35 58.210N 10 53.257W
Date: Thursday 22nd October 2015
Position: Somewhere in the Atlantic (35° 59.089 N - 10° 51.621 W)
I don’t know if it is the same for other sailors but I find that after I have spent some time ashore and am about to embark on another long sea passage I begin to get a little edgy, apprehensive, almost bordering on scared. Now there is nothing wrong in that, in fact, being a little scared of the sea is a healthy thing it shows you have respect for its power. Personally, I wouldn’t want to go to sea with a skipper who wasn’t a little sacred. I was in my sixth week at Lagos and although it is a lovely place to stay and I had met some new friends the time had come to move on as I could feel my feet beginning to stick to the pavement. I had been keeping a close eye on the weather hoping for a decent weather window to make the 450 Nm passage to Porto Santo, the most northerly of the Madeira archipelago. I had meant to leave weeks earlier but unfortunately a series of lows sweeping in from the Atlantic kept delaying this prospect. It was interesting to note that earlier in the season the lows tended to sweep in north over the Azores before heading North East up to the UK and France. This late in the season they tended to sweep in south of the Azores across the Madeira group and then head up to the south coast of Portugal. I had spotted an opportunity and planed to leave at midday on Tuesday 20th October. A new had crossed the Madeira group and was making its way to the south coast of Portugal and Lagos. My midday on Tuesday the worst should have passed and although it would be a little lumpy out there I could catch the tail end of the low and get a good sail in for twelve hours or so before the wind died. So that was the plan but as ever the weather had more to say on the matter. Each morning I looked at the weather site to reassess the situation. At one stage it looked more favourable to go the Canaries direct making landfall in Lanzarote then island hoping to La Gomera, my leaving point for the Caribbean. But the next day the wind pattern changed again making Porto Santo a better point of sail for the crossing. But talking to other sailors about to leave on the same passage the consensus seemed to be that Wednesday 21st was a much better option. Never let it be said that I am a sheep following the flock come what may, but in this instance I made them right and adjusted my plans accordingly. On Sunday one of the marina staff contacted me to ask what my plans were. You see I had been given a birth that had been reserved for another boat from around this date onwards. The boat had now arrived and the skipper was anxious to move his boat onto my birth as soon as possible. I went to the office and told them of my original intention of leave by midday on Tuesday and this was fine with them. But when I retuned the next day to say I had reassessed the weather and wanted to say another night, you’d have thought I’d run off with the cash register. She looked at me with a face like a slapped ass and I could see I had caused a huge problem. After some huffing and puffing it was agreed that I could stay another night but I would have to move my boat to a different birth, which as it happened, was right next door to mine. The only problem was that the low I mentioned earlier had already hit Lagos and the wind was getting up so it was not going to be an easy manoeuvre. I thought to myself what is the point of doing this for the sake of one day. If the skipper of the other boat was so precious about his birth he was certainly going to be precious about his boat and was unlikely to want to move it in this weather anyway. But for the sake of peace I agreed and with the help of a couple of the chaps I had go to know we moved Celtic Dawn under warps to her new birth next door. Unfortunately, this was made more difficult because we had to move her to the other side of the finger pontoon which meant pushing her all the way out before being able to bring the bow in on the other side. But with four strong hands and some good warps the job was done in a couple of minutes without any fuss. I am sure you will not be surprised to learn that when I left two days later on the Wednesday, the birth I vacated was still empty. Anyway, that was on the Monday and by the time Tuesday came I was really glad I had made the right decision. It rained from before dawn until 3 in the afternoon and when I say rained I do mean rained. The wind blew a storm all day and well into the night. It turned out to be the most unpleasant day in Lagos since I’d arrived. One boat, an Oyster 55, did set out with delivery crew on board bound for the Canaries where her owner was waiting for her. She managed to clear the harbour entrance before the seas overwhelmed her and the skipper, quite rightly, took the decision to return to safety and moored up to the reception pontoon where she still was the next day. Shortly after this incident the port authorities closed the harbour entrance because it was just too dangerous.
I finally slipped my lines at 10 am on Wednesday morning and left the marina in the company of three other yachts, two ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) boats and Dawn Chorus, a Southerly. All but one where heading for Porto Santo, the other ARC boat was heading straight for the Canaries in preparation for the rally. The skipper of the Southerly had been looking for an extra crewmember because his wife had had an accident and had to return to the UK. Marcus volunteered so he is also on his way to Porto Santo and I will see him again there. I was hoping there might be a bit of residual wind left from the low to get started but there was nothing so I have been motoring for the last 24 hours. Two other boats around me put their cruising shoots up, similar to spinnakers but without the pole, but even they pulled them down after a couple of hours and began motoring as well. I have lost sight of one but the other is about three miles ahead of me on my starboard quarter. I don’t think this is one of the boats I left Lagos with, as he is a single hander like me.
Anyway, one night down and only three left to go so I will sign off for now and catch up with you tomorrow.
Bye for now.
Signing off Ted