Solent Pilot Appreciation

Cruising east of Portimao we entered the Canal de Faro within the marshes south of Faro airport. The approach has a huge tuna net which although marked within a 1 mile square drifts beyond the marks by quarter of a mile. Rounding the net the shallows rapidly and the entrance has tides which run at 4 to 7 knots. The channels are shallow (drawing more than 2.5m we are forbidden from moving at night). Dropping anchor as per the chart and pilot we anchored in peaceful isolation. Looking at AIS and the charts we could see yachts anchored to the east in the other channel, Canal de Olhaao. Just in case being alone was an issue we plotted a track to the other anchorage whilst a ship waited outside for high water and the pilot. Then it happened…. A pilot was ambling down the canal sounding his horn repeatedly not so far ahead of an outward bound ship. We are on AIS and heard him earlier on VHF. No contact, just a meaningless horn. Was that for us? The ship was 16m wide and the canal which we edged about 100m wide. It was almost slack water but still on the flood. The pilot got slowly closer as the ship was catching up with him when he started to gesticulate that we should move ‘right now’. With 50m of chain out the gypsy slowly cranked away, 40m, 30m, air bellows deflated so wait for the switch to recover, pilot going mad but not making contact, 20m chain tangles, 10m here’s the ship, anchor up and we have not moved so time to spectate. And the ship glides by about 80m away against the port marks, no problem. So we did a full circle and dropped in behind moving to the other, shallower canal to find a pool to anchor in. Give me a Solent pilot any day! If there is an issue they communicate quickly and clearly accelerating ahead of the ship and for a 100m freighter wouldn’t get out of bed. We were not impressed with either the written pilot nor the guy on the boat with a P on it.


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