DAY NINE: Friday, May 13th
Up until now, the weather has more-or-less cooperated with us. OK, there were a few frightening electrical storms and we did have to run away from the water spouts, but once we were a day out of Bermuda, at least there was wind.
Our updated weather forecast says that there is a high-pressure system over the Azores that is creating easterly winds. All this time I was lead to believe that there were trade winds in the south that blew east and westerlies in the north that took you to Europe. But not for us. At least not this year. The wind is blowing us back to North America, so we’ve got two choices:
- Move a little further south so that when we get to the Azores we will have more favorable winds and can make a left-hand turn and sail northwards.
- Continue on our current course and motor into the Azores once we hit the easterlies.
We spend most of the day talking about what to do. How much fuel do we have if we decide to motor (ie how long can we motor for)? But as we are talking the wind begins to shift to the east. At the beginning of our conversation the wind was from the south, but by the end of the day it is from the southeast, the future is upon us. With the wind from this direction, we can head east, but we can’t go any further south unless we motor. We all decide that we’d rather sail when we can and motor later. So we keep as close to the wind as we can and find that we are sailing more-or-less due east and can’t go south at all. In fact just heading east without going a little north is a challenge. When I look at the weather forecasts, it is clear to me that we’ll be heading straight into the wind for the last 300+ nautical miles. That means tacking or turning on the engines is part of our future.
Ondine HATES sailing this close to the wind. Despite winds of 15-20 knots, Ondine moves along at 6 knots. As you take the wheel you can feel her begging to move off the wind so that she can leap across the waves at 9-10 knots. But we can’t let her. It sinks in that this trip is going to take much longer than we had hoped.
Normally we make about 175 nautical miles per day. Some trips we average over 200 miles per day. But now a couple of things have happened:
- Due to the winds, we are no longer sailing directly to the Azores, we are staying as far south as we can, and then as the wind moves more eastwards and we are forced to sail a more northerly route, we’ll be able to. This means we will be sailing about 2,100 nautical miles or more rather than 1,800 miles if you sailed the “rhumb line” (a direct route) to the Azores.
- Rather than averaging 8 knots we are averaging 6 – or maybe less. So the trip will take at least 25% longer.
So now we’re doing no more than 140 nautical miles per day. And I know that if we turn on the engines and motor straight into the wind, this will fall to 100-120 miles per day. This means that our trip will take more like two weeks rather than 10 days.
The crew is tired and wet and want to get there. The weather is grey. It’s been grey almost every day. We’re all a bit gloomy by the end of the day.
DAYS TEN and ELEVEN: May 14th and 15th
The Weekend: not that we’d know it!
Days have now become pretty meaningless. The crew is restless and everyone now wants to “get there”.
Then our (Emma-Kate and my) head (toilet) breaks. God if there’s one thing I don’t like fixing is the “black water” (sewage) systems on boats. It breaks right after it’s been used (#2) which means I have to use the shop vac to scoop up its contents and put it overboard. YUK. And these heads are less than a year old. I hope the warranty hasn’t expired…. We’ll see…
Pretty much all of our days are punctuated by visits with dolphins and that always cheers everyone up.
This is weekend was the best show we’ve seen. A pod of 50 or so dolphins spotted us and made a beeline directly to Ondie. When the first one arrived it promptly jumped about 20 feet in the air and did a spectacular spinning re-entry. To hell with those horrible sea-world places where they imprison dolphins for your enjoyment, seeing dolphins like this in their own element is FANTASTIC. Every time they show up the entire crew gets a shot of good humor. It is clear that the dolphins see us cheering them on and that they get a kick out of that too. How could anyone harm or lock up these amazing creatures?
We also saw whales this weekend. Emma-Kate saw a whale tail and the rest of us saw them briefly off the starboard stern. No spectacular jumps like the dolphins, but it moved us all just to see them.
I’m currently reading a book called “The Whale Warriors” by Peter Heller which chronicles the adventures of the eco-pirate ship Farley Mowat as it stalks the Japanese whaling fleet off Antarcica. Their INSANE Captain Paul Watson rams and sinks boats that kill whales. So I’m feeling particularly fond of seagoing mammals at the moment. (BTW: It’s a great read.)
And as if brought by the Dolphins, the winds pick up and shift (temporarily) to the north so Ondine gets to show what she can do. It’s only a squall, and it’s wet, but Steve, Dave and I all love to see Ondine go fast.
DAY TWELVE: Monday, May 16th
It’s happened, we have reached the easterlies. We have been “headed”, meaning the wind has moved around and forced us to move off course. We alter course sufficiently that we are now going nearly due north. We spend the morning trying to cheat the wind but we all know that the inevitable will happen. We will either have to tack which will mean it’ll take a REALLY LONG TIME to get to the Azores because we’ll be going nearly twice the distance, or we’ll turn on the engines and motor for the last couple of days. It’s not really a discussion; we all want to get there. Apart from being at sea now for 10 days, the crew have flights to catch, jobs to get back to, and would like to see the Azores for a day or two before departing. In preparation I have filled two “bladder tanks” full of diesel which we now have to transfer into the fuel tanks so that we get there under power. We plug in the fuel transfer pump and guess what: it blows up. Well not exactly explodes, but it certainly starts smoking and stops working. So now we’ve got 300 lbs of fuel in a big plastic bag that needs to get transferred on rolling seas into the tanks so that my engines can burn it.
Ahh the life of a sailor….
There’s much discussion about how to achieve this. We try a couple of different pumps I’ve got lying around, but none are really suited to the task. So we resort to gravity. We’ll move this huge bladder tank to the side of Ondine where it will be higher than the fuel tank, then we’ll place a hose inside the bladder tank and suck the fuel through it, and once it’s coming through we will place the hose in the tank and suction & gravity will do the rest. Of course we’ve got no volunteers to do the sucking part, so I get my trusty shop vac out and use it to prime the hose.
Here are some videos. It’s pretty comic. But it works.
Video 1: My introduction
Part II: Carrying the body-bag
Part III: Everything gets a little X-rated by this point. We’re all a little tired and punch. Viewers discretion is advised.
Part IV: Success!!
We are still sailing north. But by evening we’ve turned on the engines, altered course and are heading directly to the Azores on a bearing of 85 degrees. The wind is right on our nose. Thank God the seas are pretty flat. It’s a relief to be going in the right direction. But we are only getting there at 4-5 knots due to the headwind. No surprise. 2+ days of diesel engines ahead. I hate that.
DAY THIRTEEN: Tuesday, May 17th
It’s a quiet day today. Paloma makes some delicious brownies. Tracy bakes some fresh bread. And we have a very short very informal ceremony for my Father.
For those of you that don’t know, I wanted my Father to join me on this trip, but he got sick (cancer) and died earlier this year. (Insert link.) So I decided to take his ashes with me on this trip so he can “sail with me” to Greece where we will scatter his ashes with my Mothers on Mykonos, the island where we spent every summer from the mid 1960s until I went to college. (The rest of my family continued to go there until my Mother died in 1997. And now my sister and her family spend the summer months there every year.)
Here’s a link to the Eulogy I read at my Father’s funeral in February of this year:
The rest of our trip to Horta was pretty uneventful. We motored for almost two days. We had a bet to see who would see land first and one afternoon Emma-Kate popped her head up and said “who won”.
Everyone looks at her like she’s from Mars.
“Who saw land first?”
And there it was – right in front of us. Emma-Kate’s a winner!
We only put one of the bladder tanks into the boat, and so of course we ran out of fuel. But not until we were inside the harbour! So I just dropped the anchor and we’re here.
We crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 13 days. 3 days longer and many stories more than I expected. But now we’re in Europe. Gibraltar beckons.
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