21- 28 July 2016
Viana do Castelo N41° 41.68′ W08°49.21′ to Leixoes N41° 11.08′ W08°42.24′
35nm, 5.5 hours
This blog post contains images that vegetarians and others of faint heart might find distressing!
Somewhere between Viana do Castelo and Lexioes we realised that we were really starting to hate motoring rather than sailing. So far down from Spain we had only light winds or wind right on the nose. We were learning the trade off between wind and swell and to avoid swell were frustrated with the absence of wind. In an attempt to avoid sinking deeper into loathing for Pintail’s engine and her constant droning I named her Sue. (She’s a Perkins. Geddit?!)
We passed the time navigating the minefield of lobster pots (some marked only with sticks and impossible to see from any distance), trying to identify the new seabirds overhead and watching cloud patterns and urging them to indicate some coming wind!
We knew our chosen marina at Leixoes, a few kilometres outside Porto, was not going to be the prettiest with its oil refineries and docks but it was cheap and there was actually an industrial beauty to it as we made our approach.
The sun lit up the brilliant white of the new ferry terminal.
We arrived shortly after 12.30pm and after unsuccessfully radioing the marina heard the incredibly English accent of Irene from SV Amaret over the radio, inviting us to join them on the reception pontoon whist waiting for the office to open after lunch. In retrospect I was glad no one in the marina was there to receive my call. Pronouncing Leixoes correctly has taken weeks and was only perfected after leaving and repeated lessons from Michael, our pet American come Portuguese interpreter and teacher (amongst other things!). Try it! Laysoing. Or something like that.
Our gas bottles were by now empty so our first mission after getting to our berth was to find somewhere to buy the smaller (and easier to get in Europe) camping gaz bottles. The marina reception gave us a map and a location. A frustrating walk around a typically Portuguese maze of small streets yielded the shop, closed for the holiday until after our departure. An alternative suggestion came to nothing but Stefan did return from a later expedition with an electric hob we can use when attached to shore power (1) to save on gas. Eventually we discovered that the tiny chandlery (2) next to the marina office and only 2 metres from the pontoon gate had two brand new camping gaz bottles and the new petrol can we needed! Still, all the walking meant we had got our bearings in Leixoes.
That seems to be becoming the pattern of things. We spend time getting to know our new surroundings by trying to source the equipment and supplies we need for the boat!
After some much needed time cleaning the boat inside and out we negotiated our first public transport of the trip and made our way via the metro into Porto to meet our new German friends who were staying at the marina at the mouth of the Douro. Having accidentally enjoyed a couple of pints of 10.5% Belgian beer Stefan needed the walk down the river to see how the other half lived!
We walked across the Douro via the Ponte de Dom Luis 1 through Vila Nova de Gaia with its views back across to Porto and followed the river on the boardwalks to the mouth. Watching the strength of the current in the river we were glad we had heeded the pilot book’s warnings to avoid the Douro.
The very posh Douro marina sits alongside a gorgeous fishing village, Afurada. We sat for a while in one of the small cafes in the tiny residential streets and were rewarded with a beautiful sunset lighting up the colourful houses and making sculpture of the washing lines at the communal laundry at the river front. We finished the evening on board SV Faith with drinks and chat and a promise that they would join us in the much, much cheaper Leixoes the following day.
Porto was a beautiful city with some stunning if crumbling architecture. We spent a day there exploring it by Stefan’s favourite tourist bus and by foot. I had to admit the advantage of the bus in helping us get our bearings and avoiding the hills and tangles of unnavigable streets.
We hopped off at Vila Nova de Gaia to learn about (and sample some) port and have lunch and our first pastel de nata in a back street watching the cable car overhead.
Back across on the Porto side we found some street art and
I got my fix of justice and photography combined with a trip to the photography museum housed in the old prison complete with the original iron gates and old cells.
The tourist bus proved extremely efficient when we hopped back on and it took us all the way back out to Matosinhos with its tourist beaches and the beautiful Janet Echelman sculpture She Changes just a short walk back over the bridge to Pintail.
It was during tour time in Leixoes when we got to know the Germans better and discovered Ursula’s true identity as the Crazy German Lady with the Big Knife!
(I did warn you!)
Stefan had got chatting to a couple more Germans next to us who had just sailed in from Biscay and had caught an enormous tuna. He accepted their kind offer of half it and we threw a tuna party. Having the half corpse of the tuna in our galley for the afternoon and then watching Ursula go about making it into steaks put paid to any notion I had of starting to eat fish again after 25 years!
Instead I tucked into potato and courgette prepared by the less crazy German lady with the smaller knife, Jule.
The half tuna fed the six of them for dinner that night and for breakfast, lunch and dinner the following few days. Eventually Stefan was fed up with tuna touched it again since!
The morning after the tuna before and with everyone contemplating a vegetarian diet we headed to the market in Matosinhos. This was our first visit to a proper market in accordance with The Rules. We had not been anywhere on the right day before to find anything other than a market with super in front of it.
While we waited for good conditions to venture further south (ie an acceptably low amount of swell) we explored the sea front at Leixoes
and took a cycle up the coast to a fishing village called Cha, where the fishing pots felt a lot less threatening.
After Alex volunteered to go up our mast to check our VHF ariel was secure we were ready to move on…
From our mooring in Leixoes marina.
(1) our electricity supply when in marinas
(2) Aladdin’s caves of all things nautical to fix the boat with