A wind called Maria

andromeda of plymouth
Susan and Andrew Wilson
Sun 27 Jun 2010 19:09
Vanessa, the wind vane, finally joined the crew of Andromeda as we managed
to get all her working parts working together as they should. She steered
Andromeda for long hours without even a peep for food, water or a rest –
what a brilliant crew member. We still have much to learn about how to get
the best from her, but we are so, so glad she’s working at last. It makes
a huge difference to us in terms of the physical side of sailing and we
are certainly less tired after each watch.

The trip towards Santa Maria, the most southerly of the Azores group, saw
us make our current record of 151 miles in 24 hours – we were very pleased
that Andromeda sailed so well. We have already been challenged to do
better, and, given the right conditions, believe we can squeeze a few more
miles out of her over the same period; we will let you know.

We left Porto Santo at 07:30 on Saturday morning (19th June) after an
enjoyable evening meal with Sue, Liz and Ju on Tamar Swallow. The sky was
overcast with a North Easterly wind and we faced about 5 days on the
ocean. The sea was quite bumpy and it wasn’t long before Susan headed off
for a sleep as part of her strategy for dealing with the mal-de-mer,
fortunately the tablets she is trying at least meant that she didn’t feel
nauseous all the time, and that really helped. The winds for the next few
days were much the same, largely from the North and North East, with
little shipping seen and only the occasional Shearwater patrolling the
waves. We tried a 3 hour night watch system for this trip and found it
worked quite well with both of us getting some sleep at periods throughout
the day and night.

Orion, the autopilot became unwell towards the end of our trip, which
meant that when we were motoring, we had to hand steer. Orion’s problem
was that part of the steel plate that links the drive to the steering
quadrant failed and we were left with a chunk of stainless steel and
nothing to link the drive to the rudder. As luck would have it however
when Sue T, Liz and Ju came into port a couple of days after we arrived,
it turned out that a friend of Sue’s, Carlos, was also in the marina on
his yacht and he knew a local man, Ricardo, highly proficient in stainless
steel. He and Carlos inspected the plate and the steering quadrant, duly
conferred for a while, said it was a straight-forward repair. Ricardo took
the failed plate away, returned the following day with a much thicker
steel plate (5 millimetre) and all was well with Orion, all for 125 Euros.

The downside of beating to windward is that below decks it is very noisy –
the boat crashing into the waves, (or the waves crashing into Andromeda)
sounded like someone throwing concrete blocks at us, that and the noise of
the water rushing (well sometimes) past the hull and the creaks and groans
of the boat as she flexes to the influence of the wind and the waves – all
amplified so that it seems as if you are inside a drum. Then with the wind
shifts, the pattern of the waves change, and the sea doesn’t know whether
it is coming or going and gets very confused then the waves come from all
directions, it takes a bit of getting used to. On deck it is totally
different, that is why we spend so much of our time up in the cockpit.
Tuesday was our most frustrating day – no wind at all, then wind from the
north-west, then backing to become westerly and with rain showers, then a
veer to the north-east and becoming a Force 5 for most of the night,
leading to numerous changes to our sail plans.

We took quite a bit of water over the deck as we were beating into choppy
seas over the previous few days and some of this made its way into the
bilges so we spent an hour or so getting rid of most of the water before
our last night at sea.

Tuesday evening we had only 60 miles to go so decided to slow down so we
would not arrive in the dark – the pilot guides suggest not entering the
harbour and marina at night on a first visit. We were making 3 knots and
had an ETA of 07:30am when the wind decided to kick in and we were
charging along at 6 knots – but slightly off our chosen course, we decided
to go with the wind and alter course in the morning if necessary. We were
visited several times in the night by dolphins – you can hear them as they
breath even though its nigh on impossible to see them. Then on Susan’s
watch the lights of the lighthouse at the end of Santa Maria appeared to
be joined by other shore lights as we raced along. As dawn broke we were
able to get better views of Santa Maria were able to verify that we were
indeed on course if a bit earlier than we hoped.

Although the marina office hours are 8am to 8pm there was no answer to our
radio or telephone calls until 9am, so we decided to calibrate our wind
sensor and our AutoPilot compass – sad really, but it gave us something to
do for a while and also took advantage of the lovely calm bay we found
ourselves in on our approach to the harbour. Once we had established
contact we had a smooth entry into Vila de Porto with a really friendly
welcome into a berth with lots of space. Once we had completed the
necessary formalities it was down to work washing all the salt off
Andromeda and putting her back to a ship shape condition ready for our
next voyage as well as catching up on the trip’s necessary washing.

During the trip we had maintained an SSB (radio) schedule with Sue on
Tamar Swallow. This meant we called one another at a specific time to
update on position and conditions. It’s really nice to know someone is out
there to talk to at least once per day and we continued the schedule after
we arrived as Tamar Swallow made the same journey two days after us. We
plan to maintain the schedule when we move on and until Tamar Swallow
returns to the UK in about 5-6 weeks.

First impressions are that Santa Maria is a really nice and friendly place
and we will update soon and throw in a few pictures.
More in due course.......
Andrew & Susan
s/v Andromeda of Plymouth

P.S. A Happy Birthday to Nick – 30 years of age!!! And also Happy 21st
Birthday to Paul we hope you both have great days.