Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Balvenie in Portugal – Country No 30 ….. Sept 2011

04 – 11 September 2011
And so we have said our final farewells to Mainland Spain.  We very much enjoyed our months in Spain and there are many things we will miss, one being the wonderful little tapas bars!!  The Spanish people have been wonderful and we even understand and speak ‘un poco Espanol’ now, but there is the 2nd half of the world waiting for us out there so we exited the Rio Guadiana  and headed west.  P9120006
We tacked out way along the Algarve Coast, again in light westerlies with flat seas,  it was around 30 miles to our first Portuguese anchorage at Isla de Culatra.  With the sea breeze starting to strengthen and the breakwater for the entrance to Faro in sight, I in my official capacity as Admiral (which does outrank Captain !!!)  exercised my right to put a stop to all this tacking - well we had done 11 already and needed 3 more.  So we put the motor on, dropped sails, entered through the well buoyed and deep channel, turned right and found paradise! 
And that was a week ago, we are still here.  Sometimes the wind kicks in late afternoon for a while just to remind us that there is a wind, but for the rest of the time, Balvenie along with about 40 other yachts sit happily in calm, flat water and watches the world go by.  What a lovely welcome to Portugal. 
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For the first time this season we feel like we are cruising again, yachts come and go daily, the cruising community spirit is again in the air, it is so different to ‘marina life’.  Then two days ago our Australian friends Andrew and Clare on Eye Candy arrived, they have been cruising in the Med for 7 years and are making the big break too and will be amongst the fleet crossing the Atlantic with us later in the year.  It is great to catch up with them again and I am sure some competitive sailing will resume once we are both out again in the big blue wobbly stuff. 
Meanwhile we have filled our days doing little jobs, our Powersurvivor Watermaker has finally been recommissioned and will now have a busy season meeting our fresh water requirements, all the galley supplies have been logged and stowed, safety equipment has been rechecked and is in easy to access locations, small canvas repairs have been completed – each day that passes signals one day closer to leaving mainland Europe, flip!!!P9050011   
The small settlement ashore on Isla de Culatra is rather cute and quirky, there are no cars or bikes – just a tractor or two – it’s just one big sand dune island, most of the houses are small single storey dwellings, there are several cheap and cheerful cafe/bars and a couple of small mini markets.  It is very much a local fishing community, the mainstay being cockles.  The area supplies over 80% of Portugals cockles, did I mention things smell a little fishy at low tide when the cockle beds dry out!!!
Over on the mainland is Olháo, we took the dinghy over at high tide a few days ago, there is a bustling waterfront area comprising of a large fruit and veg market and very busy morning fish market.  It is all so different to Spain, the buildings are different shapes, the people look different, the spoken language is totally unrecognisable – but the written is very similar, we have definitely arrived in Portugal.
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