Archive for Local festivals

September 2013 part 2

Posted in Cornwall, Fun, Music, Photographs, Sailing, Walking with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2014 by maidofmettle

The following day I went for a bit of a sail and decided to anchor off the Molunans again having spied Dave already there.

2013-09-25 #02 St Just to Little Molunan

We went for a circular wander on the Roseland, up towards the lighthouse and looking back over the boats..

2013-09-25 #03 St Just to Little Molunan

..before heading east, and then inland and circling back to the beach again (rather different weather to the last time I was here).

2013-09-25 #05 St Just to Little Molunan

I’d taken a slightly longer route on the return trip going right round opposite St Mawes, and was rather surprised to find Dave spear-fishing when I rowed out. Thoughts of moving to get away from the Eye of Sauron..

2013-09-25 #07 St Just to Little Molunan

..and the incessant foghorn were soon dismissed in favour of chat ranging from sailing to woodworking to northern Finnish tribespeople and a delicious fish supper (though the foghorn did get rather irritating later on).

The next day we left the hooting behind and sailed north before parting ways off St Mawes, with Dave continuing northward..

2013-09-26 #03 Dormouse Dave

..while I headed in.

2013-09-26 #07 St Mawes

The next few days were largely spent sailing between St Mawes and Falmouth, with friends and free anchorage in St Mawes and music sessions in Falmouth. Generally it was easy going one way…

2013-09-26 #08 St Mawes to Falmouth

..and harder getting back!

2013-09-27 #02 St Mawes

The sun only seemed to come out later on.. (still windy though).

2013-09-27 #01 St Mawes

There was also the rather amusing circumstance of being introduced to someone I’d known years previously by a mutual acquaintance- eventually we both worked it out!

A couple of days later a couple of us headed to anchor on the Penryn River and dinghy up for the local ‘River Revels’ festival. I was rather jealous of Nick’s sail getting up there…

2013-09-29 #01 Penryn River Revels

Unsurprisingly I don’t have any pictures of the blindfold rowing race I came fourth in, but I should think if you imagine this sculling race with more contestants and more chaos you wouldn’t be far off:

2013-09-29 #02 Penryn River Revels

After fish and chips several of us went to a music session in the nearby Famous Barrel, which I’m rather ashamed to say I never discovered when Chris & I were working on the boat in Penryn.

2013-09-29 #04 Famous Barrel folk session

I tacked back to St Mawes again the next day (can’t believe the amount of easterlies in that holiday) to meet up with Si and Cat

2013-09-30 #01 Falmouth to St Mawes

and then popped back to Falmouth for some music in the evening.

2013-09-30 #07 Falmouth

The next morning with the wind changing round I decided to go to the Helford, but sailed into St Mawes first to see if anyone was about and was joined by another friend for the sail over. Definitely a good photo-taking opportunity..

2013-10-01 #03 [Steve]

with thanks to him sailing rings round Maid though the weather was looking rather ominous. Remarkably, we both made it to the Helford before it started chucking it down.

2013-10-01 #12

The following day looked the most sensible to head back to Plymouth, though it was rather grey

2013-10-02 #01 Helford to Millbrook

and strangely I’m not sure I’ve ever been seasick so many times as on that trip, even nearing Mazagon or between Madeira and Tenerife when I was definitely worse off overall.

Rame Head and Penlee Point were both very welcome sights indeed, with Plymouth Breakwater heralding very sheltered water.

2013-10-02 #03 Helford to Millbrook

In the end it was a lovely sail in to anchor off Millbrook.

2013-10-02 #04 Helford to Millbrook

For a change the next day I headed up the River Tamar, which I’d never properly explored very far. My first stopping point was very sheltered and isolated, with a steep wooded slope to the south and low-lying meadow land to the north.

2013-10-03 #01 Pentillie Hole

The Tamar is still very broad at high water, creating some spectacular reflections.

2013-10-04 #02 Cotehele

I continued upstream the next day when the tide had come about half way up, so there was reasonable depth, and also so it had more to rise for when I inevitably did get stuck – actually within about 100 yards. Perhaps I had tried to start too early, but then I was hoping to meet people at Cotehele, where I anchored off the quay just about on time.

2013-10-04 #03 Cotehele

We went for a very nice walk round the estate, and then some refreshment in the tea rooms – which also contained this rather useful detailed chart (you can see the amount of mud at low water)!

2013-10-04 #05 Cotehele

Later in the afternoon I went further up by dinghy, as far as the railway viaduct at Calstock.2013-10-04 #13 Cotehele

The following morning was atmospheric to say the least..

2013-10-05 #01 Cotehele

and just as much so when the sun finally started breaking through..

2013-10-05 #07 Cotehele to Cawsand

leaving some rather curious misty effects behind.

 

2013-10-05 #12 Cotehele to Cawsand

By the time I got down to the Tamar bridges it was bright sunshine

2013-10-05 #15 Cotehele to Cawsand

and shortly afterwards I was able to start sailing

2013-10-05 #18 Cotehele to Cawsand

back down the river and out over the ‘Bridge’ (a narrow channel through former anti-submarine defences) to the anchorage in Cawsand Bay.

2013-10-05 #19 Cawsand

There was plenty going on ashore

2013-10-05 #21 Cawsand

and a chance for a bite to eat before setting off to walk across the peninsula and over to the chapel on Rame Head.

2013-10-05 #23 Rame Peninsula

 

I wasn’t concerned about the evening drawing in as I’d done the walk before and the coast path is generally quite hard to get lost on, so very much appreciated the sunset, both from Rame Head itself

2013-10-05 #27 Rame Peninsula

and looking back towards it from the east.

2013-10-05 #33 Rame Peninsula

Cawsand and Kingsand are two of the most beautiful villages I’ve seen in the dark as well.

2013-10-05 #34 Cawsand

2013-10-05 #35 Cawsand

2013-10-05 #37 Cawsand

The next morning I got up early

2013-10-06 #02 Cawsand & Mt Edgcumbe

to go for a walk in the other direction in the Mount Edgcumbe country park

2013-10-06 #11 Cawsand & Mt Edgcumbe

this time enjoying the dawn light shining through the trees

2013-10-06 #12 Cawsand & Mt Edgcumbe

as well as some beautiful views of the city of Plymouth

2013-10-06 #18 Cawsand & Mt Edgcumbe

lots of deer

2013-10-06 #26 Cawsand & Mt Edgcumbe

and Plymouth Sound.

2013-10-06 #28 Cawsand & Mt Edgcumbe

Then back towards Cawsand and Kingsand

2013-10-06 #31 Cawsand & Mt Edgcumbe

for a quick afternoon swim, and then motoring back out of the bay

2013-10-06 #32 Cawsand

and up to a mooring at Torpoint to head home again.

While I didn’t actually sail all that far it had been a fantastic holiday – really nice to have all that time off at once.

In many ways it removed the pressure to do many long trips, and let me focus very much on what would be happening in the next couple of days, especially good with so many people I knew or got to know around, which was one of the main joys of it.

September 2013 part 1

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

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

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

2013-09-10 #01 Torpoint to the Helford

..and pursue a submarine out of Plymouth Sound.

2013-09-10 #03 Torpoint to the Helford

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

2013-09-10 #05 Torpoint to the Helford

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

2013-09-10 #06 Torpoint to the Helford

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

2013-09-10 #08 Torpoint to the Helford

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

2013-09-10 #10 Torpoint to the Helford

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

2013-09-11 #01 Helford River

and walked east along the river..

2013-09-11 #03 Helford River

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

2013-09-11 #06 Durgan to Maenporth

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

2013-09-11 #09 Helford River

The next morning the sky looked rather ominous..

2013-09-12 #01 Helford River to Falmouth

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

2013-09-12 #04 Falmouth

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

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

2013-09-14 #02 Falmouth

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

2013-09-15 #04 Falmouth

..and even more spectacular the next day.

2013-09-15 #09 Falmouth

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

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

2013-09-17 #03 Channals Creek

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

2013-09-18 #02 Channals Creek

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

2013-09-18 #05 Turnaware

Having landed there I walked up the ridge..

2013-09-18 #06 Turnaware to Messack Pt

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

2013-09-18 #10 Turnaware to Messack Pt

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

2013-09-18 #14 Turnaware to Messack Pt

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

2013-09-18 #17 Turnaware to Messack Pt

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

2013-09-19 #03 Trelissick woods

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

2013-09-20 #01 Great Molunan

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

 

2013-09-20 #03 Great Molunan

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

2013-09-20 #11 Great Molunan to Falmouth

..with some colourful racing boats to admire..

2013-09-20 #13 Great Molunan to Falmouth

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

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

2013-09-21 #01 Falmouth

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

2013-09-22 #02 Trefusis to Trelissick

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

2013-09-22 #06 Trefusis to Trelissick

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

2013-09-22 #10 Trelissick

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

2013-09-22 #13 Trelissick

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

2013-09-22 #12 Trelissick

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

2013-09-22 #14 Trelissick

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

2013-09-23 #02 Turnaware

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

2013-09-24 #02 St Just

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

2013-09-24 #09 St Just

2013-09-24 #10 St Just

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

The Divino Espirito Santo in Ponta Delgada

Posted in Fun, Photographs, the Azores with tags , , on July 30, 2011 by maidofmettle

Finally finished! I’ve had trouble writing this one – it’s quite hard work to say something reasonably concise and accurate about the religious traditions of another culture with another language – for once selecting and ordering pictures was the easy part!

______________________________________________________________

The Holy Spirit Festivals date back to the colonisation of the islands in the fifteenth century. The exact origins of them are unclear, but they were probably inspired by Queen Saint Isabel of Portugal, who pledged her crown to the Holy Spirit as a plea to stop a famine, and later began a tradition to feed the poor on Pentecost, and heavily influenced by Franciscan monks among the early settlers, who worshipped the Holy Spirit according to doctrines proposed by Joachim of Fiore.

This, and the accompanying belief in a post-Revelation third age ruled directly by it with no need for the Church didn’t find favour with the Pope, and it’s probably no coincidence that Franciscans were the first religious orders to take part in the settlement of the Azores. Though they’re rooted in Catholicism, the ceremonies are now unique to these islands and parts of the Americas where Azorean emigrants have settled.

Brotherhoods of the Holy Spirit are still found in each village and neighbourhood in the islands today. Their main principles are hope, faith in the divine, egalitarianism, solidarity and charity, and autonomy from the church (I’m guessing that last was the controversial one, though the local churches appear quite involved in some of the ceremonies today).

The festivities take place over a number of weeks after Easter, based around the Imperio of the local brotherhood. This would once have been a temporary structure, but they’re now usually colourful buildings, which serve as a base for religious rituals as well as the collection and distribution of donations.

An Imperador or mordomo is chosen for that year, and  makes a pledge to provide food for friends, family and the poor of the village. They’re usualy selected randomly from the local Brotherhood, though someone who’d had good fortune during the year might step forward to volunteer.

There are a number of religious ceremonies and rituals over the six or seven weeks after Easter, and other celebrations based on sharing food and drink. Normally this is just for the village or parish concerned, but recently some cities have started holding condensed versions as big public events, including Ponta Delgada.

There were long tables and benches round all four sides of the Campo de Sao Francisco for the serving of the Sopa (soup) do Espirito Santo to anyone and everyone.

They were all packed with people sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, and crowds waiting patiently if noisily nearby ready to take their turn as soon as seats became free.

Recipes for the traditional soup vary – the one served here involved beef, cabbage and potatos, seasoned with mint. It was very nice, as was the conversation with my neighbours, though it was rather limited by Portuguese. It helped that the picture on the bottles of local wine showed where I’d been anchored a few days before!

The local papers reckon that over 12,000 people attended, which I can certainly believe, and over a tonne of meat was used, which is rather harder to imagine! The four kitchens at the corners of the square must really have had their work cut out, and if I ever see so many underage scouts hurrying around with bottles of wine again it will probably signal some kind of irretrievable breakdown of society.

As it is it’s an impressive demonstration of society working together to put on a huge event while saving the council money – the food and drinks for the feast and distribution to charities was donated by local companies, only local performers were booked and there were no fireworks (for a change at a Portuguese festival!).

From the voices in the crowd it certainly sounded like it brings a lot of emigrants and their families back to the islands, as well as other tourists and of course being a big event for the locals.

The main course was followed up by a delicious rice pudding – really rich and creamy, topped with cinnamon.

And then a big parade, with all 24 parishes on the island represented in the procession: lots of ox-carts, decorated floats, folk groups and marching bands.

I think this pair of oxen may have drawn the short straw when it came to enthusiasm of the designers.

As if there hadn’t been enough food already, the bread van was distributing the very tasty sweet massa sovada to all and sundry

and I suspect the Sagres float was even more popular, though I do wonder how long the pumps were able to keep going before the driver had to roar off down a side street in search of more beer.

The next day was more solemn, with the Bishop of the Azores leading an open-air mass on the steps of the main church, followed by the coronation and blessing of the mordomos for this year. The active participation of the clergy is actually a more modern development rather than a central part of the ceremony – traditionally the community was addressing the Holy Spirit directly.

followed by the Bodo de Leite, a ritual serving of milk and the massa sovada bread to everyone – again the locals were very keen on including everyone.

The Folioes do Divino who’d accompanied the coronation were playing at various places around the square, though it did look to me as though they were going to cause chaos when they moved to the exit from the Bodo de Leite serving area..

 

The evening was finished off by the Ponta Delgada Light Orchestra who were definitely enjoying themselves, putting on an exuberant performance of songs from the 70s to the 90s. I think a certain group of people down in the Canaries play Proud Mary better though : )

 

 

 

 

 

 

In search of the Seven Cities

Posted in Fun, Photographs, the Azores, Walking with tags , on July 24, 2011 by maidofmettle

I’m still not quite convinced that the Caldeira de Sete Cidades is entirely real. The idea of a Crater of Seven Cities, with a Blue Lake and a Green Lake, sounds distinctly like something from a fantasy novel or a very old map. It’s certainly a rather fanciful name for a crater containing what appears to be only one village, also called Sete Cidades (on the left of the picture).

In actual fact it appears to be real, but it is definitely named after a myth, and does indeed appear on many old maps. Confused yet? The seven cities were supposedly founded on the island of Antillia, discovered in the eighth century by an archbishop, six bishops and their followers fleeing the Moorish invasion of Spain, and featured on charts of the Atlantic for over a hundred years.

Many expeditions were sent in search of it, from Portugal, Spain and England – the latter chiefly from Bristol mariners seeking a base for fishing the Grand Banks. Though the rumour that Antillian sand was pure gold may also have had some appeal..

It’s unclear what any physical basis for the legend might have been, especially as the island was understood to be to the west of the Azores, Canaries and Madeira archipelago. There are theories that it refers to some part of the New World – and indeed the name was probably subsequently applied to the Antilles islands in the eastern Caribbean – known before Columbus’ voyage..

While intriguing, the name Sete Cidades does distract slightly from the main attraction of the crater – the Lagoa Azul and Lagoa Verde, which are definitely remarkable. They aren’t actually entirely separate lakes – the dividing line is a culverted bridge, but the difference in colour is noticeable.

The greener lake is shallower and closely surrounded by trees, which apparently accounts for the difference, though a few years ago eutrophication problems turned both lakes a similar colour due to algal blooms.

It had been quite a climb up from the village to the crater rim where those pictures were taken from, though it mostly went through very nice and shady woodland.

Definitely well worth it though, as well as the pictures you’ve already seen you could see down to the coast the other way.

The path along the crater rim let me keep seeing both sides for quite a while..when a car hadn’t just gone past that is.

One of the more remarkable sights was this herd of cows. Not only are they the backbone (and many tastier parts) of much of Sao Miguel’s economy, these one’s also appear to have installed a solar panel to power their television.

Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten one for lunch..

The walk was very well marked with red and yellow paint as well as the directions in my book, though I did get concerned at this point..

I decided to continue along the road and was soon rewarded by seeing the Lagoa Azul at closer quarters

and then closer still. I was briefly charged by this rag-tag mob of ducks, but I looked at them and thought about crispy deep-frying and they ran away.

The beach didn’t look like it was going to start a gold rush..

and there didn’t seem to be seven churches, let alone seven villages – not that this one didn’t look rather fine.

So, I didn’t solve any mysteries, but I did have a very nice day of walking, especially as it was cloudy for walking uphill in the morning and then sunny at the top.

Later that evening back in Ponta Delgada, I got to see rather more of a fado performance than I had in Madeira. I could’ve sworn they were the same group, but I guess the requirement to drape yourself in a black cloak does make mistakes possible. There was a brief hiatus when they were joined by some more performers at the end and someone had to scurry around to find another cloak.

Ponta Delgada is an impressive site in the evening as well..

This picture gives a bit of a hint as to the next subject. The marquee in the foreground shows bread made in all the different parishes on Sao Miguel in a competition which forms part of the Holy Spirit Festival (Divino Espirito Santo).

This is a huge event in the Azores, and areas of Brazil and New England where Azorean emigrants are common, though it’s also common for them to return to the islands for some of the festival.

It probably deserves it’s own post, especially as it’s getting late.

Madeira to the Azores part I

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

Day 1: Thursday 23rd June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 1: Friday 24th June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unfortunately, later on the wind started dropping…

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

Day 2: Saturday 25th June

Early the next morning things continued much the same..

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

Day 3: Sunday 26th June

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

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


Day 4: Monday 27th June

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

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

and watching Horace do his stuff.

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

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

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

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

Madeira part 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.