Viana Do Castello to Lisbon (16th September - 18th September)

We left Viana on the 16th September bound towards Lisbon about 230 miles away. We expected the passage to take about 2 1/2 days so this was the longest leg so far for the family. The weather forecast was good and I even took the liberty of planning departure time so that the tide would be favourable as we sailed down the river. We planned to set off at a leisurely 1100 or so in the morning and so with a few hours to spare Jack and I wandered up to the marina office to settle up. As I thought about the trip ahead I reflected that there was a surprisingly high tidal range in the harbour and I’d better double check that there was sufficient depth of water to get out of the marina at any time; good question as it happened! Friendly-harbour-master-bloke said we could, but only for about another 20 minutes. ‘Leg it …‘ the cry went up as we moved into red alert, mega-scramble mode. I sent Jack back to the boat to forewarn Selma (who was sublimely unaware that we would be leaving in 15 minutes) and I paid. I arranged for the bridge to be opened in ten minutes and charged back to the GSB. Meanwhile, Jack had delivered the message but unfortunately Selma had ignored his screams of ‘we’re legging it’ as the rambles of a 7 year old and had carried on as was. This situation changed on my arrival as I randomly swore at everyone - this helped me quite a bit but speaking candidly may have caused some minor friction with the crew … well one of them.

We managed to get the boat ready in double quick time but turning the instruments on found we were aground. This was a surprise, we didn’t feel aground, we didn’t look aground, so we ignored the instruments, gently rocked the boat from side to side and left … slowly. Judging by the amount of throttle required to leave the berth I think we were a little bit aground, but not fully elevated so to speak. So, a quiet well organised departure was had from Viana; we liked Viana, but then we seem to like everywhere.

The first 24 hours or so of the passage was mostly under engine. The skies were absolutely crystal clear and once again there were literally hundreds of dolphins keeping us company. The night watch was spent star gazing and continuing to read about some of the legends associated with some of the easier to spot constellations. Cassiopea, the tidy Ethiopean Queen who was banished for reckoning herself; the seven brothers who together make up the stars of Ursa Major, Signus the Swan from the Northern Cross and so on. Personal ‘parenting’ note … don’t star gaze and eat boiled sweets, Jack is liable to choke.

A favourable current made the first day’s mileage very good, in fact we were getting a bit ahead of ourselves and would arrive in Lisbon at night so the next day we stopped donking and enjoyed a leisurely drift at 2 or 3 knots.

By the evening of the second day the wind had completely died away and we had to start the donk again. We were a bit nervous because there were poorly marked lobster pots absolutely everywhere and we were worried about catching one round the prop. We didn’t, but had several near misses, notably on watch hand-over when Selma very usefully and in an incredibly calm and matter of fact voice advised me that we were about to hit one. I was in the companionway and made a desperate dive at the tiller next to which Selma was standing. I threw it in a direction which I hoped would be helpful and we missed the offending pot by a whisker - Selma claims several feet. I politely asked Selma why she had responded to the emergency in such a statuesque manner …’ I thought you would do it, good night’ she said and went to bed. I reached for the relief of the goody box.

Arrival in Lisbon was great fun. We were in the mouth of the River Tagus at dawn so worked our way up the river with the sun rising. Although only 2 days at sea the smell of land was strong as we caught the last of the flood up the river. We passed Estoril and Cascais where a new marina has been built and then moved upstream to Belem with the spectacular Jesus Christ Statue in the distance … ‘Daddy’ that’s a rude word you can only say those words when you’re in Church advised Ella. ‘But that’s the name of the bloody statue’ I replied … ‘it doesn’t matter you can’t say those words and the other word’s rude as well‘; she was firm but fair.

As we passed Belem on the outskirts of Lisbon the tide changed. I knew it had changed because we were making 4 knots through the water but were going 1 knot backwards. We put the engine in full ahead and managed to creep forward at 1-2 knots, belching black smoke as we went. Another great bit of passage planning - I read the pilot on arrival as you do and it did mention the fact that a fruity tide flows down the river at certain times.

As the River widened the tide settled down abit and by about 0930 we were sailing past the cruise ship Queen Mary II that we have oftened sailed past outside Shamrock Quay. At this point and within about 30 seconds visibility reduced to something less than 50 m as we were enveloped in thick fog. We crept forward, ironically assisted by the head tide, and called the port control to check whether we could gain access to the harbour and marina; the marina entrance was blocked by a swinging bridge which due to the thick fog we couldn't see; the pilot said it was permanently open but we thought a check was prudent. Needless to say the pilot was wrong, but sadly, Harbour Control couldn’t see the swinging bridge either and therefore didn’t know whether it was open or not and quite frankly weren't interested anyway. If it is, they advised us to go in and if it isn’t they advised us to wait. Selma relayed this to me and I told her what I thought of Portugese Harbour Control; fortunately I avoided a further telling off from Ella because just as I was really getting to the juicy bits a tug emerged from the mist and helpfully tooted, drowning out the more offensive parts of my commentary.

We inched into the harbour which, incidently, seemed to be a breeding ground for Portugese tug boats, found the bridge and found it shut; this said and with some relief we found and moored up to a handy pontoon to wait.
Half an hour later, the bridge opened, the fog cleared and we moored up in Doca De Alcantara, Lisbon in blazing sunshine.
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