Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Cascais is an attractive resort about 15 miles out of Lisbon, with a big, new and expensive marina. We were reliably informed that the river Tejo in Lisbon is an “open sewer” and it’s hard to squeeze into any of the city marinas – none of which are actually in the city centre anyway. So most passing yachts end up here.

Our 170-mile trip from Leixoes was extremely bumpy. The forecast swell was three to four metres and it felt huge. In fact, it’s very like being on a roller-coaster and as I hate roller-coasters and close my eyes on the biggest swoops, I spent a fair amount of time with my eyes tight shut. Fortunately, although Kalessin’s motion was fairly awful, none of us were sick – both the wind and the waves were coming from behind us, thank goodness.

At about 4.30 in the morning we were motor-sailing somewhere off the Ilha da Berlenga and I was making some adjustments to the mainsail when there was a small bang and the sail suddenly shot out on to the starboard side. The mainsheet had been held in place at the stern with a wire strop which had corroded and broken in half. According to the crew below (Sam and Ben), I cried “Oh f***, oh Jesus Christ”. Whatever it was they were on deck in about 15 seconds. We got the boom in and the mainsail down and continued motoring with just the jib, which was much easier to manage in the conditions. The funny thing was that up until then I’d been really nervous, but having coped with an actual problem I felt much better for the rest of the trip.

We were very lucky with the weather, with excellent visibility, modest but adequate winds and beautiful blue skies almost all the way. In Lisbon for the first time it feels like we reaching Mediterranean climes – the gardens are full of palm trees, hibiscus and bougainvillea, and the sun is really hot for the first time since Vilagarcia. By the time we reached Cascais the swell was also less and it has continued to reduce since we got here.

On Sunday we explored Cascais, walking out to the Boca da Inferno, the Mouth of Hell (pictured) a cave which looks spectacular when the waves break into it. Yesterday we headed into Lisbon on the convenient and very cheap train and spent the day exploring. Ben was a bit low to start off with, which was hard work for all of us, but he cheered up when we watched a man making amazing constructions out of used drinks cans, and we acquired a small dish for a donation of €1. We spent most of the afternoon at the castle of Sao Jorge which is a splendid spot and has fabulous views out over Lisbon and the river.

Ben & Camilla recovering from a day in Lisbon at the excellent castle cafe

We arrived in Cascais to see Intemperance moored across the way from us. By Sunday Moon Dance was on the next pontoon and last night Ben was first back from the train station and was delighted to find Khepri right next to us. So there’s no getting away from all of these boats! We’ve also been hearing about Terry, a single-hander in a Twister who was next to us in Baiona and popped up suddenly to ask “Do you put mushrooms into chilli con carne?” Dreadful things do seem to happen to Terry – not just forgetting to put the beans into the chilli, he also anchored just off Gijon in a forbidden area and got towed in, and more recently lost reverse gear and crashed into a hand-built Norwegian yacht - and apparently he was very close to being smashed to bits on Cabo Mondego, just outside Figuera da Foz. Even at midnight I can’t imagine any conditions which would make me go close in to a rocky cape – Kalessin is always the yacht out two or three miles off!

We may be here for a while as we were planning to leave on Thursday, when strong southerly winds (on the nose) are forecast, and after that huge swell - more than five metres - apparently as a result of ex-hurricane Gordon. We'll see what develops, but there are much worse places to be.

Wednesday 13 September
Any port...

Leixoes Marina is right in the middle of one of Portugal’s largest commercial ports, which is not a very lovely place to be – although interesting if you like watching shipping. On the other hand, it’s conveniently placed about 35 miles south of Viana and well sheltered, with huge outer sea walls and inner harbour walls with a very narrow entrance. In spite of all this, we’re rocking gently in the swell which as far as I can work out is forecast to get worse tomorrow.

The next two possible stops south of here are both inaccessible in heavy swell (how heavy is “heavy”?). The third is almost 100 miles away, which we can’t do in daylight, but our friends in Moon Dance have told us they were strongly warned against night navigation on this coast unless very well offshore (how far is “very well”?), because of the risk of getting entangled in nets or pot lines. Our original plan was to head from here to Cascais (effectively the marina for Lisbon) but that’s 167 miles and not to be undertaken lightly. Aaaargh!

We came down here yesterday in more fog, although for much of the time we were in sunshine and sometimes we had visibility out to sea, but we couldn’t see the coast. Hooray for radar. There’s a northern Irish boat, Roamer, which doesn’t have radar and was highly embarrassed yesterday to have three or four other yachts calling on VHF to say they were looking out for it… fortunately the sea was very empty, except for 14 zillion pot markers, until five miles from Leixoes when huge ships appeared out of nowhere.

As we came into the main port approach channel a French yacht cut right across our bows without warning. A few minutes before, the same yacht had crossed a prohibited zone around a supertanker buoy. As we came through the port they overtook us again, charged into the marina, ignored the reception pontoon and headed straight for a vacant berth. Sam was delighted to see that one of the crew flung a mooring warp ashore but sadly it was of no help in securing the yacht, as it wasn’t tied on at the boat end. The yacht then hit the pontoon. Ho, ho.

Bridges of Porto, above

We’ve spent the day in Porto which is a very splendid city, although it’s a pity that it rained almost all day. We got the brand-new Metro into town, and wandered from the station, via the cathedral, down to the river, where we took a river cruise to admire the splendid six bridges. Then we found a nice restaurant for lunch and behold! there was the crew of Moon Dance again. We walked back via an English language bookshop (where we bought some very weird, but cheap, children’s books for Ben) and went home again. It doesn’t sound much but as Porto is built on the sides of a steep gorge it was all rather hard work. Fortunately, it has now stopped raining.

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