We dropped anchor off the beach off the Marina in Porto Santo (the northern and second largest island of the Madeira Archipelago) to wait for daylight before we entered the marina. Looking at the boats and the painted harbour walls, we realised that we were in a different part of the world.
Yachts are generally smaller, have self-steering devices, and look like they are prepared for distance ocean cruising. There are lots of families – an enterprising French woman from one of the yachts was selling crepes to supplement the cruising kitty – they made a delicious breakfast.
Porto Santo Marina was a delightful place to spend a few days. It is friendly, has a great, reasonable café with very fast wifi, and is next to a beach.
It is only a short walk from the very pleasant capital, Vila Baleira.
Having spent 4 days at sea, we needed to walk. The headland at the end of Porto Santo’s long sandy beach looked an appealing destination. I was sure I had read it was 3.5km, but after a very long walk we found it was actually 7 km each way. Luckily there was a great lunch spot half way and plenty of beautiful water for swimming. The planners here have very sensibly kept development away from the beachfront, with most resorts tucked behind the sand dunes. It is a great time of year, not too many tourists.
Madeira, the main island of the Madeira Archipelago was a half day’s sail south of Porto Santo, our first day sail rather than overnighter since we arrived back on Sea Cloud. Marina Quinta do Lorde which has a reputation for being friendly and very pleasant did not disappoint.
The only drawback is its distance from Funchal the capital, but as a car was really necessary to explore Madeira, it was not a problem. Madeira is well known for its walks, and it sure has been ‘discovered’. The last time we saw so many walkers was in the Cinque Terre in Italy. The walk from the Marina to the eastern end of the island was spectacular. Very volcanic and harsh in appearance, quite different from the rest of the island.
After putting up our new mainsail, we headed for Funchal, where we had a great lunch of limpets (a Madeiran specialty) and the biggest sardines we have seen.
The gardens in Madeira are beautiful -everything seems to grow here. Funchal is a very attractive town, with parks, pretty old buildings, traditional dancers and a great market.
This young woman treated us to tastings of all sorts of dried and fresh fruits, but then doubled the quantity we asked for, then when we came to pay added another 20 Euros or so for good measure!
Our pleasant day was topped off by finally finding Aki, a shop which sold bean bags. We had been looking for fill for our bean bag since leaving Corfu, can’t believe we found them in Madeira! The more mundane side of cruising life…
The north coast of Madeira was spectacular with (a) surf beach, beautiful coastline, lush tropical terraced land and quirky small traditional houses in Santana.
Madeira has kilometres of levadas – water canals with adjacent pathways built across the steep mountainsides a source of water supply and irrigation, and incredible feats of engineering.
The levadas have become very popular walking paths, with a variety of trails throughout the island We took the short walk out to Balcones in the north east of the island, which as fabulous views down to the coastline. The tops of the mountains, as usual, were shrouded in cloud.
Madeira airport built over the sea fascinated us, especially when we heard that boats were stored underneath the 100m high runway over winter. Very safe from winter storms, the only problem seemed to be avgas dripping onto the boats.
The infrastructure in Madeira is incredible for a small island. There is an extensive network of road, tunnel and bridges making travel around the island very easy. I can’t imagine how traveling around this mountainous island must have been in previous times.
We were very lucky to hear about the festivities in Machico a small town not far from the marina. Thousands of locals were out with candles (and wax models of various body parts) parading through the streets, giving thanks for miracles.
The festivities ended in dinner – butchers set up their stalls, you buy your meat, load it onto skewers and BBQ!
Our final day was spent walking the spectacular walk along the levadas to the waterfall and 25 lakes in the hills north of Ribera Brava, towards the western end of the island. The day was almost cloudless, enabling fantastic views from the road leading to the trail head.
Our relatively late start was good as the number of walkers had decreased, a very good thing as the levada pathways are very narrow with incredible drop-offs in some places.
The weather has been very stable and sunny here on this side of the Atlantic, very unlike the mischief created by Hurricane Matthew and Nicole on the other side. As the weather systems move from the towards the Azores and then affect these islands, we have had to keep a close eye on the weather forecasts which have literally changed from day. We made the decision to leave on Monday as the Sunday evening forecasts looked ideal. By the morning, the new forecast showed no wind, so instead of sailing directly to Lanzarote, we diverted to Carga de Lapa (bay of limpets) the only anchorage on Ilhas Desertas, a group of islands 20Nm from Madeira. There was one tripper boat there when we arrived, when they left and we had the bay to ourselves. As very calm weather was predicted overnight, we picked up one of the moorings in the bay, had a swim and had lamb chops on the barbie, something we haven’t done since leaving Sardinia in early July.
Apart from a ranger station ashore (access without a permit is prohibited) these islands are barren, volcanic outcrops. An early morning swim and the sighting of two very rare monk seals (out of 24 reported to live near by) topped off a beautiful night in this very special place.