep a lot more soundly tucked in there. We only went ashore to use the showers and check in next morning (you can pay to use the showers here if you’re at anchor) then headed out to a big swell. In hindsight we should have put the main up before we got out to steady the boat.
The wind forecasts are getting less reliable and it seems it’s now always 10 kts less than predicted but we managed a reasonable sail to the Aveiro estuary, full of lagoons and windswept channels which can have a dangerous entrance in strong swells, much like the Exe Estuary. We anchored in thick mist off Sao Jacinto. Not a picturesque place from the water, very industrial looking on the way in like most along this coast, there are always nice areas if you explore but it was only a quick stop off for us and somewhere to sleep for a night. We left early next morning still in the fog and had to avoid a big ship coming into the harbour as we were coming out, this fog is common along the coastline in August and September and often clears by lunchtime, thank god for radar and AIS!
We got fuel in Figueira da Foz (150 litres and a sickening attack on the bank account) and stayed for one night. I had a lovely long run along the beach front, the beach is huge and impressive but the town seemed ghostlike even though it is high season? Later I went to a fantastic indoor food market and stocked up with fresh veg and some fish, it was so busy here and had a great atmosphere, I find if I smile enough and attempt basic Portuguese I can usually find what I want!
We’ve learnt to take the good with the bad as from here to Nazare we had such a fantastic day sailing! The sun was hot, we were doing 6-7 kts, we drank rum and ginger, had the music turned up, all was good again. We went nearly the whole day without seeing anyone and we just kept thinking this really is the ultimate way to travel! No traffic, no fumes, no sitting in a hot vehicle…water covers the majority of our planet so it makes sense to use it.
When we got in to port and the mist had returned. It felt earie and deserted at this time of night and we had to walk up to a security booth at the entrance of the boatyard. Loads of dogs came running and barking out of the fishing lock ups, but thank fully stayed on the other side of the road. After we’d checked in the security guard said not to walk back that way and we took a route through the boatyard. It’s supposed to be a good base for exploring surrounding areas but at 26 euros a night it wasn’t appealing enough to stay. Plus we only have one folding bike and cycling is fairly essential to get from here to the town.
We left in more mist the next day and had to dodge a silly amount of pots for most of the day. As we rounded Cabo Carvoeiro near Peniche I saw a turtle about 10 inches big, jumping out of the water, clearly being chased by something…I can’t think what? Ben said he thinks he saw one the day before but couldn’t quite believe it, I didn’t think you got them this far north. There’s always a little something each day like this and I keep thinking how bloody lucky we are to be doing this, even though we have sacrificed things for the time being such as seeing family and friends and having a house and children, which is exactly why we’re able to do it. My head is in the future as much as it is in the present and we’ve decided we have to make the most of it whilst we can and we don’t want to look back on these years and think what we didn’t do, or have any regrets. Our decisions of late have been whether to go left into the Med or right and to Madeira then down to the Canaries (however I had my heart set on visiting Morocco so still undecided on that one). Anyway that huge waffle is for the next blog post….
Peniche is a well known surfers paradise so Ben got a fairly decent surf in, and we stayed for a couple of nights. There is a really good bar on the main road that played the best music, a beer plus the largest large wine I’ve ever seen was 2.90! So we paid with sore heads for that the next day. We had a really long walk to the nearest laundrette with all our washing, and did some food shopping whilst waiting. You have to tie up against the long outer pontoon here, rafting up if necessary, and the amount of wash from the many fishing boats is tedious. It’s a case of heavy fendering and staggering your masts if rafted so your rigging doesn’t collide. Not ideal.
Wind looked good for yesterday and as we had a 10 hour journey down to Cascais we expected a nice sail. We motored all the way. Aaarrgh!! This is getting really annoying now. How is it so wrong? We weren’t the only ones either, there were around 4 or five other boats making the same trip. We’re using mainly Windguru which has always been accurate, and the marinas and local fisherman apparently rely on it too so god knows what’s going on. Pocketgrib we use too but it’s not as localised. Anyhow, good with the bad, and at least we anchored for free. We’ll be here for another night whilst we plan our next bit…possibly an overnight sail to round Cape St Vincent?