Saturday 28th July
Figueira da Foz
The reliable Portuguese trade winds decided to go on strike just before our journey further south to Figueira da Foz. As a consequence, the engine stayed on all the way… a journey of seven hours.
At least we had a reprieve from lobster pots. They only made an appearance outside the entrance to Figueira da Foz, thoughtfully concentrated in shallower water.
This is just as well… the chances of catching a lobster pot line were high. We started our journey from the Douro in near fog, and the visibility only improved after an hour or so of eye-straining hyper-vigilance.
The highlight of the journey was seeing the dolphins. They made an appearance a few miles out from Fuguera da Foz – coming straight at us from ahead. At a guess, there must have been more than 20 of them, coming within metres of the boat, then vanishing into the distance. It truly was a mesmerising sight… and so engrossed was I that I didn’t reach for the camera in time.
A few more appeared later, but sadly all I managed to capture are photographs of grey sea.
Figueira da Foz Marina
The marina at Figueira is a bit odd.
On arrival you need to tie up to a large floating visitor pontoon and go to the marina office with documents. You are then told to park anywhere you like on the first row of pontoons.
That’s not so bad, but the downside is this:
Even though you are almost within touching distance of the marina office and facilities after berthing, you need to walk all the way to the other end of the marina to go out of a gate that is key controlled on both sides – and double back on yourself until you end up almost within touching distance of your boat.
It feels like miles.
And to get back to your boat, it’s the same in reverse. It’s bonkers.
The facilities are clean though – I suspect because no-one can be bothered using them.
Sunday 29th July
It’s been a long time since Maria and I have basked on a beach. So, given that the number one attraction here is indeed the Praia da Figueira, we packed our beach towels and bikinis and headed off there.
The beach here is huge. So much so that much of it has been sectioned off into playing areas for football or whatever else merits a playing area. Despite that, there’s an awful lot of beach left, and it is good sand.
Strategically placing ourselves in the lee of someone else’s wind break, the towels went down followed by ourselves, and we spent a few lazy hours sunbathing and reading… only lifting our idle heads to buy the occasional Bolas do Belem donut from the donut vendor out of his coolbox.
Turned over to beach tourism, this place is reminiscent of the kind of places I used to holiday with my parents, as a child . The image it conjures up is an amalgam between Southport beach at low tide and Blackpool waterfront in high season. With all the commercialism, but without the donkey rides and kiss-me-quick hats.
It made for a nice change though and we are glad we stayed for a couple of nights
Monday 30th July
We arrived at Peniche, after another day of motoring, at about 6.30 in the evening.
If you believe the comments on some of the sailing forums, you’d believe the fisherman in Peniche are out to get you.
Yes, there are lots of fishing boats around, but I attribute that to it being a busy fishing port. And yes, they do exceed the speed limit by a considerable margin, but that’s life. And no, I don’t think they are out to get yachting folks… I think they are out to get fish and make some money.
Each of the fisherman we came across greeted us with a friendly wave as they zipped by on their small – and not so small – boats.
This is a very busy harbour, and it is not the exclusive domain of the fishermen either. The harbour is host to a number of ferry services shuttling people over to the nearby Berlingas islands at a frequency of around four ferries an hour. Those islands must have something going for them… the next morning I saw the queues of expectant holiday makers standing in line with their beach towels, and little else, waiting to buy tickets in the morning.
All this focusses the mind on entry to the harbour of course.
The fisherman are all over the place and the ferry captains whizz by towards the harbour in a style that would gain the stamp of approval from Captain Ron. And if you have no idea what I am taking about, just take a look at this video… what I witnessed at Peniche is the closest real version of that I have ever seen.
There is only one long pontoon for visitors and all slots were occupied. We spotted the same guy who took our lines at Viana do Costelo (John) who, after spotting us, kindly offered to get things ready on his boat so that we could park alongside him if we needed to. The problem is that John’s boat has a lovely dark blue hull, and he needs to lay out what can best be described as a blanket, as well as fenders, to protect it if someone comes alongside. That looked like hard work for him, so we looked for an alternative.
The alternative we found was to be found alongside an old German boat at the end of the pontoon furthest away from the entrance.
Assistance here was given by a French guy, who clambered on board it to give us a hand. This was no mean feat… the boat is covered in an old tarpaulin creating an obstacle course the military would be proud of. But we managed to tie against it successfully and the French guy managed to get off the boat without injury.
All the marine activity in that harbour creates a lot of wash, and if not careful your hull could receive an unwanted rub down against your neighbour. So, after tying up, we moved all the fenders between our boat and the other one – nine in total – which gave the appearance of a flattened Michelin man lying between us. It worked though.
A chat with the local marine policeman revealed that the owner of the boat went to the beach and never came back. I wanted to ask if the guy’s name is Reggie Perrin, but I didn’t think it would resonate too well. He later said that the German owner of the boat made his way back to Germany where he is staying with family. I’m still not clear what really happened, but it seems he had a good go at living… he was 80 when he hit that beach.
Carlos the harbour master brought us security cards and keys to access the facilities, just before he shut up shop and went home. He didn’t need to do this, but we are glad he did. Without the key access we wouldn’t have seen the old town or found the fantastic fish restaurant there.
Peniche was in the process of preparing for the Festa do Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem: The Feast of Our Lady of Good Voyage – the patron saint of fishermen. Judging by the size of the fair in town, and the preparation the townsfolk make to their streets, this must be a huge event.
It has a lot of charm this little town. There is clear evidence that tourism is bringing diversity to the economy – seems to be mainly non-Brit travellers. And it’s been a long time that we have seen people asking on the street if you need a room in which to stay. I thought that practice had ended back in the 80’s, but it’s alive here – and a great way to get yourself a bargain.
After a stroll round town to see some of the sights, we blundered across the understated Mira-Mar restaurant. And it was excellent. It serves the best sardines I have tasted during our stay in Portugal.
One day here isn’t really enough, but we have to be on our way – heading for Lisbon.