Log #37d Madeira

November 20, 2005 in Log Series 30-39, Logs by Series, Series 37 Portugal, The Logs

Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Nov. 20, 2005

Hi Folks,

We are pleasantly in a marina  with power and water, a few other boaters we know, and central to Santa Cruz, including an internet site with Wi-Fi by which I hope to send this log. I hope to send out a few more, plus the supplementary logs of our voyages and the maps.

In this log, I commented on our golf cart batteries, but we recently identified they were not taking the fast charge as they used to. When checked with a hygrometer, we found all cells were down, indicating they were in need of replacement. We found a chandlerey here which was able to get us new golf cart batteries.

Our previous ones lasted a long time and do not owe us anything. However, I was of the impression that our four 110 amp batteries equaled a total of 440 Amp hours, to realize that it took two six volt golf cart batteries of 110 amp hours each to equal 110 amp hours for 12 volts. Thus we have been operating for 8 years on 220 amps of power, not 440 as I previously thought. That is also why I was astounded when I asked for 4 golf cart batteries for 440 amp hours, to be given four six volt batteries at 250 amps each. The chandlery apologized as the new ones sent were only 225 amps each, but at a high cost of 258 Euros EACH! Ouch! A cost of about 1000 Euros or $ 1500.00 Canadian. We had 10 % knocked off but it still hurt, the second major expense this fall after our new Raymarine autopilot. However, we needed them and they are part of our preparation for our Atlantic crossing in Dec. or Jan, and they are twice as powerful as our original ones.

In this log I Describe our ocean passage of 489 miles to the Madeira archipelago, and a close call we had with a possible collision at sea (After all, a collision at sea can ruin your day.) and our anchorage in Porto Santo.

I have not been getting much feedback on my logs recently, and appreciate comments or questions about our travels. Please don’t hesitate to respond to my messages, but if so, do not send all the original logs in your reply, as my access to the internet is uncertain and sometimes slow and unreliable.

I hope you enjoy the log, and we survived the near collision OK.

All the best,



Log #37d Madeira

Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Nov. 18, 2005

After our abortive attempt to leave Cascais, we again left next morning, Oct. 29, at 0915 to get offshore before the land influenced afternoon winds came up. We motored out in light WSW force 1 breezes, but within an hour the steady trades started to blow a good NW force 3 to 4 allowing us to sail along at hull speed under a double reefed main and full genoa. We had left the double reef in from the gale we endured the night before when we returned to Cascais, and were happy to sail under more controlled conditions and so left it in for the next 22 hours; by 0730 next day (Nov. 30) the wind had clocked west and south around to settle up on a nice North force 3 to 4, when we not only shook out the reefs, but wung the genoa out opposite the main with a whisker pole and strapped the main out with a preventer to have  a good run for several hours wing on wing.

Around noon we removed the whisker pole and had a very broad reach at hull speed for the rest of the day. The wind was from the north and our course over the three days was 231. It was great to be in more consistent winds. In the second evening (Nov. 30) we double reefed the main again, as a safety precaution for night sailing, and as we had a weather forecast on our Navtex weather receiver that winds were going to increase to force 5 (up to 20 knots). We also followed our usual watch system whereby Judy goes to bed shortly after supper and I take the first watch until midnight or 0100 or whenever I get tired. Then Judy has the middle watch from midnight to about 0400 or 0500, and then Doug took the morning watch until 0800.

A Close Call

I had reefed the genoa as the wind and waves were increasing before I turned the watch over to Judy at 0100 (Nov. 1) and was trying to get to sleep below when I heard Judy on the VHF talking to a ship. On returning to the cockpit I saw two white lights close in line and a port red navigation light a distance off our starboard quarter. Judy was talking to the officer of the watch indicating our position, course and speed and that we were a sailing yacht. The officer whose first language was obviously not English indicated to hold our course and he would pass us “red to red”. RED to RED???? Impossible! As he was an overtaking vessel, any passing by him would have to be his red to our green or vice versa! Red to red is possible only with reciprocal courses where we are going opposite directions, and he was behind us, overtaking.

Judy called again indicating we were a sailboat and giving our position, course and speed while I was flashing a spotlight on our sails, hoping he could see us. He said he had us on his radar and would pass red to red (again). We feared he thought we were another ship several miles distant, and tried to get him to say something else other than red to red, and to acknowledge our position. His voice procedure was not correct and he did not give the name of his vessel, nor did he acknowledge our vessel’s name of Veleda. He just kept repeating red to red.  His lights were getting closer, his red and two white lights almost in line. We initially thought he would pass ahead of us off our starboard (which would have been his red to our green). At one point he shone a spot light on us, but was bloody close and still coming directly for us. He did not alter course.  HE HAD NO GREEN STARBOARD LIGHT!!!! He was coming straight at us! I should have seen both his green and red running lights, but he had no green running light! Up to this last minute, we had held our course unable to identify which side of us he would pass. As the red light came closer the distance between the two white lights started to separate, but he was coming at us! It was a black moonless night with a strong force 5 north wind blowing. We could see nothing of his hull between his two white mast lights and his red light in the middle. We could see no deck lights, bridge lights or anything of the ship’s hull or superstructure. Just the three oncoming lights!

I started the engine and we made an emergency 90 degree turn to port under motor power to try to get away from this onrushing behemoth. We let the sails fly as the main was going to gybe, and the genoa would back, as we powered what we hoped was out of the way. The black shapeless invisible monster with its masthead white light and its shark-like red port light surged by to the deep thrum of its engines, and then the second aft white light glided by as we rocked in the wake of the IDIOT! We bounced a bit in the waves, but we were alive and had not collided. I was afraid at the point we powered away that we would be sucked towards the vessel and collide as it surged by us, or that he would try an emergency turn into us. He must have been doing 15 knots to our 5. He had not altered course at all. We called him up again to indicate he almost ran us down and that he had no starboard navigation light. He came back with “I’ll pass you red to red.”  He could not grasp the fact that he had already passed us and had almost run us down. If he had hit us, he would not have stopped until he heard our Mayday (That is an international distress signal that should be understood in any language), if we could have gotten one off, if he would have stopped even then. We suspect he passed us by only 20 to 30 metres at his ocean cruising speed in fairly heavy seas with two metre waves. It was a close call!

We resumed our course, got the sails under control, and turned the engine off, as a relatively quiet sensation settled over us after that harrowing experience. In retrospect, I suppose if we had had radar, we could have tracked his course more accurately and when we noted that he did not alter, we could have taken avoiding action sooner. Not seeing any green light we assumed he would have passed well away from us to our starboard. Approaching on a collision course as he was, we should have seen both his port and starboard lights, but we saw only his port all the time over the hour or more of sighting him.

Judy finished her watch when Doug took over at 0400. It was nice to snuggle up together while at sea, an unusual situation for us as we are usually watch on watch. Thanks Doug!

Later in the morning as I took our 48 hour fix on the GPS, I found we had traveled 252 miles, extremely good. For passage making I use the estimate of 100 nautical miles a day as good progress under sail only. Our hull speed is only 5.5 knots for our 32 foot (9.75m) boat. We had been doing 125 miles a day for the first two days, under sail only. Lovely!

That evening we put the engine on for a couple of hours to charge the batteries as we were down – 143 Amp hours. After two hours running, we were down to only – 28 Amp hours. We are happy with our four 110 amp hour Trojan golf cart batteries, our heavy duty alternator and smart charger, as well as our Link 10 battery monitor which gives us very accurate L.E.D. readouts of the state of our batteries. They are almost 8 years old, lasting far longer than most.

We were more than half way across to Madeira with our midnight fix at 2359 on Nov. 1 of 34˚ 48.30’N, 014˚ 15.40’W for a distance of 335 nautical miles.

On Nov. 2, the wind had shifted to NE force 3 to 4, allowing us a glorious run, wing on wing, for the next 48 hours until we approached Porto Santo, the NE island of the Madeira archipelago. The winds were good, but the seas were heavy, two metres, on the quarter. The new Raymarine self steering system worked well. Judy was unwell for the first day but acclimatized herself fairly well to the corkscrewing motions. The dinghy on the dinghy-tow faired well, a few overtaking waves breaking in Sprite’s bow, but no problems. I am thinking of leaving Sprite on the dinghy-tow when we cross the Atlantic, whereas Judy has her concerns about such. When we came across the Atlantic in 1999 we collapsed Sprite and lashed it on deck and the engine on our stern pulpit. However we have had it on the dinghy-tow since Falmouth across the English Channel, the North Sea, and four years in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The only damage to the dinghy has been when it was off the dinghy-tow. We’ll see. It has faired well on this 500 mile ocean passage. We will leave it on for our 800 mile passage from the Canaries to the Cape Verdes before making a final decision.

The early morning of Nov. 3 we rounded the outer eastern Ilheu de Cima and headed WNW to anchor outside the breakwater of the marina. There were four boats at anchor, only two showing anchor lights. We made three attempts to anchor, dragging twice until the last try finally held. When we anchor, we come up into the wind to a standstill as I set the anchor alarm on the GPS, when we then lower the 35 pound CQR to a ratio of at least three to one, slowly backing down wind. When an appropriate amount of chain has been let out, Judy snubs it and I give a strong kick astern to set it in. If it drags, we haul up and select another location and reset the alarm. If it sets and holds in 2000 rpm’s astern, we then add a snubber line, and consider ourselves safely at anchor. We finally had our anchor after the third try at 0430 on Nov. 3 at 33˚ 03.55’N, 016˚ 19.19’W, in Porto Santo, the second largest island of the Madeira archipelago.

The distance we covered from our anchorage in Cascais (38˚ 41.81’N, 005˚ 24.79’W) outside of Lisbon, to our anchorage in Porto Santo (33˚ 03.55’N, 016˚ 19.19’W) in the Madeiras was 489 nautical miles to arrive at 0400 (plus another half hour or so to re-anchor three times before it grabbed) on Nov. 3, for a passage time of three days, 18 hours and 45 minutes and an average speed of 5.4 knots, most of it under sail except for one hour leaving port, another hour before entering Porto Santo, a five hour stretch between 0230 and 0730 the morning of the 30th when the wind shifted west then south for a few hours, and a couple of hours to charge our batteries as the wind generator still does not produce much power (an ongoing disagreement between Judy and me). However, it was a successful ocean passage.

More about Porto Santo and Madeira in my next log.