Archive for Gran Canaria


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

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

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

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

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

So, what don’t I miss?

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

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

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

And what were the best things?

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

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Thanks Jon for that photo

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and thanks Quiksilver for that one

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

Though that said:

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

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

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

  • the hill country of northern Gran Canaria

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

  • and the hot springs of the Azores

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


“A toast to onward voyages on land and sea”

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

Panoramarama part 2

Posted in Photographs, the Canary Islands, the Madeira archipelago, Walking with tags , , , , , , on June 7, 2011 by maidofmettle

I’m not at sea this time, but working through the photos and particularly the videos of the other trip is taking a while, so have another interlude : )

(of course, the quickest of you will have noticed that I just plain forgot it was due to publish!)


Panoramarama resumes on Porto Santo, part of the Madeira archipelago lying about 450 nautical miles south-west of Portugal. Terra Cha literally means the end of the earth, and it feels a bit like it!

Just round the corner from where I took this photo, it’s an unexpected green grotto on a jagged ridge plunging down into the ocean. The barren landscape you can see from it is typical of much of the island, though a lot of reforestation work has been carried out in the centre.

Again, just left-click on the thumbnails to open bigger versions.

Madeira is a different story – mostly densely wooded except for one high plateau and some of the biggest central hills. Even the view from the harbour in Funchal was beautiful, especially around sunset.

(and now I’m back. Woo-hoo!)

We all did a fair amount of walking there, but for me it’s a place I went on my own that sticks in the memory as the most beautiful – the village of Boaventura on the north coast.

The landscape around Mt Teide on Tenerife was much more barren but just as spectacular. This is the view across the giant crater to the north of the peak, taken at some point during our climb up Teide.

Gran Canaria doesn’t have a massive peak comparable to Mount Teide, but it’s probably had several that would have rivalled it at times, though only craters and ridges remain today. This is taken from the edge of the Caldera (crater) de Bandama, looking down to the coast, with Las Palmas in the background on the far left and the crater itself on the right.

The centrepiece of this picture is Roque Nublo, one of the most famous landmarks on Gran Canaria (especially since the Dedo del Dios – God’s finger – unfortunately collapsed into the sea). Mount Teide is just visible on the horizon, more than 50 miles away.

Roque Nublo (on the left) and Teide are both still visible in this one, but play second fiddle to the valleys and ridges surrounding Roque Bentayga in the centre.

That’s all for now!

Dressing to kill and boat work to thrill (?)

Posted in Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Music, the Canary Islands with tags on May 19, 2011 by maidofmettle

I failed to put up some photos of a dinghy sailing session with Paul and Hilary’s newly refurbished tender a couple of weeks ago.

We started off with Paul steering, Eddie on the sheets, and me dealing with the spinnaker…

..and then switched round for a second outing with Hilary and I taking shifts on the helm and with the spinnaker, and Beth and Bryn on the sheets.

As you can see the wind was very light but the dinghy sailed beautifully, especially with the spinnaker, making for a lovely afternoon.

At that time they hadn’t named her – it wasn’t till last Saturday that she was officially christened.

A while after that we all had to get into our costumes. They’d also decided to host  a final musical extravaganza before boats start dispersing, and not content with that, to make it fancy dress. The theme of ‘dressing to kill’ inspired quite a range of outfits..

I was quite impressed with how little papier mache was required to set a cereal packet bent into a mask shape:

though I really needed a clock to complete the Grim Reaper  (someone’s got to clean up afterwards, right?) effect. Big Dave’s costume, on the other hand, definitely didn’t need any further embellishments..

The ensuing music session was quite entertaining, with issues like people’s wigs trailing in your face, and the flame of Paul’s cigarette flying away (we’ve gone from fundraising to health awareness)..

Back home,I’ve been looking at weather forecasts regularly, as well as a fair bit of other stuff..

There’s a recently arrived boat on our pontoon which everyone agrees is very aptly named (for boats in general, that one in particular does look very nice).

Nonetheless, I have checked all the fastenings securing the floor in place, and fixed quite a lot of them..

..finished a painting as a gift to Paul and Hilary to thank them for all their hospitality, encouragement and advice at our music sessions over the last few months. Early stages (acrylic on hardboard):

and the finished article, with another circle of hardboard stuck on to help give the porthole framing effect…

..checked the navigation lights are working (okay, this isn’t the most exciting photo. Nor does it make them look like they’re working – colours not showing up!) ..

..used some perspex someone had discarded to make fronts to ensure everything in the galley shelves is secure. I wasn’t sure how I was going to secure them for quite a while, but ended up being very pleased with my elastic solution – they’ll quite happily stay in position either open or shut .

Of course, once I’d used the hinges that seemed overkill but we hadn’t found any other use for in 18 months so might as well put them to work somehow, I promptly did decide to do something else- hinging the panels under the bunks in the main cabin that give access to the tins underneath.

Previously this was a single panel you had to pull out a little bit but not too much and then tilt up, at which point something would get stuck and the whole panel would slip and fall on the tins….

I think I did it that way before to make sure that the weight of people lying/sitting on the bunk went onto the supporting beam directly rather than onto hinges, but now I figured out a way to achieve that with hinges. It’s definitely much easier to use.

And I made a thingit. Previously we’ve had a reflective foil sheet keeping the petrol cans from getting too hot, an old plastic box lid to keep that from getting damaged (which seems like it might trap a fair bit of the reflected heat..), and nowhere handy to put a mug down in the cockpit. So the thingit covers the back end of the cockpit, tying down to existing fittings, and includes a mug and bowl holder on each side.

It doesn’t look too bad considering the terrible quality of the plywood I found to make it from, and hopefully it’ll be useful. Note also the cockpit cushions Dave and Taryna very kindly gave me after commissioning Hilary to make them some lovely new ones.

Continuing down the cushion-related aside, I finally succeeded in my persistent if occasional quest to find cushion covers / pillowcases at less than 7 Euros each for some inside ones I acquired a few weeks ago.

..and, back on-topic again, cleaned and rinsed through both water tanks before putting the new filter in and putting everything back in the big galley cupboard, with all it’s handy new securing arrangements.

..borrowed Dave’s cunning mast-ascending device to inspect the rigging and fittings…

This has foot straps as well as a seat, so you stand up, slide the rope-gripping thing for the seat up while the weight’s off it, and then sit down and do the same for the foot-strap one.

And then you keep doing that, with awkward pauses to get around some of the rigging, and regularly tightening the safety line, till you get to the top. You’re not really pulling yourself up, basically pushing up with your legs.

Although I’m not really that keen on heights it felt surprisingly fine, even looking down

or across to the beach.

Very tempting… Still, I did check over all the fittings for the wire stays supporting the mast and all seemed fine, so I started coming back down again, which is quite fiddly. Dave kindly lowered me down most of the way.

Safely back down! Though I do seem to be holding on to things..

…and cleaned the dinghy and put it away.

And then I wrote a to-do list in about 5 minutes which covered an A4 sheet. Which doesn’t even include refilling the empty flour pot in that photo. Oops.

Good news, and the gig for Gambian schools

Posted in Cancer, Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Malignant melanoma, Music, Photographs, Skin cancer with tags , on May 15, 2011 by maidofmettle

Oops. I wasn’t meaning to build any suspense about the last scan I had, I’d just forgotten about it with the excitement of the gig etc.

I’d wondered if everyone else had forgotten about it on the day itself, because the whole floor of the hospital my appointment was on seemed to be deserted. I found the department I was meant to be going to, but the doors were shut and it was dark.

Fortunately a nurse was passing a few minutes later and ushered me though the neighbouring door marked ’emergencies only’, behind which lurked another whole maze of corridors and the Hidden Waiting Room. I’d put some photos in here to break up the text but I wasn’t sure if I’d be allowed to reveal its existence.

The scan itself was fairly straightforward. Apparently my internal organs are all the normal size etc – I guess this is a backup check to the sentinel lymph node biopsy to be very sure that the cancer hadn’t spread anywhere else.

I have a final discharge note now so everything is sorted here on the hospital front, I just need to have regular check-ups with a dermatologist in the future, at least for a year or two. I’ll have to find one in the Azores, and then another when I’m back in the UK.

Speaking of long-running sagas, I have finally got my a working hotplate again and restored pumped water to the boat.

Having the hotplate fixed involved going to two different service centres, as the shop I bought it from sent me to the wrong one the first time, and unfortunately went over the Easter weekend, causing further delay. At least going to the place that did try and fix it (I think they replaced it in the end) gave an opportunity for a nice detour through the Parque Doramas.

When Jon and I visited the fountains had largely been turned off, but they seem to be working again now.

The issue with the water pump was solved surprisingly simply. The pump still hadn’t exploded, and I thought I’d better check out any other issues before taking it to pieces.

The new water filter seemed another prime suspect, and proved very definitely guilty. I can only presume that the little water that made it through was very clean indeed..

Happily the shop was very happy to accept a return in part-exchange for a different make of filter. That works fine, so now I’ve been putting vinegar solution in both tanks and rinsing them through in the hope that the water will taste reasonable.

Now, on to more exciting matters.. The Saturday after the scan was a fairly relaxing day until it was time to go and set up for the gig, although the horizon to the north was looking ominously dark, especially knowing there was a big low pressure system somewhere north-west of here.

Still, we got everything set up fine at one end of the canvas awning outside the Sailor Bar, and the soundcheck sounded good.

You can guess what happened next, can’t you?

We’d planned to open with Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, but it was flung wide open before we began, releasing a deluge. Within a few minutes water was coming through the fabric above our heads, and we had to clear all the electrical equipment away again. While this probably made quite a spectacle, we all seem to have been too busy to photograph it.

We debated playing some songs unplugged, but it would have been hard to hear over the rain so we decided it was best to postpone and hope it was better the next day.

Sunday did dawn beautifully, and unusually remained clear all afternoon as well. It was a short trip to move all the gear from where Janice had let us keep it on Ladycat, moored near the bar.

There had been quite a few people there the previous night, but this time all the tables outside were packed. It was handy that this time we could move back to outside the cover of the awning, though the arrangements for the loudspeakers got a little more unconventional.

Paul had to fiddle with the settings a bit more this time round but it didn’t take too long to get everything sounding good again.

We even managed a relaxing drink before getting going without attracting a downpour…

..and so off we went. The stage wasn’t usually quite this crowded, but the bar stayed very full, though the wind probably carried the sound a long way down the seafront!

After the first set we had a break while Neil (who’d come along to the last couple of rehearsals) played Jailhouse Rock and accompanied the owner of the bar singing Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay to great applause.

It was particularly impressive since Pepe had a cigarette in one hand and the lyrics in the other- possibly fortunate they didn’t catch fire half way through!

Dangerous Dave kindly acted as cameraman for the night as well as being a part-time roadie.  Here’s a clip of Sloop John B, with it’s famous harmonica duet introduction.

The final count showed we’d raised over 16o Euros, which I’m told will fund about 2/3 of the cost of a primary school in the Gambia. Support for primary schools there can make a huge difference to people’s lives as only secondary schools are state-funded, and kids need to have primary schooling to take advantage of it.

And we had a very good time as well.

Besides that, and with the intensive rehearsals period out of the way, I’ve been doing a lot of other stuff on the boat, but having finally got the stage of putting all the tools away I need to get the hot melt glue gun back out to fix the memory card of my camera. So that will have to wait, since it would be exceedingly dull without any pictures.

I’ve been able to pinch some off other people from last weekend, when a group of us went on an outing to a Chinese restaurant on Las Canteras beach.

The setting is very nice and 6.50 Euros for all you can eat with an excellent selection of food, including dessert, is very good indeed, contributing to a lovely evening.

Surfing photos and preparations part 2: water tanks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of layers..

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

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

But not often enough..

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preparations part 1, and having a go with gofio

Posted in Cooking, Fitting out and maintenance, Fun, Music, Photographs with tags , on April 29, 2011 by maidofmettle

I’ve now finished installing the AIS system. This recieves signals from all ships with AIS transmitters – large ships or deep-sea fishing boats, and some yachts – and tells me where they are.

It uses the same kind of aerial as my VHF radio but I’ve added a separate one so they can both be used at the same time without having to swap cables around as soon as I get hold of the right adapters.

Here it is working. The visual display is centred on my boat, and the other icons are nearby ships. The information on the right shows the details of the ship I’ve selected.

It’s useful to see the track and the names of ships, but the handiest thing will be the ability to set an alarm when it picks up any ships approaching within a given range (say a couple of miles).

I had to drill a hole out a bit more to get the cable from the aerial into the boat but otherwise it went fairly smoothly, though I had to move a lot of things out into the main cabin which is giving the boat a distinct tilt to one side.

This makes it a fairly high priority to work out how to secure the AIS display box, as it currently swings half-open and obstructs the hatch…

While I have everything out of the quarterberth I am installing a water tank underneath it again. I’d got rather fed up of flexible water tanks and chucked the last one out when it failed rather than trying to fix it, thinking I just didn’t trust them enough.

I’m still not that keen on them, but I do regret it – eventually I realised that replacing it with bottled water just wasn’t going to be appealing when getting to it would require moving all the stuff I just had to move to deal with the cable, plus the dinghy.

So I bought a new one. Grr.

Replacing water tanks isn’t going to do that much good if the water filter isn’t working properly, so I’ll be replacing that too, as I’m getting quite a taste of charcoal at the moment.

This should be quite easy as I had everything out of the galley cupboard (yes, the boat is a mess at present) to do work in that. We’d been putting up with lots of things wanting to fall out of it if Maid was heeling to port or rolling significantly for quite a while.

However, going to the Azores is likely to entail one or both of those conditions the entire way, so I decided it was time to deal with it. So I now have nice holders for various food containers..

(hmmm, need to refill the flour)


and plates / chopping board.

I’ve also replaced the irritating bits of string for securing the hinged  worktop in bad weather with some buckles that won’t hang down getting in the way of the cupboard door below.

The tape round the handle of the buckle is to stop them from rattling when the boat rolls. As you can see the paintwork on the top edge needs redoing, but isn’t that high on the priority list. I have managed to sort it out in the seating area though, as the paint tended to sneak onto people’s clothes when they leant on it.

There’s still a bit more work to do, especially in the galley – not only are self-raising flour and lentils still a flight risk, but I’ve realised I should buy some containers for bread flour and gofio and incorporate those.

What’s that? What is gofio?

Tricky question, actually – it’s defined quite broadly. It’s basically a type of flour, made by grinding roasted wheat, corn, barley, fern seeds, rye, lupin beans or chick peas. I’m not sure if there is an equivalent available in England or not, but if it is I suspect it’s rather harder to find. This is the gofio section of quite a small supermarket…

There are even more uses for it than types of gofio. One I was intrigued by was making a bread-like dough that doesn’t need cooking. Field workers would often make this for their lunch in a bit of goatskin.

Mine wasn’t quite authentic, but tasted pretty good for a first attempt. The flavour was quite strong so I was glad I’d used smallish balls of it in my salad. Recipe to come when I’ve carried out some more trials.

It’s also very handy as a nutritious thickening agent that doesn’t seem to form lumps – for example making a red wine sauce (in different proportions that’s another a bread recipe, possibly for vineyard workers!)…

or a very easy white sauce with some cream that needed using up:

So, when you see it proclaimed as a ‘superfood’ by all and sundry, remember you read it here first!

Experimenting aside, I’ve had a few people round for dinner – Dave, Sarah, Bethany and Bryn from Cape, and Hampus and Lotta from Ingeborg (on separate occasions, or that would have been a challenge!), and forgotten to take photos on every occasion.

I’ve also got to enjoy other people’s cooking as well – a very fine curry with Hampus and Lotta and another Chris who got in the other day:

and a very tasty barbecue cooked by Chris on his cob oven the other night.

On other evenings our music group have been practicing quite a lot, getting ready for tomorrow night’s charity concert at the Sailors’ Bar. We’ve got about 30 or so songs we’re happy with, and at least one other bloke is going to play a bit, as well as the owner of the bar singing a bit, so it should be a good evening.

Fingers crossed for the weather though, looks like there might be a depression heading this way..

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 was  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 party  – 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!

Taryna’ birthday party, and back to Bandama

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Walking with tags , , on April 14, 2011 by maidofmettle

I’ve been trying to work out  the last person in whose honour I’ve attended two birthday parties in a row is, and failing.

It’s quite a surprise that it should occur now while living a fairly mobile lifestyle – I’ve ended up staying here much longer than I planned, but many other boats have come and gone.

Last year Taryna’s birthday party in Gibraltar, held on the jetty between Heymede (Taryna and Dave’s boat) and Maid of Mettle.  We were very lucky with the weather and had a great time, ending up with music lasting quite a while into the night, including Caroline and Chris playing mandolin and guitar, a couple of other guitarists and our neighbour Mark with his bongo drum.

It was a nice surprise that Mark arrived from southern Spain in time for this year’s party on the beach, and also that it stopped raining just in time!

His dog Sheila was certainly happy to be there. We felt we had to try and tire her out before we could start a game of cricket, but didn’t have much luck..

There was a bit of a sandstorm going on in the background as we started, and the ball was threatening to split in half (even without any canine assistance), but it was still an entertaining game.

We do need more bowling practice though. A ball that’s whole, reasonably heavy and bounces would be useful too!

I had a slight panic moment when I was making food to take round to Heymede for the continuation of the party that evening. I had thought I had bought some interesting-looking local chorizo sausage, but I’d been in a hurry at the time..

It turned out to be interesting-feeling cream of chorizo, in a sausage-like skin. I didn’t really think squidgy lumps of pig product would work in the tomato salad I’d been thinking of making.. Fortunately I had some bread to hand..

We ended up saving most of the food for the evening rather than taking it to the beach and getting sand in it.

The party went very well – those of us sat in shelter on the boat with the food and drinks definitely had fun, and it looked like those on the pontoon did too.

Carolyn and I had both been tempted by the floor of the volcanic crater at Bandama when we’d walked around the edge of it with Jon a couple of weeks ago.

At that time I didn’t feel ready to go down 200m and climb back up again – the relatively level circling of the crater had required taking quite a few breaks.

This time it was much easier, and the meadow at the bottom was well worth the descent – beautiful in springtime.

The next day we went to the market – or rather the nearest one. I’d been intending to go for ages, but never got around to it as I don’t need to buy that much fresh food for just me, so it’s quite easy to pick it up on the way back from doing other things.

I’m glad I finally made it there though – it’s significantly cheaper than the grocer’s and supermarket nearer the marina

This lot cost about 5 euros..

.. and these about 1.50 each. The snacks are churros, basically deep fried batter, dipped in sugar. Mmm, healthy.

Mind you, churros and hot chocolate seem to be the Spanish version of the late night kebab, so we probably shouldn’t expect any less.

Talking of late nights, there have been some beautifully calm and still ones lately..

It’s just a pity the pontoon Maid is tied up to doesn’t lend itself to pictures with flat horizons..

Past and future (?) visits, and catching up on photos

Posted in Fun, Music, Photographs, Walking with tags , , on April 8, 2011 by maidofmettle

So, what did Jon (pictured) and I get up to when he was here? Quite a lot..

(credit for most of the photos in this entry goes to him, by the way. Obviously excepting the one above, which he’ll probably berate me for)

On Sunday we went for a walk along Las Canteras beach on the north side of Las Palmas. You’ve seen plenty of photos of that before, but not any of people being able to surf so close in – it must have been very near high water.

The waves weren’t big but some of the surfers were pretty impressive nonetheless.

On Monday we travelled down to Maspalomas – one of the biggest tourist developments on the island, but also home to some impressive sand dunes. The town itself is a big sprawl of holiday apartments and restaurants offering every type of cuisine you could want, with a full supporting cast of people pushing jewellry and stuff – quite a shock having been staying in the north which is much less touristy.

Having got away from that the dunes themselves are pretty impressive – it only takes a few minutes walk to be away from all the noise of the beachfront kiosks and into a very different feeling world of sand and scrub. It’s quite something – especially when you’ve worked out which bits offer the beautiful scenery without the naked men wandering around.

On Tuesdaywe had a more restful day, with a little more sightseeing in Las Palmas, wandering around one of the parks near the marina.

That evening we (or rather Jon) rowed over to Pax Nostrum for harmonica practice  for me, photography for Jon and then chatting till the usual ‘how did it get that late?’ finish.

It looks as though none of us know the words to this one yet!

Jon sent some photos when he got back which everyone is thrilled with – thank you again!

By this time I was keen to get out for a proper walk and show Jon some of my favourite parts of the island. This is the view down into the volcanic crater at Bandama – we chose to go round the edge for a relatively easy walk – the farm on the crater floor is about 200m below.

That said, I’ve not found many walks on Gran Canaria I’d call flat (the word ‘strenuous’ is frequently used in my guidebook), and the southern edge of the crater rim is pretty narrow as well – here are Caroline and Jon walking along the start of that section:

At the end of the walk they were rather surprised by the way we popped up next to a golf course – it seems rather out of place here, though it dates back to 1891 and is in fact the oldest golf course in Spain!

It also seems a little odd that the green pictured is very near the edge of the crater – anyone driving a bit too far is going to land in the world’s biggest bunker.. It seems like it might be a health hazard on the crater floor as well!

On Thursday we made the rather shorter bus journey to the hospital (I had to finally post a picture of it), and sat around a lot waiting to get my results and have my stitches taken out. It was definitely good to have someone to wait with, and share the frustration of not actually getting the results that day..

Afterwards we crossed the main road to the old fishing quarter. Unsurprisingly there are several fish restaurants there with very nice views out over the sea, and being well away from the tourist areas of the city it’s quite cheap. The fish were good, and the coffee was very nice as well.

If you’re wondering about the layered effect these are the traditional ‘leche leche’, which I suspect I’ve mentioned before – condensed milk on the bottom and then coffee on top – the uppermost layer is just the milk froth.

After that we got a bus back as far as the old town centre and walked around there before returning to the marina. It’s an area of real contrasts, from the patchwork colours of houses piling higgledy-piggledy up the hillside:

to the grander architecture of the town centre

and back to the marina along the bustling main shopping street

Later that afternoon we went over to Las Canteras beach on the other side of Las Palmas to admire the sunset and dusk from the promenade.

And of course to admire the slightly intimidating sand sculpture (there was a dinosaur as well for those who prefer less polemical beach art).

On Friday we went for another walk. I’d come up with one plan for a short walk from Cruz de Tejeda to a viewpoint on the opposite side of the ridge but after some time poring over bus timetables we decided it wouldn’t really work that well. Thankfully Jon spotted the improbable sounding option of walking to Lanzarote, which we duly did.

It worked just as well – to start with we had slightly views over one of the biggest valleys in the centre of the island, and then crossing the ridge and descending the other side, we had views of Las Palmas and the northern side of the island as well as the scenery closer to hand.

This is another abandoned farm set in a crater – again impressively remote-feeling like the one at Bandama, though this one does have road access.

We also passed some basins where water draining down from the hills was used for washing clothes by the people of the village.

Some of the tourist information claims it’s still in use but it looked like it might turn things a bit green – it certainly must be a while since it was this busy!

Having got back we went for a quick swim on the beach by the marina to cool off, and also for me to see how it felt – a week or so before cold had made it very hard to move my left leg, but as with most things this seemed to have improved significantly.

It felt good enough that on Saturday morning we went over to Las Canteras again to swim inside the reef at the near end. The water is quite clear, so with goggles on we could see lots of fish swimming around the reef, and surprisingly right up close to the beach as well, ranging from brightly coloured to jet black with blue fins.

Then back to the boat for lunch, and then to the bus station so Jon could go to the airport for his flight back. It was a great week – great to see him again, and also nice to have someone around to give me a reason to get out and about more while being very patient with my walking speed (especially at the start of the week) and tendency to sit down a lot.

I’ll get on to future plans a bit more in my next entry, but I will mention one thing here – having thought everything was done for a while I got a call from the hospital to say they want to do an ultrasound scan at the end of April.

The scan is presumably just routine follow-up – nothing to worry about, but I’ll obviously stay for it. I think it’ll also work out quite well in terms of getting jobs done on the boat to be here till then.

So if anyone else is looking to come out and visit, within that period would probably be easiest to arrange – it’s rather short notice, but then any trip would probably have to be once I get sailing again in May, and travel will get rather expensive when / if I make it to the Azores.

Let me know if you’re interested and we can try and sort something out, either sooner or later.

Of course, I’m hoping to see most of my friends again on returning to the UK, hopefully in August – it doesn’t feel like all that long now!

Not much new to report, but lots of carnival photos

Posted in Cancer, Fun, Malignant melanoma, Photographs, Skin cancer with tags on March 29, 2011 by maidofmettle

Well, I didn’t get any very bad news last Thursday. From that you have probably deduced that I didn’t really get any news, other than another appointment to go back again this Thursday.


Still, at least it’s either a delay in getting the results back, which not much can be done about, or else no news is probably good news – if I am to need another operation it would be fairly urgent, so hopefully they would be ringing me up as soon as they knew. Fingers crossed…

I had a fantastic time with Jon last week, but am having issues retrieving photos from my memory card, so I’ll leave off saying much more about it till I can put some illustrations in.

That does give me a chance to catch up on the main carnival parade of a few weeks ago – I’ve been wondering when I’d sneak that in!

The weather that afternoon did not look promising…

Thankfully it had eased by the time we heard the parade coming and went up to see it, but the carnival queens must still have been pretty chilly.

The clowns were probably glad it wasn’t a hot afternoon though, and with those shoes they’d probably have been fine even if the road flooded.

These chaps would probably have been ok as well, in fact a good flood would have cushioned them nicely if they fell over.

It didn’t quite come to that though, and occasionally the rain even stopped, enabling Bethany to turn the umbrella into a sweet harvester (they were hurled down at us from most of the floats).

All the floats had a big crowd of people dancing along behind them – even the one with the rather smoky-looking (and ineffective!) afterburner.

As it got dark the floats started looking even more spectacular.

Though it did start raining again..

The parade went on for several hours, and the post-parade party was only just getting going at around midnight.

It didn’t look like the rain (probably the full month’s average) had dampened things down much, not that we stayed out that late.

Recap over, roll on Thursday, and hopefully some results this time!

In the meantime I’m gradually getting used to being on my own again, and trying to resume all the jobs I’d been neglecting after the operation, from paintwork and varnishing to making new things.

It’s been quite relaxing in some ways knowing I wouldn’t be able to leave for a while – now the time when I’ll hopefully be able to seems be be approaching quite fast, and quite ominously.