3 Sept - Caves, dolphins and lead lines

Escapade of Rame
Richard & Julie Farrington
Mon 4 Sep 2017 20:26

37:07.5N  08:37.2W

Lagos Marina

Lagos is a perfectly serviceable marina, with a good supermarket a stone’s throw from the berth, a cheap and effective laundry on site and friendly staff.  But it is surrounded by bars targeting the classic British holidaymaker abroad (overweight, bald, bright red, clutching a glass of sangria and moaning about the price of calamares) sitting alongside the classic British ex-pat (skinny, bald, nut-brown, chain smoking and moaning about home) and I have no huge desire to fraternise with either group.  The bits of ‘town’ that we saw reflected this too and in our short foray ashore we failed to find any local haunts.  The one likely candidate restaurant promised a two hour wait for an evening meal, so we passed on.  There was quite a good band playing in one of the squares: today’s versions of the classic 1960s hippy carry smartphones, their shirts look better washed and one of them had a vibraphone, so the Welfare State is clearly working! We met a young Australian on the jetty who we had last seen in Sines.  He was sailing his 30’ yacht single handed and told us that he had come from Port Dampier in WA via Brazil and the Caribbean, attracting occasional work delivering yachts to fund his adventures.  His boat was clean, well maintained and he seemed well organised.

But on balance, we were glad to escape from Lagos Marina on Monday with our good friends Nick and Beverly Lambert embarked for a few days.

With the Lamberts on a ‘run ashore’ in Lagos

We sailed west to our beach just inside Cape St Vincent.  There was a small Portuguese frigate at anchor in the bay; we wondered if they had an engineering defect, or were cleaning up for ‘rounds’ or had simply used up August’s fuel allowance; a couple of chaps were patiently trying to catch supper off the stern.  We went ashore for a picnic lunch in the beautiful sand, in the shade of a cave, but rather to close to some scrawny naked buttocks which put me off my cheese.  The sea was lovely and warm for swimming but it was a bit ‘rolly’ for an overnight stop, so we pushed on in the early evening to the fishing village of Baleeira where we thought the shelter would be better.  On the way, Beverly emerged from a spot of ‘mal de mer’ to spot the first basking shark of the deployment minding his own business and on arrival we found the Dutch liveaboard we’d seen in Sines a few days before.  The boat looked exactly the same:  a marine shanty town. We wondered whether he stowed everything below in order to sail it; he had four fishing lines out and was struggling to persuade his wind generator to spin in 15 knots of breeze – when it did, the noise woke me up and the sea shook.  New bearings, please, MEO!

The harbour at Baleeira

We stayed at Baleeira on Wednesday.  Ashore it’s quite dusty but rather pleasant: reminiscent of a Spaghetti Western set in some parts but with a beautiful beach, a nice looking 4* hotel with great views over the harbour, a café serving excellent Portuguese custard tarts straight from the oven, a busy fishing port.  We met the Dutchman ashore: nut brown, very thin and complaining in Spanish that he could not find work to buy fuel.  His outboard looked a good deal worse than mine and he almost asked us directly for money.  We told him he could find work amongst the tourist trade in Lagos but we sensed that he was unwilling to go there and attract too much attention from the authorities.  We checked the padlock on the outboard and gazed into the middle distance.  Perhaps if he presented himself and his boat a little better, he might attract a bit more sympathy?

Thursday was dolphin and cave day off Ponta de Piedade, just south of the entrance to Lagos.  There must have been around fifty dolphins who were quite happy to show off their close quarters manoeuvring skills to a fleet of tourist boats who followed them at a respectful distance.  The bottom of Escapade’s keel has a large lead bulb which looks rather like a dolphin, so I like to think that they enjoy playing with us more than other boats.  The cliff and cave formations in this part of Portugal are world famous and rightly so.  We spent a couple of hours exploring in the rubber boat until the engine conked out and we made the Lamberts row us back to Escapade.  The problem? Fuel switch turned off at a beach/cave landing and I’d forgotten to turn it on.  We relocated to an anchorage just outside the entrance to Lagos, but in 20 knots of breeze it was not exactly comfortable, so we moved again; this time, to the shallow, sandy lagoon at Alvor, halfway between Lagos and Portimao.

Escapaders caving at Lagos

Dolphins in the real world (not Seaworld)

Alvor turns out to be a rather magical place.  It’s like a huge, sunny and sandy version of Newtown Creek on the Isle of Wight.  Every evening, dozens of kite surfers come out to play; beginners at one end sitting in the shallows learning to control the kite; dudes on foils doing aerobatics at the other.  The surrounding hills sport a couple of classic whitewashed villages and a rash of Grand Designs houses for the Uber-rich.  There’s a narrow channel which we surveyed in the rubber boat leading to the picturesque fishing village at the eastern end of the lagoon.  Here we found more British tourists and plenty of restaurants offering a full fried breakfast.  But we also found the Casa do Rio Restaurante, sitting above the town with glorious views out over the lagoon from a shady terrace.  Various fishes and an unlikely ‘house white’ called BSE constituted a jolly good lunch, overseen by a suitably laconic waiter who seemed to enjoy our company.  We lingered and sorted out World Peace.  I forgot to write down the solution…

A former National Hydrographer gets to grips with the tools of the trade. 

Good lunch, good view!

Mr Cool

Showing the beginners how it’s done…

Have we been away too long?

Yesterday we despatched the Lamberts towards Seville on a recce in advance of our own expedition there later in the month and then dropped into the usual weekly cycle of clean ship, store ship and laundry run.  Today, determined to see something of Lagos, we set off into town.  Down towards the harbour entrance we found the Slave Market, one of the first of its kind in Europe. We splashed out €3 to visit the museum.  Needless to say, there aren’t many artefacts, but the story is well-told and harrowing.  Our forefathers did not treat the Africans they kidnapped with much humanity and we both found the whole thing quite humbling.  About a million slaves were sold to work in northern Europe, but the overwhelming majority (more than six times that number) were despatched to Brazil and the Caribbean.  It seems that the Age of Discovery, commerce and industrialisation combined to enrich the European at the expense of the African.  It will be interesting to see the outcome of that in a few months’ time in the Caribbean. 

The Slave Market in Lagos was opened by Prince Henry the Navigator…

Tonight we are back at anchor in the Rio de Alvor.  After a lovely afternoon, it’s now blowing a hooley and I’m sitting up waiting for the tide to turn to ensure that we swing over some deeper water when it all goes out…