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Published: August 2nd 2013
BERMUDA TO THE AZORES – The Journey Home
We had a fabulous crossing from Bermuda to the Azores. Delays caused by sorting out the roller furling gear seemed to have put us into a favourable weather window. We enjoyed a passage from Bermuda to Flores in just under 13 days with down-wind sailing and relatively light airs. We used the weather files to steer ourselves around poor weather and balanced our fuel and wind to get the best route and benefit from our limited fuel. We felt it was better to load our daily log entries as it reflects how we felt at the time. Apologies if you have read them all before – hopefully the photos will make it more interesting.
Position as at 2242 UTC:
32 36 557N
63 48 580W
Barometric Pressure. 1020 MB
Wind Speed and Direction. NE 10 knots (true)
Course and Boat Speed. 95⁰ at 5.5 knots
We were at the customs dock in St Georges at 0700 this morning, following an
0630 reveille, fearing a run on the dock with favourable weather arriving
In life be yourself unless you can be a pirate - if so always be a pirate!
front passing through yesterday and an increasingly packed
anchorage in Convict Bay. We were delighted to see the back of our friendly
customs officer, Colin Smith, and leave via the fuel and water dock to fill
up everything to the max prior to departure.
As we left Town Cut (the channel into St Georges) we were surprised to find
that there was enough wind to sail and a gentle sea on the beam. The Wind
is NE at about 10 knots true and about 12-14 apparent which makes for
wonderfully gentle sailing conditions trying to eke boat-speed from the best
sail trim possible. We have been playing with backstay tension, mainsail
track to windward to create twist and not overly sheeting the genoa. The
results have been pleasing and with a freshly cleaned bottom - thanks to Jim
and Corolla lending us their scuba kit we are moving nicely with a gentle
angle of heel on port tack.
There has been gentle dozing by kids and parents alike. For me it feels
like I have forgotten something... left the gas on at home or
that. I shouldn't be so relaxing. I would rather be making more Northing
to get us out of the likely less-favourable winds that are due later in the
week but we are travelling for free - without the engine and we were
expecting 4 days of solid motoring so there is a blessing in gentle winds,
water running cleanly down the side of the hulls and gentle creaking from
the rigging and interior with the sun shining. After the pummelling that we
are used to this seems too good to be true.
We are going to operate a single man watch system with a couple of periods
in the day (mainly admin and meal times) when all are to be awake and doing
jobs. All hands are up for the 0800 - 1100 admin and breakfast watch, then
Lisa takes over for the next three, then Alex, then JB and then me
takingover as we go into the night. This means that only I have 2 night
watches and the boys each have one during the day and one at night. Of
if we need more crew for sail changes I get a shake but it should
(all things going well) be relatively relaxed.
Aboard the kids are slipping into their hibernating states, Bertie is
working out the fuel strategy as his maths (working from yesterday's fuel
consumption figures and route planning) with Alex overseeing him (whilst he
is on watch), JB has done his diary and is now in his cabin gonking. Lisa
is up with the boys and I am up and down making sure that the watchkeepers
are happy with their role and the sail trim. For the time being the saloon
and cabins are in good order. Lisa insists on this and there is a good
reason for it - last time with a trace of diesel the floor becomes
treacherous (particularly when you add wet oilskins) and the smell is
unbearable. We dug out two tetra-packs of rotting and exploded cream from
the main stores area below the saloon cushions on Satruday which had made
the boat smell horrendous and cleaned every element of the boat to ensure
that we start as
we would hope to go on. Preparing to go to sea is
absolutely key otherwise we quickly find what has not been correctly stowed
as it is launched across the cabin.
JB made lunch today with the last fresh rolls before we start baking again.
Bermuda was so unbelievably expensive that we regularly baked to keep costs
down - $14 for 2 loaves! There are, apparently, only 2 bakeries on the
island as everything is imported at huge expense. Bermudans grudgingly
admit that they are paid too much (there is no income tax) but accept that
import taxes are not really felt by them and hit only the low-paid or the
tourist. There doesn't seem to be much of a social conscience for the
poorer end of society, which may explain the fact that gun crime in Bermuda
is twice that of the USA.
Wow, after spending a day worrying about northing I must be careful not to
see today for what it is - which is a fabulous, wonderful sailing day which
could easily have been spent with the engine on or worse
still in the peeing
rain! All, I think, have comfortably moved into life at sea again. I can
smell shepherds pie in the oven and all is well with our little world.
Position as at 1752 UTC Tuesday:
34 06 867N
64 00 067W
Barometric Pressure. 1024 MB
Wind Speed and Direction. ENE 13.5 knots (true)
Course and Boat Speed. 39⁰ at 6 knots
The first 24 hours completed aboard. The routine seems to be working well.
The nights are cold but clear. The full moon is waning but a cool sight to
see it rise and set. The sea has been relatively flat with the boat slicing
upwind on varying angles at various speeds - we are living life on a 30
degree angle of lean - that said it is steady at that angle so you can get
used to it. As at 0900 this morning we had only covered 118.27 miles and
not necessarily always in the right direction - that said we have motored
less than a handful of hours where
I would have expected a straight 24 hours
of donkey time - so it's not all bad. We still have (wait for it...) 1596
nautical miles to Flores (the furthest westerly island in the Azores) and
I'm not even sure that we'll stop there - instead pass it by for Faial and
the capital, Horta. We tacked onto starboard last night as our course was
consistently setting us south of west and are planning on moving into better
wind angles for Thu and Fri when the wind should come round behind us and
enable us to flatten the boat and fly the spinnaker or gennaker.
We have had a morning of sail trim lessons. Working on twist and gradual
changes to tracks and cars to adjust leeches, luffs and feet of sails. This
is primarily for the benefit of JB and Alex so that they aren't afraid to
adjust the sails as the wind angles change.
The small boys have each taken their turn at washing and drying up, in
between bouts of sleep and games to combat the monotony of being at sea.
Bertis decided not to do his nightwatch with Alex last night - instead he
worked on ironing his sheets with his back in his den in the main saloon.
Tonight he's going to be on watch - no excuses. That said Cameron and
Samuel can come and go on watch as they wish but they tend to live a day /
night routine much like they have for the last 10 months! Dinner then bed
and waking at around 0700 for breakfast – it’s a hard life!
JB last night saw our first ship in the dark hours, called it up on Channel
16 and routed us safely around it - well done him. We saw a small whale
about 300 metres from the boat in the late afternoon and then this morning
were shadowed by a school of small dolphins / porpoises who were leaping
clean from the water from about a 100 metres away. We have also seen many
Portuguese man-o-war jellyfish. They are visible by the small clear airbag
on the top of them that keeps them on the surface. We are not fishing
Level 5 bodgery
Note screwdriver from socket set holding the boom in place and the Cunningham holding the main to it. Well done Lieutenant Commander Banham RN (Retd)!
as we have a fridge full of fresh food which must be eaten first. Last
night's shepherd's pie with broccoli and courgettes was excellent, avocado
salad for lunch today and I'm hoping chicken curry tonight. Mrs D is
excelling herself again.
Fuel consumption calculation: Due a forecast of of lack of wind for 5 days
we calculated fuel usage to work out if more jerry cans were needed. Here is
The engine uses 6 litres an hour.
Average speed is 6kts (6 mph)
This means the engine uses 1 litre of fuel per mile.
Main tanks 450 litres,
Reserve tanks 110 litres,
3 jerry cans 66 litres,
2 large jerry cans 50 litres,
This give us a total of 676 Litres of fuel which means we have enough fuel
to motor for 676 miles. If we travel at 6 kts we do 150 miles per day. We
subtract 70 litres of fuel for arrival in the Azores and in case of an
emergency. Therefore fuel will last us for 4
Position as at 0001 UTC Thu:
36 20 380N
63 00 563W
Barometric Pressure. 1028 MB
Wind Speed and Direction. E 08 - 10 knots (true)
Course and Boat Speed. 39⁰ at 6 knots
This morning’s sunrise was phenomenal - it matched the sunset of the night
before which burned red and orange like a furnace. JB remarked that the
sunrise coupled with the flat sea (as flat as I have ever seen the
Atlantic). At 0700 we raised the gennaker with the wind just aft the beam
and we carried it all day at between 4 and 8 knots for most of the day -
dropping it at 1700 when the wind went to nothing, as predicted, and the
donkey went on. Shortly before the engine was started the call of "All
hands to bathe" went up. Using the man-overboard strop we hung children and
me from the end of the spinnaker pole and dunked them in the Atlantic as we
ghosted along. It was thoroughly refreshing and with a Portuguese man-o-war
look out we dragged ourselves slowly along - bliss. It has been really warm
today and we have made good progress NE. Tonight we sit in the centre of
the high pressure system with light cloud over us. We need to push on some
50 miles under engine to emerge into the northern side of the high and then
into the SE , moving round to W winds which we are seeking. By my reckoning
that should see us sitting pretty in 15 knots of breeze and the spinnaker or
gennaker until Wed next week. As Alex says; I may well have "Murray
Walker'ed" that now and we're bound to beating into strong headwinds
We were going to be eating lasagne tonight but unfortunately it has not
enjoyed being too warm for a couple of days and subsequently that was fed to
fish and we, instead, ate a fabulous chilli con carne and rice. Another
fabulous meal from Mrs D - the girl done good! We have had the fishing line
out today and caught only seaweed and a piece of polypropylene line. I am
hoping from a better show having promised the crew fresh fish at the drop of
a hat - we may need it soon...
The boys have really been working hard too. Bertie and Cameron,
particularly, have stood night watches and all have done washing up. Samuel
kept my bed warm last night whilst I was on watch and as I was coming
off-watch I made him have a wee and then get back into his own bed - 5
minutes later he is being dragged by his heels back out of my bed!
Again we cannot respond to all your lovely messages so a few words for our
Tonight's "Samuel's Sundowner Pub Quiz" was won by
Bertie and Alex. We didn't set the world alight; the winning score was 4/20
and JB and I came a close 2nd / last place with 2/20! Not high scorers - we
are all ashamed of ourselves!
Position as at 2315 UTC Thu 30 May:
38 26 974N
60 27 751W
Barometric Pressure. 1020 MB
and Direction. SSE 25 - 30 knots (true)
Course and Boat Speed. 90 degrees at 7.5 knots
The wind filled in earlier and stronger than expected. Shortly before 2300
last night we were running under poled out genoa and mainsail. Gradually
through the night the sail area got less. Typically the fishing line
whizzed out when the wind was getting up to 30 knots. On the bright side we
caught a female dorado with full sacks of roe (going on toast tomorrow
morning) weighing probably 2 / 3 kg. Certainly enough for Lisa to prepare
ceviche and the rest will be turned into fish wraps by the reluctant chef
and washer-upper (yours truly).
We have now stopped heading north. The winds are stronger there. Instead
we are hugging the inside loop of this band of wind where it ought to be
15 - 20 instead of 25 - 30. At least we are heading eastwards now and
looking at Flores as our first stop to break the journey - it's still 1362
Today has been spent with
the boys learning to drive the boat down-wind,
anticipate the waves and save the batteries. When I did some maintenance on
Mildred (our wind self steering gear) and run without it is noticeably more
difficult. I suppose the analogy is riding a fast, 26 ton bike downhill
over the bumps with all terrain stabilisers. With a little patch on her
airvane and a bit of gaffer tape and fridge insulation I have managed to pad
the hard and sharp corners of the solar panels upon which she keeps bashing
her vane. We have vastly reduced the amount of roll and the boys are
helming well - flattening it out completely for mealtimes is still very
difficult and there is little point having a swear-box in the galley!
Other than that - all well on board but we like it a little less lumpy than
Position as at 1410 UTC Fri 31 May:
36 56 056N
55 57 373W
Barometric Pressure. 1017 MB
Wind Speed and Direction. W 23 knots (true)
Course and Boat Speed. 120 degrees
at 7 knots
Distance to Flores, Azores 1171 NM. After a windy, wet and miserable day we
have managed to haul ourselves out of the stronger belt of winds to our
north and are now managing 20-ish knots of breeze with poled out genoa and
main on a preventer; both with reefs in. We are settled down for the night
and while Alex is on watch I am doing the daily missive.
Yesterday's dorado / mahi mahi was turned into amazing fish wraps at
lunchtime and devoured by all. Alex had the dorado roe with everyone having
a little taster. All agreed it would have tasted even better on hot
buttered toast! We still have the ceviche (raw mahi mahi in coconut milk,
ginger and lemon and lime juice. It really needs to be had as a starter
with a chilled bottle of white wine and today was not the right day for that
so perhaps tomorrow we will have sun again and we can enjoy a better outdoor
day. Lisa knocked up a casserole for dinner. Samuel and I struggled with
it as it looked the same as vomit (Jesus, don't tell Lisa I wrote that) and
as we both fought our gag reflex Samuel lost his battle and deposited it
back in the bowl - we were right it did look the same before and after! No
such problems with any of the other crew and the casserole was demolished.
Off-watch our little commune occupies themselves with some schoolwork,
maintenance and for the Duncans our Azores research. We have decided to
definitely stop in Flores (one of the westernmost islands in the
archipelago) and therefore almost the shortest distance to run. We still
have many miles ahead of us but the weather is looking pretty settled and I
think we can ride all the way in without too much difficulty. We'll have to
head north mid-week to ensure that we are able to approach the Azores from
the north as we get the other side of the Azores high and start picking up
the N to S Portuguese trades. Not a betting man but I think that we are
looking at a Thu night / Fri morning arrival in Flores.
Position as at 0143 Sun 02 Jun:
37 29 746N
53 00 089W
Barometric Pressure. 1016 MB
Wind Speed and Direction. WNW 14 knots (true)
Course and Boat Speed. 6.5 on 087 degrees
Distance to Flores 1026 NM
This morning started beautifully. The boat was balanced and running under
both poled out headsail and full main and we were pushing 8+ knots in a
gentle following sea. Chafe checks and daily routine done we had bacon and
egg banjos on freshly baked brown rolls and a watery sun was coming out.
We bounced around washing and dancing to early '90s house music and had a
simple lunch in between bouts of catching up on much-needed sleep.
This afternoon we saw a squall coming through so sensibly we decided to reef
early. JB went forward to put in the reef and it was only on completion
that we could see that the lazy jacks had caught on the 2nd mainsail car and
done some damage to the sail which needed to be looked at. The main needed
to come down. The lazy jacks are really awkward when reefing on downwind
sail angles as they catch on the cars and headboard as it goes up and down.
A small tear was found around the interval car which would need repairing.
Typically as soon as we had seen the problem the wind had dropped to utterly
benign 15 knots - always the case that the damage is done as you are
conducting sail changes under pressure.
On the foredeck JB and I sewed up the small hole using up sail needles far
too quickly and on the last one we realised it needed to be right. By the
stage I had already put the largest sail needle we had well into my own
palm - the improvised leather belt and gaffer tape could only take so much
pressure before I punctured the leather and my hand. Finally with a very
neat repair we reloaded the main-halyard cars and were able to re-raise the
main and pole out the genoa. By this stage sundowners had been long
forgotten and dinner was a distant cancellation. We are now back to full
poled out genoa and full main with a weakening WNW wind, as expected.
Tomorrow things go lighter still - perhaps it will be kite time to keep our
boat-speed up. We are still heading ever so slightly north of west and
making steady progress to Flores.
Happy campers aboard Fabiola had lovely messages from Bertie's Ma, Vicky and
many others - really greatly appreciated. It is bizarre this time across
the Atlantic in that we have not one yacht and only 2 very distant cargo
ships. We did see a fin whale early this morning, about 150 metres away and
travelling in our same direction. The Azores used to be a well-known
whaling station and at this time of year we should expect fin, sperm,
killer, pilot and bottlenose whales, and many species of dolphin and
porpoise. Fin whales can easily be as big as 24m long. Nearly twice the
length of Fabiola. Not too close then!
Tomorrow we expect gentler winds again, perhaps some sun and some fish as
the fridge starts to empty. Perhaps the iron top'sle will have to make an
appearance; we are delighted to have motored for only about 3 hours all up -
long may that continue.
Position as at 1110 UTC Sat 01 Jun:
38 36 951N
49 52 751W
Barometric Pressure. 1016 MB
Wind Speed and Direction. WNW 14 knots (true)
Course and Boat Speed. 72 degrees at 8+ knots
Distance to Flores 868 NM
Admin admin admin...JB and I took down the pole and began broad reaching on
port tack, which stayed up until "all hands" was called. This is a daily 3
hour period of maintenance which, today included chafe checks, checking the
fluid levels in the batteries, pumping out the bilges, cleaning loos and
baking bread. By mid-morning the winds had dropped and the conditions were
right for some colourful downwind sails so out came the gennaker. We needed
5 attempts to get the bloody thing up right, by which time I felt a little
weary in the upper body department and Bertie and I had gathered it in on
numerous occasions too. That said with the extra two knots that the
gennaker has given us we were able to catch up the faff-time within about 30
minutes of sailing. The boys have steered with it most of the day and each
of the kids helmed too. The seas are still behind us and a regular light
swell is pushing us along nicely - there was even some sunshine which
brought Mrs D out of the galley (where the food continues to be Lloyd's A1).
JB made some excellent bread rolls from scratch (none of that ready bake
here, I'll have you know). He struggled with the yeast but it was worth it
for some fabulous tuna sandwiches for tea! We even managed a sundowner for
the first time in ages and listened to some desert island discs. Quite a
nice day with some good speed and distance covered.
The winds should go light tonight so we are expecting to drop the gennaker
and switch on the donkey sometime tonight. If we're lucky there'll be
enough to ghost along giving everyone a settled night's sleep.
Tomorrow we will hold the half-way party which we decided would be better
held when we are well over halfway to keep morale up. The boys are not
expecting it so it will be a nice surprise and something that everyone
enjoyed last time when we were going westbound.
Position as at 0040 UTC Tue 04 Jun:
39 26 264N
46 12 178W
Barometric Pressure. 1020 MB
Wind Speed and Direction. WNW 14 knots (true)
Course and Boat Speed. 080 degrees at 5.5 knots
Distance to Flores 697 NM
A great start to the day, sailing well gennaker and then wonderful broad
reaching in smooth conditions and reasonable speeds. Today the much awaited
"More Than" Halfway Party was to take place. We scurried about sorting out
the admin requirements as normal and prepared with baking bread (me) and
cakes (Alex & Bertie). All was looking good. We had a huge pod of over 8
dolphins frolicking in our bow-wave for about 10 minutes. For the newcomers
this was their first experience of wild-dolphins up close, diving and
weaving below the bow in crystal clear waters and for the seasoned
campaigners it is always a treat.
Then just before the party was to start JB spotted a problem: at the base of
the gooseneck the ram's horns and connection to the base of the mainsail had
broken loose. On inspection it was a simple weld that had failed but the
consequences could be serious. The bolt pinned through the gooseneck (the
connection between the boom and the mast) had nothing to stop it from
slipping out and the boom would be free to swing, under considerable force.
Alex, JB and I were straight onto it. Alex is brilliant at improvisation
and had found a replacement pin in the form of the screw-driver-handled
extension in the socket set which we could use to hammer out the old bolt
and temporarily replace with it. Bracing the mast end of the boom at
various angles with halyards and Cunninghams to isolate the boom from the
ocean swell we set about getting the optimum angle to drive out the old and
simultaneously place in the new - all the while school was ongoing in the
cockpit under the watchful eye of Lisa.
3 hours later we had effected a more than acceptable repair with the
improvised bolt and a firm lashing around the gooseneck and we felt
sufficiently confident to raise the main again. The Fabiola combi-tool (aka
the hammer) now sits in the winch handle pocket at the mast to ensure that
the new pin does not decide to work its way out of the top. All the parts
that have come out are kept and a half-decent welder in Flores should be
able to get us back in the game. Well done lads!
The party therefore had to take a backseat unfortunately but the cake was
ready and, with a cup of tea, it was very heartily received. For dinner we
have had the last of the pre-prepared meals from the fridge. Roasted lamb
in minted vegetable cous-cous was quite exceptional - there is seldom a
moment when I am not amazed at how able Mrs D is at producing amazing meals
from such a rolling platform. Suffice to say there was none left and even
our most picky eaters had not a scrap left in their dog-bowl. Tomorrow we
have to find something fresh from the sea... Fabiola will be hosting a "not
quite" Mid-Atlantic offshore fishing competition with the prize being lunch
and dinner. We will be looking like a Japanese long-liner!
The crew's normal rest afternoon rest periods went for a ball of chalk today
so it is hoped that a calm night under poled-out genoa and main will
recharge the watch-keepers' batteries and moderate the skippers
frustrations. We are getting there - slowly but surely and I must remind
myself "nobody died and nobody got pregnant!"
Position as at 0050 UTC Wed 05 Jun:
39 45 029N
43 09 907W
Barometric Pressure. MB
Wind Speed and Direction. N 10 kts (true)
Course and Boat Speed. 085 degrees at 5 knots
Distance to Flores 551 NM
Looking at the weather files (or GRIBs) we were expecting a very lame day of
motoring in calm seas. The day has delivered far more than we had hoped
for. Last night was spent with a flopping, slapping night of limp sails but
this morning, as the sun rose, we were greeted by the most amazing sea with
high, hugely-spaced Atlantic rollers gently rising and falling on our port
quarter. JB handed over to me at 0500 and after our normal morning chat he
went to get the few hours rest before all hands are called for the admin
period that starts each day.
As mentioned yesterday we are now living from a few remaining vegetables and
some rapidly deteriorating apples so some fresh rations are needed - how
hard can it be to catch fish in such a massive ocean... apparently pretty
tough! I made up a bungee'd hand-line alongside on the stern opposite our
rod and figured that we would be needing to stop fishing after the first 2
or 3 bonito had been pulled in - how wrong I proved to be. We were however
visited several large groups of dolphins again - which got me thinking;
seemingly there are more dolphin than tuna in this neck of the woods and
what do they taste like? Perhaps we could eat "Tuna Friendly Dolphin" and
not the other way around! We're almost becoming blasé about them and again
in one day we have spotted at least 4 Fin whales, some as close as 150
metres away. The Fin whale does not expose his flukes, he has a distinctive
blow throwing spray high into the air as opposed to a sperm whale which has
a much smaller emission.
As the wind dropped we put on the engine and motored. We also assessed how
much fuel we have spent or lost and developed a strategy for the next few,
and largely windless, days. We are still not wholly in motoring range of
the Azores so we have to decide when to motor, best vectors for wind and
boatspeed and how to ensure rest for the crew (bizarrely light airs require
far more concentration and sail changes than heavy weather sailing). Mid-
afternoon the wind came in a little more than expected so we threw up the
spinnaker and were delighted to see 6, gusting 7 knots of boatspeed at
certain points. Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and by
7pm we were pulling down the kite as the wind came too far forward to
sensibly carry the spinnaker. JB seemed happy at the prospect of not having
to trim and drive the boat with the kite up through the night - it can be a
little daunting with doing everything alone with only limited experience,
and in that respect the boys young and old have jumped around today and got
the hang of spinnakers. Our closest whale sighting was at about 6pm with
the spinnaker up heading directly for the Azores - pretty special.
Today was also the much-awaited and overdue "More than" 1/2-way party.
Flapjacks had been made by the Admiral, fresh loaves of bread (let down by
the absence of fishes!) and pirate hats and party bags. Samuel was on
Launch Control countdown until the party started! Balloons, Union Jack
plates, fizzy pop and something for everyone. Lots of fun and a real
highlight to our day. It meant that my mediocre carbonara dinner did not
need to be that special either!
By sailing during the day we have kept many of our daylight motoring hours
which we can now use as the wind has died away completely so we head into
another night, gradually getting closer to Flores (551 nm).
Position as at 2151 UTC Wed 05 Jun:
39 43 699N
40 28 792W
Barometric Pressure. 1021 MB
Wind Speed and Direction. WSW 6 kts (true)
Course and Boat Speed. 110 degrees at 6 knots
Distance to Flores 432 NM
All are very excited tomorrow - it's Christmas Eve! Well it's not quite but
tomorrow we will eat the Christmas pudding complete with rum custard which
has been in the bilges since September (probably marinating in diesel!).
It has been an utterly windless day again. We are fast burning up our fuel.
Estimates, anyway we paint it, show that we have insufficient fuel to motor
the remainder of the journey. What's worse is that the forecast wind we
were due tomorrow has dropped off the weather chart, so the 24 hours sailing
that would make the maths add up has been taken away - pretty galling. We
will have no choice but to put all but 50 litres of the jerry cane into the
tanks and run it until we dry up. It would be ridiculous not to. I have a
concern that as we get to the bottom of the tank we may end up pulling
sludge into the tank but Alex is pretty sure that the return pump ensures
that a diesel tank is kept pretty clean - we'll see...
We obviously did hook a fish today but unfortunately we only found this out
as I pulled the line in to find no lure on the end. Thanks Paulo for the
advice on weighting them down to get the lure off the surface - too bad
whatever it was struck with too much force and broke away with the lure,
line and weight. Fishing kit is not something we are short off - come to
think of it neither is time with no wind or fuel!
Again it has been a cetaceous day - that's whales and dolphins to you and
me! Today we have been buzzed regularly by common dolphins. We also saw
pilot whales and at the end of the day JB saw a pair of humpback whales
breaching. We also thought we saw a basking shark - but this turned out to
be a piece of very realistic dorsal-fin flotsam! We are also seeing more
Portuguese man of war jellyfish, but these ones have vibrant pink and blue
airbags holding them just below the surface. Tonight also sported the most
phenomenal sunset and the ball of fire sat between a mirror flat sea and the
layer of cloud - exactly.
The boys have spent a productive day in the cockpit-classroom with the
Headmistress. This afternoon was arts and crafts and they have each made a
Christmas pom-pom out of wool - very nice for Christmas Day tomorrow! We
have read chapters from "Why the whales came" by Michael Morpurgo and the
adults played Bananagrams at the cockpit table too while the boys watched a
film before bed. All is now quiet and I am about to see if I can sell my
soul to Santa and ask him to bring me some wind for fake-Christmas...
Position as at 2151 UTC Wed 05 Jun:
40 36 422N
37 14 909W
Barometric Pressure. 1025 MB
Wind Speed and Direction. W 9 kts (true)
Course and Boat Speed. 60 degrees at 4 knots
Distance to Flores 290 NM
An utterly mirror-flat day. A whale passes just in front of the boat
without showing himself other than the movement of water and the ripples
running of his back. Again we are buzzed by dolphins through the day,
turtles bask in the sun on the surface. It is warm and sunny but not a
breath of air.
We recalculate the remaining fuel and pour all bar our emergency fuel into
the main tank. To get the most from what we have left there is little point
motoring another 60 miles towards the Azores instead we put our last 10
hours going north-east into where the breeze should fill in 12 hours before
it would on our current southerly track. The wind is going to blow pretty
hard from the west from Sunday through to Tuesday and we would like to let
the boys see at least one island before they fly home but it's going to be
We spend the day doing jobs, school and cleaning - enjoying the last copious
amounts of power before we have to turn the engine off. Checking over
Mildred, the self-steering, we find that again she has shaken herself loose
on the transom and even tightening up the bolts we cannot secure her
sufficiently for her to able to helm the boat. It's such a shame as in
steady light airs and good sail balance she can helm the boat free of amps.
We'll have to hand steer or stop motoring a few hours earlier to save a
little of the remaining fuel to run the generator and power up George - the
electric autopilot. If it's going to be sunny we can use some solar power
and reduce all bar essential systems on board.
Alex has to use his considerable knowledge working for National Grid to
temporarily re-plumb the tubing for the gas. We have used butane bottles in
the Caribbean which the locals have, using a laissez-faire attitude to
health and safety, been filling with propane! This is not a practise that
they would tolerate in Bermuda so with a couple of existing bottles we would
not have had enough and the decision was taken to get a spare BBQ propane
bottle and a regulator and, if need be, fashion a solution to get us in.
It's a small price to pay for endless cups of tea and coffee and the
excellent food served up by the Admiral and freshly-baked bread by JB.
As we have dinner at 2100 we cut the engine and it is eerily silent. There
is virtually no wind and we are in a flat sea. We have gone as far as we
can reasonably travel by engine without running the tanks dry. We will have
to wait and see if we have called it right and interpreted the weather
right. Lisa takes the helm into the night and with 1.5 knots of boat speed
it is going to be a slow one. The stars are amazing - the skies similarly
are clear as a bell. Two dolphins pop up close in the still water but
without forward movement we are pretty boring so they disappear pretty
quickly. I hope that the whales now decide to stay away too.
We are still sailing north east trying to make apparent wind. It is working
but it is very slow and as I hand over to Alex and Bertie it is going to be
a long, but fine night. I oversleep and am woken by JB there is movement in
Fabiola - only about 3 knots - but its decent movement under sail again.
Just shy of 10 knots of breeze and we can get moving. As soon as I can we
will hoist the kite and head east and hope to get in before we get 30+ knots
again. Famine or feast!
Position as at 1053 UTC Sat 08 Jun:
40 19 705N
34 15 745W
Barometric Pressure. 1024 MB
Wind Speed and Direction. SW 16 kts (true)
Course and Boat Speed. 120 degrees at 7.5 knots
Distance to Flores 155 NM
We found the wind yesterday and enjoyed a beautifully clear, hot and sunny
spinnaker reach making apparent wind and counting down the miles at between
5 and 7 knots all day until the wind became a little more southerly and we
had to drop down onto white sails - which might have been a blessing as we
didn't really fancy helming a tight kite reach at night with the prospect of
rising winds. It's always an exciting, but marginal point of sail and there
is little relaxing for the off watch crew who need to be able to bounce on
deck to sort out the ribbons of sail and flailing sheets and placating a
cussing helmsman who's just had his nerves flayed with an unexpected broach.
As it was with Bertie on the pole, JB on the snuffer, Alex on the helm and
Lisa doing sheets and guys in the cockpit and me in overwatch about to blow
the halyard the sail came down remarkably easily (and we had even managed a
spinnaker gybe). The crew are really coming together - bloody well hope so
after 2600 miles!
We have now run dry of the tank water but being the decadent livers that we
are we'll be spending the last 18 hours washing in the emergency mineral
This morning we have caught a small bluefin tuna (about 2 kg). JB is now
baking rolls and we'll be having steak sandwiches for lunch today. We were
lucky to get him as we had just pulled in the line due to the number of
birds circling above spying our pink plastic squid with hungry looks. The
last thing anyone would want would be a hooked seabird causing merry hell on
the end of fishing line. Cutting the line would surely kill the bird so we
inevitably haul the line in when they are close. Anyway having gutted and
skinned it I thought Lisa might like a cuddle (just a shame we have no water
to wash in - save San Pelligrino!) - she wasn't that keen... some people.
JB has proved himself to be the eagle-eyed AIS ninja. For those that don't
know AIS is the Automatic Identification System that each commercial vessel
or any vessel over a certain length must carry. It is picked up and sent by
VHF waves so we can see what traffic is about us and identify those that are
a threat. JB is always first to find anyone out here and is very keen to
redirect it around us. Threat levels are subjective and at 12 miles from us
we felt relatively safe but JB has been taking incoming all morning as he
contemplated taking to the liferaft and clutching at white collision flares!
He has spotted ships leaving Dover which may be on a collision course with
us next month when we enter the Mediterranean. "Safety is not a dirty
word!" - at 1 in the morning "Plonker" is! Assuming his bread rises
he'll be forgiven!
We have enjoyed an amazing couple of days. We rigged a waterproof "Go Pro"
camera onto a boat hook and have been filming the dolphins as they jump in
our bow-wave. The number of dolphins has been staggering.
We hope to make Flores by first light tomorrow morning. If we get their
earlier we'll sit on the anchorage before entering the little Lajes marina
to break out to a well-deserved leg stretch. We're all starting to think
about how we are going to celebrate as there is no whistles, bells and
welcoming committee as there was with the ARC but in many ways we have a
greater feeling of achievement as we have been utterly alone and have really
So long and thanks for all the fish!
Very finally HAPPY BIRTHDAY Uncle Ben - big love to you and hopefully we'll
see you and the girls in the summer back in Blighty! xxxx
Position as at 0530 UTC Sat 09 Jun:
Barometric Pressure. 1014 MB
Wind Speed and Direction. W 30 kts (true)
Course and Boat Speed. Absolutely ZERO!
Distance to Flores 0 NM
As hoped the wind has filled in and we are romping along towards Flores.
Heading slightly upwind of our track we will be able to bear off as the wind
increases. The fishing line whooshes out and we catch an albacore and
within short order he is fileted and turned into lunch (tuna steak rolls,
with salsa and garlic mayo) - all demolished by the crew. On the strength
of the taste of fresh fish we throw out the line and catch, in very short
order two more (each about 2 kg) and loose one - which is probably a
blessing as the rod is almost bent double.
As the wind starts to pick up to 20 knots or so we are keen to push on and
not reef down. Better to be safe in port than reefed down travelling slowly
in increasing winds. As darkness falls we are doing 10+ over the ground and
subjected to dodging phosphorescent dolphin torpedoes as they charge around
the fast-moving boat and bounce across the waves around us. It has been an
absolute marine-life fest!
We arrived in Flores with steadily building westerly winds. Alongside the
seawall in Larjes we start the engine to come inside the very small marina
and furl the sails away. We are in safe and just before the gale arrives.
The pervading smell of burning cabling is horrendous and armed with a fire
extinguisher we peered inside the engine box.We narrowly avoided an engine
fire as the starter motor and solenoid decided to go into total meltdown but
we only found this out once inside the seawall and alongside in the marina.
We are going to have to find some way of starting the engine and getting to
Horta after the gale subsides, finding the parts and getting back up and
running. Always the same - arrive somewhere new and spend days waiting for
parts or struggling to find them - it is a bitter pill to swallow.
Initial views of Flores seem basic but charming. It is like a small Cornish
fishing port in the crevice of land protected from the smashing waves.
We'll explore tomorrow before saying goodbye to JB on Tuesday and Alex and
Bertie on Wednesday. As passages go it has been quite incredible.
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