Wed 27th July 2017
After filling up with water, checking out with the marina office and with the police, we departed at 12:30 from Porto Santo and made the roly-poly passage downwind to Madeira, arriving at about 19:00 at the Quinta do Lorde (QdL) marina. Although Madeira can be seen from Porto Santo on a clear day, there was usually some cloud around the upper parts of Madeira island, so we were quite close before the shapes became distinct. More of a surprise is the height and apparent closeness of the Ilhas Desertas, which loom large to the SE. As we approached the lighthouse island at the extreme east of Madeira, we had to alter course to avoid a small freighter, outward bound for Lisbon.
Ship avoidance on the NE approach to Madeira
We had met K&S of Zahlia at Porto Santo, and they were also at QdL for a few days. Next morning R joined them for a walk along the precipitous but spectacular ridge to the east, and we all had a convivial dinner that evening at the harbour café. Our shared starter was the local speciality of limpets. Small, tasty and garlicky, these were a vast improvement on J’s previous experience of tough, chewy limpets prised off the Cornish rocks when they had run out of food camping with her father in the 1960s…
The precipitous peninsular walk
Quinta do Lorde marina with rock towering above
We spent 6 days at QdL. When we arrived the French Transquadra race was gathering in port at the end of their first stage. The race finishes in Martinique and is for crew aged over 40+ in fast production boats. The marina was buzzing for a couple of days, then they cleared out (laying up under the airport runway until December), and it all went quiet. QdL is rather an odd setup, a purpose-built holiday resort with a marina, but with no village in easy walking distance. There is not much to do here unless you have a car. Having missed the bus to the nearest village (Canical), we did walk it, but made sure we caught the bus back as the road is dangerous for pedestrians (not to mention steep and hot!). We found a small shop and risked the purchase of two nameless packages from the freezer; these proved to be one whole octopus and some quite good steak! We also found a “locals” beach, a little cove of brown sand with a café, barely a stone’s throw from the marina but only accessible by climbing over the hill above the resort. The lizards at this beach have learned to explore your bag for food, and are quite fearless! We met A&G of Alisea, from Germany, and exchanged boat visits here and later in Funchal.
Pale feet in dark volcanic sand
The wind whips round the cliff that towers above the marina, and can be a little wearing. We decided to move on to Funchal, and checked out from QdL a little earlier than we had intended. The marina had quoted us a rate of around €24/day based on our LOD (length on deck), but actually charged based on LOA (length overall), at €45/day. We felt they could have made this clear on arrival, when they took the boat registration details, and this certainly soured our view of QdL.
Unfortunately Ambition II has a Lloyds part 1 registration giving the length as LOA (i.e. including bowsprit) which puts her in the 12-15 metre bracket, whereas the LOD is under 12 metres. Marinas tend to charge a lot more for boats over 12 metres, a fact that will cost us a great deal. Other boats we have encountered have the LOD on their registration.
The trip to Funchal was windless and uneventful on the long swell. There are two marinas, the old one which is crowded and sometimes noisy, and a small “new” marina just to the East of the old one. This is mostly taken up with trip boats, but there is space for maybe a dozen yachts on pontoon finger berths. Both marinas are very public and the arrangements for toilets and showers are not wonderful, but they are right in the centre of the waterfront. We had a place booked in the new marina, thanks to S&K on Zahlia who took our lines as we arrived in Funchal.
Ambition II and friends moored in Funchal
A dinner had been arranged for the following evening, to be attended by the crews of Zahlia, Caitlin of Argyle (B&D), Ambition II, and one other. Little did we know that this other was Raven, and our long-standing friend JA, who appeared shortly after we docked. It was an excellent dinner!
We also got to know people from other boats – for example Zeezout from Holland and and El Viento. Indeed, our time in Funchal proved highly sociable, and there was much boat-visiting. One evening we had the crews of 5 other boats aboard Ambition II for “drinks & nibbles”, and another such gathering took place aboard Zahlia. We accompanied JA up to Monte, to see the gardens and see the views over Funchal, and to witness the famous sledges (somewhat overblown), Another day we took a bus with K,S, B&D to the hills above Camara do Lobos for a short walk along the Levada do Norte. Both trips proved rather too precipitous for J, who determined to stay firmly near sea level thereafter. The scenery was stunning however, and we especially enjoyed the verdant plant life. Near the sea, the terraces are thick with bananas, then higher up vines are grown, often with tomatoes, sweet potato and other crops in their shade. The levadas, ancient irrigation channels running along the valley sides, keep the terraces watered. After the walk, we sampled the local bananas from the market, and a couple of beers at the harbour café. The town of Camara do Lobos has grown since it was one of Churchill’s favourite painting spots, but the harbour is still very attractive.
J makes it to the Levada
Funchal is well supplied with palms and other exotic trees, giving welcome shade to the otherwise baking streets. There are parks and gardens filled with plants, some familiar as indoor pot plants but here so much richer in leaf and flower. The botanical gardens were well worth visiting as many of the plants were labelled (though the natural history museum on the same site was a disappointment, just 3 rooms of poorly labelled and shabby specimens). Funchal is a friendly town to visit, with a range of shops and plenty of elaborately decorated churches and buildings to explore. As soon as you move away from the harbour area, you have to climb steeply, so at least some healthy exercise is generally built in to any outing!
Botanic gardens, Funchal
Santa Clara convent church, Funchal
Our new friends in Funchal possessed a wealth of cruising experience, for example B&D on Caitlin had been based in the Canaries for some time and gave us valuable tips on the marinas and the notorious acceleration zones (areas of high wind speed round the ends of the high islands). We were glad to purchase T’s annotated copy of a Canaries guide to marinas and anchorages.
Zahlia departed to head home to southern Spain; we and others heading south were making plans to set off at the end of the week, hoping to take advantage of lighter winds. So it was on Friday 11th August that we made our farewells and set off from Funchal, bound for Tenerife.
The Islas Desertas (QdL holiday village in the foreground)