Preparing my boat for another crossing

I’m almost finished preparing my boat for another crossing of the Atlantic. I have replaced most of the standing rigging, which has been standing for more than 20 years. And to do it, I’ve been up and down the mast a dozen times. Earlier in the season, with the lighter winds then, this would have been a breeze. But, of course, I’ve waited until the last few weeks to start the work, and my luck with finding moments of clear weather for hanging the new shrouds has been as thin as my wallet after buying the materials to prepare it all. Even my windvane has received a little care and feeding. And it’s amazing how a few new and shiny pieces of stainless can make the rest of the boat look like crap. So I bought two cans of paint, and I’ve put them under my pillow (ok, really in the storage under my bunk). When the Paint Fairies show up, I expect the painting to be done and a quarter for each empty can back under my pillow .

The Atlantic weather pattern this season has been odd. The Azores High, the standard pressure system that sets the path of the east going trades, has stayed well north of the Azores. The results are headwinds sailing towards those islands. So, without heading much farther north than my usual route, my normal landing in Flores might not happen at all his year. That would be 2 seasons gone without a sign in Flores and they’ll think I’m dead. I might even miss the Azores all together and take 2 tacks nonstop to the Canaries. With the excitement of new and exotic untried passages in my future, I’m very glad to have some stronger support helping to keep my mast up.

More when I arrive.

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Postings Delayed

Yes, since my last post, I’ve actually sailed from Portimao to Las Palmas, then back to Saint Martin via the Cape Verde islands.

But posting those entries has been held up by the censors.

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10 Jul 2012 depart Santa Maria Azores 19 Jul 2012 arrive Portimao Portugal 831 miles.

I’ve a slight hangover from a few drinks with the guys up in town last night. The engine lift pump is dead (impossible to find anything here) but gravity feed straight from the tank seems to be working just fine. The northeast wind I arrived on is still around here at force 5 and gray clouds dominate the overhead.  One reef in the main and the jib out to start with. Already I’m hard on the wind. The new sails are really sweet. This would have been a bit more work with the old sails. 3 days out and the wind is backing to the north and has settled to force 4. But I have to follow it because I’ve dropped a little south in the current, so I’m still close on a port tack. After 2 days the wind is veering to the northeast and has built to force 7 without a cloud in the sky and I’m down to a double reefed main and a #2 jib. This sucks!  200 miles from land and the wind is back down to 5. The night before I will cross the shipping lanes off Cape St. Vincent I heave too for a few hours to make the lane crossing in daylight and for some extra sleep. I’ve crossed these shipping lanes here 3 or 4 times before but this is my first time with AIS. You can look on my Photos page for some shots of the AIS display from Nimble Navigator to get an idea of the traffic around this corner of Europe. AIS made this a walk in the park. I really, really, really, really, really recommend having AIS. Sighted land at 1700 and anchored in Portimao at 0039. 8 days close to the wind is not the sailing I like. Still, it’s better than no sailing at all.

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05 Jun 2012 depart St. Martin 05 Jul 2012 arrive Santa Maria Azores 2490 miles.

Weather sucks! You’d think it wouldn’t be so much to ask from the weather gods for a crossing with 15 knots of steady quartering wind on a flat sea under a sunny sky. But I guess that the gods pay little attention to me any more. Another French bridge departure and the Scrub Island Exit out into clear water. Short, hard squalls are the dogs that greet me at the gate. I’ve bought a new set of sails while in St. Martin, main, jib, and staysail. Already they are getting a workout. But three days of long naps and movies made for a good start with 4’s and 5’s out of the east and southeast. The winds have come down to 3’s and I can make pancakes. I’ve acquired the Tres Orvilles. Frontal shifts are starting to bring clouds and some rain. Middle of the night on the 9th a mayday call from a yacht in my area brought the radio chatter to life. Three ships around me responded and I kept a close watch myself until the cancelation was called. In the middle of it all, the ship ‘Loncamilla’ came within 2 miles of my position (24N 59W) to ask if I was the yacht needing help. I never heard the outcome for the distressed yacht. Thunder and lightning the next day. Spares in the oven. Wind and rain in squalls and a lot of water strikes around me. Now 24 hours of lightning around me and the passing squalls have lumped the sea. Winds coming down to 3’s and 4’s and no sign of the Orvilles. Wefax predictions have placed some gale strength lows to the north of me, so I’m keeping a more east north east course for now with a wind from the south. Wind still light. Now one of the lows up north has moved my direction and given me a bit more wind. I see one of the Orvilles is still with me. Good Sunday breakfast (no, not Orville!). Wind’s down to 2. Jul 18 and less than 1000 miles to go for Flores. One of the lows up north has formed into Tropical Storm Chris, this sucks!  But the wind has built to force 5 and veered to the southwest. I have to stay south of Chris so I’m heading due east for a while. 23 Jun and the wind has built to a force 8 gale with total cloud cover and some rain. Orville’s gone. But Chris is moving off and by the 29th the wind is down to 5 again with a little blue sky here and there. Very sloppy with the wind dropping. Over the next two days, the wind stays in the 4’s and 5’s but first comes west and then around to the northwest. This looks better (hold that thought). Now the wind is coming lighter and veering to the north and finally northeast force 4. I’m headed more or less east. Flores is 200 miles northeast of me but I’m not going to tack up there. Maybe the wind will change and I can lay one of the other islands. Horta now lays 120 miles north north west of me but the wind has dropped into the 1’s and 2’s, still northeast.  By Jun 2 the wind’s back in the 4 range but still out of the northeast and if i keep hard on a port tack I can just lay Santa Maria. 2 more days hard on the northeast wind under a partly blue sky and a night hove too off Santa Maria, but the afternoon of the 5th I’m there. All in all, not my best sail to the Azores. This is the first year that I haven’t stopped in Flores, but that northeast wind changed the plan. And with no good anchorage in Santa Maria, I had to stay in a marina. Not terribly expensive at 10 Euros a day, but still out of my budget for a long stay. So the planned 2 to 3 week stay in the Azores turned out to be only a 5 day stay on Santa Maria. Sailing long distances is a lot about flexibility.

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04 Jun 2012 Sailing back across the Atlantic

So, the season in St. Martin is finished. And it’s time for me to start the yearly trek across the Atlantic to the Canary Islands. My first landfall should be in the Azores on the island of Flores sometime in late June. Since I’ve not stopped in mainland Portugal for some years now, I’m planning to leave the Azores the last week of July and sail to the southern coast of Portugal, the Algarve. I hope to find that some of the folks I once knew there are still around. Then, around the end of August, I’ll leave Portugal for Gran Canaria. So soon I’ll have some more sailing entries to write into the log.

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26 Jan 2012 depart Las Palmas Gran Canaria 23 Feb 2012 arrive St. Martin 2956 miles.

After 8 seasons in and out of Las Palmas I find I’m sailing later each year. I can blame the wait on light and variable winds until the 25th but the real winds finally showed and the sad time came to leave this behind. Cleared the south of the island before dark. Still some traffic and costal slop, but I’m free of the land. First morning, the wind’s gone a little light. Pico del Teide on Tenerife clear until noon, an almost 100 mile crystal view and Hiero just visible as a fuzzy spot in the north away 45 miles. Only a slip of the moon shows above the sunset now. And no more than sunlight and sea out here in the morning. Wind is failing. 3 days of wind speeds up and down but now blowing steady force 5. A day of six and slop and a jib old in miles shredding. Hank on my #2 Red, older in years but wiser. Days of programming a new Nimble version, good starboard tack work. Wind holds on 5. Good sea and sunny skies. Perfect conditions down below in the cabin. Slammed by a rogue greenie, wet and wet inside and damn the open ports. Monty unhinged by the force, but a quick repair I know already. More days of five with clouds and passing rain. Programming when I’m not fiddling a reef in or out of the main. Caught fish, ate cow. A squall opened a seam in the main, only a few stitches needed. The cloth is still strong. More days of programming. Gone is the wind. Birds around now. Must be just a few days more. Did I say I needed wind ? Working on the computer when the boat is flat is easy. This VMG/CPA display is a better idea than I thought. Almost impatient now and slowing to make land on a morning sea breeze. Anchor short of the bridge before the lift and breakfast in the pan. And I’m here.

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22 Aug 2011 depart Funchal Madeira 24 Aug 2011 arrive Las Palmas Gran Canaria 281 miles.

Festival time with 3 nights of LOUD music here. We took a day and rode a local bus up to the center of the island. The land was all green and rock with deep canyons dropping straight down. Spectacular, but I’m more comfortable with sea level. Ex-strangers Diana and Jim here, folks I hope to meet again. Slow start. Wind light and variable, 6 hours for 15 miles. Now just dark, loud, and wild. Teaching Uli about simple one pan cooking. Good miles tonight. Daylight and no change. 20 knots on port quarter. Spot the Selvagens Islands just before dark. Another force 5 night and day. Never did see Tenerife. Just off Las Palmas at dark. Enough ships out here in the dark for a good demolition derby. Love AIS. Tied the lines and ran to Sailors Bar for a beer.

Note: If the latest photos look much better you can blame Uli.

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13 Aug 2011 depart San Miguel Azores 19 Aug 2011 arrive Funchal Madeira 534 miles.

Marina half empty here. And lumpy inside. Uli has arrived! Rented car for 3 days and we toured island. Much to see here, all very cool. Good to have Uli aboard. Southwest wind 4-5 to start. Decided not to stop in Santa Maria this year. Maybe time to visit one of the Canaries when we get close. Good first night but wind is going light. Uli’s cooking much better than mine. Very slow. 3 days now light and easy. Wind still southwest. Hooked a bonita, not worth eating. WeFax says change coming. Change is here, wind northeast and force 7. Seas getting up and sloppy. Uli not as comfortable now, but she’s doing ok. My turn to cook. Loud night, wild ride. Clear morning and wind down 5-6. Heading points to Madeira, why not stop? Decision made. Morning is yesterday’s twin. Just off west of Madeira at noon. Wind down to nothing. Seems Funchal is off the list, on to Canaries. Wind changes up to 2-3 and south-southwest. Back to Madeira. Monster 8 inch dorado attacks lure! (laugh and release). Moored in the Marina at Funchal just past dark. Dinner out.

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02 Aug 2011 depart Horta Azores 03 Aug 2011 arrive San Miguel Azores 150 miles.

History repeats! Second time on north and west of Pico, second foul dance. Crossing to run south of Pico on a southwest wind. Wind disagrees and turns southeast. Flying north between Faial and close to Pico on a 4 plus knot current. Wind hides along with steerageway. Overfalls northwest of me. Wind returns. Wind hides. Wind returns. Wind hides. Now made 10 miles good to the northwest corner of Pico and no current. There’s the wind, no, there, no, over there. Wind hides. Wind returns. Wind hides. Run, beat, reach. This sucks. Dark and now east of Pico. Wind back to the southwest and force 5. Major traffic, sleep light. Wind sticks and Porto Delgada before dark. Beer time!

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26 Jul 2011 depart Flores Azores 28 Jul 2011 arrive Horta Azores 131 miles.

A few boats here in Flores that I know. The new marina is done and is already almost crowded. More paint splashed on Tuntsa. Wind a little light leaving Lajes but seems stronger out here. No fish and the wind is dropping with the sun. Fishing boat lights out tonight but not many. Sails just hanging now and nothing to see under the sun. Flat, flat, flat. Sleep, sleep, sleep. Big fishing boat just buzzed me, just enough daylight left to see smiling faces. Sleep, sleep, sleep. Faial sitting in the sunrise. Dolphins and dolphin watching boats. Motoring. Arrived Horta and tied to half a berth. Contacted Nathan and Tanya, many years no see. Fish fiesta plans. Roy and Caroline here! Toured with Nathan and saw the house, very nice. Not enough time with Tanya and him. Fiesta, no fish. Roy and Caroline on route to LP as well.

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