Ilha da Culatra
Paul and Caroline Frew
Thu 1 Sep 2011 17:24
We are anchored in the lagoon between Faro and the island called Ilha da
Culatra. It is a fascinating place in many ways.
The entrance is through a narrow gap in the long sandy beaches which enclose
the lagoon and with our deep draft it was critical to keep in line with the
leading lights which guide yachts through breakwater. We entered during the
flood tide because of the very fast currents that race though the gap and as
we approached the entrance, white water was being whipped up in front of us
as gallons of water poured into the lagoon sweeping us with it. Our boat
speed was only 5 knots but we were being carried along at over 11 knots in
the racing current current and it felt like a roller coaster ride - but in a
35 ton yacht! Once inside the lagoon the current subsided a little and we
navigated our way to an area on the chart which showed 3.2 metres minimum
depth at low water. We need 3 metres to stay afloat so only just enough. We
dropped the anchor and launched the rib so that Jamie and Tom could motor
the two miles across the lagoon to collect Mat from Olhao, where we had
arranged to meet him.
We had planned to set off early this morning on the 80 mile sail to Cadiz,
but when we woke at 6am the forecasted storm was still raging overhead and
it was pitch black and pouring with rain. After a cup of tea in the cockpit
watching the storm overhead we decided to delay our departure and went back
to bed. By mid morning the storm had passed and after a huge 'full english'
we went by rib into the little port on the island of Culatra. The island is
apparently populated by 40 families who make their living from the fish in
the lagoon which are replenished every day by the tide. The port is
protected by its own breakwater and is crammed full of little fishing boats
all tied to the floating pontoon. On the beach in the harbour local
fishermen stand in the hot sun mending piles of nets which are heaped up on
the foreshore. A short trip across the water in the rib shows why Culatra
has the reputation of being the shellfish capital of Portugal as the lagoon
is positively teeming with fish.
There are no cars on the island, just a couple of tractors which act as
lorry, digger and garbage collector for the inhabitants. Apart from the
absence of palm trees it could be the Caribbean. The island is one big
sandbank and the little single story houses are brightly coloured; their
occupants sitting on plastic chairs on white verandas which line the sandy
pavements. We followed the only street though the town where a series of
wooden boardwalks lead across the marshes to the Atlantic. The soft white
sand stretches for miles with barely a person in sight, and yet we are
barely two miles from beaches of Faro where holiday makers can hardly find
space to stretch out.
We have decided to set sail for Cadiz this evening, leaving at 8 on the ebb
tide which will speed our way out of the lagoon and we hope to arrive in
Puerto Sherry shortly after dawn tomorrow.