Lagos to the Quadalquivir river, Spain

Caramor - sailing around the world
Franco Ferrero / Kath Mcnulty
Sat 23 Aug 2014 20:00
Lagos was going to be our last landing in Portugal, or so I thought. We set off at lunchtime and arrived off Portimão where we were going to spend the night, around 4pm.

We anchored off a beautiful deserted beach (less than a mile from one of the most popular resorts in southern Portugal!), the only ways to get there are by boat, to swim or to scramble down the limestone cliffs. We swam there, the water was the warmest it has been so far.

Franco about to take the plunge

We swam all the way to a natural arch which led to another beach where we landed in a soup of seaweed (hmmm, not so sure about that, though it's supposed to be good for your skin?).

As we had the place to ourselves, we pretended to be Tarzan and Jane and found a hole in the cliffs which we scrambled through, back to the main beach.

After tea we weighed the anchor (25kg) and headed for more sheltered waters inside the Portimão breakwater.

The popular anchorage inside the Portimão breakwater

Old fort

The following morning was flat calm. Around 10am a breeze picked up, followed by a mass exodus as all the sailing boats headed out to sea.

Beautiful downwind sailing all day as the wind strengthened to a Force 6. We sailed into the lagoon at Faro and dropped the anchor under sail opposite the nature reserve I visited a few years ago. It was strange to remember standing there, looking out into the lagoon with no idea that one day I would be anchored there.

A little later an Australian yacht 'Black Butterfly' arrived and we were entertained by the couple's antics as they bickered over the exact place to drop the anchor. They seemed happy after the third attempt. We were keen to invite them over to share our freshly baked cheesecake but they never looked up.

Although the temperature is still warm here, the nights are drawing in and it is now getting dark around 8pm.

Punta Santa Maria anchorage, near Faro

We got up early as our next stop Mazágon in the Huelva river mouth was 54NM away. Shortly after lunch we crossed the border into Spain and ceremoniously hoisted the Spanish flag to Franco's impersonation of a brass-band. The border is the Guadiana river and we had discussed spending a few days sailing up it when Franco came out with the classic "we will have to come back and do it when we have more time". I roared with laughter.

As we made landfall at Mazágon we passed several large oil tankers at anchor and a floating oil terminal, this is a large yellow structure a mile out to sea, tankers come alongside it and unload their load of crude oil which is then pumped to the refinery. Oil refineries always look like 'hell on earth' with their strange structures and their flames.

We anchored next to a very sad looking little boat which had been de-masted and looked abandoned.

Before tea we moved our clocks forward one hour to Spanish time, giving ourselves an extra hour of daylight. It doesn't get dark until 9pm now!

Mazágon anchorage

When we got up in the morning, we thought we saw 'Ghost' our friends' boat at anchor, although of a similar design, this 'Ghost' was Spanish and not as well maintained.

We headed into the marina and purchased 100 litres of diesel, the first refuel of this trip. We are lucky that Caramor's tank is large and that we mostly sail as refuelling isn't a job we enjoy. The price was good though, fuel is often cheaper near oil refineries.

Despite the forecast for no wind, a sea breeze picked up and we had a pleasant sail to the mouth of the Quadalquivir river which we will follow all the way to Sevilla.

As we sailed into the river, we passed 'Yao!' (see diary 29 July) sailing out! "Yao!" in Brittany means "let's go!" a good name for their boat as each time we catch up with Jean-Loup, Marianne and Lucas, they sail off.

We anchored 5 NM up the river 36:47.73N 6:21.53W, close to the left bank and the Doñana National Park. Opposite is Sanlúcar de Barrameda, the town from which Magellan departed in 1519, his expedition was the first to sail round the world but only 18 of his men returned.

Shortly after 10pm we heard three men shouting from the shore. We had difficulty understanding their accents but they seemed to be asking for help and for our boat. We thought maybe they had missed the last ferry back to Sanlúcar and were stranded. We discussed whether to inflate our dinghy and give them a lift across the river. It was dark, a strong tide was running and the wind was blowing, we wouldn't be able to fit all three of them in the dinghy at once so it would mean two journeys, and they didn't seem to be at risk of any harm (other than a few mosquito bites) if they spent the night on the beach (temperature was 25 degrees celsius). They wandered off and seemed to have lost interest in us. Thirty minutes later, more shouting, only this time from very close quarters ... one of the men, Jesus, had swam out to Caramor and was floundering in the water. Franco pulled him onto the deck. He had rolled up his trousers and tucked two pieces of polystyrene up his t-shirt for buoyancy. Franco inflated the dinghy and took Jesus back to Sanlúcar where he had a motor-launch. The three men had been digging for tiny clams in the sand some way away and must have missed the last ferry. As Franco and Jesus approached the Sanlúcar shore, Jesus was shouting at some of his friends "Why didn't you come and pick us up?". They asked "Why didn't you phone us?", he told them he'd left his phone behind because he was worried it would get wet.

Franco didn't wait for a lift in the motor-launch and rowed back across. Probably a good thing because by the time Jesus got his act together I would probably have clipped a kayak together and gone looking for them. Eventually we heard oars, he had rowed over to pick up his friends, the outboard engine had refused to start.

Tomorrow we will head up the Quadalquivir all the way to Sevilla, a river steeped in history.

Sent from Caramor, somewhere in the world...