Port and Pasteis de Nata in Portugal


Friday 10 May 2013

Post our crossing of Biscay, we settled into Bayona, Spain for two days. It was just the perfect start for our adventure, being set in beautiful surroundings with green hills, a castle, and blue, blue skies. The weather was warm and we enjoyed a day off the boat sightseeing and indulging in a few tapas!

A year or so ago at a talk at the Cruising Association in London a guest speaker said she had worked out each sailing leg required 3 days – one day for sailing, one for sightseeing, and one for boat maintenance. So we’ve broadly planned using this as a mantra. The day after arriving in Spain it was time for love and care for Adina.

John Robbins' masterwork showing a rudder stock!

John Robbins masterwork showing a rudder stock!

The rudder had been making some grinding noises on the crossing and needed exploring. We got our laptop out with its wifi booster and mailed knowledgeable sailing friends John Robbins and Gareth Wear. This quickly evolved into an online session with us examining bits and pieces of the rudder and rudder stock, mailing John and Gareth, and they would email back suggestions trying to work out the problem . This also meant getting into the water. That’s chilly atlantic water so wetsuits were adorned. Needless to say after recording sounds we think its some worn bearings which we’ve tried to appease for now with WD40 and that we can look into more when we get more time in Gibraltar. John now bears the title Adina Chief Overseas Consultant and Gareth  Adina Chief Electronics Consultant ( the man does some clever things!).

So after a brief adjourn in Bayona  it was time to hoist a new flag and head to Portugal. The Portuguese west coast doesn’t have too many marinas and most people zip down it.

Our first port of call was the lovely town of Oporto. I’ve always loved the Portuguese for their down to earth help you attitude. And the Oporto marina proved that straight away providing tips and even giving Susie some nice soaps as a welcome gift. Each day a delivery of fresh Portuguese rolls was left on the boat! Just charming.

Out came our folding bikes, clicked together and off we went exploring. Or should we say puffing up the hills of Porto. And turning heads – the sight of folding bikes is clearly not common.

We booked a tour of Graham’s Port Lodge with a focus on tawny ports which included tastings of a 10, 20,30,40 year old and a 1969 Colheita port. Tom has a slight advantage here having done a wine and spirits diploma so this was for Susie’s enjoyment and education. Graham’s is owned by the Symington family who own numerous port houses. On the back of his diploma Tom had got to meet Paul Symington who heads up the family and business. Our tour guide was a young Brit doing a year abroad and as a conversation ice breaker Tom mentioned these small facts. It had the reverse effect of one now somewhat nervous tour guide! But he soon relaxed and was  confiding in us about a long tasting he had indulged in until 4am the previous evening!

Tom tasting Tawny ports

Tom tasting Tawny ports

Graham’s were responsible for producing a limited edition1952 Jeroboam  tawny port for the Queens Jubilee dinner last year. We saw the menu for the dinner which prompted us all to debate whether Queenie truly indulges in some of these treats we can only dream about. Our guide said he liked to think Prince Philip and Prince Harry had got a straw out and got stuck in to the Jeroboam!

The tour ended in a lovely room with our tastings. Said guide disappeared and returned with a glass of Tawny “Seeing you chaps really enjoy your tawnies I’ve got you a glass of the 1952 Jubilee Port”. That boy will go far – shame he didn’t bring a straw to enjoy it with!

The winds were coming from the north and were good so we figured it was time to head south. We peeled off three full consecutive  days of sailing with overnight stops. Or should we say three consecutive days of gym workouts as the waves were certainly sizeable and keeping Adina in the right direction was hard going at times. Our next major port of call was Lisbon and it was high time for downtime.

Lisbon viewed from the river

Lisbon viewed from the river

Lisbon is just one of those understated lovely cities. No major attractions like Paris and the Eiffel Tower or Barcelona and the Sagrada Familia cathedral. Just nice streets to amble along, stopping off for a coffee. Tom has now adopted the continental approach of ordering his coffee at the counter and standing there and drinking it and leaving five minutes later. Mix it up with the locals – poser! And boy do they have it right – coffee is never more than a Euro served like this. Who needs Starbucks!

Lisbon done we wanted to get south and off to the Algarve coast. This meant an overnight stop in Sines. It seems as we travel each boat likes to produce its catalogue of tales or shall we say mishaps, horrors etc. Adina is no exception, helping us build our catalogue. Given the lack of wind we had motored most of the day. Some wind came up and we decided to sail. Not so fast – we couldn’t turn the engine off. Never mind we’ll motor on and sort it out later.

Approaching the marina, Adina decided she would finally turn the engine off for us. Not the best timing in a busy port and furthermore, now the engine was off, it was staying off. Performing all checks we know of, we quickly realised it was electric and well beyond our skill set. Adina has a lot of electronics, and indeed it would later take an electrician 4 hours of muttering to resolve the issue. We couldn’t see the marina beyond the harbour wall, we’d been told it was small, and with two of us on a 46ft yacht we didn’t fancy sailing it onto the pontoon. Time to order ourselves a little tow. We had to wait an hour for it to arrive, while we sailed up and down the marina entrance in dying wind being told to keep out of the way of ships coming into the port (rightly so).

Just as we were considering sailing onto an anchor, the tow arrived. Not the best end to a day but as we approached the marina we saw some sailing club friends. Chris Eade and his wife Maggie now live permanently on their yacht Aristotle which is in fact the same yacht Susie did her day skipper on. This cheered us up no end and Chris insisted we immediately adjourn to his boat for a drink. Lovely, lovely people and they are heading off to the Med and we’re hoping to return the favour and have them onboard for dinner as we both make our way along the coast.

Problem resolved the next day, we headed south and were soon rounding the fabulous San Vicento The seas flattened and we enjoyed nice sea breezes sailing along at a leisurely pace. A quick stop in Lagos and we were off to Albufeira to welcome Susie’s parents onboard, joining us on a last minute spontaneous trip following an invitation a few days prior! Adina was scrubbed clean and out came the splendid looking outdoor cushions Ros had made us for the cockpit seats.

Rounding Cabo Sao Vicente

Rounding Cabo Sao Vicente headland and onto the Algarve.

Where it all started - Susie with Bauhimia in Albufiera

Where it all started – Susie with Bauhinia in Albufiera!

Albufeira is one of those old Portuguese towns on the Algarve now taken over by tourists, but for us it’s a sentimental place. Susie looked after her friend James Ryan’s boat Bauhinia there for a year or so, and indeed  Bauhinia can be credited with inspiring our dream to sail around the world and had a large influence on our choice of yacht. The marina staff recognised Susie and even better Bauhinia was still in her same old spot and we popped over to admire her and thank her.

Susie’s parents joined us – cue holiday time! We’ve decided while on a day to day basis we’re having an adventure, when people join us it’s holiday time! And holidays mean relaxing, more fun,  eating and drinking.

Using the BBQ for the first time!

Using the BBQ for the first time!

Before setting sail, the men were charged with sourcing fish from the local market given Tom was yet to get his fishing rod out.

We enjoyed showing Richard and Ros our new lifestyle and teaching them aspects of sailing. A sail to Faro produced flat seas and again some pleasant sea breezes. Overnight we anchored and out came the brand new BBQ Tom’s parents had given us as a gift. Sardines, calamari and whole fish. Served with vinho verde – this is positively the life!

The next day we had even better sailing with Vila Real Santo Antonio on the Portuguese border our destination. Richard was asking more questions and clearly taking to sailing and Ros proved to be an expert spotter watching out for pesky lobster pots and fishing nets.

Of course every trip has its funny conversations and this one was a genuine conversation about memory loss. “They’ve come up with a vegetable you’re supposed to eat to help with Alzheimer’s ” “What’s it called?” “You know what I can’t remember”. Two days later it was recalled to be beetroot. That’s lots of beetroot in the next salad then!

The first fish caught!

The first fish caught!

The highlight of the day was when Tom had his fishing rod out. Tom has never caught a fish off a boat and this has been the topic of many a bar drink. A couple of hours later, rod was bent and a mackerel was hauled in. Cue celebrations, photographs! And on his next cast he hooked another one, but it got away. Ok, mackerel are the equivalent of growing radish but a fish is a fish and it was served as nibbles that evening!

Susie’s parents have just left us in Vila Real Santo Antonio and we hope they enjoyed themselves and had their batteries recharged for their up-and-coming Scout Jumble sale. We certainly enjoyed having them onboard, sharing our new lifestyle with them.

Enjoying Portugal with Richard and Ros Plume

Enjoying Portugal with Richard and Ros Plume

So that’s Portugal done! We’ll miss it – the people, the seafood and those ever so excellent pasteis de nata. Espana next – those Spaniards are in for a right treat with Tom’s attempts at Spanish!!

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3 responses to “Port and Pasteis de Nata in Portugal

  1. Anne & Melvyn says:

    Glad to read that all is going well. It sounds like you are having a marvellous time. Enjoy Spain. Love from Anne and Melvyn.

  2. Ben Lovering says:

    Another fabulous write up. Keep it up – and glad you are living the dream!


  3. Ros says:

    To all of you reading this amazing blog, if you are planning to join Susie and Tom, don’t hesitate! You’ll have a brilliant time, we certainly did. It may have been a mere four nights on Adina, but we soon clicked into the way of life on board and it was quite hard to leave her at the end of our visit.
    Oh, I’ve just remembered, the latest Alzheimer’s busting food wasn’t beetroot at all, it was ordinary black tea … or was it cocoa?