Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Off to Cape Verde

After completing our boat projects with the new  parts in hand and some plumbing for the watermaker, we set out for Cape Verde, leaving around 2pm on January 22.  Although the forecast was for 20 kts of wind, it was flat calm -  we were in the wind shadow of Gran Canaria.  This extended almost 50 miles offshore, when quite suddenly the winds filled in.  We were now indeed in 20 kts of wind and 10-12 ft waves.  The boat was moving and handling well we put a reef in the main – cautiously optimistic that we may have solved our reef line chafe issue.

After 2 days of sailing, the wind calmed and the seas subsided.  Darn – seems like all or nothing out here.  After struggling to sail for several hours, we started motorsailing.

We were visited by 6 sea turtles and a few dophins – which is always a great sight that I never tire of.  But at night we had what I think will be one of the most spectacular and memorable experiences of the trip.  It was pitch black dark before the moon came up.  Stars were amazing and Venus came up over the horizon.  Then we were joined by about 10-12 dolphins.  Being so dark, we thought we would not see them – but the efflorescence caused by their turbulence in the water gave them a spectacular glowing white outline that made them clearly visible up to 100 yds away and maybe 10 ft deep.  I had never seen a sight like this before – amazing, spectacular night show from our dolphin friends!  I just can’t explain how amazing this was.  We lay on the trampoline on the bow of the boat and the dolphins swam just feet below us.  We made clicking noises and they clicked back to us.  They rolled sideways to make eye contact, then dove below the boat, came around the side and under the pontoons to again swim below us.  This lasted about 30 minutes, before one by one they peeled off and left us.  What an amazing interaction.  The night-time efflorescence was what made it truly special – very surreal! - sorry, pics did not work out!

January 27, 2019

We are now approximately 160 miles from Cape Verde.  The winds never came back to the strength forecast so we have been intermittently sailing and motor sailing.  Nice conditions but we are burning fuel and I would really like to arrive with enough reserve to safely be able to maneuver and get in.  Its not that we have no wind – we have light wind directly on out tail – so that of course gives a dilemma – peel off a little and get better speed, but 30 degrees or so off the mark; motor sail closer to course and use boat speed to pull up the apparent wind; or try to sail dead downwind (slow).  For the most part, we have been doing a combination of motorsailing and as the wind builds or clock around a little, taking advantage and sailing.  So far it seems to have worked well, but its about to put us in another strategic dilemma.  If we keep motorsailing, we will make our destination (Mindelo) in daylight; whereas if we sail at a lower VMG (velocity made good), we will probably arrive after sunset.  Hmm….do we have enough fuel?...yes, we are in range  but let’s see how the day goes.  After all, we are a sailboat and we will only have very limited motoring ability on the next leg – so we need to get used to that idea.

Cape Verde
January 3
Marina Mindelo
0, 2019

We have now been in Cape Verde for a couple of nights.  We arrived mid afternoon on the 28th, staying at the marina in Mindelo, Sao Vincente.  To our knowledge, this is the only marina in the Cape verde islands.  There are a fw anchorages scattered around.
The island terrain seems very arid, rugged and bleak, although I am told that Mt Verde has green vegetation at higher altitudes.  WE may try to take a trip up there if time allows.  I would describe the0 town of Midelo as semi-third world, meaning there is some poverty apparent.  I suspect there is little work, except for the hotels, bars and restaurants and the local port. Police and military presence  is visible, with most stores having security guards.  But I must say, the locals are very friendly and helpful.   For anyone that has been, I would describe this as a larger version of Georgetown, Exumas in terms of culture and facilities.  We feel comfortable going around town, but many of the  younger men will ask for money.  We have discovered a very well stocked open market and there are a number of small to mid sized supermarkets (Fragata).  So far, we have seen little in terms of boating supplies.  I did find a small fishing store/chandlery and bought their last length of 12mm needed for another replacement to our reef line – no we have not quite solved the chafe issue so far!

We got a weather forecast yesterday from WRI, our weather routers, asking for advice on a Jan 31 departure.  Although they said it was viable, they advised to delay a day to allow near gale-force winds to dissipate in the area of Cape Verde.  So we certainly will do that as we are feeling those winds at the dock right now.  I will try to get internet with my computer today to post this and a few previous updates.

Tenerife, Canary Islands

Onwards and south to the Canary Islands

Well regretfully we had to make progress and move on to the Canary Islands.  Nor regretfully because we did not want to go, but ……I think I said this, “we loved Madeira!”.


The passage to the Canary Islands was a rough one!  Many things pointed towards wating another day or two  - which would not have been a problem with me, but a couple of the crew were ready to move on.  Predict-wind  said there would be some upwind sailing but about 70% reaching.  That said, reaching is defined as anything from 60 degrees off the bow, and although those nice people at Predict wind were about right, of course they underestimate the wind speed most of the time and reaching was right about 60 degrees most of the way.  Now I call that upwind or uphill sailing!....and it was.  Two crew members were sick – partly induced by a little over-indulgent the night before a passage.  So to me – lesson reinforced….you don’t try to chase good conditions, you wait!
Our target was the NE  end of Gran Canarias, Las Palmas, but in search of better conditions and minimizing motoring to weather, we were pushed significantly west, giving a more favorable landfall in Tenerife at Puerto Garachico.  We arrived mid afternoon, tired.  Got lunch rested and left the next morning headed farther south.  We actually pulled in to the marina at Colon but were told there was no space so were advised to try San Miguel.

San Miguel

We did manage to get a spot at san Miguel, but by now we had figured out that marina space is limited and reservations are advised!.  In fact when we tried to get a spot to move on to Gran Canaria,, we struggled…..first time this has happened to me.  Emailed a bunch of marinas, and no response.  Of course they don’t answer phones either, or have a recording in Spanish!.  We really needed to get to Gran Canaria as were had arranged for a part to be delivered to us by Lagoon – at this point, anywhere on Gran Canaria would work, and I would rent a car.  I stumbled on a web service called which seems to be a “brokerage” for marina reservations.  With help from online chat agents and “Albert”, I got a spot for a couple of nights in Marina Puerto Rico – where we arrived today (January 18).  I think I overpaid for the berth – our most expensive so far at about 60 Euros per night…..but just happy to have somewhere.  Anchorages seem scarce, and I am sure are steep, deep, and rocky.  So here we are!  Like San Miguel, a resort town with many “Brits” and “Scandy’s” here.  The passage here was great!  A bit  windy (up to 30 kts on the beam) and seas at about 3m, but the boat did fantastic and liked it, making better than 7.5 kts average and regularly
hitting 9+ kts.

I think we will be here a few days as we have some projects – broken line clutch which we are waiting for delivery by Lagoon; we’ve decided we need to do a more permanent “plumb-in” of the water-maker to facilitate use under way; and an oil change on the generator.  Add to that a major provisioning exercise, plus laundry, and a few visits to Irish pubs and  - well, why be in a hurry!.....we may also try to explore the island.

By the way – the view of the highest peak on Tenerife was spectacular – a snow-covered peak rising to 3,700m.  I think its called Pico del Teide – but need to check that out when I have interweb!  (crew’s name for t’internet  <hehe>, and one we use to annoy the kids!)

We enjoyed our time in Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria.  We also rented a car and made a day trip to Las Palmas.  We were not too impressed with things there – the marina was very close to an industrial port and the view and location not near as nice as Puerto Rico.  Still – the main reason for the trip was to collect a part from the Lagoon agent which should have been shipped in from France.  Delivery was supposed to have occurred on Friday, but it was not received.  Hopefully it would arrive today (Monday).  We tracked down the location of the Lagoon agent – of course, no part!  /I did an online chat with UPS and after some issues getting international help, found out that the part was on the truck for delivery.  Sure enough, it was delivered at about 6pm, and fortunately the Lagoon agent was still there.  We also picked up other spares, including: spare reef line, more diesel cans, Cape Verde courtesy flag, and a spare impeller for the water maker.  With our upcoming long legs, the watermaker is an essential piece of equipment.  Perhaps the one biggest dislike I have of the design of our new boat is water capacity – only 85 gallons.  Our old boat, Midnight Sun II has almost 200 gallons.  Why would they do that, you have to ask?  Two reasons – on Cat, weight is important, and while you can have an extra tank as an option, it sits in the same location that they put the generator – so its either a generator or extra water.  Second, Lagoon (or the broker DYC) tries to sell you on their fully automated watermaker (DC operation, 10 gal/hour, and a $12,000 price tag!).  I elected not to take that option for many reasons: (i) a watermaker is a high maintenance item that needs a knowledgeable operator to keep it running, pickle properly when not in use etc., and is not something I am going to invest in for charter operations; (ii) I already own a Rainman portable watermaker (30 gal/hour, manual operation, 120v AC), so I have elected to install my own  watermaker and will take it out during the charter period. 

So – with our Rainman, I can run the generator for a couple of hours per day (needed to charge batteries anyway) and make 50-60 gallons of water in the process.  Manual operation requires adjusting a few valves to bring the unit up to pressure, divert water to the main tank, and backflush using a bucket of product water.  No big deal and it eliminates automated valves and a controller……..just more items to break!

Friday, January 11, 2019

We Love Madeira!

Passage from Cascais, Portugal to Madeira

We have had a slight change of plan on our route south.  During our initial planning, we had contemplated (and planned on) a trip to Morocco from Portugal.  This route would have taken us farther south down Portugal to Lagos, then across the Straights of Gibraltar to Morocco.  Morocco had always been an “optional” stop on our route, with the possibility of bypassing it and continuing straight on to the Canary Islands. 
We had heard a few reports and news stories of some unrest in Morocco and even reports of women being beheaded.  To be honest, I did not research these very much, so cannot attest to the validity of these stories.  Nonetheless, it did make for a little discomfort on the part of the girls of the crew.  Having visited Morocco and Tunisia many years ago, my bigger concern was for the security of the boat while unattended and our ability to buy the type of “western” provisions that we would need.  I had communicated with a couple of other cruisers that have been to Morocco recently, and the first-hand reports on all fronts were good.  So, it was a bit of a dilemma. 

Arrival Madeira Archipelago - the Deserted Islands
I have to say, we have fallen in love with Portugal.  Isn’t it nice to visit a place where you have no real strong expectations only to find that it is beautiful, interesting, and the local residents are so welcoming and friendly?  Well to date that has been our experience in Portugal.  The people are so nice; most speak great English; they are helpful; proud of their country (except their politicians!);and they have this wonderful fluid called “Port”……..I’ve always liked a small quantity of Port at Christmas, but I have become very partial to it here in Portugal.  The white Port is a great afternoon aperitif; ruby port is as the locals say “dangerous” because it has the highest alcohol content but is quite sweet and  shippable; and  the tawny port is a wonderful after-dinner drink or great with a nice steak.  Food here has been wonderful.  Portuguese meats and steaks are as good as any I have had and they have some very nice preparations.  If you like fish, the selection is excellent – tending more to cold-water fish such as Cod, and stronger-tasting fish such as sardines.
And there is a point to all of this - on the topic of trip planning; so many locals have been bragging on how wonderful and beautiful the Portuguese island of Madeira is.  On further inspection, it is on the way to the Canary Islands, although a bit farther west that we would go if headed directly to the Canaries.  Well on balance, more things were pointing us to Madeira than Morocco.  So that’s where we are headed.  I am writing this section of the blog off-line as we are out in the Atlantic ocean about 140 miles from Madeira.

Passage Conditions (January 7, 2019)

Madeira in View
As I write this, we have experienced light winds and calm seas – somewhat of a difference from prevailing conditions we have experienced thus far on the trip!  Its nice!  The total passage is about 500 miles from Cascais to the waypoint I have set off Madeira.  So port-to-port distance is a bit over 500 miles.  Thus far, we had a great sail for the first 125 miles, making 6 to 7 kts with the generally behind us to our beam.  Then unfortunately, the wind went dead behind us, and we are finding that Midnight Sun III (like most boats), does not do great dead down wind.  Our progress towards the mark slowed significantly.  We have tried jibing a couple of times to get a better wind angle, but its taken us 40-60 degrees of course each way, and then the wind dies to 4, 6, or 8 kts.  So reluctantly, last night we rolled up the sails to prevent the light wind flogging and boom banging and became a motor boat.  We are hoping we will see a little more wind today as I really don’t want to motor the rest of the way in these otherwise great conditions.  So, for now, I will leave this post and add to it as we get closer or Make Landfall.

Stay in Madeira (January 11, 2018)

Porto Moniz - Madeira
We love Madeira!  I think it has been one of the more delightful stays so far, and that is saying a lot as we have pretty much enjoyed everywhere.  Portugal and the Portuguese Islands are definitely top of our list – largely due to friendly welcoming locals that are really proud of their little spot on earth.  We have now been here several days and made the most of our stay.  We have visited the top of the mountain by Gondola, seen the street toboggans (no we didn’t actually take a ride so far, but I am tempted to go back).  We also rented a car and pretty much circumnavigated the island.  The scenery, landscaping and general topography is breathtaking.  And amazingly the highway infrastructure is   They must have spent billions on roads over the past 20 years or so and work is still ongoing.  When it comes to transportation infrastructure and investment in the future, the US could sure take a lesson from the Madeirans!
Natural Pools at porto Moniz
impressive – with tens of tunnels connecting roads through mountains to mountain passes.
We had originally planned to leave today, but on further study of the weather and wind, its looking like tomorrow will give us better downwind sailing.  And since we have done our share of upwind bashing, that’s the decision – we will wait to see what tomorrow brings.  I am currently researching and contacting marinas in Las Palmas to find a spot to stay – it seems space may be limited at this time of I suspect it’s a popular wintering spot for European and Brit cruisers.  We shall see when we get there!

Santana - Madeira
Stunning Coastal Scenery

More scenes from Madeira:
Market - Funchal

Fish Market - Funchal

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Happy New Year from Crew of Midnight Sun III

January 3, 2019

Time is marching on and we are now in Cascais....or should I say still in Cascais.  As expected, the
boat/marine industry closes down for a few days around New Year and this is the spot where we need to get our first engine services.  So we anticipated being here for a few days.  We now have 7 people on the boat - which is a little tight, but we are coping just fine.  In addition to engine service, we need a couple of other repairs that have cropped up, including some window leaks, adn a chafe issue on our first reef line.  We also have a broken line clutch - but that was due to operator error.....but still needs to be fixed. We are anticipating technicians to arrive this morning....or well, some time today - this is europe!

Cascais is beautiful mid-sized tourist town.  In the center, there are dozens of "touristy" restaurants. 
So yesterday, we took a train ride to Belem - partly in search of some boat items, and partly just to explore.  on our return we found a wonderful "off the beaten track"restaurant called Terroso (Rua do Poco Novo).  We had a great meal - the place was the size of a front room and definately "family run" with mama doing the cooking.  but great food and wines.

Of  course, I should also mention that on New Year's Day, we did go for a day sail on the boat as the wind was light and we wanted to try out the Code Zero sail that had been made for us by Schurr Sails, Pensacola.  The sail fits great, and flew well.  In very light wind we were making 4 kts in 6 kts of wind and about 7.5 in 10 kts of wind.  So this will be a great addition (we hope) for the main Atlantic crossing.  Thank you Hunter Riddle (Schurr Sails) - nice job!

Thank you to everyone that sent us New Year messages via email, what'sapp, inReach etc.  Its always great to hear from friends, adn from the entire crew of Midnight Sun III:

Happy New Year!