Cascais to Porto

It was a bit challenging to sail Kincsem to Porto from Cascais - at least as compared to hopping from harbor to harbor in the Med in the summer time. This is a coast that is not for novices or the faint of heart. First, there are very few harbors and the entrances are usually shallow. The Imray handbook warns of breaking seas in the entrances and there is an official website that shows whether a particular harbor is open or closed. Yes, they close harbors here, sometimes even in the summer time (if you believe Imray). What if you leave and all is fine but then they close the harbor of your destination?

Second, there are almost always significant swells, mostly from the Northwest or West. The entire trip of 180 miles we had swells from the Northwest of between 2 and 3 meters plus. Not a problem in itself, but one always wonders how the entrance of the harbor you are planning to enter will look like. Third, the harbors are mostly river mouths with significant tidal streams. The handbook often recommends entering and leaving harbors only on the end of the flood tide, which increases depths over the sand bars at the entrance and avoids swell against current situations which could lead to breaking seas. But you have to be exact in your timing. On one of the harbors we entered 45 minutes before high tide we still saw over 4 knots of current - luckily with us and with the swell! This restriction on when to leave and when to get into the next harbor can make sailing here a bit tricky.

These are the things I thought about ever since planning the trip. Then I invited - in addition to my old mate Christoph - two novices: my old friend Klaus, a non-sailor but parachuter, and his friend Uschi, who according to Klaus had some sailing experience. I did not remember that the experience was more than 30 years ago. As the days went by in Cascais and the Portugese Norther and high swell forecasts for the West Coast did not stop, I grew more worried. I shouldn't have. The wind turned to Southerly and Klaus and Uschi both did great, particularly after the Stugeron dispensery opened! Sure, it was a good decision to delay departure for a day after the Northerly 35 knot blow ended. 2 meter swells rather than 3.5 m swells is good for a first day.

The harbors we visited on our way to Porto were no tourist highlights with one notable exception: Nazare, the home of the highest wave ever measured in Europe was definitely cool. Nicki and I had been there by car and missed the 29 m wave. As luck would have it, we did not see it either when we entered the harbor.

The beach in Nazare. The harbor in the background.

Here is where the surfing happens in the winter time in Nazare. A mere 3 meters rather than 29!

We also had the best seafood meal in a long while in Nazare at a family restaurant packed with locals. We had to wait 30 minutes for a table but it was definitely worth the wait!

Any kind of mussels you can imagine, and they all taste great, no rubber in sight!

Nazare harbor. Since we have left the Med, docking is always on floating pontoons. Lots of creaking sometimes if there is swell in the harbor. This harbor is very well designed - no swell at all.

Shopping opportunities in Figueira de Foz ....

At anchor at Saint Jacquinto in the Aveiro river. Nothing much going on here. Here is where we encountered 4 knots of flood current. That's against the natural stream of the river. On the ebb, it gets up to 8 knots!

Here is the opportunity for us boaters: selling the barnacles that accumulate on the bottom of boats! In Portugal, they obviously eat this stuff!


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