16 July 2015 | Vila Franca do Campo, Sao Miguel, Azores 37’43.01N 25’25.75W – Ria de Cedeira, Spain 43’39.26N 8’03.74W, via Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, Azores
When sailing across an ocean one piece of blue water looks very much like another piece of blue water and one constellation of stars looks very much like another. That however is not to say that one ocean passage is the same as another and the ocean passage from the Azores has been different from every other passage we have ever sailed.
The difference was apparent as soon as we ventured out to sea. Usually we leave with a forecast that will push Ruffian quickly to our destination, usually the wind howls, the seas rise and within no time with are out of sight of land. This time our goodbye to land was long and protracted, the wind didn’t blow, the seas looked like olive oil and the islands lights twinkled on the slowly receding shorelines.
In the light winds, up went the kite and it covered us in red and yellow shade from the sun that shone day after day. Ruffian scooted along in seas so flat that it felt like we were on some sort of nautical conveyor belt and we slept like we were at anchor. Nothing stirred below and the only sound was that of water gently lapping on the bow.
Day after day the kite stayed up and what made things different this time was it stayed up night after night too. At dusk, for the first time ever, we saw the suns setting rays illuminate it and then, come morning, we watched the sun rise through its fragile yellow and red fabric. There was no changing of sails, no stowing of poles, just hour after hour of novel reading and easy mile building sailing.
There was also to be a change in the crew of Ruffian. The usual crew went from its customary number of 2 to about 25 million and 2. Iain had grown a culture that was taking over his throat making it feel like a bag of razors and the critters filled his ears with the gloop made famous by slimmer is ‘Ghostbusters’. He was on the edge of the deadly ‘man flu’.
Fearing this life threatening disease things got so bad that he took the unusual step of actually taking drugs. He was popping so many pills that he was worried that his rattling sound would attract the whales that this stretch of ocean is renowned for; and as the nasty bugs were banished they were replaced by whales everywhere we looked.
The stress levels were at an all time low as Ruffian scooted along, but it was to change in an instant. The fear of rig failure cursed through us after we found an errant split ring, innocently sitting on the deck, minding its own business. Where had it come from? What was it holding up? Where was the pin it came from? Was something terrible about to happen?
We searched the decks, looked at the mast, tested the rigging, played with the sheets and nowhere could we see where the ring had come from. We were sailing on tenterhooks, waiting for the catastrophic to happen.
Finally relief flowed over us as high up on the mainsail we spied something was amiss. The ring had simple ‘fallen off’ a batten luff box; the mast wasn’t going to fall down; nothing horrible was going to happen. Within minutes the main was down and back up again and everything was fixed; we could once again breath.
After 8 days at sea we were finally nearing the Spanish coastline and we were all set for a happy daylight entry. Just what we always hope for. This time it was going to be a bit different. The kite had been taken down as the breeze was up and we felt in all this wind and the swell that came with it the entrance would be untenable. A cunning plan then started to form.
The wind was set to drop at dusk and at sunset the wind always peters out on this coastline. We were going to slow down and try to make an entry just as the sun set. Not our usual approach.
Right on cue, with the sun kissing the horizon and bathing the high rocks in a glowing light we turned into the ria. The smell of eucalyptus trees washed over us, the flat waters of the ria welcomed us and once again Ruffian had transported us across an ocean, but this time with a lot of twists and turns.
Goodbye Azores. You’ve been pretty amazing.
And so the kite goes up.
With Iain ‘dancing’ at the front of the boat.
And it stays up.
As the sun goes down.
While we read book after book after book.
Oh no. Someone had stolen the middle of our cake.
And the kite still stays up.
Hmmm. Tea and cake. We’re so English.
Uh oh. The aftermath of finding a split ring on the deck.
Who would imagine the sea could be this flat 400 miles from land.
No wind means the ‘iron sail’ needs to be fed.
The instruments tell us what we already knew. There is no wind.
Woohoo flat seas and sunrises, but finally no spinnaker.
We’re entering another country and another culture.
Blast reaching is really frenetic.
Particularly across the shipping lanes.
The dolphins give us a show as we near the coast.