Welcome to Day 9. Cold wet and windy and finally storming along to the sunny Azores.
After the long windy night yesterday we woke to bright sunshine and big seas. This was the start of what looks like up to 4 days of favourable winds. We were joined by dolphins surfing down the faces of the waves; we reckon around 4 metres, then diving under and around the boat. They just seem to love playing. Dougie achieved an ambition and saw his first flying fish. Just the one but it's a start. Later, we stared passing what looked like plastic bags on the surface, Phil was first to identify them as Portuguese Men-of-War jellyfish. These nasty little buggers are dome shaped like your normal jelly and have a sail they lift out their "backs" and we swear they were tacking up wind.
All day yesterday the wind held steady in strength around 20 knots backing all day until we finally had the wind on the beam and could finally start making some good mileages. Typically, the wind built as it got dark and Phil took the first 3 hour shift from 18:00. This is Phil's second week of sailing and seems a natural hitting the trips top speed at 10.1 knots. Ian took over as it got dark and just confidently sits out in the wild night blasting along, iPod in place.
By the time it got to midnight it was pitch black and we were bowling along at 9 knots, over canvassed with a scrap of genoa and two reefs in the main (must get a third). Winds were 20/25 gusting to 30. In the 30's we'd bear off to ease the pressure resulting in this very weird sensation, or perhaps it was reality that, in the black, with no horizon, the boat seemed to be just charging downhill on a slope of 10 degrees. Really quite weird sensation.
At 03:00 the "Ah this is nuthin" ever reassuring Dougie took over and had his turn at surfing a 45foot, 13 ton boat I'd never thought would perform like it's doing. We just lack better sail management and options. It's a real shame we lost the staysail as this is what it's for.
Today should be the strongest winds. Dougie's analysis from the weather we download every day (AppliedWeather.com) is for NW 25kn which we're getting just now, maybe had as it's easing a touch. (Having just typed that, we catch a 22kn gust and fly off a wave with another crash - just like the Open 60's - gotta get us one of them) Tomorrow should see wind easing farther to 18 knots and on 13th back to WNW at 15knots. Additionally, we exit a negative current today and pick up a favourable 1/2 to 1 knot current in our favour. It's really surprising how localised these current can be; and how strong.
Fresh food is just about done but nonetheless Dougie and Phil can still conjour up mince and tatties a la Milano.
Unfortunately, it looks as if the Hydrovane (don't buy one of these folks) is coming adrift again. We'll monitor over next few hours and if it gets worse we'll have to stop the boat and remove the vane's rudder.
We really need some sunshine. The boat is quite damp; leaks in the forward cabin mean my bunk is getting positively wet. Rheumatism settling in soon. I'll maybe see if we can rig a cover over the hatch. It's just a couple of drops every minute but over a day it makes an impact.
The washing Dougie did two days ago is still lying damp in a bag and bucket unable to get dry. Desperately need a dehumidifier.
Its 02:30 and we're doing 2.5 knots against a swell and headwinds of 15knots. Wind is 180 degrees from where it should be. Only good news is we have about a knot of current in our favour. Ian is at the helm having called me as a ship was passing close by half a hour ago and Phil just got up for a pee. I'm on watch in half an hour to see the dawn coming up. Forecast is for wind to go north @ 15 -20 then NNE @ 25 then finally west but dropping to 10. Right now our eta Azores is 24th. As I need to be in Paris for 23rd we better get some decent wind.
Phil spent the afternoon fixing our cockpit table while Dougie sawed in his own way catching sleep below. Not much to report other than it's painfully slow.
Wind got up to 30 knots from east. Straight from the Azores and we've spent all night flogging against headwinds and big seas; 3 - 4 metre with smallish breaking crests. Noisy and wet and going the wrong direction but quite safe. The 30 knots did for the staysail so if it calms down, it's coming off for a look and maybe a sew job. Wind is easing and backing so hopefully a) we can switch off the damn engine and b) start making some headway. Add that to the Azores shopping list. Need a Yanmar mechanic, a dodger fixer And a sail maker and Dougie says he wants a massage. Phil is on the helm just now. Not bad for a beginner piloting us through the seas and weather. Takes the odd wave in the face but seems to be enjoying it. Dougie and I trying to get some kip as, once the wind backs we should be reaching fast for 2-3 days as the trade winds finally settle in.
Fuel and water at ½ and we're just shy of half way distance but surely with all the rubbish weather there can't be another ½ in time. The sun is out and it's actually cracking sailing weather - just in the wrong direction. Hopefully better news tomorrow.
8th June will now been known as Phil's day. Over the last few days in our rolling flat calms we've had to motor for 10 - 24 hours at a time. On two occasions, the engine has overheated and we've had to refill the cooling system. On the last occasion, about 09:00 yesterday we tracked the problem to a corroded and leaking core plug. Not many people would know where to start with this as to replace the plug (which we didn't have anyway) means taking off the manifold, all the pipes, alternators and gubbins, putting in a new plug and reassembling. Given we'd no plug Phil considered the options which was... like an episode of Junk Yard wars. Step one, take one 25mm dia stainless engine compartment fire extinguisher cover, two a piece of Dino's rubber gasket, five 25 cent coins and a G clamp. Phil assembled a plug from the stainless cover, rubber and coins and then sawed the screw section off my trusty 30 year old G clamp and using that as a compression bar, jammed the cobbled core plug into place using the G clamp piece as a reverse bottle screw to force the necessary pressure. That took Phil 4 hours in the wallowing sea, lying on his back and, apart from being an ingenious solution officially makes him my hero for 2008.
Back under way, with the engine running fine, we still rocked and rolled eastwards with the highlight of the day being a passing Leatherback turtle. He gave us a wave and flapped off to his horizon. (Probably got a burd on a beach somewhere).
The trip so far has been highlighted by calms and the incessant rolling. Quite trying after 20 minutes. After a week it really gets on your nerves. However, the good news is it's helping Dougie sloshing the dirty clothes around in the bucket to make us all smell nice.
Just as we were preparing for the night, concerns I'd had about the Hydrovane steering gear all day crystallised as I could clearly see it had slipped down it's mounting by about 50mm. It had also pulled out about 20 mm on the bottom bracket. I ordered this unit because it had a good report, and indeed, it sailed us all night downwind in the 30 - 40 knots and big seas perfectly. However, after I bought it I read the fitting instructions which were so complex that I tried to cancel the order. Foolishly I let the sales guy talk me into staying with them and despite 2 fittings, first by "professional" riggers (well guys with T shirts that said Riggers on them) then Phil trying to salvage their bodge. As part of "Phil's Day" we then had the poor man hanging off the back of the boat in the middle of the Atlantic with spanners and hammers putting it back together. Seems OK now.
Back to engining along, Phil called me about 11pm to say we were motoring towards an electrical storm. Perfect end to a perfect 24 hours! It's a bit disconcerting to be the only lightning conductor in the middle of a lightning storm lighting up the skies all around and thunder booming all round. We tried to scan the storm on the radar and tried for an hour to find routes out of it but in the end, in a squall with driving rain we hove to and stood down below waiting for it to pass. Dougie slept through it all.
So starts another day, engine on a rolling east. We're going way too slow however, wind fills in tomorrow for next 3 -4 days from N and NW at 15 - 25 knots so that should get us hurtling along towards sanity.
We're at 39 49.0N 57 01W again in no wind and motoring. Highlights; we caught a fish. Well a shark actually. Only 3foot long but it had real big teeth. We motored for 24 solid hours yesterday only getting wind at midnight; and that only lasted 'til 03:00. While it lasted we cracked on at 8.5 knots and were at last making good time. Now we're back to 5knots and probably having to wait until tomorrow before the forecast wind fills in from the south. We're turning this into a sea based road trip the damn engine's been on so often. The stress has caused a few wee issues but nothing Phil hasn't been able to fix (when's his birthday?). What we'd have done without Phil is beyond me. He has been an absolute hero this trip.
Pretty quiet all day yesterday, more dolphins and some kind of seagull; looks like a sea version of a number 2. All is well but we're slipping behind schedule.
After the overnight blow and yesterday morning's big seas we spent a relatively leisurely day "recovering" reaching under part genoa and staysail in bright sunshine in big seas with the odd small breaking crest. If that's what 40 knots produces, what's it like when it's windy? Lunch provided the energy to get the sails up and get going again and we had a good afternoon and evening doing 6+ in calmer seas.
Dougie organised a ship's Tombola this morning and, to increase your chances of winning you paid an extra 50p to get your name in twice. Little did us suckers know the prize was cleaning the heads. Poor Phil; fixes the steering, fits the lee cloths, repairs the engine and is currently cleaning the bogs - then he's going to make lunch!
Plenty wind in the boat today but hee haw outside. . On sailing; we had good winds until about 23:00 when the wind turned east, on the nose and faded to a few knots. The engine has therefore been running for the last 10 hours and we're all going deaf. We should be getting 14 - 20 knots from NE but for the last 6 hours we've had nothing except 2 metre swell and no wind and the boat is again rolling like a pig and, despite our attempts last night to pad everything so we could run quiet, life inside is back to the spanners in a washing machine deal. It seems as if the boat gets into a critical cadence with the waves and the roll gets more and more wild until the rhythm is broken and we roll into an oncoming waves and that stabilises us again - until the next one.
We just started a roll pattern again and our lucky Tombola winner flew out the bog followed by his bucket, cleaning fluids and mop. Poor Phil is now mopping the rest of the cabin. Really not what we expected in Trade Wind sailing. however, there are signs the wind will fill in shortly so that will help.
Last night motoring east. following the stars for navigation, just like Captain Fred, (Letton folk lore has it that "Cap'n Fred" navigated to Perth Australia from the UK without charts following the stars; and got bollocked by his bosses for it)
Dougie and Phil embarrassed me by producing a fresh version of my tinned lunchtime extravaganza of beans and more beans; a hedonistic mix of Heinz UK and Boston beans.
Did a stock count this morning and we're down to our last 28 litres of orange juice and 40 litres of milk. We've so much water we're going to shower once every 5 days whether we need it or not.
Lunch today looking like stew and corn currently defrosting on the worktop, the floor, the nav table....
We've had to motor so much the freezer has kept the ice from the 1st still frozen solid.
We've attempted to do our sun sights but, apart from creating stress fractures in our right arms from holding what seems like a 10lb sextant, the violent motion of the rolling makes it totally impossible.
Undeterred, Dougie is currently rushing to get it out, head on deck and get a sight. Given he could hardly get up the companionway the chances of getting it are pretty much nil.
Midday now passed and opinion is that it's absolutely impossible.
We crossed our first time zone last night so we are making progress. All is swell (get it?).
A week ago we were looking at a succession of highs moving across to the Azores finally consolidating as one big high. Back then our biggest concern was no wind. Yesterdays forecast shows a succession of lows marching across and we've been in and around one for 24 hours now. It started with the dull, 0 - 5 knot variable winds, with us sloshing around in swells from 10 directions. This was accompanied by rain for about 8 hours varying from bad day in the hills to monsoon. This of course has searched out the leaky bits and consequently the forward cabin is soaked with drips still coming from the hatch. Anyway, a fresh breeze came in the afternoon and we were able to switch off the engine after about 6 or 8 hours; and that's when the ride started. The wind increased over a few hours into darkness and by midnight we had 30 - 40 knots (42.7 tops) with seas I was quite glad I could only hear. (Having your iPod up loud really helps!)
We ran off ahead of it with just a scrap of staysail out keeping to 4knots for steerage. Pretty wild night but the boat was fine but about as comfortable and noisy as being in a washing machine with a pile of spanners. The blow was preceded by the start of the end our dodger. We once had a tent that after many years use was still giving good camping until one morning when taking it down we put our finger through the fabric as if it was tissue. The whole thing then pretty much fell apart in our hands so we packed it straight into the nearest bin. Well, the dodger tore and we went to sew it up and much the same has happened. We'll try again later but it looks as if it's a template for a new one and it too will find a home in some sail makers bin.
This morning, the front has gone through and we've huge (for us anyway) seas (you look behind and there's just this wall of water; above you!) However, the boat just lifts and skooshes of to the next crash into the wave in front and the pots, pans, cups, everything join in the chorus while the locker doors swing open to applaud.
I guess it's out here you find out whether you have a blue water boat or not. Anyway, the sun is out, the forecast is for winds to ease and we can get re-charged. The wind vane is doing all the steering and after a fraught installation, salvaged by Phil is performing reasonably well. Lastly, we lost our lure to some big monster fish yesterday that took a bite and swam off with hundreds of feet of our line. Fortunately, the line broke as we reeled it in and we've been spared fish for the rest of the trip. All good fun; beards all round and plenty to keep us amused. How I ever thought I'd get time to read a book is beyond me right now.
Off to get breakfast, weather and start sewing.
(From Anne - Dad wants distance run from your log each day. Are you doing noon sights yet???)
So do we. Log is bust so we can only do dist run retrospectively from GPS coordinates. Probably going to screw our astro work. Haven't seen sun for 2 days. Currently in thick fog, motoring and we've only scratched the surface of the trip. Just had brekky. Dougie eating muesli as we're out of bacon and conserving gas.
Time Bandit 5th June 08:30 local 41.45.9N 64.13.7 W
What a difference a day makes. We've been sailing in the influence of the Gulf Stream which has been pushing us north and that, coupled with head winds meant we were effectively tracking for the UK. Once darkness fell we got a fantastic show of phosphorescence with every breaking wave top lit like neon in pitch blackness. (Total cloud and no moon yet). About 2am we crossed a distinct line, from north easterly Gulf Stream to southerly Arctic currents. In 20 yards the difference in currents shifted our track from UK to Azores. Unfortunately, the cold water from 't north hitting the warm south east air meant in that same 20 yards we sailed into a blanket of fog. We've sailed all night in 15-20 knots in heavy rain that has only just let up. 08:30 local and the fog (and the dolphins) is still here but no useful wind so we're currently motoring at 5kn on 105M direction Azores. Forecast for later is 20 - 25 knots from NE so if that comes we should get a good blast. Unfortunately, the heavy rain is showing up the leaky bits and there's a bit of water, mostly down the mast from a bodged seal by our rigger. Yesterday evening we changed to single watches with one on and one stand-by (we'd been standing watches in pairs so far) so everyone is now getting well rested. Looking forward to some sunshine though. When we plot our wee noon position or look at our position on the chart there seems a long way to go. All is well ha harr!
Woke up last night about 2am flying airborne across my bunk, landing in the lee cloth as Ian and Dougie had us steaming eastwards at 9 knots. Pretty busy day yesterday surrounded by and chased by dolphins for hours. Same again this morning. Highlight; the shoal of fish the dolphins were chomping on was also the dinner table for a pod of hump backs - big tails, "thar she blows and everything". Woke up again at 06:00 to thick fog as we left the warm, 250ft Boston shelf waters and entered 3000ft colder Atlantic. This morning, as the fog cleared only slamming the wheel down saved us running down a sleeping humpback. Passed within 50yards. We've passed out first waypoint on en route to "P" at Lat 40N Long 60W where we'll take a left for the Azores. Gas consumption way ahead of plan so microwaving stuff to conserve. Fuel and water still at 4/4 in tanks. Duogen, towing generator is pumping in the amps so we're OK for power. Also out of 12oz steaks! Arteries hardening by the minute.
All OK, bit slow apart from really charging along last night. All getting enough sleep and morale OK. Down a bit because of the gas deal but consumption has been high and left on three times by accident plus we spent 6 days in port and should have refilled. Learning a lot!