Tuesday, December 29, 2009

John started a blog

John has started his own blog to document his adventures in learning to cook Spanish food in the galley of a sailboat. He calls it Cooking in Spain - Voyage of the Solstice. In case you can't remember all that, I've added a link to the right. You can also subscribe to his blog just as you can to this one.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holiday greetings from Cartagena

Whatever holiday you’re celebrating at this time of year, we wish you a good one and a happy and prosperous new year.

We awoke this morning to rain, as forecast. We’re likely to have rain off and on from now until after Christmas. What really surprised us, though, was to see snow dusting the top of a nearby hill. It was gone again by early afternoon, but today is definitely one of the coldest days we’ve had here. One forecast even predicts that it will freeze overnight. W

The whole town is getting in the holiday spirit. The grocery stores are playing American Christmas music, which I usually don’t even notice until I find a song stuck in my head on the walk home. The streets are decorated, and there are free concerts most days between now and Epiphany, which more or less marks the end of the holidays here. Too bad the weather was so nasty today; we had planned to go to a concert, but it was supposed to be outdoors.

When we went for pizza Wednesday night, John brought the camera and we took a route through the center of town. Each street has different decorations.

Shopping under blue stars (Calle del Carmen)

Little boy fountain with Christmas trees (at Calle de Jabonerías)

Christmas bells (Calle del Duque)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

December in Cartagena

We continue to enjoy beautiful weather while the days drift by here. There was rain one day a week or so ago. One day of rain in more than a month. That’s nothing to complain about. We did dig out the electric heater a couple of weeks ago, but we only need it for an hour or so in the morning. After that the sun takes over. After dark we have to wear light jackets to walk the dog.

John has been entertaining himself with the Internet and cooking. I’ve been on the Internet too and reading. Our life is not that exciting, really. Most days we walk to the store, so we do get some exercise. One of these days we’ll get back to work on photo pages for the Web site, and I’ll start writing articles about our summer for our cruising association.

Steve and Barbara on Sidereal Time left Saturday, but were back Saturday night because the furler on their main broke. We don’t know how long they’ll be here waiting for the part they need and then waiting for another weather window. Since their return Barbara has discovered an American/New Zealand boat here, Swanyá, from San Diego. It’s a couple of pontoons away from us, but Märzen and I stopped by to say hello yesterday. We only met Kimberly because her husband was working on a project down below. They’ll be staying for the winter, so we hope to get acquainted.

Wednesdays are pizza night here. Last week Barbara let us know that Domino’s Pizza has a Wednesday special: any medium-sized pizza for €5.95. A beer is just €1.50, so that’s a cheap night out. The four of us went last week, and since they’re back, we’ll go again tonight. Whatever you think of Domino’s, it tastes pretty good here—a long time away from good American pizza. And it’s fun to walk down Calle Mayor (Main Street) after dark. It’s a pedestrian shopping street, and all of the stores are open at night. Christmas decorations are also appearing now. City Hall is all decked out and looks very pretty.

City Hall at night

Calle Mayor

Plaza San Sebastian

Street art along the way

Fountain at Plaza de España

The above photos are borrowed from Google Earth. John hasn’t brought the camera with him at night yet.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gorgeous weather

It’s no wonder to us that so many northern Europeans spend their winters in southern Spain. The weather continues to be nearly perfect: highs around 70°F (21°C) and lows in the mid to high 50s. We haven’t turned the heat on yet, but we have worn long sleeves and light jackets in the evenings.

Typical blue sky and palm trees seen from the tunnel under the wall to the city

Something seems to be going on most weekends here. A couple of weeks ago there was an international fair on the promenade by the harbor. (If you’re Facebook friends with John, you will already have seen a picture from that.) The following weekend was a medieval street fair with food, crafts, and entertainment in the neighborhood just inside the wall from us.


Hand-cranked swings for the kids

Brats and sauerkraut for the winter visitors

And every weekend so far the yacht club next door has had races. It’s fun to watch the little ones entering and leaving the harbor.


Last week nephew Joel Stocks stopped by and spent a few days with us. It was great to have him visit even though we didn’t do much. We took him with us on our usual store runs and made sure that he got to see the main market here. Mostly we relaxed, and John and Joel stayed up very late most nights talking about food and cooking.

Shirlee and Joel

We have managed to see some of the historic sights although we haven’t visited any museums yet except the one next door. It’s easy to take a detour that leads past some ruin or other. They’re everywhere here, especially close to the harbor.

Roman theater

Roman circus under old bullring

Saturday, November 7, 2009

At home in Cartagena, Spain

After nearly two weeks here in Cartagena, we have settled in. We’ve located and visited the major grocery stores, taking different routes each time we leave the boat, and we’ve done some boats chores. Today we’re going to visit the underwater archeological museum (we’re docked right in front of it), but we’re taking our time visiting the sights. There is a lot of history here and many museums, but we have all winter.

We remain quite happy to be in this beautiful city at this friendly marina. The weather really couldn’t be better. Finally yesterday we put on long pants and long sleeves, but we may be back to shorts tomorrow. Here are some photos. John has done some work on photos pages for Spain but isn’t ready to publish them yet.

Monument to Spanish heroes from the Spanish-American War viewed from the waterfront park

Far end of the harbor by the Spanish naval base

City Hall—example of eclectic architecture

18th century fortifications

Hilltop fort

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rota to Cartagena, Spain

First there were easterlies. Then the westerlies were blowing at gale force. Finally, on Friday, October 23rd, we left Rota after two weeks and headed east into the Mediterranean. It was bittersweet to leave our old friends (Richard and Andrea on Saeta) and new friends (Peter and Danielle on Second Lady) behind, but we were eager to get to our winter home in Cartagena and get settled.

By the time we left we had only light wind, not enough to sail but enough to boost our motoring speed. We planned to get all the way to Gibraltar and anchor in La Linea, but unless we could average more than 6 knots, we knew we would arrive after dark. With radar and AIS, plus having scouted the bay on our road trip, we were OK with going in at night. Our backup plan was to anchor at Tarifa, west of Gibraltar, if a change in the weather made that prudent. As it turned out, we never got enough wind to help much, and it was already after dark by the time we reached Tarifa, so there was no point in stopping before La Linea. In fact, we did get enough breeze after dark that we lamented our need for fuel—VAT-free at Gibraltar—because it would have been nice to keep going.

West of Tarifa without wind

It was a little spooky trying to find the other boats in the anchorage in the dark. I could see their mast lights but couldn’t really judge the distances that well. There was plenty of shallow water, so we dropped the hook fairly far offshore, just out of the way of the tankers and cargo ships. And at dawn (not that early so late in the year) we headed for the fuel dock and filled all tanks and jerry cans with diesel at a bargain price of 71 pence/80 euro cents/$1.19 USD per liter. At this point, our European friends are thinking, “Yes, that’s very good.” And our American friends who have just converted to dollars per gallon (about $4.50) are going, “Holy shit!” Having been over here awhile now, we’re with the Europeans on this subject. Plus the attendant gave us a couple of small bottles of water, which probably cost more per liter than the fuel.

It was a beautiful morning to be heading into the Mediterranean, and although there was little wind and none of it favorable, the current was with us most of the way, so we made good enough time. The scenery was nice, and the sunsets were spectacular.

Europa Point lighthouse

The Rock of Gibraltar from sea level in the Mediterranean

Our first Mediterranean sunset with Morocco barely visible in the distance

The last cape before Cartagena—almost home

We docked at Yacht Port Cartagena yesterday morning, about 48 hours after we left Gibraltar. The people who run the marina are extremely helpful and friendly, the location is beautiful, and the price is good. We can’t figure out why it’s so empty here. Maybe because the Mediterranean Almanac 2009-2010 still says that yachts should go to the other marina and super yachts to this one. At 12.5 meters we are on the small side here, certainly no super yacht, but we feel very welcome. If there’s some other reason, we’ll probably discover it later, and we’ll be sure to report it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The rest of our photos from Portugal

I just posted what John tells me are all of the rest of our photos from Portugal—at least until the next time we visit there. As always, links to the new photo pages appear under "Recent Updates" on our home page and under "Latest Additions" on our Photos index page.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Road trip!

It became clear soon after we arrived in Rota that the wind would be against us when we were ready to resume our eastward voyage, so we enjoyed the days we had planned to spend here and then rented a car to drive across Spain to Barcelona and see nephew Joel. That’s why there have been no blog posts: we’ve been busy!

Richard and Andrea have been great about introducing us to Andalusian food and culture. We’ve been out for dinner with them and to a sherry bodega tour in Jerez. It’s been a lot of fun. We’ve also gotten acquainted with our Dutch neighbors across the dock, Peter and Danielle on Second Lady. They’re spending the winter here, and we hope to see them in the western Med in the spring.

Sherry bodega

Driving from Rota to Barcelona is like driving from San Francisco to Portland. It took us two days because we first had to take the bus to Seville to get the car, and then we had to come back to Rota to get the dog. We knew we’d be getting a late start, so we reserved a hotel room near Valencia to break up the trip. We readily sail overnight, but driving is a lot different.

We set off with directions from Google Maps, which were quite good until they told us to take a highway in a direction that it didn’t yet go. Once we figured that out, we drove to a gas station to buy a paper map. The only one they had was a huge two-book guide to Spain for more than 20€. We needed a map, so we bought it. The first thing I did was look to see if the map showed the highway as complete; it did, so Google came by the misinformation honestly. Nonetheless, I was able to plot a course on existing roads, and we continued.

The major roads and highways in Spain are excellent and have really good signs—once you know that all roads lead to Madrid and learn to see what other places are listed on the sign. Unfortunately, once you’re on the city streets of any city, you’re left with signs that are ambiguous at best. And that’s if you can even find them. Many streets have more than one name, and the street names are posted on the sides of buildings, sometimes not on the corner, and sometimes there are simply no street names to be found. That made it very difficult to find our hotels in Valencia and Barcelona. In Valencia I had to call the hotel at one o’clock in the morning for directions. We just couldn’t figure it out in the dark. Thanks goodness they spoke English!

Once we got to our hotel in Barcelona, we parked the car and bought a two-day pass for the metro. Our first priority was to meet up with Joel, who is a chef and is in Spain to see what’s going on with the food scene here. We had fun wandering around with him looking at restaurants and the market and eating and drinking here and there. The second night we went to Cerveceria Catalana, one of the oldest tapas bars in Barcelona. It was excellent! Since we were unfashionably early, arriving well before 8:00 p.m., we were able to get a table without a wait. When we left, the line was out the door.


Cerveceria Catalana

Earlier in the day John and I visited Sagrada Familia, the famous, as-yet-unfinished church designed by Gaudi. We splurged and did the audio tour and rode the elevator up one of the towers. It was pretty spectacular and, yes, a bit gaudy (no relation). Later when we went to meet Joel in front of Casa Batlló, another Gaudi-designed building, it was easy to spot it on the block. Next to much Spanish architecture, Gaudi doesn’t really look gaudy at all—just different. I think I’ve become a fan.

Sagrada Familia

The next day we started back to Rota along the coast route. We’ll return to Barcelona and spend more time—a day and a half isn’t close to enough—but we had other stops to make while we had the car. Our next stop was Cartagena, where we’ll be spending the winter. We wanted to meet the people at the marina and see where we would be docked. We got to pick our place, and we’re pleased to have a side-tie near the amenities and facilities.

From Cartagena we drove to Gibraltar—technically to La Linea, Spain, since it is recommended to walk over the border rather than face the long lines at the border trying to drive back to Spain. When we sail through the Strait, we will stop at Gibraltar for tax-free fuel, but we plan to anchor and won’t take time to sight see. That’s what we did over the weekend. We did the whole bit: Europa Point at the tip, the cable car to the top of the Rock to see the monkeys, and a walk through the city center. Because it was Sunday most stores were closed, including the Gibraltar Chart Agency where we needed to pick up our Mediterranean Almanac and Cruising Guide. We found the place, though, so that we could dash in Monday morning on our way out of town. (Dash is a relative term for walk-bus-walk-walk-bus-walk.)

The Rock as seen from the beach outside our hotel in La Linea

Family of Barbary apes (actually macaques)

On Sunday we also had a typical “carved buffet” Sunday dinner at a pub we picked because it was overflowing with British navy people in uniform. We thought it must be good. Originally we were just going to have a pint, but then we saw the buffet sign and figured that was why it was so crowded. We were mightily impressed when we were offered chicken, turkey, pork, beef, and lamb, plus vegetables and potatoes and brown gravy. And now we understand from personal experience why English food is so maligned. All of the meat was dry and all of the vegetables were overcooked and mushy, except the peas, which were only half cooked. I went back twice for more gravy to moisten my turkey. We saw signs for similar Sunday dinners further into town, and our pub had the best price, so I guess that’s really why the navy was there in force.

From Gibraltar it was a relatively short drive back to Rota along the coast. We stopped at Tarifa to check out the anchorage. Tarifa is famous for being one of the windiest places in Europe, and it’s a big kite and wind surfing destination. It was definitely windy, and we hope we don’t have to stop to anchor there, but it’s good to know what it looks like.

Eastern anchorage at Tarifa

John took more pictures in Barcelona, Gibraltar, and Tarifa, but there was only one viewpoint along the highway the whole trip, so he wasn’t able to get photos of most of the scenery. We traveled through some amazing country, though, and since we’ll have almost six months and a great map set, I hope we get to explore more of it.

Mediterranean: view from the one viewpoint

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rota, Spain

We actually sailed a few hours yesterday for the first time in weeks, it seems. That was great! The big news is that we’ve hooked up with our friends Richard and Andrea on Saeta. They live here most of the time now, and they’re going to show us around town later this afternoon. We had planned to spend four nights here, but the weather forecast looks like we’ll be spending at least a week. I’ll post more about Rota and Andalucía later. For right now, I just want to let everyone know that I’ve posted more photos from Portugal on the Web site.

Geography lesson: Lisbon to Barcelona

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

First days in Spain

We reached Mazagón, Spain, just before sunset because our departure from Vila Real de Santo António, Portugal, had to be delayed until slack water. Vila Real is a little way up the Rio Guadiana, the border between Portugal and Spain here, and there is definitely current in the marina as we discovered when we docked. We wanted to exit with a little more dignity than we entered. It was another day of motoring, boring and tiring at the same time.

This morning we left Mazagón, after having seen nothing but the marina, with plenty of time to get to our next stop, Chipiona, in time to explore a bit. Alas, some Spanish dudes in a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) had other plans for us. Instead of following the most direct route we got to participate in a military exercise that seemed to consist of giving sailboats bearings to clear the military practice zone, multiple times with different bearings each time. With us they got to practice in English. We noticed that the sailboat ahead of us changed course several times too. By the fourth course change the poor guy on the radio was apologizing somewhat profusely. The guys in the RIB disappeared after the second visit, which was to tell us what radio channel to monitor to get our instructions. We never did see or hear any evidence of military activity in the area, but we were taken several miles out of our way.

Military practice areas line the coasts of Europe. When we first started planning routes here, we stayed out of them even though the shortest route usually crossed them. After watching many other boats cut through, we decided not to worry about them unless we were kicked out or saw signs of military activity. This was the first time we've been diverted.

Tomorrow we get to sleep in a little since we're less than 20 miles from our next stop, Rota. We've been sailing to a schedule since Lagos because we had to make reservations for the marina at Rota where our friends Richard and Andrea Black on Saeta are moored. We have reservations for three nights there, but John wants to do some boat jobs, so we're going to see if we can stay a fourth night. We expect Rota to be our last stop before Gibraltar, but there is one marina in between where we could stop if we need to.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Saying good-bye to Portugal

I thought that I'd be posting this from Spain, but we decided to stop at the marina in Vila Real on the Portuguese side of the river Guadiana for one last night in Portugal. I'm playing catch-up on our time on the south coast of Portugal, the Algarve. Other cruisers we met on the way here raved about this coast, and now we understand why.

From our anchorage at the cape, we proceeded to the marina at Lagos. There we were able to replace the broken reef outhaul and get a new inline blower for our engine. We also managed to make reservations for the winter in Cartagena on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, south of Barcelona. Our first choice, Rota, was fully booked for the winter, but we were able to reserve three nights so that we can spend time with our friends Richard and Andrea of Saeta, another Sceptre 41 from California.

Chores done we treated ourselves to a guided tour of the grottos on the point outside Lagos. We could have taken our dinghy and followed one of the guides, but then John wouldn’t have been able to get as many photos. Once we got around the point we were especially glad to be in a bigger boat since the afternoon winds had kicked up some chop.

Looking out of one of the grotto caves

Shirlee enjoying the ride

The next day we took care of our insurance for the coming year and then explored the town. Once you get away from the marina and the street along the water, it’s pretty interesting. The Romans were here in their time, and a big piece of city wall is still standing. We don’t know if it’s Roman, but it certainly looks old.

Municipal market

Old city walls

Public art

Since we left Lagos, we’ve been anchoring out. The first night was at Portimão, the second near Faro, and the third up the river Guadiana, which forms part of the border between Portugal and Spain. The cruising ground reminds us a bit of the Pacific coast of Mexico with warm weather, diurnal winds, cruisers at anchor, and snippets of music drifting from the beachfront bars. It’s a pretty nice place to be in October.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

First photo pages of Portugal are up

John and I have both been busy working on photo pages for the Web site while we didn't have Internet. You can see the results now. Just go to our Photo index page and look under "Latest Additions."


Monday, September 28, 2009

Anchored at the southwest corner of Europe

We haven't had Internet since Peniche a week ago, and there we had to take the laptops to the Java House to connect. The exception was a quick check for weather and e-mail in the marina office in Oerias. Sesimbra had a couple of wireless routers, but there was no Internet behind them. So, I apologize for the failure to post to the blog. This post is being sent over the single side band radio and Sailmail.

The big news is that we're finally heading east, or will be in the morning when we pull the anchor and head into Lagos. There I hope to be able to post all the photo pages that we've been working on since we didn't have Internet to distract us.

We did enjoy our time in Lisbon, but it was too short. We're considering visiting again in the early summer on our way to the Azores. All we did was take the double-decker tour bus on a couple of tours. Oh, and we sampled the local cherry liquor called ginjinha.

At Sines we were surprised to meet a couple of Americans, Phil of Deep Blue and Lee of Renegade. We knew that our raft-up partner from Horta last year, Per Mare, was at Sines, but the owner, Gerry, is in the U.K. until this weekend. His sailing partner, Magnus, was in Sines, though, and he introduced us to the Americans.

After a few beers in Solstice's cockpit, Phil took us on a provisioning run. When we got back to the boat, Phil's local friend Nuno was looking for him to go to dinner. They invited us to join them, and we accepted. Completing the dinner party were Nuno's wife, Marcia, and another friend, Miguel. (I've probably misspelled everyone's names, but I hope they'll forgive me.) It was such a treat to get to spend time with local people, and everyone was very gracious. Plus, we finally tried bacalhau, the salt cod that seems to be the Portuguese national dish. Since we wanted to try it anyway, the waitress (who spoke excellent English, by the way) suggested that we try two different preparations. (There are said to be thousands of ways to serve bacalhau.) Both were very tasty casseroles with rice. John's also had cream and was very rich. Marcia told us that we could take the leftovers home with us, and they'll be dinner tonight.

It was a long day today with no wind. There really aren't any places to stop between Sines and Cabo São Vicente, and it's 55 miles, so we started in the twilight before dawn and anchored just at sunset. Our average speed has been down to 4.5 knots, and there are currents along this coast, not always to our advantage. It's a beautiful anchorage nestled at the base of tall cliffs, one of which has an old fort on it. The anchorage is exposed to the south, so we would only want to be here in calm weather. Of course, if there had been wind, we could have gone faster and maybe made it to Lagos before dark.

After all our overnight passages, you may wonder why the dark is such a big deal now. It's because of the fishing floats that litter the coast here. I call them fish sticks because most of them have a stick poking up with a flag on it, but often the flag is so bedraggled that it just looks like a stick. The line from the floats usually goes straight to the bottom, but sometimes there's a second float to aid in retrieval. We don't want John to have to go swimming in the middle of the night to cut away a line tangled in our prop, so we travel in daylight to avoid incidents.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Extra day in Peniche

John spent yesterday working on the boat, so we're spending an extra day in Peniche before heading to Oeiras (Lisbon area). No picture from here yet, but I've added more photos to the previous post.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Porto and Nazaré

Yesterday we sailed from Nazaré to Peniche—actually sailed for the first time since we arrived in Portugal. With advice from the Nazaré harbormaster on optimizing favorable current and a 15-knot breeze from the northwest, we were often sailing faster than 7 knots (speed over ground). Often, but not often enough to make it all the way to Oeiras near Lisbon. Later this week easterly winds are forecast out of Gibraltar, so there’s no rush for us to get to the corner where we’ll turn east, and we decided not to push it. We don’t have Internet on the boat here, so it gives me time to catch the blog up on our last two stops: Porto and Nazaré. I’ll add more photos when John has time to give me some.


Porto was great! We could easily have spent several more days there visiting museums and doing tourist things. It was slightly disappointing that the sail maker provided such fast turn-around on our sail repairs. His prices were so reasonable that we had him do some touch-up stitching on the jib in addition to patching the main sail. His name is Pires de Lima, but if you need him, all you need to do is ask at the marina office. They’ll even call him for you. He’s the only sail maker around, and everyone knows him. In fact, when we first docked, a nice man on a bicycle told us about him and gave us his phone number.

Appetizers and wine at the yacht club

The marina at Leixões is about a half hour bus ride from the center of Porto. The office told us where to catch the bus and which number to take (507). That was a good thing because the information at the bus stop was contradictory. It included two completely different routes for the same bus number: one route would take us to town and the other would take us somewhere north of there. The bus driver didn’t speak English, so we got on and took our chances. It’s all part of the adventure.

We were in luck, and the last stop on the bus was obviously close to the center of the city, so we walked down the hill until we saw double-decker tour buses. We learned in Brussels several years ago that a tour bus is a good way to get your bearings in a new city. The Yellow Bus that we selected offered 24- and 48-hour tickets that included three different tours and free rides on the public transportation system as well. That was perfect for us, and we bought the 48-hour ticket. A bonus is that we get a 25% discount on the same company’s tours in Lisbon.

After studying the map, we started with the tour that ended across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia where the port companies have their warehouses and tasting rooms. We like port, but didn’t actually know all that much about it. Andy Heger of the sailing yacht Spectacle was a big help with that. We met Spectacle in Panama, and the boat is now in Australia, but Andy and Melissa are Facebook friends, and when he saw where we were, he volunteered the names of the top port houses—in order. We started at the top of the list with Quinta do Noval, but their presence in Gaia in token. Their warehouse is in the Doura river valley with their vineyards. We tasted a few of their offerings and bought a bottle of 10-year-old tawny and went in search of the next name.

That was Fonseca, but we couldn’t find them, so we went to Taylor (Taylor Fladgate in the U.S.). It turns out that Taylor Fladgate owns Fonseca anyway. We had to walk up a very steep hill to get to Taylor Fladgate (just Taylor’s in Porto), but it was worth it. The lodge or cave, which is what the port warehouses are called, is surrounded by gardens and has a beautiful view of Porto across the river. They also offer a first-rate free tour including tastings, and we were in time for the last tour of the day. We learned a lot! At the end we took advantage of the chance to taste vintage port from a single quinta (the property where the grapes are grown). That’s something most lodges don’t offer, and we didn’t mind paying extra for it. It was worth it. We may never taste vintage port again, but now we at least know what we’re missing.

Single Quinta vintage ruby and 20-year tawny ports at Taylor’s

View of Porto from Taylor's balcony

Our second day started with a quest. We wanted Francesinha. John had asked the young man in the Taylor’s gift store what dish was typical of or unique to Porto. Francesinha was his answer, and we asked at the marina office where the best place was to get it. Café Classico was the answer. We’d seen the neighborhood where the café is on our tour the day before, so we walked there from the bus stop. It’s a good thing that we got our exercise because we definitely needed to burn some calories after that meal. What the heck is it, you wonder. Click the link on the first mention to see the Wikipedia answer.

John’s Francesinha

After that we hoofed it to the tour bus stop for the castle tour. It was really more of a fort tour, and it covered much of the same area as the historical tour the day before, but it also took us into the area near the marina. That was very helpful for finding public transportation alternatives to bus 507, and we were able to take a more scenic route out of town on the way home before transferring to bus 507.

Before we left town we needed to stock up on food and wine because the marina at Nazaré isn’t close to town, and the town is really small anyway. Also, it was an overnight passage, so we needed convenient things to eat. We had spotted a supermarket from bus 507, so we went to the stop to wait. After nearly an hour we gave up and headed back to the boat to get our map to a different supermarket within walking distance. On the way we met the friendly man on a bike from our arrival. He said we didn’t need the map, gave us directions, and even went part of the way with us. As we were hurrying to get to the store, John noticed the bicycle man waving to us from a car. He had gone home and gotten his car and was waiting to give us a ride to the store. It was so incredibly nice of him! He said he was waiting for his daughter to call him for a ride anyway and that he would wait while we did our shopping and then give us a ride back. We never did get his name, but we’ll never forget his kindness to us.


When we arrived at Nazaré the next morning, the harbormaster was there to take our lines and help us raft with a French boat. Mike, the harbormaster, explained that he wasn’t really working and took us up to the office to check in with the marina and customs. Then the immigration officer showed up to check our passports. He was the first uniformed immigration officer we’d seen since Alderney, and no one had stamped our passports since then either. When I mentioned this to him, he said we really should have our passports stamped and that he could do it, but the stamp was at his office. So he gave us a ride to his office in the tower overlooking the harbor. There he looked some stuff up on his computer and started rattling around at a cabinet. We didn’t know what that was about at first, but it turned out that the cabinet that stored the stamp was locked with a combination, and he couldn’t get it open. Embarrassed, he gave us a ride back to the boat and said he would come back later with our stamped passports. Well, he did return our passports but without the stamp. His colleagues couldn’t get the cabinet open either.

Jetty at Nazaré as seen from Sitio

We had only planned to spend one night at Nazaré, thinking that we would arrive early enough to check out the small town and then leave the next morning. On our passage, however, the pump for the head (toilet on a boat) broke down, so John needed to fix that before we left. It took several hours to complete that icky project, and by then it was pretty late, so we decided to stay a second night.

Nazaré is a pretty town with a great beach. It’s on two levels. Nazaré itself is at the foot of a cliff. At the top is Sitio da Nazaré, and a funicular connects the two. So we walked along the beach road in Nazaré, took the funicular to Sitio, admired the view and had a beer, and then walked through the narrow back streets of Nazaré to stay in the shade as much as possible on our way back to the boat. It was a very enjoyable way to spend the day, and we recommend it.

Fish drying on the beach at Nazaré

Plaza in front of the church at Sitio da Nazaré

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Viana do Castelo

We’ve enjoyed our brief stay here and wouldn’t mind staying longer, but the sail maker is in Leixões, so that’s where we’re headed today. The cruising guide says the water in the marina there is filthy, but Carlos here says that they’ve cleaned it up there now.

Yesterday was our one day for sightseeing here, and we made the most of it. First we walked around in the old city center, which has many buildings from the 16th century. There we found the tourist information office, got a map, and learned where to get the funicular to the top of the hill overlooking the city.

Park separating the waterfront from the old city

Shirlee in local costume

At the top of the hill is Saint Lucia Basilica, which looks old but was actually built in the 20th century, sort of like the Bénédictine palace in Fécamp. We did go inside, but what we were really after was the view, and it was great even though a smoky haze from a forest fire obscured the distant mountains. Busloads of tourists swarmed the area around the basilica, so, of course, there were also vendors selling souvenirs. As we were looking for something to buy, John spotted a guy selling sausages and cured meats, so that’s what we got.


Sausage vendor

Also at the top of the hill is a pre-Roman ruin, the oldest site we’ve seen in Europe. All the tourists go to the basilica, but few seem to continue on to the ruins. They reminded us of our visits to the Native American ruins in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, but without the interpretive center. Too bad because we would have liked to know more about the site.

Pre-Roman ruins

A stop at the harbor side Foz restaurant for Internet ended our evening. Earlier in the day we learned that one of the waiters is Welsh, and it was nice to find someone who could tell us a little more about the area. One thing we learned is that sangria is a Portuguese drink, not Spanish as we had thought. I don’t know if that’s really true, but the house-made sangria at the Foz was excellent.