Monday, November 1, 2010

Rabat to Madeira

People did give us quizzical looks when we said we were going from Rabat to Madeira. I don’t remember asking why not. If I did, they didn’t have an answer. Madeira is mostly west and a little south of Rabat, and the prevailing winds between the two are northerly. Before we left, the forecasts all showed northerlies, except for a few hours of light westerlies one day, with harbor-closing swell forecast for Rabat after Thursday. We thought it would be a relatively easy 500-mile passage, so we left Rabat at high tide Wednesday afternoon.

At first it was everything we thought it would be: light air that required motor-sailing in the beginning. Then at some point in the first couple of days, we had good wind for sailing without the motor, and life was good. I even e-mailed the marina to be sure that it was OK for us to arrive a day early. We were keeping a westerly course so that when the forecast northerlies arrived we would be able to do some real downwind sailing at last. Then the forecasts — and winds — changed.

We got the westerlies, and they were light for the first few hours, but then they kicked up to 15-20 knots. And the seas started building with swell from the north-northwest. The Met forecast (a forecast out of the UK that we receive as e-mail on the SSB radio) gave the conditions and forecast for the areas we were crossing as “not gale.” That’s because all of the areas north of us were having gales or even storms. That’s why our swell kept growing.

In order to make a speed over ground in excess of one knot, we had to zigzag. We did this running the motor and with only the mainsail because with just the two of us we didn’t want to run tacking drills all day and night. That got our speed up to 3 or 4 knots most of the time, but it definitely lengthened the trip. I figure we made about 50 miles net during that nearly 24-hour period.

When the wind finally moved to the north enough that we could actually turn off the engine and sail, we were consistently making 6 or 7 knots, and John saw the highest speed of 8.3. That was great! The only problem was that the sea, which was 2 to 3 meters (6 to 10 feet) when we were motoring, became 3 to 4 meters. Solstice handles the seas just fine, but it’s noisy with lots of banging and moments of weightlessness. Not good for resting when off watch. Adding to that discomfort was that we were on a close reach or beam reach most of Saturday. (Apologies to non-sailors: the important part is that it kept the boat tilted at a difficult angle for moving about.) Märzen always had company on her settee since our v-berth was untenable. Now we hope she’ll sleep alone in her regular bed tonight.

The sail actually became pleasant again around sundown on the last night. Once we were in the shadow of Porto Santo, the seas flattened right out, and we were still speeding along. Unfortunately, we reached Madeira before dawn, so we drifted around until light. During that time we could have returned to the v-berth (one at a time), but it felt damp up there, and Märzen cried when we left her alone.

This morning, after we docked, I discovered that the leak we noticed in the v-berth during the passage extended along my side of the berth. No wonder it felt damp! The cushion and sheet are dry again now, but the weather here has been threatening rain all day, so we had to dry everything inside. Thank goodness for the dehumidifier. It wasn’t the only leak we discovered, so we’ll be doing some repairs before we leave here. We also discovered that the fuel in one of our tanks still has problems, so John will also be working on that. We promise that we’ll do some sightseeing while we’re here too, though, even if the photos end up looking like Oregon because of the weather.

The marina here, Quinta do Lorde, is quite nice and very quiet. The marina staff is also friendly and helpful. The best thing, though, was seeing our new friend Chris Smith waving to us from Avocette of Portsmouth as we finished tying up. We knew they were here, but we didn’t know if they’d still be here when we arrived. Even better, they invited us to dinner tonight!

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