Thursday, 22 May 2014

Escape From Lagos To Ayamonte. May 2014

    After many goodbyes, we started the engine at 1040hrs on 9th May ready to depart Lagos Marina after a most enjoyable winter. However, our immediate exit was blocked by the dredger squeezing through the walkway bridge! They were pushed through and we were soon on our way. It was a strange feeling to be departing our home of 6 months but great relief that we were on our way again now heading East towards the Med.
Dredger Delaying Our Departure!
Goodbye Lagos.
     It was a lovely sail of only 20 NM to Albufeira and the sheer delight at being on the move again was clearly visible on both of us as can be seen from the two pictures below. We anchored off Albufeira in light winds and enjoyed a great BBQ. Strong northerlies developed overnight but the anchor held well and dawn was all calm again.

Ginny Happily Sailing Away.
Guy Relaxed At Albufeira.
    We set off again at 1030 hrs and this time decided to visit Vilamoura Marina, a purpose built holiday complex with Villas, golf, horse riding, watersports and the inevitable bars full of tourists. It proved to be an enjoyable visit but not a place that we wanted to stay in for too long. The mooring was cheap but everything else was expensive comparable to the UK.
Approaching Vilamoura Marina.
Vilamoura Marina & Restaurant Life.
     We departed early on 11 May heading for Ria Formosa, the entrance to the lagoon off Faro. We had to motor most of the 20 NM but arrived at high tide and had an easy entrance in slack water. We motored round to the East and anchored off Culatra Island and small boat fishing harbour. We met up with Dave & Liz from Lagos and joined another 10 boats in the anchorage. 
Entrance To Ria Formosa (Faro).
    Culatra is a most wonderful place. It has everything the Caribbean has to offer, white soft sandy beaches, laid back restaurants and bars unchanged over years, a most relaxed atmosphere, clear water but without all the hassle or security problems. We felt we were in utopia and instead of spending a couple of days, ended up enjoying a very laid back week of BBQs, swimming, walking, exploring, sunbathing in peace and of course eating and drinking with friends.  
Small Boat Fishing Harbour Of Culatra.
   Some people never leave! This chap parked his boat at high tide up on the dunes and has no intention of leaving. He is one of many, especially catamarans who seem to have set up a permanent home on the island living on their boat and enjoying everything the island has to offer.
Lost Up The Dunes Of Culatra.
Guy Auditioning For Bond!!!
    Every evening was accompanied by a most glorious sunset. We never did get to see a sunrise!
Sunset At Culatra
      Most afternoons were spent swimming and resting on the beach followed by a visit to the local bar at Beer O'clock which seemed to get earlier every day thanks to Dave & Liz's prompting! As you can see, Ginny was very relaxed and Sagres was much appreciated by all. At €1 a bottle, who could complain often accompanied with some seafood tapas.
Beer O'clock!
Ahhh, BBQ Time At Last.
Fish In The Shade Of Kisti Two.
The Original Local Fishing Boats On Culatra.
   We walked along the deserted 5 mile beach to the lighthouse. it was absolutely glorious and the water refreshing and so clear. This was accompanied by the inevitable visit to the restaurant for garlic cuttlefish in oil with chips. Wonderful.
The Five Mile Beach Of Culatra.
The Culatra Lighthouse
Cuttle Fish & Garlic Lunch. Smile Says It All!
    We were anchored in the lagoon and would travel across to the island in the dingy, stroll through the fishing village and then on the long boardwalk across to the beach. The dunes were lovely and full of colour from all sorts of plants and flowers. This picture was taken a high tide.
The Boardwalk To The Beach
      The fishing village of Culatra has probably not changed in 50 years. Mass tourism has not engulfed this gorgeous spot and long may that last. Many Portuguese would travel across by ferry to escape the stress and rat race of living on the mainland. It reminded us very much of the fishing villages on the islands away from the hectic lifestyle and flashing lights of Kowloon or Hong Kong city. Pure bliss.
Beer O'clock Bar!
The Beach Bums In The Bar
The Satisfied Diners
      Culatra is a very laid back island and one that we are very likely to visit for a longer period at some time on our wanderings. Guy went house hunting and found this lovely shack complete with armchair for his later years!!
Laid Back Culatra
Guys Future Pad!
The Shimmering Sea Off Culatra
  The wind picked up very strongly for a couple of days so we decided to visit Tavira as recommended in our guide book. We caught a ferry to Olhao and then travelled by train to Tavira. The jacarandas, which reminded Guy of his Zimbabwe days, were out in full colour along with many other flowers. 

The Jacarandas Of Olhao
   We explored Tavira and again came across an old Knights Templar church with plenty of Coat Of Arms scattered around carved into rock. The original church had been destroyed in the 1755 earthquake while remnants of the church remained very similar in style to Norman Churches.
Knights Templar Coats Of Arms
Flame Lilies
      Tavira was a fascinating town with plenty of wonderful old building, a walled town, roman bridge and a palace. There we also an enormous number of churches, too many to count. We enjoyed exploring the narrow streets and found plenty of interesting spots to occupy us all morning.
Roman Bridge At Tavira
Tavira. Fort, Palace & Church In Background
Republic Square, Tavira
Narrow Tavira Street
Castle Garden, Tavira
View Of Tavira City Walls
Remnants Of Knights Templar Church
   We stopped the exploration for a delightful lunch on the river front as the tide came in. Sardines and Piri Piri chicken, delightful.
Lunch Beside The River.
Tavira At High Tide
Train And Tavira Station
Ferry Back To Culatra
     We did not want to leave but it was time to head off East again so we pulled up the anchor, headed out from Culatra. We thoroughly enjoyed our week at Culatra and the visit to Tavira and would recommend both to all. As we set off, the anchor pulled up plenty of seaweed which looked very much like Medusa's head. The anchor also needed plenty of cleaning from the thick mud that had kept us safe and secure. The good news was that the batteries were superb and the wind generator and solar panels kept them well stocked up with power for the whole week without any requirement to switch on the engine. 
Sand On The Rigging From Strong Winds
Medusa's Head On Anchor Chain
Departing Culatra
    We departed on 18 May and our next port of call was to be Ayamonte on the River Guadiana which is the border between Spain and Portugal. This gave Guy the opportunity to put up 2 courtesy flags together to keep both sides happy. As we entered the river, we met Riverdancer with Gilly and John from Lagos days heading off for Gibraltar and then Pat & Duncan on Red Snapper who were about to depart for Cadiz.
Approaching Spanish/Portuguese Border
Guy Sorting Out Kisti Two In Ayamonte
    We squeezed into Ayamonte at high tide with just enough clearance and settled into our berth on G pontoon. We decided to buy a small petrol generator as a trial to keep our batteries charged up when there was no wind or sun. The wind was to remain too strong to go upriver exploring for a few days. We are still here in Ayamonte as delivery has been delayed but we have found plenty to do and have enjoyed exploring around. Our friends on Ice Maiden, Vic and Marge arrived today. We have also met Clive & Jane on Jane G. Both couples have been living on their yachts for 16 years so we are joining them tonight for supper wearing 'L' plates!!
Ayamonte Town Square.
Ayamonte Museum.
Another Ayamonte Town Square.
Ayamonte Church.
Ayamonte Jacarandas Between Old Warehouses.
Strong Winds In The Guadiana River.
     We will proceed up the River Guadiana once we have the generator for a couple of days as everyone has told us how wonderful it all is. We will be without wifi for a week or so and then will be heading of towards Cadiz.