06/23/2012, 245 Nm WSW of Horta
Queenie crashing through the waves
I am sitting in not the most comfortable way with both life jacket and rain jacket at the navigation table. It is my watch and indeed now the more severe low pressure has us in her claws. Quite regularly we are getting "drive stop"; i e the autopilot can't cope and I need to dash out in the darkness in the cockpit to take the wheel. Conditions are nevertheless quite stable with South Westerly winds of 25-30 knots; occasionally gusting up to 35 knots. It is a force seven; i e near gale conditions.
I just put my face outside the sprayhood and got immediately a dusting if sea water. The good news is that we are making good progress towards Horta. The bad news is that it is pretty uncomfortable and it is difficult to get anything done except necessities. My task earlier was to re-attach the watch schedule to the wall, but I failed as it won't stick! When I say uncomfortable, it is not too bad; none of us has been seasick or even taken a seasickness tablet yet. It is still fairly warm, but it is wet and humid (humidity reading in the main cabin of 97 per cent!); everything salt drenched so it won't dry. The relentless movement and noise of the boat is tiring.
No moon, but some stars, fluorescent light and white caps makes the night not pitch dark. I can just see the outline of our much reduced sails. Still, we are doing 7.5-9 knots. I am waiting for the wind to abate but that could easily take another 20 hours or so. It will be nice with land under our feet, things to dry out, sleep in a not moving environment, a beer at the for sailor famous Sport's Bar (or Peter's Bar) at Horta. I am day dreaming, however it is hopefully reality in some 48 hours or so.
My fellow crew members are taking all this in a very good stride; no complaints, maybe they even mind less than I do? They are both seriously committed sailors. The Atlantic is really huge; there is no way around that. We will eventually have clocked up more than 4,000 nautical miles since Florida. A month is a long time to share in a small place with nowhere to escape, but so far it is really working. Touch wood!
In seven minutes I can make a new entry in the log; on the full hour. It is funny what things that you are looking forward to when at watch in the middle of the night. Most people must think that I am crazy. However, you have to look upon it in the context of staring out over darkness. I am thinking about the children; cozily snug up in the beds at home. My thoughts are wandering off in all directions; dreaming of our spa at home, hot baths, cosy beds, non rocking floors.
Conditions got a bit tougher during the night. We had steadily 7-8 Beaufort. Around 4am, we made an accidental gybe; i e the sails got backed with the wind from the wrong direction. It was dark, raining.. Not appeared to sustained any damage from it though. We had removed the jib already yesterday. Sven and I removed the bimini during the night. Amazing, how you learn all the time; in this case to make better preparations for a blow. In the morning the jockey pole came loose, just laying there on foredeck having pulled out its thoroughly screwed in bracket to the deck, thinking whether it should try to stay onboard or not. Sven grabbed it in the last moment. However, as the morning came, we hope we have seen the worst. Winds are expected to remain around 30 knots until this evening, but then reduce to approximately 25 knots. We will have to contend with the large seas for a bit longer as it will take time for them to die down. They come crashing in as I write. Our distance made on the 10th 24 hours run out from Bermuda at 1am this morning was 196.4 nautical miles; i e an average speed of 8.18 knots. OMG!
06/22/2012, 700 Nm WSW of Horta
Just a perfect day
Tonight Ulric reminded me that I haven't been writing the blog for quite some time . and he is right! I am reading blog pages and sometimes thinking of commenting on them: things such as the difference between rhumline and rhumbline .GMT, UTC, UT . another such a thing. But let's start with: IT WAS A PERFECT SAILING DAY! I woke up around 9h board time after a 3 hrs rest from my 2 to 6 watch this night. Queenie ran 7 - 8 knots on 15 knots (3 Bft) wind. Wind generated by one of two low pressure areas to overtake on us in the next couple of days. During daytime the wind kept increasing meanwhile backing from West to Southwest. Ideal for us because it offers us more freedom in the setting of our course and our sails. We had the mainsail, the genoa, and the staysail hoisted. No flapping, no windshifts, none of that. Remarkably the waves stayed low and the sea smooth: standing on two legs in the cockpit of Queenie it was as if standing on a surfboard! Maximum windspeed that I observed was 22 kts: 5 - 6 Bft. A SOG (speed over ground) of 10 kts was obtained incidentally. We have good hope to arrive the 25 th at Horta.
Tonight I have the early nightshift: 22 - 02 hr. Laying down on the helmsman's bench I watch the sky: it is a clear sky with many stars visible, infinty one could say, but, in fact not more than about 3000 stars are visible by the bare eye . My music, a CD of Portishead (Dummy), plays softly in the background. Chillier than in the Caribic it is, therefore, I wear a t-shirt and a light jacket underneath my lifevest. I think this bench is the best place to lie down and sleep, provided the temperature is good and it is not raining. It is just a nice cradle. I look at the constellation of Scorpio: I was born under Scorpio in November. Antares, a red giant star, clearly visible in its tail. Antares, the summer giant that never faces its rival, Betelgeuse in the constellation of Orion, the red winter giant. Meanwhile the music changed to my other CD: that of Air (Moon Safari). Thoughts pass randomly through my head: when will we arrive at Horta? Did the Dutch beat the Germans at the EC football? Will we see more whales in the next days? Yesterday I spotted a big one: last year we met two humpback whales in the Mexican Gulf, but that of yesterday had an enormous tail: it took air and dove again. It could have been such a male lone spermwhale, diving up to 45 minutes down to 3 km depth!
The leg between Bermuda and Azores is for me the real Atlantic Crossing: from continent to continent. Once at the Azores we are not only back in Europe, we are in the EU, can pay again with euros (knock on wood). The last two and a half years with Queen's Ransom were wonderful: sailing from Tenerife to Cape Verde, Barbados, Grenada. From St. Martin to Aruba , Cartagena and Colon. Further from Belize City, Islas Mujeres, Key West to Dania Beach. The return crossing feels like completing the circle. And the one location we visited, Bermuda, is certainly among the nicest, if not the nicest, place that I have visited in the past few years. I count myself lucky that I have had the opportunity to sail with Queenie around the Caribbean.
06/21/2012, 550 Nm WSW of Horta
On the aft deck...
Hans called yesterday's blog "the perfect day". Indeed, it was! I think this is true on a number of counts; one log entry from yesterday reads "supersailing". We had flat seas, 18-20 knots of wind and fast broad reaching. It was warm and beautiful sunshine. We also passed the half way mark between Fort Lauderdale and Falmouth. Around 5pm our distance to Fort Lauderdale over Bermuda was the same as to Falmouth over Horta; 1,950 nautical miles. We had done 2,108 nautical miles through the water since departure given that we are never doing a straight line. At the time of this landmark on our crossing yesterday, we had the second safety briefing onboard; a repeat of the one we had when we left Florida and discussions about improvements.
Yesterday was also a perfect day from my perspective of relaxing. Sven and I were sitting with our legs over the railings to leeuward just looking at the sea. I was sitting on the aft deck reading back Emma Richards "Around Alone" book about her achievements in the 2002/03 Around Alone race. I remember Peter Hjelt on our last Atlantic crossing was so surprised that I read accounts of sailing trips when I was out there myself on the seven seas.
We had a perfect evening as well. The good sailing continued. I made supper, not to the same perfection as my crew, but nevertheless I was quite impressed myself; admittedly getting some pointers from both Hans and Sven during preparation. The absence of the moon, made the stars wonderfully bright. We had only the oil lamp in the cockpit and our tri-colour light on top of the mast lit. Because having achieved the two half way marks (both Bermuda-Azores and Florida-England) over the last days, we celebrated with opening a Gosling's "Old Rum" bottle. It is made in a special way from the last rum in every cask. Yesterday's blog picture shows Captain Hastings et al attending the event. The crew has been very accommodating with the choice of music onboard. Yesterday, Hans declared that after two week's with Amy Winehouse singing onboard, "you come to like her"! Indeed!
It was difficult to go off to the bunk last night, the conditions were so perfect. The wind increased as the night progressed and we reduced sail. It was a bit unquiet night as I also kept looking at the wind instruments from my bunk. By the morning, the expected low pressure had caught up with us. Hans and I were just furling the genoa completely at 7am to continue only under well reefed main and stay sail, when the wind popped up to 40 knots and the rain started to pour down. It was only for a short while as the front passed by. Our graph of the wind strength over the last 24 hours shows a tall spike as this occured. The seas had by now also started to build up quite significantly and comfort onboard decreased.
In my quest for relaxation, I return to my cabin after breakfast and opened the envelope that Imelda had sent with me for this trip. I only took out one of the things from it, as she had told me to spread it out over different occasions during the crossing. That was her birthday letter to me; written from the desert in Santa Fe. It filled me with a warm feeling, enormous happiness and gratitude for my blessings. I then went back to sleep for a while.
At lunch time, the sun was back, while still being windy and pretty big seas. Hans got drenched while reading as a big wave found its way down the companion way. My focus although mainly on relaxing (sitting with my legs over the railing again to just watch the sea) has moved a bit also to arriving at the Azores. I have been emailing Mid Atlantic Yacht Services about a few repairs etc. I have revised the daily distance goals. At the moment we are some 40 nautical miles ahead of plan! A best case scenario would be arriving there Sunday night which would mean 12 days out from Bermuda.