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Monday, August 23, 2010

Las Palmas 23 August 2010

Have not done much sightseeing since arriving here - we have been more involved with getting the boat ready to be left on its own for a few weeks. Fly to Bristol 24 August to see family and friends in UK and Holland. So blog unlikely to be updated till end of September.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sail Madeira to Gran Canaria 16 to 18 August 2010

After filling up the diesel tanks we left smoke covered Funchal, Madeira at 09.30 am Monday 16 August. After a few miles we left the wind shadow of the island and the wind picked up to a steady NNE 5 beaufort, a perfect wind for our trip to the Canaries.

With just one reef in the main, Dutch Link was easily making 8 knots SOG on a broad reach. However, as we only needed 6 knots to reach Las Palmas by daybreak 48 hours later, we decided to take the strain off the boat, the crew and the autopilot and put in a second reef and partly furled Genny. By 0930 the next morning we passed the Selvagem group of rocky islets which, in the past, has claimed many wrecks.

Our invaluable AIS once more proved its worth as we crossed the busy channel between Gran Canaria and Tenerife in the early hours of Wednesday morning as we found ourselves in the middle of 3 ships. The Saga Odyssey , which was on a potential collision course answered my VHF call and steered a few degrees to starboard to clear our stern by a few miles.
At 0930 Wednesday morning we were safely moored in Las Palmas Marina on Gran Canaria.

More Madeira

During our stay in Madeira, we visited the old Blandy Wine Lodge - one of the places where the famous Madeira fortified wine is still made.

Memories of Brasil are rekindled by visiting the Cassino hotel complex in Funchal - designed by the famous Brasilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. Born in 1907 in Rio de Janeiro, he played a major role in the development of Brasilia and also designed many buildings in Rio de Janeiro as well as the UN headquarters in New York.

For several days, Funchal and the the island as a whole was transformed into a car rally circuit.

The island must provide one of the most challenging circuits in the world - most of the roads hairpin their way up and down the mountainous island.

Many nationalities took part including a UK competitor.

A straight stretch of road more than 100 meters long is hard to find except on the relatively recent expressways which tunnel their way through the mountains.

Everyday we passed a restaurant at the side of the marina whose centrepiece is a yacht which used to belong to the Beatles pop group.

Had a lunch (had Espada, the sharp toothed deep water fish which looks like a black baracuda and is very popular in Madeira) in the Churchill Restaurant overlooking the picturesque fishing village of Camara de Lobos - a village made famous by Sir Winston Churchill having spent some time making a painting of the port.

Several small fishing boats were hauled out on the slipway with fish hanging on lines to dry in the sun and wind.

To the west of the port are the 580 metre high cliffs of Cabo Girao, reputed to be the second highest cliffs in the world (Norway holds the record).

The village of Monte in the hills overlooking Funchal , famous for its wicker sledge rides, came to life during our stay with the feast of the Assumption. The village was crowded with families making their pilgrimage to the Church of Our Lady of Monte.

Entertainment was provided for the kids.

Several butcher's stalls provided the favourite dish Espetada, skewered chunks of prime beaf.

Whole carcasses hung in the stalls from which sizable pieces were sawn off.

After purchasing, one barbequed one's espetada over wood fires.

Before making the pilgrimage to the church up the 74 decorated stone stairway, a good trade was done in selling candles.

The vendor had devised an ingenious way of making money out of the faithful - he sold the candles which were then lit and placed in a special steel trough. The resulting melted wax continually drained at one end of the trough into a container and was then remolded into candles - very cost effective business.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Madeira on Fire, Friday 13 August 2010

During the afternoon we heard sirens blaring. A little later looked out of the boat towards Funchal and saw half the sky was covered by dense clouds of angry looking smoke. The forest in the hills above Funchal is on fire.

We are told that there are 2 other fires raging in the mountains to the east and west of us as well. We are not sure how close the fires will come to Funchal itself .... and today's date - Friday 13th - good support for the superstitious !!

The sun appeared as a small red orb through the smoke.

Dutch Link is beginning to be covered in black wood ash / charcoal.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Madeira Wicker Sledges Monte, Funchal 7 Aug 2010

One of the tourist attractions in Funchal is to take a ride in a wicker sledge from the hillside village of Monte towards Funchal, a distance of 4 kms which takes about 20 minutes. The sledges were introduced in 1850 as a convenient way to descend to Funchal.

Click on bottom left arrow to start video:-

At the end of the ride, the sledges are loaded onto a truck to bring them back to the start.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Madeira Hike Pico Grande 1 August 2010

I (Mike) caught the 0710 hrs bus 96 from just outside marina here in Funchal to Jardim da Serra then walked 3 kms up a steep road to the carpark at Boca Corrida.

From here one is rewarded by a superb view of the sounding mountains and the village of Curral das Freiras nestled 600 meters lower in the valley below.

Unfortunately, Pico Grande, the objective of the hike was covered in cloud and cloud could be seen pouring over the ridges into the C d Feiras valley

Click on bottom left arrow to start video clip

Also there was a tape stretched across the path and a notice in several languages warning hikes not proceed any further - all in all not a very encouraging start.

However, having slaved for an hour up a somewhat boring road and with the local weather being fine, decided to continue and find out why the path had been closed.

About a half hour later found that the only problem was two small landslides which had damaged part of the trail. In weather this could have been treacherous, but everything was dry and it seemed stable enough to continue.


As Pico Grande was approached, the cloud started to lift and so decided to hike to the top of the 1654 metre peak from which had great panoramic views.

Part of the path scrambles over steep rock but is well protected with a fixed steel cable.

The trail then descends steeply at times to Cural das Freiras often through Chestnut tree woods.

On the way down, my knee started to be painful - have not been able to walk without pain for the following week - I think a common problem here in beautiful, mountainous Madeira.

Caught the 81 bus back to Funchal.