Azores to Falmouth - Day Four 43 02.696N 021 08.746W

Mike and Liz Downing
Sat 19 Jul 2014 18:08
Another case of 'what a difference a day makes'! And I spoke too soon on two topics yesterday. The bad weather started to abate during the evening and by late evening we were making good progress under more sail, and in the right direction! The sea was still up, but the viciousness was gone and it was just a bit uncomfortable at times, but Aurora B is a heavy boat and she was comfortable enough down below. And as it got dark we did see stars after all, and what's more, a shooting star too. There was cloud about but only perhaps 30% so it was even possible to see the Pole star - the first time since arriving back in the Northern Hemisphere. The Plough was visible from the Southern Hemisphere, as we approached the equator, but due to the angles we didn't expect to see the Pole star until well into the Northern Hemisphere. However, we didn't even see it on the passage from the BVIs to the Azores, despite following the pointers of the Plough, looking at the compass to see where it should be, and finally resorting to the iPad Star Walk! I don't remember it being that difficult to find. Perhaps it's fuel is running low and it's shining less brightly - a question for Brian Cox perhaps! So we did see stars and the moon too when it came up after midnight. So a much better night.
The second topic was the lack of wind often experienced when leaving the Azores. Well, it might not have been a problem up until yesterday, but it definitely is today! By 09.00 today we had around 8kts of wind and just about kept going, but with the wind still fading and having only covered about 6 miles in 3 hours, the engine came on at midday when the wind was barely creating a ripple on the surface. The sun has been out all day and the sea is so blue compared with the grey of yesterday. So it couldn't be more different. But we do need wind to sail and the forecast is suggesting we might not get it until tomorrow. Hope they've got that wrong, but I doubt it. One thing you soon notice about marine forecasts is that they frequently underestimate strong winds, but hardly ever underestimate light winds. Despite having to slow down for the big seas yesterday and slowing down today due to lack of wind, the noon-to-noon run was still 114 miles. Not good compared with tradewind sailing where we hope to make 150 miles or more per day, but okay for any passage from the Azores to the UK. The last time we did it, back in 1996, it took 14 days to cover the 1200 miles and that included 3 1/2 days of motoring!

With the lack of winds the sea has gone right down and is now a glassy surface, lifted by a 2 metre swell that's still coming through every few minutes. But between swells it's perfect for watching out for marine life and we've seen two more whales. Much further away this time, but their blows were easy enough to see, as was their dorsal fins using the binoculars. From these and the good book we have on board, they look like Bryde's whales, which are around 37 to 47ft long, so about the size of Aurora B.

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