Yacht Pipit


Plotterless in Povoa, Leixoes, Aveiro and Figueira da Foz, 17th September 2011

Happy Birthday...

During our sail from Baiona to Viana do Castelo, all the detail on our chartplotter disappeared as we reached 42 degrees North. We assumed that we had forgotten that that was the extent of the area covered on the CF card and that we should have ordered a new one for the next area. As we do all our passage planning on paper charts (you know, just like in the olden days...), we carried on.

After our passage from Viana to Povoa de Varzim, further investigation revealed that the card in the plotter should contain detail nearly all the way to Italy. As it seemed only the detail for Portugal was 'missing' (detail re-appears near Gibraltar) we assumed a faulty card, so contacted Navionics. They very promptly sent out a replacement card (debiting a credit card until we return the faulty one). Unfortunately, the new card didn't work at all! Thinking that perhaps the plotter firmware needed updating to read the new card properly, after some expense and delay in getting a card and card reader we did this, but to no avail. We are still no further forward, as it now appears to be a fault with our plotter. Our old card and the new card work perfectly in someone else's plotter, their Platinum card works in our plotter (thank you Michael), but neither of our cards work in our plotter for this area - something of a conundrum... The nearest Raymarine service agent is in Lisbon, so we'll be doing all the passages between here and there with just the basic in-built coastline showing on the plotter (but with AIS and Radar features still working). Pilotage is reasonably straightforward in these waters, typically eyeball in & out a couple of miles and then generally head south, so with all our planning done on paper we should be ok, but the tides and Atlantic swell are not to be underestimated. We do at least now have a contact in Lisbon, and have been told that if we call a couple of days before we get there (or Cascais) they will send someone to have a look at the plotter.

To divert our attention from the problem with the chartplotter, we had a trip to Porto, taking the Metro (more public transport!) from Povoa. The tourist office provided a map indicating the highlights for a day visit. We went up the Clerigos Tower which prior to more modern skyscrapers was the tallest tower in Porto and still affords panoramic views of the city and the Douro River:

Clerigos Tower.

Looking across the river Douro to the port houses...

We then took the funicular railway (you wait over 30 years since your last trip on one, i.e. Lynton & Lynmouth and then travel on two in a week!) down to the river, walked across the bridge and explored the port wine district. The port houses, many with terracotta tiled roofs, nestle in a maze of streets adjacent to the river. Although the receptionist at Taylor's took us to join the last English speaking tour of the day (they were closing early that day for some reason), it was just finishing but importantly we did get to sample some of their produce, of which we now have a bottle. We then walked to Croft's in time for one of their tours, given very entertainingly, after which another sample followed.


Meanwhile, back in Povoa, there was no shortage of socialising. Povoa may not be the most scenic of marinas, but it is surely one of the friendliest (and happily cheapest!). We finally met Michael and Violeta Harvey, whom we'd only met previously 'virtually' through the BOA. Michael was a terrific help during our stay, taking us to the supermarket three times and to various places tracking down the card reader and CF card to try to fix the plotter via a firmware upgrade. He also took delivery of several packages, including Andy's belated birthday present, a new toilet seat. We also enjoyed a meal aboard Time Off, Michael and Violeta's Bavaria 44, where rather too much wine was consumed...

We intended to stay for a week or so in Povoa, but as is often the case ended up staying a lot longer, two weeks in fact, partly due to trying to fix the plotter and partly due to the weather - we were ready to go, but then there were three days of fog followed by large Atlantic swells, making it impossible to get out of Povoa safely. However this did allow us to enjoy two Tuesday Night Out meals, two Sunday barbeques and consequently met a number of other liveaboards & cruisers, including Rob and Rhian of Beyzano, a particularly nice Beneteau 473 bound for the ARC, with whom we eventually sailed to Leixoes on Monday afternoon. They anchored, we opted for the ease of the marina as either way you have to produce papers at the office, and we didn't fancy launching the dinghy just for that. Had it been a picturesque anchorage we would have enjoyed rowing about for a day or so, but in reality we'd have been dodging high speed pilot boats, tankers and cruise liners! On Tuesday morning Rob & Rhian paddled in to the marina in their quick to deploy inflatable kayak, and after coffee aboard Pipit Michael & Violeta, who work and live in Leixoes, picked us up in their car and we all had lunch (excellent grilled dorada in our case) in Michael's regular lunchtime haunt. Such is the liveaboards' lot...

Fly me to the moon...

Over a beer or two we enjoyed watching the sun go down from the balcony of the very nice yacht club at the marina and, on Wednesday, we set sail, or more accurately motor, for Aveiro. As we had timed our arrival appropriately there was no problem entering what can be a tricky and even dangerous port, and we anchored amongst moorings and enjoyed a warm evening in the cockpit.

On Thursday we were up at the crack of seven to leave for Figueira da Foz, hoping to catch the ebb out of the river but as we headed down stream, there were breaking waves right across the port entrance. Not surprising really, with four knots of current heading out into incoming Atlantic swell, so we headed back to our anchorage, where we enjoyed a lazy day relaxing & reading in glorious warm sunshine. Although we didn't go ashore, the anchorage in Aveiro is a strangely pleasant place, with contrasting backdrops of the commercial docks and mountains. It is, however, much more crowded with moorings than either Reeds or the pilot guide indicated, and there is only really room for a couple of yachts to anchor in deep enough water. We were on our own on the first night, and joined by yet another lovely metal Dutch boat on the second.

Yesterday we were up at 0430, and headed downstream in the dark where we waited until there was just enough light to see the sea conditions at the entrance. What a difference a day makes! Well actually 2 hours, as at just after high water the sea at the entrance was fairly calm, and we easily motored out. We then had an excellent downwind sail with just the genoa set, although the first few hours were a bit rolly but nothing like as bad as we experienced along the north coast of Spain.

There are strong winds forecast for the weekend, so we'll wait here in Figueira da Foz catching up on domestic chores, including washing the grime of Povoa and Leixoes (no offence...) off the decks of Pipit. So far, we like Foz - we have 'acquired' free fast internet access (hence this update), there is the best market we have seen since Cherbourg, and we've found a Chinese restaurant - happy days!

Finally, as promised last time, here is our new crew member, Mr Fawlty. He looks a little the worse for wear, but then we have eaten half of him: