Friday, 2 September 2011

Isla Da Culatra

We are anchored in the lagoon between Faro and the island called Ilha da Culatra. It is a fascinating place in many ways.

The entrance is through a narrow gap in the long sandy beaches which enclose the lagoon and with our deep draft it was critical to keep in line with the leading lights which guide yachts through breakwater. We entered during the flood tide because of the very fast currents that race though the gap and as we approached the entrance, white water was being whipped up in front of us as gallons of water poured into the lagoon sweeping us with it. Our boat speed was only 5 knots but we were being carried along at over 11 knots in the racing current current and it felt like a roller coaster ride - but in a 35 ton yacht! Once inside the lagoon the current subsided a little and we navigated our way to an area on the chart which showed 3.2 metres minimum depth at low water. We need 3 metres to stay afloat so only just enough. We dropped the anchor and launched the rib so that Jamie and Tom could motor the two miles across the lagoon to collect Mat from Olhao, where we had arranged to meet him.

We had planned to set off early this morning on the 80 mile sail to Cadiz, but when we woke at 6am the forecasted storm was still raging overhead and it was pitch black and pouring with rain. After a cup of tea in the cockpit watching the storm overhead we decided to delay our departure and went back to bed. By mid morning the storm had passed and after a huge 'full english' we went by rib into the little port on the island of Culatra. The island is apparently populated by 40 families who make their living from the fish in the lagoon which are replenished every day by the tide.

The port is protected by its own breakwater and is crammed full of little fishing boats all tied to the floating pontoon. On the beach in the harbour local fishermen stand in the hot sun mending piles of nets which are heaped up on the foreshore. A short trip across the water in the rib shows why Culatra has the reputation of being the shellfish capital of Portugal as the lagoon is positively teeming with fish.

There are no cars on the island, just a couple of tractors which act as lorry, digger and garbage collector for the inhabitants. Apart from the absence of palm trees it could be the Caribbean. The island is one big sandbank and the little single story houses are brightly coloured; their occupants sitting on plastic chairs on white verandas which line the sandy pavements. We followed the only street though the town where a series of wooden boardwalks lead across the marshes to the Atlantic.


The soft white sand stretches for miles with barely a person in sight, and yet we are barely two miles from beaches of Faro where holiday makers can hardly find space to stretch out.


We have decided to set sail for Cadiz this evening, leaving at 8 on the ebb tide which will speed our way out of the lagoon and we hope to arrive in Puerto Sherry shortly after dawn tomorrow.

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