Saturday 25 October 2014

Madeira to Tenerife

Madeira to Tenerife

4 October to 13 October

We left for Santa Cruz Tenerife on the Saturday morning with a good weather forecast and a feeling that it was only 300 miles so was a short hop. We planned for Catherine and me to take out the boat as part of the first watch but with the swell entering the marina the boat was moving about in all directions and we had not untied it yet! So Steve and Annie we called up and between us we made it out of the marina unscathed. 

The winds were stronger than expected at first which was due to the funnelling effect of the islands. After 30 minutes we put in the first of three reefs that we would need that day with winds exceeding 30 knots for most of the day. The wind and the waves that followed the wind were not a problem and we had an enjoyable sail at first. During the day, a further set of waves built from the East, which came in groups of three, every four minutes or so directly across the beam. These waves were steep and caused the boat to roll from side to side. Not too bad during the day (you could do things between the waves) but it made sleeping very difficult at night– back to sleeping in a washing machine. 

At last some fair weather
Further reefs in the sail overnight kept the boat well within its comfort zone until the morning when the Easterly waves subsided and we were left with a very pleasant days sailing. 

Our only sighting of Dolpins on route.
One sighting of Dolphins on the Sunday excited the crew and after the photo call the dolphins went off to their next photo engagement somewhere. Otherwise there were very distractions for the crew and even tracking other boats on the AIS was not exciting as there were only a handful of boats in the two days. The game of guessing how far out we could see Tenerife with its high Volcano became tedious as a mixture of cloud and darkness meant that we were practically parked on top of it before we actually saw it rather than the 40-80 miles away we had guessed between us.

Once we had arrived at Santa Cruz at 11am in the morning we were very tired to the point that Catherine and I did nothing until the late afternoon while Steve and Annie went to explore. Santa Cruz is a very attractive town and the more we explored it the more we liked it. Catherine and Annie search out the best restaurant on google before we headed out in the evening. It took an even more intensive search on foot to actually find the restaurant but was well worth it. 

Catherine, Steve and Annie

The following morning we all went on the tram to hill top town of La Laguna which is 30 minutes away, high into the hills. It was a former capital of Tenerife and was very engaging with old convents, churches, museums and building. If there is a tower then we will climb it and so when we found the church bell tower we climbed to the top. There were clear signs to warn people about touching the bells or throwing rubbish off the top of the tower. They did not mention that the bells strike every 15 minutes and it is deafening when they do. So it was a shock to us at the top of the tower but even more of a lucky escape for Steve who had been standing inside the bell just seconds before it struck.

Lucky escape for Steve

 The following day we sailed from Santa Cruz to Las Galletas which would be the end stop for Steve and Annie. But we had a few days still once we were there to explore the area, particularly the British parts of Tenerife. But first we had some maintenance to do.

Hope, Despair and Victory

Steve had agreed to do spend Thursday on maintenance with me and the main priority was to fix the water maker. Replacing the hose that we had cut in error in Lisbon was straight forward and we put the diverter valves in the correct pipe this time. We tracked the leak down to one particular joint which we took apart and using TPFE tape we repaired it. We re-cleaned the water maker with the cleaning chemical but this time we used warm water and set the water maker to actually make water at the same time so all parts would be cleaned.

So two hours later when we tried the water maker with sea water, we were really pleased that the water had no smell, tasted drinkable and with only a slight weep in the joint that we had repaired. We discussed that we could live with the leak and we could make matters worse if we tried to repair it. However, there is that nagging feeling that we had not quite finished the job so we took it apart and brought some better jointing “string” (better than TPFE tape according to the advert)  to secure the joint.

After a couple of attempts, we wound yet more of the string around the thread and on the final attempt to screw it in we cross threaded it. I had noticed this quickly so there was limited damage but it was not going to go back on without a Tap to recut the first part of the thread. Nothing left to do but pack up and go into Los Americanos to meet Annie’s sister Lynne and boyfriend John for a curry. Nice to have traditional English food again and this was our first experience of the British part of Tenerife.  Curry was not bad and after a few more drinks we put any thought of water makers behind us.

I was confident on the Friday that we would fix the problem and we set off to the local hardware store where they speak English to buy a Tap and Dye set. On the way we passed a Chandlers come hardware shop and decided to ask them as we were passing. The shop keeper did not speak one word of English but was interested in what the problem was. So Steve mimed the sequence of us screwing in a thread which became cross threaded. It was clear he still did not quite understand (as he tried to sell as PTFE tape) but he pointed to his phone and tried to call someone, presumably who spoke English.

After failing to get through, he indicated that we should follow him and he beckoned us to get into his van. We were a little disconcerted after driving 20 minutes when we had no idea where we were going and why. During the journey, Steve sat in the front, and through a combination of mime and naming the odd country which he recognised, recounted our journey from England to Tenerife.  

We arrived at a house which can only be described as a building site inside, rubble everywhere and not habitable but we did meet his friend. Not sure how he thought this person was going to help as he  was not a talented builder, could not speak English and seemed to have no tools other than a few hammers (which explains the state of the house). But clearly a very good friend of his and it seemed that he had used us as an excuse to leave his wife in the shop while he could go out. Steve once again mimed what the problem was and how it happened using a large plastic bottle as a prop which seemed to generate a common understanding of the problem at last. They drove us to the hardware superstore and after 30 minutes (mainly chatting to more of his friends) established that they did not have the right tools either. 

We were resigned to not getting the problem fixed today on the way back to the marina but once again we stopped off at his shop on route while the two of them rummaged through various drawers. Eventually he showed me pipe joint with a thread that was tapered which might just recut the thread. My hope was restrained by the knowledge that they could just further damage the thread and I would have even a bigger problem to sort out.

So the four of us went back to the boat to find it locked up – it was now two hours after we had said that we had said to Catherine and Annie that we would be 10 minutes and neither of us had our phones. We had the possible means of correcting our problem, two willing volunteers but we could not gain access! As an off chance I suggested that they may have put the keys somewhere for us which proved to be the case. A dodgy couple of moments where I could see everything falling apart yet again!

However, we got access to the boat and we use the tapered joint to recut the first part of the thread to my great relief. The question was now how to pay them for the last two hours but they refused to take any money. And we had not even managed to speak one sentence to each other.

Thirty minutes later the pipe was back on, fully secured and we had cured the leak. Thanks to Steve, his enthusiasm, patience and determination that is one big job successfully put to bed.

Back to Real Life

That night we met up with Lyn and John again and went to the restaurant that is colloquially known as the Cow Shed – basically it serves meat and lots of it. We ordered 3 meals for 5 of us which was still far too much but the meat was excellent. Managed to drink too much again and ended up in our favourite bar on the way back. I am beginning to think that Steve and Annie were a bad influence – they may feel it is the other way round!

Saturday was the last day Steve and Annie were with us and they went off to the beach for the day. Catherine and I went to explore Los Christianos as we had never been there. Steve described Los Christianos as Blackpool with sunshine which is probably a fair description - everyone we met was British, the signs were in English and the bars were run by Brits. It markets itself not on charm but on cheap beer and curries although we did not really explore too deeply.

El Medano
The next day we went to El Medano to see if this would be a good place for Rebecca, Ed and our grandson Arthur to come to in October. It has a nice feel to the town, a mixture of different nationalities and good restaurants and Cafes. The beach was also sandy so would be good for Arthur.

With that settled, we prepared to set off for la Gomera the next day.

Sunday 19 October 2014

Lisbon to Madeira

Lisbon to Madeira
23rd September to 3 October

Steve and Annie arrived at the marina at midnight with their luggage soaked from the thunderstorm while it was being unloaded from the plane. It was the last day of the two weeks of thunderstorms we had suffered but now the weather would no longer be a constraint on when we left for Madeira.
Steve arrived full of enthusiasm and in UK work mode. He would have left the next morning to sail to Madeira if we had not slowed him down. My plan was to make sure that we were all ready for the journey and had allowed three days preparation for so that everyone was comfortable with the journey ahead - 500 miles over 4 days out into the Atlantic.

We agreed the menus for 6 days (to allow for contingency) and spent the first afternoon shopping. It needed all four of us to carry the shopping back onto the boat. It was even more difficult to find places to put all the shopping and meant rearranging half the boat to make space that would be accessible on passage. A well-deserved beer and some tapas in the marina restaurant that evening which turned out to be the best meal we had in Portugal.

I had scheduled the Wednesday for finishing off jobs on the boat, the most important of which was to get the water maker in full service so we could use it on passage. We had to put in some diverter valves into two of the pipes (inlet and outlet), run some cleaning chemicals through it and then sample the water. It did not go well! 

Firstly, we put one of the diverter valves in the wrong pipe. I say we because it makes me feel better but it meant that we did not have enough pipe to correct the problem and so we sent Catherine and Annie into Lisbon to find some replacement pipe – an hour to get there, an hour to find the shop and an hour to get back just to get 2m of pipe.

Then we cleaned the water maker with the special chemical and it made no difference to the smell of the water – it had a distinct diesel smell although was crystal clear. And finally we found a leak in the water maker high pressure system which would mean taking the whole unit out of the boat. Not something to be done before we set sail on Friday.

We did some other jobs which did go well but was over shadowed by the water maker so it was not a good day and the meal in the evening did not help either. The restaurant was an old railway car which looked fabulous. When we asked the waiter for any recommendations to eat, he suggested the cold meat and cheese. That should have told us something (like the chef could not cook) but we went ahead and ordered from the menu. The food was more interesting than edible and we should have gone with the waiter’s recommendation – not much you can do to cold meat and cheese!

The shake down sail on Thursday ensured that we were comfortable with the boat and try some man over board manoeuvres before we sailed to Cascais for the night.
Steve and Annie in relaxed mode
On Friday morning (26th), Catherine and I took the boat out of Cascais while Steve and Annie slept in until they were due on watch. We sailed in a good wind for the first 6 hours before it died almost completely and we were on engine once again. In fact we motored for the next 24 hours with some gentle waves and light winds which was a good introduction to ocean sailing for Catherine, Steve and Annie. 

Next afternoon, the wind picked up and we were under sail once more. We had to put in two reefs overnight as the wind steadied at Force 6 overnight with the wind on the quarter but now we also had a further set of waves on the beam which were steep and made the boat rock uncomfortably – it was like sleeping in a washing machine. The crew looked wrecked after the last night shift and both Steve and Annie fell asleep in the Saloon after finishing their watch. Waves died down the next morning and we were back to pleasant sailing conditions until the Sunday morning when once again we forced to motor due to light winds.

Skipper ready for action
Everyone more relaxed on the Sunday as we had got through one bad night unscathed and the boat came through it without any drama. In fact the boat seemed to relish the bad weather and it was only the crew who were shaken, if not a little stirred by the motion. 

On Monday morning, Catherine asked why we were not stopping at Porto Santo on the way as it had a good write up in the Pilot Guide. It made a lot of sense to stop there since we would arrive at 8pm and in the light rather than at 1am in the dark into Madeira. What a good decision. We arrived at 7:30 and by 8pm we had ordered the taxi after having a gin and tonic on the boat. 

The restaurant we eat in was excellent, the fish was the best we had eaten for a long time and we sitting out in tee shirt and shorts. We even found a nice bar for drinks afterwards and we made up for the last 4 days of not drinking at all.

Up late the next morning as we were all tired and had headaches which we put down to dehydration (rather than the late night drinking). Sorted out Steve and Annie’s flight back from Tenerife which we decided would be the best island to head for and we walked around the town in the afternoon. Back to the same restaurant in the evening and a different bar for late night drinks.

No taxis around when we left so walked back to the marina. Steve attracted a couple of dogs who followed us on the way back with such enthusiasm they were not going to be given the slip. Steve tried to lose them by running down to the beach down a long ramp, wait and then run back while they were not looking. The dogs did not follow Steve up the ramp and we thought we had lost them until they came up the steps just in front of us so we carried on. They ended up sitting on the pontoon staring at Steve’s cabin with great expectation that he was going to come out and play but they we gone by morning.

On the Wednesday morning we sailed to Madeira in force 5/6 and boat sailed beautifully despite the steep waves from behind. It was a really enjoyable sail and we arrived at Quinta do Lorde marina at 4:30pm. Nice marina but understaffed and it took an hour and half to complete the check-in. Holiday village attached to the marina is a ghost town – looks nice but no-one is there. We checked out all the restaurants but it felt like an imposition to be the only people in the restaurant for the night so we eat on board. 

North Side of Madeira
The next day we hired a car at great expense for a tour of the island. North side of Madeira is dramatic, rugged and very beautiful. Also much colder and wetter than the south, particularly as you get into the clouds which hang over the island. Still, it was a bit like a warm summer’s day with autumn mist hanging over ground so although it was wet it was still tee shirt and shorts weather.

Our final day we spent in Funchal which is the capital. One day was not really enough to see everything we wanted to but we visited the market and the old part of the capital as well as many of the other tourist attractions. One day more would have been nice and two days too much.

Off to Tenerife the next day so we had a relatively early night and we were all relaxed about the 300 miles journey south.

Thursday 2 October 2014

Final leg in Portugal

Saturday 6th September – 22nd September

Expecting thunderstorms today (Saturday) so we went for a long walk before the storms. Needless to say they did not arrive but it encouraged us to go for a long walk early. On the way back we managed to buy some spices that we had not been able to find, or at least we think we have as the names are in Portuguese but we went on looks. Could be in for a surprise when we cook tonight. 

I cooked lemon chicken in the evening which one of us thought was very good, excellent in fact. Catherine thought the “rice was nice”.

Went for a swim early on Sunday, not out of choice. Our anchor was well and truly twisted around a massive anchor which we managed to drag up to just under the surface. After an hour of trying to free our chain, the only option was for me to don flippers and mask to free it. It took less than 5 minutes once I was in the water (it was freezing).

The one good picture we took in Paniche
Motored the 18 miles to Paniche into a southerly wind where we squeezed into berth in the marina. Tourist Information recommended a walk around the coast which dates back to the Jurassic period. They did not focus much on the town but really sold the walk around the coast – 8km.   After 3km of a frankly not interesting walks we gave up (although there were the occasional stunning view) and cut back through the town which was even more depressing. We spent another hour looking for something to redeem the town but failed even to find a restaurant that we would want to eat in that evening. 

Final leg to Cascais 
Anchored in Cascais looking towards the town
On Monday we set off early for Cascais with a spring in our step. Final leg of this part of the journey and we again had to motor into a 10kn southerly wind so not very exciting. We anchored in Cascais harbour which is very attractive and set off in the dinghy to explore the town. Found an easy place to moor on the fuel pontoon and very helpfully we put the dinghy around the back so it would not block anyone else. Very easy at high tide.

After a drink and visit to a supermarket for food, we arrived back to find the dinghy stranded on the rocks. Bugger! Who did not check if the tide was falling!!! So we took off the engine and fuel and manhandled the dinghy across the pontoon on to the other side. It was dark by now and we did not have a torch for the journey back to our boat. Same person forgot the torch as who did not check the tides earlier so we will skip over that.

Dreadful night rolling around at anchor in the bay. Wind has continued to be unseasonably from the South so we got all the waves coming in. Headed off to Oeiras marina where we found we get a 50% discount on berthing so it just expensive rather than extortionate

A break in Brussels
We are flying to Brussels for Rebecca’s birthday today (Thursday) and all the children will be there. Possibly the last time we will all be together for a long time.  Up early for a shower at 7am (yes that is early for us) and walked the 20 minutes to the station at a brisk pace and only just managed to get the train. Sweated all the way to Lisbon. 

No problem in getting to the airport, arriving uncharacteristically with time to spare. Shame we went to the wrong terminal and then spent the next 20 minutes finding the right terminal and now had no time to spare. 

First time for us as parents we were not the hosts for the family. It is rather nice to be looked after by someone else, suggesting what we should do, when to eat and prepare all the food. Rebecca did a splendid job as well as looking after an 8 month old baby and both Ed and Rebecca were very good hosts. And it was great to see how our grandchild is progressing.

Back to Oeiras
We flew back to Lisbon on the Monday. Slight panic because we have friends Bill and Sue arriving tomorrow and we are not getting back to the boat until late tonight. It does need a clean, we have the washing to do, shopping to get and I have arranged some work to be done on the boat. Not a good position to be in when they are arriving in Lisbon at 10:00 in the morning!

Having felt the need to apologise in advance that we were not ready for them as planned, I phoned Bill when we got back to the boat in the evening. Apparently they are not coming to Wednesday (as we had arranged!) so it was a great relief. 

Tuesday was a mad panic getting everything done – boat cleaned, work completed, shopping sorted. As ever, these things do get done and we nice and relaxed when we met them on the Wednesday. Of course we were late having come 5 miles down the road when they arrived on time having left home 8 hours earlier.

Very enjoyable three days of sight-seeing, walking and even a tram ride around the city. On the second day we went to Sintra to see the royal palace which was the summer palace of the king and very splendid. After lunch in a little café, we left 30 seconds before the thunderstorm started and we were bathed in torrential rain for 20 minutes. The torrent of water flowing down the street ensured that our feet were soaked while the gusting wind meant that the umbrella was only offered a token of protection. But least it is warm and you dry out quickly!

The tram ride on the Friday was enjoyable but not as spectacular as we had imagined. We actually spent longer queueing for the tram than we spent on it. It was a one way journey that took about an hour – roughly the same amount of time it took us to walk back into town. And trams are a good idea why?

Now Bill and Sue have left it is time to get the boat ready for the crossing to Madeira. As always there is a list of jobs that are urgent, not least of all connecting up the cabin fans to cool us down in the heat now the thunderstorms of the last two weeks have passed. We also need to do the washing that seems to accumulate and with one washing machine for the whole marina it is a game of who can get there just as the last person’s washing cycle completes. 

Final preparation of the boat although there are still jobs outstanding that Steve and Annie can help with after they arrive tonight. Not least we need to do the menus and shopping for the 500 mile sail to Madeira.