Open Doors Project Funchal

“It is a project to open the doors of the city of Funchal to art and culture. They were not “virtual entrances” rather old and forgotten. These doors are from abandoned shops and deteriorated areas that take on new life, in order to sensitize people filling the streets with cultural and artistic events.

77. Projecto Arte de Portas Abertas

The idea for this project, where did it come from?

After walking several times by the old town of the city of Funchal and take pictures of what I saw, people wondered why I only photographed things “old and deteriorating” and my answer was that “I photograph what I see.” So in August of 2010 I was invited to an event called PechaKucha to present the project “art of the open doors”. The first door in which an intervention took place was in the number 207 of Carreira Street in Funchal by Martinho Mendes on August 20th, of 2010.


When was painted the first door?

The first door to be painted in the Rua Santa Maria was on April, the 6th, of 2011 at number 77 by the artist Mark Milewski. It took longer than 1 month to be completed, since the technique used by the artist is very laborious.
Although, the first artistic intervention was completed by Gonçalo Martins at number 81-83 of Santa Maria street. He began his work on April, the 9th of 2011 and was completed on the same day.

Funchal - Projecto Arte de Portas Abertas

Did you ever imagined that the project would eventually be embraced by the people and rely on volunteer participation?

The project started “slowly” because in the beginning there was a lot of reluctance and mistrust of the people in the street. It was difficult to contact each of the owners and go asking for permission to make interventions. Artists of the island of Madeira were invited to participate, but at the beginning and even now there are some reluctance to “blend in” with minor “reputed” artists.
Keep in mind that this project is “open” to any citizen who is willing to offer his creativity to the city of Funchal to revitalize this very poor area of town.


All that is asked is respect for the surroundings and to the other participants.
I must say that from the beginning it was clear that this project would have wide acceptance and impact on the life of the island, since there is much creativity and the good will of the population. All I had to do is “turn in the spark” to start this “Fiesta” of light and color in the street…


Do you think the “art of painted doors” will eventually spread to other streets?

It started one day in 1994 in the streets of an Italian town of Valloire and now we are on Rua Santa Maria and nearby roads.
Who knows if painted doors cannot appear in other streets of Funchal and why not in other populated areas of the island…
Now my mind is on “other projects” that I’ll be launching soon…”

75. Projecto Arte de Portas Abertas

Photo’s: Helma Geerlings


Night Sailing

Night Sailing - From Sines to Sagres

Breaking waves are smashing against the boat as if they try to grab Ropati. The wind whistles and suddenly I can hear them. The voices of the Sirens. They are calling my name: ‘Helmaaaaa. O, Helma, please come with us. Helmaaaaaa.’  My fear fades away and takes place for a deep feeling of satisfaction. Peace is on my mind. 

‘Yes, please. Take me with you. Ow, yes!’ I stretch my arms out waiting for the Sirens to grab them. ‘Helmaaaa’. Suddenly a bright light shines in my face and I see the French Seaman right in front of me. He snarls: ‘ Come on. Your night shifts starts in five minutes. It is time to wake up now.’

Dam’n it, I was dreaming and now I have to get up in the middle of the night to take over the watch. For two hours I have to sail alone, while the others are sleeping. I feel excited. Staying awake and being alone outside in the cockpit, while it is dark and windy… Even when the night shift just lasts two hours, at the ocean it feels like a lifetime, especially when the moon is dark and the stars are hidden behind the clouds.

I get up out of bed and dress myself in my sail jacket.  With a big skarf around my head I climb outside. Nervously I look around. No other boats. I try to keep on moving to stay warm. After one hour I get hungry, but I am too scared to go inside. What if there is suddenly a boat in front of us? Every minute I look around. My thoughts are drifting away and in my mind I go back to my first sail adventures in The Netherlands with my friend Judith and her father. I just turned into fourteen and together we went on a sail holiday in Friesland, Brittany of The Netherlands. During this trip I was not afraid at all. Not even a split of a second.

Here I am, sixteen years later, with more safety equipement aboard then in those days, and scared to death. Nowadays I can oversee the risks (for as far as possible), which is good on the one hand, but on the other hand this awareness has replaced my innocence. Tired and afraid I start seeing and hearing things. The sounds of the sea are like old songs hidden in my unconscious mind. The melody of the the wind and waves is soothing. Slowly I calm down and suddenly I understand how all the stories of sailors, the myths and the seaside sagas are shaped. Their existence is founded in the bewildered minds of seamen sailing at night.

Portugal, ‘where the land ends and the sea begins’

0 (2)     Mural by ARM Collective – Lisbon, 2013

Discovering the history of Portugal is discovering the maritime world. Together with Henry the Navigator and Luís de Camões, my first historical guides, I explore the maritime history of Portugal, Europe and the world. Portugal, country of brave seamen, epic voyages and the rise and fall of a global maritime power.

The Camões square is the heart of ‘bohemian Lisbon’ and is located in between the quarters Chiado and Bairro Alto. It belongs to one of the most vibrant squares of the city, where guides are talking about Henry the Navigator and Luís de Camões during their tour. History as a product for the tourist industry. Portugal, once discovering the world and now selling itself to that same world for just a couple of euro’s.

“‘Where the land ends and the sea begins.’ The tourguides starts his lesson, right in front of the group, in the middle of the square: “These poetic words describe Europe’s most south-western country and are written by Luís de Camões in his 9,000 lines long epic poem Os Lusíadas. The commercial maritime power of Portugal is the most important theme in his writings. Inspired by his life as a merchant seaman, and his voyages to Africa and Asia, Camões finishes his masterpiece after his return to Lisbon. Finally he prints Os Lusíadas in 1572, just a couple of years before he dies on the 10th of June in 1580.”

The group of Germans look around. Some visitors take pictures of the statue, while the tourguide continues his story: “The day of his death has become a national day in Portugal – the Camões Day. His epic poem belongs to the highlights of European Renaissance and is by far the most important work in the history of Portuguese literature. His statue, in the middle of the square that is named after him, reminds passengers of the golden ages of discoveries in the 15th and 16th century.” Camões looks serious, while he is holding his famoes poem Os Lusíadas. Some people in the group are yawning, tired of the long walk in the burning sun.

In front of the statue hang around some queery teenagers, a drunk man with a plastic bottle of cheap beer, and another group of tourists waiting for their tourguide. Mixed feelings of happiness and sadness can be felt, while walking around this area. The city of light breaths the glory of expansion and at the same time is filled with sadness of a fallen empire. Who really has read Os Lusiadas? Why is Camöes such a hero? Questions are rising, while the tourguide is leading his group into Bairro Alto where he continues his talk.


Praça Luìs de Camões, Lisbon

“Lusíadas refers to the Lusitanians, an ancient tribe located between the river Tejo and the river Douro at the Iberian Peninsula. Around 197 AC the Romans arrive in Portugal and a violent confrontation follows. After decades of war the Romans win, but not without loosing thousands of soldiers. The rebellious Lusitanians don’t accept authority that easy and it takes another 150 years to stabilize the area. Under the Roman Pax the Lusitanians slowly evolve in a self-governed community and this is the beginning of the birth of a communal identity, which is nowadays claimed as ‘Portuguese’.

Under Roman rule Christianity is flourishing and after the fall of the Roman Empire around 400 AC the Christian Visigoths become the most dominant tribe among the immense amount of tribes on the Iberian Peninsula. Internal fights and the lack of unity pave the way for the the Islamic Moors and around 700 AC the first Moorish troops arrive in Gibraltar. In the process of conquest the well-educated Muslims spread their knowledge about navigation, irrigation, medicines, mathematics, the old Greek texts, and the Islam.

For 370 years the Moors are ruling the Iberian Peninsula until the 11th century, when the Christians start their Reconquista. In collaboration with the Order of Knights Templar, the richest Christian institution in the western world, and with the help of Henri of Burgundy, the Moors are slowly defeated. In 1139 the first Christian king Afonso Henriques settles down and the boundaries of Portugal as an independent nation are formalized. A long and complicated royal history follows and aristocratic affairs are daily practices during the late Middle Ages. They marry, they fight, they querrel and this finally leads to the birth of prince Henrique in the 14th century.

henry-navigator     Henry the Navigator

The thirds son of João I from Portugal and the English Philippa of Lancaster marks a turningpoint in the pre-modern history of Portugal. Prince Henrique, alias Henry the Navigator, leads Portugal to the discovery of the New Worlds. Together with Vasco de Gama, the first man who sailed around the cape of Africa to India, they belong to Portugal’s national hero’s representing the flourishing maritime trade of Portugal in the 15th and 16th century. Henry the Navigator is the first figure of the monument in Belém, where also the famous tower and the Hïeronymus Cathedral are located. The overwhelming Manuel style characterises the Portuguese Renaissance. We also offer tours to that part of the city.”

The voice of the tourguide fades away. I close my book and look around the Camöes square. Some philosophical thoughts are entering my mind. “If Henry the Navigator has become the symbol of the Portuguese discoveries, perhaps Luís de Camões is the maritime consiousness of Portugal? Two figures that have become a touristic attraction in Lisbon, but who are they really and what happened to them? What happened with Portugal? Once the ‘first global power’ and now struggling in todays globalized world?” I take a nip from my bica and put the history book in my bag. Enough readings for today.

While researching the maritime history many unhidden stories are unfolding. It is hard to distinguish myths from facts. I take a deep breath and start walking downhills into the direction of the river Tagus. I have to hurry to catch the ferry to Seixal. History has many faces and I just have met a few. In search for more hidden stories of Portugal I slowly discover the treasures of the Atlantic Ocean. Right on time I catch the boat. Through the window of the ferry I see Lisbon becoming smaller and smaller. Suddenly I know what the title will be of my next article: Portugal, ‘where the land ends and the sea begins’.

Photo 1: ARM Collective (2013) –

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Ropati – Stuff and Storage


Living on a boat is all about the art of simplicity, which is quite complicated in practise. Follow this way of life in the serie `Ropati`. Hopefully it will help you to understand more about the daily boat life.

In the end there is a lot of space in a boat, but still not enough for everything. I just have the things that I really need, which fits into three suitcases all together. In The Netherlands I already selected my stuff and there are just ten boxes left. You can read about this ‘process of dematerializing’ in another article about surfing and the minimalistic life.

The French Seaman has a little bit more things and among these are a lot of tools, but also a nice collection of cd’s and books. Furthermore there are a lot of sail guides, sail books, sail magazines and sail clothes. There are some maps with administration and accountancy, camera’s, laptops, chargers, bags, kitchen & bathroom stuff, food, drinks, clothes, shoes, more tools, surfboards, wetsuits, diving gear, bikes and a yogamat. All together I guess there is too much.

We really cannot allow ourselves to have more stuff. If we want something new, something has to leave the boat first. We only buy something new when something is broken and/or too old to be usefull. If you visit us and you like to bring a present with you, please bring some food or something to drink, while this will stay just temporary. Books, clothes, souvenirs, all kinds of bathroom and kitchen equipment… Very nice, but thank you. We try to save space, therefore we probably will give away your present to someone else, while we really don’t know where to put all the stuff anymore. In our serious attempt to live as simple as possible, we still have too much things. Wow.



Ropati – ‘Roof Terrace’ and Dinghy

`Roof terrace`

Living on a boat is all about the art of simplicity, which is quite complicated in practise. Follow this way of life in the serie `Ropati`. Hopefully it will help you to understand more about the daily boat life.

My favourite spot on Ropati is the ‘roof terrace’. This is the forward part of the deck, a little bit before the anchor, chain locker and just after the mast. If the weather and waves allow, then I prefer to watch the ocean from this place. Underneath the ‘terras’ is the trunk where the dinghy stays. We already have had some nice ‘dinghy’ adventures. The best memory I have is from the time we all felt in the water, while we were trying to get on land.

After arriving at our destination, where we go for anchorage, the first thing we do is unfolding the dinghy and inflate it to go on shore. The moment I get into the dinghy, my heart starts pounding and I feel like Colombus who is discovering new lands. How will the shore be, who will we meet, what will happen? In the end nothing really happens, except getting a wet ass, but the feeling is amazing. Especially after days of sailing. Entering land is almost like visiting the moon. We put our sealegs on land and with crazy steps we walk like two cosmonauts over the beach. Land, finally!

Ropati – Bedrooms

Living on a boat is all about the art of simplicity, which is quite complicated in practise. Follow this way of life in the serie `Ropati`. Hopefully it will help you to understand more about the daily boat life.

There are three double bedrooms. Two in the aft and one in the front. This one is the captains room and only accessible for him and his first mate: c’est moi. Of course I don’t accept anyone else to enter this room, unless you belong to a very small group of friends, who has the honour to stay in our bed, while we sleep somewhere else. The room is big enough for two, but some nights we sleep separeted. One of us sleeps in the other double bedroom, so we are both very well rested the next day.

Besides that, sometimes I just like to sleep alone, because I need my space. I like to have all the covers for my own and I love laying in bed with my arms wide, my magazines spread all over the bed, rolling from one side to the other (which is very annoying for the French Seaman). Believe me or not, sleeping seperated once in a while works very well for the relationship, especially because we live together almost twenty four hours a day on circa twenty square meter. You know what? Enough details about the bedrooms.





Surfing & Sailing around the Atlantic Ocean