A new challenge was fast coming, one of a very different nature, it wasn’t the breaking waves crashing right outside my living room, or the hot angry squalls simmering right above my kitchen, it wasn’t loosing my bedroom from my anchor slipping, or catching a rail and tripping, it wasn’t warps in my garden snagging the prop, or gib sails jamming in unbreakable knots, it wasn’t rain or sun, wind or hail, lightening flashing or the smack of a gale, no this new challenge was a real one, two weeks in a resort with the in-laws. Bonn’s don’t do resorts, it isn’t in our DNA, my brothers would be wetting themselves back home. We holiday on the hill, in the rain, eating soggy sandwiches and catching wild brown trout, we come back in the dark because Dad spent too long fishing, we arrive to my Mum’s over cooked pasta bake. Getting pampered poolside sipping champagne, how would I cope? It all seemed too processed, like a battery farm for Brits seeking the sun, where people get turned into livestock, cattle tagged and sent off for some organised fun, Hawaiian night or beach volleyball, I was worried stiff. Miranda had spent very little time with her parents, I’d whisked her off to Australia, then married her in the summer and now she was on a boat sailing. It was time to butt out and enjoy the ride. Coconut was docked in a soulless marina on the east of Madeira and we caught a bus into town.

We found the hotel and walked through the doors, it must have been around 13:00. I looked out over a grand hallway, people were walking around the reception area dressed in white robes, all sun reddened and soft bellied, they were holdings iPads, a rolled up newspaper tucked under the arm would have looked natural, but white robes and iPads!!!! It felt like we had walked into a Star Wars movie, a universe full of strange and bewildered characters had descended upon us, Madeira had given them exactly what they wanted, tailored a suit to fit, butter cup smiles and cold beer with your fish & chips.

It was a great two weeks with the Hicks. Funchal is a fun little town, houses are piled up on the hillside like staked plates, roads run down the valleys like long twisting washing lines all pegged up with colourful shops, everything rolls downstream, ending up in the old part of town, where bars and restaurants chatter away like draws full of wet crockery. Norman and Linda were so kind to us, stuffing us full of food and drink. We all bundled in a car one day and drove up to the hills. The road ran straight as an arrow, it had the trajectory of a flight path, climbing steeply into the clouds. We drove till our wheels hit the snow, we opened the car doors in a different country, our hire car could have been an airplane , there was thick forest, sheer drops, then these rugged snow capped peaks. What a place for a walk, it was refreshing landscape, the type of trail that turns back the clock and makes you feel like a kid again.

Saturday morning looked the best time for us to leave, attempting to make the Canaries on the backend of a northerly blow, we only had three days in the locker before a southerly was due to spin, enough time, but only by a nose. Friday night was our farewell dinner, the steaks came out thick and juicy, the wine rich and full, over the course of that meal we forgot all about the leg ahead, it didn’t even enter our minds. I turned over at 07:00 o’clock , Miranda was sick as a dog, not felled this time by the sea but by the drink. Leaving was not an option, getting sick on passage one thing, starting a passage sick another, I canned our departure and spent the day moving Little Coconut over to Funchal, Miranda spent the day in bed. Madeira had managed to suck us in for another week. That southerly grew teeth and gave us a real flogging, we were sandwiched between a big cat and the harbour wall, the water turned thick like soup, hundreds of fallen branches littered the pontoons, it was like rafting up in a river. Norman and Linda departed earlier that week, the next window out was ours, in the mean time we moved back on Coconut, she had been left in the shadows for two weeks and needed some attention, it felt good to be back on the boat, back to the trail ahead, softened by the hotel beds and hot showers, softened but not lost.

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