I´ve been to Porto before as a young man so returning to that wonderful Portuguese city this summer to board the boat crossing the Gulf of Biscay and the English Channel was a surplus joy for me. Anybody coming to Portugal – except maybe for the overcrowded turbo-vacation area at the Algarve – will instantly notice the cozy, original and unagitated atmosphere of this wonderful country. Porto definitely is worth a visit – and a longer stay because the town is awsesome.
Well, as I arrived to board FREE WILLY the skipper already ha spent some days here and he had kind of pressure to sail on so that I couldn´t pay a visit to the town but remained in the marina. Douro Marina is situated approximately one mile upriver Douro but not very far from the estuary. A short jump too the open Atlantic Ocean and definitely a plus for this harbor.
How to sail to Porto Marina
Coming from the high seas – and this goes for almost every harbor of the Portuguese coast – one should bear in mind two main factors for the approach: Winds and tide. Most of the time, powered by the mighty Azores antizyclone, a stiff Westerly will blow right onto Portugal´s rocky coast. That said, a long, powerful groundswell, sometimes even more powerful by a remnant of an Atlantic storm, will have been bult up and is as well running into the coast – thus right into the estuary.
Now, a skilled skipper will mostly decide to come into the harbor harnessing some knots provided by the tides. Going in with high tide is a good idea in every harbor but behold: In certain weather conditions the westerly-pushing wind, waves and tides may run into the fast current by the River Douro itself (or whatever river you might sail into). This can (and will!) create shorter, choppy waves and can – seldom, but it can happen – create hazardous conditions up to a point that harbors might be closed or dangerous to approach. If weather, wind or wave-conditions are bad, try to check online or via VHF if approaching is permitted.
Mooring in Douro Marina
Once inside the estuary one should stay within the fairway as there are sandbanks and shallows to the starboard side. There you can find a nice anchorage if you like and conditions are safe to do so. Douro Marina will be there at 1.5 miles after breakwater and is able to welcomes yachts of all sizes, draft is limited to 3.5 metres. There are four pontoons for mooring stern first and one big pontoon along the breakwater which is restricted for Coast Guard, commercial shipping and very big boats of up to 50 metres in overall length.
The marina is kind of new or at least refurbished. The pontoons are well maintained although I´ve spotted some parts which definitely would need some craftsmanship. Shore power and fresh water is within reach of every boat. The marina is under video-surveillance so after arriving at the receiving dock normally a marinero will come and collect the demurrage and/or if registered via VHF beforehand they will welcome newcomers at their respective berths to do so.
Demurrage in Porto Marina
Portugal is not the richest of all European countries and – even before Corona virus – kind of struggles to make a living. VAT rate is very high, currently at 23 per cent, but prices are very low compared even to Spain and other European countries. Right now no price list is available online and I think that´s due to Covid 19 as they have altered the prices and adjusted to the fact that less and less tourists visit the country due to the travel restrictions.
So I can´t give a number here which may be valid for “after the crisis” but from my past experiences with Portugal and the overall feel for the prices I can stay with quite some certainty that demurrage is not very high in Douro Marina. I cannot remember that our skipper said a bad word about it – so that´s definitely a go for Porto.
Bathroom facilities & Amenities
Facilities at the shore side are newly built and besides the reception you might find a sailing shop with a small variety of things, a sailing academy, a small yard and of course the bathrooms. They are situated via-a-vis pontoon D where you have the shortest way to walk over. Facilities have always been clean and nicely kept so that taking a dump or showering after a long sailing trip is really a good deed here. Only downside: The showers cannot be regulated in strength of the jet and temperature: The jet is very strong and temp is kind of hot (I liked it, my sailing mate didn´t).
After paying you´ll receive a plastic card that opens the doors to the pontoons as well as to the bathrooms. In the same building a laundry service is as well located to get your clothing clean and dry. The personnel is very friendly and helpful even if speaking English might not be as widespread: Calling a taxi to town or giving a hint where to dine is always given with a warm smile. Perfect! Porto – like almost all Portuguese cities – is very hilly. Shopping goods and provisions takes you to the nearest supermarket which is 2 kilometres uphill. It´s a nice walk – but definitely a taxi back.
Dining out and resting one´s Oars
Porto Marina has its own Café and Bar right at the jetty: There´s a Café offering ice cold beverages and great Portuguese coffee along with cold and hot snacks – sometimes a DJ will turn some tables and the Café is usually crowded by local young people, not so much the sailors. A bar next to it offers the same, music even louder. Anyways, atmosphere is great, people are all friendly and I found the lush, relaxed atmosphere welcoming and inviting. Eating the good stuff is a different story. You may walk some 5 minutes just behind the marina´s buildings crossing the street and you may find a dozen or so great restaurants with awesome fresh fish BBQs. Definitely go there!
So in the end, is it worth a visit? Most definitely! I liked the marina itself and the surroundings. We could perform every task needed to ready the boat for the big trip as well as enjoying a cold beer or an excellent dinner. At night its quiet and safe, at daylight you may take a walk to the actual shore where a mighty perfect sandy beach attracts sunbathers and swimmers. Porto – again – is absolutely worth a visit!
My overall assessment of Douro Marina is 9 out of 10 points
Link to Douro Marina Website here
You may read all articles of my Gulf of Biscay-trip by clicking of the hashtag #biscaysailing