Sailing through the Spanish and Portuguese coast

Since the short stop in Bilbao we have decided to head towards Sicily for the winter. Sicily is probably our favorite region in Italy, warm, beautiful coastline and villages, amazing colors… There we aspect to find a nice cruising community that spend the winter in a reasonable expensive marina on their way to Greece and Turkey (as we are).

Puerto De Luanco

The idea is also that from Sicily we could visit our family in Italy without the need of flying that we believe is quite risky in this pandemic situation. Looking at the calendar we need to sail quite fast to make the 2200 nautical miles we have in front of us to reach Sicily. In short we will be sailing roughly every other day and stopping longer only when the weather requires that. We also would like to avoid night coastal crossing because of so many fishing buoys and small fisherman boats without AIS…

In the first 20 days of August we have done the north Spain coast. La Galicia has a lot of hidden treasures in its coast, and the Rias Baixas are great sailing spots. Small villages in deep inlets and rivers that you can explore with the dinghy make this area quite unique!

Finally we reach Portugal!!! First stop is Duoro estuary that is the best spot where to stop with a boat to visit Porto.

Duoro Estuary

Here the smell of porto liquor and the typical river boats are everywhere. We walk few hours around the city and the river side, it’s suggestive and warm welcoming. We eat fried fish in small restaurants with table on the street and taste the local wine.

In Duoro marina we meet Annelies and Jan on their catamaran Phoenix from the Netherlands. It has been a very pleasant encounter since the first aperitivo!!! We have been laughing a lot and sharing many experiences, Carmine cooks his melanzane pasta dish for them and Annelies cooks a delicious mushroom risotto for us!!! Jan and myself were drinking!!! It’s amazing how nice is the time spent with people when you can express yourself freely and they might have different opinions… but we all still laugh, argue and talk a lot enjoying the differences!

Very hard to find such a mix and become so open with people that you have just met! That’s one of beauty of the sailing community, the first approach is quite easy and when you feel a connection, it’s so enriching sharing experiences. Generally all the cruisers are quite open, but this year is definitely the time we met more Dutch sailors than ever!!!

After Porto we sail along the coast with short breaks in Cabo Carvoeiro, Cascais and Sesimbra.

Sines has been another nice stop both at the anchor and in the marina. Sines marina is very friendly and facilitated the arrival of a brand new battery bank that Carmine ordered online. We built two mini trolley (very much like 2 small skateboards) and in few hours we managed to unload the old batteries with the main halyard line on the marina pontoon, clean and reorganize the space, load the new ones and reconnect everything!!! That was a great team work, but we were so concentrated that I forgot to take a picture! Anyway, after long planning we did it and now it’s working perfectly.

Portimao is a place that I have heard a lot talking about, but it didn’t really impressed us much. There are a lot of cruisers stopping here as it is protected and offer various facilities, but it’s not a spot where you want to stay long unless you need to make maintenance…

anchorage in Portimao

Culatra is indeed a charming place!!! Carmine was dreaming about this place for long, especially in the dark and cold winter days!!! It’s an Island very close to the coast creating a safe and quite anchorage area. On the island there are two small fisherman villages with very few houses and cafés but there are almost not paved road, so no car! Only few off road small truck. Most of the land is a reserve and the dunes before the external sandy coast are spectacular.

One of the cruiser at the anchor around us suggested to visit the Saturday market on Olhao that is a on the main coast in front of Culatra, So I went with a small ferry to do some provisioning. I was really impressed by the fish market, for the variety, the freshness and the quantity of fish!  I would have bought a lot more if not for the fact that it’s only two of us!!! Anyway I filled the freezer as well!!!

Fish market in Olhao

A stop over for the night in Cadiz, then Tarifa and ready to sail through the strait of Gibraltar.

Visit to Bilbao

Getxo is the best place to stay when you arrive by sea and want to visit to Bilbao. We stop at the Real Club Maritimo del Abra, a small marina very welcoming and not expensive, full of young kids going out with the sail school every day.

After two weeks with friends on board it takes a bit of time to slow down from a festive holiday atmosphere to our normal nomad life. Also we need to clean, make some laundry and provisioning, but more importantly we need to fix our dinghy engine that has been a bit naughty recently, often leaving us rowing or with the very small electric outboard engine that we have as spare for emergency. We also need to buy something at the shipchandler and other stuff so we decide to take out the bikes and visit also the city around us.

To visit Bilbao we decide to take the train in an off-peack time and then walk around the city center and visit the Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao, that we like a lot.

At the end of our visit we meet Antonello and two other friends… of course we planned it chatting on What’sapp, but still is so strange to meet a close Italian friend in Bilbao after few years we haven’t see each other.

With all the things to do when we stop in a marina plus this relaxed mood makes us decide to extend our stop in Getxo for few more days, we also we need to start planning the route for the next months so we need time to think and re-think!!!

Time to move on…