We crossed to Madeira!

When I downloaded the GFS grib for the next 5 days in the evening of July 6, it was similar to the gribs on prior days: it showed Westerly winds from 10-15 knots, slowly shifting to the North-Northeast over the days we were sailing to Madeira and increasing to the high 20s with gusts to 35 knots and then decreasing again to the high teens. Initially, we would need to tack our way out of the Strait to the West and slowly thereafter we would be able to lay the course to Madeira. The German ICON gribs were very similar and had been over several days. Not an ideal forecast for a comfortable sail since the angle to the waves and true wind was going to be quite tight - initially upwind and then freeing to no more than 80-120 degrees true wind angle later in the trip. But compared to the forecasts for a departure in the days after July 7, it was still much better and we would need to wait for several days before things got really better.

The next challenge with trying to exit the Strait of Gibraltar to the West is the current which runs to the East - into the Mediterranean - for much of the tide cycle. The handbook said that it was pretty hopeless to leave Gibraltar to the West on a foul current. For a departure on July 7, this left us a window to leave by about 5 am and we needed to get to Cap Espatel (the Northwest corner of Africa, some 38 miles away) by about 2 pm to avoid the onsetting strong Easterly current.

The last challenge, of course, were the Orcas. We had been following the various attacks on the dedicated website and the recent attacks were all on the Spanish side of the Strait, just West of Tarifa. Attacks were frequent, sometimes more than one a day! So we developed a plan to cross over the traffic separation zone East of Tarifa and sail up the North African coast, rather than the Spanish coast.

The plan was a good one. No Orcas but when we had just crossed the traffic separation zone, we saw a bunch of whales - smallish with a flat nose. We thought they were pilot whales but they were small - likely less than 5 meters long. We didn't care - the important thing: they were not Orcas and the peacefully passed along after a few minutes!

Gibraltar Rock at sunrise

As forecast, we had a great sail upwind up to Cape Espatel, got there just as the current changed and the breeze slowly freed so that we could get on course to Madeira before dinner. Unfortunately, also as forecast, the breeze kept increasing so the mizzen came down before Espatel and we had to start reefing pretty soon thereafter. It hit a steady 20 knots in the early morning of July 8 and a steady 30 knots the next day, never letting up below the mid-twenties until Madeira. Life on board was pretty uncomfortable and the increasingly large waves sometimes pushed Kincsem's stern around resulting in almost a wipeout before the autopilot could force her back on course. One such wipeout caught Rainer as he was filling the bowls with delicious lentil soup and many others sent green water rushing down the side decks and human bodies into hard wooden corners down below ....

Sunrise on the fourth day

Achim hanging up some rags to dry

Almut & Rainer as we approach Madeira

After a while of this we took down the main completely and fiddled with the settings of the autopilot, which pretty much stopped the wipeouts. Nevertheless, once in a while, a wave would hit us broadside, sending green water over the decks and annoying water drops down the inside of the cockpit dodger. There were some of us tempted to wear foul weather gear bottoms and one of us did!

After the third night, conditions moderated somewhat, and we could increasingly shake out the reefs in the jib and even set the mainsail again as we approached Madeira. The landfall was dramatic and soon enough, we were moored in Marina Quinta do Lorde, a small marina on the South East corner of Madeira Island. The arrival beer tasted excellent!

Cabo Sao Lorenzo, the South Eastern tip of Madeira

Kincsem at the dock

Drying out some wet gear from the aft lazarette. The seal was repaired as well .....


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