Velvet Lady adorns the wall in Porto Santo

It is an old tradition that sailors crossing the Atlantic Ocean and stopping off in the Azores should draw a painting on the harbour wall at Horta. This is meant to bring luck on the crossing and the more elaborate the painting the more luck it brings!

This tradition has also been adopted in Porto Santo, where the harbour wall is full of painting and logos of boats who have passed through on their way north or south between  mainland Europe,  Madeira and the Canary Islands.

Porto Santo was our destination as we set off north last week from the Canary Islands, and used the unusual light south westerly winds to our advantage for a smooth if slow passage.  We were accompanied by plenty of wildlife on the way, with two sightings of whales and plenty of dolphins playing with us both in the daylight and in the dark.  We arrived in Porto Santo at 3 in the morning and as we sat drinking a well deserved beer on the deck, Liz quickly came up with a design for us to commemorate our passage and hopefully gain more good luck for our next trips north.

Wanting our painting to be visible at all times, we could only paint it at high water, and so had to wait until 4 in the afternoon to start.  This gave the morning to have a look around the town and stroll along the sandy beach.

As soon as the tide was high enough we gathered a large amount of paint and brushes on the pontoon and Liz started.  She looked really at home as she mixed colours and painted directly on to the wall.  Not being much of an artist myself I was fascinated by how easy she made it look.  2 hours later and we had a stunning Velvet Lady design on the wall to commemorate our passage.

We opted for an evening meal ashore in Porto Santo, to try the local food and wine.  After trying the local hooch – Poncha, various types of Madeira wine and also Porto Santo wine we were ready for a good nights sleep before our final sail back to Madeira.

Knowing we would have to beat to windward for our last sail, we set off early.  The wind strengthened and strengthened, eventually becoming an unexpected gale from the south. Velvet Lady enjoyed being put through her paces at last, and with tiny scraps of sail up we were roaring along at 8 and 9 knots.  A bit of a difference from our slow sedate passage,  giving everyone a thrill on the last day!

Ocean Passages – last minute places available

After a winter of successful relaxed cruising in the sunshine of the Canary Islands, it is now time for Velvet Lady to start heading north for our summer season in Norway.  We achieve this over a number of long passages, ideal for gaining miles and practising navigation.  Some of the passages are long enough to count towards a yacht master ocean certificate.

The longer ocean passages have always been good sellers, and until recently Madeira to Azores and Azores to Plymouth were shown as Fully Booked.  With a last minute cancellation we now find that we have one place available on each of these trips, and are hoping that there is still time to fill these places over the next couple of weeks.

We started on our longer passages this last week as we made our way west from Lanzarote to La Gomera.  A great opportunity for milebuilding and a chance to see other islands in the Canary Island chain.  We spent three great days sailing around Lanzarote and La Graciosa, relaxing and enjoying the sunshine, before setting off westwards.  With a strong southerly wind we had a really fast sail the 140nm to Tenerife, we had hoped to continue west as far as La Palma, but another sneaky depression swung the wind around on the nose and we decided against a long beat!

After cruising down the east coat of Tenerife and spending a night in Bahia de Abona where we found a great spot  to swim and barbeque we headed for La Gomera.  Our favourite Canary Island and as it happened this week a favourite of the guests too.  The channel between La Gomera and Tenerife is well known for its wind acceleration zone, and this trip was no different.  As we sailed across the gap the wind shifted and gusted, giving us plenty of exercise in furling and unfurling the sails!

We searched the coastline with binoculars, looking for a suitable isolated spot to anchor for the night and ended up just west of the dramatic cliffs of Pta Gaviota, on the south east coast of La Gomera.  We spent a peaceful night swinging to the hook and listening to the surf breaking on the beach.  With no light pollution we were able to spend the evening star gazing as well.  Although there is nothing ashore here, we spotted two or three campfires glowing in the dark.

We used the opportunity of no wind on the last day to motor very close to the coast and take a look at the cliffs – if only we knew more about the geology of the area, but we took lots of photos.  In one of the bays we found a jetty, where a boat was delivering supplies to a lovely little hotel. We arrived in Marina San Sebastian at lunch time, leaving plenty of time to catch a taxi and head up into the hills to visit the national park.

Although there is a bit more travel involved in getting to and from La Gomera, a flight to Tenerife and then a ferry, it is definitely worth it.  We will be back again next year, and try once more to visit La Palma!