When good weather; turns bad.

Sunset after sunset.

12th September 2021

Portimão, Portugal – Porto Santo Hbr, Porto Santo

If you ever have the misfortune to tune into the Weather Channel the stories they tell are always the same. Their scenes start with everyone having an amazing time in wonderful weather, the weather then turns vengeful, creates chaos and our plucky characters battle to tell a tale of ‘When Good weather; turns bad.’

For days we have been obsessed with watching the vagaries of the weather develop, plugging endless numbers in spreadsheets and running routing scenario after routing scenario, so it was a relief to finally be on our way. We were heading out into the ocean blue and had the prospect of having a race as Cerulean, a Seastream 43, would be eating our wake (we hoped).

Usually, when heading offshore, the land slowly disappears and our voyage into isolation takes time, this time we were in a world of isolation in minutes. Fog closed down our little world and the only sign of man was rhythmic honking of Cerulean’s foghorn.

Finally, the fog cleared and we started our Weather Channel story. The sea was pancake flat, the sky a baby blue and the wind wafted us along gently. Drama however was in store.

Not happy with their progress Cerulean were convinced something was amiss. Were they dragging something? Was something caught underwater? Why was Ruffian winning? There was nothing for it but to ‘look’ underwater.

After we’d handed them our GoPro sails were dropped and we stood by watching as brave Steve donned a mask and wetsuit and dived into the 3000m deep water. As Cerulean pitched and rolled above him he dived down examining every nook and cranny and came to the conclusion that having a dirty bottom is slow and even slower when sailing next to a boat with a clean bottom (us).* The decision was made for them to ‘plod on’ while Ruffian would ‘slip along’.

Easy mile after easy mile passed, and amp after amp flowed into the batteries. During the day the solar panels soaked up the sun’s rays silently and under the night sky, which was dotted by endless stars, the towed generator spun giving a comforting whizz. Ruffian was looking after herself and we were mere passengers.

Although we were alone on Ruffian we were not alone at sea. The comforting lights of Cerulean were ever present on the horizon and when they disappeared from eyesight the electronics (AIS) took over. Hour after hour we sailed and motored together and it was only when Cerulean won the moral battle by turning off their engine and sailed that we were sadly lonely.

As passengers we were living a life of luxury. Hot fresh showers could be taken at will, meals were eaten on a laid table with linen napkins and placemats, all to the musical accompaniment of wind whistling through the sails and water running along our hull. Like the best of stories things were about to change.

After days at sea the wind went from ideal, to invisible and finally changed to indescribable. Gone were the easy miles as Ruffian bashed through waves that were blocking her path and the luxurious hours of Ruffian looking after herself were replaced by her needing constant attention.  Good weather had turned bad.

With dangers in the form of land approaching and strong winds blowing us towards a lee shore, we needed all our skills to keep Ruffian safe as the weather was now turning evil. The skies were lit up with lightening, ruining our night vision and making to rocks of Porto Santo feel scarily close.  To top it all rain cascaded down chilling us to the core. Blasts of wind buffeted Ruffian from every direction and with visibility at near zero disorientation overcame us. Time and time again we hove-to making sure we’d not risk running aground and then had to make way to avoid being hunted down by the prowling tankers that are an ever-present danger.

After hours of battling the elements, beteen the thunderclouds we were given and the sanctuary of safe harbour was within grasp. Still shrouded in darkness, we just had to skirt dangers, enter an unfamiliar port, negotiate unlit boats and find somewhere safe to put Ruffian (which unsurprisingly, the amazing Fiona executed perfectly).

Having lived to tell the tale of ‘When good weather; turns bad’, Ruffian now sits under a new set of scenic mountains, in a port full of opportunities on an island which is just waiting to be explored.

* Also not forgetting the extra 10 tonnes of weight difference between the two of us.  

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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