Chapter 22 Mayday

Monday 7th August 2017

The Wreck (1899) Henri-Edmond Cross

The Wreck (1899) Henri-Edmond Cross

True to her word Max wakes me at the Bayona decision point. We study the weather and see that, if anything, it is going to die down a little. We calculate the time we have remaining and work out that we would get to Porto at around 3am the following morning. I’m happy to take the watch from when it gets dark so we agree to this. I ring the marina at Porto to check this is ok and find that, at that time in the morning they are happy for us to dock on the outer pontoon, which will make life much easier.

I make some scrambled eggs which, as the clouds have mostly gone, we eat in the sunshine. We have just washed up our plates, when we find ourselves scrambled. The radio emits the sound of a DSC initiated distress call. The first action when you hear a mayday is to note down the position. I have had such calls before but they have always been far away. As we mark the position on the chart we realise this is just two nautical miles from us, or put another way, about 15 minutes with the engine flat out.

I turn Kite in the direction of the call while Max monitors the radio inside the boat. In training as a VHF operator I signed an agreement not to disclose details of distress calls, and I will not do so now, but I will say that thanks to multiple European nationalities communicating in multiple languages and assistance rendered to the vessel of one country by the vessel of another, this ended well. The situation was over long before we reached the location and we returned to our previous course.

It gets to dusk and I make myself a big cup of strong coffee as Max heads down to sleep. I don’t normally drink caffeine, so when I do partake, it has a big effect. This is the case now, and as it kicks in, I think why not get the mainsail down now rather than wait till later in the morning. The wind is behind us so the sail is not adding much stability. I turn Kite head to wind, start lowering and then putting away the main in the still strong waves. With one particularly big wave I lose my footing and tumble across the coach roof causing a concerned Maxime to shout, asking if I’m ok. I’m clipped on with a safety line so I’m fine. In the end, with me a little bruised, the mainsail bag is zipped up, and I’m glad that there is one less thing to do when we get to Porto.

Still really jittery from the coffee, I’m looking around for more things to do when we are joined by another pod of dolphins. This time I’m the one who clips on and heads up to the prow of the boat to see them. I’m there for about half an hour watching them in the moonlight as they play across the bows and leap out of the water in the distance. I marvel at the sheer joy it gives me just to see them ‘muck about in the water having a good time’. By the time they go, though I’m still definitely wide awake, the worst effects of the coffee are gone.