The Best Laid Plans …
37° 9.3’N 43° 0’W
Well it doesn’t do to get too complacent, does it? There we were, finally making some reasonable time and distance, enjoying the good wind conditions and planning to be in Horta not too far behind the rest of the ARC fleet – hopefully still on our target of the 31st. The sea gods thought otherwise. Friday night saw strong squalls from the east, combined with the problem of not being able to furl our headsail (we’d had to replace a frayed furling line with a spare spinnaker halyard that wasn’t really right for the job) and we were forced to run south for the whole night. It’s painful to go backwards, losing those hard-won miles, but it’s even worse under such horrible conditions, with big swells slapping us sideways every few minutes. We couldn’t have been more alone, or further from help, right in mid-Atlantic. Times like this are a test of character – Terry held the fort, I had a meltdown and, unbelievably, Padraig had a good sleep!
After the storm comes the calm – so we’ve just had a full night of motoring in very light winds, but at least we’ve been heading in the right direction. And now, at last, the wind has come up to about 16 knots, we’ve turned off the engine and we’re making about 4.5 knots on a heading a little north of our course line. We’re probably looking at an arrival on June 2, which means we’ll miss the start of the Azores cruise. We just want to get there safely, without further drama or damage. Lots of love to any friends and family watching our progress – we’re doing OK and looking forward to catching up with you on-line soon.
‘We joined the Navy to see the world,
And what did we see?
We saw the sea.’ (South Pacific)
That about sums it up: we’ve seen a lot of sea. In all its moods from calm to calamitous, from a dream of surfing dolphins and soaring shearwaters to a nightmare of inky peaks and canyons.
It feels as though we’ve made very slow progress – well behind the ARC fleet, most of which have arrived in the Azores or will do so shortly. This is due, I guess, to a combination of inexperience, minor misfortunes and a boat untested in open ocean conditions. But hey! We’ve sailed over 1400 nautical miles on this passage (plus 900 to Bermuda before that, 400 through the Bahamas & 1200 down the US East Coast) and we’re ‘almost’ there! We’re all reasonably intact, aside from the usual sailor’s array of colourful bruises; Common Sense seems to be holding together (with the help of a lot of ropes and bits of gaffer tape); we’re well fed and still on speaking terms, and as far as I can tell, no-one is barking mad just yet. We’ve managed some very scary episodes with teamwork and good humour. I think we’re doing OK.
Tuesday night: another horrible storm with winds gusting to 50 knots and big following swells. A pin holding the boom in place was shorn away with an awful crash and clatter. Paddy identified and fixed the problem in no time, despite the driving rain and screaming wind. What a legend!
380 miles to go. Beam me up Scotty.
PS Padraig says the rum is running out and he requests an urgent airdrop.
Well we finally tootled into Horta Marina after seventeen and a half days at sea, well behind the rest of the ARC fleet but relatively intact – just a slight rip in the mainsail and a shattered windscreen in the dodger to show for our battle with the elements. We really appreciated the warm reception – cheers and greetings all the way in from the breakwater, and a lovely cold beer from the guys on Miss Carol. We missed all the Rally festivities on Horta, but made up for it with a few days of sightseeing, eating and drinking on this lovely island. We took the ferry over to Pico, and of course Padraig is now determined to return to climb the volcano. Actually we’re all keen to come back to Azores – there is obviously a lot more to see and do than we had time for this time around. Not to mention the great bread, cheese, wine, olives and fish, and the friendly local people.
The Azores Rally left the day after we came in – we needed a rest and Common Sense needed a bit of attention, AND we had to paint our bit of the seawall - so we didn’t go. We thought of joining up again in Sao Miguel, but in the end decided on a cunning plan to sail straight from Horta to Lagos in Portugal. We slipped away on the afternoon of Wednesday 6th. After the high winds off Pico, there was very little wind at all for a day or so, so we motor-sailed. Today (8th) has been a lovely day, fine with 18 knot winds from the south west allowing us to make over 6 knots all day. Let’s hope for more of the same, so we can be in Lagos AHEAD of the fleet. With a bit of luck this time we’ll be the ones cheering from the breakwater and supporting the bar at all the parties.