Island of Madeira.
4th Nov 07
We sail 30 miles from Porto Santo to the mainland marina at
Marina Quinta do Lorde (30 miles from Porto Santo)
Super sail in light winds had us trying all sail combinations but still we only managed about 4 knots. Maybe that was why, about 5 miles out from Porto Santo, Janet pointed to a huge fin about a quarter of a mile behind us. "What could it be", we said, as we searched the whale books. Problem was the big whales don't have big dorsal fins so it was either a Killer Whale, which are very rare in these waters, or a Long Fin Pilot Whale. Now we've seen a LFPW close too - we had dared to go close because it was a deceased LFPW - and it had the wrong shape of dorsal fin. So, left with only one candidate the music in my head started, dum dum, dum dum, dum dum, dum dum. Strangely the wind then died so on went the engine; that's as I recall it anyway.
We arrived at Marina Quinta do Lorde, gave them a call on Ch 16 and within minutes a big RIB was alongside to guide us in. The marina is very new and the staff efficient and friendly to new arrivals; they quickly had us tied up on our allocated berth. Good Fellow arrived 10 minutes later.
We had booked a place via the marina in Porto Santo which, coincidentally, belongs to the same marina group, and we had been assured that Catia would do us a good deal. When we met her she was efficiency in the extreme. We would not be charged for our silly length of 12.06m, i.e. 6cm the wrong side of the line, but for a sub 12m boat; so yielding a 20% discount. Then we asked for Cruising Association discount. "Sure", said Catia, "I'll make that a further 20% discount for you, and you can pay as you leave." She then gave us maps of the island, suggested levada walks, printed a list of cultural events for the coming month, and said if we had any problems to see her immediately. The marina is very new so has yet to become part of the cruising circuit but I suggest that will soon change.
The marina is very new and some of its facilities are only now coming on stream, the washeteria has taken at least 6 people well over one month to make it operate but a super facility it now is, and the book swap will soon also be operational, this also residing in the washeteria and being kicked off by a dozen of our books. Catia was sceptical that allowing people to freely swap would not result in all of the books disappearing. On order are copies of pilot books and charts of all of the island and will soon be on sale in the marina office.
One disturbing thing is the water clarity. When coming on deck each morning for the first time, and especially if the water surface is mirror smooth due to light winds, the boat seems to be floating 5 metres up in the air, so clear is the water than it is invisible and so stepping onto the pontoon is quite scary. By mid afternoon, of course, it turns into a swimming bath as we all try to cool off. At these times the previously plentiful marine life seems to exit out to sea. One day we even had a dolphin visit us but no one was swimming at the time.
The marina at Quinta d Lorde is quite remote, however, there is a good bus to Funchal one hour and 15 mins away. The route is an experience, we have decided that bus driver here probably have a careers or maybe life expectancy of about 10 years. We have never met one over 40, and when you have travelled regularly with them you would think the same. They are rarely on their side of the road, even on blind bends. They race round bends, which have no barriers to the 100/150m drop below with no worry about slamming on their brakes as they are confronted by the oncoming traffic. Luckily the buses have automatic descent controls to limit the speed. I now understand why a lot of the passengers including the bus drivers cross themselves at certain parts of the route.
Following David's arrival (eldest son) we spent 3 days in Funchal alongside the wall. Tides were on springs so at HW our fenders popped out above the dock and at LW the fenders slipped under the concrete facing on the dock. Additionally the only place available was by the steps so that for about 3m, at our beamiest part, no fenders could be used as they would simple swing over the steps. All in all it was horrible and a constant cause on anxiety. The only up side was that the boat rafted against us was only 34 ft and caused little damage, it was also a restriction to the size of a possible third boat. Having paid for 3 days we stayed 3 days but on the fourth we were glad to be away to Calheta.
Funchal's star attractions are:
The Botanical gardens, are a short bus ride from the city centre and offer a stunning variety of plants and flowers. Few are indigenous, but what the heck, they look superb. The site also overlooks Funchal and so offers splendid views of the city and harbour. You can see our Flowers of Madeira photos if you click this link.
Monte Palace is another site not to missed. Again it can be reached via a
short bus ride or alternately via an overhead cable-car also from the city centre,
we opted for the bus. Built in the 18th century and extended and enhanced many times
it now covers 70,000 m², inside are pools which are stocked with huge numbers
of Koi Carp which, in 2001, were estimated at over £1M. It also houses an
exhibition of some 3500 African sculptures. Our second visit to Monte, this time
with Jurgan and Brigitte from Good Fellow, was to enjoy the gastronomy
festival which coincided with a major religious festival where, amongst other things,
worshipers ascend the cathedral steps on hands and knees whilst carrying
wax replicas of ailing body pars. Nice! You can see our
Monte Palace gardens photos if you click this link, no
body parts though.
Calheta is a further 15 miles beyond Funchal and is again quite new but what a smashing sail we had to get there. We leisurely motor sailed westwards from Funchal for about an hour, our main interest was the cliffs ahead, they were 580m tall and the second highest sea cliffs in the world. As we neared the cliffs David happened to glance seawards and saw a school of dolphins about 0.5 mile away. Turning towards them we soon realised they were a migrating school of maybe 100 dolphins spread over about one mile. As we got nearer some of them came to play, dancing, leaping and generally cavorting just off our bows. David had never seen dolphins and we have never seen so many, they stretched as far as the eye could see. Eventually our playmates left and returned to the school causing us to scan the sea around us. Then Barry spotted his first Sperm Whale, it was about 200m away and lazing on the surface, it was huge. We chose to go no nearer but sadly it dived before cameras were brought to bear.
We stayed 4 days and enjoyed being close to the bars, cafes and holiday life in general, and as the pontoons were off limits to tourists we were not in a Funchal-like gold fish bowl where tourists constantly peered at us.
Hire cars and driving on the island.
On our third day on Madeira we jointly hired a car with Jürgan and Brigitte, and so, with Jürgan driving, we did a splendid one day tour of the island. The scenery was awesome, so much variety, and it was possible to drive to 1700m above sea level; no slogging up hills for us. Good Fellow has been to Madeira four times now so we had splendid guides for the day.
On the second time we hired a car as it was August, and so the busiest time on the island, few cars were available and any which were commanded a premium price. Catia spent considerable time finding us a car after we had given up all hope of finding one.
We have a Madeira gallery page which aims to show some of the fantastic aspects of the island. And on the next page read of our activities on Madeira, numerous Levada walks and a real hairy cliff walk.