Friday, April 30, 2010

Border life (click on title for more pictures)

10 o'clock rings from the bell of the Spanish church echoed by 9 o'clock from the Portuguese church bell.
Hard not to know the time of the day here... but what time ? We go grocery shopping at 10 in San Lucas but managed also by 10 to be at the library in Alcoutim !! That is life on the Guadiana river, between spanish and portugues time, between two little towns, or just villages competing for the loveliest award.
With no doubt, San Lucas wins. It is the perfect little Andalucian village, white, flowery, standing proud on its hill like a little forteress around its church. A mighty fort oversees the river from the top of the other hill. It is a sleepy little place where no one can be seen between 2 and 5 o'clock...
Alcoutim is not so attractive, though seems more lively, probably because of a main road going by. Its fort is at the village level and does not appear as mighty and grandiose as its Spanish conterpart. Both villages have a long history behind them, and the river has been an importan for the Phoenicians to the Romans Visigoths, Moors.. etc..
it is a unique place on a beautiful river easy to navigate, with absolutely no commercial traffic at all,  welcoming to cruisers with no restrictions at all. It is unspoiled and isolated

A change of pace, Guadiana river

Though it is not a slow pace up river, because the tidal current is strong. Too bad, we did not sail because it is deep and wide enough but we had a head wind. The river is not busy, no commercial boats, a few sail boats taking advantage of the tides go down, or up. We do not even see some local boats fishing. We decided to stop at he first little village on the Portuguese shore, though anchored more on the spanish side. There is not even a store. As soon as we passed the bridge after Ayamonte, we entered a totally different country. A country of olive trees, figue trees, almond trees, grape and of green emptiness. There are not many houses in view, just hills after hills of green trees and a multitude of flowers which are in full bloom after the rainy winter. It is peaceful, out of time compare to the coast. We took our first hike in the heat of midday, enjoying the smell of the pungent flowers and bushes, following trails which led to the almond and olive trees grooves. A beautiful first day on the Guadiana.

Monday, April 26, 2010

One foot in Portual, the other in Andalusia

We chose the spanish side of the river Guadiana and anchored on the North side of Ayamonte 2 miles after the entrance of the Guadiana. The tidal current here is powerful !
We were eager to be in Spain after a so long stay in a rather dull and subdued Portugal and choose to visit Ayamonte, on the Andalusian side of the river.
Here there is a spark that makes everything livelier, more energetic. The nice plazas, the better kept old buildings and houses, better food and cheaper. But most of all people who aknowledge you, and it is a nice change.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Tavira island perspective.... 

As we go east toward Spain, it seems that we are finding the true Algarve where people do not adress you in English, where the cities still belong to Portugueses rather than foreign citizens. There are still long beautiful beaches on the islands that the lagunas created, there are no spectacular cliffs and caves anymore, but long lagunas formed by little rios where tides rule. it is the salt marshes and a bird heaven.
Tavira is well worth a stop, though it is not a yatchmen paradise in search of marinas and comodities. And it is why we like it.... The entrance is narrow, the tidal current playing around this funnel. The channel easy enough but the anchorage space in the little rio very scarse as we have to stay clear of the chenal, well marked and lit as it is a very busy little fishing harbor. Tavira island on one side is a natural reserve so preserved from any building and tourists resorts, apart from a few beach restaurants and a campground. at the ferry landing. It is only accessible by a little ferry, It is a surprise to see that the island is kept pristine, contrary to Culatra, here the trash and flotjams are removed. The season has not started yet and the long beach of several kilometers is totally deserted.
The town of Tavira is 2 miles walking along the salt marshes- And it is a very nice, extremely pleasant town on a even higher scale than Siles. Beautiful old buildings and old houses surprisingly well kept, The ruins of the castle harbor a pleasant botanic garden. Tavira was in the 13th century a rich garrison city during the conquest of North Africa, then another golden era in the 19 th century up to the mid 1960 with tuna fishing and its canneries. Nowdays, the city takes pride to revive her past by restoring some very old buildings and even doing some archeological escavations. Some more modern addition keep the city young, open and very hospitable.The European fund is used for this purpose, and hopefully there is still enough to finish the job !!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

a walk in the sand

The Levante blew strong last night and finally came down after noon to allow us to go ashore to explore.
Culatra is a flat sandy island smelling thym and rosemary. It is a little paradise, with no road, a grandiose beach and no cars allowed. A small fishing village at the origin with fishermen shacks became a little low key resorts for their family and locals from Olhao or Faro, who come with the little ferry. Two little villages are separated by marshes and sand dunes. Some boats, camarans ended up here to bury their hulls in the marsh, creating a little village on their own, or a boat shanty town rather !! It is serene, unique, beautiful, but again, Portuguese do not respect their nature and it is too bad to see so many trash along the shore, in a natural reserve....

click on the title for more pictures

Friday, April 9, 2010

On the road again...

on of the little project, a cockpit table...

We remained two days on board in front of Culatra and its little fishing harbour before going ashore..The vast bay created by the laguna is calm, serene. Faro, the biggest city in Algarve is visible on the West side, Ohlao, all white, to the North and the flat sandy Culatra island and its little village on our beam, a few yards away, on our bow, East is the infinity of the immense sand bar and laguna and the beginning of the natural reserve.
The bay can be deceiving though, it is large but not navigable for us outside its chenals, marsh lands and sand bars. The anchorage seems so wide that the only 5 boats anchored  are los in it.
Our sailing here was perfect if not for the 2 or 3 hours motoring before a steady 10 to 12 knots wind on the beam pushed us at almost 7 knots on a flatten sea. The sun was warm and this sweet open ocean breeze carried promesses of our futures voyages. That gave us courage to complete some unfinished little projects bathing in the sun in between. Since the Levante, this annoying East wind coming from Gilbraltar is ruling the sky for a few days, we wait here enjoying these open but protected waters.
Tomorrow, it will be time to explore our new land...

picture from internet... laguna de Faro

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Enough stories to write a book....

Alvor anchorage...
What remains the same in the last 30 years is the experience of meeting remarkable characters. We are the “citizens of the sea”, extremely individualists. I am not talking about the “tourists” (as says Jacques our Belgium friend), the summer yachting crowd, the week-end cruiser or even the sabbatical cruiser young or older. No I mean the ones who chose this life style for what it is and for most of them with the point of non return.
There is always in every anchorage the percentage of bums who drown their sorrow in alcohol too scared to face the unknown of another shore. They cannot lift anchor anymore, tangled in the cheap life, cheap booze. Behind their ravage face are hidden some dramatic stories of sad destroyed dreams. They are those who without really any love or dream about seafaring left to escape society, problems. There too, are a lot of dramas, dissatisfaction, bitterness and even negativity. And then, the ones who are trapped in their own boat too big, too heavy too expensive to maintain. The single older guys who have lost the spark of adventure and discovery, a little jealous of the ones who keep going, of the couples who can rely on each other and share the joy and the hardship of sailing. They are too individualists to share their life, to find a crew, a companion. They rather settle in their routine, stay where it is safe where they have their habits, but keep dreaming of farther anchorages. Then there is the back lashed of lost fortunes where the boat becomes the last refuge and it is a self rediscovery in this more simple life where a business card is incongruous.
There are some strong moment where everyone lower their guard and reveal themselves without shame, hypocrisy around a table garnished with a good meal. Without doubts those confessions are easier to make knowing that we will part to probably never meet again... Social barriers, ages, nationalities are then non existent.
It is rare though, those moments. Some will always stay landlubbers simply transferring from land to boat their problems, inhibitions, tensions they thought they left behind. Those will be multiply by 10 in a small damp universe
30 years ago everything was simpler. We were fewer and had more or less the same background. We were before everything adventurers in our approach of sailing and life on a boat. Not much income, or none, we were jack of all trades. Our stories were often the same and we immediately connected. It was a seafarer community that is about to disappear. Now there is social classes in marinas, even anchorages, nationality barriers sometimes. And it is a shame.
Though once in a while we meet people we connect immediately with.Their stories are different but we feel that the same motivation drives us to where we all are now. We still all believe in our dreams, we realize them and are taking them a step farther without loosing our enthusiasm. We do not talk about the last electronic devices or boat gadget or the marinas and commodities our the latest sailing rally. We all try our best to avoid the main stream, and tend to leave the crowd behind.

Today we left our little floatting village, leaving some good friends. Some we will see again, some probably not, but we won't forget them. It is good to feel free again, and be able to choose when and where to go. It is a wonderful privilege.
But before we were able to leave, Magnus and friends had to untangle the chain from the mooring line. (I had secure the boat with the anchor during the storm, and with the tides, the chain made a few turn around the mooring line..)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

a very special book

We do not trade this one, it has its place of honor on board beside the log book. It is the mirror of our social life, us, the sea vagabonds. It is our memory log. At a time where internet, blogs, emails are overtaking our social lifes, this book is for me irreplaceable. I love to go through its pages which I hope will be soon rich of names, little notes of friendship, pictures and sometimes lovely little art pieces from aquarelles to poesie. It is an habit started 25 years ago during my first cruisings. At this time it was not inusual among cruisers, now days, I hardly see any of those on boats. It is too bad, and some may think I am old fashion, but I will carry on the old tradition and present my book to my guests, our friends we do not want to forget among an impersonnal email contact lists.
A new page, a new friend....

Röde Orm memory log.....