Archive for September, 2010

Let them eat…us? Madeira

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Walking, Wildlife with tags , , on September 25, 2010 by maidofmettle

Quinta da Lorde marina is in the middle of nowhere so we have been working our way up to exploring the rest of Madeira though it takes some organisation if you want to leave the town. So far we have done a bit of snorkelling at the beach closest to us and hosted another driftwood BBQ with some other people from boats here and a random dog who turned up half-way through. James and Lesley from the boat next door and an all female crew from the boat ‘Triple D’ (http://darlinggirls.tumblr.com/) , both of whom are doing the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) across the Atlantic this year.

From Left: James, Pete, Trycha, Alice, Jillian, Caroline, Chris and Lesley

There are some impressive fish to be seen in the waters around here. The nicest being what we think are multi-coloured parrot fish and some dark fish with bright blue bits on their fins. There are also some pretty big butterflies that fly around occasionally, though not in the water obviously.

We got literally covered in lizards on a walk a bus-ride away at Pico Facho. We had innocently sat down to eat our sandwiches when along they came. Some of them were pretty big and they were literally crawling all over us and into our tupperware container. They are impressive at jumping and can leap quite a way with no trouble at all. They were cute until one crawled on Pete’s face and bit his lip, though Pete maintains that he think it fell and tried to grab him on the way down.

“Can we keep them? Can we?”

Covered in lizard

As well as being full of lizards the walk took us through some terraced farm land and past quite a few goats. There are quite a few trees so the countryside looks fairly green in places but is interspersed with dried grassy areas. We think other parts of the island will be even greener especially now we are heading towards the rainy season on Madeira.

Walkies through the countryside
We have got to know the girls on ‘Triple D’pretty well over the last week, having met up a few times and been beaten at the games Jungle Speed and Bananagrams. We saw them off yesterday, me having decided I was going to become their fourth crew member. Their boat is much bigger than ours and I wouldn’t mind a room of my own. It has been quite rare to find female sailors in the marinas we have visited so it was nice for me to get to know Trycha, Alice and Jillian a bit so we could talk about fluffy bunnies and kittens instead of other more blokey things for a change ;-). We sent them off with some of Chris’ legendary caramel shortbread however, they didn’t manage to leave afterall yesterday due to problems with a repair they’d had done. Well, not so much the repair but the bill afterwards that they were not expecting. Anyway, we hope that that all gets sorted soon so they can head towards the Canaries.

“I’m coming with you…” The fourth crew member

We took the bus to Funchal (answers on a postcard if you know how to pronounce it). The buses have incredibly narrow seats and the roads are quite bendy resulting in an interesting ride. It was fine really, you just need to hold on a bit if you have the aisle seat.
Funchal was a little wet but quite nice. The buildings are really interesting and they have some really nice gardens to look round. We had lunch in a small and exceedingly cheap cafe and Chris was delighted to see the same bolo de Caco stall as we had found on Porto Santo. I think the man behind the stall was as surprised to see us again as we were to see him.

The bank in Funchal

Giant plants

You’ll also be pleased to hear that we have found and sampled cake. They specialise in honey and molasses cake here which is nice, if very expensive. I am a bit confused though. I remember Madeira cake from home as a yellow sponge cake and this one is brown like the colour of Jamaica Ginger cake. I think we will have to try the cake made from rice that fits this description next.

Feeding time…Let them eat cake

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Sailing, Walking with tags , , , on September 19, 2010 by maidofmettle

Wind and waves looked good so it was time to leave Porto Santo.

In an attempt to make the boat move faster it was decided that a little clean was in order. We set to work on the water line with a brush and as far as could be reached with a snorkelling mask. Somehow Chris was offered some scuba diving gear to borrow from a German man called Wolfgang on the boat next to us in Porto Santo. Having tried it briefly in Cyprus some years ago, and after a quick reminder lesson he bravely tackled the bits of the boat that could not be reached by swimming. It was good but a bit scary and a bit difficult to relax to start with but he soon got the hang of it.

Scuba-scrub…watch out for barnacles

Unfortunately, Porto Santo has a regulation that does not permit scuba diving in the harbour without permission but seeing as he was intending only to go around the boat (and local divers with boats seemed to say that they did it) he decided to risk it. The second time he used it happened to coincide with a policeman wandering down the pontoon taking names of boats. Luckily he didn’t say anything though I’d be surprised if he didn’t notice Chris hiding under the pontoon or behind the boat occasionally bubbling!

Before leaving we needed to finish our mural. It is traditional (and some would say good luck) to paint the name of your boat on the wall of the break-water. I think we were surprised to see them here as we only knew that people did this in the Azores. There are hundreds of them so it was a bit tricky to find a space at first.

Chris spray painting after dark

Adding some small details

Finishing the boat

Once the mural was done we could officially leave. The time had also come to empty the composting toilet…Pete bravely volunteered to do this unenviable task at sea. Not going into too much detail, it’s not the nicest job but we feel that in some ways having a composting loo is much better than the alternative. Many people in boats flush everything straight into the sea so at least the composting helps decomposition a bit. Sorry Pete, glad you made it to some fresh air before it was too late πŸ˜‰

The look says it all…

Nine hours after leaving Porto Santo, we got to Madeira. It was a bit calm at times but we managed to make it in daylight.

Quinta da Lorde – Madeira, note the tight turn and narrow entrance

I’m not sure whether the scuba scrub made all that much difference to our speed but maybe we’ll see in time. I managed my first drive into a berth. It was a bit tight and more wind than I would have liked but it went well. The marina is fantastic with possibly the swankiest toilets/showers we’ve seen so far and the most helpful staff imaginable. “Let me know what you are going to do whilst you are on the island and remember if we can do ANYTHING, let us know”.

Although nice looking, the town appears a bit ghostly and seems to be an almost completed development that they have sort of given up on but it gives an opportunity to do a lot of walking and exploring.

Ghost town Quinta da Lorde from the land

Like Porto Santo, Madeira also appears to be covered in little lizards. We fed some today after a short-ish walk to a pebble beach.

This way…maybe it’s the hats that make people think they are brothers?

Mmm orange – mini lizard on the beach

Next mission…find Madeira cake and wine.

Porto Santo

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Walking, Wildlife with tags , on September 17, 2010 by maidofmettle

Porto Santo town

Beach – As I’d imagine the Caribbean, the water is so clear here.

Welcome to Porto Santo. It is really lovely here. The guidebook claims it is ideal for cycling as it is “not very hilly” (or words to that effect). Whoever wrote the guidebook for the island has either never been here or is some kind of super fit mountain goat who finds the hills here extremely easy. Either way, you would (probably) not find me cycling around here.

Anyway we have all really enjoyed our time here. It has been perfect for some spectacular walks with amazing views to the sea on all sides! Below are the highlights of some of the best walks we have done here.

Walk around the SE corner of the island – Ponta da Gale

Some scrambling up through prickly pears and strange bendy plants – some with snails on them. Where the snails come from, who knows?

Walk up Pico de Ana Ferreira (SW corner of the island)

Caroline pointing to where we got to (Pico de Ana Ferreira)

Scary looking spiders…

Eeek – wouldn’t like to meet this in the dark.

We have discovered a brilliant bread delicacy that they make in and around Madeira. Bolo do Caco is a light bread made using the secret ingredient of sweet potato and then cooked on a hot plate. Here they have several stalls serving it with chorizo, bacon or hot-dogs and garlic butter with parsley and so on. Bolo do Caco has officially become Chris’ favourite bread – overtaking the bread we had in the river Guadiana for first place.

Every bolo do caco bread fanatic’s dream – an invitation to the
kitchen to see it made!

Chris and I had seen quads driving around the island for hire so we thought we’d give our legs a rest and have a go. Zooming around the island was really fun and plenty fast enough. Driving on the wrong side of the road didn’t turn out to be as difficult as I thought it might be either though I suppose not having driven all that much in the last year helped a lot. Porto Santo is perfect for quads given its hilly nature and the fact that some of the roads would be better described as dirt tracks. You definitely wouldn’t want to take a hire car out on some of them.

Chris driving on to a ‘road’

Even better is the fact that there isn’t very much traffic to be found anywhere so it is easy to get to some pretty inaccessible places fairly easily…once you get the hang of the quad that is! Going up-hill was much easier and more fun than down but we soon grew in confidence with it. The most frightening place we found was when we walked to see the view over the edge of the cliffs on the north of the island. I couldn’t believe the sight that met us…

Don’t look down. Chris demonstrating just how high this cliff edge is.

We also managed to get to the North East corner of the island and walked the 5km walk to Pico Branco and Terra ChΓ£, which Pete had walked a few days earlier. It was a brilliant walk. Terra ChΓ£ has a small and seemingly abandoned bunkhouse looking out to sea on it. The ground here is interesting too because it looks quite soft and crumbly in some places and rocky in others. The path was maintained really well…even though we saw noone else doing the walk. Tourism seems not to have overrun the island yet.

Our quad had a funny few hours during the evening (maybe because of the cold?) and took to stalling a lot. Fortunately, it didn’t stop us too much and we were still able to enjoy a lovely (and quite brave) meal in a village called Camacha. When I ordered a coke the waitress said “you can get coke everywhere…would you like to try some local fruit juice drink?”. I’ve forgotten what it was called but I think it was some sort of fizzy passion fruit juice made in Madeira. It was good, a bit like Lilt. Later when we ordered food we were recommended a pasta and ribs dish which when asked what flavour it was, the reply “the flavour comes from the fat and bones…it really is quite interesting”. Maybe they need to work on their recommendation selling. Then again, we did try it so it must have worked and it was good. A giant skewer of chicken arrived as well and was hung up on a hook above our table to go with the pasta and in typical Portuguese fashion, chips and healthy salad to cancel out the chips. Mmm the Portuguese do good food πŸ™‚

We used the quad as a way to get to some brilliant walking tracks and views, not to mention having wild camped between two peaks on the island. Thank you (yet again) Β£9.99 tent.

We walked up Pico de Castello the following day for breakfast. On the way back down the path we saw hundreds of small lizards skitting about so (having been told that they like it) tried to feed some of them some apple. After some time, they got used to us and Chris was able to take some photos of them feeding.

Oooh, apple…thank you very much”

As you got a full twenty four hours hire we were able to see a lot of the island in that time. On the second day we found our own Sahara dessert. Neither of us were feeling like taking the quad too far in there so we had a bit of a walk instead.

This is as far as I want to drive…now I’ve got to get back down

Much easier to walk…(no, the tracks are not ours)

Over the next few days the island is putting on a Columbus Festival. Apparently he spent some time here and married the governer of the island’s daughter so it’s a good excuse to have a bit party. Last night they opened the festival with acting out his arrival on the beach. There was also some dancing – notably a man in a dress which looked like it had about three pancakes on it when he spun around. They ended with a fabulous fire juggling show with some impressive music on the beach. Though we didn’t really understand the actors it was good to watch the entertainment.

Fire dancing

Fire Poids spinning

Faro to Porto Santo

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean with tags on September 9, 2010 by maidofmettle

We left Faro at about 6pm on the 1st of September. The weather looked as near to perfect as we could hope for, having waited for quite some time looking at it so we took our chance whilst we had it. What follows is a bit of a diary for each day.

1st Sept (evening)
Once out of the entrance to Faro we were surprised to see it was fairly rough out. Nothing too much to worry about but a bit of a culture shock after spending a month on flat water in the harbour and our bodies were obviously not too used to it. The magic of our faithful Biodramina seemed less than magical for me for the as I was frustrated to find myself battling with seasickness from the moment I tried to get to sleep…Great! Thought we’d got over that. Pete wasn’t too far behind either 😦 Me and the bucket were never far from each other unfortunately and I began to wonder why on earth I was even trying to sail for what would probably be the best part of a week. Despite this, we had split the night up into 3 hour shifts so we would just have to get on with it and hope that things would get better.

The good thing about being a crew of three is that after your 3 hour shift you then get the luxury of six hours sleeping (or trying to in some cases) so the night goes fairly quickly. I took the 10-1am shift, Pete did 1am – 4am followed by Chris doing 4am ’til 7am.

Leaving Faro

2nd Sept
By 7am I was ready to get back out and we began our day watch system of two and a half hours on and a ‘blissful’ five hours off. To start with the thought of spending five hours inside the cabin was a bit of a nightmare. All three of us struggled with feeling varying degrees of ill so in some ways during that time, being outside looking at the horizon was better than being off watch. Chris did much of the cooking to start with as Pete (much to his annoyance and our surprise) did not seem to be faring too well with the ‘bumpy’ nature of the waves. Bumpy being the word for downright horrible. It felt somewhat like being inside a simulator in the cabin with a very jolty motion that made you leave your stomach somewhere in the ceiling some of the time, loud bangs and large splashes over the boat. Not very nice and a bit scary especially when it wakes you up.

Not that you can tell… but these made it quite bumpy!

Chris demonstrating how valuable student cooking skills are…
Pasta and sauce… note the importance of a non-upright posture at sea!

3rd Sept
After surviving the second (quite sleepy) night I began to feel fairly confident that the waves were big but really fine (despite the nausea) and they didn’t appear to be getting anywhere near as steep as we’ve experienced before, thankfully! Apart from the shipping lane during night one there wasn’t much to look for out at sea. This made watches seem relatively stress free in a way though it took a bit of getting used to being woken up and trying to sleep at odd times.

More of an appetite, less sickness and a whole load of dolphins! They looked spectacular in the deep blue inky sea. I never would have imagined what people meant by the ocean being blue but it really is. Must be something to do with the depth of more than four thousand metres…It’s incredible to think that you are floating four kilometres above land!

Look carefully… and there are three dolphins

4th Sept
Had a good night shift last night. Fantastic clear skies with loads of stars that I actually managed to look at this time. I actually felt like we were flying through the water whilst I was outside sitting on the hatch boards. Somehow it was getting easier despite still being quite rough and noisy. Perhaps we were all sleeping better because we were tired, I don’t know but I definitely enjoyed some of it.

Had another brief visit from some dolphins today and because we had passed our half-way mark over night we threw a message in a bottle out during the day today. I hope someone will find it and contact us to say where it got to.

Bottle on its way to ?????

Waves were a bit bigger mostly we think because we were crossing an area near a bank of shallower water. Have learnt that it is not a very good idea to go under these banks as the waves appeared to have got a bit bigger and then carried on a bit. I think that our time going from Gibraltar to Mazagon might have done me a favour in terms of not worrying too much about waves. Although there were a few quite big ones it didn’t seem as bad as the ones we’d had before…so there was a reason we went through all that.

Ate a bit more and managed to do a bit more inside the boat during the day. Definite progress!

Horace hard at work

5th Sept
Our man overboard alarms kept going off during night shifts last night – very annoying and makes us question having it. The boy who cried wolf springs to mind. Also, having had one of the pendants replaced in Faro we have found that one of them has cracked again about a day in to our trip!!!

Watched a DVD during the day today πŸ™‚ We’d been working up to this moment for days so it felt good to finally get there. Possibly eating out of something to do more than hunger.

Going downwind so the motion was a bit more rolly but generally calmer than before and it felt like a psychological turning point, downhill towards Porto Santo.

Managed to make lunch, even though half of it ended up in Chris’ bunk cupboard. I was quite proud given that to start with I didn’t think I’d be able to even eat food, let alone stay inside long enough to make something.

Proud chef with her cabbage and cucumber… beware of falling knives

6th Sept
Very very very calm in the morning. Flat in fact. Pete had a shift last night with no wind at all and I had fun taking the main-sail down rather messily because it was flapping around only to put it up again when Pete started about 15 minutes later. Chris managed to sleep through all this racket.

Looked like we were surrounded by a giant deep blue swimming pool. We even contemplated having a swim but then the wind came back. A bit disappointed that we were probably going to be spending another whole night out. I had thought we’d arrive in the early hours of the morning but never mind.

Anyone for a swim?

Lots of time spent on the foredeck talking, looking at the sun shining on the water and Porto Santo in the distance! Pete spotted a turtle yesterday and ‘a really big black thing’ that we think may have been a whale today. Could see quite a few birds gliding very close to the surface of the water, narrowly missing it at times.

Land Ho

Porto Santo, though we weren’t sure at the time if it was Madeira

I was very tired and napped quite a lot. This tiredness was not helped by the constant rolling that became relentless by the time I tried to sleep in the evening…Very frustrating knowing you have an hour or so after dinner to sleep before a shift and then not being able to because the boat is rolling left then right then left…

My night shift turned out alright in the end after the initial annoyance of not sleeping too well and then being woken up. The wind disappeared for me so I had to hand steer for a bit. Luckily it came back again, I didn’t feel like steering for 3 hours and Horace (our hydrovane) was able to take over after about an hour. Time went quite slowly and I was disappointed to find out after looking a second time at the clock that instead of having 1/2 an hour left, I actually had an hour and a half to go. Strangely Pete’s brain was also confused and he appeared at 11.45pm ready to take over, only to say “oh, I’ve got the wrong time haven’t I!” Tiredness seemed to have addled our grasp of the 24hr clock momentarily.

Our downwind Twizzle rig (2 sails poled out cleverly with ropes etc) needed to be taken down near to Porto Santo and we decided to wait until we’d reached a two thousand metre contour line to do it. At about 1 in the morning all three of us got up to take it down. By 1.30am it was all done and hungry and tired I went back to bed hoping to sleep through any nasty rolling.

“Twizzle” cunningness

7th Sept
Woke up to lovely views of Porto Santo in the sunrise. Over night we had miscalculated the tide and so ended up unable to head straight in. The wind was light and the tide against us so we stood no chance of arriving earlier. Lots of tacking quite fast through beautifully flat water πŸ˜‰ and a lovely fry up later and we eventually arrived in the marina at Porto Santo at about 9am ready to go and show all our passports to the police and then rest and recover, pleased that we had made our longest voyage yet.

Porto Santo – Pico do Castelo

We made it!

The route, a few wiggles, but not too bad

Woo, Porto Santo

Posted in Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean with tags on September 8, 2010 by maidofmettle

We arrived in Porto Santo at about 9 in the morning on Tuesday, tired mostly. Now sleeping off our near-week at sea after showing passports to the local police etc and will update soon.

Land Ahoy!

Posted in Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean on September 6, 2010 by maidofmettle

After a brief period of being becalmed last night and this morning the wind has come back and Pete was the first to spot land an hour or so ago. We are pretty sure it is Madeira (with Porto Santo somewhere shaded by it), and we’re just under 40 nm from Porto Santo. As for how long it will take to get there, that depends on if the wind behaves itself! The forecast is for even lighter wind by Tues so we’ll just have to see how it goes.

All ok on board. Have settled more into our watches and are mostly over any seasickness but will be pleased to arrive. Have just enjoyed a big fry-up so we must be feeling better than the start.

The deep blue sea

Posted in Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean on September 5, 2010 by maidofmettle

Hello from about 120 nautical miles from Porto Santo (a small island near Madeira). The wind has dropped a bit but we are progressing slowly downwind to our destination. N34′ 05.33, W014′ 27.67
Soon to have lunch πŸ™‚