Saturday, 3 September 2016

Culatra Island

Note: south of Lagos, we entered an internet dead zone.  We've only been able to get text emails and basic weather info for the last 2-3 weeks on the boat, and even the cafes and bars seem to have very limited internet.  The next 3 posts, coming in rapid succession, are brought to you from the fantastic staff of the Cadiz tourist office, who have let me sit in their air-conditioned waiting room. Note: south of Lagos, we entered an internet dead zone.  We've only been able to get text emails and basic weather info for the last 2-3 weeks on the boat, and even the cafes and bars seem to have very limited internet.  The next 3 posts, coming in rapid succession, are brought to you from the fantastic staff of the Cadiz tourist office, who have let me sit in their air-conditioned waiting room.

The trip from Albufeira to Culatra was typical, with motor sailing in the morning and finishing up with about 18 knots in the afternoon.  We entered the Ria Formosa at about 1 hour before high tide and even in a period of low tidal coefficients we had lots of whirlpools and counter currents to liven up the entrance.  Once past the channel entry, the bay opened up and reminded us of the Morbihan Gulf at home (but less beautiful, of course).  We were only flying the genoa as we sailed down to the anchorage area and we suspected that we might have problems with the furler, since we had problems the last time we had sailed downwind with the sail see-sawing back and forth in front of the genoa stay (now know/think we should have hauled in the sail a bit more to limit any rotation of the furler drum).  As we neared the mooring field, I convinced Patrick that we should try to roll up early in case we had problems.  He agreed to a short test roll (he who always wants to sail right up to the dock) and we discovered that we did, indeed, have a very stuck genoa furler line.  I couldn’t undo it with a few tugs as I did the last time it happened.  We quickly turned the boat around, headed back out into the bay away from the other anchored boats and took all the tension off the sail.  With the deafening flopping of the sail, Patrick went forward and managed to get the first too-tight wrap undone and we rolled the genoa up half-way until it got stuck again.  The whole process took about 10 minutes but it felt like an eternity.  I was envisaging either trying to anchor with a wildly flapping sail, or taking down the whole genoa and trying to stuff it into the forward cabin hatch until we could calmly look at the problem.  Fortunately, that wasn’t necessary, but with nerves already frazzled, this latest incident made me wonder what the hell we were doing out here.

Drying out in Culatra

Despite being August in the Algarve, there's plenty of room for everyone (with a lifting keel) in Culatra

Faro in the background
The anchorage is very protected and despite the hundreds of boats around there’s plenty of room for everyone (especially if you have a lifting keel!).  The Rocna dug into the sand/mud mix with ease and we spent a quiet night on a mirror-smooth bay.  The water is warm and we’re living in our swim suits, diving off the boat any time we need to be refreshed.  There’s enough of a breeze to keep the inside temperature comfortable and nights are fresh.  Patrick went shell fishing at low tide just behind the boat and made himself a big clam pasta dinner.  (I’m too squeamish to eat shellfish from a zone I don’t know well.) 

The island has very little to offer other than a few mini-markets with the essentials, and a few restaurants and bars whose principle attraction is free internet.  Friends from home flew in to Faro to visit with us for a few days.  We took the ferry over to Olhao and its farmers market to load up on fresh food.  After a couple of days lazing around at anchor, we rented a car and drove up into the hills to see some of the back country and the lovely old town of Faro (post to follow).

In all, we stayed at anchor 14 days and gave ourselves time to refresh and reassess the next few months, which will, we agree, be done at a slower pace.  In the beginning, we weren’t too cautious about our fresh water reserves (330 liters), rinsing off with fresh water every time we came back from a swim.  We hadn’t intended to stay so long.  By the last day, we had to go ashore with 2 jerry cans to give us enough for the last day, and we limped into our next port with the water pump sputtering air.  Good to know your limitations!  As for the electricity, we had no problems at all thanks to the solar panels and sun-filled days.

Some reflections on beaching the boat in a warm climate: 

1) It’s great to be high and dry, but unless you’re in a zone of pure sand (rare), low tide can be quite a smelly affair.

2) When the boat is out of the water, the interior can get quite hot, since you no longer have the waterline to keep things cool.  With good ventilation (which we thankfully have) this isn’t a problem, but if you think those beers you stored under the floorboards will keep cool, think again.

3)  Unless you beach perfectly horizontally (rare) your water gauges will read false.  Don’t panic.  Just check again once you’re floating.  

4)  In zones of light winds and strange little whirlpools of currents, it is possible to settle down onto your own anchor and chain.  In warm water, you can plunge into the water just before the boat settles and gently push her off the chain or move the chain.  In colder water, I’m not sure I would attempt this.  That said, one night we did settle onto our chain and there was no problem.  We just checked to make sure there wasn’t too much tension on the chain or windlass.  Settling onto the anchor would be a problem, though. 

5) Remember that when the boat is out of the waterline, you don’t have a seawater intake to flush the toilet.  The holding tank keeps the flush from going out into the water (or rather, plopping down on the sand), but you still need to flush and you don’t want to use precious fresh water resources.  Before the water slips away, take a bucket of seawater and have that handy for flushing.


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