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Isla Culatra

Isla Culatra

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Author: David Beck

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19th to 20th February; 25th February to 6th March; 7th to 8th March 2018

Culatra is a lovely island, and a good place to over-winter or stay for longer judging by the people-who-live-on-sailboats we met. One couple had been there a year, another for a bit longer (having stayed for a year a few years ago); both were chatting about how their kids were getting along in the island school. When it wasn’t closed (the staff commute from the mainland, so no ferries due to wind = no school). Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

It’s the type of place where we were perfectly happy with Arthur wandering off over the horizon to try and find the Beach facing the Atlantic. He didn’t manage it as he found a “maze” (some kid-high heather) so he stayed where he was not far from the beautiful lagoon. Not hard to find, still in his lifejacket. We visited the lagoon a couple of times creature-watching – it is now closed to boats and left for nature, and the birdlife and sealife seems to appreciate it.

The anchorage marked on the charts, North of the fishing harbour, was relatively well-sheltered but worked up a surprising amount of chop in Westerly seas. The people who had been there a while also mentioned that a fair few boats drag (the bottom is very weedy, so if an anchor doesn’t set properly first time it doesn’t set at all), as we saw pretty vividly when the wind got up and a monohull moved sideways about 100m or so! But once set holding is very secure, at least in the two positions we tried out.

When the weather was at its worst, we parked the boat on the beach so that the kids could still climb off for a few hours each day between the tides (they don’t care much if it is raining or blowing 30kt winds if there is sand about) and to make shopping easier if the bad-weather patch carried on longer than predicted. As long as the wind wasn’t from the North, being tight up to the shore is an ideal way to ride out stormy weather. For the few hours each tide the boat was floating there were no waves to speak of, just lots of wind (it’s a low island). Dave and Arthur had fun setting up our two anchors in a V-formation, as well as checking them each time the tide went out.

One morning we were given some oysters by a couple of locals who found them while helping the owner of a trimaran just upwind of us re-set his anchors. Preparing and eating those, combined with watching the locals out collecting their shellfish every low tide, meant Arthur spent the next few low tides combing the beach for “something new to try”. After an unsuccessful haul of mussel-shells the first day, Charlotte helped out on day two and we had a lovely fresh-mussel pasta for lunch.

And, more boat jobs, including installing a freezer (used as a fridge, for now, by turning it on for an hour or two then off for 6-8 hours. Apart from when we forget to turn it off and freeze everything). We are more than mildly amused by the fact that our new freezer uses about a tenth of the energy of our old fridge (which maintained a temperature in the region of 8-13 degrees).

One loss to report, though. Arthur’s trusty dump truck and front loader were lost to the sea when we forgot to collect them from the beach (whoops). I hope they wash up somewhere and are found and enjoyed by a new owner. Or make a new shell for a really big hermit crab.

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