Gibraltar to Madeira

After a very pleasant 3 day sail/motor (458Nm) we could see the Rock of Gibraltar looming in the distance. Shipping had gradually increased, as had the current as we neared Gibraltar. Sea Cloud approached Marina Bay through the maze of anchored ships and refuelled – such cheap fuel here, about 1/3 what we had paid last time.

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Our first impressions of Gibraltar – what a weird place! Marina Bay is literally between the airport runway and the Sunbourn floating hotel/casino.

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Our impressions gradually changed as we got to know the town and the friendly people, deciding quirky, rather than weird was a better description.

Knowing the Hydrovane installation would not start until the following day, we ‘did’ Gibraltar, ie a tour of the main sights on the rock.

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St Michael’s cave

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img_9932img_9938The town, naturally, has a very English feel. The locals speak with a broad British accent, then you hear them break into the local dialect, a strange sounding version of Spanish.

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Sea Cloud’s massive delivery – Hydrovane, Watt and Sea hydrogenerator, a new mainsail, volvo parts and miscellaneous other bits & tools were delivered by “Freight–It” –  great local company who dealt with the customs for us. Shipping to Gibraltar where we could get the goods VAT free made great financial sense and was very painless with the help of Kabir and Jai.

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Ted Devey, our Hydrovane installer extraordinaire worked with Ian to install the new goodies. Ted, a retired engineer was the ideal person to work with Ian – very particular and methodical and keen to get everything just right. Sea Cloud was the 3rd Hydrovane he had installed in the past week, bringing his total of installations to over 30. Ted, having his own yacht (of course with  a Hydrovane) was also very knowledgeable and fortunately, as he was staying with us, a lot of fun and great company.

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I made a few treks across the airport runway to the shops in La Linea, Spain. Now that was weird!

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Karen and Dave Bowes arrived on SY Destiny, another HR48. It  was great to catch up with them again – always sociable and plenty of corporate knowledge to exchange about boat parts and systems.

The boxes gradually disappeared, a quick provision was done and  we quickly stowed everything – the forecast was ideal for leaving Gib, but with gale force winds predicted within 12 hours, we needed to move quickly. A last dinner with Ted, Dave and his crew Trenchard, Sea Cloud and Destiny left Gib, we on our 4 day 580 Nm sail to Madeira whereas Destiny headed for Lanzarote.

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This was to be our first taste of the Atlantic, and our longest passage yet. A great chance to check how the new gear and of course the crew would handle the conditions. Our first 3 days we had winds were 25 – mid 30knots, and 2-3m seas, with the occasional 5m biggies rolling through. Not the best for sleeping, but something we need to get used to before our Atlantic crossing – so glad Gordon and Tine will be joining us! Three hours shifts during the night are a bit of a killer.

Our new equipment worked superbly – the Hydrovane (aka “Ted”) steered Sea Cloud reliably in the big winds. We need to refine our technique for the lighter breezes aft of the beam that we experienced later in the passage. Our Watt and Sea almost kept up with our power needs, a great bonus not to have to rely on the generator. We had done a lot of homework on communication options for the crossing. The “Iridium Go!” with Predictwind seemed to be the best option for us. Ian and Ted installed the Go and its external antenna in Gibraltar but having heard that it could be a bit tricky we were skeptical about how well it would work once offshore. Amazingly, we had no problems – 300Nm off Gibraltar we were receiving weather forecasts, emailing friends and chatting with Andrew and Emily, ensuring that the emergency sat phone option worked (linked to iPhone or iPad)img_4166. All so easy to set up and use.

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We were very fortunate to have enough wind to sail all the way to Madeira. It was exciting to see the lights of Porto Santo (the second largest island in the Madeira group) in the distance. We dropped anchor in the bay outside the harbour to sleep a little more and wait for daylight, which is very late here as it is dark until after 8am. Now we are settled on the pontoon in the Marina Porto Santo – we have to get used to the idea of tides again!

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