Azores to Home

Wed 5 Aug 2009 14:17

The trip home from the Azores (with Andrew, Barry & Berend) seemed as if it might be a bit of an anticlimax after the longer windward trip up from the Cabo Verde islands. In fact this was not the case as several factors combined to enliven it:

1. The "Azores High" has not yet materialised this year, so the weather on the way home consisted of a rapidly deepening small low (the barometer fell at 1 mBar per hour for twenty hours - worrying!) followed by two deep troughs with ridges between them. We adopted the rig of having a pole permanently guyed out to starboard so that when it blew hard and SW we could sail wing-and-wing with a reefed genoa and a triple-reefed main held out on a preventer line. When the wind veered to NW on the cold front we could simply cross the genoa to the starboard side and let reefs off as needed.Winds were mostly F5 to F7 with a few spells of F8 occasionally gusting to over 40 Kt. Sea-states weren't too bad (mainly 3-4m getting up to 5m in the livelier bits) so downwind was a bit rolly while the broad reaches resulted in the odd ankle-deep "goffer" in the cockpit.

2. On day 2 the head plumbing blocked in a terminal way, so we had to resort to "bucket and chuck it" for most of the passage.

3. After thousands of miles of faithful service from our Monitor windvane self-steering gear "Monica", we rewarded her by delaying 3rd reef for too long on a downwind section when it suddenly puffed up to F8. The sacrifice tube attaching the pendulum oar to the rest of the gear gave way under the strain of rapidly reversing and excessive pressure (as it is designed to do). Installing a spare tube takes 10 minutes in harbour, but hanging upside-down over the water by the feet with a spanner in one hand and a socket wrench in the other didn't seem a particularly bright idea in an Atlantic near-gale, so we hand-steered for the second half of the passage. This wasn't really a hardship as there were four of us so we had plenty of time off to criticise each other's technique.

The crew got plenty of sleep and food (not feijoada com chourico again!) and were rewarded when Poseidon allowed Iris to arrange a perfect full-arch double rainbow after the final trough went through:


Finally we passed the Lizard and crossed in darkness to Plymouth, entering the Sound soon after sunrise on the 11th day of the passage. The Navy arranged a show for us with a bevy of tugs picking up a large fleet transport and parking it in its assigned anchorage.


We had showers and a great fry-up, digesting this just in time for a magnificent last-night crew dinner at Piermasters in the Barbican. Next morning Andrew and I saw Berend and Barry off to the station then left at lunchtime for a fine overnight sail (a reach all the way) to the start of the Needles Channel. As usual we enjoyed the Devon coast seamarks and were impressed by the unpredictable close approaches of big ships entering the marshalling area off Torbay


Finally we motored into the Solent, realising rather slowly that we had arrived on a windy Sunday at the beginning of Cowes Week. We spent a number of hours dodging loonies in racers until we finally locked in two lock behind most of the returning boats from the Port Solent YC Mercury Marina Rally. Oh well, it takes all sorts!

At the end of this blog about Amoret's "Atlantic Short-Circuit" of over 6000M, I find myself remembering the cabbie's story about the day he had Bertrand Russell in his cab: "So I says - Lord Russell, sir, you're a great philosopher. What's it all about? And do you know, the blighter couldn't tell me!" I don't know what it's about either but I'm glad that Amoret's crews and I were able to share it. The experts all advised that doing a short circuit by going straight from the Cabo Verde Is to the Azores was somewhere between horrible and impossible, but we did it and I know that Eric, Brian and I will remember that thirteen days for the rest of our lives. Thanks to all the crews who made this journey pleasurable by joining for one or more legs of it:

Portsmouth to Spain: Olivia and Paul

Spain to Algarve: Olivia

Algarve to Madeira: Jacqui, John and Chris

Madeira to Sal (CV): Jayne, Mike and Paul

Sal to Sao Vicente: Olivia, Flicky and Gary

Sao Vicente to Azores: Eric and Brian

Azores to UK: Andrew, Barry and Berend

To them and to all the friends who have followed this blog and sent their support - I gratefully drink the sailors' toast - "Fair winds and safe havens!"