We set sail on our longest passage yet, 500 nautical miles from Lisbon to Porto Santo, part of the Madeira archipelago, in the Atlantic Ocean. I think I bought half the supermarket in my panic preparation of a) what will everyone want to eat whilst sailing for so long and b) what can I cook in the galley whilst being hurled around with the waves. We then filled up with water and diesel to the brim and set sail. The first day seemed very long, there is nothing like starting the first night shift knowing that not only is there no harbour in sight but that this is the first of three, potentially four nights of broken/no sleep. Russell and I took shifts day and night, cap napping when “off-duty”. Looking after children whilst doing shifts doesn’t seem to feature in the Arc handbook funnily enough! It’s hard, tiring and you start to move into a sleep deprived fog. All parents of young children will know that feeling, and it’s not great when you need to have your wits about you. There are shipping lanes off the coast of Portugal and the tankers seem huge compared to sailing yachts and move somewhat faster. Not that we saw another yacht at all in four days! The first two days we battled against a large and rolling Atlantic swell, which even had me feeling wretched. A cloudy night with no moon meant pitch black darkness whilst rolling around in big waves. Where were all these amazing starry nights I’d heard about?! It was two very long and miserable first nights!
Luckily the boys thought endless stories (thank goodness for audible books), Lego and permanent access to the snack cupboard was all great fun. Felix even had a go fishing, to no avail though.
Whilst sailing off the coast of Portugal, Russell spotted the most amazing sight. We kept seeing fountains of water appear from the ocean. There was a pod of whales swimming past. They started a fair distance away and then two inquisitive whales came within 25m of us!! They were huge, utterly massive and you could see their long black bodies and small black fin appearing. We looked them up later and discovered they are fin whales, the second largest species in the world. It was truly a magnificent sight, although I was also slightly scared having read the back cover of “117 days adrift”, where let’s say seeing whales didn’t exactly end very well. Luckily this pod wasn’t into Beatrix Potter booming from our speakers and gracefully swam off into the stunning blue of the ocean.
Finally on the fourth day we spotted land, the volcanic peaks of Porto Santo rising from the sea, a most welcome sight as we sailed the last stretch to the enormous NATO built harbour. The marina is tucked into one corner, is tiny (don’t believe the pilot book) and was full, so we anchored in the harbour in crystal clear water. Time to relax and explore island life in the Atlantic. I feel like we need a reception committee and balloons to celebrate our achievement…(the auto helm did stop working just before my night shift which had me in panic!) but I am a newbie to these long distances, and looking round the yachts in the harbour, they are well travelled and battered. Long distances-r-us from here on in I guess. We have completed our first 2000 nautical miles in our sailing adventure and there are a fair few more to go!