Mahina Expeditions offers offshore sail-training expeditions, offshore sailing seminars and boat purchase consultation.

Mahina Expeditions, Offshore Cruising Training

Lisbon, Portugal; Madiera; Ponta Delgada, Azores

Leg 7-2007, Update 1 October 25, 2007, 0600 hrs, 36.32 N, 24.12 W, Log: 114,080 miles
Motoring at at 6.8 kts into 3 kt follow winds, rolly seas
Baro: 1019.7, Cabin Temp:74F, cockpit 71F

Azores Islands Ahead, but where’s the wind???

Our extra week off between legs 6 & 7 was a treat and we enjoyed bike rides up the coast on a new bike lane, morning runs along the cliff tops, getting to know cruisers from England and Canada, and time maintaining MT. At 20 euros per night (off season started Oct. 1st) Marina Cascais is one of the best values in Europe, and we watched a steady stream of new cruisers enjoying the facilities either on route to the Med or as a prep stop for their first long offshore passages to the Canary Islands. Many had signed up for the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) and were headed to Las Palmas for the start in November.

Our Leg 7 crew arrived Saturday, October 13 and after docking practice in the afternoon we chose to anchor off the beach that evening.

Sunday morning we completed safety orientation and prepared to get underway for the 480 mile passage to Madeira, when I noticed on the instrument panel there was no output from the 24 volt alternator. This instantly became a class project. Engine room doors came off and we were pleased to discover a broken stator wire at the crimp fitting where it secures to the alternator. Unfortunately, replacing the crimp terminal did not solve the problem, so Dave helped me on the two hour process of replacing the alternator with our new spare as I thought the alternator might have shorted out when the stator wire broke.

The shiny new Balmar alternator still didn’t charge, so I racked my brain for anything else that could be the problem. Then I remembered I had removed the engine instrument panel to replace light bulbs so I took the back of the panel off and sure enough, one terminal had fallen off its spade fitting. Problem solved!

We raised anchor and hoisted sail and peacefully sailed away from the coast of Portugal breathing a sigh of relief. The weatherfax charts from England showed that we would cross a small trough on our first night. Little did we know we would encounter six hours of the most intense and scary lightning display we have ever seen. Normally pockets of convective activity are easily avoided at sea as you an generally figure out the direction the activity is moving and go the opposite direction. This time it was everywhere. We ended up using the radar to head in the direction of least convective activity, but still we saw many hundred lightning strikes to the surface, as well as bolt lightning between clouds, something we’ve rarely seen. Were we ever glad to finally leave that behind just before dawn!

What smooth sailing the rest of the passage provided! With constant broad reaching or running conditions, winds never under 12 knots or over 20, we sailed along nicely.

Downwind sailing

Due to our late and slow start from Cascais our landfall at Porto Santo, the small island just before Madeira, was in the dark, something we usually try to avoid. In 2001, in daylight, we had found entrance to the only breakwater harbor easy, and since now conditions were ideal in the lee of the island, we crept in carefully, and dropped anchor at 2345. The following morning we tied to the check-in dock long enough to clear in and happily get an assigned marina slip. I expected to find the small marina packed but in fact there was ample space since ten yachts had chosen to anchor off the beach.

Porto Santo Beach

View of town, wharf and beach

Porto Santo is a small, dry island with gorgeous beaches, mountains, and a bustling little town. Everyone tried out our DaHon Helios folding bikes with Kim and Dave deciding to get some for their new Hylas 49. Amanda and I enjoyed an early morning cycle to the end of beach and our crew hopped on a bus to circumnavigate the island. Next afternoon we went sailing for reefing and LifeSling practice before anchoring off the beach for a swim to practice untangling a line from the prop and to have a quiet night at anchor. But it was so rolly that by 0500 we gave up on sleep, hoisted anchor and set sail on a gorgeous reach to Madeira.

Bev and Mel get ready to drop the main

We had to investigate the just-opened Quinta do Lorde ( marina on the far eastern tip of Madeira and sure weren’t disappointed! We were amazed at how the marina basin had been hewn out of rock and nestled neatly behind the very substantial breakwater. Attractive three-storied condos, meeting rooms, restaurant, shops, lighthouse and marina facilities are integrated stunningly against the rocky cliff landscape surrounding the berthage area. A model displays the future planned development utilizing the adjacent red rocky hillside above several beaches which is all situated beside to the National Park of Madeira complete with boardwalks and hiking trails.

Quinta do Lorde Marina, Madeira

Our crew got a great deal on a rental van for the day and took off to explore the island while Amanda and I took care of chores and enjoyed a glorious sunny afternoon of snorkeling at the beach. Myriads of fearless tropical fish swooshed in and out among the lava rocks and cliffs and we felt like we had been instantly transported back to the Pacific.

Sunday we again practiced Lifesling overboard rescue plus reefing as we enjoyed a rip-roaring downwind sail to Funchal, the capital of Madeira. When we last visited in 2001, there was a week wait to raft up five deep to the outer breakwater, so this time we planned on anchoring out in the rolly and very busy outer harbor. Now seeing only two boats (instead of 30 last time!) anchored out, we nosed into the tiny harbor and rafted third boat out to see if there was any possibility of a space in the harbor. Perhaps it was Mel’s fluent Portuguese, or maybe his infectious smile, but the harbor attendant decided to try shoehorning us, stern first into a 40’ slip. We actually managed to fit but were glad it wasn’t windy!

Approaching Funchal, Madeira

Funchal inner harbour and marina

Funchal is a vibrant and busy city! That afternoon we all explored in different directions meeting for a great meal together at a restaurant situated at the edge of the marina before listening to fado (traditional Portugese love songs) singers whose music carried to the boat in the late evening.

Sangria anyone?

With so much to see, we decided on a Monday afternoon departure for the Azores. Amanda and I took the gondola to the top of the mountain and enjoyed the spectacular view and cooler temperatures as we explored the Palace Real Tropical Botanical Gardens and watched tourists careening down the mountain roads in traditional Madeiran wicker toboggans, steered by clever guys hanging onto the back trying to avoid cars and curbs. We made a quick trip to the bustling and colorful municipal market plus a grocery run before clearing out and setting sail.

Flower view of Maderia

John watching the toboggan shenanigans

Faster, faster cries Amanda

Gondola view of Funchal Marina

We had fast reaching conditions as we sailed the length of the island of Madeira but by sunset the winds dropped to five knots and that is the average we’ve seen for the past 450 miles! In the calm seas we’ve seen many turtles sunning themselves while sleeping on the surface, been joined by dolphins at the bow and nearly everyone has enjoyed afternoon swims in the surprisingly clear warm.

Bev and Robin in mid Atlantic romance

Darcy takes navigation seriously

This calm period provided us with an excellent time to practice celestial navigation and to test a new Fiorrino drogue loaned to us by Zack Smith. Still, this is the longest period of calm winds and motoring we can remember since crossing the Atlantic in 2001, and with an unpleasant rolling swell and banging main we’re now all eagerly awaiting the landfall in a few hours so we can shut off the engine.

Kim and Bev rig the Fiorrintino drogue

Drouge in action

Leg 8 crew – Mel, Robin, Bev, Darcy, Kim & Dave

Mel Masllorens, 66
Mel lives in Buenos Aires has been boating, sailing and fishing his entire life, never stops smiling, and runs Latin American operations for a German paper plant manufacturer. He loves to entertain and is sending Amanda many of his favorite recipes. With a love of sailing and experiencing life he’s already is talking about joining us for the Tahiti-Raro leg in ’09.

Robin Collins, 62
I am an attorney in the paid service of the government and sailing and umpiring baseball are my second jobs. This expedition has been exactly what it was advertised as and is just what I was looking for. Ocean sailing is first, the most wonderful and liberating experience. Second, it has satisfied my desire to experience sleep deprivation up close! Zzzzzz

Bev Collins, 56
I’m an interior designer, landscape designer and real estate broker now from Seattle. My professional focus right now is to build a real estate investment portfolio that will fund our vagabond days still to come. I’ve found this expedition to be a wonderful tool for showing me what I need to learn to make our world cruising days delightful. I can do this!

Darcy Williams, 36
I am a systems analyst enjoying a sabbatical from the law firm where I’ve worked seven years. I live in Portland, OR with my partner Laura and sail a vintage 1969 Columbia 22. I’ve been sailing ten years and often crew on racing boats. I also enjoy paddling and racing Polynesian outrigger canoes and own a 20’ one-person racing canoe.

Kim Pytel, 51
I live in Dillon, Colorado with my husband Dave. I started a salon three years ago and have worked really hard getting it going. In our spare time we sail our Catalina 22 on Lake Dillon and also enjoy riding our Harleys. Our new Hylas 49 just left Taiwan on a ship this week, bound for commissioning in Fort Everglades, FL, and we joined this expedition to expand our knowledge of sailing before our own cruising starts.

Dave Pytel, 51
I’m a partner in an international manufacturing consulting firm based in Colorado. I have always enjoyed sailing on Lake Dillon but wanted to gain more experience before the next phase in our lives of cruising on our new boat. I enlisted Amanda’s help on our short list of boat names. She came up with Lipstick Cowboy and even a song? Oh Boy.

October 27, 2007, 0600 hrs, 37.44 N, 25.39 W, Log: 114,179 miles
Moored at Ponta Delgada Marina, San Miguel Island, Azores Islands
Baro: 1021.6, Cabin Temp:74F, cockpit 71F

Santa Maria provided a delightful respite to our windless days. As we approached, a large onshore swell made it very choppy and the deserted outer commercial harbor was extremely rolly. As we slowly motored around Kim spied a smaller inner basin with a lot of construction activity. It turned out a new marina at Vila do Porto is under construction with only the piles in place. With calm waters and no one ready to yell no at us we dropped a bow anchor in the new marina basin. David and I cleared us in then took a long line to one of the large steel piles before winching MT back so she was out of the fairway for the fishing boats. This provided a calm mooring and everyone was then free to take off exploring. Dave, Kim and Darcy found a great pizza joint (they even brought a pizza back!) recently started by an Azorean guy who had just moved back from Boston. Bev and Robin checked out the small yacht club and Amanda and I went for a long walk exploring the town and countryside. With only 5,500 people, Santa Maria is one of the smallest of the Azores, but it has a reputation of being one of the friendliest of the islands.

Vila do Porto, Santa Maria Island
We left early Friday morning, hoping to find some wind, or at least catch a fish on the 55 mile passage to Ponta Delgada, but we struck out on both accounts although the passage did provide an excellent time for Amanda to teach braid splicing and for us to wrap up teaching.

Ponta Delgada on San Miguel Island (population 125,000) is the largest city in the Azores and has a thriving economy and a very industrious harbor. We had read that a new marina was under construction (that seems to be the story nearly everywhere in Portugal and Spain these days!) and sure enough, there was a swarm of construction going on adjacent to the current marina. The new extension will add 430 berths to the current 160.

We tied to the check-in dock long enough to clear in and fuel, then were assigned a berth nearby. Dave did the research and came up with an excellent seafood restaurant just celebrating 30 years in business for our farewell dinner.

All too soon Leg 7 was over, crew were packing and cleaning and on their way to explore San Miguel before heading home.

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