Atlantic crossing to Madeira

Journeys of Aardvarc
Wed 14 Nov 2012 13:18

After 2 weeks of waiting for a suitable weather window the day arrived.

We were all a little apprehensive as Aardvarc had not done such a long journey ( 450 miles) in one go before and although the weather looked favourable ( north easterly winds all week) we knew that forecasts are just that and can change quickly and unexpectedly.

Little did we know that that would be exactly what was about to happen!!

We filled up with water and fuel and also had an extra can of diesel on the stern with 25 litres of fuel in it. With a following wind we were not expecting to have to use fuel but better to be on the safe side…..

Robert had prepared us for the journey by cooking up a beef cassoulet and I cooked a seafood feijoada . This was just as well as it turned out.

We settled in for a nice sail, wind on the quarter so perfect and sailed all day in moderate winds, no engine, and all looking good.

Then the thunderstorms began. Great big swathes of jagged scary forks hitting the sea not far away followed shortly by enormous bangs.

We have heard tales of the effects of lightning strikes on boats and were suitably apprehensive ( scared s***less more like!)

Using the radar we were able to detect the position of the worst squalls ahead and tried to dodge them. However, they were not short-lived and our trepidation lasted all night leaving us ragged by the next day.

Robert did the only thing you can do at 4am in such circumstances and made us a bacon sandwich!

That was great for some of us but the smell of frying bacon was sadly an aggravation for poor Heather who was curled up in her bunk suffering from mal de mer and mal de donner und blitzen!

Day 2 was a bit better, the sky cleared and we had a good sail all day and a clear night with wonderful constellations and shooting stars. However, the word from Bruce was not good….

The predicted following winds were about to change and hit us from in front..providing a portent of crashing into waves, slamming down them and adding miles to our journey because of tacking into the wind…oh dear!

And then the wind backed and came round on our nose…shame Bruce was right this time…

Cue engine on to help sail close to the wind and unfortunately again, worse conditions for Heather.

She would from time to time appear from her cabin to reassure us she was still alive and then retire again after a few minutes, often via the heads ( toilet)   ….

We all just had to grit our teeth and stick with it. 2 hours watches seemed best and eventually Friday morning arrived and we were within a few hours of our destination.

Robert and Diana remained resourceful and cheerful throughout ( well there were a few moments)

The nights are very long, 6pm till 7am, and everything seems more scary in the dark, the waves seem bigger and changing sails is harder with torchlight.

Friday morning the squalls appeared again.

A big black cloud with rain clearly falling from it would appear on the horizon and head our way, there was no escaping it..

Suddenly the wind would increase to over 30 knots i.e. near gale force, and we would have 2 reefs in the main sail and a tiny bit of jib out. Rain was so dense you could not see but a few yards ahead, but at least the boat had a good wash down!

By about 10 am we could see the small island of Porto Santo….the shout of land ho! Went up and spirits rose.

We were however a bit low on fuel and had to undertake the precarious transfer of fuel from can to tank in between the squalls. Would we have enough fuel??

The answer came 5 miles out when the engine suddenly stopped…whoops…

We had a couple of litres in the bottom of the can so poured this in and bled the engine…it started..phew!

Since the wind was on the nose we switched off the engine to preserve the precious few drops and tacked under sail towards Porto Santo, this was easier now as the wind was offshore and the shelter from the island gave us flatter seas.

A short distance out from the harbour we dropped the sails and started the engine…I prepared the anchor in case the engine were to suddenly cut out, as I had visions of us being blown into the harbour wall if we had no steerage from the engine.

The mariniero, suitably named “Nelson” came out to help us and at last our journey was complete.

We had covered over 500 miles in just over 3 days, not bad going.

Heather availed herself of the only sure cure for sea sickness…she sat under a tree!!!   It worked…