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Lisbon – Porto Santo
-- 25th to 30th August 2011 --
More than 500 miles on the Atlantic: Saltimbanque has done it already but his crew never. It is a première for Camille, Laure and Captain Shadok (who signed the photo-story of today).
Further pictures to be seen on the page "Pictures".

506 miles at sea
2597 miles since the start
25th August: departure
At 14.30 everything is ready. Saltimbanque casts the moorings off for the longest trip we have done so far... Friends are here on the pontoon to wave goodbye: Ster-Vraz and Aumadatroi will leave for Madeira in a couple of days as well. But today it’s our turn and we’re not showing off… but as one of our friends puts it: “it can also go perfectly well!”. So we pass under the bridge and off we are.
Goodbye, see you in Porto-Santo !

« This Belem Tower saw the caravels of the Great Discoverers leave for the Unknown... »
As any great sailing trip worth the name, this one starts... against the wind! We even hoist the foc as the thermal breeze blows in gusts up the Tagus. This small front sail had not been used since the bay of Biscay – we were getting used to the easy sailing-with-the-wind-under-genoa mode!

The strong current (up to 4 knots, with a tide of only 40) sweeps us out of the channel – and we stay exactly as close to the wind once out on the open sea. Porto Santo: straight ahead, at 225°. Close to the wind then it will be, only with the genoa as the wind decreases.
First night and first watch round rather exhausting for Camille, many hours lost between wandering cargo ships (much less well-ordered than in the North Sea!) As Laure takes over there is only one big vessel left in the distance – and nothing else than a quiet night for the rest of the round. A couple of hours later Camille comes back to the deck, only to cope with rain, showers, wind gusts and a sudden 150° change in the wind direction. Now it is coming right from the back. We happily resort to our Dutch experience: main sail down, genoa a bit reduced. Bob the wind-pilot is doing a great job at 6 knots – and Laure can enjoy a quiet end of the night on the deck. This is really unfair!! (What are you saying Laure? Am I exaggerating? Of course I would not!)
26th to 29th August : high seas
The sun rises on a new landscape! The shore has vanished, and so have the clouds and the rain. At their place there is a big dish of dark blue all around, scattered with glowing white caps here and there. The sky is blue as well, with a few cumulus and an already warm sun. Such is the view out of our window for the next few days – welcome to the trade-winds country!

The sun goes up and down and up and down...
Life onboard gets organized and settled in this very peculiar rhythm. Generally speaking everything is slower than onshore. There is no working day, no night rest, no clock. Time flows by as a continuum. A light routine is installed to mark the days passing by, listening to the weather forecast on the long waves at 11.30 UTC. Some other “events” occur unexpectedly, such as wind changes (implying change of sails and course sometimes). But mainly the boat goes on by himself, days and nights, tireless...

... 5 times
What about us then? As we are not made of aluminum we grow tired quicker. We have to manage our own sleep, and the sleep of the other. And the general fatigue of the boat. We have to last on the distance this time, this trip is closer to a marathon than to a sprint. As a consequence we adapt our sailing mode, accepting to not bear all sails up during the night to allow for a quieter period. We don’t keep the spi up for example, and try and anticipate on any change of sail or reef-taking operation at the” changing of the guard”. We try and sleep long enough in a row: 3 to 4 hours. This is not a lot for the lucky sleepy one, but on the deck it is long enough! We could not stay awake as long in the North Sea for example, in the cold and damp, always on the watch-out for cargoes. Here the nights are warmer, more peaceful: no rain jacket, a light fleece will do. There is (almost) no cargo, no fishing boat or fishing pot, no shore to keep clear off. Only the sky and thousands of stars. We just have to keep an eye every now and then, check on the sails, the wind and the course. For the rest, we keep awake listening to music or to audiobooks on our MP3 player.
« I may have only one eye left, but I keep it out on a careful watch !»

Tireless, Saltimbanque goes on and on...
Our days at sea have the following pattern: at noon, we listen to the weather forecast and have lunch together. In the afternoon, we stay awake until diner time (mostly right after sunset). We prepare the boat before the night before the first of us goes to sleep. We change every 3 hours mostly. Breakfast is solitary and sometimes doubled, we keep on the watch alternance until the end of the morning, so that each of us has a chance to get twice 3 hours sleep.
In addition to the general routine, some small “events” occur and help us make out one day from the next.
Day 1 : 126 miles
Once the wind is well established from the back, we get into trade-wind mode. With only the foresail up we do not manage to keep on the direct course and sail a few degrees more to the North. But hey, it’s still a long way to go, plenty of time for the wind to change...
Laure is revising her Portuguese lessons and Camille waking up from a nap as “crrrrrrr...”. That is the unmistakable and peremptory noise of the fishing line calling for immediate attention. Yeepee, a tuna fish! Just a bit smaller than our tuna in the Bay of Biscay, this one will do us 2 meals only: tuna-tomatoes-potatoes and of course our favorite teriyaki tuna! We have a go at tuna sushi as well, raw on some bread with butter: well, some exotic cuisines are better left to the far-away countries where they belong...
« When you can get your hands dirty, I’d rather delegate – and supervise ... »
We also see a small sea turtle! The water is warmer, 22° according to our meter – still better than the chilly Portuguese 16°... Birds keep us company all along, sea-swallows and a sort of dark-bodied puffins gliding just above the water surface.
Day 2 : 120 miles

« ...welcome to the WeatherForecast answering machine, please bear on as your call is being transferred to the right satellite »
Another day with the foresail up alone and 15 knots of wind. The night is magic, full of stars like echoed by luminous plankton lighting up the waves. We get a newer weather forecast on our satellite phone to confirm our strategy (as we are still wondering about the direct route or a bit more to the North)
Day 3 : 107 miles
The wind decreases a bit in the afternoon and we hoist up the spinnaker. It’s still a bit on the sporty side, with some gusts and waves: we have to stay focused at the helm. But we go fast! 6 knots on the direct route! Once the spi is down for the night Laure bakes a leek-salmon pie to celebrate!
The following night again is ... different according to the speaker. Camille stays up first and gets rain, showers, wind gusts so strong that she has to wake Laure up and take the reef, then get the main sail down. While she goes to sleep exhausted, Laure sails at 5.5 knots on the direct route without a change. The changing of the guard brings about some change in the wind too. It decreases a lot and Camille will have to maneuver all the time to keep the boat sailing in a very light breeze... well, she sleeps in on the next morning to catch up.
« I won’t get up, I won’t get up, I’m still sleepy, 5 more minutes please... »
Day 4 : 91 miles

« I love the spi ! it makes shade too !»
The sky is weird today: cirrus are coming from the West, cumulus from the East, but the wind blows from the North! In the afternoon we get the spinnaker up again in a failing wind so as to make the most of every breeze.

A cargo catches us by surprise: focused on the spi and relying on the radar detector we don’t see it before a couple of miles away…oops! There is quite a lot of traffic here actually, maybe because Gibraltar is not so far away.
We take the spi down before the night. The wind veers slowly to the North, and we keep on in the right direction, though much slower than before. Saltimbanque glides smoothly on the waters of the middle of the Atlantic on a luminous carpet under the stars – that’s happiness! Laure will have less fun during her watch round, as she will have to struggle and maneuver to keep on some speed in an ever-decreasing wind... well, everyone’s got to have a turn!
Day 5 : 64 miles
The wind is getting out of breath this morning and the sun is shining strong already. The sea is smooth. This calls for shower-time! We have a “solar shower” (black water bag exposed to the sun on the deck), from which we can get some water out to fill a gardening spray. It’s very efficient! With the pressure we use less water, one liter per person only! Once clean, we put on some clean clothes as well – though very little as the sun is very hot!! The map is showing us West from Morocco now...
"Yes I am entitled to a shower as well - scrubbing well behind the wings! "

Turtles swim slowly just below the surface, pictures are difficult to take ...
The wind dies down completely and we grudgingly resort to poor old Nestor. As he works, we can rest even better than under sails! The water is getting warmer still, measured at 25° by the meter (well, maybe only 22° in reality – it’s getting a bit enthusiastic here). Suddenly we see lots of turtles in the smooth water. From the distance they are a dark bump on the surface, and swim along quietly. Now, that’s a change from the dolphins!
At 6 pm Camille is looking at the horizon, thinking that this low-hanging cumulus there looks a lot like an island... Laure-the-good-sight confirms: LAND!! Land ahoy! Porto Santo is just there in front of us – 40 miles away still... Quite impressive this tiny little piece of land in the middle of an ocean...
The night falls, showing the most beautiful sunset so far. It’s a “son et lumière” show: the plankton glows brighter than ever lighting the hull, even the sails up a split second in a bigger wave. Saltimbanque is floating on neon lights! We play with the bucket, filling it with water to make a bigger brighter splash! As a tiny breeze runs over the water the surface gets a small wrinkle, glowing then everywhere. (Not easy to spot the lighthouse in these conditions…). So much for the “lumière” part. As for the sound... well tonight’s guest star is DJ Nestor spinning off for you...
Magical lights before our last night at sea...
30th August : arrival
The final approach is long. We see the island at 6 pm but reach it only at 9 am on the following morning. In the night a tiny breeze wakes up, blowing exactly to our face… but blowing still! We allow Nestor some rest and sail close to the wind, a very slow 2 knots... After a few hours again the situation worsens and we wake the engine up again for the final run as the sun rises.

Just a few miles more and we will be in Porto Santo, the first island of the Madeira archipelago.
From a small vague shadow in the distance the island has become a rocky towering chaos during the night. As the sun rises it bears every shade of beige, pink and purple, to golden brown… we sail by the lighthouse that guided us throughout the night and finally enter the harbour – welcomed by impatient terns mistaking us for some fishing boat returning full after a night of work. It’s very quiet, almost empty. We pick up a buoy and turn off the engine – finally!
After 4 days and 19 hours at sea, Saltimbanque lies in Porto Santo in the middle of the Atlantic, 500 miles away from Lisbon, 350 miles off the Moroccan coast, 300 miles from the Canarias... well, in one word: an island!
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Sylvia - 07/09/2011 21:41:17
Hoi, wat een leuk bericht! Vond het heel erg spannend om te lezen, vooral de nacht verhalen en natuur events. De doode tuna zou onze kat heel erg lekker hebben gevonden... Nu in the middle of nowhere lijkt dit echt een wereldreis te zijn, toch? Tenminste krijg ik dit gevoel als geintereseerde lezer :-) Volgende week gaat mijn reis naar Malaysia beginnen. Ben ook al benieuwd wat ik daar ga beleven. Geen mobile bereik... dus eenigzins avontuurlijk. Groetjes!

Christian - 07/09/2011 10:13:17
J'ai vécu une nuit étonnante. Au fameux hôtel "L'Or ***" à Gradignan.
J'y ai fait des rêves de photos sublimes, comme celles qui m'avaient subjugué hier soir en visionnant le site de Saltimbanque.
En me réveillant ce matin, j’ai aussitôt renoncé à m’aligner avec les photographes qui m’avaient inspiré : trop de risque de comparaison !

Bruno - 07/09/2011 01:18:07
Whaouuuu! ça faisait longtemps que je n'etais pas venu sur le blog et c'est une erreur. C'est un vrai petit roman d'aventure très depaysant...

P\'tite soeur du skiper Aumadatroi - 04/09/2011 09:48:23
Superbe reportage, belles photos et commentaires trés agréables, vraiment continuez à nous abreuver de vos aventures !
PS : mer d'huile à 24°, snif j'ai pas eu droit à celà.. ;=) (svp, donnez des conseils de pêche à Philippe :=D)

SuDad - 04/09/2011 00:05:32
C'est une affaire qui va se terminer à "Connaissance du Monde" ça. Les photos sont déjà au niveau. Magnifiques. Le récit se lit comme tout bon livre d'aventures: on brûle de connaître les chapitres suivants. Alors, vite, le prochain épisode ! C'est facile, hein quand on n'a pas à prendre les quarts... Comme d'hab', votre plaisir, perceptible, est bien agréable à partager.

la mamou - 03/09/2011 15:29:30
wouaou !! super planant .... après deux lectures , j'atterris à peine ...
mais : "laure passe un FPSO " ???
le dernier cardigan à la mode ??? j'y crois peu ...
un Front Polaire Sud Ouest ??? bof ...

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