Bermuda to Horta

Thu 15 Jun 2006 22:34
This was the toughest leg yet. Maybe we should have expected that. But it's only 1800 miles in the pilot books and people who left just before us in comparative boats did it in 12, 13 days. We actually sailed 2334 miles according to the GPS. And it took us 22.5 days - one day less than the Westbound crossing. 
We started pretty well, going up the rhumb line with good SW winds. Herb then advised us to go SE to avoid a developing low. We did. It did not develop into anything significant and Herb advised us to go N to get round a high. Aromatic with the 3 girls onboard came out of Bermuda the same day as us and we linked up via SSB twice a day. Mainly the weather was sunny. We had a few hours with a reef in but it was generally steady if unspectacular going. We did burn a bit of the diesel.
One night we put the engine on and the exhaust overheat alarm came on. It was the impellor, which had been new in Bermuda. Fortunately, we had another. We saw a ship every other day or so. We fished a lot but caught nothing. John and Tim did the odd sun sight. John got his to within a couple of miles of the GPS position. 
Herb tried to make us go off and look for a couple of uncharted sea mounts that have been reported in an American yachting magazine. The magazine says they're 18m below the surface and, on one, a wrecked yacht is visible. But we were not in the mood for further diversion. Should you be interested, they are meant to be at 35.22.25N and 51.29.29W. 
Herb then started saying a deep low was developing near the Azores and we should not go too far East. One windless night, we just lay without the sails, rolling gently. Harvey, who'd gone out a couple of days before us, were also held up. Blase, who were coming up from Antigua and making good time, were given the green light to carry on and eventually got in a couple of hours before the gale hit Horta. We now gather 3 boats were dismasted in the storm and several reported sustained winds of over 50 knots. Zamia 2, which is owned by our friend Roy Beaumont but being sailed back by a friend, was knocked down in 50 knots and lost tri-colour etc. We saw a gust of 40, while sailing directly away from the Azores and the storm. But had three reefs down and were not uncomfortable. In total, we spent 4 days hove-to or at least not progressing.
Once Herb did let us head East, we hit some of the weird current there is about halfway between Bermuda and the Azores. We briefly had 4 knots of counter current. We motored all day and made 60 miles towards Horta. Very depressing. The autopilot then packed up. It and the wind, depth and log instruments just went blank in the middle of the night. We've since traced the fault to an automotive-type fuse that had corroded. They're all fixed now. 
The Hydrovane was still able to do most of the steering but we had to hand-steer when motoring. We were motoring a bit and pulled away from Aromatic who's gear box had packed up. We stayed in touch via SSB and helped sort a tow for them for the last few yards into Horta.
We saw quite a few whales - one fabulous Minke (we think) about 50 yards away and at least as long as the boat. Also a group of pilot whales and lots of dolphins, one turtle and lots of Portugese Men of War. Always one or two birds - mainly Cory's Shearwaters - more as we approached land. 
We then got better wind but some rain with it. The last couple of days we had blue skies and perfect beam winds. Faial appeared out of a cloud, quite big but hazy not at all like the sharp spike of St Lucia appearing out of the sunset. 
It was no trouble getting into Horta harbour in the dark. We tied up next to Electra on the fuel dock. Their engine had gone and they'd only just got in. We had a whisky with their crew, Baz, before going to bed. John's wife Penny had put back her flight for the Nth time and came to find us with their daughter, Nina at about 0730. We got into the marina proper at about 1800 - just in time for us to go to Peter's Sports Bar for supper. 
It was great to sail with John. He was merchant seaman in his younger days and worked for Greenpeace and had lots of good tales.  When we were very fustrated it was John who kept reminding us of how amazing it is to cross an ocean that changes every day.  He thinks one night about half way was the most calm and quiet he's ever known at sea, it is quite remarkable when the stars are reflected in the water.   John also stayed very calm despite us delivering him more than a week later than promised.     
Cruising chute up a day or two out of Bermuda
Lunch on a calm-ish day
Dolphins join us as we motor on a windless day
Playing the chocolate game about halfway to Horta
Penny noting down Herb's advice
John and Tim playing with their sextants
Hove-to with three reefs down
Another yacht
25 knots from astern. John keeping watch. Making the miles. 
Skipper hand-steering (the beard is coming off in Falmouth)
Tied up in Horta. Blase bring us a bottle of bubbly to celebrate landfall 
The crew in Horta. Will Eddie get his hair cut before we go?