Thursday, October 29, 2009

Time to move on

Lisbon kept us in her web and it is leisurely that we enjoy Cascais anchorage which off season is calm exept during week-ends when the local fleet sails in for a few hours before going back home.

A southern low front gave us excuses to prolong our stay and we indulge in another visit to Lisbon and its maritime museum.

Wait for the perfect northerly breeze is out of question. The forecast calls for southerly, very weak during a few days still and we are becoming itchy to go on our southerly route. So it is time to haul the anchor. A dense fog on the Tajo entrance and along the coast is the result of the humid front that we had. It clears up after 2 hours but the wind is less than 5 knots as predicted. Sesimbra is only 20 miles away so we motor and it is the excuse to give a good charge to the batteries. We drop anchor close to Zephyr once again, since we follow the same route. It is a very active and lively little fishing harbor and all night long the small colorful fishing boats keep coming in and out escorted by a cloud of loud shreaking gulls. The high cliffs dry and bare offer very few harbors along this coast. Sines is the next one and this time we have the chance to sail for a while before giving up half way. A very impressive long northwest swell lift mountains of water before crashing with tremendous splashes along the coast and at the end of the broken old jetty of the commercial harbor of Sines.

Royal galleon at the maritime museum

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A walk in the past

Sintra at 15 kms from Cascais is the witness of the extravaganza of wealth during several centuries of power starting from the moors in the 8th century who installed a mighty forteress up hill. Their influence is reflected in all the old buildings of the city. Its centuries old mansions are a reminder of a city of power and other houses built later in the 16 and 17 th centuries show how Sintra became a resort summer place for the royal families when the power definietely was transferred to Lisbon.
The Royal Palace is an extraordinary proof of the massive moor influence with its delicate and subtil architecture, arch, tiles and fontains. Used as a royal palace from the 15 th to 16 th century, parts have been added, modified to suit the fashion of the time. Tiles and colors of moors style is mixed with the flashy gold trimming and painting of the 16 th century. It is regal for the eyes and imagination to walk through the huge palace and its numerous rooms which is a showcase for priceless pieces of furniture. Two enormous chemineys, quite incongrous have been added by one of the king to air the pristine huge white tiled kitchen. Everywhere in town the eye is sollicited by a beautifully tiled wall, an old roof a sinewy street and the luxurious vegetation. Of course, we wander in the back streets around the old town where we found some well hidden villas and mansion of the last centuries with rich gardens guarded by big stone walls. Down the valley the vegetation is mixed and very rich. The forteress de Los Moros above seems to guard this little paradise.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Sailing for me is also and mainly discovering new places, playing at exploraters in a world where there is nothing new to discover. Certainly, for me Lisbon was anything but new since I have spent 3 weeks at port 22 years ago ! But I rediscovered it with great pleasure walking for hours from the flashy imposing Belem, through the more popular and blue collar Alcantara neighborhood to the old and timeless Lisbon and its maze of steps and narrow streets. I was a poor guide to Magnus though since I could only rememeber the places once we were already there. It was hot and the cobblestone streets and sidewalks hard on our feet. We enjoyed the tiny old fashion shops and as usual ended up more than once in the ever popular hardware stores full of treasures. Lisbon is one of the most agreable capital I have been to. its atmosphere is more of a village. We don't feel the stress and maddness of a big metropolis. It is old fashion, anarchist in its lay out. Old and timeless in its old neighborhoods up hill dominating the harbor. Modern part of the city.. do not know, it is not in view anywhere.. We walked from Belem and its impressive monastery which now harbor museums. The water front is huge and airy with wide as boulevards cobblestone sidewalks, gardens, plazas and parks and the either present mighty statues of a king or explorer. Then we strolled down the more modest and popular back streets of the commercial harbor to find ourselves all the sudden in the seclusive embassies quarters up and down hills before arriving in the heart of Lisbon, to the huge esplanade with its wavy pattern of two color cobblestones. It is closed to traffic and it is the showcase of select shops, numerous bars and restaurants. Just a few steps to the right up the hill and we found ourselves climbing steep staircases above the red roofs along beautifully tiled walls where the old timeless Lisbon hides its heart. it is a pleasure to get lost in purpose in all the sinewy stairways and streets to discover the soul of a village called Lisbon.

Friday, October 9, 2009

south run

The winds veered north after the southern blow that kept us in port. It is time to continue our southern migration. We left Lexoeis with a calm weather. The swells have come down and Magnus is happy to hoist the spinnaker which has seldom being hoisted. It will push us for 10 hours when during the night, the wind picks up to a steady 15 knots and as my watch starts, I rather have it down. Even with the main reefed we keep going at 5.5 knots as the wind strenghten to 25 for some time before coming down again. The sea is manageable and the Aries can steer at last with only the main sail up on the downwind run. A second reef is even taken without slowing us at all. No traffic on the coast, not even fishingboats. How strange ! but peaceful with a starry sky and a yellow moon. We arrived at 4 pm at Cascais this old resort town at the entrance of the Tejo river which leads to Lisbon. It is saturday and lot of local boats are anchored in front of the town and its beaches. We meet again Zephyr, the 42 ft elegant classic sloop and its two energetic and enthusiastic young owners Colin and Steve. We are down to latitude 38 and it is hotter and the sea water is even warmer... 66 F. Still too cold for me though.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A taste of Port...o

Listening to the wind blowing through the rigging and grinning our teeth at the whistling of the neighbor's windgenerator, we feel lucky for being in safe harbor tonight. A south wind blows 25 to 30 knots and a good amount of rain already soaked several times my laundry trying to dry on the line. We left the Ria de Vigo, via a little stop at Bayona, on its south side to get some diesel with the last north wind, very weak to none before the arriving of a low pressure which brought us the first bad weather in six weeks.
Lexoeis is a refuge harbor with a marina squeezed at the end of the commercial harbor protected by a huge jetty. Dirty and smelly so close to the fishing harbor, it has however a certain appeal if not charm. It is more lively, actif, more genuine than the usual marina, far from any upper class or nouveau riches ambiance. And then Porto is not far, 5 km and we can forget the sordid surrounding of the marina. It is the third time I come to Porto, 22 years in between. ..Nothing have changed really downtown. We stumbled over huge plazas with mighty sculptures of some saints or forgotten explorers, churches at every corner. Having a glance at the Douro down ill, we decided to get closer to it and took one of the multiple narrow streets which end up in winding steep steps, over 6 century old, wondering what we gone find round the next curve. One run down façade of a former mighty house joins a neat typical ceramic tile wall from the next house as old as the steps themselves. We soon arrived at the water front where the majestic Eiffel bridge steps over the river Douro. The laundry dries hanging from the balconies just above the head of the tourists eating at the terrace of restaurants. The small non appealing little restaurants which advertised economic menus at 3 euros are back to back with the more select ones offering to the tourist the same menu twice or three times the price.
The cellars of Port wine are a big touristic attractions now days and I have nostalgic memories of some visits at Sandeman Port cellar where the wine was largely offered for tasting with no charge. Without my parents noticing it at first, I also tasted some nice vintages...I was six years old. Now the tasting is not free in most of the big houses. But, why paying when that can be found free some streets up the hill in another big cellar where it is harder to get so less visited by the mass. We always prefer back streets to the more flashy touristic streets of a big city.
So we had our free visit and free tasting in the cellars Croft. And a dish of the day at 3 euro 50 with some crisp vinho verde in front of the river close to the big Sandeman Port cellar was perfect. Porto has charmed me once again. It is a town full of treasure at each corner of its sinewy streets. It is lively and its people genuine, friendly and welcoming.
Meanwhile as we are stuck here by the weather, we use the advantage of a marina, the electricity, to start some improvements to the chart table, redesign it to fit the computer safely.