River Guadiana

When we last made a blogpost we were in Baleeira and Joel had a cold, so we were taking it easy. As soon as he started feeling a little bit better we set sail towards Alvor. The town is located inside a shallow estuary with a narrow entrance from the ocean. We arrived just after low tide and just before sunset. We had read that the best time to enter would be in between low and high tide, so you could see the sandbanks since the channel markers were off and the sandbanks shift all the time. There was supposed to be a navigationable dredged channel, but since the sun was too low and we couldn´t see through the water we ran aground when trying to get in. We were going really slow and just touched the sand slightly so we could easily back up without getting stuck, but we decided to anchor in the deeper ”lagoon” just inside the entrance, for the night. There was only one more boat already anchored and besides some fishing boats going past us, it was super calm.

The town was cosy but with more tourism than we were used to, more restaurants and everything was written in English and German. We had lunch at one of the restaurants, and then we did more exploring of the surrounding nature which was really special. Sand banks showed up all around as the tide went down and in the evening fish were going crazy jumping around.

We only spent one night in Alvor because it was supposed to be a little windy the following days, so we left for Portimaõ in the afternoon of the second day. It only took a little more than one hour to get there, and that weather didn´t really show up until a few days later, so we could have stayed longer. Instead, we ended up staying for more than a week in Marina de Portimaõ but it was worth it! We met some really nice people, including Charlie and her labrador Lottie, and Ursula and Alex, all of which we kind of met through instagram! Another Swedish couple, Pirjo and Mattis, came by our boat one day and said hello, since they had spotted our Swedish flag. Our time in Portimaõ was spent in good company, going for walks, eating ice-cream and drinking beers on St Patrick´s Day. But as Joel got better from his cold, eventually I got one too.

As the weather was finally in our favour (or was supposed to be), we left and sailed to Faro, Ria Formosa, where we anchored outside Culatra Island. We had some nice winds as we left but then it turned and we were crossing into the wind. We spent quite some time doing that but going too slow so we decided to motor the last hours. It was really horrible for me because we were slamming into the waves constantly and my head and sinuses felt like they were exploding, SO PAINFUL!!!
We went with the dinghy and checked out the island in the evening when we arrived and also the entire next day, but I was feeling so under the weather that we didn´t really do much, just walked around slowly. The island is just a sand dune, but with a small village of houses and restaurants, and some low vegetation. On the outside there is a long and beautiful beach and on the inside it is much like Alvor, shallow water and sand dunes showing up as the tide goes down.
We spent three nights there, the second day we didn´t even get off the boat because I was feeling too beaten.

When we left for our next destination, I was at least feeling a little better but during the sail as I went to make some sail adjustments I twisted my knee somehow and it was extremely painful. I felt like my entire body was giving up on me a little bit, because I also got an inflamed eye and a migraine attack the next day.

On our sail to Guadiana we had more wind than we were expecting. We mostly had downwind and the sail started off really great, then the wind died a little bit but came back and kept increasing in force. We were at times sailing really fast, 7-8 knots, and as I looked at our track afterwards our top speed was 8,8 knots, which is really fast for our boat! We were sailing wing on wing and I think we waited a little bit too long to reef, so as we finally did, it was really not comfortable when we turned into the wind! We did want to move on from that weather though and it was supposed to get better closer to land, which it was. We still had 20 knots and choppy waves from the side as we made our entrance into the river mouth. We were a little nervous because the entrance is shallow and can shift a lot because of the silting, but we stayed in the marked channel and had 2 meters under the keel at the lowest, but that still felt like very little when there´s swell or/and waves, and we were rolling around quite a bit.
When we got inside we suddenly had much calmer conditions and we actually sailed for an hour up river. As the river and the wind turned, we decided to take down the sails and motor, but then our water cooling didn´t work. There was no water coming and we hurried to turn off the engine. We dropped our anchor and let the 1 knot current set our anchor for us, luckily it did and not just sweep us away! Apparently a seal was broken and that´s why the water cooling didn´t work. Joel fixed it and we could be on our way again!

The border between Portugal and Spain runs through the river of Guadiana, and we kept getting text messages welcoming us to Portugal or to Spain all the time. The clock in our phones reset to Spanish time, even when we are on the Portuguese side.

We spent our first night at a pontoon outside a golf course, which felt good since Joel had to make some more permanent adjustments to the broken seal, it felt safer to be tied up to the pontoon in case we would drag anchor.
The nature here is amazing! Wild lavender in bloom everywhere and other flowers in yellow and white, olive trees, almond trees, orange- and lemon trees, some in bloom and with fruit! There´s many kinds of birds flying around and fish jumping in the water. Some areas are very secluded and unspoilt as well! We could see ourselves staying here for a long time, maybe buying a small patch of land to build a house, not unlike so many other sailors have done before. Now we know why!
Along the way we anchored for a while as the current turned on us, we then also had more than 25 knots of wind gusting, so now we are feeling much more confident with our anchor. We have now had almost 1,7 knots of current together with windgusts and we haven´t budged!
The second night was spent outside a small town with a pontoon to which we took our dinghy in the evening. It was really calm and cosy and we got some oranges and lemons from trees (and the ground) that didn´t seem to belong to anyone.

We are now between Alcoutim and Sanlúcar de Guadiana where we have been anchored since thursday evening (it´s now saturday). They are celebrating Contraband, which was how they would trade between these two cities when it was illegal. They are having live music, some markets selling handicraft and local products and also many places selling traditional food and drinks. When we arrived here we were taken a little bit by surprise, we didn´t know about this event and also we were startled by the floating bridge that has been laid out across the river. Our original plan was to go a little further up river, but now we stay here until we go back instead. Joel is also coming down with a cold – again, so we´re hoping for a quick recovery!

So far we have also met a few other sailors that have been here for a longer period, both Swedish and Brittish. We´re really enjoying the social part of this type of travel, that we never had until recently because we sailed off season and were mostly alone all the time! Looking forward to meeting more interesting people along the way!


Relaxing in Baleeira

We arrived in Baleeira late, just after it got dark, typical! Since we were a bit unsure about the surroundings and the bottom, we picked up one of the mooring buoys that seemed suitable. We’d also read about other sailors doing so and that some of them were actually intended for visitors. By now, we’ve spent two nights here and no one has said anything about it. I sometimes worry about the quality of the mooring, but it held out so far and I might dive in today and check it, just for the cause, but we’re probably leaving later today.

For the sake of the bottom, if there’s any vegetation, it’s always better to use an existing mooring buoy instead of anchoring. But it might be just sand here.

Joel has got a cold and a fever, so he’s not doing so good, but he said he’s up to leaving today although he’s worse off today than yesterday. We’ll see.

Yesterday we went for a walk through a part of town and down to a super nice beach! There were some surfers out and it looked tempting, we really want to learn! Later in the evening it got more windy and there were a few wind surfers really flying around here!

I made some sourdough bread that was done this morning, and for once it was a success! It usually tastes good, but I’ve had problems getting the temperature right for it to rise, it gets a little too cold at night.

Now it’s time to get going, it looks nice out there!

Leaving for Algarve

Right now, we are in Sines in the marina where we´ve been waiting for calmer seas and less wind, to continue south. It looks as if tomorrow is good, so we are most certainly leaving tomorrow morning. We will be sailing around Cabo São Vicente, which is the most southwesterly tip of Portugal. The wind is supposed to be ok, but we´ve read that it doubles as the tip is rounded so we´ll have to be prepared for that.

The last blog was posted the day before we left from Viana do Castelo, and since then we have been to Porto/Leixões, where we stayed for about a week in bad weather. Leixões was nice but our marina had extremely filthy water and there was also a lot of litter on the surrounding beaches. It was a 45 min trip to Porto by tram so we went there twice during our stay. We attended a Port wine cellar-tour and also visited some of the other tourist attractions.

After that, when the weather really cleared up, we did a longer sail that was supposed to get us to Cascais after  two days. We sailed faster than we had planned so we decided to stay at a mooring buoy just outside the Island of Berlengas for the night and continue the next day. We did not have a good night´s sleep since the water was extremely choppy and it got worse during the night, so we left as soon as the sun came up.

That day we had a nice and calm sail to Cascais, sunny and warm.
We stayed in Cascais for a total of nine days, and had a visitor from Sweden – Joel´s mother Elise. While she stayed with us we were in the marina all the time, it was mostly calm and really nice. Cascais is quite “posh” town and the marina cost was double the price of almost all the other ones we´ve been to in Portugal, but it was worth it.
We had a great time and did some more touristy things than maybe we would have if we had been by ourselves. Apart from visiting Lisboa one day, we also went to the town of Sintra (old buildings, castles, mansions and chapels) and did some more exploring of Cascais. It is really beautiful and well kept, clean and tidy. We had a park close by, with chickens and peacocks and ducks, as well as turtles in a pond and some parakeets and many beautiful flowers and trees.
We also went climbing three times in a great spot, had time to go running and bike riding a couple of times as well as one short swim together with Yra.

After leaving Cascais we went to Sesimbra, that was also really nice and sheltered. There was a big carnival that was fun to see, supposedly one of the best in Portugal.
We made a strenous hike to an amazing beach – Ribeira do Cavalo and went for a cold swim. We were hoping to do some snorkelling but the sand tainted the water so there was almost no visibility. Just before leaving Cascais I realized I had once more injured my foot (that was broken and had surgery last summer), so I have been really careful and kept it taped and in a bandage, and almost no walking. So the hike was really, really slow… I think it´s going to be ok, but I´ll have to be more careful for a while.

Our sail to Sines was nice too, we had enough wind to be sailing most of the day, sometimes it was a little too calm but that was ok! We had a lot of dolphins visiting us again, the same when we went from Cascais to Sesimbra, they seem to really thrive in this area!

Hopefully we´ll have a good sail tomorrow, we think it will be around 12 hours long, but hoping for a little less. We don´t want to leave too early because the wind would not really be in our favour anyway. Also hoping for a better night´s sleep, but the swell makes this marina here in Sines a little uncomfortable and jerky.