So Long Portugal
We spent nearly three months on the Guadiana.
One quarter of a year, it’s a long time, but still not enough to say we truly know the place.
Before we arrived we’d heard tales about the ‘Guadiana Glue’. How folks sailed up river and never left. It’s no myth, we met many who’d done just that. We heard similar stories about Marina Lagos. ‘Port Velcro’ some called it. Personally I couldn’t imagine staying there, I couldn’t see the attraction. The Guadiana felt very different though.
For the first few weeks I felt its pull.
Why should that be? I put a lot of effort into becoming a ‘sea gypsy’. Why would stopping in one place even cross my mind? I’m not sure.
It’s true that I have occasional feelings of insecurity, they seem to go with this lifestyle. I think maybe it’s easier to roam when you know you have a permanent place to call ‘home’. The majority of cruising couples we’ve met have a house somewhere. They may have no intention of returning anytime soon, but it’s there, waiting for them. Whatever happens they can always go home.
Gail and I don’t have that luxury. I know Gail would like it, I didn’t think I did, not till the Guadiana started me thinking.
How cool would it be? A little plot of land by the river, ‘Gleda’ on a mooring close by. A cosy stone house with a wood burner for those chillier Winter nights. Four walls and a floor that didn’t move when the wind blows. It’s hard being on the move all the time. I can never fully relax, I have to stay alert, keep us safe. I could relax behind the walls of my own ‘castle’.
For now though that will have to remain a nice little fantasy, an escapist dream floating through like scudding cloud.
Even if I wanted to make it a reality it’d be impossible. My bank account balance is more than a few zeros short of being able to buy into that particular dream.
But more importantly, the desire isn’t there. I built a boat, I’m not yet ready to ‘build’ a house.
As Arthur Ransome said;
“The desire to build a house is the tired wish of a man content thenceforward with a single anchorage. The desire to build a boat is the desire of youth, unwilling yet to accept the idea of a final resting-place.”
Yes, I could relax behind some stone walls of my own, but I’d be less alive. I may no longer have my youth but I’m not yet ready to chose my final resting place.
It was a pleasure to meet those who’ve chosen to let the ‘Guadiana Glue’ though, they seemed happy with their choice and I wish them well, but I’ve got some travelling left to do.
So, we’ll take many fond Guadiana memories away with us.
The wild river.
The sound of the Golden Oreole.
The cheap living.
The river beach.
Music nights at the Riverside Inn.
But we’ll take a few not so fond ones as well;
The river is a hard place to anchor, at least it was on ‘Gleda’. Frequent strong winds blowing down the river valley, often against 2 or 3 knots of tide. We had some rough nights and uncomfortable days. Our last night in the river was the worst, anchored just outside Ayamonte marina. Lying across the chop listening to the anchor chain graunching under the hulls. It was horrible.
The floating debris was a pain too, tree branches and rafts of bamboo. Scraping down the hull in the night, fouled up round the anchor chain in the morning.
None of these things are the rivers fault, it does what it does. If you want to stay, you have to adapt.
We saw so many boats come up to Alcoutim, spend the night, and then leave. They’ll tell folks they’ve seen the Guadiana, they haven’t. Even after 3 months we only had a taste. Maybe one day we’ll return, get to know it a little better, adapt better, but for now we’ve had enough.
It’s time to move on, get back to being proper ‘sea gypsies’. We’ve been a little over a year in Portugal, the courtesy flag has been lowered. Now Spain, Gibraltar and the Mediterranean lie before us.
We left Ayamonte at first light, a moderate NW blowing us out with the tide at 7knots, a great start.
We had 65 miles to track across Huelva Bay to our destination, Rota.
It was a great sail, the wind stayed W or NW, it died down a little midday, but just as I was about to crack and lower an engine it came back, and we rode 15-20 knots all the way to Rota.
We averaged nearly 6 knots and maxed out at 10. The seas, were moderate. We washed a lot of Guadiana mud off the hulls.
Huelva Bay is busy with fishing vessels and gas tankers, we were sailing fast, ‘Gleda’ is still quite physically demanding to sail.
My Guadiana laziness soon got washed away.
We arrived off Rota Marina early evening after 12 hours sailing. A sleepless night on anchor watch and a tough day had left me feeling shattered. I just wanted to get ‘Gleda’ tied up safe.
Our berth was booked, and a call on VHF was answered promptly with directions to our pontoon. We motored in and found our slot next to a 40ft powerboat. Gail said it looked too narrow, I thought it was tight but OK. Gail was right.
I got ‘Gleda’ in but the fenders were squashed both sides, no way could we stay there. After another call on the VHF and a short wait, we were allocated another berth, C68. It was the next row down.
We motored round for a bit but couldn’t find it. I called on the VHF for directions, no one answered. The wind was picking up a bit and I aborted an attempt to get ‘Gleda’ alongside a hammerhead. I was getting more and more wound up, but eventually the VHF was answered and they sent a marinero down to wave us in. A few folks had seen us driving around and came down to take lines. Berth C68 didn’t exist, the girl on the radio had said C6 and 8, it was two berths side by side.
It’d been a long day.
We’d planned to stay in Rota for a few days at least. It’s a nice place. We wanted to take a look at the town, visit Cadiz, maybe take a trip to Seville.
We’re still here a week later, we’ll likely be here another 4 or 5 days. It seems the weather Gods don’t want us to see the Med just yet. They’ve sent the Levanter wind to keep us out.