In sight of Madeira

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Sun 11 Oct 2009 12:25

Noon Position: 33:11.415N 015:40.185W

Date & time: 11 October 2009 1300 hrs

Distance covered since noon yesterday: 155


Another perfect day’s sailing. Now with the Force 5 or 6 wind directly behind us we have been bowling along at about 7 knots with the mainsail strapped out on one side and the yankee (the big sail at the front of the boat) held out on the other side by the spinnaker pole.


Last night we saw the twinkle of the masthead lights of two other yachts lifting above the horizon many miles in front of us. As the day progressed we slowly but surely overhauled the first one, and during last night we hauled in and overtook the second yacht. As we never got close enough to see their hulls, whilst for all we know they may have been dinghy-sized, psychologically it is much, much better to be the overtaking vessel than the overtaken.


And talking of being overtaken, yesterday afternoon we saw the dark shape of a very large hull bearing down on us from astern and the AIS “radar” indicated that it was heading straight for us at 18 knots. Normally I have a policy of avoiding commercial traffic, whatever the rule book might say about power giving way to sail, on the grounds that a) they are making a living, whilst I am out here for the sheer fun of it, b) I understand that a large ship altering course uses about a ton of extra fuel and, not least, c) they are capable of smashing us into very small bits. I called the ship on the VHF radio, explaining we had restricted manoeuvrability due to our poled out sails and he obligingly altered course to starboard to give us plenty of room. He still looked jolly big as he forged past us less than half a mile away. As the whole incident from first sighting to his passing us took less than 20 minutes, it was a salutary reminder to all the crew that very regular 360° sweeps of the horizon are essential.


We have been sailing in well over 4000m of water and last night we sailed straight over Monte Seine. This 2 ½ mile high volcanic mountain rises almost vertically from the seabed, its peak lying just 150 metres below the surface of the sea. As Adrian said “Just like Madeira really, except Madeira went just that little bit further”.


In the afternoon, Adrian announced that he would be cooking dinner that evening. Lawrence and I waited in nervous anticipation, listening to the furious activity in the galley below and, eventually, presented before us was Adrian’s first meal cooked in nearly 50 years. Oven-baked breast of organic chicken in an onion and orange jus, presented with boiled potatoes and succulent asparagus spears, it would have won him a place in the semi-finals of Masterchef.  It was a triumph! Jeanette will be very proud of him and will doubtless be expecting Adrian to make a considerably greater contribution in the kitchen in the future, now his hidden talents have been revealed.


The only blot on the landscape is that our wonderful but overly-complicated Whispergen generator, which has worked perfectly for 2 ½ years, has packed up. Entirely coincidentally, I’m sure, it had an extortionately expensive service four days ago. So we have decided to anchor for the night off Porto Santo about 30-miles northeast of Madeira where we should have phone and email signals so we can sort it out with the WG expert Michael Sans who did the service. We will then complete our journey at first light tomorrow morning, arriving in Madeira round about lunch time. Well, that’s the plan!