Highs and Helicopters

Summer 2022
John Andrews
Sun 15 Jun 2014 14:08

60:24.517N 016:25.747W

Day 3

“We are delighted to tell you that we have broken free of the dreaded high pressure and are now proceeding straight towards our destination under sail on a broad reach at a slightly sedate 5 to 6 knots.”

Yesterday’s blog (not posted) started on this optimistic note . That would have been nice, very nice, but only an hour later, the engine was back on as the wind dropped and we set off west again in search of the far side of the high pressure. Twelve hours later, we were finally able to turn the engine off and we have been under sail ever since. Ever since we set off we have been battling with one of the two sailors’ horrors, highs and hurricanes, and it’s definitely not hurricanes. An area of high pressure has stubbornly positioned itself between us and Iceland and refuses to move, which means no to low wind unless we can get through to the far side.

We have, however,  had the fortune to acquire an official weather guru and router to assist us in this endeavour. Based in a leafy West London suburb, he seems to have a panoramic overview of the whole North Atlantic weather system and we have been receiving detailed synopses and routing recommendations. ‘Go West, go West,’ we have been urged and then ‘but not too far West!’  (he’s obviously obsessively following our tracker) and then ‘Oh dear, it’s all changed!’ Actually it’s been really useful, much more detailed information than we can glean from grib files which just show wind speed and direction, so we hope to be guided into our destination at Haimaey in the Vestmanaeyjar Islands off the South coast of Iceland. This is the youngest archipelago in the world, the last island, Surtsey, emerging from the sea in only 1963. With a good wind, we could get there Monday evening, but it is more likely to be some time on Tuesday.

Apart from our obsession with the wind or lack of it, there is nothing much of note to report apart from two visits from a very large, green, unmarked helicopter. We first saw him approach low above the water on Friday afternoon. He flew right by us, hovered a bit and then took off up into the sky and over the horizon. As we were at least 150 miles offshore, we were puzzled as to where he had come from. Maybe St. Kilda? Max was even more surprised when at 1.30 in the morning, on his watch, the helicopter returned and did exactly the same thing. Were then nearly 200 miles off shore, a long way for any helicopter I would think.

While motoring in an oily flat calm yesterday, we took avoiding action for an enormous floating tree trunk which we left 20 metres to starboard. The giveaway was that it had been colonized by a large squadron of gannets which took off on our approach and settled again after we had passed.

We have seen no shipping for two days, and decreasing numbers of birds. The sun is shining as I write, we are sailing at 6.5 knots, so all is well!

PS apologies for the incorrect positioning of our first post – we were obviously not somewhere between the Shetlands and the Faroes – co-ordinates entered in haste while we still had broadband and could post photographs – I’ll correct when we get to Iceland