Archive for the Surfing Category


Posted in Cooking, Cornwall, French canals and rivers, Music, Photographs, Sailing, Surfing, the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores, the Canary Islands, the Madeira archipelago, Walking, Wildlife with tags , , on August 19, 2016 by maidofmettle

5 years ago yesterday night (yesternight?) I sailed between the Wolf Rock and Gwennap Head / Tol Pedn to the accompaniment of fireworks exploding somewhere over Land’s End (yep, I’m claiming they were for me 😉 ).

And 5 years ago today I dropped anchor in Mullion Cove after leaving the Azores on the 3rd of August.

2011-08-19 #09 Mullion Cove (Custom).JPG

That was the beginning of the end of two years of living on Maid of Mettle, just over a year and over two thousand miles with Chris and Caroline and another 10 months or so and a couple of thousand miles on my own. It seems a while ago now..

So, what don’t I miss?

  • handling wet and very cold ropes on the canals, not to mention stamping my feet to keep the circulation going while motoring in a wet and chilly France. This may have had a permanent effect – warmth is definitely one of the things I do miss!

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  • rough seas, when you know things may well get worse before they get better and there is no escape till they calm down – while they were only a small part of the trip, and on the whole a price well worth paying, they do leave some lasting impressions. I seem to have blanked nearly the entire trip from Madeira to Tenerife from my memory after a few days when I didn’t feel well, despite the fact that looking over some photos and videos there were clearly some nice parts to the journey as well. Some passages you just want to end.

2010-10-25 #06 Madeira to Tenerife (Custom).JPG

And what were the best things?

  • the freedom – the time to properly enjoy cooking, to go walking and get to know places, to meet people, to take up new hobbies such as surfing and playing harmonica, or simply spend at least an hour in the surf to end up with one half-decent picture of a breaking wave – this is special, more so than exotic places.

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Thanks Jon for that photo

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and thanks Quiksilver for that one

2010-08-02 #04 Praia da Culatra (Custom)

Though that said:

  • discovering beautiful places, and experiencing things I never knew existed. I could name something in any region we went, but the following stand out particularly:
    • the peaceful waters of the Guadiana,

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  • the levada canals winding among the peaks, valleys and terraces of Madeira,

2011-06-15 #40 Boca da Corrida to Barreiras (Custom)

  • the hill country of northern Gran Canaria

2011-02-13 #11 Cruz de Tejeda to Artenara (Custom)

  • and the hot springs of the Azores

2011-07-12 #37 Sao Miguel - Poco da Dona Beija (Custom)

  •  the people – while getting to spend time with my family and friends in this country again is fantastic, for meeting and getting to know new people it’s much easier while sailing (though the same effect can be true coastal sailing in this country, especially in the west country).

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  • Also in the first part of the trip having so much (okay – yes, sometimes too much at times!) time with two of my best friends

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  • the sailing on passage – there is a real satisfaction in taking plenty of time and patience to the boat set up to travel as safely, quickly and comfortably as you can, and a peaceful night sail miles from anything is a delight. There are similar pleasures in coastal cruising but it’s a different mindset as you usually have to change things much quicker!

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  • the accomplishment of offshore passage-making – it’s a rare opportunity,  definitely a special feeling, and one that lasts whereas so often in other fields there is always the next deadline lurking.

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  • the stars at sea – an incredible spectacle. You could reach out and touch them, but you could never count them (they’re not easy to photograph from a small boat either)
  • dolphins – very hard to predict when they’ll turn up, and there is something utterly magical about their presence, bringing an instant and lasting smile (that got crossed off after seeing dolphins several days in a row sailing west down the Cornish coast, culminating in them playing round the boat for ages sailing into Portscatho in the evening sun)

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  • the food – the Madeira market is the greatest for spectacle, but my favourites are those in Alcoutim (tiny but welcoming, frequently including a massive bunch of coriander as a gift) and Las Palmas (enormous and well worth browsing all round), the challenge of provisioning and cooking on a boat in general and especially on passage, and the many regional delicacies. Except the barbecued dried squid, which I’m not convinced was actually edible

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You’ll notice many of those overlap – a symptom, I think, of a fundamentally different lifestyle. Though that said, there are many things I have taken (or try to) from the time away:

  • the willingness and confidence to try new things – without some of the experiences while away I’m not sure I’d ever have ended up playing for my football team, or sung at my local folk club (to be fair that’s pretty rare even now)

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  • friendships with people I/we met while away. While I hear from others further afield, it was a special pleasure to be present when Si and Cat launched Kensa, the fishing boat they’d built since returning from their extensive travels in the Mediterranean

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  • and more than that, I think I’ve managed to stay in better contact with at least some friends since being away and having that bit more time and impetus to keep in touch via email etc when not meeting face to face (if you’ve read this with some surprise, disappointment and/or offence, please drop me a line and we can start putting things right! 🙂 )
  • enjoying a continuing connection to offshore sailing through various friends; the members of the Ocean Cruising Club – I am still amazed and humbled that they awarded me their Rose Medal for 2011, just being part of a club containing so many people who have achieved extraordinary things is an honour; and the general collective of sailors coming and going from and enjoying the south-west

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2011-08-30 #11 St Mawes - Wylo II (Custom).JPG

  • speaking of which, discovering south Cornwall as a cruising ground – it is a very special area

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It seems a good time to repeat this sentiment from 2010, for adventures near or far 🙂


“A toast to onward voyages on land and sea”

(that last picture and inspiration for the style of post come from Caroline’s last entry 400 days to get there 400 minutes to get back)

Surfing photos and preparations part 2: water tanks

Posted in Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Photographs, Surfing with tags on May 5, 2011 by maidofmettle

Gig report to come when I have photos and possibly video. We had fun.

I did manage to get hold of these pictures of me surfing from way back in February, courtesy of

It’s not my favourite bit of beach – there’s a part further along with generally larger, less steep waves, but it was a pretty good morning, and the photographer was a nice surprise.

More recently, I’ve spent a lot of the last couple of days pumping water.

At least it’s fresh… (salt would be a bad sign).

As I mentioned a couple of posts back, I decided to install another flexible tank in an awkward space at the back of the boat. There’s a fair amount of room, but the ceiling is low and there’s generally a lot of things on top, including the dinghy.

The plumbing system was still there so it would be relatively easy to connect it up, and significantly easier to pump water out than removing all the stuff from the top to get bottles out (the other option for storing water in it).

Inevitably, this turned into a bit of a saga occupying several days..

The first significant issue was realising that though I had the old fitting for the inlet to the tank I couldn’t find the outlet one anywhere. I asked in the shop where I bought it, and they said they didn’t have any, and didn’t know when they’d get any more – they only get shipments from the manufacturer every couple of months or more. I did question how they expected to sell the tanks without the fittings, but given that I’d just bought one I didn’t really want to dwell on that point very much.

So, I went hunting all through the boat looking for the remaining fitting, rapidly exhausting all the likely places and turning to the distinctly less probable ones (was it with the Madeira behind the vegetable boxes? No. Was it right in the bow in a bucket with sealants? No..).

Then on Monday I had a quick look to see if I could order it from the UK. And then as I looked at the price, two things occured to me:

1. about £19, plus P&P, seemed an awful lot for two plastic hose fitting adaptors with rubber gaskets

2. hang on, surely you shouldn’t have to buy these separately?

I shot back round to the shop, which of course was closed for lunch.

Later that afternoon, I explained that my tank had come without any fittings, and the man went and got some from one of the other boxes. I hope they don’t just sell that one to someone else…

So, I came up with a cunning multi-layered padding system to try and protect the tank, and put it in place.

Lots of layers..

While I was looking for a jubilee clip I dislodged the missing old tank fitting from it’s hiding place in one of the toolbox lids. Oh well, I needed another rubber gasket for the inlet anyway, so on with connecting it up.

Then I tried filling the tank, stopping and checking it wasn’t leaking occasionally.

But not often enough..

It was especially frustrating that lax checking meant I didn’t actually know why it was leaking significantly. At least it was a relatively simple explanation, if irritatingly avoidable – once I’d got most of the water out I found the tank outlet was screwed on cross-threaded.

So I finished getting everything out, took all the layers apart and hung everything up to dry. Then I went for a swim. The water feels pretty warm now – no cold shock as I wade in, and even at getting on for 7 in the evening it’s not cold getting out if the sun’s still out. Lovely and refreshing in the less chilly sense of the word though.

Then I had another go with the tank, which seems to have been more successful. So today I’ve been pumping water in and out of it to rinse it out ready to hold drinking water.

Tank outlet with additional padding. And no water outside it!

I’ve also been giving the other tank a clean with a vinegar/water solution and then a rinse, hopefully that and changing the water filter will make it tastes rather better.

Pumping water might not be quite like pumping iron, but it is proving quite an endurance workout. I’m wondering if the new water filter provides more resistance than the old one, though I’m darkly suspicious that my foot pump will explode in a shower of parts, making the new water tank rather less convenient to use.

Don’t panic, there are a LOT of photos towards the end!

Posted in Cancer, Fun, Malignant melanoma, Photographs, Skin cancer, Surfing, Unfortunate events, Walking with tags , , on February 10, 2011 by maidofmettle

But first, an explanation, if you’ll read it.  ‘Don’t panic’ is good advice here as well. You can probably skip the italicised bit if you’re in a hurry.

Now, it might be seeming like having ummed and ahed about whether I’d have enjoy myself more crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean or thoroughly exploring the Canaries and possibly a little of Morocco, that I’ve decided to take the compromise of just sitting around in Las Palmas, surfing, walking, socialising and racing cockroaches.

That’s a mostly accurate summary of events, but it does omit the primary reason for still being here rather than leaving shortly after the last blog, and indeed the delay in writing this one.

When I was on Fuerteventura I had a doctor look at a mole on my leg which I thought had changed a bit. He thought it was probably fine, but to be safe it would be best to remove and test it at some point when I stopped somewhere for a few weeks.

That was difficult to forecast at the time (seems funny now!), so he agreed to cut it off and give it to me, and I wandered down the road (limping slightly) to a clinic – 100 euros total for the doctor and the testing didn’t seem bad for peace of mind.

That’s not quite how it worked out though, at least not in the short term. The results were in Spanish but even I can translate ‘melanoma maligno’ as a type of skin cancer, and understand that it hadn’t burrowed very far, so would probably be fairly easily curable. Of course, in the long term it’s looking like even better value..

Cue lots of phone calls to my medical insurance company, and stress while they confirmed they’d cover it. Having access to their translators and medical staff for explanations and opinions was even more welcome than the financial cover after a few days of not knowing much more than what I wrote above.

I’m sure the doctors here are very good, but communication is difficult since my Spanish isn’t great.  It can be quite funny at times, but you probably had to be there….

It’s all quite strange really, as I imagine it would be with any illness when you actually feel physically fine. Indeed, most of the offending cells have been chucked in a medical waste bin on Fuerteventura some time ago, and there’s very little likelihood that it’s spread anywhere else.

Mentally, it was distracting, though not really because of morbid thoughts but the more mundane waiting on phone calls and not knowing when it might be sorted out.

I thought the latter would be resolved once the insurance company confirmed they’d cover it, but while they did in principle their initial policy was to wait for a public appointment (which would be covered by the NHS reciprocal EH1C rather than them).

This was quite frustrating having paid for medical insurance – but then I think it is largely intended to cover emergency cases and repatriation. I think they were also more optimistic than me about when I’d get seen – if there was no difference in timescale I’d be very happy with public care, but my impression from the hospital was that it would take weeks. Happily they agreed to speak to the hospital and arrange quicker treatment if necessary, which proved to be the case.

So I’ve got a Valentine’s day date with a specialist on Monday, and will probably need a minor operation to remove a circle of skin around the former mole, making sure that there are no cancerous cells are left round the edge. And that should hopefully be that, with some regular check ups.

Now it doesn’t feel like I’m battling the insurance company I’m mentally very much fine – still enjoying myself here but glad that I’m not looking like being stuck indefinitely. Yes, I have been very much focused on the short term inconvenience of it all! Though I guess that might be less true if I hadn’t noticed the mole or had left going to a doctor longer.

So, public health announcement time – if you have any moles that seem suspicious based on this list ( ), and especially if they’re changing, do go and get them checked out.

Well, that was a horrible wall of text… Better out than in though, as the specialist may say on Monday.  I did take some photos of the mole the day before first going to the doctor about it, but there didn’t seem much point in keeping them for monitoring changes once he’d cut it off. Not sure you’d have thanked me for those anyway.

The weather was pretty miserable for a week or so, most of which was spent faffing around with poor concentration failing to get inside jobs done. Not photogenic. I reckon there must be a word for presentation reflecting content..

But on Friday morning the sun came back out! – so Caroline, Sue and I played beach tennis. Since then I’ve been very busy, especially since I was initially thinking I might be having the next operation any day this week (yeah, that was hopeful), which would stop surfing and long walks etc for a while. So, normal blogging in technicolour will resume….NOW!

Beach tennis next to the marina

In the evening I had a drink with Axel, who we first met over a year ago in the Navy Service boatyard at the bottom of the Rhone, just west of Marseille. We’ve met up in Ibiza, Velez, Gibraltar and here, but were saying goodbye for a while again as he’s now part-way across the Atlantic, heading for St Maarten in the Caribbean (go Axel! ) .

Axel & I in the Sailors’ Bar

On Saturday I went for a short walk in and near the village of Teror. It’s a beautiful place, with gorgeous wooden balconies 10-a-peseta (and that’s a LOT).

The old main street in Teror

The Basilica de la Virgen del Pino, the patron saint of Gran Canaria

A vision of the Madonna of the Pines is said to have appeared to local shepherds in the 15th century, on top of a pine tree.

The valley above Teror

Near the Basilica there were stalls selling various local produce – chiefly bread, avocados and sweet things. Well, you all know what bread and avocados taste like……

Bizcochos lustrados – a light lemon sponge, nice but with a slightly strange taste.

The sunrise on Sunday was so impressive I rowed over to the outer wall of the marina for a better view.

The old name for the harbour is the Puerto de la Luz, or the Port of Light. Makes sense..

Later I took some footage for what will probably be the worst surfing video ever made – paddling and then springing upright on a board with a camera wedged half-out of the sleeve of your wetsuit is not easy, and nor is aiming the camera having achieved this! I think there might be around 10 seconds or so of end product, but you’ll have to wait while I learn how to use the video editing software to deliver it to you without a four minute prelude of paddling seen from the viewpoint of a wrist, with occasional breaking waves.

If only I’d paddled a bit more with my right hand before taking it you’d have a great view of the auditorium, and probably another breaking wave. Of course, if I’d tried it a couple of weeks ago you’d just be seeing water..

On Monday I had another surfing lesson, on a rather shorter board. I’m definitely a lot better than I was – the last time I’d used one like that I could barely stand up on it at all. It’s much more maneuverable which is cool once you are standing up but doesn’t help when you’re trying to achieve it! Alternating between that and the more forgiving board seems like a good way to balance improving and fun. I walked back along the beachfront for a change – normally I tend to do food shopping and then get the bus back.

The water in the foreground is sheltered by a reef offshore – waves for surfing can be found further along (and outside the reef if you’re good)

In the evening Mike and Caroline came round for dinner – we had a beef and lentil stew with garlic and parsley, and a lemon cheesecake. It was very nice to get to know them a bit more, and we may well end up sailing to many of the same places over the next few months.

On Tuesday I rode the buses up into the hills again to the Mirador de Pinos de Galdar, and walked the eight miles from there back to Teror. Once I’d torn myself away from the viewpoint that is – certainly one of the most incredible places I’ve been. The terrain is incredibly rugged, with huge ravines leading down to the coast, and dotted with volcanic peaks and craters. It’s easy to see why this area was the last stronghold of the indigenous Guanche people.

Well, I got me in it, but I think it’s lucky you can’t really see the horizon…

You can see most of the northern half of Gran Canaria, and the eastern coast of Tenerife. On a clearer day – it was sunny but hazy at low altitude, probably due to fine particles brought from Morocco by a couple of days of easterly wind – you could probably see Fuerteventura in the distance beyond Las Palmas.

View to the north-east – the crater of Los Pinos de Galdar in the foreground, and the city of Las Palmas stretching out along the peninsula in the far distance beyond the ridges

View to the west – pine trees, and Mount Teide on Tenerife just visible in the centre

It was quite a hike, with some spectacular ups and downs, especially the descent down a very slow-moving river of gravel at the start. The most unexpected obstacle was a pair of goats. They didn’t exactly seem unfriendly, but tended to place themselves so if you went one side they could kick you and if you went the other they could butt you into a six-foot deep ditch.

Still, I made it past. They look much cuter from the downhill side! Perhaps they were hoping for some of this (yep, from the same stall in Teror):

Bollos de naranja – or orange flavoured doughnuts. Predictably very good.

The route continued up and down through a couple of valleys, past an old watermill and the ‘door of the mountain’, where taxes were paid on goods being transported along the road. I could see why my book described it as ‘fairly strenous’, but the scenery was well worth it, plunging down into ravines and up and over ridges, and it felt like some achievement when Teror came in sight again, with the viewpoint at Pinos de Galdar a speck on the horizon. And I was hungry again..

Nearly back to Teror, the call of the wild succumbs to the call of the tapas

On my previous visit I’d been tempted but didn’t have much time before the next bus back down. On this occasion I was very glad to be able to sit down and sample some stewed goat and anchovies in vinegar before the return trip to Las Palmas. Both were delicious, and surprisingly cheap.

And yesterday I went surfing again – another trip to the Muellitos at the far end of the beach. Until I saw it written on a map I thought this was actually called the Mojito, and probably served up both shaken and stirred. There are usually fairly large waves there, breaking quite a way out from the beach and not as steep as further along. Standing up is certainly not a given, but when I do it’s a fantastic ride in now I can turn back and forth and speed up if I have to. When I don’t…. at least I don’t end up with as much sand in my wetsuit as I do if surfing closer in…..

Today I’m having a rest : )

Life in Las Palmas

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Surfing with tags on January 31, 2011 by maidofmettle

I wasn’t really expecting to stay long on my second visit to Las Palmas, but I’m enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. Usually voyaging is very much about moving on – it’s the first time since the Guadiana that I’ve actually returned to somewhere, but quite a contrast to that – a big bustling city and marina rather than beautiful countryside and free anchoring. It’s often the people you meet that contribute a lot to my impressions of a place though, and that’s probably especially true now I’m on my own. There’s certainly a friendly and interesting crowd of people here.

Having enjoyed a few evenings on other boats and thinking of leaving soon it also seemed like a good time to invite people round to Maid of Mettle. Although we briefly fitted seventeen or eighteen people aboard for Caroline’s birthday last year I think this might be the record for actually fitting people in comfortably. Seating and serving drinks and nibbles for eight people plus kids actually worked pretty well, making for a very nice evening.


Taryna, Dave, Petra and Sarah

(the kids have gone back to another boat by this point)

Hilary, Dave and Paul

We’re planning a group excursion into the interior of the island soon, which should be a great day out. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the interior – other than one walk around and into a crater I’ve mainly only seen the coast and beaches outside of the city – I think I’ve seen much less of the rest of the island than Chris and Caroline still. The beach is nice though, and I have been fairly busy..

I’ve always been interested in trying surfing at some point, probably even before I gave snowboarding a go. Not that I was imagining having done that would be much help in the water – in terms of balance surfing is supposed to be more akin to off-piste snowboarding, which I can’t claim any expertise at except reliably being able to fall off before hitting a tree. The beach here is probably the handiest good surfing beach to a harbour, as well as the excellent qualification of being where I am now as opposed to where I might go in the future. So I decided to give it a try…

Well, surfing is certainly harder than snowboarding. And much, much harder work physically – whether walking or paddling out, quite possibly with a strong cross current, paddling to get going or springing up to stand on (or fall off) the board. One thing that is definitely similar is the initial difficulty in ‘relaxing’ when you’ve just stood upright and started moving.

Unfortunately it’s even harder than snowboarding to take photos of, so here’s one of the beach, complete with big rollers and two-tone sand.

Surfing beach – La Cicer

On the domestic front, I need to take the cooker apart again to clean some bits and probably replace several. I think one burner is partially blocked, and the other one has an impressive paraffin leak. It’s a very safe fuel and cooker, but it does require some patience… Fortunately I had my contingency plan in place a week or so ago – an electric hotplate which should hopefully also cut down on the need for stove servicing, as I can use it instead whenever I have shore power. It made a very nice stew with dumplings the other night. Hang on, that doesn’t sound like hot weather cooking….

Now with this last bit I’m obviously not looking for any sympathy, just extending to you the possibility of a little schadenfreude – the weather has actually been relatively poor here lately. It’s unusual for depressions to come this far south even in winter, but there are a succession sweeping through at the moment, bringing strong winds and rain though not actual cold. The last couple of evenings have had that kind of feel – sitting in the cabin at a secure mooring (and Las Palmas is one of the safest harbours in the Canaries) with the wind howling outside is much like sitting by a log fire on a chilly day.

Bodyboarding Las Palmas

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Surfing with tags , on December 4, 2010 by maidofmettle

Below is a video of our bodyboarding escapades.  We’ve had fun trying to get the hang of it but have some way to go…