Archive for Madeira


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!

2009-11-10 #01 Vitry-le-Francois to St Dizier (Custom).JPG

  • 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.

2010-10-18 #07 Boaventura (Custom)

2011-03-22 #21 (Custom)

Thanks Jon for that photo

2011-02-07 #04 (Custom)

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,

2010-05-20 #6 Vila Real to Alcoutim (Custom).JPG

  • 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).

2011-01-18 #01 (Custom).JPG

  • 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

2010-09-07 #01 (Custom)

  • 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!

2010-09-05 #01 (Custom)

  • 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.

2010-09-07 #06 (Custom)

  • 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)

2014-08-17 #36 (Custom)

  • 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

2011-06-17 #03 (Custom)

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)

2014-07-29 (Custom)

  • 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

2012-08-19 #19 (Custom).JPG

  • 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

2014-08-24 #04 (Custom).JPG

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

2014-08-23 #23 (Custom).JPG

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)

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,


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 3: ups and downs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A little later, through this unassuming doorway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It certainly seemed a good alternative…

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

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

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

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

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

The way down to Fontes featured lots of cows.

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

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

Not that this was without its problems…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back in Funchal it was a nice cool evening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and the climax was certainly fitting.

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

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

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

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

The town centre itself is very pretty

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

Well, and various branding…

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

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

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

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

to the city centre and harbour

and the hilly northern outskirts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Madeira part 1: getting stuff done and a few excursions

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

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

Funchal was as lovely and lively as ever..

..and the nearest park is very nice..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The flowers were beautiful as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 6: Tuesday 31/05

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopefully that wind would pick back up again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 7: Wednesday 01/06

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funchal harbour wall becoming visible was even more welcome though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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