Day 14 - Bermuda to Guernsey

Stravaig'n the Blue
Tue 7 Jun 2022 21:55
Position: 39:05.3 N 029:55.5 W
Position timestamp: Tuesday 7 June 2022 14:00 (UTC-1)
Distance travelled in last 24 hours: 169 NM (average speed 7.0 knots)
Reduction in distance to destination: 101 NM
Shortest distance to destination: 1320 NM (great circle)

Uh-oh. That Tropical Storm does have a name (but it isn’t a hurricane)! When the email containing yesterday’s blog post went out, this came in

Tropical Weather Outlook
NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL
800 AM EDT Mon Jun 6 2022

For the North Atlantic...Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico:

The National Hurricane Center is issuing advisories on Tropical 
Storm Alex, located about 100 miles north-northwest of Bermuda.

Tropical cyclone formation is not expected during the next 5 days.

Forecaster D. Zelinsky

Presumably, with the name Alex, this is the first named wind storm of the Atlantic 2022 season.

Apparently, Tropical Storms (sustained winds 35 to 64 mph) but not Tropical Depression (winds up to 35 mph) are given names. What does this signify? Apart from the obvious that this is something to be avoided, for some boaters it means the excess (deductible) on their boat’s insurance policy just went through the roof in the event they have to make a claim that is deemed attributable to Alex, a named system.

Anyone following our track on will have noticed that we sailed straight past the southern tip of Flores at 6am this morning and either we were asleep at the wheel or our plan has changed. It is of course the latter.

On Saturday, Tim had suggested making for the central group of islands, about 150 miles or a day’s sailing further than Flores, where he knew from experience there were good storm refuge options. We decided against this because we weren’t confident we could get there ahead of Alex and we wanted to have enough time to prepare the boat and get well rested.

As we made our way slowly towards Flores, Tim had been checking the provenance of the anchorages on the east side of Flores and had been unimpressed. Our pilot book (Atlantic Islands) lists quite a few but Tim could find only one review and that said the holding was poor. Since Saturday, Alex’s forecast path hasn’t changed much but the uncertainty over its direction of travel has decreased significantly as it approaches. It looks as though Alex will pass about 500 miles north of the Azores late on Wednesday and Tim reasoned that, with the storm heading north-east, we will further increase our distance from it if we head east towards the central group of islands. Wind speed and wave height forecasts for that area show both reducing. Tim ran his thinking past a RYA Yacht Master Ocean Instructor friend and she concurred. And so did we when we received his email. Thanks Tim.

Instead of spending a few days off Flores, finding an anchorage with good holding and then preparing the boat for high winds, we are speeding towards the central group of islands. We expect to be off the north-west tip of São Jorge at around midnight and the north-west corner of Terceira by breakfast time. These islands and the others in the central group lie across the direction of the waves and the swell so we are hoping for flatter seas once we are in their lee. At Terceira, we have the option of continuing east or going into the anchorage at Praia da Vitória on the east side. As the latter might involve having to clear in with the various authorities and then clear out before departing, we will continue on if the conditions allow.

I am reminded of Robert Burns famous words "the best-laid schemes o' mice and men Gang aft agley" which roughly translated means even the best thought-out plans can be scuppered. The words are from his ode “To A Mouse”. The mouse in question had built its nest in Burns’ barley field where it was well hidden, off the path of predators and had an abundant supply of food. But it all came crashing down when Burns scythed through the nest at harvest time. I’ve lost count of the number of times we have set course direct for Guernsey only to have to change plan, usually  because of high winds. And this is our third plan for dealing with Alex.

This afternoon the barometer is continuing to rise (1023, up from 1015 yesterday), there are patches of blue sky, the seas are reducing, the wind is dropping into the high teens and we have taken the third reef out of the mainsail.

All is well.