10 July 2010 | Olhao
We are safely installed in the boatyard in Ria Formosa after a hairy experience off Culatra. It was the day before we were due to be lifted out and we were resting in bed after a windy night with forked lightning in the distance but thankfully not coming our way. Steve and I got up just before 7am as the wind seemed to be strengthening he popped his head out of the main hatch and decided to get dressed quickly, then check the anchor. I sensed all was not well and put on some shorts and crocs. The wind went from 12 to 37 knots in about 20 minutes. During that time I rapidly secured anything loose and got out our Snugs jackets, life jackets and safety harnesses out into the cockpit.
Steve let out more chain and had to use the engine to take some of the load off while all around us everyone else was up top as well. The wind was blowing in through the anchorage from the east and our anchor started to drag and just as he was making his way forward to let out more rope the chain broke. It was hard work on the wheel keeping her away from other boats as it was now about a 7 gusting to an 8 so we took turns while we decided whether to stay and try to drop another anchor or go. We decided to go into Olhao and try to moor up in the small harbour. A couple of other yachts were also in trouble and heading off. We headed up the channel to Olhao with the wind on the nose and water coming over the bow while I tried to read the buoy numbers on the small chartlet. In the end we anchored on the new visitors pontoon near the ferry stop. True to form we had an Olhao welcome in 10 minutes when 2 marinairos turned up to send us away. We explained we had lost our anchor and needed to stay only for one night and I tried to look exhausted, old and vulnerable but no luck. They said we could stay for an hour or so while Steve rigged the other anchor and I went for a quick shop.
I suggested we try being lifted early so we rang Ria Formosa but there is a fairly small window for lift-outs and we had missed it but they told us to moor outside the boatyard on their buoy. I was very pleased that I picked up the buoy first time having never had cause to do this before but then we had to redo it a couple of times or was Steve deliberately getting me to have more practise? To mark the occasion I took a snap of the buoy!
It was such a relief to be out of the wind and we enjoyed a nice cuppa. As we moved around at anchor we realised that at times we would be partly sticking into the channel, along which the ferry for Coco Island steamed every half-hour and a few of fishing boats too. We considered moving but decided that we would tough it out, the ferry stopped but from about 4am onwards there was a steady stream of fishing boats heading out to sea through a channel behind the island.
It was quite unnerving as the fishermen turned to port coming out of the harbour and began to head straight for us initially then altered their course - not good for the nerves. We made sure we were well lit up and we were not really in danger! At dawn I looked towards the shore and watched as ghost-like figures waded out silently in the gloom to small boats which they rowed to their sand banks to the south where they busied themselves digging for clams. One of the best known Portuguese specialities is Pork and Clams. The scene had an eerie quality and would have made a great picture but my camera was not up to the job.
Around 10:25 we left the buoy and circled outside the yard a few minutes before we were due to be lifted as the tractor thingy was in position. Then we waited and waited, going round and round in circles and were starting to be a little concerned as the tide was going out so we phoned the yard. We were told to moor up to the skinny, blue, floating pontoon, very wobbly when you land on it. To test your ability to hop off other small boats can be moored to it which have nothing to do with the yard at all. Next to the pontoon is a slipway used by the general public and fishermen so they see the dock for the lift as theirs as well - very helpful. Anyway I leapt off and tied us up then headed into the yard to tell them we had arrived.
Before we could be lifted a fishing boat was being put back into the water, I couldn’t see how it could be launched without hitting us but after some cool manoeuvring by the tractor operator the job was done and we were out. Of course it was now lunch time so the men all went off in search of food and we were left, with a ladder, to wait.