22 November 2013

22nd November 2013

We’ve made reasonable progress during the night. The wind was WSW F4-5 most of the time so the best we could hold was a course almost due south. Because of this we won’t get a sight of Madeira, we passed about 70nm east of there overnight.
When I checked at 0500 the wind had veered more WNW and dropped to a F3-4 so we are back up to full sail again. Ideally I’d like to steer a course to pass west of the Canaries but that means we would be hard on the wind so I’m letting Elsi sail a bit free and that keeps the speed up. If the wind doesn’t back around any more it will mean sailing through the islands.  Once we pass the Canaries we should be more in the NE Trade wind and have some really good sailing.

Terry, my brother, and I stopped at Madeira in 1988 on Elsi’s first circumnavigation. The custom then was to paint your boats name, and any logo, motif whatever, on the harbour wall. We actually had a job to find a clear space, as there were so many names there before us. I suppose it’s a sort of locally approved nautical graffiti.  Several people have been on holiday there and taken photos of the name to prove it’s still there. Last year Maurice and Beryl Smith were there and actually repainted it, which was really good of them.  Today is Terry’s birthday, so very many happy returns to you Terry.

This time of year yachts will be gathering in droves in Madeira and the Canaries to set off across the Atlantic at the end of November for the Caribbean. Most people try to time it so that they arrive in time to celebrate Christmas in one of the islands. We crossed at the end of November 1988 and got into Antigua on, I think it was the 23rd December.

Places like Madeira and the Canaries are great meeting places and crossroads for yachties. Everyone tends to be following the same Trade wind route so you meet up with the same people time and again. Many a night we sat around the harbourside pubs with yachties we had met swapping stories. For a couple of green hands like us it was a great learning time as several people had been across the Atlantic before or were on their second circumnavigation. Some of the friends we made then are still friends yet. One of them, a singlehander from Launceston, Cornwall, Graham Collins, was down in Falmouth to see Alyson and me just before I left.

Forty years ago there were only a handful of yachts sailing across but now there are hundreds every year. You can do it on your own, as we did in 88′, or you can join an organized rally and sail across like that. The numbers have swelled considerably since the advent of GPS and chart plotters. You no longer need to master how to work a sextant in order to cross an ocean any more.

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