Porto Santo

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Sat 1 Nov 2008 20:06
We enjoyed our 3 days in Porto Santo. Helped no doubt by the relief of safely negotiating over 400 miles of open ocean to arrive at a tiny volcanic island some 6 miles by 3. In the days before GPS (Global Positioning System) such voyages would have been far more challenging, whereas now we and many like us stare zombie-like at the electronic screen in front of us at the helm, watching the boat shaped icon on the electronic chart slowly make its way across hundreds of miles of open ocean. We averaged over 6 knots from leaving Lagos which was very credible given the vast weight we are lugging around with us onboard.
The harbour at Porto Santo lies at the eastern end of the south coast of the island and has just a few spare berths for visiting yachts. Some choose to anchor outside the harbour just off the beach, whilst others use the mooring buoys laid down inside the harbour. So everyone has some shelter as without exception all have made the long trip from mainland Europe. The walk from the harbour into town is about one mile and follows the the long golden sand beach that Porto Santo is famous for,  especially as its golden sands are better than anything its larger neighbour Madeira can offer.
Having walked into the 'capital' with just a few thousand permenant residents, intent on finding the internet cafe and buying a few food items, Nikki spotted a small blue open top single decker bus waiting to leave the terminus with an equally small queue of holiday makers, plus a French family from one of the boats in the marina. It was about to leave so on impulse we also bought tickets and jumped on board for a full tour of the island, which took us out to the western coast before moving on to view the rugged wind and wave lashed rocky north coast. We drove past the airport which straddles the width of the island. Incredibly it once served the entire tourist industry of Madeira back in the 60s before the new airport was built there.
The views from the high vantage points above Port Santo were breathtaking, especially high above the port where those that had boats berthed there were able to get a birds-eye view and take the requisite pics for the record.  After 2 hours of sightseeing the bus disgorged us all back at the terminus where we resumed our search for the internet cafe and some provisions before walking the mile back to the port. The main town, as is the whole island is exquisite. Totally unspoilt by its small tourist industry Porto Santo has the unique feel of an island that the worst traits of the modern world has passed by. The pace of life is barely detectable, few cars (but some noisy motorbikes), no rush hour to speak of, the people so very friendly and the days just idly drifting by.  Blessed for the most part with sunny days and blue skys (except whilst we were there it would seem but even that didn't matter).
It was as well we took the bus tour when we did, as the next day the weather turned very nasty, with gale force winds with rain lashing the tiny island and those clinging to it!  This lasted for 2 days before the lighter winds forecast for the Thursday offered us the opportunity to make the 30 mile dash to Madeira, as it was due to close in again for the Friday and Saturday. We woke Thursday morning to the sound of wind howling occasionally through the rigging, but nowhere near as strong as it had been over the previous couple of days. It was time to leave this lovely island and move on. Whilst we had not walked Porto Santo as planned, we had seen most of its sights in the fresh air of the open top bus. With the weather threatening to keep us there for some days to come it made sense to see what Madeira had to offer whilst waiting for nature to rid itself of it's extreme wind and rain problem. We cast off to head westwards.