• Ana

Half-day sail from Porto Santo island to Madeira Island

Daylight, start the engine, lift anchor.

Make our way out of the anchorage, point to the wind (towards the beach) and hoist the main sail.

Set the boat on 150 degrees of apparent wind angle and unfurl Jib to the 1st reef (to avoid slapping). Sail along the beach slowly trying to peel away, and round the southernmost island without gybing. The boat ahead of us had to gybe a few times but not us, we don’t seek speed, we are being lazy, sliding along at 3.5knots.

We manage to round the island successfully without gybing, we set our course towards Madeira. The seas are very choppy and confused, and our hopes for a great beam reach are voided.

We set the sails for winds on a 90 degrees wind angle but sail to 120. With these choppy seas it feels comfortable like doing it like this, we are still doing 7 knots SOG (speed over ground), and we are happy.

The sun warms us up while we enjoy seeing another five sailboats leave the anchorage. All but one will gybe frantically to round that island with speed, the one that doesn’t follow this strategy looks as if it’s going to the Canaries, straight south. He deploys a beautiful deep blue spinnaker and shoots out of the anchorage.


The ferry passes, but the sea state is already so confused and choppy that we barely notice his swell.

Deep blue spinnaker gybes, and is now coming in our direction, doesn't take him long to catch up with the rest of the group around 5 miles behind us.

We get into deeper waters, but the sea state doesn’t improve, winds are cool blowing maybe 15 knots. We appreciate the views of the west coast of Porto Santo island, with its stunning cliffs, in the distance we can see the contour of Madeira island.

Another boat opens its spinnaker, this time a simple white one. Those two crews are having a competitive sail while the other ones seem to be taking a similar approach to ours. It’s fun to see them through the binoculars and on AIS trying to squeeze all the wind has to give, the deep blue spinnaker seems to be getting more advantage, they seem to be doing 8 to 9 knots while the white spinnaker guys seem to be doing a very stable 8 knots. The wonders of AIS.

We suspect the deep blue spinnaker boat is a race boat or Pogo that was in the anchorage.

Watching these guys is quite entertaining, we can’t wait to see them pass us.


We start getting closer to Madeira, the winds start pressing blowing close to 20 knots true wind, and we pick up a bit more speed 7 to 8 knots. The two spinnaker boats have gained some ground and are four to five miles, the remaining boats quite a bit further back.

When looking at the chart is very clear a sudden change of depth all around the island, although still quite deep we expect things to get frisky at this transition area, and indeed the sea state picks up considerably. A little to our surprise although the wind is blowing onto the island and not parallel to it we can see some acceleration zones in the water where the water seems to sheer. As we get closer to the island, the wind is bending from the 120 degrees apparent angle to 90, so now our sails are trimmed to the wind, and as we often say, The Dream has released the ponies, and we are going for a ride, we are doing nearly 10 knots SOG. We try to peel away a bit further from the Ponta de São Lourenço sheer cliffs to try to minimise the wind acceleration and confused seas while giving us wide room if needed.

We look behind to see if the spinnaker guys have noticed our sudden increase in speed and heel. But they seem to be oblivious to what is about to hit them.

Just before we bend the point and get to flat seas we see the white spinnaker guy trying to drop his spinnaker after having been already hit with mayhem while deep blue spinnaker guys are still gunning it with a big heel and showing 12 knots SOG.



We bend the point and although on the other side the sea is flat you can see the wind gusts that pass through the broken cliffs, we are now having a very nice cool sail doing 9 knots SOG in the flattest of seas, the sails are still trimmed for 90 degrees but we are now sailing on 60 degrees. We point straight to Caniçal, our anchorage and keep an eye on the point behind us trying to see deep blue spinnaker guys. They bend the point still under the spinnaker.

We decide to furl the Jib, so we turn the boat to 120 degrees get rid of the headsail for the day and turn back to 60 degrees of apparent wind angle and continue our way, doing 6 knots now just under Mainsail. As we finish the manoeuvre we notice the deep blue spinnaker guys have also decided to pack up their sails, we expected them to open their Jib and teach us a lesson in performance but they opt to depower their Mainsail and make way just doing 3 knots. They were probably organising their sails or maybe just trying to bring their hearts back to the right place. In any case, it was a real pleasure to see these guys sail hard.


Soon enough we are close to the commercial harbour breakwater and ready to drop our Mainsail before finding our spot in the anchorage for the night, hopefully, protected from the ocean swell. Another great sail day aboard The Dream.

***In the spirit of sharing our dreams and experiences we have shared this blog post in the NOFOREIGNLAND.COM website sailors community.

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