The last time we were in Porto in 2009 we tied up 3 boats in a row with the Elena and the Mjolner to the high and dirty wall of the Cais de Estiva on the North Bank just downstream of the Ponte Dom Luis I bridge. The height of adventure, strongly discouraged by the more conservative pilot guides but all the more exciting for our 3 boats. Off the beaten path in the middle of Porto. Wow, we really miss you guys.
About 5 miles before we entered the river Douro we saw our first airplane. A Dakota flying a show round swooped close to the boat. And from then on the next 24 hours were all about airplanes. We had entered the surrealistic world of the Red Bull Air Race 2017 World Championship. The description on the website is as follows “using the fastest, most agile, lightweight race planes, pilots hit speeds of 370km/h while enduring forces of up to 10G as they navigate a low level slalom track marked by 25-meter high pylons.” The Douro river was closed to water traffic and the huge pylons were set up along its very narrow and curvy route. 14 planes raced just above the water from the entrance of the river to the Ponte Luis I making an alarming loop-the-loop and streaming back. With each new competitor we heard the command ‘smoke on’ before the dramatic entrance of the plane, plume of smoke puffing out their rear. Impressive and really rather unexpectedly entertaining. The race closed with a short air show topped off by F16 flyover, strange to see such sleek super fast beasts so close overhead while meandering through the quaint and lovely old streets of Porto.
For this visit to Porto we stayed in the newly built Douro Marina. It is more expensive and less adventurous than tying up to the wall but it is also more comfortable and they bring fresh bread to your boat each morning. I’d still tie up to the wall next time .