By Cate & David Williams aboard the FP Saba 50 sailing catamaran Noeta
Sunday 1 July
Nearly three weeks ago we finally rounded Cabo de São Vicente – into the Algarve! It was a long 11 hour day motoring into a light SW wind, with very little sea or birdlife to watch, but as we got closer to the Cape – amazing geology – tortured rock, red cliffs and around near Lagos, limestone coastal grottos. The 1755 Lisbon earthquake was situated just 100 nmi WSW of the Cape, estimated strength 8.5 – 9 so the Algarve and Andalucian Atlantic coasts were decimated, most towns, castles, forts have all been renovated (or not) since then. It felt great to come around the corner into sunshine and warmer weather – every day the air and sea temperature just that little bit higher, so watersports finally on the agenda.
The Algarve, Portugal – from Lagos, Alvor, Portimão, Ferragudo, Ilha da Culatra, Faro, Olhão, Laranjeiras, Alcoutim to Vila Real de Santo António, and then across the Ría Guadiana into Spain and the Andalucian “Coast of Light” (Costa de la Luz) from Ayamonte, El Rompido, Mazagón, La Rábida, Chipiona, Cádiz, Barbate to Tarifa.
Increasingly the architecture has had a stronger Moorish feel to it, not surprising when you consider how close the Maghreb is and it is a beautiful coastline. A coastline of golden beaches, interrupted by rias/rios leading us to estuarine anchorages, salt marshes, and, because it is low lying, all easily accessible.
Easy access of course has meant a greater number of people, and although we have started encountering more tourists (we are explorers not tourists) it hasn’t really been that busy, yet, and most people appear to be locals – families swimming, fishing and picnicking, enjoying the beaches. I suspect once we round Gibraltar and head up into the Coast of Sun (Costa del Sol) things will change, so for now we treasure every quiet anchorage and empty stretch of beach.
Depending on how you look at it, the weather has been favourable – insignificant rain and light winds, but from a sailing perspective it could be better – as we coastal hopped east the wind was on our back and heading southeast, on the nose, but we hoisted our parasail and genoa when we could to get those sails humming…
So apart from eating local food, drinking Martini rosso, sunbathing, swimming, kayaking, what else have we been doing? Well there are a lot of castles and forts to visit, plus the odd museum, village market and of course rivers to explore… seriously, there is also just daily onboard living – equipment maintenance, watermaking, battery charging, fuel balancing, provisioning (locating and carrying), cleaning, rubbish disposal, weather and tide research, route planning and of course sailing.
So what are the standouts so far?
- Not as many octopus/squid pots to dodge (much easier to detour around fish farms and conservancy areas)
- Portimão Musee located in the oldest sardine cannery in the world – simple effective storytelling of the relationship between the people, the land and the sea
- Ilha da Culatra, a small fishing village, no cars, sand gardens, more than its quotient of chihuahuas and watching the Spain Portugal World Cup match (3-3 draw) with very excited Portuguese villagers while experiencing our first taste of razor clams (lingueirão), delicious
- Olhão Saturday market – tendering through salt marshes to bustling seaside market to replenish plants, nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables
- Tendering up the Ría Guadiana past hidden huts, yurts and liveabords to arrive at the 100m that separates Portugal (Alcoutim) from Spain (Sanlúcar)
- Atlantic coastal beachwalks at Ilha da Culatra and El Rompido
- Impressive thunder and lightning storm in El Rompido that saw us washing the Sahara sand off the decks next day
- La Rábida Friary, an old Franciscan monastery set in botanical gardens – Daniel Vázquez Díaz paintings and an exhibition room with small sealed vessels containing soil from all the countries in the New World!
- Cádiz public gardens, cool and green beside the sea
- Crystal clear Mediterranean water in Tarifa while looking across to the African continent
Today we head to Gibraltar for a couple of days and then across to Morocco……….
Cap’n Dave and Best Mate Cate
- Visit their website at https://www.noeta.nz/
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