Dauntless Turns 28 years-old as She Passes 5000 Hours

I really did not have time to celebrate as we were entering the inlet to Ilha de Coulatra.

Our track inbound as we depart outbound
Our track inbound as we depart outbound. A much less interesting departure

Conditions were far from ideal: a two knot current against us, 20 knot winds behind us and ocean depths shallowing from 400 feet to less than 20’; it was not the time to get the cake out.

But Dauntless handled the conditions like she always does with a nonchalance that says, if this is what you want me to do, I’ll get it done.

As you can see from our inbound track, we waggled a bit, but that was the extent of it.  We then proceeded to head up the well-marked river channel, only to discover that the marina was full.  Now in the USA, we are accustomed to a marina being full. Making reservations, calling ahead are sometimes critical and done pretty routinely.

Instead in Europe, at least in Northern Europe, first talked about in the Cruising Forum and later confirmed by experience over last two years, is that there is always space.  And if space is not readily available space will be found.  Sometimes that means sailboats will be rafted together two or three deep.  For the most part this Krogen escaped that inconvenience because of our large bow rise.

I think this difference in marina culture is more about the culture than anything else.  I mean in the north, there is a very evident culture of the sea. Thus seafarers are accommodated pretty much no matter what.  It carries over to prices also.  Throughout the North and Baltic Seas, marina prices were in the $20 to $35 range; with only Helsinki being out of the normal at $50.  Even with the two weeks I was in Helsinki last year, the average marina cost was only $25 averaged over the four months for our 42 foot (12.7m) Kadey Krogen.

The same inlet from Google
The same inlet from Google

This year, as we came south, I expected prices to rise.  Prices in the west coast of France were in the $30 to $40 range and that continued into Northwest Spain, Galicia.

But as we turned south, as the temperatures got higher so did the prices.  $40 becomes the going rate and other than the little gem of Vila Franca de Xira up the river from Lisbon or the Marina do Freixo, upriver from Porto, everything costs more.

The bigger disappointment however is not so much the prices, but that’s to be expected.  Similar to what I noticed along the east coast of the Untitled States, the seafaring culture is alive and well in New England, but every place else it’s simply a commercial venture.

And that seems to be the attitude here.

Certainly I have always shown a preference for the cooler, off the beaten track places, Maine instead of the Bahamas, for instance, but none the less, the No Room in the Inn sign is a disappointment, especially since I must turn around in a small distance in a 20 knot wind.

Sunrise
Sunrise at our anchorage

 

 

Vila Franca de Xira

Dauntless Finds a Real Town

A Real Anchor
A Real Anchor

Portugal has been a mixed bag so far.  Wonderful, warm people, always trying to help, who sound like they are speaking Russian to my English ear.

The Market
The Market

But the two largest cities, Lisbon and Porto, coupled with the location of the marinas in those cities has been a disappointment.  I know I should know better.  My mantra over the years to anyone who will listen is to always avoid the large cities of Europe if your goal is to really see the culture and people of any given country.

Doesn’t matter if you are in Ireland or Italy,

The Market
The Market

Dublin and Rome are more about the tourists and their expectations than the locals.  This became even more evident last year in the Baltic.  I saw the same tourists in Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Tallinn.  Between Ryan Air and the high speed ferries, they transport the same group from city to city.  And the effect is that the food and expectations in those places start to look more and more the same.wp-1472724194208.jpg

Much like the street fairs of NYC.  They used to be a celebration of the neighborhood in which they were located: Italian in Little Italy, Greek in Astoria, Polish in Greenpoint, etc.   But about 20 years ago, the City in a move to further commercialize, tax and regulate, increased the number.

Looked good on paper to the politician’s, wp-1472724195010.jpgprobably even looked good to the clueless who just arrived in the City from the hinterland, but to New Yorker’s, the damage was done.  We now have the exact same vendors every week in different parts of the City.  New York, known as a city of neighborhoods, is becoming a city of Blahness.  Every place you look looks the same.

OK, moving on.

The Park next to Dauntless
The Park next to Dauntless

The above is why I have not written a blog post in the last week.  Oh, I’ve written plenty of drafts, I’ve started at least four.  But they have all digressed to a point in which even I don’t see the point.

So, ignoring my own advice, since getting to Portugal, Dauntless and I have spent 90% of our time in Porto and Lisbon.  And both marinas have been relatively expensive ($45 per day) and a half dozen miles from the

The train station of Vila Franca de Xira
The train station of Vila Franca de Xira

town’s center. People have been wonderful, especially in Porto, where the marina people made me really feel at home and we managed to make a number of new friends.

Now Porto does have different feel than Lisbon, but still.wp-1472900790670.jpg

So, when I found out about a little marina about 20 miles upriver from Lisbon, I jumped at the chance.  The home of my new found friend Diogo (the star of another blog that’s yet to be published), Vila Franca de Xira, has been a wonderful little spot.

On the river, attached to a little park and only minutes away from town, it’s like being home; and I just got here.

The park
The park
Next to D
Next to D

Numerous cafes, European bars, simple restaurants and an indoor market, full of fish, meat, poultry, vegetables and fruit stalls, it’s the kind of place that makes Europe, Europe.

Very few people speak English, I get by with my few words of Portuguese, a little more Spanish and when desperate some Italian.  The other day, for my main meal, which is early afternoon, when the waiter asked my desire, I just pointed to a nearby table and made the international sign for “everything he is eating and drinking”.  That sign by the way is waving one hand in a big circle, while smiling foolishly and saying, “Si” (yes).

It worked and ended up with my normal 375 ml white wine, a mixed salad (tomatoes, onion and some lettuce, salt, pepper, oil and vinegar) and a half dozen little flat fishes.

I ended with a café and a grappa like drink.

It’s great to finally be in Portugal.

 

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