Moonlight Adventure

The story of our travels on board Moonlight, our Vancouver 36.


Saturday 24th October 2009

Posted by yachtmoonlight on October 25, 2009 at 4:15 PM

We had a quiet day last Sunday, catching up on phone calls, emails and updating the website. There was a good wifi connection near the marina office, so John finally got Skype working well enough for him to call his daughters. I tried to use it to call Lorraine to wish her Happy Birthday, but the combination of Skype plus Lorraine being on her mobile in the Lake District was not a good one and after lots of shouting “Can you hear me?” at each other, I sent her a text.


In the morning, we set sail for Madeira and were joined for a short time by some bottlenose dolphins as we left Porto Santo. It sea was quite rough and although I had taken some sea sickness pills, I still felt rather icky, but not as icky as the turtle we nearly hit, which washed down the side of the boat, rolling around with it’s flippers flailing. Ooops.

We arrived in the Quinta do Lorde marina, to the east of the island at 2.30pm and we made very welcome by the extremely friendly and helpful marina workers.

The marina is part of a very large new holiday apartment complex, which is still under construction, so the facilities are very nice and new, but obviously designed by a man, as there are no hairdryers in the shower block and only communal changing areas, despite a huge amount of unused space.

I’m not sure if any shops are included in the plans, but there are certainly none here at the moment, only a bar and a very expensive restaurant, so food shopping will have to be done in the next town, via a free mini bus.

Ron was already in the marina when we arrived, having travelled here directly from Cascais. It was great to see him again and catch up, especially as his friend who sailed with him from Cascais had brought me some ginger biscuits from home, which were very welcome!


Tuesday was washing day, and while I did the washing by hand on the dock, John tried to fix the light on the cockpit compass as it had stopped working on the crossing from Cascais. After an hour of fiddling, he announced that he had “half-fixed it”. I’m not sure how you can half-fix a light, but I guess I’ll find out when we next sail overnight.

In the afternoon, we had a walk along a footpath that runs from the road at the East end of the island (near the marina) right along to the very tip of the island. It was very hot, so setting out at the hottest part of the day was not a great plan!


(The view from the footpath)


As the sun beat down, we headed along the footpath, being overtaken (as usual for me) by people young and old who were all much fitter than me and threw us a cheery “hello” as they ambled past me sweating profusely and struggling for breath.

We had a rest by some stone benches and noticed a huge number of small lizards scuttling around nearby. We poured a drop of water onto the bench and the lizards flocked to drink from the pool it created.


(One of the lizards on the stone bench)


John wanted to get some pictures and video footage of the lizards, and as he knelt down with the camera as close to the them as possible, one curious lizard climbed up his hand and along his arm before heading back to his chums, giving John a farewell bite on the way down.


(The lizard climbing up onto John's finger just before it bit him!)


After John had gained as much sympathy as he was going to get from me and Ron while we were rolling on the floor laughing, we carried on and the footpath led across a narrower ledge a little lower down where the wind blew strongly threw the gap, which was very welcome and cooling.

The views along the walk were stunning and exposed rocks showed different layers of volcanic rock in all different colours. We turned back before we got to the peak at the end of the footpath as we were running short of water and were all tired in the searing heat, but we all enjoyed the walk and may attempt to get to get to the peak another day.


(View of volcantic rocks from the footpath)


We decided not to take the boat up to Funchal as the marina there is almost always full and the anchorage is not very good, so we rented a very cheap self catering apartment for three nights instead and headed into Funchal on Wednesday morning on the local bus.

The apartment was very basic, but in a good location close to the town centre and there was a small swimming pool on the roof of the apartment block.

After checking into the apartment, we chose a small nearby restaurant for lunch and had a lovely meal on a patio overlooking gardens with banana tress and bird of paradise flowers, which are both very common on the island.

As we were eating our lunch, an English couple came into the restaurant to book a table for dinner that evening. The woman looked around, turned her nose up and said she didn’t really like any of the tables. The waiter explained that they had a “special table” that was the most popular and by chance it just so happened it was available for that evening. The woman said straight away that she wanted the special table and went away happy thinking both she and the table were very special indeed. As they left, the man turned back and asked the waiter which was the ‘special’ table. He pointed to one in the corner, which was exactly the same as all the others. I admired the waiter’s marketing skills and was greatly amused by the woman’s gullibility.

After lunch, we wandered through a pretty park down to the town, via the harbour. Wherever we go, John always insists on looking at the harbour. I have no idea why, they’re all the same, all full of boats and sea, both of which we have seen plenty of along the way, but it keeps him amused.

In the town, we visited the market, which is an open building with fruit and veg stalls set up in a square with more along a balcony looking down onto the square, and a large fish market at one side. We walked around the stalls and a lady asked if we would like to try some different kinds of passion fruit. They were delicious and so I looked at the price label but before the words “Crikey, they’re expensive” had the chance to leave my lips, John was buying four each of two different types and was rather shocked when the bill came to just under seven Euros.


(Funchal market)


We headed back to the hotel with our bag of golden, diamond-studded fruit and cooled down with a swim in the pool on top of the apartments.

Having treated ourselves to a nice lunch, we thought it best to economise with a cheaper dinner and chose the pizza restaurant which was attached to the apartment building. The food wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great and we were just thankful that we were being served by the waitress and not the waiter who seemed to have rather a serious sneezing problem.


On Thursday morning we headed to the town to catch a cable car up the hill to the Monte Palace Tropical Gardens. The cable car was 10 Euros each one way, so John handed over a 20 Euro note to the rather miserable attendant and we noticed after leaving the booth that he had been given two one way tickets…..and his 20 Euro note back. We may have fessed up if she had been a little more pleasant, but as she was a misery-guts we kept the money and enjoyed our free trip to the top of the hill.


(John in the cable car)


I was a little surprised by the entrance fee of 10 Euros per person to the tropical gardens, but as the cable car was free we decided to go for it, and I particularly like gardens so was very keen to go in. We weren’t disappointed, the gardens were fabulous. They were created in the late 19th Century and restored after they were bought in 1987 by a chap called Jose Manuel Rodrigues Berado (I imagine he had three first names to make up for the fact they are all rather cheesy). There are plants from all over the world in a Japanese influenced setting with Koi ponds, waterfalls, walkways, sculptures and painted tiles.


(The Monte tropical gardens - there are more pictures of the gardens in the Maderia folder on the Photo Gallery page)


There are also two exhibitions created from the owner’s collection of Zimbabwean contemporary stone sculptures and an incredible collection of minerals and gem stones.


(The Zimbabwean sculpture exhibition)


We were very much taken with the Zimbabwean sculptures are from an artists’ community in Tengenenge which started in the 1960’s and is now home to third generation artists. We loved these sculptures and I particularly liked one of two giraffes.


(The giraffe sculpture)


We wandered on through the stunning gardens, and found a bench overlooking a lake where we stopped for a rest and to enjoy the view. There were two swans swimming around the lake and they seemed quite happy until one of the garden workers walked past, at which point they got very excited and rushed across the pond doing a strange sort of dance as they swam, bending their necks and bobbing their heads up and down. The worker stopped by the water’s edge and held his foot out and the swans dashed over and started biting his foot. Very strange.


(The swans biting a garden worker's foot!)


After a cup of tea and a cake (and a free sample of Madeira wine!) in the café, we headed out and for the road sledges which take you (at great cost) 2km back down towards the town. Although the ride was expensive, we really had to have a go and it was great fun, whizzing though the steep streets with two chaps pushing up on the flatter parts and riding on the back of the sledge on the steeper parts.


(Us on the road sledge - we will also post a video of the trip on the Videos page)


At the bottom of the ride, we walked the rest of the way to the town, which was quite a long way down very steep streets, so we were quite tired when we reached the bottom!

On the way back towards the apartment, we stopped at a shop that sold cheesy Christmas decorations and found some Santa hats for one Euro each. Ron was going to try and get one of his friends to bring some out with him to the Canaries as we thought it would be fun to swim in them on Christmas day in the Caribbean (hopefully!), but we thought we might as well get them and save Ron’s friend the trouble, so we bought one each for us and Ron.

Outside the shop we bumped into Keith and Wellie who were anchored in Funchal and arranged to meet up later for dinner at a nice restaurant they knew in the town.

We met up with them in the evening and they brought Jim and Ann from Impressionist along with them. We had a great night and the meal was superb value at eight Euros for a three course meal! The food was remarkably good for the price and it was a fun evening. Keith told he had bumped into Ron who was in Funchal for the day after he had seen us and Ron had just been into the Christmas shop and bought four Santa hats (one for each of us and a spare) so we now have seven Santa hats between us!


Yesterday we caught a local bus high up into the hills to a village called Curral das Freiras and it was quite a scary ride. The bus went much higher up first, along some very narrow roads with huge very steep drops right next to the road. Like most bus drivers we have come across on this trip, the driver was a loony and was careering round these roads at quite a speed, slamming on the breaks when the bus met something coming the other way. Ever time the bus screeched to a halt, the breaks made the kind of sound my cars used to when the break pads where about to wear out. It was quite terrifying, but none of the locals on the bus blinked an eyelid as they were all obviously so used to it.

When the bus arrived at Curral das Freiras, the bus driver advised us we could catch a bus back from the same spot at 2.30pm and we set off up the road out of the village (after I had fallen to my knees and kissed the ground and my legs has ceased feeling like jelly and I was able to walk).

We didn’t really know where we were going, so we had stopped in a shop in the village and had a quick look at a map that we were too tight to buy and had noticed that there was a footpath a little way out of the village which led to another tiny village where we could catch the bus back into town.


(The view on the walk from Curral das Freiras)


Along the way, we met up with a very pleasant Scottish couple who put us to shame (as always) by being much fitter than us and ambling up the steep footpath steps while I puffed and panted lagging some way behind.

The views made the walk very much worthwhile and when we arrived at the next village we were very happy to find a small café selling cold drinks and ice-creams.

We checked the timetable at the bus stop and noticed that the bus would be coming by this stop at…..2.30pm. We weren’t sure how the bus could be in two places at once, but as it was only 2pm, we were glad of the time to get a cold drinks at the café. Once we were seated with our glasses of ice tea and the Scottish couple had their ice-creams, we saw the bus coming up the road and so we drank our drinks down quickly and John ran over to the bus to stop it. The driver said that we couldn’t get on the bus here for Funchal, we would have to get on it at the bottom of the road, about five minutes walk away at………yes, you’ve guessed it……….2.30pm.

So we started meandering down the road and spotted the bus stop at the bottom of the hill at the junction of the road back to Funchal. When we were about half way down the road, we saw the bus coming back from another direction and so John ran ahead, while I sort of jog-waddled behind (I wasn’t designed to run) and promised to hold the bus for the Scottish couple who were walking as fast as they could without creating a serious ice-cream trauma. The bus driver waved at John, shook his head, pointed at the bus stop, mouthed “half past two” and drove off.

When we finally made it to the bus stop (at about 2.20pm), we waited, and waited, and waited a bit more, and the bus finally arrived at about 3.10pm. At least we were able to enjoy the company of the Scottish couple while we waited (unfortunately we didn’t ask their names!).

Back in town, we walked back up to the apartment along with our new friends whose hotel was nearby. They were enjoying a two week walking holiday on the island and we gave them our website details, so if you’re reading this, we hope you had a really nice time and it was a pleasure to meet you!

That evening we went to another fabulous restaurant near the hotel and had an excellent meal, before heading to the English pub opposite for a game of darts (well, a game of throwing blunt sticks that kept falling apart at the floor), which of course I won :o)


We walked into the town this morning to stock up on some fresh groceries before heading back to the marina and stopped first at the market. The town was much busier than we had seen it on other days, probably partly because it was Saturday but also because there were two huge cruise ships in the harbour and another one anchored out to sea.

As we walked around the fish market, I realised there must be Americans on one of the cruise ships. How did I know this? I watched a man, probably in his 70’s, but certainly too old to be wearing a baseball cap (the first sign), set up a tripod at great length, attach a video camera to the top and take a rather long video of several minutes. Of…………a dead fish. The only explanation I could think of was that he was an American and this was partially confirmed by two ladies who barged past me shrieking “Gee, look at those fish” and “Oh my gaaaaaaarrrrd”.

We bought some fresh veg and some bay leaves and dried flowers from a fabulous spice stall before heading to the supermarket for a few more bits and bobs (via a clothes shop which called me in with a fabulous jacket in the window which I now own but will have little chance to wear as it is so hot!) and then back to the apartment to pick up our bags.


(John at the spice stall)


The bus driver who drove us back to the marina was thankfully, and unusually, quite sane, which was a relief and we felt glad to arrive back on Moonlight in one piece.

In the evening, we headed round to the bar in the marina to meet Ron for drinks along with his friend Colin, who arrived this evening to sail with Ron to the Canaries and then across to the Caribbean, stopping by a local boat which had been out fishing on the way which had spread its huge catch of at least half a dozen different types of fish on the dock.

We enjoyed a very pleasant evening in the bar with Ron and Colin and are now looking forward to a more relaxing time over the next few days after all the hustle and bustle of Funchal.

Categories: October 2009, Portugal

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Reply Mum
12:38 PM on October 27, 2009 
Another great read; love the Park and the pics and the sledge.
Reply Becky (soon to be a member of your crew) Thorp
6:09 AM on November 1, 2009 
Im so excited by your blog and photos and the prospect of sun :D
Seriously, the Indian summer promised was a load of total B*llocks!
See you soon for some much need vitamin D (or is it E); SUN xxx