Sunseeker Chapter 23
It was about this time that Rene developed a raging fever and was laid low for three days. She could eat nothing and alternated between overheating and being so cold that she shivered. Her strength dwindled and she became incoherent. She told me later that as she lay in her bunk she watched little green men racing around the deck outside the portholes. She had no notion of direction and as she struggled to reach the heads in the after cabin I feared she would make her way to the side of the boat and be lost overboard. I had to watch her constantly whilst trying to help Sunseeker through the worst of the weather. When I became too tired I hove to and tried to rest and recover some strength.
The free pontoons in the harbour of Bayona ran out from the piles of boulders that made up the breakwater. They harboured swarms of small mosquitoes which, thankfully, bypassed me but made a beeline for poor Rene. She was covered in bites despite trying to rig some form of netting to keep them out of the boat. Apart from the misery of being constantly the target of such horrible insects and feeling a little sick, she appeared, at the time, none the worse for her encounters of the insect kind. Perhaps the many tiny amounts of poison injected by each bite had added together to form this debilitating condition in which Rene now found herself.
As the hours and days wore on with no sign of respite from this relentless wind that seemed intent upon denying us any hope of reaching our goal, so my stamina and strength waned. It became a personal thing. Each time I struggled to bring Sunseeker onto the other tack so the wind shifted to head us once more.
One feature of the satellite navigation system is the display showing the distance to our next waypoint or destination. Our noon to noon distance run was recorded using this figure. The days run being yesterday’s distance minus today’s distance. For the last three days the log showed 2 miles, 4 miles and 0 miles. This was the final straw for me and I accepted defeat.
The huge brick wall placed in the middle of the ocean had succeeded in repelling us and blocked off our passage to Madeira. Our noon positions are marked on the chart with a circled cross and the date and on the 24th, 25th and 26th show that we clearly hit a brick wall!
At half past five in the afternoon of the 26th October I stopped banging my head against the brick wall and we abandoned our passage to Madeira. Sunseeker was brought about and sails were set for a run back to the Portuguese Algarve coast some two hundred and fifty miles away. Of course, with the wind behind us we had a great sail. However, because I was so tired I reverted to my RYA Day Skipper status and we only sailed during the day, heaving to overnight for some rest. Rene was slowly on the mend and her little green men had abandoned ship. We managed to get some food into her and gradually her strength returned. While I slept Rene stood watch. Although Sunseeker was hove to the wind pushed her slowly in roughly the right direction.
With many shipping routes fanning out from and converging on the Straits of Gibraltar we expected to see quite a bit of shipping on this passage back to Portugal. We were not disappointed as we gave way to container ships and oil tankers embarking on their transatlantic passages.
End of Sunseeker Chapter 23