Passage to Madeira by JoJo

Passage from Portugal to Porto Santo, Madeira November 2014

When we left England at the beginning of September the plan was to cross the Bay of Biscay, sail down to the south coast of Portugal and then decided where to go next.  The boys have always been sure that they wanted to cross the Atlantic to the Caribbean.  I was more cautious and knew that plans change, things happen and anyway everyone might hate sailing! But we had bought the charts and fitted out Island Swift for ocean voyaging.
First sight of Porto Santon

When we arrived on the south coast of Portugal I felt that we had arrived safely, mission accomplished. I had not given much thought to the onward journey, but immediately my crew were asking when we were going to leave for Madeira and the Canaries! I had hoped that we would have some time to visit my family in Spain and do some jobs on the boat.  But because of our late departure from the UK, and waiting for two weeks in Bayona for good winds, we were much later than I had hoped.  So (big gulp) I started to ‘weather watch’ for a fair wind to sail to Madeira. 
Leaving for Madeira felt like a big move - we were leaving Europe! It took us six days to get to Porto Santo an island just north of Madeira. The passage was frustrating because the wind kept dying at night and was generally not particularly steady. Four days out the clouds were proclaiming, load and clear, that a weather system was coming. The barometer dropped and we prepared for a blow, which did not materialise.  The barometer started to rise again and we all relaxed.
It was my birthday! I could not have asked for a better one.  I had quasons for breakfast and did no cooking all day! My family gave me a special birthday card, a hand drawn chart of our route so far. Our geographical position at midday on my birthday was prominently marked on the chart. It has been long time since I have been sailing, and this trip is a lifelong dream.  To be doing this with my three gorgeous boys is even more special. Thank you Simon for making it possible, and thank you Finbar and Lochlann for being so enthusiastic.  The difference between this passage and crossing Biscay was huge.  Everyone had learnt so much. I got more sleep and knew that the boat was in good hands. 
On the fifth day out I lay in bed listening to Simon and Finbar getting the boat sailing.  There had been a calm patch and we had motored for a while.  When the wind came back it was from the NE and allowed us to broad-reach towards Porto Santo. The two of them worked together to set the sails and goose-wing the staysail. I drifted back to sleep waking up for my watch at 4am. On deck Simon was having a great time! The wind had got up and we started to think about putting in a reef.

Landfall at Porto Santo
We had been sailing towards the glow of the lights from Porto Santo, then out of the darkness I saw a light flashing. It was the Porto Santo lighthouse. Simon went off watch and I had a fast sail, although the wind reduced enough to allow us to carry the full main, and the self-steering was happy.  Dawn broke and the volcanic island of Porto Santo appeared, towering out of the darkness. I woke Simon up to see this magnificent view.  It was beautiful and it felt like our first landfall.  It was very exciting.  Simon went back to sleep while I sailed the boat closer.  We all had breakfast together on deck, as we sailed south along the east coast of the island and into Porto Santo Bay.  The stunning strata of the cliffs, pillow lavas and dykes, were a perfect geological lesson in volcanic rock.  As we rounded into the bay the wind decreased, in the lee of the high volcanic cliffs. We anchored in the morning sun, in three fathoms of crystal clear water.  It was beautiful. I surprised the rest of my family by diving into the water and swimming around the boat.  We had arrived at the Madeira Archipelego.
Finbar and Lochlann in Porto Santo

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful thing to be doing with your family! I can imagine your excitement at approaching Porto Santo. I would love to do it...will do one day! Best Wishes Piers