Cruising on the Portuguese Algarve.
We might perhaps be amongst the last of the over-wintering Lagos yotties to cast off the marina shore lines and head out to sea but we'll not be away long as Port Velcro.
On the hard in Lagos
W e'd planned on 5 days ashore in order for Sopromar to fix the leaking holding-tank sea-cock and for us to clean and antifoul the bottom. We got a splendid deal from Uship in Portimao on antifouling, buy 2 get one free, it still cost €340 though.
On my return to the railway station, whilst I was crossing the river bridge and carrying 7.5l of paint, the heavens opened and I was soaked from the waist down. Then as minutes passed the water migrated upwards past my waist, not nice at all, soaked just gained a new meaning. I found a cafe and a quiet window seat and sat down. Minutes later the waitress brought my espresso and pastry and then proceeded to mop under my seat to clear the pool beneath me. Had the weather not been the obvious cause of the puddle I can imagine her thinking, "poor old sod, I'll bet his bag's full".
Being old hands at yard work, and working to Janet's plan, we had Ruby cleaned, polished and antifouled in 3 days then we had a day off and went cycling.
On the Monday Sopromar cut out the old leaking sea-cock and popped in a new one, we were then ready to be re-launched, just the bill to pay. Oh dear, what a surprise, €1400. It seemed that the warranty work on the failed autohelm would alone cost €800. Lewmar had received the problematic autohelm drive motor and rather than accept it as faulty and so need to pick up the complete repair bill, they fixed it and claimed it was OK when tested so billed Sopromar €250 which together with labour set us back €800. Dirty trick that. We were re-launched and sailed that afternoon
Alvor (5 miles from Lagos)
W e didn't go far though, just along the coast to Alvor where we anchored for 2 nights. We visited Keith and Pam on Two Easy for coffee had dinner on Morgan; thanks guys we enjoyed ourselves. The old town is quite small, in fact its all in this photo.
Portimao (10 miles from Alvor)
Braving the low waters we crept out of Alvor and had a delightful sail to just outside of Portimao where the thunderstorm over the land decided to swing seawards, right over us, and boy did it rain. Our anchoring in the river had a touch of urgency about it such that by the time the storm passed we had dragged 100m. We re-anchored and had a peaceful night.
Albufeira (22 miles from Portimao)
W e sailed most of this passage because, even though the wind was very light, smoke and lack of water from the exhaust meant all was not well with the Volvo engine. On route Barry changed the impellor as the old one had lost one of its 6 blades but it didn't drastically improve the water flow. Thinking about it later we remembered loosing 4 blades from the previous impellor 12 months ago and we wondered where all of these blades were residing, in the engine somewhere that much was clear? Anyway, small jobs we'll do at sea but stripping the intercooler was a job for later, maybe when we were in harbour somewhere.
Albufeira is a smashing little harbour surrounded by sherbet coloured houses and apartments, the pontoons are good and the staff helpful. We cycled into the town, a very hilly trip but worth it, the town is very touristy full of ceramic and craft shops but still manages to feel like a real town as if people actually live there. The beaches are exceptionally good.
Ayamonte (61 miles from Albufiera)
Having surrendered our access card the previous night we were able to leave before the marina staff arrived, but not without the maritime police giving us a quick look. They nodded and didn't delay us. At sea it was quite cold particularly as we were sailing hard on the wind but by mid morning the sun started to make its presence felt.
Some time about mid day we came upon a huge group of yellow buoys which, according to the chart, surround long tuna nets. We gave them a wide berth and pressed on to arrive at the Guadiana river just as the tide turned. Despite a good passage speeds we arrived after the marina staff had finished for the day, we'd forgotten Spain is one hour ahead, so we chose a large berth and settled in for the night.
It is worth noting that although literature in general says Ayamonte only caters for sub 12m vessels the marina is now much extended and copes with yachts up to 20m.
Ayamonte despite being only just in Spain sitting as it does on the river Guadian which separates Spain & Portugal, had the distinct Spanish style. The long closed period from 1330 until 1700 when shops close and the pace of life is slow and relaxed. The stores reopening and staying open until 2100 and the restaurants being empty until after 2100 and the sound of people enjoying themselves well into the early hours. The latter can at times be too much especially during the many Spanish festivals. Ayamonte has all the usual shops, plenty of supermarkets and lots of fabric and household linen stores. Its a pleasant little town and if you are missing Portugal you can catch a ferry back across the river for a very reasonable cost. We found food much cheaper in the supermarkets here than in Portugal and as the supermarket was only five minutes from the marina we took the opportunity to fill our store cupboards.
We also got out our bikes and cycled to a beautiful old church further up the river, passing through little villages with narrow roads and pretty whitewashed houses. This followed by a lengthy stop sitting on the terrace outside one of the many coffee shops made it a very enjoyable day. Beware the Spanish hot chocolate, its basically melted dark chocolate and has to be eaten by the spoonful, calories galore and very sweet, not to Janet's taste. And best of all the marina cost was only 12.80 euros a night.
Ihla Culatra (37 miles from Ayamonte)We are wanting to be back in Lagos for Janet's birthday on the 16th and to meet Amy Rose on the 17th so we decided that today we would commence our westwards journey home. Another early start, again before the marina staff arrived, had us out of the estuary and at sea by 0930, we'd pushed a 1 knot tide to escape early but we had deep water all the way. Faro, or more specifically, Ihla Culatra here we come.
Now listen; we've lived near a bird reserve, we've been RSPB members, we are experienced twichers and one thing we have learned, birds cannot read signs; therefore, whenever we have visited bird reserves I've always been prepared to see little bird life as birds don't seem to know its a reserve. So when Janet said, "Lets go anchor in the wildlife reserve at Ria Formosa they have some amazing birds there", I knew we were heading for a disappointment. Sure enough we awoke to 25 knot winds and not even sea gulls could be seen; someone would pay for this.
Fortunately the island, only 150m from the anchorage by dinghy, is a real delight. They have no roads as such and even the main street is only about 1.5m wide with a sandy strip for the delivery tractors. Every one seems to know everyone else and kids and babies wander at will, completely safe and unmolested. They have a school but I'd think from 11 years old its a daily trip to the mainland for them. In the evening our friends David and Jill dropped anchor close by and joined us for dinner a very pleasant evening.
Portimao (36 miles from Ihla Culatra, Faro)Easterly 2 to 3 said the forecast, likely as not another day motoring we thought. But no, the wind was force 4 and SE so pushed us along merrily straight towards Portimao. We goose-winged (one sail on each side of the boat) for about 3 hours until the wind went fully S and then we really bowled along. It died about an hour out Portimao but we had still averaged well above 6 knots for the passage. One downward note, steam is issuing from the exhaust and although the exhaust pipe is stone cold we think we have another cooling water problem. But we have a cunning plan, more later.
Lagos (8 miles from Portimao)
We sailed back into oh so familiar Lagos, had a good night out to celebrate Janet's birthday at Fernandos one of our favourite restaurants right on the Avenida, its a small restaurant run by father and daughter and the food and service are excellent without being costly. We now aim to stay in Lagos until we return home to England to attend our niece Susannah wedding to Paul on the 5th May.
Marim, Tavira, Loule & Alte. (by car)
During the waiting period we decided to hire a car for a few days and had an enjoyable time visiting the Environmental Education centre of Marim in the Natural park near Olhao. It a beautiful place lots of nature trails through saltmarshes, dunes, and woodland. We saw a huge snake, which made us rather cautious where we stepped. Lots of bird life, glad we took the binoculars, and a kennels where they breed the Portuguese water dogs, originally used by fishermen to help recover the nets, these dogs have webbed feet, I kid you not, Very curly coats and nice temperament.
We also visited Tavira a pleasant town with an interesting castle and pleasant ambience. Loule which is the biggest inland town on the Algarve, very lively place with an amazing pink market hall and Alte claimed to be the prettiest village on the Algarve, it certainly a lovely little village of narrow streets and odd shaped houses all very well kept. It also has a old watermill, now a restaurant and some open air springs, a short walk away along the river, the drive up through the hills is also worth it for the views and the feeling of remoteness.
Enjoyable trip home, superb wedding and great to see all our family and lots of friends we haven't seen for a while. Don't we scrub up well, quite nice to have an excuse to get out of shorts and deck shoes.
We also managed to finish all those little jobs, we have been putting off all winter.
Engine overhaul time
It had to be done, we could not continue with the steamy exhaust and, as it was thought to be impellor blades in the heat-exchanger, it seemed an easy job.
Slackening the end cover on the heat-exchanger caused antifreeze to squirt out left and sea water to the right. Drat, this was not as we had planned it and so with the sea water sea-cock closed and the hose removed from the heat-exchanger we peered down a small hole and could see the old blades. Fashioning a small loop in some stiff wire soon had 5 blades removed from the heat-exchanger, but a check with the engine running still showed poor sea water coolant flow. Double drat, it was clearly a blockage in the sail drive leg. Things might have become serious, at worst it might have meant a lift out onto the hard for a few days. We were probably at plan F as we fastened the pontoon hose pipe to the sea-cock. Janet sat on the pontoon with the instruction, "when I shout turn on the tap for 2 seconds". This plan would limit the amount of water squirting around in the aft cabin if all went wrong. No problem, with a loud bang the pressurized air and water in the hose quickly ejected the foreign body, and yes, problem cured.