Algarve 2: Portimao to Faro

James & Amelia Gould
Sun 24 Jun 2007 10:34

8 - 18 June 2007:  The Algarve 2 (Portimao to Faro)


Once we had anchored in Portimao (in a pretty spot near a beach) we had some lunch before heading into town to find our friends, David and Fiona.  During lunch James commented again about the smell of petrol.  In Alvor we attributed it to a boat nearby which ran a petrol generator on deck, but the smell appeared to have followed us.  A random discussion about our Davits led James to check the back of the Davit bolts by putting his hand inside the transom locker.  The bottom of the locker was wet, and as James instinctively put his hands to his lips to check if the water was salty or fresh he soon stopped and realised it was petrol.  We had a spillage!


Luckily we only carry 10 litres of petrol for the dinghy outboard in two small jerry cans, so we knew the problem was containable.  We checked the fuel locker and found petrol at the bottom and traced the problem to a cracked seam in one of the jerry cans.  Then the clear up started.  We mopped up the petrol using old newspapers and blue roll, sticking our hands into gaps only just big enough to take them.  After an hour of mopping up petrol in the heat of the day we both felt distinctly queasy and dizzy.  We were still puzzled however as to how the petrol made it across from one hull to the other, until we discovered a small “drain” hole in the fuel locker.  This made us realise that the bridge deck joining the two hulls under the cockpit has a double bottom and petrol has been sloshing under our feet these last few days!  The scariest thing was that all the engine wiring runs through the transom locker and has been sat soaking in petrol – we were very lucky it did not ignite the petrol.  Once we mopped up most of the petrol we flushed the area through with soapy water.  As soon as we could smell more Pine Fresh than Eau de Unleaded we knew our job was done.


Relieved, smelly and sick, we hopped in the dinghy and went ashore, gratefully accepting David’s offer to use the marina showers which they had access to.  After long hot showers we went for a lovely meal on the beach with David and Fiona, washed down with several bottles of wine (to get rid of the taste of petrol!).  We then returned to the marina where we has a few more bottles of wine onboard David & Fiona’s boat.  The following morning James and I could not remember much about the dinghy journey back to Rahula.  We were obviously being very sensible though, because we wore lifejackets and (sort of) put them away, and we (sort of) neatly stowed the dinghy on our return.


It took a glass of Berocca (God bless Angus Essenhigh for introducing me to this wonderful hangover cur….J) and several slices of toast and Marmite to revive us the following morning, and nearly as soon as we had cleared up from brunch David & Fiona came over as we had arranged to meet for lunch.  We went to Ferragudo on the other side of the harbour to Portimao that is renowned for BBQ fish on the harbour front.  We had a delicious grilled fish in a restaurant where there was no need to translate the menu – we just pointed at the fish we wanted from a selection presented to us on a platter!


After lunch James and I headed back to Portimao Marina to have a look at another Banshee (same as Rahula) we had spotted the day before.  This was the only Mark 2 ever built and had several modifications incorporated on the original design.  We liked some of the changes made, and took lots of photographs in case one day we get a chance build them into Rahula.


The next day James and I went ashore to find the supermarket.  We got a little lost trying to find it and spent an hour wandering through the dusty back streets of Portimao.  The town was very different once we got away from the tourist trail, a lot more run down and bare.  When we returned to the marina Fiona invited us onboard for a cup of tea, which turned into a glass of wine, which turned into 4 bottles…  Meanwhile our shopping sat forlornly on the jetty dreaming of refrigeration.  It was worth it though, as it was the last night we had with David and Fiona before our paths separated and they flew back to Guernsey as we continued sailing South.  It was very sad saying goodbye to them as they had become great friends.  We really hope to see them again in some far-flung marina.


James & Fiona

Amelia & David


Despite the now customary morning hangover we still sailed early the following morning in order to make the tide at our destination, Faro.  We had a great sail East in a steadily building wind that meant we had to keep reducing sail in order to make sure we still arrived at the right time and not too early.  We sailed into the Rio Formosa on a beam reach doing 7-8 knots, and it was a real shame to start the engine and lower the sails as the channel narrowed.  Once we were at the upper reaches of the Canal de Faro we anchored as close as we could to the city to shorten the dinghy ride ashore.  It was a lovely spot surrounded by marshes and pretty birds, though it was somewhat marred by being right under the flight path to Faro airport.  As the first plane came in we thought it would hit our mast - it looked so close!


Under the flight path to Faro Airport


As the tide went out we realised that our idyllic spot was also a dumping ground, and though the river bed was clear all around we had anchored right over some Whelk beds and near a big sharp old anchor.  We were no longer so pleased with our spot and worried that Rahula would swing into one of these nasty, hull piercing objects (We had broken the golden rule of checking a drying anchorage at low water prior to using it …J)  We laid a kedge anchor astern of the boat to stop us swinging and let out more line on the anchor up forward to keep us off the Whelk beds.  Although we wanted to move, the wind and the very narrow channel meant we would more than likely run aground or hit one of the moored boats before we could get up enough speed in the right direction.   As soon as the flood started and Rahula was afloat again we sprung into action to escape.  We transferred Rahula onto the Kedge anchor so that she moved 10m left, then James picked up our main anchor with the dinghy.  We then weighed the Kedge and sped off into deeper water, pleased that our gross act of seamanship had worked.  The deep water pool was full of mooring and there wasn’t enough room to swing a cat (get it?!), so James headed for the edge of the pool in the failing light.  A large lurch told us that we were aground again on a sandbank (sort of deliberate…J).  So we dropped the anchor and waited for more water to come in so that Rahula would float off and set the anchor.  Once we were happy that we were secure we had a well earned beer and went to bed, happy to let Rahula sit on the sand in the night.  (The sand gives the bottom a scrub!)


In the morning we moved again to a deeper water anchorage on the other side of the pool and in front of a large, funky looking German catamaran.  Three anchorages in 24 hours is more than enough for anyone, and we were exhausted!


Once we were happy that Rahula was safe we turned our attention to the city of Faro which was the reason for our visit.  Faro is the largest town in the Algarve and though most of the original settlements were destroyed by wars and earthquakes some of the old part remains.  We wandered inside the old city walls and headed for the Cathedral.  The church itself was not very interesting, but it was fun to climb up the bell tower and get close to a Stork’s nest and for the great views across the Rio Formosa.  In the cathedral gardens there was also a very sinister fountain made up of human bones and skulls.


Storks on Faro Cathedral Bell Tower
Faro Anchorage – Rahula is third from left!


We then went to the archaeological museum, installed in a 16th century convent with one of the oldest cloisters in Portugal.  The museum had a superb 3rd century AD mosaic of Neptune surrounded by the four winds that was found nearby.  It was amazing that so much detail survived to this day.  The rest of the museum was interesting, especially the Moorish section.  We also saw more Storks…


Faro Museum – The oldest cloister in Portugal, and a stork.


We had to visit the Faro Maritime Museum (because it was there…) which had a display of model boats and local fishing techniques.  It was interesting to see a model of a Tunny net used to catch Tuna.  We’d seen them along the coast, and it was good to see what lies under the water.  They lay the net on the sea bed during the spawning season when the Tuna come close inshore.  The net is shaped like a maze so once the fish gets inside unless it turns back all the routes lead to the trap in the centre.  It seemed cruel to confuse the fish like this, but I suppose we all like a bit of tuna…


Tunny Net Model


While at anchor in Faro we befriended Stephan, the owner of the German catamaran anchored near us.  His wife had gone back to Germany for the week and we decided that he obviously needed company, so we invited him onboard for a few beers.  We soon became friends, and spent nearly every evening on each other’s boats.  We particularly enjoyed going to visit him on Harmony because he had the cutest little kitten onboard which had “found” them in Madeira.  The kitten was really playful and climbed everything, but was especially cute when curled up on our laps purring  (I want one!).  Stephan was a really nice guy with impeccable English, and he gave us lots of top tips for our forthcoming visits to Madeira and the Canary Islands.  His boat was an old racing catamaran which he had extended and modified for cruising (an epic effort, taking him nine months; he vitally re-built the boat and the quality of the work goes to show that you can do anything with marine plywood, some foam and Epoxy resin…J).  It gave us some more ideas for improving on Rahula, especially extending her to fit some steps at the back…


Stephan and Harmony (no picture of kitten though…)


We ended up being stuck in Faro for a week as the weather deteriorated and we couldn’t get out of the harbour entrance because of the large swell and strong wind.  We passed the time doing boat maintenance, surfing the Internet and socialising.  We even managed to go to the cinema to see Johnny Depp (er, I mean Pirates of the Caribbean 3).


Eventually the sun came out, a fresh wind blew from the South West and it was time to move on from our nice anchorage in Faro.  Another sad goodbye as we sailed passed Stephan on Harmony, then we were out at sea again, headed for the Rio Guadiana which forms the Eastern border between Portugal and Spain.