Tin Tin's Sailing Calendar

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Arrival in Tenerife

Rather than arrive in the pitch dark we dawdled downwind overnight, timing our arrival for dawn. What a great sight as the clouds cleared to show the 3870metre volcano of Teide lit by the rising sun.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

The Salvagem Islands

I woke at 08:00 to relieve Mark to find that the Salvage Islands were just 15 miles ahead. By 10:00 we were in rough seas approaching the rocky NW approach. The depths suddenly decreased from 4000 metres to 80 and I called Mark from sleep to come and see. The island shows orange red layers buckled and twisted and then capped with a thick flat layer of black basalt. A red and white pole on the highest point carries a light. Then we rounded a little headland to find the marked anchorage and a buoy in a very uninviting cleft in the rocks. Ashore there is a building and potentially there are people there who monitor the nature reserve, but we didn't see anyone.

So we turned and made our way out of the various offlying dangers int deep water. The other yacht, Vahine, had nearly caught up by now, but were less adventurous and stayed well out in deep water.

We set sail for Tenerife, 90 miles due south, noting that the barometer had dropped 3millibars in the last three hours, a sure sign of an impending blow.

Moonlight sailing

It's 03:00 and I have just completed the log with another hour to go on my watch, before I hand over to Mark again. We are at 30 54.56' N 16 14.74 W. On the radio earlier we heard an All Ships call to help with a Man Overboard from a commercial ship at 42 N. That was 600 miles north of us, so not something we could assist with, but it is a bleak feeling to think of the man in the water on this rough night.

Heading south from Madeira, tonight has been brightly lit by the waxing moon. So bright that the colours of the yellow diesel cans on the aft deck, and of the orange life buoys and the "Red Duster" flying from the stern are clear. Rare to see colours by moonlight!

The broad reach under Genoa alone has taken us roaring along at between 7 and 9 knots in 20-30knots of wind. We rise over the swell which breaks beneath us, with an occasional dollop into the cockpit. The wind is mild, but it feels chilly enough to wear full thermals and the Musto suit on top. My new Madeira cap keeps the head warm.

Astern is a 20 m yacht, Vahine, which has been struggling to get within 5 miles of us all night. I still cannot see her lights. Otherwise the sea is empty of traffic.

We are about 50 miles north of The Salvage Islands (Islas Salvagem) a nature reserve which requires permission to anchor in. We should be there about 10:00 and will have a look. There appears to be a mooring buoy which we could pick up but if not we will sail through.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Farewell to Madeira

Friday 11th November 2016
After a happy day exploring the island we prepared to set sail for Tenerife. But first I had one of those nasty jobs that a skipper has to face from time to time. The aft heads (WC) wasn't working. This has happened twice before, but I had taken most of it to pieces before I remembered that I have an equipment book in which I note problems and solutions. There it was "16/4/16. Stuart removed pump and found that the pressure switch was stuck". Sure enough I took it off and pressed the switch a few times to ffee it and everything functioned again. Next time I will consult the manual before taking everything apart!

With that fixed we were heading out of the harbour at 11:00 and set off due South towards the Selvagem islands 24 hours away. The islands are home to the greatest colony of Cory's Shearwaters apparently. We aim to stop for lunch and then it's only another 18 hours to Tenerife.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Exploring Madeira

Mark and I had a great land exploration day. Hired a Fiat Panda (received empty of fuel) put in €10 of fuel and off we went. Madeira is either travelled below ground in miles of EU funded tunnels. (known as Portugal's Greece for its fiscal policy)

Instead we did our best to stay above ground on winding tracks up impossible mountains. I doubt we got out of 1st and 2nd gear until we got back to the motorway.
We mooched in Porto Cruz sketching the cliffs and visiting the rum distillery, saw Madeiran Firecrests (Mark got a great photo. I get credit for identifying it.) Then a walk along a levada to a precipitous drop over a valley, with blackcaps and chaffinches and? Canaries.
Finally a mad drive into the cloud to 1810 metres so we had done the peak, before descending through a giant forest fire burn scar that had taken out much of the forest above Funchal and the botanical gardens.

Tomorrow we set off for 48 hours sailing south to Tenerife, aiming to drop in at the Selvagem islands on the way for lunch. Does anyone know anything about these?

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Four nights to Madeira

I came on watch again at 04:00 on Tuesday to find that the island Ilha do Porto Santo was visible ahead with its lighthouse flashing 3 times every 15 seconds. Given our speed through the water we would be arriving in pitch darkness, so as a mark headed for his bunk I reefed the Genoa right down and slowed up to 3 knots so that we arrived as dawn broke.

The rhythm of our sail from Cascais had settled down through initial queasiness to feeling much more at home. There's a curious separation between the outside and the inside of the boat. One can step below out of the wind and noise into a calm environment. A glance out of the windows shows the sea going past like a roaring river, but the sensation is of a smooth calm ride, despite the surge and roll of the sea which one's brain somehow discounts.

During the night hours we alternate four hour watches on deck and in our bunks. In daylight we are often both on deck enjoying the sunshine. "George" steers most of the time, although occasionally Mark or I take the helm to enjoy the ride more.

Yesterday I finally dug out the fishing kit Tom th aft starboard deck locker ( pity it as the the other side ass it turned out later) and trailed it astern. The Watamu Yoyo was with us in 2005 on the ARC but didn't catch much. It trails a very strong line with a bungee to take the shock of a strike, with an orange fish that skitters along the surface trailed by a bright red 4" long squid which hides a big hook. Two hours later I checked again and there was a big golden dorado. Once aboard, this beautiful golden fish was subdued with a slug of rum in the gills, and then we saw its beautiful sky blue spots and golden colour change as it died. It weighed 6 kg and was 85cm long, and as I butchered it on the rolling aft back, slippery with gore I wasn't sure I had the appetite to eat it. We had a couple of big steaks for supper though and they were excellent with rice and tomato salsa.

We have been plagued with a mysterious electrical problem which Mark has been very assiduously trying to track down. Something somewhere is leaking electricity to the metal hull. We spent many hours trying to track it down, finally concluding that the problem got somewhat better when the boat rolled heavily to starboard. Mark crawled into the engine space to see if a loose wire was swinging and making contact. We lifted floorboards, isolated electrical systems and still it continued. We postulated that it might be water in the bilges sloshing into a piece of electrical equipment and spent ages pumping water out of every place we could find. All to no avail !

So our arrival at Porto Santo was to find a calm anchorage and go through Nigel Calder's book The Boat Electrical Bible and follow his methodology to isolate and disconnect each piece of equipment in turn to track down the current leak.

As we prepared to enter the port we had the option of anchoring or finding a spot in the little marina. I got fenders out of our aft port deck,locker, and was horrified to find it half full of sea water! In there is also our long range radio transmitter, and here was the solution to the problem that had been plaguing us for the last three days. Once pumped out, rinsed with Fran water and dried the cu rent meter was showing all green again. What a relief! The problem was to find out how the water had got in and we can only conclude that the new seal we installed round the lid has failed.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

en route to Madeira

We set sail at 16:00 on Friday 4th November from Cascais heading for Funchal, Madeira. The wind was brisk F5 and we sailed close hauled into th night and heavy rain. The following morning dawned with the wind having backed round to the NE so that we were on a broad reach making 9knots.

Last night we sailed past a series of submerged sea mounts, part of a long line of volcanic pimples leading to Madeira, where the continental plate has slowly slid over a hot spot. They rise from 3000 metres to just 30 metres below the surface, and with a big swell running wouldn't. constitute a great hazard to a small boat, as the swells will slow down, rear up and break.

Settling into our 4 hour watches, still a bit vulnerable to seasickness.

To my alarm we seem like to have -50mA current leakage again. Spent a lot of time isolating systems, crawling in bilges and cupboards to no avail.. not great for feeling queasy.

Power usage is a challenge. Using the autopilot to steer ( rather essential on a dark, cloudy, moonless night) and running the freezer both consume power at about 6 amps. After 6 hours we need to run the generator to restore the 36 Amp-hours used. During the day the solar panels extend that period. Last night, Saturday night, I was on watch twice, and watched the battery capacity run slowly down to 90%. Then I discovered that I should have been following the voltage which was down to 10.5 volts. I tried to start the engine and just got the useless ticking of an under powered solenoid. Then the generator...... same thing! I recalled that Kate and Mark had had the problem of power failure about here in 2005. Their plottings are on the same chart that I am using now.

Fortunately I recalled that we can cross link the bowthruster battery to the generator, and it was with immense relief that I heard it rumble into life.

Breakfast of Bircher muesli and fresh baked rolls with butter and honey. Sadly Mark saw his again shortly afterwards. It's an unsettling big sea.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Exploring Lisbon

Today I woke ridiculously late at 09:30 after vivid dreams involving boats, driving a Landrover across boggy terrain and rescuing a strange floating ice sculpture on a rocky coast - probably St Mawes. It was all so real that even at breakfast I was still concerned about what I had done with the Landrover keys!

Mark then set about changing the oil in the new engine, which seemed to take a very long time, and I did my bit struggling to get the oil filter off, and devising a strap lever to do it.  No success there as it had been spray painted into the engine! A call to John at MarineTech put our mind at rest, as the filter is good until the first proper service after 12 months.

Then at last we could set off into Lisbon, catching the little coastal train which costs just 5 euros return for the half hour ride.   Once in Lisbon I could see just how huge the river is, with ferries to the other side travelling the same distance as crossing the Solent.  Much of the waterfront was being torn up and improved, but we soon came to magnificent buildings and the most enormous square, Placa Commercao, dominated by a great statue of Saint Vincent, I think,  with his horse trampling a nest of great snakes beneath its hooves.

Mark had been there before and guided me through little crumbling streets and alleyways, past tiny restaurants and cafes, and up flights of stairs, steeply climbing walkways and tunnels until we popped out on the terrace at the top of Alfama, overlooking a great sweep of roof tops down to the waterfront.  A little formal garden with shady parapet walkway led to a higher terrace where I could wipe the perspiration from my brow and enjoy a, much longed for, cold beer.   Mark was very patient as I set to sketching the great sweep of buildings in front of us.  As dusk fell I had to rapidly convert my painting into a night scene with all the different lighting emphasis. A second beer was very much called for to carry this through.

Lisbon's streets as in Cascais are all paved with little black and white blocks of stone about an inch and a half each side.  The patterns are lovely square edged shapes in some streets, but in larger spaces and wide streets  there is a superb pattern of alternating black and whit waves.  Seen from one angle they produce a convincing illusion that the streets are deeply rutted, and that one must be careful to avoid stumbling over the raised ridges. The astonishing amount of labour need to accomplish this iss quite mind boggling.  I picked up a couple off pieces from a damaged area, and was surprised to find that they were blocks rather than tiles, as I had hitherto imagined.

We caught one of the flock of ancient and picturesque trams and came down from the heights with a great screeling of metal wheels on metal rails as we rounded the corners.  I smiled at someone enjoying a ride in the opposite direction, as we were both videoing each other's tram passing, and as we came to a halt alongside she reached out to me and shook my hand. A brief encounter!

Thanks to arriving, euphemistically, on much more solid ground at last, I was really looking forward to enjoying some Portuguese cuisine.  We walked a very long street lined with restaurants, tugged, cajoled and importuned by the doorman of each to enter his fine establishment,  The range of languages tested was impressive, and eventually we gave in at one owned by Luis, who got us sat down and hooked with a complimentary glass of port before proffering some rather disappointing well-thumbed laminated picture menus.  Nonetheless once he presented the platter of fresh fish we settled on sole and grouper, and very much enjoyed the dishes once they appeared. I took the risk of  enjoying a half bottle of Dao white wine, which was bliss after almost two weeks abstinence.

Meanwhile Luis had triumphed over all his competitors by hooking a group of 14 Dutch tourists who settled in noisily next to us.   It was time to leave!

On the night train back to Cascais I caught up on news on my phone and, reading about the parlous state of American politics, was reminded that although Hilary was corruptly using a private email server, the other candidate seems to use another method of sending signals through the fog of campaigning.  These are foghorns which I found in a chandlery in the Isles of Scilly !

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

A relaxing day in Cascais

We had a relaxing day in Cascais, enlivened by the arrival of visitors Tamsin Isaacs and friend Alex, who took us through the streets of Cascais to have breakfast in the delightful House of Wonders.  this colourful cafe serves a wonderful array of vegetarian and fruitarian treats.  In the light of tummy troubles I opted for the safe option of a big bowl of yoghurt, wisely refusing the granola, but for better or worse still had the mango chunks  Of course coffee was out of the question - orange and maracuja is lovely.

Later on we completed port formalities ad paid or fees, receiving a presentation bottle of wine as a welcome gift.  Outside the heavens opened briefly - November weather had arrived.

With the lure of the big blue and white lighthouse nearby, I set off to explore and sketch.  The Farol Santa Marta lighthouse museum was excellent with great displays of Fresnel lenses to focus light.  Amazing how a small light bulb can be concentrated into a bright bean to sweep across the sea.  Next door is a fascinating palace or mansion house, with lovely walls of blue painted tiles showing great scenes, ad little balconies out over the rocky inlet giving views of the lighthouse.
Across the inlet a convenient cafe gave a great view of both buildings, and sheltered from the rain showers I settled down to sketch.  Midway a cheese omelette seemed a good idea (although medics please note that I didn't touch the salad!)

I made it back to the boat just as the sun set dramatically behind the lighthouse,

Tomorrow, all being well, we will probably set off on our 3 day voyage towards Madeira.  We take individual watches of 4 hours over the lengthening night, trying to keep the sails trimmed for maximum speed, but motoring if the wind falls too light.

Our battery banks give us about 6 hours operation at the power consumption of the freezer, autopilot and other instruments at night, and longer in the day with the solar panels. If it's very windy the wind generator makes a big input, but with the wind behind us at moderate strength it doesn't keep up at night.  A water driven version is supposed to get round this, but that we do not have. So often we run the diesel generator for an hour or so to get everything charged up - it can be a surprise to those asleep in t forward cabin to have that leap into life under the bunk.  Sorry about that Niall - should have warned you !

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Sailing to Lisbon

We set sail from Oporto on Monday morning, but with no wind were forced to motor all day and night. Finally got some wind at 4 am and lay close hauled down south. Then as we approach Lisbon we have a lovely 20 knots but right on the nose with current against us it took ages to make any distance.

Sadly my guts are still playing havoc with my body. Ho hum!


The entrance to the Douro River and Oporto was a lovely sight in warm afternoon sunshine with an avenue of palm trees along the waterfront making it feel really foreign. Up river the gorge narrows and is spanned by many bridges, the first giving a huge 60metre clearance.
We moored up in the very welcoming Douro Marina, and met up with Mark's friend Frank Verheijen. He whisked us of in his car along the waterfront and up the gorge to the most spectacular city. The buildings cling to the cliffs rising high above to grand buildings set high on vertiginous drops. I hopped out to sit on the riverbank and sketch whilst Mark got a city tour.
The river flows at a great rate through the gorge, setting up standing waves like rapids. Through this power the trip boats, built on the design of the long elegant barges that carry the barrels of port down river. Along the bank, original barges are moored, their long steering oars trailing in the current, angled down from the high steering platform above the precious cargo. Flags fly from the barges with familiar names such as Sandeman.
As the sunset I packed up and headed across the bridge amongst the throngs of visitors to meet Mark and Frank at little restaurant set into the walls of the town above the river. What a spectacular spot to sit and eat dinner. Fantastic!

The following day I fully intended to head back to explore Oporto, but was laid so low by gastroenteritis again (3rd day) that I couldn't manage it. However in the evening Mark coaxed me into the dinghy and we went up river to view the city again. Well worth it!