Charts and Pilots

Weather Forecasts

Tide Tables, Streams and Currents

Clocks and Timings


Over Wintering






Crew Changes

Planned Marinas

River Cruising
Tourist Information on Portugal

Port Information Gives details of the Ports, Anchorages and Marinas of Portugal.  It is best used by browsing along the recommended cruising route or alternatively, using only anchorages or marinas.

Thanks are due to the various persons who assisted with this guide and to you, if you have sent additional information to update the information.




ship image THINGS TO DO

Set out below are some of the things to do and see during a cruise along the Portuguese coast.  It is hoped that this will encourage more yachts to cruise along this interesting coast.

Additional  information is contained in the entry for each port in this guide.

  • The old sailing town of Viana do Castelo
  • A visit to the Port Wine Lodges in Oporto
  • A visit to the University town of Coimbra from Figueira de Foz
  • Nazare,with its traditional clothes and possibly a visit to the walled town of Obidos
  • Diving into the clear seas at Berlenga Island
  • Dining in the fish Restaurants of Peniche
  • Lisbon, the capital city
  • The Algarve with its spectacular coves
  • The Marina and old town of Lagos
  • The beautiful anchorage in the lagoon at Alvor
  • Promenading past the bars and cafes at Vilamoura marina
  • Algarvian anchorages at Alvor, Culatra Island or Tavira
Plus, of course, enjoying the many facilities provided for the land based tourist.




The prudent navigator carries all possible charts and therefore it is difficult to suggest the minimum necessary.

The pilot books give the pilotage information necessary for small craft within harbour and river entrances.  The yachtsman will also need passage charts for navigation between the harbours.  Since most harbours shelter on the south side of a headland the charts carried should be of a large enough scale in order to be able to identify headlands and any off lying dangers.

Admiralty charts are based on the Portuguese charts and there is a delay in updated information being published.

The 'Atlantic Coasts of Spain and Portugal' published by the Royal Cruising Club Pilotage Foundation provides detailed information on all the harbours of the coast and is strongly recommended.  It may be obtained from Imray Laurie Norie & Wilson or, most nautical booksellers.

The annual publication 'The Reeds Nautical Almanac´ which is published annually has updated information of the main ports and marinas and also information on Navigational aids.






In Portugal, weather forecasts in English are difficult to obtain.

The best service is provided on Navtex from Monsanto radio at Lisbon (Group II)
Forecasts are transmitted at 0250, 0650, 1050, 1450, 1850, and 2250

The following forecasts on VHF are transmitted in English: 

Channel 11
1030 and 1630
Channel 20

A forecast (in English) is transmitted on 2657 KHz by Naval Radio Stations as follows:

 Apulia Radio        (North Portugal) 
0735 and 2335
 Monsanto Radio   (Central Portugal)
0805 and 2005
 Sagres Radio       (South Portugal)
0835 and 2035

The weather forecast in Portuguese via teletext is available at offices of the Capitania of the Ports.

Most marinas will either display a forecast or will obtain one on request.

Most daily papers publish a forecast which usually includes wind speed and sea state. Today's forecast in Portuguese in the 'Journal do Noticias' newspaper is available on internet (see below).

Shipping forecasts, in Portuguese, are available by premium rate telephone.  Although the standard information is given slowly, the variable information of the forecast is given too quickly to write down.  The telephone numbers for offshore forecasts are:

  N. border to Lisbon
0601 123 123
0601 123 140
  Lisbon to St. Vincent
0601 123 124
0601 123 141
  St. Vincent to E. border
0601 123 125
0601 123 142

When reading a forecast please make a note of the swell which, on the Portuguese coasts, creates more danger than winds.  The swell may be caused by a storm far out in the Atlantic and not accompanied by local wind.

Wind, weather and swell forecasts are available on internet.  In addition, forecast isobar charts are available for up to six days ahead.




The North West point of Galicia causes the gulf stream to split giving a 1/2 knot southerly drift along the Portuguese coast.

The surface of the sea is blown by the prevailing winds and this surface drift is often more noticeable than the current.

Tidal streams, except where influenced by a river valley or bay, are very weak, setting north on the flood and south on the ebb.

In summer, on the west coast, when the Portuguese trade winds (Nortada) are blowing, expect a southerly current of up to one knot.  In winter, when the wind is often from the south, expect a northerly flow.

Off the Algarve coast expect a weak easterly current except after a period of wind from a particular direction.

The tidal stream is important in certain of the river entrances, where there is a bar, and if there is a swell.  In these conditions it is best to enter shortly before high water to avoid conflict of the tidal stream with wind and swell. Approach these harbours with caution in these conditions which usually occur in the winter months.

On this coast it is important to remember "If in doubt, stay out".




Portuguese time is Universal time in winter and Universal time + 1 hour in summer.

As in the rest of Europe, the clocks change on the last Sunday in March and the 4th Saturday in October.

This means that the clocks must be moved back one hour compared with Spanish time.  Portugal is the same as English time.


The following may be helpful, particularly for those arriving from Spain :
  • Portugal does not have a siesta
  • Banks are open from 8.30 to 3.00 p.m. including lunch time
  • The shops usually open at 9.00 and close at 12.30 for lunch, re-opening from 2.00 to 7.00 pm
  • Supermarkets are usually open during the day until late at night
  • The large hypermarkets have limited opening hours on Sunday by law
  • Eating times are earlier than Spain. In restaurants lunch is served from 12.00 to 2.30 and evening meal from 7.30 to 9.30.




The authorities in Portugal with whom cruising sailors may come into contact are -
  • The Capitania (Harbourmaster and part of the military)
  • Marine Police
  • Customs
In the marinas of the west coast, the documentation for the authorities is carried out by the marina authority and the authorities will not visit if registration is made to the marina office promptly on arrival.

If arriving outside normal hours the authorities will visit your boat and obtain information they require for their control and safety duties.  It is also necessary to go to the marina office when open.

In Lagos marina you have to wait while your documentation is distributed to the authorities by the marina staff.  In Vilamoura you take a copy of the document produced by the marina to the Marine police and customs at separate desks in the marina office who will confirm the document is correct against passports and ships papers.

When attending the office only one person need attend and you should carry :

                Ships Papers
                Crews passports
                Proof of VAT paid (unless the boat predates VAT)
                Captain's certificate of competency
                Insurance cover note
                Details of any crew changes to be made

Please give the authorities the respect to which they are entitled as representatives of your host country. You will find them very friendly and helpful once official duties are completed.

If you tell them that they are not doing their job correctly or efficiently, then expect them to assume that you object to their presence due to some wrong doing on your part. This attitude accounts for recent published adverse reports!

If you wish to know why they ask for the horsepower of your engine I suggest that you read the page on Drugs.




It is difficult to recommend a place to over winter since people have different requirements.  The following ports may be considered based on the following criteria :
  • Facilities
  • Other persons over wintering
  • Price
  • Near to airport
  • Security of vessel
The following marinas are recommended :


Small secure marina near a busy town.  25 miles from Porto airport (5 flights a day to UK). Boats best left in the water.


A good place to have the boat lifted out of the water by travel lift with plenty of hard standing  Close to Porto airport.  Living aboard when out of the water not allowed (a few days is OK) but there is a bunk room available in the club.  The modern town is a short walk away.  Not recommended for over wintering in the water since wind can be a problem.


A small fishing port where the unofficial berthing master is a former merchant mariner.  He is able to organise most services and also a lift out.  The town is about a 15 minutes walk from the marina.


Another small marina near the town.  The lack of a nearby airport is balanced by cheap berthing charges but the marina can be subject to a swell in southerly gales.  The vessel should not be left unattended.


A large modern marina with nearby town and excellent facilities.  Easy connections to Faro airport. Always a number of foreign boats over wintering.  Special rates for a 9 month stay avoiding the summer months.


Another large marina with a very active marina side development.  The large number of nearby sporting activities would make this attractive for children.  Faro airport is nearby.

It is not recommended that any river is used for winter moorings.  All rivers are likely to be in flood and become dangerous in some years when heavy rain overwhelms the flood control dams.  When this occurs a rise in water level of fifteen feet is not unusual.

The anchorages at Alvor and Faro are possibilities but it is suggested the boat is not left unattended since boats tend to circle their anchors in both places.

Leixoes is near Porto airport but the water becomes dirty in winter and strong southerly winds bring a swell into the harbour.

There have been reports of theft from boats in the Lisbon marinas which can happen openly during daylight hours.

For vessels from outside the European Union, the authorities will seal the wheel, on request, to stop the clock ticking during winter lay-up for the calculation of time within the Union.

For winter repairs it is usually best to purchase from the discount chandler's advertising in yachting magazines.  If from within the European Community VAT is paid in the country of purchase with no further charges or problems in Portugal.  Prices from UK discount chandlers, delivered to Portugal, are usually cheaper than obtaining goods tax free in Gibraltar.





ship imageUSING THE WIND

Most days in summer the Nortada (Portuguese Trade Winds) blow in the afternoon at up to force 6 from midday to about 7 o'clock in the evening.  Just right for shopping in the morning and sailing 30 miles in the afternoon if going south.

However, if going north have an early start and be in the next port from between 12.00 hrs. to 18.00 hrs.  Expect light south-easterly winds during the mornings.

This advice is based on published observations which show that the prevailing winds at Porto are:

9.00 a.m.
3.00 p.m.
9.00 a.m.
3.00 p.m.
Direction between
E to S
W to N
E to S
W to N
% of observations
Average strength
7 Knots
14 Knots
10 Knots
11 Knots

Many yachts going north have heeded the traditional advice to head out into the Atlantic to search for better winds.  Many of these yachts have limped into Northern Portuguese ports to recuperate after meeting adverse weather and swell.

The northerly wind causes down drafts behind the capes.  The wind also increases at river mouths as the wind is sucked up the valley as the sea breeze.  Be prepared for this wind to increase considerably in strength when nearing a port.





ship image THE SWELL

Sensible seamanship is required because it is an exposed coast and considerable swell can arise from storms far out into the Atlantic.

In summer the coast is affected by heavy swell for about 10% of the time which increases to 30% in winter.  The swell normally cannot be avoided by going offshore since its extends out to about 20ºW.

In summer the swell does not normally present a problem to coastal traffic provided, that the swell forecasts issued with the weather forecasts, are noted and heeded.  Navtex is very useful to obtain forecasts in English.

In heavy swell, all the smaller anchorages are dangerous both on the west coast and the south coast.  In addition, the smaller ports such as the River Douro, Aveiro, Figueira da Foz and Olhao are quickly closed.

There are now many all weather harbours with marinas to enable a short handed boat to 'day sail' down the coast in safety assuming proper precautions are taken.

Remember that a 1 metre swell at sea can easily become a 4 metre breaking wave at the shore or, on a shallow bar.





ship imageFUEL

Guides to sailing on the Portuguese Coast do not differentiate as to whether the fuel available can be sold  to yachtsmen.
Fishermen are allowed to buy fuel, duty free, which is not available to recreational craft.

If fuel is not available at a particular port there is always the possibility of purchasing it at a garage in a container and carrying it to the boat with the help of a taxi.

Both diesel and petrol for recreational craft are available by pipe at the following places:

Viana do Castelo
Povoa de Varzim Marina
Figueira da Foz
Fishing Harbour lying alongside wooden piles
Cascais Marina
Doca de Bom Sucesso
Doca de Belem
Doca de Terreiro do Trigo
Fishing Harbour
Fishing Harbour (Diesel only)
Vila Real  de Santo Antonio


ship imageFOG

July, August and September are the months with the greatest risk of fog on the western Portuguese coast and it has been recorded as about 4% of observations.

During periods of rain, the hills are often covered by low cloud which obscures the cliff top lighthouses.

With GPS the problem is not as severe as previously, but remember, the GPS may go down.  Positions should be recorded at regular intervals in a proper manner so that navigation can continue using traditional methods in the case of electronic failure.

In addition, to sea fog, there is often fog forming in river valleys in the morning which affects many of the ports.

The southern coast is less liable to fog than the western coast but can have extensive banks when the "levante" blowing through the Straits of Gibraltar is blocked by atlantic weather.




ship imageDRUGS

Drug Boats in Viana do CasteloDrug boats in Viana do Castelo in 1989
In addition to the outboards, these boats had an inboard engine and carried over 3000 litres of petrol. They were used to meet vessels at sea and ran drugs into the Spanish Rias and afterwards returned to Viana do Castelo.

All the boats in the photograph are British registered but obviously do not know the difference between the ensign and jack.
They were banished from Portuguese ports by a law limiting the engine size of recreational boats, restricting permissible distance from the port and restrictions on movement at night.

Photo by Sr. Manso Preto

The west coast of Portugal  is the nearest point of Europe for ships coming from the drug producing countries. The Algarve is only a short sail from Morocco where drug use is legal.

Ten years ago, Portugal was the base for many of these powerful boats which were used to meet ships at sea and then run the drugs into Spain.

The Authorities accept that cruising yachtsmen act as valuable eyes and ears and in return we receive favourable treatment.

The Authorities perform a difficult task and if they have to make a search of your boat either by random or some reported suspicious behaviour, please give then every assistance.

In ten years of sailing in Portuguese waters, I have no complaint on how they carry out their duties nor am I aware of any yachtsman who has been treated harshly, provided the usual courtesies and understanding have been shown

If you call attention to yourself by your behaviour, or tell the authorities how to perform their task, it will be interpreted as an unwillingness to assist, possibly due to illegal activity.

The questions regarding engine make and horse power of your boat, restrictions on night passages from Algarvian ports, etc. are a direct consequence of these activities and the laws to curb them.

Please try to assist the authorities in this important work in every way possible

Set out below is the text of a message to yachtsmen issued by the Portuguese authorities:


Pela sua situacao geografica, Portugal e um pais propício a entrada de drogas nocivas na Europa, vindas da America do Sul e do Norte de África.

Temos, por isso, uma responsabilidade especial para com os outros membros da Comunidade Europeia, de tudo fazer para evitar a entrada das mesmas.

Se vir ou ouvir algo suspeito, mesmo que possa parecer pequeno e insignificante, no mar, nas praias ou nas marinas, peca, por favor, falar com o oficial de servico na Alfandega neste edifício e transmita-lhe a informacao. Nao necessita de dar o seu nome ou a sua morada nem fazer um relatorio por escrito.

Em alternativa, pode usar gratuitamente o telefone nº 21 888 12 22 ou o fax nº 21 888 58 24 para qualquer informacao. E preferível enviar um fax se for utilizada outra língua que nao seja a Portuguesa.

Por favor, ajuda-nos a ajuda-lo, bem como aos seus filhos, ao nosso pais e ao resto da Europa na luta contra a entrada ilegal de drogas nocivas na Europa.


Due to its geographical position, Portugal is the nearest country for the entry of harmful drugs into Europe from South America and North Africa.

We, therefore, have particular responsibility toward the other members of the European Community to prevent the entry of drugs.

If you see or hear anything suspicious however small or insignificant at sea, on the beaches or in the marinas, please ask to speak to the officer in charge at the Customs (Alfandega) in this building.

You will be able to give your information in a short conversation. You need not give your name or address and need not give a written statement.

Alternatively, use can be made of the central free Tel number 21 888 12 22 or Fax number 21 888 58 24 to which information can be given. A fax message is preferred if a language other than Portuguese is used.

Please help us to help you, your children, our country and the rest of Europe in the fight against the illegal importation of harmful drugs into Europe.




ship imageCREW CHANGES

There have been published reports that there are problems with crew changes in certain Portuguese ports.

The basis for these reports is not known by the authorities and many crew changes have been carried out without problem.

The position would appear to be as follows : 

  • Normal crew changes are no problem
  • A 'one off' change of a full crew is not a problem (i.e. delivery crew, joint owners etc.)
  • Operating a charter business from Portugal resulting in regular changes in the whole crew will result in a report to the appropriate authority to see that :
  •  The vessel complies to Portuguese safety standards
  •  The vessel is correctly registered as a commercial vessel
  •  Appropriate insurance is carried
  •  The operator is registered with the taxation authorities
These requirements would seem be the same as applies in other countries.

Sailing School yachts which comply with all requirements of another EU country in which that boat is registered and which do not advertise for business in Portugal appear to operate without problems.






The following Marinas are planned, being built or recently opened

Viana do Castelo
Second marina specifically for cruising yachts
Povoa do Varzim 
Completed in 1999
Porto (Oporto)
Two marinas after new moles constructed at river entrance
Aveiro Planned Completed
Completed in 1999
Lisbon Marina Expo
In dock used by the car ferries
Open (no facilities) in 1999
Vila Real de Sto. Antonio
In river downstream from the ferry




This guide has been produced with the help of the following : 
Ray Glaister of The Cruising Association

Anne Hammick who revised RCC Atlantic Coast of Spain & Portugal

Neville Featherstone, The Editor of The Macmillan Iberian Guide

Ray Matthewson of yacht 'Phoenix Child'

Nobby Pryor, Commodore of the Vilamoura Cruising Club

'PedroK' web master of the Associacao de Cruzeiros

Robert Whyte 

Members of the various Port Authorities and marina operators

Various cruising yachtsmen who have given information advice and encouragement





There are 3 rivers in Portugal that are suitable for cruising.
The River Minho which is navigable for 40 kilometres

The River Douro which is navigable for 200 kilometres to the Spanish border

The River Guardiana which is navigable for 40 kilometres


This river forms the northern frontier with Spain, and is only suitable for vessels that can take the ground.

The scenery is very beautiful with interesting riverside towns and villages.

The entrance into the port of Caminha should only be attempted in calm seas.

The river is not buoyed but can be navigated without trouble on a rising tide.

On the page for Caminha there are brief details for navigating the river.

At Valenca there is a rail bridge with an estimated clearence of 15m.  Anchorage can be found on the south side of the river below the walled town.

Those that can pass under the bridge might like to anchor in the Spanish city of Tui, a short distance upstream.


The metal bridge at Porto has a clearance of 7.8 metres and therefore most yachts will have to have their masts removed.

This can be done at the Marina at Povoa de Varzim where the necessary expertise is available (except for the correct tensioning of the rigging).

It is then suggested that the 10 mile journey to the River Douro be made under motor.

The River Douro used to be fast flowing but now is tamed by a series of dams with locks incorporated in them.  The locks are used by small coasters and hotels boats with very little non-commercial traffic. They only operate once per day unless a special charge is paid.

The river is buoyed for its navigable length to the Spanish border and although detailed charts are available, they should not be necessary for a yacht.

Since the river has recently become navigable, there are few facilities along the banks however the scenery is outstanding. Porto,  the Upper Douro Valley and the Foz Coa  park , all of which are on the route, have each been designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

The river runs in a deep valley with the hillsides steeply terraced for the grape production to make the excellent red and white wines and also Port Wine.  The various 'Quintas' are painted white to add to the scenery.

It is considered that the trouble of removing the mast is fully justified by the ability to cross Portugal through this most attractive river.


The river forms the south eastern border of Portugal with Spain and has a hot, dry climate and scenery which is very different from the Northern Portuguese rivers.

The river goes into the sea at the Port of Vila Real de Santo Antonio.

There is a new road bridge (23 metre clearance) shortly after Vila Real de Santa Antonio.

Although not buoyed the river is deep in mid channel and on the outside of bends.  Shortly before the limit of navigation there are pontoons at Alcoutim (Portugal) and Sanlucer (Spain). Local advice should be taken if proceeding above Alcoutim since the channel is not obvious and the sand banks shift.

The towns up the river are more attractive than the ports at its entrance. Travelling shops visit the villages with bread, fruit and vegetables.  Free berthing and showers are sometimes available but not always water and electricity.

In 1998 many boats wintering in the river were carried away when the river rose rapidly 6 metres above its normal level.  This also caused damage to the marina. This event took place after heavy rains upstream.