1100 BST 23rd June 2018
Once you set off into the ocean wilderness, with the elements driving you forward making an abort, a return, futile, you become gripped by the might around you. It is then that a butter boy asks “Why have I done this? Why am I here?” There is no help and no reassurance from any quarter for a single hander except ….
With modern technology there IS communication off shore.
Emails from two great sailors, James Robinson and Simon Abley, gave me everything I needed. Simple sensible messages from ‘been there and done it’ yachtsmen. I’m not saying that I was not getting there myself. Indeed I was! But their beautifully, carefully constructed messages were golden and just the confidence boost I needed.
Down below, wash boards in and hatch closed and bolted your cocooned. It feels all rosy, quiet! Of course I mean quieter. There is the sound of the sea rushing past as we make great speed downwind. The odd thump of seas hitting the hull and the thud as water lands on deck. But open the hatch and take a look … the noise, the power and the size of the waves advancing on our stern is another matter. I can understand being hypnotised. You watch transfixed by the Oceans might. And we were only running before a F 6 gusting 7. It had been like that for 24 hours. And we had another 24 to go before it even started to moderate and the seas were still building.
0945 26th June
We are still in Porto Santo.
Although I want to get moving again, I can’t, until my DHL delivery arrives. Charts and a Pilot Book are on their way from Mark at Charity and Taylor, Lowestoft.
There is a funny mixture of people here.
There is a very quiet gentle Irishman, Declan and his wife, on their Colvic. They have been joined by a young Brazilian, Leo, who now lives in Lisbon. Leo is here answering a find a crew advertisement. I would have thought it would be a frightening prospect to volunteer to crew on a boat and with a skipper I did not know. No disrespect to Declan at all. Another crew member, again a stranger, is yet to arrive. Declan’s Mrs is flying out of here. She gets seasick so does not do the long passages. They are bound for Lagos (Portugal). They were in the Canaries.
‘Have ya done a lot’ Declan asked me.
‘A bit’ I said.
‘Aren’t you worried about hitting things being all alone’
‘Terrified’ I said. To which he nodded sagely. Whether he was expecting bravado I don’t know. My stomach has been churning since I got here and that’s just because I’m thinking about the next leg every morning I wake up.
Some Germans arrived in the marina yesterday and we share a finger pontoon. They were efficiency personified and within ten minutes the decks were scrubbed, the sun awning was up and they were having ‘safe arrivals’ in the cockpit. I think the boat has been in Madeira with the owner for a while. The young couple joining the owner on board have flown in from Hamburg. At the end of the pontoon are three pairs of flip flops and a bucket of fresh water.
Talking about buckets! I dropped one of mine in the harbour next to the boat. We have three to four metres of depth at low water. I must go and retrieve it.
There is a French yacht across from us! A couple who’ve been here a month and are heading south. The little I’ve got out of them is that they are hoping to be sailing in the Pacific before too long. There is something tired almost comatose about him. When he said he would have to get back to France to work for the winter the penny dropped. That’s it! It’s exactly what he looks like! The gentleman is a ski instructor from Courcheval who is appears numbingly bored with his job.
There is the English couple on a Catamaran only suitable to sit nice and snug in a marina, occasionally venturing in to the bay to anchor for a couple of hours, before returning to shore power and fresh water. This one is not built for a seaway. He’s utterly hostile, breathing fire it looks to me. He is rather frightening. She says ‘Hello James’ and I greet her back. From what I understand they’ve not been sailing long. Their mast moves alarmingly at the mast step. Miguel, the 11 year polar boat building project, local gentleman, is trying to find a solution but, as he said to me, you can’t put right easily what was not built correctly in the first place. It’s just a poor choice of boat for what they think they want to do! If he, Englishman, would lighten up, goodness knows what he might learn in places like this from those around him! Perhaps he’s utterly charming and I’m missing something.
Miguel was the first person I spoke to in Porto Santo after the harbour staff. I was admiring his boat in the yard and he invited me on board to take a look. I wonder if it will ever be finished. The empty hull and deck, not even a bulkhead, arrived here eleven years ago. Miguel has rebuilt the deck so really it’s only the hull that remains from the original boat builder. She is completed inside and he seems to know what he’s doing putting practicality in a seaway first. It’s designed for living at sea. Miguel ‘talks’ a very good game.
There is a Spanish single hander anchored out in the harbour. He has a good-looking boat and he stopped to talk to me while I was doing my wall art. I liked him immediately. I invited him for a drink but he has not shown up yet. I’m hoping we will talk as he is hoping to go to the Azores too. I’ve just looked out in to the bay and he’s gone again.
My ‘Talisker 1’ wall art, referred to before, is now completed. Doc’s from 2003 has long since gone. I was rather sad about that. Anyway, ‘Talisker 1’ is on the wall for as long as the weather and crumbling render have their say!
2215 BST & Local Time 27th June
I’ve been helping Declan on ‘Liberator’. She’s not in the prime of life and is a bit of a mess! This boat has seen better times. His dodgy furling gear is back up, having been shortened. A new forestay was made for him in Madeira and sent to Porto Santo. When Declan put the forestay back up it was far too long. The rigger in Madeira says it’s not his fault. The rigger also says he has thrown the old stay away! He also says he’s lost the measurements. I don’t believe that. Rubbish! He probably knows Declan is not going to visit him in Funchal! It’s not a great story. I think the whole job should probably have started and ended, with the rigger, in Funchal. The boat needed to be in Funchal.
So the end result is the furling gear is now finally back up on the boat and sort of fits, thanks to help from the Porto Santo boatyard. However, the drum on the furling gear itself caused some concern and came apart. One piece fell in the harbour necessitating a dive school instructor very kindly agreeing to retrieve the part when he returned to the harbour with dive pupils after some instruction. That was very nice of him indeed. Anyway! Parachute chord, knots, gaffa tape, electrical tape have made it function. I do hope I’ve helped, though it’s been like the blind leading the blind. I’m sure Declan is a lot lot cleverer than he pretends to be.
Declan asked me about bad experiences at sea and thinking about it they have all been very close to land or a river bar. Long may it stay like that … please.
Declan’s other crew member arrived. A very nice Portuguese guy called Paulo, who has done some sailing. He is a very good sort.
Leo came and talked to me last night and I asked him how much sailing he had actually done! I’m sure he will learn quickly and he’s a good character with just the right temperament but with only three hours spent sailing, this voyage to Lagos is going to be quite an introduction to life at sea. Personally, I would not take him. I would gladly take him for a very long day sail because I think he will do well and has the right attitude. But a hundred miles from land after 20 hours is not the place to be when you decide it’s not for you, your fearfully sea sick, frightened and want to get off! I will of course be delighted if he loves every minute of it! Really delighted.
There is an Ovni. 40’ + and actually another slightly smaller one too, parked next door, like a pair of twins. They are not related, nor do they know each other, but the 40’ + owner has been exchanging pleasantries with me for days. We’ve been like a pair of mime artists. I thought he was German! All he talks is German. Well! He does have a delightful German wife, Marita, who does speak English. And they live in Germany. I discovered by chance Erik is not German … he’s French! No more mime! We can talk to each other. Hurrah!
Erik was very sensible about Declan’s boat. Erik pointed out that the shrouds were not right when the forestay had finally been re rigged. Erik quite rightly said they needed some adjustment. As Declan’s worst experience has been losing a mast at sea this was more than helpful. But it is a bodge!
My DHL package has not arrived. Well … it arrived swiftly in Madeira at the crack of dawn the day before yesterday. But it’s going to take four days to get to Porto Santo from Madeira.
As I was thinking of leaving tonight this was a bit of a blow. Perhaps it’s not! I’m told there is better weather early next week.
My German neighbours retrieved or should I say salvaged my bucket for me with typical ingenuity. I managed to hook it with my rod and line so that it was no longer on its side! One of the German gentlemen snorkeled, hovered over my bucket with a small 4 pronged tender anchor on some light anchor line, hooked the bucket and up it came. For a moment I thought there would be salvage rights!
I did not think ‘Talisker 1’ would ever be on the same latitude as Casablanca. Nor did I think I would have to have a cockpit awning. I have one, made for another boat, that’s doing a job. I just had to rig it up. I’m diving off the back of the boat and swimming in crystal clear water in the harbour. One could get used to this. Quite easily!
Germany are out of the WC. It was a surprise to see such a clueless group of players. Germany have been so strong for so long. The young girl friend of one of the German gentlemen on the boat next door actually wore a German football shirt in the marina bar where we watched them lose to Korea.
This evening another Swiss boat arrived. I took their lines as they came in to the finger across from us. Gosh I hate narrow wobbly fingers when you have nothing either side. I had to fall to my knees to take their stern line. Nice way to say hello when one is grovelling hanging on for dear life. Anyway job done. What was also nice was that SHE was driving the boat and HE was line handling.
They seem nice. And they’ve been to Shetland, Fair Isle and Norway!! We have something in common. They are also sailing to the Azores leaving in a few days time. SV ‘Lotta’ Shon and Liisa. We’ve exchanged boat cards.
My Spanish single hander is well and truly gone and probably nearing the Azores.
1130 Local Time & BST 28th June
‘Liberator’ departed for Portugal half an hour ago. I will be pleased to hear they have arrived safely. There is an overcast sky today.
Charts and Pilot Books still not arrived!
Charts and Pilot Book arrived!!
2130 29th June
Today I toured this beautiful island. Cheaper by 20 Euros than hiring a car is a taxi. I paid taxi driver Raymondo, born here and a very proud islander, 50 Euros for two hours. His parents and his grand parents were also born here. He was genuinely pleased and took great care to explain the names and history of the place. I guess a tour of the island is a regular job for the taxis.
The lea of the island is the longest sandy beach imaginable with Caribbean sea colour and hardly a tourist in site. Very little has been built here. There are a few hotels. I’m told that the Portuguese visit in droves in July and August. Other nationalities visit the island throughout the rest of the year.
I’m now ready to leave. Weather is not ideal.