Azores to Falmouth - Day Ten 49 17.301N 007 44.534W

Mike and Liz Downing
Fri 25 Jul 2014 16:52
Good wind to sail all yesterday afternoon/evening and throughout the night, up until 10.00 this morning when it dropped to less than 5kts and went round to the ENE - not what we wanted! So we've been motor-sailing and tacking. But they are long tacks, 4 or 5 hours at a time so not too frantic. It adds distance and the decision always to consider is whether the extra speed is worth it when taking account of the extra distance, the alternative being to hand the sails and just motor on the course we want. Motor-sailing is one of those interesting conundrums of physics. At 5kts or less there's not enough wind to sail. If we motor 5kts into the wind we create additional wind, so the apparent wind is now 10kts and we can sail in that. So we bear away and use the sails and they make the boat go faster. That in turn increases the apparent wind and so we go even faster, which increases the apparent wind and so we go faster, and so on. Well, unfortunately not quite as after a while the forces balance out and we don't go any faster, but generally it's a lot faster, a lot more comfortable, and more enjoyable than just motoring directly into the wind. The forecast suggests the wind is not coming back until sometime overnight and then it might be west of north which will be good if it happens. Anyway, up to midday our noon-to-noon run was 130 miles - our best 24 hours of the passage so far. Lands End is now just 77 miles away and Falmouth 113 miles.

Had one of those 'I don't believe it!' moments this morning. With good VHF propagation AIS targets on the chartplotter were showing up over 100 miles away and the Western Approaches to the Channel looked like someone had thrown confetti across the screen. I counted 78 ships! Looking at that lot you wonder how on earth you're going to get through them and the first reaction is to turn around and head back to the wide open spaces of the ocean! We had a bit of the same problem yesterday with the Spanish fishing fleet. As you approach the continental shelf the depths go from 4,000 metres to 100 or less and it's clearly a good place to fish. As we approached we saw a couple of fishing boats on AIS and it didn't look too difficult to give them a reasonably wide berth to pass them. As we got closer, more and more popped up and so looking ahead they stretched for 15 miles on either side of us, so not so easy to go round. Knowing what type of fishing they were doing and how close we could get to each boat would make it easier to negotiate a path through them. So I called one up. To be fair he did answer, which is more than a lot of fishing boats do, but it was all in Spanish! "Do you speak English? - No" Okay, what now. I explained what I wanted to know in the simplest way I could and then the radio was alive with Spanish boat talking to Spanish boat, but we were non the wiser. So I put out a call to 'the Spanish fishing fleet' - "does anyone speak English?" Someone came back with very broken English and I explained what we wanted to know and he responded saying they were long-liners and we should not come closer than a mile to any boat. That's what we wanted to know so we could thread our way through them, but the last long-line fishing skipper we met was in Trinidad and he was an ocean long-liner and talked of putting out lots of buoyed lines that stretched for many miles - 50 to 100! They had GPS transmitters on them so the boats could set the lines and come back later to find them again. So we had visions of having to not only dodge the boats, but also loads of buoyed lines too. When writing this yesterday I thought there is no way we're going to get through this lot without getting tangled up with something. But we saw no buoyed lines and we were able to give each boat a good 2 miles clearance, and sailed through. Clearly Spanish long-lining is different to ocean long-lining, and we were very pleased that it is!

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