Porto Santo (8th October - 14th October 2008)

Porto Santo is a tiny island located about 27 miles NE of Madeira. It is a bit remote and a bit desolate relying entirely on income from Madeiran’s who visit Porto Santo for their holidays. In stark contrast to Madeira the island is rocky and barren which is as a direct result of the introduction of rabbits and goats to the island in the late 15th Century who rather annoyingly ate everything and continue to do so … oops.
What Porto Santo lacks in terms of greenery it makes up for elsewhere, notably the 6 mile stretch of beach with only two people on it … Jack and Ella.


Although life in Lisbon was anything but fast when you arrive in Porto Santo the world pretty much comes to a standstill. No job is done without three people watching, nothing is done fast and I’m pretty sure that the word ‘urgent’ has been struck from the local vocabulary due to lack of use; all of this was fine by us!

Life centres around he capital of Vila Baleira about 20 minutes walk from the boat; the town is small, clean and stuffed full of shops that are of absolutely no use. By way of illustration I decided to fit an additional 12v cigarette lighter socket to power up the cool box. When I asked the local
ironmongers whether he sold them he said, with a slight smile, that in Portugal they always come with the car; you can’t fault his logic.
The search for paint was another epic where Jack and I
traversed the whole Island to search for paint. I can confirm that if you want a white or black house in Porto Santo you’re in luck, otherwise don’t hold your breath!
We visited Porto Santo 12 years ago and perhaps not surprisingly little has changed. The exception over and above a few extra buildings is that you can no longer anchor in the harbour and now have to pay for either a marina berth or a mooring; both are quite expensive which is a shame. The walls of the harbour are painted or graffitied by boats who have marked their visit; these paintings range in quality from just a name in a box to a full blown masterpiece. The painting that we had put on the wall when we were with Songbird was still there albeit a little worse for wear - it was strange having the children sitting by the picture we had made before they even existed. We decided to let nature take it’s course and didn’t repaint it but did put a new one on for Brimble.


We also decided to hire 2 quad bikes to tour the island, great fun as a fair bit of the road network is unpaved. Once we were away from the main town and off tarmac we let Ella and Jack takeover driving. As luck would have it we were immediately passed by a police car stuffed full of what I can only assume was the whole of the Porto Santo police force; anyway they waved and thought the kids driving was great fun; we agreed and waved back with perhaps a little too much enthusiasm. Whilst in Porto we discovered a great new bread called Bolo do Cao. Shaped like a thick frisbee it’s very light and airy and the best bread we’ve tasted since leaving home. Portugese bread is strangely sweet and despite repeated attempts couldn't really get a taste for it so this discovery was all the more valuable. We have feasted on Bolo ever since.

In Porto Santo we had a chance to meet Poul and Jan on board their 42 ft Ketch, Pi. They had overtaken us as we left Lisbon and were kind enough to take our ropes when we arrived in Porto Santo. The following night we went round for a beer and as ever a new friendship sprung up. The kids loved Pi because they were able to play hide and seek on board! Poul, the owner and skipper, was working his way south and westwards towards Brazil, but other than a vague idea to stop at Las Palmas to pick his wife up his plans were fairly fluid, something which is typical for most yachties we meet. Some of the more hair raising trips people report is when they have rushed to pick people up, drop them off or meet flights. The other point of interest is that without exception so far we are the only family staying together for the trip. In all other cases the wife and kids are flying which Selma and I think would take the edge off the experience … we’ll let you know who’s right in 3 months!

Having traversed the island by foot in search of paint and several times on our quad bikes by the 14th October it was time to crack on and so we set sail for Madeira, sailing in tandem with Poul and Jan in Pi.
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