Towards Madeira: Warm Weather Sailing at it's Best!

Unbelievable landfall in Madeira at sunset!

0527. Dark. You can see the Milky Way quite clearly. ISBJORN hurtles downwind under spinnaker. The sail is illuminated by the steaming light on the front of the mast to make it easier to trim at night. We’ve changed to a 4-on-4-off watch rotation, switching after dinner tonight, in order that Mia or myself is always up when the chute is up in the dark.

[Incidentally, after we arrived in Madeira, Andy posted this photo on Facebook, which started a very good discussion on COLREGS offshore, with comments from people like John Rousmaniere, Peter Johnstone, Olly Cotterell (ex-Clipper Race skipper), Mark Baummer (ship’s pilot) and more. Click here to follow the thread. The photo appears below in this blog].

What an easy passage (so far). We left Lagos on Monday evening after stopping right outside the harbor for a de-sweat swim before setting sail and pointing the bow SW towards Madeira. The wind was light at the start but gradually filled and and hasn’t left us yet, a steady north-northeasterly coaxing us towards Madeira. A welcome change of pace from the variable and mostly cold weather we’ve had for most of the summer.

Tonight marks our third night at sea. Besides having the spinnaker up, not much else has changed. A preview maybe for the upcoming Trade Winds Atlantic crossing? I hope so! The skies have been clear, the water the bluest blue I ever did see. Stars down to the horizon tonight. Even Paul thought he saw a ship off to starboard. It was a star.

I’ve almost forgotten what warm-weather sailing can be like. Shorts and t-shirts on deck. Bare feet. Just a sheet to cover with in my bunk, with the port open and the fan on for some breeze. Lounging on the foredeck to read a book and get some sun. This is easy.

I’m excited about Madeira. We’ll only have two days there - this mellow downwind ride is going to be a whole different story going back to Lagos against the Trades. But Madeira should be cool in the interim, and anyway the return passage is Future Andy’s problem. For now I’ll enjoy the moment and look forward to exploring another of the Atlantic islands. If it’s anything like the Azores, we’re in for a treat.

The extended anticipation is cool too. I think you’ve got to sail to these places to truly appreciate them. You’re missing something by taking a 90-minute plane ride from Lisbon. Sorry but it’s not the same. Likewise in the Azores. Yes, you can charter there in theory. But why would you! Horta needs to be earned. The charm of the city with it’s tiled sidewalks and centuries-old architecture. The sight of the whaling boats sailing around the harbor. The view from Peter Cafe Sport. You can’t fly to that place. Yeah maybe you can fly to the physical place, saunter up to the physical bar and order a physical beer. But that guy standing next to you who ambled up from the dock, who’d been at sea for two weeks across an ocean wilderness, who’s put in the weeks, months, heck years of preparation to do it safely and confidently and with style...well, let’s just say he’s not buying you a beer when he sees the luggage tag hanging off your backpack. You can drink your physical beer, but you’ll never quench your spiritual thirst like that. Worst of all, even as you slug your beer and admire the view, you know this.

Landfall in Horta in 2017 - we EARNED that champagne after 12 days at sea baby!

In this way, the Atlantic islands exist in two parallel universes. That of those who earned these islands, and the one of those who didn’t. The sights look the same. All the colors are there, bright. The flowers smell delicious in both of these universes and the fish tastes great. But in the universe of those of us who make landfall in these places, we who earned it, there’s a feeling in the air that’s reserved just for us. If you’re reading this having made a landfall of your own like this, you’ll know exactly the feeling I mean. If not...well, you gotta go and earn it.

Just 103 miles to go to Funchal now. Earlier on this watch we passed the 400-mile mark since leaving Lagos, each and every one of them on the same tack. With only 8-10 knots of apparent wind, our big white spinnaker pulls us forward at 6-7 knots on towards Madeira. I’m starting to fade now. Mia comes on in ten minutes, but I won’t wake her up until exactly the time. Matt and Paul have the watch, and it’s pretty darn mellow outside. In fact I might just let Mia sleep. Have them wake her up at the watch change to have a look around and make sure all is well onboard. Since heading up about ten degrees and trimming in the chute a touch, the sail hasn’t collapsed yet. I think we’ll be okay, but I don’t want to break anything, not in the dark (well, not at all!).

Landfall in Madeira under spinnaker. Doesn't get any nice than this! Don’t miss our @59northsailing Instagram feed for more awesome clips like this!

We’ve gotten some wild drone footage so far. I think we flew it five times today alone, including a dusk flight with the tricolor on that really got me excited. Some of the aerial photos we got of the white sail and the impossibly blue they’re cool.

Yesterday evening Matt and I had some fun in the bosun’s chair, hauling ourselves out to the end of the pole for a little swing around and some photos. The sailing itself is so uneventful that we’ve had time and energy to mess around with this sort of stuff. Tomorrow I think we’ll do celestial and some splicing for the same reason.

Kid at heart!