By now, we were getting a little concerned at all the delays and we were determined to put some miles behind us so that we might reach Gibraltar by our target date of mid- September. We were up early for our run down to Viana do Castelo, the first stop in Portugal. After refuelling the boat we set off in quite murky conditions with a visibility of slightly less than 2 miles. The visibility improved as we went, but the wind was unfavourable – right on the bow, so it was motoring yet again. We made good time and overtook a larger French ketch who wished to know if his AIS (automatic identification system) was working. It wasn’t, which may have given him problems later as the visibility started to drop rapidly and we quickly ran into a fog bank which reduced the visibility to less than 100 metres at times. We had no option but to press on with a sharp lookout the radar on and a close watch for other boats on the AIS.
It was a good chance to try out the fog horn which we hadn’t had cause to use until now. It is a pump up version with a canister like an aerosol, but with a hand pump on the end. After a few pumps the release handle lets the compressed air through the horn, initially producing the traditional horn like sound, but fading to a strangled squawk as the pressure faded. Motoring on with a good lookout for other vessels and for the copious fishing buoys that were even harder to see in the murk and periodically sounding like a strangled duck we finally came close to the entrance to Viana do Castelo, but nothing was to be seen. We had to carry out some evasive manoeuvres to dodge fishing boats that were running for home, but saw none of them; the AIS was worth its weight in gold that day! Finally, with all the fishing boats well ahead of us, we made progress towards the river entrance, but nothing was to be seen. Motoring almost completely blind, it was a great relief when the breakwater appeared about 100 metres away and we made our way into the shelter of the river. Initially the banks of the river and the buoys marking the channel were very difficult to see but, mercifully, the visibility improved as we got further upstream until we were able to see the swing bridge into the marina. A call to the harbour master and the bridge swung open and it was with great relief that we moored up.
This was our first encounter with lazy line moorings, bow in and secured at the stern with lines fixed to the sea bed. The harbour master helped us in, but the bow-in mooring gave Jac a problem climbing on and off over the anchor. A friendly French couple, moored alongside stern in, saved the day by letting us use their boat as a stepping stone to the shore. After a wander around town followed by a meal of steak cooked in port, we retired to a hostelry, The Irish Bar (they get everywhere) which had the bonus of a good internet connection.
12th August 2015 Viana do Castello
We were running out of clean clothes so it was time for a washing run. The machines were a half mile from the boat on the other side of the marina across the swing bridge so this was going to take a while. Having started the washing we took a trip into town and went looking for a chandlery and to do some rubber-necking around the fishing port down the river. It is quite a pretty town and yet another with a rock festival going on. Having collected the washing we headed back to the Irish bar and used the internet to order some boat parts before having yet another hamburger and heading to bed.