Yacht Fathom - Setting off from England in May 2016 on a single-handed voyage somewhere a bit warmer

Archive for the “Madeira Islands” Category

Madeira – Funchal

Relaxed few days at anchor in Funchal. Spent some time walking round the town but have been a little disappointed in it. Too many tourists and tacky souvenir shops geared to the cruise ship passengers which visit frequently. A highlight was taking the gondola up the hill overlooking the town and walking back to the harbour front through all the backstreets.

On the plus side this year the port authority has stopped charging boats at anchor and it is even possible to get a key for the shower block with a 10 euro deposit and no extra charge. The only downside with the anchorage is that it a little rolly and a relatively long half mile dinghy ride into the marina where the tender is left. A pretty sight by night looking at the lights of the town.

Funchal by night

I have been surprised not to see more cruising yachts here. There were six in the anchorage when I arrived on Wednesday but only two now. In the marina are just a handful of visitors. Only seen one other British yacht since leaving Portugal several weeks ago. The majority continue to be Norwegian, Dutch and French. Nice to see Aurelie and Olivier again on ‘Courement’ they anchored next to me for a few days and I had them over to dinner on Saturday night. Yesterday at anchor I poked my head out of the hatch to see a large pair of red lips only a few metres away and bearing down on Fathom. Thankfully the cruise ship was only turning round before berthing but was slightly disconcerting looking up at the the bow only a few metres away.

Leaving Funchal later this morning bound for La Graciosa, a small island and reportedly nice anchorage just north of Lanzarote. The distance from here is around 270 miles so should arrive within three days if the wind holds up. Looking forward to getting sailing again.

Posted on 04 Oct in: Madeira Islands

Madeira – Part 2

Some more hiking and great trails over the last few days. Spectacular views especially from Pico Ruivo, the highest peak on Madeira Island at 1862m . On reaching the summit I was surprised to hear my mobile ringing for the first time in weeks and noticed it was a UK number. So I answered and on the the other end of the line was a female voice that said “Good afternoon Mr D’Arcy, I understand you have been in a car crash and it wasn’t your fault….” Thankfully my Fiat Panda hire car has negotiated the windy roads of Madeira without hitch and it was one of those spam calls so I told her reasonably politely to leave me alone as I was trying to enjoy a very nice view.

Stunning view from highest peak in Madeira @ 1862m.

Yesterday I visited a viewpoint which looks down on Curral das Freira, also known as the ‘Valley of the Nuns’. The small village nestles between almost perpendicular mountains in the heart of the island. In 1566 the nuns from the Santa Clara convent fled from pirates attacking Funchal and found seclusion here. Then I went on to Câmara de Lobos for lunch. This small fishing village is the birthplace of the drink Poncha so couldn’t leave without trying one. It is made with aguardente de cana (distilled alcohol made from sugar cane juice), honey, sugar, lemon rind and lemon juice.

Leaving the marina tomorrow and plan to anchor outside Funchal and explore the city for a few days before heading on down to Lanzarote.

Posted on 26 Sep in: Madeira Islands

Madeira – Part 1

Well I did catch a fish on the way from Porto Santo! The lure Jean gave me worked as he promised so thanks Jean. The Dorado was big enough to provide me with breakfast, lunch and dinner for a couple days too.

On arrival at Madeira I anchored Fathom in Baia de Abra on the eastern end of the island. A very nice location and by taking the dinghy ashore to the beach, gave access to an excellent walk along Ponta de São Lourenço peninsular with fantastic views back to the anchorage. Two other yachts in the bay when I arrived were ‘Harry Z’ and French yacht ‘Courement’. On the second night in the bay a pleasant evening was spent on ‘Courement’ having some dinner and excellent French wine with Aurélie and Olivier.

Looking down on Baia de Abra from Ponta de São Lourenço – Fathom is the left most boat

I had not filled up with water since Sines so after a couple of days on the hook the water tanks were getting low and I decided to enter the marina a mile or so down the coast called Quinta do Lorde. The idea was to stop one night and then head down to the anchorage at Machico or Funchal and explore the island from there. But after giving it some thought I didn’t feel comfortable leaving the boat at anchor when heading off round the island for hours at a time. The marina at Funchal told me the only space they had was rafted on the visitor pontoon up to 8 boats deep which I also wasn’t happy with. So decided to stay at Quinta do Lorde for a few days despite it being quite isolated on the east of the Island. Luckily my cruising association membership gives me 30% off the marina fees.

The best way of exploring Madeira is by car so I have hired the cheapest I could find – a Fiat Panda. This has a ridiculously small engine which does not cope well with the steep and windy roads and I seem to spend most the time in 1st gear. Yesterday I drove to the west of the island and walked a trail which descends from 500m elevation down a crazy steep cliff face to a small fishing village. It was so steep my legs hurt walking downhill. I think i’m out of shape but I made it back up again somehow. On the way back to the marina a quick visit was paid to the Cabo Girão skywalk which is a glass platform suspended from the highest cape in Europe, 580m, and gives some impressive views.

One of the main attractions on Madeira is walking the Levadas.  These are mini canals used for irrigation and carry water from the wet mountainous areas on the north of the island to the flatter and dryer southern areas. Some of these date back to the 16th century and in total cover a distance of 2,500km. The walking trails incorporate the maintenance tracks alongside the Levadas. Today I walked a trail called ‘Levada do Caldeirao Verde’ which is a total distance of 13km and which I chose because it is mainly flat. My legs are still recovering from yesterday. The route includes walking through 4 tunnels and ends with a small lagoon and waterfall.

Over the weekend I intend to hike a route which includes the three highest peaks on the island at around 1800m elevation. My body feels like it has been sat down on a boat for four months so it is great to be giving the legs a decent workout.

Posted on 23 Sep in: Madeira Islands

Porto Santo

An enjoyable few days have been spent here on Porto Santo. Fathom has been anchored inside the harbour which incurs a small charge, as does anchoring outside, but allows access to showers and is much cheaper than the marina. Nice to meet up again with friends from boats met previously in Portugal. In particular with Eric, Britt and crew from ‘Harry Z’ who invited me aboard for dinner on my first evening in port. In return I invited them and the crew of another Norwegian boat ‘Careka’ back for drinks on Fathom the following day. 11 Norwegians in the cockpit and 12 people on board is a new record! The waterline wasn’t looking too good though with an impressive stern list and even water coming up the cockpit drains.

Porto Santo is very small only 9 miles by 5 miles and lies 27 miles to the north east of the main island of Madeira. The north of the island is mountainous whereas the southern coast has an impressive 9km long sandy beach. I hired a quad bike to explore which was a good fun and allowed access to some interesting offroad parts.


Porto Santo

The Columbus festival has been held on the island over the last few days. It evokes the period of the Portuguese maritime discoveries in particular navigator Christopher Columbus, who passed through the island and spent several years of his life living here. Columbus came into contact with Madeira in 1478 and ended up marrying the daughter of the captain of Porto Santo. On Thursday we watched a reenactment of the Columbus disembarkation.


The harbour wall is decorated with murals and insignia from visiting yachts, just as in Horta in the Azores. So I found a little space and painted one today. Unfortunately the paint shop only had black, yellow and orange paint. I messed up the lettering and the boat looks nothing like Fathom but at least there is a record of Fathom’s visit here.

Heading to Madeira tomorrow and looking forward to spending some days exploring. You never know I may even catch a fish on the way!

Posted on 18 Sep in: Madeira Islands

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