Largos marina is situated about 0.7mile up a narrow channel and after a lifting bridge and as we arrived in the dark and at low water it meant staying in the centre of the channel to the marina reception pontoon. The price for berthing was expensive but as with previous marinas they offered substantial discount for ARC competitors. Lagos marina is a large busy marina with numerous bars, cafés, restaurants and boats of all makes, shapes and sizes. It has many yachts registered in the UK and another clue to the British invasion was that all the eateries had their menus in English as well as Portuguese, this was not the case prior to Lagos and Goggle translate has been a godsend.
We had decided to spend a few days here and were soon welcomed by a couple of English ‘live-aboard’ gents, called navigators. One recognised Kindred Spirit from her previous trip to the Algarve and the other described Lagos as Velcro once here it is hard to pull yourself away. With the water temperature was finally above 23⁰C so we walked to the beach. After 15 min walk we were ready to cool off and dived into the beautiful clear water, Geoff took his time but also swam. This was his first intentional sea swim since Australia 2006.
Back at the boat we were invited to listen to a navigator playing trombone that evening at a local bar. It was open play so anyone could join in and a few locals joined the playing and singing. The bars served surprisingly good tapas at good prices.
26th August arrived and It was time to leave Lagos and although the Velcro analogy, there was more of the Algarve to be experienced. With light winds forecast we hoisted the full sails and set off east. Just as our cruising speed reached 8knts and we were considering a reef the wind died and for the remainder of the journey the engine was on and off.
Our next stop was Albufeira, that appears to be gorge cut in a cliff and the Marina is once again situated up a narrow channel with the reception pontoon located at the narrowest and most tidal part, making arriving and departing tricky. Albufeira is a bright and lively resort with lots of visitor queuing for several types of boat trips. We spent a couple of days here and after a hard day cleaning KS inside and out Geoff treated us to Sunday night dinner out, burger and chip but being the Algarve, a traditional English Roast dinner was easily available too.
We had heard that Vilamoura was a large vibrant marina worth a visit so this was our destination on 28th and as it only 2 hours away we hoisted the sails for our short hop. Vilamoura marina surrounded by hotels and golf courses, very busy, large, touristy and expensive with few sailing boats. We stayed just one night.
Late the following morning we set off heading for Faro. The wind direction and strength was perfect for KS. With full sails and wind on the beam we cruised along at 6-7kts covering the 18miles in just under 3 hours. We dropped anchor just inside the Cabo de Santa Maria near Faro close to a couple of other yachts. The weather forecast had predicted rain but we just missed the striking raincloud and were treated to a beautiful sunset.
We up anchored early on the 30th August and began our journey back into mainland Spain. The wind was light most of the way and so once again we motor sailed. We were keen to arrive at this next port in within 3 hours of high water due to reported narrow and shallow approach.
The Rio Guadiana marks the dividing line between Portugal and Spain and we had selected to stay at the marina on the Spanish side, Marina Ayemonte. We had research both marinas and Marina Vila Real de Santo Antonio suffers from strong tide and limited manoeuvrable space. Marina Ayemonte has basic facilities but big berths and plenty of space. It is situated very close to a large supermarket and a small but traditional Spanish town with cafes and bars. This was a welcome change from the very nice but tourist marina’s we had recently stayed in.
Just as the sun was rising on 1st September we left Ayemonte heading to Cadiz, this was to be our last port of call before we leave mainland Europe. We had also arranged for the refitting of our radar that was taken off in Moana, Northern Spain and our friend Gavin was coming to help prepare the deck for our new windlass.
Once we cleared the Ayemonte entrance bar at 2.6m depth we hoisted the sails and were comfortably cruising at 7-7.5kts and maintained good speed for 4 hours but eventually we were making no headway so were compelled to switch on the engine and motor sailed the remainder of the 73 mile journey.
We were joined on the trip by dolphins and a homing pigeon with 2 tags. The pigeon was exhausted and spent 8 hours on our back deck. I did give him water but after my previous experience with a tired and hungry pigeon Geoff decided that he would survive without food. It was on this journey that Geoff decided to try his hand at fishing but needless to say we didn’t have fresh fish for dinner.
We arrive at the Marina Puerto America just before dusk and was helped in by a local sailor who advised us to change berths. The office staff were very helpful but spoke very little English. In the marina complex is a small bar and a limited engine based chandlery.
Marina Puerto America is situated at the end of a long peninsular, next to a commercial dock and about 15 mins walk from the old town. When in the town it was noticeably busier with tourist when the cruise liners were in and we saw many during our stay, TUI Discovery 2, Cunard Queen Elisabeth and P&O Britannia to name just 3 of the many. The enormous floating hotels would arrive early morning and leave late afternoon and their turning circle was just out side our marina entrance.
Cadiz is an ancient city founded over 3000 years ago and is famed for harbouring the Spanish and French fleets before the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The city is mostly narrow streets and old building with numerous shops, cafe and bars. We also came across the famous covered fish market that is surrounded by seller of meat, fruit veg and street food of all types. The market was packed with tourists and locals alike so we felt we should try the local delicacies, opting for fried shrimp fritter, croquettes and monk fish on our first visit and fresh prawns and muscles on our second .
Gavin flew into Gibraltar on Monday 4th September and drove the 80 miles to Cadiz with an amazing suitcase of goodies.
It was great to catch up and finally play cards with 3 people, 7’s being our favourite game. The radar was refitted on Tuesday but unfortunately was still not working so going back to the drawing board we considered all the work we had had done on KS in last few month and decided the cable within the mast needed further inspection. With Geoff up the mast and the help of Gav we managed to pull out the cable and identified 2 holes drilled through by Allspars when they extended our mast track late last year. Over the remainder of Tuesday and the following day and with Bernice spending most of the time up the mast we decided a new cable was the only way forward. We sourced one in a marina in Gibraltar and Gav kindly agreed to drive us the following day.
The journey to Gibraltar should take approx. 1 hour 30 but unfortunately, we had a puncture in the hire car so were limited to 50mph extending the travel time. At the border Gav changed the hire car over and we picked up a new cable. Friday was to be Gav’s last day with us so we got up early and after a couple of hours managed to thread the new cable into the mast and finally we had a working radar. We did manage dinner out on Gav’s final evening at the Real Club Nautico Cadiz and we hope that he had an enjoyable time with us too. We very much appreciate his help with fixing the radar and driving us around (Lidl’s) during his stay.
When Gav had left we did a bit more sightseeing and even went swimming while awaiting delivery of 2 new halyards from UK.
We then focused on preparing both KS and ourselves for the next part of our adventure leaving mainland Europe heading to the Canary Islands via Madeira. We had hoped to leave on Tuesday 12th Sept but the extended forecast showed strong winds 25-30kts and probably even stronger gusts so we have stayed in Cadiz a few days longer. As we finish this entry Saturday 16th looks like the earliest we will leave but watch the tracker as this may change.
We have had a fun summer sailing, eating and drinking down the Spanish and Portuguese coast but now the serious sailing begins.