The Boatist

Sailboat Ownership, Translation Work and Tales of Minor Adventure

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Alvor to Culatra

Alvor is where you hang your sailor's hat, for a while anyway.

It has a lagoon, an endless pristine beach and a really long - I mean really long - boardwalk built on stilts over the sand dunes. Although it's 3 miles from Lagos and about 8 from Portimão (both with large modern marinas), highbrow boat owners tend to stay away because of the complicated entrance channel and because it's not posh. Let me give it to you straight - the Alvor anchorage is populated mostly by cruising boats with experienced anchors.

In town, the narrow hillside streets are lined with bars, restaurants and the usual tourist flytraps (sort of forgot to take pictures). The town is rather peaceful during the day and jam-packed at night, mostly with gringos from the United Kingdom. Maybe I shouldn't say this publicly, but I can't help notice that the Saxonic ladies have a thing about painted lips, low tops and tight skirts. On the other hand, I might be suffering from a solo sailor's ailment called "visual scurvy."

Best of all, Alvor has two dinghy docks and the water is flat calm - perfect for sleeping after a few drinks in town. Worst of all, the water is murky at low tide and there's no source of fresh water. There used to be a very convenient tap near the old fish market near the lifeboat house, but it was eliminated a few years ago.

Traditional boat taking tourists on a daysail.
The town has a small fishing fleet, and rows of wooden houses where the fishermen keep their hardware and take naps.
Headed for Culatra motoring along the "Faro Ria," a large shallow body of water enclosed by a huge sand dune running parallel to the coast. The sailboat leaning over in the background no longer floats, only it's deck is visible at high tide. 
The village of Culatra in the background. I anchored at a distance to reduce the odds of a close encounter while I'm away.

The ferry to the city of Olhão. The crowd about to get off will make a bee-line to the beach through the traffic-less town of mostly tiny houses build on sand and with streets the width of sidewalks.
Went to Olhão to check out the express bus station - good thing I did. Even after asking three locals, it took me forever to find it on a side street in the middle of town.
This is the last I saw of Jakatar. I hope it's still there.
The afternoon before I left, I made arrangements with a taxi boat in Culatra to pick me up at the boat at 9 sharp. I described Jakatar, its position and name.

"It has Peniche written on the hull," I told him. Everybody in Portugal knows Peniche, not to mention that I was the only boat from Peniche.

At 5 to 9 I'm all locked up and standing in the cockpit waiting when I see a taxi boat slowly meandering through the anchorage and finally roaring off toward Olhão. I pulled out his business card and started dialing, got the number wrong (I don't have a smartphone and the keyboard is tiny), then got it wrong again and was just starting to swear when I heard a voice.
"Bom dia." I had been looking at the wrong boat and the right one had coasted silently up to me behind my back.

Boat taxis normally blast through the anchorage like madmen. This guy took off in that fashion but then abruptly slowed to a crawl with his head hanging over the side. I looked over the side too and realized we were in knee-deep water. Curiously, I looked for the depth sounder but there wasn't one.

"Don't you have a depth sounder?"

"What for, I was born here."

OK, that makes sense. We made it, I paid him twenty-five euros and he spent about 3 euros on gasoline by taking the shortcut.


  1. And I doubt you got a recete for the 25, eh. Anyway.... Really enjoying the pics and the lovely calm waters! Plus the narrative (book.. Hint hint)!

    1. No receipt, but 25 euros is the official price. Getting ready to return on Tuesday and plan to kayak to the boat. Book!!! My mind is so polluted with translations I can hardly kickstart a decente sentence.