Archive for sunrise

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).

Don’t panic, there are a LOT of photos towards the end!

Posted in Cancer, Fun, Malignant melanoma, Photographs, Skin cancer, Surfing, Unfortunate events, Walking with tags , , on February 10, 2011 by maidofmettle

But first, an explanation, if you’ll read it.  ‘Don’t panic’ is good advice here as well. You can probably skip the italicised bit if you’re in a hurry.

Now, it might be seeming like having ummed and ahed about whether I’d have enjoy myself more crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean or thoroughly exploring the Canaries and possibly a little of Morocco, that I’ve decided to take the compromise of just sitting around in Las Palmas, surfing, walking, socialising and racing cockroaches.

That’s a mostly accurate summary of events, but it does omit the primary reason for still being here rather than leaving shortly after the last blog, and indeed the delay in writing this one.

When I was on Fuerteventura I had a doctor look at a mole on my leg which I thought had changed a bit. He thought it was probably fine, but to be safe it would be best to remove and test it at some point when I stopped somewhere for a few weeks.

That was difficult to forecast at the time (seems funny now!), so he agreed to cut it off and give it to me, and I wandered down the road (limping slightly) to a clinic – 100 euros total for the doctor and the testing didn’t seem bad for peace of mind.

That’s not quite how it worked out though, at least not in the short term. The results were in Spanish but even I can translate ‘melanoma maligno’ as a type of skin cancer, and understand that it hadn’t burrowed very far, so would probably be fairly easily curable. Of course, in the long term it’s looking like even better value..

Cue lots of phone calls to my medical insurance company, and stress while they confirmed they’d cover it. Having access to their translators and medical staff for explanations and opinions was even more welcome than the financial cover after a few days of not knowing much more than what I wrote above.

I’m sure the doctors here are very good, but communication is difficult since my Spanish isn’t great.  It can be quite funny at times, but you probably had to be there….

It’s all quite strange really, as I imagine it would be with any illness when you actually feel physically fine. Indeed, most of the offending cells have been chucked in a medical waste bin on Fuerteventura some time ago, and there’s very little likelihood that it’s spread anywhere else.

Mentally, it was distracting, though not really because of morbid thoughts but the more mundane waiting on phone calls and not knowing when it might be sorted out.

I thought the latter would be resolved once the insurance company confirmed they’d cover it, but while they did in principle their initial policy was to wait for a public appointment (which would be covered by the NHS reciprocal EH1C rather than them).

This was quite frustrating having paid for medical insurance – but then I think it is largely intended to cover emergency cases and repatriation. I think they were also more optimistic than me about when I’d get seen – if there was no difference in timescale I’d be very happy with public care, but my impression from the hospital was that it would take weeks. Happily they agreed to speak to the hospital and arrange quicker treatment if necessary, which proved to be the case.


So I’ve got a Valentine’s day date with a specialist on Monday, and will probably need a minor operation to remove a circle of skin around the former mole, making sure that there are no cancerous cells are left round the edge. And that should hopefully be that, with some regular check ups.

Now it doesn’t feel like I’m battling the insurance company I’m mentally very much fine – still enjoying myself here but glad that I’m not looking like being stuck indefinitely. Yes, I have been very much focused on the short term inconvenience of it all! Though I guess that might be less true if I hadn’t noticed the mole or had left going to a doctor longer.

So, public health announcement time – if you have any moles that seem suspicious based on this list ( http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Malignant-melanoma/Pages/Symptoms.aspx ), and especially if they’re changing, do go and get them checked out.

Well, that was a horrible wall of text… Better out than in though, as the specialist may say on Monday.  I did take some photos of the mole the day before first going to the doctor about it, but there didn’t seem much point in keeping them for monitoring changes once he’d cut it off. Not sure you’d have thanked me for those anyway.

The weather was pretty miserable for a week or so, most of which was spent faffing around with poor concentration failing to get inside jobs done. Not photogenic. I reckon there must be a word for presentation reflecting content..

But on Friday morning the sun came back out! – so Caroline, Sue and I played beach tennis. Since then I’ve been very busy, especially since I was initially thinking I might be having the next operation any day this week (yeah, that was hopeful), which would stop surfing and long walks etc for a while. So, normal blogging in technicolour will resume….NOW!

Beach tennis next to the marina

In the evening I had a drink with Axel, who we first met over a year ago in the Navy Service boatyard at the bottom of the Rhone, just west of Marseille. We’ve met up in Ibiza, Velez, Gibraltar and here, but were saying goodbye for a while again as he’s now part-way across the Atlantic, heading for St Maarten in the Caribbean (go Axel! http://www.brainforge.net/vespina ) .

Axel & I in the Sailors’ Bar

On Saturday I went for a short walk in and near the village of Teror. It’s a beautiful place, with gorgeous wooden balconies 10-a-peseta (and that’s a LOT).

The old main street in Teror

The Basilica de la Virgen del Pino, the patron saint of Gran Canaria

A vision of the Madonna of the Pines is said to have appeared to local shepherds in the 15th century, on top of a pine tree.

The valley above Teror

Near the Basilica there were stalls selling various local produce – chiefly bread, avocados and sweet things. Well, you all know what bread and avocados taste like……

Bizcochos lustrados – a light lemon sponge, nice but with a slightly strange taste.

The sunrise on Sunday was so impressive I rowed over to the outer wall of the marina for a better view.

The old name for the harbour is the Puerto de la Luz, or the Port of Light. Makes sense..

Later I took some footage for what will probably be the worst surfing video ever made – paddling and then springing upright on a board with a camera wedged half-out of the sleeve of your wetsuit is not easy, and nor is aiming the camera having achieved this! I think there might be around 10 seconds or so of end product, but you’ll have to wait while I learn how to use the video editing software to deliver it to you without a four minute prelude of paddling seen from the viewpoint of a wrist, with occasional breaking waves.

If only I’d paddled a bit more with my right hand before taking it you’d have a great view of the auditorium, and probably another breaking wave. Of course, if I’d tried it a couple of weeks ago you’d just be seeing water..

On Monday I had another surfing lesson, on a rather shorter board. I’m definitely a lot better than I was – the last time I’d used one like that I could barely stand up on it at all. It’s much more maneuverable which is cool once you are standing up but doesn’t help when you’re trying to achieve it! Alternating between that and the more forgiving board seems like a good way to balance improving and fun. I walked back along the beachfront for a change – normally I tend to do food shopping and then get the bus back.

The water in the foreground is sheltered by a reef offshore – waves for surfing can be found further along (and outside the reef if you’re good)

In the evening Mike and Caroline came round for dinner – we had a beef and lentil stew with garlic and parsley, and a lemon cheesecake. It was very nice to get to know them a bit more, and we may well end up sailing to many of the same places over the next few months.

On Tuesday I rode the buses up into the hills again to the Mirador de Pinos de Galdar, and walked the eight miles from there back to Teror. Once I’d torn myself away from the viewpoint that is – certainly one of the most incredible places I’ve been. The terrain is incredibly rugged, with huge ravines leading down to the coast, and dotted with volcanic peaks and craters. It’s easy to see why this area was the last stronghold of the indigenous Guanche people.

Well, I got me in it, but I think it’s lucky you can’t really see the horizon…

You can see most of the northern half of Gran Canaria, and the eastern coast of Tenerife. On a clearer day – it was sunny but hazy at low altitude, probably due to fine particles brought from Morocco by a couple of days of easterly wind – you could probably see Fuerteventura in the distance beyond Las Palmas.

View to the north-east – the crater of Los Pinos de Galdar in the foreground, and the city of Las Palmas stretching out along the peninsula in the far distance beyond the ridges

View to the west – pine trees, and Mount Teide on Tenerife just visible in the centre

It was quite a hike, with some spectacular ups and downs, especially the descent down a very slow-moving river of gravel at the start. The most unexpected obstacle was a pair of goats. They didn’t exactly seem unfriendly, but tended to place themselves so if you went one side they could kick you and if you went the other they could butt you into a six-foot deep ditch.

Still, I made it past. They look much cuter from the downhill side! Perhaps they were hoping for some of this (yep, from the same stall in Teror):

Bollos de naranja – or orange flavoured doughnuts. Predictably very good.

The route continued up and down through a couple of valleys, past an old watermill and the ‘door of the mountain’, where taxes were paid on goods being transported along the road. I could see why my book described it as ‘fairly strenous’, but the scenery was well worth it, plunging down into ravines and up and over ridges, and it felt like some achievement when Teror came in sight again, with the viewpoint at Pinos de Galdar a speck on the horizon. And I was hungry again..

Nearly back to Teror, the call of the wild succumbs to the call of the tapas

On my previous visit I’d been tempted but didn’t have much time before the next bus back down. On this occasion I was very glad to be able to sit down and sample some stewed goat and anchovies in vinegar before the return trip to Las Palmas. Both were delicious, and surprisingly cheap.

And yesterday I went surfing again – another trip to the Muellitos at the far end of the beach. Until I saw it written on a map I thought this was actually called the Mojito, and probably served up both shaken and stirred. There are usually fairly large waves there, breaking quite a way out from the beach and not as steep as further along. Standing up is certainly not a given, but when I do it’s a fantastic ride in now I can turn back and forth and speed up if I have to. When I don’t…. at least I don’t end up with as much sand in my wetsuit as I do if surfing closer in…..

Today I’m having a rest : )

Mozzies, Mud and Mistiness…More of Madeira

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Walking with tags , , , on October 10, 2010 by maidofmettle

The mozzies have come out to play in Funchal. It was getting a bit ridiculous being bitten lots of times in the night, waking up in the middle of the night with both arms itching like mad or the high-pitched squeal of wings around your head so we decided to foil them for the last few nights with mozzie nets…ha ha, that showed them. No more tasty midnight snacks for you 🙂

(Thanks FPH coders for the kind donations for that investment)

Pete hiding from the mozzies

We have continued to keep busy walking and exploring the island. Highlights were the Riberio Frio – Portela walk that took us through the nature reserve area of Madeira. It turns out something like 80% of the island is reserve and this is where all the greenery is. This must be the place where the brochures show pictures of, it is spectacularly green and hilly. Some of the paths are a little scary though. We were glad of the hand rails.

Chris ponders the sheer drop beneath (Riberio Frio- Portela)

Yes this is a tunnel, yes Caroline did go through it…and yes, there was
another way around (Riberio Frio – Portela)

Pete has been getting quite into his walking during our time here and has done a lot more walks than Chris and I. He enjoyed a walk through banana plantations and a farmland valley the other day. Apparently they grow a smaller variety of banana than those you might be most likely to find in Tesco but we have also seen passion fruit growing here. We all tried some of those, along with prickly pears from a local stall. I’m not sure any of us were overwhelmed by either fruit (if cactus can be called a fruit)…crunchy fruit seeds seem to be the order of the day. Next time I think we might strain them first.

Madeira is famous for cake, wine and triangular houses. Santana is the best place to go and see these traditional houses. In fact we haven’t really seen them anywhere else.

Santana house


We hired a car intending to do day’s walk amongst some of the biggest mountains and to make a trip to the sea cliffs of Cabo Girao. Both of these would have been difficult or impossible without it. Cabo Girao is over five hundred metres high (compared to the cliffs of Dover that are around 100m) and again, it’s good that they put a barrier up. We had misty views of Funchal from there. Whilst browsing youtube we found a video of someone who parachuted after riding his motorbike off this cliff. We just looked at the view…that was enough.

Looking down from Cabo Girao

We got up at about 6.30am to get to the summit of Pico do Arreiro in time for sun-rise. We made it in good time round the windy roads with quite a few 1st gear moments up the hills. It was cold but the sunrise was amazing over the clouds below us.

Sunrise at Pico do Arreiro summit

Our intended walk would have taken us from there to Pico Ruivo about 5km away but in the end we only did a small amount of the walk before turning back. The track is officially closed but the fact the path looked good and we had seen other people continuing tempted us into cautiously carrying on with the intention of turning back if it looked unsafe anywhere. After about fifteen or twenty minutes we remembered that we probably wouldn’t be insured to be on the path should anything bad happen so made our way back. We were later to find out that the path was closed due to the forest fires they had a while ago here and doesn’t look set to be repaired until December “when funds permit”. I’m quite glad we did…another couple we met on our second trip up in the car that day had done the same walk as we planned to but were told on their way back from Ruivo by some wardens that they “were very lucky” not to be hurt by wind-blown stones. I do wonder just how unsafe it can be if wardens are allowed on the path but nevermind I’m glad we were sensible eventually!

We saw none of these stones on our short walk but were scared a bit by the drops to either side and the relatively narrow bits of path. The mist sort of helped because you couldn’t see all that much to either side but yet again, we were glad someone had put railings up! Vertigo sufferers look away now…

“Don’t look down…oh no, I can’t see anything anyway…”
(Pico Arreiro)

We spent a lot of the day driving around the island instead which was good. Lots of views, some very tame birds and good weather.

View looking towards Pico Arreiro (near Riberio Frio)


Tame birds at the same view point – they enjoyed our lunch too.

Madeira wine and strange hand-knitted hats near Riberio Frio.
(I suspect Hermione Granger is trying to free house-elves again.)

The second drive up to Pico Arreiro on the way back to the boat
– this time a view 🙂

As I write this, the cabaret across the marina at one of the bars is in full swing and unfortunately, still no one has told the man and what I assume to be his son that they aren’t very good. Oh well, at least it’s getting easier to sleep through this entertainment the longer we stay here