Portimão is a city in the Algarve region of southern Portugal. A busy fishing port with a long history of ship-building, and like most places nowadays, tourism is the modern mainstay of the economy. White beaches along the southern coast of Portugal attract thousands of overseas tourists each year – behind the neat rows of colourful beach umbrellas, the broad expanse of sand along Praia da Rocha suggests considerably fewer tourists than usual. Further into the Arade River is the large Marina Portimão, plus boatyard and fishing port. Fishing vessels depart the harbour in the wee hours, only to return laden with fish and shadowed by hundreds of huge sea-birds diving in for a chance to nab a catch-of-the-day.
The marina in Portimão is more expensive than other marinas on the Atlantic coast during high season (Jun-Sep) so the river fills with yachts, no doubt preferring to spend their Euros on red wine. Landing the dinghy isn’t convenient in most places, however, under the boatyard slip is a small dinghy dock and a steep ladder up to the slip. From here the chandleries are close by, and there’s a very convenient outside laundry machine – washer and dryer.
At the northern end of town just under the bridge on the western bank is a small fisherman’s dock to tie the dinghy to. From there, it’s a ten-minute walk south to the Pingo Doce supermarket or across the bridge 20 minutes to Lidl and Staples. Heading west for 20 minutes there’s the large Aqua Portimao shopping complex, plus a Decathlon sports store; Maxmat building supplies; and the British Supermarket (Iceland), in case you need a fix of something from Old Blighty. Staying here is quite convenient and we’re in no hurry to move along until we’ve ticked off a few jobs.
The anchorage just inside the harbour entrance can get a little bouncy in strong winds or on days when the tourist boats and jet-skis are active (typically weekends). Mornings are typically calm, with the wind increasing in the afternoon, easing after sunset. With a fresh flush of water at high tide the water was good enough to jump in for a dip, but the muck flowing out at low tide isn’t too appealing. It’s certainly not safe to swim too far from the boat as you’d likely get mowed down by a jet-ski. We moved the boat closer to the boat yard and fishing port and it’s much calmer and quieter here, although don’t even consider swimming here.
The end of summer temperatures stayed around 25degC along the Atlantic coast, with few days reaching 30degC. Now that autumn is upon us, we see changes in the sky – thunderstorms yesterday and rain today – it’s almost time to go.
The anchorages are busy with boats from around Europe, Britain and the Antipodes. It’s the time of year when vessels are considering which routes to take – south to the Canary Islands, then across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, or to venture inside the Mediterranean. Some have already left for Madeira and the Canaries, while others are waiting a little longer to depart and avoid any chance of bad weather during hurricane season.
One of the delights of cruising is to meet new cruisers, particularly those at the early stage of their sailing life. It’s also really lovely to catch up with ‘old salts’ we’ve met around the world, so we were happy to meet again with long-term Canadian cruisers Michael & Sheila of ‘Kantala’ who we first met in Rodrigues in 2014 while crossing the Indian Ocean, then again in the BVIs in 2016. A surprise visit from Finnish sailing friends Salme and Tom (we first met in Darwin in 2012 then again in Sri Lanka, South Africa in 2014, and three years ago in Finland) occasioned in a night of swapping tales of sailing adventures over a couple of bottles of vinho tinto in the village of Ferragudo, followed by a relaxing coffee the next morning.
Now, the Orcas…. Unluckily for dozens of sailing yachts, orcas along this coastline are still chewing rudders from vessels and causing chaos for cruisers. Some of the footage on Youtube is truly disturbing. The hot-spot for activity over the past couple of months was closer to the Strait of Gibraltar, but only last week four attacks in one day just outside this coastline near Lagos and Sagres, resulted in three vessels losing their rudders – all had to be towed to safety. An Aussie boat we know of had the rudder completely stripped from the rudder stock – much like a kebab skewer! It’s a real problem and we hope those pesky cetaceans stop their vandalism and migrate north by the time we depart.
So what are our plans I hear you ask?
Well, after a good deal of consideration, coin tossing and subliminal hints from pointing statues, we’ve made the decision to head west. The thought of wintering another year in the northern hemisphere (we’ve only been out of the cold for three months!), coupled with the constraints due to the pandemic (Morocco still closed), and the time limitations set by the Schengen Area, made the decision easy – we’ve decided we’ll forego sailing/wintering in the Med and make a crossing to the Caribbean. No doubt we’ll face border issues there, but at least the weather is warmer!
We made the most of our time up here in the north. In fact, we’ve travelled more than I ever expected. Highlights: our trip through the Standing Mast Route in the Netherlands was really special; Sailing the Baltic to the beautiful cities and countries of Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Denmark and Norway, plus train travelling through the countries of Northern Europe – Germany, France, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Switzerland – plus our cold, windy sailing across the North Sea to Shetlands, Orkney, Scotland and earlier passage around the wild west coast of Ireland – much more than we had originally planned to see. We have the option to visit the rest of Europe another time, but for now, we’d like to sail more and be warm doing it. Maybe we’ll do another lap around the globe and come at it from the eastern end… maybe.
So that’s it; we’ve still got a few weeks here in Portugal before we need to make the 3,000+nm voyage across the Atlantic to the familiar islands of the Caribbean. Some planning to do and only a handful of jobs to get our Blue Heeler ocean-ready.