9 Aug – Leixoes Laundry Blues


August 13th, 2017


North Atlantic 2017 – 2019, Portugal

Written by

Richard Farrington

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By Richard. Posted on August 13th, 2017 in North Atlantic 2017 – 2019, Portugal.

41:11.08N  008:42:4W

Tuesday 8 August marks the day we left Spain and entered Portugal.  Rich Maltby departed first thing to fly back home and we slipped quietly away from Baiona soon afterwards.  Initially the weather threatened to ignore the forecast and I had visions of motoring south to Porto, but the wind gradually filled in.

The parador at Baiona

We decided that with the wind behind us (and not particularly strong) that this would be a good opportunity to try out our ‘Transatlantic rig’: two furling headsails poled out with the mainsail stowed.  In theory, not as powerful as the spinnaker rig we have used successfully to date, but easy to manage, little wear on the autopilot and easy to reduce sail in a squall, particularly at night.

[Technical paragraph

It requires us to hoist a second genoa on the track on the forestay.  There’s a soft eye attached to the genoa halyard with a 4mm mouse line permanently rigged.  You attach a 10mm halyard to the mouse and pull it through the soft eye with the head of a light, downwind genoa attached.  This allows us to furl both sails together, something you could not do with the spinnaker halyard.  The tack of the new sail is then lashed to the furling drum at the bow.  The sail is ‘poled out’ using another soft eye at the end of the boom, which is held by the topping lift, the mainsheet and the preventer.  Simple enough, but it took us a couple of hours to rig it all the first time.  We furled away the mainsail, set the No1 genoa out on the spinnaker pole and sailed gently downwind whilst rigging the rest of it.  Once set, it worked well, pushing us along at 5 knots in 15 knots of wind.  Hardly earth shattering, but well balanced.]

The ’Transatlantic rig’

Lessons identified, we decided to drop it and put the spinnaker up to get some speed on, but by the time everything was ready, the wind had increased to 20 knots and was forecast to build, so we stuck to white sails and made around seven knots for the remainder of the passage.  We had some acrobatic dolphin escorts who enjoyed surfing the waves with us, avoided an endless stream of fishing floats and watched a fairly featureless coastline go past: it was hard to see where one town ended and the next one began.

We decided to make for the port of Leixoes, a mile or so north of the city of Porto.  You can get into the Douro River and there is now a marina on the south bank, but on an ebb tide conditions can be tricky.  Added to that, the marina at Leixoes is famously inexpensive and the transport links into Porto are very good… but on this occasion, with strong winds forecast for a couple of days, the marina was chock a block full!  Fortunately the busy commercial harbour also has a good anchorage so we joined four or five other yachts hunkered down behind the harbour wall.  The wind blew hard for a couple of days, but our anchor held fast and we did not move at all.

The windswept anchorage at Leixoes.  The cake-shaped building to the left is the cruise ship terminal.

Wednesday was designated an admin and laundry day, once we realised that we were not going to get a berth in the marina.  The Marina receptionist was not terribly helpful (no doubt hassled by the group of yachtsmen wanting berths) but she dug out an ancient Customs Officer who asked us if we had anything to declare.  When I pointed out that the UK was part of the EU and we had come from Spain, she barely registered.  Still, formalities done, we enquired about the Lavanderia.  They told us that the laundry was in a shop called  ‘Wow’ and ‘just round the corner’ whilst pointing vaguely at a rather hopeless map.  We set off on a recce and after about forty minutes wandering round the nearby cobbled streets, we found a very shabby looking laundry guarded by a flatulent, flea-bitten toy dog.  The woman said she would do our laundry for €2 per kilo, but we would not get it back until the morning.

Nothing ‘wow’ about any of that, but there was another laundry marked on the map, so we set off to reconnoitre.  Enroute, we found a third establishment, but they wanted €5 per kilo, so we kept going.  Eventually we found the one marked on the map.  It appeared to be a dry cleaners, which wasn’t really what we wanted for my Y-fronts.  So in our best pidgin-Portuguese, we asked for help.  The very helpful lady told us we should expect to pay €3 per kilo including ironing and drew on our map the location of her other laundry and the route from the beach.  Buoyant, we set off in search of it.  Nothing.  We asked several passers-by and were eventually directed back to the more expensive establishment…

We resigned ourselves to this option and returned to the dinghy to collect it. Grumpy about the cost, we returned onboard for lunch and a spot of reflection.  At the anointed hour, we returned to collect it and were presented with a bill for €68.  As this represented significantly more than the value of the washing, we kicked up a fuss.  Out came the scales and it emerged that they had ‘overweighed’ the washing.  Then we examined their tariffs, which included extras we had not wanted.  We suggested that they were applying a foreigner/Brexit tax and as the atmosphere deteriorated, we settled on a price and retreated with the washing.

Later the penny dropped: the lady at the dry cleaners had told us that she also did normal laundry and would only charge €3 to iron everything: her scribblings on the map showed us where she was. As we walked back into the Marina and I waited for Julie, I saw that the small chandlery next door to the Marina office was called ‘Walk on Wind’ and offered a laundry service.  I did not dare ask their prices…