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!