Miles so far: 1080.7
Miles since last blog: 222.3
For two countries which are attached geographically, our experiences of Spain and Portugal have been staggeringly different. We found Spain to be full of natural beautiful scenery and a choice of stunning anchorages, each within a short sail of each other. Portugal’s natural coastline is much less inviting for yachts, often with long stretches between suitable anchorages. The lack of anchorages have however more than been made up for by the incredibly helpful people, fantastic culture and stunning architecture.
Our introduction to Portugal was a difficult one as we were met with a thick fog as soon as we left Spanish waters. The lack of possible ports/anchorages meant sailing through the night, avoiding fishing buoys and boats (some of which are not on AIS), often only just able to see our own bow. Every cloud has a silver lining though, and this one was the luminous green phosphorescence in the water. It lit up everything moving in the water around us, causing a pair of dolphins that came to play to look like glow in the dark torpedoes and the huge schools of fish we sailed through to resemble green fireworks displays in the water. One of those sights you really have to see to believe.
The fog had not cleared the following day but we managed to arrive safely into Leixoes (near Porto). The area is a very functional dock and one of the least picturesque places we have stayed so far. We anchored as is suggested, right outside the marina with the cruise and container ships. The marina staff however allowed us free use of their wifi, a map, advice on the local area, space to dock our dinghy when we went ashore and even let us come in for an hour to top up our water tanks for free.
Our reason for being in Leixoes was it is the closest anchorage to Porto, a city we were keen to explore. We took the bus from the harbour gate into the centre of Porto and enjoyed a day wandering the streets whilst admiring the architecture and history of the city. As we are both partial to a glass of port, a trip to the port cellars was essential, so we took a guided tour to learn more and sample some of the goods. With our newfound knowledge, that evening we enjoyed some port, in port, in Porto, in Portugal. Even without the benefit of being home to one of our favourite tipples, Porto was well worth the visit.
We broke our journey south from Porto with a visit to Aviero, described as “the Venice of Portugal”. The similarities however seemed to stop at the canals and tourist boats so we retreated to a quiet lagoon and crossed some items off of the ever present jobs list whilst we waited for wind to continue our journey down the coast to Caiscais, near Lisbon.
For two people who usually avoid city life, we really enjoyed our stay in Cascais. The city had a lot going on, including a culture festival, classic car rally, sports events and excellent live music. As we were coming to the end of the tourist season we got to experience the city without the usual huge crowds so we took the opportunity to be proper tourists again, visiting the stunning Pena Palace and Mouros Castle in the nearby historic town of Sintra.
Caiscais is the point from which we will be leaving mainland Europe for the Madeira Archipelago. The next leg is going to be our longest offshore passage on Florence so far, 480 miles out to Porto Santo and then a further 40 onto Madeira itself. To prepare for this we made a real attack on the jobs list and did a couple of supermarket trips (thankfully the supermarket was close to a beach where we could land the dinghy).
Having lived aboard Florence for nearly 3 months, we have been amazed at how things which once seemed challenging and needed careful planning, have become the norm and something we do without thinking. We feel fully settled into life aboard now, things which previously concerned us such as anchoring, leaving Florence and managing food/water/fuel etc have just become a part of every day life. We are enjoying the opportunity to relax but there is a little piece of each of us questioning where the adventure is without a little fear and uncertainty. We are well aware that the latter will be in abundance once we reach the larger passages and Atlantic crossing, however it seems relaxing is still a skill we are learning.
And here is our latest attempt at video making: