Calypso Capers

Portugal trip Part 2

Sailing with Farr Horizon and camping

After the wedding of the year we headed back to Farr Horizon. Rick and Debbie had very kindly offered to take us to some of their favourite places along the Algarve coast and we spent another nights aboard.

After that we would camp our way up through Portugal and back to Calypso.

We agreed a plan whereby we would drive to Faro and park  the Berlingo in a huge free car park just outside the South East corner of Faro old town and leave it there whilst we had our trip.

We picked a spot where the camper vans park on the basis that they would act as unpaid security guards!

Rick and Debbie would sail along the coast and anchor in the Ria Formosa, a delta-like complex of waterways sitting off Faro and extending South and Eastwards, with inhabited (but traffic free) sand dune islands protecting the outer parts.

The screen shot here shows the position in which Farr Horizon was anchored.

Most of the “land” shown in this shot actually disappears at high tide, and we sat on the boat and watched the landscape change dramatically every 6 hours or so!

Thuis is a view from the old town at low water, looking across to where FH is anchored, beyond the uncovered land in the middle ground.

Rick and Debbie came ashore to pick us up in the Faro marina. The entrance to the marina has a rail line running over it which sits just a few feet above the high tide water level.

Indeed we had to duck in the tender on occasions as we came and went, with most of the small boats in the marina unable to enter or exit at high tide.

We were also treated to a superb seafood meal at the yacht club at the side of the marina. This had a small terrace overlooking the marina where we had drinks, but the restaurant is on the upper floor with a terrace that looks out across the Ria Formosa.

The food was excellent – Paul had a cheap (but superb) plate of sardines so that Val could enjoy her huge prawn – one prawn, 24 euro and good value at that! We have seen smaller lobster.

There is a good English speaking community here on the Algarve and we spent one evening aboard FH in the company of friends of R&D.

We had a lovely time exploring the old town and Rick’s favourite bun shop before heading downstream to a new anchorage off Farol, sitting at one end of Ilha da Culatra.

Farol comprises an unauthorised settlement of houses built by fishermen. Their is no traffic other than the odd tractor used to transport goods arriving at the ferry dock. There are narrow concrete pathways around the village which have to be swept by locals to prevent them becoming part of the dune!

Apparently when a fisherman passes away he cannot sell or pass on his house to his children – unless they themselves are fishermen. If not they are bulldozed! The unauthorised houses have clearly been here a long time, but the authorities are slowly clearing them. Whether they intend to clear the lot or just tidy the place up (ie get rid of its charm) we do not know.

There are a couple of restaurants and a small shop, but the main attraction here are the fantastic beaches.

The larger settlement on this island is Culatra. There is a large anchorage off Culatra which must have had 40 boats at anchor (compared to 2 or 3 at Farol). We had read that dragging anchors is a regular occurrence at that anchorage due to there being thick weed over the sand – unlike our anchorage at Farol.

Rick doesn’t like anchoring there (sounds sensible to us) and so we took the dinghy to the side of the dock and caught the ferry to Culatra.

Culatra is similar to Farol but bigger, and it appears that the authorities are happy with development here as there was a large ongoing project to install huge concrete slab causeways and “town square” like spaces. We preferred the now seemingly older world charm of Farol, but both are lovely, interesting places.

On another day we took another ferry from Farol to Olhao. We had been here with the kids – again getting on for 20 years ago. 

We traveled at low tide and it was fascinating to see how actively the uncovered sand beds were “farmed”. 

It was also surprising to witness our ferry’s propellers scraping the bottom and seeing a cloud of mud trailing behind and obscuring the otherwise blue water!

We remembered that we had liked it, but since we had visited 2 large and stylish market buildings had been constructed on the sea front.

There were numerous fish stalls selling a slightly different range of creatures to thos we have seen in France and Spain, but the most unusual were the Conch-like shellfish! We can’t wait to get Calypso down here to try some – we’ll get our Carribean Conch curry stew recipe at the ready!

And we hadn’t seen the excellent graffiti art on our previous visits. It looks as though there was a once thriving fish processing industry here, maybe in the factory whose walls were adorned by various skillful works including this one.

After a few days at anchor in the Ria Formosa it was time to move on, and so we set sail (OK, not much wind – we motored) East along the coast and entered the Ria Guadiana. Paul has read much debate about the shallow entrance to this river; at what state of tide to enter and what conditions would be like in certain wind and tide combinations.

Well after a calm trip down the coast, typically the wind blew up as we were about to enter the buoyed channel into the river. It was a little lumpy out there and the wind did its best to blow us off course, but once behind the wall it all calmed down.

We headed up beyond the marina entrance and anchored for the night in this spot, before heading into the Ayamonte marina next morning.

We had visited Ayamonte many years ago and liked it then, although it does seem to have developed and improved over the years.

We didn’t take many photos as it is perhaps not the most photogenic of towns we have visited, but we really liked the place – and this photo of the church shows the weather we had!

If visiting we highly recommend the LPA restaurant – Rick and Debbie’s favourite and deservedly so – worth looking it up.

There are a couple of chandleries here also, something of which there is a shortage in Galicia. We took the opportunity of buying a few things we needed and – as usual in a chandlery – a few things that we did not! The prices were good though…….. 

We had a lovely time on board Farr Horizon; Rick and Debbie are great friends and exceptional hosts. We hope to see them next year when we head down to the Algarve with Calypso. but we needed to tear ourselves away and so took the train back to faro to collect the Berlingo and returned for one last night before taking our leave.

Our trip along the Eastern Portuguese Algarve and Rick and Debbie’s accounts of other parts of this region has spurred us on to carry on South next year – we had been muttering about staying in the Rias for a third year, but our travel juices were whetted!

Our trip up through Portugal and a stay in the Douro Valley follows in part 3 of this lengthy tale!

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