Altwasser sailing diary

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Bayona to Figueira da Foz
July 30th – August 5th 2003. 130 nautical miles.

Bayona July 30th

Bayona has much to offer, a castle mound with beaches facing the tranquil Bayona bay on the east and the crashing Atlantic to the west; well preserved narrow streets of the old town; endless beaches; many monuments and a full-scale replica celebrating the arrival of the Caravel Pinta in 1493. The ship is kitted out as a museum with artefacts and models to show life on board more than 500 years ago. Liz prefers Bingo.

After swimming in a pleasant 23 degrees, we sailed down the coast hoisting our last courtesy flag for 2003.

Viana do Castello July 31st

The narrow dredged entrance channel leading to Viana was fun. The wind blew up to force five, a wake up call for the local windsurfers. At one point six windsurf boards and two kite boards were racing towards us . We turned 180 degrees in the narrow channel to minimise the risk of collision, one kite-boarder took off 30 feet into the air, heading down-wind directly for us. He hit the water still boarding and took off again, this time losing his board and landing in the water just a few feet from us, thankfully immobilised until he retrieved his board. This gave us a few minutes to turn again and sneak around the corner.
The historic centre of Viana was a family outing, packed with locals of all ages until well after midnight, taking a stroll or a coffee and listening to live Jazz. The Friday morning procession in honour of Santa Christina started a weekend of celebrations.

Porto (Leixoes) August 1st – August 4th

Our planned day stopover in Porto was extended by two due to fog, characteristic of the Portuguese coast in summer. A little drama occurred on Friday evening when, after dark, a yacht entered the harbour with a fouled prop and ran aground on a falling spring tide. We were impressed and vicariously grateful for a nearby British skipper who laboured well into the night to offer assistance. Well done Mark!
Porto contrasted several grand and magnificently positioned municipal and ecclesiastical buildings with the relative poverty of local residents. A layer of polluted air was visible from offshore and we avoided the polluted Ria Douro by taking the bus from the commercial harbour of Leixoes a few miles out.

Figueira da Foz August 5th
It was nice to sail in flotilla 65 miles along the coast, especially raising the kite and flying at 7 – 8 knots. We won’t dwell on how we later dropped it in the sea. An offshore breeze picked up as we approached and rounding Cabo Mondego under full sail at 7 knots we felt quite relaxed enjoying chicken dinner.

I would like to say much about the many fascinating crews we have got to know this week but if my comments seem general and enigmatic it is from respect for their privacy. Perhaps we can share more in a less public forum. As we cruised Holland and Normandy we met crews out for a day sail, a weekend break or taking the canals to the Med. In Brittany we met those on holiday, in Spain we met sailors who, through retirement or other reasons, could take out the whole summer, in Portugal we are meeting dedicated cruisers, many heading round the world.
So what does a long-term cruiser or circumnavigator look like? On our limited exposure so far, they come in all kinds. A young couple barely out of Uni.; a young family with a 10 week old child; retired couples, with and without family; lone sailors; professional couples leaving the rat race in mid-career. Perhaps two characteristics that we have discerned in common are self-reliance and a stubborn refusal to accept deadlines. Seeing Bayona, Viana and Porto has been great but the real fascination this week has been hearing the stories and being permitted a first glimpse into the private dreams of so many different people. Oh, and not to forget the cheap Port wine.