Portugal [legacy]

Note: as this is a legacy page, we are no longer checking the links periodically. The information and links (if they still work) are here for interest only.

Leaving Spanish Galicia we made our way along the coast of Portugal.

As an EU member, Portugal’s laws are harmonized with the EU.

  • Customs and Immigration Formalities
    Foreign yachts, EU yachts arriving from outside the Schengen area of the EU (basically all the EU excepting Britain and Ireland) and yachts carrying non-EU persons should report to the immigration authorities.There are numerous levels and types of authorities. It seems that each yacht (EU registered or not) is expected to report to each authority in each harbour. When staying at a marina they seem to do all the paperwork and legwork for you, most marinas we stayed at required crew passports and ships registration papers (and sometimes insurance papers) so that photocopies could be made for the various authorities. We are not clear on the expectations when a yacht anchors off. It was explained to us that a yacht leaving a harbour is considered to be leaving Portugal. If she arrives at another Portuguese port (as in the case of a day sail to the next harbour) then she is checked back “into” Portugal. No harbour we stayed at had any requirement for checking out of the harbour.
  • Money Matters
    With the adoption of the Euro currency matters have been vastly reduced, entering from Spanish waters no longer implies a currency change over. Banking machines are every where and seem to accept virtually every international card – some of these may incur a transaction charge though. It is worth noting that many non-tourist merchants accept Visa cards but these are a Portuguese variety and the machines will not accept foreign charge cards. This is not the case in businesses that deal with foreign customers.
  • Buoyage
    Portuguese bouyage is generally very well set out and conforms to international standards.
  • Weather Information
    The Portuguese Meteo Office has a website which has information in Portuguese. There are also links to satellite photos. We did not find any synoptic charts on the site.
    The German website Top Karten has a variety of weather pages, including the 1 through 5 day synopsis forecasts.
  • Pilotage
    We used the RCC pilot “Atlantic Spain and Portugal”, 4th edition. As far as we know the only pilot available in the English language, it unfortunately does not live up to the higher standard of RCC pilots for the eastern parts of the Mediterranean (mostly written by Rod Heikel) where some of the local history and less of the personal opinions (e.g. “‘like a miniature Manhattan’ – though considerably less interesting”) are printed as pilotage information. It seems a shame to be in ports where the only overview information is a comparison to British social realities rather than a brief explanation of the indigenous story.
    Imray publishes an addendum on their website at but even this was out of date when we passed through, in both facilities and especially the prices (the internet addendum that we downloaded was only 2 months old at the time).


Looking out to the west and the “New World” Portugal has always maintained its own culture, language and cuisine. It’s multiple former colonies were as widely flung as any with outposts in Brazil, Macau, East Taymor, Madagascar and Angola and a trading outpost in Japan. The creation of such a wide empire testifies to the outlook of the country as does the list of explorers and the areas they charted: Vasco de Gama (Indian Ocean and Indian subcontinent), Magellan (first circumnavigation), Gaspar Corte Real (Newfoundland), Diogo de Silves (Azores), Diogo Cao (Congo River), Bartolomeu Dias (rounded Cape of Good Hope), Pedro Alvares Cabral (Brazil).

Note: We entered Portuguese waters at the beginning of October and it seemed that this was when most winter prices took effect. Consequently the prices we quote from Viana de Castello to Lisboa are not those of the high season. We left Lisboa in early May so prices south of there are in the shoulder or high season.

Viana de Castello N 041° 41′ W 008° 50′

The first marina in Portugal when entering from the north, a lovely small and friendly town with most services required by a cruising yacht. The marina is quite full but most of the time the harbour master is able to find a space for a visiting boat. There are about 6 pontoons (including the fuel pontoon) although only 4 of these will have sufficient depth for a yacht. The marina has moved into its new building which includes excellent showers and washing facilities. All pontoons except one have both electricity and water. Internet is available through the Youth Hostel which is 5 minutes walk behind the new marina office building (there is also a pool hall combined with a video arcade in the town which has 6 Internet PCs). A “Pingo Doce” food super market is 10 minutes walk away in the direction of the train station. By the fishing basin (towards the entrance of the harbour) is a chandlery which mainly stocks parts for fishing boats. Superb views are the reward for climbing the hill behind the town to see the Temple of Santa Lucia, and further up the road (above the hotel) is the ruin of Celtic fortified town. There is a city plan which is scheduled to complete in 2005 whereby the guest harbour will be moved to another basin closer to the entrance of the harbour on the river mouth.

Povoa de Varzim N 041° 22′ W 008° 46′

The relatively new marina has just under 250 berths with electricity and water on the pontoons. Showers, toilets and laundry facilities are available in the amenities building. We could not find any diesel pumps. The town centre is 10 minutes walk away with supermarcadoes (including a “Pingo Doce” and a Lidl) and other facilities easily reached. Internet is available at the waterfront library (past the casino on the seaside promenade) for 1 Euro per hour. We paid 10.71 per night which seems to be the daily rate year round. Monthly rates (if leaving the boat) are priced on 10 days stay and there is plenty of level ground to lift out and leave a boat using the 32 tonne travel lift. Security is very good with staff on site 24 hours per day. There is no chandlery available although there is an outboard dealer who sells a very few pieces of chandlery and rumour had it that he could order from the Plastimo catalogue. A stainless steel worker (Oficina de Serralharia e Mecanica Maritima) is available across the road from the marina. As the marina is not protected by a river mouth the surge from the open Atlantic can be quite pronounced.

The train to Porto does not run any longer (in fact the rails have been removed). The Porto Metro system is being extended and by 2005 will link up with Povoa, in the mean time “Transportes Alternativos Linha da Povoa” (Povoa Metro Line Alternative Transportation) runs between 2 and 10 busses per hour from the central bus station in Povoa to the Praca Republica in Porto. The tourist information office is located 15 minutes walk from the marina and has a full list of information on Povoa and the staff speak excellent English.

Figueira de Foz N 040° 09′ W 008° 50′

The marina is located on the north side of the river, about 1/2 mile from the mouth, although the marina is well protected against both wind and water, the Figueira harbour closes quite early in inclement weather due to its shallow entrance. Electricity and water are provided on the dock and an amenities block has toilets, showers and laundry facilities. We paid 9.23 per night, and there are weekly and monthly rates. Diesel is available and there are 3 or 4 small shops in the marina compound which each have a small amount of chandlery merchandise. Security is by a single code-key gate. There is internet access at “Suprides Computadores” across the street from the BP fuel station which is in turn across (another) street from the train station, and also at the library in the children’s section is a single internet PC (but the use of diskettes was prevented). A “Pingo Doce” food store is located near the BP fuel station and two hyper markets are located out on the ring road of the town (although we did not go out to these).

The university town of Coimbra may be visited via a 1 hour (1.50 Euro) train ride where you will have to change trains at Coimbra B onto a shuttle for 5 minutes which takes you into Coimbra A. The Roman town of Coimbraga is reached by busses whose station is nearer to Coimbra B.

Lisboa N 038° 42′ W 009° 10′

The marina at Doca la Alcantara is the furthest up the river Teja now that the Expo Marina has been closed due to damage from river floods. About 300 yachts are here with about 30 dedicated places for visiting yachts in addition to temporarily re-assigning vacant berths during the summer months. Power , water and electricity are on the pontoon with the ammenities block having toilets and showers (which have the lukest warm water known). A small chandlery and second hand gear store is immediately behind the marina across the parking lot. The office of the Vela Lusa sailing school a few doors to the left has internet access for 2 Euros an hour – they have a PC, scanner, printer and CD burner but their hours tend to be erratic. There is a student internet facility with about 10 PCs (but no printers etc.) at Santos which is a 15 minute walk from the marina towards the city centre. A “Pingo Doce” food store is located 10 minutes walk away and has virtually all food stuffs. Between the marina and the Pingo Doce is the transportation network which includes trams, trains and busses. The tourist centre of Lisboa is further up the river (i.e take transport leaving to the right from the different stops or stations).

One of the hardest things in Lisboa is to get a laundry washed. The two choices we found were:

  • the chandlery and second hand equipment store behind the marina entrance has a washing machine (but not drying machine) for 6 Euros per 4 kg load but you must wash at 40 degrees on the economy wash (which takes forever) and supply your own detergent powder;
  • take the 32 bus from the transit stop at Alcantara to Praca Alegria off Rua de Liberdade (there’s a Carlson Wagonlit travel agency on the corner). Walk up Praca Alegria keeping to the right hand side, past the Texas lavandria (on the left side of the street), and follow the street branching off to the right near the top of the hill. Here 5kg of laundry costs 8 Euros for washing, drying, laundry powder and folding. The laundry is washed in commercial machines at a proper temperature and usually takes about 2 hours for washing and drying. Obviously the requirement for drying depends on the current weather.

Marina security is good with a night guard on duty at the number code controlled access gate and staff in the office during the day. A number of police boats are moored in the marina which probably acts as a further deterrent.

The Tourism Office of Lisbon runs a web camera.

Lisboa as a Wintering Location

Maringret spent the winter in the Alcantara yacht basin close to downtown Lisboa. The monthly rates are constant throughout the year (i.e. the summer rates are the same as the winter rates), are charged on a calendar month basis and include power, water and a shower block. Contact Porto de Lisboa, department of Nautica de Recreio by telephone at 351-21-392-20-48 , fax 351-21-392-20-85 or by email at doca.santo-amaro@porto-de-lisboa.pt. The pontoons lie in an old sailing ship basin whose entrance faces east up the River Teja and so is very well sheltered against the westerly storms and any ocean swell etc. coming off the Atlantic. The location is well connected to Lisboa center by trains, trams and busses. Security is card key or access number based and staff or security guards are on duty around the clock.

As the center of the former Portuguese Empire Lisboa is a city well endowed with museums and monuments.A website for visitors is available which includes a web camera. There are tourist centres at the airport (both national and city), and then at Praca Commercial (city only) and at Restauradorres (both city and national) on Avenue do Liberdade. There are two monthly publications listing activities in Lisboa:

Additionally the Belem Cultural Centre which is a 45 minute walk from the Alcantara Docks has numerous concerts both ticketed and free.

The libraries we checked did not have appreciable quantities of books in English although some did have periodicals or newspapers in English. The Cinemateca Portuguesa runs an excellent program of movies for 2.50 Euros through out the year with between 3 and 5 showings 6 days a week (closed Sundays). Cine Paraiso at Rua do Loreto, 15 also has a discount movie program. There are numerous other cultural outlets including the Gulbenkian Symphony.

The Lisboa airport has direct or connecting flights to most western destinations. The airport is located on the western edge of the city and there is an Airport Bus which connects the airport with major hotels and transit interchanges and the Cais de Sodre train station which is 20 minutes walk up the river from Alcantara. You can either walk or take a tram from Cais do Sodre to Alcantara.

Nearby the marina is a Pingo Doce food store which is generally the best food chain in Portugal, being the chain with the largest stores and largest variety of goods. There is a Lidl bulk food store east along (up) the river, take the 28 bus and 3/4 of the way to the 1998 Expo site the Lidl is on the inland side of the road. If you take the 28 bus as far as Garre Orient which is adjoining the Vasco de Gamma shopping centre (which is in turn adjacent to the former Expo site) there is a large Continente hypermarket in the ground floor of the shopping centre. It has the largest food selection we found in Lisboa. About 5 minutes walk from Garre Orient uphill, towards the airport is the Aki store which sells DIY supplies. They have all sorts of tools and lots of softwoods and plywood – they don’t have any hardwoods other than a few trim items.

A man named Carlos who is “around” the marina can fill Calor gas bottles (reportedly for 30 Euros a bottle). Alternatively a gas plant near Sintra will fill them but then transportation must be arranged. The plant is called “Gas Flaga” and is located in Parque Industrial de Colares in the town of Cacem (which is near Sintra). They are open Monday – Friday 08:30-17:30 but closed for lunch between 12:30 and 13:30. Their telephone number is 214 31 30 83 and the director, Mr. Madeira, speaks English. The other employees will not necessarily speak English. They filled both Calor and American gas fittings when we were in Lisbon.

Chandleries are not that common in Lisboa and their prices seem to vary greatly. We found variations of up to 40% on items we shopped for. Probably the best outlet for yachting item for both price and selection is the DND chandlery at the Belem yacht basin (DND standing for Desconto Nautico Directo). Basically the store is a Plastimo outlet (the Plastimo warehouse is near the Pingo Doce food store in Alcantara but tends to not deal directly with the public) and it’s prices are hard to beat for Plastimo supplied items. Their prices on non-Plastimo items are not necessarily the best. Because the warehouse is so close anything they don’t have can usually be on hand by the next day. From Alcantara yacht basin simply walk down river for about 45 minutes, under the bridge and then continue along until you come to a boat yard which is part of Belem marina, DND is in the buildings on the street side of the boat yard, facing the busy highway. The 28 bus or 15 tram will also take you there.

The best place for charts and other publications is J Garraio & C. Lda who are located at Cais do Sodre which is about 30 minutes walk (or take the 28 bus or 15 tram) up river at Cais do Sodre (which is the second train station up river from Alacantara). J Garraio is across the busy street, between the praca (plaza) and the Farmers Market. There is also a chandlery and a fishing supply store beside the chart agent. They handle Imray, French SHOM and British Admiralty charts as well as an extensive range of pilot books. The photocopy shop AB Copia, Lda on Rua de Alcantara which is two streets up from the Pingo Doce food store has the equipment to copy documents up to 1 meter wide.

Another ships chandlery which has some items for yachts and is a chart agent is located on the pier between the yacht basin and the container terminal, to get to it walk around the west end of the yacht basin and along the side of the basin towards the entrance. Yet another yacht chandlery is located in the next yacht basin down river, almost under the bridge. There is a row of popular restaurants and last storefront (i.e. the one closest to the bridge) has various yacht pieces including a selection of raw teak. Compared to other cities its size there is not a lot of selection in yachting supplies but most basics can be found. In addition one can take the train out to Cascais where there is a marina which has a chandlery and about 15 clothing and apparel stores.

Mail may be received through the marina (enquire at the office for the proper routing instructions) or at the closest postal station whose Poste Restante address is:

given_name SURNAME
Estacao Correios Necessidades
Posta Restante
1350-999 Lisboa

Take your passport to claim any items, there is a minor charge of 40 cents or so per item to claim. It doesn’t hurt to have the Surname underlined in addition to it being in upper case. To find this post office, go up the stairs from the steel over pass over the tram and bus stops on Avenida 24 de Julho to the first cross street up the hill. At the top of the stairs beside/above the entrance to the roadway tunnel, turn left and then take the first diagonal street (Travessa do Sacramento a Alcantara) up to the next cross street. You will pass a hospital going up the diagonal street; the post office (correios) is along the street going away from the hospital, across from the Foreign Affairs building on Necessidades street. Any local will be able to direct you to this address. A note is that the marina staff generally don’t live locally and so are not sure of where this address is. Being a small postal outlet we found this location better to deal with for Poste Restante than the big postal outlets downtown who tend to be more fixated on rules such as your correspondent forgetting to put in your middle initial etc. This postal outlet is so small that you can see the locked cabinet in the corner where the poste restante mail is kept.

The winter weather seems to alternate between stationary highs and south-westerly fronts. The sou’westers bring in warm and wet gales and storms but rarely last more then 6 to 8 days in total before a high reasserts itself. Other than winds there is no impact from these storms due to the marina being so far up the river. The highs can last for up to 2 weeks bringing air that can be either cold or warm depending on its origin. The Azores High moved north during our stay and covered most of the eastern Atlantic reaching as far north as the British Isles for over two weeks.

Portinho de Arrabida N 038° 29′ W 008° 59′

This south facing bay off the approach to Setubol has fixed moorings at the west end and space for anchoring at the east end over sand. We stayed one night and experienced fierce katabatic winds from sun down until mid morning the following day. We had good holding but the ground tackle was loaded the whole time.

Sesimbra N 038° 27′ W 009° 507′

A weekend destination for the Lisboa yachters, Sesimbra has a 120 berth marina. There are a number of concrete quays the fishing boats tie up to where Maringret tied up for 2 days without problem. The local authorities do not come out and record the boat details so this must be remembered when you get to the next town where they will expect you to be coming from a port that records details. There is also room to anchor near the swimming beach. A hilltop Moorish castle gives views back to Lisboa and out to Cascais as well as to the south. Fuel is available from 2 pumps on a fishing dock, there is a small supermarcedo in the town and the library has an internet terminal.

Sines N 037° 56′ W 008° 51′

A safe marina situated within a large oil and coal port. Electricity and water are on the pontoon with diesel available at a fuel dock. Shower, toilets and laundry facilities (a large commercial size machine) are in the marina office. Internet is available from the local Cultural Centre and the library. The largest food store seems to be a Litoral supermarcedo in the old town near the large multi-floor hotel. In high season we paid 7 Euros per night. The fishing port has numerous work shops including a Plastimo agent.

Lagos N 037° 06′ W 008° 40′

Berths are assigned at the arrival pontoon outside the lifting pedestrian bridge. Pontoons have electricity and water and excellent shower and toilet facilities ashore along with a laundry room. Various businesses (mainly entertainment) are on the marina premises including an internet cafe with access available for 5 Euros per hour. A large Pingo Doce food store is just outside the marina. Security is card key access which requires a 25 Euro deposit when you check in. We paid 13.69 in mid-season which was to go up by 2.5 times for high season.

Portimao N 037° 07′ W 008° 31′

We passed by the relatively new marina and went up to moor on the outside of the visitor pontoon that predates the marina (it is on the left hand side immediately before the low road bridge over the river). Water and electricity were available on the pontoon, access is by card key and as no one ever came around we had to climb over the gate to get back in. We attempted to report to the Capitania but it was closed for the day we were there A Pingo Doce food store is just behind the Capitania with most other services within walking distance in the town. The tourist office is out by the football stadium.

Albufeira N 037° 05′ W 008° 15′

Despite being at the Lisboa boat show and claiming to be opening for business during the summer of 2003, Albufeira was still a construction site when we went in to try and moor. It looked like it could be quite a novel marina once it opened, being set amongst some hills and having a channel to the sea.

Vilamoura N 037° 04′ W 008° 07′

One of the bigger marinas on the Algarve (maybe the biggest), the pontoons have electricity and water with shower and toilet facilities ashore along with a laundry room. Various businesses (mainly entertainment) are on the marina premises including an internet cafe with access available for 5 Euros per hour. Security is card key access which requires a 45 Euro deposit when you check in. We paid 10.71 in mid-season although this was supposed to go up by 2.5 times for high season.

Vila Real Santa Antonio N 037° 10′ W 007° 24′

Just in from the mouth of the Guadiana River which forms the southern border of Portugal and Spain. The marina is open to river currents (at least the berths used for visiting boats are) so mooring can be tricky. The outer most pontoon is quite effective at stopping the wake from the fishing boats going up and down the river, consequently there are no tie up points on the river side of that pontoon, the visitor spots are immediately on the inside at the near the entrance. The pontoons have electricity (charged separately) and water with shower and toilet facilities ashore. The library has internet cafe as does a local bar. Security is card key access which requires a 25 Euro deposit when you check in. We paid 8.15 in mid-season without electricity which would gave been another 1.25.

Rio Guadiana N 037° 10′ W 007° 24′

Passing through scenery that seems best suited for making sphagetti westerns, the Guadiana twists its way north from Vila Real Santa Antonio. There are few mooring bouys left on the river as they have never been serviced (according to the locals). Maringret tied to one of two at Guerreiros do Rio and it broke within 30 minutes which left one bouy remaining. We moved over to the pontoon where about 3 yachts can fit and although there are electrical points and water fittings on the pontoon all cables and hoses ashore have been severed. All the pontoons on the river are the same style and all seem to have lost their water and electricity with the exception of those at Alcoutim where between 10 and 15 yachts wintered the year we visited. The river beyond Alcoutim is much the same for depth and current until closing on Pomarao. As Pomarao appears the deep water is closer to the east bank, when the water dam is seen on the eastern bank of the river it is time to slowly cross over to the west bank, watching the depth as you go. The advice we were given was to head for the lone white (abandoned) house on the west bank. There are bars on both sides to avoid and immediately down river from the Pomarao pontoons the water is supposed to be foul with rebar and concrete dating from the dam construction. The tide at Pomarao is about 1 hour 15 minutes behind Vila Real Santa Antonio. Next to the bar/restaurant there is a public facility with toilets and cold water showers in the village which has less than 20 houses. On the outer wall of the bar/restaurant are two plaques indicating the height of the flood waters for both 1997 and 1947 (which was 1 meter higher than 1997).

Yachting is not a common past time in Portugal. Services were provided for foreign yachts as they were for tourists visiting in cars or campers. There were numerous services for the fishing boats that could be utilised if necessary.

The “marinaras” employed by the marinas to berth boats will not always have any knowledge of boat pilotage. Currents, winds, prop walk etc. are all foreign concepts to them and often what they tell you to do will not agree with maneuvering your boat in closed quarters. Should anything go wrong, the total blame will rest with the yacht skipper, i.e. you, so as always any such advice must be taken within its context.

The excellent “Manor Houses” website has a list of all harbours and anchorages in Portugal as well as much on the history of the country.

The Portuguese Tourism Agency publishes a booklet containing all the marinas and the services available. The guide is bilingual with English and German and is titled “Marinas and Yachting Ports.”

Portuguese Meteo Office website (and use the Free Translation website to translate the Portuguese to English).

Another website for weather (and use the Free Translation website to translate the French to English).

Imray publishes an addendum to the RCC Pilot “Atlantic Spain and Portugal” on their website

“South West Spain & Portugal Cruising Companion”, 2001, by Detlef Jens published by Yachting Monthly, ISBN 0-333-907736. We didn’t use this book but met other cruisers who did.

For a land based guide book we tried the “DK Eyewitness Travel Guide” which we found to be a good complement to having a sailing pilot and the tourist publications. Previously we had used old copies of budget based travels for other countries but when your travel and accommodation (and board if you wish) is taken care of via your boat, they seem a little inappropriate. The Eyewitness Travel Guide uses many photographs and illustrations to portray both the overview and detail of both regions and specific sites. We will certainly look for these publications for our next countries.

Some general websites for Portugal are:

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