Published: June 30th 2012June 29th 2012
Overview of outer harbor
We anchored in the outer harbor the first night, then moved in to the marina.
For those of you that might be interested in some of the facts and figures about our crossing we have a few for you. We lifted the anchor in Marigot Bay, St. Martin at 6:20AM on June 6, 2012 and put our anchor down in the harbor at Lajes, Flores in the Azores at 4:50PM on June 25th giving us a grand total of 19 days, 10.5 hours to sail a total of 2,550 nautical miles. Our average speed was 6 knots; however, when the seas were large we surfed over them and registered a high of 10.8 knots!! For those of you that are not sailors, this is really flying for a boat like ours. We put way too many hours on the engine for this trip, but fortunately Caliber provides us with very large fuel tanks and allowed us the ability to motor through the very low wind times and help us to get to more favorable positions to get wind for sailing. There were times when the waves were less than 2 feet while other times when you looked out the stern of the boat you saw a 15 foot wall of water approaching. Just when you think
The coast line is rugged and unforgiving with rock cliffs.
the wave will crash into the boat, it gently lifts you up and passes underneath you as gently as that 2 foot wave that you encountered on other days. The ocean is amazing and ever changing.
We sailed through time zones that moved us from UTC - 4 hours to UTC - 1 hour, however, with daylight savings time we have a total of 4 hours difference between upstate NY and Flores in the Azores. We listened to numerous podcast - most from NPR (National Public Radio) but also a few Cornell lecture and history lessons and many hours of music. We both read, The Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand and The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokow while at other times we read our own separate books. We spent hours playing solitaire and spider solitaire on our iPhone/Kindle as well as gazed at numerous stars in the Milky Way and confused a few of the brilliant planets that were low in the sky for ships at night! We were visited by a pod of dolphins only once during the crossing but spotted numerous Portuguese man of war (jellyfish) floating in both flat and high seas. We were impressed that a freighter
Spot the Lighthouse
The lighthouse of Lajes was an excellent landmark for helping you find where the breakwall is for the marina.
going by called us one evening to be sure we were OK as they thought they saw a red flare from our boat. In fact it was the red navigational light on our mast that was bouncing around as we had heavy seas. Nice to know that someone was checking. We were fortunate that neither of us got seasick, however, Bob didn't feel up to par for the first couple of days. We found that cats are very adaptable - more than we gave them credit for and that they will fend for themselves no matter what the sea conditions. The temperature dropped considerably as we traveled east and north to the point where long sleeves and long pants were the order of the day rather than the shorts and T-shirts we were accustomed to. We found that even though it may have seemed to be a stressful situation, we worked well together and seemed to complement each other’s talents. We found that 24 hours in a day can fly by quickly when maintaining a boat and sailing across an ocean. We recorded the details of where we were, the condition of the waves and sky, speed and heading of
Initial view of Lajes
The initial view of the village of Lajes is quite impressive as you come into the harbor.
the boat and notes on sail configuration with our location every 2 hours for our log book. We also appreciated the communication from friends and family and found that the ability to communicate with everyone through our blog an important part of our day as well. We appreciated the fact that we had the technology of the SSB and the Satellite phone to be able to make connections with others and welcomed our contacts. Bob discovered that you can do maintenance on a boat which included climbing the mast while sailing as well as emptying the lazarette and crawling around inside. We found out that long passages are very difficult on boats even though they have been well maintained. It seems to be Murphy’s Law that squalls only happen at night. Just imagine going from 15 knots of wind to 42 knots within a matter of minutes but knowing that you must deal with the situation.
We are still pinching ourselves as it is sometimes hard to believe that we crossed the Atlantic! We definitely agree that it is the most daring adventure we have ever undertaken, but we have a great sense of satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment. The ability to work as a team is critical during such an undertaking and we seemed to have accomplished that quite well. Many that have done this before us kept telling us that after a few days we would get into the rhythm of it and we would settle into a routine. They were definitely right. Bob was concerned before we left that he would be bored being at sea for that many days in a row, but we didn’t have time to get bored. We found that 24 hours in a day went by quickly. We first had to determine our watch schedule and decided on 4 hour watches at night. The watches during the day were more informal and allowed for both of us to be up together for much of the day with each of us taking a morning and an afternoon nap in preparation for the night watches. Janice became the communications officer which entailed a more fixed schedule that we had to work all of our other schedules around. Communications entailed email via SSB (until our computer crashed) and then email via satellite phone. We also had a SSB radio net set up for 8AM and 8PM with SV Drum (Morten) and with SV Saralane (Skip). This was a great way to share our location with others, check in on each other and discuss weather. It definitely gave us a sense of not being alone. It was a time that we looked forward to -thanks to both of you. At times the propogation was not the best so it was difficult to hear, but fortunately we were usually able to at least hear 1 of the parties if not both. The other daily communication was with our weather router. He requested information be passed on to him daily which included our position, heading, speed, wind, sea and sky conditions with the barometer reading. He said the more information the better therefore many days we made two reports to him. He would pass on weather information and suggested routing waypoints to us every other day. When tropical storm Chris reared his head in the area he provided more timely information to be sure we were out of harms way. He also provided us information on the ocean currents which helped us many times in having a positive current with us rather than against us.
As a result a “typical day” was as follows:
Janice would gather information needed to report to the weather router about 6:30AM in order to sign on to the radio/email to transmit this information while Bob was on watch. We would grab breakfast before Janice would get on the SSB with Drum and Saralane and then it was time for Janice’s morning nap as she came off night watch from midnight to 4AM. As mentioned during the day we would both be up sharing duties of getting lunch, small maintenance projects , daytime watch duty or if weather permitted relaxing and reading. Other days we were kept busy with sailing in high winds and seas and finding a comfortable place to wedge ourselves into so we weren’t being thrown around the boat. On those days our meals became very simple affairs and ones that could easily be picked up in one hand so you still had one hand for the boat! Janice typically did the dinner meal around 5-6PM, Bob took a nap after dinner and then went on his night watch from 8PM – midnight so Janice could check in on the SSB at 8PM and then get sleep before returning to her duty at midnight. It definitely made the day/night go by quickly.
We both found that we enjoyed the night time hours. It was many times very peaceful and surprisingly light even when there was not much of a moon to be seen. The bioluminescence could be seen in the waves and there was a light that seemed to brighten up the horizon so you could see. While on watch we checked that we were on course, looked out for other ships in the area, took down information for our log book every 2 hours and enjoyed listening to our iPods. We listened to a combination of music and podcasts from NPR and even a few Cornell lectures.
The best thing is that when you are all done and you arrive at your landfall you know that you accomplished something significant while relying on your own abilities. Neither of us could have done it individually, but together it was not only doable, it was enjoyable.
When we arrived in the marina at Lajes everyone was congratulating each other for making the crossing as everyone had just completed the same trip, however, many left from different ports. The similiarities were that all had stories to tell about their "bad" days and the list of repairs needed on the boat. What we realized was that we were very fortunate in having only what we could consider "bad" days in comparison to others that made the same trip. What felt like major repairs to us in comparison are minor and we feel very fortunate indeed. It definitely put it in perspective for us and are happy that our crossing went well.
Flores is an excellent landfall as the harbormaster here is very welcoming and helpful. The scenery is beautiful and the village is laid-back and not touristy. It is a great place to relax, work on your boat and explore with the comforts of being at a dock. The marina is very inexpensive as it cost less than 13 euros ($16.50) per night which includes all the water and electricity that you need. It appears that there is very little wind predicted for quite a few days so we will take advantage of the time to do some hiking, explore the island by car, continue with repairs on the boat and enjoy the time in Flores.