Porto Santo to Salvagem islands

Dick and Irene Craig
Sat 26 Sep 2009 11:21

Porto Santo (Holy port) is the 2nd largest of the islands within the archipelago and it is suspected that it is so named due to the arrival of Joao Gonçalves and Tristao Vaz Teixeira, who were on passage to Africa, as part of Henry the Navigator’s grand scheme. It seems that in 1418, they were driven off course by a gale and sought refuge under the lee of an unknown island, subsequently colonized by the Portuguese.

The island in September looks barren though it is believed that sufficient produce is grown which, along with fishing provides enough food to support the population of approximately 4000 to 4500 people.

Porto Santo’s main claim to fame is that Christopher Columbus married the daughter of the first governor of the island and that he lived here for several years in the 1480’s.

The time here in Madeira, as in the Canary islands, is the same as in the UK. This caused a minor problem when we changed to British summer time en-route from Gibraltar as we didn’t synchronise all of the clocks on board. However, it was no big deal really and arriving on watch, at night, one hour earlier than necessary, soon rectified that little problem.

After making the boat safe in the harbour at Porto Santo, Peter and Philip went ashore and Dick took the boat papers to the Customs offices.

We had hardly arrived in Madeira when it seems that we are breaking the law. Peter and Philip had not cleared Customs and had entered the country illegally. Whoops!

Dick managed to call Peter on his cell-phone and established the whereabouts of their passports which he then took with him, with the boats papers and our passports, to the Customs offices.

I made some rock cakes and flapjacks to replenish the snacks which have been eaten since we left Gibraltar then painted our personal logo on the wall of the marina.

Dick went to the top of the mast three times. Once to check what had happened to the VHF aeriel which had been knocked off its perch during the crossing. Once to get the tools to fix the VHF aeriel and a third time to tighten all of the screws which were in the track, on the mast. Each one had worked its way loose and some were almost falling out. This was a little surprising as the marina at Prevasa had instructions to check and tighten any that were loose. We certainly got charged for the work but as we collected the boat on the 17th April, it looks as if perhaps this task had been overlooked.

On the morrow, we departed Porto Santo around noon and sailed to Quinta do Lorde near the eastern end of Madeira Grande, a new marina, which has been available to visiting yachts since August 2002 though at that time, with limited facilities.

We sailed the 6 hour passage using the parasailor and the sea only became uncomfortable during the last hour, as we approached the final stages of the passage.

We tied up stern to the pontoon though there were not any lines for us to pick up. We had small pontoons to port and starboard and to which we initially tied our own lines. We then subsequently replaced the lines we use for throwing, with more substantial lines equipped with mooring compensators.

We ate an excellent meal at a restaurant within the marina complex. Had we realized that the hefty cover charge included a large selection of tapas, we would not have ordered starters. We struggled, but failed to finish our main courses which were more than ample.

Next morning, Dick went to the marina office with the boat’s papers and our passports. Before he returned with the hire car, I had called the tax office 14 times, to try to sort out the refund they owe dating back to the tax year 2006/2007.  11 of the calls were disconnected, following recorded messages, after I had held on for almost 2 minutes. One call was terminated by a woman who on answering my call told me that the fire alarm was sounding. I was informed by the chap who answered my next call that their computer system was not working and he could only deal with general questions. I gave up after the guy who answered the 14th call told me he could not hear me. If this was a commercial operation, it would cease trading.

We drove into Funchal where we sat at a table outside a restaurant and had lunch then went to a tasting of fortified Madeira wine.

I have to say that I wasn’t impressed by the madeira. My great expectations were due to the lyrics of the old song  “Have some madeira m’dear”  but I think my first taste of this fortified wine will probably be my last.

We looked at the many boats already in the marina at Funchal, in preparation for the single-handed race from here to Brazil, organised by the French. What bravery/ foolhardiness. I certainly wouldn’t have the courage nor the skill.

Next day we visited the Botanical gardens where there were also exhibited a collection of exotic birds. Although beautiful, most of the birds were caged, which I find distressing.

From there we traveled across the mountains and along the coast road, to the north of the island where we had lunch. The scenery was stunning and the roads were somewhat hairy.

On our return to the boat we stopped and bought fruit from roadside vendors who were selling produce which they had grown and harvested themselves.

Although we had hired the car until mid-day on the morrow, we handed it back late afternoon as we planned to depart this island first thing tomorrow morning.

We left about 8am and raised the parasailor as soon as we were out of the marina. With a following wind taking us in the direction we wanted to go, we didn’t need to tack at all. We did change sails after eleven hours, replacing the parasailor with the cruising chute.

The 165 nautical mile passage was mainly uneventful. A flying fish was spotted as was a small turtle but the sea was too big really for us to identify marine life easily. However, around 10am the next morning, just half an hour from our anchorage off the largest of the three Salvage islands, Salvagem Grande, two dolphins came up to the boat and briefly frolicked around the bows but were gone before a photo could be taken.

The Salvage islands need to be approached in daylight. Because of the speed we were sailing, we thought, almost until midnight, that we might have to delay our arrival.

Two wardens live on the island which can only be visited after obtaining a permit. This function was kindly done for us by the office manager at the marina while we were in Madeira. The islands and the surrounding sea have been a nature reserve and bird sanctuary since the 1970’s but we passed a fishing boat, just half a mile off shore as we made way to our anchorage, already occupied by two monohulls, one of which we had already seen in Porto Santo and Madeira.


Below: The first of probably many. Tucanon graffiti added to that from the

            numerous other boats which have passed this way.


          Picture of our deck, taken from the top of the mast.