The Great Escape!! 37:11:00N 07:24:00W

Zipadedoda of Dart
David H Kerr
Mon 3 Sep 2007 11:25

We finally managed to tear ourselves away from Marina de Lagos on 29th August.  A mere 9 week stay……… We did have a great time there. We acted as a floating hotel, and it was a perfect place to get sails mended, generator and shattered blocks repaired. We are also now the proud owners of sunscreens on all the windows and hatches, and this has dramatically improved the comfort level on the boat when it gets hot and sunny. The only down side with Lagos is the near constant high winds, and the accompanying red sand and dust that does mess up the boat and it also left stains. But that was a small price to pay.


Our first stop after departing Lagos was Vilamoura.  It is some 30nm east of Lagos.



The picture above is of the Reception building. It is the only one of any architectural merit in the place. This is the Blackpool of the Algarve. The berth we were allocated was right next to the quayside, and we had a massive 3 inches between each side of the finger pontoon and a large white plastic powerboat. Mercifully there was no breeze at all whilst we were parking, so we managed to get in (and out) without mishap. I mentioned the lack f breeze. This is a feature of Vilamoura.  It is very humid and airless. The marina is completely surrounded by tall buildings. A large proportion of these housing, restaurants, bars and the ubiquitous Disco’s.  We stayed here last year and did not particularly enjoy the experience. The place turns into a veritable “zoo” in the evenings, with what seems like thousands of people jostling for a space in the promenade around the periphery of the marina. So we decided to stay on the boat for a meal and an early night. WE drifted off to sleep with the bass sound of the nearby discos, gently vibrating the bed…………..


The next morning was an early departure for our next port of call and our last in Portugal. The Rio Guardiana. This is a large river that acts as the boarder between Spain and Portugal. It is navigable for over 25 miles inland. Provided that is you can get under the bridge that is 3 miles up stream from the tricky entrance to the river.



The bridge has an air draft of 20.5 metres. Too low for us to risk. So we opted to stay in the marina in Vila Real de Santo Antonio.


This town was completely destroyed by the same earthquake that destroyed Lisbon in 1755. It was re-build in one short period by the same architect who masterminded the re-building of Lisbon. Unlike most of the other towns on this stretch of coast it is architecturally interesting and has a quite charm.



Albeit there is the slight whiff of decay and poverty about the town. This due to the fact that it was a major fishing port, with some 20 fish processing factories. Thanks’ to the EU, the fishing fleet lost its quota, and now only 6 boats remain in commission and all the factories have closed.


On the opposite bank of the river, is the Spanish town of Ayamote. The Spanish politicians have made sure that the local fishermen did not loose their quota, and consequently have one of the largest fishing fleets on Spain operating from there. The difference between the two sides of the river is very marked. The Spanish side has masses of new buildings, and is clearly prospering, whilst the Portuguese side is clearly poor.


We booked to go on a river cruise to Alcutim, some 20 miles upstream. There were lots of wading birds at the waters edge, including Storks. The river was to be frank a bit of a disappointment, as we had expected it to be much more luxuriant and lush, but parts were quite barren. I guess we have been spoiled by the River Dart!


We were the only Brits out of around 40 folks on the boat. Mostly German. The tour is run by a husband and wife team. Portuguese and German respectively. The wife did a splendid job of looking after us. After a tour of the town, the museum and the 13th Century castle, we had a superb lunch of barbequed chicken. One each!. With local wind and coffee.


I was aware that costs were low inland in Portugal, but was astonished when a beer and a glass of white wine cost Euro 1.2 in a local bar. Whereas the same in Lagos would be around Euro 8. There are a lot of foreign boats moored on the river, and some great photo opportunities. Here’s looking at you babe!



We had a fantastic day out all for Euros 48 a head, from 0930 to 1900 inclusive of meals.


The marina here is a bit like Noss on Dart. The current running through is awesome, and it is too narrow to turn our boat around. The entrance is at a right angle to the current and only 20 metres wide. Add to this the fact that access across the sand bar at the mouth of the river is only possible HW+/- 3 hours, makes for very careful planning of arrival and departure times…………


So at 0600 on the 2nd September we departed for Cadiz.