Archive for Rio Guadiana


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

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

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

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

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

So, what don’t I miss?

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

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

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

And what were the best things?

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

2010-10-18 #07 Boaventura (Custom)

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Thanks Jon for that photo

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and thanks Quiksilver for that one

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

Though that said:

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

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).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


“A toast to onward voyages on land and sea”

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

Leaving the Guadiana

Posted in Photographs, Uncategorized with tags on July 16, 2010 by maidofmettle

Tomorrow we hope to leave the river!

Yes, I know we’ve been here a while but I think we all agree that it is a really nice place so that’s ok.

Next ‘plan’ (obviously there’s no such thing as a plan with boats) leave the river, turn right, go along the Portugese coast for a few days before embarking on our longest passage yet…

Rouse’s reign of terror – the aftermath

Posted in Fun, Unfortunate events with tags on July 9, 2010 by maidofmettle

This week Maid of Mettle is sponsored by bleach…

Tough on even the most stubborn vermin

It was unfortunate really that we only met Anna and Mark (and their kids) a couple of days after we had laid the poison down for the animal rampaging through the boat.  They had a humane rat trap that they kindly lent us to try having visited their house a little way up the river.  We were somewhat worried actually when we rowed there, parked up at their pontoon and went up the path to be met by a huge dog who turned out to be very friendly (if a little soppy!).  It’s hard to know with some of the dogs around here, especially the ones on chains that bark a lot at you.  Our first clue that we had the right house and that the dog was safe should have been it’s lack of chain I suppose.  Anyway, we had a nice chat with them and came back with the trap, hoping to have caught a live rat by morning.

Unfortunately the morning brought nothing, despite having baited the trap with tomato – our unwanted pet’s favourite food.  It was soon after that we started to notice a nasty smell developing and a little time after that when we finally found it in the deepest part of the bilge at the back of the boat.  The poison had done its job.  Although sad that we couldn’t have avoided getting rid of it in this way we were glad that we could finally get on with putting the boat together.  What did turn out to be a rat was quite large, grey in colour, (and dare I say) quite cute in a way.  It would have never been caught in the mouse traps we bought up the road in Spain.  For any weird people who are interested in seeing it, below is a picture of what we found, some may not wish to see…









Artist's impression

No, sorry, couldn’t help that.  Of course I wouldn’t put a photo of a dead animal here…There is a photo but you will have to ask for it separately if you really want to see it, or if you don’t believe us.

What with Rouse having been found in the bottom of the back bilge we had some serious cleaning up to do.  For a start how do you remove something like that from one of the only bits of the boat that you can’t get into?  We had to improvise with cardboard and a boat hook in order to give the animal the most dignity in its retrieval.  It actually worked very well even if it was a bit grim.

Keyhole Surgery

It had been wandering around everywhere under the floorboards and nibbling at all sorts.  The most damage had been done to the insulation foam which appeared to have been good nesting material though it had had a bit of a go at the cable that connects the depth sounder.  Fortunately it still works though.

The evidence - nibbled cable

Almost all our things had been put outside to avoid being nibbled and then would need to be cleaned before going back inside.

oh dear - not exactly ready for sea

So, out came the bleach to wash all the bilges, floor panels, lots of cupboards, tins of food and anything else that might have been walked on.  This clean up has taken the most part of a week and we are just about back to normal now.  One positive thing did come out of this…we have managed to stow the boat bits away much more effectively and have had chance to do some of jobs we hadn’t got round to yet.

Earlier in the week we celebrated Pete’s birthday with a picnic on the beach and a small surprise party.  It was quite fun organising and we managed to get quite a few people together from the many boats that are on the river.

Pete and his dinner

Happy birthday to you

Pete's Party

We did have some other visitors, who were more welcome. A mother duck (we call them the “Turkey Ducks”) and her 16! adorable ducklings came by to visit and were justly rewarded with bread in exchange for a photo shoot.

Proud Turkey Duck and her brood


Rouse’s reign of terror – Part 2

Posted in Unfortunate events with tags on July 3, 2010 by maidofmettle

We got it!

Rouse’s reign of terror

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Unfortunate events with tags on June 30, 2010 by maidofmettle

The creature living on the boat with us is either a mouse or a rat.  According to some people who live here the rats are pretty small and can swim and climb.  Also they can easily float down the river on bamboo rafts (sudden mental images of a rat with a paddle or pole singing ‘just one cornetto’)

First night...the mess at 1am

Having had pet rats I’d still prefer to think of our visitor as a mouse though whilst he was doing some work yesterday, Chris saw ‘the thing’ and reckoned it was bigger than a mouse.  Therefore I have decided to declare it a ‘rouse’, a super-mouse that has failed to leave or be caught despite our best efforts for quite a few days now.

The Spanish and Portugese don’t seem to go for humane traps so unfortunately we have had to opt for some more horrible options in an attempt to get rid of it and stop it burrowing into the insulation foam and eating our clothes and food.

A healthy appetite

This one likes its tea white then...

Therefore many of our belongings have been outside in the cockpit and all over the deck for the last 3 days and nights since we first heard it, including the liferaft, kayak and quite a lot of food.  The thing (whatever it is) has kept us awake at night with it’s pattering about and nibbling sounds.  Things have been literally disappearing at night.  We lost some cheese but fortunately no bacon as we didn’t have any but it seemed to be a bit quieter last night.

We all had the best night’s sleep in a while last night…mostly because it was quieter and we were tired from lying awake listening to it.  There are very few things left in the boat for it to eat now and it seems to have stopped trying to eat things like paint thinners which was one of it’s first meals!  In fact the main way we found it was by smelling the thinners wafting back from the front of the boat.

Our lives seem to have been taken over by the animal on the boat so it has felt a bit like that is all that is happening at the moment.  Add to that, the extremely hot weather and you can imagine it is easy for tempers to flare.  We have been doing ok mostly especially if we remember to try and cool off in the river and not do too much work during the hottest part of the day though there are still a few jobs that need doing before we can leave for Madeira.   Mending the toilet is just one of them.

mending the toilet...this needs finishing

We seem to have got most of the jobs we needed to do done even if it does get excruciatingly hot inside the boat whilst doing them.  We now have new lights on our lifejackets, newly re-attached doghouse windows (back two windows of cabin), some new storage at the front and a way to stop all the drawers coming out whilst at sea.  The broken tricolour light at the top of the mast is falso fixed and the solar panels have been re-wired.

Other news.  Yesterday a lady arrived in a wooden boat with baskets of fresh vegetables announcing herself by saying “Hello, I’m the vegetable lady”.  As veg is quite hard to get hold of we bought some and were amazed to only pay about £1.40 for quite a lot of food.

The Vegetable Lady

We went in search of the pego that was sign posted near to the beach in Alcoutim.  Not being too sure what it was we were none the wiser once we’d followed the walk.  It was a nice walk though along a river bank.

Pego? Stream, bamboo, pools? Who knows.

Our new crew member

Posted in Unfortunate events with tags on June 26, 2010 by maidofmettle

Although I only just posted  I thought this would be worthy of another post…

We have a new crew member.  He or she is fairly quiet though does seem to have taken a liking to some strange foods including our pepper-corn, falafel and soya supplies.    Can you guess yet?

Small Bucket’s Big Adventure

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Sailing, Walking, Wildlife with tags , , , on June 24, 2010 by maidofmettle

The sun has come out and it’s pretty hot here.  We’ve had a few swims in various places and seen some slightly scary wildlife on our travels up and down the river.

About a week ago we all went to a festival in Alcoutim.  They had 2 days of music and traditional crafts on show.  The traditional American-style marching band was a bit of a puzzle with its jazz clarinet, cornet and sousaphone (big brass bass instrument that the player literally wears) and it sounded surprisingly good when combined with a medieval pipe and drum ensemble.   The food was equally interesting…Not exactly knowing a great deal of Portugese (might have to learn a few more words) we decided to go for a surprise tapas selection which comprised of some salads, dried salted fish and some kind of yellow gloop, otherwise known as papas de mihlo, which it turned out was something like corn semolina when we found it somewhere else.

I’d been looking around at a stall where they had made various instruments out of bamboo.  I wasn’t too sure how to play one of them so didn’t buy one.  When I later saw one of the festival’s organisers playing one I went over and asked how it worked.  Turned out to be a castanet made out of a big piece of bamboo that you have to strike with 2 bits of your hand.  I went back to where we were all sat and thought nothing more of it until about 20 minutes later someone walked over and said in Portugese English “here this is for you”.  He then proceeded to give me a lesson on my newly aquired bamboo castanet!  I am going to need a bit more practise before being able to play it I think.

Learning to play the bamboo castanet

Alcoutim random tapas

Can you guess who it is yet?

Since I last wrote we travelled up to a small village called Puerto de la Laja, about an hour or so up from Alcoutim and stopped there for a day or so.  Chris and I took the inflatable kayak out to the Rio Vascao for a mini expedition.  We took a tent, cooker and some food and camped out a couple of kilometres up the river. We tried to take some photos of the turtles/terrapins (we’re still not sure but a few people tell us they’re terrapins) with the camera Chris aquired from home that he is specifically aiming to use for catching animal footage.

teenage non-mutant probably non-ninja hero terrapins?

The kayak was perfect for sneaking up on them as you could be almost completely silent.  The terrapins are really quite easily disturbed and jump into the water at even the smallest sound.  One even kamikazeed into the water from about a metre high up the bank.  In fact we hadn’t even seen it before it threw itself in the water making a rather horrible clonking sound on its way down.

The day was lovely and warm and there were plenty of chances to have a swim in the river.  We decided to try and find where the river started properly and were sucessful twice in fact…The first time we thought we’d found the end of the tidal bit, went up the bank a little way to look at the view and then found that there was more river and the tide was still coming in and filling the originally completely dry river bed!


The 'end' of the river

After a further paddle along the now much clearer water of the river we got to another dead end; a narrow stream that was clearly running into the tidal river.  Ah haa we thought, this is as far as we can go.  This again turned out to be not the end of it as a little walk along some stones revealed yet more river.  This time the carrying (portage) would have been too far and it was getting a little late so we took the obligatory ‘end of the river’ picture and then turned back and made our way back to the camp site with swimming pool.

Indiana Chris

We had to do a fair bit of carrying on the way up the river because the tide was fairly low.  It was on one of these portages that I think we picked up an unwelcome visitor.

Portage up the Rio Vascao

Quite often you could just get out and drag the boat when it got a bit shallow but a few times we needed to unload all our things, carry them over to the next bit of water, empty the boat of water (it has water ballast underneath the bottom section) and then carry the boat to the next bit of paddleable water.  On one of these portages, I thought I saw a wasp had got in underneath one of the bags…Now, I really hate wasps.  They’re horrible things despite the fact people tell me they’re useful in some way…especially when they decide to creep up on you and sting you.  It’s almost as if they think ‘oh well, you know, I might have been creeping around and crawling on you…but you moved so I thought I’d sting you because I was scaaared’.  Anyway, I thought I’d be brave about this time, especially as I thought the chances were that it had been squashed by the falling bag behind my seat, so once the bags were all back in I got back in my seat and we paddled on.

Paddling up to our intended camp site we stopped at the pebbly beach.  With the rising tide there were loads of little spiders crawling away from us and the water and strange small scorpion-like insects which were a bit scary to be honest.  Once out of the boat we began unpacking all the bags and tent etc.  The wasp that was behind my seat turned out to be a big brown spider with thick legs.  Unfortunately it was still alive and didn’t seem to want to leave the boat.  Chris managed to convince it to go onto the beach, possibly by throwing it (I can’t remember) out but after that I started looking out for them.  It was only then that I noticed the even larger (about 2 inches with its legs), more stripey and more menacing looking one right by my foot.  Yes Dad, it was what would be described as a Girl Eater.  We were not impressed.

The spider thing was made worse by the fact that we knew that there are some poisonous ones around here but we hadn’t really had any idea what they look like…therefore, every spider had become a potential girl eater.  Since then we have done our research and have a bit more of an idea what to look out for. So we pitched our tent, heated up the chicken casserole and watched the evening’s entertainment…jumping fish.  There were quite a few fish literally leaping out of the water attempting to catch flies.

Chateau £9.99 (that's how much the tent cost)

It had been warm all day and we didn’t think it would get that cold at night.  Unfortunately we were wrong.  Mental note: always take a sleeping bag.  We had an IKEA blanket which wasn’t quite enough. Next day we took a slow trip back on the high tide.  This meant we practically didn’t have to carry the boat at all and then had a bit of a walk and lunch (chicken casserole again) on the bank of the main river (Guadiana). Once back at the main boat (that really sounds far posher than it should) we made our way back to Alcoutim as Pete was visiting another Pete (who was on a band tour of Portugal) the next day.

The next few days were spent back up the river (in the main boat darling) just below a small mining village called Pomerao.  There we had a couple of walks, both of which involved a fair bit of scrambling through the scrub (armed with various snake sticks to fend off any nasties. Especially good since we’ve seen our first swimming snake).   One of these was along the old railway line that used to run all the way to the mines, the other to a large reservoir behind the town.  Both really good short walks.

Pomerao dam

not sure what these are

Spikey things in feet, ouch

Dinner at the local social club bar was really good.  You have to order one day in advance with someone called Maria.  We went along to the bar the day before and were not disappointed…our sign language and very broken Portugese managed to get us a fabulous pork casserole, salad and homemade chips…mmm

Dinner, thanks Maria

I was a bit annoyed at myself when I managed to let go of our bucket and watched it float away with the river one evening.  Chris and Pete were quite fond of it having originally found it in the Rio Vascao, hanging from a tree.  They had adopted it as one of the family.   Bye bye bucket, I thought. However on our way back from Pomerao what did I see but our good friend bucket…It had obviously gone up the river over night and turned back and sailed straight past us

Where's the bucket...?

There it is