Terceira to La Coruna, waiting for the wind and wondering what the night will bring.
DTG 30nm or about 6 hrs having crossed the 30 mile wide and very busy shipping separation zones off Finisterre. ETA about 0630 so in keeping with almost all our arrivals it’s a night time thing! Making 7.5 to 8.5kn for the last 24 hours but wind gradually easingfrom F5 to 3/4 as we head along the north shore. Visibility became poor as soon as the sun started to set and is due to remain that way. We have now crossed our 2013 track completing our circle of the north Atlantic; whether of any significance we have no idea and we will have to see if it gives rise to any level of focus in the days ahead.
We set the sails at 5am last night in the magic 11-12kn wind range provided we headed onto a reach. The wind was due to veer so we took the gamble. Initially we were making 6kn toward Cork, then gradually Falmouth, Brest and finally with the wind stable from the NW, La Coruna. By 9am the wind had died again and we were making 1.5kn! We were very close to choosing the drift about and wait option but as the rig wasn’t banging too much we just tightened our course to windward and left things as they were. Wind filled in again at 11am and we have had one blip since then but otherwise making about 6kn toward Spain. La Coruna? Maybe but right now we are being set south so we may land in a Ria. But that would leave negotiating Cap Finisterre on the table so tomorrow we will look closely at how to get a bit further north. It could be that there is a mini-transat race of some kind going on as two 7m sailing vessels have passed us today heading toward the Azores. 7m? We think these guys are amazing. Of course they are going faster than us! DTG 194nm La Coruna.
So this was supposed to be a short 1,200nm run in the prevailing southwesterlies straight to Brest. Started that way making 8-9kn but then 36 hours later and puff the wind had blown itself out. Then the exhaust hose starts to rule out motoring as a pinhole leak deteriorates. So today was spent tapping away at the 328nm distance to La Coruna at 2.8 to 3.5kn in a 7-9kn wind. That was when the going was good. Then nightfall came and the wind dropped again to about 4kn. We had to take down all sail and the choice was to drift or tickover in grear and see how it goes. So here we are motoring at 2.8kn with 313nm to go (ETA 4 days time) after about 18 hours travel. If we stop then we will just roll in the swell so movement means a little stability. Wind is scheduled to arrive tomorrow.
This was only supposed to be a small stretch with just 1,200nm to do at most even if we headed to Falmouth. But now, after motoring at 5kn for almost two days and seeing the curved horizon all round us for 36 hours the ocean seems endless. The engine hammers on and we would all like to have the wind put it out of it’s misery. But the dead zone is getting quieter still as the wind sits on our tail peaking at 3.5kn. Coastal cruising is one thing but the endless pounding of the rig and gear in the swell of the ocean is something altogether different. Even without sailing the hours of rocking gently seek out weaknesses in systems, joints, ropes and rigging. We have a vital bolt which holds the in-boom furling universal joint together, one of two, and it spends it’s life trying to escape. As it lives in an environment dominated by rotation it uses the slightest rocking motion to slowly unthread itself. I have to tend to it often but can only get a large screwdriver on it when the main is fully out. Clearly the joint was designed by an engineer and not a sailor as there is no means of locking the bolt beyond threadlock (in which it shows no interest). Another piece to redesign when we get home. Passed a bunch of dolphin fishing today. They circled a school whilst smaller ones leapt out of the water and crashed down on the outer edges of the circle to keep the fish ensnared. We are passed by one ship per day but as we close Finisterre we should see more and then eventually we will cross the TSS on the point. Wind is due in about 24 hours. DTG 416nm
Started motoring this morning and now the grib files show a 600 mile wide corridor with no significant wind for the next six days…and we are firmly in the middle of the windless band all the way to Brest. Do we want to motor 900 miles? A check in the engine room suggests that the flexible hose from the engine exhaust to the silencer box has developed a pin hole leak so best to avoid motoring altogether. The hose has become brittle with age. A long review of the weather patterns are followed by the decision to divert to northern Spain to wait for winds to cross Biscay and save on 300 miles of propulsion. Right now that’s still a 550nm run with perhaps a little wind closer to the coast. The westerlies that we need are far to the north west and way out in the Atlantic such that if we went deeper into the ocean we could be left with the same problem yet further offshore. Ireland would then become the favoured route. Go north? It’s a bit chilly. We are still in t-shirts even at night but generally wear long trousers now round the clock, sometimes a light jacket in the humidity of the daytime fog. Of course the other option is to sit and drift with the tide and wait for wind but with a need for 15kns plus to get moving it could be a long wait. The Azores high looks to be well established. Not sure what it does to the air but we spend most of the day in fog with visibility sometimes down at several hundred yards. A bit grey. A bit gloomy. On the plus side the coke shims bound by a cable tie are in place on the gooseneck so if we get a steady breeze we are ready to rock.
Day 1 Azores to Brest (or somewhere nearby) and with the marina re-stocked with diesel we took on just over 600 litres before heading out. Each island has proved difficult to leave behind and Terceira was no different. Not the best island for restaurants (we walked out of two, Marcelinos Steakhouse and The Patio!) but the museums and cathedrals were terrific. It was very tempting to swing south to Sao Miguel but a weather window is a weather window! We couldn’t believe our hull’s performance through the water as we glided along the south of the island. Upon leaving St Martin we struggled to make 4 knots and gradually over a few hundred miles the hull self polished but we never achieved the levels of performance that we are now getting. We can only put this down to the fish cleaning service in the Azores as they have been pecking away at the hull for five weeks now. So why the 1970’s Eurovision title for today’s blog? After nearly 9,000 miles the boom has developed play at the gooseneck and with each roll in the waves when the swell is more powerful than the wind it rises and then falls with a bang, like dropping a bowling ball from three storeys. It looks as though the couple of mm of paint and epoxy primer each side of the friction bearings on the vertical pin have worn so there is now maybe 4mm of vertical play in the system. The current question is how to shim this gap? We carry delrin sheet so we could in theory cut a new washer but nobody is taking the main load pin out of the gooseneck at sea! Looking at alternatives; wrapping with thin bits of braided line, seizing wire, making open ended washers from margarine tubs. Nothing convincing came to mind when all of a sudden up popped a possible fix; making thin aluminium shims out of coke can sides which are open ended but of a shape and size that they will wedge in place. This is an idea for sunrise tomorrow. DTG Brest 900nm
We set our departure date for Wednesday, yesterday, but it was far too beautiful to go. So we moved it forward 24 hours.
We set off for northern Spain this morning. We let go the lines and travelled down the marina fairway along the wall to Reception and the Fuel Pontoon. Just fill up with about 600 litres and then book out and we are away by 11am on our 950nm passage.
Fuel Pontoon. Diesel? Yep. Passes me the hose and the nozzle is in the tank. Pull the lever and the oil fuel rushes into the tank. Lock the lever in the open position and let the litres flow…..a long job usually except in Gibraltar where they can adjust delivery rates. Tick, tick, up goes the litre counter. Then it all goes quiet, the counter stops. Release and press the lever. A little diesel is delivered. ‘Have you run out?’. Hang on let’s reset it. Anything? No. Just a minute I will ask the boss……We are out of fuel……We have 5 tonnes being delivered today. Was due at 8am but now not until this afternoon and the truck has to stop and settle for two hours before filling our tank. Will it actually arrive?
So we moved from the pontoon on the right in the picture to the hammerhead, or about 30ft. Try again tomorrow; 3rd time lucky?