Escaping the marina

23 December 2021 to 14 February 2022

Stefan made it safely home from Saint Lucia for Christmas, via a whistlestop visit to his Dad in London, with two days to spare and thankfully no COVID!

Enough time for me to show him Portimão’s lights before hunkering down to a quiet Christmas day. We had a walk on the beach in warm but windy conditions and cooked the most traditional Christmas dinner the British supermarket could muster!

New Year was a bigger affair starting with drinks aboard SV Intrepid Bear with Kate and Iain and other marina friends before heading to the beach for the fireworks at midnight.

Despite the ongoing restrictions, Portimão put on a pretty special display from the sea wall

and Iain brought his bagpipes to pipe in 2022, with all of us hoping that it might bring a little more sailing than last year!

Continuing the celebrations into New Year’s Day, Zoë from SV Sancerre and I fulfilled a promise to ourselves that we would take a dip in the sea to mark the new year. Thankfully it was a beautiful day and the sea really not that cold.

On an almost empty beach at Praia da Rocha, we played some frisbee and petanque, with Ralph wanting to join in all our games.

This winter, for the first time in all our winters afloat, we have quite often left the safety of our berth to take Pintail out for a sail or just for a night or two in the anchorage in the river Arade. The weather has been mild enough and the nearby opportunities to escape the marina inviting enough to make us throw off the lines at a whim and go.

Mostly we only went as far as the river but the other side of the river with its beaches

and fishing harbour was all the change of scene we needed.

And so it was that one weekend we made plans with Zoë and Martyn of SV Sancerre, to brave the tide and sand bars and get into the anchorage at Alvor just 5 miles up the coast. OK so Alvor isn’t exactly far. With a little effort we could walk there along the cliffs from Portimão but it was just the escape we needed from the sedation of winter in the marina.

However, when I started the engine it didn’t sound too happy to be going anywhere. It did start and we made it to the anchorage a mere 500 metres outside the marina where we intended to lift the dinghy. And there it would not start again!

We had a coffee with Zoë and Martyn to diagnose the problem. Stefan was pretty sure it was the starter motor and, although sporadically, the engine would start we didn’t fancy being without power navigating the shallows of Alvor’s estuary so we waved SV Sancerre off and stayed put.

A few weeks and a new starter motor later we tried again. Leaving early to arrive at high water we sailed out of Portimao at sunrise for the short hop along the coast.

There was no wind but that didn’t stop Martyn from trying to sail! Sancerre had crew on board. Our friends and Ferragudo residents, Lynne and John, had joined them and they raised their cuppas as they cruised on passed us.

We followed close behind Sancerre as they followed their previous track through the very shallow water

and anchored in the deepest bits of water we could find. Once settled, they dinghied over to Pintail for a coffee.

A walk at low tide showed just how shallow the water got and how trapped we were in our little puddle.

Alvor was once a quiet fishing village and fishermen in small boats still fish from there, haring passed at all times of the day and night in search of their catch.

Today tourists significantly outnumber fishermen and liveaboard cruisers vie for space amongst their moorings. But in early March Alvor was remarkably peaceful and in our corner of the estuary we felt a world away from the Irish bars and sardine grilling restaurants of the Strip. Ralph had the beaches all to himself and celebrated by digging himself another hole!

The next morning Zoë and I took Ralph for a walk around the wetlands which were teeming with bird life.

Without my bird book it was hard to identify all of them but there were plenty of my favourite cormorants

and in the distance flashes of pink that could only mean flamingos.

We found a new favourite coffee spot looking out over the fishing boats in the harbour and stocked up with fresh fruit, veg, dates and figs at the fabulous Sunday market.

At low tide Zoë paddled over to the sand banks and foraged for razor clams. Stefan dinghied over to supervise and Ralph tried to help by digging some of his legendary holes!

It was hard to leave the tranquility behind but we had a lovely sail back to Portimão.

Alvor is definitely going into our top 5 favourite anchorages (until we find another new favourite!) and we vowed to return again.

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