Published: October 26th 2009October 26th 2009
Porto Santo - Madeira - Canary Islands (300 nautical miles)
We left Porto Santo on Friday the 16th of October, heading out about 10.30am for a very leisurely sail to Madeira, about 30 miles away to the south. We had met up with a couple of Aussies while we were at Porto Santo, Mano and Shelley who hail from Brisbane and we really enjoyed their company and learning from their experiences as well. All being well we were going to see more of them on our trip to the Canaries and across to and through the Panama.
It was a beautiful morning that we left, lots of sun, clear skies and a nice breeze, perfect for trying out the new headsail and hopefully being able to hoist the gennaker for the first time as well.
We were only about two or three miles from the marina entrance and we spied what I think might have been a couple of pilot whales just off the bow but they didn’t hang around long enough to be able to identify them positively but it added a bit of excitement to the morning.
We had a very cruizee sail south and
our new ‘heady’ was giving all indications that she was going to be a really worthwhile addition to our sail wardrobe so satisfied with that one, we hoisted the gennaker for the first time when the wind dropped right off. She sure was a sight to see, a brilliant turquoise blue and soooo big. Unfortunately, there really wasn’t just enough wind to really get it working but we played around for a while and I think that sail will also really come into its own. At least we had the culinary skills of Nikki to help us out with her new dish of pesto pancakes with ham which were absolutely sensational.
We arrived in the anchorage of Baia de Abra on the very eastern point of Madeira and dropped our pick not far from Small Nest who had opted to motor sail in a lot earlier than us to be able to capture some swimming and snorkelling time with the kids. The anchorage was pretty spectacular and it appeared that we were in the crater or part of a crater of an extinct volcano with lava tubes and other indications all around us. The water was beautiful and clear
but given the time of day we decided to wait until the next day to put on the fins and mask and have a bit of an explore.
We had planned to spend a bit longer in this area and explore more of Madeira before heading over to the Canary Islands but some close inspections of the weather forecasts changed our mind. We had also planned on visiting the Isles Desertas and the Ilhas Selvagens but the weather was going to be against us I am afraid. We basically had two choices, cut our time on Madeira short and make a run for it on Sunday or wait until the following Friday and hope for some good weather. The big problem was a major depression to the west of Ireland that was forecast to bombard the atlantic coast with huge seas with swells of up to 12 metres and send very big seas down our way.
We decided to head for the Canaries on Sunday, giving us three or four days clear to be in front of the weather and bunker down if need be. It was going to be about 270 odd miles down to Lanzarote, one
of the Canary Islands and we had estimated that was going to take us anywhere from 40 to 48 hours given our conservative cruising speeds. We had a couple of brilliant days in this beautiful bay, swimming and snorkelling, quite amazed at the number and variety of tropical fish around. Mano and Shelly also anchored up there and we caught up with them for a few drinks and later having a go at their little gaff rigged dinghy which was a hoot.
We headed off from the bay about 1.00pm and set sail on a bearing that would take us along the western side of the Isles Desertas which are essentially a couple of volcanic islands that rise up thousands of metres from the sea bed and as their name describes, are extremely deserted and remote, with just a couple of park wardens who live there, ensuring the very strict access laws are enforced to the letter.
We sailed on through the night making really good speed and covering lots of ground, not putting a reef in the main until about 2300. All was going well until about 4.30am when I got Debs up a bit early for
her watch to help me with some sails and no sooner had we got the boat set when it absolutely bucketed down. I hadn’t seen rain like this for ages and we certainly had not had rain like it before when we were sailing. The wind died away so we motored along for a few hours with A Small Nest just off our starboard side doing exactly the same as us.
As the morning progressed, the wind picked up and we were again making great speed under full sail. The unfortunate thing was that we wanted to make sure we were able to make Isle Graciosa during daylight hours as the pilotage book strongly advised against entering the channel and marina during the hours of darkness. As such we had to slow the boat down and we started a process of reefing and furling until the middle of the night when we went down to our third reef and no headsail at all just to allow us to make way and be comfortable but arrive when dawn had broken.
We ended up pulling into the marina at Isle Graciosa about 10.30am and were simply stunned at the landscape
around us. On one side was the massive cliffs of the northern tip of the Island of Lanzarote and the island of Graciosa was like a cross between a moonscape and the deserts sands of Africa. The small village surrounding the marina was made up of whitewashed flat roofed houses that either had blue doors and window trims or green doors and window trims.
The marina looked like the ‘house full’ sign was well and truly up and we tied up to what we thought was the visitors waiting pontoon only to find out that it was in fact the ferry pontoon and we were quickly ushered away. There were no berths available at all so we turned turtle and headed back out the way we had come and went and dropped anchor in a really beautiful bay about a mile away from the town. Close enough to walk to or close enough to head back in the dinghy.
We anchored in about 8 metres of water and were able to get set and sorted after the 270 odd mile passage. We went back into town that afternoon to dispose of some rubbish we had accumulated and to
do some shopping for food and drinking water and some beers, all of which we had run short off, seeing that we had to leave Madeira a few days earlier than anticipated. At first we were the only two boats in the bay but as the afternoon progressed more and more boats arrived.
We spent Three nights at this anchorage before being roused from our bunks on Friday morning by local authorities telling all the crews that we were not permitted to anchor in this bay and had to move off. The next anchorage was about half a mile back along the channel so there was a mad dash to get to that anchorage to try and get a spot amongst the quite large number of yachts that were already anchored there. The wind had picked up during the night and we ended up having to drop anchor a fair bit further from the shoreline than we had wished for but the anchor appeared to have set really well and as the wind strength increased all day long, we spent the day on board, riding the weather out, hoping for a break the following day to head down the
island of Lanzarote to a marina on the south side of the island.
There are more photos below