While in Lisbon for a day last week, Pedro from Pypas Cruises invited BSqB on a 1.5h sailing boat trip. My wife only joined me in Porto a few days later, so I went on the trip on my own together with a young Portuguese couple. Pedro was joined by one of his experienced skippers, Antonio, so it was five of us overall (the maximum is 12 persons/10 guests).
If you should do the tour in the morning, too, like I did, then I would highly recommend having breakfast at the world-famous Pastéis de Belém. From there you can cross the Jardim de Belém to the starting point just 15 minutes’ walk away. The UNESCO World Heritage listed, gothic Jerónimos Monastery and the (equally listed) Torre de Belém (Belem Tower) are also next-door. When it was built in the early-16th Century, the tower was towards the middle of the Tagus river, which, back then had a different river bed. It was from here that the great Portuguese explorers sailed to far-away places like East Timor, Macau, Goa, Brazil, Mauritius, Guinea Bissau, or Angola (all former trading posts and colonies). As it turned out, Pedro was born in Mozambique.
Pypas Cruises has been around for many years, and was awarded Tripadvisor’s Certificate of Excellence last year. It ranks #23 out of 170 Outdoor Activities in Lisbon (most of the others being your usual, off-the-shelf tours of the town by bus or walking, etc.)
The tours start at Belem Dock (Doca Belém), 50m away from Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument (Monument to the Discoveries; nice views from the top), and after a quick safety briefing, we took off towards Lisbon’s Alfama district (old town). As there wasn’t even a hint of wind this calm morning, we decided not to pull up the sails but to use the yacht’s motor instead. However, you still get a great sailing vibe, after all it’s the same yacht.
It is only a short cruise until you reach the majestic, 190m high (road level is at 70m) Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge. Because it looks so similar to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, there is a hard-to-kill rumour that it was built by the same architect, which is not true. However there is indeed some connection with San Francisco: 25 de Abril was built (in 1966) by the same company that built Oakland Bay Bridge.
While we were cruising past the container port with its huge cranes, Pedro gave us an interesting overview of the history and sites of the city, adding quirky bits you don’t find in your average travel book. The river can get pretty busy and it added to the experience that we had to navigate past fast-going ferries, gigantic container ships and other yachts. The other highlight besides 25 de Abril is at the turning point next to Cais das Colunas, the two columns which rise from the waters of the river, and Praça do Comércio, the magnificent main square of Alfama, next to the riverside. You can see the castle up the hill and adore the picturesque skyline of this Portuguese gem.
It was at around that time, that Antonio served up some sparkling wine and Pedro told us a bit about his plans for the future. He already purchased the first of three boats that will be able to take on wheel chairs and enable a more inclusive holiday experience. Sounds like a great plan, tip to the hat and good luck!
Just before we went back to Belem Dock, Pedro paraded the yacht past by Belem Tower for an awesome finish to a lovely sailing trip.