Archive for October, 2010

To the Canaries…tweet tweet…I mean woof

Posted in Cooking, Photographs, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean with tags , , on October 28, 2010 by maidofmettle

We made it to the Canary Islands!

We left Madeira in a slightly less than perfect forecast but with a fantastic rainbow.

Bye bye Madeira

We had decided that we wanted to move on and the weather and wave forecasts suggested we would have a safe but possibly uncomfortable trip. As a result of the forecasted twenty knot winds we undertook a rather ‘bumpy’ sail to the Canaries. In fact, the word ‘bumpy’ is a well known sailing euphemism for rough, uncomfortably rolly and one of those sails that means you spend a bit too much time staring into a bucket. Fun as staring into a bucket is, there are things I would rather do.

We aimed first for Graciosa, an island at the West of the Canaries near Lanzarote and the first daylight hours of the trip weren’t too bad actually despite a rather unwelcome soaking near the start. This prompted a mass donning of full waterproofs which proved to be a good decision. The motion in the cabin was surprisingly ok as we were travelling nice and fast, though none of us wanted to outstay our welcome there. All three of us managed to eat lunch (good old lidl tuna salads, yum) and we all spent lots of time outside in the fresh air getting used to the boat’s motion again.

Some big waves

It is always slightly nerve-racking leaving and going out to sea again. It takes a good few hours to start to relax and not feel quite so anxious at the start and also to get used to doing things you once found easy whilst in port. A good example of that is getting in and out of the cockpit. Stepping over a couple of hatch-boards isn’t exactly difficult in harbour, but add in a safety line to get tangled in and the waves rocking the boat (and you) from side to side at inopportune moments and you can start to wonder how you even managed it before. However after a while you learn to look out for waves that might cause trouble and time your entrance and exit accordingly.

After over a month on Madeira it soon became clear that our sea legs weren’t as solid as we would have liked. As a bit of an experiment I had decided to try the Traveleze that we’d been given a while back by the Trycha and the girls. It seemed a good plan given that you only need to take them every twenty-four hours and they taste good too. I think they were helpful for the first twelve hours until it got dark and we started night shifts. The seasickness monster caught up at night. Pete suffered most followed by me. Chris escaped unscathed thanks to frequent drug taking. A combination of this, the waves splashing over the cockpit and the cold wind meant I was about ready to give up by the time I had eventually got to bed for the first time and was wondering why this was a good idea again. Yet again, I had just an inkling of why Ellen Macarthur spends so much time crying on her video diaries..seasickness makes you feel rubbish. No one should ever underestimate how difficult it is to get out of waterproofs in a rolling boat. It’s probably fair to say that all of us were at a pretty low point by night one.

Eerie night-time waves

The next morning I vowed to start taking Biodramina once again…I had become slightly disillusioned by it on our last trip but I once again had my faith restored by a recovery I believe was prompted by it. Given the direction of the waves (on our side), the discomfort of that and the fact that the forecast suggested they might get bigger as we neared Graciosa we spent quite a lot of time wondering what to do about our heading and hence our destination. We tried out a number of headings to see what they were like and eventually, somewhat reluctantly, it was decided to head to Tenerife (nearer the East) because this made sailing much more comfortable. The waves moved from our side to almost behind us which meant it was much nicer and dryer though we also knew this would most likely prevent us from sailing toward Lanzarote etc due to prevailing winds and conditions. Pete very stalwartly refused any seasickness drugs until he realised that we’d be in trouble if he didn’t stop being ill. After another night and a bit of sleep he appeared to have made quite a miraculous recovery…Sorry to go on about it but “Biodramina you’re amazing!”

Our last full day went quite well. Appetites were returning which was great and Tenerife was getting closer quite quickly.

Approaching Tenerife

All of this put me in quite a good mood even if I was already foreseeing larger steeper waves as the water shallowed near the island. In fact, my worst fears were not realised and the bigger waves never came. I even had a go at cooking whilst at sea – something that I’d never dared do before. I decided to challenge myself by cooking something mostly from scratch (ok so I used one tin of potatoes) It was quite fun if a little stressful trying to cook with a moving boat. The hardest bit was juggling two saucepans and having to gimble them by hand the waves rocked the boat. The bowl of dirty washing up wasn’t high on my list of priorities at the time and I soon saw it fly off the kitchen surface onto the floor with an almighty crash. The pan lid bears a rather good dent as a result of that. Next time I will champion the one pot dinner so my other hand can be ready to catch anything that cares to fly away.

Feeling smug about having just cooked inside at sea,
Caroline shows off by washing up on the floor as well

It was dark by the time we reached the marina. The last bit took quite a while because the wind had dropped with something of an anticlimax to what we expected – we were worried about the wind acceleration zones around Tenerife but didn’t experience them.

Tired…no, exhausted we moored up at Marina de Santa Cruz and went to bed.

Arrived in the Canaries!

Posted in Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean on October 26, 2010 by maidofmettle

We made it, arrived late last night, and still recovering energy wise… more to follow soon.

Hello Catamaran?

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Walking with tags on October 22, 2010 by maidofmettle

You know you’ve stayed too long when you are walking along the street and a man says “Hello, Catamaran? Bus tour?…Oh! It’s YOU!” and then proceeds to apologise for trying to sell you a catamaran tour. This particular man we have passed many times on the way to and from the boat so we have got to know each other by sight.

So as you have gathered we are in Madeira still but we are very much hoping to leave tomorrow and travel to the Canaries so long as the forecast we had the other day is still relevant. We will have to go and get internet from Macdonalds in a while to get our latest forecast and try and send a few emails as terrific rainfall here yesterday has led to no internet or water supplies, including flushing loos or showers. Thankfully, having learnt from previous trips where we left everything to the last minute, and got very stressed, we had the foresight to fill our tanks and containers up a few days ago 🙂

Amazing amounts of rain- this is usually a trickle

In the ten or so days since I last posted a number of exciting things have happened. We have finally had a taste of Madeira wine along with a tour at Old Blandy’s Wine Lodge. They had some pretty huge barrels of wine stored, one of which can be bought for five hundred euros per bottle…ouch.

Madeira wine

Pete and Caroline wine tasting

Chris has perfected his bolo bread recipe and can now produce bread much like that of the bolo stall just outside the marina. Recipe to follow.

Chris proudly presents his bolo bread

We were also very cultured and went to one of the free concerts in a series celebrating the Madeira Organ Festival, which was started after they’d renovated quite a few in various churches. It’s the first concert I’ve been to where the performer is behind you and broadcast onto a TV screen in front.
The strangest thing happened the other week. We had just had a picnic in the park and had been discussing who the most surprising person we could meet randomly. This didn’t seem an odd question as Chris had met someone from work in Gibraltar. On the way back we were met by Emma from Chris’ church (and our housegroup for a short time) and her grandma. It was great to see someone from home. We met up a couple of times which was good and she and her grandfather got the boat tour. We hope you had a good journey back Emma, thanks for walking that way down the street at the same time as us!

Emma and Stan visit – time for guest biscuits

One quite famous thing to do on Madeira is to take a basket sledge down from Monte to another small town. We decided to give it a go in a three person sledge. The sledges have no wheels and are controlled by two sledgleteers who push you down the hill and control the basket using a rope and some heavily soled shoes for brakes. Though not the fastest ride in the world it was novel to travel this way. Now we know what the goods that used to be transported that way felt like.

Basket travel

We have done a bit more walking too including a walk on the north coast from Canical to Porto Cruz. It was probably the scariest coastal walk we’ve ever done with ledges and sheer drops to look down on. Actually it was more exciting than scary really and well worth having done despite having to take a rather large uphill detour where they were repairing a landslide along one of the roads.

I’m not sure I trust that hand hold, it looks a bit rusty

Passing terraced farm land – Canical to Porto Cruz

Pete and Chris near Porto Cruz

I am both excited to get to the Canaries (whichever one we end up in) and a bit nervous again. Sailing is a bit of a mental game as well as getting everything ready and looking at forecasts etc there are the inevitable “what ifs” to contend with before leaving. We have been in port for quite a few weeks now so have got used being in the almost flat calm of the marina so “what if I get ill” is particularly relevant here. I know we’re as prepared as we can be so we’ll just have to see how we do. It’s also difficult to know which Canary we will head for so I think the plan is to go out to sea and see which angle feels OK to head for. Luckily we have quite a few options for that.

Video Diary – Faro to Porto Santo – Part Dois

Posted in Fun, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean with tags , on October 19, 2010 by maidofmettle

Here’s the second part of our video diary that takes us to Porto Santo

Video Diary – Faro to Porto Santo

Posted in Fun, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean with tags , on October 15, 2010 by maidofmettle

Chris has been working on our video diary from the big trip across from Faro to Porto Santo.  What follows is footage of the first three days of the trip.  The rest will follow soon.  Enjoy…..

Mozzies, Mud and Mistiness…More of Madeira

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Walking with tags , , , on October 10, 2010 by maidofmettle

The mozzies have come out to play in Funchal. It was getting a bit ridiculous being bitten lots of times in the night, waking up in the middle of the night with both arms itching like mad or the high-pitched squeal of wings around your head so we decided to foil them for the last few nights with mozzie nets…ha ha, that showed them. No more tasty midnight snacks for you 🙂

(Thanks FPH coders for the kind donations for that investment)

Pete hiding from the mozzies

We have continued to keep busy walking and exploring the island. Highlights were the Riberio Frio – Portela walk that took us through the nature reserve area of Madeira. It turns out something like 80% of the island is reserve and this is where all the greenery is. This must be the place where the brochures show pictures of, it is spectacularly green and hilly. Some of the paths are a little scary though. We were glad of the hand rails.

Chris ponders the sheer drop beneath (Riberio Frio- Portela)

Yes this is a tunnel, yes Caroline did go through it…and yes, there was
another way around (Riberio Frio – Portela)

Pete has been getting quite into his walking during our time here and has done a lot more walks than Chris and I. He enjoyed a walk through banana plantations and a farmland valley the other day. Apparently they grow a smaller variety of banana than those you might be most likely to find in Tesco but we have also seen passion fruit growing here. We all tried some of those, along with prickly pears from a local stall. I’m not sure any of us were overwhelmed by either fruit (if cactus can be called a fruit)…crunchy fruit seeds seem to be the order of the day. Next time I think we might strain them first.

Madeira is famous for cake, wine and triangular houses. Santana is the best place to go and see these traditional houses. In fact we haven’t really seen them anywhere else.

Santana house

We hired a car intending to do day’s walk amongst some of the biggest mountains and to make a trip to the sea cliffs of Cabo Girao. Both of these would have been difficult or impossible without it. Cabo Girao is over five hundred metres high (compared to the cliffs of Dover that are around 100m) and again, it’s good that they put a barrier up. We had misty views of Funchal from there. Whilst browsing youtube we found a video of someone who parachuted after riding his motorbike off this cliff. We just looked at the view…that was enough.

Looking down from Cabo Girao

We got up at about 6.30am to get to the summit of Pico do Arreiro in time for sun-rise. We made it in good time round the windy roads with quite a few 1st gear moments up the hills. It was cold but the sunrise was amazing over the clouds below us.

Sunrise at Pico do Arreiro summit

Our intended walk would have taken us from there to Pico Ruivo about 5km away but in the end we only did a small amount of the walk before turning back. The track is officially closed but the fact the path looked good and we had seen other people continuing tempted us into cautiously carrying on with the intention of turning back if it looked unsafe anywhere. After about fifteen or twenty minutes we remembered that we probably wouldn’t be insured to be on the path should anything bad happen so made our way back. We were later to find out that the path was closed due to the forest fires they had a while ago here and doesn’t look set to be repaired until December “when funds permit”. I’m quite glad we did…another couple we met on our second trip up in the car that day had done the same walk as we planned to but were told on their way back from Ruivo by some wardens that they “were very lucky” not to be hurt by wind-blown stones. I do wonder just how unsafe it can be if wardens are allowed on the path but nevermind I’m glad we were sensible eventually!

We saw none of these stones on our short walk but were scared a bit by the drops to either side and the relatively narrow bits of path. The mist sort of helped because you couldn’t see all that much to either side but yet again, we were glad someone had put railings up! Vertigo sufferers look away now…

“Don’t look down…oh no, I can’t see anything anyway…”
(Pico Arreiro)

We spent a lot of the day driving around the island instead which was good. Lots of views, some very tame birds and good weather.

View looking towards Pico Arreiro (near Riberio Frio)

Tame birds at the same view point – they enjoyed our lunch too.

Madeira wine and strange hand-knitted hats near Riberio Frio.
(I suspect Hermione Granger is trying to free house-elves again.)

The second drive up to Pico Arreiro on the way back to the boat
– this time a view 🙂

As I write this, the cabaret across the marina at one of the bars is in full swing and unfortunately, still no one has told the man and what I assume to be his son that they aren’t very good. Oh well, at least it’s getting easier to sleep through this entertainment the longer we stay here

Walkies – Madeira

Posted in Cooking, Fun, Photographs, Sailing, Walking with tags , on October 4, 2010 by maidofmettle

Madeira – on our way to Funchal marina

The view from the boat of Funchal – impressive by day

We have been exploring Madeira from Funchal for the last few days. Not only is Madeira a retirement ground for old Toyota Starlets but also so far we have been impressed by the walking tracks that we have found on the island. Funchal marina itself is home to one of the least swanky toilet and shower blocks that we have experienced so far and what passes for rather dubious entertainment until the early hours. Last night we were treated to some rather loud and out of tune singing by a man and what I assumed to be his son. I suppose going from Quinta do Lorde, which actually was the height of luxury, anything else will be a little bit disappointing but we are thankfully very close to buses here so exploring is much much easier from here.

Anyway, I have been surprised by the variation in the landscape so far. We have seen craggy, clay rock faces, high mountains, areas recovering from forest fires and lush green valleys, Madeira is contrasting to say the least. The walking is equally interesting, many following the path of water channels (or levadas) which were built to direct water down the many large hills. The main advantage of levada walking is that they are generally flat which is great if you don’t like walking uphill. They are exciting in places too as you will often find overhangs to deal with and long, low tunnels with accompanying girl-eating spiders. I was surprised to actually need the torch the guide-book suggested for the tunnels.

Pete and Caroline walking along the levada at Lombo Grande

Negotiating an ‘awkward’ tunnel – note the thin path and water
channel to the right – (Lombo Grande)

Obstacle course (Lombo Grande)

Fabulous mountains and area recovering from forest fires
Eira do Serrado

The area of Eira do Serrado is famed for its nuns, a post-lady and chestnuts. The nuns apparently used to escape up the valley whenever pirates attacked Funchal, the post-lady had an epic walk to deliver post around the valley and the locals use the chestnuts to make delicious food. The only surviving evidence of the nuns are two aptly named restaurants “Nun’s Valley” and “Nun’s Valley Two”…Very original. Our walk (which supposedly follows the ‘easiest’ part of the post-lady’s route ended at Nun’s Valley where we sampled some traditional soups – Chestnut for Pete and bread soup for Chris and I.

What is this? egg..rosemary sprigs…a giant garlic clove!
…yikes something very hot. Mmm soup.

Phoenix from the flames – flowers growing wild here after the fires.

We have been making good use of the buses from Funchal. They appear to have been designed for very very small people which is entertaining when it comes to some of the corners. The roads of Madeira are extremely bendy (not to mention narrow in places with occasional holes where they are repairing after rocks have fallen. You have to hold on tight at times to stop yourself falling in the aisle.

The other day we took a bus up the hill to a botanical garden, small bird park and an orchid garden. I had no idea orchids were so complicated. Here they grow them in bottles for years and years in a small laboratory before they can eventually plant them. Some take over ten years before they even produce the first flowers!


Yes Mr Bond it is an orchid growing laboratory

Hiding amongst the orchids

After a busy day walking yesterday today is a bit of a rest day and with any luck Chris will attempt to make some home made bolo do caco bread. He triumphed the other day with a coffee and walnut cake which actually cooked well in the boat’s oven…an achievement indeed…

Coffee and walnut cake…the food of kings

We will probably stay on the island for a week or so longer before thinking about moving on.