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Deserted Islands, Sail Training and Whales

Posted in : Hummingbird

Last Friday (14.2.2020) I arrived in Madeira to join a boat that I have a soft spot for. “Hummingbird” will always be special to me as it was the boat that I started my Clipper Race Campaign on. I also thoroughly enjoyed taking her around Iceland with Rubicon 3 in 2015.

Upon arrival into Madeira’s impressive airport (the runway is built on stilts and the approach is very “interesting”) I was met by Emily and Hannah. They had just done the previous trip and got the boat turned around. Hannah would stay on Hummingbird with me for this trip while Emily would hand over to me.

The climate was very different to the cold reality of a Scottish winter that I had just left. The temperature was a pleasant 18-20 degrees and there were a few puffy cumulus clouds in the sky. We cracked on with the handover and that evening we were treated to a fantastic sunset.

The following day the watch leaders arrived. These three individuals are using this passage as their ocean qualifying passage for the RYA Yachtmaster Ocean. We spent the day going through the boat and discussing all aspects of the passage, ocean theory, weather etc etc.

The following day the rest of the crew arrived. After a meet and greet, I took the rest of the crew through the boat. From stem to stern no floorboard was left unturned. The watch leaders used the time to start planning the passage from Port Santo to Ilha Terceira.

On Sunday the 8th we did some on the dock training including storm sails, Jordan Series Drogue and the yacht specific M.O.B recovery method. Once we had finished a delicious lunch, we departed Quinta Do Lorde Marina for Funchal Marina. We did sail training exercises on the way and were treated to our first dolphins of the trip. We arrived in Funchal in good time and everyone had a chance to explore the charming capital of Madeira.

Our next passage was to Chao Da Doca on Desertas Grande. This is a national park and lives up to its name. It is stunning in its almost outer earthly beauty. The tiny station where the wardens live is barely visible until you are right under the cliffs. We did more sail training on the way including timed reefing practice and a full M.O.B drill. We were treated to a large pod of Pilot whales lazily playing around the vessel in the calm conditions certainly a highlight of the passage.

Once we had made sure our anchor was well set, we got about preparing the ever-trusty rib. I dropped most of the crew ashore and they were met by a very friendly warden who gave the crew the guided tour. Unfortunately, due to landslips, the path to the top of the island had been shut. The crew all really enjoyed the visit. Once again, we had a fantastic meal prepared on board before heading to bed.

On Wednesday (12.2.2020) we made our way to Porto Santo. This would be the staging point for our Ocean Qualifying Passage to the Azores. It was a chance for us to get any last-minute supplies, top up with fuel etc. There was no wind for the passage, so we took the crew through more of the boat systems including the emergency steering system, the generator, the water maker sat comms, navtex etc. We also had some fun inter watch reefing competitions. Upon arrival the boat was put to bed with ever increasing efficiency the crew were definitely starting to work as a team. A crew meal ashore was called for.

Having used today for final passage prep as I write this we are in good shape for our passage. The weather looks favourable and the boat and the crew are in fine form for the passage. We will be

departing tomorrow morning. You will be able to follow our progress on the Yellowbrick tracker. I’ll have a blog written up for our arrival about how the passage went.

The crew were able to explore Porto Santo today with some electing for some walks / runs and others electing to go to the beach. The water is surprisingly warm and the temperatures have been up in the 20’s.

Tonight there will be a comprehensive pre departure briefing before a fine paella is served. A good night’s rest and tomorrow will be another fun day!

“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”