Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Atlantic Islands, Madeira and Porto Santo

We escaped the cool and mouldy Rock of Gibraltar and made a slow 5 ½ day passage to Porto Santo and Madeira. We had very light winds, and didn't see many ships, so it was quite a boring introduction to offshore Atlantic sailing. Stu saw two whales, but as usual I missed them ( I think he makes it up). I read 2 books and had a really sore bum from sitting around day and night. Must find a way to adapt the yoga routine to the small and constantly moving cockpit.
Stu got so bored he investigated the plumbing under the floor. First he found a crab living in the pipe, which must have got too fat to get back out through the strainer. We kept him in a pot (to save him from swimming to the bottom of the ocean 4000m below) and gave him fresh sea water and a piece of fish as big as himself, but he escaped in the night and has not been found since. You just can't please some crabs can you.
Second Stu found a pipe fitting that had cracked slightly and was sucking air into the fridge intake, so he spent a whole day lying on the galley floor pondering that repair. He felt lucky to have found it early, as failure of the fitting could have been a wet sinking feeling (although it would only have leaked slowly) .
Anyway we arrived at Porto Santo, not feeling too bad despite the deprivation of full nights of sleep. We got the bikes out to counteract the sore bum feeling, but managed to cycle the entire island in a lot under one day. It really is a one horse island. Nice beach though and very slow pace of life. Too slow, even for us gypsies of the sea.

We slowly wobbled in more light winds over to Madeira and came straight into the Quinta Do Lorde marina. They sure know how to charge for their marina, and anything else they can come up with, but if  you want to see Madeira, there's not many other options, as anchoring off is a very rolly experience and Funchal harbour is permanently full. So we booked in for a week and tried not to think about the bank balance. We did a days walk that involved 5 bus journeys, and after that hired a car for 2 days to see more of the island. It is very stunning and beautiful, so now we know why it attracts so many people on walking holidays. It is an old volcanic island, and being high and  surrounded by the Atlantic ocean, gets a lot of rain and mist. Cunningly they built levadas or water channels all around the hills, so that the rain is collected and used to irrigate the very fertile volcanic soil. This makes for a very pleasant green island, lots of exotic foliage, and good walking opportunities, as the levada tracks all over the island have been restored and preserved.  It is a lot like walking in NZ, except that the bird life in NZ is much more lively and noisy. We did find this little robin enjoying his worm though.

So enjoy the photos. We have to move on tomorrow to go to La Graciosa island just north of Lanzarote.

Water water everywhere.

Long way down!

It has to be done!

This barrel of 3200 litres, costs 600 euros a bottle. So this one barrel is worth 2.5 million!!! We didn't get to taste this one.

Track our position through the winlink link in the top right corner of the screen.