The Portugal Rally

 Home Up Lagos

Leixoes Marina is in the corner or a large commercial harbour so not pretty enough to make into the photo album (sorry Leixoes).  It’s also a good couple of miles walk in 30°C to the chandlers, which isn't there any more when you finally find the right street!   

By the time we surfaced after our late arrival most of the other rally participants had left for a guided tour of Oporto, so we filled the day with a walk to the chandlers (see above), lunch in the Club Nautico, a briefing from Sue and a, now slightly superfluous safety check from Andrew - though to be fair his observations did cause me to reposition the life belts.

Pm -Team dinner at the (other) Club Nautico, speeches, prizes and of course Salt Cod - followed by platters of wonderful fruit ranging from strawberries to fresh pineapple and delicious gateaux.  This was quite a change from our previous diet and brought back memories of dinner parties. Met an American couple called Walt & Ev who had bumped into the RALLY at Bayona and decided to join.  They had been sailing their yacht  Nefertari for 9 years without any visible ill effects which was quite encouraging!

The following morning was to be our first opportunity to cross the line on the next leg of the rally.  We did this significantly after the rest of the fleet, which was to be an ongoing feature of our racing starts.   

Little wind until late afternoon, so much motoring. Finally berthed in Figuera Da Foz with 20 knots of wind behind us.  Something else that was becoming a habit.  We moored next to Brown Bomber III, a serious racing yacht which was hosed down and polished to perfection.  

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Figuera Da Foz – bigger and substantially nicer than our previous stop.  Out for dinner and quick drink in Guinness bar.  Well quick for us, Steve and Marianne stayed for a quick game of darts and actually made it back to the boat at around 4.00 am.  

Visit organised by the local tourist board to see impressive and very hot medieval university at Coimbra.  Steve just a little ragged,  Marianne unconscious – nobody had actually had the nerve before we left to go into the forecabin to check. The library has most an important collection of medieval books – but the tourist board had omitted to book so we couldn’t go in.  Also, a spectacular chapel, but the tourist board had failed to twig that the annual mass for the patron saint was taking place, so couldn’t go in.  Civic reception and lunch at the town hall had been arranged, by which time everyone was so hungry that, blithely unaware of the deputy mayor and other dignitaries planned welcoming speeches, most people descended on the lavish buffet like a plague of locusts.  After a little embarrassed coughing the speeches duly proceeded and we all really did try to chew quietly. It was a very good lunch.  

 Coimbra is actually a very pretty town and the day we visited was the day of the annual medieval fair when the locals all dress up in very authentic costumes and set up stalls, barbeques, music, etc.  Very little money seemed to be changing hands and from the number of people who had dressed up and were taking part it really did feel to be for them more than for tourists.

Pm - Team dinner, more speeches, prizes, but no salt cod.  Sardińhas – lots of them.  An optional visit to the casino with Cuban dance show followed but after last night some of us wanted to stay nearer home.  We were still having a nightcap in our cockpit when we saw Mac return to his boat alone - he was immediately invited aboard and another bottle opened - oh dear!  

It was in Figuera that we got to know Redmond McMullon (Mac), owner and builder of Moonstone of Leigh, undoubtedly the prettiest ferro boat ever seen.  It was also in Figuera that Mac’s crew jumped ship.  Mac was not too keen to sail single-handed so Steve stepped into the breech and volunteered to crew for Mac on the next leg.  So we sailed one light on the way to Peniche, and got some excellent photos of Moonstone with Steve at the helm as we overhauled her about halfway through the leg.  I draw no conclusions from this of course!    

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Medieval Fair or maybe some of last year's rally participants, who didn't make it home?

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Moonstone of Leigh

Had our best result of the rally and would have had even better result if we’d crossed the start line 15 minutes earlier with the rest of the fleet, rather than sailing in the opposite direction trying to free our mainsail.  Technically, we never actually did cross the line.  The crew of the committee boat, apparently feeling less than their best, had not noticed us and wanted to get back into the harbour where it was less choppy. 

Arrived at Peniche, asked for easy berth as light-handed.  Actually received the last short section of a long pontoon with several other smaller boats already moored ahead of us, eighteen knots of wind on the stern and the opportunity to provide huge amounts of amusement for the local fishermen and ferry skippers.  One boat of note with serious attitude was an aluminium catamaran which was enormous.

Peniche is a quite typical Portuguese coastal fishing town.  Nothing out of the ordinary, but it does provide access to the medieval walled town Obidos, a world heritage site and definitely worth the trip.  We took the local bus, which plays the local music station, wandered around this beautifully kept town which was probably very expensive, and caught the bus back late afternoon.   

Team dinner in splendidly rustic Club Nautico on second night, speeches, prizes, no salt cod or sardińhas – in fact free booze ran out before the speeches!   Found a pizza/pasta restaurant with good music.  

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The following morning we were politely asked by Brown Bomber III if we could make a moderately early start as we were blocking quite a few boats in who would quite like to cross the start line whilst it was still there..  Left Peniche on the next leg to Cascais and tried a new variation of our starting strategy.  We did in fact cross the line twice.  Once in the wrong direction just after the gun and again a little later after we’d turned around and come back.  There isn’t any sort of prize for this apparently even thought it was noted. 

Arrived at Cascais.  Wind behind mooring, but what else? Asked to park next to Brown Bomber again who kindly left their wine to help with lines.


Cascais together with Estoril are almost suburbs of Lisbon,  very upmarket and although more touristy than anywhere we had yet visited, very pleasant.  40°C + in Cascais so we ducked out of the trip to Lisbon and sat around in the shade. 

Team dinner in Club Nautico on, speeches, prizes, and the salt cod is back. Free booze apparently unlimited as long as one keeps asking for it.  Back to Moonstone for a nightcap or two.  Following day in Cascais, splendid restaurant Xarope for lunch.  Owned by Canadian and English couple with Australian waitress and Portuguese chef.  Great food (fennel/basil/ginger).  Intended to return for dinner, but the sound of sax and jazz emanating from a small deserted restaurant enticed us in to see what was happening.  Pedro – huge Portuguese baritone saxophonist – was checking the acoustics for a forthcoming session, but as he just loved to play he was more than happy to play for us.  The two daughters of the chef/owner rustled up enough English to translate the menu for us, and the chef came after each course to check we were OK finally producing his own port to finish the evening.  The 150,000 Euro bottle which he brought to show us, wisely remained un-opened. 

11.00 start the following morning.  Actually crossed the line amongst the middle of the fleet.  Must be becoming competitive!  Berthed in Sines without the wind behind us.  Wasn’t quite sure what to do but it all went well and Brown Bomber hadn't arrived before us so wasn't there to help.


Sines – Drinks and nibbles party on the pontoon between Noss of Dart and Nefertari.  Actually more drink than nibbles and the pontoon had taken on a distinct list by the end of the evening.  Decided to try to find a restaurant for dinner at around midnight.  Security guard offered to give us a lift a mile or so up the hill to the town where he thought a Pizzeria might still be open.  Lindy and I chickened out.  Not so for Steve and Marianne, who never did find a restaurant, but did find some “interesting” bars and were very, very late.

The following morning was a little slow but we managed to walk into town and find one of the three restaurants with an empty table outside (it was Sunday).  We had a delicious lunch of bread, cheese and olives followed by local fish, carrots (which majored amongst the vegetables we were served) and boiled potatoes.  Nobody could manage the pudim. 

7 pm -The next leg to Lagos was a long one (12 hours) and due to some earlier confusion Marianne’s flight was due to leave before the fleet could arrive.  Also Jan, Steve’s girlfriend was due to arrive in Lagos at roughly the same time.  We therefore chose to leave the evening before the fleet and sail down to Lagos overnight.

Windless, foggy and uneventful trip apart from the spooky groans over the VHF in the middle of the night and the most intense smell coming off the land from the Eucalyptus forests!  Arrived at 7am, an hour before the marina was open.  The extremely helpful marina staff were expecting us and directed us to a 20-metre pontoon.  There was no-one about but we managed and the marina director came to check that we were OK.  

Lagos – Marianne off on the 12.00 train to airport.  Steve off, complete with roses to meet Jan.  We had our “home” to ourselves for the first time in 4 weeks.  We’d actually done it.  We’d started the rest of our lives.  We tried to work out how we felt and couldn’t.  So we sat and watched the early rally boats arriving and stood on the pontoon to take their lines.  Something we’d never been in early enough to do before in the rally.

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Up Lagos
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Last updated 18th March 2018