480 Miles Offshore to the Madeira Islands

Since our trip across Biscay we have been coastal hopping, mainly by day, but with the odd single night at sea thrown in. Now that we have reached the point of leaving mainland Europe we have our next offshore stretch to do. For the next month or so we will be island hopping instead of coastal hopping and the first of those hops is 480 miles out to the Madeira group.

Pouring over the forecasts we were trying to pick a departure time that would give us enough wind for the crossing but not too much. However with the weather you don’t always get what you want, we ended up compromising, setting off knowing that we would run out of wind at the end of the trip.

At the start of the trip we had very good breeze and sailing with the spinnaker and a helpful 1 knot current we managed 162 miles over the ground in the first 24 hours, a new record for us. The first night was clear with amazing visibility due to the stars and moon, a stark contrast to the fog we had often experienced along the coast.

For the second day we still had good breeze and were able to make good progress, the sea state started to ease off and we were able to open cupboards to make a drink without the risk of having the contents of the cupboard ejected in our faces.

We were trying a slightly different watch system on this trip in the hope of sleeping better. Previously we had been doing 3 hours on, 3 hours off through the night. 3 hours is not really enough time to get to sleep properly before being woken up again, but staying awake for the next 3 hours after very little sleep is difficult. For this trip we tried 4, 4, 3, 3. We started our watch system at 8pm and the first watch ran till midnight, the second watch from midnight till 4am, then 4 till 7 and 7 till 10. We also alternated who took the first watch each day. This seemed to work better for us but we will continue to experiment to maximise sleep!

Day 3 was the best of the trip, the sea calmed to a smooth state, enough wind to fill the spinnaker most of the time and we even caught a fish. To be clear, Amy caught the fish, she is chief fishing person but once the fish has been caught it is Matt’s job to make it stop flapping, before handing it back to Amy for gutting and cooking. We think it is a very small Skipjack Tuna, but it was very tasty.


After the first 3 days we had got into the swing of things, it seems to take 3 days before our bodies get used to being on passage and settle into the watches. The light winds that we would normally find frustrating didn’t bother us and we actually sat 40 miles off of Porto Santo for 6 hours in no wind during the night, as we didn’t see the point of using the engine to get there in the dark. The breeze returned at about 3am and we ended up sailing into Porto Santo at dawn after just under 4 full days at sea.

This passage was far more gentle and relaxing than our previous Biscay passage. Once clear of Lisbon we saw very few ships and the weather was so calm that we intentionally broke one of our rules Don’t fly the spinnaker at night. We both enjoyed the experience and arrived feeling like we would not mind if we had to carry on sailing for another couple of days. Hopefully this is a good sign for the 20+ day Atlantic crossing we have looming ahead of us.

Most of what we experienced is difficult to put into words, so here is a video of our crossing, we hope you enjoy it:


4 thoughts on “480 Miles Offshore to the Madeira Islands”

  1. Hi Matt and Amy,
    Great videos, I’m still trying not to be jealous of your new life on the water! Good to see your progress and enjoying watching you pop in and out of AIS range. Hope your new found fishing skills continue to fend off the need for lentils and you find your ideal watch pattern for the long hauls!!!
    Simon and Jo


  2. Hi matt and Amy,
    Your life looks amazing. Just a couple of questions. We are considering putting a hydrovane on our boat, have you used an autohelm much on your journey so far. Also, how do you download weather charts.
    Looking forward to your next instalment.
    Thank you


    1. Hi Bernice,
      We are never at the helm, always on either the electric or mecanical auto pilot. If we are being lazy or it is very light winds we use the electric pilot, if not we use our aeries pilot. The aeries works really well as long as the boat is well balanced with the sails. It does need a little more of a fiddle to set up and you have to adjust it of the conditions change (more heel or different waves). The advantage is it uses no power. We have never had to run the engine to charge the batteries.
      As for weather we bought an irridium go satellite phone with which we can down load grib files with ease. It also means if somthing bad happens we can phone for help. Eg dismasted or one of us ill. Hope your preparations are going well, its worth it. Cheers M&A


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s