The Final Countdown
13 July 2020
Lorraine and Chris Marchant
Leaving Studland Bay we left Old Harry Rocks astern making for the The Needles Channel, on through the Solent and into Chichester Harbour for our second anchorage. We were lucky to find an unused mooring buoy and claimed our place for another night of stillness and peace, we drank some very good Portuguese red wine in the cockpit before the cold drove us inside. Not too late to bed as we needed to catch the tide at 06:00 hours and after a long day of 14.5 hours we were ready to meet Nod.
Eastbourne today passing Selsey Bill then Hove where we phoned Hattie who lives 10 miles to the north and had a conversational wave as we went by. The Seven Sisters and Beachy Head were left behind as we turned north east for Eastbourne. We have never anchored there, this was a first. We passed the marina and sailed up the very wide and open roadstead into shallower water where we were really surprised to find a very tolerable place to anchor, we had expected it to be rolly and unpleasant, such a relief.
We were underway at 07:00 hours. The tide was not with us so keeping well inshore we crossed Pevensey Bay and later beautiful Rye which has a drying harbour. By lunch time we were below what I always feel is an eerie and spectral Dungeness. Its old nuclear power station loomed large and grey but its endless beach was splashed with colourful fishermen's tents and people walking their dogs. Here we waited for the change of tide to take us on fast through the Dover Straits and to sweep us round Shakespeare Cliff and South Foreland up to the eastern shores of Kent. The Goodwin Sands channelled Jobiska north to Ramsgate for our final night before home port.
Up at 04:30 hours, after a fairly restless night for both, it was good to wake up properly. Underway by 05:00, across the Thames estuary where there was surprisingly little traffic for a change, something of a relief. And on we go passing Clacton and Frinton on Sea, the gorgeous Walton Backwaters behind Walton on the Naze, then Harwich on the Stour and Felixstowe on the Orwell our first taste of Suffolk this year. Favourite rivers followed: the Deben with its great pub the Ramsholt Arms on the way to Woodbridge and the Alde with its tricky entrance leading on to Butley river where we love to anchor, finally we passed the Blythe and glorious Southwold. Our neighbours Glynis and Mike emailed us from Thorpeness where they had been sitting on the beach and seen a yacht passing, was it us they asked and we are sure it was as there were no other boats seen on AIS in the area - that felt extraordinary. Then into Lowestoft Harbour where we were delighted to find friends Judy and Harry, their son Tim and daughter Frances with Mike and their son Leo waving flags to welcome us back. This felt just wonderful, Judy and Harry came on board a year ago to say farewell the day before we left for the Caribbean so to see them at the end feels very good indeed.
So here we are back in our home port of Lowestoft (See gallery for final photo of Jobiska entering Lowestoft Harbour)
Now safely moored up in the Lowestoft Cruising Club and all that remains is to pack up and go home, oh yes and drink champagne!
4,332 miles in time of a corona virus pandemic: Turks and Caicos - Azores - UK.
Blighty's South Coast
11 July 2020
Lorraine and Chris Marchant
We woke early with the sunrise feeling really refreshed.
Fond thoughts of the sun warming things up as we sailed into the English Channel were quite erroneous, it's been really cold. However, the shelter between UK and France is a different matter, we left the big seas behind and it became much calmer as we headed for the south coast. We had some quite big swells chasing us on our crossing so really welcomed the change.
A chance to make some bread with the last of our yeast, since CovID the shops in Turks & Caicos and the Azores didn't have any in stock as so many people started making bread or buying and hoarding. So soda bread and corn bread for us after this.
We passed the Eddystone lighthouse leaving Cornwall behind then passed Plymouth, Start Point and south of Dartmouth to make a night crossing of Lyme Bay where Devon gives way to Dorset. The night crossing of this big bay was very cold and winds got up to 27 knots, amongst the strongest we have had other than in Atlantic squalls; we both stayed on watch through the night, it was freezing cold. It was at this point that we began to wonder why we had sailed back to what felt like a dark ice box - oh yes, CovID restrictions and hurricane season, oh well, perhaps not so bad.
Needing a rest as dawn was breaking and we were reaching the end of Lyme Bay we decided that we should anchor somewhere to get some sleep. Studland Bay is just around the hook of Portland Bill at the end of Lyme Bay, a place we have found peace and calm in the past so we decided to recharge our personal batteries there. It is such a scenic bay to enter rounding the white cliffs and chalk stacks of Old Harry's Rocks which felt like old friends as we passed.
The sea suddenly flattened and lapped around Jobiska's hull with a soothing slapping sound. We were surprised to see a good many boats at anchor already, owners must have rejoiced at the end of the CovID boating restrictions and taken to the water asap. It's a shallow harbour, we went slowly and dropped the hook in 3.5 metres, it wasn't long before we were dreaming.
When we woke to the day we knew we had chosen the right place to rest, it is beautiful.
The last time we anchored here we had Benbow, our border terrier with us, he was a great swimmer and prime investigator of rock pools, beaches and smelly sea weeds which he liked to roll in. 3 dozen or so years previously I had camped with friends and my siamese cat for a climbing weekend on the cliffs just over the hill near Swanage. This time we were returning from the Caribbean so another one for the memory box. With plenty to do after our crossing and no imperative to get back home we spent the day on task then another undisturbed night.
We woke early with the sunrise feeling really refreshed and it was an easy decision to put overnight sailing behind us for the rest of this final leg of our passage and find anchorages on the way. So nice!
Our Commendation for Chris Jones, OCC Regional Rear Commodore, Great Britain
10 July 2020
Lorraine and Chris Marchant
Blighty's white cliffs, good to see them again.
We are nearly home, just 137 miles to go. Then we shall be cracking open the champagne and toasting our friend and weather guru Chris Jones. We met Chris during our previous circumnavigations and when we contacted him to be our 'weather man' for this west to east passage from Turks and Caicos to UK there was no hesitation. Chris has been wonderful guiding us like a professional with weather advice on a daily basis, not only that but his sense of humour and encouragement has been so much appreciated when, as many of you will know, things got tough when the winds were difficult to work with.
A great many thanks Chris, we have much appreciated your daily texts and weekly satphone consultations with great weather advice, sorry we can't share the champagne in Suffolk but we can do it again when we see you in Wales before too long.
Lorraine and Chris sy Jobiska.
North East for the English Channel
08 July 2020
Lorraine and Chris Marchant
Our planned route is ,1,572 nautical miles, in case you were wondering - a nautical mile is 2,000 yards as opposed to the land mile of 1,760 yards. This takes us through the English Channel and on to the Solent where we hope to rest, maybe pick up fuel and water if we need it, then make for the east coast and Lowestoft. Arrangements for yachts arriving from foreign ports are still not crystal clear, due to CovID information on regulations changes frequently at the moment and may well be different by the time we get there. It may be that we are able to stop at somewhere like Falmouth but we don't want to be quarantined anywhere en route and will just carry straight on to Lowestoft if necessary. We just have to wait and see until we can consult Border Force when we get a phone signal.
26th - 29th June 2020, 412 miles
The first 2 days out were almost ideal with gentle breezes but were followed by 2 days of winds too light for keeping up our speed, this culminated in thick damp fog overnight and into the next morning. Fog is high on our list of positive dislikes having had a close encounter with a large fishing vessel off the coast of Portugal in our first little Jobiska back in the days before AIS when we had no radar just a loud fog horn. This time it was a good opportunity to switch on the radar, the AIS was clear of other vessels but there is always a slight chance of one not transmitting on AIS for some reason so radar is safer in fog. Fortunately this thick fog dissipated after 6 hours leaving us with a perfect 15 knot wind from the west. Lovely!
The Azores are on the same latitude as Lisbon but over 900 miles west out in the Atlantic. 3 days into our north east passage saw us level with the Portuguese/Galician border and on day 4 we were passing Finisterre, A Coruna and El Ferrol all over 500 miles to the east, next would be Biscay. These are all places we left behind in August of last year, it has made us feel very close to home and emphasised just how long we have been away. Of course, had it not been for CovID19 we would have flown home 3 months ago.
30th June - 3rd July 2020, 741 miles
Last day of June was cool and cloudy with drizzle which we've had on and off since the fog but it is desalting the boat as we go so all good. Watch carefully:
A new month, it is exactly a year since we left our home port on 1st July 2019. Winds have been fickle for 3 days keeping us on our toes with frequent management of sails needed as the wind falls from 20 knots to 3 in a matter of hours due to passing squalls which bring strong winds but leave us with very little as they pass over. We know when these are coming during the day as the looming squall clouds are there to see but at night it is more difficult especially when the moon, always behind us, is cloaked in cloud. So genoa and mainsheet are in constant motion as are we and we have resorted to the engine during the unbearably slow lulls.
Thursday 2nd July and things improved, it was glorious with sun most of the day. We were able to sit out in T shirts with squall free skies and an 11 to 14 knot following wind settling in. Chris poled out the genoa which is still there, it is like trade wind sailing. Today, Friday, has been different and marks a change which according to the forecast should continue for the next 3 days. The sea is now slate grey, skies are a mixture of dull greys, no sun just horizontal rain alternating with occasional drizzle and as we move into the higher latitudes the temperature is dropping. We are now getting westerly force 6 wind, mostly 24 knots sometimes stronger so our speed has increased to a jolly old 6+ knots. It is still a following wind but now with a following sea so the swell is moving with us and life is reasonably comfortable on board until we get a big 8 knot surge down a wave when stuff starts to bump and rattle in lockers as Jobiska races forward. Happily as we sail fast toward our destination there is little deviation from the planned route so all to the good.
We are so glad that we have been to the Azores before. Last time was 2015 when we visited Flores, Faial, Pico, Sao George and Terceira; each very different and all very enjoyable. This made our decision to have the weather as our major priority much easier. We did hum and hah a bit as we would have liked to visit some of the other islands once freed from quarantine but we are very glad about our decision now as this passage has been excellent so far.
A landmark moment - Half Way at 784 miles - Friday 3rd July, 20:00 hrs.
Interestingly this is just the area where the nasty depression that delayed our departure from the Azores was sitting. These rough seas are probably partly a legacy from that. It continues to move north east toward UK.
4th - 7th July 2020
A particular joy of this journey is that for the last 3 days we have been able to receive Radio 4 free of buzz, pop and crackle. Getting the R4 shipping forecast is so good especially the late one when 'Sailing By' is played at the start, we both love this. Catching up with the news programmes and getting the finer detail of stuff we have been reading about has been fascinating but also disconcerting, there seem to be chaotic things happening especially around CovID19. Although we want to get home, we are not looking forward to being in an England which has one of the highest pandemic death rates per head of population in the world and can only wonder at it.
May The Force Be With You
The force 6 following winds are continuing to drive us on although in the night our speed increased up to 8+ knots which doesn't feel good for the sails and rigging, or sleeping and moving about, so both genoa and main were reefed to give us a steadier speed of 6 knots through lots of white horses and a substantial swell.
It has just turned midnight so we are into Sunday 5th July with this force 6 wind blowing up to 27 knots at times but it is forecast to ease through the day to give 17 -24. This is set to continue through and into Monday when more northerlies of 17-20 knots should arrive. By then we should be well past the 1,000 mile waypoint and into shallower waters as we move onto the continental shelf. We've had very little traffic, a cargo ship and a tanker in the last 24 hours, but may start seeing fishing boats when we cross onto the shelf.
The Bay of Biscay was by-passed some time ago and it now lies to the south east. At the moment we are at the same latitude as France's Baie du Douarnenez just south of Brest and 293 miles east of us. It is a pleasure looking at the chart now and seeing names like Melville knoll and Haddock Bank, as well as seeing the traffic separation zones around Bishops Rock and the Scilly Isles. The English Channel beckons.
We heard on the R4 weather forecast last evening that UK is having bad weather and strong winds especially on the south coast and think this is probably from the nasty depression that loomed over our route causing us to delay our departure from Azores. It was due to move toward UK, we hope that there is no damage from the winds it is carrying with it.
Daylight has brought us a sunny day here although it remains cold. A high pitched but squeaky whistling sounded on the port side a couple of times this morning then 6 large glossy chaps started swimming alongside. Two dropped back and seemed to be interested in the towed generator which was a bit worrying as it could seriously damage them but they headed off. First we thought they were dolphins but they were about 5 metres long so were perhaps a pod of small whales. They were black or very dark grey, had large heads and prominent rounded dorsal fins, we think they were pilot whales. They didn't spend as long with us as dolphins usually do and seemed to be on a mission as they headed off toward France.
A landmark moment - Just Passed the 1,000 Mile Waypoint - Sunday 5th July, mid-day.
We are experiencing the legacy of the deep depression that moved on from this area as the seas are rougher than expected even with the 21 knots of wind we are getting now. We have had waves over the coach roof this morning which hasn't happened for months and feels odd in this bright sunshine. We're very glad indeed that we have what we call 'the sentry box' which zips onto the spray hood so we can sit out in the cockpit staying dry and out of the wind.
Another landmark moment - Crossing onto the Continental Shelf - 5th July, 14:30 hrs.
Just as we crossed onto the Continental Shelf dolphins appeared jumping and thrusting through the water seemingly playing dare at Jobiska's bows.
There are fishing grounds here for them and also for fishermen and it was just minutes before two Spanish fishing boats appeared. One of them was going round in circles and zig zags, presumably using a fish finder, the other had nets out already which we had to avoid. We called up Sanamedio on the VHF to find out how far behind him his nets were spread as he had motored right across us, 500 metres we established eventually. We changed course and motored out of his range not wanting to get entangled with his nets, his boat or speaking Spanglish via VHF which was difficult. It was odd as this Spanish boat had a British MMSI number, Chris thought it could be to do with the buying and selling of fish quotas. Luckily the second boat kept out of our range so all was well. Two more pods of dolphins, there must be rich pickings down there. We now have a ship following us but we shan't be changing course again. It's all happening today!
Monday 6th was a full day of sunshine but the forecast of 18-20 winds didn't fulfill, we got much lighter winds giving us a slower speed of 4 knots or less most of the day. We have been transiting the area south of the Scilly Isles making toward Land's End. There are more ships and fishing boats than we have seen for a long time. Three traffic separation zones surround the Scilly Isles so ships travelling to and from the west coast can safely round the corner of Cornwall at Land's End. We are keeping south of them as much as possible to avoid ship traffic but will need to cross the southern one at some stage in order to get near Lizard Point so we can pick up a phone signal.
Land Ahoy - 1192 miles - Tuesday 7th July, 07:30 hrs.
Chris sighted the Cornish coast near the end of his watch and I woke to see it waiting there looking low and brown. We are very glad to see it and the sun will slowly warm things up for us. Celebrated with a pot of excellent vanilla flavoured Grenada coffee, the last of the pack and it felt very good indeed as we gazed out from the cockpit.
Leaving the Azores for Blighty
26 June 2020
Lorraine and Chris Marchant
We made the difficult decision to leave the Azores based purely on weather. Everyone arriving into Horta Harbour spoke, just as we have, of it being an unusual weather year with the Azores High too far north making the Gulf Stream hard to find with unexpected north easterly winds dominating and causing long hard passages for many crews. A different kettle of fish from the warming Trade Winds that brought us westward. We knew from our 2 previous passages that this next part of the Atlantic would more than likely be cold and wet with potential for fog. Having just had 2,769 miles of very variable and gradually cooling north easterlies that were always forward of the beam, we decided to grab a good weather window as soon as one appeared. Fortunately we had a hire car for a couple of days so it was easy to reprovision the boat in readiness with just fresh and perishable foods left to get early on the morning of departure. A constant watch was kept on weather forecasts and the barometers, we have an excellent electronic barometer over the chart table so always in view. This was all underpinned and backed up by consultations with Chris Jones our very supportive weather adviser back in Wales.
An opportune weather window appeared for Thursday 25th June or so we thought. We got up relatively early to drink tea although weren't in a hurry to leave as the tide would be against us until about 11:00am; that was when I heard the, "Oh no", (actually stronger words to that effect) from Chris who was already looking at forecasts. A deep depression, looking like a swirling red and orange mass had moved in on our planned route, it was carrying strong winds up to 40+ knots that we definitely did not want to mix with. The data for this monster had it lying over latitudes in the Western Approaches in eight days time exactly when we would be transiting that area. Feeling a bit forlorn, a quick phone call and consultation with ChrisJ confirmed that we should delay to give this interloper time to move on and hopefully away. This could go on and on we thought looking at other depressions swirling about a bit further north of our route.
The following day the forecast looked better although at over a week hence any forecast is tentative and subject to change. However, the nasty depression was clearly if slowly beginning to move off toward the south coast of UK and getting weaker, we certainly hoped it was weakening otherwise the Scilly Isles and Cornwall were in for a rough spell. The weather we look at is based on models produced in the USA and Europe that are the result of automatic computer modelling based on, amongst other sources, satellite and weather buoy data, sea temperature monitors and upper atmosphere pressure data but with little human input. The models were interpreting the data differently (not unusual) showing very different weather patterns for the end of the week yet both were indicating that winds would be light to start with and from the right direction, then increasing later but still from the south west, ideal for our passage. Hoo(blinking)rah!
26th June and the anchor was lifted, we motored to the harbour mouth as there was no wind inside. As we were leaving Phillipe and Duarte from Peter Cafe Sport were about in their large rib named Eric Tabarly after a quite famous French yachtsman. They came to the harbour mouth to wave us goodbye and thank us again for the 'Thank You' card and present we had delivered for them and their families. This was really nice as these two great guys were the first Azoreans we met on our arrival and the last we saw on our departure from Horta.
Once out of Horta harbour the wind wisped us past Pico with its girdle of cloud. Picking up excellent NNW winds at 12-14 knots we headed off between Faial and Sao Jorge Islands and gradually left the wonderful Azores behind.
24 June 2020
Lorraine and Chris Marchant
There are some little treasures hidden in the side streets of Horta like this painting in a doorway of this beautiful woman.
It is such a surprise to be able to walk around Horta and to explore Faial when we expected to have just a flying visit to the Azores and not allowed to land. With a hire car at the ready we set off knowing full well that much would be closed due to CovID but that didn't matter, we wanted to reacquaint ourselves with the island and its landscapes.
Just like mainland Portugal the towns on these islands are full of the distinctive black and white decorated buildings and civic architecture and the art work of the black and white granite pavements that give such pleasure to the eye even when it is dull or raining, although we didn't get much of that whilst we were there. Oh, except for the 2 days we had the hire car when the clouds fell down from on high and parked themselves for 48 hours!
There are also some little treasures hidden in the side streets of Horta like the painting of a beautiful woman along with the house number in the doorway of an empty house we passed , so presumably she had lived there. (See this beauty at the start of this blog, is her look demure or enticing?).
The roads and streets are narrow which means that it is usually easy to find shade but it also means that there is a complex one way system in Horta which is baffling for recent arrivals with hire cars. As it is quite a small town it doesn't take that long to learn the system but does feel as though one is sometimes driving around in ever increasing circles. There are lots of small traditional style shops often with people outside the ones that are open as everyone here observes social distancing with just one person at a time inside and the others on the pavement, everyone wears their mask in the shops and cafes unless they are eating/drinking.
When we came here in 2015 over 1,500 yachts passed through mostly with 2 or more crew and many more on the bigger yachts. It is said that in the sailing season they have more people arriving in yachts than the total number of tourists flying in during the whole of the year, so yachts are very important to the economy. This year there were probably many more yachts as nationals who, like us, would have left their boats elsewhere are instead sailing back home and swelling the numbers. However, it is doubtful if the economy benefited much this year, the CovID testing alone must have dug a big financial hole in any benefits gained from the short time crews have been ashore this season and many places are closed due to the virus so spending is well down. Like everywhere else the Azores will have a challenge to get their economy going again but being part of Portugal they will have the wider support of the European Union.
There aren't many beaches in the islands and like the Canary Islands the sand is a volcanic grey brown. The Canaries have overcome this with swimming pools but here there is a different approach. The Azoreans are great swimmers and wherever there is a harbour or an old whale landing place there are often natural swimming pools where the water is trapped and calmed by rocky outcrops. There are ladders, occasionally a diving board, sun bathing areas and lots of rock pools which fill up at high tide and heat in the sun to give a warm sea bath. This is a great way to swim, these pools are interesting and refreshing not to say stimulating. One down side for a couple of weeks each season is that the Portuguese-Man-O-War get washed into these pools, are trapped and die there. These creatures are dangerous even when dead as their stings, which are caused by minute poisonous barbs, are still active even a couple of weeks later. Ugh!
The landscape is cut by deep lush ravines. There is plenty of water here as like Ireland it has a mild but damp climate creating a green world of diverse flora with lots of blue hydrangea particularly the lace cap variety adding colour. It is from this abundance of hydrangeas that Faial got its nickname of 'the Blue Island' although most of the other islands are equally blessed. These ravines look quite dramatic, great slashes through the landscape tiering down to the coast, draining the land and keeping it flood free when heavy rain sweeps in.
This great shaping of the Faial landscape, as with that of all the other islands, is the result of its volcanic nature. The Azores lie on the periphery of the mid-Atlantic ridge and the Eurasian/African plate and although younger are part of the chain of volcanic eruptions that created the Canary and Cape Verde Islands. These formations have continued to move further apart over millions of years by new rock, which forms along the mid-Atlantic ridge pushing these older rocks formations further afield. This process is still happening so islands continue to spread out albeit minutely slowly over the millenia.
The caldera on Faial must once have looked similar, though smaller, to Pico which still has its volcanic cone and is monitored for potential eruption. Faial's caldera is testament to the extent of the explosion here, it is very wide and deep with a soggy bottom and covered in vegetation including the blue hydrangea.
Faial has had the double whammy in terms of natural disasters with both earthquakes and volcanic activity. In 1957 a series of earthquakes heralded a volcanic eruption not from the dormant caldera, although that was seen to steam, but from submarine eruptions at the western tip of the island. This eruption continued at Ponta dos Capelinhos until 1958 by which time new land was added to the island at the site of the eruption but unfortunately over 300 houses and a lighthouse were destroyed by the earthquakes or buried in ash and debris from the volcano which hurled ash and pumice into the air and over the island. Cattle were sent to Portugal, children were evacuated to other islands and over half of Faial's 30,000 population emigrated mostly to the USA.
We first saw Capelinhos in 1982, it looked grim and barren. Having returned this time it has been tidied up and there is a modern interpretation centre underground beneath the lighthouse but very little has grown up on the lava field. It still looks grim and grey.
All this makes us realise how lucky we are to live in a country which has no underlying fault lines to worry about, no potential volcanic areas and apart from the odd tremor in various parts of the country including Norwich about 12 years ago, no earthquake activity. East Anglia does have the worry, of course, of land falling into the sea as it is eroded by the North Sea.
Faial had little open in the way of tourist attractions in these times of CovID but we were able to make an appointment for a visit to the old whaling station in Porto Pim just to the north of Horta harbour. Our guide, Anna, we thought was a local but it turned out she was from Spain having come to the Azores as part of her marine biology degree and was so happy here she decided to stay. Anna spoke excellent English and was enthusiastic and knowledgeable about her subject.
American whalers introduced the practise of whaling to the Azores. The whales caught here were sperm whales, valuable for the oil in their heads which was exported to the USA. Apparently the oil is used to control the whale's bouyancy, as they dive deep the oil cools and solidifies becoming heavier so they are less buoyant, can dive further and stay deep. As they start for the surface to breathe, blood is pumped around the head warming the oil which gradually becomes lighter enabling them to rise from the depths. Sperm whales regularly dive to over 3,000 ft and can hold their breath for up to an hour in the pursuit of the giant squid they like to feed on. The whole process requires a lot of energy hence when they return to the surface the animals are exhausted and have to float to literally 'get their breath back'. Consequently at this stage they are an easy target and are unable to put up any fight or make an effective attempt at escape. The image of brave whalers is not accurate here ...the whales were just sitting ducks. The 2 harpoons used were one to hold them alongside the the boat and another to puncture their lungs, so they drowned. At its height in the 1950s the station took 130 whales in a single year. Of course this number just applied to Horta but there were other whaling stations not just In Faial but throughout the islands. This one finally closed in the 1970s as the demand for whale oil petered out.
The factory is well preserved and it was easy to imagine the place busy with the gruesome business of dragging the whales up the slip, dismembering them and processing the oil, blubber and meat. The place must have been hot, smelly and and a vision of hell in its heyday. Once the valuable oil and some of the meat was taken, the rest of the carcass was processed for fertilizer and spread on the land. Some of their teeth were used for scrimshaw....the etching and inking of designs onto the enamel There were famous scrimshaw workers such as Othon Silveira and a small museum in Horta exhibits their work. We were not aware that the whales only have these teeth in their lower jaw, that fit into corresponding sockets in the upper one.
To find the whales there were lookout posts around the island where watchers would scan the horizon, they have only a small forward blow so must have been difficult to spot. These same lookouts are still used but by the whale watching businesses that take out tourists. Our guide was a diver and a guide on the whale watching boats when there are tourists to take out, but of course has had no work this year.
So good that this gory trade is at an end and the whale is now a creature that can live in peace round the Azores and give pleasure to many
24 June 2020
Lorraine and Chris Marchant
A famous tradition which yachtsmen coming here love is claiming a piece of wall, pavement or footpath to leave a memento of the yacht in the form of a painting to mark the visit.
Our experience arriving in Horta was very different to the information we'd had back in Providenciales that under CovID19 restrictions we would be allowed just 48 hours for rest, refuelling, filling water tanks and taking on provisions if needed,with only those yachts needing repairs, or with crew requiring medical attention, allowed to stay longer.
Indeed the welcome was warm and restrictions on our length of stay never mentioned when we reported in after anchoring. We were so grateful for this respite as the weather remained unsuitable for moving on. It was not clear whether things had changed due to Atlantic weather conditions or pressure from Peter Cafe Sport and other local businesses or perhaps it was felt that such strictures were unnecessary as all yacht arrivals had already been at sea for longer than the accepted 14 day quarantine periods being introduced by many islands further west and countries everywhere. There were a lot of boats in harbour escaping tough weather and many more on their way. Only two ports were open, Horta and Ponta Delgada much further south on Sao Miguel and rather better for yachts making for Gibraltar, Morocco, the Mediterranean and other more southerly ports.
The numbers were building up in Horta harbour and anchoring was becoming congested with new arrivals every day. One of the issues with the harbour is that the part with shallower water, which tends to be preferred for ease of anchoring, is littered with old anchors and heavy old chains which can foul yachts' anchors and so trap them there. Word gets around but not everyone becomes aware. Whilst we were there a French yacht was caught, they had checked out and started lifting their anchor to leave, we saw them going round in circles. They dived down with snorkels and found their anchor to be caught on a massive chain. A message came over the VHF appealing for diving gear which was offered but the Harbour Master intervened informing them that only professional divers were allowed to work in the harbour and gave them a phone number, however, it was a bank holiday and they would have to wait until next day. This caused some angst as they were packed up and ready to go, it was about 4 to 5 metres deep and cold but the snorkellers went down again in relays spending most of the morning freeing their anchor before they could set off. They had our sympathy, It happened to us once many years ago in Bayona, Spain when we got caught on a thick hawser, it is extremely frustrating.
No-one was allowed ashore or to ride about in their dinghy no matter how long they had been in harbour and the guys from Peter Cafe Sport were working late into the evening and sometimes at night to ensure the yachts had provisions and other essential resources. We all had to keep our VHF radios tuned to the port channel for announcements and communication with the port officers. On our fourth day at anchor it was announced that yacht crews could be tested for Corona virus and if negative would be moved into the marina and allowed ashore as well. This was joyous news as the weather was still unsuitable to leave for the north east. For the port it would enable the harbour to be cleared to some extent so there would be room for new arrivals thus making the anchorage safer for all.
Yachts with children on board were tested first, there were just 6 of those which concluded the first day so we imagined this was going to take a long time and as fairly recent arrivals we would be well down on the list. We were all informed that each morning yachts would be called up if they were on the day's list and test results would take about 2 days at which point boats would again be called up and informed by marina staff. There was still a flurry of boats calling up on VHF to find out when they would be tested. Incredibly some got a bit stroppy trying to prioritise themselves as they had been there a long time or had bored teenagers on board, friends in Horta they wanted to visit or other reasons. These crews were directed to the Maritime Police who were managing the testing process with the Health Authority and who quietly continued with their plans. There was a little continued pestering of the marina staff until the Port Captain came onto the air waves advising that if particular yacht crews were not satisfied with the arrangements they were at liberty to prepare their boats and depart for their next port of call. The process carried on more or less peacefully but there were still plenty of calls to the marina in the mornings asking, "Are we on the test list today?" The officers concerned remained polite and patient throughout.
It was in fact quite difficult to work out how boats were being prioritised but the Health Authority started to test 60 people per day which seemed extremely efficient. We felt a bit embarrassed, as relative newbies, when we were called up on the second morning. We thought that after the children they must be prioritising the elders as I (Lorraine) was certainly one of if not the eldest amongst the crews; we knew this as skippers had to give crews' ages along with their other credentials as they reported in via the harbour radio channel on arrival. We never did find out the criteria but swallowed our embarrassment and were glad to be getting on with it. We duly appeared at the testing site and had swabs stuck way up our noses and into the throat then amazingly within 24 hours had our results. We were pronounced clear of the virus and could proceed into the rapidly filling marina. This we did via the fuel dock where we replaced the 240 litres of diesel we had used up on the windless days of our crossing and topped up our similarly dry water tanks. Marvelous!
All but the smaller yachts were rafted up against the wall in the marina. We were directed to raft up against Cinnabar a Spanish yacht with David and Anna who were making their way home to Barcelona. Friendly and helpful they secured our mooring lines to their boat and we doubled up with ropes to the harbour wall. This put us in a raft of three with them in the middle, the boat on the inside was an abandoned Beneteau Oceanis 473, it had been badly damaged having lost its guard wires, pushpit and various other deck fittings and was starting to deteriorate from lack of attention. Later on we discovered that this yacht had been a drug smuggling boat boarded and confiscated by the Maritime Police with crew arrested. It will probably be auctioned off eventually, that is what happened to one caught and taken to Southwold on the Suffolk coast some years ago. A little later on we became a raft of four when Dutch yacht Karma with Marco and Karin came alongside us. Unfortunately they had damage to both their autopilot and wind vane steering gear so they had needed to hand steer for the last 150 miles to Horta from Martinique, exhausting stuff. They were waiting for delivery of spare parts and a new crew member as Karin had had enough and was flying back to Holland instead.
On our first visit to Horta in 1982 there was no marina, boats either anchored or rafted up against the outer harbour wall and it got a little rough in poor weather as the harbour was so open, however, it was far less congested then.
The Azores are famous for their whaling tradition and where the marina has been built used to be where the whaling boats where hauled looking extremely colourful in their bright paint waiting to be launched. We saw these boats as the industry was drawing to its close, these days they are used for racing but the best place to see them now is in some of the whaling museums found throughout the islands.
The other famous tradition which yachtsmen coming here love is claiming a piece of wall, pavement or footpath to leave a memento of the yacht in the form of a painting to mark the visit. There are literally thousands of these in Horta now done in and around the marina, the tradition started on the outer harbour wall. It is difficult to get access to walk along that wall now but it is where we did our painting in 1982 between the steady downpours of rain that we had.
They have become bigger and much more sophisticated now and the practise has spread to other places more recently such as Porto Santo, also Portuguese. New arrivals in Horta have difficulty finding a space for their artwork. We found one from an Australian boat called Blue Heeler that we got to know during our circumnavigation. They came to Horta in 2018 en route to Europe and are currently sitting out CovID restrictions in the UK, they were pleased to get our email saying we had seen their painting and to hear what is happening in Horta.
As well as providing a colourful and sociable interlude the marina enabled us to get sorted out after our 27 days a sea and 6 days at anchor. Getting our copious amounts of laundry done was wonderful especially as once loaded the process is taken over by the woman who works there and we just had to go back to collect it washed and dried. Shoreside showers another plus then the shopping. We discovered the small market with home grown and market garden produce of very good quality. Getting to the supermarket was a reasonable walk, it is large with plenty of choice and will be good for replenishing our stores before we leave for home. Best of all though was visiting Peter Cafe Sport, having an excellent lunch at the restaurant there and visiting the shop area. All of this I hasten to add, apart from eating and drinking, was done using masks; even though there has been no CovID here since March the locals all carry masks and wear them in shops and other public places as well as observing social distancing so we felt very safe here. A good place to be at this time.
Chris hired a car for a couple of days so our next venture was to re-explore the island and update ourselves on Faial.
A Very Sad Day in Horta Marina
24 June 2020
Lorraine and Chris Marchant
We have met quite a few solo sailors this year, some who have travelled thousands of miles in their beloved boats. Six days ago was a disastrous day here in Horta Marina for a French long-distance solo sailor who was trying to change gas bottles below deck that somehow caused a terrible fire on board which also roared out into the cockpit. He has been flown to Hospital in Lisbon and is very ill with 50 per cent burns, everyone is hoping and wishing for his good recovery. This is every sailor's nightmare, at least those that rely on butane or propane as we do, it is like carrying unexploded bombs and great care is needed with handling and storage. Most boats have self-draining gas lockers outside as ours has but accidents happen very occasionally I guess.
Video taken by Bence Horvath, fellow yachtsman.
After the trials of getting here from Jamaica this is such a sad and miserable ending. The boat has been lifted ashore.
West to East Passage: Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands to Faial Island, Azores
21 June 2020
Lorraine and Chris Marchant
The guy's from Peter Cafe Sport are just the best, they arrived at our boat offering help almost immediately after we anchored. I doubt there is anywhere in the world where this free and friendly service to yachtsmen can be beaten.
After our too long journey of 2,760 miles we are here in Horta, Faial Island which feels like the best and safest place in the world to be at the moment.
There has been no corona virus here since March, the Health Authorities have tested us with negative results for both as expected. The Harbour Authorities and Marina staff have and are still going out of their way to help yachtsmen arriving from the west, weary after long and sometimes difficult passages, some with damaged boats in need of help. The tireless support goes on day after day, the patience and friendliness never stops, these guys go the extra mile for us all.
Peter Cafe Sport, a world renowned yachtsman's bar, restaurant and shop here in Horta are devoting days of service to the yachts in harbour that are not allowed ashore until they have clear tests. In our case this was 6 days during which time the guys from Peter's did prodigious shopping for us, filled lots of water cans at the quay and delivered them back which is a very heavy job, delivered an excellent takeaway meal from their restaurant menu which was delicious, and got a new full gas canister for us. They are just the best and I doubt there is anywhere in the world where this free and friendly service can be beaten.
We were resident in the excellent little Southside Marina in Providenciales for just under two months feeling quite safe there whilst the pandemic was spreading fast around the world. We left on 15th May having made our goodbyes with Bob the owner, his two staff newly returned to work part-time after the easing of lock down, and Maddie his lovely Potcake dog. The Potcake dog is a native of Turks and Caicos islands, very mild mannered and road savvy they were traditionally and still are used as guard dogs purely because they have extra sensitive hearing and will set up an alert long before anyone is aware that there is someone in the vicinity. Their name derives from the way they were fed from the thick solidified remains at the bottom of the large cooking pots used to feed large families. Needless to say they are not fussy meat eaters and Maddie became a regular visitor to our pontoon at supper time eager to partake of anything vegetarian from spinach to celery, from lentils and pasta to eggs or mushrooms and everything else which she ate with relish. We will always remember South Side as our first refuge in the face of CovID.
The first two days of our voyage to the Azores were quite rigorous with 25 knot winds from the east, exactly where we wanted to go. This caused us to sail close hauled to north east in rough waters, a legacy of the poor weather we had already been having in Turks and Caicos; the seas were certainly lumpy and not much fun. We knew that this would be the case but were prepared to get through this phase as forecasts indicated calmer weather ahead.
On day three we had a wind shift and were able to start making more easterly with the seas evening out a bit. Then four days of pleasant sailing with following winds and slight seas enabled us to get our sealegs after such a long time in harbour. We flew the cruising chute for 3 days which carried us gracefully east. We had plenty of glorious sun sparkling the waters but the nights were pitch with no moon, she had waned leaving us in the black and it was getting cooler. Socks and long trousers on night watches and horror of horrors duvets.
Day seven marked what felt like a wicked change back to 25 knot easterlies, it got very rough with big seas and we had to make north toward Bermuda again to get away from the depression causing it all. This did the trick and within 36 hours the wind veered ESE with 12 knots and falling seas. Unfortunately, perfect is rare and the wind kept on falling so we had to motor occasionally when our speed became unbearably slow and Jobiska started slopping about in glossy water. The other problem was that we were being forced north when we really needed to go east. At one point we thought we would have to stop in Bermuda. This we did not want to do as we knew they were not keen on transient yachts and had 14 day quarantine so we would simply have been holed up on Jobiska without being allowed ashore.
Some luck was with us and as we sailed further north we were also able to head more east, albeit with light headwinds making for some slow days and others unpleasantly boisterous. Our best 24 hour run was 132 miles on 1st June, Lorraine's birthday, shared with squalls and rough seas slamming the boat. Our worst day's run was 72 miles but fast or slow it was always with the wind forward of the beam.
We visited parts of the Atlantic few have ever been to during a circuitous route made necessary by headwinds that took us to within 500 miles of Newfoundland. These headwinds meant that for a large part of the route the boat sailed itself with no autopilot or wind vane, she was close hauled on starboard tack, we had only about 3 days of winds aft of the beam.
Little by little we ticked off the miles keeping ourselves amused by playing scrabble, watching films, reading, cooking, watching the sea-scape and managing the boat during our watches. Nearing the Azores we had no wind at all for 36 hours with the sea like glass. Luckily we had been conserving fuel earlier in the trip and were able to motor for long periods to make progress. We motored for a total of 130 hours in all, some for battery charging but most just to keep the boat moving.
We approached Flores in a flat calm and passed between it and the smaller island of Corvo. Sadly, due to quarantine restrictions, we were unable to stop at Flores, an island we loved in 2015 . Leaving Corvo behind the wind gradually increased giving us a stiff close hauled sail to close the western shore of Faial.
One of the pleasures of these last few days was that we had daily visits by schools of dolphin, always a treat as they play around the boat.
The only other wildlife we saw were the many shearwaters with their wave skimming flights and masses of Portuguese Man of War, siphonophores, that I swear out sailed us on more than one occasion.
The other abiding memory we will have of this trip is the daily contact by satellite text with Chris Jones our friend and weather router. He kept us up to date with what to expect, advised on the best course to follow and reassured us more than once that we would eventually get here.
So Jobiska arrived in a windy Horta after 27 days from the Turks and Caicos, our 3rd crossing and our hardest. We have another 1570 miles to go if we can follow our planned route to Suffolk. Now we wait and see if the wind Gods will be kinder for the onward journey to UK!
Travelling On The Water Cycle
10 June 2020
Lorraine and Chris Marchant
Wet grey sky today
A raindrop was born on my window
Stilled, it waited then gathered in from all around to new fullness
Glinting it trickled to the ground
Puddles grew with streamlets carrying them underground through dark and secret channels where trickles rushed into torrents.
A startling blast of light came with a great spillout into clear sun-sparkling river water
Silvery and glistening creatures were passed
Big eyed fish, crusty molluscs, diving spiders, fleshy toads and whip-like eels.
Speeding current raced fast in the winding narrows
Racing to slowness in the broadening estuary and out
Yes out to the wide welcoming and powerful sea