A little wind, a little wine, and a lot of fun…
In my post called, “Out and About in the Time of COVID-19,” I mentioned an urban events discovery app called Fever, which had been recommended to me. Fever lists exclusive activities, offers discounts to restaurants and bars, and sells tickets to special events all over Lisbon (and other cities around the world). This is how we learned about a 2-hour sailboat tour on the Rio Tejo offered by BYX Boat Tours.
We had the option of sailing with others or by ourselves. We chose the private option to limit our exposure to COVID-19 and selected a 6PM departure time which guaranteed that we would see the sun set and the lights of the city come on as we sailed by. The cost was €45,00 per person and included wine.
It might be interesting to know that the Rio Tejo (Tagus River) is the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula. It is 1,007 km long; 716 km in Spain, 47 km along the border between Portugal and Spain and 275 km in Portugal, where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean near Lisbon. Tejo is pronounced tay-zhoo.
The marina was located right next to the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Discoveries Monument) in Belém, which I wrote about in June (click here to read that post).
I think marinas are very romantic places. They exude a kind of peaceful serenity when the boats are rocking gently back and forth in their berths. I love the sound of creaking dock lines when they mingle with the calls of seagulls crying out to each other. Add in some warm sunshine, a soft breeze and you’ve got yourself a recipe for happiness in my book.
We met up with Manuel, who would be captain and crew for the sailboat ride. He had a shock of wild black wavy hair, intense eyes, and an easy, confident manner. He spoke great English which allowed us to chat amiably during the sail. He was sporting a black face mask giving him a modern day pirate vibe, but thankfully, that’s where the similarities to a pirate ended.
Won and I are both comfortable on sailboats; Won has taken sailing lessons and my father lived on a 35-foot Pearson for many years after my parents divorced. I loved hanging out on the boat with my Dad. As Won and I walked down the gangway and on to the docks, we passed by many beautiful boats. I kept wondering which one of these beauties we would be taking out. At the very end of the dock, there she was. Not quite as impressive as many of the boats we had passed, and she had certainly seen her fair share of tours, but she looked sea-worthy enough. I have to admit though, after looking at some of those gorgeous boats, it was a bit of a let down.
Manuel gave us our safety briefing and then he got the boat ready to depart. We motored out of the marina and into open water. There’s nothing quite like raising the sail and the rush of adrenaline that follows when the wind catches it!! We sailed back toward the mouth of the Rio Tejo where it meets the Atlantic so we could see the only side of the Torre de Belém (Belém Tower) not visible to us on land. The structure dates back to 1521 and is considered one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. To see more images of this magnificent building, click here.
We turned and headed back toward Lisbon and past the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Discoveries Monument) once more. The structure reflects a stylized caravel taking to the sea with Infante D. Henrique at the bow followed by 32 figures representing navigators, cartographers, warriors, colonizers, chroniclers and artists who are portrayed with the symbols that individualize them. The structure is 56m high (183′ high), 20m wide (65′ wide), and 46m long (151′ long). The Infante is 9m tall (29′ tall) with the rest of the sculptures at 7m tall (23′ tall). I had always wanted to see it from the water!
The wind wasn’t gusty and we gently sailed up the river toward the Ponte 25 de Abril (April 25 Bridge), a suspension bridge connecting Lisbon to the municipality of Almada. The bridge was inaugurated on August 6, 1966 and is often compared to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, because they are both suspension bridges of similar color. Interestingly, there is a connection to San Francisco because it was built by the American Bridge Company which constructed the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge, but not the Golden Gate. From 1966–1974, the bridge was named Ponte Salazar (Salazar Bridge) in honor of Portuguese Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar, who ordered its construction. After the Carnation Revolution which overthrew the remnants of Salazar’s dictatorship, the bridge was renamed for April 25, the date of the revolution.
After we passed under the bridge, Manuel felt it was time for a little celebration and asked Won to take the helm while he opened a bottle of sparking wine.
In the fading light we could just make out Castelo de São Jorge on the hill above Lisbon as we sipped our wine and turned back toward the marina. Once again we passed by the Santuário de Cristo Rei (Sanctuary of Christ the King) a Catholic monument and shrine dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ overlooking the city of Lisbon situated in Almada. It was inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, after the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon visited that monument. The monument consists of a trapezoidal pedestal 82 meters (269 ft) in height and a 28 meters (92 ft) statue of Christ on top. Needless to say, you can’t miss it!
We sailed past the stunning Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) – which is on our list of places to go soon – as well as the Ajuda National Palace which I wrote about after visiting a few weeks back.
The sunset didn’t disappoint and became a beautiful backdrop for the Torre de Belém in the distance and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos in the foreground.
As we pulled into the marina, I looked up at the Padrão dos Descobrimentos once more and thought about all those brave men who took to the sea not knowing what they would find, what they would experience, or even if they would ever return. I thought about those who stayed behind and prayed and worried about them while they were gone. Won and I called our move to Portugal an “adventure” – a laughable comparison to what these people did hundreds of years ago! What they accomplished was truly remarkable.
We disembarked and thanked Manuel for his excellent captainship and enjoyable company. As we left the marina, I spotted an old wooden boat with peeling paint that clearly needed some love and attention. It made me appreciate the sturdiness of our little sailboat that evening.
Won and I really enjoyed the two hours we spent on the Tejo and would definitely go back and do it again! Perhaps we’ll do it when you can come for a visit.
Until then, stay safe, stay healthy, and please stay in touch!
From Portugal with love,