Saturday, September 17, 2011

Portimao for Sailors

2011 09 17

last days in Ferragudo

Everything You Need to Get Started in Portimao
If you Click it It Grows
No one aboard Meredith wishes to tarnish the opportunity available to every sailor reaching a new destination to head off and try and figure things out: how do the buses work, where is the best grocery, how do I make things work.  So for goodness' if you do not want the mystery of Portimao to be blunted in any way just don't read on.

Here is a sort of minimalist guide to getting around Portimao if you arrive by sailboat.

The Anchorage - East Side of the River Just Inside the Breakwater

Entry to the River is easy.  If you are anchoring look to the east side of the river just as you enter the breakwater.  There is a large anchoring field offering good protection from wind and waves.  The bottom is mud and we have sat out 30 knot winds comfortably.

There are a few moron locals who love to make a big wake but this is a minor inconvenience.


If you wish to take the marina rates are high by Portuguese standards: €35 a night for our boat in high season reducing to €33 for September and then €15 for the winter.  Many catamaran owners stay in Portimao marina over the winter as the marina does not charge a surcharge for cats.


Laundry is available in a small building beside the marina office.  The laundry is not run by the marina so the marina allows all cruisers use it.  It is expensive - €5 for a wash, drying is €1 for ten minutes but the drying is slow.  Most cruisers, even in the marina, were using the washers and hanging the laundry to dry on their boats.

With the constant wind and sun here laundry dries in no time.

Bus System

The bus system is difficult at first.  Even finding the bus stop was a nightmare - no one knew.  Or would tell.  As it turns out the stop is a short walk from the marina.  Tie up your dinghy on the south pier and walk over.

This shows the Marina Bus Stop and Laundry
When a bus comes to the stop it will be either a number 2 bus or a number 6 bus.  Take either.  The number 6 is an express and the number 2 will give you a tour.  Your first trip will cost €1.50 per person paid in cash.  The driver makes change.  A machine prints a bus receipt which YOU MUST KEEP.

Take the bus to the Largo Do Dique Bus Hub.  It is a small hub but you should not miss it.  The bus will go all the way around a small plaza and then stop at the hub just in front of a SPAR grocery store.  Get off the bus keeping your receipt.  

Walk to the bus ticket agent.  It is marked on the following photo but can be hard to find the first time.  It is a tiny hole in the wall office just beside the  Cafe des Inglese.

Buy a bus card for €3 and buy ten one zone passes for €7.50.  You can buy the two zone passes which only cost €8.50 but you will likely not need a two zone pass for a couple of days.

Here are the buses you will need right away:

No. 2 bus: takes you from Marina to Largo do Dique.  Until you are ready for a long tour do not take the No. 2 bus back to the marina.  

No. 6 bus.  This is the express bus from the marina to Largo do Dique and back again.  It also gives you a nice tour of the Praia de Roches beach area.  Hard bodies and lots of expensive eateries.

No. 5 bus.  This is your bus to the mall which has a Jumbo grocery store and a McDonalds in the food court (in case you are jonesing for a Big Mac).  Right beside the Aqua Mall is the Retail Centre with a nice grocery (with whole wheat flour), a Worten consumer electronics store and across the street from that is the MaxMat, a building supply and hardware store.

No. 4 bus.  This does all of the above and also carries on to the Retail Park which has a Continente Grocery and some other big box stores as well as a Staples business machines and office supplies outlet.

What about your ticket?  Keep it for two reasons:

  • it is good for one hour from the time it is issued.  When you change buses you show the driver of the new bus your ticket and as long as it is less than one hour old you can board the bus.
  • the Portimao bus service runs and audit program.  Randomly a bus official will board the bus and demand to see the tickets from everyone on the bus.  Once, after reading my ticket, the guy demanded to see my magnetic stripe card to prove I had not picked the ticket up off the ground or shared another's card.  I don't know what happens if you are cheating.

The best grocery bet is the Pingo Doce store located just blocks from the Museo do Portimao.  There is what seems to be a public dock at the Museum and you can walk to the Pingo Doce.  This is a large store with almost everything you could ask for.

Gateway to the Pingo Doce

The nice thing about Pingo Doce is the attached cafeteria where you can buy well prepared full meals at very low cost.  There is usually a long line.

Other than that we found the SPAR store at Largo do Dique to be basic but we used it often, eg for beer and heavy items.  The Jumbo is good and the Continente store is its usual competent enterprise.


There are two chandlers, both located in the shipyard in Ferragudo across the river from Portimao.  These are the Sopramar store and the Onda store.  Both are decent in their own way but the Onda store seemed to be closed arbitrarily on several visits.

Sopramar is a chain store and in Portimao is staffed by two great guys.  The has a good basic inventory but never seems to have just exactly what you need.  The two guys will make a good show of ordering for you but ordering in Portugal is a Fairy Tale and usually after long delay you get something other than what you ordered.  This is not the fault of the two guys in the store.  It seems to be company policy.

It is a long walk to Ferragudo from Largo do Dique bus hub.  No bus joins the two towns that we ever found.  Best by far to dinghy to the stores as you can see:


Buy your diesel at the marina and your gasoline at the Repsol which has a dock shown on the photo of Largo do Dique.  Repsol also change butane containers.

That will get you started.  With this you can get started on a marvellous exploration of the area.  Bem Vindo.

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