The next phase was to prepare to be on our own to continue onwards to be in Gran Canaria to make the start of the ARC. But first to go to Porto Santo which is close to Madeira, a passage of 500 miles or so. The Biscay crossing made us realise that the night watches took their toll and fatigue made decision making sub-optimal. We again took the decision to find at least one other crew member and put the advert on Crew Seekers. Unlike last time we had little response so by Monday we sent an email to the webmaster of “Lagos Navigators”, a well known site for the Lagos ex-pat sailing community. We were delighted to meet Kevin, who joined us for the trip.
We set off on Wednesday, 11th September with fair weather predicted. As usual the rolly first couple of days were not conducive to fine dining and all the crew had little to eat as stomachs adapted. We had a fine sail on the first night as the wind freshened but by morning we were making little progress. Downloading the weather GRIBS on the satellite system showed that if we were going to make it before a big blow set in we would need to get a move on. The mighty Yanmar was put into action and we made a comfortable 7 knots towards Porto Santo. We adopted a two hour single handed watch system and this was comfortable. We saw very little shipping and the only interesting encounter was from a large tanker who called us on channel 16 to ask if he could pass us starboard to starboard. Initially I was a bit taken aback to hear “Sephina of Beaumaris” called out on the VHF but realised he had a name from the AIS transmission. I dutifully obliged, as he was a lot bigger than us. We also briefly heard two yachts talking to each other on VHF but never saw them. It turns out that they left Lagos on the same bridge opening as us. We arrived at 4am on Saturday morning just 2 hours before the blow set in. Result. When we had slept and checked in some 6 hours later the two mystery yachts were chatting about how awful the last part of the journey was. Thanks to the broadband satellite internet connection, the large engine and some luck, we avoided taking a pounding.
First thoughts on Porto Santo were not encouraging. Very little happening, “one horse town” and nothing near the marina made us question why people raved about it. Luckily we met a taxi driver who offered to show us around the island for 50 Euro the next day. This was a delightful trip and made even better by the personal narration of Antonio who was 75 and was able to bring alive the changing face of the life, culture and traditions of island living. Antonio left us at a great beach-front restaurant to reappraise Porto Santo. It was a peaceful hide away with idyllic sandy beaches without the usual trappings of tourist beach life. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to last long as the big developers have gobbled up sea facing land and only the global recession has kept the builders away. Long may this continue. Next stop Madeira.