The Algarve to Gibraltar

We left Portimao, and some very lovely neighbours, last Wednesday, the 13th May. We headed for the anchorage at Culatra, near Faro, and spent a lazy day there exploring the small fishing town of Armona. The pace of life here seems a million miles away from working in London, there are no cars, sandy streets, and it was fun to watch the fisherman bickering over one too many beers in the afternoon sun.

IMG_0704We were treated to another colourful sunset there that night:

IMG_0723The next morning we were up early and headed out just as the sun was rising and headed for the river Guardiana, that separates Portugal from Spain.

We’d been looking forward to exploring the river, but when we got there the wind was up and with it the waves. Given that we have a 2 meter draft and that there’s a sandbank running across the river entrance with a clearance of just 2 meters in places, we thought it a little too dangerous to enter given the state of the sea.

Instead we pushed on another 15 or so miles and headed to Mazagon, switching our courtesy flag to reflect our change from Portuguese to Spanish waters:


Mazagon turned out to be an economical (just €20) but fairly bland marina to spend the night, so in the morning we headed out to sea again and on towards Rota.


Rota was a real highlight for us. We loved exploring the winding streets of the old town. They offered shade from the sunshine, good places to eat and something of interest around every corner.


To cope with the heat, the buildings have a heavy wooden outer door that leads to a shaded courtyard or entrance lobby. I found them beautiful and fascinating and couldn’t help but poke my camera lens into a few of them:


Our dilemma in Rota was whether to stay or move on. In order to get into the Med, we would need to pass the straits of Gibraltar. This meant waiting for a suitable weather window that would allow us to pass one of the worlds windiest places at the southern most tip of Europe: Tarifa. The Wind in Tarifa is said to blow over 30 knots for 300 days of the year. It is impossible to take a sail boat through this pinch-point into the Med unless the wind is with you, or you pick one of the remaining 65 days of the year when the wind isn’t so strong.

All the forecasts we read indicated that there was only one day in the next week that would allow us to enter the Mediterranean; in two days time. If we didn’t get to Tarifa for this day, then we’d have to wait for at least a week before we could leave. As lovely as Rota was, and as close as it is to Cadiz (another place we wanted to see), we decided to push on again and head for Barbate, and then on to Gibraltar.


Gibraltar doesn’t have much to offer in the way of beautiful architecture, or atmosphere. However, on the plus side, there’s a Morrisons here and a litre of diesel costs just 44 pence. So we’ve filled our galley with all the foods we miss from home, and our diesel tanks are now filled to the brim too.

Time to move on again! Where to next?


4 thoughts on “The Algarve to Gibraltar

  1. Glad you’ve made it to Gib. If you get a chance, go to St Michael’s Caves. We loved Rota and stayed a week but then we had the weather window to get past Tarifa. Our next stop was the Balearics, which we absolutely loved.

    1. Hi Jo. We can’t wait to get to the Balearics too. Am looking forward to using my kitesurfing gear for the first time in ages 🙂

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