(It is a really mad, bonkers, crazy, stupid life living aboard a yacht! – there, I have got that out of my system. Now, where was I?)
Friday 9th November
So, having tried to leave ‘Velcro town’ and failed, we decided to make the best of things and enjoy Lagos – an early morning walk on the beach then back to Magic to take her from the visitors pontoon back to her berth on J11, then a swim and chill out in the sun by the pool and dinner in town with friends. We were happy with our ‘delay bonus’.
Our new friend Pam, who loves dogs, said she would be happy to take May for a few hours and she was so professional about what May was like and how to care for her.
We relaxed – a break from May sitting and the boat.
Nisse was taking in some rays on the aft deck so Mark and I packed a towel, put on our swimming costumes and headed to the pool – only a few minutes walk away. I had taken my phone with me, it rang just as we left the security gates. I noticed it was a local Portuguese number. The voice said, “Hello, is that Tina Davies from sailing yacht Magic?”
“Yes, it is” I said – then the person said “is that Yacht Magic on J11?” again I confirmed the information “Yes, that is correct”
I was thinking, how odd – then the voice said – “this is Marina de Lagos we have to tell you to return to your yacht immediately as Magic is taking on water and is sinking in the Marina now” – just take a moment to let that ‘sink’ in.
How would that feel?
You are standing moments away from your home, in your swimming costume about to have some relaxation time and suddenly you are told that your home is sinking!
I turned white and told Mark and we both started running back to Magic. We could see from where we were that Magic didn’t seem any lower in the water. I still had the woman from the Marina on the phone. I told her it didn’t look like Magic was sinking and she confirmed that it was a reliable report, a person from Blue Water had called it in – they are chandlers near where Magic is moored on pontoon J11. The man had called the Marina office and said that Magic on J11 was taking on water and was sinking. I said to her that Magic clearly was not sinking and then – she started to laugh! I couldn’t believe it … I thought, surely this could not be a joke, and nobody we know would do that, as it is not at all funny. At that point the Marina staff arrived in their small boat at great speed with walkie-talkies chattering. They were looking at us and at Magic – they seemed very concerned and also confused. “Magic isn’t sinking?” they said. “No, she isn’t” we said, stating what was obvious for all to see. Then someone called them on their radios and they were gone. And that was it – we didn’t hear anything from them again that day – no explanation, no apology nothing. As it turns out the report to the Marina office had been that a boat called, Big Blue on G1 was sinking. Portugal at its best.
We went swimming.
Saturday 10th October
We waited for a new set of weather information before we could leave Lagos. It rained and rained but it is interesting now, understanding the weather more and more each day. Rather than complaining about the rain I found it interesting – and I could relate it to the weather forecasts we had been tracking for days.
This was the tail of the Atlantic low that had been curling its way northwards. There is so much I have to learn about the weather but I am enjoying it and it helps to feel more secure at sea. Mark and I even find ourselves chatting about weather systems – weird.
Nisse and Mark were like caged bears. One minute they were frantically prepping the prep they had prepped for our journey then there they were both sitting quietly looking into space. “What are you guys doing?” I said when I saw them trance like – “We are waiting!” they both said.
After lunch – just as forecast the rain cleared and the wind changed direction “time to go” we all said at once. So we shut the hatches, unplugged the electrics, turned off the gas, prepared the fenders and mooring lines…engine on – bow thruster on – slip the lines – this time we are going… As we passed Lynn and David on Scarlett and Andrew on Andromeda they all waved and wished us fair winds and Alan came out to wish us well too with his air horn – then as we passed out of the Marina into the river we saw Pam and Roger our new friends – how lovely our friends old and new came out to say good bye – and we thought we were making a sneaky subtle exit ….we will miss Lagos.
We traveled safely under the bridge.
Then following a quick stop on the visitors pontoon to pay for our extra nights – and to enjoy a surprise extra farewell from Pam – we were away into the afternoon light, 240degrees – towards Madeira. We decided to motor as the night was fast approaching, and with the wind on our nose for a few hours we were unsure how quickly the weather conditions would change and we wanted to make a good start.
All went well and we soon were into a watch pattern – Mark and Nisse are a fantastic team and I am first mate, chief cook and bottle washer. We negotiated the enormous freight ships in the shipping channel for most of the night. There is a huge shipping ‘motorway’ for 25 miles that runs around the Southern most tip of Portugal. One of the ones we passed was a third of a mile long – he radioed us and asked if we could pass him to his stern – strangely enough that was an idea we had already had!!
Sunday 11th October
The sea was pretty bumpy and it was very difficult to get any sleep. By morning we were all weary. At 6.00am I came back on watch and enjoyed watching the sun come slowly up. After a long bumpy night it is lovely to greet the sun – there is defiantly some truth in the saying that the darkest hour comes before the dawn.
It’s Sunday morning – Nisse gets up first and has his usual several strong coffees and and I have had some tea. Mark is still asleep as he did the last watch before I came on at 06.30. All seems well in the world. The sun is shining and the wind is a brisk 15kn from the SW (not what we wanted, the forecast had shown it moving around, we wanted a NW but we will be fine) The Atlantic is at play with 4-5meter waves and swell (it was forecast at 3m). It is tricky to do much when
The boat is twisting and bumping so are doing what has to be done and not what perhaps we would like to do. Food is going to be ‘easy to do food’ – I am glad I cooked some meals in advance that I can just microwave and serve with rice or pasta. And of course thanks to Jackie I now know where all the supplies are – the snack cupboard is working particularly well! With the engine having been running all night we decide its time to sail – all sailors love that magical moment when you turn the engine off and all you hear is the water whooshing under the hull and the wind in the sails.
We check the lines – first issue of the day – I look up and notice that the main halyard has managed to flap itself around the mast and catch on the steaming light. In this swell and with the foredeck often covered in wave it is not ideal to have to go up there and muck about with lines. Nisse bounds into action, as Mark is still asleep. He puts on his safety harness and moves forward to try to flip and flick it free – but it is stuck fast. My heart sinks as I know the only way to release the halyard is the Boson’s chair. Someone is going up the mast – in this swell it will be horrible. By now Mark is up and before he has even had breakfast he is up on deck with Nisse discussing the issue – they both agree – someone has to go up the Mast – Mark gets the boson’s chair and Nisse preps the lines on the winch – I take the helm to position us down wind in an attempt to keep us more steady.
Expertly Nisse hoists Mark – I can’t look – the forces are big and Mark although safety harnessed to the Mast and gripping with his legs – is still being bashed. He says he is fine and Nisse continues to work the halyard lifting Mark up to the first spreaders. He reaches out and is able to free the Halyard, which I then pull in so it is tight and won’t do that again. Coming down the mast proves even trickier than going up as the swell makes the boat strongly sway. Mark is tethered to the Mast but just for the last few meters down he has to untie the safety harness that keeps him close to the mast, and with a wave bumping into our side he loses his grip on the mast and swigs out beyond the rigging and over the sea!
I shouted out so afraid – but he was in the Boson’s chair and held tight by the halyard and he swung back in thankfully with no bumps or bruises – it was all over in 30 seconds but I never want that to happen again and we certainly would not do that if we were just the two of us sailing even if it meant we had to motor all the way.
But the boys just continued on with the task of hoisting the Mainsail and then the Genoa. I sat quietly reflecting on this sport – this adventure.
Finally after all that Mark had some breakfast and we were all able to enjoy that moment when the engine is turned off.
The sun was out and although the sea was much more frisky than I would like we were taking a moment to relax and just be at sea with the sails perfectly set… but:
What now – what was that?
Nisse saw it first as he was sitting on the Port side on watch.
The Genoa halyard had come away from the head of the sail and the sail was falling down towards the deck and the sea. He went on deck and quickly and expertly brought the sail onto the deck. I brought us around into the wind to take any stress off the sail and turned the engine on. Mark helped Nisse stow the Genoa on the foredeck.
The tapes at the head of the sail that the Halyard clips to had both come away from the sail – with the sun the stitching on sails can become frail and we think that this is what happened.
How disappointing just as we had all the sails set perfectly.
As you might imagine nobody was up for a ride in the Boson’s chair to the top of the mast – the waves were still 5m. So that’s it no Genoa until Madeira where we hope we can find a sail maker who can do the work.
It is disappointing to have to motor sail but without the engine on and just the mainsail – we would be out here much longer than expected.
We have enough fuel as we have full tanks and extra tanks too. We will get to Madeira but it is disappointing. To add to the anxiety May has not enjoyed the trip – she is very anxious about the creaking and slamming and doesn’t like the movement in this big swell. May finally had a wee but hasn’t eaten or drunk a thing for 20 hours. I sit with her and drop water into her mouth but she just wants to snuggle in her bed with her bear. I think she is seasick. Poor May.
I do have moments when I think – “what the hell are we doing!?” but I continue to hope that these moments balance out with a higher number of moments where I think “this is the best time of our life” and then…..
We turned to our watches – we are able to do 2 hours ‘on’ and 4 ‘off’ and it works really well. Even Nisse is able to sleep. We are motor sailing so the noise and heat of the engine isn’t great but we are tired so we all do our duties and sleep soundly.
Monday 12th October
My watch is 12.00 – 02.00 a pleasant one with stars – we are all very diligent on watch – checking the radar, the visual and doing the log – 2 hours soon goes fast. Nisse comes after me from 02.00-04.00 then Mark from 04.00 to 06.00 – I think the boys gave me the lovely watch times. I get the bright stars and the beautiful sunrises.
Nisse came on deck at 07.00 looking rested – he tucked into his usual double coffee and tobacco pouch – in Sweden they take tobacco in a pouch that they keep in their mouth – strange Swedes! Nisse always looks like he is ready to work. He is a born sportsman and loves sailing. His mission – to get the engine off so we can sail. Our inexperience shows – I think we would have left the sail on the foredeck until we had a rigger fix it. Not Nisse, he goes up onto the Port foredeck where the Genoa is stowed – I watch feeling a bit helpless as the waves splash over us. Nisse is so competent on deck and so sure-footed. He retrieves the head of the Genoa and I gingerly step out onto the deck to pull it aft.
Mark is sleeping and Nisse and I inspect the sail – well Nisse does and I look on – learning. The stitching has come away – it gets damaged in the sun and rots. The sail was only in the sail loft a few months ago and so this wear should have been seen and repaired but it wasn’t – Fou Fou – the sail maker in Lagos – another example of his lack of care. Nisse gets out some pliers and the sail makers needle and waxed thread. He chooses not to use the ‘palm’ (a leather thingy that is put over your palm and works like a heavy duty thimble) He knows that with the pressure needed – if the needle slips from the ‘palm’ it can go into your actual palm and that hurts – a lot. He works expertly, quietly threading the head of the sail. He is hurting his hand with the friction and pressure but he keeps going as if not to notice – Nisse is super tough and it makes me feel like a city girl out of my depth. I ask if I can help and he smiles at me –“no, you couldn’t do it!” he says. I know he is right but I feel helpless and a little incompetent. As he finishes the job on the sail Mark arrives. We are both so glad Nisse is with us and we are learning a lot from his experience.
I offer a cooked breakfast – I hate the thought of ‘pink’ jobs and ‘blue’ jobs on the boat but it is true – so I go with it and do what I can do which is feed them well.
There is a massive swell and I am grateful that I do not get seasick – so I cook sausages and Swiss potato rosti (sounds more impressive than it was as the Rosti was Waitrose from a bag!) It is yummy and Nisse is hungry and enjoys it.
May has recovered fully – she has eaten and drank water and been for a wee – I am delighted. It has taken all of us a couple of days to get steady and orientated.
Mark is not so taken with his cooked breakfast – he takes one look at it and is immediately sea sick – Mark has felt queasy before and on this trip a bit but he has never been sick, ever. He looks – not sorry for himself but frustrated. Nisse and I finish our breakfast – poor Mark.
After breakfast Nisse is on a mission to hoist our repaired sail. Nisse and Mark take the sail forward. I take the helm. May watches. We take the boat 30 Degrees to the wind and reduce the engine speed. Nisse attaches the spare Genoa halyard to the head of the sail. Mark returns to the winch. Nisse threads the Genoa into the track on the forestay as Mark carefully raises the halyard from the winch. It looks like it is working. We raise the sail successfully and set a course for Madeira and then we do that Magical thing…we turn the engine off.
Bliss – we are sailing – the sky is blue with some small fluffy clouds, the sea is sparkling and we have a full Genoa and the main has two reefs in. The wind speed is 12kn from the North West – finally – perfect wind from the right direction with a good sea state. This is what we came for!!!
We thank Nisse for his work and reflect on how much we have to learn.
Pleased with our mornings work, Nisse says “206 nautical miles to Porto Santo” That means we should arrive by teatime on Tuesday – we can do 180 nm in one day at 7kn ish. He has a shower and changes into his shorts for a well earned sunbathe on the deck.
After lunch we notice the sound of sloshing water under our feet the saloon. Not good. We opened up the panels and there was quite a bit of water in the bilges – salt water. Now I am sure you will agree when you are in the middle of an ocean voyage this is not a scenario you would enjoy. We all set to work even though we were all quietly anxious. There was a determined and focused effort to first of all use all bilge pumps to extract the water – the nightmare would be that the electrics would be damaged and then second we had to find the source of the salt water ingress – could it be the new sea cocks we had fitted in Gib?
We got all the water out of the boat and then methodically worked though each area – every sea cock. The front area was all dry, the Port and Starboard Cabins were dry – we lifted every panel. So now we focus in on the Lazerette (the locker at the stern of the yacht) The locker is full of supplies for the ARC – bottles of water and tools and spares…it is full. This is also where water maker and generator were fitted – each requiring new seacocks. Also this is where there is a large hydraulic door that drops down and becomes a swimming platform. This door has been repaired twice – once in Holland by the previous owner and again in Sopromar the yard in Lagos. I was sure that it was more sloppy, careless work by Sopromar. It makes me so angry to think of the work we have had done – the hours of time and thousands of pounds.
We inspected the door and found a small amount of water coming in through the lower port side of the door. It may be the seal or the brackets but either way it is the door that Sopromar – ‘fixed’ — So we set up our bailing system to pump out any water every hour. The water was only coming in when we were heeling on our Port side – which unfortunately for us was all the time on this trip.
It was very stressful but we worked fast and well as a team to resolve the issue and we know what needs to be done to make the repair.
Mark and I felt very, very low, first the sail and then the ingress of water. The issues seem endless and we wonder when the part where you can relax and enjoy the sailing actually begins. Nisse says that ‘this is’ sailing….urmm
We put the pump outs on the watch notes and through the night all is well. Very glum.
As we predicted we will arrive in Porto Santo around 16.30. It is lovely to look at the plotters and see Porto Santo and Madeira near us. Just now it is 12.15 the clouds are breaking and the sun is coming out. We have 30 miles to go. Mark and I are feeling a little better.
Watches went well again last night with each of us doing our 2 hours on and 4 off. May is also settled into the routine and is eating and drinking normally. Mark and I shared the first half an hour of my midnight watch under the stars. We both feel it is really important to grab the beautiful moments when you can.
We reflect on why nothing works:
- The Genoa we had serviced ripped
- The New Generator doesn’t seem to charge the batteries
- The New Water Maker fills with air and stops
- The Hydraulic Door that was ‘fixed’ by Sopromar leaks
- The Yanmar engine that was fully serviced and coolant leak repaired – leaks coolant.
- The Iridium Satellite System doesn’t connect to get weather
To chill out we could always listen to music – but…..
the speakers that were set up in Gib now have a feed back hum.
Ah well, what do you expect from £50 000 of equipment, repairs and maintenance.
The issue seems to be that by they time you are properly testing stuff you are hundreds of miles out at sea and heading to a new country. The people that fix stuff don’t have to care – their clients will be long gone if any further issue arrives. We will have the Genoa repaired in Porto Santo and the rest will have to wait until we are in Las Palmas. It really is maddening to have to have repairs done to stuff that you just paid to have repaired or that is newly fitted. Grrrrrrrr
We have eaten well. I have done all the catering but I don’t mind, as I don’t get sea sick even down in the galley in a swell. The issue is more one of stability. It is tricky moving about when the boat is at 40 degrees one way and then to 40 degrees the other in seconds. You have to wear boat shoes to get traction and make sure the floor has no spills on it and you have to keep your feet apart and bend your knees – like a sort of surfing position. Then you have to use one hand to steady yourself – leaving one had to do everything else. The cooker is on a gimbal which means it stays flat and the boat moves around it so that is a great surface to put hot things on. The microwave is another issue! I had cooked meals before we left and they were frozen. This is a great idea as you can have delicious hot home made meals following a long day – good for moral. However.. There is a tricky maneuver where you have to first open the freezer – meaning that everything frozen flies out and skids across the floor and second you have to open the microwave door and slam in the dish shutting the door fast.
So far so good.
Then the problem arises when the very hot food had to be taken out of the microwave. The solution – open the door, put in a wooden spoon to secure the dish, secure foot position then carefully open the door and take the hot food out of the microwave to the top of the cooker where it can be flat. It is a major work out for your whole body cooking and doing anything on a boat whist in a heavy sea. We managed to have the following – cooked breakfast of sausages and Swiss Potato Rosti and also scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and fresh thyme, Spaghetti with Picante Bolognese, Sweet and Sour Port with Peppers and Rice, Brie and Pastrami wraps, Tri Colore Salad – and lots and lots of butterscotch sweets!! Nice. I do take a moment to think that I have understood the Galley well and have prepared well – I love feeding people (and animals)
13.45 Land Ahoy! As they say – whoever ‘they’ are.
We can see the misty rocky shape of Porto Santo 21nm ahead of us. Feels good.
Put the Moet on Ice!
Nisse says “lets have a ‘land in site’ Whisky” I said “good idea I will have a ‘land in site’ Bacardi!” Nisse replies “no, you cant have a ‘land in site Bacardi – that’s totally wrong!” We all laugh – we are a great team.
May Looks on, not so sure.
Humans are weird.
Everything hurts after 3 nights and 3 days at sea. Just the every day effort of staying up right works every muscle – especially your core. You also eat less and drink way less alcohol – Mark and I feel we have lost pounds. Then there are the bruises – my newly discovered hipbones were a joy to find and then ouch – they are now blue. Toes and fingers get bashed, heads bumped and skin chaffed – Mark chaffed his thighs clinging onto the Mast and Nisse got a blister on his palm fixing the sail.
We will be in soon calling Ch9 and asking for a berth for the night then tomorrow morning we will go to Quinta do Loarde where we will have to stay for a week to wait for the next weather window.
So – stuff is broken, we are tired, bashed, bruised and stressed – but as always we are learning a lot!
Isn’t sailing fun?
……Now, where is there a sail maker in Maderia…