Leg 3: Portuguese Coast

The Grib file of Thursday 27th of September indicated the passage of a front starting Saturday, so we decided to leave ASAP to reach as close to Lisbon as possible. ASAP meaning various things in Spanish. After an unfruitful attempt to locate the harbour master, in the middle of his office hours, we turned to the local “Marinero” to pay our stay and get Diesel. While leaving “Ria Vigo” we were treated to an excellent show of the local fire-brigade as they were putting out a forest fire using 3 helicopters and 2 water planes. All 5 flying machines filled up with water in the Ria at distances under 2 nM from Aspro, gluing Kwinten to the life lines for the duration of the exercise.

Around bed time that same day, two dolphins crossed the boat. Trying to catch their attention, they seemed to leave, but returned within 5 minutes with two more buddies. All four played with Aspro, putting on a show which Kwinten and Lotte thoroughly enjoyed. Since we told Kwinten the 4 dolphins came especially that night to see his new pyjamas, we haven’t had to beg him to put them on at night.

Deciding which port to call on for the front passage resulted difficult, as our pilot is not enthusiastic on many ports on the Portugese coast. On the 300 nM stretch between Vigo and Lisbon, it only identifies 2 all weather ports (Nazare and Leixos). On all others it either quotes the loss of one or another yacht to stress its point about the dangerous approach, or indicates doubts on “guaranteed” dredged depths. These factors made us end up in Nazare, which the Pilot apparently adores.

We came to know the Nazare harbor master, a certain Captain Mike which, together with his wife, ended up in Nazare after a cruise in the Mediterranean, as a bit of an annoying personality. Every morning he does a round, mostly with negative sailing advice based on meteorological or other adverse conditions, reason for which we gave him the nickname of “Meteo Mike”. For the first day of our stay he predicted severe gale 9, so we doubled all mooring ropes, took down the furling genoa, tightened the main cover and decided to stay on board. He also kindly asked us to tighten our mooring lines to prevent Aspro from taking the pontoon for a walk. I thought the idea mooring at a pontoon in a marina was to secure the ships integrity and safety?

The scenery in and around Nazare partially made up for the marina. The village on the cliff and the cape are beautiful. The 2km road down to the light house was heaven for the kids on their bikes. The church and hospital of “Nostra Sinhora do Nazare” were also well worth a visit. However we still fail to see the scenery justify the 36 Euros per day of harbour dues, or the 6,5 Euros for a 5kg wash. Luckily the machine was kind enough to operate without the necessary token. 

Due to the lack of further worthwhile landmarks within baby distance, we decided to make the fourth day of our stay a boat potter day. Leen organized the inside, while Wouter took care of the outside. We reorganized our stashing manners, to make the boat more livable. After a full day’s work, the inside and outside living spaces became much less crowded.

Against Meteo Mike’s daily warning, all yachts left Nazare the next morning. Mike’s last try was the warning that, in case no mooring were to be found in Peniche, the next port was another 60 nM to the south. Provided the off season had started two days earlier, this made not a good argument. Kwinten took it upon himself to warn us on the fishing nets, a usefull activity considering the Portugese habit of blanketing any area within 20 miles of any port.

After 4 hours we arrived at Peniche, where the marina area gave a much better impression than Nazare., though some areas could still use a good scrubbing. Our daily stroll into town started like all the previous ones, with Lotte and Kwinten racing down the pontoon on their hobby horse. A character control crisis of Kwinten resulted in the hobby horse being kicked around. Daddy’s try to forward this cross pass resulted in complete disintegration of the bike, and inconsolable grief. For the second time this week, Wouter had to start several chirurgical activities to revive the toy. We had quite a disturbed night, as Peniche is homeport to a very large fishing fleet, where none of the skippers seem capable of respecting the harbour speed limit. We were clearly not the only ones who slept badly, as many of our colleagues from Nazare stormed out of the port way before 8:00 am. We followed about 8:30, after fresh pastry.

Once we passed Cabo Da Roca we came into very calm water, without Ocean Swell. Even in these conditions, Leen’s offshore sail training and my Scheldt training still leave their traces in the navigation. Leen still gets nervous in places where we can’t sail upside down (ie in waters of less then 20m), while I still want to skim along the 3 meters lines.  Our original idea was to enter Cascais marina for 1 day, then continue to Lisbon for 2, and come back and leave the boat in Cascais marina for our Belgian pit stop. We quickly changed our minds when we saw Cascais bay, which was filled with anchored yachts. Ashore we noted that Cascais is very tourist oriented, filled with visitors from around the globe, despite the late time of year. The anchorage and port held a good legion of sailors on their way to the Mediterranean or to the Caribbean. We had clearly made up for our late start.

We also started using a more aggressive integration technique, approaching whatever boat we see with a Belgian or Dutch flag, when young children are aboard. Through the Belgian two master Abondance, with two children aboard, we came in contact with the Dutch boat “Zee Van Tijd”, which Leen had first met in Nieuwpoort early July. It felt good for both sides to hear similar stories and struggles from another family sailing with very young kids. We agreed to see each other the next day for a quiet Saturday on the playground. The click between the kids seemed instantaneous, and Kwinten was very sad that “Zee Van Tijd” left the next morning around 8 am. Like last night, when Zee Van Tijd came out to anchor, he again insisted on us following them. It looks like our son fell in love, and of a Dutch girl....

We planned for a scenic visit to Lisbon for Monday, but plans got heavily disturbed when Wouter twisted his ankle while carrying Kwinten on his shoulders. We immediately took the nearest cab to the hospital to get Kwinten’s head examined. However, upon arrival in the Pediatric Emergency, the waiting room was filled with people, and it took us time to figure out the way. Only after explaining a nurse that Kwinten had hit his head hard, Mme nurse helped us through a speed check in and, when Kwinten laid his head down to show his disagreement with the hospital, he was rushed to a doctor for attention. One and a half hours and an X-ray later we were discharged with an “close observation” advice and without need for payment. With some delay, we started our trip into Lisbon.

First on our “aha”-list was to see than none of the four marinas on the river Tage was jammed with boats, as our pilot had predicted. What we saw of Lisbon was to our liking, though it does not seem as well kept up as the average big city in Spain. Portugal as a whole does not really strike us as “the” place to be for us. We don’t understand a word of what they are saying, and Leen feels threatened by the behavior of all Portuguese men. Most people are surprised by our three kids, charmed by there looks (so far so good), but pet them like we are not there. As Lotte is very shy and prone on here private space, she always answers with thunderclouds on her forehead.

From Tuesday 9th of October to Friday 19th we held a pit stop in Belgium to participate in the Antwerp Rally with Tontín. Our impressions on that can be read on the Tontín part of the website.

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