Thursday, 25 October 2012


Madeira Friday 12th October 2012

A gentle sail to the anchorage of Baia da Abra on the SE tip of Madeira. Not a lot of wind but mainly behind us so we managed to fly the cruising chute as the sea was flat.

Baia da Abra anchorage
We entered the anchorage at twilight avoiding the fish farm and anchored in some 11m off the rocky beach. The Pilot advises using a trip line so we set one, only to discover I had managed to get a bight of the line wrapped around the chain and our trip line buoy disappeared under the surface!
Looking for the anchor!
We had planned to spend the weekend here before going on to Quinta do Lorde or Funchal. We were not alone; the anchorage was filled with boats we had been with in Porto Santo the previous week.
Anchorage from the cliffs

The first night was fine and the following day we dinghied ashore and walked along the cliffs enjoying the spectacular views. We landed on a tiny beach made up totally of large rounded pebbles. The water is still warm and clear. The pilot book says there is no way off the beach but now there are steps cut so it is fairly easy to get up onto the path. The peninsula is very narrow here so it only takes a few minutes to walk across to see the north side of the island with its stunning view.
Looking North over the cliffs

Saturday night the swell started to find its way into the bay and by Sunday afternoon it was ‘blowing old boots’. We had planned to go snorkelling but the weather was not really with us. On the Sunday afternoon a Marineiro from the Quinta do Lorde marina came by in a RIB and asked us if we wanted a berth in the marina. We said we would come in on the Monday.

We thought we would spend a few nights at Quinta do Lorde before moving onto Funchal, and were not surprised to find almost all the boats we had met in Porto Santo had also moved here. It appeared that the marina at Funchal was full and the anchorage not very sheltered. With a SW wind forecast most were staying put or going before the wind arrived.
The Marina

The only problem with Quinta do Lorde is that there is nothing here, just a bar and no shops. It is quite a strange atmosphere because there is a whole newly built village with apartments and hotels but it is all completely empty. It feels like Port Merion or a film set, just waiting for someone to come out and say “Scene 3, Take 1 “ and suddenly the place will come alive. 
There are a couple of buses a day but getting to Funchal is a planning exercise especially if you want to get back the same day! The marina does run a shuttle service to the supermarket at Machico, which we used on the Tuesday afternoon. As they only take 4 people at a time you need to book ahead. Machico is a small town but has the obligatory fort and Pingo Doce, what more could you want?

 Most people were hiring cars and touring the island so we booked one for 3 days from the Friday. We planned to do some jobs on the Wednesday and Thursday but did not do as much as we had planned due to the wind and rain. At long last I managed to make a plate for the bow to stop the anchor knocking chunks out of the gel coat (thanks to Vic for getting us the steel) and finally wired up the inverter to its dedicated outlet. Rowena had to amuse herself by doing the laundry. What exciting lives we lead.

Friday 19th Oct.

Today we have hired a car for the weekend, a little Nissan Micra so it is off to see Funchal and the interior of the Island. There is a good road to Funchal but some of the roads in the interior make for a challenging drive! We used to have Mini adventures but now we are reduced to a Micra adventure.
Just look at the size of the piece of Tuna!
Scabbard fish - they look ugly but taste good
Veg Market

We spent all day Friday in Funchal, the fresh produce market, walked along the front to the harbour and marina and saw they were digging out for a new marina. That will give some competition to Quinta do Lorde when it opens.
Work on the new marina

We walked around the historic old town which has quite a ‘colonial’ feel to it. After a day we felt we had exhausted the sightseeing. The botanical gardens and various museums would have to wait for some other time as we had to get back for the marina’s cocktail party.
Funchal Fort
Funchal street
Not sure there is any cash left in there!
 Amazingly this was the first time anyone had organised a get together of the cruising boats in the marina. As we were all stuck here for a few days while waiting for the low pressure to move through why not have a party! A great success, every boat brought a plate of snacks and some booze, hey presto a party! The Marina supplied Madeira wine on ice so we got to taste that too.
A Party!

The rest of the weekend we spent touring the island. Spectacular volcanic valleys, high mountain passes, intensive terraced agriculture, rugged cliffs, and wild flowers, villages clinging to mountainsides and nestling in the valleys. Driving was either on new freeways with modern tunnels through the mountains or on winding mountain roads with switchbacks and passing places where there was only room for one way traffic. We also found a few of the older tunnels with water dripping over the hand cut walls. The longest tunnel we drove through was 3.5Km long - pretty impressive.
                       Road to the interior


North of the island views
Ruined sugar mill at Sao Jorge
The island seems very fertile and they grow bananas everywhere as well as many exotic fruits and all kinds of vegetables. On the north side of the island there are grapevines on all the terraces. Every available piece of land is cultivated. The high mountains are covered in forest, a lot of eucalyptus but there are still some pockets of the indigenous laurel forests as well.
Growing wild
Morning Glory
Valley of the Nuns

On the Sunday our planned drive was cut short by a road closure (not signed, just a lone policeman at the junction); we discovered we were in the middle of a car hill climb race! We waited while a whole host of classic cars from the 1960’s and 70’s did their thing up the hill. After this we had a ‘soapbox’ derby of downhill racers, some 40+ varying designs setting off at about 1 minute intervals on timed runs to the bottom of the hill. Just another part of island life, I suppose.
We had a fascinating tour through the Sao Vicente caves. They were created 890,000 years ago by molten lava. The floor looks like wet mud, but it is cooled lava and the ceiling looks as though its about to drip, but again it is hard lava. There is also a 3D film showing the formation of the island and a good geological museum.
Volcanic 'pipe' in the Marina
Wild Lillies
Traditional houses in Santana
Valley view

After the weekend entertainment we are back to our life in the marina, waiting for the strong winds to subside before we can move south. The good news is the bar has started a ‘happy hour’ 17.30 – 18.30 half price drinks by the glass. Tuesday was the first night and guess what? They ran out of pint beer glasses! The bar staff didn’t think many people would come. Strange that, storm bound cruising sailors plus cheap booze and the only bar for miles???

There has been no more swimming unfortunately because even though its warm, its not sunny and the wind is cool. It would mean quite a long dingy ride to a little beach or a hike over a mountain to the same beach so its not that easy anyway.

With the weather looking wet and windy for the next few days we will be here until Friday when there will be a window to move south hopefully to Graciosa if not then Lanzarote.
Harbour entrance Monday 22nd Oct - we are staying put!




Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Porto Santo

Porto Santo Thursday 4th – Friday 12th October 2012 

 We spent a very pleasant week on Porto Santo. The island is hilly and very dry, but the different colours in the rock strata overlooking the marina made an interesting view. The few bits of green that we could see seemed mainly to be prickly pears.
Typical Island view

On the Friday after our arrival it was Republic day in Portugal, so we ‘dressed overall’ in celebration.

When the islands were first inhabited by the Portuguese in the 1400’s they were covered in Dragon trees (Dracaena Draco). Their sap is a good dye and was prized by the wool merchants of Flanders, which resulted in a lucrative trade. Unfortunately this combined with the introduction of rabbits completely deforested the island leaving behind todays rather bleak landscape. They are trying reforestation but the only really green part we saw was the golf course designed by Seve Ballesteros. There are a few natural springs, but now most of the islands water comes from a desalination plant.
Dragon Tree at Columbus' house

We did the open top bus tour of the island on Saturday – it takes two hours! Of the approx. 40 seater bus everyone was from the marina apart from eight Portuguese. No commentary, but we had a good overview of the island and we stopped at a few viewpoints - “Dez minut” was as long as we had to take pictures or walk a little. It was all dry and desolate, some grapevines and very little cultivation. The only animals I saw were a pony and foal, one donkey and a few hens. Most houses had gardens, some green with a lawn but most grey dust with shrubs and flowers here and there surrounded by circles of rounded stones. Paw paws, bananas, figs, oleander and bougainvillea were the main trees. The forested parts seemed mainly to be small pine trees growing on rocky soil with outcrops of lava and eroded channels.
Island Ruin
On the bus tour
View across the Airport
Island view
There is a 9km golden beach which starts right next to the marina. The water is blue and warm, with small waves – lovely to swim in! All the Madeirans come here in the summer as there are no natural beaches there. A ferry comes every morning and leaves again in the evening. Our alarm each morning was his 3 hoots – my engines are going astern. This was about 10 o’clock, so we had become rather slow at getting up, although we were usually up, just had not started any of our planned jobs or got ready to go to town.
Marina and Beach
The marina was very sociable. It was virtually full with boats from UK, USA, France, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Ireland, Holland, Finland and Switzerland. There were several ARC (Atlantic Rally/Race for Cruisers) boats and most of the others were crossing the Atlantic as well with a few only going as far as the Canaries. So, everyone was talking about the same things – the voyage here (most from different parts of Portugal), when they were planning to cross, what rig they were using, how many crew down to who had books to swop and the first question from the new arrivals – how far to the supermarket and what’s it like?

On coming back from our excursion to town on Friday, we had a new neighbour, a Westerly Corsair ‘Equinox’ from Maine USA. Dick and Moira were making their way home, this being the final stages of a 3 year cruise, including the Caribbean, Bermuda, Azores, UK and Ireland, Spain and Portugal. They plan to cross the Atlantic from the Canaries to Antigua and make their way north to the USA.

We looked around each other’s boats with interest, swapping ideas as to the changes we had made to suit our cruising plans, swapping stories of the places we had been and the not to be missed places yet to be explored. Inevitably this activity takes several evenings of severe socialising.

We had drinks on other boats and others came to us, strangely the ARCs more or less sticking together and us Non-ARCs too! They were all proudly flying their ARC flags and we decided we felt a bit inadequate not having a flag. We were discussing this with “Chewsy “ and in a moment of brilliance, Steve said “Lets fly N A R C in the signal flags!” So, next morning we proudly flew our own NARC flags.

The ARCs enjoyed the joke and invited us all to their planned beach barbeque. This required another cycle into town to Pingo Doce, a nice 10 min ride with only one small uphill . Quite a small supermarket, but very well stocked and always very busy. Not surprising because we think it’s the only one on the island. I decided to go local and bought steak to marinate (Red wine, olive oil, garlic, crushed bay leaves and chilli’s) and make Prego’s, because being thin they would cook quickly which would be good as there were going to be quite a few people cooking.
Beach Braai
We met on the beach about 5pm and had a great time. It was a chance to speak to people we hadn’t yet met, but hope to keep bumping into on our varying passage plans. The fires got going and we all managed to cook before sundown at about 8pm. There are a few families and the children had a great time swimming and playing together until food was ready.

The town is small with a few shops, but we found everything we needed including a new hosepipe as ours was becoming more of a sprinkler each time we used it. There are also black and white patterns in the streets, but here they are nicely rounded pebbles instead of the cobbles in the rest of Portugal. We went to the Columbus House museum – he lived here for a few years as a sugar trader and married the governor’s daughter before he started his explorations. The museum is very interesting with information in English which was nice. They have a few Dragon trees in the garden, the fruit is edible too.
Columbus House

We had lunch in a pavement cafĂ© near the Law Courts. Richard had dish of the day €5.00 – Espada – scabbard fish. It is prized by the Portuguese. We have seen it in the shops - ugly, long bluey silvery fish with big eyes and fearsome teeth. It is really nice – I may even have it when we eat out again. The best bit is because it is so big you always get a fillet, which will suit me.
Town Centre

The marina had quite a bit of fish life too. Not much shellfish, but there were schools of tiny transparent fish with a turquoise stripe and various size Sea Bream. No harbour mullet, though. One evening I saw two large fish about 30 cm which I think are parrot fish. They were chewing on the rocks and I could see their beaks and they had nice big scales, but they were just blotchy grey, not nice and colourful as we are used to. Something else to look up!

We were in Porto Santo for a week and a day. The time just flew by, it is such a relaxing place – no pressure! After ‘Equinox’ had left we had a new neighbour, a catamaran ‘Horizons’. Jeff was single handed but he did have a washing machine and it will run off our inverter! Rowena was very impressed. Something else to find space for now.

Next stop Madeira some 30 miles away and the dramatic anchorage of Baia da Abra.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Friday 12th October 2012

We are leaving Porto Santo today for Madeira. We will be anchoring in a small bay, Baia de Abra, which is near Quinta da Lorde marina which will be our next stop.

Porto Santo is a real crossroads, all the boats here are on passage, at least to the Canaries but most are on the way to the Caribbean. We have had such a social whirl here we have not had time to do the blog. Having to go up to the office for wifi doesn't help either.

We will do the blog while we are at anchor, which will hopefully be a bit more peaceful and will post ot when we get to the marina. It is hot and sunny, the water clear and blue and warm.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

To Porto Santo

To Porto Santo

The ocean is waiting. At 11.45 on Sunday 30th September we slipped our lines from Albufeira marina. Four days at sea, hopefully we will see whales and dolphins. We motored out into a gentle SW breeze, wind on the nose again! For the next 3 hours we were motorsailing. Eventually the forecast N Westerlies arrived and with full sail off we went.

We had set a course to be south of the traffic separation scheme off Cabo St. Vincente, from there we would alter course by 10 degrees to the right so as to arrive off the SE tip of Porto Santo.

At the point where we were thinking we were going to see nothing, we were surrounded by a large pod of dolphins, obviously hunting, shortly followed by another pod who had come to join the first group. You can never say “Dolphins again!” as for me they really are magnificent creatures. They were definitely not playing with the boat, just intent on the hunt, racing in front, behind and under us. Groups of 5 or 6 were broaching together, others jumping right out of the water and some somersaulting. There were also gannets diving and dozens just sat on the water, I suppose too full to eat any more. It must have been a huge shoal of fish.

Our waypoint to clear the traffic separation lanes was fairly close and although we had heard the VTS (a bit like air traffic control) talking to the large ships we had not seen any. “Best turn the AIS on as it is beginning to get dark”. Holy smoke! We are surrounded by 16 targets, fortunately none on a collision course, some passing ahead while others were passing astern. The AIS stayed on for the rest of the trip.

As darkness fell on the first night the wind began to increase to 20 kts. Prudently we dropped the mizzen and put 2 reefs in the main as I didn’t want to have to sort the reefs out in the dark. We were beam reaching at over 7kts at times, the waves were 3-4 metres on the beam. On my first night watch I remember looking at the sea and seeing a wave at the height of the boom start to break, in the moonlight it looked like a row of grinning teeth. I remember thinking ‘Oh shit we haven’t got a washboard in’! As the wave started to break I heard it hiss and roar, the next moment I ducked and the breaking wave went under the boat liberally spraying me as it went. Thank goodness I had a lightweight waterproof jacket on. The bottom washboard went in double quick!

Morning came and we shook the reefs out - the wind was getting less as was the sea. Monday was uneventful as we sailed along with the wind over our shoulder, the genoa poled out and a full main. Sunshine and clouds, followed by a moonlit night. The highlight of the night was a light which passed ahead of us, going south while we were going west, a yacht from his lights.
Adjusting String!
Tuesday dawned with the wind getting less, what had looked like a 3 day passage was moving towards day 4. At about 0800 we passed the halfway mark. The wind was gradually getting less and veering further behind us. By mid morning, the wind had died completely, less than 7Kts so we put the engine on for a couple of hours, batteries charged and plenty of hot water.
Calm seas

 By the afternoon we were back to our original sail plan of a poled out genoa and the main. At 1700 out AIS alarm sounded - a ship! Having seen only a couple of ships on the horizon here was one passing within a mile of us on route to the Canaries. He got closer and closer and eventually when he was less than 3 miles away I called ‘Atlantic Zeus’ on the VHF radio. He replied immediately that he has seen us and was planning to pass ahead. I suggested that ½ mile was too close and that he give me more room. Watching our ‘magic box’ he applied 5 degrees of right rudder for 30 seconds and passed more than a mile ahead. “Thank you, Atlantic Zeus”.

The wind started to build so a reef went in the main and a couple of rolls in the Genoa. With a F5/6 we were going to arrive Wednesday evening. By the time Wednesday morning had arrived the wind had dropped again so we spent most of the day trying to get the best speed with the sails. We were going slower and slower and arrival before dark on the Wednesday wasn’t possible. With the sea getting less the motion was gentle so we might as well get some sleep and arrive in the morning.

Dawn on Thursday morning saw us travelling at 3kts and 15 miles to go to our waypoint off the island. Engine on, hot water and a shower before breakfast and our arrival at Porto Santo marina at about 10 am.
Arriving at Porto Santo

We called the marina on ch9 but no response, so we just carried on in. A mariniero was on the wall, waving. He directed us to a berth and was there to help us tie up. He shook our hands and said “Welcome to Porto Santo.” Very nice.

Not quite 4 days. 493 miles, day1 =137M, day2 = 130M, day3 = 132M, day4 = 96M. Tidy!