37:06.526N 08:40.477W Azores to Algarve, Portugal

If Knot Y Knot
Patricia Day
Sun 19 Jun 2016 19:26

Azores to Algarve

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

0900 All checked out and ready to go.  The boat next to me complained about his fender.  It had popped when I came into the berth; there was hardly room for fenders on each side of the boat.  It was the blue top and I am sure it was UV damage, fenders are meant to be squashed, but I handed over the spare I had bought in Mexico, I wasn’t going to argue.  I was backing out and the man on the boat on the other side of me said that I had caught a rope from a stern anchor on a boat on the opposite dock.  I was aware of it and was convinced I had not caught it, but I turned around and he said it was ok. 

I motored out and put up the main to assist.  I should soon have been in water hundreds, and later thousands, of feet deep, but the depth was reading as 30 to 40’, sometimes up to 20’.  Did I have a whale down there or had I picked something up in the marina, which is what they might have seen.  It did not seem to be affecting the motor, which I was grateful for.

I turned the motor off at noon and sailed. 

I opened the last tin of corned beef, by eating more today I can get rid of it more quickly.  I have one portion of powdered potatoes left and enough Bisto to make another meal of it tomorrow.

I went from Faial between Pico and Sao Georges, rather than below Pico.  It was a few miles further, but sheltered. 

By 2pm the wind had died and I was going nowhere.  I decided now was the time to see if there was anything foreign attached to the boat.  I did not want to go in, so put a weighted rope over the front and tried to pull it back at each side.  The idea was to try to get it below the keel and see if there was anything hanging.  I had both ends until one got away from me.  Shouting ‘No, no, no’ at a rope doesn’t stop it sliding away and into the water.  It was still attached at one side, but dragging out the back of the boat.  I got out the wetsuit, mask and lifejacket and went in.  I got the rope up into the boat, but could not see anything under the boat.  I was not going to try getting closer to the keel to see, but if it was significant I should have been able to see from the stern, the water was fairly clear.  I got back in the boat and turned the engine back on.  I have no idea what else to do.  I can’t keep going for a swim, fun though it is.

I should have checked after I had lost the rope in case the weighted end had swept anything off the keel, but I turned the depth off, so then I would not have to look at it.  After a shower I sat down to 3 episodes of the Archers Omnibus, at 1 hour and 15 minutes each, which passed away some time.  That evening I did see a whale next to the boat, it was beautifully smooth, do pilot whales get as large as other whales?

Thursday, 9 June

I had another attempt to adjust the alternator belt, but it didn’t make any difference.  I finished the corned beef and powdered potatoes, while the refrigerator was still cold, as I cannot run that on the batteries without the alternator working.    

I got into spring cleaning mode on the way to the Azores, with a big bag of trash when I arrived.  That did include both cockpit dodgers, which had shredded in the bad weather.  I am not used to seeing the sea back there, it has been so many years that I have made dodgers for the guard rails.

I sorted the first aid section and threw away some of the very old items, but I still have a lot of out of date pills for now.

I am changing from sailing to motor sailing to sail assisted motoring to just motoring depending on the conditions.  I am not complaining, I really could do with no rough stuff on this section. 

Because the alternator is not charging, the batteries are slowly going down.  The engine start battery only charges from the engine and so I need to keep spare capacity in the domestic batteries in case I have to use those to start the engine.  I am told I can use up to 50% of the Trojan batteries, but do not like my batteries to fall below 90%.

Friday, 10 June

I am still motoring a significant amount of time and the throttle seemed to make the sound of losing its grip, so I attached one of the springs from the throttle cable to a fixed point to provide some resistance.

I spent many hours trying every combination of sail to get the windvane to control the motor.  This it is not designed to do, but finally I got it to work.  This is saving the electricity of using the autopilot.  The boat is on a wavy Easterly course, swaying from 70 to 150 degrees, as long as it comes back on course I am pleased, but it was a very long slog to achieve it.

Today passed ¼ of the way from Horta to mainland Portugal.

Saturday, 11 June

Have been having problems with the genoa furling line, it furls itself, so why does it get so caught up.  It usually comes undone in the end if I tug enough.  Sometimes brute force is not the answer.  Ping, the block next to the winch broke – could have taken somebody’s eye out.  I put a new block on the stanchion, although it is not a swiveling one.  I undid the line at the furler and rewound it manually; this is always a joy, but the conditions were ok to sit up at the bow and do it.

I tried the water generator, but it did not produce power.  I had no illusions with this as I had asked the electrician to look at it in Florida, but he never came back.  He was going to check the wind generator when there was wind, but it is the same system.  I had taken it out of operation because it gave the impression that it was working, but no charge went into the batteries and it seemed to stop the solar panel from working.  It was desperation that made me try again, but the same result and I cannot risk upsetting the solar panel as that is my sole source of power. 

I changed the alternator belt, which was desperation too and made no difference.  I attached the second spring on the throttle cable.

The batteries went up to a maximum of 94.3% and that was going to be used up in the dark hours.  I was getting quite upset over the power situation

I passed the 1/3 point.

Sunday, 12 June

I had turned off everything that was not vital and can obtain GPS, COG, SOG and AIS on low brightness for 0.7amps per hour overnight.

I turned everything off during the day, because I could see the ships and keep an eye on the compass, and by 8pm the batteries were up to 99% for the night.  I was very pleased as it has been very overcast.

I decided to cut my hair, this may not have been the best decision, but it will grow.  Then I had a lovely hot shower and a snooze in the cockpit.  No wind means that it is warm enough.  I have been indoors a lot of the time because the cockpit with the wind behind was just too cold.

I saw another buoy in the middle of the ocean.  I passed close, but did not go over and check, it was a big pink buoy, nothing that might have related to a boat.

Monday, 13 June

Another very grey day, but the batteries got up to 98% so I charged the computer and the cellphone.  I could not set the course with the windvane and the motor and had to use the autopilot.

This morning I reached ½ way.

I am on the last half of the last leg of this voyage.

The sea has been building, but there is no great wind yet.

Still sorting and tidying lockers and files.

I am struggling with still being out here doing this.

Tuesday, 14 June

0530 turned the autopilot off and motorsailed with the genoa.  1000 I turned the motor off and checked the belt again, it was actually loose, but I won’t know if it has made any difference until I try the engine again.  I am relying on the solar panel, which is doing well.  It is very overcast but the batteries got up to 97%.

A French cat was passing and so I turned on the vhf radio for a chat.   They came from Martinique and left Horta on Friday – and I thought I had been going so fast.  They had full sail up; I have both sails, but reefed.  The sea is now big waves and winds 20-25 with 30 knot gusts as forecast. I have 1/3 left to go.  I feel better today, but still want to arrive as soon as safely possible.

It is very rough out there and at 2.15 in the morning one of the blocks attaching the main sheet to the boom exploded.  I took the sail in and secured the boom, but it will have to wait until tomorrow for repair.

Wednesday, 15 June

I have had quite enough of this rough weather, I only hope that was the last of the bad stuff.  The wind has gone down and the sea is gradually decreasing, but it is going to take a long while before I can go out on deck.  It is bad enough in the cockpit.  I swapped the block with one at the mast by standing on the table and performing the operation through the main hatch.  Then I attached the block to the boom by sitting on the deck, but from inside the sprayhood, so it was a relatively safe procedure to repair.  I am not putting the main back out.  I have half the genoa and that manages to produce 5 knots a lot of the time, with the waves going my way. 

It is again overcast most of the time, but the batteries went up to 100%, flashing ‘Battery Full’.  I charged up the computer, cellphone, sat phone and camera and downloaded more amazing photographs.  I have no idea what they are yet, I haven’t looked.  There are a significant number of ships passing now that I am getting close to the mainland.  I have ¼ of the way to go.

Thursday, 16 June

The difference between sailing and motor sailing was 1-1.5 knots, so it has to be for a significant time period to make a difference.  Normally I would sail, but there is a safety factor here (I wanted to get in before I dropped), so I put the engine on after 12, with the autopilot for a direct course to help get me there faster.  By 2300 I only had 75 miles to go to Lagos.

Friday, 17 June

I was slowed to 4 knots crossing the current to the shore.  I saw more dolphins, but these are much smaller.  I had to cross the ships going round Cape St Vincent in both directions.  Slow down to let one pass and then speed up to get across before the next ones. 

There is an inshore traffic zone, but this is also a fishing zone and there were boats fishing, ignoring any lanes and dropping pots.  I am so glad that I had put the motor on when I did because I needed daylight to deal with this last part of the trip.

The wind was so strong that it was pointless to motor and I turned the engine off at noon, as long as I got in before dark.

It was a lovely final sail and I was going to deal with ropes and fenders for the marina when I turned the corner and had protection by the cliffs.  Wrong!  I was directly into a N wind blowing at over 20 knots.  My 19 HP engine does not like this.  I had planned to be in by 2pm, then 3pm – the last 2.25 miles took a good 2 hours and I got in at 1700, which is actually 1800 – same as UK.

I had a horrible time beating up the narrow inlet, rocks and obstacles on both sides, while tourists were going out in small boats - with big outboards.  I could have cried, I felt like calling for help to tow me in.  I pulled up to the marina fuel dock.  The man held the boat while I got him some ropes to tie it up.  He said I had no fenders, I hadn’t been able to leave the wheel to do anything about that.  The autopilot could not have steered in that confined space into 26 knots of wind.  There were dock fenders. The man asked if I wanted any fuel, no, I just wanted somewhere to stop.

I went and checked in, I was on the computer from 2003 which was when I came down from England originally.  They allocated me a berth, I wanted to stay on the reception pontoon until the wind dropped but they said it would be less windy in the marina and there were people to help me on the dock.

They opened the bridge and I went through, it’s not a very wide space under those conditions.  I tried to get into the space, but the boat would not turn into all that wind.  I was being pushed over to the tripper boats on the opposite dock.  I went out and tried again.  I could not get into the allocated berth, so just went for any one the boat would go into and they could catch me.  The dockmaster said I should have stayed on the reception pontoon until the wind dropped!  Then he went and told the office where I ended up, which was only 2 spaces down from where I should be.

Epilogue -

I am not sure whether I am staying in Lagos, moving on in Portugal, on the water or hauling out, but for now I was just grateful to be here. I am heading back to the UK at the end of June for a few months.

The Algarve is sunny and relatively inexpensive, not sure why I left in 2005, but sometimes you have to leave to explore the alternatives before realizing that what you had was ok.

I am not planning to go ocean sailing again, maybe offshore as far as the Balaerics, but mainly coastal marina hopping.

Moral - do not go out in Category A conditions with a Category B boat!

A.     OCEAN: Designed for extended voyages where conditions may exceed wind force 8 (Beaufort scale) and significant wave heights of 4 m and above, and vessels largely self-sufficient.

B.      OFFSHORE: Designed for offshore voyages where conditions up to, and including, wind force 8 and significant wave heights up to, and including, 4 m may be experienced.

It has been 11 years since I left Portugal – seen so many places, met so many wonderful people and had lots of experiences (not all good).  I love my boat, it has done me proud, but now it is time for something else – quite what I don’t know.