Having spent the winter in Lagos, the most western marina on Portugal's southern Algarve coast, we have built up a little knowledge of the town and its surroundings. This may be of more general interest to visitors to Lagos, so we are bringing these pages together as a mini web site.
The links below will allow you to explore a little further:
Prior to arrival in Portugal, our study of the pilot guides seemed to indicate that the Marina de Lagos seemed to offer the best amenities for a long stay over winter. There is a lot of development going on as Portugal tries to recover the tourism markets that have been lost to long-haul locations, much of it with EU input. As in Spain, it is hard to believe that so much overt property development can find a market at the quite high prices that are now being asked. We did not know that there was a new marina in Albufeira until Mo's son Steve reported its presence near to the villa he had booked for a short holiday. We had not spotted it in Macmillans nor the pilots we had.
The people we had talked to during our visit at the end of September convinced us that Lagos was probably worth the extra berthing charges. A number who had tried elsewhere came back, and over the years many had got 'stuck' in Lagos, buying apartments here.
On our autumn cruise we visited all the marinas in the Algarve, although in the case of Portimao, only by dinghy. Portimao marina seemed quite exposed, having a floating breakwater only at the northern end, and it is open to the south east. We have heard of yachts sustaining damage to fittings due to the wash of the fishing fleet as it charges out to sea in the early hours. The marina is close to the infamous Praia de Rocha, and remote from the main part of town.
The new marina at Albufeira was nearly empty, and the shops etc. unlet, so we did not fancy spending our time in splendid isolation with a moderate walk to the town. Albufeira may in the future offer a reasonable alternative, but we have heard that there is a problem when seas run into the harbour from the south east. Maybe this could be relieved with an additional breakwater. The staff could not be faulted for their helpfulness.
We did not enjoy Vilamoura particularly. The marina is surrounded by drinking, eating and retail outlets, but there is nothing else there (apart from golf). The main part of the marina (to starboard) is isolated from the marina reception/office (on port) making a very long walk or dinghy essential.
At Olhao, there is a partially built marina. Rumour has it that the EU withdrew funding when they discovered that there is a sewer outfall in the harbour. Cetainly the air there can be pungent with the wind in the wrong direction! There is currently no water to the pontoons, and electricity is not functional, but no charges were being made, and there was a loyal band of foreign cruisers there! People were being asked to move out after a while in order not to acquire 'squatters rights'. Work is on-going and we have heard that they will start to make charges in July 2005. The channel up to Olhao is buoyed as far as the entrance to the fishing harbour, and presents no difficulty, particularly at half tide. However, no markings exist into the marina, which occupies most of the deeper water that has been dug/dredged out. Therefore it is important to make for the fishing harbour, and only turn away to port to run close alongside the concrete breakwater/pontoon for the local boats, continuing this line until the concrete pontoon of the 'marina' is reached. We berthed on one of the inside hammerheads: the security gates are open.
The final possibility is Vila Real de St Antonio (or Ayamonte on the Spanish side of the river): this is perhaps the most attractive location for overwintering aside from Lagos. Many people stay up the Guardiana on a long term basis.
So it was we returned to Lagos convinced we had made the right decision, based on the following:
Having said all that, we do not have a particular warm feeling to the management of the marina, and this is borne out by people who knew it when it was recently opened and trying harder. We were told that they were fully booked, but in practice many berths are empty. We wanted to stay for a short while back in October, (low season) and they proposed charging us 7 euros an hour! Compromise or negotiation is not in the vocabulary! The communal heads feel very tired, (shower mixers still u/s after repairs, etc. and an interesting line in toilet/shower doors) and the design ill thought out. But hey, we are here! In time, the increased capacity at Portimao, Albufeira and Olihao may make a difference with the spur of competition, although the marina may well be more of an excuse to develop this site. (We have enjoyed the pile driving, now thankfully over, most of the winter).
One of our first walks was along to the lighthouse along the cliffs, which are the trademark of this part of the coast. We walked down the steps to the platform close to where the waves were crashing through the grottoes.