A Few Day Sails

Cascais to Peniche

Heading north along the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula in the summer months sailing boats have to struggle against the Portuguese Trade winds. One solution is to reach out into the Atlantic even as far as Madeira or the Azores in the hope of catching the westerlies that flow up and around the British Isles. Another option is to wait until the Azores High settles in its most northerly summer position which gives the UK a few days or weeks of summer sunshine and below it weaker trade winds. With the weaker trades that don’t kick in each day until noon or sometimes mid afternoon, it is possible to depart at first light and motor in shortish hops northwards. We opted for this latter tactic.

Temptress departed Cascais on Thursday morning as soon as there was daylight. For the second time we had to forfeit our €20 deposit on the security gate card as the office was firmly closed. It’s only a few miles west to the twin capes that make this corner Raso and Roche. Even though there was virtually no breeze elsewhere there was some blowing around them as we approached however unlike twenty years ago it wasn’t strong enough to prevent us passing. Back then it took three attempts over a week to eventually beat our way out to sea and make it round in heavy seas. This time we passed close inshore dodging the many pot buoys that litter this coast.

Our first hop was to be to Peniche a fishing port tucked under a kink in the coastline. It is some forty nautical miles north of Cascais. The crew read, snoozed and chatted in the cockpit under shade of the bimini. Even though horizontally it was misty with poor visibility, vertically the mist was thin enough to show blue skies once the sun rose high enough. Later the mist thickened to fog reducing visibility to a few hundred metres. The radar came into its own for spotting fishing boats and Raymarine’s latest gadgets meant the skipper could watch the screen remotely on his mobile phone whilst sitting in the cockpit!

Unsurprisingly Temptress seems to be the only boat heading north. During the day half a dozen yachts pass us going south to the Med or the Canaries. A northerly breeze is just starting as we reach Peniche at midday. Our early start paid off. We tidy up the boat and troop off to find the marina office on the quayside. It’s closed and reopens at 16:00 according to the sign. Time for some lunch.

The town sits on a low rocky headland with ancient fortifications on its landward side. The street from the huge fishing harbour leads up along the inside of these and is lined with restaurants on either side. Burgers, Indian and empty places are eschewed as we plump for the one whose pavement tables are full and whose menu offers mostly fish. So much for a light lunch, Erica’s choice resulted in a platter of six grilled sardines with boiled potatoes and salad, Susie opted for pork with mushrooms again another huge portion with three slices of meat under a generous coating of cream and the skipper’s steak was even larger. Both the latter dishes came with large sides of fries and salad. We were stuffed and retired to our bunks to snooze until the office reopened.

At five Kevin made the trek along the U shaped pontoon again but was soon back as there was still no one there. A south going Irish flagged boat rafted alongside Temptress as there was little available space in this oddly configured marina. The Spanish owners were living in Dublin but had recently relocated to Barcelona and this was their delivery trip. They were up at six and cheerfully moved off to allow us to depart the next morning.

Ships Log: Cascais To Péniche – 54nm

Peniche to Nazare and beyond

The navigator had spent sometime on Thursday plotting various potential routes up the Portuguese coast. Even before we’d left Cascais several options had been discussed. Basically by leaving at daybreak we would attempt to get as far as we could before the breeze got up. The next port north after Peniche is Nazare, famous for the deep sea trench that reaches right into the harbour entrance and for the huge waves, some of the worlds largest that draw surfers to its steep beaches. It’s about four hours away. The next accessible port after that is Figuiera da Foz a hundred miles north of Peniche.

As we left on Friday we looked at the weather forecast. It seemed the trades would not kick in until later than usual at around three o’clock. The three of agreed to give Fig da Foz a shot. Temptress took advantage of the calm weather to pass inside the Berlingha Islands

By ten am Temptress was motoring past Nazare, it would definitely have been too short a hop. Fingers crossed the forecast is correct as we had now committed ourselves to reaching the next indentation in this long sandy coast. For the next few hours we motor a few miles off one continuous sandy beach. At each small town there are people on it but for the most part it’s empty for mile after mile. Then the land swings out abruptly ahead. A few low hills back the town of Figuiera that sits on the northern bank of the Mondega river. By three pm we are motoring in through the river entrance. A huge screen with flashing lights and the top of a stage in front of it catches our eye at almost the same instant as the sound reaches us.

A friendly marinero comes down the ramp to greet us as we tie up to the reception pontoon. He offers to call the attendant if we need fuel, which we do again after all this motoring. Then we head into the very new marina building to complete the paperwork. He tells us there is an immigration or SEF office just along the quayside so after moving Temptress to a finger pontoon, which proved a little tricky as the incoming tide set up quite a cross current in the basin, we wander up the long pontoon to investigate.

With our UK passports both Erica and I need to exit Schengen by getting them stamped, otherwise the ninety day clock keeps ticking which could prove awkward later. Sadly the office closed at four and it’s now quarter past. Perhaps it’ll be open tomorrow, Saturday otherwise we will have to live with the consequences. Oh England why did you want to Brexit?

Despite the breeze it was hot in the sun. It seems finally summer has arrived. We couldn’t resist the clube nautico bar with its tables and umbrellas as we passed on our way back to Temptress. With a backdrop of sound tests from the self proclaimed largest sunset festival in Europe, we consumed a few refreshing beers and completed our planning for the next leg.

According to the forecast the area of strong winds that’s been sitting just off the northwest corner of Spain for days, is going to diminish in size and ease on Sunday. Meanwhile on Saturday it looks as if the trades won’t put in an appearance at all close to the coast. That all means getting past Finistere and on into the western fringes of Biscay should be doable over Sunday night and into Monday. So the plan for Saturday is to visit the SEF office and get our stamps if possible, then a trip to the market which is literally across the road from the marina to top up on fresh veg before heading off for the four or five day passage to Ireland. We hope to make our landfall at Dunmore East, chosen because it’s a relatively easy entrance on the eastern corner of Ireland, close to St George’s Channel.

Ships Log: Péniche to Figuiera da Foz 60nm


  1. My brother lived in Sao Martinho do Porto for a few years.. I visited him once on a trip over from the USA to take my mother to see him, and was able to catch up with a high school friend who had a lovely holiday house on a river estuary (ria?) near there. You passed that pretty coastal town on the way to Fig. Happy sailings!

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.