The passage south from Lisbon was interspersed with stops at anchorages at and near Sesimbra, Sines (the birthplace of Vasco da Gama where we heard cicadas for the first time – a true sign we were approaching warmer climes!), and then the final leg to Lagos. We had been blessed with the Portuguese trade winds as far as Sines, which created exciting downwind sailing, but the final 75 mile leg to Lagos was devoid of wind, and so was a boring motor along a largely featureless coastline.
Cape St. Vincent was a noteworthy turning point, not least for its dramatic cliffs and lighthouse, but also as it marks the beginning of the Algarve, a change in sea colour, and significantly less poorly marked lobster pots which were a real hazard on the way south.
Lagos is a busy tourist resort, with an attractive old town, and an efficient, clean and well run marina. We left Pipistrelle here for 6 days to return to the UK and take our furniture out of storage, which we successfully completed over a 48 hour time span before returning to the sunshine!
We also encountered our first storks here, nesting on top of old factory chimneys with their young. They are largely totally disinterested in humans, merely watching with disdain before launching themselves off for another fishing trip.
We headed east for Portimao, the next large harbour, and met up again with our friends on Lady Ann, who also had on board their daughter Anna, son-in-law Alf and young grandson Alexander for a week. We also visited the small harbour of Alvor, which whilst not only has a winding channel between shallow sandbanks, but on this occasion, was devoid of buoyage. We relied on the changing water colour, and helpful fishermen to feel our way in.
The cruising world not only has a large number of other people who are doing something similar to ourselves, but also an equally large number who have acquired an old boat, found somewhere that is either very cheap to berth in, such as Povoa de Varzim, or a safe anchorage such as Alvor, and just live there, doing not very much. In the yachting world they are known as ‘liveaboards’, and the longer they stay, the less likely the boat is to be in a fit state to travel very far. This is all part of life, but it also makes us realise how lucky we are to be able to visit so many places that we would otherwise never normally choose as a destination, while taking our home with us!
Our next stop was the lagoon immediately south and east of Faro, a very large area of sheltered shallow water, formed by the island of Culatra which is effectively an area of sand dunes with a few small settlements inhabited by fishermen, and a number of older style holiday homes. The only roads are within the settlements, and transport is by tractor, using the sandy beach as the main route along the island. The area is a haven for bird life, the majority of species we do not see in the UK. Whilst the anchorage was delightful, we were two miles south of the busy town of Olhau, happy to have given it a miss, as even where we were anchored, the noise from the weekend disco or rock concert disturbed the peace.