Thursday, 29 November 2012

La Graciosa

We were faced with the choice of leaving Madeira with a good northerly wind, but the probability of a 3-4m swell, or waiting until the seas calmed down to a reasonable level but risking a windless passage.  We chose the latter, delaying another day.  We’d enjoyed getting to know Ed and his daughter Heather on Aardvarc, an Arcona 40 they were basing in Madeira for a while, and he kindly gave me a lift to the local garage where I invested in two extra jerry cans of diesel, which were to prove invaluable.

Sunset, last night out
We’d thought about sailing straight to Tenerife (the western Canaries are greener and sound more interesting), but Cain and April emailed us from Graciosa and it sounded wonderful – particularly as we wanted to spend some time at anchor. Graciosa is a tiny island across a narrow strait separating it from Lanzarote, and is meant to be one of the best anchorages in the whole of the Canaries. We’d been slightly put off by permit requirements: you’re meant to apply for an anchoring permit at least ten working days in advance of arrival, with exact dates, and the process for booking a berth in the nearby marina was just as unworkable, involving faxing through several documents with apparently little chance of hearing whether you’d been successful. Fortunately, it sounded as if no-one was checking!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

We're off!

We're finally leaving Funchal today, heading for Graciosa.  We're not expecting much wind at all so it could be a slow passage; but we have enough fuel to motor most of it if necessary.. It should take about three days.

Follow our progress at:

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Madeira 2: more walking, more rain..

Funchal view

We spent our first visit to Funchal exploring with Ollie and Carlotta.  It's a surprisingly lively place, particularly given the average age of the tourists (nearly all English and German)!

Madeira: rain and more rain...

We've been in Madeira for more than two weeks now, and it's rained nearly every day.  Promising blue skies appear and the sun comes out, only to be almost immediately replaced - yet again - by towering grey clouds, squalls and driving rain. We didn't expect Madeira to be dry, but even a couple of hours without rain has come to seem unusual.

Until recently the wind was in the south west, and surge in the marina kept us awake with the same snatching and creaking we endured in Porto Santo. Limbo now has no less than six lines holding her in place.  Other boats have had warps part completely and Spirit of Argo's substantial fairleads were starting to come loose.  Thankfully this has been less of a problem for the last few days, but still the squalls come.  Much of this must be a local katabatic effect - the marina is backed by a towering (and not particularly stable-looking) cliff - but the weather has continued to be extremely unsettled.  One boat came in with a ripped mainsail and partly-shredded genoa.  The local news tells of landslides and flooding.

Dark clouds over Madeira as we approach from the east.
Madeira is a slightly frustrating port of call simply because there's no really good place to base the boat.  There's one decent anchorage, Baia d'Abra, but there's nothing there and conditions haven't been settled enough to use it.  Funchal has a very exposed anchorage (there are no visiting boats anchored at present) and a small, crowded marina which apparently rarely has space for visitors. There are a few visiting boats there, but they're crammed in.  There's another marina down the coast at Calheta, which I gather has a few restaurants, so might be more lively.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Island Life on Porto Santo

...We felt surprisingly rested after a couple of hours' sleep.  The sun had come out, the clouds had mostly gone, and our view included a huge sandy beach, volcanic hills, and clear blue water.  Our problems weren't quite over though: we were still anchored off the beach with no diesel.

We got the dinghy inflated to go round into the harbour to find some fuel.  Then the outboard engine wouldn't start (being shaken about for days on end can't have helped) and I had to drain the carburettor before it sprung to life.  I found the harbour office unhelpful - fuel wouldn't be available until someone could leave his office in an hour or so - but Ollie and Carlotta on Troskala suggested we ask Rob on Rafiki, who kindly gave us a couple of litres.  Troskala had also run out of fuel on passage, so we weren't the only ones!  Shortly Limbo's engine was going again (we'd managed to pull the stop lever before the system got too much air in it) and we motored round into the harbour.

Limbo at rest

Porto Santo marina

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Getting a hammering: Cascais to Porto Santo

"The passage from Portugal to Madeira is usually a pleasant one"

                                                                                               - The Atlantic Crossing Guide

The passage from Cascais to Porto Santo, a small island north of Madeira, was to be our first real ocean voyage.  At around 550 nautical miles, I reckoned it would take us 5 or 6 days. It's not renowned as a challenging trip, but all the advice suggests it should be done before the end of October.  This had been at the back of my mind for weeks, and was one of the reasons why we'd rushed south through Portugal.

Cascais & Lisbon

Cascais marina was originally a destination well outside our budget, but it was now the beginning of October and winter rates had kicked in - meaning it was a very reasonable 13 Euros a night (considerably less than we had paid to raft up in Weymouth..where the welcome package didn't include a free bottle of wine.)  There is an anchorage outside, but it can get very rolly, and we wondered at the perseverance of some crews who stayed out there when it did.

Lighthouse near Cascais marina
Condes de Castro Guimareas Museum, Cascais
The marina is just five minutes walk from Cascais proper, and is surrounded by cafes and bars.  Cascais is a clean, prosperous feeling village (if fairly touristy), and we spent a few days exploring, walking the seafront (serious waves breaking on the beach) and getting lost in an enormous supermarket.  It was mostly hot and sunny, but with some misty days.