Log has now tripped over 18000 miles since Falmouth. Today, faster than expectd. 3 reefs and scrap of staysail has given us 6k most of day. We have just crossed our outward track two years ago 30 miles south of the Lizard...under 70 miles now to Start Point.
(Libby adds: This is most disappointingly unpoetic. I require the Ancient Mariner to go into a full aria of "O dream of joy! Is this indeed / The lighthouse top I see? /Is this the hill? Is this the kirk? Is this mine own countree?"
Have now reached the Continental Shelf, doing cautious 4.5 k in brisk NW. Could go faster but wary of more breakages, sails now fragile. Indeed it's going to be a struggle to the end. Instruments failed again and possible stern gland leak is being watched. I'm ready to man the pumps. But good fast sailing under blue sky and over lumpy sea. Hoping it all holds together. Jib sheets don't look as strong as they did. Start Point 197nm. GPS suggestts Friday night but many a slip...
Been going along fine at 4.5 k . Rough patch overnight, could go faster but fearful of more breakages, sails fragile after nearly 20k miles. Just crossed onto the continental shelf. F5 NW and sunny but v cold. Nearly at the 200 mile mark. Gps puts me off Start Ptmidnight Friday! But many a potential slip yet.
All well, good progress, 570 miles to go (more than halfway from Azores). Forecast NW/ N for a few days. Fixed instruments and autopilot.Tiny bit of cracked insulation allowed 2 wires to rub. Found deep in cockpit locker and fixed in quite large swell. Good.
Position now puts me N of Spanish coast (400 miles to the East). NW wind, 5k progress, though under reduced canvas so I can try to fix the instruments. The knockdown wave resulted in electrical smoke from the locker: still have GPS but none of the others, and more importantly no electric autopilot, which could become necessary if there's a calm . I now have plenty of fuel .
Am hoping to get in to Dartmouth by the bank holiday Sunday. However, if the wind goes NE and heads me that might not happen.
Small repair of Monitor self-steering drum on wheel: all jubilee clips but one had failed. Luckily I had spare jubilee clips so it only took ten minutes. Always carry many, many jubilee clips. Distance to Start Point: 690nm
I think all the gustiness about 5am was a front.wind now easing a touch and course is 15deg better. And it has turned COLD. Just noticed glass has started to rise a little. Sun now out.
Looks good for progress till end of Monday then NE tues. Hoped to be in by end of Sunday but not if NE sets in. Getting some fax charts by radio now as well as Weatherquest and Meteo France reports via Libby via DeLorme satellite link.
Now it gets really tough- the last of the PG Tips teabags has gone. I bought some bags of 'black tea' in the Azores but it's weak stuff. No body to it. Just had worst tinned meal ever: beans in tomato sauce(good) with added lumps of chicken skin with fat attached (not so good). 900 miles to Start Point.
Two days out from Terciera. Been blowing like hell mostly. Jogged along on main 3 reefs and staysail. Getting Meteo France reports from Libby for Altair and Charcot.
But just had tricky night, v gusty, 10kts to 35 in a few seconds. Down to 3rd reef and scrap of staysail. Sea state not bad but one rogue wave picked us up and threw us sideways. Sprayhood ripped and instruments taken out. All GPS having trouble getting a fix so am using iphone to check position.
Cascade of water down dorades onto chart table and galley.can sort all this in the morning. Going back to bed. Reckon these little squalls are a front going through. Distance to Start Pt 942.
Set off from Horta, strongish wind but making the course. Whereon the safety tube on the Monitor self-steering broke. First time in over 16000 miles. I have a spare, but needed flat water and a dinghy to fit it. So - better here than further north - I diverted two hours to anchor off San Jorge, fixed it, and am now under way again. Sea flatter, wind down, all working, 15 miles nearer Start Point than I was. Distance to go, 1255.
(posted by wife Libby from info by text/delorme. Libby now in correspondence with Kemp sails to replace the UV-and-gale-shredded rags currently propelling Wild Song towards Dartmouth)
Time for the final leg home. 1300 miles to Dartmouth. Oh, I shall be so sorry to leave Horta; it's a perfect little island with a perfect harbour and some of the most decent people I have ever met. Ralph, the sailmaker who looks like Father Christmas, came stumbling down the pontoon with my repaired mainsail - he's done a good job- and I spent most of Sunday morning bending it back on, which is one of my least favourite jobs because it's always a struggle. The forecast isn't perfect, but it never is. There's going to be quite a lot of windward work this week but I'm getting used to that. Having got thoroughly miserable on the long leg north when the food started to get very dull, I'm well stocked with bread,ham,cheeses and meat and it is my ambition to get within sight of Start Point without having to open a tin of damned tuna, or look at a plate of pasta swimming in a gloopy red sauce. The computer is still not working so updates from now on will be based on short messages I send Libby (If anyone's interested in how I do that, Google Delorme InReach).
I said to the ever-helpful and cheerful Duncan at Mid Atlantic Yacht Services here in Horta, that I wanted a good scrubber for a few hours. Without batting an eyelid he said,"Male, female? Upright or horizontal?" I considered this carefully. I have been at sea a long time, so I opted for the upright male option. A young man called Liuz arrived on board. I have never met anyone in the marine industry as enthusiastic about his work as this man. 'I could deal drugs,' he said, 'but I prefer to work overtime on boats to make some money.' I have never met anyone with so much enthusiasm, skill and an inate sense of helpfulness. He had just come back from a one day course on engines. I never knew it was possible to be so enthusiastic about something made by Yanmar.
Be warned, the Travelift at Horta is small and anything much over 30ft will have to remove its forestay, which is tedious.
There was very little green growth, despite my suspicion that long,green tendrils were flourishing in the tropics and holding me back. But the barnacles were wicked and yielded only to a scraper and not the pressure washer. Despite that, I think Coppercoat did a good job. She hasn't been out of the water for nine months and has sailed through both tropical and subantarctic waters. On that basis I would recommend Coppercoat (professionally applied, though. Mine was done by Pedros at Dartside Quay in Devon).. Luiz' day was made when he got a message from his mum to say her dog had just had seven pups. My day was made when I got back to my berth and find that two of my three sails had been returned, duly repaired.
This place,Horta, is a bit of a crossroads. All the super-yachts are arriving on their way from the Caribbean to the Med. There's a huge bit of kit called 'Lady B'. I swear her ensign is bigger than my mainsail. I met the skipper in the chandlery- his own boat's a 22 footer.
Flores was a lovely and hospitable place but felt like the small island community that it is. Horta, on the other hand, has got a bit of a metropolitan touch to it. Or at least it has to me; but remember I haven't seen a supermarket for three months. Fantastic! You can walk round and pick things off shelves, and there are kinds of food that don't come out of tins!! I'd forgotten such things existed. I have been eating a lotof bacon sandwiches, simply because I now can. Repairs continue. There is a set up here called Mid Atlantic Yacht Services. This place is a dream. Apart from a properly stocked chandlery (in the middle of thr Atlantic Ocean) it's a friendly and helpful place under Duncan Sweet and his wife. Gas? - no problem. Sailmaker? - no problem. New navigation lights (old ones taking by wave way back)? - no problem. I wish this couple would come to the UK and show some (not all) of our chandlers how to do it. My friends Jeremy and Adrie Burnett used to have a chandlery in Falmouth which I always thought was the best in the world - this place reminds me very much of that. Talking of sails, my mainsail, yankee and staysail have now been taken away but Ralph, a Swiss sailmakers, who looks like Father Christmas. Did I mention the sheer joy of walking into a coffee shop and sitting, typing this, when you haven't seen such a place since Christmas? Starting to think about the last leg now, 1300 miles back to the UK. Won't get away till F Christmas has worked his magic on my sails, but the weather is looking a bit northerly - here we go again.
Made it to Horta. Calm easy passage, 130 miles under engine and headsail, flat sea. Island beautiful, mist on the mountains. Much to do to boat here, hoping for a lift-out and scrub, mainsail to repair. Getting some sleep now, more later.
Latest report: set out under headsails and engine for the 126 miles to Horta where I can get the mainsail fixed and scrub the huge tropical goose-barnacles off the hull. Wind and sea unexpectedly came ahead a few hours out, conditions worsening, staysail looking problematical. Turned back. Now back in Flores, twelve hours later, waiting for a window.
Preparing to leave in the morning. Euro-irony: cost paid to police E50 to tell them engine not working, which I knew, and E50 to tell them it was fixed (which I know). Now clear to go.
Let it be known that the marina manager at Lajes de Flores is the most helpful, nice guy ever. He is a real star.
The mast tangle is fixed now, thanks to the Frenchman aloft. Been very worried about engine, but at last the mechanic came, and it has started!
Mechanic only tried to charge me six quid, gave him twenty, joyfully. Now to pay tow and sort police permission to leave. Moderate SW/S/W winds over next few days. I hope towards Horta.
Stressful...higher than at sea! Running rigging in major tangle, nice Frenchman offering to go up but thunder and lightning, heavy swell, boat moving too much. Hope this afternoon. Engine won't start, trying various things. Mechanic booked but can't come till tomorrow afternoon. Must catch weather window to get to Horta. Will the police allow me to leave? How much will the tow cost ? (nobody seems to know, they don't do it much). Oh for the simple life in the midst of a storm.. Seriously, desperate to get away on Saturday so fingers crossed.
But had much rum with French and Floreans.
Deep night's sleep, best for months. And isn't birdsong lovely? Much to do. Gelcoat chip from tow experience. Water. Fuel. Clearup. Marina manager's Mu doing my washing, nice woman cooking me breakfast. Ironic that worst week of the voyage (one of worst in my life) is due entirely to the Azores High having moved north to give UK a pleasant spring. Will do fuller account of it all later, probably able to leave for Horta at end of the week. Still wet and windy, though gale down a bit.
WIld Song and I are now alongside in a pretty deserted early season little marina in Lajes de Flores, thanks to the cheerful lads on the pilot-boat which towed us round. `I am having a ham and tomato sandwich: the first tomato for six weeks. Tiago gave me a lift up to the shop - it's a one horse place, but food! I can get water and electricity here, and with some difficulty can refuel, and will try to fix the filter problem.
Everything is in a mess, wet and salty; a lot to be done. But there's no weather-window for getting to Horta until Friday anyway , and I won't go until the forecast gives me a reaching wind to motor-sail the 120 miles with staysails. No sailmaker here for the main, and it's beyond my repairing, so that'll have to be at Horta.
Meanwhile the tomato sandwich is...glorious!!!
(Libby recounts, from Paul messages)
Monday. Anchor held overnight. No power to get it up on my own easily, but taken a call from helpful Portuguese coastguard. I think the sail will repair, good sailmaker in HOrta if I get there, but long UV damage probable after tropics.
Boat coming in one hour they say. Warned there may be a tow charge, "ANything!" I screamed. Troubles apart, by the way, this is a lovely hole even in rain and wind. I can see 5 waterfalls, towering cliffs, pretty village and church by the water.
Ooh, boat seen!