Sunday 31 May 2015

Ilhas Desertas

We arrived at the Anchorage, Choa da Do a at 2030 after the day sail from Porto Santo a distance of some 35 miles.

The place is like a scene from the Tolkien films sheer rock cliffs rising vertically from the sea apart from one tiny area of flatish land and a rocky spit sticking out into the sea that provides the required shelter from the prevailing swell from the north. There's no real shelter from the wind unless in the north east (actually that was wrong see next post) but the winds were reasonably light and without the swell we were pretty well protected anyway.

We were guided to pick up a mooring by the warden. There was one other yacht in the anchorage and two local boats (from Madeira I would guess) that were out fishing.

Tony cooked an amazing beef stew which we both enjoyed to the full. The night was cloudy with a good moon so not a good one for star gazing unfortunately.

Both the fishing boats had gone in the morning followed by the other yacht and apart from a brief visit by a whale watching schooner we had the anchorage to ourselves.

We got the dinghy out for the first time and rowed the 50 Metres to the rocky beach. The warden met us and explained it was change over day with the boat due in within the hour and could we therefore come back later for the information session (which we were not expecting anyway). We were free to walk around the designated pathways and explore. These amounted to no more than perhaps half a mile with precious other semi flat land available anyway. 

Previously there was a step way hacked into the cliffs that apparently provided access to the plateaus 400 metres above. Rock slides had done for it though so everyone was restricted to an area of no more than a couple of acres.

We had two brief sitings of the endangered monk seal which of course disappeared as soon as the cameras were out, then in the afternoon a dove landed on the boom, then hopped down onto the companionway steps then flew through the boat out the fore hatch and perched on the pulpIt.

With the dinghy out it seemed like a good opportunity to test out the "new" outboard motor from eBay for £150. I'd had it serviced by Jimmy one leg at Hoo via Tony, but had not attempted to use it until now. As expected the first few pulls produced not a spark of life. However, once I turned the fuel on it started first pull! I therefore went for a little spin and took some photos and got told off politely by the wardens - "you're not allowed to navigate in these waters, except from your boat to the landing beach." Fair enough, I'd tested the outboard and got the photos anyway.

Went ashore again this afternoon for our guided tour and information session by the two wardens. From their reactions when we told them of our sightings of the monk seals we were clearly lucky to see them at all. The "Dove" that visited us earlier, was were told, an African Pigeon. Bizarrely, the pigeons we are all too familiar with were around too.

We also saw some of the Ferrell goats which amazingly are able to scale the almost vertical cliffs around the anchorage. They are a pest that eat anything and so the wardens have to cull them when they can. Now that the sun had warmed the ground up there were numerous small lizards darting here and there. They and purple flowering plants and a number of the other plants and sea birds are indigenous to the island.

Tony performed more magic in the galley and russled up a great Roshti dinner from our dwindling food supplies (we had only planned on being here one night originally. Whilst I was washing up I heard a tremendous splash and looked round towards the cliffs and no more than 10  metres away the surface of the water was churning. Either a very big lump of rock had fallen into the sea that close to us or a very big monk seal had leapt out and splashed back. I hoped it was the latter! Minutes lsyety I  glanced upwards which at that particular momemt meant up the cliffs towering above us and caught site of a family of Ferrell goats traversing the near vertical slopes. Perhaps they had precipitated a rock fall?!

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