Madeira and Porto Santo

Oh, how have we enjoyed these two islands! As we found Porto Santo to be a generally dry and earthy brown place from the beaches up to the mountain tops, the southern coast of Madeira provides all kinds of tropic flavors, including fruits, flowers and mosquitoes.

The entire Madeira archipelago is of volcanic nature. Today, it is only a fraction of what it used to be, approximately 1 million years ago. When the archipelago found its maximum extension it was as long as 1400km! Most of it has eroded and washed away by the sea. In fact and when sailing down from Lisbon, we passed several under water mountains, one peaking just 20 meters below sea surface.

Porto Santo was commercially used already half a millennium ago. By then the so called dragon trees were milked. Their red ‘blood’ was shipped to Milan in Northern Italy, where the clothing industry was eagerly seeking the red color for the fashion business.

Our days in Porto Santo peacefully started at the harbor cafe with a great espresso against 60 cents. After our school lessons we would play at the nearby beach with its healing sands, and enjoy swimming in the sea every day. We explored the island with two Quads, which are the motor bikes with four wheels. Wooaaou, it was fun for the boys crawling up and down some rocky mountains and drifting along sandy trails.

The next best place after the beaches and some hexagonal volcanic columns was restaurant Torres in the tiny village of Camacha. Go there if you can, roasted chicken stands out. We were seated in the garden, sun protected by a huge passion fruit tree. I ordered a drink which was not on the menu list, particularly a tall glass of fresh passion fruit juice. Imagine how many fruits this would take. The price for it was 5 Euro and so I decided that it would be impolite to order a second one.

It was just a short 40 miles ride to the main island of Madeira. Different world, colorful all over, with up to three huge cruise ships tied up to the Funchal quays. The market hall offered a huge variety of local fruits and veggies, best presented and well marketed at a ridiculous price.

We visited tropical gardens, volcanic caves, natural swimming pools at the sea and a museum about whales and whaling. That made it quite easy for us to cover some aspects about school requirements.

The best thing for us on Porto Santo and Madeira however was that we really touched down with the blue water sailing community. Everyone in the harbor is traveling with his or her boat for a good time of the year. Many of them would pass the Atlantic Ocean this season. What however made this community so outstandingly great was that most different people with all kinds of social and business backgrounds meet. All of them are down to sailing and have a common theme which starts when helping each other with the mooring lines upon arrival. We were neighbored not only to kids from various countries, but also to a business lady from the Caspian Sea, doctors of medicine from France, financial investors from Norway, an oil exploration engineer from the other side of the world or a Swedish manager from an internationally acting Swedish furniture company. There are also cruisers who live their way around the globe on a very tight budget. That opens up such an entirely wide field of exchange. When saying “Good bye for now!” and wishing “Fair winds!”, we also say “See you in the West Indies!” or exchange invitations to visit each other at their homes around the globe.

Before leaving Portugal for some time, we shall not forget to mention how easy it was for us to communicate with the locals. Even the bus drivers were fluent in English as far as their job required it. The lady from the bread counter in the supermarket was not shy to interrupt a colleague, just to explain to us that the reddish color of the bread comes from the beet root juice they would add. Lots of charming people, nature and culture. Great place indeed.

Weiter Richtung Süden

Während in der NZZ diskutiert wird, welche Weine am besten zu Wildgerichten passen, geniessen wird die sommerlichen Temperaturen auf Madeira – Tag für Tag, Tag und Nacht.

Dass Madeira ‘die Blumeninsel’ genannt wird, ist uns nicht neu. Was hingegen im Oktober noch alles blüht, hat uns überrascht. Schon bei unserem ersten Spaziergang vom Hafen weg gehen wir durch schöne Parkanlagen und finden blühende Hibisken, Sterlizien und Frangipani. Letztere haben für uns eine besondere Bedeutung: Während unserer Flitterwochen auf den Seychellen wurde unser Häuschen dort täglich mit frischen Frangipani-Blüten verschönert. Wir haben die Frangipanis lieb gewonnen, und wir haben nun seit vielen Jahren das erste mal wieder Frangipanis zu Gesicht bekommen.

Besonders schön ist auch, dass wir mittlerweile den regen Kontakt mit anderen Booten pflegen. Fast alle Schiffe, die in dieser Jahreszeit hier unterwegs sind, sind Fahrtensegler, wie wir. Fast alle wollen über den Atlantik. Die TRITON’s, KISU’s und andere Schiffe haben wir schon am Festland kennengelernt. Man sieht sich immer wieder, und einige Crews sind uns schon richtig ans Herz gewachsen.

Glücklicherweise sind auch Boote mit Kindern unterwegs. Schon manchen Nachmittag oder Abend haben wir mit anderen Familien verbracht. Unsere Kids haben mit denjenigen der französischen Yacht SHAMROCK Sammelkarten aus dem Supermarkt getauscht. Die fünf Kinder von TINTOMARA und YUANA haben zusammen Zahlenspiele auf English gemacht. Als sie sich schliesslich gegenseitig das Zählen auf norwegisch und deutsch beibringen wollten, sind sie fast umgefallen vor Lachen.

Wenn sich eine Crew aus einem Hafen verabschiedet, so freut man sich stets auf das nächste Wiedersehen. Wenn es sich dabei um ein Kinderboot handelt, dann schwebt plötzlich Melancholie über dem Hafen, und wir wollen dann manchmal auch schon wieder weiter.

Auf dem Weg vom benachbarten Porto Santo nach Madeira haben wir endlich unseren ersten Fisch mit Schleppleine gefangen. Unser Köder war diesmal ein blau-silberner Gummi-Tintenfisch. Gefangen haben wir einen roten Thunfisch von etwa 65 cm Länge. Fische zu zerlegen gehört für unseren Sohn zum interessantesten, was das Seglerleben zu bieten hat. Jede noch so kleine Flosse will untersucht und verstanden sein. Unter anderem haben wir während den Untersuchungen auch gemeinsam beschlossen, dass ein Fisch die Blutgruppe F hat. Die grosse Schwanzflosse mussten wir gar bis zum nächsten Tag aufbewahren, um sie erneut untersuchen zu können. Zunächst jedoch wurde der Thun filetiert, in Streifen geschnitten, etwas gesalzen, mit Zitronensaft beträufelt, und schliesslich beidseitig 10-15 Sekunden in der heissen Pfanne angebraten. Zusammen mit Reis hat der Fisch so einen feines Abendessen für uns vier abgegeben.

Ein anderes aktuelles Thema bei uns an Bord sind die Verwüstungen einiger Karibikinseln durch Irma und Maria. Ob wir Dominica, Barbuda oder die British Virgin Islands werden besuchen können wissen wir heute nicht. Diese und weitere beschädigte Inseln standen auf unserer Reiseliste. Als Alternative haben wir Segelrouten nach Puerto Rico, zu den Turks & Caicosinseln sowie in die Bahamas studiert. Dann wurde auch Puerto Rico zerstört. Mittlerweile haben wir wahrscheinlich einen Weg gefunden, wie wir mit dieser Situation umgehen wollen. Wir werden demnächst separat darüber schreiben.

Nun erkunden und geniessen wir erst mal Madeira. Manuela hat den Reiseführer mittlerweile intus, und auch die Touri-Info besucht. Sie weiss nun, welche Sehenswürdigkeiten wir am besten zu Fuss, mit ÖV oder mit einem Mietwagen besuchen können. Einiges können wir als Exkursion mit der Bordschule verbinden, anderes machen wir an Nachmittagen oder am nächsten Wochenende. Wir bleiben noch eine Woche an diesem schönen Ort. Danach geht es weiter, weiter südlich, in die Kanaren.

Surprising Portugal

We have visited only two places in Portugal, which was Porto and Lisbon, plus we have followed approximately half of Portugals coast line. Not enough to tell about? Perhaps not. But still, we leave Portugal’s main land with lots of vivid impressions.

Surprise number 1 is the town of Porto, where the famous port wine is traded. The colorful little old town houses at river Duoro and the bold bridges across the river invite to use the camera around every corner. Uphills, long building fronts with richly decorated stone carvings line up along wide avenues. The town is dotted with many Churches, courageous modern architecture, and lots of green. We stayed at the Duoro Marina and visited the town at the first day of the RedBull Air Race. I wouldn’t have thought so, but I started to like the crazy guys who do all kinds of fancy things with their little aircrafts. They race above the river, in between the town buildings, at 400 km/h.

Surprise number 2 comes as we round the the sister capes Cabo da Roca and Cabo da Rosa. First we find ourselves in fog, then we run into gale wind forces which form around the two capes. Shortly after Cabo da Rosa when reaching the (wind) shadow of the capes, temperature is suddenly raised and one needs to relieve himself from three of four layers of clothing. Sea is now flat and a gentle light wind carries marvelous scents from the flours on land over the sea. We came out of a mess and into a new world within minutes only.

Surprise number 3: It was targeted for more than one year that we could meet our parents in Lisbon, after their hiking holiday in Galicia. However and until few days before, it isn’t clear at all whether or not they can make it, due to some special circumstances. Finally it works out and it is so great to be with them for some time. Having been away from home for a long time, each personal contact becomes a very special moment.

Surprise number 4: YESSS, finally KID BOATS…;-)!!! It took two month to bump into other kid boats with kids of similar age. Now they are here and we are, too. For all three families its great that the horde of kids can play with each other and enjoy themselves. All of them show each others boats, they have fun on the playground, at the table tennis, or in a movie session on one of the boats. It seems that we will meet a couple of times during the next weeks, perhaps even month!

Surprise number 5 is the fantastic Park of Nations area of Lisbon. It encompasses a vast area including the Marina, an Oceanum, a Science House, outdoor parks, creative water fountains, playgrounds, museums, business places, apartments. The mile long seaside area provides stunning views to the Ponte Vasco da Gamma. 25 years back, this was a rundown dock area. Everything was made new for the EXPO 1998. Different to other EXPO places, this one was built to last for future. It does, and they keep and maintain everything very well.

Surprise number 6 was that same Parque das Naçoes offers us such a rich environment that (you won’t believe it!) we don’t feel the need to explore the old town (and we know it’s worth it from a visit one decade before).

Any other surprises? Yes, as we are there, famous singer Madonna announces that she will move here residence to Lisbon. That’s at least what we understand from local radio stations. Yes, it is a place to be!

More surprises: Quite unexpectedly, Portugal becomes the most expensive country on our trip so far. Some maintenance and repair isn’t cheap at all, particularly the parts are more than double price, compared to Northern Europe. The VAT of 23% also was not very helpful. Labor on the other side is very cheap. Then we went to the sports shop to stock up functional wear plus a Stand Up Paddle for Caribbean seas!

Once again, we as sailors cannot talk about Portugal without mentioning King Enrique the Seafarer and his visionary investments into sea expeditions, half a millennium ago. Within a few decades, they encountered the coast of the African continent, then the route by sea to India and beyond. What an achievement, in those early days of offshore navigation. A huge memorial at river Tejo tells stories of great seamanship, boldness and glory of the conquistadors and flourishing Portugal as such. Saying this, one should not forget poorest condition on some of the ship, including hunger, sickness, and death.

Now we are about to leave the European Continent as well, with best navigation tools available, some knowledge gathered, feeling ok to go, still not forgetting that we are still a bit greenhornish as we do that first time.