If we’d thought we’d left England too soon, Alvor seemed an instant, English getaway on the southern coast of Portugal. We walked down cobbled streets, lined with tiled buildings, chic cafes, and souvenirs fashioned from cork (grown in southern Portugal); few tourists meandered, but we noted those who did commented on the chochki souvenirs with Brittish accents. Yesterday’s ‘Sunday Roasts’ and that morning’s ‘English breakfasts’ were rapidly replaced with evening specials on the sidewalk sandwich boards, many of which would be accompanied by 2-Euro pints of Old Speckeled Hen. What is this place?
We were in desperate need for respite from the tremendously rolly anchorage just outside of the breakwater at Lagos. Yes, anchoring outside of a breakwater seems a bit ridiculous – it is – and no, the breakwater does not limit the swell from an open ocean when anchored outside it. But the marina at Lagos costs certainly and arm and nearly a leg as well; so we anchored, only possible due to calm weather, at the recommended spot just east of the breakwater. If anything, this anchorage would prove solid training for the upcoming Atlantic crossing because Detour would not stop rolling – and yet we carried on with our usual daily activities. I woke only one night of the few restless nights, thinking we were actually on passage; I raced to the ladder, “Why is neither of us on watch!?”, bounced off one wall and onto the next along the way, and finally realized we were not actually sailing when the lights of Lagos came into view beyond the stern. I’d registered the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach as gale force winds, when in fact they were mere waves. How can anyone actually lull themselves to sleep with that insistent white noise? Back to bed I went. The next morning, I couldn’t possibly handle another long dinghy ride into Lagos (several had already occurred to provision, check out the chandlery, but not actually to tour the sights) or another restless night of swell. The swell increased, the wind had as well, and we had to move away from the beach anyway – that was my chance to keep on movin’ right away from Lagos!
The anchor chain got stuck in the windless. Very stuck. One link of chain was wedged between the tooth of the windless and the bottom and nothing could move. That had not been my vision of moving away from Lagos – now we were on the move but couldn’t actually stop until we had freed the chain! Brian pulled out the tool bag and set to work trying to hammer the chain link free. I steered Detour‘s bow into the swell, occasionally returning to the bow for moral support. With multiple, patient WHACKS! the link freed. Brian did a few up-down-up tests and it nearly stuck again. The chain seemed to be terribly twisted. “Maybe we should let out all the chain, maybe it’ll untwist itself like a hanging rope does,” I suggested. We checked the depth and had plenty of water; down went the chain, all of the chain until we reached rope rode. We let it hang for a bit, then used the windlass to reel it all back into the bow. None of the links caught, maybe it did the trick! But now, where to go!?
We indecisively hemmed and hawed for a bit, referred to Google maps for supermarket locations and noonsite for anchorage/entrance descriptions, then decided to go only about two-miles east along the coast and enter the Alvor River. It was the correct tide, incoming, and we were aware that a bit of visual navigating would be necessary to get ’round ever-shifting sandbars. Once through the breakwaters into the Alvor, the swell calmed; it was warm, fishermen mulled about, walkers prowled the sand flats, birds squawked and flew about, and our clever navigating excited the mood in the cockpit. Detour‘s shallow draft enabled us to sail far into the river to set the anchor among a group of catamarans and presumably other centerboard monohulls. It was quiet, pretty, and Detour did not move at all!
Alvor was near enough Lagos that we could return via dinghy, or even walk if we needed – as we were still sorting out how to best obtain a new antenna tuner for our SSB radio. Another nearby port, with a much more affordable marina, was just 6-miles further; so we could plan a marina day for laundry and water and such. We were waiting on a weather window, nothing looked good for the next week. We decided to stay put at Alvor, get acquainted with the small town. It was a good excuse to slow down for a bit and actually explore Portugal as we’d felt as though we were on the move since we’d arrived. As it turned out, several others were waiting for the same weather and we connected with a group of Caribbean bound sailors from Germany and Norway and that’s when the fun began.