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Antigua to Azores 2012

by Art on

Information

Sailing
195.00 hrs
Motoring
147.00 hrs
Total
342.00 hrs
Distance
2433.00 nm
Average
7.11 kts

The winter months have passed by too quickly. Since our arrival in the Caribbean last fall, we've enjoyed sailing and spending time with friends in the beauty of this idyllic part of the world. However, hurricane season is approaching (its official start date is the 1st of June) and like the migration of birds, sailing yachts are starting the long passage back to Europe. The tradition of doing an Atlantic Circuit has been around for hundreds of years. So we will begin our journey back from Antigua to the islands of the Azores in the first week of May.

We've been readying the yacht for this big passage and everything is in top condition. Joining Sean and I is my cousin Murray from Australia and Bruce from the UK. A solid group of sailors on a solid and well-proved yacht. The weather enroute will probably be more variable than what we encountered coming across last fall from the Canary Islands. The northern Atlantic can throw a lot of things our way so it will be a more 'interesting' passage.

Keep coming back to this page to check on our progress as we will be updating this article via satellite while we are en-route. Our plan is to retrieve email, get weather reports and update this page once per day.

Also, we have a YellowBrick unit on board that will send our position every four hours and you can check where we are at any moment by visiting our webpage on the YellowBrick website

04-May

Ready to start our return passage to Europe Departure day breaks to sunny, blue skies here in Falmouth Harbor, Antigua. We'll be doing a few last minute things like removing the outboard from the dinghy and hoisting it to its cradle for the passage. We picked up some nice bread at a local bakery yesterday and will be able to enjoy that for breakfast for a few days. Fruits, veggies, etc. are all stored in the forward berth and we have other provisions to allow us to make the long passage north east. We're all dressed in a our snappy shirts, we've completed out safety briefs, checked all the gear one more time and went over emergency procedures.

Both the boat and crew are ready to go! Thanks for the all the 'well wishs'! We'll be updating this passage daily as we go along.

06-May

Flat seas and no wind Sorry for the delay in posting but I've been sick and unable to get to do much at over the past few days. The good news is I got to check out our ability to call our Offshore Doctor and it worked well. He told me which prescription to take out of our emergency kit and I'm making a comeback.

As for our progress, we are in flat seas and no wind so we are motoring along and have 340nm under our belt. I discovered that if we set the motor at 1300 rpm rather than 1500 we used 1/2 the fuel and lose only one knot of speed. This technique brings us closer to doubling our motoring distance. We are expecting the winds to pick up as we get further north but in the meantime, motoring along in flat seas has made for easy sleeping.

Murray spotted some more whales way off the stern but it was hard to see them. We did get a pod of dolphins coming to play around the boat. Such amazing creatures, I love to have them visit us. A few minutes back, Sean hooked a giant marlin (or something with a sail) and fought it for a while then it broke off.

Life at sea isn't complete without some repairs and for some reason one of the main sail furling buttons got a life of its own and starting furling by itself. We'll replace it after Murray wakes up from his nap as the spare parts are under his bunk!

07-May

Wahoo fillets ready for the pan! Wahoo! We've had our fishing lines out late yesterday and had a good strike. After a 10 minute battle to get him to the boat we landed a 6.5kg wahoo. What a magnificent fish! In short order Sean had him filleted and we kept out enough for dinner last night and put two other meals away in the freezer.

Flat seas again and little wind but we are 25% of the way across now (500nm). There are no other boats around and we have the entire ocean to ourselves. What a privilege to be able to be out here enjoying how special it is. Once in a while dolphins come to visit otherwise we just read, talk and are enjoying the passage.

The virus we brought onboard in Antigua is making the rounds with Bruce catching it and now Sean. Murray seems impervious. Good on ya mate! I'm back to 100% and it feels good to be normal again.

08-May

The good news is that the wind started to build in from the west overnight. By the start of my 01:00 - 05:00 watch I had Bruce help me get the main boom snubbed off with a gybe preventer as I anticipated being able to let the main sail out a bit later in my watch. As it turns out I was able to get the genoa out as well and our SOG (speed over ground) shot up to 9+ kts. Still motor-sailing but nice!

After my watch, the winds died a bit but when I woke up later we decided to put up the gennaker and found we now had enough wind to make it worthwhile to shut off the engine and just enjoy sailing. The quiet is really welcome even though the low rpm of the engine was barely heard inside the cabin.

We're making excellent time toward the Azores and are over a third of the way already (700nm). Seems strange but we have seagulls visit once in a while then fly off. I wonder what their life is like so far from land? There's a lot of Sargosso seaweed all around and the water is deep indigo blue, unbelievably clear and clean. We've seen only 3-4 plastic bottles floating by otherwise we are surrounded by brilliantly clean water.

I'm going to make some chocolate chip cookies later for the guys now that we're all through the sickness brought onboard in Antigua, we need a treat!

09-May

Our fifth day at sea and 850nm along in our 2200 nm passage. The winds are continuing nicely for us and we had the gennaker up for about 24 hours. Early this morning (on my watch of course!) the winds got too high and we had to get everyone up to pull it down before the wind ripped it off.

The winds have been fairly consistent now at 13-18 kts all day and 60 degrees off the nose for a very nice fine reach right toward the Azores. We've been clipping along at 8-10kts over the ground and making excellent time using the main and genoa.

The only downside to the wonderful wind is the poor sleeping conditions. The rolling and heel angle have combined to make things uncomfortable for everyone onboard. Imagine having your bed tipped sideways 15 degrees while someone is underneath kicking upwards trying to dislodge you. You end up spending all your time trying to find a postion where you won't slide off the bed and are not so jammed in that some part of you goes numb. Fun eh?

With the nice wind we have, we are confident now that even if it fell off to nothing we have gained enough miles by sailing without using the motor that we have the reserve fuel to motor the rest of the way into Azores. However, that is only the most extreme fallback plan as the sailing is brilliant and even without good sleep it's what we all are out here for!

10-May

A Low blocking our way to Azores OK, so plans have changed. a low has moved into position between us and the Azores (usually a high is there) and is deepening and projected to remain stationary for 3-4 days. From our location, this puts the winds directly on our bow with no hope of sailing. Further, it decreases our speed if just running under motor to the point that we can't make it by motoring with the fuel we have left.

So, we have to tack 45 degrees off the wind on both sides of our direct path still moving toward the Azores but at a much slower rate. There's no problem with this other than we're disappointed we can not make the nice forward progress we've been doing over the past 6 days. We have plenty of food for weeks so all we have to contend with is some boredom as we wait for the weather to change a bit.

Such is the life of your intrepid TransAt sailors!

11-May

We're on the more traditional sailing program of tacking across our course line. A 'zig-zag' pattern instead of a straight path means we are traveling a pretty good distance back and forth to yield a shorter bit of progress straight toward the Azores. It's still progress but not at the happy rate we had before. The upcoming wind forecast should allow us to do a more direct path to the Azores in the coming days. In the meantime, we are making progress.

Life onboard consists of four guys in a 3-hours-on-watch, nine-hours-off-watch cycle that usually finds at least one of us sleeping at any one time. Breakfast and lunch are usually done in solitude but dinners seem to find all of us together and hungry at the same time. Last night Sean made us a delicious meal of bangers and mash with onion gravy. A very nice job!

We're all catching up on our reading and discussions on the weather. Occasionally, a freighter comes within radio range and we give them a shout to talk to someone else. One was heading to Gibraltar the other day and we wished we could have asked him to tow us along as that's were we want to go after the Azores! Life is peaceful here at sea and we are all enjoying the experience.

12-May

A brown tern visiting us Another day, more progress toward the Azores. On my watch last night at 03:00 I got a radio call from another yacht in the neighborhood. It was 's/y Amicara' a 44' sloop making her way also to the Azores. He had left St. Martin 10 days back and was dealing with the same weather conditions as us. That is, no wind to allow us to make directly for the Azores. We'll stay in touch along the way to keep each other company.

The birdlife is fascinating as here we are 1100nm from the nearest land and brown terns are flying around us occasionally. We see them land on the water to rest so they obviously spend their entire life out here.

Sean had a can of "Spaghetti'O's" ('the neat new spaghetti you can eat with a spoon') from the US for lunch. After living in Ticino for so long, I just can't eat that stuff anymore. Gotta have real Italiano food. Tonight I'm thinking of using up the last of our wonderful Wahoo in a seafood stew over rice. I'm hungry just thinking about it!

13-May

Another 24 hours of making progress toward the Azores and now we are 850nm away in a straight line However, we have to zig-zag along a direct course and as such are actually sailing a longer distance. That works out OK for now as up to the north of us, this stationary Low has developed gale force winds on its northwest corner and that's the last place we want to be. In our location, we have slight to moderate seas, nice winds and clear skies. We're making a steady 7 knots and converting 5 of that into direct progress toward the Azores each hour.

After we make another 150 nm toward the Azores (24-36 hours from now) we will be able to turn toward it and proceed directly doing a motor-sail (motor on and assisted by sails). At that point we figure we will be fours days from making landfall in Horta. In the interim the big Low is scheduled to dissipate during our passage and we should arrive in a period of fine weather.

In the meantime, we are enjoying our time onboard and talking with the occasional (really occasional!) passing freighter. We are off the main trade routes and that's probably one of the reasons the sea is so clean around us. We're still looking for whales as it's their time to migrate from the Caribbean past the Azores and up to the Arctic. Wish us luck!

14-May

Bruce napping the cockpit surrounded by blue skies, sunshine and a gorgeous Atlantic Ocean. We're on our 10th day at sea from Antigua and have sailed over 1600nm so far on our way to Horta, Azores. We show about 640nm left to go and our path is fairly direct now with good winds and slight seas. Our SOG (speed over ground) is 7.0 to 8.2 kts, very respectable! The winds died for a while last night and we ran the engine for about 4-5 hours before the winds came up enough to take over.

We've been fortunate with the winds even though that big Low is still stationary over the Azores and causing some gale-force winds to the north for others. This big HR is a 'goer'. She just slides smoothly through the seas clocking a good rate of progress while providing a very comfortable and safe environment for us.

The crew has different ways of relaxing onboard. Some like to read, some watch movies and all of us love to nap in the sunshine! The sailing couldn't be any better for us. For the curious, we have a full main sail up with a genoa reefed to the second mark. We have northerly winds at 21 kts apparent 37 degrees off the port. The sea state is moderate with 1.5-2meter seas.

15-May

Another day, more progress toward the Azores. Our line with the wind is leading us more toward San Miguel rather than Horta so we are taking advantage of this. San Miguel is the east most island in the Azores group (150nm further east than Horta). The facilities there are fine for us as well (fuel, provisions, etc.) and will gain us a day on our return to the European mainland.

We're all getting a little weary of "Life at 15 degrees" but our progress along the path to Azores is a good one and we are grateful to be able to be sailing at such a nice speed. We've essentially been on the same port tack now for 5 days just tooling along at 7-8 kts. No real complaints except we're looking forward to our arrival this Friday.

In the meantime, we are having a Yahtzee tournament and reading every book in the ship's library!

16-May

Sunset mid-Atlantic Our winds have dropped off in the direction we needed to go directly to the Azores so we cranked up the motor and are motor sailing until the winds cooperate a bit more. We are less than 400nm now and will make landfall sometime on Friday afternoon if all goes according to plan. We haven't seen any of the ships in a while now so the feeling of being alone out here is great! The sunny skies and good weather keep our attitudes bright but we all are looking forward to standing on dry land once again.

The meals onboard have been excellent and tonight we will have some my world famous Bolognese sauce over some spaghetti, always a crowd favorite. The snacks are holding out well too as I think everyone's appetite has dropped off somewhat during the passage. Maybe it's the lack of any real exercise? Regardless, the food we do eat is wonderful! I personally am looking forward to a nice grilled burger in the Azores but I'll settle for anything as long as I don't have to cook or cleanup!

We'll leave you with a nice sunset photo out here in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Ciao!

17-18-May

Peanut butter and Nutella on crackers for lunch! OK, sometimes we are not eating all that healthy. Murray brought out crackers and peanut butter and I added the Nutella. Oops!

Aside from that low spot on the culinary calendar, we've been eating very well. Sean made a nice indian curry for us last night using up most of the remaining vegetables.

Over these past two days we've been in contact with another sailing yacht (a 57' Swan) that came out of the BVI'S 15 days ago. Funny how yachts just show up out of nowhere sometimes. We talked for a while then distance apart cut the communications link. Maybe we'll run into them in Horta.

Yes, destination Horta again. The winds have gotten horrible for the last few hundred miles and we got tired of bashing and crashing into the seas and 25 knots on the bow so we changed our destination back to Horta. At this time, we are 80 nm away and will arrive sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning.

Dolphins showed up for a brief visit a few minutes ago, flitting around the bow then off again. No whales but we are keeping a good lookout for them. Our next post should be from Horta!

Special Note

The ship's log passed the 10'000 nm mark meaning we've sailed Feelin' Good over 10'000 nm in the last 10 months. Not bad...

19-May

Rafted up in Horta, Azores At 04:30 this morning, we pulled into the marina in Horta, Azores after a grueling final day or two of beating into the wind and motoring against the swells. All three fuel tanks read empty as we were still 20 nm out. It was close but the fuel lasted and we tied up at the fuel dock ready for some sleep and to re-fuel first thing in the morning (two hours later!).

Final statistics for this passage are: 2'433 nm traveled by sailing 195 hours and motoring 147 hours. We burned 1'135 liters of fuel.

We'll be relaxing a bit, cleaning the boat and doing laundry for a day or so before beginning the final passage back to Spain. We'll start a new passage for this next leg and hope you'll remain interested to follow us along again.

This passage was crewed by art, bruce, murray and sean

Passage Track

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