blog update

Zahara: The story so far......
Ron Dunn
Mon 19 Oct 2009 14:06
Madeira at last!

Arrived here in Marina Quinta Do Lorde on Sunday after spending a night
on anchor in a fascinating bay a couple of miles from here. No beach to
speak of but some very interesting volcanic cliffs. If you zoom in on the
map you can see that I am in the far east of the island and quite a long
way from Funchal but, I’ll be here about one week so should have plenty of
time to explore the island.

The trip over from Lisbon (Cascais) went very well although we were lucky
to manage to resolve my Alternator problems in time. Thanks here to
Anthony and Chris for managing to get me a replacement in tie for Chris to
bring it out with him. Those of you familiar with such things will realise
that a man carrying such an object onto a plane is likely to attract a
certain amount of suspicion! At least he didn’t get arrested! (I could
have replaced Chris but the Alternator??) As it turned out I managed to
get the other one re-built locally so now I have two alternators, which
could be very useful. I suppose I could alternate between the two!

Waiting for the alternator to arrive meant that we eventually left Cascais
around 1800. It was a lovely evening and we managed to have a quick ‘sun
downer’ (only because it was his birthday of course) from then on it
became a question of ship dodging! With the shipping running between the
separation zones off Cabo Vincente and Cabo de Roco (N of Lisbon), coupled
with shipping entering and leaving the Tajo, it became very interesting.
At one time we had 19 large sips showing on AIS within a 16 Nm radius,
some three abreast! It was a relief some hours later when we had managed
to squeeze through to the west. From then on shipping was very sparse and
at one time we went for two whole days without seeing a thing. For the
sailors, I have nothing for praise for AIS and the ‘See me’ active radar
reflector. Though, like all things, they aren’t perfect and you have to
use them sensibly.

As for the rest of the trip, well, couldn’t have been better really. It
was great to have Chris onboard again and I think by the end of it we had
developed into a pretty good team (him cooking me eating etc!) However,
as he had flight to catch on the Monday (today in fact), I had to try and
optimise the sailing but still stick to a schedule. With winds generally
between 15kts and bugger all, this resulted in basically sailing during
the day and then motoring overnight to catch up and charge batteries etc.
The plan worked well with some delightful sailing and getting here in good
time. We were lucky though. A week earlier and we would have caught some
rotten weather. As it turned out we had blue skies every day and very,
very deep blue seas. Sailing was mostly down wind which gave me plenty of
opportunity to try out various options for the ARC. The Spinnaker was the
greatest success and we flew that on three days without any problems at
all. I don’t know why so many cruising yachtsmen seem afraid of it. It is
a beautiful sail and in he right winds, very stable and docile. I now have
it I the ‘snuffer’ so if things do get ‘frisky’ I can drop it easily.

As far as wildlife goes, it wasn’t the marine variety that we found
interesting; In fact, apart from a few Dolphins now and then, we saw none.
We did, however, have a number of small birds, (sort of Finchy, greeny
brown type things) that seemed to land exhausted on deck. This was some
hundred miles from the nearest land so they must have been pretty
knackered! Anyway I gave them something to eat and drink, showed them
where they were on the chart plotter and off they went! One of them
actually had a look around the cabin, crapped on my chart table then
landed on my arm before saying goodbye (See picture).

The nights were very clear but there was one night that stands out. I
don’t think I’ve ever seen a clearer night. It was chilly and there was so
much condensation that it was running off the spray hood but the stars
were amazing. There seemed so many stars than were possible and the ‘Milky
Way seemed just like a motorway of light stretching from one horizon to
the other. With a flat calm sea, and the reflection of all that light it
made it seem as though you had, somehow, been transported into space.
Alone in the cockpit, it seemed really intimidating, almost frightening
and made you realise how small and insignificant we really are ……. Oops,
Sorry I’ve obviously been reading too much Bernard Moitessier (French
sailor and part time philosopher)

A great trip then, let’s hope it continues. Colin arrives on Saturday and
then it’s on to the Canaries another 300 nm, probably leaving Monday.
There are some islands which are on the way which I would like to visit.
The Islas Desertas and the Islas Salvegens. As they are protected area
with no humans, you have to apply for permission to go there but, weather
permitting, it should be well worth it.

One last thing, I am now meeting many more ARC boats, all converging on
Las Palmas. There’s great camaraderie and a certain amount of
‘socialising’ The weather is getting warmer and I’m beginning to realise
that this isn’t a dream any longer….. It’s actually happening…..

Let the party begin!