To Porto Santo
The ocean is waiting. At 11.45 on Sunday 30th September we slipped our lines from Albufeira marina. Four days at sea, hopefully we will see whales and dolphins. We motored out into a gentle SW breeze, wind on the nose again! For the next 3 hours we were motorsailing. Eventually the forecast N Westerlies arrived and with full sail off we went.
We had set a course to be south of the traffic separation scheme off Cabo St. Vincente, from there we would alter course by 10 degrees to the right so as to arrive off the SE tip of Porto Santo.
At the point where we were thinking we were going to see nothing, we were surrounded by a large pod of dolphins, obviously hunting, shortly followed by another pod who had come to join the first group. You can never say “Dolphins again!” as for me they really are magnificent creatures. They were definitely not playing with the boat, just intent on the hunt, racing in front, behind and under us. Groups of 5 or 6 were broaching together, others jumping right out of the water and some somersaulting. There were also gannets diving and dozens just sat on the water, I suppose too full to eat any more. It must have been a huge shoal of fish.
Our waypoint to clear the traffic separation lanes was fairly close and although we had heard the VTS (a bit like air traffic control) talking to the large ships we had not seen any. “Best turn the AIS on as it is beginning to get dark”. Holy smoke! We are surrounded by 16 targets, fortunately none on a collision course, some passing ahead while others were passing astern. The AIS stayed on for the rest of the trip.
As darkness fell on the first night the wind began to increase to 20 kts. Prudently we dropped the mizzen and put 2 reefs in the main as I didn’t want to have to sort the reefs out in the dark. We were beam reaching at over 7kts at times, the waves were 3-4 metres on the beam. On my first night watch I remember looking at the sea and seeing a wave at the height of the boom start to break, in the moonlight it looked like a row of grinning teeth. I remember thinking ‘Oh shit we haven’t got a washboard in’! As the wave started to break I heard it hiss and roar, the next moment I ducked and the breaking wave went under the boat liberally spraying me as it went. Thank goodness I had a lightweight waterproof jacket on. The bottom washboard went in double quick!
Morning came and we shook the reefs out - the wind was getting less as was the sea. Monday was uneventful as we sailed along with the wind over our shoulder, the genoa poled out and a full main. Sunshine and clouds, followed by a moonlit night. The highlight of the night was a light which passed ahead of us, going south while we were going west, a yacht from his lights.
Tuesday dawned with the wind getting less, what had looked like a 3 day passage was moving towards day 4. At about 0800 we passed the halfway mark. The wind was gradually getting less and veering further behind us. By mid morning, the wind had died completely, less than 7Kts so we put the engine on for a couple of hours, batteries charged and plenty of hot water.
By the afternoon we were back to our original sail plan of a poled out genoa and the main. At 1700 out AIS alarm sounded - a ship! Having seen only a couple of ships on the horizon here was one passing within a mile of us on route to the Canaries. He got closer and closer and eventually when he was less than 3 miles away I called ‘Atlantic Zeus’ on the VHF radio. He replied immediately that he has seen us and was planning to pass ahead. I suggested that ½ mile was too close and that he give me more room. Watching our ‘magic box’ he applied 5 degrees of right rudder for 30 seconds and passed more than a mile ahead. “Thank you, Atlantic Zeus”.
The wind started to build so a reef went in the main and a couple of rolls in the Genoa. With a F5/6 we were going to arrive Wednesday evening. By the time Wednesday morning had arrived the wind had dropped again so we spent most of the day trying to get the best speed with the sails. We were going slower and slower and arrival before dark on the Wednesday wasn’t possible. With the sea getting less the motion was gentle so we might as well get some sleep and arrive in the morning.
Dawn on Thursday morning saw us travelling at 3kts and 15 miles to go to our waypoint off the island. Engine on, hot water and a shower before breakfast and our arrival at Porto Santo marina at about 10 am.
Arriving at Porto Santo
We called the marina on ch9 but no response, so we just carried on in. A mariniero was on the wall, waving. He directed us to a berth and was there to help us tie up. He shook our hands and said “Welcome to Porto Santo.” Very nice.
Not quite 4 days. 493 miles, day1 =137M, day2 = 130M, day3 = 132M, day4 = 96M. Tidy!