Sugar 'n' Spice – Weblog 1

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Viana do Castelo, N Portugal


41º 41’61 N

8º 49’31 W

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Figueira da Foz, Portugal

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On tuesday 12th April we flew to Faro, & on to Lagos by train, checking into a small hotel in the centre of town for the few days until Sugar ‘n’ Spice was launched. Arriving at the boatyard next morning we found her in her usual ‘winter’ pink (due to Saharan sand), only this time in vertical stripes down the rigging on the windy side!  So a big wash down job. A big bonus was that the fish dock gulls had been kind & had left her alone – grateful thanks, gulls.

A parcel of ‘goodies’ was waiting from our friendly home chandlers, Seamark Nunn (also on the internet), who were very helpful in organising the shipping.

Previously we have had the antifouling done for us relatively inexpensively abroad, but not so this year, so next it was on with 2 coats of antifoul. As we finished these the weather became unsettled with wind & squally showers, so the cleaning/polishing jobs got fitted in between showers, but others such as putting the sails on had to be left.

Monday 18th April. Launch day & still squally, but early afternoon the travel hoist delivered the boat & us safely to the water, then is was back through the bridge & into the Marina. There over the next few days we got the remaining jobs, including fitting sails & Doug’s half yearly visit to the top of the mast with the instruments, & provisioning done while dodging showers.

From our berth we could see at least 3 storks nests on chimneys & buildings, & strolling round the town there were plenty more to be seen, even one next door to the local supermarket! There was plenty of activity so we assume nesting was in full session.

On the Sunday (24th April) we had a return visit from Andrew & Sandie Firebrace (now resident in Portugal) who we had visited at their home when here last Autumn. The weather obliged & it was warm enough to lunch in the cockpit.

Monday 25th April. We took an early bridge from marina to fuel dock, & thence out to sea. Then a light wind sail west along the coast, & midday a brief sighting of some dolphins – too busy feeding to come & play. We anchored off the beach at Ensemble de Sagres in time for a late lunch, & watched the comings & goings on the cliffs & castle ramparts above us. (17.4 nm)

The anchorage is just short of Cape St Vincent, on the SW tip of Portugal & so is a significant rounding point before we head North.

Tuesday 26th April. A very early start (3.30am) as we aim to try for a large mileage up the Portugese coast while the forecast holds for light winds. In dark pre dawn gulls  flitted like ghosts, seeming to fly through the rigging, searching the bow wave for fish. We rounded the Cape soon after 4am & turned northwards. The sea was rougher than expected, but soon turned into a long swell. The wind was light & variable in direction so the engine was off & on & we motorsailed to maintain a good speed. A few dolphins did some lethargic jumps alongside then returned to breakfast. Gannets, the occasional sheerwater, fishing boats in the distance & a couple of yachts heading south passed by. Doug replaced some broken sail slides. Midday a group of at least 12 dolphins arrived & stayed playing ‘chicken’ under the bow for some time. I was sure some were actually touching the boat! Mid afternoon saw a few ships on the horizon heading for Lisbon & late afternoon we had a ‘proper’ sail for an hour or so. Just before dusk we reached the anchorage at Cascais, just off the beach. 103.8nm – quite a hike!

The town & promenade were brightly lit, & small fishing boats were coming & going, but we both slept soundly. Cascais is the ‘yacht’ port for Lisbon, but having previously visited the City we opted to continue to take advantage of the light winds.

Wednesday 27th April. An early start, only 6.40am this time, & within 10mins we were sailing. We soon rounded the capes to the SW of Lisbon, then had some fickle & variable winds – engine needed sometimes, reefs another. Midday it went on the nose as we passed between Peniche, on the mainland, & the nature reserve island of Berlengas, where we were able to bear away & sail close hauled until we arrived at the fishing port of Nazare. 65nm, mostly nice sailing & the skipper is pleased with progress up this coast.

Nazare has a small yacht harbour within the busy fishing port. It was quite a long walk out of the port, but we found a resturant for supper without having to walk further into the town.

Thursday 28th April. Left Nazare promptly at 8.30am when the office opened (settle up, return gate key, collect deposit). An hour later 3 large dolphins were playing on the bow, there was virtually no wind, but lots of fishing floats – like bagatelle. Midday the wind flirted & we had several short spells of sailing before we reached Figueira da Foz in mid afternoon. A mere 40nm.

Before tying up we made an abortive visit to the fish dock for fuel, but decided against trying to get alongside the dock – it was rough concrete piles & not meant for yachts!

So a quick recce of the immediate area & an early night.

Next day (29th April & the Royal Wedding in the UK) a prompt start, this time to be tourists for the day. First a train along the valley of the Mondego river where every little hamlet had colonies of storks, & in one there were several nests perched along the arms of two defunct cranes. Our destination was Coimbra, the ancient capital of Portugal & then & now the home of one of its major universities – the Portugese equivalent to Oxford or Cambridge. Needless to say the old town was up - via steps & narrow streets – past the cathedral, to the university. There the Joanina Library was most amazing with books in gilded oak bookshelves reaching to frescoed ceilings about 40 feet above. The rarest books were safe in the vaults! Then lunch at river level, & up again, & past a short length of Roman aqueduct, to the Jardim Botanico, a peaceful oasis of trees, plants & ponds. Finally back to the train just beating the forecast rain & thunder.



Saturday (30th April). A morning of jobs & provisioning from the local market. Then a walk past the Fort (at the river mouth) & along the beach – about a ½ mile wide  from prom to sea via wooden walkways. Dodged another shower having lunch in a beach café.



That evening we joined another British couple, John & Maggie, on board their boat, ‘Lazy Pelican’, for drinks, & discovered we had mutual acquaintances – very pleasant.



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