Monday 12 July
Left Horta around 12.45pm, and headed north west to round the western end of Sao Jorge. Near the islands we saw a shark and hundreds of dolphins. Reached the eastern end of Graciosa around dusk, and as it fell behind we realised it would be the last we would see of land for nearly two weeks!
Tuesday 13 July
Moon not any help at nights just now as is rising in the morning, but it should illuminate the evening hours of darkness more and more as we go along. The seas had got bigger in the night and a steady 18 to 21 knots kept us bowling along. The problem was the wind direction, NNE instead of the NW we had expected. So keeping to our rhumb line was tricky for some time.
Monday night had been squally with rain, but Tuesday turned out sunny mostly, with an atlantic swell. On Tuesday we saw some Cory's shearwaters. I felt queasy and gave up half way through making dinner (tuna bake). The others took over, and I felt better after eating.
Wednesady 14 July
I had the graveyard watch from 2 to 5 am and was rewarded by a ship sighting. I made Ju some coffee and headed off to my bunk ready for a good sleep. Up for breakfast, to see that the weather had turned out nice, a sunny day with good wind, so we made progress on our journey. As evening wore on the wind came round to the west and freshened. By the time I went to bed at 2am it was blowing 20 kinots steadily.
Thursday 15 July
Woke to a different scenario altogether: 3 reefs in the main, and double reefed yankee (headsail), and no staysail, 28 knots of wind and a sea that looked like a cauldron, well stirred! Ariadne, the Aries self-steering gear, continued her fuel-free output perfectly, while blue water swallowed the bow, deck and sprayhood at mountainous intervals.Being on watch meant dodging out for a few seconds at a time for a quick 360 degree look round the visible horizon for ships, then back into shelter. This persisted until around 11am when the wind veered and moderated. We shook out some reefs and got back on courwe. Still wet, but an easier motion. Under 800 miles to the Bishop Rock! (Scilly Isles)
Thursday 16 July
Ah, no wind, absolutely no wind. So on went the engine. Then the autopilot started making ominous clunking noises. So Sue emptied the large starbaord clockpit locker and climbed in, with a head torch, to look for the source of the noise. We decided to use the autopilot as little as possible, and hand-steer when using the engine. The port clicker control of the Aries seized. So Sue and I dismantled it and put in new springs. So it works again. Ju asked Sue for a match and broke it - that's the third thing to break today!
So I was on the helm, the others down below, when suddenly I saw a whale surface and blow - right through the pulpit and not far in front of the bow. I shouted @Whale, whale!' and the others shot up on deck, and we were rewarded by three or four sightings of what might have been a young fin whale - it was at least as long as the boat, ie 38 feet - but is more likely to have been a sei whale, which has a similar fin and grows to this size at maturity. Awesome!
Saturday 17 July
Back to 3 reefs in the main and a reefed yankee, we gybed last night for the first time since the Azores. As we had been driven 50 miles west of our rhumb line (the imaginary line between Horta and Plymouth) this turn was long overdue, or it would have eventually been Hello Reykjavik! The miles to the Bishop Rock waypoint are counting down (613), but they did so yestedday very very slowly. Today somehw we are all tired but at last we have found the elusive south westerlies.
Sunday 18 July
Steady night sailing with the same sail plan, ie three-reefed main on a preventer (a rope to stop the boom banging about) and a reefed yankee poled out, to stop the sail filling and emptying as waves knocked it off balance. Very stable rig as the south westerlies force 4 to 5 powered us forward on course. Sue ran the enigne for three hours in neutral on her watch to recharge the batteries as the wind and water generators don't work so well downwind at low speeds. Sue downloads weather faxes and now grib files using the Iridium phone, and they predict SW winds for the next few days. Just turning 500 miles to the Bishop's Rock.
The wind got up again after dinner, and the course we could steer headed further east than ideal. But we stuck with it all through the night, and the force 6 wind moderated to a 4-5 and we made great progress, 150 miles in 24 hours!
Monday 19th July
Same again, with patches of drizzle and poor visibility. Again Sue fired up the engine to recharge the batteries and I took the opportunity to recharge the Ipods and phones.
I came off watch at 11pm and heanded over to Ju. At 12 I woke up with the deck lights on and Sue's feet going up and down the deck. Yes, at last the wind had changed and the pole had to be brought down so the boat could head nirth at last. I couldn't get to sleep, so when I went on watch at 2am I was amazed to see the lights of an entire fishing fleet taking up the sea to the left of our course. Sue put on the engine and we hand-steered for three hours, until we finally watched the boats all turn off their funny flashing lights and stop fishing, at first light. We could hear Spanish voices on the VHF, so it was a Spanish fleet. It would have been risky to try to go through them, so staying well to one side of all their flashing lights was the best option. Just as we were coming through the last of them we spotted a yacht, with no-one in the cockpit, heading straight for us, at close range. Sue swung the boat to port and we passed it safely by, but we could see no-one in the cockpit at all! Now just over 300 miles to the Lizard.
Tuesday 20 July
Everybody underslept! Variable wind, mostly from the south or north west. Bright sky. Should reach Falomouth on Thursday. Lovely sunny day, lots of dolphins and they stayed around for hours, playing in the bow wave, scooping down inside waves, and delighting the on-watch crew! And a great sunset, the best of the trip so far. I was in my bunk, trying to catch up on my sleep, so I missed it! I was afraid that the night watch would prove as difficult as last night's was.
Wednesday 21 July
Strong winds meant Sue set a reefed yankee and 2 reefs in the main, on a preventer. Very rocky night, but no fishing fleet, thank goodness! Nevertheless I went off watch completely knackered, slept like the dead.
I woke with a start, with a disembodied American voice shouting 'Fire Fire!'. It was Sue's ultra-sensitive fire detection device, which had detected that the wonderful-smelling cake Sue was baking in the oven for Ju's birthday, had just got slightly overheated!
I got up after that and wished her a happy birthday. Later Sue and I dug out her presents and card and she was duly delighted with them all. We had a celebratory Azorean lunch of black pudding and fresh pineapple, yum yum, with birthday cake for pudding, and later dinner was chicken in a white wine sauce with peas and rice. It was a nice sunny day, and Ju will remember this birthday for some time!
Thursday 22 July
Should be the last day of this long voyage. The weather deteriorated sharply through the night and I woke up to squalls and rain for the second of my two night watches. We are close-ish to the Isles of Scilly but we can'e see them, and are now approaching the Lizard Point and we can't see it yet either. However we can now hear the reassuring dulcet tones of the Falmouth Coastguard on the VHF radio, channel 16.
Motorsailing to charge the batteries as well, at 6.3 knots with 25 to go to the Lizard waypoint, then another 20 to reach a marina in Falmouth. And a shower, And a meal of fish or steak and chips, And a good sleep!
Today's photo shows Ju on her birthday, sporting two of her presents!
Well today is the day we leave the Azores and set a course for England. It may take 12 to 14 days before I can add an entry to the blog, although Sue will be updating our progress to Dick, who will pass on the information to a few well-chosen email addresses! The weather is still and sultry this morning, and I have been eaten alive by mozzies in the night, for some reason!
Yesterday Ju and I took the interisland ferry to Pico and Sao Jorge, taking a load of pictures which we will post in the gallery or on Facebook when we get the chance.
Meantime here is a photo of Tamar Swallow's picture on the harbour wall, which Sue has carefully painted and retouched over three days. This is the third time she has been here, our first time of course.
Lots to do this morning in preparation for the off, so I'd better report for duty.
Keep this bookmarked!
On Monday Andrew and Susan and Ju and I hired Carlos, the taxi driver, for the day, and had a great tour of the island. He took us to a number of places of interest, including a tea plantation which came as a real surprise, and sulphur hot baths, basically the outpourings of a volcano. 60% of this island's electricity is provided by geothermal power!
On Tuesday we left Andromeda and Ponta Delgada on the island of Sao Miguel and set sail for Faial. There was a concert the night before we left but it didn't keep us off our sleep.
At first we sailed, as we had a good north easterly wind, but around 2am on Wednesday the wind died and we had to motor. The islands slowly came into view, and we saw the base only of Pico, as there was cloud covering the peak. We arrived in the harbour of Horta around 4pm, as we had estimated, and stopped on the reception pontoon for clearning in and allocation of a berth. To Sue's surprise we were granted a pontoon berth, and soon we were snugly berthed on pontoon B, a short walk only from the showers and loos.
Our first impressions of Faial and Horta were totally positive, and staying here over the last couple of days those impressions have intensified. This truly is the yachtsman and yachtswoman's choice port in the mid Atlantic. The harbour is festooned with paintings of boats and boat names, dates, sailors' names, and the harbour has a venerable history of welcoming these eccentric nomads since the days of Joshua Slocum (no relation to Mrs, or her pussy!). He was the first person to sail single-handed around the world, in a boat he built himself, called Spray.
We are now given over to preparations for the big hop, over 1200 miles direct from here to Plymouth, or Falmouth. We'll be buying provisions, fuel and the like over the next couple of days, and we plan to leave around lunchtime on Monday.
By the way, Ju took this photo of the marina, the painted wall, a cargo ship unloading containers for the island, and the neighbouring island of Pico, with its 2351 metre high volcano which we previously saw from the air!