Speedwell of Rhu Ship's Log

12 th to 19 th of September 2017 - The Guadiana River

Crew : Andy and Helen
Destinations : Alcoutim, Puerto de la Laja, PomarĂ£o and Guadiana down river.
Distance : 25 miles

We left the marina at 1040 to head over the fuel pontoon in Portugal, on the other side of the river, for some diesel. Once done, we decided to anchor just below the bridge and await low water. As it was we would have made it under the bridge at any state of the tide and it would have been better to have gone under a couple of hours after low water to get the flood up river as it continues to ebb for 2 hours after low water at the bridge, so we were fighting the tide on the way up river. Andy used the sextent to check the height whilst we were waiting at anchor. It gave a pretty good estimate of the height which he checked with the golf range finder as we went under. Personally I didn't want to look!


We had a long motor up river. It was a complete change from anywhere we have been so far. More like some of our favourite rivers in the UK. (Apart from the heat and semi-desert surroundings) It was quiet and the river was more or less free from boats apart from the odd ferry and trip boat. There were a few small settlements with pontoons and boats on moorings, but these were few and far between. The river was buoyed all the way to Alcoutim, so we didn't have to concentrate too hard on our depth sounder. Because the river is on the border we flew both courtesy flags back to back so the Spanish one could be seen from Portugal and the Portuguese one from Spain. We arrived at the villages of San Lùcar de Guadiana (Spain) and Alcoutim (Portugal) at around 1800 and found somewhere to anchor covenant for both villages. There was a quite a strong tide and when it slackened at low and high water, if there was any wind, the boats tended to swing around a bit aimlessly until the tide settled down. This was fine given the amount of space, but I imagine it could get a bit hairy at busy times.

Our anchorage was perfect for both Pasteis da Nata and Tapas. However we didn't find tapas as San Lùcar as we weren't inclined to hang around with the unfriendly liveaboards that seemed to dominate the pontoons. We did managed to walk up to the castle twice, until we were told we could only leave our tender on the pontoons for a couple of hours to shop or for a coffee. We had also put our tender in the wrong place and locked it, which was apparently the wrong thing to do. This didn't feel very friendly so we left quickly with a smile. It has to be said that these people weren't Spanish, but foreign liveaboards.


There were also two castles in Alcoutim, one of which had a museum and was in the village, the other was much older and further away, but we checked out both and had some good views over the village and surrounding countryside. Alcoutim had a couple of nice cafes and seemed like a friendly place. It also had visits from the ferry so was busier than San Lùcar. 

After a few days we decided to head up river for a some tranquility. We found it. There were large stretches of river free from boats and perfect for anchoring. There was a bit of flotsam coming up and down with the tide, mainly bamboo, but the occasional branch. It was quiet with just one or two boats coming by during the day. We had initially intended going up as far as Pomarào where there is a dam and a cafe. However, after about an hour, Andy saw some power cables across the river that weren't charted (at the same time as two Bonelli eagles soared up into the sky).They looked easily high enough, but the thoughts of the consequences to the local area and our boat made us especially cautious. We turned round and anchored back around the corner. Unfortunately the eagles went in the other direction.

After an incredibly quiet night with no light pollution and lots of stars (for the first time since leaving Ireland we were on our own), we  got into the tender with our golf range finder and headed up to the electricity  cables. They turned out to be more than 60 metres above us, 3 times the height of our main mast. Still it pays to be cautious! The eagles were also still around, so we returned to Speedwell and weighed anchor to go up river to Pomarào. There was plenty of depth until just below the bridge when it got down to 0m under the keel and we came to a stop. This was a fairly  gradual stop and as it was a rising tide we were immediately able to turn around and find deeper water. After having a look at the river past the village, where there was plenty of depth again, we decided we wanted a more peaceful anchorage and could make our own coffee so headed back down a few hundred metres and anchored in the hope that the eagles may return. Three seemed to be a lot more flotsam in the river here and we quickly collected a raft on our anchor. We managed to clear it, but overnight it soon collected again, along with a large dead fish


 Once we had cleared the flotsam we weighed anchor and headed down river. We were able to sail for much of the way, albeit quite slowly. We then anchored about 4 miles from the bridge ready to set off under the bridge the following morning. 

Previous : Index : Next

© Copyright