It is 680 miles from Vigo to Madeira. The routing charts show that there should be wind from the northern sector for most of the passage down the coast of Spain and Portugal and added to that there is even half a knot of Portuguese current. So being pessimistic, even at a slow and steady speed of 5.5 knots we would expect this passage to take us 5 days. Just in case of bad weather we make the overall trip 10 nights to give us plenty of time. Well not this time. Strong south winds were forecast at the beginning of the trip so we spent 2 days sailing in the Rias. When we left Bueu, the forecast was for Westerly 5 or 6 becoming NW 4 overnight and for the rest of the passage. Sounded perfect, all we had to do was head south in the westerly and wait for the shift after the cold front. Well we are still waiting – we had southerly or contrary winds for the whole of the trip and Mick came up with the most apt description in his RYA logbook.
Velvet Lady – 8th – 18th November – 10 days on board – 32 night hours
Vigo – Bayona – Bay of Bueu – Madeira (abandoned) – Vilamoura, Portugal instead
678 nm, Max wind force 9, crew member.
With the wind always on the nose – and huge seas pushing us sideways it was slow progress. After 5 days we were only just south of Lisbon and it was clear we would not make it to Madeira in time for the flights back to the UK. It was time to be practical and look for an alternative destination where we could still get home from. Vilamoura on the Algarve coast of Portugal was the obvious solution. Only 160 miles away when we altered course and with a busy airport close by at FARO it would solve all our problems.
As soon as we made the decision and altered course downwind the motion eased and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. It was easy to move around the boat again. The sun came out for the first time in 6 days and Tom managed to get his sextant sights. It was even possible to have a shower. Turned out to be a good decision as the wind continued to blow from the south until we got to Vilamoura and has only just gone around to the north today!!
So what happens when we have to make a major change like this to our itinerary. We stress in our terms and conditions that all of our trips are subject to the weather and so it may be necessary to change destination. That said, this can happen but not very often. This is the first time in 8 years of operation that we have had to make such a large change It is also a condition of booking that you have travel insurance. We recommend using Topsail insurance because they specialise in sailing. They cover all the costs involved in getting home when you end up at the wrong destination or getting there when you have to join the boat in a different port.
Once we were in Vilamoura it was time to get on the phone to the insurance company, to the airlines and also to next weeks guests to start organising contingency plans. Two of our guests were going to fly straight back to UK, and 2 of our guests were going to fly to Madeira to finish their holiday as they had already booked hotels there.
When all that was done it was time to relax with a gin and tonic and Gerry did a fantastic job of volunteering to be barman!
Turns out it was a really good idea for us to abandon going to Madeira as the weather there continued to be awful. I feel very sorry for our two chaps who flew to Funchal on Tuesday afternoon as the plane had to abandon its landing and return to Lisbon. Madeira abandoned – twice!’