Popping into Ports of Portugal 

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We raised the Portuguese courtesy flag as we entered the waters of Portugal on Wednesday 10th August. The days sail from Baiona to Leixoes was unsettled to say the least. The winds changed constantly throughout the day both in wind direction and wind speed. There was certainly no setting sail and settling back to enjoy the scenery given also that the scenery was hidden behind a thick fog of smoke from the fires that had been raging down the coastline of Spain and Portugal. Heading into harbour is usually a highlight at the end of a long day - well our day unfortunately got longer. With a failure (at the top of the mast) our main halyard (the line that lowers and raises the main sail) got jammed on its cover resulting in our main sail being stuck and unable to be lowered. For near on two hours we sailed around the harbour dodging boats on anchor an moving cargo ships until with an extra set of hands onboard, Andrew from Askari and a gentleman from a French Catamaran, Andrew was able to go up the mast with Lee on the helm, secure an alternative line to the halyard so it could finally be lowered. Somewhat tired and now very cold we were thankful to our fellow helpful sailors, the berth that we were secured to and a hot shower.

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Leixoes lies just north of the entrance to the River Douro and the historical city of Porto. One of Porto's earliest claims to fame is that Prince Henry the Navigator was born here in 1394. It was Prince Henry who was amongst those involved in the quest for geographical and trade discoveries in the 15th Century which continued until the 17th Century. Porto during this time became one of the largest ship building ports in the country. Today it is famous for its historical buildings and Port Wine. Looking across the river to the town of Gaia there are many wine lodges the most recognisable for us being Taylors, we unfortunately didn’t have time to venture across the river but there is always next time. 

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Instead we spent our day trip to Porto joining an excellent 3 1/2 hour walking tour.  One of our first sights was the Lello Bookshop opened in January of 1906. It is listed as one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world and intimated that it is here that JK Rowling found inspiration for her writings of Harry Potter. The line to enter the bookshop stretched for over a block so much simpler to peer through the window. We walked the Historical centre and the Riberia (Riverside), stopped for coffee in a quaint quiet museum, listen to Fado music in a guitar shop where Guitars are hand made to order, stood quietly in the Sao Francisco Church as a service completed and admired its lavish carved alter, followed stories told by the tiles laid over eleven years from 1905 on the walls of of the foyer to Sao Bento Railway station, checked out the most amazing art deco Macdonalds and finally tasted the local dish of Francesinha at Confeitaria Do Bolhao. This dish could only be described as a heart attack on a plate and definitely one to be shared but it was oh so delicious after a long walk. 

The Imperial Cafe (1930’s) restored and now a Macdonalds - the stain glass mural tells the story of coffee from plantation to the people

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Back on board we continued south to the harbour of Peniche, unfortunately as a motor boat without our main. Having stuck our nose into Peniche it soon became obvious that the visitor pontoon was more than full and the speed with which the fishing boats were arriving was sending out such a wake it wasn’t going to be a pleasant place to be. So we turned to the alternative plan and anchored just outside in the protection of the harbour wall. The sunset on this evening in the haze of the fires confirmed it was the best place to be. 

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Sunday 14th we arrived into Oeiras harbour following the suggestion of Andrew and Carolyn from Askari. What a great suggestion it was, great location, fresh bread delivered daily, beaches, a swimming pool and the most helpful staff. We have now been here for well over a week waiting for parts and taking the opportunity in-between to tour. The marina is located at the entrance to Rio Tajo and just 20 kms or so from the centre of Lisbon. We have done several trips into Lisbon the first a not so successful hop on hop off bus trip where after 2 hours of Fado music and only approximately 15 minutes of commentary we were not happy tourists. The redeeming happening of the day was meeting Luis our taxi driver who on the way back to the marina gave us more insight into the buildings and history of Lisbon then we had gained from our bus tour. 

Better equipped our next trip into Lisbon was to the area of Belem where we took in Jeronimos Monastery from the outside, enjoyed the extensive collection of historical items and royal barges on display at the maritime museum, walked the gardens of the Park Do Imperico and found a quiet restaurant for lunch overlooking the river. 

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Royal Barges Maritime Museum - This barge was built in 1778 and last used in 1957 to transport HM Queen Elizabeth II

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Our bikes have been out and we have ridden the coastline both east towards Lisbon and west to Cascais. We have headed locally to sights such as the Park of Poets and the Palacio Marques de Pombal all of which are devoid of tourist crowds and very pleasant to wander around - but all seem to be up very long hills. 

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Today we headed inland to the township of Sintra. Crowds were certainly plenty and we were thankful we had taken advice and arrived by taxi. Luis made our lives much easier waiting for us to collect our ticket in town before proceeding to join the crowds at Pena Palace. Pena Palace was created through the vision of King Consort Dom Fernando II who purchased the then ruins of a monastery constructed in the 1500’s and surrounding estates, to create a summer palace for the Portuguese Royal family. The colourful palace sitting atop the hills of Sintra remained a royal summer residence until the Royal Families excile in 1910 at which time it became a national monument and museum capturing a period in time of Portuguese history. The gardens surrounding the palace have plants reflecting the many countries that the Portuguese explored in their quest for trade with the 500acres being scattered with species from across the globe. An ability to interpret the tour map would have saved us a few kilometres on route back to the historic centre of Sintra from the Palace and enabled us to view more of the gardens and buildings. In retrospect I think Sintra is a town that you need to plan to stay in for a night or two, take your walking shoes and explore early and late in the afternoon after the tourist buses have departed for the day. There is far more to explore in Sintra than just Pena Palace and a plan of process certainly wouldn’t go astray. 


Tomorrow, Wednesday 24th sees the arrival back onboard of friends Jim and Cathy Blackwell from Texas. We hope before their arrival that Andrew's next trip up the mast (the eighth since Leixos) is successful in sorting out a way to use our main sail. 

We are beginning to feel like locals in the harbour meeting once more new sailing friends and reacquainting ourselves with those we have met in previous harbours. 

Time to get going before the moss grows beneath Katherine.

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© SV Katherine 2018      Cover Photo: Katherine on Anchor Isle Tabarca Spain