Saturday 16th September arrived and the time had finally come for us and Kindred Spirit to leave Cadiz, mainland Europe and begin our longest trip to date to Porto Santo Madeira. We topped up with water and loaded KS with food and on the morning of our departure we filled up with diesel. Motoring all 600 miles would be just about achievable but not desirable. We had met a lovely English couple who lived in Cadiz and owned a yacht called Strange Magic and they came to wave us off not quite at Portsmouth level but really lovely thank you.
The initial wind was light and on the nose so after beating for 4 hours we reverted to engine assistance as the tide was beginning to suck us into the Gibraltar straights towards the Mediterranean. We motored for 5 hours until the pull of the med was negligible and the ships entering and leaving the med were few and far between. This did give Geoff an opportunity to refine his sextant skills. We had made a menu for our 5 days at sea and spaghetti bolognese was first on our menu. The first night was initially good sailing with 3 reef main and 1 reef jib and we maintained 5-5.5knts but the wind dropped and at 1am we had to use the engine again. The nights were very dark and long with sun setting approx. 19:50 only a slither of moon spotted at about 4am but the stars and the Milky Way were amazing.
Sunday started with a lovely sunrise and a few playful dolphins but due to the lack of wind and the ever-building sea the ride was very rolly. The wind as forecast eventually arrived and Kindred Spirit was sailing at her best, with wind slight abeam and 1 reef we maintained a steady 7-8knts. This euphoria of ideal conditions was short lived and by 16:00 both wind and waves had increased so we put a 2nd reef in the main and reef in the jib with Vera (the Hydrovane) expertly steering. AS night fell we ate dinner smartly and by 20:00 had 3 reefs in the main and 2 in the jib, our smallest sail combination. I was on first watch and by 23:00 with Vera steering, speeds averaging 8kts, occasionally touching 11kts and having had numerous waves over the side of the boat we decided to go below decks. For those non sailor types we didn’t just go below to sleep. We went below and monitored our course and the AIS (Automatic Identification System) from our chart plotter in the cabin.
The AIS system warns of any vessel in a 0-25-mile range and is compulsory on any large ship and lots of smaller (like ourselves) carry transponders. We physically went on deck every 20 mins to check for any smaller vessels that may be near. We encountered 2 ships and passed within 1 mile of each close enough when they could be up 250m and just under 20,000 TEU.
Day 3 Monday dawned and the nights adventure was soon forgotten as the waves and wind moderated. We spent most of the morning catching up on sleep and while checking the boat over found a bolt on deck but no obvious location! Lunch on board KS at sea is normally rolls or wraps as they are easy to prepare and can be eaten from a bowl for least spillage issues. On the first night I had attempted to use the SSB for weather grib file download but had been unable to contact any station and used instead our Iridium Go. SSB radio and pactor Modem are a free but a slower method of data download and emailing at sea while the Iridium Go uses satellites and are quite expensive approx. £5 a minute but can be used to make phone calls as well. The SSB radio worked beautifully on day 3 possibly better atmospheric that day but I consider having both SSB and iridium Go essential for our long offshore passages. In fact, we used the Go to call Matthew and Joanna for a quick chat. The evening arrive and Geoff went off watch at 22:00 but at 23:30 called him up there was a strange white strobing light that was not on AIS and not showing on Radar. We never did identify the light and beyond the light was a larger ships lights, we were slightly perplexed as to why we didn’t see such a large ship on AIS sooner.
The 19th Septembers dawned with light winds so we shook out the reef that we put in each night and poled out the jib for a true downwind experience. It was then that we noticed that a batten had come detached from the car on the mast and with closer inspection we noticed the location of the bolt we had discovered yesterday, mystery solved.. The mainsail was dropped and the car fixed. After lunch, we settled to complete a crossword puzzle, not the easiest task if you know about my spelling and Geoff’s is worse. Looking up the mast notice our VHF/AIS areal was swinging around and may answer why our AIS was only picking up boats at close proximity. The sail come down and I went up the mast 20 meters above the sea in a atlantic swell, it was pretty tense. Anyway, the aerial was loose and I was unable to fix it at sea so brought it down. We had a second problem with new mainsail the headboad had a rough edge and had chaffed through the tape attching headboard to car on the mast. Geoff went up to the boom and fixed some dyneema in its place until we have it repaired in the Canaries. Just as we were patting ourselves on the back for jobs well done we notice an unpleasant smell on deck. On inspection when we had exercised stopcocks and valves we had left the forward heads (toilet) to black tank. This means for the past week we had been pumping all toilet waste and water into the tank and it was now full to overflow. We pumped out the tank and learnt a lesson. We checked our VHF radio and AIS and were happy they both functioned but with a shorter range. I had an anxious night but encountered no ships.
The following day we were excited as it became clear that we would reach Porto Santo today and at 12:15 we had sailed 2000 miles since leaving Portsmouth almost 3 months ago. The wind was perfect and we eventually reach Porto Santo at 17:00. Once we had tied up we received the sad news that my dad the lovely Brian Evill had passed away. He had had a bad health year but had supported and encouraged Geoff and I in every way he could to achieve our dream. He was truly inspirational.
We signed in with both the marina and police and walked towards the boat. We met another couple from a yacht called Twenty Twenty Jan and Pete, they are with the ARC+ crossing the Atlantic but via Cape Verde. They invited us to their yacht for a glass of fizz as this too was their longest off shore leg. Looking around the marina we saw the most ARC 2017 flags so far and almost all visiting yachtsmen and women were heading for canaries and intending to cross the Atlantic in October or November. Everyone was friendly and chatted about their experiences and their future plans.
21st September we spent in Porto Santo, we cycled the long road to town and ate lunch in a small cafe. Porto Santo is a small island just east of Madeira and famous for long sandy beaches and given more time we would have explored further but our future plans had changed as we need to get to Canaries to get home for dad’s funeral. We spent a lovely evening on KS chatting to Pete and Jan about life in general and not all conversation was about sailing for a change.
The following day we motor sailed with jib only to Madeira, the wind was light and seas rolly. The previous day I had gone back to the top of the mast and manged to reconnect the VHF/AIS antenna. As we sailed away we had a successful 3 mile radio check with Twenty Twenty and our AIS signal was picking up ship over 20 miles away, thankfully. We had decided to stay in a marina slightly away from the capital as it was less busy and larger spaces. Marina Qinta Do Lorde is purpose built as part of a holiday complex, on the side of a cliff. The marina staff met us in a rib and guided us to a very ample berth. We had just 2 days in Madeira before heading to The Canaries. On the following morning, we caught a bus to Funchal the capital city of Madeira. The bus took 1 hour 20 mins to cover 12 miles (direct) but did see each village on the way. When in Funchal we had to go to its highest point via cable car and the slide down in a wicker basket with only 2 men slowing us down. We walked around the pretty town and only just made the Madeira wine tasting tour as Funchal shuts at 13:00 Saturday including tourist attractions. We ate lunch in town and caught the last bus back to marina at 18:15.
The following day we checked the weather for our next trip 300 miles to Gran Canaries and booked flight back to UK, topped up the tanks with diesel and water and prepared ourselves for the final part of our journey.
On Monday 25th Sept We left Qinta Do Lorde at 10:00 and had good wind and speed for the first part of the trip. We were joined by dolphins and a tiny bird that hitched a lift for about an hour then flew off after resting. (We are still identifying it, Hilary)
We reefed down at night and kept a close watch as there are 2 small uninhabited islands (Selvogem) on route and we intended to take them to the east but a wind shift changed our mind and we pass to the west. We never saw an island or a lighthouse.
Early on the second day the wind had decreased and we decided to use the engine. We do feel like cheaters when we switch the engine on but we needed to get to the Canaries ASAP. We had sailed from 22:00-09-00 but once again the conditions made motoring the best option. As we sailed towards Gran Canaria we encountered many large ships on the AIS indicating this was a very large commercial port.
As we turned into the port this fact was confirmed with lots of large ships and many drilling rigs moored throughout the harbour. We also spotted flying fish for the first time just a couple but this was a sign that we had truly moved south. Entering the marina the staff were very helpful and found us a temporary berth as we had arrived earlier than expected and our reserved berth was not available yet. We will be staying in this marina for 57 nights and Geoff was pleasantly surprised with the cheapest (by far) marina fees of our entire journey. We spent the next couple of day securing the boat and were able to move her to our permanent berth on Friday. This moved required us to berth stern too, Mediterranean style for the first time. We Secured Kindred Spirit and returned home on the following Saturday.
We felt incredibly proud that we had made it this far, and I know my dad would be very proud too. The next phase of our adventure is preparing ourselves and the boat for the Atlantic crossing.