16 Sept - Bulls and Bodegas

Escapade of Rame
Richard & Julie Farrington
Tue 19 Sep 2017 06:24


36:35.4N  006:13.7W

In the hope of obtaining the cooling water pipe for the engine as soon as it arrived from Lisbon, we  shifted out of the Portimao anchorage first thing on Wednesday 13th and relocated to a spot off the beach at Lagos, just yards from the Sopramar chandlery.  Julie soaked up some rays on the glorious sandy beach whilst I set off in search of parts.  No joy, but I did find an idyllic beach bar by way of compensation, tucked in behind the dunes and with the right balance of faded driftwood, carefully bleached clapperboard, sail-shaped awnings and large cushions.  If I owned a beach bar, I would want it to look like this…

Not a great photo but you get the gist…

By late afternoon, the Atlantic swell had returned so we relocated to Alvor, only to find our favourite spots already taken and not quite enough predicted height of tide at low water – so we headed back out to sea and returned to Portimao feeling slightly grumpy.

Happy fishermen returning to Portimao

We did not repeat the serial on Thursday and focused on some maintenance instead.  The phone didn’t ring though and at five oclock we abandoned the wait and set off for Spain, choosing to rely on the sanitary hose to keep the engine cool instead.  The Portimao waterfront bars had been pumping out ‘bangin’ beats’ since midday and the boat was beginning to vibrate as they turned up the volume. An hour later and some seven miles offshore, we could still hear them.  I felt old and wondered if the noise was actually attracting customers?  We felt no compulsion to return to Portimao; apart from the wonderful caves, cliffs and sandy beaches, our abiding memory of the Algarve will be of lobster-coloured, fat, bald English tourists complaining about the exchange rate.

Overnight we pushed offshore to get away from the fishing floats and east into the Gulf of Cadiz.  The breeze built to a steady 20 knots or so from the port quarter and Escapade relished the escape from anchor as much as we did.  By dawn, we were off Rota watching the new Spanish flagship SNS Juan Carlos 1 loiter offshore as we raced in towards Puerto de Santa Maria, just north of the splendid suspension bridge at Cadiz.  Our friends Nick and Beverly Lambert had recommended Puerto de Santa Maria as a delightfully old-fashioned Spanish town and a good way to savour the modern sherry industry.  After all, our sailing has explored whisky, Guinness, Albarino wines and port, so we need to continue that journey of discovery on our way to the rums of the Caribbean and the Colas of North America!

The marina at Puerto de Santa Maria hugs the west bank of the river and is based around the fine Real Club Nautico.  This is a sports club with tennis, sailing and an overgrown swimming pool.  The bar and restaurant area is very pleasant and operates as part of a franchise in the main town.  It overlooks the river and is surrounded by what look like old married quarters (a bit like St George’s Barracks in Gosport, Spanish-style).  The opposite bank has a couple of abandoned wrecks, a population of herons and low trees akin to mangroves.  The whole thing conjures up an almost South American feel and we immediately liked it.  Not a bangin’ beat to be heard (instead, the intoxicating sound of Astrud Gilberto) and not a fat tourist in sight…

The view from our sitting room at Puerto de Santa Maria!

On Saturday we ventured into town again to visit the Bodega Osborne.  One man’s Port Lodge is another’s Bodega.  Vast nineteenth century warehouses designed to keep the wine in perfect conditions dominate the ground. Laid out in a grid system and surrounded by living quarters for the workforce, much of the architecture and town planning remains intact today.  Unlike other parts of Spain where it has been torn down and replaced with functional apartment blocks, here the whole place seems ‘in balance’. 

Residential area of Puerto de Santa Maria

An enticing courtyard

Thomas Osborne Mann was another entrepreneurial Scot with some philanthropic leanings as well as an eye for making money from the sherry industry.  Osborne’s is Big Business today: Thomas created one of the first ‘industrial parks’ in Europe in the 1800s and today the company has diversified massively.  You may well have seen their iconic bulls by the roadside in Spain – great steel sculptures that have become synonymous with Spain itself.  He knew something about marketing too and that sense of style continues today: the bodega was beautiful, the products in the shop all very high quality and the whole thing had an air of calm sophistication and class.  There was a wedding there later in the afternoon and the preparations looked nigh perfect.  We bought sherry and carried it into town to enjoy some fine ‘tapas’ in the warm September sunshine.  What a change from the cuisine of Portugal in just 120 miles…


A version of the ‘Toro de Osborne’.  Note the pics of Savador Dali back left: he was part of the company’s design team 

Where’s the bar?

Here… but strangely we weren’t invited to the wedding!

Bodega Osborne – main entrance