We went to the Continente Grocery Store uphill from the marina. We were amazed by the narrow cobblestone roads and the speed at which the Azorians travel them in their small cars. The houses are painted lovely colours and most have red clay tiles (see photo, taken by Uwe from Monte da Guia).
We have been unable to hook up to the power, so Uwe installed our second solar panel. With this and the wind generator, we have enough electricity for all our needs. We use less electricity at dock than underway since our navigational instruments are turned off. For WiFi we connected to e-mail while having a beer/coke at the Horta Yacht Club.
We washed the salt off the boat with fresh water and used special conditioners on the windshield before covering it up with the canvas.
Three small loads of laundry cost $30.00 CDN at the Marina laundromat. But now we have clean clothes and linens! We had too much laundry to do by hand.
We had lunch at Peter's Sports Cafe. This cafe is well-known among cruisers, but it has been too well publicized so that people who fly into Horta also frequent the bar, making it a very crowded place.
At the invitation of Ola and Turin, we again went to the Peter's Sports Cafe for an evening beer/wine. I met a lovely, slim, pretty Swedish girl there named Stina. She had caught a 400-kilogram blue marlin earlier that day! She had to let the fish go, though, because of angling restrictions.
Uwe installed a second, tubular, radar reflector on a shroud (as a backup to the large one that had fallen from the mast) using the ATN Top-Climber. We also checked the mast collar to find out why so much water had been coursing down the mast when waves washed over the deck during squalls. The wooden spacer blocks around the mast had shifted, probably during some of the gales, and the plastic mast collar had been pierced. Uwe used a hammer to knock the wooden blocks back into place and we installed new plastic mast wrap after Uwe secured hose clamps around the wooden blocks.
After remaining hove-to outside of Horta Harbour overnight, at daybreak we docked at the visitors' dock just behind Greg and Marie's American 45-foot sailing vessel, "Second Sally". We had heard Greg calling in on SSB for weather information while we were making our trip across the ocean, so it was interesting to put a face to a voice. They had had an easier trip than us, crossing the Atlantic from Bermuda, although they told us that their trip to Bermuda from Florida had been stressful.
The Harbour Master directed us to dock on the outside wall and then we learned, first hand over the next several days, all about rafting. The first to raft to us was Benoit's 37-foot Dufour, "Lattitude I", from Montreal. Nancy and their boys, Julien and Brandon, joined him (they flew to Horta to meet up with Benoit). Soft-spoken, very considerate, Benoit and Nancy reminded me of our long-time friends, Jean and Carol. We became quick friends and visited back and forth, along with Ola and Turin ("Noa noa II" = "A Taste of Paradise", a Hallberg-Rassy, 36), who rafted to "Lattitude I" (see photo). Benoit and Nancy offered hospitality on their boat - wow, they barbecued pork chops!!!
Days 47 to 55.
From day 47 onwards we had mild to modest winds from SW and much better sailing, wing-on-wing using just the jibs and whisker poles. In fact, it has been quite a treat the whole week. The sky has been mostly blue, with fluffy clouds here and there, and a 360-degree horizon. Usually there is nothing else in sight. We have only encountered two other sailboats approaching the Azores (and we were faster than both, surprisingly).
Day 47 was not only our first calm day, but we were also visited by a pod of spirited, speedy, Spotted Dolphins. Because it was calmer, we were able to see them quite clearly underwater and racing each other just inches in front of Stonefire's bow. Another special treat for all our effort so far!
Early in the morning we were also visited by a very tired little bird (see photo). He shivered at first, perhaps worried about what we might do to him. However, we let him sleep, undisturbed, in the starboard cubby of the cockpit, and by the end of the day he hopped out, hopped onto Uwe's hand, and then flew away.
We have found ocean passage making to be more tiring than expected. We take turns on watch (four hours on and four off in the middle of the night), so each of us only gets a half night's sleep. This necessitates sleeping during the day, greatly reducing the number of waking hours available for other things.
The constant rocking of the boat is also very tiring. It is particularly hard on the abdominal and midriff muscles. These are used constantly to balance the upper body and counteract the momentum of being tossed about. These hurt after awhile and you need to lie down to rest your stomach. Add a little seasickness from time to time and it's all the worse. It is amazing, but a motion which is quite comfortable and indicative of a seaworthy boat while sitting in the cockpit can be quite hard to handle when inside the cabin, cooking or doing any other tasks. Anne compares Stonefire to a spirited thoroughbred horse, gracefully slicing through the waves. However, she sometimes thinks a boat more like a workhorse would have been easier on old bods!
Uwe believes that sailing at night is a bit like sailing a submarine. We spend most of the time inside, looking at the chartplotter and wind monitor. This shows our direction, speed, wind direction (and hence sail set), and any approaching ships via AIS. Ships appear on the chartplotter when up to 20 miles away. We cannot see them visually unless they are ten miles away or less. We do look outside for lights every 20 or 30 minutes in case there are small vessels not using AIS, such as sailboats and fishing trawlers. Everything is black outside, unless the moon is really bright. So our world at night revolves around the navigation table - totally electronic, almost as if in a submarine.
Overall, our ocean passage from Nova Scotia to the Azores has been more difficult than expected, but very rewarding, quite enjoyable the last week, and definitely provided a great sense of accomplishment.
This was truly an eventful day. The sea was rough: there was winds of 20 to 25 (which are great) but the waves were 3 to 4 metres, and from two directions.
In the afternoon we met a large pod of pilot whales (over 3-4 dozen individuals) with adorable dolphin-like faces. They followed us and played with the boat. They were obviously quite interested in us. One whale even jumped straight out of the water behind us and looked right into the cockpit. At times we could see a large wave approaching and, looking into the face of the wave, could see eight or more whales coming out of the wave towards us. When we changed direction, more S than E, they did too! This was quite a thrill, and we did manage to get some video (see youtu.be clip).
Later that day was not so pleasant. A rogue wave hit us broad-side, which knocked the boat quite out of balance. At the moment the wave hit, Anne was trying to empty water from a spaghetti pot into the sink. She was thrown into the protector bar in front of the oven, and hit her head on the cabin side, right where the metal fire guard sits over the oven. This resulted in a large painful bruise on her left hip and a nasty gash on her forehead, about an inch long. She lay on the cabin floor, applying pressure to stop the bleeding, crying, while Uwe quickly raised the trysail, took in the jib and staysail, and hove-to. Uwe then bandaged up Anne's head wound, and she then slept for many hours. Uwe replaced the bandage several times, using alcohol, sterile bandages, Polysporin, and vet wrap, and Anne also took 10 days of antibiotics [Thanks so much, Ira!]. Before we reached the Azores the wound had healed very nicely without any infection. It's actually amazing how well one can usually manage without the hospital emergency room immediately accessible. Among other things, sailing definitely teaches self reliance.
Days 45 and 46.
We had more rough weather on day 45, and on day 46, the winds were north-east, right on the nose and opposite from the prevailing direction! We seemed to have ended up on the northern side of a "meteorological trough". However, these died down during the night. Having no wind is almost as discouraging as having too much wind as we lost the hard-gained six hours southward.
The first eleven days of the trip were much harder and less pleasant than we expected since we had waited out a gale off Nova Scotia for three days and had thought we would have several days of good sailing before encountering another gale. We were in for a surprise.
We left Hawksbury NS at 05:25 EDT hoping to see at least a little of the Nova Scotia coast, but as luck would have it we left in a dense fog. We navigated the Strait of Canso using primarily radar, and sounded our fog horn. That was a first for us. The fog cleared a little in Chedabucto Bay, but winds were light and we were in a shipping channel, so we motored awhile. The wind picked up as we exited Chedabucto Bay for the open Atlantic, but the fog was very dense. We had fog on and off for the first few days.
We had flukey wind, so Anne ended up doing five complete circles (boat going all 360 degrees on the spot) on her watch, and Uwe two circles. We decided to motor 10 hours in order to get out of the shallow banks, fog and shipping channels.
Our SPOT (satellite messenger) malfunctioned and sent recipients "Request Help" messages, so we used our satellite phone to cancel the false request. It took several days for the messenger unit to function properly again.
Four days out on the Atlantic Ocean we had gusts to 30 knots and were getting tired, so we decided to try out our Jordan Series Drogue. This is the ultimate in storm protection, but it is overkill for winds of only 30 knots. However, we thought it best to test it in 30 knot winds before we really needed to use it in 60 knot winds. Besides, we thought, we could hang out the drogue a few hours and get some rest. Boy were we wrong!
The drogue performed as expected, but it was definitely not restful. The motion inside was awful. Under sail the boat rocks from vertical to over on the leeward side, opposite from where the wind is coming. But, using the drogue, with no sails up, rocking goes from one side, past the vertical, and way over to the other side, especially if the wind is from one direction and there are waves from another due to the wind from the previous day. Not only was it uncomfortable, it was incredibly noisy. Everything in the cupboards slid from one side to the other, first banging into the side of the boat, then the cupboard doors. The cupboard doors were latched so that nothing could come out and injure us, but we obviously needed padding around the containers. Uwe called the fibreglass hull a kettle drum: it may sound fine hearing a drummer marching down the street, but imagine what it sounds like inside the drum! We were exhausted after that episode.
We had even higher winds two days later, 35 to 40 knots, gusts up to 44 (gale-force winds), with several torrential rain squalls. This time we hove-to under storm trysail. The trysail worked beautifully. It was easy to rig and hoist on our newly added second sail track, and we are able to keep it tied up and ready for use on the mast at all times. The only problem is that no sail combination resulted in the boat pointing quite as far up into the waves as Uwe would have liked. So, he tried a small drogue, improvising by using our little riding sail (a small sail set when at anchor to reduce sideways swinging), and attaching lines to each of its three corners for a bridle, then attaching a 5-foot piece of chain for weight, and a 40-foot 5/8" dockline. It worked quite well tied to the bow (even though it was not designed for this purpose), and kept the bow pointed a little more into the wind for a relatively comfortable ride. After about 15 hours Uwe checked to see if there was any chafing on the dockline. Ah, but too late! Our "drogue" was gone. Our new riding sail, plus some chain and dockline are our first sacrifices to the god, Neptune.
Day 33. Sailing on Northumberland Strait/Canso Strait Lock
The winds were south at first, when we left Summerside, good for a beam reach, but then they died after we went under Confederation Bridge. We motored from 9:30 am until 6:00 pm, but then the wind picked up again and we managed to sail from 6:00 pm, all through the night, until the next morning at 8:30 am. It was wonderful to sail for a change!!!! The weather looked threatening a couple of times in the evening (see photo), but the rain/thunder clouds quickly crossed the strait in front of us.
The worst part was navigating through all the lobster trap floats near Charlottetown: we counted six major "mine fields". We soon realized that if you saw one float, you knew there would be about two dozen nearby, and not much room between them. Fortunately, we did not snag any on our propellor. The Northumberland Strait is surprisingly shallow (only 60 feet deep), and lobster traps are everywhere, even in the middle of navigation channels. By nightfall we had passed Charlottetown and most of the lobster traps. We reduced sail overnight to slow our speed, to 3 to 4 knots, so as not to arrive at Canso Strait in the dark.
The sky cleared at night and we had a beautiful starry sky. The morning was sunny and we were treated to another fun reception by a couple of whales who crossed ten feet in front of us in St. George's Bay, just as we were entering the Canso Strait. We put the engine into neutral while they swam around us. They were too fast to get any good pictures or videos this time. [Sorry, Phil and Irene. We are pleased you enjoyed the last video, but we were unsuccessful this time. Say hi to our friends at BOHM!]
We transited the Canso Strait Lock which separates Cape Breton Island from mainland Nova Scotia. Tidal currents used to be treacherous here, so the canal was blocked and a lock added. There is not much change in elevation: mostly the lock controls the tidal currents. Uwe called on VHF channel 11 about a mile from the lock, as advised in the Fisheries and Oceans sailing directions, and, sure enough, got a reply. After giving the vessel name, length, tonnage, previous and last ports of call and skipper's name, the Lockmaster told us to enter on the port side of the lock. Unlike the St. Lawrence locks, we had to supply our own dock lines, but there was no fee. We were, however, once again pleased that we had our old oversized fenders because the concrete lock walls were very rough and had a healthy growth of kelp and barnacles on them.
For the first time, because we are finally far enough away from Toronto, we managed to listen to Herb Hilgenberg's weather service for sailors on the single side band radio. Prior to this, we only got static.
Day 34. Canso Strait = Highway
We were told that we were not the first ones at this port, and in fact, several other boats arrived here before us already this year on their way to Europe. The Canso Strait is a regular highway!!! Seems like everyone is doing what we are doing, and Port Hawkesbury is THE place to re-provision; there are no other options. It has been 1375 nautical miles since we left Bronte Marina. But hey, that's an accomplishment for us, even if everyone else is also doing it!