Archive for November, 2010

The BIG decision

Posted in Planning (or pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey) on November 29, 2010 by maidofmettle

We have welcomed Pete back after his trip to England.  Sounds like he was very busy but had a good time.

We have also been catching up with a few people on boats we have met along the way.  Axel who we met at the bottom of the canals and the Australians Gail and Steve who will soon be off across the Atlantic.

Over our time on this trip we have been working up to deciding where and what we were going to do, and for how long.  Really the biggest decision was whether or not to cross the Atlantic.

I think we have all been surprised by our experiences at sea and on land and our individual thoughts follow this as to why we have decided not to cross the Atlantic and why Chris and I are planning to fly back home from the Canaries.  Pete has decided he would like to sail back to the UK via the Azores.


“Given that I enjoy being in the outdoors and doing adventurous stuff, I think I really expected to be more OK at sea than I have turned out to be.  I knew I would worry beforehand and was sure to be seasick a bit, but then hoped that all my worries would turn out to be unfounded and that I wouldn’t be as bad as I thought.  In reality the things that I was most worried about haven’t been as scary or annoying as I thought they’d be and I have coped fairly well.  Once I’ve had the obligatory worry before we leave a place I’m fine and just get on with it, whatever the sea happens to throw at us.  However I underestimated how difficult it would be to get used to things like the boat’s motion, sea sickness and the feeling of not being free to do the things I’d like to whilst at sea.  Therefore I don’t think longterm life at sea or on a boat is for me.

Even though I would like to say that I’ve crossed the Atlantic I do not feel that the feeling of having done it would outweigh the difficulties during the voyage itself.   Yes, I’ve enjoyed some bits of the sailing when I’ve not been being ill, but for me the most enjoyable bits have been on land…”


“Looking back on our longest trip from Portugal to Porto Santo Madeira, it was a really good experience… but… I don’t think that I’d fancy the 30 days of sailing required to get across the Atlantic (and even longer on the way back). Seasickness has been quite hard as although Biodramina has helped and meant I haven’t actually been sick since we first started sailing, I still felt out of sorts for the first 3 days of the long trip and not normal.

The alternative option of sailing back to the UK via the Azores in the spring… I don’t really fancy spending another 4 months here in the Canaries waiting to go back to the UK, not that the Canaries aren’t lovely, but if we were going to spend another 8 months sailing before returning to the UK, it would need to include having the achievement of doing the Atlantic to make it feel worth while. So as it is, back to the UK for Christmas and house and job hunting fun start!”


“The long passage to Porto Santo from Portugal was magical after struggling through the first few days, and at the time I certainly wished it was a bit further to have more time sailing.

But despite that, I’ve found I definitely enjoy having time to explore a place just as much as the sailing there. Crossing the Atlantic is certainly tempting but having more time to spend exploring the less visited Canary Islands and the Azores seems the more exciting prospect to me, although the sailing itself may be trickier.

I enjoyed single-handed sailing in Portugal and hope I find I like it over longer distances as well. Fingers crossed, because I’m definitely looking forward to both continuing the voyage and sailing back to the UK.”

Tenerife to Gran Canaria – family visits

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean with tags , , on November 21, 2010 by maidofmettle


I have lots to catch up on on the blog…

Soon after our trip up Mt Teide we took a little visit the next day to Siam Park, a water park near Playa de Las Americas.

Siam Park is mostly a water-rides park but was really well kept and the few animals that there were seemed to have a lot of space to swim about. We had a lot of fun trying out all the rides, some of which were more extreme than others.

Sea-lions at the park entrance

We didn’t have our camera on us much but the park’s website picture gives the best idea of the sheer drop that runs through a big tank of sharks that luckily the lifeguards pretty much had to push you down once you were lying down ready to go.

Crazy shark infested slide!

Pete went home for a few weeks to catch up with family and friends in England leaving Chris and I to explore Tenerife a bit more.

We had a car for a bit over a week so managed to see a lot in that time. We also found a giant sports shop called Decathlon that needs to come to England. You can buy pretty much anything you could imagine there. We’d gone there to see if we could buy some bodyboards and were not disappointed. So, armed with two boards we set about trying to find somewhere to try them out.

Looking at one of the surf-spot websites we found a beach that claimed to be for “all surfers” Bajamar on the north coast looked good and sandy despite the fairly long walk to get there. We actually went there twice, both times we tried the boards out but only managed to use the smaller broken frothy waves…the second time the waves were particularly big and the power of the water was incredible even at the point nearest the beach. That day we nearly lost our shoes when, unbeknown to us, a rather large wave must have travelled all the way up to our things sending the shoes in all directions quite far along the beach. We didn’t see it happen. My towel was not so lucky and is probably somewhere somewhere out at sea by now. Lucky we didn’t have the camera with us that day, else I suspect we’d have lost that too.

Bajamar on a calm-ish day


Only after the two trips did we find out from a couple of people that Bajamar is apparently “for professional surfers only”! I can certainly believe that on some of the rougher days but we had fun trying and can only get better.

We also had a rather calmer day at Los Cristianos, home of the nicest cheap Chinese buffet outside of England and a place where you can pay to sit with your feet in a tank of fish that according to the sales pitch is ‘very good for stress relief’. Needless to say perhaps, we passed on the opportunity to have our feet nibbled by fish.

Poor guys, whose feet will you get to nibble next?!

One of our favourite places on Tenerife was El Medano and we spent a fair bit of time there enjoying the beach with some BBQs, relaxing and watersports on the main beach. It is quite a popular windsurfing and kite-surfing spot.

El Medano main beach

El Medano salt lake nature reserve

We tried some windsurfing with a small amount of success. Chris was very good at it considering he’d only done it once before. I found it quite difficult despite having done it a few times. The waves made things tricky so we both fell in a lot.

Chris…standing up like a pro…

…then doing a sort of edgy leaning type trick?

Caroline actually standing up…

…and then not.



This deserves its own section
It was really good to see Mark and Clare and Mum and Dad within a couple of days of each other. They had all booked to come to Tenerife on holiday so drove to Radazul to see us 🙂

We had a couple of lovely days thank you!! The restaurants were good too 🙂 We hope you enjoyed the rest of your time on Tenerife.

Caroline, Clare, Mark, Chris. Pontoon picnic

Mum and Dad enjoying Radazul’s adult ‘exercise park’


We left Tenerife for Gran Canaria in the evening as we had both good weather and swell forecasts. The trip to Gran Canaria from Tenerife battles against the prevailing wind and current directions and so is a bit like going up-hill rather than down. Therefore we really wanted it to not be too rough and with just enough wind to keep us moving. Some accounts of this trip speak of there being more wind than predicted and steep waves therefore we decided to leave when the wind was forecast to be about 8-10 knots. We got a little more wind (more like 14 knots at times) over night but fortunately no steep waves. Due to the wind direction not being quite as favourable as forecast we ended up having to do some tacking, which feels a bit frustrating when you appear to be going away from your destination half the time whilst zig-zagging towards it. In fact the wind dropped off and we ended up motoring for the last few hours.

During the motoring we think we saw some pilot whales…they were much slower moving than dolphins and didn’t stay about for long.

Gran Canaria

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria currently has a full marina due to all the Antlantic Rally (ARC) boats waiting to leave on Sunday. This means we had to find a space in the anchorage which is also pretty full. We were glad we planned to arrive in the light as the harbour is quite confusing even in the day. We eventually found a spot, were putting out the main anchor with an extra long bit of rope temporarily tied on to the end of the chain to let us to set the second anchor so we wouldn’t move around as much in the tiny space. As the last bit of chain went into the water the rope came untied from the chain and went PLOP leaving Chris despairing somewhat to say the least. I had previously been saying I’d lost my confidence driving in small spaces but this was soon to return after quite a while driving about fishing for the chain with the small dingy anchor. Our friends from the French boat Cachoeira came over with their dinghy and gave Chris a hand to catch and pull up the anchor much to our relief.

Fishing trip

We were really really tired by 2pm when we finally got everything sorted. It is quite a lot harder being in a crew of two. We’d chosen to do two hour night shifts so had got a lot less sleep overnight. Also, we had entirely escaped some sea-sickness despite this having been one of the calmest trips in Maid of Mettle.

We were surprised to find a small flying fish on the boat when we arrived. It must have jumped there at some point overnight and couldn’t get back in the water. So its life had not been wasted we decided to eat it. Thank you flying fish. It was quite nice, a bit like plaice or cod actually even though Chris wasn’t too hungry, he did manage to try it.

Poor flying fish

Flying fish salad

Now we need to recover, get our appetites back, learn to get used to the roly anchorage and work out whether we are still sea-sick or have a lurgy!


PS Good luck to James, Lesley, Trycha, Alice and Jilli whose journeys across the Atlantic with the ARC started today!

Bolo do Caco Recipe and some fish

Posted in Cooking, Fun, Photographs, Wildlife with tags , on November 14, 2010 by maidofmettle

Also, I promised to publish the long awaited bolo do caco bread recipe which after some honing is finally here…

Bolo do Caco (basic recipe  without potato)

Boat Bolo and a proud cook

250g flour

7g yeast

1/2 tsp salt

1tsp sugar

Add all of above together.

Gradually add up to 150ml water until you get a good dough consistency.

Knead for 10 minutes (yes, actually 10 minutes…this is the workout bit for you so don’t cheat)

Flour a frying pan then flatten dough into it.

Add a little flour to top of dough.

Leave to rise for 1 hour in a warm place.

Heat on a low heat for around 10 minutes each side until it looks golden.

Remove from pan and leave to cool or eat straight away with garlic butter for that authentic Madeiran taste…
In other news

Tenerife has lots of lovely fish swimming about near the beaches.  Below is a video Chris took whilst we went snorkelling a little while back.

Mt Teide

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

El Teide…”We’re walking up that!”

It’s a bit frightening to think that it was this long ago but when I went on holiday with some school friends after finishing A-levels I looked at visiting El Teide and walking up it. At the time I couldn’t persuade anyone else to consider walking the track up to the highest point in Spain so we went up in the cable car instead. Actually at the time I didn’t realise that we hadn’t even got to the very top itself as it was incredibly cloudy so I was in blissful ignorance at not having quite got there. Nine years on (I feel old now) I have succeeded in fulfilling an ambition to climb to the very top of Mt Teide 🙂

El Teide is a giant at 3718 metres above sea level but cunningly has a mountain refuge (The Alta Vista) at around 3000 metres where you can stay for €20 per night in a dormitory. We booked to do this partly because it looked fun and because we wanted to take it quite easy walking up because of the altitude. Also, if you stay in the hostel you do not need a pass to walk the final 200 metres up to the crater of Teide after the cable car. This is on the assumption that you walk up and are back down to the cable car gate by 9am.

The drive into the Teide National Park is wonderful, the roads sweep through forests and up into the clouds. We were a little concerned as we drove straight into rain on the way up but were hoping that the mountain weather forecast could be trusted seeing as it was saying it would be bright and sunny. Luckily, the higher up we went, the more we escaped the cloud and the better the views became.

Lush mountain views on the way up from Santa Cruz

Having had to find a space in a car park about five minutes from the start after a bit of walking on the road, the first part of the track (at about 2500 metres above sea level) was relatively easy with quite a gentle slope. We passed the Eggs of Teide, which were apparently sort of lava ‘snowballs’ from when the volcano (oh I forgot to mention that bit) erupted at some point. The last recorded eruption was in 1909.

The ‘Eggs of Teide’ and old lava flow

The interesting thing about the rocks around here is that they are very like pumice stone. You can easily pick up some pretty big rocks and they turn out to be very light. They also apparently have some special flowers that grow here but I think it was the wrong time of year for those.

The last third of the walk up to the refuge was much steeper with some quite big rocks making steps in the path. It was on this part that we possibly started to feel some effects of altitude. Luckily we didn’t have too many problems and only noticed a little bit of shortness of breath and some minor head pressure/feeling a bit funny (hard to explain) fleetingly on the way up when exerting ourselves. Going slowly was helpful for getting used to the altitude and so actually made the walk a whole lot easier and enjoyable in a way than if we hadn’t been thinking about the altitude.

Getting steeper

Where’s the refuge? There it is

It was exciting to reach the refuge. What a brilliant place it is…immaculate with some lovely sofas in the hallway, a small kitchen (complete with cutlery, saucepans and plates etc) and probably the most expensive (but worth it) Coke machine in the world.

Alta Vista Mountain Refuge

Post-walk Coke…mmm

Dinner and said post-walk coke
Not only was everything so clean and well kept but the beds were HUUUGE! Ok, Ok so maybe that’s when you compare them to a boat bunk but all the same, very comfortable. We gleaned information via some other people who could speak Spanish and English well enough to communicate with the man running the refuge to find out that in order to get up to the summit in time for the sunrise we would need to be on the track by 5am as it would take a couple of hours to climb the final bit from the refuge to the summit.

Chris and his really big bed

Despite the really big bed I think I failed to get more than twenty minutes of sleep. Apparently altitude can affect sleep so maybe it was that. I felt a tiny bit fluey overnight (maybe acclimatising) but by the time 4.15am came around I was feeling fine again and was excited to be doing the final bit of the mountain.

Ready to go 4.40am…Let’s go, got to see the sunrise
We head out onto the track at about 4.50am into the dark, fully dressed ready for the cold and armed with head torches. We were glad to have those as we had met a couple beforehand who thought their stay in the hostel was part of a led excursion…consequently they were not particularly prepared, especially the man who claimed he would be “the first man to walk to the top in pyjamas”. It think he was exaggerating somewhat but all the same we felt a bit better having brought some gear with us. The path ran through lots of boulders which were quite impressive even in the dark but you needed to keep your wits about you to avoid tripping over.

Pete and Caroline negotiate the path

Chris on the track

It was interesting to see lights ahead and behind us as we walked up and even better to see the sky getting gradually lighter. The last two hundred metres after the cable car station (marked by a gate) were very steep but I think made easier by having stayed in the hostel the night before. As we got nearer the top we started to notice that some bit of earth were warm! As it got lighter we could see the warm bits were steam vents which were quite handy for keeping warm as the wind was quite cold up there.

Sunrise came and it was really special to share the experience with the others who had stayed in the hostel. You could see some amazing colours and the shadow of Teide surprised us in the clouds as the sun got higher. All in all the ascent had taken us about six and a half hours over the two days. It was well worth it.

Sunrise from El Teide

We made it

Teide’s shadow looming behind us

Once the sun had come up and it started to get a bit chilly at the top we walked back down past the crater and its steaming sulphury scent and made our way back down to the cable car station.

Chris, Ratty and Ted having a mini break at the cable car

Chris and I decided to walk back down so we could see what we hadn’t in the dark, whilst Pete took the cable car back down to meet us.

The way back down

The way down was pretty steep and we were glad to get to the nicer path for the last bit.

Wooo, the nice path!

We arrived back at the car in an epic three and a half hours…both shocked at how fast we had got back down and pretty worn out but agreeing that was probably one of the best walks we’ve ever done.