Friday, January 11, 2019

We Love Madeira!

Passage from Cascais, Portugal to Madeira

We have had a slight change of plan on our route south.  During our initial planning, we had contemplated (and planned on) a trip to Morocco from Portugal.  This route would have taken us farther south down Portugal to Lagos, then across the Straights of Gibraltar to Morocco.  Morocco had always been an “optional” stop on our route, with the possibility of bypassing it and continuing straight on to the Canary Islands. 
We had heard a few reports and news stories of some unrest in Morocco and even reports of women being beheaded.  To be honest, I did not research these very much, so cannot attest to the validity of these stories.  Nonetheless, it did make for a little discomfort on the part of the girls of the crew.  Having visited Morocco and Tunisia many years ago, my bigger concern was for the security of the boat while unattended and our ability to buy the type of “western” provisions that we would need.  I had communicated with a couple of other cruisers that have been to Morocco recently, and the first-hand reports on all fronts were good.  So, it was a bit of a dilemma. 

Arrival Madeira Archipelago - the Deserted Islands
I have to say, we have fallen in love with Portugal.  Isn’t it nice to visit a place where you have no real strong expectations only to find that it is beautiful, interesting, and the local residents are so welcoming and friendly?  Well to date that has been our experience in Portugal.  The people are so nice; most speak great English; they are helpful; proud of their country (except their politicians!);and they have this wonderful fluid called “Port”……..I’ve always liked a small quantity of Port at Christmas, but I have become very partial to it here in Portugal.  The white Port is a great afternoon aperitif; ruby port is as the locals say “dangerous” because it has the highest alcohol content but is quite sweet and  shippable; and  the tawny port is a wonderful after-dinner drink or great with a nice steak.  Food here has been wonderful.  Portuguese meats and steaks are as good as any I have had and they have some very nice preparations.  If you like fish, the selection is excellent – tending more to cold-water fish such as Cod, and stronger-tasting fish such as sardines.
And there is a point to all of this - on the topic of trip planning; so many locals have been bragging on how wonderful and beautiful the Portuguese island of Madeira is.  On further inspection, it is on the way to the Canary Islands, although a bit farther west that we would go if headed directly to the Canaries.  Well on balance, more things were pointing us to Madeira than Morocco.  So that’s where we are headed.  I am writing this section of the blog off-line as we are out in the Atlantic ocean about 140 miles from Madeira.

Passage Conditions (January 7, 2019)

Madeira in View
As I write this, we have experienced light winds and calm seas – somewhat of a difference from prevailing conditions we have experienced thus far on the trip!  Its nice!  The total passage is about 500 miles from Cascais to the waypoint I have set off Madeira.  So port-to-port distance is a bit over 500 miles.  Thus far, we had a great sail for the first 125 miles, making 6 to 7 kts with the generally behind us to our beam.  Then unfortunately, the wind went dead behind us, and we are finding that Midnight Sun III (like most boats), does not do great dead down wind.  Our progress towards the mark slowed significantly.  We have tried jibing a couple of times to get a better wind angle, but its taken us 40-60 degrees of course each way, and then the wind dies to 4, 6, or 8 kts.  So reluctantly, last night we rolled up the sails to prevent the light wind flogging and boom banging and became a motor boat.  We are hoping we will see a little more wind today as I really don’t want to motor the rest of the way in these otherwise great conditions.  So, for now, I will leave this post and add to it as we get closer or Make Landfall.

Stay in Madeira (January 11, 2018)

Porto Moniz - Madeira
We love Madeira!  I think it has been one of the more delightful stays so far, and that is saying a lot as we have pretty much enjoyed everywhere.  Portugal and the Portuguese Islands are definitely top of our list – largely due to friendly welcoming locals that are really proud of their little spot on earth.  We have now been here several days and made the most of our stay.  We have visited the top of the mountain by Gondola, seen the street toboggans (no we didn’t actually take a ride so far, but I am tempted to go back).  We also rented a car and pretty much circumnavigated the island.  The scenery, landscaping and general topography is breathtaking.  And amazingly the highway infrastructure is   They must have spent billions on roads over the past 20 years or so and work is still ongoing.  When it comes to transportation infrastructure and investment in the future, the US could sure take a lesson from the Madeirans!
Natural Pools at porto Moniz
impressive – with tens of tunnels connecting roads through mountains to mountain passes.
We had originally planned to leave today, but on further study of the weather and wind, its looking like tomorrow will give us better downwind sailing.  And since we have done our share of upwind bashing, that’s the decision – we will wait to see what tomorrow brings.  I am currently researching and contacting marinas in Las Palmas to find a spot to stay – it seems space may be limited at this time of I suspect it’s a popular wintering spot for European and Brit cruisers.  We shall see when we get there!

Santana - Madeira
Stunning Coastal Scenery

More scenes from Madeira:
Market - Funchal

Fish Market - Funchal

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