Dec 28, 2013

Christmas-time activities

N 28° 28.042', W 16° 14.639'

We had a beautiful Christmas weather. Very sunny, calm and warm.

In Finland all the kids get their presents on Christmas Eve. I guess Santa Claus knows where we are from, since we had received a delivery in the evening while taking showers. We must have been good, we got just what we needed. Some underwear and flip-flops :)

On Christmas day we did some easy work. Nothing that would get our hands too dirty. Our dinghy has not been used for at least a year. The dinghy is not very old, but the outboard has maybe passed it's prime years. 

Anyway, the dinghy is holding it's air and the outboard started like always. It just needed a couple of pulls and there it was running like new. Some people talk about gasoline going old, but we don't really believe it. This gas has maybe been in a canister for a few years and there were no problems.

In the evening we had a nice Christmas concert right here in the marina. Local symphony orchestra was playing and there were thousands and thousands of people in the audience. Organizer of the event is the Port of Santa Cruz with other sponsors. This year was the 20th anniversary for this event. 

We had already planned on sailing to Las Palmas without our autopilot working, but we are always entitled to change our minds. We were not very keen on hand steering and couldn't trust the wind to be good enough for our windvane. So we decided to try to get the autopilot fixed here.

Yesterday at about noon we walked to the nearest chandlery "Nordest" which seemed more like a rigger. After a couple of phone calls he found us our hydraulic pump. After a few hours it was delivered to our boat. What an unbelievably good service! 

This morning it didn't take Timo very long to install the new pump. Even the previous pump was 20 years old, all the fittings and measurements were the same.

In the dock everything seems to look good. We believe everything works just great when we finally get to use it.

Now it looks like the wind is against us at least for the next couple of days. When it's not, we'll finally head for Las Palmas.

Dec 23, 2013

One of our self steerings is fixed


Today was time to take a look at our windvane.

The stern of the boat is not very easy place to work at, so we took the whole thing to our fore deck.

The problem was very small. It was the thing that I actually tried at sea, but there it was too difficult to see and fix. The bearing had, for some reason, moved a few millimeters. We hammered it back to it's place and remounted the windvane.

There it is! Rudder blade and shaft happy together :)

Dec 22, 2013

An attempt to fix the autopilot

N 28° 28.042', W 16° 14.639'

When I had slept enough I started to study our noisy autopilot. 

First I started reading manuals. Our system is quite new to me. Some stop cocks are transposed because of the lack of space, but my father-in-law's drawings were clear enough.

I tested the inside steering unit. I filled up the hydraulic liquid and released the air from the cylinder, after that it worked. However this didn't stop the banging.

I separated the pump and valve box from the motor. When running the motor the banging was still there. This was bad news, because the electric motor is probably the most expensive part of the whole system.

I was curios about what was causing the noise. I took the motor apart.

Bearings and brushes had nothing wrong with them and the coil seemed ok.

When I reassembled the motor I noticed that one of the four magnets was loose. It was glued to motor outer cover by magnetic force. Every time the motor changed direction it clashed to one of the bolts that were holding the pack together. 

There was some hope. By gluing the loose magnet back, the motor might work.

The loose magnet was the inner one, that was difficult to clean for gluing.

After the glue was fixed I trusted that the motor was ok and we had saved a thousand euros.

Luckily I didn't have time to spend that money. Motor started ok, but it was slow and started smoking. Smoke test failed!

At first when we got this problem, the hydraulic pump motor changed tune, before it started banging. It might be that the motor started heating and the heath caused the magnet's glue to soften and fail.

The motor has had moisture on it, because it was covered with thick rust.

Anyway we must order a new pump. (Or a drive unit as they call it.) Our current one is Robertson RPU150. The replacement is Simrad RPU160. (RPU = Robertson Pump Unit) 

We hope that Simrad has kept the good quality. Broken pump is now twenty years old.

Many brands have given up any quality at all. They are riding with the old brand and draining the money out for investors.

Well, I will write another blog about our new Lewmar windlass, when I get angry enough. That will be all about the quality.

Dec 20, 2013

One goal achieved

N 28° 28.042', W 16° 14.639'

We kind of thought that we left all the excitement to Madeira. So much did we know.

For once the weather forecast was near perfect, 15 to 25 knots side wind. It was also just a couple of days for full moon, so the nights would not to be very dark. This time all these predictions actually became reality, but...

After a couple of hours nice sailing, our autopilot started to make very bad banging noise. There was no way we could dare to use it like that. 

Well, no problem. We do also have a windvane. We haven't used it yet, but I know my parents used to use it a lot and it's just perfect for good and strong side wind. The actual reason we haven't used it yet is that we have improved our power production so much that we have had enough power for the hydraulic autopilot. Both of us have trimmed the windvane but it has always been my dad who has set it up in the beginning of a leg.

We had actually promised ourselves that we finally try it on the way from Madeira to the Canaries, but the storm changed our minds. When we left the partly destroyed marina we did not want to risk the rudder blade of the windvane. The marina was still full of floating debris and there was no way of telling how much submerged rubbish there was hidden below the surface.

But anyway, we slowed down and I went down to setup the rudder blade. There were still some other minor things we were not sure how to setup, but we decided to start from one thing and then work our way to the next thing.

I did get the rudder blade and the shaft connected, but I couldn't get the locking pin in. We thought that the reason for unsuccessful setup was the heavy seas. We did have quite a swell. So we motored for more than an hour to the lee of Ilhas Desertas. There it was nice and calm. Still no success, but now I saw what was wrong with it. The shaft did not go deep enough into the rudder blade. The bearing was moving a bit, it was not as tightly around  the shaft as it should be. I tried to bang it upwards, but everything just stayed the way it was.

We had to make a decision. One option was to go back to Quinta do Lorde and get the autopilot fixed there. We didn't know what was wrong with it so it could have taken a while to fix it and get the spare parts. And then we might have to wait for the good weather again. So in the worst case scenario we might end up spending an other 3 weeks there.

The other option was to go on and hand stear all the way to the Canaries, about 270 miles. This did not sound like fun, but we used to sail offshore races in the Baltic Sea so we did know that we could manage. And you know, we would not need to concentrate like we did while racing. It would be just enought to go about there where we were heading. 

So much did we know. It was probably the hardest 48 hours we have ever sailed before. When racing, we always had the crew to keep us company. Now we were just all alone in the dark. One was sleeping and the other one was stearing. The nights were definitely the worst ever, even though we had the full moon. Back in the old days I used to solo-sail a lot, but I don't think I've ever felt this lonely at sea.

We were so exhausted that we couldn't eat properly, we couldn't brush our teeth and for some crazy reason we still couldn't sleep well. All we did was drink coke and eat chocklad and salami slices to keep our energy levels up.

Notice the slices of salami in my hand :)

La Palma would have been the closest island to go to, but the wind direction was better for Las Palmas in Gran Canaria. And the difference was not that much. About 40 miles before Las Palmas the wind picked up and changed to head wind. We did a very quick decision to divert to Santa Cruz de Tenerife. When we arrived in Santa Cruz we were dead tired but very happy we did not go back to Madeira.

Our goal for this season was to reach the Canaries and here we are! Now we continue to do the boat work we did not finish in Finland, because we just did the things that were essential to get us here. And then we now have some extra work that came up on the way. 

But don't worry, we are not going to work too hard. We take it easy and  enjoy life while getting things done. If you go back and look at my blog that was written a year ago you see that we have everything pretty good now. We can actually go outside in shorts and t-shirts!

Dec 12, 2013

The storm in Madeira


N 32° 44.504', W 16° 42.709'

The amount of water in the air was something unbelievable. And this was taken sometime in the afternoon, and the worst was still to come.

This was the first pontoon that broke down, right after this picture was taken it was gone. It looked like the marineros were risking their lives trying to save this local tourist boat and preventing it to break all the smaller boats. 

Of course the pontoon didn't go anywhere. It just floated around the marina hitting everything that got in the way.

This was the end our pontoon when it was almost intact. There used to be one boat there, but now it was already moved to an other place. This was still very close to the breakwater and to the tons of flying water that was coming over in every splash.

Next thing we knew, we were packing our bags. The marina evacuated us all to the hotel and we were very afraid we would not be sailing for a while. We were sure that all the pontoons would finally give in and all the boats would be just one big mess.

The forecast was saying that the worst would be from 9 pm to midnight. After dinner, about 9 pm, we walked down to the marina. It was still very scary, but it looked like the boats might make it. 

We had a very restless night in a 5 star hotel room. When the first light came in the morning we hurried down to the marina. Everything was nice and calm, and the boats were in the same places than the night before. It was not really calm yet, but it was not very bad anymore and we could go and see how our dear home was doing. She was fine!

Our pontoon used to be all the way to the pole and even more.

In the morning the marina was full of debris.

During the night the fishermen and the marineros had tied every bigger pieces of floating debris, so it would not damage the boats.

Even though they were working really hard, some boats still suffered some major damage.

The staff did not stop working after the worst was over. They have continued to work constantly ever since to clear the harbor. It will of course be a while after they get everything fixed, but we even got the shore power and water back to the docks this afternoon.

There's nothing they could have done to prevent this weather, but I'd like to thank every single person who helped to keep our boats safe. Marina made our evacuate time the best they could, we had a nice room, dinner and breakfast. At the same time these other guys were actually really risking their lives to save our boats.

Now we hope to leave this terrible experience behind us and head for the Canaries and new adventures. I hope they are not this exciting.

Dec 11, 2013

Storm on Madeira

N 32° 44.504', W 16° 42.709'

We believed that Quinta do Lorde is a safe marina. We are still safe, but it was a close call.

Yesterday morning it was kind of fun to watch the waves hit the breakwater and fly high in the air. In the afternoon all hell broke loose. Tons of water was flying over to the marina. When the big ones came, it started a little tsunami in the harbor. Quite a few pontoons broke down and some boats were in really big trouble.

We all got evacuated from the boats to the hotel. Local fishermen came to help the marineros and they worked really hard to keep all the boats safe. A couple of boats got some really serious damage, but all are still floating. What we heard is that in all the other marinas on Madeira they lost boats. The worst news is, that in one place a fisherman died while trying to rescue someone from the boat.

We had some tiny little damage, some broken lines and a broken navigation light. Our boat had hit the boat on the other side of the pontoon and there are some little scratches and bumps in the bowsprit, but since it's metal there's no real damage.

The wi-fi is not working anymore so we can't add any pictures. It was still working when we wrote our Finnish blog so you can go and see the pictures there ( This blog will be sent using our SSB radio.

We are back on board and we hope we never have to experience something like yesterday ever again.

Dec 3, 2013


N 32° 44.504', W 16° 42.709'

When we left from Porto Santo we had decided to go to Quinta do Lorde Marina. We had heard good things about it and then we also have this STW membership that gives us a discount of the harbor fee.

The marina has good facilities and also good shelter. The swell has come from an unusual southern direction, but it has not been a problem here.

The marina is a part of a new resort. The resort (and the marina of course) are quite in the middle of nowhere. The nearest little town Canical is some kilometers away. The marina offers free supermarket shuttle to Machico (about 10 kilometers from here) twice a day, which is a pretty good service.

The resort itself is very beautiful, but otherwise like a ghost town. There's no one to be seen. It's completely empty.

Last week there was some heavy rain. This is what the beach of Machico looked like on Monday morning. I believe that normally all these tree trunks get washed out to the sea, but now the southern swell had lifted everything onto the beach. 

The weather system on the Atlantic seems to be quite confused. There's a low pressure stuck near the Azores and it'd be head wind or no wind for us to go to the Canaries. We'll wait some more for a bit better weather window.