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!




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