To Horta

Sun 28 May 2023 11:27

Saturday 27th 13 days so far and 570 miles go.  Current position 36:30.55N 040:39.25W

Well, the first six days of this passage were fast, exciting and wet but we covered ground to the east. Then we got set further south than we planned by some fresh NEly weather and since then have been in, or close to, a ridge of high pressure which has sometimes seemed to be stalking us.  The high pressure is associated with fine weather – great for spotting marine mammals and taking meals in the cockpit – but not much good for sailing.  The wind has fluctuated between nothing and 6 knots and predominantly from the east or northeast (on the nose) resulting in courses made good, in the light air, between, it seemed, either north or south. During the no wind periods we have tried to motor to put ourselves in the best position to find wind, according to the grib files, but we have now used the quantity of diesel we have that still leaves sufficient in reserve to make landfall.  At the moment, the true wind is less than three knots, and we have the engine running at tick over and, surprisingly, if gives us nearly 3 knots of speed in the flat sea – but the mainsail is slatting a bit. One plus is that we have no crew rendezvous in Horta and that removes some of the pressure.

Fortunately, there is a reprieve in sight, and we expect to pick up some westerly wind, associated with a depression, tomorrow.  How far this will take us we don’t know but we intend to stay with it as long as possible.  According to the routing charts we should expect predominantly westerly weather at this time of the year.  I only shopped for an anticipated 14-day passage but this is going to be more like 20 something days.  Thank you, Morag, for the store of dried food, tins and jars you laid in before we left Plymouth, your foresight will keep us alive.  We are still eating well but some meals are less exciting than others and some are unusual; we had rice with peas and a couple anchovies for dinner yesterday.  Tonight, will be bacon in tomato sauce on lentil pasta – all good fare.  I also baked a couple of reasonable looking loaves this morning.

Life is easy on board in this gentle, if frustrating, weather. I have been in email correspondence with riggers in the UK and in Horta about repairing or replacing the broken furling drum bearings.  I’m weighing up whether it is better to spend a bit more on a new furler rather than repair (even if feasible) a 30+ year old system.  

I have been looking at the various compass errors on our main steering compass.  It is almost redundant with electronic navigation, but it does provides a reference when steering out of sight of visual features, and it is useful to see where the wind is coming from.   We realized the compass had some error during the crossing out to Grenada, and during our time there, Brian and I put some effort into checking the errors against the hand bearing compass.  Other yachts in Prickly Bay must have wondered what we were up to motoring around the bay on a multitude of headings. Anyway, the first plot of errors against compass heading, known as a deviation card, showed errors ranging from 20o east to 22o west on a big S – curve.  Adjusting compasses is a specialized business but I found some instructions online and we found that a small tweak on the east-west correcting magnets inside the compass housing instantly reduced the maximum errors to around 4o; still not good but vastly better than it was - so we left it at that.  The curren errors are tabulated in the Deviation Card and we can look them up for any heading.

The second error to deal with is the difference between the magnetic north pole and the true north pole.  This error is called Variation.  We have been spoiled in the UK recently in that this error is negligible because, from the UK and points south, the two poles line up.  Sailing from Bermuda to the Azores, the Variation ranges from 18oW to around 12oW and we have to take these into consideration as well as the deviation.  There are little aid-memories for navigators on how to apply the errors such as: CADET (Compass ADd East True) or, in English, if the errors are easterly they must be added to the steering compass to get the true bearing.  This is reversed for westerly errors and reversed again going from true bearings to compass bearings.   Another one is ‘error west, compass best’, i.e., if the error (variation or deviation) is westerly, the error must be added to the true bearing because compass value is greater (best).


Sunday 28th May, two weeks exactly from Bermuda, 500 miles to go and storming up the track at 6-7 knots.    Our position now is 36:56.99N 039:20.29W

It is hard to describe the total and absolute silence of a completely becalmed yacht on an oily flat sea when the engine is off.  The silence is spooky – not a gurgling ripple, no glug or slosh of swell under the stern, no flap or rustle in the canvas; it is an amazing experience, though not one you want to last for too long.

Fortunately, the wind filled in early this morning and we are on track on a very broad reach in 20 knots of SWly wind. We have one reef in the main and, with the forecast for a front to go through soon, and the wind to go NWly, I’m beginning to feel we need a second reef.   The plucky little working jib is pulling like a train and being small, and of heavy cloth and construction, I hope it can stand quite a bit of wind.  I do have to preserve the mainsail though. 

More later and no pictures with this one.

Tony, Brian and Keith