We have been anchored in Alvor for just over 10 days now and have to say we are really enjoying the place and the sense of achievement of getting to The Algarve.
The sail from Sagres to here was probably the best of our trip down the Atlantic Coast. Just 18 miles, starting with no wind but then the wind picked up and we had a great sail along the southern coast passing places that we have been to on land; Salema, Burgau, Pria de Luz and Lagos. Garry and June on catamaran Friendship followed us out and overhauled us after a while sailing in the light winds with their cruising shute. It looked very impressive. They were calling into Lagos first for fuel and water before heading to Alvor.
The entrance into Alvor was interesting. It is a dog leg shaped estuary with lots of sandbanks and shallows. We came in at low tide and could see the shallows in random places that would be harder to spot in higher water. The anchorage was really busy and we motored around for a bit till settling on a spot against the north bank just a couple minutes dinghy ride to town. Neil put out a stern anchor as well so we don’t swing with the tide and wind as there is not much room. It’s a great spot. Out of what is vaguely the main channel, which isn’t marked, out of the strong tide flow from the river running into the estuary and generally peaceful. We are next to fields where we can hear the cicadas and in the morning, the tinkling of bells from goats or cows, can’t see which.
Alvor town is very touristy but there are lots of locals too. From the harbour one street runs up with loads of bars, shops and restaurants but the one running parallel to it is residential. Lots of the shops at tourist tat, nothing wrong with that, but there are also a few nice clothes boutiques and bag shops. June and I went ashore one morning leaving the men behind for a wander. Think we did nearly every shop. The 4 of us also took a taxi to the shopping precinct in Portimao. I was very good and only bought a pack of 3 tiny wooden spoons for my spices at €1.
Neil and I had a celebratory meal at Casa de Ria. The restaurant is on the side of the hill and had views over the bay to the sea. We had a great meal, we both had fresh fish and shared a bottle of the local Vinho Verde (green wine) which is actually a slightly sparkly white wine which is really refreshing. Our server Pedro was a great source of information and very entertaining.
There are a couple of supermarkets and a local produce market in town. No laundrette though so I have done all our washing in a bucket on deck. June took my bedding to Portimao when they went out for the day to get water, fuel and to do their laundry. It’s great drying weather though. Hot and blowy.
Neil has been in the water a couple of times although I haven’t. The bottom here is very sandy, a bit like Sao Martinho, and although clean it looks murky with the sand. I’d like to swim in clear blue water. The water is a bit deceptive though. A couple from another boat swam to the sand bank that was showing during low water but the chap struggled to get back with the flow from the tide and the river and had to call for help. A couple of boats were close by and thankfully were able to help him. As well as the tidal problems, the local boats also go in and out at a rate of knots and swimming across their “motorway” is not ideal.
We have been ashore most days even if its just to get rid of the rubbish or walk to the supermarket and we’ve explored the town a bit away from the main tourist bits. We did find what was left of the old castle, which is just a couple of walls and we walked over to the main beach one morning. There is a wooden boardwalk over scrub leading from town to the beach. The beach was packed and with lots of sections covered by lifeguards. I don’t normally suffer from mosquito bites but something gave my leg a nasty bite that morning. Its OK now, just a red mark.
We were very conscious that we had not yet tried the fresh mackerel/sardines off the numbers bbq’s that we have seen outside restaurants all the way down the Spanish and Portuguese coast so one lunchtime we went into town to have bbq’d fresh mackerel. Numerous restaurants on the front and along the streets have huge bbq’s going that they start up in the morning. Depending on the direction of the wind, we can smell the bbq’s really strongly. It was early lunchtime and the harbour site restaurants didn’t have many customers so we had a wander up town. We went past a small place next to the municipal market that looked busy with locals and went there. We had 6 mackerel each plus a salad, boiled potatoes and a beer. It was lovely. By the time we were halfway through our meal the place was packed and there were people queuing for seats. A good choice.
When we were in ACoruna a catamaran moored behind us for 24 hours and the two lads on board were chatting to Neil. They were delivering the boat to Alvor to be used as a charter boat and the one guy was saying, you must come to Alvor, it’s lovely (he was a local fisherman). When we first arrived we couldn’t see the boat but then a catamaran painted in blue/greens with “Alvor Sailing” went past and the crew were waving it was Santos who Neil had met in ACoruna. Turns out they have just finished the boat and have been operating for just over a week. They take groups out along with sea kayaks and other water sport equipment. It looked very relaxed with huge green bean bag seats on deck.
It is all very disorganised in the anchorage though. There is no marked area for the fishing boats to use as a “road” so incoming yachts are unsure about where the fairway is and where they should or shouldn’t anchor. Because of the tide and river the boats can be moving round their anchors or moorings in unexpected ways and more than a few times we have seen boats coming close together that would ordinarily have been fine. Neil had to push a small red dutch boat off the back of our boat as the wind was blowing him too close. We have been told not to trust any of the moorings (we haven’t and are using our anchor) as they are not good moorings and not maintained well. The proof of which we saw as a 40ft boat which had picked up one of the moorings came floating down towards us pulling the mooring along with them. The owners had to leave a party they were at at another boat to sort their own out. Good job they hadn’t left it and gone to town. To get water we have paid €10 at the fishing harbour to use their tap as there is not another one elsewhere. Getting rid of rubbish isn’t a problem (amazing how quickly we fill a black bag). All along the coast in the towns we have been in there are numerous bins and loads of recycling areas. As I recall from my holidays in Almadena, they don’t have door to door bin collections. You take your rubbish to the local bins/recycling and then it is collected from there.
We have no plans yet to move on as we are enjoying being here. We won’t go far now before we move into Lagos in mid October. I did have a thought to cross the border to Spain so I can stock up on Rioja (very difficult to buy non-Portuguese wine here) but we may not move that far down the coast this year. We will see. For now we are just enjoying the weather, the place and the fact that we have made that first goal – The Algarve for winter.