After having been thoroughly warmed up by the Guadiana – by both air an water temperatures – we were very surprised how cool it was anchored off Culatra.
Culatra is the biggest in a chain of sandy low islands enclosing a nature reserve, the Ria Formosa. We anchored off the little fishing harbour with some 30 other yachts, but it's a large stretch of water with plenty of room. We spotted several other boats we'd met on the Guadiana, everyone escaping the heat. In fact it was so cool, that there were hardly any days we used the cockpit awning or the windscoop and we were able to do boat jobs in the middle of the afternoon in the sun. So we settled down to enjoy ourselves and meanwhile spent a few hours every day doing boat jobs; ideal weather for painting the decks.
The island gives you the ultimate nostalgic feeling of a 1950's beach holiday. The three small villages are connected by sand paths only and there are hardly any roads in the villages themselves. Transport is by tractor, Apecar or bicycle. And of course by boat; around high water it gets very lively with lots of small boats with enormous outboards racing to and fro Olhão on the mainland.
We made numerous walks along the lovely beach on the Atlantic side: no pebbles, no jellyfish, no sea urchins. The ferry unloaded a few hundred beach tourists every day, but most concentrated in
the village of El Farol, the only place where there is a beach café. But boy, the water was cold! Even inside the lagoon we found the water temperature not high enough for a relaxed swim.
Inside the lagoon is another lagoon, which nearly dries at low water, but where it is wonderfully sheltered. It has turned into a multihull/bilgekeel haven and some people have been living there on their boats for many years. The cheapest safe wintering place, but too windy and isolated to our taste.