May 10, 2015
At 7 am on Mother's Day we finally pulled out of Fort Liquordale. My old friend from high school who I have only seen maybe once or twice since 1986 has joined us for the passage to Bermuda. Tyler Gilbertie was always a sailing enthusiast and mentioned he would love to join on any passage several years ago. So, I figured I would ring him up, low and behold, he was available and excited to join.
He patiently waited on standby while one low pressure system after another passed through the mid Atlantic. On Friday May 8 I bought his airline ticket, he arrived the next afternoon and we were ready to depart at first light.
The first 4 days were the type you dream about as a sailor. 15-20 knots of southerly breeze and 3 knots of Gulf Stream current made the trip north quick and comfortable.
We caught a nice Mahi Mahi the second day out which Tyler reeled in to the boat. Jess hid below while the fishing took place. She loves fresh fish but prefers it from the market so there is no up close brutality involved. The fish tacos we had could not have been better.
Our weather router Susan Gannett provided a pretty thorough plan
We were to stay in the Gulf Stream current to about 30 degrees of latitude and then take a right for Bermuda, making our way more north than the rhumb line if possible.
We did the best we could to make north east but the the wind forced us to be close hauled the entire time and we ended up somewhat south of where we wanted to be. Nonetheless we made it into Bermuda on the seventh day, Sunday morning.
Tyler booked a return flight and we were contacted by Susan Gannett who said our weather window for the Azores was going to be for the 20th, only allowing us 2 days to re provision and fix a few items, re inspect rigging and do laundry. We went into over drive and were ready on time. Our friend Rich Walker would join us for the next leg, 1800 miles to the Azores.
May 20, 2015
Rich arrived Tuesday afternoon and we were in a mad scramble to be ready for early morning departure. Rich Walker is another high school friend that played hockey with me at Notre Dame. He has recently returned from a 6 year sabbatical in the Carribean with his wife Kate and son Toby aboard their sailboat. We are so thankful again to have a crew member helping us. We again would do a 3 hour rotating watch schedule which provides each person with a 6 hour sleep opportunity.
Leaving Bermuda we had light winds on the stern quarter. After about 3 hours they picked up to 15-20 and we had a great 3 1/2 days sail right on the rhumb line. Then the winds shifted to the north east and forced us to sail close hauled for 3 days in lumpy conditions. We ended up sailing North west for a while unfortunately losing some of that great east-ing we had made in the beginning.
On Monday, Memorial Day, we ended up motoring NNE trying to get to higher latitudes where we are likely to find more south westerly winds. The seas were like glass with only 2 knots of wind. We are seriously fuel conscious as we still have1200 miles ahead of us. Our router, Susan is saying we may need to go all the way to 42 degrees before turning east for the Azores. 42 is about equal with Plymouth Massachussets.
Kind of a bummer.
Moral on the boat is generally very good. It's when we have lumpy uncomfortable conditions that we are all ready for landfall. As I write this we are motoring on a glass sea and hardly feel movement. All is comfortable. Jess goes about her daily routine which includes painting, drawing, working out, a game or two of cards, and is currently putting a steak dinner together. She is happy today as the motion is comfortable and she can do a few things she enjoys. Rich and I have been playing cards, sharing stories, sleeping (a lot), and eating. And a little TV and reading. All are currently really looking forward to arriving Flores but at the best scenario we have another 8 days. This passage with the right weather can be done in a total of 12 days, but can also take up to 3 weeks or more. So we will see what comes our way. We are expecting decent SW winds for a week so we are keeping our fingers crossed. More soon.
May 29, 2015
The weather pattern originally predicted us going to 40 degrees north, then heading east, then moved up to 42 degrees north before heading to the east. We got up to 42 degrees and found the winds going in the right direction yet light.
Our grib files are telling us go even farther North. We are currently at close to 43 degrees north and FINALLY found the south westerly wind in the 11-13 knot range. In order to sail east now we have to go close to dead down wind, our slowest point of sail. So we deployed a new weapon we rarely have used, the asymmetrical spinnaker. This sail is a free floating kite that attaches at the top via the halyard up the mast, the tack on the front of the boat and the clew via a block on the aft quarter. It literally floats out in front of Cadence like a large kite. This has proven to be the most effective way to go. We are currently making 6 knots going east with wind almost directly on the stern. We are very excited to finally be making solid progress toward The Azores. We have a minimal flat sea state, dense ground fog and the crew is happy!
At night we get a small flock of bird visitors that circle the boat for hours making a high pitched laughing sound. We felt like they were mocking us as we wallowed along. Yesterday we had an impressive sea world show when in the distance we saw a large pod, maybe 10-15, of small whales barreling along.
Once they heard us going through the water, the whole pod changed direction and came toward the boat at a high rate of speed. They were Atlantic Pilot whales and stayed with us for about an hour. Sometimes getting very close. We could hear their singing noises as they played near us. What a treat.
Today we will be keeping our course under the bright blue and yellow kite that flies high over head pulling Cadence along at a steady clip. We are about 875 miles from Flores, Azores, 270 miles from the closest point of land which is the most eastern part of North America, the island of Newfoundland and just skirting the Grand Banks. We never thought in a million years we would be taking this route to cross the Atlantic but it's our beast option. All is good.
May 31, 2015
The winds died to near zero as a small high pressure system passed us going east. We were forced to use some precious diesel fuel and motor along. We carry 105 gallons of diesel and an extra 10 gallons in jerry jugs. We burn roughly a gallon an hour and motor at approximately 6 knots. Our total range under power is 725 nautical miles. We also need the diesel for the generator as well, which keeps our batteries topped up so we can run all the electronics, refrigerator and freezer, so the range is really less. We currently have about 1/4 of our fuel remaining so motoring keeps us all concerned and wishing for the free wind power we need. Cadence is also much more comfortable and fast under sail then power.
Our grib files show wind coming our way at 3 pm on the 29 and building to 15-20 knots out of the west. We started with the asymmetrical sail and flew along for a few hours until we started getting gusts over 20 knots and then changed up to our Genoa and main sail in a wing on wing figuration. We used our Hydrovane to stear Cadence along dead down wind doing 7-8 knots. What a great overnight sail finally ticking off some miles headed east. This morning I'm waiting for Jess or Rich to wake up so we can again go back to the asymmetrical sail as our wind is down to 11-14 knots. We are approximately 650 miles from Flores, overcast gray skies. Our latitude is equal with about Toronto Canada. Never thought we would end up this far north. Looking forward to landfall.
June 2, 2015
The weather has been changing at least once a day. We find ourselves in lulls with 4-6 knots, then the wind fills in with 18-20 from a solid direction for hours, then wind shift again. Change change change, we hate change. But we are getting very proficient at changing sails and tweaking to get everything at best performance. Actually maybe I'm exaggerating. Sometimes we don't touch the sails for a 24-48 hours but lately it's all change.
We caught a nice tuna the other afternoon. Much needed for the freezer as we have no more fish. We took enough meat off this guy to last us a while. We immediately made some rice and enjoyed a sushi lunch.
We are closing in on the Azores now as we have about 300 miles to go and expect landfall either Thursday night or Friday morning. It's strange how the days here melt into one another. They go by very quickly. We are all anxious to make landfall. A nice walk on stable land and a bourbon rocks is in order. When we are underway we are a dry boat and we have been at sea now for 2 weeks since Bermuda. Although we keep a nice watch schedule, 3 hours on and 6 off, we are all tired and looking forward as well to uninterrupted sleep.
June 5, 2015
For the last 2 days we have had good winds and made the rhumb line for Flores. On approaching this beautiful lush green mountainous island we were welcomed by a few large whales. We sailed with e head sail only as the wind was right on the stern and dropped sails right at the entrance to this little harbor. We arrived around 6:30 am, but for the three of us time had little meaning. We had all become accustomed to a 3 hours on 6 off schedule that rotated each day and there was no day or night, just 24 hours per day. We dropped anchor under a huge cliff of rock with one other boat from Holland. Then we started celebrating. Bourbon for Rich and I, beer for Jess. We had a few cocktails and decided since we were all exhausted we would take a 5 hour energy so we could continue on with the celebration. After a few hours we went to customs to check in, well Jess did the check in, Rich and I were not in any condition to speak with the authorities. We went into town for some food, a few more beers and then made our way back to Cadence. We were all somehow able to continue on until probably 10 or 11 that night. Must have been the endorphins and 5 hour energy combo that kept us going. Rich had a mantra that you can't be drunk all day unless you start early, and early we did.