14 March: We went for a test sail to make sure everything was working OK and to remind ourselves how to sail! The plan was to move out of our very tight berth and onto the visitor’s pontoon in the marina before the wind got up for the day so that we could do last minute shopping, etc. before going out for our test sail. Unfortunately we were too late, the wind blew up very quickly and so we had a rather fraught move onto the pontoon! Our test sail went OK, but needless to say, we were very rusty – definitely need more practice to get back in the swing of things. Rather than battle getting back into the marina berth, we anchored off the beach opposite the marina which made a nice change after 10 days in the marina.
15 March: We set off for real on the next stage of our adventure. It was a slightly rude return to sailing with more wind than forecast (as so often in Portugal it seems), from a more easterly direction than expected so we ended up sailing into the wind. However, it was great to be back on the move and the coast east of Portimao is quite pretty, with reddish sandstone cliffs broken by lots of caves and small secluded coves. We had to motorsail towards the end of the day as the wind dropped, but we reached our destination and anchored in a lagoon between Olhao (near Faro) and the outlying barrier island of Culatra at 6.30pm just before it got dark. 55 nautical miles in 9 hours 30 minutes.
The Ilha da Culatra is about 3 miles long with a beautiful sandy beach along the whole of the Atlantic side of the island – we were the only ones walking along the beach. On the lagoon side, in one of the inlets, there are about a dozen boats moored which people live on permanently. They dry out at low tide, so most are catamarans that just sit on both hulls on the sand and some people have even made small gardens on the shore alongside where they are moored. I suppose it is cheap, with no council tax and no mooring fees, but it can’t be much fun in winter or when a gale blows as the island is very low lying. Olhao is a quiet little place but has an excellent Saturday market that we visited to stock up on fruit and veg.