Its all bull

Lisbon. A big wave from Nazare, Peniche, Cascais, Oerias

13th September 2012

Nazare, Peniche, Cascais, Oerias and Lisbon

Povoa de Varzim to Lisbon

Povoa de Varzim is not nicknamed the “Velcro port” for nothing.  It’s like eating marmalade from a tin of varnish with hair gel on your hands. Boats come intending to stay there overnight and are still there weeks, months or years later. Brian and Gordon organise weekly barbecues, meals out and shopping but in-between there is always something to do such as a visit to the Casino, Bullfighting or generally being sociable with other crews. (For being sociable please read drinking lots of alcohol). Aiden learnt from Gordon how to make various items including a boarding step, Angelina learnt how to make bread from the French and I learnt how to taste wine with anyone that would care to indulge. We had to escape as we were enjoying life far too much which is just not British of course as we needed to make our way down to Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon.


Sailing the obstacle course to Nazare in Cygnus III

After a full day saying our goodbyes to various other boats it was time to leave and head south over 100 miles to a place called Nazare which would mean sailing through the night. I particularly love sailing at night but the Portuguese coast is strewn with mines they call fishing pots. (Run over one and the lines can get around your prop causing the engine to fail or be badly damaged). This means going out to sea a long way to evade their unwanted attentions during the night.  The wind was right to sail all the way and we each took our turn on watch whilst others slept. We even went too fast during the darkness making it necessary to slow down so we could approach the coast and fishing pots in daylight. They were everywhere which meant we looked like a drunk running for a bus as we closed on the coast. It also doesn’t help when what you think is a fishing pot suddenly gets up and flies into the air as they tended to do from time to time. For an old codger like me it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between sea birds and fishing pots. Come on, you have to agree they look similar or at least they do until they fly.


Huge waves at Nazare

The other thing we had to make sure we got right was the weather, particularly the depressions coming across the Atlantic. Nazare is unique in that it has a deep trench going into the harbour which in the right or should I say wrong conditions gives rise to the Nazare surf. In January 2013 a record was set in Nazare for the biggest wave ever to be surfed. It was believed to be 100 ft. This was not something any of us was particularly looking to encounter. As it was the water was pretty flat as we closed on the town.


Mad captains

Angi in Nazare

Angelina looking over Nazare

As we came into Nazare we called on the radio to be greeted by someone sounding like a drunken 1920’s BBC presenter telling us to reverse into a gap no bigger than an ant’s armpit hair. “Captain Mike”, the fore mentioned presenter and wife Sally run the marina and were adamant we could fit our 45 ft in easily. We reversed back and all was going perfectly until Sally decided to tie us on whilst still manoeuvring sending us all over like a wayward shopping trolley. After that it was like trying to push marshmallows in a money-box getting Cygnus III in but we eventually managed. I learnt that when someone offers to take your lines they listen to you, not the other way round.

Nazare itself is a strange place. The town and setting is beautiful but tourism has made it look like a kiss me quick hat on top of the Queen. On one part of the beach you get ancient wooden racks drying out fish and next to them an umbrella and family on their three inches of holiday beach. Every woman in the town over the age of 50 was sat on a junction selling or renting apartments whilst their husbands either sold watches or kebab’s.


Acupuncture in the ring

Mark in Nazare bull ring

Bull in the air!

We later took yet another Vernacular railway up the hill in Nazare and found a completely different world. Yes they still sold all the touristy things but they were a little classier. The maracas even had an extra bean in them.

We did visit the bull fighting ring but Angelina refused to buy a ticket to go see it. Apparently they are no longer allowed to give the bull therapeutic acupuncture to end its life but it is now given pain killers before using it as a pin cushion. They are not allowed to execute Mr Angus-Steak, at least not in the ring.  This is obviously a big advantage for the bull as:-

a) The bull gets the chance to fight back (one recently killed a matador) and

b) He walks out the area at the end rather than hitches a ride with tractor to the local McDonald’s.

The bull ring is surprisingly small and getting out of the way of a few tonnes snorting prime rib eye running towards you is not easy. Personally I think Matador’s would all be better off taking up dressmaking although I doubt they would like to stab themselves too often.


The race to fish in Peniche

Angi Peniche

Angelina in Peniche

From Nazare we made a relatively short sail to Peniche, a pretty big and busy fishing harbour. There is little else that can really be said about the place apart from “Sharp” may have been filmed here and if you go into the marina (well the pontoon anyway) you will bounce up and down more in a night than Casanova’s bed bugs.

We got up at the crack of dawn to leave and go towards Lisbon but it was unbelievable. It seemed as though everything that floated (and some I am not so sure about) were going out fishing.  It was the start of the London Marathon for boats, canoes and everything in between. It took well over thirty minutes before we could find space to turn Cygnus in the right direction to follow them. The next hour was spent in a Ski Sunday slalom course weaving between the boats and fishing pots before we could set a proper course. As it was there was no wind but gee, someone had certainly turned the heat up to maximum. It was glorious unbroken sunshine all the way to Cascais at the entrance to the River Tagus which runs through the heart of Lisbon.


Cascais near Lisbon. A hugely expensive marina but free anchoring

We spent a calm and peaceful night at anchor between the marina and beach along with many other yachts. We knew the marina wanted all our money and kids for one night’s stay but they did give you a free bottle of wine. Wait a minute, did I say I could have got rid of the kids and got a free bottle of wine. Well I know where we will be going tomorrow… kids pack your bags!


Oeiras. Nice marina but there is nothing else there

From Cascais we moved around the corner to Oeiras. It is only an hour further up the river towards Lisbon but Jordan was threatening to cut our anchor loose after two days without the internet. There is not much to say about Oeiras apart from there is a swimming pool there and the washing machine is very cheap. Apart from that there is nothing and the supermarket is a real hike.


We are in love with Lisbon

The Praça do Comércio

Angelina in Lisbon main square

Now there are not many capital cities you can sail through so we just had to sail up the Rio Tegus and through the heart of Lisbon. Passing the city along the waterfront on Cygnus III was magical with the city laid out before you. Sights that have only previously been viewed in books (OK, not Penthouse) come alive in full vibrant colour with added noise and smells. It rises up before you from the bank basking in sunshine and lays itself open. Angelina sat on the front of Cygnus III in her Bikini taking in the views (all good boats have a bikini clad woman on the sharp bit) whilst the boys decided that mothers should not do that and were planning on buying her a Berka.  As we sailed along we had Lisbon and the sights on the left, the huge outstretched statue of Jesus nodding his hello’s on the right, a massive iron bridge (that was deafening due to the road not being surfaced) above us and to top it all off we had the Queen Mary II in front of us. What more could you wish for?


Parque das Nacoes marina, Lisbon.

After two hours motoring down the river we arrived at the Parque das Nacoes marina on the outskirts of Lisbon. Our first impressions of the area were not good but after a day we loved it. Everything is to hand on this enormous purpose build exhibition site. There is a huge shopping mall to keep women happy, a massive DIY store to make men drool, aquarium, theatres, ballet, cable cars, science museum, cinema (in English) and the list just goes on. Even the airport is only 10 minutes away. I apologised the other day to a local for not speaking Portuguese which incidentally sounds like drunken Russian. He just said, “Why are you apologising, we all speak English” which basically is pretty true.


Lisbon is one city worth visiting

Angelina on the rooftops of Lisbon.

Angelina on the rooftops of Lisbon.

During the week we took a bus on the short journey into Lisbon.  It was like going back in time. There are pre-war trams everywhere, the buildings are often crammed around narrow alleyways, the roofs all have red tops and it really is beautiful. There are little shops and curiosities around every corner. We even stumbled across a huge flea market where every conceivable item (apart from the one you are looking for) is for sale. We loved our day in Lisbon and plan several more excursions before we move on next week. We enjoy the city so much we are even considering staying here for the winter and would recommend anyone to take a break here.


Have your Madeira Cake and eat it

Whilst in the Marina we made several friends as seems to be the norm. One lovely couple, originally from the Portuguese isles of Madeira, live and work here but spend the weekend on the boat. They gave us genuine home-made Madeira cake prepared with honey and a bit of alcohol. They explained that you can never make just one at once but you have to make many at the same time. You then take them down to the local baker who will cook them in special ovens for you. They are then best left for several months. I have to say it was delicious as was the port they provided with it. We learnt a lot about the Portuguese way of life from them not least was that they are a little wary of strangers to begin with but when you make friends they are friends for life and will share everything with you. Talking about good friends, we had Martyn and Jane from “Gemini “drive up from the Algarve to stay with us for the night and hopefully we will be sailing down to see them next week.

In setting out on this adventure we have seen some wonderful sights but to us being able to meet the locals and join in with their way of life has been so eye opening. We have been overwhelmed by the various countries and people’s kindness towards us. We hope in some small way we can take the best from everywhere we have been. One thing is for certain, we will never be the same again and we will certainly remember Lisbon as one of our favourite cities.

If you want to see more of our images from Lisbon you can find them here.



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