24 to 29 August 2022
Having waved SV Sancerre off on their adventures and having been at anchor for nearly two weeks we took Pintail up to the pontoon at Sanlucar to fill up with water and take advantage of some electricity.
We thought the festivities of Easter were over but we were wrong! It was Sunday morning and the office was closed so we tied up underneath some silent fairground rides. There was a man on quay letting off loud bangers every 10 minutes. This was the first indication that the hush over the town was not going to last!
With Pintail settled on the pontoon with a front row view of Alcoutim we could set off to get down to the serious business of getting to know the newest member of our sailing family. We took the hiking path from Sanlucar up to the windmills⁷
and then twisting around the Spanish bank of the river to find Ursula and Alex’s plot, entering by the gate rather than the pontoon this time.
There we were able to hang out with our favourite Germans and their new arrival who seemed to be settling in perfectly to their off grid life. Aria appears utterly unfazed living between the wood cabin and the boat anchored in the river and getting involved in planting out crops for the next season. Sustained by a delicious cake baked by Alex, we enjoyed an afternoon of the good life interspersed with wonderful nearly newborn cuddles.
Stefan was determined that Stella didn’t feel left out of all the attention!
Back in town we realised we should have read the posters more carefully because the fiesta was really getting into full swing. The silent fairground rides had fired up and were throwing children and adults in all sorts of directions accompanied by loud music that continued until 4am.
And then after only a few hours sleep we were awoken to this! This fiesta was far from over and so, perhaps unsurprisingly, we decided against another night on the pontoon and returned down river to anchor in our previous and much more peaceful spot. The one blessing bestowed on us by the Virgen de la Rabida was that our stay on the pontoon was free because the office remained shut throughout her festivities!
Anchored just off Ursula and Alex’s land meant we didn’t have so far to go to see them and gave us an opportunity to explore the path further south with them.
With Stella leading the way we walked passed Pintail and our laundry drying in the breeze
and round along a tributary to the Guardiana too shallow for bigger boats.
After a rest on a bench we walked back through the riverside meadows full of Spring flowers, perfect for puppy portraits!
We could easily have stayed another week or two up in the Sticky River hanging out with our friends but we had plans to make for the summer and needed to get back to Portimao to prepare. So we had time for one last cuddle with Aria and started to think about getting back under that bridge!
Pintail rode the tide back down to the bridge where we anchored for the night on the north side to wait for the morning’s low tide. So close to civilisation again yet it still felt very remote.
We decided we hadn’t had enough time in Spain so took Pintail into Ayamonte marina for the next couple of nights. Checking in we were able to use our Portuguese residence cards for the first time.
Ayamonte is just like a mini version of Cadiz, a city that is amongst our favourites. The merchants’ houses with their towers tell of its past as a centre of trade at the mouth of the river but now this town plies its trade amongst the mostly Spanish tourists.
Returning to Spain we were not disappointed to find more of those fabulous, colourful public spaces amongst the tiny streets full of shoe shops and heladarias.
Of course there were plenty of churches and ostentatious statues and we may have indulged in one or two tostadas con tomate.
But Ayamonte couldn’t keep these Portuguese residents away from their pasteis de nata for long and with another skipper doing to hard work we took the ferry across the river to Vila Real de Santo Antonio.
It’s amazing just how different the architecture can be only ten minutes across the water and with those mind bending pavements we were in no doubt we were back in Portugal.
We had a wonderful break up in the Rio Guardiana and most importantly it was just lovely to see Ursula and Alex and their little family so contented living on its banks.
Who would have thought it when we first met them back in 2016 in Viana do Castelo and Stefan said the now legendary words ‘do you think your fenders are big enough’!?