Back in winter when we were planning our summer sailing route, the river cruise on the river Guadiana sounded appealing. We have always been keen on the river adventures, like when we sailed up the Elbe river up to Hamburg. However, at the river entrance there is a fixed bridge. Nobody gave us any definite answer about how the 18-metre clearance is measured? We also did not want to test it by ourselves, as Suwena’s mast with VHF antenna would have passed the bridge structures way too close for comfort. Anyhow many Portuguese sailors promoted the river and that we must visit Guadiana, thus we chose the second-best option: we moored Suwena at the closest marina and had a day cruise on the river instead 😊
Next decision was, shall we stay in Portugal on the western shore of the river or on the town of Ayamonte on the eastern shore in Spain. We decided to say goodbye to Portugal by visiting one of its smaller towns before continuing back to the shores of Spain.
The marina of Vila Real de Santo António has been built on the river and the long visitors pontoon follows the direction of the river, we can say that the river really is flowing through the marina. Also, the pilot book recommended “You will get less brain damage by arriving at the slack tide as turning the boat into the berth in three knot current is not fun at all”. The advice was well deserved because we noticed that many boats had difficulties arriving or departing from the pontoon dock. We had 28 nautical miles from Culatra to Santo António and we were slowing down constantly for arriving at the high water. In the end we were just floating slowly towards Guadiana. And we nailed it by calling up marina just at the slack water.
Immediately, after signing into the marina we went looking for a sales point of the river cruise tickets and we bought places for next day’s six-hour cruise.
The river boat departed from a quay next to the marina and it felt funny to jump onboard another ship while our own boat stayed in marina with Finnish flag proudly flying. Andrus sighed from a relief when we were passing under the Guadiana International Bridge while imagining that we’d be there with Suwena. There was no way we could have passed under the bridge of Guadiana.
We were sailing a couple of hours upstream on the river Guadiana. The beautiful coasts opened on both Portuguese and Spanish shores. The river Guadiana is a border river between Portugal and Spain. It is the third longest river in Portugal and it continues 818 kilometers upstream into the middle of Iberian Peninsula.
The river kept meandering between the hills and beautiful countryside scenery just continued and continued. We stopped at the village of Foz de Odeleite. We earlier tried to book the mooring ball in front of this village for Suwena. Some of the moorings were occupied by smaller boats than our Suwena.
We stepped ashore and took a ten minute walk to an old farmhouse that was also hosting our lunch. At first, we had time for a swim in the pool and enjoying the cold one under sunshades. Next the delicious lunch was served in the main hall of the farmhouse. People were happily chatting and having fun. More food or drinks could be ordered by making funny hand signs. For example, more chicken, called “the best chicken ever” arrived quickly to the table by presenting the world famous chicken dance. Chicken was amazing, no wonder why they call it “the best ever”. The visitors were also entertained by Portuguese traditional songs and the whole staff joined singing every now and then. Overall, it was relaxing and really fun Sunday!
Return trip down the river passed quickly by chatting with fellow passengers and enjoying the Sun. What an amazing birthday cruise I got.
Vila Real de Santo António is also a cozy little town. It has peaceful and unhurried ambience but has a truly unique appearance, resembling Lisbon more than its close neighbors. The town was constructed in 1774 just in two years and follow the similar design ideas used in the reconstruction of Lisbon after 1755 earthquake.
Before leaving Portugal, we went for one more Portuguese fish dinner and then it was time to turn Suwena’s bow towards Spain.