Solo Guests

the_beach_at_porto_santo.jpg

We were disappointed that Madeira hadn’t proved as successful for us as we would have hoped, and as we had no takers we were expecting that our Madeira Adventure 2 would be spent in harbour catching up on varnishing. 10 days  before the trip was due to begin, we were pleased and surprised to receive a last minute booking.  We felt obliged to ring Paul up and explain that he would be the only person on board, but if he was happy we were more than happy to run the trip with only one person.  This is our philosophy, if someone books and spends their money we will run the trip.  If not, no one would want to be the first to book!

Paul arrived and immediately felt at home on board Velvet Lady.  He owns a small cabin cruiser which he uses on lakes and canals in Ireland, and as a self taught sailor was coming to find out what it is like in the open ocean.  Without meaning to we gave him a ‘baptism of fire’!  Tootling along the Madeira coastline, the afternoon breeze set in – just a little more than usual and we had 40 knots of wind across the deck.  Thankfully he took it all in his stride and enjoyed the experience.  In slightly less wind on the remaining days we sailed 140 miles in the week including a visit to the island of Porto Santo, where Paul hired himself a scooter to go off and explore for the day.  Porto Santo, although only 30nm from Madeira is so very different, it is nowhere near as high and has the most fabulous sandy beach perfect for swimming.

The sea temperature is slowly getting warmer, showing 21 degrees on the depth sounder now and Paul became the first guest of the winter season to brave the ‘Atlantic Ocean’ for a dip. 

We try especially hard when we have only one guest to make sure that they receive the same service as if we had a full boat – Pauls words in our guest book show us it is worth all the hard work!

Very many thanks indeed for a very memorable trip.  I’ve been entertained, educated and wined and dined royally and achieved everything I wanted from this trip.  Also visited some interesting places as well as re-learning to ride a scooter!  Many thanks again and many years of wonderful sailing
Best wishes
Paul

This week sees us on the move once again as we head further south from Madeira to arrive in Lanzarote in time for Xmas.   As opposed to not being able to sell places in Madeira, we have had to turn people away from this trip at the last minute.  2 people tried to book on the same day last week!  We also now only have 2 places left for Xmas and 2 places left for New Year, both still attracting lots of interest, so if you’re thinking of coming, book soon to avoid disappointment!

Paper Charts

madeira_comp.jpg

I learnt to do proper navigation on a chart with pencil, dividers and Breton plotter many years ago before GPS and even before Decca. Many hours were spent with the handbearing compass and large cocked hat triangles as I learnt how to do three point fixes. I will always remember the advice of my instructor

More A1 eyeball and Less 2B pencil

When GPS was first introduced to yachts it was regarded with suspicion and even covered up with a tea towel during yachtmaster exams. Now it is generally thought of as being a very accurate form of fixing your position so why ignore it.

Chart plotters make it even easier by showing you your position on an electronic chart. We have both a GPS at the chart table and a chart plotter in the cockpit, for convenience and to provide interest without having to sit around the chart table whilst the boat is bouncing along.

Those of you who have already sailed with us will know that as well as all these gadgets and gizmos we always have a paper chart on the table and keep that and the log book up to date. Why – well its both habit and good seamanship. Although we do not run formal courses, we are always happy to give navigation lessons and let guests ‘have a go’ filling in the log book and working up a position on the chart.

We get lots of questions – and two weeks ago we were talking about not wholly relying on GPS in case the batteries go flat, there is a problem with the aerials or the GPS stops working. The question was How likely is that? Surely not likely as there are two separate units with individual aerials, power sources and cable runs, and Velvet Lady has huge battery banks.

Well the most unlikely things happen at sea, and within 2 days last week both units went down. The first to go was the chart plotter, we had been sailing down wind with a lot of spray, waves and some rain – the plotter is usually protected by the spray hood but not this time. The screen started to develop a small bubble of water which spread and spread until finally the screen was unreadable and proved after 3 days in the sunshine impossible to dry out. A quick call to the manufacturers informed us that one of the seals must have failed – no problem they say just return to us and we will repair/replace under warranty! Although designed for outdoor use, this unit clearly doesn’t like the weather.

We are doing relaxed sailing in Madeira at the moment and there are plenty of landmarks to use as we sail down the coast to be able to keep track of our position so the chart plotter not working is just annoying!

As we set off on day 2 of our trip last week, Richard went to fill in the position in the log book to find out that the GPS at the chart table wouldn’t give him a position, it couldn’t seem to find any satellites. After a quick check of the aerial and aerial run we could find no problem and so again figured there must be a fault in the unit. This one is a bit too old to repair so we are having a new one!

Just sending things in for repair isn’t easy when you are constantly on the move, but there are always ways and means! The guests last week flew home with the GPS unit to be fixed, the manufacturer has promised to turn it around within a week, and fortunately Richards brother Daniel is due to join us from Madeira to Lanzarote and will bring it out to us when he comes. He will also be armed with the new unit we have just bought on the internet.

Meanwhile this week as we sail along the coast of Madeira, it is definitely paper, pencil, hand bearing compass, depth, radar and a lot of A1 eyeball!

How big are these Waves?

how_big_are_these_waves.jpg

We plan our sailing schedule 6 months in advance and so base the timings of our trips on the average prevailing wind.  We always like to allow plenty of time for our Blue Water Adventures.  Time to cruise at the beginning; not be in a rush on the passage and time to explore at the end.  With a prevailing wind of light northerlies it could take a long time to sail downwind to Madeira, so this was accounted for in our 10 night trip.Last week as we cruised down past the Spanish Rias and admired the coast of Spain and Portugal the weather was as expected, light northerlies.  Velvet Lady sailed along at 3 or 4 knots and often we motored to make harbour.

Just as we set off from Portugal to Madeira, the forecast  was again NE 3 or 4 and we settled down for a long peaceful sail!!   Not to be, the wind god had not read the forecast, and by the middle of the first night we were reefed down to very small sails, racing down the waves at 8 knots.  The sails stayed this size for the whole of the passage as the wind continued to blow and the usual gentle atlantic swell got bigger and bigger. Axel described sleeping down below as ‘being in a washing machine’.  As it was actually warm and dry down below I prefer the description ‘in a tumble dryer’!

As the waves grew, we played that impossible game of guessing how big they are and taking a photograph!  We also discovered that we had a stowaway on board, when Axels travelling companion mouse made an escape from the cabin to have a look at the big waves.  Once she was discovered she insisted on having a good look around the boat, including a trip to the top of the mast in harbour.

mouse_at_masthead.jpg

We arrived in Porto Santo in the Madeira Archipelago, a mere 76 hours after we left Lagos.  No matter how long the passage, making landfall is always exhiliarating and there is nothing better than the taste of that first cold beer, rapidly followed by the second. After a day looking around Porto Santo and recovering from the passage we were on the move again, sailing to Madeira.  The forecast showed NE 5 or 6, so we expected a fast day sail but again the wind god wasn’t listening and with a force 7 up our chuff we surfed down the now 5 metre waves.  Velvet Lady rides the waves really well, and despite the wind being more than forecast we were never over pressed by the weather.  On our arrival in Madeira we met the owners of a 36 foot French boat who hadn’t been so lucky and really suffered in their crossing from Lisbon – breaking their boom in a crash gybe. 

John, who had come along to experience ocean passage making before committing to an Atlantic crossing commented that what he had learnt most was that it was not practical to ‘sail on the edge all the time’ like you do in day sailing.  Seeing this broken boom was a real reminder of the power of the ocean. 

Having made such good time we were in Madeira with two days to spare, but as the wind continued to howl we all felt that we had had our allocation of sailing and instead we should take the opportunity to hire a car and see the sights. 

We packed loads of the highlights in.  A visit to the colourful market in Funchal, a tasting of Madeira wine, a tour of Blandy’s garden, an uphill ride in the cable car followed by a downhill sledge on the famous wicker baskets.  We ended the second day with fish straight from the fishing port, gutted and cooked to perfection on Velvet Lady and washed down with the local drink Poncha,  Madeira white rum mixed with lemon juice and honey. 

We are now spending some time cruising here before heading down to the Canary Islands.  The temperature never drops below 18 degrees at this time of year and there is still plenty of sunshine around.  We still have a couple of spaces on Madeira Adventure 2.  and there is one remaining place on our next Blue Water Adventure from Madeira to Lanzarote – Why not join us.

See more photos thanks to Axel and John on www.flickr.com/photos/velvetadventuresailing