We awoke early to catch the 08:00 tide West through the Gibraltar Straits. Two other yachts in the anchorage seemed to have the same idea and we all motored through the calm and windless morning out of Gib Bay.
Turning right into the Straights towards Tarifa, a breeze picked up and we were able to set a broad-reach and turn the engine off. Checking Speed over ground against the speed through the water, we found that the tide was against us. The tides in the Straights are peculiar and the direction depends on how far offshore you are. No matter how many times I checked, I could not find any error in my calculations. Anyway, the breeze had stiffened and put us on a dead-run so we made good progress. The Straights have a funnelling effect on the wind and the downwind end can be up to two beaufort forces stronger than the upwind end. We soon became participants in this phenomenon. With wind over tide, a nasty steep chop was building and the auto-pilot was exaggerating our slewing motion in a vain attempt to steer a straight course.
With white horses all around, we diverted behind Tarifa Point for shelter where we put two reefs in the mainsail, then without jib, we set a course to clear the end of the Straights Traffic Separation Zone. We were bombing along at 8 knots with the auto-pilot swishing us this way and that so we eased-off the dead-run and tried the Aries wind-steering. Suddenly the motion eased as the gentle compensations of the Aries allowed Nadezhda to find her own balance.
By late afternoon, conditions had eased and we goose-winged the jib on the spinnaker pole. This lasted about 4 hours until the wind backed and forced us too far South so, being dark, we opted to roll-in the headsail, keep the two reefs in the main, and potter along at 3-4 knots until dawn.
The night skies are beautifully clear and mostly moonless. The milky-way soars over us and the Plough rotates in the North. Later in the night, Aries rises in the East until eventually a ghostly loom signals the oncoming of the warming sun.
Monday 28th August 06
The wind kept backing and this allowed us to set the jib once more. At dawn, I shook the reefs out of the mainsail and we cracked along on a broad-reach at 8 knots. The seas had built into a large swell, bigger that we have previously encountered and the colour of the water was a brilliant, pure blue, and when seen through the peaking crests, was shining turquoise in the sunlight. We roller-coasted along sliding this way and that on a heading somewhere between 240 and 270 degrees.
By 18:00, the breeze picked-up but Fliss was serving dinner of Chilli-con-carne, pasta and cheese that she pre-prepared in Gibraltar. By the time we had eaten, we were ready for two reefs in the main and I had my first soaking of the evening in the building seas.
Sights of the day were 3 ships (2 of which had to alter course to avoid us), and another yacht that was reefed right down and going so slowly that we initially thought it was coming towards us. We passed them quickly just as the sun set.
Tuesday 29th August 06
Just after midnight, I spotted a freighter off our port beam. Both steaming lights and a starboard light were clearly visible but the bearing of the ship remained the same. Eventually, the steaming lights started to close together and I assumed that he was turning to starboard to go behind us. Shortly after, the freighter reverted to its original course, maybe they thought that they could nip ahead of us?
I was having grave concerns over the freighters judgement and so called Fliss out of bed to ready ourselves for emergency, drastic action. It seemed obvious that he had seen us and we held our ground and suddenly, the freighter had another change of plan and swung hard to starboard just as we were preparing our last-second turn. I have never seen a large ship turn so violently, its starboard light changed to port/starboard, then port. The black silhouette of its bulk towered over us and it passed no more than 300 yards behind us. If we had taken any evasive action then we would have certainly been run –down
The wind and waves increased, we rolled from beam to beam and the steeper-sided and breaking waves thumped against Nadezhda sending a shudder through the hull and exploding cascades of water across the deck and into the cockpit.
Peering above the sprayhood and scanning the horizon, Nadezhda seemed to be riding the conditions with grace and without strain. Inside the boat was a different matter altogether, the slooshes of white water, thuds against the hull and the moan of the wind were amplified. Add to that 100 other clunks, creaks and thumps and the whole affair was disconcerting. I lay awake in the dark and isolated each sound, identified its source and ticked it off as benign. Eventually I got some sleep but Fliss did not sleep until beyond dawn.
A couple of hours of daylight and the wind started abating. We unrolled a few turns of headsail to maintain over 7 knots and we were eventually able to occupy the cockpit with only the occasional rogue wave causing us to duck for cover. Although still rolling heavily to the swell, the wind direction remained perfect and we kept clocking-up the miles. Nadezhda loves it!
Wednesday 30th August 06
There has been no change to the conditions since yesterday. Occasionally the swell increases with the wind and steep sided waves invade with a torrent of water. It’s too warm for the heavy-duty wet-gear we have and we hunker-down under the all-too-small spray-hood during the rougher spells. Even so, we get complacent during the quieter periods and both of us now have salt-soaked clothes that dry-out in the sun and become sodden again as the temperature cools overnight.
Work downstairs is a marathon, bracing at ridiculous angles to prevent lurching across the cabin we try to prepare tea/coffee and meals. Nothing placed remains static and four hands are needed to prepare everything with another two to hold-on tight. Even pans on the gimballed cooker slide violently back and forth and the adjustable pan-braces do not cope. It has to be one-pot cooking as you must hold the pot to keep it over the flame. Dinner is served in plastic “dog-bowls” to prevent spillage, even drinking a glass of squash is difficult as it ends-up down your shirt.
My approach now is to wear salty gear for deck-work and daytime then don dry clothes for night-shift where I stay put on the companionway steps except for the occasional tweak of the Aries to suit changing wind and wave conditions.
Fliss is only just starting to settle into the, rather casual, watch system. She had two good bouts of sleep today and is much perkier as a result. The motion and commotion down below decks certainly make relaxing tricky!
Tonight, the wind has eased but we are making 6 knots with 2 reefs still in the mainsail. The sky is more overcast and the seas have lost all traces of white water. The night is dark. With the navigation lights off, Nadezhda gently surges to the swell, floating on a universe of her own creation as twinkling stars and milky way stream from her phosphorescent bows.
Thursday 31st August 06
At 02:00, I was sure that there was a loom of light ahead. A ship; was taking its time passing us and as I looked forward, the gleam of our navigation lights blinded me as they reflected back off the pulpit. After the ship passed, I turned the lights off and, sure enough, there was a glow of neon in the sky. Porto Santo was 25 miles ahead and I decided to wake Fliss so I could have a kip before landfall. By the time she was on deck, the Porto Santo lighthouse was winking at us.
Three hours later, we could make-out the dark silhouettes of the steep-sided hills and the lights of the roads that cross this small island. The navigation is straightforward, keep left of the island with the lighthouse on it and you will find the red and green lights tol the harbour entrance. Keep left of those and anchor off the beach (that has a road and is subsequently lit) at about 500 yards off in about 8 to 10 metres depth.
We dropped anchor at just after 06:30, put Nadezhda to bed, and had Sun-Uppers to celebrated safe arrival before crashing-out until 16:00. We got-up and went into the port for immigration duties. The Policia Maritimo man looked a bit surly to begin with but then gave us a bunch of grapes to eat whilst he transferred our details to his computer.
Tonight, we are totting-up the amount of damage caused by the passage. Fliss wins with numerous bruises, swellings and grazes, I come a close second but Naz is unscathed apart from vibration coming from the Wind-gen.
Hello everyone we’re safely anchored off the beach in Porto Santo but I’ll take you back through my thoughts on the passage.
Morning, it’s 06:30am and what an eventful time we have had to date.
I can honestly say that this has been my least favourite passage so far as yesterday early afternoon the winds started to pick as so did the waves so just after dinner we decided to put two reefs in the main, thank god for that since, as it got darker things intensified.
This morning at 4:30am I had to wake the skipper as mother nature was upping the anti and I had visions of us being rolled as the wind was howling and the waves looked like tower blocks with breaking tops. Pete got up and said “for gods sakes go and try to get some sleep” the reason for this is, since Gib (we left early Sunday) I have managed 1& half hours sleep as the screaming wind, waves pounding & slapping the hull, and the dramatic lurching movement of Nadezhda doesn’t make a good bed companion. Thank you Pete for your compassion or was it that all you could hear in bed was, “oh no hear comes another big one” Bugger off waves” and Oh my god” as you can imagine this isn’t the complete repertoire.
Also the word of the day is “Watch out!!!!!”
I have decided that insomnia is a brilliant training ground for ocean passages.
After taking it in turns of sitting downwind of each other we decided to have a shower (bucket wash), not ideal conditions but boy did we feel better.
At the moment I’m sitting with my back to the waves in the vain hope they’ll go away. IT’S NOT WORKING!
I’m sure that being deprived of sleep makes everything seem worse as it’s windy & the waves are big but it’s not scary.
Have we ever mentioned our safety routine? Life jackets and harness’s at all times and no one is allowed on deck unless there is someone else around. This is strictly adhered to.
Looking back on the events I now have a different view point but Pete has told me that I cannot change my diary that I had written.
The sail over was fantastic and we absolutely romped it! This has been my first exposure to serious swell and at first I was slightly freaked out but seeing how Nadezhda managed it gave me a real feel good factor also if I had been able to sleep I would have seen it in a different light.
Once we got settled, the passage was really enjoyable and I really like open water sailing as it makes watches so much easier.
I have learnt how to use the Aries and we have both gained valuable experience in strong down-wind sailing.
Everything sparkles, the sea, which was royal blue, the stars and the phosphorescence as the boat surges through the water.
We saw a meteorite entering the earths atmosphere it must have lasted for a good 5 seconds it was bright red and had a long red tail, it was awesome. We have spotted lots of others but none have been so brilliant.
Friday 1st September 06
Well, the grapes that the nice policeman gave us were poisoned. Fliss only had a couple of them but I munched quite a few. Later in the night, I was retching bile and venting out completely. A good lie-in was called for followed by a go at fixing the wind-gen that was making vibrating noises. The cause was as simple as a grub-screw that had come loose and this was easily fixed with loctite and a turn of the allen screw. I then went back into the marina to complete the checking-in procedure. The marina acts for the Guardie so I went there first, they pointed me to the harbour office so that was the next call. Once there, I was told that anchoring off the beach was VERY expensive (more than even the marina charges) and so I said that I would move the boat and anchor in the harbour and they let us of the two days fee – in reality, I don’t think they have the authority to charge for anchoring off the beach but you can’t argue with two surly women who don’t speak much Ingelsia.
So we moved into the harbour and I continued to survey Nadezhda and to oil/grease all moving parts. One of the guard rails was coming undone and the Aries had a loose bolt that connected it to the frame at the back of the boat.
Meanwhile, Fliss cleaned the inside to remove all the salt and did a sterling job of washing clothes, bedding, towels etc etc etc. We are all ship-shape again except I need to go up the mast to finish the inspection.
Saturday 2nd September 06
We awoke early and set off into the town of Villa Baleira. The beach is nice and the town is pleasant but there is not much of real interest. Christopher Columbus once had a home here and the house is open to visitors for a fee. Since everything seemed to be in Portuguese, we decided to save our money since we would not understand any of the narrative. Other than that, Porto Santo appears to be an arid volcanic place that, although has some nice peaks, really just looks like a bit of a slag-heap.
We have paid our dues and will set off for Madeira tomorrow morning for an anchorage recommended in the Pilot Book. This is a new book by a new author and hopefully it will be more realistic than the last!
Monday 4th September 06
One thing I must say is that I did say to Pete to wait till I had washed the grapes & chucked out the mouldy ones. He was in a state and really didn’t know what to do with himself. I was fine but I only picked the ones that looked ok. He was heard to say “I like the mouldy ones as they are the sweetest” I think he’s changed his mind now and will never touch another grape.
We left Porto Santo (we say it in an sharp, irritating Japanese accent) on Sunday bound for Madeira. There was absolutely no wind so we motored the 30ish miles.
I really liked Porto Santo as the town square was really pretty and there must have been a festival taking place due to the bunting and fancy lighting but as the harbour being a good 2kms we didn’t venture in at night, shame really that we were so far out.
The beach was lovely and we walked from one end to the other. The other great thing about the beach were the inhabitants, you see some great sights long ones, short ones, thin ones, fat ones & some that love themselves so much that it would be easy to mistake them as somewhere to park your bike. Pete and chuckled all the way along the beach.
So goodbye to Porto Santo and hello Madeira.
The coastline from the sea is magnificent, tall spiky mountains and natural arches, add the royal blue sea it really is lovely.
So here we are anchored off the shore (there is no sand) at Baia da Abra, a beautiful little bay surrounded by tall volcanic cliffs. The water is so clear that you can see the anchor.
Yesterday afternoon was spent swimming & snorkelling but there is a distinct lack of marine life around the boat.
We took the dinghy out for a row and I had my snorkelling mask on and as Pete rowed I had my head under the water, closer to the shore where the rocks are there are lovely blue fish with lilac heads & loads of sea urchins.
Last night when all the other tourists left we had the place to ourselves, bliss! We sat on deck till bed-time listening to the IPOD, very relaxing.
I’m going to put Pete in a bubble for his own safety as yesterday he whacked his knee and is finding it difficult to bend it, but being a true soldier this morning we walked up the cliff to see the other side of the island, poor old sod! As each time I looked back there he was walking like “Jake the peg” desperately trying to keep his leg straight. It really was worth the pain (I didn’t feel a thing) as it is an absolutely stunning coastline.
One thing that is strange we haven’t seen many Brits it’s all Dutch and French yachts. We are Norman no mates as they only really talk to each other, I’m hoping that soon we’ll meet up with other people as much as we like each others company it would be nice to socialise more.
We’ll probably stay another day or two as I’m hoping that Pete’s leg gets better so we can walk to the other end of the promontory.
There’s one thing that I mean to keep telling you and keep forgetting when Pete went to register the boat in Gibraltar the guy in the marina office said that it was nice to Nadezhda looking good as he was in Southampton when she was being built & he knew the Hurst’s….. amazing isn’t it!
So far, in the mornings it’s cloudy but within a few hours the sun comes out and it’s baking hot. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Madeira as so far it is a lovely place.
Not much to add. I am also hoping that my grapefruit-knee will subside and we will do a bit more exploring ashore tomorrow.
Wednesday 6th August 06
Yesterday was a day of rest here at Baia de Abra. My knee had swollen to grapefruit size and therefore it was a case of staying put on the boat. Having got a bit bored of reading, we got bored doing crosswords. Still, we got a few jobs done such as sanding/varnishing the oar that broke some while back and doing the same with the wooden boathook. Nadezhda is also now very clean and tidy and ship-shape. The one task that I did not do was to fit the water filter – a job for another day.
Today, we went ashore and turned along the steep and winding path towards the Western tip of Madeira. The place must be awash with flowers in the springtime but is dry and barren at this time of year. Geckos run this way and that and will climb up you leg if you sit too long. The coastal scenery is stunning with towers of rock poking out of the sea and great cliffs gouged-out by the sea showing the volcanic strata in blacks, greys, reds, yellows and purples. This, contrasted with the blue, blue sea and white of the surf is really lovely.
Yesterday did seem like a long day but we treated ourselves and watched a DVD in the evening, a real novelty!
The walk was lovely but really hard work with loads of up’s and down’s and it was hot!
Not a lot to say really and tomorrow were off to Funchal only around 15 miles.