John & Susan Simpson
Tue 21 Sep 2021 21:19
Things have changed since our early yachting days, when our son Tom sailed strapped in the cockpit in his toddler car seat and daughter Alex sat with her legs wrapped in a carrier bag because baby waterproofs hadn’t been invented!  Back then sailing 30 miles was an epic adventure and we happily spent a week’s holiday sailing entirely within the confines of Chichester harbour.  Nowadays, the prospect of 30 miles to our next destination feels like it’s hardly worth putting the sails up!  

Such was the conversation about our trip from Porto Santo to Madeira.  As it happened, the weather was so changeable that we had five different combinations of sails up in a journey that took as many hours.  The wind was very fickle and, as sometimes happens, the best sailing was in the final half hour as we approached our destination at Quinta do Lorde Marina, a resort hotel/apartment complex at the eastern tip of the island.  The marina is completely full, mainly with visiting boats, but the resort itself is otherwise entirely empty and eerily quiet.  We definitely feel like we’re a long way from civilisation here!

We took the bus to Funchal, the capital city, as we wanted to see the plaque painted on the harbour wall to mark John’s previous journeys here on our old boat ‘Chiscos’.  These plaques feature in ports around the world and originate from centuries ago when sailors wished to leave a record that their ship had visited this place.  The tradition has been adopted by yachties who hand-paint their own often elaborate designs, usually recording the year of the visit and the names of the boat and crew.  The Chiscos plaque is still there but very worn now, with only the blue stripe of the hull and the ‘Chiscos' name clearly visible.  It was first painted in 2005 and touched up in 2011 on John’s second visit, so it has lasted remarkably well.

Whilst in Funchal we also took the cable car from the sea front up to Monte on the hill above.  Flying high above Funchal it was incredible to see how buildings have been built into every conceivable nook and cranny of the steep mountainside,  

From there we came down in one of the Funchal toboggans.  These wicker sledges on wooden runners are driven by two men (carreiros) dressed in white with straw hats and black rubber boots used as brakes.  They start by pulling the sledge by rope and as the speed picks up the carreiros jump on the back, shifting their weight to steer round the bends. It’s quite a hair-raising ride as the sledges veer down the tarmac roads worn shiny smooth by the friction.  
Here’s one of our carreiros setting us off.  Once we were going I didn’t have a hand free to take a picture!