From the Azores to Gibraltar
Horta to Gibraltar.
After getting in late last night and celebrating with a few drinks the day started very slowly. We were given permission to come alongside the wall, which meant that we didn't have to inflate the tender to clear in with customs and immigration. Paperwork all taken care of, a list of jobs to do then followed. First task, having a nice long hot shower rather than throwing a bucket of seawater over me, which had been the case on the crossing from Bermuda. Feeling very clean the laundry was the next job. However, the rather strict lady running the laundry room insisted that we follow her instructions so I sat down and waited to be called forward to fill the allocated machine. I had three lots of washing and drying to look after so there were a lot changes from one machine to another. I think this task took over 2hrs to complete as there were others ahead of my washing. Third, and the worst task, sort out why the toilet wasn't working. During the passage I had cleaned the joker valve, but this didn't improve the situation. If the valve was caked in sediment, which it was, would the pipes be any better. I removed one pipe leading to the holding tank, to find that the bore of the pipe absolutely full of sediment. No wonder the water wasn't getting flushed away. At this point I decided that I could do no more today and would finish the job tomorrow. I went and had a chat with the skippers of 'Shiva' and 'Phi', two of the yachts that left Bermuda at the same time as us. Later that night we meet up again in 'Peter's' bar and exchanged stories about our passage; the weather, the breakages and things lost overboard.....not crew.
While the crew were busy washing the boat down I went off to the chandlers to get some help on my electric toilet. The boss was not around so I returned to the boat and started removing the remaining pipe. This was much more difficult as there was very little room to get any tools to work at its removal. I couldn't even get a hacksaw at the right angle to attempt to cut it off. In the end I used a Stanley knife to cut the outer layer before using a pair of pliers to cut the wire that had been spun round the pipe to reinforce it. Finally I managed to remove the pipe, and, yes, you've guessed it, this one was also caked in sediment. Back to the chandlers to purchase a pair of pipes to replace the ones that I had removed. They only had the larger diameter 'black water pipe I needed so I bought 2m of this. As they didn't have the smaller diameter 'black water' pipe that I also needed I bought some domestic pipe just in case. Back to the boat to remove all the sediment from the small bore pipe, which wasn't too difficult to do...... a case of whacking it on the ground until the sediment fell out! Putting it all back again was going to be a problem. Lack of space and pipe that isn't flexible meant that it took ages to put it all back together. Now that I had it at a point where I could test my plumbing skills, would it work? Fingers crossed, the power was switched back on, the water filled the bowl, which wasn't an issue, and then I pressed the switch to empty the bowl........ and thankfully it did. Thank goodness. We can now uncross our legs and use the throne as it was intended. I haven't checked thoroughly to see whether there are any leaks coming from the connections but I will do tomorrow. That work, which has taken me the best part of a day to complete, was rounded off with a celebratory drink (or two).
Last day of getting the boat ready for the off tomorrow. Wally has gone off to the supermarket to get all the provisions, Matias is doing some writing, and I have the last laundry run, fuel up the boat and plot the course for the passage to Gibraltar. Looking at the weather there will be good winds on Saturday, dying down Sunday and Monday before returning on Tuesday. As the passage is around 1100nm (1138nm) we have to be frugal with the fuel as I don't have sufficient to get there under motor. Some welcome news has been passed to me. Sailor John, or better known as 'John', has made the decision not to go any further with us. John has not been a team player from the outset, doing what he wants, when he wants. Admittedly, he did start to make an effort once words were spoken, but for the days we have been in Horta, he booked himself into an hotel. Wally is not too pleased with him either as he had provisioned the boat for four people, not three. In the evening we all went off to the Athletico restaurant for a meal and Peters bar for some night caps.
We had planned to set sail at 09:00 but in the end it was 11:30. Thomas, from Plan B, had just arrived as I was disposing of the rubbish and I went on board his boat for a coffee. A trip to Customs and Immigration to settle the marina fees and to check out. The first couple of hours went well, good winds and speed. However, it didn't last long. At the end of my three hour watch we were running on engine as winds had died to less than 5kts. Just to make up for it though we did see some whales, four or five Atlantic Pilot whales swimming along merrily, with two yacht seeing what they were up to. A few hours later we saw another couple of whales, same species, going in the opposite direction. Supper that night was roasted vegetables with salmon with a slice of lemon cake to finish.
Distance covered in 24hrs: 108nm. Distance to go: 1030nm.
Wally's birthday. Still little to no wind. Still motoring. So much for being frugal with the fuel! Brunch was a Carbonara pizza and chips with the rest of the lemon cake to celebrate Wally's birthday. I've made some cheese and ham rolls for mid afternoon (or a late shift snack) and evening meal will be Lasagne. A large pod of dolphins came to the boat, stayed a few minutes and went off as quickly as they came. The rest of the day has been spent motoring as the winds are too light, at which point the fishing line has made a reappearance. My brother has given me instructions on catching a tuna or mahi mahi, on making the perfect lure to attract them and what to do when (not if) I catch one! The lure is now dressed up in a frilly baco foil skirt. We are in the richest fishing grounds in the Atlantic, I'm told. We shall see! Nothing else visible around us or on AIS.
Distance covered in 24hrs: 97nm. V. Distance to go 933nm.
Winds are still light but sufficient to turn the engine off and propel us forward. Not at a great speed 4 - 5kts, but at least we are conserving fuel. Fishing line is out again. Sun up and sun down being the best time to catch something. We thought we might have seen a fishing vessel in the middle of the night. We are too far from the nearest island to see their lights but nothing was showing up on AIS. Forecast for the rest of the day are for the same light winds, and it appears set for the week. Lunch today will be chicken wraps and salad, back to the old favourite, and supper, pork chops with some roasted vegetables. The rolls were greatly appreciated so I'll make some more and place them in the cockpit table so crew can help themselves when they feel peckish. Another senior moment. The chicken breasts that were meant to be bought in Horta weren't! So wraps are off and it's pizza, salad and a couple of boiled eggs. Around 10:00 I saw the outline of another whale, some 20m off the stern of the boat. I heard this loud splash and a rush of air and, on looking round saw the body disappear below the surface of the water. It looked much larger than the Atlantic Pilot whales previously seen and I don't think I saw a dorsal fin. Camera ready to snap a photo, but it never resurfaced! By late afternoon the winds had begun to pick up but our daily distance covered will not be sufficient to make Gibraltar in 10 days.
Distance covered in 24hrs: 114nm. Distance to go: 819nm.
Concerns that the tack we are on is not charging the batteries sufficiently, and we still have a lot of fresh food in the fridge. Little or no sunshine to assist the solar panels in doing their work. The fuse for the wind generator has been replaced. Water must have got in during the storms we went through en route to Faial and blew the fuse. Haven't managed to find the reason for this so fingers crossed it doesn't continue to blow. Further course changes given by Frank to seek out wind and to avoid the wind hole that is travelling north. However, our boat speed isn't good enough to get to each point he has set! Lunch, well this has been missed. The rolls that are being eaten as a midnight feast are filling the crew enough to not warrant more to eat until an early supper. (I think the chocolate biscuits might also have something to do with it too!) Supper is a pork casserole with peppercorn sauce, and the midnight snack, tuna and sweet corn wraps. A few more dolphins seen and a couple of ships passing by on AIS. Winds have picked up and we have made good progress for most of the day but as night approaches the wind veers towards ENE, pushing us south of our rhumb line.
Distance covered in 24hrs: 132nm. Distance to go 687nm.
As expected, we are now just over 5nm below the rhumb line. Little hope at the current moment in time of getting back to it until the wind backs more to the north, and hopefully, with some west in it to make the sailing a bit more comfortable. We are currently close hauled, which means crashing through the waves, bouncing the boat in the air and killing off the speed. This heading will take us to Morocco! I'm sure it's a very nice place but not where I want to be in six days time. Lunch today was vegetable broth. Not the tastiest of soups, and not the wisest meal planning - boiling hot liquid in an open pan with the boat jumping about all over the place! Supper was beef stew without the dumplings. I must admit, I'm very impressed with the 'Mr D slow cooker' Cheese and ham wraps with lettuce and tomato for the night watches. Highlight of the day, getting on the radio and requesting two cargo vessels to alter their course. Both were heading on my rhumb line towards me. The first, Maria G, would only take action when they saw me on their radar. I had to call them back when we were in visual contact before they moved to port, and gave sufficient clearance. The second, Ocean Hope, were on a more direct heading towards me. They would not move. My AIS indicated a CPA (closest point of approach) between 230m to 0.4nm. Back on the radio I passed this information to them. They argued, probably rightly, that the distance would be more than a mile - their equipment far superior to mine. I then said I hope that they are correct as we wouldn't want a collision to occur. They asked what my intentions were. As a sailing vessel I could only go with the vagaries of the wind. They then said they would alter course, but instead of turning to port, they went to starboard, crossing my bow. Thank you Ocean Hope. In the end there was plenty of sea room.
Distance covered in 24hrs: 136nm. Distance to go: 551nm.
A rather uneventful day, compared to yesterday. Winds, as expected, have dropped. We currently have full main and jib, 10kts of wind and boat speed around 5kts. The only thing seen in the water, another fender, encrusted with all forms of marine life. We are over half way to Gibraltar and our ETA is late Monday, early Tuesday, winds permitting. Lunch today was the last of the pizzas, topped with the remains of a tomato. Supper, another pork casserole and sandwiches have been made for the night watches. As the evening progresses the wind dies down and we only make 4kts per hour. At this rate Tuesday looks a more likely arrival day. As we approach Portugal we will need to make a decision as to which route to take as they have a TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme) in place at the SW corner. Five lanes of commercial traffic and I think it will be night time when we meet it?
Distance covered in 24hrs: 107nm. Distance to go: 444nm.
The engine was switched on at 00:30 as we were just bobbing along getting nowhere slowly. A couple of commercial vessels seen passing in the opposite direction, heading for the USA. Wind speed keeps on fluctuating, one minute we have sufficient to switch off the engine, unfurl the jib and sail, the next it dies away again and we are back to motoring. Not sure if we have this for the full day. My brother has just sent me a text asking about fuel level. Maybe that's a sign that it will be with us all day! Yasmin's birthday today so birthday greetings sent mid Atlantic. Well not quite, as we are just over 400nm from Gibraltar. Lunch, yes you've guessed, will be cheese and ham wraps, with the last of the celery, a tomato, finely sliced cabbage, green pepper and carrot batons. For supper another lasagne. Only the best for my crew! No more bread left so might do some baking tomorrow. Haven't seen any aquatic life but, as we are getting closer to the Straits of Gibraltar, we are getting to see more commercial traffic. For the first time since March I have started to read a book again. Passed to me by Wally, titled 'A voyage for madmen', it's an account of the first Global Challenge in 1968, when nine sailors took part in the first single handed, non stop round the world yacht race.
Distance covered in 24hrs: 95nm. Distance to go 349nm.
Particularly slow headway being made. Wind significantly under 5kts throughout the night and unlikely to see any great change until we are some 80nm from the Portuguese coastline. Some time still to go then! If it's any consolation, and I'm sure it's not, 'Phi', the sailing yacht that I have daily contact with, heading to Holland, is in exactly the same situation. No wind whatsoever. It'll make her crossing of the Bay of Biscay a lot calmer than the one I experienced in 2015, when I got hit by a severe storm with 63kts of wind!!! Today I shall do some baking as it will be warm enough to prove the dough, and it will make the time appear to pass quicker. Lunch, as per usual, and supper, a cottage pie (without the roof) and mashed potatoes. A lone turtle seen some 250nm off the coastline. Wind had started to pick up again by late afternoon and once again, start to get more miles under our hull. Two lessons learnt about bread making today. First, do not leave the dough out in the sun for too long, it begins to cook! Second, do not allow the dough to prove for 11 hours. My plan was that I would fist bake the cottage pie (for supper) and after this had been cooked use the pre heated oven to bake the bread. However, I had started to knead the bread at 08:00 in the morning, and began cooking supper at 19:30. The crew were obviously hungry as it was all eaten!
Distance covered in 24hrs: 124nm. Distance to go: 225nm.
An excellent sail through the early hours, to the point where at the end of one watch it was decided to put in the second reef in the main, but unfurl the jib out full. Wind was now getting up to 20kts and our arrival in Gibraltar looks more and more likely to be late Monday or early Tuesday.... if we can get through the TSS safely. Just off the south west coastline of Portugal there is a five lane motorway for commercial vessels to use. Our intended passage will take us just outside the north end of the TSS, at right angles to cargo ships entering and leaving it. Getting it right is vital and frequently I or Wally have to get on the VHF radio to let the ships we were weaving in and out of, of our presence, or to find out their intentions. Thankfully, they are all very good in giving us a wide berth except for one, Isla de Beioko. When I got on the radio to them they suggested I switch to another channel, 26. Did this, then they gave me another channel, 06, to go to. Did this too, and then they ignored me. We passed them to their stern which was not a problem, but it might have been had I not taken the action to do this. At 12:30ish we spotted land again for the first time in eight days. Still another two day of passage along the southern coast of Portugal before our arrival in Gibraltar. Bread making back on, but this time I'm monitoring the time the dough is proved. Lunch was a chicken and cheese wrap, the end of the processed ham and cheese slices. Supper, the last of the prepared lasagnes. The bread turned out much better today, as more attention was given to it than yesterday. However, it is so much nicer when it is served up warm!
Distance covered in 24hrs: 133nm. Distance to go: 92nm
Monday 17.06.19. and Tuesday 18.06.19.
By the early hours of the morning the speed that had propelled us so majestically yesterday, was dropping. The wind had all but gone and when I came on watch at 02:30 I had to switch on the engine. There just wasn't sufficient wind to drive the boat forward at anything more than a couple of kts, and the sails were flapping from side to side. We are so tantalisingly close to Gibraltar but this drop in speed is putting our arrival time further and further back. During the course of the morning the wind picks up, but just as quickly, dies back down again, the engine off, then on, and currently off. We are making around 3.5kts per hour, which, although not fast, might be the appropriate speed to get us to the entrance of the Straits of Gibraltar. The reason for this is that there is quite a strong current flowing eastbound from 3hrs before high water. High water on the 18th. June is 02:00, so we need to arrive at Tarifa Point at or just before 23:00 (UTC). Tarifa Point is about 57 nm ahead of us, so, at our current speed of 3.5kts per hour, if maintained, we should get there around 06:00. That's not good. However, our speed is slightly higher than 3.5kts, but even this will not get us there in time. We need to increase our speed to over 6kts, which is not going to happen! Lunch today will be some sort of omelette creation with fried onions and frankfurter sausages in wraps, the last packet of them. Supper will be a concoction of the remaining fresh vegetables and chorizo sausage, all mixed together with some herbs and spices. I'm leaving the bread making until later in the afternoon so that it will be ready to bake at the same time as supper, so the loaf should still be warm when eaten. In the afternoon we gain the wind we were looking for, but by the evening it fell away and so did our boat speed. Any thoughts of getting to Tarifa Point by 23:00 look well out of the question, but we soldier on. My brother suggested going in to Barbate, before Tarifa Point, but the entrance is littered with fishing pots and tunny nets that are strewn right across the channel for miles. This is out of the question. I did not want to have the propeller fouled by line again. Once again, luck is in our favour and we still manage to get the eastbound current taking us through at a fair rate of knots. Once the other side of the 'Pillars of Hercules' it was all hands on deck as the number of boats, large and small were going here, there and everywhere. Just another few miles and we would be back on terra firma. First port of call was the fuel pontoon to fill up with diesel at duty free prices. Next, see which Marina would offer long term berthing. Neither Ocean Village nor Queensway were able, and Alcaidesa Marina were pretty busy as it is tuna season and many fishing boats are taking up residency there. So, another journey comes to an end.... for the time being. Corryvreckan still needs to get 'home' to Greece but that will be in a few months time. After being away from home for over three months I need some time to recharge the batteries.... or play some golf. The trip from St. Lucia back to Gibraltar has taken in seven fantastic, quite different islands, covered over 4377nms and have meet some superb people. Special thanks to Nicki from St. Georges, Bermuda, who went out of her way to get some UHT long life milk for Wally's tea. She brought back several types and insisted on no payment. When you consider the cost of groceries (or any item come to that) she was a superstar. My crew, with one exception were brilliant, as per usual. Wally, always willing to take on any task and Matias, cut from the same tree as Guido, a crew member on the east west leg. As soon as he came on watch, as did Guido, he would start tinkering with the sails to get more drive from them, and more often than not he did. My brother, Dr. Frank Chopin, who once again sorted out my weather routing. Such a fine job he did I'm willing to start taking commissions for any other yachts person looking to get a finely tuned passage from A to B. A few items lost overboard, easily replaced, and some repairs that I'd have preferred not to have done, but, hey, that's all part of the package.
Distance covered in 18hrs: 83nm. Distance to go: 9nm!