I quite like Portuguese tarts but Jill is not so fond of them, hence the name of this video.
We wanted to leave at first light so we put the alarm on to get an early start. It was a 60 nautical mile sail to Figuera da Foz and we expected a 12 hour day at an average of five knots.
We woke to very dense fog. Captain Jill was a little nervous about the dense fog, so we delayed departure. The fog did not lift so we decided we would leave anyway and we would rely on the GPS and radar. This isn’t always a reliable strategy as not every boat has AIS or if they do they sometimes don’t turn it on. Fishing boats tend not to like other fishing boats knowing their best spot.
Leaving the marina
We finally set off at 9.45 am. We had to rely on our GPS to avoid a wreck on the port side as we were leaving the marina heading for the coast.
The seas were rolly and the true wind speed was 6 knots at 194 degrees (SSW). Long-range visibility was poor. We estimated that we were able to see about 0.5 nM. The seas settled to one very rolly wave in every 10.
Finally, we use our sail!
After 17 nautical miles, the fog lifted on the ocean side and the true wind speed picked up due south ( 180 degrees) to 8.5 knots. We put out the Genoa. With one engine going our speed increased from 5.5 knots to 7.5 knots. This only lasted half an hour when the wind changed to the opposite direction (10 degrees, NNE) so we needed to bring the genoa back in.
About 4 hours after heading off, the fog lifted from the land side of the boat as well and we had covered 24.5 miles. We were a little ahead of our average speed.
At the 29 NM mark, we were able to fly the genoa again as the true wind speed was 10 kts at 90 degrees. This time it bolstered our speed to average 6 knots over the next four hours.
Once the sail was up, my role was to sit inside at the Nav table. I was to watch for fishing pots below the foot of the sail, where the visibility was greatest from that position.
Around 7 pm, we had traveled 50 nautical miles when the view of the land became obscured by fog and the waters so turbulent I noted them as “jiggly joggly” waves cresting and swelling, in the log.
By 8.30 pm we approached Cape Mondego towards Figuera da Foz.
Approaching the marina-Confusion 1
Two and a half nautical miles after clearing Cape Mondego a suspension bridge was visible above the marina. There is a coniferous forest along the shoreline and outlying suburbs, about 1 mile before the river entrance. We were to enter between the breakwaters and head 73 degrees (ENE). The marina entrance should be 750 metres on our Portside.
More than ever, when entering a marina at night, we rely heavily on the navigation lights to avoid obstacles. This was no exception. We had a little difficulty trying to understand the lights we were seeing. The green lights should be on the right, but they were on the left. Worse still, they changed to red. Then we saw more red and green lights! It was rather confusing. Not until the next day did we find out that we had been looking at commercial neon signs and traffic lights about 500 metres behind the marina.
Approaching the marina-Confusion 2
As we got closer to the marina, we could see the correct colour-coded navigation buoys. We called the marina on channel 14, as required, and he gave us directions.
The mariner told us to turn to the left when we entered the marina and he would meet us at the berth. It was ten pm and very dark. We could not see any berths in the darkness yet we could see the floodlit fuel dock and as we needed fuel, we thought it best to tie up there first. Which we did without any assistance. Thank you to Veronique Klaus who had taught us to lasoo the mooring cleats from the boat deck.
There was no mariner in sight. When he finally met us at the fuel dock he admitted he meant his left, as viewed from his office counter, not our left as we entered the marina. The fuel dock was not open till the morning so we suggested we stay here for the night.
Figueira da Foz Marina movements
The mariner required us to move the next morning to the pontoon allocated to us. I needed to shift the fenders from the Starboard to the Portside while Jill did a three-sixty circle towards the direction we had to go. The fenders were aligned quite high to protect the boat from the concrete edge of the fuel dock, as it was not a floating pontoon. When I shifted them, I kept them at the same height, only I arranged them on the other side of the boat. Jill had to do a few turns while I did this.
The current from Rio Mondego into the marina entrance was very strong and was pushing the boat onto the pontoon. I didn’t realise until too late that the fenders were too high. The current was carrying the boat towards the pontoon and I couldn’t get the fenders down in time. The boat scraped along the pontoon and I was in big trouble.
Unlike Spain, where the pontoon edges have rubber buffers, this pontoon had no rubber on the side. The edge cut into the decal as the boat came to a stop. It was ugly. A very sad error. I re-adjusted the fenders to the correct height and we took stock of the damage.
After one more night, the mariner asked us to move again to the other side of the pontoon. He wanted to accommodate a much larger boat on that side. I had learned my lesson regarding the height of the fenders, and this time Jill had to deal with the current pushing us off the pontoon. Despite the comments made by the captain of the incoming big grey boat, Jill did a good job of moving to the other side and we tied up without any mishaps.
Time to get “things”
Figueira da Foz marina is right in the town. It was an easy place to arrange things that needed doing. Jill had just chipped a tooth on a cherry pit and was able to get a dentist appointment the next day. She was so relieved to find out the rate is a fixed price of 50 euros. And, we were able to find a fibreglass specialist to replace a previous repair that was not right.
I loved wandering around to see more of the old-style Portuguese architechture. Continuing to admire more tiles, I noticed more variety of old building styles. Cobblestones made of smooth blocks of chipped rock were pleasurable to walk on.
Cafes were more affordable than Spain. However, the lack of vegetables was disappointing. Typical meals are meat- or seafood-based with a side of chips, baked or boiled potatoes, and if lucky, perhaps a suggestion of salad. Finding a hamburger and fries is very commonplace. We had to work a little harder to find Portuguese style food.
Jill compiles a list for us to look out for. We didn’t find the national soup dish- Caldo Verde- but being summer, we weren’t really looking for it. Finding Bacalhau- Portuguese Cod Fish was easy. It was done in a variety of ways. Sardines are best grilled. Bifanas, traditional Portuguese pork sandwiches is marinated according to each establishments’ secret recipe, Polvo is octopus, not Jill’s favourite, but I liked it. The last savoury dish to look out for was Porco preto- made from free-range black pigs. It could be a roasted shoulder, or the Ibirico style preserved ham.
Meanwhile, as the boat was being repaired over a few days, we had time to explore Figueira da Foz. One day we found the market. It was light, airy, spacious and stocked with the most inviting vegetables we had seen. The people selling the food had grown the food. It was lovely to see the vendors visibly delighted we had chosen their produce . Here I also bought a pot of thyme for the boat herb tub.
Not speaking Portuguese, we used hand signals to make our purchases. This was greeted with smiles and laughter as we tried to use the local names.
At the fishmongers, they urged us to try razor clams. Jill declined, already thinking they felt and tasted like “salty jelly”, having eaten them in Spain. I did try these and surprisingly they tasted better than the ones we had had before. But we were still not going to buy any.
The seafood woman had us trying a variety of shellfish, she would then point to the sink behind the counter for us to wash our hands. We had a lovely time sampling their seafood and left with fresh sardines, a large tuna steak, Dorada filleted Portuguese style* and cooked prawns.
*The head remains attached for grilling, for a better flavour, before it is removed, then served.
The market was great for all the fresh produce we needed but we also had to find a supermarket to stock up on other pantry items (and non-pantry, such as wine and beer). We found a Lidl via Google Maps, and as it was too far to walk, we ordered an Uber. The driver was lovely and tried to explain with minimal English, how busy it was because of the music festival. We managed to get her on our fully laden return trip and gave her a 5€ tip- doubling the very low fare.
“RFM SOMNII is an electronic music festival in the Portuguese coastal city of Figueira da Foz. Now more than a decade old, the festival is one of the country’s biggest dance music spectacles.
Across three days the lineup is packed with giants of the scene, with EDM, big room house, trance and elements of harder styles thrown into the mix across the weekend. What’s more, there’s production, staging and special effects that are more than capable of matching the bombastic sounds that play out over the sands of the city’s beach.”
This went almost all day and night with the doof, doofing pounding the boats hulls and sending us to techno zombie land.
But, Figueira da Foz was a lovely place to spend a few days despite the music festival.
The next journey: to São Martinho do Porto
We left Figueira da Foz after five days. While exiting the port, the current was assisting us, so our twin engines only needed to do 1500 RPM each to achieve 6.5 knots. There was a slight haze on the shoreline that lifted quickly and the sea became like glass. The true wind speed was 10 knots downwind (85 degrees) and so we used our Genoa on and off as the conditions allowed.
Our next stop would be a lovely little horseshoe-shaped bay at São Martinho do Porto. It was a fairly straightforward run down the coast for 38 nautical miles, before turning inward ( 145 degrees/ South East) through the heads of the bay.
The wind and swell can funnel through the opening, so we aimed for a position that would avoid this. Having arrived on Sunday at 6 30 pm, it was a very congested area with day-trippers, speed boats, jet skis and a big blow-up water slide still being used by the weekend crowd. Before long, the crowds dispersed and we had plenty of room to anchor in the white sand and enjoy the beautiful blue water. We watched the night sky changing as the sun went down.
Moving onto Peniche
It would be a short distance to our next stop ( 18.5 nautical miles), so we enjoyed the quiet Monday morning on the bay before lifting the anchor soon after midday. The blue arrow on the map is an approximation of our journey. The pencil marks on the photo were a guide to the path we actually took.
We flew the Genoa when the wind speed was 13 knots and angle 60 degrees, but still, the boat speed was only 5 knots. After 90 minutes we had to bring it in. The glass sea had changed to “little white horses” and the wind angle was reaching too much at 30 degrees, but there was still 12 knots of wind. As we had slowed to 4 knots, clearly the boat was beating against the swell as well.
Turning the cape at Carbo Cavoeiro, we changed our course to 120 degrees (East South East) and our speed picked up again- to nearly 6 knots. As we approached the marina the swell became tumultuous with the waves reaching 1 metre. The wake from the fishing boats seemed worse than we had experienced in Leixoes.
Peniche Marina – cautions
At Peniche the pontoon is exposed to the movement of the seawater from the entry to the port. Every time a fishing boat comes or goes, the wash shifts the moored boats up to 50 cms. The transit pontoon is very exposed as it is not enclosed by fingers. Cleats are distributed sparsely. It was difficult to really secure the boat. Great swells elevate the fenders above the pontoon regularly. At times, the rising fenders gave no protection against the metal edging if we were not present on the pontoon to manually push them down as the hull rose.
We added a few scrapes to our boat while moored here. A solo mono sailor had limped into Peniche and due to fatigue, backed into our port transom before he was able to secure his boat to the pontoon. The next scrape to the hull occurred when one of the fenders was shot above the pontoon edge by one swell. It scraped the boot stripe only. It was a sad moment, having repaired the previous damage at Figueira da Foz. However, included in the FP “tool shed” as our broker called it, was a roll of spare boot stripe. We were able to minimise these cosmetic scrapes.
Despite the marina being rather exposed, the mariner was such a lovely fellow that it was well worth stopping here. He arranged for a VHF guy to check out issues we had and he recommended a day trip to Obidos, which he said was the original Portuguese settlement. (As we had seen earlier, Guimaraes claimed that honour). Okay, for today, let’s take a look around Peniche.
Peniche was another lovely Portuguese settlement that was easy to walk around. Here we had our first barbequed sardines.
Around the edge of the water were more tile-covered buildings, an old fortress, an old church with a clock tower, nature is easily seen, and there are sand dunes.
Closest to the marina is a large number of cafes and restaurants lining the main thoroughfare. Further away, across the boardwalk ( photo above ) is the main commerce of Peniche. There we found a variety /hardware store and Pingo Doce, a large supermarket. It was approximately 15 minutes walking.
Obidos day trip
We caught a bus to this historic medieval settlement. It is a fine example of a walled town with a castle in central Portugal. The small town of Obidos was presented to the Queen of Portugal on her wedding day. This tradition began with Queen Urraca in 1214 and continued until the 19th century.
We pulled up outside the castle and explored the area a little before going into the walled castle.
We found a great little cafe that was cooking sardines and pork ribs outside in its courtyard: Taberno Pasto da Vila. Using a 44-gallon drum cut in half, the charcoal roasting added a delicious flavour to the food. And it smelled so good! We ordered some beer and enjoyed the beautiful summer weather while we waited for our food. The bread was cooking inside in their wood-fired oven.
The Obidos Castle
Written at the main town gate, the castle is dedicated to “Our Lady of Piety”, the patroness of Obidos. This was completed in 1380. There, people have a little fun, trying out the crown attached to the sculpture at the gate.
Walking through the very thick arched doorways, we entered the main commerce area.
There are shops selling whatever they can to the hordes of tourists who flock here. We were no exception: we finally decided to buy some things we had been thinking about. We choose tiled & sardine pattern table cloth, a sardine tile patterned pot stand ( the featured image for this post) , some book storage boxes, a world globe and that famous Portuguese rooster we first spotted in Porto.
Obidos is famous for its liqueur drink of Ginjinha d’Obidos. It is a sweet alcoholic liqueur, often served in a chocolate cup. Yes, we had to try this, even in the chocolate cup. We thought it was quite okay and novel. So we bought two small bottles to take away: chocolate-based and cherry-based.
Municipal Museum of Obidos
The Municipal Museum is in Saint Mary’s Square Manor House. It is outside the walled castle. It contains much artwork from Portugal’s renowned 16th & 17th-century painters and religious artifacts. I was more interested in a relatively contemporary exhibition. Although it was mainly paintings, it was nice to sit on the furniture and to also admire more tiles throughout the building as we exited through each exhibition room.
A streetside vendor
While we were waiting for the bus back to Peniche, we spotted a lady selling local produce across the road from us. She motioned to us to come inside. There were prebagged homegrown fruits and vegetables, jams and preserves on display. The fruit seemed rather smallish, but we thought it a kind gesture to support her enterprise. So we purchased some produce. We took home apples, plums, pears, and some mandarins.
We continue our journey down the Atlantic coast of Portugal. Traveling from Leixoes ( 2 July ) the night before, this video starts in Figueira da Foz. After 5 days there, we move onto Sao Martinho do Porto anchorage (7 July ), then onto Peniche (8 July ). We include a trip to Obidos, a small Mediaeval walled town (9 July ). We leave Peniche for the Lisbon river on 11 July.
Video by Jill de Vos, Blog by Shelley Beer, edited by Jill de Vos. 11 July 2019