The second half, Day 4 to 7 37:15.26N 22:53.57W

Sun 6 Jul 2014 11:56
Day 4 started under full sail and a 13 knot wind under blue skies. We have 322M under our belt and steering well north of the required track, thinking that the Westerly wind that is due will cause us to bend around back onto track as the wind backs. A sailing yacht passes us the other way from the Azores, ships are now few and far between.
Are we flagging. The Rally and Oyster flag have become tangled around the halyard and we nearly lost our lovely big ensign over the stern in the F6, but all are now recovered and a frayed edge on the rally flag is repaired ready to be flown as we enter Santa Maria. So no we are not flagging!
I remember the glorious blue of the Atlantic from when I crewed on the Stavros Niarchos from Tenerife to Barbados ten years ago and I wonder why it is not easy to capture the blue on camera. Perhaps it is because the naked eye can absorb the grades of blue from the vertical face of waves to the horizontal surface more accurately.
In the afternoon we ran into pockets of no wind and the skipper was not happy “it’s not right, no wind!”
The highlight of the evening was the cherry stone spitting competition which we later adapted to using spoons as we could shoot them further.
A wide bank of cloud brought us variable winds of 8 – 22 knots all night long and we worked hard to keep her on course. Dolphins and shearwaters were busy fishing all around us.
Day 5 – Half Way Day and we are ferry gliding to SM with the current bending to the SW and leeway the same. So it was a bottle of beer with lunch. Shortly afterwards we started the motor for the first time. Wind had dropped to 7 knots and we needed to charge the batteries, make hot water for showers and keep up the progress as we are on a time schedule, not ideal when you are cruising. The chartplotter tells me my navigation has put us 43 metres left of our desired track.
Imagine, dear reader, I am fast asleep after lunch, planning my holiday in the Yucatan with my lady Japanese driver ( I don’t know where that came from but I remember it clearly) when suddenly there is a loud bang and the engine tone rises. In the millisecond it took me to leap from my bunk I thought we must have hit something until I spy the my gorgeous husband, with an, it either will or it won’t wake her look on his face, picking up the engine compartment door from the galley floor to which it had crashed, “Just thought I’d check the engine mounts dear.” I think he’s going mad, been at sea too long, we’ll be drawing straws next!
Day 6 - 11.36am 217 miles to go. For the less initiated, imagine the Azores High is a clockface, the static centre of which is the Azores Islands to which we are heading. The tips of the hands of the clock are the wind direction moving clockwise around the dial. 1200 is north, 3.00 east, 6.00 south and 9.00 west. So as we are moving from Lagos in the east over 3.00 the winds should be coming to our right, from 1.00 and 2.00 ie northerly. This is exactly what they did for the first half of the journey. However a strong weather system then starts moving across the top of the clock towards Europe and pushes the winds south so we experience westerlies as if we had been moving across the top of the clockface. There was 14 knots of lovely wind out there and we couldn’t use it.
After a few frustrating hours of punching into a steepening sea we slowed Zoonie right down, put up the cockpit table and had a proper lunch, mid Atlantic under blue skies, listening to the sea whooshing past and it was delightful. So there westerly wind!
There is still some diesel cream in the bilge so we obviously haven’t quite cured the leak. Plus two of the horizontal seems on the UV strip on the foresail have come undone. Not a big problem as the working layer is sound underneath and we’ll probably lower the sail and mend it with sail tape until we get home and have the UV strip replaced.
The evening brought a very confused sea state where the wind was pushing over the current in the opposite direction and waves were literally slapping eachother in the face moving towards eachother from two different directions. one wind blown and the other current driven, a real salt water battle field. Also the distance became very short and poor Zoonie did not have time to rise from one trough before the next hit her, the result was very uncomfortable for a few hours.
Fortunately, as the night progressed the sea calmed down, presaging a wind change albeit a very gradual one to the north allowing the reefed mainsail to start working and stop clattering.
Day 7 - Dynamics driven by weather and position are changing. Psychologically this is our last full day which presents mixed emotions for me anyway as I love passage-making but cannot wait to explore Santa Maria. The wind veers so we can sail, that lifts spirits like nothing else. Engine off and Zoonie has her own mind about her course. So we use discretion and let her settle into her sailing groove 20 degrees south of her desired course. Then with the subtlety for which he is renowned (!) skipper inches her round with the Hydrovane until she is on course, under full sail, beneath a sunny sky. Calm is restored below where any tasks become comfortably do-able. The stuff of real cruising.
It brought us to thinking about another possible ARC Rally, ARC Rally Macronesia, not paying any regard to practicalities, just choices of route to chosen places which becomes possible with a circuitry route. By studying the weather patterns from the beginning of the year a choice can be made to do the rally clockwise or anticlockwise, avoiding the problems with the headwinds we had this year. So the places would be as in the Rally Portugal plus Canaries, Madeira archipelago and the Azores either clockwise of anti-clockwise. If the Azores High is weak, as it appears to be this year, the rally could be done the other way round to use the southerlies we had this year. Just a thought.