Today was the day we were going to leave Porto Santo and head south west the 25 nautical miles to Madeira. There was a good breeze and big waves and we had a fun sail - Karen had again managed to wrestle the wheel from FRED (Flippin' Ridiculous Electronic Device) and hand steer for the first couple of hours before in turn Nigel wrestled the wheel from Karen! We had decided that we would not go into the nearby marina for the first night or two but would drop anchor in Bay da Abra. What a beautiful setting! The bay was surrounded by high cliffs, which would offer us shelter from the strong northerlies. We dropped anchor and settled in for a pleasant evening and sat on deck watching the numerous walkers on the high cliffs above which at times looked like scurrying ants! After supper, the wind begun to get stronger. We were not too concerned as our trusty CQR kedge anchor was holding us well. It remained very windy until the early hours and at times we saw gusts of up to 35 knots!
The next morning things had calmed down quite a lot and Nigel decided he would 'swim the boat' and clean the rudder and check Persephone's bottom for weed. Also, we had been advised to check the shaft anode as others had found theirs eroded faster in these warm waters. The water is so unbelievable clear and in no time Nigel had finished his task, though bottled out of diving the keel which seemed clean enough. We then decided we could safely take the dinghy ashore and walk the steep path way to the top of the cliff. This famous cliff walk is a narrow peninsular allowing the walker to see the view both from the north and south coastlines. We took a short walk along the well trodden pathway and we were rewarded with spectaclular views! As the wind strength had dropped quite a lot, we were now seeing speeds of 11 knots, we decided we would stay another night at anchor. Unfortunately as soon as we had again settled down for the evening and although the wind had lessened, the direction had changed and we now had a south easterly and this meant we were in for a very rocky night. Nigel, as per usual, slept like the dead but Karen found it hard to settle as with every roll there was something rattling around in the galley and saloon. So for Karen it turned into a game not unlike 'hunt the thimble' and as each rattle was discovered and stopped another one would start up! Then there was the annoying slapping sound - where is it coming from!?! Meanwhile Nigel too had heard it and it had woken him up and he realised we had left the stern "bathing" ladder down so he quickly brought it back up and then popped back to bed and was immediately asleep - meanwhile Karen was still playing hunt the thimble.
The next morning we decided we would head to the marina Quinta do Lorde. This is a lovely marina, surrounded by pastel coloured houses. Unfortunately, either due to the deep recession Portugal is suffering or the out of the way location of this marina, none of the houses appear to be occupied so it would seem that there is a lot of property still for sale. Think of a 21st century Portmerion with sunshine. There is also still a small amount of building work going on but not enough to disturb the tranquility of the marina. The water here is so clear. We have never ever been into a marina where you could see the bottom which here is strewn with huge boulders. Once again the staff here were extremely friendly and helpful and we soon discovered that we could actually get one of gas bottle refilled (this had been something we had been trying to do since Northern Spain) so we considered this a 'good result'. Whilst wondering around we discovered are newly formed friends, Fiona and Iain with their yacht Ruffian, were also here.
The next day we hired a car for a few days as we wanted to explore Madeira and revisit some old memories as we had been on holiday here some 18 years ago. We invited Fiona and Iain to join us and we set of to the North East of the island. At Santana we took a long cliff walk down to the shore - not too challenging and as we meandered down we could see small settlements and their very fertile allotments. At the bottom there was the luxury of a cable car to return back to the top to collect our car! We then went on search for lunch. We had been recommended a restaurant in Pico da Pedras. This was not an easy place to find and after a few wrong turns we were just about to give up when we found it. Typically it was not really in Pico da Pedras but some way out. The restaurant was a family run establishment with the chef doubling up as the waitress. It was recommended that we start with a selection of local delicacies (not unlike a tapas platter) and we tucked in - all very nice but not too sure about the pig's stomach!
After lunch we went into Funchal. We managed to find the apartments of Pestana Palms that we had stayed at 18 years ago. Still very much as we remembered it, still quite smart but the surrounding area was a lot more built up. We then took a walk into Funchal and went to look at the marina with a view perhaps we might move on down to there before heading south to the Canaries. However, this marina looks very busy with a lot of the visiting yachts rafted up together so think we may give it a miss and anchor off in a bay nearby when the time comes. Overnight we had rain like we hadn't seen since Bayona! and again very gusty breezes. So Thursday was spent partially on the boat and the task of the supermarket shop. In the afternoon when the weather was brighter so we took a trip to Santa Cruz. A pretty little village, although very close to the airport.
Friday was looking like a good day to do a Lavada walk (for those who don't know about these walks see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levada
). The one we had chosen was not too strenuous (although Karen was suffering with a bad knee, this time the right one!) The round trip was about 22kms but due to Karen's knee we completed 2/3rds of it before heading back - still a good 3 hour walk so not too bad. The hight point of the walk was just that. As we continued upwards we came to a stretch quite narrow so only one person could pass at a time, this pathway creeped it's way around the outside edge of the cliff and we had the most magnificent views down the valley. Even though it was safely fenced, we wouldn't recommend it if you suffered from vertigo! After completing our walk we headed further along the north coast. This side of the island is completely different. Due to the high rainfall on the north it is extremely lush. The country roadside are covered by laurels, azaleas, hydrangeas, and the famous Madeira flower - the bird of paradise, along with the most enormous cheese plants and banana trees. This side of the island is also where all the vineyards are and we saw evidence of a lot of vegetable gardens and smallholdings. At times when we climbed the mountain roads enroute to Sao Vincente we both remarked how it was like being in South American jungles with the low cloud hanging over the mountain tops. Land of the Giants, lost valleys etc... At Sao Vincente the shore was being pounded by huge Atlantic rollers - quite a sight. We then started our journey home along the Nuns Valley - a massive gorge in the rocks making up the island. An interesting slice through the island, with a river flowing north in the north and south in the south! The steep sides are meticulously terraced, it is said using slave labour in the 16th century. Many of the older houses on the eastern side of the gorge are cut off from the road system and have sadly been abandoned.
Friday night was party night! As quite a few of us had been in the marina for a few days waiting for a change in wind direction and strength, a couple of people had decided to organise a pontoon party. Moira from an American Yacht and Rowena from a British Yacht, Galene, (both yachts are Westerly Corsair ketches, obviously favoured by gregarious party people) organised it all and encouraged us all to come along with snacks and drinks. By 6.15pm the party was off to a good start as all the crews started to gather on shore. A great night exchanging all our various experiences and expectations of our anticipated Atlantic crossings.
The next few days we will sort out the boat and get ready to set sail to Lanzarote.