The slow beat to Madeira!

Good Company
Richard and Janet
Sat 16 Aug 2014 18:37
Finally, the update I have been promising... we threw off the dock lines at Brighton Marina at 11.20 on that sunny Saturday morning and had a great send off from our marina friends. We were sad to say good bye but also excited to be on our way. We were a little concerned as we knew we had missed the best of the north easterly winds but having looked at the long term forecast and seen that south westerlies were going to set in soon we decided to go as planned.

We also left without the water maker. When Richard went to commission it he filled the water tanks with salt water! We had left it to the last minute as we were sure it would work and wanted to avoid pickling the membranes. On phoning the manufacturer to report the ‘problem’ we found that there were two seals missing from each of the high pressure membranes. A batch had been issued which were faulty and they had missed contacting us.... great news! We bought an Aquamaax as they get excellent reviews. However, we were very disappointed with the bad service of the UK agent who was very unhelpful and after numerous phone calls, Richard decided to install it himself. It is manufactured in Canada and when we spoke to their office that Friday they were very apologetic and offered to bring the parts to the Canaries when we get there and make sure everything is working properly. We agreed to this and set off on what we thought would be a 10 – 12 day sail to the Azores. We had two full tanks of water (about 500 litres) and 6 x 20 litres jerry cans. We also fully expected to use the water catcher to collect rain water along the way. Needless to say, we had a few light squalls, enough to wash salt off the boat, but nowhere near enough to catch even a litre of drinking water.

We had three horrid days beating down the English Channel and all I can say is, ‘Been there, done that, don’t want the T-shirt for the memory.’ The number of ships is staggering and facing a wall of lights at night is quite terrifying. However, we made it past Land’s End safely by Tuesday morning and then started trying to head west. I felt ‘icky’ until Tuesday morning and then fortunately got my sea legs. I was able to thoroughly enjoy Monday night’s cold chicken curry for lunch, having eaten two ginger nuts and an apple the evening before! Fortunately Kevin and Richard were fine from the beginning.  Lise got through the 17 days bravely as she never felt 100 percent.

We were now battling for wind and had discovered that our ‘Red Box’ wasn’t connecting to our satellite phone to update the blog. Fortunately the phone itself was fine and we called our children to let them know we were okay and then arranged to call Stephen every 48 hours so he could update Facebook and the blog.  

On Wednesday we had a nasty surprise when we ran the engine and found that the engine compartment was filling with sea water! Richard found that it was coming from the stern drive leg and managed to fit a bilge pump in the bottom of the compartment. The plan was to only use the engine with the leg out of the water to charge the batteries when necessary and to sail all the way to the Azores. We were all feeling gloomy about this development but our spirits lifted when we received a visit from a huge pod of dolphins which stayed with us for ages.

On Thursday we spoke to Stephen and got a weather forecast. He advised us to change course for Madeira as we were in for a long spell of westerlies which would have meant a beat all the way. We all agreed to this and set our new course. The distance to the Azores was 958 miles at this stage and it was only 919 to Madeira. This cheered us up somewhat and we were even more delighted when the bungee line went taut in the afternoon and we caught a 3 kg big-eye tuna. The sea was calm enough for us to enjoy a starter of sushi and a main course of grilled tuna and veggies!

Oh, the highs and lows you go through! Sailing a small boat across the ocean is very challenging in that one has constant concerns about the boat and its contents, about the weather and the continual ‘not knowing’ what could happen next. At times you just wish you had reached your destination and sometimes it is so peaceful and beautiful you could stay out there forever.  When the dolphins accompany you for hours at a time, swimming energetically and gracefully around the front of the boat it is pure magic. Another time I love is a peaceful night watch between 11.00 and 02.00 when the moon is up or all the stars are out and the boat is gliding gently over the waves.  However, when the wind is too strong and the seas are rough, it is just horrid. Almost as bad is when the wind is fickle and keeps changing strength and direction and you don’t know which way to head.

The next ‘concern’ was that due to all the pounding, one of the wind generators lost the bolt that held it into the pole.... luckily our captain did constant checks on all the equipment. He climbed the targa bar (with his harness) on a relatively calm evening and replaced the bolt, only to find the next day that the generator wasn’t spinning... oh dear! He had tightened the bolt into the wiring and now it wasn’t working at all. He then had to isolate and divert wires to the regulator and was not a happy man. Fortunately, we have since discovered that the wire was only squashed and not permanently damaged and all is fine again in that department.

Six days after we discovered the water in the engine compartment and were virtually becalmed, Richard stopped the boat and got into the water with a tube of black silicone to try and seal the leak. We had a spear gun ready to pass to him if we saw a shark approaching. Luckily this wasn’t needed but later that day we saw our one and only shark fin of the whole trip... scary! After leaving the silicone to set for 24 hours we tried the engine, and joy of joys, no leak. We motor sailed for 15 hours that day to try and get out of the low pressure system into some wind. We made some headway, but still didn’t really find WIND!

We plodded on and it wasn’t all bad; we caught another tuna and afterwards a shoal swim with us for two hours. We also had other dolphin and whale visitors.  Finally, 36 hours from Madeira the north easterlies arrived and we ended the trip on a high with the wind behind us at last! We were also able to try our asymmetrical sail for an afternoon and had some ‘fun’ getting that up and down.

We managed to eke out our water with one and half litre ‘baths’ and baby wipes. For the last 6 days I washed dishes in sea water and rinsed them in one and a half litres of fresh water. It was a challenge but really made us appreciate the water we have on tap again. We were never thirsty, hungry or very cold.... uncomfortable yes, and scared at times (well I was) but it was well worth it for the accomplishment we felt on making landfall after 1606 miles!

We have one other issue: our ‘wonderful’ wireless Tack Tick wind instruments began working intermittently and appear to have battery problems.  Dealing with Raymarine, the manufacturer is a nightmare. They will not send you spares directly and tell you to contact the local agent. The agent here is on holiday and his shop is not very well stocked at all. Luckily Stephen is an agent in the USA and was able to have the new battery packs sent to him and he is sending them on to us here. We hope they will solve the problem when they arrive next week.

We are very comfortable in Quinta do Lorde Marina and will be here until 26th August when we will set set sail for the Canaries. We visited Funchal by bus on Thursday and will hire a car next week to tour the island. I shall let you know more another day....
 I shall attempt to post some photos of the trip tomorrow!