Archive for the Unfortunate events Category

September 2013 part 1

Posted in Cornwall, Fun, Photographs, Sailing, Unfortunate events, Walking with tags , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2014 by maidofmettle

Well, I didn’t quite make catching up before going away.. will do soon though!

Having spent most of 2013 working well away from home and Maid in Grimsby I was glad to have a perfect day for setting out from Torpoint in September, with clear blue sky and a beautiful north-west breeze to sail past Cremyll..

2013-09-10 #01 Torpoint to the Helford

..and pursue a submarine out of Plymouth Sound.

2013-09-10 #03 Torpoint to the Helford

I took good advantage of the wind, and nice flat seas..

2013-09-10 #05 Torpoint to the Helford

and sailed on much the same course the whole way to the Helford River. There’s nothing like a long passage at the start of a holiday to let you take it easy the entire rest of the time! The wind had got up a bit more by the end, making for an exciting sail in..

2013-09-10 #06 Torpoint to the Helford

..but my preferred anchorage in a north-westerly was nice and sheltered as expected.

2013-09-10 #08 Torpoint to the Helford

I did however get a bit of a shock when I launched the dinghy to row ashore and eat in the Ferryboat Inn (well, it was the first day of the holiday..) and discovered a rather large sheet of paint had become detached from the port bow, around the waterline. I definitely needed a pint after that.

2013-09-10 #10 Torpoint to the Helford

The next day I decided the best plan of action was to sail to Falmouth when the wind changed in a day or two, as it was probably the best place to dry the boat out and repair the paintwork in the area. In the meantime there was no danger so I left Maid at anchor in the Helford (this was her good side)..

2013-09-11 #01 Helford River

and walked east along the river..

2013-09-11 #03 Helford River

..before turning north up towards Falmouth and the beach at Maenporth – no beach football going on this late in the year (unlike the last time I was there) which was probably a good thing for my legs!

2013-09-11 #06 Durgan to Maenporth

Then back to the boat to watch the evening’s racing on the river.

2013-09-11 #09 Helford River

The next morning the sky looked rather ominous..

2013-09-12 #01 Helford River to Falmouth

..but the wind was fair for Falmouth so I sailed round and stopped in the main anchorage, and was glad to see a couple of other boats I knew, even if I was a bit embarrassed by the state of Maid’s paintwork. There was another boat dried out on the wall at first, which actually proved extremely useful as it gave me a chance to get some advice check out where best to position the boat etc – I was quite tense about drying out since I hadn’t done it for years, and never on my own (and on that occasion her bow plunged into a bit of a hole giving her a very awkward angle at low water).

2013-09-12 #04 Falmouth

We had a great gathering of people from the anchorage and friends ashore or on the other side of the harbour in the Chain Locker, with a superb Irish session to enjoy as well.

When the wall came free I went alongside at high water and tied up, weighting the lines heavily so that they’d keep the boat in position at high water while allowing enough slack to avoid trying to hand the boat off the wall at low water. I also put lots of fenders out against the wall, with a plank to spread the load across them, and lined several water cans up along the side against the wall to make sure Maid leaned that way rather than falling over. At least it kept me busy till the tide was starting to go down. Here you can see it worked rather well..

2013-09-14 #02 Falmouth

..and it was then up early the next morning to get on with the work while the tide was low. The dawn was at least quite impressive..

2013-09-15 #04 Falmouth

..and even more spectacular the next day.

2013-09-15 #09 Falmouth

After spending a couple of days chipping away loose paint, scraping off loose rust, rinsing, degreasing and rinsing again, applying rust converter and repainting I was happy the patching would do for at least the rest of the holiday. The wind was forecast to get very strong so I headed up Carrick Roads to find a sheltered anchorage in the Fal. I actually ended up doubling back, as the place I expected to be good was quite gusty and with only a fairly narrow shelf between the bank and deep water channel, and quite crowded -so I went back downstream to the place that seemed far too open but had actually looked a decent bet as I went past.

It served very well, and was rather idyllic in the evening when the wind died off.

2013-09-17 #03 Channals Creek

In fact it was a place I’d wanted to anchor at some point for years, with the National Trust property of Trelissick on one shore..

2013-09-18 #02 Channals Creek

..and the shingle beach at Turnaware Bar on the other side.

2013-09-18 #05 Turnaware

Having landed there I walked up the ridge..

2013-09-18 #06 Turnaware to Messack Pt

and then southwards parallel to Carrick Roads, a route I’d previously enjoyed much of from the opposite direction. There are great view across open fields and Carrick Roads..

2013-09-18 #10 Turnaware to Messack Pt

..pine trees above the edge of the water..

2013-09-18 #14 Turnaware to Messack Pt

..and from higher ground some beautiful views of farmland with Falmouth in the background.

2013-09-18 #17 Turnaware to Messack Pt

The next day was greyer but still enjoyable, this time rambling around the permissive footpaths in the woods on the other bank, past the chain ferry and overlooking an anchorage and quay upstream.

2013-09-19 #03 Trelissick woods

The next day it was back to sunshine again but an easterly wind, and I took the opportunity to sail down the estuary and anchor in another place I’d wanted to stop for years when a suitable moment presented itself. This was just opposite the fine secluded beaches of the Molunans, just north of St Antony’s Head (more widely known perhaps as Fraggle Rock) lighthouse on the eastern side of the entrance to Falmouth Harbour. I’d walked to and swum from the beaches several times before from St Mawes, but never stopped off the beach.

2013-09-20 #01 Great Molunan

Looking back from the land (of course I went for a walk up to the lighthouse and around the cliffs) you can just about see Maid to the left of centre, looking like she’s surprisingly far offshore, with Great Molunan beach on the right.

 

2013-09-20 #03 Great Molunan

In the evening I sailed into Falmouth to meet up with people and enjoy some more live music – a nice easy run over..

2013-09-20 #11 Great Molunan to Falmouth

..with some colourful racing boats to admire..

2013-09-20 #13 Great Molunan to Falmouth

This time I anchored (where it’s free) off Trefusis Point and rowed across to the town.

When I’d gone ashore the next morning (probably to get sometime from that Cornish institution Trago Mills) I was a bit surprised to see a boat nosing around oddly close to the anchored Maid on the other side of the harbour. Though when I thought about it she looked a bit familiar – and much more so when she dropped anchor off Falmouth. It didn’t take too long for Mike and I to make plans for a drink in the Chain Locker and then for Carolyn to join us.

2013-09-21 #01 Falmouth

On the other side of the harbour we were also making plans to join in a local event to mark the autumn equinox being held at Trelissick, so a little fleet set off up Carrick Roads, gathering one or two others along the way. I hadn’t really sailed in company in some time and it was great fun, with the weather just about holding to give us beautiful sunshine..

2013-09-22 #02 Trefusis to Trelissick

..though the fog was getting nearer and nearer..

2013-09-22 #06 Trefusis to Trelissick

..until it closed in almost immediately after we’d all dropped anchor. It made for a rather atmospheric row ashore..

2013-09-22 #10 Trelissick

..to join the crowd on the (by now very narrow!) beach..

2013-09-22 #13 Trelissick

..and the gloom made quite a seasonal backdrop to Dave’s excellent burning man, preceded by a couple of readings and accompanied by some traditional music.

2013-09-22 #12 Trelissick

Unfortunately the band had to get to a pub session so couldn’t stay, but the party continued for a while with several people having brought instruments ashore.

2013-09-22 #14 Trelissick

The next day I went for another walk in the woods above Turnaware Bar..

2013-09-23 #02 Turnaware

..before sailing down to St Just, again finding some friends (“we’ll put the kettle on” is always a welcome hail when sailing into an anchorage).

2013-09-24 #02 St Just

The next day was very peaceful and I re-sealed a few of Maid’s windows before rowing in to admire the church in the evening – it’s always a beautiful spot but especially so after dark on this occasion with the tide high and the lights on.

2013-09-24 #09 St Just

2013-09-24 #10 St Just

That said, it did make getting back slightly more interesting when the evening service finished and they switched them all off!

August 2012 part 1

Posted in Cornwall, Sailing, Unfortunate events, Walking with tags , , , , on August 10, 2014 by maidofmettle

Right, there is going to have to be some hasty blogging this week to catch up to real- time when I go on holiday on Thursday. Do you think we can get through two years of sailing in four days?

Thinking about it, I had a rather tight target to meet when I started sailing in August 2012…

I went straight down from work on the Friday, getting to Maid at about 9pm, and first I needed to do a quick damage check – it appeared since I’d last been down another boat had rammed Maid in the middle of one side, bending two of the stanchions supporting the guard-wires and gouging the paint on the side of the cabin top.ย  That was clearly the limit of it though – looking up plate thicknesses Maid is not built anything like a tank but approaching some landing craft! Slightly concerned about what damage might have been done to the culprit..

With that sorted, I promptly headed off as I needed to sail westward and the wind was currently from the south, but due to swing round more inconveniently.

I was keen to get to Portscatho before the wind change made it awkward was to meet up with Si and Cat, a couple we met on their boat Planet in the French canals nearly 3 years previously. If they weren’t such lovely people I’d say obviously shared experiences like getting stuck in a broken-down lock together obviously make you stay in touch ๐Ÿ™‚

Taking a trip back even more years, here we are going through a lock:

2009-11-13 #04

and here are Maid and Planet together one rather misty morning (I have distinct memories of wandering through a French village with 50 yard visibility looking for a bakery and mostly finding grumpy barking dogs).

2009-11-18 #00

Anyhow, returning from even further in the past to 2012, since getting back to Cornwall at roughly the same time as me in 2011 they’d spent much of their time working away building their engineless wooden fishing boat Kensa to Si’s design (more here, and come to that Cat’s equally wonderfully written blog of their adventures onย Planet is well worth a look as well – here). She’s thought to be the first fishing boat built and launched in Portscatho for fifty years, and I was keen to get there and share in the excitement.

However, first I had to motor for quite a while to get out of Plymouth Sound late at night and in the dark- there seemed to be little wind and a big swell rolling in, and it was all rather tense – how big would the next swell be, would there be enough wind to sail outside, how hard would it be to get back in to shelter if there wasn’t?

In short, was this really a good idea?

Luckily the forecast held true and I was able to sail off towards Rame Head and then onwards.

I can’t say I had really missed sailing at night. It can be beautiful and peaceful, but mostly you just want to be asleep, not looking around every 15 minutes or half an hour. You can’t relax to the same degree sailing coastally as you can offshore, as you’re nearly always near a hazard of some sort, and the tides are often much stronger. Having to start tacking as the wind changed to blow against us in the night wasn’t ideal in some ways, though it was prove that starting early had definitely been advantage.

Morning found us between the Dodman and Nare Head – we seemed to cover a lot of ground in my final cat-nap and it was slightly alarming when I could first see! Not that I could see much, but enough to definitely not want to hit it.

2012-08-18 #02 - Copy

The weather gradually cleared from the east – this is the Dodman astern..

2012-08-18 #03 - Copy

..and this is the view once I’d anchored, unfolded the dinghy and gone ashore in Portscatho. Maid is in the background on the left, with Nare Head above the end of the breakwater, and Gull Rock merging into the Dodman on the horizon.

The big splash is a kid jumping in the harbour- guessing there’s nothing new in that except the wetsuits!

2012-08-18 #04 - Copy

This is my first peek of Kensa in the shed.

2012-08-18 #05 - Copy

If you’re looking at the that picture wondering how she ever got out of the shed, quite a lot of us helped, and it was quite a task! (though it didn’t quite match the boatyard owner needing to remove part of his shed to get my parent’s boat out once).

I also went for a bit of a walk along the coast on the Saturday- here’s the view towards Nare Head and the Dodman from above Porthcurnick beach..

2012-08-19 #01 - Copy

and here’s the view back to Maid and Portscatho from the beach.

2012-08-19 #04 - Copy

The Sunday dawned rather murkily, but by high tide in the early afternoon it was splendid – right on time!

2012-08-19 #09 - Copy

As you can see there was quite a crowd. It feels wonderfully decadent to stand around chatting ankle-deep in the sea drinking champagne.

2012-08-19 #18

Before we’d drunk too much it was time to take the Kensa out to her mooring buoy – as well as taking photos my dinghy was quite handy for helping ferry her crew back in.

2012-08-19 #22 - Copy

Here are Maid and Kensa together.

2012-08-20 #03 - Copy

Then back to the beach for the continuation of the party, before heading to the Plume of Feathers, etc.

Come the next morning the swell in the fairly exposed anchorage off Portscatho was getting irritating, so I tacked out and headed for the Helford River.

2012-08-20 #09 - Copy

Cue some more walking – this is one of the beaches on the way into Helford Passage..

2012-08-21 #24 - Copy

this is the village itself..

2012-08-21 #10

and this is a rather unexpected find of a splendid garden/art exhibition.

2012-08-21 #14

The next day was a slightly brisker sail further down the east coast of the Lizard Peninsula to Coverack, a place I hadn’t been to before.

2012-08-22 #09 - Copy

I immediately liked it – here Maid is anchored in the background off the little harbour. It’s about the last place in the village to have evening sun as it drops below the Lizard so half the village seems to gather there in the evening, and the fish-and-chip shop in the converted lifeboat station is excellent.

2012-08-22 #10 Coverack - Copy

The next day was forecast to be calm and then quite strong onshore, so I decided I’d better do some motoring in the calm bit while the tide was favourable. I was hoping to pick up a bit of wind once I got a little way offshore but though it teased I had to do a fair bit of motoring to get back round to the Helford.

2012-08-23 #02

There follows a rather unfortunate episode where my wallet ended up spending a tide or two in the mud alongside this slipway before I managed to find it again, though I did feel quite lucky I’d done so!

2012-08-24 #02 - Copy

Luckily I had enough time to hunt for it, and being anchored in the Helford is a lovely place to be in most conditions.

2012-08-26 #01

After spending a couple of days there I then headed out..

2012-08-26 #15

..past a colossal cruise ship anchored of the entrance to Falmouth..

2012-08-26 #16

..and up Carrick Roads with various other Ocean Cruising Club boats (including the rather lovely Zahlia below) for a party on some pontoons on the river.

2012-08-26 #20 - Copy

Not before we’d had a bit of an adventure with the King Harry Chain Ferry, which looked to be waiting for more cars but then decided to start moving at a rather awkward moment, leading to some very swift manoevuring under sail and some cursing of the motor boat right in front of me which just jammed its engines straight into reverse ๐Ÿ˜€

2012-08-26 #22

Still, we all made it, I had a very good time with lots of very nice and interesting people, as I have found so many club members to be, and entirely failed to take any pictures including any of them, so here’s a token one of Maid and some of the other boats.

2012-08-26 #23 - Copy

And that’s where we shall pause for a brief (this time, honest!) intermission ๐Ÿ™‚

Carry On 2011

Posted in Cornwall, Fun, Photographs, Sailing, Unfortunate events, Walking with tags , , on February 23, 2014 by maidofmettle

It took me a while to figure out that the blog actually leaves 2011 high and dry. Oops. Or to express those concepts in picture form:

2011-09-27 #01

I’d had no problems anchored in that spot for a several days, but had evidently got complacent about increasing tidal range getting towards springs. Walking across the Roseland to meet up with Si and Cat in Portscatho got delayed for a few hours to wait for low water and make sure nothing dramatic happened. Happily the mud was clearly quite soft and with little current, no wind and the tide to come back in it wasn’t really a problem, unlike other incidents I can think of (chiefly https://maidofmettle.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/oops/).

I’m clearly playing rather loose with the timing of events here, as the original reason I’d anchored up the Percuil a few days previously was to be able to leave Maid anchored safely (no problems with lack of water with neap tides) in a sheltered spot while I travelled up to Redhill for a job interview. It was a rather early start, but a very beautiful one.

2011-09-23 #02 Percuil

2011-09-23 #03 Percuil

The journey involved one dinghy, two feet, and one bus to get to Truro, where the early morning haze seemed to have set in to stay..

2011-09-23 #05 Truro

..and then feet again and a couple of trains to get to Redhill. It’s fair to say it was quite a long journey. Plenty of time to think what to say though. Having worked there for several years it seems I didn’t take any photos of that bit, and it would be a rather strange activity at an interview even if you do already know the people there.

It was very good to get the prospect of a job confirmed and catch up with people, but I must confess that with Maid down in Cornwall the fact an imminent start date wasn’t likely did not seem like too much of a problem.

Especially as despite everyone saying that summer had been terrible, the autumn was turning out to be rather splendid.

2011-09-28 #04

In fact I did a lot more swimming in Cornwall in the autumn than I’d done in the Azores in summer. It wasn’t as deliciously warm as the volcanic spring-fed waters on Sao Miguel, but left you feeling splendid after a quick dip.

2011-09-28 #06

It helps that the water is beautifully clear as well:

2011-10-02 #17 (Custom)

I also got to catch up with Si and Cat again – this is them sailing past off St Mawes with Planet looking splendid.

2011-09-30 #01 Planet

When the wind was very light in the east I also took the opportunity to spend some time anchored off St Just in Roseland; a beautiful spot though often quite exposed.

2011-10-01 #14 (Custom)

This is the local church, occupying a beautiful spot down by the water.

2011-10-01 #05

The scenery around is every bit as splendid – this is looking out over the anchorage again

2011-10-01 #17 (Custom)

and this is from a walk further up the Roseland, looking across fields to Carrick Roads (the slightly curious name for the Fal estuary) and Penarrow Point, with Falmouth (left) & Mylor (right) in the distance.

2011-10-01 #04

Another bonus of sailing at this time of year is that the crowds have gone you do tend to meet some interesting people – it turned out the chap with the beautiful boat in the foreground here used to skipper one of the Brixham trawlers.

2011-10-01 #02 (Custom)

Speaking of intersting people, as well as enjoying Cornwall I did make one brief dash up to Reading to meet up with Claire before she left the country. Well, I say dash – not sure term really applies when you’ve rowed ashore to get a train at half six only to find it’s been cancelled and there’s not another one for an hour. Well worth it though ๐Ÿ™‚

2011-10-03 #04

Back in Cornwall again I made sure I was in Falmouth for Charter Day – more to come on that, and why a regiment of bicycle cavalry featured..

Madeira to the Azores part I

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean, Unfortunate events with tags , , , , on July 9, 2011 by maidofmettle

Day 1: Thursday 23rd June

This didn’t quite work out. I’d been thinking it might make sense to go this morning, but when I was about to set my alarm the previous night I realised I couldn’t find my phone anywhere, which led to several hours of searching the boat and significant frustration. I’d planned on a final walk if I didn’t go, but decided I’d better try the police station instead, only to find it was shut for a public holiday – so that day was largely wasted alternatively looking in the boat and trying to forget about it.

There was at least a good distraction that afternoon – though I was further annoyed by the billboard I’d seen getting the start time of the Festa de Sao Joao (Festival of St John) wrong – it looked as though the flower-flinging action was already over:

Still, a lot of people leaving seemed to be heading in the same directions, and the celebrations in some of the eastern quarters of the city definitely weren’t over..

There were lots of narrow streets lit up and lined with tables, and bands playing around every corner (if you stood at some corners the effect was indeed quite strange).

So the evening was good at least, and there was always the next morning to try the police station and maybe leave later the next day.

However, at one point when I woke up in the night I heard a rather strange noise. I’d thought the absence of ‘low-battery’ wurblings was proof my phone wasn’t on the boat, but it seemed it had just had a bit more in reserve than I’d thought. Either that or there was an upset Teletubby somewhere in the boat.

The other annoying feature of flashing its screen on and off all the time was quite helpful in finding the phone – pity I’d forgotten that the previous evening! So, I had another look at the forecast to see if I should set an early-morning alarm, and reluctantly decided I should.

Day 1: Friday 24th June

Just before dawn on Friday I wasn’t exactly feeling energetic. The forecast looked about ok to go now, and if I didn’t it would probably be at least a week before the next good opportunity, so that made up my mind really. After the frustration of the last couple of days I was quite keen to get going, and make sure I had some time to see the Azores before sailing for England.

I actually left a bit later than I’d really have wanted to just because of tiredness, but I did still manage to leave reasonably promptly. I wanted to go as this would give the best conditions for motoring east in the shelter of the island to gain ground to windward and avoid the problems I’d had arriving downwind of Madeira.

I made it past the Ponta de Garajau, with it’s large Christ on a very high cliff.

Shortly after that, I decided that the plan really wasn’t going to work at all.. From motoring smoothly over swell at four knots Maid was now plunging up and down into fair-sized waves with a headwind, probably doing 1-2 knots on average.

So, I turned and headed south instead. I only put one jib up, but that was enough sail to do four knots again!

Of course, the downside was that I was actually sailing south, whereas the Azores are north-west… I didn’t sound too upset about it though –

It was nice just to be sailing, and as I noted it may have been the quickest way to find wind near Funchal, which is very sheltered by the big hills in the centre of the island. Plan B was to sail in a loop, keeping Madeira on my right-hand side and far enough away to avoid the wind shadow before eventually turning north up towards the Azores. So, crisis averted, for a good few hours at least, and the sun came out as well.

Unfortunately, later on the wind started dropping…

It was feeling very like the approach to Madeira all over again, but it seemed like it must be just a lull in the wind, as I was well clear of the island. It didn’t really feel like it though – I could still see it, and the wind was doing some very bizarre things that evening and night – changing in both strength and direction.

Day 2: Saturday 25th June

Early the next morning things continued much the same..

The wind did indeed die again a couple of hours after that, but after an hour or so of going nowhere a northerly wind replaced it. This didn’t really let me sail towards the Azores, but made enough sense with the forecasts and pressure charts I had for me to trust it would probably last, and shift more easterly with time and progress westwards, which would let me gradually turn in the direction I wanted to go. This was a big relief, as I was feeling very worn out.

Day 3: Sunday 26th June

On Sunday morning the wind gradually dropped, until the left-over waves started feeling rather unpleasant. I can’t help feeling that being sick over the side when the boat isn’t really moving isn’t ideal timing, though at least I recovered in 10 minutes or so.

Fortunately the calm spell didn’t last much longer, and the wind went back to being nice and steady and light again, giving me a chance to rest and relax, and also take a bit of a break from recording videos till the afternoon.


Day 4: Monday 27th June

Monday also started well, making good progress – – and a fine sunrise too.

It turned into a beautiful day, very nice for spending a while outside in the shade of the sails

and watching Horace do his stuff.

By this time I was definitely feeling recovered from the tiredness at the start and enjoying the trip, though unfortunately the favourable conditions didn’t last, with another spell of light wind.

There’s a very fine line – just a couple of knots of wind, and in this case an hour or so – between serene progress and very little progress: .

This time the calm spell lasted rather longer – four hours or so – but with the much calmer sea state it was far less distressing than near Madeira. It was also a good time to have a shower in the cockpit while there was sunshine but no wind chill! And that, of course, is even more effective than whistling..

By dinner-time we’d reached the milestone of 300nm distance to Santa Maria, the nearest of the Azores, which was a nice target to tick off though I hadn’t decided if that would actually be my destination yet – that would be left till later. Much like the continuation of this post (cue manical laughter).

Madeira part 3: ups and downs

Posted in Fun, Photographs, the Madeira archipelago, Unfortunate events, Walking with tags , on June 28, 2011 by maidofmettle

Terreiro da Luta is on a large hill overlooking Funchal from the north, above the village of Monte, with two claims to fame (at least locally).

It was originally known as the place where a fifteenth century shepherdess is believed to have discovered a statue of the Virgin which is now kept on the altar in the church of Nossa Senhora (Our Lady) de Monte.

(as an aside – there’s a religious festival where pilgrims ascend the steps to the church on their knees – ouch!)

Lots of people rushed to the church to pray when the harbour and city of Funchal were attacked by German submarines during the First World War. After the second incident a ceremony was held the parish priest vowed to ‘build a monument in thanks and as a plea for peace, if God, through the intercession of Our Lady, would restore peace to Madeira’.

Terreiro da Luta was chosen as the location, as the statue had originally been found there. Three hundred people took part in transporting the materials up – it’s 300m uphill over a couple of kilometres just from Monte. It must have been quite a feat looking at the finished statue on it’s supporting tower..

..and what must be the world’s largest and heaviest rosary around the base, made using an anchor chain from one of the French ships (escort to a British cable-laying vessel) torpedoed in the harbour in the first attack.

The views down over Funchal are quite impressive too, if a bit hazy. There used to be a cog railway climbing from sea level in Funchal 1000m to a levada above here, but it shut down a long time ago, though some people now hope to restore the section between Monte and Terreiro da Luta.

I’d never known until that day what the phrase ‘stations of the cross’ referred to, but now I think I do – a cross for every key event from the pronunciation of Jesus’ death sentence to sometime after the resurrection, along the path between Monte and Terreiro da Luta – I imagine religious processions stop at each one of these (probably a welcome break on the way up!).

Back in Funchal town centre I passed a vast number of sculptures, created in local schools on the theme of a look through Europea art. The concept of creating sculptures based on paintings is a fascinating one to me, and many of them were superbly executed. Now, who can guess whose work this is based on?

The next day I did some wandering in Funchal. The afternoon was very hot, so I spent a while in the relatively cool “Vicentes” photographic museum, based in a old studio where portrait pictures were taken. It has a big of cameras, including back to the 19th century when they really looked like miniature engineering projects. In fact the founder of the studio did build his own camera specifically for it. The rest of the set-up is fascinating as well, from all the rooms and chemicals involved in developing to the painted canvases that were slid along to change the backdrop.

Better yet was a series of three albums of photographs from various sources on the theme of transport on Madeira – from old carrying chairs to horse-drawn sledges (seemingly common into the 20th century) and the arrival of the first cars and aeroplanes (only 16 years apart, though it took some decades more for anything other than a seaplane to be able to land) and up to the present day.

A little later, through this unassuming doorway

found a place that sold incredible sorbets – utterly delicious, made from local fruits with no colouring/flavouring added, and costing 1.25 a go. I can’t actually remember what fruit the one I had was..oops.

I carried on through the Vila Velha (old town), which boasts attractive buildings and a vast array of restaurants

to the Fortress of Sao Tiago, which I tend to think of as the Bright Yellow Fort.

There’s a small stony beach the fishing boats are pulled up with, quite popular with locals for sunbathing and swimming. After a cloudy morning it was a very hot afternoon, as a quick dip was just as welcome as the sorbet. I think the water’s a bit colder than in the Canaries, but still very pleasant for swimming.

The next day turned out to be a very long one indeed. I started by getting up early to get a bus to Corrida, before walking up to the mountain pass above it. It felt quite a long walk up there along the road, but it was through the shade of beautiful woodland so not too much of a problem.

From Boca da Corrida you can see down into the Nun’s Valley we visited last year, and across to the highest peaks in the background.

Unfortunately the walk I’d hoped to go on was closed – I’d tried to check up the previous night but given up on trying to find the clearest bit of the official website after quite a while of searching, which suggested it was probably fine but didn’t seem definite. Thankfully, I was able to find an alternative in my book, doing another walk backwards.

It certainly seemed a good alternative…

..though the going did get quite tricky – it was fine underfoot but involved a lot of pushing my way through vegetation growing alongside and over the path. It did look beautiful though..

I had occasional marks painted on rocks to check I was going the right way, though it did get a bit confusing at times when these seemed to reverse direction. This was resolved when I realised that locally, all footpaths led to Aviceiros, though this seems a bit of an anachronism as the three houses in that hamlet are all in ruins, destroyed by floods, fire or both in the last couple of years.

I was a bit puzzled by these things when I first saw one – in fact I thought the path was blocked, until I figured out this is just the local ‘style’ of getting over a fence.

By this point I was climbing up out of the valleys and towards the top of Chao dos Terreiros, and it’s very large trig point.

It was hot – but I was definitely glad it was a clear day.

The way down to Fontes featured lots of cows.

I quite like sleepy cows, but I’m less keen on wary protective mother cows, especially on a narrow path. Actually, I’m starting to think that I’m not keen on anything bigger or more aggressive than a rabbit on a narrow path. Thankfully several-hundred mile stretches of ocean tend not to feature such things.

So when they were just looking docile I walked carefully past them, but the couple of times when I approached a group and one of them leapt up I let discretion take the better part of valour and found a way around them.

Not that this was without its problems…

The first time just involved a bit of brushing through bushes and then finding a place to drop down onto the path round a bend. The place I initially arrived at had a cow right beneath it, but it was easy enough to go on. I think the German walkers sitting slightly further down the path were somewhat amused. I hope my stirring the cows up didn’t cause them any problems when they carried on, I haven’t heard any news reports of trampled tourists.

The second time it occurred (yep, twice is careless, but it’s quite hard to force yourself to walk quietly for kilometres down a steep slope) just finding the path again was a challenge – it looked like I might end up on the wrong side of a steep valley.

Fortunately I found an alternative route, without getting nearly as scratched as I had on the overgrown path earlier!

Having found the trail again I reached the village I was aiming for to find that the last bus for the day had already left shortly before (remember this isn’t where I’d planned on ending up, and curse those cows!). So I walked down the road through a couple of little hamlets to join the Levada do Norte, running south towards the coast, and featuring some very welcome shade.

This came back out onto the road again from another village, where I stopped in a bar to get some water, before carrying on down for another 40 minutes or so to meet the road running along the south coast where I could get a bus.

The marina of Lugar de Baixo is just about visible below the cliffs in the distance – hopefully this will open next month after being badly damaged by storms twice during construction, fingers crossed for it!

I chatted a little with the lady selling cherries from the bus stop, and found the next bus to Funchal was fortuitously going to be in about 5 minutes – perfect! So I put my hat and sunglasses away and got my wallet out ready.

Or rather, I tried to. I’m sure you can guess which of those actions was causing the problem.

Slightly surprisingly I was fairly calm about this rather than furious with myself. I started walking back uphill, constantly scanning all across the road, to the bar about 3/4 hr away. I was now doubly glad I’d stopped there so the last place I’d seen it wasn’t miles and miles away! I thought finding it at the side of the road or else at that bar was probably my best hope – it was getting on in the evening now and stopping at every bar or shop en route felt like a definite waste of time.

Though when I actually got to the bar, the potential for hopes to be dashed made me wish it was slightly further away.

And indeed the owner there hadn’t had anything handed in, but he did kindly top my water up.

So, back downhill – there were a few other bars on the way, or perhaps I’d just missed it. In fact, there was another bar / general store I was just walking past, but surely anyone handing it in would have checked in both in case the owner was still there? I carried on.

Then, 50 yards later, I turned around. It seemed daft to come back all this way back uphill and not try all the obvious possibilities. And it was very good I did. The lady at the counter said something about the police, and asked me to write my name down.

I presumed she was going to phone and ask if they had any information, so I was delighted when she reappeared with the rogue wallet, and then phoned the police for me to confirm it had been returned. Phew! (on both counts, though especially the former).

So, one celebratory purchase (a jar of Madeiran sugar cane molasses) later, I set off back downhill again, until a couple of minutes later the owner of the other bar drove up and gave me a lift with him nearly all the way to the bottom again. This worked wonderfully well, as the next bus to Funchal once again appeared about 5 minutes later – the perfect amount of time to sit down briefly, buy some cherries and then count my change out.

Back in Funchal it was a nice cool evening.

After a shower I decided it was worth a little walk for a very easy to cook meal – some local steak to go with my the last of my Tenerifean black potatos.

Not that’s that exciting for you (though it was very tasty), but it did shoehorn some pictures into the end of this entry!

Gran Canaria to not Madeira to not the Azores to Madeira: part 2

Posted in Photographs, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean, Unfortunate events with tags , on June 16, 2011 by maidofmettle

Day 6: Tuesday 31/05

As some people (okay, maybe one person ๐Ÿ˜› ) have been grumbling about, we left the story with Maid hurtling quite fast but uncomfortably towards Madeira. You could see the island, but it still felt quite a way away. Getting into port is rather harder than sailing in open water as just where you’re going becomes rather more important.

The direction the wind was coming from was limiting where I could actually aim for – or whether I was actually heading somewhere beyond the western end of it. Making Funchal looked unlikely, but I was hopeful I could make the marina at Calheta, further west.

This didn’t quite work out. I got to about 20 miles away, and the wind dropped. This wasn’t all that surprising given how high the island is and the warnings in the pilot book, but the sea state was not what I’d imagined. The waves weren’t big, but very steep, and seemed to be coming from two different directions.

It was a long way to contemplate motoring, especially in that sea state, so given the difficulty approaching Madeira was presenting I decided to have a hard look at the weather forecast and see how good an option continuing on straight to one of the Azores would be. It looked reasonable leaving now, whereas going into Madeira would probably involve staying there for a week at least once I finally managed to get in, so I decided to go for it.

Some time later I’d made it a bit further west, and the wind resumed fairly strongly, seeming like I’d made it would of the wind shadow. I headed west for the Azores, reefed most of the mainsail just leaving a little up to reduce rolling, and set about making sure the jib sheets and the blocks they were led through wouldn’t make too much noise as the boat rolled. Down below I was very pleased by how little rattling there was in the galley after my work in Las Palmas.

Then the wind dropped again, and this time the motion was far worse, enough to occasionally dip the ends of the boat into the water.

I nearly just took the sails down several times, but each time I started on it the wind would get up briefly..and then die again.

The sunset was very lovely, but it also emphasised just how beautiful Maid would have looked in that setting if the sails had actually been filling.. It was some consolation though, and a bit of a distraction from deciding what to do.

I decided to give Chris a call on the satellite phone, as this would probably be a much easier way of getting a better forecast than downloading one myself using the phone. He reckoned that there might actually be generally fitful wind, but picking up again, so it was hopefully that rather than the wind shadow I was having problems with. Less encouragingly, it looked as though I’d probably get to just south of the Azores to be greeted by strong northerly winds which would make the final part of the passage very hard work indeed. So it looked like we were back to struggling to get to Madeira.

Hopefully that wind would pick back up again.

Surprisingly, about half an hour later it did. Quite a lot – from not achieving anything with full sail I was reducing sail quickly, and we were going quite fast with only 1 (of 2) jib up and the mainsail fully reefed. I headed back east to start with, as that would make it easier to get to either Funchal or Calheta. Then the wind dropped down again, but putting the 2nd jib back up.

However, what I actually wanted was sleep rather than progress. I decided to head away from the island, gradually making ground to the east, mainly making sure I didn’t lose the wind.

However, getting further out the waves got bigger and the motion worse, and I decided I was better off heading in again and trying to tack back and forth within the vague corridor where there still seemed to be wind without the waves being too large. I was pretty tired by this time, besides exasperated. Actually, both of these had been true since lunchtime.

In hindsight, it seems rather odd that I never suffered a hint of seasickness during this time – I’d taken some biodramina the previous day when we were roaring along, but I didn’t seem to feel any need of it now.

I think I slept straight through my alarm a couple of times (slightly worrying, but the AIS should have warned of big ships approaching) towards the end of the night, and definitely had a few nightmares about the wind dropping and leaving me in the same horrible crashing-around situation again.

Unfortunately after the third of these it turned out to actually be happening…

I decided to get what more sleep I could before dawn and then go for it with the engine.

Day 7: Wednesday 01/06

Early on there was a bit of a shock of some inexplicable westerly wind, enabling me to sail straight towards Funchal, and a rather spectacular dawn. As one would expect, neither of these states lasted.

So, I decided I’d have to give the outboard a go, disregarding the risk of it dipping too far into the water. After all, it ought to be better once I got it going and we were moving – any speed improves things significantly.

I pulled the ratchet back on the outboard bracket and pushed the engine down into the working position.

Or rather, I pulled the ratchet back and pushed down on the engine.

One of the pins in the bracket mechanism had come out of one side at some point during the trip, rendering it immobile. The engine definitely couldn’t be used fully up, as the propeller would have been out of the water quite a lot of the time, and getting cooling water might have been an issue. I had to lean over the stern and get the pin back in.

Trying to just wiggle it clearly wasn’t going to achieve anything – it wouldn’t move at all. I rigged a block and tackle to the solar panel arch to take the weight of the outboard off the bracket, but I still wasn’t getting anywhere. It wasn’t out by much, but with the pin seemingly immobile this wasn’t a great comfort.

By now I was having fleeting thoughts about options if I couldn’t get it sorted out aside. None of them were at all appealing, so I thrust them aside and carried on with trying to fix it.

I tried shifting the weight of the engine around, and using a hammer to try and shift the pin even slightly, but with no success. I was getting rather frustrated at this point to say the least.

Now this had happened before – I knew Chris had fixed it at least once, so I decided (after something of an internal battle) to give him another call to check if there was anything I was overlooking. Unfortunately there wasn’t – he’d succeeded by partially lifting the engine and wiggling the pin. Still, I think just talking it over briefly helped a lot even without really gaining any information.

I tried again, but the same methods definitely weren’t working still. Next I moved the furled cockpit cover out of the way so I could stick my head right out the back and shine a torch down to get a closer look. It looked like it was in the right place vertically, but needed to be moved further back.

Happily I thought I knew just the wedge-shaped piece of hardwood that might achieve that. And even better, when I was stowing everything away in Las Palmas I’d backtracked on my original plan to keep a lot of my useful bits of wood store underneath the dinghy and put my gofio and honey rum stash back there with the wood relatively accessible in a sliding box behind the toilet.

The piece in question, with one of the bars that hold the toolboxes in place as an extra spacer, did indeed look about right. So I hammered that down, trying the pin every so often, until eventually it worked!

Then of course it took another 5 minutes to get the wedges back out again. After all that the worry over getting it going and getting moving without drenching it seemed relatively minor, so off we went.

Once I’d closed the coast the motoring wasn’t actually too bad – I could do some reading and attempting to refresh my Portuguese, and it was nice and warm, though the island itself was covered in cloud.

I decided it was worth heading to Funchal rather than Caleta -although it would be another couple of hours it would probably be a much nicer place to stay, and it seemed I could be there a while – as well as the forecast not looking too promising I’d also noticed Horace had a bit of a problem when I disengaged him before trying to start the engine. There wasn’t much remaining of the plastic cylinder (black thing in foreground, the damaged part is beyond the handle) which fits into different circles to select whether he’s in neutral or various gears… I was suddenly rather glad I wasn’t carrying on to the Azores..

Funchal also had a Yamaha dealer in case the outboard did come a bit too close to the water and I wanted to have it checked over.

And I got to see some impressive scenery on the way, such as the dramatic valley mouth at Ribeira Brava:

and open fishing boats from the village of Camara de Lobos working near the huge cliffs of Cabo Girao:

This meant increased concentration as they usually had a net strung between them and some kind of makeshift float – it ended up being easiest to go offshore of neearly all of them, although it was a little extra distance.

Funchal harbour wall becoming visible was even more welcome though.

Though on closer approach, it was rather strange seeing the harbour without any cruise ships in it – very empty, almost eerie. There were also a couple of dredgers removing mud and rocks from the river mouths either side of the marina.

When I couldn’t get any answer on the radio I was briefly wondering if the marina was temporarily closed, or closed to visitors, while the works were going on or something. I nosed up to by the dredger very close to the marina entrance, and it looked like there was still space to get in, but I was very glad to see a man in the customs office on the end of the wall looking welcoming. I circled around again to get all the fenders and ropes I might need ready, and then headed in.

Unfortunately the man had gone somewhere else by this time (it takes a while on your own, especially when you’re making ready to tie up on either side because you don’t know where you’re going. There was what was clearly a visitors pontoon by the entrance, but the wind was blowing me sideways away from it, making it a tricky approach. I managed to spend what felt like at least 5 minutes going backwards and forwards next to it without really getting any closer till he reappeared and helped me tie up.

I was very happy to see Hampus and Lotta’s ‘Ingeborg’ moored up a little way inside – they’d left Las Palmas a few weeks before me and spent some time at Graciosa and then here, but I’d forgotten they might be here still – while I was completing the formalities with the customs man and repeatedly having to correct Spanish into Portuguese they came back and helped me pull the boat along from the visitors berth to alongside the wall.

It was good it was high tide, as there wasn’t a ladder where I was… Tying a short boat up to a wall when the tide moves it up and down by a couple of metres is also a challenge, and you definitely get some ‘surge’ caused by waves working there way in. Happily I managed to persuade the marina staff to give me a different spot when they re-opened the office after lunch, and Hampus and a Frenchman I didn’t know helped me move Maid to her new pontoon berth.

Hampus and I did speculate that it might be the spot they give people who complain, given that it’s right opposite and broadside on (meaning any little waves coming in would make her roll irritatingly to the entrance), and with only about 100 yards between it and the dredger, which started work early in the morning. Somehow I didn’t think that would bother me the next day at least though…

I fancied stretching my legs and an easy dinner, so I went and looked for the bolo de caco man’s traditional bread stall, but didn’t find it (Chris will be relieved to know I realised a couple of days later that I’d just stopped 50 yds short), so decided to open a tin of some kind of casserole I wasn’t sure I’d like the look of as rough weather food (generally saving the tinned complete meals for that) instead.

Time to relax, and look around and admire the beauty of Funchal. And then go to sleep, without setting any alarms.

Do dogs like helicopters?

Posted in Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Photographs, Unfortunate events, Walking with tags on April 20, 2011 by maidofmettle

It seems the answer is yes. At least, more than they like being in rough water trying to climb up their owner’s lifejacket.

Every so often stories like this come up in the news about emergencies at sea. Obviously it’s not nice to read, but it usually feels quite remote – after all, I didn’t panic about my walk to work every time I read about someone being knocked down crossing a road.

It’s a bit different if the helicopter is going 15 miles offshore to someone you were having a goodbye meal (rabbit and chicken paella, very tasty) with in the Sailors’ Bar the previous night and airlifting him, and his dog, back to dry land after a dismasting and engine failure.

After the inital ‘haven’t you left yet?’ and hearing what had happened we were very glad to see them both safe and well. I won’t write much more here – it’s Mark’s story to tell (and Sheila’s, though her yaps are rather less eloquent).

We were all very concerned about his documents and things which were still aboard (he’d been preparing for a tow rather than an airlift), as we weren’t sure if the boat would be retrieved or not. She’s obviously worth a fair bit, but some of the bits of paper were probably worth more in terms of getting on with his life.

Even if you live in a nice solid house – if it burns down are all your qualifications and references replaceable, as well as things like photos? It’s very easy to make copies of things.. when you think about it. We all are now..

Rather like the hospital situation, it was very difficult to get information at times, and we were all very relieved a couple of days later when he heard the boat had been recovered.

After all that thinking about peril on the sea it wasย  a nice change to get up into the hills for a walk with Bjorn and Caroline. It a generally upward climb from La Culata, near the head of the valley of Tejeda, to the top of the ridge overlooking it.

As you may have guessed from me forgetting to mention it in the last blog entry, my leg is pretty much fine for walking now, so I was quite confident this walk wouldn’t be a problem.

You can just see some of the roads around La Culata on the bottom left of this picture, with the very distinctive Roque Nublo towering on the skyline above it, and the rest of a huge old crater wall stretching away into the distance.

The countryside is clearly beginning to dry out a bit, but there are still some beautiful patches of wild flowers.

It doesn’t show up too well on photos, but it was our clearest ever view of Mount Teide from Gran Canaria – mostly bare now, with just a little snow left around the top.

On the way back we stopped in San Mateo for a look around, and were surprised to find that Bjorn has a hitherto undiscovered talent for walking on water.

As you may well have guessed, this was actually an effect of heat haze on stone paving – quite impressive though, especially the reflections.

On Friday night Giorgio and the other Italians on the pontoon had decided to have a partyย  – I think it was at some point thought of as a leaving event, but they are having ongoing problems with their steering system.

Their cooking, however, was excellent – and in quantity as well, managing to make most people from ‘R’ pontoon and several others as well feel pretty full.

The night was capped off rather well by Mark making a surprise return from the south of the island in his now mastless boat – it will be considerably cheaper to keep her here, and probably better for selling her too, but we hadn’t been expecting him to make it this soon.

On Saturday the weather was beautiful, and unusually calm, so I was able to do something I’d been meaning to do for a while – hoist the mainsail, check over the stitching and wash any salt spray off it.

Maid is looking quite impatient in that photo. I’m not really sharing it at the moment – it still feels like there’s quite a lot I want to do on the boat before going. It’s actually quite good to have to stay till the 29th when I should be fully recovered and ready.

Work on the boat is certainly progressing though. I am gradually re-learning lots of things I used to know, like the easiest ways of working out where to drill, and cutting out reasonably neat holes.

Also, that the Drill Chuck Key Fairy does not exist, and despite the accumulation of considerable circumstantial evidence and laying of numerous traps I have still failed to prove that the Drill Chuck Key Imp does.

My first project was this – a box to mount a shiny new AIS set which will pick up signals from big ships and tell me where they are.

The other hole are to incorporate the burglar alarm, which didn’t have a good place to go otherwise. Fat fingered burglars need not even attempt to enter the code….

It’s quite nice to hide the white plastic as well, and I’ll re-route the cable to the alarm so it’s not as simple as it was to just rip it off the wall..

The box is mounted so that it swings out just below the handrail, so that I can use the AIS set from outside too.

It needed to be as close as I could get it to the handrail, or else it would restrict headroom above the toilet… ah, the challenges of designing things in small space..

On Sunday the weather was rather different – still clear, but some rather strange clouds heralded the arrival of an rare southerly wind, with some pretty strong gusts.

Happily this is a very well sheltered harbour – Maid was rocking a bit at times, but there was nothing to worry about.

Right, time to get on with work again, less than two weeks to the time when I could leave!