Safely tucked up in Vilamoura, we met up with Francis and Carol Brand, who spend a good deal of time here at their second home. Nigel has helped them with investment work for a number of years and we made a loose arrangement to meet up when we had reached the Algarve.
Francis and Carol showed us the town and scenery around Vilamoura, before we all set off in the car down to explore the neighbouring town of Albufeira. We had a light lunch and then climbed the cliff above Albufeira old town to inspect the access channel and new marina which has opened there. We had been dissuaded from actually staying in the marina due to it's remote location and sketchy design etc, but all seemed well, looking down from above. This all seems to go to show that there is nothing quite like a first hand experience…different strokes for different folks and all that.
In the evening after saying adieu to Carol and Francis, we played the Lopolight game (see earlier posting) and it was not until Wednesday that we finally set about or next trip along the coast. A really early start, just before dawn, in cold damp conditions, saw us nosing out of the marina, headed west about 40 miles to the Ria Guardiana. We were about 2 days before spring tides and it was fairly critical that we timed our arrival at the river entrance to be close to high tide. There is a sand bar across the river entrance which means that a piece of poor timing could leave us stranded, aground, even tipped on our side. There's about a metre of water at lowest tide.
The wind was light, and we motor - sailed all the way to keep our speed above 5.5 knots and arrived in the early afternoon, about an hour after high water. In this event, we had a metre or so of water under our keel as we crossed the bar and motored up river. The flags were changed back to Spanish and we tied up at the delightful Ayamonte marina with plenty of time to explore the town in the afternoon. The receptionist at the marina check in had a delightfully quirky accent…he was spanish but his parents were from Glasgow and he spoke to us in a Glaswegian accent, learned entirely from his parents in Spain.
We found the hub of the British ex pat community in the chandlery. Here we tried to find out more about the river, possibly even a chart and some information on the "air draft" under the bridge just up river from Ayamonte. Of course there are no charts. Just stay on the outside of the bends in the river, was the advice. Then "have you heard the weather forecast?" "It's blowing dogs off chains tomorrow, not a great time to be in the river. Oh and the air draft might be 15 metres, or might be 20 metres. No one knows, but a yacht has recently hit the bridge and the mast folded in 3 places"
So we postponed and stayed another night in the marina, pending weather developments. Festina had been up the river a couple of years ago so we knew it was possible to get a Sigma 38 under the bridge….
Then we spotted Solon, with Debbie and Martin Pope aboard, slip into the marina. So we hooked up and went out to dinner in the town.
In the morning, the weather was fine, though news from Andalucia, further south and east was of torrential rain and mayhem from huge floods. After further thoughts we sadly turned our backs on the Guardiana and set sail back west for the haven of Vilamoura again. Nigel has to travel back from Faro in a day or so, and that is the most convenient starting point for a trip to and from the airport. Karen can happily stay in the marina with Persephone for the duration of the brief visit home. The afternoon and evening sail was a delight, with up to 15 knots of wind and sunshine. We were sailing to windward too, which made a nice change.
Francis and Carol met us on Saturday and we spent a delightful evening at their home, watching television…the Ryder Cup was on, before slipping out to a local restaurant for a bite to eat.
The Ryder Cup looked to be on it's way to the US when we turned in, but the Sunday play heralded a different story. The noise from the Golf Bar in the marina told the story as the Europeans held on to the trophy after a fantastic session in the singles.