Gran Canaria to not Madeira to not the Azores to Madeira: part 2

Day 6: Tuesday 31/05

As some people (okay, maybe one person 😛 ) have been grumbling about, we left the story with Maid hurtling quite fast but uncomfortably towards Madeira. You could see the island, but it still felt quite a way away. Getting into port is rather harder than sailing in open water as just where you’re going becomes rather more important.

The direction the wind was coming from was limiting where I could actually aim for – or whether I was actually heading somewhere beyond the western end of it. Making Funchal looked unlikely, but I was hopeful I could make the marina at Calheta, further west.

This didn’t quite work out. I got to about 20 miles away, and the wind dropped. This wasn’t all that surprising given how high the island is and the warnings in the pilot book, but the sea state was not what I’d imagined. The waves weren’t big, but very steep, and seemed to be coming from two different directions.

It was a long way to contemplate motoring, especially in that sea state, so given the difficulty approaching Madeira was presenting I decided to have a hard look at the weather forecast and see how good an option continuing on straight to one of the Azores would be. It looked reasonable leaving now, whereas going into Madeira would probably involve staying there for a week at least once I finally managed to get in, so I decided to go for it.

Some time later I’d made it a bit further west, and the wind resumed fairly strongly, seeming like I’d made it would of the wind shadow. I headed west for the Azores, reefed most of the mainsail just leaving a little up to reduce rolling, and set about making sure the jib sheets and the blocks they were led through wouldn’t make too much noise as the boat rolled. Down below I was very pleased by how little rattling there was in the galley after my work in Las Palmas.

Then the wind dropped again, and this time the motion was far worse, enough to occasionally dip the ends of the boat into the water.

I nearly just took the sails down several times, but each time I started on it the wind would get up briefly..and then die again.

The sunset was very lovely, but it also emphasised just how beautiful Maid would have looked in that setting if the sails had actually been filling.. It was some consolation though, and a bit of a distraction from deciding what to do.

I decided to give Chris a call on the satellite phone, as this would probably be a much easier way of getting a better forecast than downloading one myself using the phone. He reckoned that there might actually be generally fitful wind, but picking up again, so it was hopefully that rather than the wind shadow I was having problems with. Less encouragingly, it looked as though I’d probably get to just south of the Azores to be greeted by strong northerly winds which would make the final part of the passage very hard work indeed. So it looked like we were back to struggling to get to Madeira.

Hopefully that wind would pick back up again.

Surprisingly, about half an hour later it did. Quite a lot – from not achieving anything with full sail I was reducing sail quickly, and we were going quite fast with only 1 (of 2) jib up and the mainsail fully reefed. I headed back east to start with, as that would make it easier to get to either Funchal or Calheta. Then the wind dropped down again, but putting the 2nd jib back up.

However, what I actually wanted was sleep rather than progress. I decided to head away from the island, gradually making ground to the east, mainly making sure I didn’t lose the wind.

However, getting further out the waves got bigger and the motion worse, and I decided I was better off heading in again and trying to tack back and forth within the vague corridor where there still seemed to be wind without the waves being too large. I was pretty tired by this time, besides exasperated. Actually, both of these had been true since lunchtime.

In hindsight, it seems rather odd that I never suffered a hint of seasickness during this time – I’d taken some biodramina the previous day when we were roaring along, but I didn’t seem to feel any need of it now.

I think I slept straight through my alarm a couple of times (slightly worrying, but the AIS should have warned of big ships approaching) towards the end of the night, and definitely had a few nightmares about the wind dropping and leaving me in the same horrible crashing-around situation again.

Unfortunately after the third of these it turned out to actually be happening…

I decided to get what more sleep I could before dawn and then go for it with the engine.

Day 7: Wednesday 01/06

Early on there was a bit of a shock of some inexplicable westerly wind, enabling me to sail straight towards Funchal, and a rather spectacular dawn. As one would expect, neither of these states lasted.

So, I decided I’d have to give the outboard a go, disregarding the risk of it dipping too far into the water. After all, it ought to be better once I got it going and we were moving – any speed improves things significantly.

I pulled the ratchet back on the outboard bracket and pushed the engine down into the working position.

Or rather, I pulled the ratchet back and pushed down on the engine.

One of the pins in the bracket mechanism had come out of one side at some point during the trip, rendering it immobile. The engine definitely couldn’t be used fully up, as the propeller would have been out of the water quite a lot of the time, and getting cooling water might have been an issue. I had to lean over the stern and get the pin back in.

Trying to just wiggle it clearly wasn’t going to achieve anything – it wouldn’t move at all. I rigged a block and tackle to the solar panel arch to take the weight of the outboard off the bracket, but I still wasn’t getting anywhere. It wasn’t out by much, but with the pin seemingly immobile this wasn’t a great comfort.

By now I was having fleeting thoughts about options if I couldn’t get it sorted out aside. None of them were at all appealing, so I thrust them aside and carried on with trying to fix it.

I tried shifting the weight of the engine around, and using a hammer to try and shift the pin even slightly, but with no success. I was getting rather frustrated at this point to say the least.

Now this had happened before – I knew Chris had fixed it at least once, so I decided (after something of an internal battle) to give him another call to check if there was anything I was overlooking. Unfortunately there wasn’t – he’d succeeded by partially lifting the engine and wiggling the pin. Still, I think just talking it over briefly helped a lot even without really gaining any information.

I tried again, but the same methods definitely weren’t working still. Next I moved the furled cockpit cover out of the way so I could stick my head right out the back and shine a torch down to get a closer look. It looked like it was in the right place vertically, but needed to be moved further back.

Happily I thought I knew just the wedge-shaped piece of hardwood that might achieve that. And even better, when I was stowing everything away in Las Palmas I’d backtracked on my original plan to keep a lot of my useful bits of wood store underneath the dinghy and put my gofio and honey rum stash back there with the wood relatively accessible in a sliding box behind the toilet.

The piece in question, with one of the bars that hold the toolboxes in place as an extra spacer, did indeed look about right. So I hammered that down, trying the pin every so often, until eventually it worked!

Then of course it took another 5 minutes to get the wedges back out again. After all that the worry over getting it going and getting moving without drenching it seemed relatively minor, so off we went.

Once I’d closed the coast the motoring wasn’t actually too bad – I could do some reading and attempting to refresh my Portuguese, and it was nice and warm, though the island itself was covered in cloud.

I decided it was worth heading to Funchal rather than Caleta -although it would be another couple of hours it would probably be a much nicer place to stay, and it seemed I could be there a while – as well as the forecast not looking too promising I’d also noticed Horace had a bit of a problem when I disengaged him before trying to start the engine. There wasn’t much remaining of the plastic cylinder (black thing in foreground, the damaged part is beyond the handle) which fits into different circles to select whether he’s in neutral or various gears… I was suddenly rather glad I wasn’t carrying on to the Azores..

Funchal also had a Yamaha dealer in case the outboard did come a bit too close to the water and I wanted to have it checked over.

And I got to see some impressive scenery on the way, such as the dramatic valley mouth at Ribeira Brava:

and open fishing boats from the village of Camara de Lobos working near the huge cliffs of Cabo Girao:

This meant increased concentration as they usually had a net strung between them and some kind of makeshift float – it ended up being easiest to go offshore of neearly all of them, although it was a little extra distance.

Funchal harbour wall becoming visible was even more welcome though.

Though on closer approach, it was rather strange seeing the harbour without any cruise ships in it – very empty, almost eerie. There were also a couple of dredgers removing mud and rocks from the river mouths either side of the marina.

When I couldn’t get any answer on the radio I was briefly wondering if the marina was temporarily closed, or closed to visitors, while the works were going on or something. I nosed up to by the dredger very close to the marina entrance, and it looked like there was still space to get in, but I was very glad to see a man in the customs office on the end of the wall looking welcoming. I circled around again to get all the fenders and ropes I might need ready, and then headed in.

Unfortunately the man had gone somewhere else by this time (it takes a while on your own, especially when you’re making ready to tie up on either side because you don’t know where you’re going. There was what was clearly a visitors pontoon by the entrance, but the wind was blowing me sideways away from it, making it a tricky approach. I managed to spend what felt like at least 5 minutes going backwards and forwards next to it without really getting any closer till he reappeared and helped me tie up.

I was very happy to see Hampus and Lotta’s ‘Ingeborg’ moored up a little way inside – they’d left Las Palmas a few weeks before me and spent some time at Graciosa and then here, but I’d forgotten they might be here still – while I was completing the formalities with the customs man and repeatedly having to correct Spanish into Portuguese they came back and helped me pull the boat along from the visitors berth to alongside the wall.

It was good it was high tide, as there wasn’t a ladder where I was… Tying a short boat up to a wall when the tide moves it up and down by a couple of metres is also a challenge, and you definitely get some ‘surge’ caused by waves working there way in. Happily I managed to persuade the marina staff to give me a different spot when they re-opened the office after lunch, and Hampus and a Frenchman I didn’t know helped me move Maid to her new pontoon berth.

Hampus and I did speculate that it might be the spot they give people who complain, given that it’s right opposite and broadside on (meaning any little waves coming in would make her roll irritatingly to the entrance), and with only about 100 yards between it and the dredger, which started work early in the morning. Somehow I didn’t think that would bother me the next day at least though…

I fancied stretching my legs and an easy dinner, so I went and looked for the bolo de caco man’s traditional bread stall, but didn’t find it (Chris will be relieved to know I realised a couple of days later that I’d just stopped 50 yds short), so decided to open a tin of some kind of casserole I wasn’t sure I’d like the look of as rough weather food (generally saving the tinned complete meals for that) instead.

Time to relax, and look around and admire the beauty of Funchal. And then go to sleep, without setting any alarms.

2 Responses to “Gran Canaria to not Madeira to not the Azores to Madeira: part 2”

  1. carol aka mum Says:

    Hi, hello and good morning Horace and your trusted and devoted friend Pete.Well O.K hi, hello and top of the milk on your cornflakes to you Pete..and your ship mate ermm. Horace . …Im guessing it is not unknown or unheard of to embrace and christen ones autohelm. Indeed as companions go, one might argue, it is essential to affirm ones second in command since the departure of those two renegades. Pete; your blog and especially; the video footage is brilliant .It gives a real sense of participating in your travels.Most interesting and at times wonderfully witty… seriously good reading …..you will have to contemplate publishing in book form.or at least in sailing magazines on your must anticipated return to U.k .Much love and good health CAROL AND MY FAMILY XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX AND SOME MORE FOR GOOD MEASUREXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

  2. maidofmettle Says:

    Thank you Carol and everyone!
    Darn, people like the videos. I knew this would happen.. I shall take more on the way to the Azores then, think I will try and do more on the blog en route as well so it doesn’t pile up on arrival like it did here.
    I think Caroline or Chris came up with the name Horace back in France actually – correct me if I’m wrong either of you.
    Pete

    P.S. Horace says hello.

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