Wow I can’t believe we have been in Portugal for 3 weeks – we’ve visited so many different and diverse places – fascinating cities, stunning beaches, tiny fishing ports & holiday meccas. We’ve embraced overnight sailing with just the four of us, experienced some seriously strong winds and tides and been lucky enough to have two sets of visitors. The weather has been mostly brilliant and the Portuguese people super friendly – the language on the other hand has kept us on our toes!
Our route, highlights and tips:
Porto – We stayed in a rather smelly but friendly marina just outside Porto (Leixoes) surrounded by fishing trawlers. We loved exploring the slightly run down and hilly Porto – pretty town, lovely tiles, rich food and yummy port!
Peniche – We sailed overnight to Peniche (yuck!) to give the kids a break from cities between Porto and Lisbon and particularly to do some surfing! Unfortunately we were greeted with three days of fog!!! Nevertheless we enjoyed Peniche – P found a local guy who removed the large bubble from our compass for 5 euros & managed to do some boat work so he was happy and the kids surfed so they were happy!
Cascais – We left Peniche in thick fog & became very acquainted with our radar all the way to Cabo de Roca (most western tip of Portugal) where we had 35 knots wind and then immediately as if someone opened the curtains the fog & wind left us and we entered Cascais to be welcomed by blue skies and 30 degree heat still fully dressed in our oilskins and beanies!
Lisbon – We got swished under the bridge into Lisbon with the tide giving us 9 knots over the ground, and spent two boiling hot nights in a marina in the middle of the commercial dock. We visited a backstreet restaurant where there was not a word of english and managed to have the best meal of steak, ribs and prawns with our VERY limited Portuguese! We loved exploring the bustling Lisbon and even managed to survive a terrifying TUKTUK ride with no seat belts and a driver too busy bidding on eBay to watch the road – eek!!
Our pilot book is from 1995 and we kept reading about the lovely little fishing villages we would see along the coast so we were in for a bit of shock in the Algarve! Luckily we visited out of season but the Algarve is still rather built up and covered in huge hotels.
Lagos – Our first decent (read: not sick!) overnight sail took us to the Algarve – we didn’t stay in Lagos as there is no anchorage and a very expensive marina but we did explore the cute town and gorgeous other worldly rock faces for a lovely swim.
Alvor – We spent two nights anchored in this small bay with a forest fire raging in the background and gusts of 20 + knots. P was in heaven and spent most it windsurfing while I sat onboard with my heart in my throat and my eye on the anchor!!
Portimao – Two nights in Portimao – one rolly night anchored off the beautiful beach and one anchored off the quaint little fishing village of Ferrangudo.
Albufeira – One quick night in a marina in Albufeira – met up with a lovely family onboard SY Arctic Fern from the UK – kids delighted to have some friends (Jessica and Olivia) to play with. Not having other kids around and missing their own friends has been the hardest part of this journey so far.
Olhao – We anchored off Olhao (near Faro) – picked up P’s sister Mat and her partner Norman who spent a few days onboard (which was great!). We even got to meet up for a yummy lunch with Mat’s son, Benji and his girlfriend, Jane – who were in Faro! We enjoyed the town of Olhao (apparently the biggest fishing port in the Algarve) – great fish and fresh produce market, and delicious vegetarian restaurant for lunch by the church.
Tavira – One night anchored off the lovely town of Tavira – rather nerve-racking getting down the narrow channel into the anchorage and finding somewhere deep enough to anchor. We went off to explore the charming town – flamingos and bats flying over the salt pans – only to find Blue Zulu hard up against the mud when we returned (oops!) – quick re-anchor in the dark!
It was then off to the Ria Guadiana which is the border between Spain and Portugal. We spent a couple of nights on the Spanish side off the town of Ayamonte. We were very lucky to get a visit from P’s school friend Toby, his wife Ana and their kids, Santi and Elena who drove down from Madrid for the weekend. We had two very fun days in the sun with them onboard – our kids were in total heaven! We swam, kayaked, climbed up the mast, had a Spanish seafood feast, fished, went for dingy rides and had two scoop ice-creams (Fin’s highlight!).
So we are now further up the Ria Guadiana with Spain (Sanlucar do Guadiana) on one side and Portugal (Alcoutim) on the other – rather perfect really! For the South African’s among you – it reminds me very much of the Breede River (where my family have a beloved holiday home) so I obviously feel very at home! P is doing some boat maintenance before our sail to the Canary Islands next week but the rest of us are embracing the slow (& slightly pikey!) way of life on the river – bliss! We’ve also been embracing ‘boat school’ but that’s a whole other post…