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Azores to Spain 2012

by Art on

Information

Sailing
32.00 hrs
Motoring
120.00 hrs
Total
152.00 hrs
Distance
1146.00 nm
Average
7.54 kts

After our long journey from the Caribbean you'd think we'd want to rest up for a week or so before starting our passage back to mainland Europe. However, we have decided to forgo the Azore vacation and get going on our final leg. It's almost 1'000 nm from here, through the Strait of Gibraltar and on to Spain. That sounds like a lot even as I'm writing this but after reaching the milestone of 10'000 nm since last July, it doesn't seem like a lot, Ha!

We've spent the last few days cleaning and checking the systems over thoroughly only to find nothing more than a few chaffed ropes. This gorgeous girl has taken the North Atlantic in stride and is ready to continue whenever we're ready. We've picked up some fresh fruit and vegetables at the market and have plenty of other provisions.

22-May

Left our mark in Horta We'd planned to leave on Monday but gale force winds and 4m seas convinced us to stay another day and enjoy Horta! anyway, it gave time for Bruce to put together a small painting to join the others on the seawall of our first visit to the Azores.

After clearing up our bill at the port and doing the usual customs and immigration dance, we'll be off to start the return to Spain. The weather looks better today with less wind but still the big seas. We'll try to get some photos of us riding these big swells.

Armed with fresh cheese from neighboring Pico and wonderful vegetables and local fruits we are good to go!

23-May

Bruce and Murray working with the sextant Our second day out finds us just past the island of San Miguel, Azores. More than 130'000 people live on this island, the capital of the Azores. As we've passed all the islands we've been amazed at how green and lush they all are. No wonder we were able to stock up with such good vegetables and fruits.

The sea state has subsided a bit and now we are down to a height of 2.5 meters. The westerly winds have clocked around to the south now and we have put out the genoa after having the sails in a 'farfalle' configuration the past 24 hours (pure downwind sailing). Our speed over the ground has been good, consistently over 8 kts and sometimes hitting 10 kts.

With the multitude of GPS devices onboard including the ones in all our iPads and iPhones, you'd think we'd be satisfied we know precisely where we are at all times but the urge to see how it was done before the age of these marvelous devices has moved us (actually, we have a lot of time on our hands!). We've been taking sightings with our sextant and will be plotting our course in parallel over this passage to see if we could find out way with just the sextant if we had to.

24-May

Art's 'World Famous Super Duper Tuna Noodle Casserole' Two exciting things happend today onboard Feelin' Good. The first was that a huge Leatherback Sea Turtle surfaced close to the boat. His head was a large as a human and his shell was enormous too. What a fantastic creature! The second was that I was called up to make my World Famous Super Duper Tuna Noodle Casserole for lunch. Without too much trouble, the entire dish was consumed. Not sure what we need for dinner now that we polished that off!

We continue to make progress despite the complete lack of wind. The Atlantic is like a swimming pool with very little wave or swell action. Just blue skies, a few puffy clouds and endless horizons of indigo blue water to look at. We've not seen any boats today. Kinda nice to be all alone in this beautiful place.

Bruce and I worked for hours today on our sextant skills and can report that we now know where we are (without looking at the GPS). We take three sightings of the sun. One before noon, one precisely at noon and one about an hour after noon. Our plotted position was about 7 miles away from where we actually were so we consider that to be pretty good. As our skill improves with this device, we will be able to get to within 3-4 miles.

A benefit of downwind sailing and motor sailing is that the boat is fairly flat (i.e. not heeled over like when we are sailing hard to windward). This means I get a good night's sleep for a change and don't wake to find myself hurling through the air across the cabin! Much nicer ;-)

25-May

Murray on vigil during his watch! All alone except for one large (280m long) freighter passing 5nm off our starboard bow. No critters spotted today, just another lovely (and windless) day out in the Atlantic. We're more than halfway to Spain and believe we will make landfall very early Monday morning (yep, another night approach and docking in the middle of the night).

The good old Volvo D4-180 is purring along consuming just 4 liters per hour and we have plenty of fuel to make it the entire way however we look forward to getting some northerly wind perhaps tomorrow afternoon that we can use to give the engine a break (and us too!). While it's wonderful to have the ability to motor such a long distance, obviously we would rather be sailing.

This the difference between making a passage and going for a sail. Making a passage (especially a long one) means you do what you have to do to keep moving forward in the shortest distance toward your destination. Sailing is having lots of time to go somewhere and enjoy the sailing experience along the way. We prefer the latter but resign ourselves to the former.

Should be a beautiful sunset! We're all thinking about you!!!

26-May

Sean just loves Spam! We're getting closer to Europe as we are seeing more and more freighters go by us. Some of them are huge with one just a few moments ago over 330m in length! The AIS (an electronic ID system for boats) shows us the name, length, width, course and destination of each ship. It's fascinating to see how much is moving back and forth across the Atlantic. We must have been out of the main shipping routes but now everyone is trying to aim for Gibraltar and the traffic around us will only increase in the coming days.

Brunch today was by request (by me!) to have an old standby, SPAM and Eggs. It's been years since I ate SPAM. For those who never heard of it, it's a tinned meat of Shoulder Pork and hAM (hence the name SPAM). I think it originated for use by the armed forces as it doesn't need refrigeration and can be eaten cold (yuck!) or hot (so so...). We had some onboard for 'emergencies' and now that we are assured of making it to Gibraltar we figured we could work our way through some of the emergency rations. It's safe to say the crew of FG (including myself) would rather we keep the other can of SPAM for a real emergency someday. ;-)

27-May

Finally we get some nice wind to take us to Gibraltar Our big news of the day is that the wind came up last night about midnight bringing us 20 kts from the north. This give us a nice fine reach with about 8 SOG without the engine (yeah!). There's nothing like just hearing the wind in the sails and rigging and the water rushing by the hull. The motor has been wonderful and we would not be here without it but... we're all tired of the noise and the fact that we're in a sailing yacht not a motor yacht!

Our provisions have held out nicely and we are going to end up with all our fresh food gone and most of our frozen meats as well. I guess we're getting good at figuring out how much to bring along on these passages. We do have a large amount of pasta sauces, tinned vegetables and dry good like rice and pasta but they will be fine and be used up over the summer months as we cruise the Mediterranean.

28-May

Our last sunset at sea We enjoyed a lovely wind for a few days but it ran out as we got closer to Gibraltar and eventually, the seas went completely flat with no wind whatsoever. While motoring is not our favorite thing, we did get to see three big Killer Whales (Orca) fairly close to the boat in the early morning just outside Tarifa. Fantastic experience! Then the dolphins came to welcome us back home and they stayed to play around the bow for a long time.

As we rounded the corner by Gibraltar, it brought back memories of my sailing instruction from Sean in the fall of 2010. What an amazing couple of years as sailing has really taken hold of me. I look back over the past 11 months and 12'000 nm sailed and realize how far I've come not just as a sailor but all ways. The sea has a way of changing you and once it has, you will forever need to be around it.

As for the rest of our crew, we had the pleasure of seeing Sean reunite with his lovely Carmen and precocious son, Lucas. Murray and Bruce will be flying off to the UK and I will be on my way back home as well. It's been hard to be away from family and friends but it's been a wonderful and rewarding experience to complete an Atlantic Circuit. And especially wonderful to have done it with such a great bunch of guys. Thanks Sean, Murray and Bruce! You guys are the best!!

Stay tuned for more adventures onboard Feelin' Good!

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

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