Having made significantly better progress than feared, we decided that, with over a week before our flights home from Faro, we could relax and ‘hop’ down the Iberian West coast to Cape St Vicente and our destination on the Algarve.
We have visited Muros and Bayona in Spain and Viana do Castela and Porto so far in Portugal. I had misgivings about this itinerary as I have been to all of these destinations before but, examining the pilot information, it was clear that the reason I had visited before was because they were the best on offer.
Our ‘shore leave’ has all been (with the exception of a poor, very expensive meal in the centre of Porto) excellent but the weather has been disappointing with overcast skies, very little wind (mostly from the wrong direction) and a fair bit of drizzle. The marina in Porto was close to a fishing village with several restaurants having outside barbeques cooking fish. We had a fine meal but, a word of advice, don’t get too close to the BBQ , I did and I now have a burn hole in my jacket !
We have had some encounters at sea, I’ll let Stephen expand on the Spanish Customs launch……. We were amused by some overheard radio exchanges. Given our current Brexit position, it was interesting to overhear a French naval vessel speaking to a Portuguese warship in English and a Merchant Ship respond to the French coastguard who was calling ‘the ship at co-ordinates ………’ spoken in French by saying rather aggressively, ‘SPEAK IN ENGLISH’ !
The other encounter we could really do without is the proliferation of fishing gear offshore down this coast. The watch-keeper has to be super vigilant making regular course changes to thread a route through all the marker buoys. At night we can only stand offshore and hope for the best…..
We are now on an overnight passage from Porto to Cascais which is just outside the Lisbon estuary. Rather contradicting my comment about the wind, we have just had a FANTASTIC sail through the night, beam reaching at over 7 knots all night long. Sort of makes up for all the motoring ! At this rate we might be too early for our traditional ‘dirty beer’ if that’s possible. That will give us the rest of the day for jobs, laundry and some crew intend to take the train into Lisbon to ‘check it out’.
Greetings dear reader I have to admit to a score of zero with regards to Hejira vs fish and to rub salt into the wound a Spanish patrol boat decided to come out and give us a once over whilst we had a line out and carved off 30 meters of my line!
(so at least there is some excuse for me to use if the score remains unaltered). We have now participated in developing a new game called ‘Lobby dodging’ as the number of lobster pots off the Portuguese coast is quite impressive and tend to appear in gangs. The Master has a particular aversion to these so we have to keep our eyes peeled at all times to ensure the cat o`nine tails remains in the Royal quarters. The three stops we have made have all been enjoyable and Porto should be on every `must do’ list, and not just because of the collection of Port Houses . We had a ride on an water taxi ,tram,
funicular railway and cable car to see the sights and we did have a very educational tour and tasting at Churchill`s Port House before walking back to the marina for an early night.
Crew spot on.
Going to a restaurant is supposed to be a treat; a minor indulgence. So it always infuriates me when I accidently choose the worst thing on the menu. While my fellow diners turn to each other and say things like “Mmmm. Here, try a bit of this…” – I sit there quietly. And after the first crestfallen mouthfuls, I end-up using my fork to simply re-arrange whatever culinary cock-up is on my plate. Then the bill comes, of course, and I’m forced to add disbursement to disappointment.
That’s exactly what didn’t happen to me in Porto yesterday, you see. But it did happen to my three thoroughly pissed-off crew mates. And as a result, I suffered what can only be described as the restaurant equivalent of ‘survivor’s guilt’.
After an early start and a long wait for a ferry, then an even longer wait for a juddery old tram – we were all rather hungry and thirsty. So perhaps we forgot to check our tourist-trap radars before nestling down on a balcony below Porto’s magnificent Dom Luis I Bridge.
I ordered octopus; Stephen ordered pizza; the skipper and Peter ordered calamari. Little did we know that the octopus would be a Wagu fillet steak in mollusc form, while the pizza and calamari would be soggy and tasteless, having most likely been fished from the back of an ageing freezer.
The other three tried to put a brave face on…but then the bill came. Not only would this be the most unsatisfactory meal of the trip so far, it would be the most spenny, too.
The skipper was most aggrieved, quite rightly. And for all the afternoon’s numerous delights, he couldn’t quite take his mind off it…
“That church was so ornate, wasn’t it…but the meal earlier was crap.”
“You get a fantastic view of the city from this bridge don’t you…it’s just a shame that calamari was so shit.”
“I can’t believe they didn’t charge us for all the port we drank…lunch earlier was expensive though, and it was bloody awful.”
“What an experience to ride a cable car over the city… I just wish I’d ordered that octopus.”
It was beginning to look like the day was irreparably compromised. But faint heart never ate flavoursome meal, so we decided to go double or quits at dinner time.
Our eatery of choice was in the old fishing quarter of Porto, not far from the marina. There are fish restaurants on every corner there. And each one has as its shop front, a charcoal barbecue that’s sizzling with great hunks of white meat. This was certainly no tourist trap. And we sat on benches surrounded by locals out for a weekend treat.
By sheer coincidence, we all ordered the same thing. Four enormous skewers duly arrived, pressed with freshly charred squid, prawns and vegetables. The bodies of the squid were lovely and tender, but the tentacles went crunch. And the prawns were at least double the size of any I’ve seen recently; but still juicy, despite the grilling they’d received. They were so delicious in fact, that at one point the skipper asked to have first dibs on any heads that were left un-sucked.
We all agreed it was a brilliant meal. And when the bill came, we agreed a second time.
Happily, as we sauntered back to the boat, the skipper could be heard saying things like:
“This is a great spot isn’t it…and that dinner was excellent.”
Order was restored. And now here’s a limerick…
As the skipper enjoys his fish skewer,
It could seem to a prurient viewer
That he’s offering fellations
To the heads of crustaceans.
But he’s simply a flavour pursuer.