The yacht yard

Of all the boat yards I have been in with Oh!, there is nowhere that compares to the Bert Jabin Yacht Yard that Oh! is now hauled out at for the summer. This place is incredibly clean, welcoming and so peaceful.

The travel lift at the yard could just barely fit Oh!. At one point I thought they might need to get out the industrial size Vaseline to squeezer her into the lift, but they had 3 inches to spare on each side! No problem…yikes! I must give credit though where credit is due. The crew at Bert Jabin were super professional and great to work with. I am pretty sure Oh! and I are going to like it here.

Plus, Oh! is in a corner of the yard that is next to a beautiful nature park, and just 50m from the waterfront. So I can paddle board each evening when I am too exhausted to do any further work, or just go for long relaxing walks. In the morning and evening it is so peaceful here…if you close your eyes it sounds like you are in a park listening to birds chirp and the sound of leaves rustling in the breeze. In the photo below Oh! is at the end of the pier to the right of the red roofed building…what a perfect spot!

The nature park has interpretive trails and a day camp center, and is home to a lot of song birds. The creek nearby has herons and seabirds, osprey and there are hummingbirds here too. It is beautiful spot to go for a quiet walk and just listen.

There are yoga sessions each evening and a small dock where locals come to launch kayaks and paddle boards to explore the creek. The creeks here are more like narrow ragged inlets off Chesapeake bay and are typically lined with marinas. If you wanted to find a boat this place has hundreds for sail of size and design.

There is a lot to do to get Oh! set for the summer storage. First get her cleaned up. Then arrange for the repairs and services I need. Then organize and stow a lot of gear. No shortage of tasks…at least this is a really beautiful place to get all that done.

It was amazing how yellow and stained the hulls had become over the past 20 months. Below shows the difference, just cleaned on the right of the photo and the yet to be cleaned left portion!

Yesterday was spent getting just half of the hulls cleaned so they can eventually be polished and waxed. Today I will try to get the remainder done, plus remove a prop that looks like it needs a new bearing and finally get some information to a service company that will be doing some work on Oh!. Hopefully I won’t end up as stiff and sore as yesterday! I am not whining though because this place is so relaxing to be at, but it us physically taxing work. The best part is that there are no hard deadlines looming that make getting everything done so much more stressful. So I can balance the work and relax part much better.

Home for now… is pretty darn nice!

Cheers from Oh!

Old Fort Bay, New Providence, Bahamas. May – 25th, 2019

If you need to spent some time in the Nassau area, old Fort Bay is tough to beat. The bay is shallow – only 1-3m in most places; has a number of fringing reefs and is sheltered from the prevailing easterly winds and swell. What makes it so magical is the fact that it is almost completely surrounded by a gated community.

The result is almost like making it a private beach since the only access for the public is from the sea and very few boats come here. In five days we have not seen a single tour boat and only one other yacht. During the day, the only people using the beach congregate around the private club at its northeastern end and there may only be a dozen people.

The rest of the beach is fronted by a few very large homes that are mostly unoccupied. So the best beach on New Providence Island – is essentially deserted, which was great for us. The bottom is beautiful white coral sand so the waters are kaleidoscope of aqua through royal blue colours. And most days they are so clear you can see the sand grains and ripples on the sea floor below Oh! Under a full moon you still clearly see the ripples on the bottom of the shallow bay.

I don’t often associate of clean sand bottoms with good snorkelling, but that is not what we found here. The sea below is fascinating and full of life. Take a look.

The views above water level are incredible as well. The evening skies always have incredible sunsets and the beach walk is relaxing and beautiful.

Old Fort Bay is a great place to just watch the waves gently breaking on shore and the sea foam they create disappear into the beach. The only trace left by each retreating wave being a brief period of moisture that turns the beach into a mirror reflecting the morning sun, and the faint line each wave leaves on the sand as it reaches its maximum movement up the beach.

There are so many intriguing and beautiful things to explore and observe. You just need to take the time to be still, listen and watch as nature entertains and stimulates your senses.

Ted and Josefin on “Stet” have spent many hours with me paddle boarding, swimming, working on Oh! and preparing our boats for the passage north.

There has also been time for cleaning rust from the shower stall hardware, decanting water out of the fuel tanks, mending flags, creating a bridle for a boom preventer line, adding chafe guards and wear patches to the inflatable and all that maintenance and daily fixing of the stuff on a cruising boat.

We also shared some baking and cooking skills where the results were clearly enjoyed by all..

Old Fort Bay is a beautiful corner of the Bahamas and a real gem if you need to spend some time close to Nassau.

Cheers from Oh!

May 23, 2019 West End of New Providence Island, Bahamas

I could hear them calling trying to get my attention, Ted and Josefin on Stet were excited! “They are back get your camera, Rod, Rod! Get your camera!” I knew instantly what they were referring to and scrambled to unplug the camera from its charging cable and grab my mask and fins. There was no hesitation or time to think, just grab everything and slide into the clear warm waters as fast as I could. My last thought was “Don’t jump, it might scare them off”. Within seconds a life long desire to swim with wild dolphins came true.

It was magical. There were two adults and what looked like a juvenile calmly swimming toward me. Every few seconds they would roll their bodies or change their angle so they could get a better look. There is something very special about peering eye to eye with these beautiful mammals as they swam so effortlessly through the crystal clear waters. The dolphins were in no hurry to move on and actually spent a few minutes swimming around and checking out the new guy and posing for pictures.

The entire experience lasted about 3 minutes but was truly remarkable. Try as I might, even with fins on it was impossible for me to keep up with even their casual swimming pace. Eventually the dolphins moved on leaving me behind with incredible memories and some great photos!

What an incredible encounter – Oh! Yes!!

April 28, 2019 – An “enlightening” evening

Some days are just a whole lot of fun. They start with the usual calm seas and beautiful skies, a wonderful snorkel, walk along a deserted beach, paddle boarding and then a casual but delicious dinner of seared tuna, butternut squash, roasted potatoes, beets and fresh tomato slices with basil. Finish it off with a nice evening light show from “ma nature”. It all slowly combines to become another of those incredible days filled with great memories that we have so frequently on Oh!

Here is a sample of our day.

Sheet and bolt lightning went on for several hours. It was spectacular. The closest were about a mile away.

Oh! the places you will go and the wonders you will see! Dr. Zeuss

Cheers to all from the crew on Oh!

April 22, 2019 Fun with Fauna

Just like Sebastian says in Walt Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”, the Bahamas are better “Under the Sea”, he even sang a great little tune about it. The Garden of Eden in the Bahamas is clearly in the water. Over the past four trips through the Bahamas we have seen so many great examples of this. Here are a few worth sharing.

One of the most colourful Conch shells I have seen, this little guy was so rich in colour, he really was unique.

Stocking Island is the place to meet and greet in the Southern Exuma Islands and Chat ‘n Chill beach is where a lot of the social activities concentrate. It is also a place where you can get up close and friendly with the local rays. The top of a stingray feels like fine grit sand paper, while their undersides are silky smooth. It really is a great feeling to look into the large eyes of the rays – It is clear they are looking back. Oh! it would be so cool to know what they are seeing and thinking.

The little ray in the picture below was enjoying the shade while Oh! was anchored off Rudder Cut Cay. He was probably 40 cm, (16″) from tip to tip. The photo is not enlarged or zoomed in, so it shows how easily you can photograph even young rays up close. Unfortunately, it was late in the day and overcast so the light was subdued. The clearance under Oh!’s keels was 40 cm. It was a great place to check the calibration of the depth sounder!

The grotto at Staniel Cay is famous for its use in the James Bond 007 movie Thunderball that starred Sean Connery. The snorkelling there is some of the best in the Bahamas and is worth several visits at varying tide levels and sun angles to appreciate the beauty of this spot. Despite the huge volume of visitors to the grotto every day, there are still plenty of fish and some good coral to see, as well as the beauty of the grotto itself.

The shaft of light as the sun transits over the opening in the roof of the grotto is like a spotlight on the sea floor inside. The light flickers and dances on the bottom as it refracts through the waves on the surface. It makes the grotto floor look alive with electricity.

Getting a good photo of a Queen Angel fish is always difficult. They are camera shy and tough to get close to. This one is about 40 cm long (16″) and beautiful.

The entrances to the grotto make great backdrops for photos. Sometimes they are below water level and you need to dive through them to enter the central cave.

Outside the grotto the islet is surrounded by reef and sand flats with beautiful sponges, fans, corals and tropical fish. A great place to snorkel and enjoy life under the sea.

This beautiful Spotted Eagle Ray was seen gliding past Oh! just outside the grotto. The wing span would be at least two meters (6.5 ft) on this one. For me, rays are the most graceful of all the fish in the sea. The way they glide and move so effortlessly, and yet are so soft and supple to the touch is something I love to watch.

Porpoises, or Dolphins are always a delight. These came to play as we approached San Salvador Island ( where Columbus first landed in 1492). A large pod of at least 25 common Dolphins played at the bow of Oh! for about 20 minutes.

This shell from the head of a lobster was sitting in about 5 m of crystal clear water off San Salvador island. The colours were so brilliant they seemed artificial.

Another example of the amazing  “Art of Nature”.

Life on Oh! is a new adventure every day. The view from the office window is ever-changing. A montage of dramatic skies, stunning views, and hidden beauty under the sea – everywhere we go.


From Oh!

April 21st, Easter Sunday and the Bahama Blues.

Some days just start out perfect and get even more perfect – is that really possible? Well… apparently yes. After a relaxed motor sail in light SW winds from Georgetown to Rudder Cut Cay we were treated to a spectacular display of weather by Ma Nature. The approaching front from the NW was beautiful and full of energy with dramatic bolt lightning streaks as well as sheet lightning. Then Oh! received a very welcome high pressure boat wash from the heavy rain as we headed off to sleep.


As morning broke on Easter Sunday, the dramatic light show and boat wash transformed into a dead calm bay with crystal clear waters and Oh! was fresh and clean from stem to stern. How clear was the water beneath oh!. Well you could see the individual sand grains on the turtle grass three meters below the surface. The water was like a mill pond, perfect for exploring the cave, a swim and then snorkel over the piano and mermaid sculpture.

However, first we had to bail out tadpole – the Walker Bay rowing dingy. The rain had left enough water in it for a bath – but no one wanted one!😁

After a beautiful relaxing morning for Carol and Steve (I was head down in GST accounting) we headed out to anchor off Musha Cay, the Illusionist David Copperfield’s private island. There is a large sand bar there I have wanted to explore for several years and it was everything anyone could have hoped for.

Wading over the bar in toe to knee deep warm waters was so relaxing. The views were jaw dropping and the kaleidoscope of turquoise, aqua and Bahama blues surrounding the tan sand bar was captivating. A beautiful soft sand foot massage in warm clear waters with every step. Perfect in every way, it was complete with a light breeze to keep you cool. Wow . . . what a great Easter Sunday.

There was even a green flash sunset! It is a shame the video did not capture the distinctive green flash…there were three witnesses to it and it was clearly there.

The sunset meant it was time for dinner – stir fried veggies, bbq potatoes and fresh from the ocean grilled Big Eye Tuna – Yum Yum!

All the very best to everyone for Easter from Oh!

April 5, 2019 update “Chris”

On October 22nd, 2018 Oh! set sail from La Gomera Island in the western Canary Islands to start our journey home – wherever that is. After a brief discussion with “Christopher” about our planned route (he really didn’t say much of anything, truly a statue of few words), we set off on our Atlantic crossing.

It was a wonderful adventure filled with spectacular days at sea, some rigging challenges, an unplanned side trip to The Cape Verde Islands, encounters with Tallisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge rowers, catching fresh Mahi Mahi and Tuna and finally an Atlantic rendezvous with our friend Yoann on “Saturnin”.

6 hours after our rendezvous with Yoann Oh! nade landfall at Falmouth Harbor in Antigua. It was a spectacular voyage and I am looking forward to more.

Since landing in Antigua, Oh! has visited Nevis, St. Kitts, French St. Martin, St. Barts, Eustatia, Saba, the BVI, the USVI and is now back in the Bahamas.

Our landfall after the 4 1/2 day passage to the Bahamas was the Island of San Salvador where in 1492 my buddy of so few words, “Christopher” first set foot in the “New World”. Wow, what a beautiful place to make a landfall! The water at San Salvador is so clear you can see sand dollars on the bottom over 6 m below as the shadow cast by Oh! Lazily drifts back and forth over them. The officials and people we met as we went through the clearance process were all warm and friendly and the sand on the beaches – powdery soft white coral sand. The colors of the fringing waters are eye popping even by Bahamian standards. Our stay was brief as Oh! needs to continue on to the Exuma Islands – but as Arnold says, “I’ll be back”,and hopefully soon.

And yes, these pictures of the sand dollar and lobster shell are in the water about 5 m down!

Cheers from the SV – Oh!

Oh! Update March 1, 2019

Oh! Update March 1, 2019 Wow, time really flies, especially when it is filled with new adventures everyday. After a very successful crossing from Mindelo to Antigua, Oh! has now completed the Atlantic Circuit. Over the past 12 months Oh! Has visited a lot of great places, met wonderful people and shared much if it with our guests along the way.

We are now working our way north through the USVI, BVI, Bahamas and then in to the eastern USA where Oh! Will be hauled for annual maintenance and her crew takes a break. During the voyage a series of 9 articles have been written for The Bluewater Cruising Association’s “Currents” online magazine, and also published in Online magazine. If you search for the author; Rod, or Rodney Morris on either site, you will find them.

Below are some of my favourite pictures from the last three months. I hope you enjoy them.

Cheers from Oh!

And Three Makes a Hat Trick – December 22,2018

What a year it has been. I left Beaufort NC on December 6th 2017 bound for the Caribbean Island of Antigua. The idea of an Atlantic circuit was more of a passing idea or thought than a goal. It is now December 22, 2018 and Oh! is about to set out on our longest passage yet, the Trans-Atlantic passage from the Canary Island of La Gomera to return to the Caribbean Island of Antigua. That will complete the circuit. Along the way there have been incredible emotional highs and heart wrenching lows; wonderful adventures and amazing places and events to look back on; and then there are the people I have met along the way. Their impact on this journey has been immense and mostly in a good way. The year has been incredible.

There have been many firsts, personal bests and wonderful achievements; all pieces of what made 2018 and the Atlantic circuit so special. One achievement stands out for its uniqueness and as something that was never even contemplated at the beginning of the adventure. Yet it just came to be more by contact and conversations with the people I met along the way, than any grand plan or scheme. A unique set of new highs…literally.

The first new high was the hike to the summit of Mt Scenery, on Saba Island in the Caribbean. Saba is the northern most of the “Islands that touch the clouds”. I enjoy hiking in the Caribbean and Saba has some fantastic hiking, and a rich history. I had no idea it was the highest point in the Netherlands until we climbed Mt. Scenery to its 877m summit. The views were spectacular and the thought of this remote island being the highest point in a low lying and even subsea country like the Netherlands seemed so unique and just plain “good fun”.

Fast forward four months. I have just set a new personal best for my own solo passage making. My longest used to be from the Berry Islands in the Bahamas to West Palm Beach, Florida – a two day 155 nmi. passage. The new bar was an 1860 nmi. solo Trans-Atlantic passage over 13.8 days. I was celebrating in Lajes Harbour on the island of Flores, Azores with David and Mary on board “Adventurous”, who had also completed the passage. A wonderful adventure to look back on with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. We were discussing what was next for the Aussies and myself when…the matter of Pico came up. David really wanted to climb Mt. Pico, the 2351 m summit of Pico Island and the highest point in Portugal. Wait a minute, there is a pattern here. Two European countries whose highest point is an Island on my Atlantic Circuit.

Ok…I was in. The day was cool and Pico had its usual cloud band swirling around its summit. The climb was much longer and higher than Mt Scenery, and we had spent a lot of time at sea level; so a 2351 m climb was “breathe taking”. Wow, two summits of the highest points in two European countries in one year…neither of them planned. Both of them volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean. David and I celebrated with huge ice cream cones back at the wharf at Madalene Harbour as we looked back at the huge shield volcano summit we had just climbed. Another of David’s bucket list items crossed off and a second unique summit for me.

I met Mona and Arno trough David and Mary while we were all cruising and visiting Sao Jorge Island in the Azores. David and I had just summited Pico and Mona and Arno had it on their list of summits they were going to climb and hikes they wanted to do in while in the Azores. One evening while enjoying wine and cheese with them on Oh! the conversation drifted over to hiking and when they found out I had been to the top of Mt. Pico we shared details of various climbs and arranged to do many hikes together in the Azores. Mona and Arno were heading in the same direction as we were back to the Caribbean and we had plenty of time to talk about the various islands on our way. They suggested that since I had stood on the highest point in both the Netherlands and Portugal, I should also add Spain. They wanted to climb Mt Teide in the Canary Islands if they got the chance when they cruised the Canary Islands enroute to the Caribbean. At 3718m, Mt. Teide is the highest point in Spain and once again a giant shield Volcano.

On December 17th, I stood on top of the highest point in Spain. That made it a hat trick. Three summits, each the highest point in their respective countries, each a volcanic island in the Atlantic and all in one year. It was a very cool feeling…especially at 3718m!

For me, the joy and rewards of the cruising lifestyle are not about the sailing – it is all about the people I meet along the way and the amazing experiences and adventures we share.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas and all the very best for the New Year.

Cheers from Oh!

Rod Morris

Madeira’s update Nov 3 2018

The arrival was dramatic. The evening sky was rapidly being occluded by an approaching squall that was overtaking us. The sunlit cliffs of Santos Island created a forbidding back drop to the rolling swell, white caps and slowly increasing wind speed as we raced ahead of the squall to our destination. The combination of a spectacular sunset, deteriorating weather and anticipation of landfall just made everything that much more exciting. As we rounded the sheer cliffs at the eastern end of Santos island the seas gradually became calmer and we enjoyed the last few miles to Porto Santos harbour watching the spectacular sunset slowly being swept aside by the large squall that would soon envelope the island. The first raindrops didn’t reach us until we started to drop the anchor, but within the few minutes the well rehearsed maneuvering and setting of the anchor bridle takes, we got drenched. No problem, Oh!, had completed the the 500 nmi passage in just over 3 days and we could dry off, enjoy a nice dinner and a calm nights sleep inside the well protected man made harbour. We would do the clearance procedures in the morning.

We had 6 days before our guests would arrive in Funchal, the capital on the much larger main island of Madeira, so we decided to spend 5 days on Santos before making the 25 nmi. sail to Madeira island. Santos is starkly different to the Azores and the island of Madeira. Like Antiqua, St. Martin and the BVI; Santos is too low to capture rain from the clouds on a consistent basis and therefore it is essentially desert like. Dry grasses, rugged cliffs and volcanic gravels are dominant.

Evidence of its long ago past as a shield volcano was everywhere and stood out clearly with the sparse vegetation. The dramatic scars of erosion from fast running water along the hills sides seemed so out of place for such a dry island, it was clear Santos was not always dry. At times during storms they must get some pretty intense but intermittent rainfall.

We are visiting Santos at the end of the tourist season, it is quiet and almost deserted. There are less than 5000 permanent residents, but it swells to over 25,000 during the height of the summer. There were a lot of boarded up summer homes and seasonal beach bars, cafes and restaurants that were closed for the season. That suited us just fine. We spent our time getting some long awaited “to do’s” done; some interior refinishing of wood trim, sewing the port canvas covers, inspecting and patching sails and cleaning up Oh! for the arrival of Tim and Greg. Our visit wasn’t all work though, a good hike, some wonderful walks into town, a dinner with our friend Sergio (who is from the Canary Islands) and meeting new friends Kikuyo and Hiroshi from Japan also filled our days. It was fascinating listening to them explain how Japan managed to create a phonetic set of 50 Japanese characters that allows them to represent greater than 20,000 characters in their language to be used on computers. The Japanese hazelnut and Green Tea Kit Kat’s they shared were a big hit too!

The dramatic arrival was just a sampling of the next two weeks in the Madeira’s Islands. We were still in Portugal, and the Madeira’s have the same atmosphere as the Azores, only more up scale. There is a greater sense of prosperity in the Madeira’s, plus the scale of public works is huge. Jaw dropping is an appropriate description. The most dramatic of which are the road networks and airport. From the mid 1990’s through 2005 there was a massive infrastructure investment from the European community and the Madeira’s highway system was built. There are miles upon miles of twinned tunnels cutting through the mountainous terrain, connected by impressive bridges across the steep ravines. Coming from Canada, where this scale of construction over a small distance does not exist, the road network left us constantly in awe.

When we weren’t in awe of the man made alterations to Madeira, we were in awe of nature’s creations. Massive cliffs, offshore spires, deep ravines and towering waterfalls are just the obvious eye candy. Garnish that with flora that runs the full breadth of the spectrum from wind swept alpine summits to lush rain forests and dry succulents, surrounded by crystal clear waters and Madeira was a treat to tour. At times the seas reflected the grey of the cloud filled skies and the shores where a mass of foaming white water as waves crashed against cliffs and on the shores. During heavy rainfalls the seas would turn reddish brown from the sand and silt that poured into them from rivers, then quickly return to sparkling blue clear waters when the sun returned.

Like the Azores, there are dozens of beautiful trails to hike and places to visit. The only drawbacks are the very limited anchoring possibilities and relatively expensive and crowded marinas. Due to the flow of transient yachts visiting Madeira enroute to the ARC, (Atlantic Rally For Cruisers) it was difficult to find safe places to moor Oh! and there are only 2 relatively exposed anchorages as alternatives.

The capital of Funchal is one of the most beautiful cities I have seen. The old city center is full of historic buildings, white and black hand laid mosaic stone streets, sculptures, botanical gardens, parks, cafes and a harbour front promenade filled with gardens and art. On our last night there, Greg and Tim discovered a restaurant and cafe district with dozens of theme restaurants. It was fascinating to stroll the small pedestrian alleys filled with open air seating, music, and paintings decorating the walls and doorways.

It was a smorgasbord of fine dining, attractive bars, bakeries and cafe’s at every turn. The kind of place and experience that just keeps drawing you deeper in, not wanting to stop until you see it all. A person could spend a summer just trying a different venue every evening and still not exhaust the kaleidoscope of offerings. I am not a fan of eating out – but I must admit this area fascinated me and even I thoroughly enjoyed the evening’s dining out. If ever back in Funchal, I will definitely plan for a full day to just explore and enjoy the cafes and restaurants in the Rua De Santa Maria area.

The Market in Funchal was also a highlight. Filled with colourful flowers, fruit, spices, local produce and intriguing shops. The venders offered us samples of their many varieties of passion fruit and fruits we had never seen before. It was a learning and culinary treat made even more memorable by the friendly venders we encountered at every stall.

Our stay at Madeira was short, only 7 days that have left us wanting to see more of this beautiful island. After our night out, the next morning we had to bid farewell to Funchal and Madeira island. Tim and Greg have flights home from the Canary Island of Lanzarote, so we had to start moving.

First stop – Ilhas Desertas, a group of three elongated barren islands that are deserted, except for the Parc Reserve Wardens at Chão da Doca. Once again we were given a graphic lesson in local geography and climate, or more simply put, height is everything when it comes to being an island. The Desertas’ Islands have steep cliffs and flat tops that receive almost no moisture. They are barren and rocky. The many stages of volcanism and erosion that formed the Islands created stunning examples of the “art of nature” that was so prominently displayed along the cliff faces.

Colours of black, greys, browns, reds and the infrequent green highlights from the hardy foliage that managed to survive on these rocky shores and ledges, created giant murals that looked like works of art. Nature’s sculptures and colours that were even more spectacular in the warm glow of setting sun. We only stayed for a single afternoon and night, but really enjoyed our stay.

The Park Rangers welcomed us and introduced us to a visiting researcher from Lisbon. Monica was studying the Petrels that are native to the island and spoke excellent English. We had many laughs as she would translate our questions and quirky sense of humour to the park warden as we walked around the interpretive trail on the small Fajã their buildings were built on. A Fajã is any flat, or some what flat area that can be built on. In the Azores and Madeira’s it would be rare to find a Fajã that was not built on.

Monica gave us a tour of the restricted area that visitors were allowed to explore and talked about the work she did and the efforts being made to preserve the endangered species on and around the island. There is a lot more to these “deserted“ islands than meets the eye. In addition to the beautiful volcanic geology, there are several endemic species of Petrels, lizards, endangered Monk seals and even a tarantula that call these islands their only home. We enjoyed several hours ashore learning about the islands, chatting with Monica and Carlos about life as rangers on the island. We talked about their two to three week shifts, as well as the flora and fauna they protect and study. The bay we anchored in was barely large enough for two boats, but offered surprisingly good protection from the winds that accelerate down the steep coast of the island and ocean swell that wraps around the north end. Even still, it was a lively night with wind singing in the rigging.

The next day was a leisurely breakfast, then noon departure for the 150 nmi overnight sail to the Ilhas Selvagens. Our departure was timed so that we would arrive shortly after sunrise. This small group of islets with many rocks and submarine hazards are the last of the Portuguese islands we would be visiting before entering Spain on the Canary Islands.

The Ilhas Selvagens, literally savage islands, are two small islands, the largest is just 1 square mile. Each is surrounded by several very small islets and many rocks. Once again there is very limited anchorage available and there is only a small outpost housing the Park Wardens and Maritime Police presence on the islands. The entire area out to the 200 m depth contour is a Natural Reserve. It was a wonderful surprise on arrival to radio the island and learn they had a good mooring ball that we could tie to. The Selvagens islands are well known for poor holding in rocky anchorages.

The second welcome sight was to see just one other boat in the small bay. The winds that descend down the steep cliffs swirl and fan in the little bay so any more than 2-3 boats would be pretty tight. Despite 2-2.5 m waves crashing all around the island, this little bay provided good protection from the strong NE winds and swell we currently had, but it would be plain ugly in anything else. With partially clouded skies reflecting grey seas, brisk winds, big waves and steep cliffs all around us, it had a very remote and isolated feel.

As with every island in the Azores and Madeira’s, we had to check in. Once the formalities were completed we were once again offered a guided tour by the Vigilante da Natureza’s (Park Rangers) of Selvagem Grande. The hike took us up the steep cliffs to the plateau above where long ago French settlers had made a futile attempt to colonize the island. All that remains are several miles of perfectly straight rock walls that divided up the plateau among the settlers. With essentially no natural water catchment areas and low relief, their dreams were dashed and the island eventually passed into the hands of a single owner. Fascinated with the natural beauty and concerned about the flora and fauna, some of which are endemic to just the Selvagens, he worked with the Portuguese government to protect the islands as a nature reserve and bird sanctuary that was established in the early 1970’s.

As we finished our tour, the skies were becoming overcast with multiple squalls passing close by to the west. From the high cliffs we were treated to stunning sights of the tiny rugged bay below and sun beams fanning through the clouds on the horizon. The Selvagens are truly a special place, beautiful, isolated and wild.

Our tour lasted several hours and we enjoyed the company of the ranger and a fellow Portuguese yachtsman who visits the island regularly from Funchal in his sloop. In yet another of those fortuitous encounters, he was a maintenance contractor for the highway tunnels built on Madeira Island. A fountain of information, he related the changes the highway system has brought to the island of Madeira. Life before and after the construction of the tunnels and high quality highways was very different for many of the towns and villages outside Funchal. To my surprise, these tunnels that are up to 3.2 km long were drilled, blasted and excavated, they were not built with a boring machine.

After the hike we decided to stay and enjoy a “quiet” night on the mooring ball before departing for the Canary Islands in the morning. Apparently it was anything but quiet – windy and rolling was the description around the breakfast table – I guess I slept through that part. After a good nights sleep for the captain and a leisurely breakfast, a Scottish cutter we had met in Funchal appeared around the point. Upon looking at our options and theirs, we decided to leave our mooring early so they could take it. They were clearly pleased about our decision relieving them from having to anchor in a bay known for fouled anchors. It would also give them a chance to get some rest after a lumpy passage from Ilhas Desertas without worrying about possibly dragging their anchor in a small bay surrounded by nasty rocks. There is no doubt our paths will cross again before they join the ARC for their Trans-Atlantic voyage in late November.

We are now cleared from the Portuguese islands and on our way – next stop, The Canary Islands.