The highlights of the flight from Heathrow to Lisbon were the First Class BA Lounge courtesy of all those air miles Rob has accrued, arriving early and going right over Portsmouth, the Solent and Needles, our old sailing grounds which now seem a very long way away!
The taxi cost 60 euros back to the marina and Beyzano was as we left her. We rested for a day, bought provisions and checked the weather again. We left Cascais at 1000 on Sunday 2 October as planned, aiming to arrive in Porto Santo (island next to Madeira) just after daybreak on Thursday 5 October, a journey of almost 500 nautical miles.
Once we cleared the fish pots and got beyond 100 metres depth our only concerns were other shipping and the weather. There was a fair amount of large shipping entering and exiting the shipping lanes off Lisbon but apart from one event at around midnight the first night, we didn’t even see any other vessels for days. It was just blue skies and deep blue sea all the way.
We wanted a safe crossing and waited for a weather window which promised light winds but this also meant we had to motor more than we would have liked. With just 2 of us on board we feel it is prudent to sail during good weather rather than risk battling through a storm when we are tired.
Finally we had success with our new fishing tackle, catching the first non-mackerel of our lives! We set up the line, left it in the rod holder and within an hour suddenly the line started to run out quite quickly. We let the fish take the line for a while and then started reeling it in until we could see quite a large, beautifully coloured Dorado on the hook. Not expecting to catch anything, we had to find the lemon squeezy bottle with the rum in it, the gaff for landing the fish and clear the sink ready for preparing our catch. The fish made valiant attempts to escape but we managed to get it onto the stern, where it certainly gave us some ‘attitude’ until we struggled it onto the cockpit table (next time we will keep it on the stern to avoid the mess) and squirted rum into the gills. Soon after it was docile and then expired.
I strapped myself on to the stern as it was quite choppy and carefully cleaned the fish with sharp knives (choppy seas and sharp knives are not a good combination) spraying down the whole area with the cockpit shower. In fact there wasn’t too much blood and the fish was easy to fillet and skin, giving us 4 delicious portions which we refrigerated and ate within 3 hours. We had read that you need to gut, bleed and refrigerate the catch quickly as toxins are released into the flesh and can cause food poisoning.
That same afternoon a tiny sparrow landed on deck and spent what would be the last night of its life with us. It was really friendly and happily rode around the cabins on our shoulders but was so light we didn’t always realise we had a hitch-hiker. It wouldn’t take any food or drink though and was obviously lost. It spent the night under the companionway steps but in the morning staggered out for some last company before passing away. It was all very sad as it was such a character but when we were sure it was dead we had a burial at sea and said goodbye.
We had been sailing for a while but decided to drop the sails and motor through the night as the wind was predicted to drop to a speed where Beyzano lolls around with the sails banging and we wanted some sleep.
Rob rested and then did the 9-12 watch, I did 12-3, Rob then did 3-5 and I did 5 onwards. This worked better than the 2 on 2 off watches we tried on the way to Cascais. We made up some goody bags for the watches with toffees, popcorn, chocolate and drinks just to make the experience more enjoyable. Rob listens to his I-pod and tries to stay awake but I find I don’t feel sleepy on night watch anyway, checking for ships every 15 minutes and watching the amazing stars. The second night I stayed up from 12 through to 5 as I didn’t feel the need to sleep as much as Rob and I can happily sleep on deck during the day, whereas he can’t.
Although the wind was warm, there was still dew on the deck so we had to wear our mustos to stay dry. We had had a canvas cloth made up for our lee berth and this was a really safe and cosy place to sleep. Despite the noise of the engine and water gushing past, we both slept soundly.
Apart from the stars there was only 1 other event the first night and one which was completely avoidable. Another yacht showed up on our AIS as overtaking us but coming within 30 feet of us and in a vast empty sea that was unacceptable. They were showing both a steaming light and tricolour, which is rule number 1 on Day Skipper courses of what not to do as only when you are sailing can you show a tricolour at the top of the mast. As this is far higher than the bow it is more visible and a shame you can’t show it though. You are either motoring or sailing, not both. I became concerned that they were going to hit us but they didn’t answer my 3 calls on the radio as I tried to contact them to ascertain their intentions. They were going faster than us and were the overtaking vessel so the collision regulations are clear – it was their duty to keep well out of our way as they overtook. However, their course didn’t change and they continued heading straight for us. In the end, I changed course from 220 to 270 and finally they put on their deck light to show they were there or perhaps had seen us. After they were well past I turned back onto 220 and continued to keep an eye on them! All this could have been avoided if they had shown their helm early, by making a 10 degree change of course they would have assured me that they had seen me and were taking due action.
The next couple of days were quiet, with no shipping in sight at all except on the plotter and we continued to head for Porto Santo, reading, sleeping, fishing and cooking during the day. We also ran the water maker as we haven’t used it for a while and filled the forward tank so all 3 were full. Rob downloaded the weather files every morning and we checked the grib files. We knew the wind would pick up on Thursday but should be safely in port by then anyway. The sea temperature is now 27 degrees and is a gorgeous blue, stretching out to the horizon. It is lovely out here, in good weather! This passage has been our longest yet and good preparation for the Atlantic crossing next month.
We had a lot of entertainment from the VHF radio but eventually the singing and general racial abuse of some of the merchant navy shipping crew of others got too much, especially at 2am, so we turned the radio off for a while so we could sleep. Not really what we wanted to do but the inane behaviour was definitely something the Solent Coastguard would have put a stop to very quickly. This reminded me of when we came into Cherbourg back in June and we heard shouts of “Don’t follow me, I don’t need you. You are not my friend, go away! Don’t follow me.” It was obvious the ship’s captain thought they would be charged for being followed but the patient response was ‘the French authorities have requested we escort you’ and the radio finally went silent. We also heard a submarine calling another!