From Bermuda to the Azores
A 'do very little' day today. Some washing, to ensure that I don't have to keep rotating my underpants, a brush up of the cockpit floor to get rid of the breadcrumbs, and the rest of the day was spent looking around the Marine Expo, here in St. Georges. Rather limited in its display but it did allow me to collect a couple of free baseball caps, a phone charger and a fridge magnet. Trouble is, my fridge does not have a metal door! Weather forecast is for a low to pass close to Bermuda with a 30 - 40% chance of it developing into a short lived sub tropical or tropical cyclone. Advice is to delay leaving until Tuesday. This will give John the opportunity to see whether the laptop battery he has ordered will be delivered on Monday. If it isn't he will have to get it forwarded to the Azores, and pick it up in Horta in a couple of weeks time. In the evening we had two of the crew from the s/y Phi on board and two from s/y Longamanus, the boat next to us. Time once again for the 'dark and stormy' to make an appearance along with pizza and chips. The main discussion was the low developing SW of Bermuda and when to leave. By the end of the night we had agreed to look at the forecast again in the morning.
Having checked the weather forecast again this morning the decision was to leave today and to get as far away from the island as possible, and use the lighter winds for that purpose. With satellite communication details passed between the yachts leaving, this way we would be able to assist one another if needs be. Wally went off to get the meat order while I and the other two crew went to fill up the yacht with fuel and water. Unfortunately we were unable to take advantage of getting duty free fuel at this particular fuel dock as the minimum fuel requirement was 950 litres. My fuel tank is only 150 litres! Next, clear customs and immigration and let them know that Matias flew in to Bermuda but is sailing out. Other than that, it was time to leave. Light winds meant that we would not be getting very far from the island so we have to hope that the tropical cyclone that is developing veers northwards, out of harms way. One cargo vessel seen, heading for Tampa, USA, and that's about it.
My son's birthday today. I did try to send him a text message yesterday but when I checked my phone it failed to send it. I hope I have the right number for him and I'll send birthday greetings via my Garmin InReach. A 20m sailing vessel has been running a parallel course to us (s/y Axiom) but has a bit more speed so will shortly be ahead. The sargasso seaweed seems to be thinning out. Let's hope we are seeing the last of it as I'm sure it must be building up on the main rudder and keel, slowing the boat down. The Watt and Sea generator has had to be cleared of the weed every five - ten minutes as the build up on the prop reduces its turning speed and, as a consequence, is not charging the batteries as needed to run all the electrical equipment. Lunch will be salad and chicken wraps, supper; the rest of the lasagne that Wally cooked up yesterday. Boat speed has picked up, which is promising, and we have reefed early as the forecast is indicating winds in the 20kt area. Watt and Sea generator has broken its 'fuse pin' and is now no longer sitting vertically in the water. Is still working but not at its maximum. Decided to 'hove to', drop the bathing platform and do some repairs. The pin had broken in situ and needed to be knocked out. Hammer and drift handy, I managed to get the broken end out and replace it with a long bolt and nut. Hopefully it will hold until I get to Gibraltar, which is probably the first place that might have a spare part. Quite a few sail fish seen drifting around and a solitary dolphin. Now these 'sail fish' that I call them, turn out to the young, undeveloped 'Portuguese man of war' jellyfish!
Distance covered in 24 hrs: 102nm. Distance to go: 1580nm.
Another interesting day. It began with rain during Wally's first watch. When I came on I was asked to set the pole for a better flying angle for the head sail. Initially we couldn't furl in the head sail, then realised that the spinnaker halyard was wrapped around the top furling drum. It took ages for this to be untangled but it was sorted. Pole set out and head sail unfurled again. However, I could see a problem with the way I had set everything up. The jib sheet was trapped under the ring that I had bought to hold the spinnaker halyard and the sheets that allow the pole to be swung out at right angles to the yacht. This was also seen by Wally and he considered it a potential problem if an emergency occurred. The sail was brought back in but there were still problems with the spinnaker halyard getting twisted round the head sail. This needs looking at, when time permits. Then the rains came back again, this time with high winds. We were in the big depression that Simon had warned me about the previous day. For nearly 10 hours we battled against the elements, and at supper time had to 'hove to' to enable me to cook. Later I noticed that the vane of the Hydrovane was lying at right angles to its usual position. Had something broken off or just worked its way loose? Too dark to do any running repairs so I decided that we would have to drop the main, start the engine and motor sail with a small amount of head sail out and use the auto pilot. As they say.... It never rains but it pours!
Distance covered in 24 hrs: 122nm. Distance to go: 1458nm.
Finally the heavy winds have abated but we still have the confused seas afterwards. I had decided to climb up the outside of the solar panel gantry to ascertain the problem with the Hydrovane. With three safety lines attached, and winds blowing at 24kts+, I made my way up to the top of the gantry where I am able to get a much closer look at why the vane has fallen down by 90'. Thankfully, it is just a nut that must have vibrated loose over time. A quick repair and then down off the gantry into the safety of the cockpit. After the very high winds we are left with very light winds and progress once again is slow. Two further problems with the Watt and Sea generator. The bolt that I put in a couple of days ago to ensure the generator hung vertically has snapped. Do I replace it, if I can find another, or leave it? With the port tack that we are currently on, and with the generator hung on the port side of the stern, the propellor is rarely in the water when we are heeled over. Little point in replacing the bolt on this tack. Informed by my brother that we have a further low arriving late Friday, early Saturday, and best to make a course change to reduce the time spent in the low. Now on a heading of around 090'.
Distance covered in 24 hrs: 88nm. Distance to go: 1370nm.
The day starts with me trying to bring the boat back on course. I had set a waypoint
and track for all to follow on 090'. However, we had deviated by nearly seven nm from the track and I spent the next two hours of my watch steering us back to the line. Next task, get the storm sail prepared and ready to hoist when the bad weather comes. I had made contact with a passing tanker and s/y Westwind. Both confirm what my brother had said, we were in for very bad weather during the next 48hrs. I had bought a tri sail and storm jib back in 2016, after my first Bay of Biscay crossing ripped the sails of my old yacht to shreds when I was hit by winds of 63kts. After buying them they lay dormant in the bottom of a locker. They needed modifying to fit the new boat. The storm jib was an easy fix. The spinnaker halyard used to raise the sail. A pair of sheets attached and the sail hanked on around the head sail. Raising the sail was not a problem, but lowering it was. The head sail needed to be furled tighter to enable the storm jib to slide down easily. The tri sail was more of an issue to sort out. The attached sail sliders did not fit in to my mast track. Thankfully I had plenty of spare correctly sized sliders so I cut the old ones off and attached the new ones with shackles. The main sail had to be dropped and bagged up in situ, whilst the tri sail was fitted. The main halyard was used to raise the sail but I didn't have access to use the out haul for the rear of the sail. A length of rope was used as an alternative, although the foot of the sail is not as taut as I would like. Both sails raised and lowered, and now ready for use when the bad weather comes. Chicken casserole has been cooked and eaten before the winds come and sandwiches for when they are with us. It is now a case of waiting, knowing they are on the way. Pressure on the barometer is falling so it's getting closer. We expect them to arrive around 19:00. It's now 18:42.......
Distance covered in 24 hrs. 94nm. Distance to go: 1276nm.
Well the winds came, and with them plenty of rain. It was wise to have the storm sails in use but they have slowed us down compared to the other yachts around us, who have showed us their heels. Shiva, who yesterday was behind us, is now 100nm ahead. Oh dear! The driving rain has once again affected the electrics of the wind generator and solar panels, and I'm hoping, as before, that once they dry out all will be well again. In order to rest the crew I completed a double watch, at the wrong time, in the driving rain. A couple of hours later the sun has come out, the winds are in the low 20's and we can now dry some of our clothing. My waterproofs are no longer waterproof. Supper is being cooked, a lamb stew. Not sure what lunch is going to be. We have run out of bread and rolls, and I'm not going to try making bread in these conditions. We still have plenty of wraps so it might be cheese and ham wraps with some salad.
Reflecting back on the day, this is probably the one where a decision has been made as to whether a crew member continues after the Azores. Having completed a double shift to give everyone a good rest - this crew member in particular said he hadn't slept last off-watch, hence the reason for this. However, the list of tasks completed that I performed with the assistance of two of the other crew were as follows;
Prepared and cooked supper ready for later in the day.
Take down storm jib and store - assisted by Matias and Wally at the wheel.
Prepare pole for putting jib out once everything is ready.
Remove tri sail and store - assisted by Matias and Wally at the wheel.
Set up preventer ready for use - assisted by Matias and Wally at the wheel.
Go forward to bow and run preventer round bow cleats.
Told by a particular crew member that it wasn't correct (helpful?) so re-set.
All this time the crew member was sitting on his back side, not offering any help. I had even thrown down the companionway the cushion that he sat on, only for him to retrieve it. After all of this I went below to try to rest, only for this same crew member to shout down into the saloon....'Can't I get any food up here'!!!.
That was probably the straw that broke my back. In the month that he has been on board he has;
Made a cup of tea for Wally and me once.
Washed up once.
Cleaned the heads twice.
Taken food (not an issue) but back to his cabin, never offering others if they would
Iike something to eat.
Not prepared to follow instructions and is quite critical of what I have to ask him to do. Need I say any more?
Distance covered in 24hrs: 92nm. Distance to go: 1184nm..
Once the sails had been set and the winds dropped we have had a good run, clawing back lost time during the bad weather days. I think the daily total should be in the 130's and by 15:00 I will know. Still some rain in the air and wind between 20 - 28kts, but following seas, driving us forward. Nothing around apart from miserable looking seas. Sun pops out occasionally but it's mainly grey with rain in the air. Shiva, the yacht that I'm in contact with the most, is in rain at the moment with wind and direction the same as ours. Curried goat for supper tonight. Wally forgot to order the pizzas and Domino's want to charge an arm and a leg for delivery to us!
Distance covered in 24hrs: 146nm. Distance to go: 1038nm.
We are still making satisfactory to good progress. (Takes me back to the old Ofsted grades!) and waves and winds are still in our favour. Haven't managed to look at the Solar panel and Wind generator charge regulator yet. Too busy trying to get everything else done on the boat. The Watt and Sea generator is functioning well and batteries are fully charged. Lost a fender overboard. Must have gone a few days ago in the storm but have only just noticed it. Seven others were stored below and the eighth was left to dry out. It certainly isn't now. Much more worrying, the pelican clasp that holds the life raft to the cradle had come undone. I always ensure that this has got a second method of retaining it in the cradle otherwise that too would have disappeared overboard! Supper is currently cooking, a pork casserole, and lunch will be ham and cheese wraps again with some salad. Too overcast to think about making bread but will do it in a couple of days as it will make a nice change. I've changed the course on the chart plotter. No longer are we heading for Flores, but now Horta, added about a further 120nm. Also, my brother is constantly tracking my progress and giving me weather updates and a course to aim for to ensure we don't lose the wind. Additional waypoints have been set to gain the best advantage of future wind patterns. Just noticed another item broken. One of the clasps on the MOB life slings has broken and can no longer be attached to the rail. Will keep it in the cockpit just in case it's needed. Hopefully it won't be! Three crew pulling together, helping each other out, the fourth is resting in his cabin.
Distance covered in 24hrs: 137nm. Distance to go: 901nm.
Woke up to find that Wally was doing a double shift. Made him (and myself) a cup of tea and were entertained by the dolphins for 5 - 10 minutes. When John came up for his watch we switched our point of sail and gybed, but still had the head sail out on the pole. Not sure if this was doing any good but in thirty minutes we shall be changing course and a decision as to whether to remove the head sail from the pole will be made. Lunch today is scrambled eggs in wraps. Not the best meal of the passage but the eggs need to be used up. Whilst going through the fridge I found another two chicken breasts. That'll be lunch tomorrow. Supper is a sirloin steak stew. Only the best cuts of meat. It came to a head at lunch time. John wanted to know if there was a problem between the two of us. I said that this wasn't the right time and place but we would talk once in the Azores. He wouldn't agree to this an insisted that we talk now. Unfortunately Wally and Matias were present and not nice for them to hear. I have now informed John that if he wishes to depart the boat in Horta that is fine but I could not continue with him beyond Gibraltar. Things will be tense from now on and it is not the way I wanted it to be, but there we go.
Distance covered in 24hrs: 143nm. Distance to go: 758nm.
Another good days sailing with plenty of miles covered. I think this should be our best day yet. Yesterday the fishing line was put out. We have yet to catch anything, and I don't think that position is going to change. During the early hours of the morning I had to call up the tanker 'Santa Regina' as they were on a direct collision course with us. They agreed to move a few degrees to starboard and we passed safely. During the last few days there have been more dolphins around, they stay for a few minutes before moving on. There is also more cargo traffic passing in both directions, sometimes quite close by. The Watt and Sea generator is not producing as much power as I am expecting. I tried to run the water maker this morning but the battery monitor was down below 13v. In order to get the best from the water maker the batteries need to be fully charged. I'll check this later today and see if they are back to full charge.
Distance covered in 24hrs: 161nm. Distance to go: 597nm.
As expected, the wind has died down completely, or not enough to continue under sail alone. The engine has been fired up and we have motored most of the night through to 10:00UTC. Although we have slightly more wind we are not getting anywhere close to the speeds of the previous three days. I am expecting the wind strength to be back up by just after noon today, all being well. Shiva, the other yacht that I have been in daily contact with, are finding the same conditions. They are 100nm further north and about 160nm away from us. It is noticeably cooler in these parts and much damper through the night. The salt air is preventing any cuts and blisters from healing quickly, and the skin on my hands is peeling away at an alarming rate! We have run out of fresh bread, have a couple of packs of 'part baked' rolls left and the same with the wraps. I will try to make some bread today but not sure that there will be sufficient heat on board to 'prove' the bread. We shall see! The bread has been mixed and has had its first prove in the engine compartment. This was the warmest place to keep it for a couple of hours during my watch. For the second prove it was placed in the smallest room on the yacht, and as the sun has come out, it is now sitting in the cockpit in the warmth. The oven has been pre heated and in 25 minutes we shall see whether making bread in damp dreary conditions has been possible. Considering the lack of wind for most of the day and motoring for quite some time, we have covered a reasonable distance today.
Distance covered in 24hrs: 103nm. Distance to go: 494nm.
Another good day at the office. Winds have been 20 - 25kts, gusting to 28kts at time. Wind from the WSW and flatter seas with the occasional bump on the starboard aft quarter. Speed has been around the 6 - 7 kts and the miles are clocking down. The bread was a success yesterday, no complaints, although the crew might have just been polite. However, they have asked me to make some more so another batch is being mixed shortly. The rain that came was light enough to put up with but I did put the Bimini back over the cockpit to give a bit more protection. No sooner had I done this when the rain stopped and the sun began to make an appearance. This is very welcome as it has help prove the bread once again. Yesterday I transferred the bread to a metal tray before placing it in the oven. Not very good as it knocked some of the air out of it. Today I decided to place the batch into a glass tray for the second prove, and this could go straight into the oven without the need for touching it again. I think today's loaf is going to be better than yesterday's. Lunch were cheese and ham wraps (yet again!) with some celery and diced cabbage. Supper is going to be the last of the goat, another curry. Plenty of mixed fresh veg but no more fresh meat. It's lasted well. I'm hoping there will be places in Horta, on Faial, to re-provision with fresh food before setting off for Gibraltar.
Distance covered in 24hrs: 143nm. Distance to go 351nm.
The wind is now beginning to reduce and with it our boat speed. S/Y Shiva, the yacht that I've been in daily contact with, has sent a message that they are only 150nm away from Flores, our original destination. We are still over 400nm from Horta on Faial, which, if the wind is dying, is still another four days. Weather routing from my brother indicates that the higher we go the better our chances of finding the wind to push us towards our target, Horta, but it is adding additional miles to the passage. Highlight today was the sighting of a water spout from a whale. I didn't actually see any of the whale but Matias did. Marine traffic is lighter than the last few days to the extent that nothing is visible on AIS. Another batch of bread has already been mixed and is now proving. Little heat at the moment so it will take some time to rise. With the high pressure system below us and going north it should bring with it the sun. Wally is going through his daily chores of preparing the vegetables for supper and I'll put some chorizo sausages with them. The sun never materialised during the day and therefore the bread did not rise as much as it needed to. Methinks it will turn out quite dense after it is baked, but I'm sure it will all be eaten at supper.
Distance covered in 24hrs: 135nm. Distance to go: 216nm.
First passenger cruise liner seen since leaving the Caribbean, 'Ocean Dream' en route for New York City. We had some visitors during the early hours of this morning. I found a squid lying on the cockpit table. How it got there we shall never know, but it is now being used as bait to catch that elusive fish we are desperately seeking. Whilst setting up the fishing line, a second, and much larger squid was found, down by the bathing platform. Again, how it got there is a mistery. Was it chased by dolphins or other predators and a following wave surfed them up on to the boat? Who knows? The smaller squid, as I said, is now bait, the larger has been dissected by Matias, down to its optic eyes, and he has now cooked and eaten it. The smell of fish will be in the boat for quite some hours I think! Another batch of bread mix has been made. Yesterday's loaf was quite dense. I'm hoping that there will be a bit more heat today, but, as of 12:18, local time, the sun has yet to make an appearance. Lunch and supper the same as yesterday; tuna and sweet corn wraps with assorted cheeses and celery, and tonight, chorizo casserole. The electric toilet is playing up. It will not pump away waste water. Had a similar problem when crossing East to West and managed to resolve it by cleaning the joker valve of the calcium build up. Did that this time but it hasn't worked. Don't think it's the macerator but will not be able to do anything to fix it until we're in Horta, a couple of days away. Legs will have to be firmly crossed until then!
Distance covered in 24hrs: 108nm. Distance to go: 108nm.
Another squid has made an appearance on the boat. The first one, used as a lure, didn't attract any fish for supper, the second one, dissected and then eaten by Matias. Not sure what to do with this one, probably bait again. Under 200nm to go so should be arriving in Horta some time Wednesday. Another batch of bread mix has been made, and as I type this the sun is trying to come out. It will certainly help with proving the bread, as all the places I've used so far have not had the desired outcome. Wind is still favourable and veering towards north, giving us a beam reach on our easterly heading. Another possible whale sighting. The spray from the blow hole had been seen several times but the body remains out of view. Lunch today was a tin of ham with wraps and cheese slices. No more wraps left, just home (yacht) made bread or part baked rolls for lunch tomorrow. Fortunately we are within reach of Faial so no worries about lack of food. Supper is a concoction of chicken luncheon meat, pasta, half an onion, several cloves of garlic, a bottle of carbonara sauce and the remains of the bottle of blue cheese dip all mixed together to create a 'pasta bake'. Imagination is required on long passages like these.
Distance covered in 24hrs: 128nm. Distance to go: -20nm.
Under 75nm to go before we get to Horta, the last full day of sailing. Since last night we have been beating our way to the island, which has meant the last part of the passage has been the most uncomfortable. Bumping through the waves and crashing down the other side does not make for an easy life on board. The pasta bake last night was okay. The chicken luncheon meat was nothing like chicken. It didn't have the flavour or colour that one might expect, so this can will not be purchased again. Mind you, I don't think I've ever seen it sold this side of the 'pond', and just as well. Bread is still being made, and the last batch is now trying to prove. Lack of heat is the problem. Fishing has been given up as a bad experience. Maybe some more authentic lures may help? Plenty of dolphins coming up to the boat, having a quick look before disappearing into the depths of the Atlantic. The island of Faial has been seen, 53nm away at 13:30ish. Sounds close but still another 10 - 12hrs sailing! Wind still holding good, around 15kts, but swinging quite a bit, between NNE and NE. This makes holding a 'close haul' sailing point and keeping to our rhumb line more difficult, especially using the 'self steering' Hydrovane. Much better manually steering. Speed about 6kts which is more than acceptable. The Pilot Guide does not recommend a night entry, but after 15 nights at sea and, hopefully, an accurate chart, we will attempt to make it in.
Distance covered in 24hrs: 132nm. Distance to go: -152nm.
Well, after 15 days and eight hours at sea, we finally arrive in Horta Marina. Much to our dismay though, the marina is full and we have to drop anchor until a space is available. Not to be put off by this minor setback, the rum and ginger beer is cracked open, followed by a few beers. When the rest of the crew decide that enough is enough I have a couple of glasses of cooking Merlot to round off the night. In the last eight hours of sailing we covered a further 46nm, making the total passage a distance of 1899nm. The distance indicated on my chart plotter, including the change of destination from Flores to Faial, was 1814nm. An additional 85nm were added to the passage due to weather routing (to find wind) or poor steering!
Frederick Chopin training Wally wondering where the days Yacht art in Horta. Stunning. Storm sails in use (and up
yacht has been to Horta! have gone. early) en route between
Bermuda and the Azores.