Escaping Hurricane Leslie – Madeira to Tenerife 11-13 Oct 18

As the date approached for flying back to Spellbinder, I began to take an active interest in the weather, as one does.  Expecting to be greeted by the usual northeasterly trades, I was surprised to find a tropical depression turning into a hurricane predicted to pass across Madeira, bringing some very strong winds and sea state.  Hurricane Leslie was inbound!  We had a decision to make: either go early, and risk motoring to get south and to the Canaries, or wait it out and enjoy a roller coaster downwind ride once it had passed.  Given that the marinas on the south coast of Madeira have had problems and suffered damage in the past, I decided after a brief consultation with my crew that the former option was preferable, and having arrived by taxi at about 1815, by 1900 we were slipping lines.  My crew were Neil and Paul – the ‘Northern Contingent’ – both of whom had sailed with me earlier this year as I was trialing Spellbinder.  Neil had spent the previous few days aboard with his wife enjoying Madeira, and had kindly got the yacht ready for sea.


Leaving Madeira

We headed out into a westerly Force 4 and had a nice sail through the night, passing the Ilhas Desertas to port and heading out into a light swell.  By dawn the wind had died and we motored for 24 hours, ever grateful of the nautical miles were were putting to the south.  There was a lovely 2 metre swell which evidently came from the hurricane area, but it was on our quarter and helped us along.  The wind came back to help us the following morning, so we gave the Yanmar a rest and sailed for a few hours as Tenerife approached. You can see the big Volcano Pico de Teide (3717m) a long way off – it reminded me of closing in on Tristan da Cunha a few years ago during an east-bound Atlantic crossing.


The impressive volcano Pico de Teide (3717m) viewed 30 NM out

As we were taking in the view the fishing reel whirled – for the first time in many hours of trying! On Spellbinder the rule is that the crew who gets to the rod first gets to reel the fish in – or lose it.  This time it was Paul – and although we didn’t know it was a fish until it was 15m from the yacht, it did indeed transpire to be a beautiful dorado (also known as mahi-mahi or common dolphinfish).


Paul doing his best to imitate Ernest Hemingway

We got it on board ok using a small gaff I’d bought and dispatched it.

IMG_3037 2

I didn’t actually catch it but it’s my yacht and my fishing rod!


The lucky squid lure 


Within a few minutes Neil had done an excellent job of filleting the dorado.


Sharp work  – enough for 3 fillets for a fresh meal, three in the freezer for later.  Fresh fish is a delight on passage, and this was the first time we have been lucky to catch a pelagic fish on board Spellbinder.

After the dorado excitement we headed down the east coast of Tenerife, heading into Santa Cruz Darsena Pesquera to refuel, as we were a bit short (I wasn’t sure, but with the reserve tank empty, and the working tank on the edge of the red line, in fact we had 50l left).


Rickety Spanish pontoons.  Spellbinder is now 378 litres of diesel better off.

After re-fueling, we headed further down the east coast of Tenerife towards our destination, San Miguel marina on the south-east corner of the island. The waters seem to be teaming with wildlife, and in addition to dolphins we saw a small group of pilot whales nearby:


It was dark by the time we arrived on San Miguel marina, but we were met and rafted alongside another British boat.  A night in town ensued, to celebrate the end of an enjoyable passage, Neil’s birthday, and the fact now that Spellbinder is down here at 28 degrees North, the easiest way back to the UK is via the trade winds and the Caribbean…


Spellbinder’s current berth


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