Madeira to the Azores part II

Day 5: Tuesday 28th June

Maid had been going pretty fast at the end of that evening, and that continued into the night. I reefed the mainsail down to it’s smallest possible size at about 0145 as the motion was a bit uncomfortable and there were some threatening looking clouds around, but she was still doing at least 4 knots (the maximum one can expect for a boat her size is 6), and picking up speed again within a few hours.

Reefing the mainsail is actually very easy when sailing at an angle close to where the wind is coming from, as you can continue on the same course and just let the sail out a little so it flaps and lets you work on it. I’d been quite apprehensive about it the first time I did it in strong wind on the way to Madeira, but it proved much quicker and easier than I expected.

Sailing away from the wind is generally easier, but when you need to reef you really need to turn the boat towards it to let the sail flap, which is usually a rather hair-raising and wet experience compared to what you’ve got used to!

However, going up on the deck at the front of the boat to take a jib down is likely to be a similar experience. I was considering this an hour or so later, as our speed picked up to around 5 knots.. I’m normally fairly cautious about reefing early, but in this case I was concerned that it wouldn’t leave enough sail up to steady the boat in the largish waves, which had happened once on the way to Madeira.

By 0615 we were doing 6 knots – wheee! With the course change away from the wind this actually felt pretty comfortable – though the waves were a fair size they weren’t breaking and Maid was sailing along them rather than crashing into them. Lying in bed feels like I’d imagine a magic carpet ride to be like – being continuously wafted up and down.

One of the less commonly mentioned advantages of sailing single-handed is that you usually get to see the sun rise – whereas on a watch system if you’ve been up for a few hours at some other point in the night you’re probably asleep. Today’s dawn was especially beautiful.

Conditions were fairly similar for the rest of the day – making very good speed, with the wind varying so sometimes we were heading east of Santa Maria (not a problem, easy to turn left) and sometimes looking like we might miss it to the east. It was still quite a way off to think to much about that though, though we did get down to 200nm to go by mid-afternoon.

This video has no speech – just shows the motion of the boat under way for anyone interested.

I did finally take the inner jib down at around midnight – with the wind having got quite gusty Horace was having trouble keeping Maid from turning up towards the wind, which tended to make her plunge into waves rather than riding along them. I actually stayed surprisingly dry.

Day 6: Wednesday 29th June

The wind and waves had reduced slightly by the morning, but the direction had changed a little more so Maid’s course was looking increasingly good to make it to Santa Maria, which I was deciding was probably an attractive proposition.

We even managed to keep the sunset on the left side this evening – usually the wind had shifted around dusk making Maid want to follow it westward rather than north-west towards our destination.

I was certainly hoping it would be the final night at sea now we were so close, but I was actually feeling a lot less tired and better overall than at the start of the trip.

Day 7: Thursday 30th June

The wind dropped somewhat overnight, but Maid was still sailing fairly fast though her motion got a bit awkward at times. And increasing sail is usually much less urgent than reducing it..

The island did get bigger – this is looking roughly at the centre of it and the largest hills. I passed a couple of sailing boats heading the other way and wondered where they might be headed. When sailing when I was younger we used to play a little game of suggesting where boats might be sailing to if it looked like they weren’t heading for any of the nearby destinations. I was reminded of that now though the nearby destination for them would have been my last stop of Madeira, now nearly 300 miles away! Straight on to the Canaries or even further south could have been possible though.
There was also a huge school of very energetic dolphins in the distance at one point, but while they were fun to watch through binoculars for a while they sadly never came any closer. I had got to see a couple of turtles on the trip though, which is always quite cool.

As you can see the weather was rather nice and it was a beautiful day of sailing. The conditions had in fact improved dramatically, and I was gradually increasing sail throughout the day, but I was still planning on stopping, just for different reasons this time!

One exciting thing about the island I didn’t mention on the video was that it’s very small, and the harbour was right at one end backed by relatively low ground, so hopefully I’d be able to sail right up to it.

This turned out to be quite fortunate.

While in Funchal the thought had occurred that possibly the problem with the pin in the outboard bracket shifting might be very likely to occur when sailing hard on the starboard tack for any length of time. Several days would certainly count! It was on the list of jobs to do, but while I ticked off a lot of them I never managed to come up with a preventative measure to implement for this.

So sure enough, when I looked over the stern I had the same problem of not being able to lower the outboard down. Well, I thought, at least the conditions are much nicer now, and I know how I fixed it last time. However, this time it was rather more obstinate.

Still, having wasted a while battling it I decided to give up and sail into the shelter of the outer harbour, and just use the outboard cautiously while fully raised. This is possible, but only feasible in flat water where you don’t need to use much power and the cooling water intake and propellor. aren’t going to keep lifting out of the water.

It was handy that I had a vast choice of berths, so mooring up with the assistance of a couple on one of the other boats was no trouble. This picture of the harbour is from a walk the next day.

The main first impression was that it was very quiet indeed – almost like the feeling of coming out of a nightclub. The noise of the boat under sail and the waves can’t be anywhere near that loud, and had even been relatively quiet during the day, but the difference was very noticeable.

It was also exciting to be somewhere new – both my previous trips had been returning to places we’d already visited. So while I’d really enjoyed the second stints in Las Palmas and Madeira, arriving in the Azores had a different feel to it. I hadn’t got here nearly as early as I’d hoped to, but I would still have a fair chance to visit a few places before heading back to England. Santa Maria might be small, but it certainly looked well worth exploring.

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