Books & Covers
It’s a well worn phrase isn’t it? You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and, as we’ve discovered here in Nazaré, neither should you judge a place by its marina.
Nazaré was always going to be our next stop after Figueira Da Foz, it’s 38nm further South, the harbour entrance is straightforward in most weather and at night, and the next harbour on is Peniche another 23nm on. Given the forecast of NW 3-4 occasionally 5 I’d banked on a swift passage but as with every other leg of this trip down the coast it wasn’t to be so straightforward. Things started well enough, we hoisted sail as soon as we were clear of the harbour entrance and for a couple of hours we were cruising along very nicely with Lewis at the helm. We were just a couple of miles off the shore and we lazed in the pod, Gail reading as usual whilst I watched for pots as the unbroken line of sand dunes and pine forest passed by to port.
I’d expected the wind to freshen as lunchtime approached but it did the opposite and by midday we were struggling to keep steerage way as ‘Gleda’ rolled gently on the glassy swells. We tried to chill out and be patient, we managed it for an hour, but with no sign of wind anytime soon I cracked and dropped an engine. Patience wouldn’t have been rewarded, it stayed calm for the rest of the trip. An hour or so out of Nazare the coastline started to change to rocky cliffs backed by gentle hills running inland but we didn’t get to see much more because surprise surprise our old enemy the fog came to haunt us again. Like a damp blanket it dropped down further and further until we could see no more than half a mile.
This photo is untouched, the cliffs just disappeared as the fog just came lower and lower
Once more we were forced to rely on the satellites and MKI eyeballs to get us in, and just as with Povoa de Varzim we saw nothing until the two harbour entrance breakwaters appeared slowly out of the gloom. Already I was failing to be impressed by Nazaré and by the time we’d tied up to a frankly rickety pontoon at the far end of the fishing harbour, walked some distance across semi-industrial wasteland been marauded by stray dogs, found a security guard in a small gatehouse, paid €30 deposit for a key to let us into a very shabby office corridor leading to very shabby ‘facilities’ I think it’s fair to say that ‘failure to impress’ had turned to ‘what a dump’.
Back on the boat with a cuppa I noticed there seemed to be a few permanent residents both afloat and ashore and I couldn’t help wondering what misfortune had left them stranded here given that no sane person with a choice would surely stay here voluntarily. Later that evening however we were visited by a couple of the shoreside residents who came down to say hello. Alec and Dodi it turned out had been here 7 or 8 years, they told us that there was a very friendly little long term ex-pat community here, they almost begged us to stay and explore the town and not to judge the place by what we’d seen so far. Alec it seems wants to take over the pontoons and improve the place. They told us we must visit the old village up on the cliffs, see the lighthouse, the beaches, the seafront. Their words tugged at my conscience, we are after all on a voyage of discovery, we’re in search of new experiences, new places, new people. Leaving without seeing would be silly. We went to bed having decided to give the place a chance.
We’ve been here two days now and we’re very pleased we stayed. Yesterday we walked the mile and a half into town and explored as Alec and Dodi said we should. The seafront and beaches are super touristy but it is peak season and it’s good to see a place buzzing with holiday vibe. There are some strange sights mixed in with the predictable ones. Fish drying on racks right behind the sunbathers.
A display of traditional fishing boats on the sand and, most bizarrely, elderly women in traditional dress touting rooms to let, they hold small signs and either stand on the prom or sit in plastic chairs on street corners. Apparently most are widows and it’s a tradition going back years. As I said, most bizarre.
It was a fantastic ride and as we gained height the spectacular views hinted at what was to come at the top. I know my words would be inadequate, I’m not sure my photos can do justice but hopefully they’ll give you a hint of the breathtaking vista laid out below us, it was truly stunning.
After soaking up as much as we could we walked down away from the village towards the old fort and lighthouse that we’d been unable to see on our way in.
Some of you may look at the first photo below and wonder why it seems kind of familiar. Well it may well be that you’ve seen a similar image before but with a slightly more spectacular backdrop, something similar to the second photo below.
In January 2013 Garrett McNamara rode what is believed to be the biggest wave ever surfed and it happened right here. Incredibly that wave was nearly 100ft from trough to crest. There’s a peculiar set of geological, oceanographic and climatic circumstances that come together just off this promontory that, during the Winter, can generate truly phenominal waves. Standing there the other day it was impossible to imagine and frightening to think that we’d just motored ‘Gleda’ right over the spot where these waves are generated!
We went back into town today for a bit of shopping and to sort out some gas but I did take a bit of time to explore around the marina a bit more. A short walk across the yard and through the sand dunes takes you out onto the beach overlooking the bay and harbour entrance and even with the brisk wind the heat, sand and plant life gave my walk a distinctly Mediterranean feel.
On the other side I got another view of the harbour entrance and bay that’d been hidden from us on the way in.
I even found a wall full of ‘cruiser graffiti’ left by folks who felt a need to leave their mark on a place that seemingly left a mark on them, it struck me as more proof that this place has something about it, it is what it is, it’s rough around the edges, it’s going through some hard times, but if you give it a chance it will reward you well.
If the weather is right we’ll be leaving Nazaré tomorrow for a short trip down to anchor in the bay of Sao Martinho do Porto but conditions have got to be perfect to go in so we’ll see. For now though I’ll leave you with these thoughts on Nazaré. Yes the marina is tatty, yes there’s a smell of fish is the air sometimes and yes it’s a walk into town, but…… The marina is very sheltered and free from swell and wash, Nazaré is by far the most spectacular place we’ve visited so far, everyone we’ve met has been friendly and helpful and we’ll be taking some good memories away with us, we’re glad we came. And don’t forget that even a book with a shabby cover and tatty pages can still contain something of value.