Coast of Biaona August 2007 Part Three

Sailing from Baiona, Spain

to Porto, Portugal



August 18, 2007

The waves have been 10-15 feet and the winds have been high. Saturday was forecast to be better so we were up at 6:15 and left the dock before the sun rose. The conditions were calm, too calm, and we motored all day. But the sea was smooth and we enjoyed the 50 mile trip to Baiona.


Leaving Portosin at dawn


Thousands of gulls sitting in the water a few miles offshore

We were a few miles off the coast when thousands of birds appeared covering a strip about a mile long. Our first worry was that there was a fishing net there with trapped fish and it could become entanged in our propeller. We slowed down. Just under the water a foot or so were thousands of small crabs drifting along. We were a few miles off shore; I didn't know crabs could swim and especially in water 300 feet deep. Not sure how they got there or why they were there, but the birds were sure happy.

On August 3, 1492 Columbus and his crews on the NINA, the PINTA and the SANTA MARIA sailed west. On October 12, 1492 a sailor on the PINTA cried "land ahoy" and the New World was discovered by Europeans. After exploring the islands for 95 days they set course for Spain. Near the Azores they were hit by a terrible storm that almost destroyed the ships. Thanks to her excellent stability, Captain Martin Alonso Pinzon and pilot Cristobal Garcia Sarmiento's skill, the PINTA reached Baiona on March 1, 1493.


A replica of the PINTA in Baiona

After visiting the Azores on his solo circumnavigation, Joshua Slocum became very sick from eating something disagreeable. A major storm hit but he was too weak to reduce sail. He wrote, 'I should have laid to, but did not. I gave her a double-reefed mainsail and whole jib instead, and set her on her course. Then I went below, and threw myself upon the cabin floor in great pain.' Later he awoke and saw a tall man at the helm. Slocum was worried that the man was a pirate, but the man spoke to him, "Senor", he said doffing his cap, "I have come to do you no harm....I am one of Columbus's crew. I am the pilot of the Pinta come to aid you. Lie quiet, senor captain and I will guide your ship tonight. Yonder is the Pinta ahead; we must overtake her. Give her sail: give her sail!" Many times on Solcum's voyage he thanked the pilot of the Pinta for his help.

Pinta Pilot

A replica of the Pinta's pilot



August 20, 2007


The Portuguese national flag on our starboard spreader

The trip from Baiona, Spain to Povoa de Varzim, Portugal is about 50 miles, but the wind was exactly at our back, so we sailed slightly off the wind and gybed back and forth making our distance traveled 62 miles. The wind increased during the day and for the last few hours rose to over 30 knots. Our boat speed reached 9 knots with reefs in!

Docking in the small marina with a 30 knots wind pushing us onto the visitors pontoon was a challenge, especially since Katie had to step over the preventer line (still partially attached) and weave above and below the high lifelines while trying to tend to dock lines, adjust fenders and fend off. It was too bouncy to prepare ahead of time inside the short channel and there wasn't much room to dally inside the harbor so Jim went straight for the pontoon. We probably didn't look great but we arrived safely without any damage. Only after we'd secured to the pontoon did someone from the marina come to help. He'd been busy helping another boat into a slip. He suggested we remain on the visitors pontoon until morning when there would be a lot less wind. It always picks up to 30 knots, onshore, on this coast in the afternoon.

From the marina at Povoa de Varzim the new Metro took us directly to downtown Porto in about 45 minutes. Armed with pages out of the Lonely Planet Portugal guidebook and a newly acquired Porto map, we walked and walked. Up and down. The old town is listed as a World Heritage site so we walked up one street and down the next through many of these ancient medieval streets. The city is vibrant and colorful, packed with people and buildings, and a treat to explore.

Porto city

Rooftops of Porto

Porto StreetPassageway

The narrow streets and small passageways of Porto

The Port wine district, Vila Nova de Gaia, is across the Duoro River. Many brands have their cellars here. Exceptional aging conditions exist including a mild climate and cellars with thick granite walls. Most cellars offer tours and wine tastings. My first thought was that we should try all 18 of them, but instead we visited a small family owned company, Krohn.

Krohn has 5 million liters of Port wine slowly aging in their cellars, some from the mid 1800s when the cellar opened. Two Norwegians, Weise and Krohn, came to Porto in the middle 19th century selling cod. They must have decided this would be a better business. The English had discovered this fabulous wine and the demand was high.


Port Barrels

The grapes are grown in the Douro Region of central Portugal, where the winters are cold, often with snow, and the summers over 100 degrees (45 C), but the vines do well with the underlying rock (schist) holding enough water for their long roots to drink during hot summer periods. After the grapes are harvested and pressed, the juice is loaded in barrels and moved to Vila Nova de Gaia (Porto) to avoid the intense summer heat. In the past they used small boats to bring the wine but today it is moved in trucks and the boats are there for tourists like us to photograph.

Port boats

Originally these boats transported wine from the Alto Douro, 200 km to the east, where the port grapes are grown on steep, terraced hillsides.


August 23, 2007

We sailed 16 miles from Povoa de Varzim to Leixoes. We went this short distance for two reasons. Primarily we wanted to shorten the following trip to Figueira da Foz and secondly we wanted to spend another day in Porto.

The pilot books made the marina at Leixoes sound awful with one describing the dirty water and floating carcasses of cats, dogs and birds. We really didn't want to go there but there was no other choice. A pleasant surprise awaited us as the folks at the marina have been working on cleaning it up the past few years and the water was surprisingly clean. Although we paid a deposit to use the facilities ashore, we opted to pass once Katie had a look and a whiff. Definitely the worst shower/toilet facilities so far!

Staying there enabled us to take the train into Porto again. We wandered around and took a boat ride up and down the Douro. You'd think we'd be tired of being on boats! It was a nice way to see further than the city center though.

We took a tour of another cellar. Calem, we had read in Lonely Planet, was owned by Portugese and had a good tour. At the beginnng our guide informed us that a couple of years ago a large bank in Spain had bought it. Progress, I suppose... They did offer a very nice tour and a tasting of three ports. It was less intimate than the last tour, being on the main street attracts more visitors.



The Porto waterfront from Vila Nova de Guia





The castle Monte Real and its stone wall on the promontory. The Atlantic is to the west, this protected beach to the east.


The castle wall

Baiona Wall

One of the narrow residential streets in the old quarter of Baiona


Lunch at a tapas bar along the street facing the harbor. Calamari (calamares), octopus (pulpo) and sweet peppers (pimientos Padron) all seemed to be sauteed in olive oil and served with an unhealthy dose of salt. Tasty indeed!


On our trip from Baiona to the Porto area we were often surrounded by dolphins. Sometimes 3,4 or 5 jumped at once as many others swam along us underwater darting port and starboard.








Tile in Porto

Many of the buildings in Portugal have tiled facades. This is in the town of Povoa de Varzim.

Porto city river

Looking over the rooftops of Porto down the steep streets to the Rio Douro. Vila Nova de Guia is on the opposite bank.

Porto waterfront

The medieval waterfront in Porto


Gustave Eiffel (tower in Paris) designed this bridge. Pedestrians and cars use the lower level and trains use the upper.

1967 Port

We visited the cellar to learn the story of Port and taste a few samples

We hadn't expected to buy 3 bottles. Aside from not having much storage room on the boat, we had a long, steep walk uphill to reach our metro stop. Jim happily volunteered to carry whatever we bought knowing he would enjoy drinking it at a later point.

porto hillside


Continue sailing south to Cascais, near Lisbon August Part Four