Christien and myself are standing on the draw bridge connecting the Marina and the city boulevard of Lagos, Algarve, Portugal. A bottle of Champagne in one hand, and a bag with some glasses in the other. Waiting for the fireworks that will welcome 2007, we open the champagne. The fireworks start and we toast to each other, in these very different circumstances from anything we've ever experienced before during a new years evening.
Modern architecture Albufeira
January 2007  Portugal
The romans where here before us! Evora.
The whole thing has 2 sides for us as well: it is certainly lively with many people strolling the marina boulevard, and comfortable having the shops and restaurants close by. But seeing the destroying of the once magnificent nature is the other, less positive side.
The coastline east from Villamoura becomes gradually less rocky and sandier.
Opposite the town of Faro, an array of low lying sand dune island encloses sheltered lagoons. The lagoons are cleaned out by the tide every six hours. We sail in here and drop anchor behind the island of Calutra. What a magnificent place. The wildlife above, on and below the water surface is astonishing.
At low tide, hundreds of locals search the sandbanks for shellfish. Later we do the same ourselves and dig our own diner!
Send away!
Saturday January 20th we lift anchor and go on our way to the city of Olhao. It is a narrow channel through the drying sandbanks, and we leave just after low water. That way we can see where the channel is.
We had heard very strange stories about the marina in Olhao. Ranging from "you will not be able to stay there" to "it is a strange marina, but you will manage all right"
All comments had a tendency of an unwelcoming atmosphere around that place.
Since the last English story on our website, written in Bayona, Spain, we came down the Portuguese coast. What a coast it is. Not one to take lightly.
A number of the harbours on this coast are situated in river mouths with so called bars in the sea (shallow areas). The ever present Atlantic ocean swell, can sometimes break violently on these bars. In the worse of these conditions, harbour authorities simply close the harbour. Meaning you can't get out (not so dramatic) and you can't get in (could be uncomfortable).
The more south we came, the better the weather. In Cascais, the Portuguese "Riviera" close to Lisbon, we enjoyed perfect sunny and warm weather.
And after rounding Cape St Vincent, the most southwest point of the mainland of Europe, we truly enjoyed the sunny Algarve. Not a word wrong in this. The Algarve is extremely beautiful, and an exciting area to explore. The famous yellow-red rock formations with sunny beaches are breathtaking. Possibly even more so the rolling hills inland, the birdlife, and the age old architectural monuments with Roman and Arabic influences.
Half of West-Europe's summer birds seem to be hibernating here, plus the native species. We spot Stork, Heron, Egret, Hoopoe, azure Magpie, Sandpiper, Curlew, Stint, Godwit, Sanderling, Stilt, Oystercatcher, red-legged Partridge and many more.
And what about the following story:
Sensation in Town.
On my way to the sail maker who is doing some jobs for us, I cross the bridge over the river, opposite our berth in the Marina. Police cars, spectators, probably a road accident. As I come closer, I notice everyone looking up in the sky, rather then down at some damaged car. Following there eyes I see a giant thing sitting on one of the storks nest on top of an old factory chimney. The "thing" is moving slowly. And there is no doubt this is a bird, but definitely not a stork. It turns out to be a Griffon Vulgar.
We saw the bird circling the sky yesterday, and apparently it now landed on a storks nest. Is it looking for English cooked breakfast? Clearly this enormous beast (body length over a meter, wingspan almost 3 meters!) is not a common sight in Lagos, hence the commotion amongst the spectators. Someone tries to climb the Chimney in an effort to chase the bird away, but decides to give up after a couple of meters up the iron steps in the brickwork. The Vulgar hangs around on the nest for a couple of hours, and then disappears never to be seen again.
Our bird book does mention the bird's existence in Spain, but more in mountainous habitats.
Departure from Lagos.
After the sail maker has delivered his work, (side panels to the bimini: sun shelter) we clear out of Lagos after having stayed almost 2 months. We leave many friends behind, like Don and Karin from Swinglish. Carlos and Isabel from there HR 382, and Jan and Boukjen on J&B (thanks for the whisky!)
We sail the long journey to Portimao ( 6 miles) and anchor in the bay in front of a river castle, clearly build by the Arabs..
This way we have no trouble with the famous Lisbon-Dakar rally that stops in Portimao the same day. We are not great fans.
Next day, we set sail for Albufeira, where a brand-new Marina has been build, by dynamiting a channel in the rocks. The Marina is surrounded by horrible pastel coloured condominium buildings. How can someone create such incredible ugly rubbish? The intended shops are only partly rented, and the empty remaining business units offer a rather dead atmosphere. The city of old Albufeira turns out to be a nice old Algarve fishing town, not too many high-rise hotels, but spoiled by mainly British tourism.
The bike tour we have programmed for next day takes us through the country site, and once again we are flabbergasted by the difference between the coastline, dotted with hotels, luxury villa's, golf courses and the hinterland, with the green rolling hills, orange-, fig- and almond trees.
This contradiction is even more apparent in our next harbour of Villamoura. Again an artificial marina, this time surrounded by a completely new developed town. A huge marina, equally huge hotel, shops, restaurants, apartment buildings, condominiums, and a bit further out 3 golf courses the 4th being build, streets with more apartment blocks and area's with super luxurious and lesser luxurious villa's. In the middle of this; archaeological excavations reveal Roman villa's, a bathhouse and harbour cay.
On our bicycle tour through all of this we pass some old houses, almost ruins, surrounded by litter and dirt. The drying laundries outside shows that people actually live here too. What a contrast.
Around 12 o'clock we arrive and slowly motor into the Marina. Plenty of space: at least 35 % of the berths are unoccupied. We pass a Dutch sailing yacht with the crew on board: they shout at us: "do you have a reservation?" We say no, but why? Space enough!
We moor CC on a nice spot. From a distance we see a uniformed man waving at us.
We kindly wave back.
Some 10 minutes later (it is quiet a walk for him around the pontoons), this authority arrives at our boat. He speaks very little English, and to my relief he wears a security guard uniform. Meaning he has no authority whatsoever. Nothing like port officials or harbour master.
The man however, makes it very clear that we should move away with our boat. Whereto?? Out of the harbour, says his gestures. Then what?  You go to office. OK we go to office.
Calutra’s anchorage; a dream spot
The guy disappears. We think we have won the game. Later, after lunch we will go
to the office, find no one there (it is Saturday) and resolve the matter next Monday.
Half way our lunch, the uniform makes angry gestures at his watch and seems to order us out. Forget it.
We go into town, find the office closed indeed, and take our time to have a look around.
Upon arrival back on board, we see our friend again, waving angrily from the other pontoon across the harbour. He now even shouts "police".
That triggers my mood: "You call police, right now" I shout back, across the water, feeling totally confident that
a.    He would not call the police at all
b.    Even if he would, the police would agree
         with us.
Too much confidence in the justice of the Portuguese law and order system.
10 minutes later a speedboat from the Police Maritime arrives. Two fully armed and impressive officers get out of there boat. Still confident I shake the hand of the one in charge. The officers try to explain the situation:
1.    The man in uniform is not authorised to    
         let us in the harbour
2.    We can anchor just out of the harbour
         and come back on Monday, go to the
         harbour office and get permission.
We argue about 10 minutes about this unbelievable situation. The police officers are clearly uncomfortable with the situation; they sympathise with us, but nevertheless are firm in their decision: we have to go.
We anchor app. 30 meters away from the half empty marina. A ridiculous situation.
Next Monday we return to the harbour and manage to get access for 2 days. Definitely not longer!
We hear from other yachtsmen several explanations for this obscure behaviour.
The most likely being as follows:
The marina has been build with European Community aid, as a lot of infrastructure in Portugal is. However, the necessary services like water, sewage, toilets and showers are not in place, hence an official permission to use the Marina for its intended purposes is not there. Therefore the harbour is in operation illegally.
Still very strange: how could the 60 % of users be there?
River Guadiana.
Tuesday January 23rd we leave this unwelcoming place, and sail to the river that forms the border between Portugal and Spain: the Guadiana. It has been a border even since Roman times. We tie up in the marina Vila Real de Santo Antonio, where more normal conditions apply: we were welcome to stay!
And have water and electricity on the pontoons as well! From our berth we can se the opposite river bank: Spain!
Close to the border, there is a bird reservoir. We take our bikes in there, and see hundreds of water birds, including Flamingo (!) Spoonbill, Shoveler, Stilt, Pied Avocet, Plover and many more!
Monday January 29th  we fly home for 2 weeks with family and friends. We look forward to that!
Locals ship sand from the beach to shore: they use a shovel only. Their boats seem like sinking any minute
Calutra is la bit ilke Vlieland, but much warmer
Carla Christiena in Vila Real. This side is Portugal, the other side is Spain.
Cristmas decorations on the back-stay