BETWEEN ALGARVE AND ANDALUCIA

I didn’t know what to expect.
Circumstances made me stay longer than planned.
It became an enriching time discovering lovely places around the Guadiana river  the Ria de Formosa.
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September 2019 – July 2020

I am always fond to learn more and push myself further. At that time anchoring on my own was still a big issue.

I didn’t think twice when my friends told me they would wait for me in Culatra to help me if I needed. They left before me. I took some more days to recover from my passage. The tide got right to enter the Ria de Formosa, the laguna of Faro. I had to go. The trip was a short and easy one.

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There was not much wind though so after trying to pick some, I resigned to start the engine. I was much more nervous than during the passage, because of the anchoring. I passed the Barra Nova with not too much trouble, followed the indicated route by my friends. They were taking a sunbath on the deck, and waved me hello. I tried on my own first but the anchor didn’t grab. My friend came onboard and helped me, giving me good tips. The anchor grabbed, Giulia stopped. They had prepared a dinner for us. I was very glad. I had my first night at anchor, and was thrilled. I woke up before sunrise, so excited I was to catch the first lights of the day.  

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Giulia and her buddy off Culatra

I had an appointment a few days later at the Bruce Yard in Faro to take Giulia out of the water. I weighed the anchor at noon. The chain was full of algae – probably the reason the anchor didn’t hold the first time – and blocked the windlass. I could bring the chain and anchor onboard by hand, and felt reassured I quickly found a solution. I loved the trip through the channel of Faro, recognizing the beacons and following the alignments. It reminded me my  courses  at the sailing school Les Glénans. I arrived on time to the crane. Giulia was in a good shape after all these miles.

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The maintenance works could begin. I did first them on my own, and then had the help of a friend. We worked hard. I was glad I was ready before the yard closed in December. Late November Giulia was back in the water. The trip back to the anchorage of Culatra was even beautiful as the one coming. I dropped the anchor, this time on my own with none around. I wasn’t really sure and chose a spot away of others, should the wind pick up, it would push Giulia to the sand bank. It was a good idea, I was awaken next day by the anchor alarm, Giulia dragging anchor, and being pushed to the shallows. Under pouring rain and gusty wind I brought the anchor onboard and looked for another place. I had to try twice to anchor again. The second time was the good one, but I wasn’t so sure so stayed onboard all day.  

Still I needed another anchor. I was jealous – and laughing at myself -when I saw a sailor arrive, drop his anchor, put in reverse to check it held, put his dinghy in the water, and leave his boat. It took him 10 minutes, and the boat held. I promised myself to ask him which it was to buy the same.

I spent the few days of gale winds in Olhão, relaxing and looking for a better anchor. 

There, I inflated my kayak, I wanted to be more comfortable with anchoring.

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Beautiful sunset before the gusty sunrise
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Wet  and tiresome begin of the day
Preparing myself in Olhão to improve anchoring

Back in front of Culatra, the anchor held.

Next day, I put my kayak in the water and I just dared to go a bit further still unconfident. When there was no wind, I left Giulia unattended for a day, with no wind. I was stressed I asked people to look after her, but it all worked well. 

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Not really reassured but I left Giulia unattended

I also decided to spend Christmas on the Guadiana river, that draws the border between Algarve and Andalucia. 

I left with a good breeze to Ayamonte, in Andalucia. Coming out of the Ria through the Barra Nova was challenging with very choppy seas but the sailing was awesome once on the open water with down- winds. The late autumn sun highlighted the sea with silver and gold. I also was glad I could “read” the sky and recognize that the weather systems were shifting and the wind would momentarily drop. I knew and didn’t switch the engine on, waiting for the wind to come back. It did quite quickly.

I arrived on time to take the current that brought us safely in Spain, the 5th flag could be hoisted. 

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Ayamonte
has a different atmosphere, very similar to Panama

It was nice to be in another atmosphere and discover the flamenco culture, and have a good chandlery where I bought a 20kg Rocna anchor – recommended by the sailor I saw in Culatra and a friend. It took some time to arrive, and enjoyed further the Spanish night life. 

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Improving Giulia with self-made dyneema loops, new anchor and mainsail loop
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Just before Christmas I slipped the lines at dawn to motor to Laranjeiras on the Guadiana river. The mist came and went, painting a mysterious scenery on the river with patches of hills and meadows floating in the clouds. At some point I had to navigate on the electronic charts, because of the poor sight. Very proud, I arrived at the pontoon of Laranjeiras where a woman sailor, and also owner of a Contessa 32 waited for me. It was nice to be welcomed. I spent Christmas with them. 

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Giulia in Laranjeiras

Picture : Klaus

On Boxing day I motored to Sanlucar de Guadiana. Back on the pontoon, back in Spain, where I welcomed 2020 with a nice community of sailors. I anchored in the middle of the river ten days later. And the anchor held. Meanwhile a friend gave me a proper dinghy and another lent me an engine. I could fully enjoy life on anchorage, discovering the beautiful region around Alcoutim and Sanlucar. 

Giulia in Sanlucar
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I left Giulia ten days on a friend’s mooring to visit my friend Camille in Barcelona.

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When I came back, the pandemics was beginning. I decided to wait to follow how it would evolve and went upriver, anchoring in a natural park and Pomarão. There I had the news of the closing borders and lockdowns. I was glad my friend had lent me a mooring and I had stayed in Alcoutim. On the contrary I would be stuck on Giulia in Ayamonte. I went back to Alcoutim to refuel, take water and buy food, and left again for the natural park. We were with two boats in a bubble of peace away of the world’s tensions. They decided to go downriver and I stayed. First with two other boats and then on my own. It was an exciting time that taught me a little self-sufficiency. I was glad I had plenty of water and had cooked preserves while I was waiting for the anchor in Ayamonte. Onshore I found tangerines and also natural swimming pools to take a bath. The silence penetrated me, bringing me peace to write my first book. On a walk ashore I met a lovely woman who brought me fresh foods. I had also bad weather. The anchor held, but my nerves less. I made a little printmaking workshop to try to forget Giulia’s spinning.

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Picture: Irlem

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Pictures: Irlem

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A last trip to Spain to buy a spare before the border closed
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Locked down in Paradise
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Private bath
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Enough food onboard
A lockdown testimony :

I decided to go back to my friend’s mooring when I heard that the lockdown was easing a little in Alcoutim. I was welcomed with a basket of fruits and vegetables, and eggs, what made me feel at home. I would write my book, and go for long walks. I had also the opportunity to sail with friends on a dayboat. It was a lovely way to discover the river’s secret with experienced sailors. I finished my book and sent it to friends for review. 

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Hot summer began
bringing other lights
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Pictures: Roger

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I enjoyed again my birthday party, the first big party after lockdown 

When the borders opened I could sail back to Culatra. I had invited my nephews and Camille’s daughter to spend time with me. I first needed to fix the volvo seal in Portimão where I would meet my sister and invitees. 
Now that I knew the river better I sailed it down under Genua, feeling very proud of me. The slow pace felt like sailing in a painting. I anchored off Ayamonte, and didn’t choose the best spot as I was in the acceleration zone of the river. I fell asleep in the early morning when I realized the anchor didn’t let me down…yet decided to still  leave at 5:00 am to have wind and tide with me.

Rejoiced to be on the open sea after six months on the river, I set all sails, and had huge dolphins visiting us. The wind died, and it was a slow sailing upwind. I kept on sailing, navigating as well as I could to take advantage of the wind and currents. In the bay of Villamoura and Albufeira, I had bad seas, very short waves on the bow literally stopped Giulia. It was night. I got seasick. I decided to have short naps to keep going. Luckily the seas got smoother. I could recover enough to go on until Portimão. I had to motor two hours but felt glad I had sailed most of the 22 hours. I dropped the anchor in Ferragudo and fell immediately asleep. 

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Welcoming my nephews, my friend and sister was very emotional after the separation. I also was stressed because I had an appointment to repair the seal, but they were not sure they could do it in one day. I was worried to know where we would then sleep. We left early morning with my nephew to the yard. They could replace the damaged piece in one day, and the same evening we celebrating all together onboard Giulia. My sister left and we sailed to Culatra with my young crew. I was very anxious because it was my first time with three children onboard. They all got seasick. But luckily decided to sleep inside. I sailed as much as I could, until I preferred to switch the engine on, to spare them. Entering the Ria de Formosa happened very smoothly, as anchoring too. My crews relived and cooked me a gorgeous dinner. 

It was a completely different experience for me to share the little space I have onboard Giulia with one child and two teenagers for 5 weeks. Even though we had our tensions, we enjoyed to be together. I could count on the help of friends to take over when I needed some time off. It was a nice way of getting to know each other better, laugh a lot, play cards, swim, ride the dinghy, … My sister came with her husband to pick their children up. We enjoyed it also, having long walks, visiting friends onboard their boats, inviting them back onboard, laughing and crying… Living again after difficult months for all. 

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Everyone left and I prepared Giulia to set our trip on. Excited and worried as I was going now further South on unknown waters and to a new destination for me : the Archipelago of Madeira. 

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It was time to push myself further
and pursue my long journey