4 September 2019
Today we leave Cascais for three days sailing to Porto Santo, a small island north of Madeira. We have no idea how long we will stay there, it may turn out. In the end, we stayed two weeks, and it was two very nice weeks.
But first, we have to get there. Weather says moderate wind, about 9 m/s with gusts of up to 13. Decreasing the last day. Sounds OK and the day starts with a good lunch and ”go’fika”, a Swedish term for a good cup of coffee and a cake or two.
What we did not expect was the strong winds further north, off Galicia and Portugal’s northern coast. It sent a gigantic swell of 5-6 meters and waves of up to 3 meters.
Moreover, it was a little more wind than promised, steady at least 12 m / s with gusts of 16 might not sound like a huge difference to what was promised, but the increase makes a big difference on the pressure in the sails and speed of the boat.
We did good speed and for Sally, it was no problem, she easily sailed up and down the waves and took the waves well. Jonas also did well. It was worse with me, the seasickness came despite all the remedies I took. The seasickness makes me very tired, just like the seasickness tablets, so it was just to fall asleep. I could probably sleep around the clock in such a situation. But Jonas also had to get some sleep, so a night pass had to be with the sick bag close at hand. Which was lucky a few times.
The second day was a bit calmer, and the last day even calmer. The wind north of us had died out so the waves also get smaller.
The reward was this. A fantastic little island where we choose to anchor in the bay off the marina.
Imagine waking up to this view every morning and having your breakfast in peace.
And at night, you are rocked calmly and quietly to sleep by the swell, and sleep soundly. I really understand why little babies are rocked to sleep, there is nothing more dormant.
When we left Sweden, I started following another Swedish boat blog, Vista with Anna and Arthur. They were going the same route as us, and I thought we might bump into each other somewhere. It was not until Cascais, but suddenly they lay there and refueled when we arrived. We greeted each other, and then they left for Porto Santo. Now when we arrived on the island early one morning, we saw that they were there, and later in the afternoon Arthur came and invited us to dinner. Tired after the sailing, it was wonderful to be invited to an evening drink and dinner. Had a very nice evening, thank you, Anna and Arthur.
The water is crystal clear and 23 degrees hot, we are finally anchored, so finally the first swim for me. I never thought it would last until September. But in the rias in Galicia, the water temperature was only 16 degrees, so nothing for me !! and bathing in the marinas in the major cities of Porto and Lisbon did not feel so enticing. Have seen what some put out there. But I take that back now. So nice to just jump into the sea from the boat as soon as it feels a little warm.
Moreover, we take it very easy these weeks. Get to know the village and go on a guided jeep tour around the island with Anna and Arthur. It only takes 3½ hours, as the island is only 11 x 7 km, and then we have probably seen the most and admired fantastic views.
The guide seems to know everyone on the island and is happy to tell everyone who lives there now, but also about its history. Once upon a time, the island was fully vegetated by the Dragon Blood Tree (1400 – 1500 century) but now there are only a few trees left, no forests
They were cut down in order to access its red sap of the plant dyeing of textiles. Then they built terraces and began to grow grain for export. But unfortunately, it rains very little at Porto Santo, so after 200 years of irrigation of the crops from their wells (they brought water to the highest heights) they were out of groundwater. All this utilization of the island was, of course, neither wise nor sustainable, considering, for example, erosion when the trees were cut down and saline penetration into wells emptied of groundwater. But most people take the opportunities they have to cope with their food supply, and I also don’t know how much knowledge they had at that time about the consequences of their actions.
Nowadays they have a desalination plant that produces their freshwater, they have started replanting pine trees on the slopes and tourism has taken over much of the island’s economy.
Do you want a quiet holiday, where locals outnumber tourists swim on a 9 km long beach with crystal clear water, and maybe play golf, then Porto Santo for you? The golf course is said to be one of the better in Europe and was created by Seve Ballesteros, a name even I know. After the Americans had an airbase here during the war, the Madeira Islands’ first airport was built at Porto Santo, and today they have a runway of 3 km and are considered very safe to land on. Unlike the one on the main island of Madeira, which is a little infamous.
During the 15th century, Columbus lived here on the island and planned his travels. He got married, had children, and even today the family’s house remains. Of course, we were there and looked, and nowadays it is a small museum of the history of Porto Santo. Every year, his arrival is celebrated with a festival. So now we have seen the ship Santa Maria with Columbus arrive at the beach and long processions of 15th century dressed people coming to meet him.
The whole village lived up and it was a bit like the medieval week in Visby. Fun to be part of and to get to know the wings of history
We get our watermaker running for the first time. Or rather, Jonas gets it started. But even now I’ve learned how to handle buttons and levers correctly. So now we make our own drinking water of the seawater. Feels amazing!
We end our stay here traditionally and paint our sign on the pier, like so many sailors before us made.
Here are many known names and we feel that we are in good company.
Jonas paint and I’m a sounding board for how to do it 🙂 and we were both happy.
Now we sail towards the Canary Islands and La Palma