Passage to Porto Santo and Madeira

Abeam means the wind and waves come from the side and the boat makes good speed. When close hauled wind and waves come from forward at about a 45 degree angle. This makes it harder to steer because the boat heels (tilts) more. With increasing winds it is constantly wet as the bow cuts into the waves which splashes the length of the boat continuously. 


This will be my longest single handed passage so far. If you read this blog regularly you will (most likely) remember that this means sailing alone. A good 500 nautical miles or a bit shy of 1000 kilometers to Porto Santo or four days and three nights. I am looking forward to this experience!


As expected there is a lot of water on deck - not counting the few drops that also make it under deck, Friday the 13 September is disaster-free. Yes, we sailors are VERY superstitious!


The immense expanse of the sky and sea are hard to describe as is the simplicity. Distractions are reduced drastically, out here there is no cell phone reception or internet, even the satellite phone is only switched on every other day to download weather or let family and friends know I am ok. The mind quiets on its own and I begin to taste a deep silence and there are ever fewer words to describe it, only being. I begin to understand why many offshore sailors become addicted and return for longer passages at sea, also single handed.


On this passage I encounter only a few animals. For one there are the elegant Cory’s shearwater of the Azorean variety with yellow beaks. Their calls sounds a bit like a fussing baby. A short distance before Porto Santo I stir up a large flying fish with my bow wave and shortly thereafter I see whale spray twice but then it seems to have dived to the deep.


The south coast of Porto Santo welcomes me with a very long sickle shaped and golden colored sand beach offshore off which we sailboats are allowed to anchor. At dusk of Sunday, 15 September I drop anchor and only the next morning I notice the turquoise colored and very clear water around the boat. I continue to enjoy my quietude and relax, swimming and sleeping in. Return to civilization can wait. Promptly, an inflatable of the Portuguese port police comes alongside and asks me in a friendly but firm manner to come to their office for check in. All formalities are quite relaxed here, but what must be done, must be done.


Altogether I spend almost a week in pleasant Porto Santo. I have time to work on the boat. My inflatable dinghy habitually goes into an overnight depression, losing air some place different every time. Its latest hit is water filling the inside. Although the manufacturer seems to have used decent PVC canvas for its construction, the latter cannot be said for the glue used. Made in China, any questions? After a glue orgy involving all the blades on my knive as well as all my ten fingers water ingress is at least somewhat in check.


The next day I manage to rent a bicycle and go for a strenuous ride over the hills (and valleys) of this very dry island. Very dry? Over the hills on the east side there are mounting clouds and a welcome drizzle sets in für a short time. It is great to strample the pedals since long, even if my breathing and heart rate is as alarmingly high.


It is encouraging to see that here as well as on most Azores islands efforts are made to convert energy generation to more sustainable sources. There are some large wind generators, a sprawl of solar panels but much of the electricity still comes from very large and very loud diesel generators. Next to the power plant close to the harbor many large glass cylinders with a bubbling green liquid inside attract my attention. Surely, this must be a giant mad scientist's laboratory? With my limited knowledge of Portuguese I am able to deduct from a sign that this is used for CO2 sequestration. I wonder what happens to the algae next?


After a few days of not much wind today it is favorable to sail the short 30nm to Madeira. A host of other sailboats have also been watching the weather report and are on a similar course and it is a bit like a regatta. With the aid of my Code 0, a large light wind sail Moira is making good speed and I am able to overtake the other sailboats one by one. Made my day!

The eastern tip of Madeira is a narrow spit of cragged rocks and several of them have a large round hole at sea level. I anchor in the bay next to one. The water is incredibly clear and warm inviting me to extensive snorkeling and inspect the damage on the keel caused by the grounding in Rio Guadiana (read here).


In the evening I cruise over to the posh Quinta do Lorde Marina complete with hotel, resort, infinity pool and chapel. The setting is dramatic as there is a black lava mountain looming right over the marina. I wash all the salt from deck, sails, and rigg. Wherever I touched the boat in the last few days I had salty hands.


In the last days and weeks I often come upon the same boats seen elsewhere. It seems all are sailing south with the onsetting autumn weather and have plans to cross the Atlantic at the end of the year, as have I.


For pictures click here!

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