Santa Marina Azores to UK 45:21.92N 19:13.86W

Sat 19 Jul 2014 16:02
As you can see we have now turned that illusive 45’ corner onto our final leg home. We altered course at 25 minutes past midnight last night and have just had a beer over lunch to celebrate.
Going back to last Monday, after the usual pre departure checks we left Santa Maria with two other yachts who fairly quickly steered a course for the other islands leaving us to head for the east end of St Miguel north of us.  The wind was perfect at first but as we neared her eastern volcanic cliffs it became necessary to start the engine to clear them. It would have been too frustrating to pass by this beautiful island if we had not both already visited there and were able to recall our many happy memories of a hot, orange swimming pool, warmed by geysers from within the earth, milking machines in the fields, a long walk around an inland lake and many others, but that’s another story.
Bottle nosed dolphins, bigger, greyer and more languid in their movements than their lively, common friends kept us company. An inspection of the bilge revealed we still had a problem with fuel leaking from the tank. So we went through the same routine again, but this time as the tank was more full I held a plastic lid over the open hatch to reduce spillage while Rob cleaned and applied tape to the screw of the lid. Then spun it back on and tightened it as much as he dared. There was still some in the bilge in the morning but it may have been hidden from us when we cleaned up.
Day 2  We sailed all last night in a lovely breeze leaving the lights of St Miguel behind us but at 6.40am the wind just left and we had to start the motor. We knew from our weather information that we would be passing through an area of no wind, the centre of the high, but it was a worry since our tank has a range of about 900 miles and there are 1100 miles to go.
It was a beautiful day, Rob saw a group of small turtles and I reflected on the kind, warm hearted people we had met, Joao the marina manager, Aida and her successful restaurant, Lui with his fishing boat and car hire business and Regis, our French neighbour who lamented the fact his wife was not sailing with him and filled the marina with the smell of his home baking bread. He mentioned that in his marina in Normandy there are more British yachts than French. Not only are marina prices on the south coast discouraging French visitors they are driving the British abroad.
Mr Grib said there was wind coming at 1800hrs. I am puzzling through the up to date Astro tables as they are different from the 1980 ones my course is based on.
Day 3  As we motored all day yesterday the run was good at 123 miles. This morning we had 6 –7 knots so we tried the cruising chute, but there wasn’t enough wind to fill it and we found we made more speed with her standard sails. We have the full bimini top out as the sun is strong, Zoonie has stopped in 3.8 knots of wind, sometimes we are completely still and silent. We have a yacht coming up behind us under mainsail and motor, so as that seems the order of the day we do the same. There are advantages, we are moving directly to our turning point, 45’N and 20’W, the batteries will get a good charge, a fine days run will be in the bag, we are creating lovely cool air around us and there will be plenty of hot water.
Now harken dear reader, I came up on deck this morning full of the joys of summer after a fine sleep (the person on the 3.00 am to 6.00 am is allowed the luxury of sleeping till they are ready) and singing a tuneful song when my skipper, fulfiller of my dreams and guardian of my ideas says, “You’ve had too much .......” now what could the next word be? sun, no we’re protected, sea, possibly, sangria, sadly not, no his word is “sleep!” Now I implore you is seven hours sleep a day too much? So why, you will be asking, the comment ‘too much sleep’. Suffice it to say the skipper is now head down in fairyland.
I have taken two good morning sights with our dinky little Second World War sextant and numerous afternoon ones. The horizon today is perfect for them, with an uninterrupted purity of line which reminds me of the American artist Georgia O’Keefe’s lovely paintings in the deserts of America. There are only a few fine weather puffy clouds in the sky. Mr Grib says we have a force 5/6 coming, but he has been known to be wrong, on his timing at least.
Breaking the rules we have one of the deck house windows open and the ones on the inside of the cockpit, or it would be unbearably stuffy down below. Our time is taken up, watching the sea, studying the astro books and taking sights and working them through, reading, snoozing, chatting, food prep, photography, notes for the blog, loving the life. Days like this are enough to make the most timid sailors enjoy the experience.
To take a sight I must wedge myself in a comfortable position. The first one didn’t work, I sat astride a winch and then slipped, ouch! So I sat astride the cockpit coaming as if riding a mare, with one foot firmly on the side deck. that was fine. Then making sure there are sufficient shades across the clear one so I don’t get blinded I find the beautiful lime/yellow sun and squeeze the clamps on the arm to bring it to the horizon, then by gently swinging the sextant and adjusting the tangent screw on the micrometer drum I take my reading, noting next the exact time on my watch, GMT, seconds first then write it all down. The calculations can be done at leisure. After a while you know exactly when the position is right.
18.30hrs We are sitting at the table in the cockpit, Atlantic all around us having pizza and a beer to celebrate halfway to our turning point!
We went into the night with some perfect downwind sailing, the main out to starboard and secured with a preventer line so she couldn’t gybe, the genoa poled out to port to prevent it slatting. Two pods of whales moved down either side of us going in the opposite direction, shooting spray and occasionally surfacing, their long black backs with small dorsal fin curving an elegant arc above the water.
Day 4  Later last night the wind built up to 17 knots (force 5) but as we were downwind I hoped we could leave the reefing until daylight. Suddenly at 6.30 a big wave shoved Zoonie around and the wind slammed onto the front of the mainsail stopping Zoonie dead in her tracks as if she had been stunned. I yelled for Rob who was up on deck in seconds. I turned the wheel hard to port to bring her back around while Rob prepared to reef the genoa. Degree by degree she slowly started to come back and I knew that when that wind caught the back of the sail where it should be she would spin rapidly, so I was ready for the second and when it happened, spun wheel the other way. Phew what a relief.
Rob had almost finished stowing the pole away up the front of the mast when it suddenly fell away from its housing and I had this amazing slow motion image of the pole falling slowly down as Rob did all he could to prevent it hitting the deck and guardrails, causing damage. The donkey dick that sits inside the pole keeping it secure had been loosened by one of the lines. In no time Rob had rehoused it and all was well.
Next we had to gybe onto the other tack so we could reef the main. So preventer off, engine on to help take her round then reef in the main, reset the genoa on a broad reach, job done. Neither of us slept that night because as she was goose winged (one sail out on opposite sides) she rolled just too much for us to relax as we lay, so we had to constantly brace ourselves. So the day was passed in a haze mostly of sleep, while Zoonie gently moved along on a beam reach well reefed for comfort.
Day 5 A day of successive squalls giving us at times 23 knots of wind, on course and well reefed. Catching up on sailing miles. Heavy showers washed the windows and decks and the stainless steel so it sparkled when the sun next shone. We had humpback whales at a distance all day making their way from Greenland to the Caribbean to breed.
16.30 pm Rob calls me up to see one of the whales surface just by us, it was about our length and slowed down to move across our stern and resume its journey. That was the closest yet.
We are still pumping liquid out of the bilge once a day, not much and as I said to Rob it doesn’t leave a colour on the sea so I’m not sure its even diesel.
In the evening we reefed to make Zoonie more comfortable and found she went faster anyway because she is more upright. She just needs enough power to push through the seas that inevitably build up around us otherwise they brake her dead in her tracks. All a question of balance.
19.08 pm The Chartplotter shows the current is already with us. We have 24 miles to go before we turn at 45’ North.
Day 6 In fact we turned at 00.25 am after a first leg of 463 miles while under full sail and with dolphins either side of the bow. We have just had lunch accompanied by a beer and have both managed showers in Zoonie’s new a more comfortable position.
We have passed over King’s Trough and and are now starting over the Porcupine Abyssal Plain (don’t ask me why its called that, but I will Google it sometime). An abyssal plain is flat seabed made up of sand and silt, maybe Porcupines like that!
So we are now on our 16th and final leg with 700 odd miles to go and on course for the Chain Locker Pub in Falmouth. They’d better be open and have Doombar on tap, but then I’m not one to count my chickens until they’v@ hatched.