One of the things I like to do visiting most towns, is look for the local harbour, better the small boat harbour, better yet the interesting local boats, old wooden boats and other oddities away from the high gloss marina inhabitants behind closed doors with “Jersey” as their home port – i.e. “I am a tax dodge” – on their stern. Google maps is pretty good for this, spotting small boats from a satellite image is usually possible.

Flat bottomed with a good bow for dealing with the waves on the open coast, a simple local fishing boat specialised for local coditions.

From Coimbra I headed down to Figuiera da Foz on the coast to have a look at the mouth of the river, finding mostly small motorboats to go fishing but one nice old wooden boat – well wooden masted steel hull gaff ketch. It seemed to be in working condition except that the complete wheelhouse was boxed in – either they did not like windows or something else was afoot. In the Marina, which was fenced off but not closed off, there were some beaten up old boats, some even with huge holes in them and one sweet local fishing boat that had been dragged up and obviously abandoned (see left).

The interior looks pretty good, seeing as it was probably very wet inside for a while...

Some other ocean going boats had also been pretty much abandoned – I suddenly realised one was missing its keel and then from the other side I could see right into its interior through a rather significant hole! The pipe bunk that was set up looked simple, the interior was not in bad shape.

No, I did not put down an offer on it…..

Talking to some of the people at the marina, I heard about a great system they are using. Each member gets a key card for access to the marina, but because that can be a pain if you are on your boat and don’t want to walk back to open th edoor for someone, they have a telephone based system where you dial a number plus your own special code and, although the phone does not answer, by ringing you open the marina gate letting your friends or whoever onto the pier to come out and join you. One less thing to lose, and a bit of a running up and down the pier time saver. Or more likely, what I have usually seen is people propping the door open for their friends who will turn up in 15 minutes so the whole pier security system breaks down.

After Coimbra I was in Porto to meet some partners for an EU project. I went down to look at the “Port Boats” in the harbour that apparently were used to deliver port wine from somewhere to somewhere else. They are quite sweet, but the sails look tiny for the boat length so I am not really sure that they were useful or that the ones moored in front of the port cellars are much more than decoration to sell more Port wine. They cannot be total fakes, as they actually had 3-times purchase pulley on the yard to lift the sails up, I would be interested to know if they are ever used to go sailing.

On the last day I went for a quick trip before the flight out to the industrial harbour at Matosinhos. Out of the subway, across the bridge and past the harbour. There was no real security, which is always a sign of a club that was not too pretentious, and the boats, while often quite nice, were also obviously used, damaged. Real boats. There was a wonderfully rusty big steel hulled boat from Newport (just legible through the rust) on the hard with a fat padlock. It looked like someone had lost interest.

I spotted a wooden mast on the outside wall so pottered over there to find a wooden masted ketch (another one) and was surprised to see the name “Noah” across the stern. Some clothes of various sizes fluttered in the breeze so it was a quick look up the mizzen to see that the Austrian flag was flying. It was the ship for youth work that has been running for years from the group Noah. I have heard about them and their successes and have often wondered whether I would be of any value there as a volunteer or in any other capacity. Although they started in Upper Austria (maybe even in Linz) they are now based in Vienna. So rather out of my area of activity.

I chatted with the Skipper Urs for a while, a lovely chap. They have a partially broken mast so will need some repairs, and are slowly making their way back to the Mediterranean. I hope we can get to their festivities on 27th August to hear about what they are doing. Good luck to them!