On leaving Galicia, our sights turned to the Portuguese coast, famed for its abundant fish and therefore fishing. With pots and lines in the water, this coast often fills cruisers with dread. Catching a line in a propeller means a member of crew having to dive into the water to cut it away; a very unappealing idea, especially at night, which calls for caution. We therefore made the decision to make big hops along this coast staying approx. 15 plus nautical miles offshore each trip to reduce this risk as fishing tend to happen nearer to the shore.
Our first stop in Portugal was Leixoes a town 30 mins by train from Porto. Our sail to Leixoes proved difficult as we soon realised that the boat’s batteries were not charging as they should. The autopilot runs off the batteries and so for fear of not being able to start the engine, we made the decision to helm manually during our night sail there. This proved a tiring trip. On arrival in Leixoes, we quickly set about looking for replacement batteries but our efforts proved frustratingly fruitless. We are however very lucky to have friends in Lisbon who work in the sailing industry and they helped us in getting the batteries we needed. Thank-you Isabel and Fernando! Our stay in Porto was therefore overshadowed with this battery issue but it did not stop us from visiting Porto for a day. The beautiful, accessible city with its amazing bridge was a wonderful, unexpected surprise. We spent a day walking through the city, eating barbecued fish, visiting port cellars and sampling custard tarts. A great day out.
Batteries replaced, our next stop was Cascais; a lovely beach town near Lisbon. Our first day at anchor in Cascais Bay also proved eventful as we were forced to remain on the boat for the full day as winds gusting 40+ knots rolled by. A great test for our new anchor which thankfully remained steadfast. The boys coped remarkably well and agreed to do two schooling sessions in exchange for a day off the following day. We were very proud of them; they are however getting used to their new home and its confined space. From Cascais we did a day trip to the castles of Sintra and we were quickly thrown into the world of mass tourism with jam packed buses, busy roads and long ticketing queues awaiting us. This slightly coloured the beauty of our day trip; perhaps best visited on a quiet winter’s day.
We could not let the opportunity of sailing up the estuary into Lisbon city pass us by and so a few days later we did just that, sailing under it’s beautiful bridge and having an upfront sea view to the famous Monument des Descobrimentos. This is a magnificent sculpture depicting all the famous Portuguese explorers who had discovered new worlds; Vasco da Gama (first European to reach India by sea) and Ferdinand Magellan (captain of first crew to circumnavigate the world) amongst them. The monument is a reminder of the mark Portuguese exploration has made on the modern world. There was no better way to be introduced to this beautiful city; which we followed the day after with sight seeing.
With our friends on Bella, we gladly undertook the last piece of the Portuguese coast from Lisbon to the tip of Portugal together, arriving at 2.30 am on 4th September in Cabo Sao Vincente at the Western tip of the Algarve. We had had a beautiful sail, with 15 knots downwind and sighting schools of both pilot and minke whales during the trip. Seeing these incredible creatures upfront was spectacular and humbling. We were extremely grateful to the Atlantic for all it had shown and taught us since we left the UK seven weeks earlier.
This trip to the Algarve was to prove our last cruising opportunity with our wonderful friends on Bella. On our arrival in the Algarve, we decided to keep moving, our winter destination of Sicily ever present in our minds. Tom and Phil had decided to winter in Cartagena in Spain and so could afford to slow the pace down a little. However for us, Sicily was still over 1,000 nautical miles away. To give a sense of this distance, we had done 1,250 noutical miles in those first 7 weeks since we left the UK. With autumn weather arriving, we needed to keep moving as we clearly had some way to go. It was very emotional saying farewell to our amazing friends and cruising partners on Bella; we had taken on a lot of challenges together and come out smiling. We will miss you guys; fair winds!
So, our time in Portugal was indeed fast and furious. After one further night’s stop on the lovely island of Culatra on the Algarve, we turned our attention to reaching Cadiz and the famous Strait of Gibraltar; with many more adventures in store.
PS: we are currently in Villasimius (South of Sardinia) waiting for a weather window to cross to Sicily. We are also so sorry for the belated updates, but we are experiencing computer/phone issues – need to get back to civilisation:-)