For those of you who have read Neil’s blog post, ‘Taking a Break’ on www.thegledaproject.com, you will know that we are doing exactly that, taking a break in Sao Martinho do Porto. It’s a sheltered cove below Nazare, north of Lisbon. The entrance to the cove is quite narrow, which is what shelters it, then it opens into a shallow wide scallop shell bay with a beach running pretty much from side to side. It is a popular and growing tourist destination certainly for the locals and we have heard more than a few English voices.
It’s been nice to drop the hook and not think about where we are going next, how long is the leg, will there be fog, can I manage to step onto a pontoon without messing it up or hook a buoy. It is more of a rest for Neil though who makes our passage plans, works out the route, maps it into the GPS, double checks it so we don’t end up sailing the wrong way, and then weighs anchor, raises the sails, sails the boat etc.
The bay is lovely. The water not quite clear due to the sandy bottom which if not churned up by the tide, then certainly by the jet skis and speed boats. It’s a very busy beach, which when the tide is in, is a narrowish strip packed with people. They have small beach huts permanently set up on the beach and you do not seem to be able to put your own brolly in the sand in front of these. They have specific areas for those too tight to hire a tent for the day! This would explain when Maria and I were on a beach in Portugal a few years ago, we were asked to move our selves/brolly. Behind us, although quite far behind us, were those people who had paid for a fixed palm tree brolly and sun beds. Don’t want those folks having their view spoilt with us mere holiday makers. There are no seagulls here. Maybe because there are no big fishing boats and the tourists don’t have chips! We have seen a couple of terns and probably only 1 lone gull – must of been lost.
We took the dinghy across the bay to the other corner towards the town of Salir do Porto, where a river runs into the bay and which has a quieter beach but still plenty of people out enjoying their summer holidays. I had a go driving on the way back. I’m not very confident about manoeuvring quickly as left and right on a tiller is backwards but I need to practise as at the moment I rely on Neil to take me to and from the boat. I must also get round to having a go at rowing – the engine has been known to stop!
The town of Martinho is nice too. The beachfront full of cafes and bars as you would expect but not too many tourist tat shops. Some nice shops, including shoe shops (!!) and a mini-market. There is a Intermarche supermercardo about a 15min walk from the beach front which is open 7 days a week. Neil got very peed off when he was asked to remove his rucksack and put it into a storage locker. He thinks it is about shoplifting but I’m not sure, maybe it is more about space. The aisles are very close together.
On the walk out to the supermercardo we pass an abandoned hotel, Hotel Parque. It looks as though it was once the best place in town and is quite large with some ornate features. Now the gates are padlocked and the iron bars rusted through. Looks like a setting for a horror movie. The Shining comes to mind. Actually, I’d love to see inside and see if it has any original features left there. Looks kind of 1920s/30s. I wonder if it is for sale. It doesn’t have a Vende Se sign outside. The town is quite up and coming with new apartment blocks and renovated houses done in the traditional style.
The evenings/nights are surprisingly quiet* considering it is a tourist place with bars etc. The Club Nautico building did have some music going on till the early hours but it was in no way as loud as that in Baiona and was not at all disruptive. Further round the bay from where we are anchored is what looks like a holiday park with chalets and a couple of places which are full of motor homes. We also look across to a 49ft (very precise) sand dune and can see people climbing up slowly, quite often almost on hands and knees, and then running down real fast.
One of the houses near the harbour/beach is a bright pink/coral colour and when we went ashore one day the chap had his vintage jaguar out of the garage giving it a wash. It really was a lovely car and I wouldn’t be surprised if it just comes out for a weekly wash and a chat with interested passers by. Just down from here is a tunnel through the cliff which just pops out the sea side of the bay. It is only big rocks the other side and I can’t imagine what it was for except an easier way to go and see what the sea conditions were rather than climbing the cliff to look.
There is an English shop, Union Jacs (not a spelling error), run by a Canadian chap who was born in the Azores. As you might imagine, it is a bit pricey but I have got Heinz salad cream (could not find salad cream anywhere else), Warburtons crumpets, Tetley tea, bacon as we Brits know it, self-raising flour (I need to find out what self-raising is in Portuguese so I can look locally) and the chap gave me a variety bag of Walkers crisps that had just gone over the sell by date so he could not sell them. It is a useful shop to have and suggests that there must be a market for British tourists and x-pats. Really useful to have someone who speaks English and knows the place. He didn’t sell ice, which we are relying on to help with refrigeration, but directed me to the butchers shop which did. Bizzarely, the butchers also sold wine and beer.
We did get the BBQ going one night and for the first time. Not quite a fire pit but a BBQ in a bag which I bought from Scotts of Stow earlier this year. The bag has a cooler part so that you can put your pack of sausages in along with the BBQ and a cool block and carry it to the beach. The bag will be in a right state though unless you empty and clean the BBQ before you bring it back! Worked well on deck because of the spindly thin long legs, the heat did not radiate through them although we stood the whole thing on a board just in case. For info, the kebabs were lovely.
After 6 nights at Sao Martinho we were planning to move on south. However, the wind picked right up through the night and the swell increased at the entrance. You can only approach here in good conditions. One tip from the pilot book was if the fishermen stay put, you stay put. The fishermen stayed put so we will be staying put. This means though that we will probably stay the weekend as strong winds are forecast for Friday into Saturday and we don’t want to be stuck at the next marina which we will have to pay for. Here, we are anchored for free in the middle of the bay. We have also had some weird fog. We watched it come in one day from miles off. It drifts about looking like smoke and then you can actually see the edge of the fog as it moves in.
The only downside to that, although not really a downside as such, is the amount of “traffic”. As one of only 2 visiting boats in the bay (the only one for the last 3 days) I mentioned it is very shallow and not many boats can anchor here, we are the object of curiosity for everyone on pedalos to sail boards. Some get a bit too close and try to peer in through the portholes. I have tripled my privacy curtain I have at the heads portlight. Don’t need the holiday makers to see me sat on the loo. In addition, I have modified my shower curtain and Neil has put some hooks in the pod so that I can now just hook up 2 curtains to give a completely enclosed private space for my flower shower. Before I used one curtain, and a variety of towels and pegs. When no-one was particularly close to the boat, this was fine but not now when we have such interested parties! I did make a point of showering early as well before the beach and water gets too full.
We did let one lad and his dad on board who showed a keen interest, and in fact asked if he could come aboard (the little boy), but this led to him coming back a few times with a dinghy full of friends wanting to come back on board and we had to say no. After all this is also our home, not just a boat and I’m sure their parents wouldn’t like people trolling up to their house asking if they could have a poke about their bedroom. We told him it was a one time special trip just for him. Hopefully, this makes him feel special and not rejected.
Today, Saturday is a regatta of traditional boats and I expected us to be surrounded. However, whether they cancelled it because of the wind we don’t know. There did seem to be about half a dozen traditional small sail boats at the quayside this morning but none came out past us. They did put a minion buoy in the bay which made us think it was a marker to sail around, however after a couple of hours, it was picked back up. We have seen 3 traditional boats sailing round the bay every evening that we have been here, but not today. The beach is really quiet today too, apart from the spinners, see comment * below. It’s definitely the quietest day on the beach and water so far, probably as the coolest day.
We hope to leave tomorrow morning, Sunday, and head for an anchorage of Caiscais that is fog, swell and wind permitting. Neil is just letting down the dinghy and preparing the boat so let’s hope we can go. It’s been nice but it is now time to see somewhere new.
*It was quiet at night but on Friday night, the night before the Regatta, they set a stage up on the beach and from about 9pm music was pumping out with someone “chatting” over it. It went on all night and then they turned up the volume at 6.30am. Looks like it is some kind of cycling event with rows of exercise bikes and people. Maybe some kind of record breaking attempt or sponsored something. As I am about to post this, Saturday teatime, they are still going. I have been listening to Peter from Belgium encouraging them to “spin faster, feel the burn”.