And the rough night turned to a rougher day. How can waves that size develop on the back of 20kn wind? It was getting big in the afternoon and we were already facing being unable to make Brest simply because we were unable, and unwilling, to climb the wave faces. But at around 6pm the wind dropped to 10kn, the waves mellowed, the tide turned and life has been OK since then. The wind bounced back to 20kn, backed to WNW, and now we are on easy street fro a run to Brest with about 140nm to go. Fingers crossed the next tidal change doesn’t cause a re-think and that shallow waters across the shelf at least maintain this composure. We started eating a little for the first time after a day and a half, straight from the tin. Food from Guadalupe. Sounds exotic and it’s hard to believe we were ever there!
Nobody wanted to leave La Coruna and we had to force ourselves to let go the lines; what an amazing city in August. And I can vouch for the medical facilities and staff as well. Up until about 40nm offshore everyone wanted to U-turn but there is a point far enough from the shoreline that breaks the tie. We held onto our Caribbean experience and put a reef in the main as we left the marina. Within 500 yards the wind dropped from 15 knots to not much. As everyone else raced around under full sail we found it hard to stay as we were but we wanted to wait to see what the point would deliver. The speed crept up. the wind filled in and suddenly we were having to reef in 25kn of wind. That then became 35kn and we are now deeper reefed in the main than we have ever been. The sea was running large when out came Finisterre traffic with the news that Gale Force 8 and rough seas were expected for the next nine hours. We thought about hiding in a Ria but we have been in heavy weather before so headed for deep water. So far it’s been a rough night, we have had some lightning, and the wind has been mainly in the 18 to 28kn band. We are holding our course for Brest and expecting things to ease a bit around noon tomorrow. Sleep has not been possible due to sail changes but there’s always a chance of a nap in the morning…
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
A big thank you to all who emailed us at sea. It eased the journey and on the ocean is the equivalent of TV, Internet, dinner with friends, and Cinema all rolled into one. A tremendous thanks to our amazing shore team who never missed a beat and emailed every day. It was so appreciated. We will be publishing photos from the voyage over the next few days.
The boat that overtook us on our last night was a 1984 Moody looks like a 425 and boy did those guys get some performance from it! We later started closing on them but we were reaching 10kn speeds and closing the island too fast in the dark so we reefed to main only and 6-7kn. Gradually Faial emerged from the dawn and we ran down the south coast. The sea roughed up as closed the channel between Faial and Pico. With the island backlit by the rising sun the channel itself was a little obscure.
We arrived opposite the harbour entrance at about 6am and anchored at the back of the fleet. As the marina opened and yachts called in it was clear that both the marina and anchorage were at capacity. No room! No room! We knew there was no way we were getting to shore in a hurry so we didn’t call in to announce our arrival. I went to sleep at anchor at around 10am, I guess, after our bacon, eggs and beans. A couple of hours later we got an unexpected VHF call. Uh oh, I thought, I am anchored in the wrong place. But the man on the radio said do you want to come into the marina? That was a surprise; they must have picked me up on AIS? So they sent an angel in a yellow rib who knocked on the hull. ‘Come with me I want to show you the place we have for you in the marina!’ Fantastic. So off we went to the southern most part of the harbour where he told a couple of boats to move up and create a space. ‘There you are, and there is Peter’s Cafe just above you’. Now that’s service!
On the way back to the boat a tug had pulled in a large cat, both engines failed due to dirty Carib fuel, and pushed it against the quay – just as well his tender had 115hp outboard!
Keen to hit the shore we were ready to move in no time. The sky, already grey, went black. The wind began to howl and the rain started. Ah this is the kind of Europe we know so well. In the downpour we edged into the berth on the quayside (nothing beats stepping onto land after a couple of weeks at sea), we whipped round to the office for their ultra slick clearing in, and with the ship a stone’s throw from Peters we dived in to the sailors bar. You can guess the rest – actually the kitchen was closed – but the place erupted when ARC yacht Beagle recognised us. We had a long chat. The cold draught Super Bock slipped down, then the Pico red wine (spicy), then the port and cheese, and after much chatter about the journey, our new home, our new surroundings, then I woke up roughly where I had started 24 hours before not rocking, not rolling, not being thrown around with the autopilot going whirr whirrr around my head!
On arrival we had tied to the quay not thinking for a moment about tide. Now we are several feet down and somehow the ropes are OK – phew!