After an easy, if protracted, sail from Porto Santo we arrived at the eastern most harbour in Madeira, Quinta do Lorde. It seemed a far more manageable target than our other option Calhetta on the western end of the island given the light winds.
Porto Santo was rather basic, a municipal marina built as a tease to attract investment - there are glossy renderings of what might be in the office. From one extreme to the other, Quinta do Lorde is multiple star hotel resort with a marina, built to look like a traditional Madeiran fishing village. I’m not sure how traditional the sea water pool and bar are… but we definately spent plently of time there considering their authenticity…
Fortunately for us and our list there is a good rigging shop in Quinta do Lorde. the list included; a more managable whisker pole (the weighty 1970’s pole we have would make an excellent replacement boom…or mast), some way of generating a bit more power while underway and a thrid reef in the main. Being the weekend when we arrived the shop was shut. It opened breifly as two Classe 40’s competing in the Trasat Jaques Vabre pulled in for repairs. Being used to seeing only cruising boats - gawping at these throughbred racers was fun. The crews pulled in and got to work immediately, given there is a 4 hour minimum stop for repairs, disappeared as soon as humanly possible. Bish Bash Bosh.
We decided to take a more genteel approach our boat work. Instead of cracking on with it we decided the best preparation was to play at being tourists. There was a day spent in Funchal wandering the streets, we found an interesting photography museum and a VERY touristy market that was no use at all. We spent a day attempting to ride bikes on the island, which wasn’t very successful, the roads were horribly steep and at times utterly unrideable. After the farce that was the bike ride, we hired a car, only to discover that half the roads the satnav sent us on we balked at taking the car up or down. Some of them when on the crest, disapeared so steeply beyond the bonnet we couldn’t see any indication if it was a road or just a cliff. Still we managed to visit the highest point of the island, not via the conventional route, but by a back road that you could only drive up in first gear. I suspect importers of clutches and brakes are filthy rich in Madeira. Our second day of car hire we decided to be a bit more sensible and stick to the main(ish) roads. The north of the island was much greener - the mountain sides pocked with irregular sized terraces. Up in the mountains we wandered along a levada, and passed a rainbow trout hatchery. Fish farms seem to get everywhere. Being up at 1500m above sea level, in shorts and light coats, we needed post walk fireside hot chocolate to warm up! It was quite koselig!
Eventually though we realised that the boat work wouldn’t do it’s self. So we book the main sail into the sailmakers, saw the rigger about the whisker pole, and quizzed him about some failings in our original baby stay design. While mooching about in the shop, we discovered a brand new Aquair tow genrator, long since out of production. The shop had ordered it for someone who left before it arrived. After a round of negotiating via email with it’s owner, we had a tow generator.
One of the not so nice features of all the marinas that we had visited in Portugal (there aren’t many anchorages on the exposed coasts of Portugal) is that swell always seems to work it’s way in eventually. By the time we’d spent a week at Quinta do Lorde the boat was never still, constantly snatching at the mooring lines. It’s a horrible situation, the irregualr movement, the fear that cleats or fairleads or even whole pontoons(as we saw in one marina!) will fail. The offshore waves had shifted direction and were somehow entering the marina, it looked like we’d be visiting Calhetta afterall.
Our day sail to Calhetta started with an exciting sleighride down wind. We ignored the tow genrators instructions to first try it in calm conditions and with the boat romping along threw out the propellor as soon as our depth sounder stopped reading the depth. With the wind bending around the island our course of south becoming west was all down wind. We passed Funchal, jib up, tow generator charging the batteries, grins on our faces. We were very happy with the state of the boat. Eventually the wind died in the lee of the mountains and the engine was started. We breifly tried sailing in the new wind from the western side of the island but the 90° wind shifts going from 2 to 20 knots coming off the mountains wasn’t really helpful, especially when you’re trying to get somewhere before dark.
Calhetta is an interesting port, it sits at the bottom of a sheer cliff squeezed between two hotels. It’s been wise to avoid it for a the past few years. A couple of years ago there was a rock fall that damaged some shops and retaurants. Since then extensive work to stabalise the cliff face have been on going. It consisted of pnumatic drills running from 7am to 6pm. Not a relaxing prospect. During our stay it was much quieter, several rope access guys were dangling about fixing netting and wire to the cliff face. Something to watch when you’re lying in the cockpit contempating what to do for the day! The marina and artifical beach next door are just breakwaters built into the sea using big rocks and massive concrete blocks. During a winter storm in 2017 the waves tore apart the walls, leaving the swimming area exposed to the sea the old wall scattered on the bottom, it made excellent snorkeling . We watched a youtube video of the storm, it’s a sobering testament to the power of waves to see a them moving 3cubic meters of concrete like it’s nothing.
We ended up mooring next to our old neighbours from Porto Santo. In Calhetta we spent our time socialising, running around on a scooter, enjoying the only sand beach on the island and generally having fun in the sun. We kept an eye on the forecasts for an oportunity to get to Cape Verde, for a week it was blowing 30 knots with 3m plus significant waves. But the weekend after we arrived we had our break. After some sound advice from the good neighbours (the ones with 20 years criusing experience) we filled the boat with provisions, including a not insignificant quantity of good Portugeuse wine - whatever was on special offer. This was super easy as the supermarket was 500m from the pontoons and you could just wheel your trolly right up to the boat!
And with that is was time to leave Madeira. With a big storm brewing in the Atlantic and heading our way so it seemed every boat in the Marina was leaving to head south on the same day. The Good Neighbours were the first to go, we hoped to be just behind them but the engine had other plans. Everything was stowed, sails were readied, and excess mooring lines removed- we were ready for an unofficial race to the Canaries! Ellie went to turn on the engine….nothing….out came the engine manual and “Nigel”… an hour later, 3 taxi trips and 70 euros later we had a new starter battery, the only one that hadnt been replaced in Porto. The engine started, we sighed a sigh of relief and motored out of the breakwater for 10 days at sea- sailing direct to Cape Verde.