Snorkelling in Antigua

8) Portugal

The Rias to Portugal

We had decided to begin the next leg of the adventure from the Ria which is the furthest south, Ria de Vigo. The distance from here to Póvoa de Varzim on the Atlantic coast of Portugal was around 65 miles, so another early start to ensure we arrived in daylight in Póvoa.

The sail down was very leisurely and we were off the entrance to the harbour in good time and light as hoped.

The entrance is guarded from the Atlantic Ocean by a high breakwater which is set at 90 degrees to the Ocean. This coastline is notorious for large swells once you get close to shore.

As we approached to within about half a mile of the way in, I noticed several fairly small fishing boats circling. Every now and again, one or two of the boats would suddenly head for the opening in the breakwater and disappear inside. I delayed our entry and decided to circle for a few minutes to observe this obvious, peculiar action. I was wondering if they were waiting to be given permission to enter the harbour? Unfortunately, for us, this was not the case! As we got closer, we realised the swell was enormous and was hitting the breakwater, then running along towards the entrance, causing a second wave. The local fishermen were communicating with each other and with one spotting from further out to sea, they would judge their entrance between the waves! 

Ah! I thought, this is going to be tricky. We quickly noticed that they had stopped entering and were gesticulating to us to go next! One of the boats came over to us and in perfect Portuguese told us to wait until he said “GO NOW” I think that was what he was saying anyway!

By now we had been watching the frequency of the waves and their trajectory for a good few minutes and realised we would need to get a lot closer to the entrance and then, when instructed, head at full power for the breakwater entrance. Once past the end of the wall, we had to turn 90 degrees around the breakwater, so would be side on to the waves. We couldn’t afford to get this one wrong!

Then came the call “Ràpido, Ràpido!” and we were off!

We headed in at maximum power  and managed to get behind the wave. So far, so good. The wave was moving much faster than we were, but we were rapidly approaching the turning point and all was well. By now we were very committed, definitely no turning back. The following wave had just started to hit the far end of the breakwater, but we had plenty of time and I swung Carried Away in to the mouth of the breakwater.

Phew! We made it and Amanda went forward to get the ropes and fenders ready. This is about the time I noticed the fishermen were not with us and as I looked behind, to my horror, I saw a wall of water heading towards us at great pace. What I didn’t know or could have seen from the Ocean was the wave curls around the entrance and is then squeezed by an inner breakwater. I yelled to Amanda to hold on and the wave picked us up. Unfortunately, we began to surf forward on the edge of the wave and lost all steering. Thinking quickly how to avoid the imminent disaster of crashing into the end of the harbour. I threw the engine in to reverse and looked behind! To my relief the wave began to pass under CA. I distinctly remember the feeling of my heart starting to beat again and luckily, Amanda was still there! 

There was then, a most unexpected incident. There were cheers, clapping of hands and horns blowing behind us. The fishing boats that followed us in had witnessed all this unfold and were ecstatic to see we had survived. They were shouting “Muito Capitao” or something, which I decided meant well done.

Welcome to Póvoa de Varzim. Wow!

This is a wonderful city steeped in fishing history. For many hundreds of years, Portuguese fishermen have sailed  thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean to Newfoundland to fish for Cod. There are many statues around depicting fishermen hauling nets and families looking out to sea.

I have to admit, I could not understand Portuguese . We both tried hard, but it was very difficult to pick out a word that we recognised. We would have to try much harder.

After the tranquilliser had worn off, we began exploring the Atlantic beaches along this coastline. They seemed to stretch for miles in either direction. We had arrived during a lovely spell of settled weather and this City was idyllic. I wondered what it was like during the winter storms?

Eventually though, as was normally the case, we were on mission to keep hearing south. The settled weather was set to continue for a good few days, so armed with this information, we decided to make a 2 day sail south, to Cascais, which had been recommended to us by the numerous yachts we had encountered so far. 

It is on the south side of the coastline as you turn left (if coming from the North) towards the capital of Portugal, Lisbon, which is around 12 miles to the east. Also, a point of interest for me, Cascais is only 4 miles from Circuit Estoril, where the Portuguese F1 Grand Prix is held.

We had a very uneventful motorsail in calm waters, keeping well off shore as we passed Point Nazaré, famous for its extreme surfing on huge waves. We initially anchored in Cascais bay near our friends yacht. They had already gone ashore for supplies, but then decided we needed a few supplies ourselves, including water. So we decided to head into the marina. 

Snorkelling in Antigua

Everywhere in Cascais was pristine, it looked like a film set!

Snorkelling in Antigua

I think these pink roads are bike tracks but we decided they looked good for running on. Spot the English person on the wrong side of the road!

Snorkelling in Antigua

I got my Brompton out and went for a blast. Looking out over the Atlantic . Where next?

Snorkelling in Antigua

After learning all about the Camino Trail in Galicia, we started spotting trail markers.

Snorkelling in Antigua

Two beautiful yachts moored at Cascais Marina.

Once we had got ourselves booked in to the marina, we noticed a young guy behind us on a very new looking Beneteau 45′ yacht. I got chatting with him and he was from Lithuania. He had sailed the yacht all the way from Klaipéda in Lithuania, through the Baltic Sea, in to the North Sea, along the English Channel and then all the way along the Western Europe coastline to Cascais………………………………………………on his own! 

I responded to this statement with “Wow, we have to sit down and have a beer” but to my amazement he said “No, no, tonight I go to Madeira” .

Four hours later he was off on the next leg of his adventure. I managed to find out from him that he had studied software engineering at University and had gone on to design a program that did  “something” (he did explain it to me, but sadly I didn’t study software engineering and had no clue what he was talking about) That aside, whatever he designed was so good that it threatened a market leader in the field of “something” so they bought him out for Millions of Euro, so he bought a boat and set off on an adventure around the World!

After a few days of exploring our wonderful new surroundings, I mentioned to Amanda that the guy would be in Madeira now (a rock 600 miles out in to the Atlantic).

As it happened, this was somewhere relatives had visited and we knew it was a lovely island……………… a new plan started to hatch!

A sail of 600 miles is around 5 days for us. Only 5 days! just 5 days straight out in to the Atlantic. If the guy from Lithuania could do it on his own, surely we could?

Charts were bought, food restocked, water tanks filled, weather was checked and we were ready to head out in to the Atlantic on the next crazy adventure.

Next stop Madeira!