Position : 32°44'•47N and 016°42'•68W
Friday, 12th October, 2012, 19.00 UTC
ISLAND OF WOOD
Ready to leave Gibraltar. Ian arrived as our new crew member, a new sail ( Parasail ) arrived with Stuart from SeaTeach, trial run ok, all set, let's go and do some serious sailing after all this mess during the previous leg. And what happened ? We left on Saturday , 6th of October, at 11.15h local time, and having passed Tarifa at the end of the Gibraltar Strait and into the Atlantic, we set the new Parasailor ( a huge forward sail like a Spinnaker ) . For an hour.
And then the wind was gone AGAIN !!!!!!!
But not only then . The wind was gone for good !
fini ! basta ! fertig ! hasta la vista Baby !
For the remaining 500 nautical miles we used the engine, motor, propeller, whatever, but no wind, no sailing.
What is wrong with Portugal !!!!!!!
And I don't mean.....no, no , not again, but this is what happened. Not a single whisper of a wind. For 4 days !!!!!!!! Thank's god we have an engine. Just imagine in the old days.....
So what do you do when for 4 days you are running the engine ?
Well, the answer is:
Nothing! NOTHING!! N O T H I N G !!!
N O T H I N G
It was here that a storm ( probably a north-easterly) in the year 1418 led to the discovery of the Archipelago Madeira , as two navigators, Mr Joao Zarco and fellow Tristao Teixeira,
sought shelter in the lee of the island. By doing so they saw in the south-west some more islands and returned to the largest in the summer of the following year, landing at a place full of fennel, which in the portuguese language is nothing else then
Here we are, everything has its explanation.
As a historical side-note , Mr Zarco had previously lost an eye fighting the Moors in the spanish enclave of Ceuta ( go back to my previous blog ! )
Both were accompanied by a minor Portuguese nobleman of italian origin, Bartolomeo Perestrelo, who became Porto Santo's first Governor. He is mostly remembered however for the fact that his daughter happened to marry later to no other than Christopher Columbus. It was on Porto Santo and during his trips between here, the Azores and Gran Canaria that Columbus studied most likely the wind and weather patterns of the Atlantic. Anyway, let's leave that story for another day.
The name is related to the native dense woodland, the madeira, so the island of wood.
Economically it had serious phases of ups and downs. It started well with sugar cane, tended for by slaves from Africa. When that business declined all of these poor souls were deported to the Caribbean. Interestingly enough there is not a single trace of coloured people on Madeira. Later, in 1460, vine was introduced from southern Europe, as well as flowers.
Both, the wine and the flowers are still Madeira's main export products.
In modern times it was the British who - as with the french Riviera, or the swiss ski resorts - developed some kind of pre-tourism business and boom. The Foreign Office or Colonial Office, the Defence Ministry and the East-India trading corporation, used Madeira as an interim step to acclimatise British Overseas Personal coming back from Asia to Europe. Here the climate being mild and mellow in the winter helped those exposed to Asian ( tropical ) monsoon weather patterns to find it easier on their bodies and soul to prepare for the harsh reality of returning home ( not only weather wise I guess ).
I suspect however, as practical as true British imperial thinking was and still is, a second, may be more sinister reason.
The human equivalent of the harsh and uncompromising rabies laws of the United Kingdom.
I believe that Madeira was used as a human Quarantine ( interim- ) Station of tremendous proportions . If any outbreak of an unknown ( asian ) disease would happen, it would have happened here, far away,and not back home. So it would have been containable.
Does that make sense.?
I mean this is still much more pleasurable than what dogs had to go through until recently, travelling to and from the Uk. Six months quarantine in public kennels. Can you imagine ?
But here is a good story.
It was american diplomacy that helped easing the harsh treatment of modern travelling dogs under the rabies laws. Because I think it was His Excellency Raymond Hardenburgh Seitz's wife, him american ambassador to the United Kingdom ( from 1991-1994), whose dog happened to travel to Washington and on return was quarantined against her will and the protest of the whole american embassy staff. Even worse, the once highly pampered creature, I assume with golden necklace, some diamonds sprinkled on the lead, a nice little red or yellow bow tie in his hair , etc, etc, returned as a wreck, literally speaking.
I have the picture just in front of my eyes : the dog lead surely stolen, the hair of the poor doggy falling out, dirty and psychologically a wreck, bullied , bitten, and worse, by his fellow "dog inmates", in need of the best american shrinks from either New York or LA .....it ended all in a tug of war of the highest diplomatic exchange of notes and letters, re-enforced by certain tabloid comments. In fact the dog was lucky, believe it or not. It could have been worse. In an article by the Los Angeles Times from Nov.10th, 1996, it was reported that two years before, out of 9250 detained animals, 43 cats and 40 dogs had died in british quarantine kennels.
And believe it or not, the Lady made an impact.
All dog owners of the British Isles and beyond can be thankful for her intervention. Because it only took the British administration roughly 20 more years to slightly relax the 'Dog Travelling Policy from and to the United Kingdom' issued by Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. In fact I personally believe it is
the only time in modern american history, that its diplomacy achieved something without military intervention !
Here is a lesson for YOU , Mr Obama : YES, YOU CAN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
OH DEAR, WHY DO I ALWAYS GET CARRIED AWAY. Quick, back to Madeira.
Many years ago, another Lady made her impact on the island. Mrs Phibbs from England. In fact 100s if not 1000s of Ladies made their impact on the economy of Madeira............Lovely embroidery had been made over many years by the women of the island, and Mrs Phibbs had the idea of commercialising the products. It is said it was her who managed to display these products in 1851at the Great Exhibition in London. It created until this day additional income for families with the advantage that women could work from home....at least the majority : . It reminds me of the same work and style of embroidery for which Burano in the Laguna di Venezia,Italy is famous for. But I could not detect any connection between the two places, although Governor Perestrelo , being originally italian, might have had a hand in it. Who knows. May be one day I'll find out.
Not far away I met one of the oldest Flower Seller on Madeira. Isabel, she is 72 years old and has been selling flowers in the market of Madeira for now 57 years .
Well, if you seek job security, here it is. But you have to work very very hard. Because she gets up at three in the morning, buys the flowers from the growers and resells it with a small margin at the market. Every day of the week. All year around. Life can be tough, but her smile says more: She is content with it. Isn't that more important than riches and sorrows ? You are the best judges for that. I leave it to you.
So if you haven't noticed yet by now: The world is full of strong women !