Moonlight Adventure

The story of our travels on board Moonlight, our Vancouver 36.


Wednesday 9th September 2009

Posted by yachtmoonlight on September 14, 2009 at 7:27 AM

It appears I was misinformed with regards to the siren. It is not activated when the sea conditions make it dangerous to enter the harbour after all, this is a surprise when you arrive. The siren is supposed to be a fog siren but it is faulty and actually just goes off when the humidity is high, or whenever it feels like having a good honk.


Last Thursday morning, a large group of people arrived to charter four of the boats next to us in the marina. They were all wearing stripy tops in difficult colours, one colour per boat. The people on the boat next to us (the green stripy team) said they were going out racing for the day and we decided to support them.

All the boats left together and after a few hours, the green team were back first. Or so we thought. Strangely, none of the other three boats came back at all. So, not only had the green team appeared to have won, but they also managed to sink all their competitors, which I thought was quite an achievement.


I missed a phone call in the morning from the Barclaycard fraud department, who requested that I call them urgently as they had detected ‘suspicious activity’ on my card. You may not know this, but Barclays is run entirely by Vogons (as opposed to ‘Marks and Spencer Money’, which is run by stupid Vogons). Whereas most other card issuers view things like buying diamonds from unstable African nations and high values of foreign currency as suspicious activity, the Barclays Vogons think that buying boat parts (when they know I am travelling on a boat) and flights from Portugal (where I told them I am) to England (where they know I live) and groceries (I expect they realise that humans eat) is clearly fraud. If it was fraud, it would be a bloody coincidence that the fraudster was also travelling on a boat in Portugal wouldn’t it. So I had to call them up (at great expense!) and assure them that everything was ok, and that they could write that on their forms in triplicate.

In the afternoon, we took a stroll into the town, which is a maze of small squares, narrow streets and coloured houses, with a large square in the middle of the town and a fort near the beach.


(Povoa de Varzim fort)


It was very pleasant and we enjoyed a meander around the town and shops, heading back to the boat via the marina office building where I was very excited to find a three day old copy of the Daily Express next to the book swap.

We were invited aboard a nearby English boat called Caster in the evening for drinks and nibbles with the owners David and Chantelle.


John needed to do some boy’s jobs (fiddling with electrical and mechanical stuff and smothering himself in grease) on Friday morning, so while he was playing with his screwdrivers, I wandered into town to do some shopping. I walked up to the fruit and veg market, which was fabulous and spoke to a Portuguese girl who spoke excellent English (apparently as she had spent a couple of years living on the Isle of Man). She sold me a very strange knobbly cucumber (I wasn’t at all convinced it was a cucumber) and then directed me to small supermarket where she said I would be able to buy grapefruit as there were none in the market. I found the supermarket and got the grapefruit along with the most expensive box of Bran Flakes in the world (as John really likes them). Up until now, we have only managed to buy boxes of cardboard flakes in Portugal, so was quite pleased, even though I could’ve flown to England to fetch a box for the same price.

The shopping streets were very good and I managed to buy the last September birthday present.


(Povoa de Varzim town centre)


On my way back to the boat, I popped into a bakery and tried to identify what the pie / pasty type things contained. Although they were labelled, the phrase book I have didn’t have any of the displayed words in it (it also didn’t have ‘grapefruit’ or ‘cucumber’ in it and has so far proved to be useless and appears to be aimed at young backpackers as it does contain phrases such as ‘You are a great dancer’, ‘Will you sleep with me’, ‘I take drugs occasionally’ and ‘I am a lesbian’ – none of which have come in useful so far). I asked if anyone spoke English and a nice young chap said he did and tried to explain what was in the pasties. He managed to tell me the first ones had ham and cheese in them, but said the second ones contained ‘Coo’. The only thing I could think of was that this was an impression rather than a description and it was a Pigeon pasty, but when he started mooing I realised he actually meant cow. So, I bought a couple of cow pasties for lunch and headed back to the boat.

After lunch, we set off for Leixoes. It was quite rough and rolly and we arrived in Leixoes in the early evening. We were the only boat anchored in the harbour, which is a busy commercial port and we watched a large container ship arriving, bizarrely with cars sitting loose on top of the containers!


(The container ship with cars sitting on top of the containers!)


We had a quiet morning on the boat on Saturday, watching container ships coming and going and a pair of dinghies which were racing around the harbour and using Moonlight as the start / finish point!

At 2pm we set sail for Nazares, which was a long overnight passage.

The sail to Nazares was calmer than the previous trip and it was a good passage other than a couple of minor traumas. The compass light stopped working, which wasn’t the end of the world as we could still just about see it in the dark and we have an abundance of Compasses!

During my night watch, while John was asleep and I was watching Fawlty Towers on my ipod, I suddenly became aware that the moon wasn’t where it should be, then we were heading straight for the coast (instead of along it) and by the time I had taken off the headphones and put the ipod down, we were heading back the way we came. I checked the autopilot and found that it had decided to stop working and have a snooze. I got us back on course and switched it back on and kept an eye on it. It seemed fine, so I decided not to wake John up and just tell him what happened when he got up. After a few minutes, I loud beepy alarm started going off from below and I rushed down to find the chart plotter was shouting that it had lost the fix and didn’t know where we were. Unfortunately the alarm woke John up and he got up to have a look. As we were quite happy we knew where we were (the GPS was working fine and we had been logging our position regularly), he switched the chart plotter off. An hour or so later, John switched it back on and it decided we were in Madeira, so he turned it off again, planning to sort it out later. Strangely, it’s been fine since!


The passage took 18 hours and we arrived in Nazare at 8am on Sunday morning. We were greeted in the marina by the Harbour Master, an English chap who is quite possibly one of the strangest people I have ever met. He moaned about everything, the way we tied the boat up, how much water we were using to wash the decks down and was quite condescending in the way he spoke to John in particular. He also seemed to like saying “I’m the Harbour Master” quite a lot and we heard this phrase too many times to mention over the coming days.

Usually when we arrive somewhere after an overnight passage, we like to get some sleep as soon as we arrive, but the Harbour Master was having none of this and insisted we take our ship’s papers and passports to the office straight away to check in. His wife was in the office and she seemed extremely nice. She checked our papers, gave us some information about the town and bus services to nearby places and directed us to the Police office where we also had to take our papers and passports to be checked. I am quite sure that she actually runs the show, while her husband just wanders around the pontoons being strange.

We went straight round to the Police office, where a very pleasant young Policeman checked our papers and passports, before heading back to the boat for some much needed sleep.

Later that day, John replaced some of the engine wiring, which was very corroded and meant that the engine was a little temperamental at starting and we popped round to the only other English boat in the marina, called Zahara. The owner is a very pleasant chap called Ron, who is sailing on his own and then meeting up with some friends in the Canaries who will be sailing across the Atlantic with him.


On Monday morning, we noticed a large boat coming in and popped up to have a look, to find the Harbour Master had jumped onto our boat and was shouting “I am the Harbour Master” at them. John asked what was going on as the Harbour Master told him the boat would be rafting up alongside us. This was absurd as Moonlight is 36ft and the arriving boat was 50ft, so John protested and the Harbour Master mumbled something about him being the Harbour Master and then directed the boat to raft up alongside another 50ft boat.

Shortly afterwards, we heard a commotion and some shouting and went up to find out what was going on. Another boat had arrived and had tried to go alongside the hammerhead pontoon behind us, but the Harbour Master turned it away saying it wasn’t big enough and instructed it raft up alongside a boat further down. A second boat arrived just as they were tying up and the Harbour Master told them to tie up at the hammerhead pontoon, but as this was a smaller boat that the first one, the people on the first boat took exception to this and started arguing with the Harbour Master. During this time, the second boat began tying up at the pontoon, and then the Harbour Master decided to back down and let the first boat moor there after all and made them swap round, just as a third boat arrived, adding to the chaos. The third boat was 36ft and so a perfect size to raft up against us, which it did, and we helped the French couple on board tie up. The Harbour Master came over and told John not to worry as the French boat had been in before and knew what they were doing. John said it was fine and he wasn’t worried in the slightest. As we took lines from the French boat, the Harbour Master shouted that we should be worried as some people use ‘squeezy bottles’ as fenders and then shouted across to the French boat that he was the Harbour Master.

I have to say, being in a marina with a Harbour Master as mad as a box of frogs is entertaining if nothing else.

The French couple kept themselves to themselves and didn’t seem to speak any English, but John can speak French very well, so chatted to them briefly. They were extremely polite and courteous and were very careful when walking over our boat to get to the pontoon.

We popped into the small shop next to the marina, which not only sells general groceries but also fresh bread, pastries and cakes, fish and meat, as well as being a café and bar. The chap who runs the shop is adorable and although he doesn’t speak much English, he does speak French, so it was quite easy to communicate in a mixture of the two (as my French is quite limited). We bought some cold cans of beer from him and he gave us an extra one free, which was rather nice.

In the afternoon, we walked into the town. The front is very touristy, with a lot of bucket and spade shops next to a beautiful beach covered with holidaymakers and rows of tents that can be hired for the day.


(The tents on the beach at Nazare)


There is an old wooden traditional fishing boat on the beach, and a local chap was selling miniature fishing nets next to it.


(Fishing nets for sale on the beach)


Further along the beach there are wooden racks where the local fisherman dry out fish in the sun, which is a tad pongy to say the least.


(Fish drying out on the beach)


We walked up through the town and found a newsagent which sold English newspapers, so I treated myself to one and we had a drink in the café next door.

A few doors up was a pottery studio and shop, run by a very nice French lady who has lived in Portugal for the past 30 years. We bought a very large dish and a much smaller one with pictures of fish on, which we are hoping will make it around our travels in one piece!

Back on the boat, we watched some fishing boats arrive back in the harbour and tie up against a long harbour wall, where they unload their fish and a siren is sounded to indicate that an auction will shortly take place in a large building next to the dock and then we enjoyed drinks on our boat with Ron (from the boat ‘Zahara’).


Yesterday, we took the funicular railway up to the cliff top overlooking Nazare.


(The funicular train)


There is a small old town on top of the cliff called Sitio and it turned out that 8th September is the day of the annual Sitio festival! There is a beautiful old church in the middle of a large square which was full of people and had a trail of intricately laid petals and eucalyptus branches leading from the church and out of the town.


(The petals laid out ready for the procession in Sitio)


It is a local legend that a monk brought a statue of the Virgin Mary to the town from Nazareth in the fourth century, which led to the newer part of the town being named Nazare. Every year on 8th September, following the church service, a procession carries the statue along the path of petals and branches down to the sea for blessings to take place.

We watched the festivities before enjoying the views and finding a restaurant to treat ourselves to lunch. We broke one of Bill Bryson’s travel rules and chose a restaurant that had pictures of the food on the menu as this was the only way we could half guess what we might get (there was an English menu available but it lost rather a lot in translation and in one case listed a number of items under the heading ‘Stucks’). John opted for a prawn and octopus Stuck, while not wanting anything fishy, I chose the ‘Small beefsteak wit egg’. When I asked the waiter for this he said ‘Do you want the pork or the………’ and then struggled to find the next word. I explained that I would like the ‘beefsteak’ and he asked me again if I would like the pork or the something else he couldn’t remember in English. I repeated I would like the BEEFsteak and he asked if I would like the pork beefsteak and then he remembered the word he was looking for and gave me the option of a ‘cow’ beefsteak. I asked for the cow.

John’s ‘stuck’ turned out to be a rather wonderful kebab and my cow beefsteak was very nice too. We washed it down with half a litre of wine (costing 2.50 Euros) and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was extremely cheap, so we left a generous tip before heading off to walk back down to the town via a large supermarket.


(John´s prawn and octupus ´Stuck´)


In the evening, we went round to Ron’s boat for drinks and he confessed to having previously worked for the MET office. I’m sure in other circles, this would be something tease-worthy, but in the sailing world, this is a terribly interesting profession and he and John happily chatted about clouds and wind and rain and stuff. Ron gave us the details of a very good weather website that we have found extremely useful.


It was cloudy and foggy when we awoke this morning. I decided to attempt to check my bank and credit card statements online (which didn’t happen as the wifi connection in the marina is pants and keeps cutting out) and had a panic when I couldn’t find by Barclaycard anywhere. I remembered I had it when I called Barclaycard as I had to give them the number but it wasn’t in my purse or anywhere to be seen. I wasn’t too worried as I knew I hadn’t taken it off the boat since then, but it would have been a little difficult to get a replacement. We gave up looking after turning the boat upside down, hoping it would turn up when it was hungry and as I turned the boat back the right way up, John used the newspaper I had bought to wrap up the fish bowls and store them in one of the lockers. Taking three or four sheets at a time to use as wrapping, he grabbed a few sheets and lo and behold, there was my Barclaycard in the middle of the newspaper. It was only luck that he grabbed the right number of sheets, otherwise my card would have ended up in storage until the end of our travels!

The sun came out in the afternoon and we decided to climb over the sand dunes next to the marina to the beautiful but deserted beach on the other side. The sea was quite swelly, which was causing some quite dramatic waves to crash onto the beach. We had been advised not to even paddle in the sea as the waves can pull you under, having said that, it was the Harbour Master who advised this and he seems to be able to find doom and death in most situations.

We took along our boules and quoits sets and had a lot of fun paying with these and then took a short walk along the beach. Apart from two young chaps flying a kite further along the beach towards the town, we didn’t see another person and it was wonderful.


(John playing quoits on the beach)


On the way back to the boat, we walked along the dock to watch the fishing boats arrive and unload their catches onto the dock. It was very busy and several boats came in including one large trawler which used a crane to unload the fish. There were lots of different kinds of fish including a lot of boxes of octopus, which looked very squelchy.


(Fishermen unloading their catch)


As the fishing boats were unloading, the fisherman threw fish that were too small to sell onto the dock and local men and women would collect these freebies up in carrier bags and leave the smallest for the seagulls, a huge number of which were waiting in the dock and on top of the auction building for their chance of a snack.

We had another very nice evening with Ron, which became rather merry as John was in charge of making the Gin and Tonics, which were more Gin and less Tonic!

Categories: September 2009, Portugal

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Reply Mum
12:50 PM on September 14, 2009 
The pictures are stunning. I especially like the one of the Festival; how do you always manage to arrive at places on festival and celebration days....
Reply Mum
4:40 AM on September 16, 2009 
John's 'Gin and Tonics' sound very similar to Molly's 'Whisky and Lemonades' (not much lemonade!) and 2 had you wobbling - 3 were lethal!!!