38.31.090N 28:37.500W Bermuda to Azores
Bermuda to the Azores 1800NM
15 May 2016 – Sunday
There was an advisory weather warning, but it should have cleared by the afternoon. I went to check out, SV Hunda (Dorothy & Duncan) had arrived that morning and I was going to miss them. They allow 1 hour to leave, but I asked for longer because of the weather and needing the other boats around me to be available to help me off – I was being pinned to the wall by the wind, with boats in front and behind me. They gave me until 2pm, otherwise I would have to go back and check out again.
I had saved the last of my US$ for T shirts, but it was a wet Sunday and all the shops were closed. I topped up one jug of diesel. Just after 12 the other boats were going to check out and I went along. The shop was now open and I managed to get 3 T shirts for my remaining $31 – 2 for $20 (one white plain with the Bermuda flag and one with ‘I survived the Bermuda Triangle’. I had to plead for the last one for $11 instead of $13, Bermuda with cute iguanas.
I asked Matt from one of the boats behind and the delivery skipper from the boat in front to help me off as soon as there was a lull. Bermuda Radio gave me clearance to go through Town Cut and I was away.
Out past the sea buoy and by 1400 I was sailing at over 5 knots. I am changing to UT which is + 3 hours = 1700. Still not sure about the engine, but it was a big sea.
Yorkshire pudding and Bisto, which was as close to Sunday lunch as I could get.
Viktoria and Jucunda left 3 hours after me and caught up and hailed me at 0700 the next morning.
16 May, Monday
The wind went directly behind and I exchanged the genoa for the main. Spoke to Viktoria before they were out of range ahead of me.
Cooked brownies - no choice really as I hadn’t caught a fish.
17 May, Tuesday
The wind got lighter and lighter and in the afternoon I put the engine on to motor into a light headwind. After a couple of hours the wind got stronger and it did not seem right to use up diesel to make 2 knots on course when I could sail. The wind was on my course, so I had a choice – sail due N or nearly due S at about 1.5 knots; I chose N. I plan at an average of 100NM in 24 hours, but was to find this the exception. It was a slow day, the first of many I was to find out.
The batteries were charged up and I had hot water, all I needed now was some warm weather to shower in. The sunshine is definitely lacking what I have been used to all these years over the Caribbean side – we’re not in Kansas now, Toto.
I have been passing sea creatures that float on the water, they come in all sizes to over 6” and they look like bubbles. I decided to catch one in my fishing net and take a photo. They are very pretty, with a fan/shell top. They are made of jelly material. They get knocked over by the waves and use their top to roll themselves back upright. I did not like the long straggly bits underneath them so kept that out of the photo. I was later to find that these were Portuguese Man O’ War jellyfish and very bad stingers if you get the tentacles – oh dear, so that’s what the straggly bits were - I had been lucky there.
1900, less than half an hour after turning the engine off, I saw a bright blue strip in the water and it had to be the white of a fish, but a big fish, larger than a dolphin. It was a whale, which swam round the boat at least 3 times and surfaced each time just off the starboard quarter about 20’ away. It was about 15-20’ long and I managed to get a small amount of video, but I couldn’t zoom the camera for a closeup.
I had left the depth sounder on, in the hope that the pinging would put whales off. I later read that you should put the engine on low. It is difficult to know what they regard as a threat or an attraction, not being a whale. Maybe it made it curious, but it certainly came close enough. It went under my fishing line, which I pulled in as soon as it had gone past the first time.
Still no fish so I had corned beef, creamed potatoes and bisto. I will be eating this for a few days to finish it up.
I only made 60 miles yesterday, 200NM down and 1600NM to go to Horta.
18 May, Wednesday
The wind has come round to SE and is going S which is good for sailing East. Bad weather forecast at higher latitudes is keeping me to stay as low as I can, not going above 34N until the weekend. I would rather go slowly in reasonable conditions, although it has been close hauled for quite a while now, which is not too comfortable. I was able to keep adjusting the sails as the wind clocked round. The wind went S, but is still on the beam and just forward. I had a few hours of very comfortable travel late this afternoon, even saw the sun.
Made cinnamon buns out of a can, these are great. I am still going through the corned beef and potatoes.
Steve managed to get more minutes added to the phone and the website is working, so I have communications. I really look forward to receiving messages and making a phone call every day or so. If I had had any idea that I would be doing the crossing I would have taken the annual package, which would have been cheaper, but I thought I would be staying in the US this year.
Thursday, 19 May
I was up continually from 3am until 3pm trying to balance the boat on course. The constantly changing conditions and the rogue waves were a tiring experience. At one point, I was trying to use the hob and it had not gone well, I went and shouted at the wind to ask it why it could not just co-operate. It might not have made any difference, but it made me feel better. 3pm onwards I had some very comfortable conditions for several hours. I had to keep the boat on course because one way was N which I did not want to go and the other way was more close hauled which was not comfortable; but I did make 58 miles in 12 hours, it was certainly fast.
I try not to read more than half a book a day, so that I do not get too tired, but today I had no time.
I have lots of naps to make up for being awake every hour through the night.
Friday, 20 May
ARC US and ARC Europe left Bermuda Tuesday. There are over 20 boats going to Horta and one passed N and another one S of me in the early hours, but their AIS did not show their names. The wind was still over 20 knots and I was tired keep attending to the genoa. I was up every 15 minutes to assist the steering in the big waves, then every half hour. Sometimes it was just to burp the steering and other times I was up for the entire half hour – this is not the baby I wanted. And then it rained, of course it did. It was not just the getting wet from the rain; the annoying part was when the wave decided to swamp me, and salt water never dries properly and always gets down the back of the neck. The power was in the genoa and I had made 100 miles in 20 hours. I was wet and tired, so I put the genoa away and sacrificed the extra 20 miles for some rest. I continued with only the bagged, reefed main and the boat slowed to under 2 knots.
I was waiting for the wind to go below 20 knots, but it moved a little behind the boat and so I got the genoa back out. Only a small portion of sail and the boat was back up to 5+ knots, and it didn’t need too much attention.
Saturday, 21 May
Today was a functioning day. I did what was necessary, sails, steering, eating and in between rested. I finished the corned beef yesterday, I have one tin left, which I may or may not eat; but never do I want to buy another tin. I made a Yorkshire pudding today for a change. I also did all the washing up, which under the conditions was quite commendable. When a small boat is heeled over all the stuff in the cupboards is on high alert to throw itself at you when you open the door.
By the afternoon the duvet which had been blanketing the globe for several days had been lifted from the sky, there were still many clouds, but there was some blue and the sun is still up there.
I was on course as well as I could be with the wind, which was slowly clocking round, but was having trouble coming further round than N, then NE.
I finished the Easter egg I had bought reduced in M&S in Bermuda, because the Captain said I could!
Sunday, 22 May 2016
0100 I tried to change tack to see if I could sail NE rather than SE, but had to give up, the wind was still NNE.
0800 the wind was light and still more N than I wanted, so I put the motor on, for 3 hours. This gave me as far off course N as I had been S, so was a step in the right direction. It also made the boat less heeled, which meant I could put down my cup of tea and it was still there when I went to pick it up again.
The batteries needed charging, but I was able to use Stanley on the inverter to vacuum the water out of the bilges. Somewhere there is a bad connection on the water, I will find that later, meanwhile I will keep the pump switch off unless I need a tap. This is not being lazy, this is conserving energy mode. The bilges are very shallow, even a small amount of water comes out when the boat is heeled and makes the floor, my feet and anything that falls on the floor, wet.
Monday, 23 May
The wind was not light or SW as one forecast said, it was still SE and I had both sails reefed for most of the day.
I put the fishing line out, and in the afternoon I put the second line out. Two lines was asking for trouble, putting the longer one out after the shorter one was virtually guaranteeing it. I spent more than an hour untangling them. I was considering the chocolate bunny (another M&S Bermuda late Easter reduction) as a prize, (I know it is hiding in with the stationery), but the captain muttered something about not rewarding stupidity.
When all my instruments were deserting me on the way from Mexico to the US, this also included my handheld GPS. It seems to work, but has a power connection problem as so often happens with things that run on batteries when they live in a saltwater environment. I did not buy a new one because I got an app for my phone that should give compass and GPS. I cannot get the compass, but that was the one instrument (non-electronic) that worked. It does give accurate GPS co-ordinates which is great.
I had a turtle right behind the boat, which was nice. Yet again I had to bring my fishing line in, I didn’t want to catch a turtle on the hook.
I made cheese straws, because again I hadn’t caught a fish.
The crew agreed to take their grievances to a tribunal; the Captain agreed to chair the tribunal.
The 1 x 24 hour shift was agreed unacceptable; this would be replaced (with immediate effect) by 6 x 4 hour shifts to be divided between the crew, to be worked consecutively.
Having had a bouncy start to the day, the wind lessened and the sails were out full, I was still making good time until after dark.
I did talk to 2 sailing boats in the afternoon, but they were going significantly faster than I was.
There was also some freighter traffic, the first for many days. Just when I had decided that there was nobody out there.
Tuesday 24 May 2016
In the early hours I was making 1.5-2knots, but it was so comfortable I opted for the quality sleep rather than put the engine on.
After the sun came up the wind increased and I could do 4 knots direct on my course.
I made griddle scones for breakfast.
A pod of dolphins came to play, the first ones I have seen on this trip.
1245 speed dropped to under 1 knot, so I put the motor on for 3 hours. I saw a whale behind the boat, but was too far away by the time I noticed. I guess the whale had seen more boats than I had seen whales.
I abandoned the do not read too much in one day rule and read an entire James Patterson. I have realised that if a book has a ‘Bestseller’ sticker that is ok; if it has a ‘Prizewinner’ sticker that is a warning that it will be deep and meaningful.
Did not want to put the motor on, but by the time I spoke to Steve at 2315 I realised I had no reasonable option. If I can sail at 2-3 knots then fine, it is not good to burn diesel for an extra 1-1.5 knots, but there was no wind. I was making 0.66 knot and not really going anywhere. I was resigned to being out here a long time, but not to motoring. I turned the motor on and it stayed on until morning, making 3-4 knots.
The steaming light does not appear to be working, probably the bulb, it does seem to get knocked out of place easily. I am using the tri-light. Motoring at 3.5 knots I could easily be sailing.
Wednesday, 24 May
I am now ok with motoring when there is no wind, I have used about 20 litres of diesel for nearly the same amount of hours. The engine does not need to work hard motoring in no wind and I hope there is a favourable current. I would know this better if I had put the speed paddle in the bottom of the boat, but I left the blanking plug in when I launched back in October and haven’t changed it. There is something very worrying about taking a plug out of the bottom of the boat and having to get the paddle in before too much water comes in – a stress I just don’t need. I go the speed I go, do I have to know all the details of why, when I can do nothing about it.
Another dolphin accompanied morning. The water is totally smooth and you can easily spot them from a long way off because they make ripples at the surface well before you can see them.
I could see clearly into the water and did spot a 3’ transparent animal – jellyfish?, shaped more like a sausage or hammerhead. I finally managed to get a photo of the Portuguese Man O War on the water.
It was sunny and calm and a stunning day, but now I would like to continue with a wind strong enough to sail, but not too strong. 900 miles to Horta, half way.
I had still not caught a fish by dinner time, so had Yorkshire pudding, tinned chicken and Bisto. The tinned chicken may well be a contender for the Not To list. My list is the opposite of a Bucket List of Things to Do. I think there will be several items on there by the time I get to mainland Europe.
I spotted a marker very close to my course. I didn’t expect it to be anything, but I couldn’t ignore it in case it was a danbuoy with something attached. If it had a boat name I would have reported it. I went back and checked, it was just a marker with a flag and a buoy. Was it marking something to avoid, or had it just come a long way? I don’t know, but it gave me the creeps and I got away as fast as I could. It put a damper on the day.
I turned the motor off at 2145 and sailed very slowly through the night.
Thursday, 26 May 2016
There was very little wind and by 1040 I turned the motor back on, higher RPM and am making 5+ knots with the sails out full. I will check the fuel consumption to see how much more this uses than when making 3.5 knots.
I just want to arrive now, that’s the trouble of passing half way – there is as much left to go as has already been done. There should be a stopping point, like there is for people who only want to do a half-marathon. Bermuda and the Azores are stopping points, it is 4000NM to Europe mainland.
I wondered yesterday afternoon that the batteries were not fully charged with the engine on, and this morning has confirmed that the alternator is not putting any amps in. I will have to rely on the solar panel to keep up. I had turned off the refrigerator and moved to powdered milk. There are only eggs, butter, jam and chocolate in there. I can’t do a lot about it at the moment. This is disappointing because I was going to use the motor charging as an excuse to use the computer as much as I wanted. My Kindle will not work and so I have books on the computer I could read. Back to Plan C, read a hardcopy book.
Determined to get 100 NM today with the engine and feeling a little bored, then there was a horrible noise and the engine stopped. I found a buoy in the middle of the Atlantic yesterday and today I found the net. There was a huge amount of net around the hydrovane and obviously the prop. I got a lifejacket and tied a rope to it, secured to the boat and got in the water. I cut the rope off the prop and the hydrovane stock. The net had wound itself 2” thick. I was very pleased when I had cut it off the prop, but I had no idea if any real damage had been done. The force had broken the pin that held the hydrovane rudder on to the stock, but found that the stress had bent the original pin and I could not get this out. I already had a rope, but seeing what the net had managed to break, I put a stainless steel cable through the handle of the rudder to stop it disappearing if the pin came out and got back in the boat. This all took the best part of 2 hours - so much for making up time!
I took my fishing lines in and did not feel inclined to ever put one out again, just in case I caused myself more problems.
I set the hydrovane, which is amazing that it still works with the small amount of pin, the pressure of the water must be keeping it in at an angle, but I will be so pleased if it holds until I get to Horta I looked at the alternator. I had had someone change the belt in Florida because I do not have the hand strength for the nuts. The belt had worked loose, so I now had to undo those nuts, tighten the alternator and redo the nuts. It was not easy, but I have done what I can. I will have to rely on the solar panel and keep electrical use to a minimum if it hasn’t worked, or if the engine doesn’t start.
I was doing so well, just slow. In 8 hours I have made 23NM, and 15 of those were at 5 knots with the engine. Back to 2 – 3 knots then and with a low wind forecast continuing.
Friday, 27 May
It was a fast trip all day, but that evening things went wrong. 2300, dark, I needed to take the preventer off the main, which meant going to the front of the boat. I had a shackle on the boom and this I took off, but instead of dropping into the boat, the rope slipped along the canopy and went overboard without my noticing; I only found out when I was unable to get the end of the line in the boat. I had wrapped my own rope round my propeller. This was Laurel & Hardy meets Hammer Horror . I tried to unwind the shaft from indoors and could hear the shackle knocking against the hull, but at 0130 I gave up. I might have been able to do it, but I could have got the shackle jammed.
Saturday 28 May
I planned the prop rescue operation all night. 0700 it was just light. This time I was more prepared, I had mask and wetsuit and once I was in the water it was a quick job to unwrap the rope.
Today I unhooked the vang from the mast and shackled it to the mid cleat as a preventer. Not such a good idea, but I could not bear the thought of another swim in the ocean.
I motored for 5 hours, the alternator is still not charging.
Sunday, 29 May
Two weeks I have been out here. There are no sightseeing trips, no pool, no alcohol and I have to cook, clean and drive. This cruise is not going to get a good review on Trip Advisor.
Passed the 2/3 marker, 1200NM, not that there are any signposts in the ocean.
Monday, 30 May
With the wind and rain and waves coming from behind and into the cockpit I was taking water indoors. I fixed my plastic poncho over the companionway and that was really helpful.
I had a small amount of main out for wind full behind at 25 to 30 knots all Sunday night and it was fast going. 0600 it was getting worrying and I put the sail away and went under bare poles SSE at 1.5 knots. I was expecting a small cold front, which had not been expected to last long. The forecast changed and the system had developed and it would be with me all day Monday and Monday night before starting to lessen on Tuesday.
The wind was very strong and the waves were enormous and I could not steer, I could not physically turn the wheel with the pressure of water under the boat.
During the day I had to call up a freighter that was heading towards me. I did not know if he would be able to see me in the big waves in time to avoid me. I was going at 2 knots @ 160 degrees, approximately, but I had absolutely no control to do anything.
I did not phone Steve that night because I was really worried that I might not survive this one and did not want to put that into words.
Tuesday, 31 May
I spoke to a freighter in the early hours. He asked me how it was going and I replied that it was not good. 0900 the wind and waves were still much more than I would like to be out in, but it was getting better. I tried to get control of the boat and after 2 hours I had some control of the boat with the wind vane and half the genoa. It was still very rough.
Spoke to Steve tonight and we said how bad it had been. Evidently the weather forecaster he was using had contacted him to say how bad it was going to be. I think everyone had the same concerns as me.
¾, 1350NM, 450 to Horta.
Wednesday, 1 June
Today I was able to put the genoa out full as the wind got lighter. The wind was too close to dead downwind and I was going N of my course. I was hoping the wind would come round, but at 1800 I gybed.
I noticed that I no longer had a stern light on the transom and there was a hole underneath which I later worked out was the cockpit shower knob.
Thursday, 2 June
This is my 61st birthday – I’ve had more enjoyable birthdays, but I was really quite grateful just to make it to this day.
It was a rough afternoon, with 30 knot winds, but again fast and I clocked 7.3 knots which is really fast for me. 1600 miles done, 200 to go and I really wanted to get to a marina.
Friday, 3 June
I was reefed and still going fast. I had made 125 miles in the previous 24 hours, with additional miles wiggling off course. I did move to the detailed area of the chart, which meant I was close – I could now see depths - I was in 13,259’ of water.
I checked when it got dark, so that I knew how long I would have to do the last 88 miles to Horta.
Saturday, 4 June
Again I had 30-35 knots, huge seas and squall, squall, squall – I clocked 10 and 11 knots a few times. This cannot be the boat, it has to be the waves.
It was so horrible I was considering going to the end island, another 150 miles and not trying to fight my way up to Horta. I did not have any minutes left on the sat phone and could not get any more until Monday, so it really was not a great idea to continue. I was nearly there, fight on, I should get in today, however late, but before dark. The windvane was definitely not coping now, so I was helming constantly. I was tired and the wind was dead behind and sometimes I found myself steering the wrong way. When I was 5 miles out I turned the motor on, I had a sail to put away and ropes and fenders to get ready. It was a rough entrance, there are volcanoes and big gusts of wind when you come round out of the shelter of one mountain or cliff, but I got in at 1600, very pleased to have arrived and stopped.
I had to spend the night on the fuel dock, rafted out 3 boats, so no getting off and I went to bed and slept for 12 hours.
Sunday, 5 June
0800 I moved the boat to a dock that had been vacated that morning. The boat next door had a dinghy in the water and it floated right behind my boat, so I borrowed it to sort the windvane without going in the water – which was now considerably colder. There was no longer any pin, only the ropes and cable were keeping the rudder with the boat. I put the spare pin in and felt much better.
I needed a card to get in the gate on the dock, so waited until I would expect the marina manager to be in his office. I could get out of the gate, but not back in.
1100 I took the trash up to dispose of and when I walked out of the dock gate there was Steve. I could not believe it and thought I must be hallucinating, how could he be here?
Steve had taken a chance that I really would get in Saturday evening or Sunday morning.
When I sent a final message to say I had arrived, he was getting in the car to go to the airport for the flight to the Azores, with a hop over to Faial in the morning.
I cannot express how amazing that was for Steve to turn up. We had lots of coffee shops, pastries and meals before he left in a taxi for the airport late Tuesday morning.
It is weather dependent, but I am now fully expecting Steve to catch my lines when I arrive in Portugal!