So Monday arrived and we were off at 3.15pm leaving behind the hustle and bustle and the consumerist Vilamoura. The planned passage to Madeira, via the Island of Porto Santo situated NE of Madeira, was 535 nautical miles and we estimated it would take about 3 ½ days which would actually be our longest passage since Biscay and certainly the longest trip we had done double handed.
We downloaded a weather grib (an electronic weather forecast for you land lubbers) which can be read on our chart plotter and it forecast light winds throughout the passage but stronger and more favourable wind south of the rhumb line (direct route) where as north of the rhumb line the winds were going to be very light to negligible and variable in direction by Wednesday/Thursday. We started our trip with an onshore sea breeze however so sailed close hauled on starboard tack due south until the prevailing gradient wind overcame the sea breeze as night fell. Then it was up with the spinnaker and off to the horizon!
Overnight we had foggy patches and quite nice breezes of 16 knots. It was a joy to sail by the light of our new tricolour light. By the morning the wind had veered to 019 degrees and was pushing us along nicely. Our first 24 hour run was 136 miles - we were very pleased with this. However, the wind died on the second night and we had to motor sail gently most off the night - an easy watch for Karen so Nigel was able to sleep from 11.30p.m to 6.am (a reward for allowing Karen a good nights sleep the night before when still trying to find her lost 'sea legs).
By Wednesday Karen had suitably recovered and was able to produce a lovely lunch of piri piri roast chicken and salad! The wind was now lighter (7-9 knots) but had backed so we were now sailing with a full main and a No 1 genoa on a close reach making our course close to hull speed. Sailing down wind in very light breezes, in a lumpy Atlantic swell, is always challenging but sailing up wind in he same conditions is a pleasure. The difference is in apparent wind speed, going down wind the pressure in the sails is less than the actual wind speed whereas going up wind it feels more exciting as the pressure in the sails is greater than the wind speed itself. However windward sailing in light breezes generally rewards the sailor with calmer seas which makes the going comfortable. 48 hours into our trip we had covered 241 nautical miles. Almost, but not quite half way.
Thursday, our 3rd day at sea, at 02.15 we saw our first ship since Monday - the Niva Bres passed 3 miles on our port side bound for West Africa. By 9.am we were crossing a shipping lane, definite lanes for West Africa and the Canaries. One striking vessel was the Pacific Orca who seemed to have huge wings mounted vertically on it's deck (America's Cup inspired propulsion system maybe?)
The sea is the most magnificent azure blue; it seems both opaque and clear at the same time and a surprising 24 degrees! When you lean out of the boat you can see the whole of the orange keel quite clearly. It is quite magical to sit at the bow or on the side and become mesmerised by the ideal. The occasional wave leaps up and kisses your feet, either the sun is shining from a cloud studded daytime sky or the moon from a star studded night time one. And Nigel has missed the start of the Hamble Winter Series back on the Solent for this.
No problems experienced on the trip except that occasionally the computer closes down through overheating so Nigel has rigged up an external computer fan and that seems to have helped enormously. 30030
By Friday, 2 hours before dawn, we could make out the lights of Porto Santo and by 11.30 am we were tied up in the marina. It is an eclectic place, we have two Norwegians, two French, a German, a Swiss and two British boats tied up nearby. The marina is a refreshing and completely different experience to the one we left on Monday! Porto Santo is a rugged volcanic outcrop riven with gullies carved by run off rain has the feeling of an 'outpost' and we are about to explore it further…… so far we like it!