Let me tell you the story of how we sailed to Portugal, visiting the towns of Viana do Castelo and Póvoa de Varzim and enjoying the cruising life together with our Swedish friends (besides me that had a whole day of bad luck). A week ago we finally got the winds that could take us to Portugal. It wasn’t that much wind but straight from behind so we could sail butterfly south to Viana do Castelo. The sun was shining all day so the main challenge was not to get sunburned. There were little waves so I even managed to sit down and sketch a portrait of Jens when sailing. It´s always a special feeling to raise a new guest flag, and now it was time for Spain to go down and Portugal up!
We arrived to Viana do Castelo just before dark, and as we approached the waiting pontoon there was a man walking towards us and greeting us welcome – Tryggve from Linnea. We are getting quite used to getting their help as we enter a new harbour since they are always a little bit faster than us 🙂 Turns out that they had been sitting on a pub drinking beer when they saw that we were approaching on the AIS, paid for the beer and ran off to greet us. We tied up alongside Linnea and joined them in the cockpit.
The next day was one of those days when you wonder if you really should have left the bed at all. I woke up with a little headache but got ready to join Stine to check out the town. Found out that one of the straps on my sandals had disappeared so had to go with another pair. As I was climbing off Linnea I stumbled and managed to strain my ankle. Since the pain subsided after some minutes I decided to continue downtown anyway. The same day I also managed to drop the basket so that all the groceries fell out in the Supermarket, and somewhere on the way home lost the camera (someone must have stolen it from my bag, but I will never know for sure), which we realised only after we had sailed away so there was no way to turn back to look or report it. Too much bad luck for one day!
Now that you also had to listen to me whine about it let’s go on to the more positive sides of life. Viana do Castelo doesn’t look like much when you come for the sea, but the old town is really cozy with cobbled, narrow streets with colourful houses and arches.We sat down on the square to enjoy some Portuguese coffee and sweets, but mostly the high-speed WIFI… There were some things that already told us that we had left Spain for a new country:
- The architecture in Portugal differs a bit from Spain, the most apparent being the colourful tiles that covers a lot of buildings.
- Another difference is what they sell in the shops, here we have found a lot more shops with handicraft, clothes with a lot of intricate patterns and lace.
- Hearing the Portuguese speak the language sounds like a mixture between Spanish and Russian and we really don’t understand anything (besides Hola and Obrigado!). When you see the words written down it is usually easier to understand (if you know a bit of Spanish).
- On the other hand they are much better in speaking English than their Spanish neighbours!
After lunch the wind turned to North/Northwesterly and we could continue our sailing south. We left just 10 minutes before Linnea, and the advantage of sailing together is that you can actually take some shots of the whole boats when you are out sailing! Since Linnea is more of a racing boart she of course passed us after an hour or so. We had really nice winds as soon as we got further out at sea, but Mouni slows down if you have the wind straight from behind.
After another great day on the water we arrived to our second harbour in Portugal – Póvoa de Varzim. Anders and Tryggve had invited us over for dinner and I´m pretty sure there is nothing nicer than climbing over to a neighbour boat for a three course dinner just half an hour after tying up the boat after a day on the sea. No cooking, no dishes, just a night with friends and entertainment. These guys actually wrote us a song in our guest book, based on the Swedish song “Vem kan segla förutan vind” (Eng: Who can sail without wind?). When we heard that Anders had a ukulele onboard, Jens brought the flute over and just like that we had a band 😉
We didn’t know much about Póvoa de Varzim, but we got a link from a friend of a fellow cruisers´ youtube-video about his experiences here called “Where boats come to die”. There definitely were some real wrecks on the dry here, but also beautiful ships. The old town is just by the Marina and just as Viana do Castelo it has a lot of nice buildings, cafe´s and shops. There are beaches all along Póvoa and the heritage of working on the sea can be seen on many places, especially the artwork on the tiles. There was even a picture of a traditional sailboat on the decorative tile on the church!
Besides enjoying the town we made sure to treat Anders and Tryggve with some cooking too, but it was hard to get even since Anders knocked on our boat every morning to hand over a bag of fresh bread… Póvoa de Varzim was also the town that our ways would part, as Anders was leaving the boat to fly home and we continued south towards Leixões/Porto. More about that next time!
NOTES FOR SAILORS
There was a dramatic increase of fishing buoys as we entered Portugal, we basically had to sail zigzag between them and wouldn’t recommend sailing closer than 10-15 miles from shore without constant lookout or enter a harbour by night. There aren’t many sheltered harbours along the Portuguese coast so it requires some extra planning and a careful look at the weather forecast. Sometimes there is no shelter to be found in less than 70 miles., especially since a lot of the harbour can’t be entered in high seas (a lot of them close the entrance). Viana do Castelo is a friendly harbour with good shelter and close to the city. To get in they need to open a walking-bridge but if the marina does not reply on the VHF there is a waiting pontoon outside (we paid 13,57€). Póvoa de Varzim is a rather large harbour a little bit south of the city center, it has reasonable shelter but when we stayed there during a period of strong southwesterly winds it was rather bumpy and noisy. It cost 15 €/night for our boat.