Azores to Falmouth - Day Six 45 37.275N 017 25.905W

Mike and Liz Downing
Mon 21 Jul 2014 18:15
Fog!! Not today, which has so far been a lovely sunny day, but later yesterday afternoon and into the night. I described it as mist in yesterday's update, but it closed right in and was thick - visibility was down to 50 yards or less at times - so if there is any difference between mist and fog, this was definitely in the fog category! It stayed with us until the early hours and stars started to appear around 03.00 and it was gone. Navigating in fog is not nice and we haven't had to do it since a brief spell of poor visibility in the Bay of Islands in NZ, back in 2010, when we had to navigate from one of the island anchorages to Opua using radar. That only lasted a couple of hours. So yesterday we tried to remember all the things you're supposed to do. Checking regularly on radar is the obvious one and we did do that every few minutes. And just as well we did as another boat passed about 3.5 miles to the west of us. It wasn't on AIS and the echo suggested it was relatively small, perhaps another yacht or a fishing boat, but we've seen no fishing boats at all out here and the last yacht we saw was just after leaving the Azores. We kept a very close eye on it on the screen until we could see it moving away. As a result of that we put our foghorn on - we have a marine loud speaker about a 3rd of the way up the mast and it's connected to our ICOM VHF which has an automatic foghorn function. It is very loud! We had thought what's the point being out in mid ocean, but seeing the other boat so close on the screen there was lots of point! We kept it going until the fog cleared and wondered how on earth we would sleep with it sounding one long blast and two short blasts every 2 minutes, but sleep we did - when we're tired we seem to be able to sleep through almost anything going on around us, whether it's noise or motion. Another point is that we slept fully dressed in our chest-high sailing trousers so in an emergency all we had to do was put our sailing jacket and life jacket on. There are other things to consider as well - I can remember reading a discussion on whether or not you should clip (your safety line) on when on deck in fog. We did. But we didn't listen to the iPod shuffle, just listened intently for possible engine noise, and peered into the gloom looking for possible shapes coming the other way, until it was dark when you couldn't see anything! We were also sailing so didn't have the noise of our own engine to get in the way. We did discuss tactics of getting the engine on quickly if something did appear and time allowed it before taking avoidance maneuvers. The winds were light and so we were only making between 3 and 4kts most of the time throughout the night. We don't like sailing in fog!

But that was yesterday and today has been so different - sunny, blue skies and a beautiful blue sea. The wind has been refreshingly crisp, and just a little stronger, but still from the south so we've been making between 4.5 and 5.5kts most of the time. The noon-to-noon run was 111 miles and we've passed the halfway mark. The forecast was suggesting slightly stronger winds today and we had hoped to speed up as the next couple of days are forecast to be very light, followed by days of winds from the north. Not what we want! To help with that we're heading further north now in the hope that we'll get a better angle on the wind when it does change to the north. We don't really want to have to start tacking, but that might be what we have to do. We shall see.

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