The Archipelago of Madeira
The Archipelago of Madeira is Portuguese and comes under it’s jurisdiction but it is autonomous and has it’s own flag.
The archipelago includes the islands of Madeira (main island), Port Santo and two groups of uninhabited islands, the Desertas Islands and the Selvagens Islands. The origin of this group of islands is as a result of volcanic activity many years ago.
The islands were discovered in 1419 when Portugal’s Prince Henry the Navigator sent his sailors on a voyage of discovery to acquire new territories off the coast of Africa.
The archipelago is characterised by blue, crystal clear sea with mild temperatures, magnificent cliffs, rugged terrain and with towering mountains!
Porto Santo is less prominent in outline than Madeira with it’s mountains reaching a maximum of 500 metres whereas Madeira has peaks of well over 1000 metres and one in particular is more than 1800 metres!
Crystal clear blue water and an island off Porto Santo!
Madeira is almost an island of two halves with the northwest having the highest peaks and as a result of being heavily wooded has high levels of rainfall. The mountains are very often shrouded in low clouds. The southeast of the island is lower and flatter, dryer and warmer.
Claims to Fame!
Porto Santo’s claim to fame is that the New World explorer Christopher Columbus lived on the island for a few years between 1479 and 1481!
He was married to Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, the daughter of the first governor of Porto Santo, Bartolomeu Perestrelo. The house they lived in is now a museum and is found behind the church in the only town on Porto Santo, Vila Beleira!
The Home of Christopher Columbus, now a museum!
Madeira’s claim to fame is it’s fortified wine of the same name! The production of this wine is recorded in history dating back to the 15th century, Madeira being a port of call for ships passing through en route to the New World and the East Indies!
Today the wine is noted for the unique process by which it is made using a specialised heating method over three months when it is then ‘rested’ after a period of 90 days! It is then ‘finished’ by a wine-making specialist and bottled. The process takes two years and the resulting wine can be dry and consumed as an aperitif, sweet as a dessert wine or wines of a lesser quality are used in cooking!
But first we needed to make the crossing from the mainland of Portugal!……..
1st – 4th November ~ Passage from Cascais to Porto Santo
We had been watching the weather very carefully over the previous days and we finally could see a weather window stretching ahead which would allow us to make the 485 nautical mile passage to Porto Santo with fair winds.
Thursday 1st November dawned bright and sunny and so with a sense of relief and anticipation we set off on our south westerly course bound for Porto Santo!
Our journey was uneventful in the main. Musetta settled into a good rhythm with the wind just aft of the beam and with the mainsail and the No.1 genoa we made good progress. Alan and I also settled into our watch system too which seemed to work very well. There were the occasional commercial vessels we had to radio to check that they had seen us and politely, would they alter their course so that they didn’t T bone us!! Always obliging so that our heart rate could return to normal!!
One of the most incredible experiences of the whole trip was looking up at the night sky on a clear night. With no light pollution and no moon, the sky was just a mass of stars and so beautiful to see! I tried very hard to capture an image of it but my camera steadfastly refused to take a shot!
When we were about nine or ten hours from our destination we did experience an increase in the wind strength when an extended squall came through! We could see it building on the horizon and so in preparation we reefed the mainsail, furled the No.1 genoa and put out the staysail! With two reefs in the mainsail Musetta seemed to relish the conditions and without any fuss she sailed on into the night and remained on a good and comfortable point of sail.
Monday 5th November ~ Arrival at Porto Santo! 08.30am
After 94 ¼ hours we arrived!! The weather to greet us was pretty miserable, murky, drizzly and the wind still a bit frisky but no matter.
Approaching Porto Santo ~ fortunately these conditions didn’t last!
The marina was fairly small and so having made a few circuits to see where we could go the only choice was to raft up against another boat on the hammerhead of the pontoon! We secured Musetta and then went to ‘check-in’! By the time we had done all this it was well past breakfast time and so we had a brunch of scrambled eggs on toast plus a glass of wine to celebrate our arrival!!
Alan looking tired, as we both were after our almost four days at sea!
The marina at Porto Santo was very pleasant. The staff were friendly and looking at their tariff we decided to pay for a month’s mooring which we could do even though we had no intention of staying a month! It made our stay there very cheap with power and water, Wi-Fi in the marina restaurant and a free laundry with a lovely lady there (Maria) who did it all for me?! I just had to return at the end of the day and it was all done and beautifully folded too! What a gem?!
The weather cheered up considerably and so after a refreshing shower we decided to walk into the only town on Porto Santo, Vila Baleira to have a look around! It was about a 20 minute walk and so we were able to stretch our legs after nearly four days at sea! We did feel a little wobbly at first but it was fine! We also discovered that the town was rather nice and had everything we would need, for example a good supermarket!
Some views of the town!
While we were in town we noticed a poster advertising Jeep tours! This seemed like a very good idea as, having viewed the peaks that surrounded the marina we had already decided that our bikes would remain stowed on board! However the jeep tour would have to wait for a few days because….
….Out of the blue I received a message from some very old friends who had seen my Facebook post on setting off for Madeira! They would be arriving in Funchal on the Queen Elizabeth at the end of the week and would we still be in Madeira? I was so excited to see Richard and Caroline again after a gap of several years and so unexpected too!
We decided that we would take the ferry from Porto Santo to Funchal and treat ourselves to three nights in an hotel and see all our friends at the same time! The friends being not only Caroline and Richard, but Élise and Fabien, our French ‘children’ and some Dutch fellow cruisers too!
Our hotel was only a short way from the marina and so once we had checked in Élise and Fabien turned up to have a drink with us on the roof terrace of the hotel! It was good to see them again! They had left Cascais before Alan had returned from UK and had left Porto Santo before we arrived there so were keen to find out from them how they were getting on!
We arranged to spend the day with these two on the Saturday, they had hired a car and wanted to see some of Madeira outside of Funchal and would we like to go with them and perhaps do a 10km walk?! Of course we would!
First we would meet Caroline and Richard, cruising friends but in much more style than us!!
Our Three Night Idyll in Funchal ~ The Sé Boutique Hotel!
We woke to a beautiful day and I went back up to the roof terrace to check if the Queen Elizabeth had indeed arrived! She had….!
9th November ~ A social day!
We made our way to the marina to see if we could find Steven and Gerry, our Dutch friends on their boat “Wandelaar”, which I affectionately refer to as the “Black Pig” from the Captain Pugwash children’s TV series! They don’t seem to mind! Their boat doesn’t really resemble the TV ‘Black Pig’ but she is very big and very black!! We found them in the marina and they kindly invited us on board for a coffee while we waited to meet up with our friends!
We met Caroline and Richard where they were dropped off by their shuttle bus. It was so good to see them after such a long time. We chatted as we wandered through the streets of Funchal and found a place to drink some coffee on the harbour front and then a tea house close to our hotel which not only served delicious tea but sandwiches too!
On and on we chatted as though it was only yesterday that we had last spoken – that’s what is so good about friendship!
The restaurant area close to our hotel
Soon it was time for Caroline and Richard to return to their beautiful ship and so Alan and I returned to our hotel and prepared for our cultural evening!
Earlier in the day we had arranged to meet Steven and Gerry that evening for dinner at a traditional Portuguese restaurant with live Fado singing! It was quite an experience and both Alan and I came to the conclusion that while the Fado music was lovely, the singing was not to our taste, a lot of wailing it seemed!!
Saturday 10th November
We spent a lovely day with Élise and Fabien. We drove to Camara de Lobos where there is a mirador protruding a short way out over the sea and emphasises the huge cliffs and the rugged nature of the coast of Madeira.
Camara de Lobos ~ Wow, that’s high!
Next we came to a village called Calheta where we had lunch and explored the area, including the church and the unusual pathways, leading to rounded steps!? They took a bit of getting used to, quite weird in fact!
Next came the 10km ‘walk’! It was quite a steep trudge uphill first of all but this was to get to the ‘Levada’, we were now walking on the flat! Levadas are irrigation channels or aqueducts and were much needed to supply water to the south of the island. Building them was a precarious process as they were cut into the steep sides of the mountains.
Today the Levadas not only provide water to the southern part of the island but they also generate hydro-electric power. On Madeira there are more than 1,350 miles of them which also provide a network of beautiful walks through the countryside…….
All too soon our day was at an end and we returned to the marina in Funchal and said good bye to Élise and Fabien, we would see them again soon.
We went to a restaurant close to our hotel for dinner and then had an early night ready to catch the ferry back to Porto Santo and Musetta the following morning at 8am!
En route back to Porto Santo!
12th – 14th November ~ expeditions on Porto Santo!
We could now do our Jeep tour! So we arranged to be picked up at the marina by the tour operator.
The Jeep turned out to be a Land Rover Discovery which was slightly disappointing but perhaps more comfortable!! We spent a fascinating three hours being driven round the island discovering what it is all about!
The island relies heavily on tourism, with the beautiful beaches of golden sand, one is 9km long and is on the south side of the island! The temperate climate is a great advantage too providing the island with a steady stream of visitors throughout the year.
The island has a golf course that was designed by the late and great Spanish golfing champion Severiano Ballesteros. The course hosts competitions on the European tour and is a favourite among Danish golfers! It did look very tempting!
Towering over the golf course is the Pico de Ana Ferreira. The Pico is characterised by the irregular columns of ancient cooled magma, prism like in shape which is caused by the slow cooling of the magma after an eruption. These columns are known locally as ‘the Piano’!
The ‘Piano’ ~ Pico de Ana Ferreira! The inside of one of the columns displays the circles in the cooling process!
We went to one last Mirador where we were at least 500 metres above sea level. The views were stunning over the sea and over the land too! Behind us were some old windmills which had the unusual feature of sitting on a concrete plinth with a set of wheels which allowed them to turn towards the wind at all times!
Our tour was suddenly over, all good things come to an end, they say! We were grateful to have a guide who was excellent and having lived her whole life on the island she had a broad knowledge of it’s history and traditions.
14th November ~ to Madeira, main island!
Time to move on and say ‘good bye’ to Porto Santo…
We decided to go to Quinta do Lorde Marina at the eastern end of Madeira, arriving after having to motor every inch of the way, all 30 nautical miles! There was no wind! We wanted to return to the main island so that we would have a good angle to set off south to the Canary Islands!
The marina was part of a purpose built complex right at the end of the island and was almost like a film set in the sense that it all seemed contrived? This is in no way a criticism, just an observation!
We liked it which was good as we then had a series of strong winds coming through that prevented us from leaving! There were no shops at the marina and so we hired a car for a few days which allowed us to do our shopping in the nearest town, Machico about 11kms away!
Hiring a car also gave us the opportunity to visit the Tropical Gardens in Funchal. In the 18th century the British consul to Madeira bought a property in Monte and transformed it into a beautiful estate Quinta do Prazer, now known as the Tropical Gardens at Monte Palace!
Élise and Fabien wanted to see the gardens too and so we arranged to pick them up and set off for Monte Palace and the gardens. They were high above Funchal but we soon discovered that our little hire car definitely wasn’t ‘man’ enough to carry four adults up to the top!! There was great hilarity as Élise, Fabien and I were ejected from the car and made the climb on foot! I think that even having got rid of his passengers, Alan found the car struggled!!
Spot the interlopers!
The gardens were excellent, interesting, quirky and definitely tropical!
A strong Japanese influence and very tropical!
20th November ~ Preparing to leave!
Finally we could see a ‘window’ of several days of favourable winds to set off for La Graciosa, Canary Islands a passage of just over two days. A flurry of activity then ensued, with last minute shopping and preparing meals. Laundry and filling the water tank as we intended anchoring for a few days when we arrived!
We had thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Archipelago of Madeira that had included some sightseeing and quite a lot of socialising too! We really enjoyed our treat to ourselves staying in the Sé Boutique, it was delicious!
Some of the beautiful flowers of Madeira!
Next stop The Canary Islands!….