04 June 2009 | 37 10.40'N:09 56.48'W
03 June 2009 | 37 22.78'N:12 37.15'W
02 June 2009 | 37 47.15'N:19 16.40'W
31 May 2009 | 37 57.52'N:22 26.67'W
30 May 2009 | 38 09.46'N:25 04.26'W
29 May 2009 | 38 14.54'N:27 20.01'W
22 May 2009 | 38 54.40'N:37 03.13'W
21 May 2009 | 39 05.46'N:39 04.48'W
20 May 2009 | 39 16.63'N:41 58.10'W
19 May 2009 | 36 38.57'N 44 36.46'W
19 May 2009 | 36 38.57'N 44 36.46'W
18 May 2009 | 31 42.43'N 49 15.30'W
17 May 2009 | 31 42.43'N 49 15.30'W
16 May 2009 | 30 46.75'N:51 33.40'W
The Last Post
05 June 2009 | Portimao
Severance's Passage Back (geddit?) has now ended but not without the most extraordinary twist in the tail.Tale.
In the last month we've travelled 3614.2 miles of the surface of the globe and we've spent just under 29 days at sea. It was the last ten miles, motoring over a mill pond sea with the loom of Portimao dead on the bow, our conversation in the dimmed cockpit low and desultory reflecting our end of passage tiredness. The black silhouette of an unlit boat detached itself from the background of twinkling shore lights and slid into station about a quarter of a mile behind us.
It followed for a while and then, clearly upping the ante, aimed a powerful searchlight at us. They, whoever they were, meant business. I went below and turned on the VHF just in time to hear a vessel calling "the ship at..." and gave our exact co-ordinates. I replied that we were that vessel and were they the vessel dead behind us?
They were. "This is Portuguese Warship. We wish to put a boarding crew aboard your vessel for an inspection. We will board from your starboard side. Is this alright?"
With those guns on your foredeck? It had been days since the last Portuguese Man of War.
"Do you wish us to heave-to or maintain our existing speed and course?"
"Maintain your speed and course".
A black RIB detached itself from the ship and shortly after two burly men heaved themselves over our rail and politely asked if they could sit in our cockpit. One had pretty good English - he'd been to Plymouth twice on submarine courses - and he told us they were looking for illegal immigrants from Africa. They didn't find many, he said, although down around the Canaries they were always catching them. There was also a sub text of drug running and general smuggling between Africa and Europe.
They went through the ship's papers, my single qualification (a Day Skipper certificate), insurance and stuff. They made lots of notes and kept relaying information back to the warship. Then they did a quick tour of the boat, inspected some of our safety equipment, wished us a pleasant stay in the Algarve and an hour after they'd arrived, left. All the while the warship had been circling us menacingly.
By now we were only half a mile off the harbour wall and the end of the passage. The whole journey has more or less been covered in our various postings and all I need add after two uneventful days of motoring across a calm blue sea - give or take a splintering fan belt and flat starter battery - is that at 8.00pm on Thursday we had rounded Cape St Vincent, the south-western most point of Portugal, with its lonely lighthouse buildings like a monastery at the ends of the earth. After the Navy left us we tied up alongside at Portimao at 11.15pm. And we're there. Or here. And the rest of this, the Last Post, can be about my companions.
There were only two rules we had in the writing of this blog; that it must be done in rotation and that the writer read it out to the others before it was sent. So I already know that Sarge, on his own part and on behalf of the others has said some really kind and flattering things about Severance and me on yesterday's blog, but that isn't going to either make me, or stop me, saying pleasant things about all of them. That's only partly because I'd already written most of this yesterday before he'd read his anyway and can't be arsed to rewrite it. I know we run the risk of this reading like a nauseating mutual masturbation fest, I know. Forgive us - we've had a great time, it's been a great experience and there's room for a little emotion.
Fairly early on in the passage from St Lucia to the Azores, Sarge told us of an incident when Tom was about six and proving a little reluctant to go to school one morning. From the perceived impregnable sovereignty of his bed he announced precociously "I'm not getting up until I hear my name on the radio".
Where does he get it?
Sarge promptly phoned the radio station and requested a gently motivating but supportive tune for Tom. And as it played, up jumped Tommy, all smiles and joy.
I wouldn't have done that. Oh yes, I'd have phoned the radio station alright but I'd have deliberately got the name slightly wrong and requested something pertinent but pointedly offensive. "And now, as a special request, for little Don Sargison we have Marva Wright with "Mr Big Stuff - Who do you think you are?"
But that's the measure of Sarge. Throughout the two passages he has been supportive and thoughtful of us all, relentlessly kind and considerate, indefatigable in the huge variety and volume of tasks and roles he had obviously thought about and set himself before he arrived, and no matter how tired or out of sorts, ever willing. His achievements in the galley have been astonishing and presented every time with humour and second helpings all round.
Tom, who as you know left us in the Azores to prepare for his year in Oz starting on the 15th is a chip off the old block. This is the fourth time he and I have sailed together on extensive passages and I would look forward to the next even more keenly than I have to the previous. He's an instinctive yachtsman which makes him fantastic crew; as you the skipper are thinking it, he's already doing it. He's immensely resourceful, enviously energetic and at times I've practically needed oxygen to survive the laughter he's provoked. It would be a travesty if one day he doesn't have his own boat. It should be substantial to stretch and challenge him and he should do challenging things in her and I would leap at the chance to crew for him. It would be weird, to say the least; it would also be hilarious - and a privilege.
And if you want a preparedness to reef a sail in a gale or secure a halyard in the thick dark of night without a word being spoken, Aisling's yer woman. She has the most extraordinary constitution and evenness - nothing seems to faze her. She of all of us showed the least concern on those inevitable moments when things were alarmingly not going to plan and if in a period of drama there was nothing apparent for her to do she'd quietly get on with rustling up anything from tea to a full blown meal. Twice in these situations she stood six hour watches and all this on top of having to sleep on the floor! This came about because the forward cabin, which was supposed to be hers, was leaking sufficiently for it to be untenable. So every night after her watch she'd haul a mattress from the forepeak and make up her bed on the saloon floor, wedged between pillows between the table and the chairs. This actually proved quite a canny move because as her bed was firmly secured and low down in the very centre of the boat, she was the most immune to any unpleasant motion. Within three nights of this had she wouldn't have swapped, even for an evening out. But the hassle of having to make up the bed and the potential for disturbance around her as watches were changed and endless cups of tea brewed can't have been fun when she was dog tired; Respect!
And then there's Severance. Sarge's comments last night are spot on. Coming up to her 8th birthday and 35000 miles she has lived up to something a knowledgeable friend said to me when I was first considering buying her; "In any situation at sea she'll look after you long after you have stopped being able to look after her".
She has been solid, quick (when allowed), homely and secure. Don't be confused by our stories of leaks and technical problems; no boat - no boat - will complete a trans-oceanic passage without some of these problems and a lot of them far more serious than Severance's. I don't believe that at any time any of us ever felt there was any way in which she would let us down - and she hasn't.
Phew! It's a curmudgeonly skipper who'd ask for a better quality and combination of personalities and talents. I have been very very lucky. Aisling, Sarge, Tom and Severance, I appreciate it and thank you. Very much.
Severance's Passage continues but from here on with no publicity - the blog ends now. In Portimao she is going to be lifted to cure a long standing weep around the rudder stock. And while here, as a reward for her crossing this year she will get a brand new mainsail; the existing one is the original, it has given fantastic service and will be kept as a spare. From Portimao she and I will go through the Gibraltar Strait to Cartagena in SE Spain, then on to western Sicily. Then it's down the south coast of Sicily to the Messina Strait in the east and across to the Ionian to Cephalonia (yes, Kefalonia - I may even take the opportunity to look up the fatuous little Captain Corelli and shove his irritating little ukelele up his sanctimonious little arse.). From there it's round the staggeringly beautiful and little sailed coast of the Peloponnese into the Aegean, across the Cyclades to the Sporades and then to Turkey.
After that, who knows? Crew is needed, almost all the time - if you're interested, just ask.
Thank you for being with us and for your comments. We hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as we genuinely have enjoyed writing it. There may be some more pictures added so if they're not here now, check back tomorrow. And... that's it.
Um... This is Severance, going back to channel 16.
Day 6 arrival in Portugal
04 June 2009 | 37 10.40'N:09 56.48'W
04/06/09 End of Day 6 Throughout the passage I have taken over my watches from the YMC, as such I have been very conscious of not being late for the hand over. Given my advancing years and fondness for a minimum of 8 hours uninterrupted sleep it has been especially challenging to accomplish my goal. As it was likely to be our last handover early this morning i was anxious to not screw up. I handed over to Aisling at the end of my 3 hour stint last night and went to bed with my body clock set for a 6.00am hand over with YMC. To my horror i woke at 6.10am and YMC still on watch. My usual time frame to wake up sufficiently to be able to get dressed, put the kettle on and appear on deck is 25 - 30 minutes, no chance of such luxury this morning, i set a personal record, awake, dressed, kettle on and on deck by 6.15am, adrenlin levels sky high and heart pumping like trip hammer. YMC was busy on the laptop catching up on admin. Thank goodness i thought to myself he has been so engrossed in Microsoft Outlook he has not noticed the time, what a let off. YMC then peered over the rim of his glasses and said, Craggy Surgeon even by your standards this is a bit over the top 2 hours 45 minutes early for your watch, go back to bed we have a long day ahead of us. I was devastated i had missed out on an extra three hours sleep, my watch was 9.00am to 12.00 noon not 6.00am to 9.00am. Being an Olympic standard sleeper i had no bother settling down again to grab some more precious sleep. Suddenly after an hour I'm woken up by peace and quiet, no engine noise. I dash through to see YMC with tools spread over the salon floor and a shredded fan belt i his hand. No worries, he said, all fixed, can you give me hand jump start the engine the battery is knackered. The engine fired first time and off went. Looking back, as everyone does on the last day, the first few days were a baptism by fire. It was rough passage up through the Islands which got worse as we sailed in to strong gales. For Severance and the YMC it was just another day at the office. If anyone reading the blog is looking for a yacht look no further than a Naiad they are fantastic and have my personal recommendation, cruising or blue water passage you will find it difficult to find a better boat. Through all the bad weather there was a never a doubt about the boat only whether we the crew had enough bottle to handle the weather as well as the boat. Only two disappointments, One we did not get to see the whales close up and; Two, the wind let Severance down on the approach to Horto and Portimao in that we had to motor sail to both places and we were not afforded the grandiose arrival of sailing into the harbour approaches under full sail, still we all pictured it in our minds eye.
As this is likely to be the last crew blog posting of the passage i get to have the last word for the crew. We are now less than 100 miles from Portimao, ( as at 8.00am ) and YMC anticipates anchoring off or being tied up alongside at the reception quay by midnight tonight. Go Severance.................... The last day, wow, mixed emotions on my part, for Aisling too, and i know first hand how flat Tom Sargie felt when he left us in Horto to fly back to the UK, his mood reminded me of the Sundays evenings years ago when he had to go to school.
Elation and satisfaction on completion of an epic passage. Relief of no longer living life at a 30 degree tilt. With the main emotion beibng sadness at saying goodbye to the YMC, and our joint home and sanctuary for the last 37 days the good ship Severance. It has been a fantastic experience for me and i know Ailsing and Tom share my sentiments, Andrew thank you for the opportunity to make the passage, it has been a wonderful experience from beginning to end and we have been extremely lucky to make the passage in such a brilliant and well prepared boat and able skipper.
Andrew and Aisling , on the Portimao leg have again been the have been the best of crew mates, and Tom on the St Lucia leg, well I'm his Dad, what option did he have. Andrew as YMC has been our rock throughout the whole passage and the super glue which has held us all altogether. Thank you YMC. Not forgetting our life lines on dry land, especially Daniel for the blog support and Ben for the sporting updates. Sincere thanks to you all
In closing if any of our loyal readers are given the opportunity to sail with Andrew on Severance you need only ask two questions. What dates and where do i pick up the boat. I promise you it will be a experience you will cherish as Tom, Ailsing and I shall do for many a year. Adeus, Sarge , Aisling, Tom Sargie.
End of Day 5 to Portugal
03 June 2009 | 37 22.78'N:12 37.15'W
Day 5 to Portugal Is the Atlantic a Super Highway or an information super highway? Since we left Horta we have seen all manner of boats, ships and containers and it's interesting to ponder where they may be all going. Two other yachts left Horta around the same time as us last Friday; one to go north, into the rain and cold, toward Cowes in the UK and the other followed us but left us after about 2 days to go where? Maybe they were taking their time and exploring the eastern islands of the Azores before heading back to the Mediterranean. Or maybe they just fell in love with the Azorean wines and frango (chicken) and didn't want to go any further. Another night a stinkpot (motor yacht) passed us heading east also. Who were they and where were they going? Was it some billionaire who paid his crew to take the boat across from the Caribbean and he will fly to Marbella for two weeks later in the summer while the crew polish and scrub the decks three times daily for the duration of the summer coz that's what they get paid to do (and it keeps them out of trouble). Maybe it was one of the rich old codgers who was at our Mid-Atlantic party!!!! And what about the huge container ship that passed heading west this morning? Was it all the Fiat cars being exported to the USA as the locals can no longer afford the usual gas guzzlers? Was it some flip flop factory sending all its produce to the Caribbean as the European summers aren't what they used to be? Or maybe it was the weekly delivery of Guinness to Bermuda. The whole triangle myth was built around the ramblings from Guinness!!!! Some even suggested that it was a weekly container ship bringing all the supplies to the 9 islands in the Azores. Who knows, but I could swear I could see the Guinness logo through the binoculars. Then there are the bits we don't see too clearly of the super highway. The underwater highway. A fin here and there and we're left wondering if it's a shark, whale or dolphin. The dolphins usually come leaping through the air and we've seen quite a lot of them recently. We saw a pod of whales this morning which led to a discussion about what type of whale. David got the book out and we now know we saw Mink whales. It's when a lone fin swims by you think of Jaws and whether he has been attracted by the lovely dinner smells too. The Portuguese man of war jellyfish have decreased in numbers. Instead we have what looks like a truck load of artichokes that were dumped into the sea and have got slightly soggy and opened out to look a little bit like dried out sunflowers. Following them occasionally we have seen what look like daisies drifting on the current. Possibly some sort of jellyfish but none that our encyclopaedia can name at the moment. And over the last few days we have found squid dried out on deck. Not sure if they are kamikaze squid or if they just got washed aboard in a wave. None of the culinary experts have attempted to try anything with them. So where do all this sea life go? Like the boats, ships and containers do they have a schedule? Are they racing to be in Antigua for shrimp season or the West coast of Ireland for the oyster festival? Where's a marine biologist when you need one???? Or is the Atlantic really an information super highway? Recently the log has being filled with questions about life, the universe and chocolate. Discussions ensue about: peers, the Magna Carta, the theory of relativity, the best chocolate bar for a 3am watch; Mars or Snickers, what is an onc and the jury is still out on this one...how do they get the figs into the fig rolls or the lettering into the seaside rock???? To debate all these worldly topics the voyage may have to be extended above and beyond the expected arrival date and location of Friday to Portimao!!!!