Sailing in Portugal
Find a centre offering sailing in Portugal
Our mini guide to sailing in Portugal includes information about boat trips, yacht charters, learning to sail, hiring a boat or bringing your own, sailing championships and river sailing in Portugal
If you want to experience life on the ocean wave, then Portugal is an ideal place to do it.
Ever since the age of the discoveries, when Vasco de Gama, Pedro Álvares Cabral, Afonso de Albuquerque and the like set out to discover new worlds and trading routes, sailing has been in Portugal's soul.
From island-hopping in Madeira and the Azores to big game fishing in the Algarve and from world class racing to laid-back cruising around Lisbon, Portugal offers a wealth of experiences all year around. So why not make the most of the spectacular coastline and sunny climate and come sailing in Portugal?
Boat Trips and Yacht Charters
When you go on a boat trip or cruise you'll really benefit from the crew's local knowledge- where the biggest fish are to be caught, where the dolphins feed, where the best photos can be taken, where the sun sets over the cliffs and so on.... Being out on the sea always makes you work up an appetite and the crew might cook you up a barbecue on the pristine beach of a deserted island or take you to one of those amazing restaurants that only the locals know! Many boat trips and cruises offer extra activities such as snorkelling, swimming, water skiing, jet skiing, dolphin and whale watching or fishing or you can just take in the views and relax in the sunshine. In my opinion this makes them ideal days out for families as there's plenty to keep everyone entertained.
Sightseeing Boat trips
Portugal, Madeira and the Azores lend themselves to interesting boat trips with shoals of dolphins and whales, breath taking views, intriguing grottoes and caves to explore, excellent fishing and bird watching. In most marinas you'll find a wide choice of craft including small sailing boats, RIBs, catamarans, power boats and traditional fishing boats. If you're interested in Portugal's maritime history, or have a wannabe pirate in the family, you can even take a trip on a restored or replica cutter, schooner or caravela. Some of the companies with really modern boats swear that you won't get sea sick sailing in Portugal but personally I'd probably still pack some pills just in case!
Portugal's marinas are full of gleaming, state-of-the-art yachts. So, for an indulgent day out, you can join a pre-arranged cruise or even charter a motor or sailing yacht privately. From the luxury of champagne cruises to the romance of sunset cruises each cruise is designed to take in the best of the Portuguese coast and gastronomy and make you feel like a millionaire for the day! Looking to impress? Many charter companies are also happy to provide corporate hospitality.
Learning to sail
Portugal's coast, particularly in the central and southern regions, provides the ideal conditions for learner sailors. If you fancy taking the helm of a yacht there are numerous sailing schools offering RYA qualifications for all levels from Competent Crew, Day Skipper and Coastal Skipper to Yachtmaster. Why learn at home in the rain when you can now book all inclusive holidays offering expert tuition, the chance to take the exam at the end of the course and time to enjoy all the good things sunny Portugal has to offer! In many marinas you can also find organisations specialising in teaching adults and children to sail smaller craft such as dinghies and one man boats. Did you know that kids from the age of five can learn to sail a one man boat? The most common one man boats used in Portugal are Optimists for children, Laser and Europe and at weekends they can often be seen sailing en masse near the marinas and estuaries. If you are living in Portugal you can join sailing club for a small monthly fee. This means you can use their facilities, get lessons, make friends, and from October to May take part in the regular club regattas.
If you have an appropriate sailing license, insurance and proof of identity then you can hire a yacht (bareback or with some crew), dinghy or other craft. It is best to contact the sailing company before hand to discuss your exact requirements and the rules and regulations. If you have your own boat there are marinas and ports all along the coast offering over-wintering, temporary and long-term moorings. Many sailors from across Europe choose to moor their yachts in Portugal all year around as the sea conditions are good and the modern Portuguese marinas are attractive with lots of amenities and generally reasonable fees. From a base here you can not only enjoy sailing in Portugal, Madeira and the Azores but it is also convenient for Gibraltar and the coasts of Spain, Africa and the Mediterranean. For more detailed information about sailing in Portugal its coast, conditions, regulations and facilities I'd recommend getting hold of 'Atlantic Coasts of Spain and Portugal' published by the Royal Cruising Club Pilotage Foundation and visiting http://www.manorhouses.com/ports.
The favourable sea conditions mean that Portugal attracts international competitions with this year seeing the ISAF Sailing World Championships in Cascais, near Lisbon and the first ever Breitling Med Cup Portuguese Trophy in Portimão in the Algarve. For speed lovers Portimão also hosts international powerboat races such as the F1 Motonáutica boat race, the World Powerboat Championships and stages of the P1 World Championship.
Find out more about sailing in the Algarve
Find out more about sailing around Lisbon and Portugal's west coast
River sailing in Portugal
While Portugal's coastline is breath-taking there are also three navigable rivers that are well worth exploring. These are the Minho and the Douro in the north and the Guadiana in the south. These will take you into the very heart of the country through beautiful, unspoilt landscapes and interesting towns and villages. Please bear in mind that the rivers are not always navigable in winter and you may have to remove your masts to pass under some bridges. If you are looking for an unusual day out boat trips along the estuaries will give you an interesting new perspective on two of Portugal's most important and interesting cities, Lisbon and Porto.
Thrills and Spills
Finally if you're after a quick adrenalin rush then have a go on jet skis, water skiing, banana boats, power boat rides, parascending and more. They're available at most marinas.
Where to Sail in Portugal
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sailing in Portugal photos copyright: Estoril Tourism, Milan Popovics, Carlo Winkelmann, Rui R