Snorkelling in Antigua

9) Madeira

Cascais, Lisbon to Madeira

This was most definitely a departure from the plan we didn’t have. If in fact we had any plan at all, it was to head south to the Algarve for the winter or maybe, even Gibraltar. 

The Atlantic Island of Madeira was not on our Radar until we met ‘The man from Lithuania’.

This was a long offshore sail by any stretch of the imagination. It was 600 nautical miles straight out in to the Atlantic Ocean and we estimated 5 days to complete the journey. It was going to push us out of our comfort zone. 

Amanda had stocked our larder with all kinds of goodies. We had spare fuel, spare water, spare parts. It was time to make a move. Another English couple who had done the sail a few times told us to watch out for traffic, it is a busy route! These words did come back to haunt us on the second night!

We left Cascais after lunch one day and headed off in to the Atlantic. The Ocean was remarkably calm and the wind was light. 8 hours in and we were having a good trip so far , not fast but very pleasurable. I was spending a lot of time scanning our AIS anti-collision system and as mentioned previously, it was busy. Not busy like crossing the English Channel, but you still needed to keep a watchful eye. At some point during the first night I noticed a British yacht appear on AIS about 30 miles south west of us, but apparently heading to the same destination. I assumed their destination, based on the fact that if you miss Madeira, next stop Bahamas or even Florida!

The following morning amongst all the other Marine Traffic, the British yacht was still there and I pointed it out to Amanda telling her it was called ‘Sisu”. I stated the obvious to Amanda and said “That has to be Simon and Susan”, how we both laughed.

As darkness began to fall and we entered the second night, we had moved out of the traffic heading north and south along the Atlantic coast, but there were still quite a few ships appearing and disappearing on our AIS system. I was becoming more and more reliant upon for the heading and speed of these other vessels. One ship did stand out though. It had appeared on radar around the same time as Sisu, heading slightly further north which made me think it wasn’t going to Madeira. It had already overtaken Sisu and was going to pass in front of us soon, but some distance away. Nothing to worry about and nothing else appearing to be crossing our path or catching us up. At some point after midnight I lost concentration for a while, but was brought back to reality with a shock when I heard ‘ Carried Away, Carried Away, Carried Away. This is the tanker (can’t remember its name) on your heading, what is your intention over?’  I peered out into the darkness, but couldn’t see anything so checked the radar. Sure enough, 15 miles in front of us was the tanker from earlier, which had overtaken Sisu and passed in front of our path. It was now stationery! 

Up to this point, we had our anti-collision system set at 5 miles, as any more than that had meant it was constantly setting off the collision alarm. However, and after this incident, we realised once you move away from busy traffic, it is best to have a much wider circle around the boat. We now have it set at 25 miles for our offshore excursions.


I called up the ship and told them I was altering course to pass by their Port side in about 3 hours. They thanked us and I began to study the AIS. Usually on the ‘Status’ information part of a vessel of ‘interest’ (basically the ones you will crash in to if you don’t alter course), the status is ‘Underway’. That is the normal one we had seen. This tanker had the status now set at ‘Awaiting orders’ . They were basically drifting, in the Atlantic, away from all the main shipping routes waiting to be told where to go next.

Lesson learned!

So we continued towards our destination as did Sisu, still heading in roughly the same direction, but now gaining on us!


This continued for the next couple of days, before Sisu eventually overtook us around 10 miles away from us, too far away to see with the naked eye but radar and AIS keeping us well informed.

Our first destination wasn’t actually going to be Madeira itself, but Porto Santo, an island next door, slightly to the north. Our leisurely sail had meant that we were going to arrive in darkness.

Not ideal!

As the daylight began to fade, we calculated we would arrive around midnight. Sisu was already there.  

When we arrived, late to the party! we were a bit disappointed to find the marina was full to capacity and the only option was to anchor in the bay. Not what we had planned, but no other option available! We endured a rolley night at anchor, not one I wished to repeat, so at 07:00, we upped anchor and set off in the direction of Quite de Lorde, Madeira which was about 30 miles west.

Snorkelling in Antigua

Our view of Porto Santo as we left around 07:00 on our way to Quinta de Lorde, Madeira.

Snorkelling in Antigua

The Porto Santo Ferry

Quinta De Lorde is a purpose built resort with about 30 private homes and a hotel. It isn’t really a port, but has a lovely marina. All of which is inside an area of National Park at the south east end of Madeira. Apparently, it was built around 2009 and caused some consternation, as it was built within the National Park and may have had development funding supposed to be for the local community………… Wikipedia says!

But for us and many other yachties, it offers a tranquil sanctuary.

Snorkelling in Antigua

Quinta de Lorde is a very picturesque place nestled in to the hillside. It reminded us very much of Portmerion, in North Wales, which is another purpose built development with beautiful buildings and gardens, set in an idyllic surrounding.

snorkelling in Antigua

This is one of the streets which wind down through the complex, no cars!

snorkelling in antigua

The pools are stunning and as well as these there is also a sea water pool which has its own natural wave maker!

snorkelling in Antigua

This sea water pool has a lovely ledge around for sitting watching the sunset, just don’t do it at high water!

Quinta De Lorde was a lovely place to begin our exploration of the Island. We would walk up to the top of the complex and then wait for a local bus to take us in to town for supplies (and a coffee shop). The trip was always quite breathtaking, we would head up and around a fairly steep hill and through a tunnel. As you exited the tunnel you suddenly realised how high up you were and the bus would turn off the main road on to a side road which had many sharp switch backs  down to the town. Being a mechanic, I hoped the maintenance schedule was up to date on the busses!

As we got more information, we began to travel further afield and as luck would have it, the marina had hire cars on site, which was very convenient. 

We soon found out that the major roads around the island where all in tunnels through the hillside and each time you came to a valley, the tunnel would pop out in to bright sunlight to reveal the coastline hundreds of feet below. The viaduct bridging the valley would then end and you would be back in a tunnel for a few more kilometres.

Madeira, snorkelling in antigua

It was never difficult to find somewhere great for lunch. This is Machico near to Funchal Airport.

snorkelling in Antigua

Aeroporto de Madeira, Funchal airport is famous for a few different reasons!

  • Notoriously difficult for pilots to negotiate due to severe wind shear on approach and take off.
  • The airport is named after the famous footballer born in Madeira, Cristiano Ronaldo.
  • The airport was extended out over the sea on a series of concrete pillars.
  • A statue of the famous footballer which the airport was named after, was widely mocked as it bore no resemblance to the player, it has since been replaced by a more life like statue! Ronaldo statue
snorkelling in Antigua

The various markets in the capital Funchal are incredibly colourful and vibrant with fresh produce on display everywhere.

snorkelling in antigua

On one of our trips, we couldn’t quite remember where we had parked the car. To our amazement, the first couple of car parks we tried were now closed!

We eventually found our hire car. It wasn’t too difficult to spot!

On another of our excursions, we headed to the far north west of the island to a place called Porto Moniz, which is famous for its rock pools.

We could see it from the view point on the main road, but couldn’t find the correct way down to it!


snorkelling in Antigua

Eventually, we figured it out.

snorkelling in Antigua
snorkelling in Antigua

Now we know where Quinta de Lorde got the idea from.

As Quinta de Lorde was actually in the National Park area, there were some great hikes right from the resort. They were breath taking and also some spectacular rock formations.

Snorkelling in Antigua

Setting off on one of the hikes

snorkelling in Antigua

The trails are well maintained, but very narrow at some points!

snorkelling in Antigua

We found out the trails were only wide enough for one person at some points, so you had to plan your next stage from a distance. It was also best not to look down once you set off!

snorkelling in Antigua

This particular trail went to  Elephant Rock!

snorkelling in Antigua

This is the famous “Gorilla Rock” We had to wait our turn to take the photo, remembering not to get too close to the edge .

Upon return to the marina after one of our trips, we found we had new neighbours. As we walked past the back of the boat, we saw the name “Sisu”. Later that evening we met the owners “Terry and Fiona!!!!” How we laughed again! Apparently, Sisu is a Finnish word meaning ‘Determination’ So not the abbreviation of Simon and Susan!

On this tiny planet we all balance on, we had so far, been remained how small the World is. We got to know one another quite well. They knew people we were friends with in Porthmadog, North Wales. I knew people Terry knew, he was from the Isle of Man! They were far more advanced than us though, they had this thing called a ‘Blog‘, which Fiona added to regularly. She is much better at writing than I am and her descriptive of their journey so far make ours look a bit lame! I might have to put a bit more effort in.

By this time, we had become very fond of Madeira. It is a beautiful island, very colourful and spectacular views. Despite the horror story videos on YouTube regarding the airport, we had flown back to Great Britain several times without incident, on a direct flight to Manchester.

One afternoon, Terry and Fiona told us they were heading for Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, as it was more protected than Madeira in the Winter. 


Hmmm? Is this a sign?


It didn’t take us too long to find the general consensus of those in the marina was to head for the Canaries. 


Ah well, here we go again.


Next stop Playa Blanca, Lanzarote!