The Algarve Coast (al Gharab= the arab coast from the days of the moor's occupation of the major part of the Iberian Peninsula) is not that long. Approxiamately 50 miles of a rocky shore, dented by caves and usually quite steep. Consisting mostly of limestone, this coast is very rich in fossils. From Cabo San Vincente in the West, via Lagos, Portimao, Vilamoura, Faro/Olhao to the River Guadiana at the Spanish Border. At 37 degrees north, these waters are safely navigable for small craft all year around. The gales are few, and shelter are to be found in marinas and anchorages.
For several reasons we are planning to stay in this area and the Guadalquivir river in Spain - navigable over 50 miles to the city of Sevilla- for at leat some part of the winter. Firstly, we will have a sprayhood made here in Portimao, then finish some small projects on the boat again. Having mail forwarded from Sweden and France and other practical matters such as routine medical check-ups too.
No problems at all, there is a lot to be explored and we are by no means in a hurry. Admittingly it was a bit sad to see 'Zephyr' with Steve, Colin and Giselle leave for Marocco and the Canaries, but we are convinced we'll meet again somewhere in the future. One of the beautiful things crusing provides are all the interesting people you meet. Other sailors of course, but also the people you encounter in the places you anchor.
As for the Portuguese, they must be the most friendly and helpful people in Europe! Wonderful experience for us, it is just too bad that we don't speak decent enough Portuguese to be able to communicate better. Both Isabelle and I speak some Spanish, but even if the both languages obviously are closely related, we find it dificult to understand Portuguese. In writing it is less of a mystery though.
Yesterday we were just relaxing onboard without even going on shore. -Zephyr- left in the morning for Lagos, where they are to meet some friends. We just wanted to be at peace, by ourselves, in this remote and beautiful place another night. Most of the night and the day was windy. Around 25 knots probably a bit more in the gusts. Nortjerlies though, so we were well sheltered and snug at the anchorage.
A clear blue sky was the first thing I saw when I looked out the companiinway hatch in the morning. 14 degrees outside after a full moon night. Soon enough the sun warmed our little world to above 20 degrees. Still No rtherly wind around 25 knots and very gusty.
We took off after morning coffee and the other 'rituals'. Double-reefed main and full jib flying but the mizzen stayed furled. We were heading 77 degrees towards Punta do Piedade 14,5 miles to east, and then some 7 miles more to Portimao. Splendid close-hauled sailing, with some spray flying over the cockpit now and then. Since we sailed under land (about 40-50 meters high shoreline) the sea was almost flat. Quite much like crossing a large 'Fjärd' in the Stockholm Archipelago in Sweden.
Just before we arrived at Punta do Piedade, the wind decreased. We shook the reefs out and hoisted the mizzen and kept speeding towards Portimao. We anchored just opposite the marina in the quite narrow Ria.
Portimao is a quite big town, or even a city. I would guess the biggest one at the Algarve Coast. We have made an arrangement here to have a sprayhood/dodger made for Röde Orm, and also order some 'bits and pieces' i e spares over the interneet and have them shipped here. So, we will probably stay in the area for at least a couple of weeks. After that, we'll see. We still like to take it one day at a time, and improvise along the way. we are in no hurry, and we want to explore as long as it is interesting at the places we arrive.
11/01/2009, Enseada de Sagres//Cabo de Vincente
As said before, one morning one just wakes up knowing that it is time to heave anchor. Today was such a morning. Southbound for the Algarve coast, 60 miles around Portugals SW point - Cabo Sao Vincente- and then into the sheltered anchorage at Enseada de Sagres. The only thing we knew about the town of Sagres before arrival was that the name of it has been lent to one of the biggest beer-brands in the country.
After several windless days, we were naturally hoping for a decent breeze to sail south, and the forecast suggested around 10 knots of wind from the Northerly quarter which seemed fine.
We took off just after dawn after a quick breakfast. Soon enough the skies became totally overcast, dispite the mighty high pressure system, and I started to suspect that the calm we experienced in the morning was going to sustain during most of the day. It did. Around 3 PM a blue 'hole' between the gray skies showed up, and provided just enough wind for us to be able to hoist sail and move along at around four knots, allowing the engine to rest a while. Shortly after, the wind decreased and the boat speed dropped to just above 2 knots. going dead downwind, with some 3-4 meter swells and all of you who have been at sea in a sailing boat know exactly what I am talking about. We fired up the iron genny again to posssibly arrive before dusk. Not to long after this, a dense big cloud passed further offshore. A typical squall, that made the wind pick up again and allowed the engine to rest and 'Röde Orm' to move along at 5-ish knots despite the fact that we - out of sheer lazyness- flew too little canvas, since there were a mere 5 miles left to our waypoint.
We entered the anchorage a little less than an hour after dark, together with 'Zephyr', with whom we mad company all day along. The picture of 'Röde Orm' under sail is taken by Steve on 'Zephyr'. They got some really nice wind from the cloud by the way, and came rocketing under their spinnaker shortly before we passed cabo Sao Vincente. Well done!
is fun. We trail a couple of lines most of the time underway and occassionally we have caught a maquerel or two to add FRESH fish to the menu.
Yesterday we got a most polite and kind information that we were not allowed to do so within Portuguese waters (12 miles offshore). The police came over in their RIB just as I was frantically trying to catch maquerel in the anchorage after discovering a school moving around the boat. They told me, that without a license one could get fined Euro 500 (!) for fishing. We soon agreed that the tiny maquerel wasn't worth that, and I stowed away the fishig gear. They also said that the license was simply to expensive to be of any interest for a crusing boat passing through Portuguese waters.
Given that in Sweden 'hobby' fishing is free in the Sea, I must admit that I couldn't imagine that was ot the cas everywhere... stupid maybe, but now I know better. In retrospect, we saw lots of small boats with people out fishing close to the shore in Galicia, but none of it here in Portugal, so....
One get to learn new things every day.
At some point, one morning after breakfast, one just feels it is time to heave anchor. After all, we are cruising and thus don't want to find our boat on a cover picture of a local tourist brochure...
So, the 26th, last Monday, we moved the twenty-odd miles south to Sesimbra, where we just anchored for teh night. The dinghy deflated on deck, we didn't bother to go on shore. The Portuguese Northerlies are still illusive, so we motored all the way.
The morning after I woke up fairly early noticing a decent breeze making the rigging sing in a very promising way. Quick breakfast and off we went.
Close-hauled on a port tack we made 6,5 knots in the 10-12 knots of wind for an hour or so. The wind slowly decreased but we made decent headway until after lunch when the wind died. The last couple of hours we had to rely on the iron genny once again to enter Sines before dusk. Again, we anchored close by 'Zephyr' and shared a glass of wine with them in 'röde Orm's' cockpit before dinner.
Vasco da Gama was born in Sines, a very lively fishing port, and we'll go on shore tomorrow to see what kind of trace he left.
The winds will stay very light and variable o couple of days, but on Friday afternoon they will turn North and keep blowing at 10-15 knots over the weekend. To be experienced before believed!