All Bent Out of Shape

Wed 19 May 2021 13:52

All Bent Out of Shape

After rolling gunwale to gunwale for the last few miles at sea, imagine the relief an almost flat harbour water surface brought to these three weary souls. Having filled in the arrival form for the covid test we knew we would be waiting another two days before we would be tested, as we arrived on a Saturday, but to us that was fine because what is another two days on top of 36 eh??

We completed some chores; it’s surprising how mucky a boat gets just from the two on board, imagine if we were six arggh. The washing fluttered furiously beneath the bimini as the fresh, gusty wind blew hard all day and it is cool now. The floor is cool to the bare foot and the air outside requires a fleecy top to combat the chill. I was grieving for our lost tropics, the warm Polynesian sun and the South Atlantic warmth. Rob’s hand touch no longer felt like a steam iron and we rummaged for our warm leggings. When we leave here, we could head north, or we could head south. Worry not, we are homebound.

Pretty, red-hulled Jori is alongside the harbour wall with the two masted schooner Avonhuur moored ahead of her with her 20’ bowsprit looming above Jori’s decks. Henk and Marjolein will stay in a nearby hotel for a week before flying home for Henk to get his essential treatment.

Monday afternoon we are collected, along with the crew from two other boats and taken to the cruise terminal, where armed police march us around to the small areas cordoned off for the tests to be carried out, one up the nose and one down the throat.

Back on Zoonie we decided to try and find a mooring spot a little closer to the harbour and circled a few times finding that space was very limited. From leaving South Africa to arriving here our windlass has decided to stop functioning, after all the hours and effort Rob and Werner put into fixing it, it was a mean blow.

Rob suggested one spot and despite my saying we would drift back too close to a French yacht, he wanted to try it. The visual perspective from the cockpit is different to that from the bow. Pulling in twenty metres of chain and then the anchor is more than I could do and Rob was struggling. What about his heart I wondered, my faith lay in the surgeons’ skill? This was the third time we had to retrieve it and I did what I could by motoring Zoonie forward so she would sit directly above the anchor, as far as I could see from my position behind the wheel in the cockpit anyway and Rob would not have to add Zoonie’s drag to the equation. It was beginning to look as if a return to our original spot was the only option.

“Anchor’s clear of the bottom, you can start moving,” Rob said, so I cautiously started to circle back over an area I knew to be safe in readiness to turn and re-position us for anchoring when suddenly Zoonie’s bow plummeted towards the water surface; I put the gear lever into reverse in a cloud of blue smoke so we would not ride forward and get further ensnared, Zoonie obediently came to a stop. Rob commented later that he thought the anchor was much further off the seabed than that, but of course who knows what obstructions were sitting on the seabed, like a massive chain.

Our faithful Delta anchor was not quite the shape it should be when it finally surfaced, the shank well bent over so that when viewed from above on board it looked as if the flukes were saying ‘Are you coming down with me then?!”

Just then the harbour launch arrived and a confident mariner told us we could not anchor there as it was too near the small ships’ quay. This I understood having watched the very careful manoeuvring of a small cargo ship as it left, backwards down the narrow channel remaining between quayside fishing boats and other anchored yachts.

Rob said we could not anchor for reasons that were staring the harbour master in the face from our bow, so the HM said we could pick up the buoy, no problem.

So that is where Zoonie is comfortably and securely moored now, the only yacht out of the two from St Helena and the many yachts and catamarans from the Caribbean to be on a mooring. And here we will stay for as long as we can; while everyone else is desperate for a marina berth, Zoonie as usual is quite happy relying on her own resources. Ironically, as we have discovered, our mooring buoy is most probably attached to one of those massive chains that lie across the harbour bed to the outer quay and on which Zoonie’s anchor became caught up and bent out of shape in the first place.

A new day, a new start; yesterday we prepared to go ashore and while I wrote a blog Rob inflated and launched the dinghy and then I lowered the motor down to him using the billy.

With just a little fuel in the tank I noticed it spreading over the water and commented on the leak. The motor started beautifully but Rob turned it off quickly and found the leak in the fuel pipe. “It would probably get us just across to the harbour.” He said optimistically, “Tell me you are joking,” I implored.

Rob rowed us ashore with the ships papers and passports and clearing in was conveniently done all in the one building, the marina office with the help of three charming Portuguese officials.

Armed with information on the location of Mid Atlantic Yacht Services, ‘Your Azorean Connection’ we went to see Marjolein for a coffee and chat and then made our way to MAYS who were all positive, it not being the first time a recently bent anchor was brought to them I am quite sure and it won’t be the last!!!, they could help us with both of our problems and we should bring them ashore to the marina where they would be collected by Marcel in his little white van.

You can just imagine this on a speeded-up film. We then rowed back to Zoonie, I lowered said anchor over the bow into the tender using the free drop of the windlass and the lever to control speed, didn’t want to add a sunken dinghy to our list of woes, and did the same (again) with the motor. A quick lunch of peanut butter and jam on Ryvita, remember the film is still on fast forward, and off we row back into the marina.

You can slow the film now; with the delivery complete we made our way along the pretty, typically Azorean street, cobbled with dressed volcanic rock, around the corner away from the harbour and on to a conventional tarmac road up the hill a short way to Continental supermarket for fresh fruit, salad veg, bread, paprica and most importantly, this time, tonic water!

Our legs were loving the exercise as we detoured on our return toward the quay and straight into Pete’s Café Sport and here you can slow the film even further as we settled into our seats on the raised outside veranda overlooking the water for that very long-awaited beer, in this case San Bock Dark Stout and cake, a thoroughly decadent chocolate donut that even had the cheek to stick its tongue out at the camera lens.

Marjolein’s hot, home made soup with a fresh soft, drooling yet? white bread roll, comprised supper, followed by a shared sweet orange and the two US Election episodes of West Wing accompanied by Bain’s smooth South African Whisky by way of a nightcap and you have our first day of freedom ashore in Horta after our mid-Atlantic odyssey. Cheers.