Spain to Portugal and an extended stay in Leixoes

The final ria in Spain before our journey took us into Portugal is a very small one, kind of linked to Ria de Vigo and is called the the Ria de Baiona. Baiona was the first place in Europe to hear of the discovery of the New World because it was the landing place of Columbus in 1493 – and it was our landing place on 29th July 2011. It was a good place for our final taste of Spain and we found safe anchorage in the wide bay, having taken just over two hours motoring from Cangas. Once again we probably took a longer route than necessary to avoid a cluster or two of rocks – which everyone else [or so it seemed as we later watched] just motored past via the Canal de la Porta.
As well as the usual castle protecting its harbour, Baiona also has the Statue of the Virgen de la Roca which stands on top of a small rocky outcrop overlooking the bay. As with many statues and churches in these parts she is linked to the sea and to mariners and supports a small boat in her right hand.
Whilst in Baiona we also walked to the small village of Ramallosa passing several beaches around the bay. In addition, we spent more hours than we had bargained for in the Internet café posting the previous entry – with Mike nearly knocking himself out on a wooden beam above the seats we had taken for the purpose because they had access to a power point – maybe this will encourage him to buy a new laptop with a working battery!
On our first evening there the entertainment was by way of a Tango demonstration and songs from Argentina. Whilst I found the dancing really interesting, the total lack of understanding of the singer – who seemed to be a bit of a comedian as well, judging by the audience reaction, meant that we didn’t watch it all – deciding instead to promenade through the narrow back streets soaking up the atmosphere, mixing with the locals and watching the younger revellers just beginning their night out as we were returning to the boat at around midnight. Wow – what do I sound like? We haven’t hit golden oldie status yet – honest.
We realised on Sunday night that we hadn’t actually been to see the replica of “Pint0” – Columbus’s ship – which sits on a pontoon near the marina. Unfortunately even though we then tried to visit it on Monday morning before leaving it didn’t open in time, so it remains a reason for returning.
We have really enjoyed our time in Spain as you will know from reading our blog so far. As well as the coastline and ports/harbours visited there is also the interior which would be another reason for coming back. We were given a taster of it when on our train trip to Santiago – small villages and scattered houses/farms amid crops of corn, grapes and cabbages. There seem to be a lot of cabbages.
And so, to Portugal. As I noted in the log on 1st August, “What is the betting the wind changes tomorrow” – signalling another motoring day for our journey from one country to the next. It was lovely weather, seas a bit rolling at times but not sufficient to bother us and all together pleasant and uneventful. Well in sailing terms that is. We did have a bit of an event on our journey which was of our making – and very enjoyable. On approaching the estuary of the River Mino, which marks the boundary between Spain and Portugal I suggested that we should have a little ceremony of exchanging the Spanish courtesy flag for the Portuguese one – a ceremony which should be accompanied by a small glass of Sherry whilst lowering the Spanish flag, and a small glass of port whilst hoisting the Portuguese one. Quite a good idea don’t you think?
Our first port of call in Portugal was Viana do Castelo which lies approximately 13 miles south of the border and is the first available stopping point. It is actually on the Rio Lima which is a fairly narrow river, dredged to 8 metres up to the marina from the main commercial/fishing port at the mouth of the river. A small swing bridge operates to allow entry to the marina and we had to contact the marinera to let us in because there were already two yachts tied to the waiting pontoon outside – at either end of it – making berthing there rather tricky for us. It is only a small marina with little turning space and limited visitor berthing [bows or stern to a small pontoon with lazy lines]. We were therefore lucky that their fuel pump was broken meaning that the fuel berth was free offering us easy access to a large, safe berth alongside.
Although the journey took five and a half hours, the difference between Spanish and Portuguese time means that we gained an hour so had plenty of time for a look around Viana that day. The town is quite a significant one, it being the first port from which Port Wine was shipped to England during the 18th century and, later, the departure point for large fishing fleets to the Newfoundland Banks. It is also the home of this little gem of a fire engine.
On a hillside overlooking the port is the the Santa Luzia basilica, which is reputedly fashioned following a visit by its designer to Sacre Coeur [?? My French has suddenly become as bad as my Spanish and Portuguese!], with its 663 steps leading up to it – we counted. Now, before you get to thinking that we climbed these I have to confess that on our short journey up the river I had seen what looked like a funicular railway going up the hillside – and so it turned out – so the counting was done on the way down! But you have to forgive us – most people who were up there were also using the funicular down as well – or had driven via the winding road. That evening we really noticed how the hour change affected the evenings – certainly northern spain really gains by its mediterranean south resulting in the additional summertime hour.
We needed a laundry day and Mike took this opportunity to fix our push bikes. Before leaving England we had considered buying foldaway bikes, but not being sure how much we
will use them decided to take the bikes already in our possession. Unfortunately they hadn’t been used in Rossendale for some time [not since a certain BBQ, which some friends will recall, after which Mike decided that he could cycle full speed ahead – until he fell off] and the journey thus far in a salty atmosphere hadn’t added to their immediate usability. Anyway, they are now operational again and were used in Viana to cycle to the small castle/fort at the river mouth and the following day to collect camping gaz before our departure. I guess our preference for anchoring might mean less use of the bikes – as you have heard we have enough fun with “the pig” as it is without trying to transport full size bikes in it! We will see.
At this point in our journey I have to report a breakdown – not mine or Mike’s – though at times in the past 10 days my exasperation has been verging on one……
We left Viana on an extremely calm day. The sea was practically still and we could actually see shoals of fish. All was going well until a screeching sound emanated from the engine compartment. It only lasted a couple of seconds and then stopped. Unfortunately it repeated itself and Mike quickly went to investigate as I turned the engine off and, even though there was next to no wind, unfurled the genoa – to at least aid stability and reduce any roll.
He returned waving what I now know is something called a “V belt”, which had broken. We weren’t sure whether the screeching was because the belt had snapped or the belt had snapped because of whatever actually caused the noise and so further investigation was necessary. Mike determined that it was the fresh water pump which had stuck but which he seemed to have freed. So we fitted a new V belt and, with me poised to turn the engine off immediately should there be any further screeching, we tried to start it…. and immediately stopped it. The pump had stuck again straight away.
So there we were having made quite good headway under motor, in the calmest weather we had seen, going practically nowhere. The Portuguese Atlantic coast has a reputation for becoming windy in the afternoons so we were hopeful things might liven up – and they did – to around 8 knots! Siga Siga really likes a 12 knot wind to move her effectively so it was a slow process in the given 8 and it took us the next 4 hours to go 7 miles. With the main out we made slightly more progress but faced a harbour entrance which we know nothing about and commercial traffic with no engine.
Chris will probably remember a certain entry into Mykonos harbour under sail several years ago [in fact she is unlikely ever to forget it!] and will understand my trepidation approaching this one. However, a combination of a wider entrance and perhaps my greater experience now meant that I was

able to cope far better with the 6 tacks needed to see us safely beyond the narrowest part of the harbour at its entrance and into the anchorage. Mike timed our furling of sails and dropping of anchor perfectly, though at the time we first experienced continuing forward motion towards [and rather close to] the old yacht club quay even though we were facing into wind. Thus we entered  Leixoes – the harbour and marina now best used when visiting Porto.

That was 10 days ago and we are still here – hence my earlier reference to my exasperation. It is probably something I will have to get used to – things breaking that is, as well as any exasperation on my part – but what has made this more of a concern is that Chris and John are flying to Faro on Tuesday [and it is now Friday and we are approx 300 – 350 miles away]. We have actually now made alternative arrangements and they are going to meet us in Lisbon – which John sees as adding to the adventure – I think Chris briefly saw it as an opportunity for a couple of nights in a hotel.

I say they are going to meet us in Lisbon but that is still a 36 hour journey which ideally we need to start making tomorrow and we are not actually fixed yet!

Now its not that we exactly sat around just thinking that the pump would fix itself. On the morning immediately following our arrival we asked the marina staff where we could get spare parts and, as Mike noted, we are lucky to be in the industrial north of Portugal where most of the manufacturers are. The Volvo dealer was just a metro ride away and he was able to order the pump with delivery the next day from Belgium. Carlos [our new found friend] expressed surprise that it was our intention to try to fit this ourselves, which probably meant that when later that day we looked at taking the old pump off we chickened out. We were concerned that we may do more damage – resulting in additional time and expense to get more things fixed.

As it turns out we don’t actually know whether we made the right decision or not. First of all, having been given [on that Friday] the contact details of a mechanic who would come to see us on Saturday lunchtime he arrived at about 4pm – then called for his friend because he didn’t have the right tools and between them they banged around for an hour and then announced that the only way to do the job was to move the engine backwards [i.e. practically take it out] and that the whole job would take three days. To do the work they also said the boat needed to be in the marina for better access to tools. I guess that them having to be ferried by tender too and from the anchorage could have become a bit tedious for all concerned – especially if they didn’t have or bring all the required tools with them – and, which from our initial experience, seemed likely!

Obviously no one works on Sunday so it was going to be Monday before we could be towed in and we were then told it would probably need to be at lunchtime when the Port Authorities go to lunch because if a boat with engine trouble is seen being towed in the authorities insist on an inspection before and after the work is done – and more time lost and, again, at more expense.

You will remember how we had no wind on the day of our arrival. Well, on Monday we had Mondays wind and that which had deserted us 5 days before – registering at one point 27 knots – and this made our being towed into the marina impossible and so another day passed us by. Tuesday morning finally saw us safely in the marina but without a mechanic. The first guy who had come on Saturday was apparently more of an outboard engine expert than an inboard one so he had been in touch with another guy – who is actually based at the marina and handed the work over to him – but he wasn’t available on Tuesday [you can perhaps begin to understand my growing exasperation]. To be fair he did arrive briefly on Tuesday to look at what needed to be done, confirmed that the engine would need to be moved and also pointed out that one of the pulley wheels had been damaged – by the first mechanics. We would need a new one and he would come back on Wednesday afternoon to start the job.

We decided that Mike should go to see Carlos rather than phone him to make sure he was getting the part he needed and he returned with a face, not quite like thunder – but close. Although we wouldn’t ever be able to charge the initial mechanic, his handy work has cost us nearly €600 for, as Mike put it, a small cast iron wheel [this is on top of the pump, a spare v-belt and the cost of the mechanic of course – plus 4 nights in the marina and the €40 to be towed in].

Yesterday work progressed as far as it could and today, after an initial set back when the new pulley hadn’t arrived first thing Mike and Alexander, the marina mechanic, are putting what I hope are the finishing touches to the job. However, one of the reasons we decided not to do the work is that the pistons need locking in place [according to those instructions we do have]. Alexander didn’t do this though he did mark their positions apparently – so I am hoping that before I finish writing this I can report that marking them rather than locking them is actually OK and the engine works properly once all back together.

The reason the engine needed to be moved back was to allow access, as the front of the engine – where the fresh water pump is – is almost lodged against the compartment wall and also pulley drawers need to be used to remove the pulley requiring even greater access. This was the second reason why Mike had decided not to do the job ourselves because he was concerned that his experience of being able to remove a pulley using screws [either inserted as levers, or unscrewing ones attached] might not be correct with this engine. He reported last night that when the pulley drawers didn’t work he could only laugh when unscrewing the four screws he had initially contemplated caused the wheel to just drop neatly out. So, it seems likely that the engine didn’t have to be moved after all!

It wouldn’t be right to be here and not visit or mention Porto. We have visited before some years ago [not on a yacht] but, on our enforced “day off” on Sunday we decided to spend the day there. It is about 40 minutes away by metro and we really enjoyed seeing it in the summer as our previous visit was early March. It certainly feels like a vibrant and cosmopolitan city with visitors from far and wide as well as Portuguese locals and holiday makers all enjoying the hot, sunny day and making best use of the café culture and visiting the old town.

Portugal is, of course, also famous for its “Azulejos”, this one at the Cathedral in Porto being only one of many we have already seen.

I also went into Porto twice more during our 10 days here – it being the nearest place for money exchange – and the events above have meant the second trip was necessary!

Hooray – the engine has just been turned on and no screeching and an apparently smooth running sound so it looks good to go tomorrow and we are going out for a celebratory meal tonight in a local restaurant. The port of Leixoes is in the Matoshinos suberb of Porto and is quite a big place in itself with a good market, quite a lot of restaurants, a few beach bars and a long promenade. The only eating out we have done so far, whilst here, was on our first lunchtime after returning from the Volvo dealer when we took advantage of one of two small establishments close to the port seemingly there mainly for dockers [as they were closed on Saturday and Sunday]. We were therefore able to work our way through a “sardine platter” which meant six sardines, potatoes and salad each with bread and washed down with a litre of local wine for €15. For that price we could have also had “Green soup” to start – which seems to be cabbage and chorizo but we opted out, not because we didn’t fancy it but we had already seen the size of the sardine platters!

The plus points of all of this are that during our enforced stay I have mended a frayed part of the genoa and sewn new webbing onto the man overboard line  outer cover to enable it to be fixed to the pushpit rather than it being in the back locker – not much use there is it! Mike has learned how to use the generator, worked out why our wind generator makes noises when switched off and to stop it doing so and mended a couple of patches of decking. Being Alexander’s right hand man he has learned that he can also speak fluent Portuguese by charades as well as Spanish and an awful lot about the engine and how to take it apart. He has also learned that what he already knows about engines and machinery is likely to stand him in good stead in the future. In addition, I have learned that having stopped work 3 months ago has improved my patience – my exasperation over the past few days is nothing to what I would have felt and how it is likely I would have behaved back then!

We also realise that this could have been worse – it could have happened in the next two weeks during the forthcoming visit of Chris and John or last month during the Dave and Mag’s holiday. So, unless anything else untoward happens we are setting off for Cascais tomorrow [best marina for Lisboa] and are really looking forward to our two weeks sharing the delights of Lisbon, Cascais, Sines and the Algarve with Chris and John.


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