Stormy passage to the Madeira Archipelago

After we had changed from Seixal to the marina Doca dos Nacoes at the former Expo area of the Expo 1998 we once again changed to the marina Doca de Alcantara where I had asked a technician to come onboard to check the SSB. But all he did was to tune in to a normal short wave radion station to show me that the SSB was receiving a signal. To his opinion everything was alright. He did not even connect the simplest measuring device to check the strength of the transmission signal. He had not understood that I had a general problem with the thing and that I actually wanted the whole system systematically checked whether everything is alright. But he gave all the impression that he was absolutely not interested in repairing an SSB. He regarded it as old fashioned and dead technology. He said that the Portuguese Coastal Radion Stations had stopped to operate SSB services because the commercial ships now all have satellite phones and hardly anybody of them is using it any more. So from his point of view it was pointless to have one.
Ok, at least he did not charge anything for telling me that.
That had been one of the reasons to stay in the Doca de Alcantara, the other was that we thought it was more central. By geography it is but effectively it is not much closer to the interesting Barrio Alto and central Lisbon districts than the Doca dos Nacoes, instead indeed noisier from the big bridge and the neighbouring container terminal. The advantage of the Doca dos Nacoes is that it is really quiet, they have the nicer showers and a proper office building with a nice sitting area.
So there were no more reasons to stay there and we changed to Cascais, at the mouth of the Tejo where Mike was at anchor and where we wanted to wait for the right wind to go to Porto Santo. In Cascais we met several other long term sailors almost all on their way to the Canary Islands. The weather fore cast said that there was a good weather window when leaving on Thursday 30. October or on Saturday 1 November with the latter one seeming to be the better one because one would have northerly winds from the beginning.
The challenge of this passage is that you need the right wind for 3 to 5 day because it is a distance of 465 nm to Porto Santo. Almost all boats decided to go on Saturday with the disadvantage that for Monday Night a strong wind band of up to 30 knots (Bft.7) was forecasted. But with the good winds on Saturday and Sunday one should be ahead of it.
So Mike already started a 7 am, we started at 12:00 pm and others started at around 3pm.
At first we had even to point south, but once we got off the coast we could directly 225° to Porto Santo. We decided not to go a bit more west first hoping for the forecast to be right that the wind would change to north which would have given us a nice downwind course. We said „No“, the direct course is the quickest because one never knows how correct the forecast is“.
We had a beam reach (Halbwind) course on the first day and a force 4-5 Bft in the night so we had only the mainsail up because we had to fix something on the Genoa sheet (Genuaschot) which we had only noticed at sunset. So we had to leave it till the next morning. But even with that small sail we did 5 to 5.5 knots. And we had a sailing yacht directly in front of us all through the night. The distance did not change, which was very strange because usually boats do not travel at the same speed.
But at night fall we all started to get seasick. Even me threw up (sich übergeben) and nobody was interested in the good food or even the pumpkin we had bought. But everybody managed to do his / her watch. We were doing 6 knots on the average so we had already covered 150 nm until Sunday noon, which is a third of the distance. But unfortunately Julia and Maria did not get over their seasickness a were bound to their bunks (Kojen) occasionally trying to eat and drink something which sometimes stayed in the stomach, sometimes came out a bit later. So Asa and me were sharing the watches which worked actually quite well because thanks to Peter Förthmanns Windpilot the watch keeper did not have much to do besides taking a look around every ten minutes. Usually there was nothing although I have to admit that at least during the first half of the journey there were several ships, probably on their way to the Strait of Gibraltar. And also during the second night we had sailing yacht all the time some miles either in front of us, behind or net to us.
With a little bit reefed sails also the Monday was ok.
But on Tuesday morning we were hit be the strong wind band. The boat was sometimes falling from a wave and banging heavily into the wave valley and one time I thought we had hit something solid swimming in the water when a wave hit us directly from the side. All the time we spray coming over, also sometimes flying all the way to the cockpit. But at 10 am a lot of water flew into the cockpit, filling the holds in the sides of the cockpit (Schwalbennester) where apparently were some wholes through which I got wet in my bunk under the cockpit. And simultaneously Asa shouted „Jan, Jan, I need your help here“. So I jumped into my foul weather gear (Ölzeug) and went on deck. It was clear that reefing the sails would ease the situation. So I bound the third reef into the main sail and furled in the jib down to storm sail size. With that sail area we were still doing 6,5 knots but the boat moved much smoother and we had almost not heavy water coming over any more. So I could go back to my bunk, to get some more rest until I had to release Asa on watch. From that point we had still another 60nm to go which at the speed meant we would reach Porto Santo around 9pm. The visibility was excellent, the temperature around 20°C so only the chaotic waves were the problem. But with only 12hours left the end was getting closer.


Under storm sails










Tired and exhausted after three days with little sleep

Tired and exhausted after three days with little sleep



And so at 10pm we rounded the Ilheu de Cima Light House on the north eastern corner of Porto Santo and were finally in calm waters as the island protected us from the ocean swell. From there it was only another 2 miles to the port. Although the marina in the port was badly lit we found a berth.
At 11 pm we were readily moored (waren mit Anlegen fertig). But the usual mooring beer did not yet really taste, at least my stomach was still to accepting beer, but the sausages Asa had managed to fry underway despite the rocky movements of the boat tasted quite good.
The next morning after sleeping in (ausschlafen) we rinsed the whole boat, insideand outside, the fould weather gear and dried the wet sleeping bags, towels and polsters.
Mike who we had tried to contact under way via VHF radio (UKW-Funkgerät) had also arrived during the night so we mutually happy to see that had arrived sound and safe. Ilko, the dutch skipper of a big ketch, had arrive earlier but had to keep the watch for 72 hours because his whole family crew had been seasick And then we were waiting for the sailing yacht called Gegenwind. They arrived a day later because they had heaved to because the were hit by even Bft. 10 in gusts (in Böen) as they said. So eventually everybody had arrived well although we had gotten our good dose of strong wind.
The more happy we were to have beautiful weather on Porto Santo, perfect for a barbecue on the beach. So in the evening of Thursay we were about 20 people from Scotland, USA, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and England around the barbecue. One of the American crews had caught a Mahimahi fish which was so big they were eating on it since a week and still had loads of it share with us as it had to be eaten because otherwise it would go bad.
Due to the weather conditions not many pictures were taken, I only managed to take a few, but I made little video (in German): On the Atlantic Ocean between Portugal and Porto Santo