Island in the Sun

Rob & Sarah Bell
Tue 14 Sep 2010 10:19

33:03.71N 16:18.94W



Saturday 11th, Sunday 12th and Monday 13th September.


We made very good progress on Saturday with Henry (the hydrovane – named after Henry the Navigator...) in complete control of our steering, but as night approached we switched back to the Raymarine Autopilot as we are still not confident or expert enough to make adjustments to Henry in the dead of night in a big sea.


The wind stayed pretty constant through the night and we now had two 150 (and even a 158 mile day!!) mile days under our belts on this passage. That was about the end of the excitement though as gradually the wind began to drop away over the next 24 hours and we found ourselves just buzzing along between 5 and 6 knots in a flatter sea. It was really an almost idyllic day as we made good progress but were never under any pressure and so we relaxed and enjoyed the ride. What was missing was any real wildlife though. We were visited at one stage by 20 to 30 dolphins, but at that point we were only making around 4.5 knots and they didn’t see any fun in riding along so slowly, so they just swam on by and after a few very dramatic leaps and plunges they were gone.


Our problem now was that we had made such good progress overall on the passage that we were going to arrive in Porto Santo around midnight so we had to rethink our arrival plan. We decided that making our way into a small anchorage off a beach, in a strange place with nil moon to light our way and a reputation for erratically lit buoyage was not a great move; so we opted to reduce sail and slow right down and stall our arrival time until daylight. We furled away the headsails and carried on under just the main, but of course the wind started to get up and we were back making 6 knots! So we reefed the main heavily and brought the speed down to 4 knots which was fine until the wind died completely and we found ourselves almost drifting at just 2 knots. However this was just fine as it let the clock run down, the only problem now was that the autohelm made such a noise as it tried to steer a boat with almost no steerage way on. The resolution was to hand steer which Sarah did for two hours followed by me for three hours by which time we were outside the harbour a couple of miles behind SF who had been motoring and it was 9.00am.


We made our way into the little harbour beneath the dramatic backdrop of the soaring cliffs and hills that make up the tiny Atlantic Island of Porto Santo and were greeted on the pontoon by Nelson the duty Marinero. This really is the most wonderful place and everyone is so friendly and relaxed. I did the usual formalities with the Customs man who was very chatty and keen to display his knowledge of England and English. The marina office were very helpful too and we soon felt very comfortable indeed here.


No sooner had Nelson finished welcoming us to the island, than another person approached us and introduced himself as James. This turned out to be one of those many instances where you find out how small this world is. James and his wife Lesley were getting married on the island of Paxos in Greece in 2008 when we arrived there. Furthermore their reception was at Mongonissi which is the bay and restaurant run by our friends Theo and Pan and we were moored there with Serafina at the time. They had reason to remember seeing Serafina there as they had also been moored on the same pontoon as us in 2007 in Hamble Point marina, (UK) although we had never actually met them before. We invited them and their crew for drinks in the evening and along with Steve and Chris we had a good evening, during which we also discovered that James had been sailing with another friend of ours Anthony L-D (boat called Big Doris).

James and Lesley were getting married in Paxos because they had both worked for Sailing Holidays which is owned and run by our very good friend Barry Neilson, who had worked with us in Greece back in the 19Th century!


We plan to stay here for 5 days and as things stand we cannot think of anywhere better. There is a big three day festival starting on Thursday in honour of Christopher Columbus (the island is Portuguese) and the only setback so far has been the arrival of some Spanish boats complete with a band who set up on one of the pontoons last night and are truly awful. Not that they play bad music, but more that the singer would be excluded from any karaoke bar for being so utterly tone deaf!