Sail from Lanzarote to Madeira

Last Saturday, September 7, we arrived safely in Madeira. We docked in the beautiful Quinta do Lorde Marina on the eastern side of the island.

The sail from Lanzarote to Madeira is on a NNW (North North West) heading for about 320nm. Prevailing winds are from the North East with waves coming from the North (mostly North Atlantic swell). Wind-wise the trip was great, wave-wise horrible. We sailed upwind all the time and from day 2 on were slamming into the waves. At a 8 seconds wave period (at best) and 2 -3m wave height it was a constant roller coaster.
8 second wave periods equal 450 waves per hour and maybe 5 or 10% of them are formed such that the boat’s bow lands hard when falling into the trough of the next wave. That’s about every 1.5 minutes. You are constantly prepared, I mean waiting for the next slam. Life onboard becomes a workout like in a gym.
You cannot walk, drink coffee, push a button on the chart plotter or do anything else without grabbing a hold or jamming yourself safely between something or sit down. The steering stands are wet. Especially on the lee-side hull, salty spray streams from the bow mixed in with some extra buckets of Atlantic water when the boat hits a bigger wave. Getting up on the forward deck always requires hooking into one of the safety lines and wearing foul weather gear.

Microwaved food is the maximum culinary delight you get in this weather. We prepare special food before we leave. ‘Special’ is such food that still tastes good even when coming lukewarm out of the microwave. Spaghetti with tomato sauce with some meat added or hard boiled eggs are ‘special’. We always make an effort to be well nutritioned and have energy reserves.

Slamming into the waves means a lot of stress for man and material. We had the main sail traveller breaking and after that cold not use this sail anymore. Thank God it happened towards the end of our trip. Twice on this journey we hove-to to fix things. Heaving-to in 2 – 3 meter waves actually worked very well for us. As soon as the boat is not moving forward everything becomes calm and stable. Good for working on the mainsheet system. We will install a bigger traveller system to add working load capacity. Nautitech seems to have undersized the Lewmar traveller cars. Lewmar’s recommendation for the size #2 traveller car, as they are installed on our boat, is to use them for main sails of up to 46sqm size, while we have a 72sqm main sail! In addition, catamarans generate higher dynamic loads on the main sail sheet compared to monohulls. So, they are clearly too weak from my perspective and experience.

Broken Main Sheet Traveller. Depending on who you ask, the safe working load is either 2 tons or 2.8tons.

Short before night fall on day 1, the Admiral noticed a little bird following us, flying low over the water barely making progress towards us. We slowed down the boat so he/she could catch up.

He soon moved into our main cabin and stayed in a remote corner overnight. We offered water and a variety of food but think he consumed nothing. A land bird 50nm away from the next tiny island ‘Selvagem Grande’ and 150nm from any other land appeared very unusual to us. We later learned that it was a Garden Warbler and some of his Canadian siblings fly distances of 1500nm over open water, nonstop obviously. Next morning the bird briefly entertained the Admiral by sitting on her shoulder. At first sunlight our visitor left.

I think many people, including me, dream of visiting extremely remote islands. As a first thought the Pacific always comes to our mind as the prime location for little islands. It never occurred to me that the Atlantic has many of these little surprise locations too. ‘Salvagem Grande’ lay 50nm to the west from our course and i would have loved to go there. However, in order to visit Salvagem we would have needed pretty calm weather and a special permit from Portuguese authorities to visit this nature preserve.

Remy, our intrepid navigator tries to will us there.

Later, I found a very well written blog by a fellow cruiser who actually sailed there in 2017: Salvagem Grande

Short before sunset we passed a threatening looking squall line on its eastern side but did not encounter any strong winds. The squall line had several fair weather water spouts. I have no experience with water spouts but since they look like tornadoes at their incipient stage I have a lot of respect for them and prefer to be far away.
Not more than 45 minutes later we encountered nice weather again.

On the third day 50% of the crew felt really miserable. I was a bit exhausted from long watches and pretty strenuous deck work. Luckily, ship traffic is very sparse en route from the Canaries to Madeira. We have a device onboard called Echomax, which receives radar signals from other vessels and sends them back amplified. The Echomax did not pick-up any radar signals around us for more than 24 hours, even not a far away land radar. Same for the AIS which showed no signals for an even longer time. At maximum range we often see a freighter’s AIS signal 50 miles away on our chart plotter. In this area – nothing. We were truly alone out there. So we kept a relaxed watch cycle requiring a 360º visual scan and sail check 10 times per hour or every 6 minutes during the night. That gives you a little rest in-between and allows to stretch your awake time way beyond the normal 4 hour watch cycle we typically use.

After a long watch the next morning comes and rewards you with a sunrise like this :

Short before dark, on day 3, we arrived in the Quinta do Lorde Marina in Madeira. The approach into the marina looked more narrow than I expected it from the charts and handbook. The fuel dock was non existent. We often go directly to the fuel dock at port entrance as a safe first choice, not because we need fuel. Normally, it’s easy to get there, tie up your boat and figure things out. But a storm some years ago destroyed a lot here including the fuel dock.

The marina entrance had strong gusts pushing us around about every 50 meters as we went further into the marina. The gusts shifted in direction by 180º or so. High cliffs surround the bay in which this marina is built. Catabatic winds fall down this cliff in some spots creating this unusual wind situation. Before entering we had tried to call the marina on VHF radio to get docking instructions without success. Regardless, on the entrance wall was the marinero trying to direct us, but he was very hard to understand in the wind. We simply continued to a space down in the marina where we saw a T-dock with enough maneuvering area to turn the boat if needed. Here, the marinero pointed us to one jetty further down where we nicely docked parallel to it. As so often, when you come into a marina, many of the fellow cruisers were ready on the dock to help us taking the lines. It’s always such a nice gesture and welcome. We checked in at the marina office and saved the formality part for the next work day. After 65 hours being underway we were dog tired but still hungry. We went to the local Captain’s bar, had a wine and a burger. We slept really well and long into the next morning.

Quinta do Lorde Marina. Try to find Lunara!

Next day was deck cleaning time.

We found this little fellow on the side of one steering stand, sadly too late to help him.

It’s truly beautiful in Madeira!

With appreciation, we often feel like ‘we have arrived’. Madeira, like the Canaries, is one of these magnificent spots where one simply feels good.

Small church in the marina. I personally prefer this simplicity in church architecture over opulence.

View from our first short hike to the north side of the island.

In the coming days we want to tour and discover the island. But right now, we are repairing (again). We partially disassembled the main sail sheeting system and traveller in order to find out how to add strength and order the right parts.
Main sheet traveller system

Speaking of ordering parts while on an island. Madeira is an island 600 miles away from Europe in the Atlantic. While fellow cruisers know what I am talking about, others might imagine ordering parts works like Amazon Prime in the US. Hmmm, not.

Most technical parts require very specific information in order to get the right stuff. That means you talk and email a lot with the technical support from the device manufacturers. Then you order from a supplier. Then you have to find the right shipping company. Try to ship by plane a 3 meter main sheet track (10ft). And then, depending on where you are, customs. For example on the Canaries goods could easily get stuck in customs for weeks.

We will handle it all, but more time is spent on things like that, than we ever envisioned.

Speaking of repairs. How did we spend our summer?
Aside from having our grandson for many weeks onboard, which was true fun and joy, we had to work on the boat. Here is a sample gallery of our summer projects for you to click through:

Underway to Madeira

And back blogging 🙂

Sorry, we had a long hiatus from blogging. We had family and many friends onboard plus the ongoing “technical difficulties” – like always.

We left 04:30 Lanzarote this morning and are heading to Madeira. We hopefully arrive in 3 days. It is a 300nm stretch and winds are not 100% in our favor. However, they are on the low side of our usual sailing, being forecasted to be between 5 and 15 kts. A clear plus not to have a rough sail where the ceilings drop down in the boat 🙁

I will write more about the past months while underway, as many interesting things happened. I’ll close this entry right now as we sailing away from shore and the internet will be gone quickly and then I can’t upload my blog entry anymore.


Sunrise. Island of Lanzarote behind us.

Boat Yard Blues Saturday

We are at ASCARS shipyard in Cartagena and despite it’s Saturday, the work continues. Quality of work so far is impressive and their willingness to understand what the customer wants is great here. Management speaks excellent english and is always outside on the yard to inspect the ongoing work on all the boats here. Large and small customers gets treated equally well.

I keep it short this morning as I have to return to the yard soon. These pictures were pre breakfast (mine). They start early here!

Below just some photos from ASCARs work

One worker per two consultants
Wood was used to support a thruhull. It is fingernail soft already. The black area under the wood piece is the gap (not allowed!). Wood will be removed and we laminate roving mats for reinforcement on the inside.
Plastic thruhulls require thicker laminates than this in order to be seasafe. Will be reinforced and replaced by a bronze thruhull.
Preparing another thruhull area for laminate layup

Boat Yard Blues

Boat yards have their Charme. Not necessarily in a warm and fuzzy feeling way, but interesting. That aside, we have some work to do. While the boat is messy anyway, we use the opportunity for repairs we didn’t dare to do in a clean marina.

The Admiral works on our ball bearing sail cars. Those are the devices which connect the main sail to the mast and allow it to slide up and down – or so goes the theory. Up yes, down not so much.

One defect and one good car for comparison

The Admiral cleans, inspects, oils and reinsert the cars onto the track. Very fiddly as the balls don’t want to follow the orders of the Admiral.

I dropped the rudders with the help of a friend. We want to inspect the shafts and ensure that we do not have any signs of damage from stray electrical currents. You might remember we had some wiring errors. We will also inspect the saildrives. All non bronze thruhulls will be exchanged in order to be safe.

Shafts and bearings okay. Relieved!

We are working at the dreaded windows again. They started to leak shortly after the repair in Southern France. The 1.7m long windows became unglued in heavy weather. Catamarans flex in waves and and the windows are simply too long. We cut them in half and glued the two pieces into the cutout. The cut center rests now on a fiberglas bridge with a 10mm gap. There should be ample room for them to move when underway. The glue becoming undone should be a thing of the past – I know famous last words 🙂

Our crash boxes had water leaking in from the so called dolphin stays. We will reinforce the area with some layers of roving glas fiber mats and should be fine afterwards.

Forward Crash Box. Note the 4 bolts lower right in the picture. Washers are not enough. Laminating several layers of roving fiberglas and putting a plate on top for the bolts (better load distribution).

I am heading back to the boatyard, got called and have to break of here.


Underway from Roda de Bara, Spain to Denia

Initially we planned to sail straight to Cartagena, Spain which is a 48hours+ trip. The weather forecast made it wise to to split the journey into two legs. Wind and waves for the second night were not what we consider nice.

I am writing part of this underway update during my night watch. It’s midnight right now (local time). By the time this blog update is published we will be in Denia.

The wind is variable from 2kts to 8kts. We have the port engine running.

It’s a very quiet watch with occasional commercial traffic. I prefer night watches with some action, as it is so much easier to stay awake.

At the moment one vessel is overtaking us. “Atlantic Island”, a small cargo vessel is catching us from behind with a 3.8kts relative speed. You can see him near the 3nm ring on the radar

But back to the beginning. In the last days before our departure we finally got some of the spare parts we needed. In the end we stayed 4 weeks in Roda de Bara and were very happy about the location, not so happy about the waiting. 

Roda de Bara

The marina facility is in good shape. The people in the marina and Capitaneri are very friendly. We met some cool liveaboards on our dock. And Francis from the local chandlery is a gem. We will return one day.

We explored the nearby  coastal town of Sitges, which we highly recommend, see our earlier post.

We also visited a large Cava winery. Now, for those who judge Cava by what they can buy outside Spain, please reconsider. Let me encourage you to try again when you visit Spain. We saw the cellars of ‘Freixenet’. The 1910 brickstone architecture of the vinery is set in a nice landscape and felt inviting.

Cava wine cellars. We visited Freixenet with our friends Angelika and Thomas.

Cava is the Spanish equivalent to Champagne. Beyond the budget product made for export they produce excellent brut sparkling Cavas of many varieties. Freixenet’s reception has wine tasting booths with sofas in a round setting for your group or family. Together with some plates of acorn fed Iberico ham and other tasty snacks you get a great combination to try.

Back to the boat and sailing. This morning, hours before leaving, I reinstalled the autopilot controller in the engine room. The generator is decommisioned at the moment and will not be used on this trip. Beyond the issues I found earlier, which help explain the constant overheating, I researched the problem further and believe now that we whole cooling/water supply installation is insufficient to run our genset in a healthy mode.

We epoxied yesterday the mounting plate in the engine room. Today we can mount the autopilot controller box in a solid fashion.

Epoxying the Mounting Plate, helped by our multi purpose boat hook.

And while being at it, I filled all the little holes in the hull, drilled for unknown reasons by unknown technicians.

Epoxy work space

Pictured above the epoxy shop on our outside dining table. The Admiral loves it when I use here kitchen gadgets like the electronic scale for work like this.

By now we are underway to Denia. After leaving the dock it typically takes an hour to clear the deck from fenders, lines and gangway, including making everything sea-safe and hoisting the sails. 

Our heaviest docking line. The Admiral is not on friendly terms with the beast – understandably.

Then we further waterproof the boat from above. From an aerial view our boat looks a piece of art from a trailer park. Admiral Christo @ work!

Doubling up on duct tape. Just to be dry if the weather deteriorates.

The story is that one top window started leaking again. Duct Tape is our new friend. When I retrieved a new roll from the locker I realized that this was roll #3 which means we had already duct-taped 100meters on our boat. Later analysis in port showed that the window cutout in the deck is not 100% straight and even. When the boat flexes in waves the silicone glue must compensate the different movements by stretching. With an uneven thickness, ergo being thin in some areas, the thinner part of the silicon glue overstretches and detaches from the gelcoat and ….. we are leaking from top.

Afterwards the Admiral unfolded her favorite chair on the front deck and read a book in the sunshine.

Early morning the next day, we crossed the deepest part on this trip -1276m or 4200feet.

Deeper is better for us. It means less fishing vessels and typically calmer seas compared to what it would be in shallower waters.

Later in the morning a pod of dolphins visited us for 15minutes. They swam and played around under our bow. I am not sure, but it looked like they rubbed their belly and back on the soft roundings of the bow, all while we were cruising along at 6knots

Breathing out.
Hi Flipper!

The Admiral was off watch and sleeping, so I did not want to wake her up. Last time I did this, she came out and the dolphins were gone. After a while looking at this beautyful scene under our bows I caved in and woke her up. The moment she came out – quite excited and in PJs- she could see only one dolphin far back in our wake. What shall I do next time?

As we approached Denia the ship traffic increased. See the radar from 10miles out

Denia is a ferry port and home to a small fishing fleet. The ferries go mostly to Ibiza and the Balearic Islands. Some are quite fast. When you see them on radar or get the AIS warning things happen fast. You can barely see them at 2mi away, but with a closing speed of 30kts you will be in their way in 4 minutes!

The port entrance of Denia is a narrow channel which is easy to navigate in good weather. When we left on the following day it looked quite different and more challenging.

We are already docked

Why we split the trip into two legs you can see here. The weather we wanted to avoid begins to roll in an hour after our arrival.

Weather coming from the Southeast

The marina is nice but pricey. The views are great, especially towards the fort. With sunshine it must be beautiful here.

In the evening we took a small free ferry across the port to go to the old town for dinner.

We found a nice grill restaurant. The food was freshly grilled in the center of the restaurant, protected by glass screens and equipped with good ventilation. Food was really tasty and the local Spanish Rose was excellent.

Everything got served perfectly fresh from the grill.

Tomorrow we’ll get up late and prepare to leave around 1400h heading to Cartagena. More about this in the next underway update.