17 June 2019
Passage from the Azores to the Scilly Isles
Our year-long 12,000 nautical mile Atlantic Odyssey is almost over. We have now crossed back over the Atlantic Ocean into the English Channel and are currently rolling on a mooring buoy at St Mary's Pool, which is the harbour at Hugh Town on the Island of St. Mary's in the Isles of Scilly, some 25 nautical miles south west of the UK mainland.
We have completed our last ocean passage which brought us the 1123 nautical miles from the Azores. The passage took 9 days 7 hours and 45 minutes at an average 5.02 knots.
It had been the most challenging passage of our entire voyage so far. We had a series lows passing over bringing a series of fronts and with them lots of inclement weather, strong winds and rain but fortunately nothing too horrendous. Between the weather systems we would have lulls for short periods where the wind would drop off and we resorted to motor sailing to keep the pace up. We had head winds for over two thirds of the passage with northerly winds, from north east round to north west predominately force 4 to 5 but up to force 7 at times. For much of the time we were under thick cloud with some rain and patches of poor visibility. The sea state being moderate for the most but occasionally rough.
We really only picked up the favourable northerly easterly North Atlantic current during the last few days, for much of the passage we were in the southerly Azores and Portuguese Currents with nearly a knot of tide against us.
We were pleased to have Alison's brother Richard join us for this passage. Having an extra experienced crew member made sailing life a lot easier for us, as were all able to get more sleep. With 3 hours on and 6 hours off over night and 4 hours on and 8 hours off during the day.
One thing that really struck us was how cold it got so quickly after spending five months in Caribbean temperatures. For our watches we donned full 'wets' over a couple of jumpers, two pairs of socks, beanie hat and gloves. Often the odd rouge wave would throw buckets of cold icy water over the boat usually hitting whomever was at the helm.
Fortunately we did not have to spend much time at the helm as 'Old Harry' the wind vane steering done a splendid job in skilfully steering the boat nearly all the way only resorting to the autopilot when motor-sailing.
We did not see flying fish on this passage, I think they prefer the warmer waters further south, nor did we have any squid washed on the deck. A few days into the passage we stopped seeing the armada of Portuguese Man o War floating by making their way purposefully to the west. We were accompanied for the first few days by the Petrels. These sea pelagic seabirds soaring around us and skimming along just above the waves sometimes with their wingtips touching the surface. Then the ocean seemed to be devoid of wildlife for a few days, but once we were approaching the continental shelf where the English Channel meets the Atlantic Ocean the seabirds came back we had a profusion of Gannets flying around us and dolphins swimming with us, along with a flotilla of fishing vessels, we were now back in fertile waters.
Our final day at sea was blue sky with patches of cloud. Bishops Rock Lighthouse was a welcome sight and marked the entrance to Broad Sound, the safe passage from the west through these notorious treacherous rocky archipelago to the safety of St. Mary's Pool, were we were relieved to have picked up a mooring buoy and we look forward to having a drink and good nights sleep.