It’s time to go. Already October and the change in weather from summer to autumn is noticeable. Daylight hours are getting shorter, although the sun is still warm and glorious – warm enough to enjoy but not too hot to be uncomfortable. The evenings are cooler and the night skies are clear and fresh. This time last year in Old Blighty, we were settling into our winter berth for six months…
To the east of Portimão we sailed 38nm to the island of Culatra, near the small fishing town of Olhão and the town of Faro. Along the way, we stopped at the local tourist attraction, Benagil Cave – the swell entering the cave was too much to land the dinghy so I chose to jump in and swam to get some photos from inside the cave.
The light conditions on this day trip gave us a chance to play with our latest purchase – a Raymarine tiller pilot. The tiller pilot is setup to operate the pendulum arm on our Windpilot so it doesn’t require a lot of effort, uses only 0.5A and doesn’t need the wind to operate it. Once calibrated, it worked a treat, steering us all the way to Culatra. Besides using the windvane on the Windpilot, this system gives us another option for steering should we have any issues with our main auto-pilot.
The entrance to the inlet around Culatra is narrow with strong currents, which can be fierce in the wrong conditions. We entered on a calm day at slack water and motored in doing 8kn, watching the whirlpools as we motored through.
The island of Culatra is a relaxing stop in this region. The anchorage is broad and quite exposed but we enjoyed good conditions during our stay. Water taxis and fishing vessels upset the water making like aboard a little bouncy, but it’s a small price to pay for an anchorage with good holding. There’s no place to tie-up a dinghy in Olhão as far as we know, so to get there you’ll need to catch the ferry or a water taxi.
The fishing port on Culatra has a small section to tie up the dinghy and it’s a short walk across the island to the beach on the Atlantic side. The small village of Farol on the west of the island is quiet and it seems that only a few tourists were occupying the decorated bungalows. A walk from the fishing port at Culatra, along the north shore to Farol, through the village and along the southern beach is a worthwhile 8km walk back to Culatra’s fishing port. This was a nice couple of hours spent chatting and walking with Sheila from Kantala.
The ferry to Farol or Olhão is now running on the winter schedule, which isn’t very often. The small town of Olhão has plenty of cafes and eateries, and behind the waterfront businesses, the alleyways and narrow streets open up to decaying buildings from bygone eras – some of which are enhanced with colouful graffiti and dramatic scenes. Olhão is the street-art capital of the Algarve, although I wasn’t aware of this when I visited. Painting is a great idea to brighten up an otherwise drab streetscape.
Back at the boat we spent time preparing for offshore. Making good use of our Portuguese Vodafone unlimited internet, we updated our Navionics and iNavX charts and uploaded files to ‘the cloud’ for safe-keeping. Planning for offshore sailing is our priority and we tick off jobs from our list each day.
For offshore communications, we’ve upgraded to an IridiumGo. On previous voyages we used an Iridium 9555 satphone for gribs and communications, so we are familiar with Iridium generally, but there are cool new features with the IridiumGo and PredictWind. Our secondary communication system, which we’ve used on every ocean passage, is our Icom SSB, and have recently installed new copper grounding to improve the quality of communication.
Returning to Portimão as our departure port, we filled our diesel tanks, and filled our lockers with goodies from Lidl and Pingo Doce; mostly because shopping here is so convenient and we will likely be at anchor or at sea over the next couple of months.
Final jobs aboard done, we are now waiting for a steady high-pressure system to blow from the north whereupon we’ll catch the wind south. While we wait, we finish off a few small jobs during the day and enjoy cooking on the Cobb bbq from the aft deck. Pizza anyone?
So that’s it for now. Adeus Continental Europe. It’s been fun! Now it’s time to go sailing.