Archive for Fireworks

Summer 2014 Part II – fish!

Posted in Cornwall, Fun, Music, Photographs, Sailing, Walking with tags , , , , , on August 11, 2016 by maidofmettle

This picture I took while walking north of Gerrans Bay shows why there were quite so many dolphins around – the wind is calm and the patches of ripples on the water are all teeming shoals of fish swarming in the bay – a spectacular sight and hopefully encouraging for local ecology and businesses alike. IMGP2901 (Custom)

I did quite a bit of walking in the area over the next few days – very tempting with another spectacular dawn over Gull Rock… IMGP2745

and time for a little excursion across Gerrans Bay.. IMGP2747

.. to add some interest to the view from the Nare Hotel. I didn’t even charge them. IMGP2750

..but I did enjoy the rather lovely Carne Beach (after I’d finished hauling the dinghy up it anyway).

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Lovely and clear though the water looked, the wind was still very chilly, so rather than being tempted into a swim I headed out along the coast path.

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Besides enjoying the walk I was also making note of where the rock and/or seaweed patches were to avoid them when next anchoring off. I also peered down into various coves – this one used to be a refuge for fishing boats, but probably for hauling them up on the beach, the anchoring prospects didn’t look ideal.. IMGP2762

Here is the ‘summit’ of Nare Head, looking back west across Gerrans Bay to Portscatho.. IMGP2770

..and here is the view from it down to Gull Rock, and away to the Dodman in the east. IMGP2773

After exploring a bit more on land I headed back to the boat and sailed a similar route, but this time a few hundred yards offshore- there was still room to sneak between Gull Rock (on the right, yes it does look more like a whale, yes I probably have said that before, yes I suspect more gulls than whales are seen on it, indeed) and the mainland. IMGP2818

The first place we headed past was Portloe –  I was thinking of stopping, but was rather put off by having to tack suddenly to avoid a fishing buoy moored by great length of floating line laying on the surface, and then losing the wind completely close to the cliffs. IMGP2821

Besides, it was a fine day for sailing still. I didn’t think the possible anchorages off either Porthallow..

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or Porthluney..

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would be all that sheltered in this wind, and was proved right, with the nominal north-westerly funnelling along the coast. However it did prove surprisingly co-operative for sailing back west again, just managing to glide through the passage between Gull Rock and Nare Head again before tacking back into Portscatho for the evening. IMGP2829

The next day I rowed ashore early on..

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..having got rather used to a quick early morning swim after hauling the dinghy up the beach (leaving a rather curious track it must be said…)

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The sky was starting to look rather interesting..

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..but I decided it was worth risking a walk round the bay again, this time from Portscatho to yesterday’s start point of the Nare Hotel (and back). The coast path mostly goes along the top of the cliffs, but there are several places where you can drop down onto the beach for a change of scenery – including some surprisingly lush vegetation here: IMGP2899 (Custom) (2)

It was another day that got steadily better – ideal for walking with sunshine and a cooling breeze.

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Here we are back in Portscatho again.

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I couldn’t resist going for a quick sail across the bay in the evening sun – just across the bay and back before popping into the Plume and making plans for another fishing expedition the next day.

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This time we get full technicolour with Si having recruited both Debs and Helen as crew already and signed me on as helmsman/photographer. Unsurprisingly they have lots of pictures of Kensa from afar but very few close-up, and not while working, given the general issues of being busy, and fish, and fish scales..

So here we have everyone else working away while I practise the art of steering with one hip while taking pictures – it was good the conditions were still perfectly sheltered, and that I had a little practice at steering Kensa already – she is a well-behaved boat to handle, but very different to the Maid.

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We found a good spot on the way out, and the ice box in the middle was filling up pretty quick. It’s a fine job when the weather’s good and the fish are biting – for other times a lot of resilience and some alternative income options are as vital as ever.

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Helen and Debs are fishing in the foreground here with Portscatho in the background. The mainsail is set again to take as back to Portscatho – not that the fish had stopped biting but there was no point catching more fish than Si and Cat could be pretty confident of selling fresh.

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Back in Portscatho, I’d say this was a marathon gutting session in progress, but in fact it was impressively quick.

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And here is some of the catch in close-up.

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Since I am useless at gutting fish we gave me something to do by accidentally setting one dinghy adrift, so I rowed off in pursuit. By the time I got back pretty much everything was sorted except lowering the mizen sail and putting the cover on.

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I had another invigorating swim the next morning

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before a bit of wandering round the harbour.

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and then heading back to the boat to get on with some jobs aboard.

The next day’s weather looked rather more unpredictable…

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but happily cleared as boats started arriving for the town’s regatta day.

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The seafront was even busier

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though not quite as intimidating as the racing fleet!

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I had been half-persuaded into doing a bit of racing (this was of course in the pub..) but happily ended up with the even better (and less scary) plan of meeting up with a friend and his dad for lunch in Portscatho and then sailing them across the bay in the afternoon.

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Doug proved a very competent helmsman, and it was a quick and smooth trip across the bay.

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A quick drop-off at Carne Beach, and then I set sail again to sail round into Carrick Roads to be ready to take the tide up the Fal in the morning. More beautiful sunshine sailing round the coast of the Roseland..

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..and in past St Anthony’s Head lighthouse..

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and beautiful evening sunshine for the arrival in St Mawes, where I rowed ashore again later to meet Doug & family in the sailing club for a coffee. This social life business can require some co-ordination!

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The next day I headed up the Fal

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albeit with some amusing hi-jinks in Carrick Roads when my badly tied knot allowed the dinghy to escape, and inevitably it headed out of the main channel and into water too shallow for Maid before I could get to it. Happily some quick examination of the chart revealed the bank was shallowest next too the main channel and I could motor round the back of it to grab the errant dinghy before it ended up ashore. The alternative would probably have been trying to beg assistance from somebody else with a dinghy or else anchoring off Turnaware and swimming ashore to walk round to it (not appealing at all with that day’s weather), and either way being very late for the party.

Party? Ah, yes – this was for an annual Ocean Cruising Club gathering up the Fal – a good chance to meet others with similar interest, and usually vastly more experience, in long distance cruising, and generally enjoy excellent company.

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Admittedly this was a relatively small gathering, as the poor weather had led to a rearranging to the main event to occur down in Falmouth, but very good fun nonetheless.

The next day I dropped back down the Fal a little way, to an anchorage off Roundwood Quay with a rather curious view downstream!

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(the Fal is commonly used as a lay-up for ships that aren’t being used at present)

Later a couple I’d met down this way before tied up at the quay to dry out and do some maintenance work, and we had a lovely walk further inland and round the peninsular.

Thenext morning I did some more rambling, this time with a camera. There are some beautiful areas of heath here

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along with the remains of a fort on the promontary – mainly just visible as a ditch and earth bank now –

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as well as the essential rope swing.

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Later on the sun had come out and I headed a bit further down the river to anchor off Turnaware Bar. This is a nice sheltered spot in the easterly wind that was forecast

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and also a splendid base for rowing ashore to pick blackberries and enjoy a walk looking down on Carrick Roads,

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and also to blink at the site of a very large ship in quite a small channel – one of the cargo ships that had been mothballed up the Fal heading back to sea again.

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I also had a very nice coffee with a couple I’d met at the Ocean Cruising Club gathering in previous years who’d attended the rearranged party in Falmouth.

I still hadn’t had enough sailing for the day though, so decided to head down Carrick Roads in the evening.

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The sailing conditions were beautiful, with plenty of interesting boats to admire as well, from a lugger heading up river..

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to several of the Falmouth Working Boats enjoying their race night. Some of these are still for oyster dredging, but they’re also very keenly raced, especially as they carry a huge amount of sail.

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The sunlight was just turning golden when I headed in to St Just – again a beautifully sheltered spot in an easterly wind, but with the added benefit of free anchorage, and a very easy sail across to Falmouth for the Tall Ships festival starting imminently.

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Kernow a’gas Dynnergh

Posted in Fun, Music, Photographs, Sailing, the English Channel, Walking with tags , , on September 26, 2011 by maidofmettle

Or welcome to Cornwall. Just when I thought I’d run out of tricky foreign languages to try and learn..

I did say I’d try and catch up on what I’ve been up to since I got back as well as carrying on with the story through the Azores and back to here. You can use the tags and categories to get things to appear in a more sensible order if it gets too confusing.

So, my first stop in England, sorry, Cornwall – many would say there’s definitely a difference – was Mullion Cove. It’s a little bay to the west of the Lizard, looking back across Mount’s Bay to Penzance and Mousehole, provided with a very little shelter by Mullion Island just offshore.

It was idyllic in the afternoon – I paddled ashore to the beach visible just astern of Maid..

and also said hello to some locals out for a days fishing, who very kindly provided me with a very fresh fish for dinner.

Unfortunately it didn’t stay this idyllic – the wind got up rather more than forecast and when the tide was going the opposite way to it the shelter of the island wasn’t really enough to make it all that uncomfortable. I’d been just about to enjoy a celebratory drink of honey rum & lemon juice but decided I’d better leave it for the next day in case I had to make a hasty exit.

The next morning was much less pleasant – grey and wet, and the sea still quite lumpy. I left straight after the early morning forecast with the aim of tacking around the Lizard while the tide was still favourable.

At this point, the wind promptly dropped away to nothing, so I ended up motor-sailing for an hour or so into a rather lumpy sea, in the rain..

Happily, that only lasted an hour or so – then the wind returned, I was able to turn eastwards and ride the waves rather than plunging into them, and the tide was helping to rush Maid eastwards around the point rather than trying to take her northwards into the bay.

Time for the sushi I’d made with some of the fish yesterday…

The sun even came out later, providing a lovely sail around to the Helford River on the opposite side of the peninsula, just south of Falmouth. The wind got lighter again, but with some additional sail and flat water it wasn’t a problem this time.

In fact the opposite was the case when the wind suddenly increased again just as I was approaching a lot of moored boats – cue a rapid removal as all sail as I didn’t fancy storming through them at that speed since I’d only visited the river by land before..

I did at least have verbal instructions, as there was a good anchorage just upstream from Mike & Carolyn’s Phantom Lady – I’d been planning on on stopping here since saying goodbye to them several months before in Las Palmas on Gran Canaria.

This is the view looking downstream from there. It’s certainly a beautiful and sheltered spot, and it was great to see them both again over the next few days.

I ended up staying a bit longer than I’d planned to see the Helford regatta, and did quite a bit of exploring round the local area in the portabote, the kayak and on foot.

The banks of the Helford are home to some lovely woodland

– and some very nice little villages.

and have inspired at least one novel – Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchmans Creek, the bottom of which you can see below.

A lot of people seem to have been grumbling about the summer weather this year, but it was mostly pretty nice there, though some mornings were rather misty, almost like those French canals…

Definitely porridge weather..

Fortunately the evening before the regatta was beautiful, as the village stores in Helford was hosting a paella night. Didn’t I leave Spain a while ago? I think about 300 people were there, and very well catered for – below you can see just one of the three dishes…

I think this is pretty much the final fling of the village social calendar before all the second-home owners disappear for the winter – it was certainly a good party

and an excellent adventure finding my way back out of the village and through the woods to the dinghy afterwards, with a long line of us winding our way down muddy paths having forgotten to take torches..

The regatta day itself looked like it might turn out rather wet, but fortunately it cleared again by the time the tide had risen enough to allow all the races to be held in the creek in front of the pub. The one-oar paddling race and backwards rowing competitions were definite highlights.

The most gruelling event was probably a two-man effort – rowing to one place, dropping off a runner who had to go up a steep hill and back through Helford to get to another landing spot in the other direction before being rowed back to the finish.

Afterwards most people moved up to a cafe near the sailing club for refreshments and music before the fireworks display.

Mike had said the fireworks would probably be very good, and he was definitely right. It might not have been quite on the scale of some of the Portuguese displays, but for a spectacular 8 or 9 minutes it was pretty close.

The next day I went ashore to pick a few more blackberries and then set sail about an hour before low water. That meant I had the tide with me to get down to the bottom of the Helford River, and slack water and then tide with me to take me up Carrick Roads and the Truro River to an Ocean Cruising Club gathering.

I did make a bit of a spectacle of myself on arrival with a couple of aborted approaches to the pontoon before deciding I definitely needed to approach from the other direction, at which point Maid pretty much berthed herself while I moved the fenders around.

I was also decidedly late, so it was a dramatic entrance all round! It had been a very nice sail though, and all the people I knew (Liz, Mark & Chloe on Lone Rival, the boat ahead of Maid) or knew by association and occasional correspondence about pilot book revisions (Anne on Wrestler, moored outside Lone Rival) were planning on staying overnight.

Although they’d pretty much finished lunch this did have it’s advantages, as the food and drinks tables were moved down alongside Maid a few minutes after tying up.

Everyone staying for the night met up again later on for dinner with some additional guests helping themselves to Chloe’s very tasty punch.

Mum made all of these three at various times, and they’ve done a fair bit of sailing between them – Scubus (left) racing across the Atlantic with Liz and Anne, and lots more cruising since, Cornelius going all round Africa in Lone Rival, and Josh having accompanied me down to the Canaries and back.

The next day I rather remarkably managed to establish mobile contact with Si & Cat who we’d met last year in France, and sailed back down the Fal and went past St Mawes to a beautifully peaceful and sheltered anchorage at Percuil

before joining them for a trip to the famous ‘Plume of Feathers’ in Portscatho. It was quite strange to see them again on land, with both our boats having their masts up and everything, but another very good evening.

The next day I dropped down to St Mawes in the evening to catch up with Nick on Wylo II, who I’d last seen in the Canaries (and before that in Penryn not long after we’d bought the boat), and marvel at his photos of classic boats racing in Antigua this summer. He designed the boat himself, and has since sailed her around the world three or four times at least. Falmouth harbour is another crossroads similar to Horta – I’d seen one of the boats in the last photo there as well though I’d never spoken to the owners.

St Mawes itself is a very picturesque little town, still with a couple of working fishing boats though it is largely a rather genteel seaside resort now.

From the other side of the Percuil it’s a short and very scenic walk around the coast

to St Antony’s Head, which eighties kids’ TV aficionados may be excited to learn was the home of the Fraggles.

The water is beautifully clear, if a little chilly. In fact the first time I went swimming it felt like I’d imagine rolling in broken glass would be, but much nicer once you stopped, though after that it’s seemed much more pleasant.

Brrrrrrr!

The cliffs are also a great place for watching boats racing in the harbour, especially the traditional working boats which set a huge area of sail.

I sailed across and anchored off Falmouth for a few days (Maid is on the left). It was quite strange approaching Custom House Quay from the sea when I could really only remember it from the land – it is tucked right round the corner near the docks, almost in the shadow of the warhips. I suspect anchoring there would have been banned by now if it wasn’t such a long-standing tradition.

From there I got a rather early bus to Helston to see the Cornish Gorsedh, or ‘Gathering of the Bards’ – hence my use of Cornish in the title. This is the equivalent of the Welsh Eisteddfod, and was attended by guests from Wales and Brittany as well as the surprisingly numerous Cornish bards.

The weather was unfortunately living up to Celtic tradition, with some additions to the ceremonies required – well done for your poem in Cornish, efforts in schools or promoting Cornish culture, we’ll just tip the rainwater out of your cup; sit down here, I’ll just tip the water off it..

The music and singing was unsurprisingly very good, though it did come as something of a relief to enjoy it indoors out of the drizzle after the main ceremony had ended.

Thankfully the weather didn’t stay like that… This is Gyllngvase beach on the southern side of Falmouth after a walk around the castle.

It’s not all that cheap to stay off Falmouth even anchoring, but it was handy to have hot showers and things, and I did a lot of washing and a little shopping before sailing back to Percuil to check it would be a good place to leave the boat for a few days. It was certainly a good test of it, with near gale force winds roaring up the river. It was certainly noisy, but not really rough, and none of the four of us anchored there shifted.

I felt pretty happy things would be fine with the weather calming down as I left to go for a job interview and meet up with friends from my old office, before before meeting Mum in London and coming back down again. I did get a bit more tense on the way back to the boat, but she was still happily just where I’d left her when we got back.

It was another very misty morning the next day when we’d planned to sail to Falmouth…

We dropped the anchor off St Mawes first for lunch in the hope it would clear, but ended up going for a very slow and gentle sail with lots of practice on the foghorn (not sure it’ll help much with the harmonica though). It was quite strange as being able to see something would’ve been the only sense that really told you the boat was moving!

Still, we made it across to Falmouth, and tied up ahead of the boat I’d crossed paths with in mid-ocean on the way back from the Azores. Having chatted with Richard via VHF radio and satellite phone it was nice to finally see him at closer range than half a mile!

We had a lovely meal with Liz, Chloe and Anne, and a few days later welcomed Mark, Liz and Chloe onto Maid for an evening.

Mum and I also did some walking – both on the Roseland peninsula

along St Just creek

to the beautiful little waterside (well, at high tide anyway..) church

and around Pendennis Point at the entrance to the harbour

as well as having a look in the impressive National Maritime Museum.

When Mum went back home I went with her a few stops up the branch line to visit Penryn, where Chris & I had first bought Maid several years ago. It looked fairly similar

though most of the people who’d been there had moved on, though I did find one of our further neighbours, and further down the bank another acquaintance I’d made in the Canaries.

Back in Falmouth I met up with Si and Cat again, who’d sailed over in Planet for a quick stop

before we both sailed back over to St Mawes. Since this was the first time we’d actually seen each others’ boats under sail after meeting a couple of years ago we obviously took a few photos..

Here are Maid just leaving Falmouth…

and Planet setting out across Carrick Roads.

We met up again a few days later for lunch after I’d walked over to Portscatho – a slightly odd experience as it’s not that long after leaving the banks of the Percuil that you can see the sea on the other side of the high ground –

and then again for dinner on Maid the following day. I’d made a bit of an expedition of getting blackberries for dessert, walking up over the fields around the Percuil

to Place Creek

and along to St Anthony’s Head before taking the other path along the coast back to the dinghy via Towan Beach.

It’s not that convenient a place to keep the boat, which is something I’ve been spending a while considering, but it’s a very nice place to holiday.

Madeira part 4: Why, why, why, Ventura?

Posted in Fun, Photographs, the Madeira archipelago, Walking with tags , , , on July 2, 2011 by maidofmettle

The title isn’t very pertinent to anything except the fact that the cabaret on the P&O cruise ship across the harbour was very loud indeed when I was writing some of this. I’m sure you can guess the tune.

I had finally run out of nearly all my fruit and vegetable stocks from Las Palmas after being in Funchal for a couple of weeks, except for potatos, onions and lemons. So though I’d managed to eat very well over 3 weeks it was definitely time to investigate the market.

It’s a big tourist attraction, and it’s certainly photogenic..

..but I was a bit disappointed by the actual shopping experience. There are three issues really – price, quality, and attitude.

The prices are noticeably more than at the Mercado Central in Las Palmas, but having seen the terracing here I could well believe that food costs might be a bit more. And for most fruit and vegetables it’s still fairly reasonable if you shop around.

That also helps for quality, but it generally didn’t seem great. Probably inevitable to some extent with small-scale producers who can’t afford to just dump the imperfect produce, but it’s tricky when you’re trying to find vegetables that will last for one or two weeks – otherwise I’d be a lot less fussy.

But some of the soft fruits are extremely expensive indeed, and the vendors in some areas really go for a hard sell on those without marking the price. It would probably be quite easy to find yourself spending an awful lot more than you expected to. I escaped that, but definitely at a cost of some patience. I can see why they do it though – probably a large proportion of the people passing through are from catered cruise ships or hotels without any intention of buying much, who one might imagine could afford to try some expensive local fruits.

The following day brought yet another occasion or two – firstly a traditional bread fair, with lots of stalls selling different types, with plenty of crusty loaves and sweet varieties as well as the ubiquitous bolo do caco.

I bought this pao de rolao for lunch, though my portuguese didn’t meet the challenge of finding out how it’s made.

I decided to go up again for dinner to try some of the traditional dishes on offer.

The plate on the left is a sande de figado – a liver sandwich, garnished with onions and surprisingly good. The bowl is caldo verde – literally green soup, it’s a broth made using onions, potatoes, kale or cabbage, and usually a lot of garlic. This version had some chorizo in it as well, which made a lovely contrast to the more delicate flavour of the soup.

After that there was a fine display of traditional dancing by several groups in a procession around the square. Somewhat chaotic, but they were clearly having a good time, and made it even more fun to watch.

After that it was time for another set of fireworks..

..spectacular once again.

And after that I wandered back up to the square with the bread festival to hear the end of a performance by a fado group from Coimbra. I’d heard the Madeirense aren’t actually that keen on fado, finding it a bit melancholy, but that didn’t seem in evidence this evening, especially not when they were all singing along at the end.

I’d found out very much by chance – glancing in the events section of a free magazine – that there was also a cherry festival in the village of Jardim da Serra that weekend, so that’s where I went on Sunday. It didn’t actually mention when anything was happening, but my doubts on that score were firmly dismissed by the huge crowd of locals who piled onto the bus in Estreito de Camara de Lobos, the next village down.

Jardim da Serra translates roughly as ‘Garden in the mountains’, and it’s a beautiful area. Lower down there are scores of banana plantations, but from Estreito uphill the dark green of banana plants is replaced by the vivid bright green of vineyards.

It wasn’t obvious from the bus where the cherry trees fit in, but they certainly must be around somewhere.

Not that that was the only food on offer, though I’d have hated to be manning a barbecue on a day as hot as this.

For a small village it was really buzzing, with a main stage, a long street with stalls either side and occasional impromptu outbursts of folk music (usually accordion, drum and singing).

Later in the afternoon there was a big parade, with a marked theme

for nearly every float

though I did like the constantly pouring bottle of poncha (we’ll get to that in another entry) in the background of this one

and this mobile vineyard

The last bus back to Funchal was fairly early (though it was relatively late by the time it had escaped through the parked cars on the road out), so it was thankfully a much shorter day than the previous one.

I may have asked this question before, but does this place ever stop? In the centre of Funchal people were starting to gear up for the classic car rally starting in a few days time..

I was keeping an eye on weather forecasts regularly at this point, but it looked like the next day definitely wouldn’t make sense to go, so I headed out for another walk instead, to a part of the island I hadn’t been to before.

The bus drove through the huge Ribeira Brava valley and dropped me off at the Boca da Encumeada. The north coast was enveloped in a sea of cloud..

but the high peaks to the east were very clear.

The walk went alongside another section of the Levada do Norte, which is huge at this point, easily the biggest I’ve walked alongside. It takes water from both the northern and southern sides of the high plain Paul da Serra to a hydroelectric plant, and then on to the south coast where I’d been the day before to irrigate the vineyards, banana plantations and cherry trees – at over 50km excluding tributaries it’s the longest levada on Madeira.

One route I’d hoped might be open (online research was inconclusive) was closed off, but luckily the one that was definitely meant to be open was.

Though standing at the start of a long tunnel, I suddenly remembered that my torch batteries had seemed very weak the last time I was using it while getting thrown around in the dark just south of Madeira..

Still, I figured the backlight on my phone or camera would probably do at a push, and there was always crawling or wading in the levada as last-resort options. Not that there wasn’t quite a bit of trepidation on entering. I’d wondered if the feeling would get worse half way, but it didn’t seem to. Luckily, the battery just about lasted, on the way there at least, and 10 minutes or so later I came back out into the light again.

The path carried on through a very lush area, full of trees,

flowers

and ferns

Big as the levada is, it’s clearly designed to be able to cope with an excess of water in periods of heavy rain (the north coast gets over 2m annually, compared to about 0.8m in southern England), with overflows where water cascades down the cliff

and in several other places along the channel

I stopped at the start of the next tunnel, as continuing would have meant being underground as much as in the open for the hour or so further along possible, which I don’t think would have appealed even with a very bright torch!

And it was next to an impressive waterfall

The area below it was a beautiful place to eat lunch and relax for a few hours – shade, sun, and the rush of cold air from the tunnel all available in turn, and the roar and spectacle of the falling water constant.

Back at the Boca da Encumeada I spent a while talking with a Swedish couple also on an exciting-sounding expedition – they were nearing the end of walking from one end of Madeira to the other in a week’s holiday, camping each night. Very cool, though I still liked the idea of going back to my bunk.

Which I was lucky to be able to do, as I nearly missed my bus – I’d set an alarm for 5 minutes before I expected it but unknowingly the following day, and I was just realising this a couple of minutes after it should have gone off when the bus appeared. Luckily the driver stopped a little way downhill and let me catch up.

Any delay this caused was soon put into insignificance by an orange contraption half across the road and a man waving his arms around excitedly and speaking rather loudly.

The machine was broken, and the bus driver didn’t think the bus would get through the remaining gap without damage (I’m wondering if he wasn’t Madeirense, as this seems a highly unusual attitude for native bus drivers), which led to an apparent impasse. There was at least good entertainment from a Madeiran lady on the bus who sounded as though she was denouncing the workmen at some length, although none of them were around to hear.

After a while of stalemate and a coach behind us reversing back up the hill another coach appeared, triggering another conference between the two drivers and the foreman with a lot more arm-waving. The end result seemed to be that we would risk it. There definitely wasn’t much room to spare, but we made it…

After that excitement we had to change to a different bus in Ribeira Brava, which merely sounded like it was either about to explode or try and take off – not good for continuing the conversations we’d started while stopped!

Madeira part 2: no eagles and no seals, but a lot of other things

Posted in Fun, Music, Photographs, the Madeira archipelago, Walking with tags , , on June 24, 2011 by maidofmettle

That afternoon I did actually leave my berth, but just for a different one as a local boat needed to go where I was. Also, I suspect the harbourmaster of having a sly sense of humour..

It’s actually a much nicer berth, a lot further away from the noise of the dredger, and a lot less exposed to waves or swell coming into the marina.

That evening I went into town for one of a series of concerts laid on as part of the Festival of the Atlantic.

Oxalys were very good – you can hear some of their music using the player in the top right-hand corner of their website (click here).

Afterwards I wandered through Funchal to admire the city in the dark and take a few photographs

when I happened on another event – I think it was the final selection of ‘Miss Funchal’.

Sometimes I wonder if this place ever stops… It was definitely time for me to wander back and go to bed though.

With it having been dry for quite a while I decided it was finally time to tackle a walk I’d always been tempted by last year, but never managed to do as it’s supposed to be decidedly slippery when wet. This was climbing Penha d’Aguia (Eagle Rock) on the north-east coast.

It’s not actually that high – the top is at just under 600m – but it is steep on all sides, towering above the surrounding villages and valleys as well as the sea. It was hard to get a clear shot showing it this time – rather too close! – so here’s one from last year:

On the way there the bus went under the stilted extension to the airport runway (before this was built it was known as ‘the aircraft carrier’ for the extreme difficulty of landing), which still hasn’t quite lost it’s novelty.

There’s also a boatyard under here, taking advantage of an excellent opportunity to be able to store even very large boats under cover without needing to take their masts down.

Next we went past Machico, the first settlement on Madeira when it was colonised in around 1420. Some local legend attribute the name to an English sailor, Robert Machim, who may have been shipwrecked here with his mistress.

The town – still Madeira’s second largest – is just out of view on the left, but you can see the fine artificial beach and the harbour below the steep hills to the north of the valley.

The north coast wasn’t quite as sunny this time, but the view from Cruz down to Porto da Cruz was still quite impressive..

..as were the views back over the nearby valleys while zig-zagging up the side of Penha d’Aguia

The path was steep..very steep (up the rocks and around to the right).

Now the next line would normally be something like ‘but it was well worth it for this amazing view’. But I’m not going to write that, not to be contrary or innovative, but just because when I was about half-way up the entire rock got completely enveloped in cloud. At least it was cool.. I waited a while at the top to see if it cleared but I didn’t have all that long without having to rush down to get the bus back to Funchal.

At least it didn’t clear again just after I’d left the top – here’s the view back up from near the bottom.

There were still some fine views along the north coast though, just visible under the cloud.

The bus journey back was spent discussing long-distance sailing and invasive plant species affecting England and Sweden with a Swedish botanist. Next year it will surely be time to go back to Brownsea Island and chop down some more rhododendron..

The next day I did some jobs, some wandering in Funchal, and went to another concert in the evening, which I really enjoyed. This one featured the Quinteto Pavao e Victoria – you can see a video clip of it by clicking here.

As it was a Saturday the concert was held early, so I had time to make dinner and then go out again. The weather forecast made it very tempting to take a walk…

Bay of Funchal: thunder, lightning imminent. Shepherds delighted, sheep probably scared.

Rain of fire soon. Visibility good becoming locally poor. Sea state slight to burning.

and the climax was certainly fitting.

On Sunday I did another thing I’d never got around to last year, and made an expedition to the old fishing village of Camara de Lobos. So Mum, has it changed much? I’m guessing the swimming pool is new, and much of the housing up the cliffs of Cabo Girao in the background.

But the harbour itself and the boats may well not have changed a great deal.

There’s a slipway, but a lot of the fishing boats are still just pulled up the stony beach. There’s plenty of activity there still, from painting boats (which seems to be a whole family Sunday picnic occasional), to making repairs and drying fish..

..and also a lot of locals in the bars and public spaces, often playing cards or dominoes. The plaque on the side of that building marks where Winston Churchill famously came to paint watercolours – I wonder if he was distracted by off-duty fishermen? Given the tales about him being very well supplied with Madeira wine by one of the leading merchants I wouldn’t be surprised..

The town centre itself is very pretty

though sadly there’s no longer any chance of seeing the seals (Lobos de mar, or ‘sea wolves’) the town is named after, except in this statue:

Well, and various branding…

Moving swiftly on, Cabo Girao really towers over the western end of the town – it’s a pity it was so cloudy when we visited it last year! The houses on the side and the replica of the Santa Maria (or fully La Santa María de la Inmaculada Concepción) below give some idea of the scale of the cliffs.

The original Santa Maria was bought second-hand by Columbus and renamed to serve as his flagship for his first voyage across the Atlantic, though she didn’t make the return passage having been wrecked off Haiti. This replica was built in Camara de Lobos, and now does regular day trips from Funchal, as well as voyages further afield for events.

From there I took the bus back to the edge of Funchal, and eventually managed to find my way to the Miradouro do Pico dos Barcelos, on a hill in one of the western parishes. This was a bit a struggle at times in the hot sun – it was off the edge of my street map and not really covered on my walking map, but I eventually found it.

You can see pretty much all of Funchal from there, from the Igreja de Sao Martinho above Ponta da Cruz

to the city centre and harbour

and the hilly northern outskirts.

The two-towered church in the foreground of that picture is where I was actually heading for, as it was the first of a series of parades for different saints that are held throughout June. So here is the Igreja do Santo Antonio from a bit closer up:

This is a much more local affair than the ‘Festival of the Atlantic’ – part religious festival and part party. There were lots of stalls selling food and drinks, both around the church and on nearby roads.

I tried a sande de carne de vinho e alhos for dinner. For the princely sum of two euros you get a very tasty sandwich of incredibly tender pork marinated and cooked in wine and garlic – delicious! And for dessert a churra. Presumably the sister snack of the churro, rather than just being deep-fried batter it has a chocolate centre.

The streets were lined with people ready for the parade later:

but unfortunately I didn’t see much of the parade proper as I wanted to make sure I got the last bus (that I knew how to find!) back.

But I did walk up the route where all the groups were queueing up to start (I’d been a bit apprehensive about succeeding in that, but it worked out fine), so saw the impressive costumes that way even if I didn’t get to hear all the music.

You could still see the church very clearly from the bus stop – I had a while to wait around, but luckily my interpretation of the timetable hadn’t failed me and it duly appeared to take me back down to Funchal. I don’t think I’d ever been in a Madeiran bus going downhill in the dark before. It’s an experience.

Madeira part 1: getting stuff done and a few excursions

Posted in Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Photographs, the Madeira archipelago, Walking with tags , , on June 22, 2011 by maidofmettle

Having had a rather tiring few days and created another rather long jobs list I spent most of the first few days in Funchal resting and sorting things out, with a few little excursions to stretch my legs and enjoy the benefits of being in port a bit more.

Funchal was as lovely and lively as ever..

..and the nearest park is very nice..

and also has great views across the bay of Funchal (you can just see Maid in the bottom right)

Despite that, I felt a bit flat a lot of the time for a few days – probably largely tiredness, but also being repeatedly reminded of fun things I did here with the others last autumn took a little of the shine off being here on my own.

I did get a fair bit done though, from routine cleaning and tidying to re-organising several bits of the boat, and also replacing the main halyard. This is the rope that goes up to the top of the mast and back down again to hoist the mainsail. Looking at it it seems in reasonable condition, but it’s certainly not new and had a fair bit of use and sunshine, and replacing it or substituting for it at sea would be very inconvenient indeed.

And we have been carrying the rope to do the job around since we left England…

So I stitched the new rope to the old one..

so it could go round the wheel at the top and into the mast and down again, and then pulled steadily and gently, keeping my fingers crossed till I’d got the new rope fully through.

I also completed a cockpit cushion project I’d begun in Las Palmas. I’d started working on the cover on the way here using some blue fabric Chris had from somehere-or-other that we’ve been carrying around, and some of the ship’s stock of velcro that escaped Chris & Caroline’s velcrophile phase.

The foam I bought in Las Palmas is very nice and thick, but the cunning bit is the plywood back…

..which means that you have a solid backrest much higher than Maid’s uncomfortably low cockpit sides – far more comfortable, and a very nice complement to the cushions Dave and Taryna gave me.

I had a very nice lunch with Hampus & Lotta on Ingeborg, who I’d last seen in Las Palmas several weeks before, and then they came round for dinner that evening – it was very good to catch up with them..

..before they left for Porto Santo the next morning.

That left the harbour feeling very empty, but happily I got most of the jobs finished the next day, and there was due to be a big firework display that evening. It’s part of the Festival of the Atlantic, but I think it also serves as a way of selecting who’ll provide the fireworks for the even bigger New Year’s Eve extravaganza come next January.

The seafront was thronged with people – all the restaurants had put all their chairs out, and there were people standing all along the promenade and harbour wall.

I’m sure a lot of people could see it from much further away..

and doubtless hear it too. There’ll be another display every Saturday in June (poor dogs..) – I wasn’t sure I’d get to see any more, but certainly wasn’t averse to the idea on those grounds.

With all the urgent-seeming jobs except sorting Horace out completed, and Sunday not being a good day for trying to get hold of his makers again, I went for a walk the next day.

It had a bit of a football theme to begin with – from a bus stop by the street named after the Funchal-born Maritimo, Porto and Portugal forward Artur de Sousa or “Pinga” to Camacha, a village east of Funchal.

Of course, Madeira is probably now more likely to be known as the birthplace of Cristiano Ronaldo than Portuguese football as a whole, but it was in this village square in 1875 that Harry Hinton, the Madeiran-born son of a British expatriate, started what’s regarded as the first organised game of football ever played in Portugal.

Starting the walk I couldn’t help wondering how many spare balls were needed to finish a game with this kind of landscape around..

It was very misty in the valleys at the start but cleared as I went down a steep cobbled path, but it cleared as the morning went on, and it was a beautiful day by the time I reached the small hamlet of Salgados.

The flowers were beautiful as well.

The path eventually descended to the Levada do Canico, and a much flatter path.

Though this tree seemed a bit confused by that, as though it expected the ground level to be a couple of metres higher. Unless it was just trying to look like a giant spider.

Having escaped Shelob, I continued along to Assomada to get a bus back to Funchal.

The next day I started by travelling westward, to the village of Paul do Mar, below some huge cliffs on the south coast of Madeira.

It’s quite pretty, but also notable for it’s very bizarre street names – or rather the lack of them.

There’s a ‘1st street of the church’, a 2nd, a 3rd, etc; about 5 ‘streets of the harbour’. I suppose in some ways it’s probably easier to find a place that way – if you’re approaching from the right direction you’ll know from four streets away that you’re on the right track, but it still seems rather strange.

The path zig-zagged up the cliffs behind the harbour and then up the valley of the Ribeira Seca – ‘dry river’, though it was currently sporting some fine waterfalls.

It was a tough climb, but the views both up and down the valley were well worth it – the next photo looks the other way out to sea.

And in places the cobbled path – not stepped so much as undulating – was absolutely carpeted in flowers.

Reaching the top there was a fantastic view down to Jardim do Mar, the next village along the coast. It looks beautiful, but I think I’d be slightly uneasy about living on the bottom of a landslip that’s also quite exposed to south-westerly winter gales..

I continued uphill to the centre of the village of Prazeres where I planned to get the bus home again. This had some tempting views up to the Paul da Serra – a large mountain plain that I’ve still not visited, largely because it’s rather tricky to get to

Rather than getting the bus from here I changed my mind and continued on along the Levada do Norte to Rapsoeira. This has been recently refurbished, and it definitely looks more modern than most, boasting trash screens to make removing debris easy and actual penstocks to control the flow of water rather than the traditional big stone and collection of rags.

It’s good to see that the old materials are still available for use in case of need though (but hopefully not for solving water distribution disputes..). Also note the rock placed under the penstock to keep it slightly open..

But apart from those minor details the levada is still much the same as those designed over a hundred years ago, though the larger ones now provide water to hydroelectric power stations as well as for irrigation. And the side benefit of nice paths for walking along..

Rapsoeira was beautifully decorated – probably preparing for processions for various saints’ days later in the month.

And so back to Funchal, and another phone call with the makers of the wind vane self steering about getting Horace fixed. One problem ought to be easy to sort out, the other one would need a replacement part which would either cost a fortune or take a long time to get sent to England. It seemed better to try and get one made locally. The Hydrovane staff very kindly emailed me a copy of the drawing for it, so I just had to try and find a machine shop.

Happily, the first man I asked – working on one of the fleet of big game fishing boats – knew of one, and gave me the address. I then spent about another hour on the internet making sure I was definitely going to the right place, which was rather hard work – it was in the industrial park of Cancela, which is actually nearer Canico (not Canical). I wanted to be sure before getting on a bus…

With that all sorted it it was quite easy to get to the industrial park, but harder to find the machine shop. Happily I walked into a garage to ask for directions about a minute before a man from there, who gave me a lift and then sorted out getting the part made.

It was quite a busy place, making and repairing all manner of things..

Not a bad view for an industrial park either.. handy while I was waiting around.

So with that sorted out I was once again able to go when I wanted to. Which didn’t look like it would be all that soon according to the weather forecasts..