Tag Archives: Portugal

MADEIRA, PORTUGAL

A short sail from Porto Santo, we arrived to the beautiful main island, Madeira. The island is 57km long x 22km wide and the majority of the island is mountainous. Some of the peaks reach over 1500 meters.   We arrived to Quinta do Lorde Marina on the SE tip of the island. Although the marina and the resort are very nice, it is rather isolated but with the dependable bus schedule getting to the capital city, Funchal, was no problem.

Quinta do Lorde Marina

Quinta do Lorde Marina

Funchal has a nice atmosphere with many parks, fountains, tropical flowers and charming walking streets. In old town they have a daily market that is loaded with local vegetables, fruits and flowers plus a fish market. It is certainly a main attraction. This was my second favorite market, first being Siracusa, Sicily.

Market in Funchal

Market in Funchal

We took the cable car from old town up the mountain to Monte Palace Tropical Garden. In early August Madeira had a terrible fire and as we rode the cable car you could see the path of the fire which threatened not only this beautiful garden but Funchal. Some houses were lost on the fringes of the city.

The wildfires came down in the outskirts of Funchal

The wildfires came down in the outskirts of Funchal

Topical garden Funchal

Topical garden Funchal

We said goodbye to Iris as she returned to Sweden after a month sailing with us. Roland and I continued our exploration of the island and we highly recommend renting a car.

We passed Marina do Lugar de Baixo at Calaheta.  This marina that was built 2004.  The old fisherman’s said, “Do not build a marina there. It will be destroyed”  And they were right.  The sea destroyed the original breakwater.  The breakwater was rebuilt and reinforced but again nature showed it´s strength.  No one on Madeira thinks it will be opened again.

Marina do Lugar de Baixo

Marina do Lugar de Baixo

There is so much to experience. This island is known for hiking with many many trails, most of which follow the Levadas.

A Levada is a irrigation channel that was brought to Portugal by the Moors. In the 16th century the Portuguese started building the levadas to carry water to the agricultural regions. Some of the more recent channels on Madeira were made in the 1940s. We were amazed at how they managed this in such a steep mountainous terrain. Many are cut into the sides of mountains which sometimes required digging tunnels up to 40 km (25 miles).

The source for the Levada

The source for the Levada

We did a 10.2km hike which took 3 hours along a Levada. The aroma from the flowers, pines and the Madeira trees was intoxicating.

Flowers along the levada

Flowers along the levada

Returning to the car mid afternoon we were hungry. There are so many back roads that even the navigator software gets confused. This was typically a advantage as we discovered new places. On this day looking for a restaurant and being on the wrong road we came across a large house, Casa de Cha´ Tea House in a residential area with a sign “Restaurant Open”. We stopped and it was a very positive experience. It is owned by a couple who live in the upper two levels with the restaurant on the first level. We sat out on the balcony with a view over the sea in the distance. It was a wonderful meal and we spent time visiting with the husband and wife who spoke very good english. Just as we were departing the grandkids were returning from school. The husband also does canvas and upholstery covers for boats on the island.

Casa de Cha´ Tea House

Casa de Cha´ Tea House

We were impressed by Maderia’s infrastructure, for example the roads are in good shape and efficient at moving traffic, a working bus system which we certainly have not experienced on other islands. We feel Madeira is the nicest place we have visited. A beautiful majestic island, nice climate and very friendly people.

PORTO SANTO

This small volcanic island is part of the Madeira archipelago. It is 11km by 6km in size with the highest peak of 506m.

Port Santo looking east

Port Santo looking east

The most popular attraction is the sandy beaches. The sand is extremely fine and soft and very therapeutic. The high content of minerals provide therapy for rheumatism and bone complaints as reported by a team of scientists from one of Portugal’s leading universities. Iris thought this was one of the best beaches she has experienced because of the softness of the sand.

Beach in Vlla Baleira

Beach in Vlla Baleira

From the marina it is at least a 2km walk to town, Vila Baleira, so we certainly got our daily exercise, sometimes going in twice a day. We visited the small house where Christopher Columbus lived for a period and took a jeep tour of the island.

Christopher Columbus born in Genoa, married a girl from Port Santo. This is their house.

Christopher Columbus born in Genoa, married a girl from Port Santo. This is their house.

Our guide together with Iris & Vickie

Our guide together with Iris & Vickie

PS W-1 It was easy to fall into the relaxed atmosphere here and understand why many cruisers stay for several weeks.

First 3 days we anchored in the marina.

First 3 days we anchored in the marina.

CROSSING FROM ROTA TO PORTO SANTO.

After leaving Almerimar on August 7 we sailed to Gibraltar just before the Levante started blowing. As it was a strong Levante with 50+ winds forcasted west of Gibraltar, we decided to stay in Alcaidesa and tour Gibraltar, Ronda and Sevilla as described in an earlier post.

As soon as the Levante had calmed down we sailed thru the straits to Barbate.  The only reason for going in to Barbate is to break up the trip if going to Cadiz, or  waiting for better weather to transiting the Straits. Barbate is not a charming place.

As the Grib files showed no wind for the next 5 days we decided to sail to Rota.  We anchored the first night outside the beach.  I was diving under the boat in order to clean the propeller from scales that had been growing when the boat sat in Almerimar for four weeks.

Next day we went into the Marina. Rota has a nice marina and it is only a 5 minute walk  to the old city.

I was looking at weather every day to find a window for the crossing.  Saturday looked promising in the beginning, but as Saturday came closer I realized that Monday would be  even better.

Predict Wind showed a crossing with almost no motoring and winds betwwen 15 and 25 knots. As a new Levante had started blowing we should get good winds from the beginning.  However we had to motor out of the Marina for 2-3 hours and then the easterly wind came strong as expected.  When we met the Portuguese trades  we got an even more comfortable sail to Porto Santo which is close to Madeira.  We are not spoiled to be able to sail 500nm without starting the engine. The Mediterranean is a sea with either no wind or too much wind.  We have been using the engine far too much in the Med.

Iris and Vickie enjoying the sail.

Iris and Vickie enjoying the sail.

When leaving Rota we used our backup autopilot as it had been recalibrated.  I was surprised how good it was steering as it had been a problem for a long time. The recalibration made it as new!

After 10 hours on the backup pilot we switched to the main autopilot.  I immediately understood that something was seriously wrong with the main autopilot as it did not respond.  When I looked at the hydraulic linear drive, I could see that the hydraulic cylinder had been coming apart from the housing and the hydraulic fluid had leaked out in the bilge.  I changed back to the second autopilot and we decided to sail a little bit conservative as we had lost redundancy for the autopilot.  In all we lost 5-6 hours on an 80 hours crossing when we slowed down to around  7-8 knots instead of 8-9.

Dolphins comes and play

Dolphins comes and play

We had a fantastic trip with winds and swell from the right direction the majority of the time.  We were 3 people which made the trip enjoyable.  Iris who have been sailing with us for years does not understand what seasickness is, and is preparing wonderful meals in all conditions.

We were surprised how little traffic it is going south.  We did only see a handful of freighters after leaving the straits.

Freighter going in to Straits of Gibraltar

Freighter going in to Straits of Gibraltar

Freighter on port side

Freighter on port side

There are 3 ingredients to plan a successful crossing.  Good weather information, time and patience.  Over and over again it is the two later one that are most critical. If you have guests with a schedule you are suddenly on their schedule and might feel pressed to leave at the wrong time. We encourage our guests not to buy a return ticket as they are facing the risk to rebook.  Patience is important as it can be frustrating to sit and wait.

Porto Santo after 79 hours and 540 Nm

Porto Santo after 79 hours and 540 Nm

Thanks to good weather routing software, patience, and a backup for the autopilots we got one of the best crossings ever on Bella Luna.