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

Arriving in Porto Santo marina was a delight.  It's a small place, with just one pontoon of visiting yachts with a few anchored off, and we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of a real community.  Apart from our friends on Troskala, berthed next to us, we got to know Cally and Rob on Rafiki much better (we'd chatted before, in L'Aberwrach and then Cascais) - cruising with their delightful children Emily and James, 9 and 8 respectively - and over the next few days we made friends on several of the other boats, notably Spirit of Argo (April, Cain, and their Irish Terrier Quinn), and Quaver (Willie Tucker, indomitable fiddle-playing Scottish single-hander on a Vancouver Pilot 34 - good taste in boats- who thinks nothing of jaunts up to the Arctic).

On board Troskala: Ollie, Willie, Natalie

Drinks on Rafiki: Willie, Graham, Tim, Rob

Emily, Ollie, Carlotta, Natalie, April
It's surprising that Porto Santo isn't better known.  Not much happens there, but that's exactly what we needed after our trip.  The island's only about 9 miles long and the south coast is almost all sandy beach. The town, fifteen or twenty minutes walk from the marina, is pleasant and full of cafes, and the landscape inland is dominated by several peaks up to around 500m, including the cartoonishly volcano-shaped Pico do Castelo.

File:Madeira topographic map-fr.svg
Porto Santo and Madeira

Tim on the beach.  The harbour is below the hill on the right.

Porto Santo beach and the road leading into town from the harbour...
...and the same beach a day or two later!
We had a couple of sunny, lazy days wandering into the town but the sun didn't last, and the wind started to howl out of the south west.  That's the way the harbour entrance faces, and before long the pontoons were surging around, our mooring lines snatching and jerking at the deck fittings.  We were starting to wonder when we would ever get a quiet night..but our position was comfortable compared to those out at anchor, who were rolling around all over the place.  This lasted for several days.

Another rainy day in the internet cafe...Carlotta, James, Cally, Emily, Ollie
As well as a few evenings enjoying drinks with Ollie and Carlotta, we had a great night out at a traditional restaurant up in the hills to celebrate Carlotta's birthday. Portuguese food is simple, but they do some things very well, and we enjoyed plate after plate of fantastic grilled meat. I slightly regret not eating more.

Porto Santo is notable as the sight of our first warm swim!  The water was still refreshing, but getting in wasn't quite the painful experience it's been elsewhere.  The sea had been flat here when we'd arrived; now it was a different story, with a big swell rolling in.  We had a great time dodging the waves with Ollie and Carlotta and the kids from Rafiki.

Natalie, trying not to get swept away

Dodging the waves: Natalie, Carlotta, James
James, Emily and Carlotta
We spent a day walking the length of the island and back - getting soaked along the way - and, once the weather had finally cleared up a bit, opted not to sail on to Madeira with Spirit of Argo and Troskala (Rafiki having left for the Canaries).  The swell still looked a bit high and we wanted to do some more walking, feeling that we hadn't really done the island justice.

We took a taxi up into the hills and climbed some of the peaks, including Pico do Castelo.  The views were well worth the effort.  A friendly dog followed us up to the top and then all the way back into town (temporarily acquiring two other dogs for part of the walk back).  We had to lose him by giving him a bowl of water then running away when he wasn't looking.

Walking in the hills
Island views..

Tim and adoptive dogs
The views from the hills had been spectacular, and we were glad we'd stayed on.  It was at the cost of a fast sail, but the swell was as I'd suspected: April from Spirit of Argo took some video of Troskala (link) sailing rather well, but it wasn't comfortable.  Our own trip on to Madeira the next day was uneventful, if a bit frustrating: another 28 miles or so of motoring.  We did try sailing for an hour or so, but the wind just wasn't there.  Good sailing is in very short supply.

Porto Santo is one of several places on the main sailing route where it's become traditional to leave a wall painting as a memento of your stay.  I love these.  It's really interesting seeing who's been there before, and sometimes recognising the names of people met years ago. While we admittedly didn't quite reach the artistic level of some (the paint dripped in the rain overnight, which didn't help), we're quite proud of our own effort.

Our wall painting 

Vila Baleira from the town pontoon. We climbed the volcano-shaped hill.
It's a hard life sometimes.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog, congratulations for making it there and good to hear things are going well!