Ria de Guadiana

Image: Bella anchored in the river Guadiana.

We’d heard so much about the river Guadiana from other cruisers along the way that we felt it was a bit of a must see. It also seemed like a great way to mark the end of our month in Portuguese waters by spending a little time, quite literally, on the boarder. (The river itself marking the boarder between Spain and Portugal)

Having dutifully checked the tides and especially tidal height as our passage was to involve us motoring under a rather large cable stay bridge, we began our motor up the river. All seemed to be going well until we closed on another yacht at anchor almost mid channel. As we got closer two men in a dingy launched from the yacht and hurtled towards us waving wildly. Their engine had packed up and we were the first other boat they had seen all day and would we consider towing them back down the river to Ayamonte marina. Tom, cool as a cucumber, laid us alongside the other boat and we made ourselves secure. Now, I love Bella but she’s a semi-long keel and handles like a pig in close quarters meaning going into marina berths is always a tad stressful. Here we were about to tow another boat alongside us into an unknown marina. Tom was amazing – so calm and unflappable. Sabine and Rene, the owners Idemo, were also super experienced and relaxed under the circumstances. With the help of some other livaboards, some in dinghies and others on the pontoons we safely got ourselves and Idemo into a fortuitously empty double finger berth.

Bella towing Idemo alongside.

After all that excitement, we decided to stay the night and were treated to a serendipitously lovely evening of Tapas with a wonderfully friendly group of cruisers based in Ayamonte. I also had possibly the best shore shower I’ve had since my Aunty Anne’s house in Salcombe!


The following morning, after a quick dash round the supermarket to stock up, and a quick blast on the scooters, we set off again up the river passing under the Guardiana Bridge successfully this time. Passing under bridges always feels close as you look up at the mast passing the bridge above.


We motored up the river with what felt like every canoeists in Portugal! We’d randomly managed to time our passage with an enormous canoe race which went the entire 20 mile passage up river. Not quite the relaxing motor we’d imagined but totally worth it when we arrived at the anchorage between the Portuguese village of Alcoutim and the Spanish village of San Luca.

18 miles inland up the river Guadiana with Spain (Sanlucar de Guadiana) to the left and Portugal (Alcoutim) to the right.

It’s often referred to as the ‘Guadiana glue’, folks visit this area and well….. stick. It’s easy to see why.

Boat kids are like magnets – as we were arriving the boys spotted another little boy with his dad in their dinghy and within hours they were all very happily playing together jumping off the boat into the river. Not entirely a risk free game as strong current and enormous amounts of debris go hooning up and down the river. Little Patrick’s parents are the most humble and inspiring people we have yet to meet on our travels – Dad is not only a double amputee but also rowed across the Atlantic – nutter! His lovely wife is also totally awesome and we really hope to meet up with them again in the future.

Alcoutim looking over towards Sanlucar de Guadiana.

Stan has been badgering us to go parent free in the dingy for months – whilst up the Guadiana he finally got his chance. Hmmm the shape of things to come ….

Stan and Ted out on their own.

Whilst the river really is a beautiful place Tom and I felt strangely land locked not to mention a bit tired – neither of us really relaxed in the current and debris. In the middle of the night an entire tree wedged itself on our anchor chain! So after a day in each village we decided to catch the morning tide back down the river. What a tide! We hammered it down the river with tide and wind behind us in just over two hours. After several attempts we managed to anchor off Ayamonte to await the next tide that would take us out to sea for our overnight passage to Cadiz. It felt good to be back at sea again.

Sunset audiobook at the beginning of our overnight passage to Cadiz

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