Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Falmouth Arrival

Hi everyone,
We arrived in Falmouth at 1400 UTC and picked up a mooring at Falmouth Yacht Haven at 1430 UTC.

Falmouth Arrival

Admiral Nicki

Skipper Mike

We've finally achieved the dream we cherished for decades.  Feels good.

The usual passage summary will be posted tomorrow.


Falmouth Inbound - Day 11

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 50 00N 005 00W, saillng at 5 knots on a course of 350M.  The wind is W at 22-26 knots with a 2m sea and 1m swell.  We are sailing under triple-furled yankee only.  Low-level overcast.  Our day's run was 126nm, our DMG was 109nm and we have only 8nm to go!!!

England in sight (& traffic)

The last 24 hours have been cold, wet and miserable.  Not reallly - just chilly and damp! ;)  We've had winds of up to 30 knots but mostly 20-25 knots, from between SW and WNW.  Right now we're heading into the lee of the Cornish coast as we head N to Falmouth.

We've been kept busy zigzagging between traffic for the last 18 hours or so.  Where at sea we might hold our course and ask the ship to avoid us we're now maintaining radio silence and finding our way between them.  If you look at our track you'll probably see where we gybed several times, and each was for traffic separation.

Yesterday evening we saw the loom of the lights of the Scilly Isles and Land's End.  This morning at 0930 the Lizard emerged from behind the mist and we sighted England.  That was pretty special I have to say.  We've come a long way.

We'll post again after we arrive in Falmouth.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Falmouth Inbound - Day 10

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 49 09N 007 27W, saillng at 6 knots on a course of 080M.  The wind is NW at 25-28 knots with a confused 2m sea and 1.5m swell.  We are sailing under staysail only.  Low-level overcast.  Our day's run was 130nm, our DMG was 124nm and we have 117nm to go.

Yestterday afternoon we continued motoring until 0130 this morning.  The wind was very light.  At 0100 at new S wind started to appear and by 0130 we could sail again.  Since then the wind has gradually increased and rain showers have been coming through.  Quite misty too.

Zen Again approaching the English Channel

This morning the wind got up to 28-30 knots as the front went through.  We handed the main an hour or two prior which worked out well.  The wind has veered into the NW and moderated a little.  This has created a confused sea which is slowly settling down.  Occasional squalls with 30 knots of wind and light rain are passing by but the boat is comfortable and so are we.  There are hints of blue in the sky to windward so hopefully the clould might break up later, if only for a while.

The big news of the day is that we are in soundings.  After 10 days there's a water depth on the dial - about 140m. We have reached the European continent!  The downside is that fisherman like continental shelves so there are fishing boats about.  So far all of them have AIS transmitters.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Falmouth Inbound - Day 9

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 48 37N 010 32W, procedlng at 4.5 knots on a course of 080M. The wind is NW at 2-4 knots with a calm sea and long 1m swell. We are motoring. Broken mid-level cloud. Our day's run was 131nm, our DMG was 115nm and we have 241nm to go.

Yesterday afternoon the wind held in at 14-16 knots from the NW. In the evening the wind piped up to 22-25 and then overnight it gradually eased until 1030 this morning when it died. For most of the night it was overcast with occasional mist and frequent drizzle.

We saw our first gannet yesterday. It did circuits around us for quite a while before heading off to do what gannets do. We also saw another new type of bird - about 0.5m wingspan, mostly white with darker markings on the top of its wings. We're getting close to the continental shelf so we expect different birds to appear.

Tonight we expect a cold front to approach and pass us tomorrow. This will be the first proper front of the passage. It doesn't seem right not to encounter one! The front is likely to have winds up to 30 knots and will blow us home to Falmouth. We'll be taking it slowly and conservatively to avoid arriving before dawn on Wednesday.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Falmouth Inbound - Day 8

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 48 01N 013 18W, saillng at 6 knots on a course of 075M. The wind is NW at 14-18 knots with a 1m sea and long 1m swell. We are sailing under single-reefed main and double-furled yankee. Low-level overcast. Our day's run was 144nm, our DMG was 134nm and we have 356nm to go.

The wind held for the last 24 hours and we have been sailing throughout. It has been cloudy, often drizzling and occasionally foggy but at least it has been quiet! The wind has been between N and NW, from 8 to 18 knots.

Yesterday afternoon we saw several whales and a couple of pods of dolphins. Always a pleasure to see the latter. The former are nice to see too but they're bigger than us and a bit of a worry.

The sea has been gradually changing colour over the last few days. Where it was blue it is now green. I suspect the bioluminescence we've been seeing every night started when the colour change happened. The water temperature is 15C.

Unsurprisingly we're seeing an increasing number of ships. There are currently 8 visible on AIS and one passed a mile away 30 minutes ago. We're watching AIS closely and also looking out of course. So far all the ships we've seen are cargo vessels. I expect we'll see fishing vessels at some stage.

Most of the yachts we've been in contact with daily via HF/SSB have now made port. We're staying in contact with one which is still at sea and another in Falmouth.

Keeping occupied on long passages is a challenge. I've been listening to the brilliant podcast "SpaceTime" by Stuart Gary. It summarises all the latest developments in astronomy, astrophysics and space exploration. The podcast started life as "StarStuff" with the Australian ABC and had a bit of a cult following. The ABC cut its funding late last year. It is now sponsored by Australian Sky and Telescope magazine and syndicated worldwide, including being broadcast on radio across the US. Stuart Gary really knows his stuff, frequently surprising the experts he interviews. Well worth a listen if you're interested in these topics.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Falmouth Inbound - Day 7

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 47 09N 016 19W, saillng at 5.5 knots on a course of 070M. The wind is NNW at 10-12 knots with a slight sea and long 1m swell. We are sailing under full main and single-furled yankee. Low-level overcast with drizzle. Our day's run was 124nm, our DMG was 110nm and we have 490nm to go.

No photo today - censored due to 50 shades of grey cloud.

Yesterday afternoon we continued motoring until 1630 when a 5-6 knot N breeze arrived. It gradually filled in to 10-12 overnight. Sadly the breeze died at 0600 and we had to start the motor again. At 1100 this morning a NW breeze arrived and we've been sailing again since.

The evening and early hours of last night were very pleasant. The sky was clear and the stars were bright. The moon rose at about midnight, very red initially. We're gradually learning a few more of the northern hemisphere constellations.

Today our sleeping bags came out of storage. The sea rugs we have been using since Australia are no longer up to the task, even when doubled-up. Our use of water has plummeted and is now dominated by hot drinks.

Our proximity to the UK is demonstrated by BBC Radio 4 being just distinguishable on long-wave (LW) 198kHz. We can't hear it on the AM band yet (774kHz). It will be a milestone to hear our first Shipping Forecast. We'll soon be in the Sole forecast area.

We've been listening to the BBC World Service on shortwave over the last few days. The commentary following the Brexit vote is interesting. A historic vote.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Falmouth Inbound - Day 6

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 46 32N 018 52W, procedlng at 5.5 knots on a course of 080M.  The wind is calm with a flat sea and long 1m swell.  We are motoring.  Overcast with occasional drizzle.  Our day's run was 122nm, our DMG was 120nm and we have 600nm to go.

Motoring over a glassed-out sea

We had a great sail yesterday afternoon with NNW winds of 14-18 knots.  The wind lasted until well into the night.  By midnight it was easing and at 0400 we were struggling to maintain 2 knots of boat speed and the sails were slatting in the swell.  Since then we've been motoring.  Right now the ocean is "glassed out" - no wind at all.

Yesterday afternoon we had occasional patches of sunshine which was very nice.  By nightfall they had ceased and we were under 8/8ths low cloud which still persists.  One nice feature of last night was the bioluminescence triggered by our passage.  We left a bright green trail which extended for about a boat length behind us.  Spectacular.

During her 1800-0000 watch last night Nicki was baking bread.  Halfway through the baking the gas cylinder ran out.  I changed to the spare cylinder and baking resumed after a ten minute pause.  Changing involves physically swapping the two cylinders between the brackets on each side of the pushpit.  We now feel the very expensive refill in Bermuda was actually good value!  The prospect of cold tucker for the next week isn't attractive.  The bread rolls are.

So much for our hope that the light airs were behind us.  It looks like we'll be stuck with them for another day.  That's cruising!

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Azores Outbound - Day 5

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 45 40N 021 28W, saillng at 6.0 knots on a course of 040M.  The wind is NNW at 15-18 knots with a 1m sea and long 1m swell.  We are sailing under single-reefed main and double-furled yankee.  Broken mid-level cloud with some sun!  Our day's run was 115nm, our DMG was 103nm and we have 720nm to go.

Yesterday afternoon the wind remained very light until 1800 when a 6-8 knot S wind came in.  This was the southerly preceeding a very weak front which went through overnight.  The engine was turned off immediately and the silence after 13.5 hours motoring was a beautiful thing.  We sailed along happily at about 4 knots, heading NE.

Sunset Last Night

By sunset at 2100 the wind had veered to the SW and we had gybed to head N.  At midnight it was steady at 8 knots from the W and we were heading NE, broad reaching under full main and single-furled yankee.  It was a chilly night.  The water temperature is 15 C and any winds with north in them are cold.  Sea boots are on night and day, and clothing layers are increasing steadily!  By 0600 we had a 10 knot NW wind and at 0800 we had to double-reef the main briefly as a 25 knot squall went through.

Since 0900 we've been under single-reefed main and double-furled yankee, beam reaching in a 15-18 knot NNW wind.  The boat is loving it and tramping along at over 6 knots.

We hope we're through the worst of the light patches.  If the weather outlook holds we should have a beam to broad reach for the rest of the passage.  TIme will tell!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Azores Outbound - Day 4

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 44 22N 0223 14W, proceedlng at 5.0 knots on a course of 040M.  The wind is WNW at 2-5 knots with a calm sea and long 2m swell.  We are motoring.  Broken high-level cloud.  Our day's run was 126nm, our DMG was 109nm and we have 823nm to go.

We could probably sail in this wind if it were not for the swell on our beam.  Each swell shoves us to and fro, making the apparent wind 0-7 knots which allows the sails to slat annoyingly.  A couple more knots of true wind and we'll be sailing again.  On the positive side the adverse current we had yesterday has gone.

Sunrise this morning

Setting moon this morning

Yesterday afternoon the sun came out and remained so until the early hours of this morning.  That was very nice while it lasted.  The wind stayed NNW but gradually eased.  The afternoon was a great sail and we had a pleasant night.  During the night it became progressively slower going.  By 0400 this morning we were sailing at less than 2 knots.  At 0430 I started the engine and we've been motoring since.

Yesterday afternoon we saw several whales blowing.  Happily they stayed at least a hundred metres away as we gradually overtook them.  We continue to see Portugese Men'o'War from time to time.  We are also accompanied by several birds.  Not sure what they are - white undersides with black edges, brown topsides, slender wings rarely flapped, about 0.6m wing span.

This morning we've had a couple of ships pass within visual range.  One 1.5nm away and another about 4nm.  They were both on the same route so that's one shipping lane crossed.  We expect to cross many more in the western approaches to the English Channel.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Azores Outbound - Day 3

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 43 04N 025 05W, saillng at 5.5 knots on a course of 060M.  The wind is NNW at 12-14 knots with a slight sea and 1m swell.  We are sailing under single-reefed main and single-furled yankee.  Broken mid-level cloud gradually clearing.  Our day's run was 130nm, our DMG was 93nm and we have 932nm to go.

Sailing in the fog yesterday

Yesterday afternoon the wind continued to veer to the WNW at 10-12 knots, with extensive fog patches.  At 1600 the wind dropped out to less than 5 knots and we started the engine.  I don't like motoring in fog.  While sailing one has the chance of hearing any nearby vessels but with the motor on all you have is the Mk 1 eyeball and AIS.  Happily there was no traffic about, or none we saw!

At 2100 the fog cleared, rain started and a new NNW wind of 5-8 knots appeared.  We stopped the motor and resumed sailing.  Gradually the rain cleared and the clouds started to break up.  Twas a chilly night.  It was the shortest night of the year (summer solstice) and very nearly a full moon too.  The moon was very bright when it found a gap in the clouds.

By 0600 this morning we had over 20 knots of NNW wind and had two reefs in the main.  The boat was cruising along at a steady 7 knots in quite flat water.  That wind only lasted 2-3 hours and we're now sailing along nicely in about 12 knots of wind.

Our low DMG appears to show we had current against us during the last 24 hours.  We've been heading directly for Falmouth for most of the time so current must be setting us back.  Hopefully we'll get some current assistance later.

The weather outlook continues to look good.  The big high to our W is gradually heading our way and is expected to be N of the Azores in a week or so.  It seems to be keeping the lows well away from us.  It looks like we'll have light winds from the N - NW which will be nice reaching conditions.  All the boats on the SSB net are marvelling at our collective luck and are sure it can't last!

Gotta go.  Bacon butties for lunch!

Monday, 20 June 2016

Azores Outbound - Day 2

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 41 50N 026 44W, saillng at 5 knots on a course of 035M. The wind is WSW at 14-18 knots with a 1m sea and 2m swell. We are sailing under double-reefed main and single-furled yankee. Overcast, misty sky. Our day's run was 137nm, our DMG was 101nm and we have 1025nm to go.

Yesterday afternoon the wind gradually settled at 10-12 knots and the slatting of the sails died down. Early in the afternoon we double-reefed the main which helped to stop the sails slatting and didn't cost us any boat speed. It was a nice sunny afternoon.

By mid-evening the wind had built to 15 knots and we were making good progress, albeit to the north. We considered gybing east on several occasions but decided against. Cloud was moving over from the NW and we knew a weak front would have to be crossed at some stage. We decided to get it over with so stood on.

At midnight the sky was not only overcast but we were in fog. It's tricky identifying fog at night but we find the tricolour to be a good indicator. If we can see both red and green "halos" on each side of the light then it is foggy. We kept an especially close eye on the AIS for the rest of the night, and stayed on deck (or in the companionway) throughout. Twas damp and chilly.

This morning it has remained overcast but the fog has become mist, with about 1nm visibility. The wind is slowly veering towards the W. Eventually it should get around to the NW and (hopefully) we should break out into clear skies.

It seems strange to be in the forties (latitude) and still heading polewards. We'll be going a lot further north yet!

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Azores Outbound - Day 1

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 39 59N 027 25W, saillng at 5 knots on a course of 000M. The wind is SW at 10-12 knots with a slight sea and 1.5m swell.  We are sailing under full main and single-furled yankee.  Clear sunny sky with scattered cirrus.  Our day's run was 131nm, our DMG was 94nm and we have 1126nm to go.

Sailing under a sunny sky

Yesterday afternoon the wind dropped as we passed W of Sao Jorge.  We had been planning to leave the next island of Graciosa to starboard but had to choose between gybing to the NW in clear air or heading up on to a reach through the lee of Sao Jorge.  We chose the latter which gave us two more hours of good sailing but we ended up having to motor for three hours when the wind died.  The afternoon was sunny and surprisingly warm.

The wind came back in mid-evening from the ESE at about 8 knots initially.  This gave us a nice reach to the NE.  The swell, although only about 1.5m, made the boat roll and the headsail slat.  Not very comfortable at all but we made reasonable progress.

Overnight we had a nearly full moon in a clear sky which was very nice.  The night only lasts for about 8 hours and with the full moon it barely happens at all!  The wind gradually veered around to the SW overnight and we gybed onto port at 0500.  Our speed dropped to around 3 knots for several hours.  The slatting of both mainsail and headsail increased since the swell was on the beam.

We're continuing to head north despite the swell to get into more breeze.  This morning the breeze has gradually filled in a little.  The slatting is a little less frequent.  With a couple more knots of wind it would probably stop entirely.  Hoping that will eventuate.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Azores Departure

Hi everyone,
We departed Horta at 1100Z this morning. We are currently in position 38 42N 028 26W, saillng at 5 knots on a course of 040M. The wind is S at 8-12 knots with a slight sea and negligible swell. We are sailing under full main and single-furled yankee. Broken cumulus clouds. We have logged 14nm since departure and we have 1220nm to go to Falmouth.

We spent yesterday preparing for departure. We did a load of laundry, the final shopping and final checks aboard. The boat is in good shape and the weather window looks good too. Little sign of strong winds with the outlook being for light to moderate winds for at least the next few days. There's a High to our NE producing S winds. In a few days an intense High is predicted to form to our W which may give us N winds as it moves E. We expect to follow the great circle route initially.

Today we went ashore for a final hot shower and then cleared out. Clearing out took a little while since there was only one marina guy on duty and a lot of yachts leaving. Then it was back to the boat, stow the dinghy and up with the anchor. After motoring out of the harbour we've been under sail since. The clouds are slowly breaking up so we may even get some sun this afternoon.

There are a group of about ten yachts we know which are also en route to the English Channel. Most will be keeping in touch via HF/SSB and the others via email.

We really enjoyed our stay on Faial. It would have been nice to have visited more of the islands but it's time to head for the UK, especially given this good weather outlook.

Trust all's well where you are.

Azores - A Day Trip Around Pico

Hi everyone,
Yesterday we took the ferry across to Pico and scootered around the island.  It was cloudy in the morning but cleared up later.  We went up the mountain as far as one can drive - and a very spectacular drive it is too.

We departed Horta at 0700, just getting to the ferry in time.  The ferry is modern and comfortable.  We arrived at Madalena on Pico island at about 0730 and collected our scooter.  We drove into town and found a cafe for breakfast - friendly and very cheap.

Flower-lined fields and roads
From Madalena we drove inland on a road which just keeps ascending.  We found the turn-off for the mountain and unsurprisingly the road just got steeper.  The cattle got woolier too!  At the end of the road we had a coffee at the visitor centre before heading back down the mountain via a different road which took us down to the south coast.  On the way down we passed through a layer of thick cloud which was fun.  Startled a few cattle along the way.

Too tall and too chilly to climb today! 
We drove all the way along the south coast to Ponta do Castelete, the easternmost point of Pico.  All the fields, gardens and properties are bounded by black volcanic rock walls.  Very pretty.  We stopped at several towns and at one bought some bread and cheese at a local store.  One cuts a wedge of cheese from the wheel and pays by weight.  Very civilised, very cheap and lovely cheese.

Coastal view - note the volcanic stone walls around the fields
We stopped at the town of Lajes do Pico for a local fish'n'chips lunch.  There is a port there with a small marina.  The town is nice with tree-lined streets leading in and out of the central area.
Sunny north coast
The north coast was almost completely clear of cloud and we had a very pleasant drive westward.  We stopped at several places to explore on foot.  Pico is a big island to drive around on a low powered scooter in one day so sadly we couldn't stop anywhere for long.

We arrived back in Madalena as planned with a couple of hours spare.  We strolled around the town and visited a local wine store where we bought a couple of bottles as a keepsake.  Twas a very pleasant day.

Departing Madalena
Inside the famous Peter's Sport Bar
Back in Horta we met the crew of Dutch yacht Stamper at Peter's Sport Bar to discuss the weather outlook.  The weather looks pretty good and Stamper departed this morning.  We expect to depart tomorrow (Saturday) morning when we hope there will be a little more wind.

Azores - A Day Trip Around Faial

Hi everyone,
On Tuesday we rented a scooter and explored the island of Faial.  It was great fun driving around the island.  Very scenic.  Lots of flowers.  Lots of spectacular views.  We finished the day by walking the 8km caldera rim of the island's main volcano.

View of the neighbouring island of Pico with its impressive volcano
Before describing the island here are several photos from around Horta.

Yacht paintings around the periphery of the harbour
and on the sea wall
Horta town hall
From Horta we drove around the island "clockwise".  Our first stop was at Morro do Castelo Branco, an impressive volcanic trachyte dome covered by pyroclastic rocks (so sayeth the brochure!).  We had a nice walk down to the point, past small farming fields separated by tall bamboo hedges.

Morro do Castelo Branco
Our next stop was at Ponta dos Capelinhos, the site of a 1957 volcanic eruption which extended the island westward and "moved" the lighthouse inland.  The whole area is a "moonscape".  A visitor centre has been constructed, buried in the volcanic dust field.

Ponta dos Capelinhos
The old lighthouse
Underground visitor centre
From Ponta dos Capelinhos we drove along the north coast.  By this time the cloud was clearing and we started to see the true colours of the island.  The vegetation is lush to say the least.  Lots of happy cattle grazing.

Typical roadside view
View from the hills above Horta
The drive up to the rim of the caldera was fun.  It was distinctly chillier than at sea level.  At the top we decided to walk right around it.  The walk is described as "difficult" but it's really not.  At 8km it is a good workout, especially considering the ups and downs along the way.  But it is certainly worth the effort - the views are spectacular.

View of the volcano on Pico Island over that on Faial
Typical view down towards the coast
Alpine strawberries just starting to appear
The vegetation around the rim includes cedars, junipers, myrtles, ferns and mosses.

Along the way around the island we stopped at several cafes and a restaurant for lunch.  The local people are very friendly and many speak good English.  Food is extremely cheap.

It was a fun day.  A few blisters but definitely worthwhile!

Saturday, 11 June 2016

One Year Since Fremantle Departure

Hi everyone,
Today is the first anniversary of our departure from Fremantle.  It has been a foggy day here in Horta, perfect for boat work.

Zen Again at anchor in Horta harbour
We spent the last two days doing more post-arrival boat work including:
  • Filled diesel jerry cans (@1euro/litre)
  • Filled water jerry cans (free)
  • On deck s/s cleaning
  • Food stocktake and visit to the local supermarket
  • Emptied, cleaned and repacked cockpit lockers
  • Laundry
  • Changed engine impeller (still looking perfect after 300 hours so kept as spare)
  • Cleaned gas hob burner assemblies and nozzles (apres le deluge)
  • Emptied, cleaned and repacked the quarterberth

It's hard to believe we've been cruising for a year already.  In some ways it seems like we left only yesterday but home does seems a very long way away.  It has been a busy but amazing year full of wonderful experiences.

Fremantle to Horta
In the 365 days we:
  • logged 16,260nm (44nm/day)
  • were at sea for 2924 hours (122 days or 33% or 133nm/day) 
  • slept ashore for 14 days (all while touring in South Africa)
  • ran the engine for 435 hours (18 days or 15% of sea time)
  • consumed 800 litres of diesel
  • consumed about 30 kg of propane gas
  • consumed about 7 litres of fresh water daily while at sea
  • cleared in/out of 14 jurisdictions

Good kit included:
  • Ken Hayashi designed / Yamazaki Yachts built ST10.4 (ie the boat)
  • Manson Supreme anchor
  • Aries vane gear (30 years old and still going strong)
  • Extreme Sails mainsail (those deep reefs are fantastic)
  • Raymarine SPX5 autopilot (except ram/actuator)
  • Iridium GO!
  • Vesper XB8000 AIS transceiver with WiFi
  • Icom IC-M802 HF/SSB
  • Macbook Air computers (in general and apps OpenCPN, PW Offshore, DX Toolbox)
  • iPads (in general and apps SEAiq, iNavX, WeatherTrack, GoSkyWatch)
  • GoogleEarth imagery on OpenCPN and SEAiq
  • SodaStream carbonator
  • Force10 stove

Failures and notable wear included:
  • Two Raymarine SPX5-GP autopilot rams/actuators
  • Raymarine SeaTalk/NMEA0183 Interface Box (lightning near miss)
  • Anchor chain replaced due to poor refurbishment job in Fremantle
  • Lost two fenders (literally ripped away while in windy Simon's Town)
  • Two gas detector sensors
  • Masthead tricolour/anchor light
  • Compass backlight
  • Several lifejacket/danbuoy CO2 canisters
  • Mainsail headboard carriage fractured
  • Significant wear on the "yankee" headsail
  • Chafing of the staysail foot (by lazy headsail sheet)
  • Chafing of headsail halyard
  • Significant wear on headsail sheet and boom brake lines
  • Chafing of boom-bag where it rubs against the aft lower shrouds
  • Hull topsides "fender rub" (while in Simon's Town)
  • Sheath on Icom HF/SSB and Garmin VHF microphone cables disintegrated
  • Wore out several ensigns - last one now looking very tatty

Engine parts and consumables included:
  • 20 litres of engine oil, 1 litre of gearbox oil, 4 litres of engine coolant
  • 6 oil filters, 5 fuel primary filters and 4 fuel secondary filters
  • 2 V-belts
  • 2 raw water pump impellers
We only have a few more weeks of cruising to go.  Once we reach the UK we'll be seeking jobs to pay for it all! ;)  We are looking forward to cruising around Europe when circumstances allow.  We expect to continue to live aboard.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Bermuda to Azores Passage Summary

Hi everyone,
Here is the summary of our passage from St George in Bermuda to Horta in the Azores.  It was a challenging passage, mainly because of the frequent fronts we experienced in the last half of the passage.

First the usual plots…

Zen Again Track

Zen Again Speed

Our one navigation error was the zig north at the 60% point.  The proof is that we were reeling in sv La Luna at 10 miles / day until then, and we lost 50nm to them in a single day!  The following day we "put our foot down" and caught them again.

The speed plot shows that the first few days were very variable speed-wise.  Nice sailing for a day and then lighter airs, sometimes remedied by motoring.  Later the slow patches are mostly due to taking it easy during the passage of cold fronts - not wanting to be ambushed by squalls.  If we had radar we'd see them coming but without it we're sitting ducks when it's overcast.

Here are the vital stats for the passge…

• Distances/Speeds
• Route Distance = 1800nm
• Logged Distance = 2046nm (including extra 30nm for impeller issues)
• GPS Distance = 1914nm
• Duration = 16 days
• Average boat speed = 5.3kt
• Average VMG = 5.0kt
• Average day's run = 128nm
• Best day's run = 151nm (6.3kt)
• Minimum boat speed = 3 kt
• Maximum boat speed = 10 kt
• Weather
• Minimum wind speed = 2 kt
• Average wind speed = 22 knots
• Maximum wind speed = 40kt+ (in a squall)
• Apparent wind angle range = 80 to 160
• Seas up to 3m
• Swell up to 4m
• Usually cloudy, frequently overcast
• Engine
• Total = 40 hours
• Driving = 30 hours
• Charging = 10 hours
• Consumption
• Water =120 litres (7.5 litres / day)
• Fuel = 60 litres
• Failures
• Gas sensor (following submersion after a wave came below via the companionway)
• Locknut holding tiller to rudder loosened but did not fail
• Stars
• The boat!
• Aries vane gear (steered 60% of passage)
• Pelagic Autopilot ram (steered 40% of passage)
• Dodger by Debbie at Fremantle Ocean Canvas
• Icom HF/SSB radio with SSB Minder
• PredictWind Offshore app (over Iridium GO!) for obtaining GRIBs and routing recommendations
• qtVlm GRIB viewer and weather-routing software

Faial in the sunrise

Entering Horta harbour

It's interesting that we appear to have had about 130nm of current assistance.  We did work to stay in the current predicted by RTOFS but hadn't anticipated quite than amount of gain.  We certainly appear to have managed to stay out of adverse current apart from along the S coast of Faial.

Four significant low pressure systems affected our passage, all passing to our north.  The first originated in Newfoundland while the others were from the Gulf of Mexico.  The first three produced cold fronts which swept over us with winds up to 35 knots.  The strongest wind we experienced was in a squall which followed the third front.  All fronts produced steady rain which started as drizzle and gradually increased.  We only had heavy rain in squalls and isolated storms following frontal passage.

We sailed through the fronts under either deeply furled yankee or staysail with no main.  In the squall we were under bare poles and doing 7+ knots running.  We adopted this strategy since the wind was taking us in the right direction and we had plenty of sea room.

Each low pressure systems kicked up a substantial swell.  Often these were across the wind by the time they reached us, producing some very rolly conditions and sometimes a very confused, breaking sea.  It's fascinating watching multiple wavetrains fight it out, sometimes shooting geysers of water vertically into the air when they meet.  Not so fascinating when they do so on top of you!  On a couple of occasions we changed course from a beam reach to a broad reach due to the risk of knockdown by the breaking waves.

It was interesting how well our solar panels functioned on this passage.  Although there was a lot of cloud it was often fairly thin and the panels delivered 5-8 amps.  In full sun we get 15 amps (more if the batteries are really low).  The long days also appeared to assist the panels.

Once more we ate very well during the passage.  Nic baked fresh bread rolls every few days.  Our fresh food from Bermuda lasted well.

The word which seems to summarise this passage is "tiring".  One front after another wears one down - even when they're not particularly strong - as does rolly conditions.  The North Atlantic lived up (down?) to its reputation.

We're pleased to be in the Azores.  Although technically part of Europe it doesn't feel like we're "in Europe", any more than it did in Reunion for example.  Our next leg should finish the job!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Azores Arrival

Hi everyone,
We arrived in Horta at 1345 local summer time (=GMT), after a 16 day passage from Bermuda.  Entry to the harbour was straight-forward and we anchored at the southern end.  We dinghied ashore to clear in which was simple and cost the princely sum of 2 Euros.  It was a lovely sunny day.

Yesterday afternoon we had a pleasant sail with winds gradually easing in the afternoon and overnight.  By 0600 there was very little wind and an awkward swell so we motored the last 20nm to Horta.  As the screenshot below shows, there were plenty of vessels converging on Horta.

Heading for Horta, with company!

After clearing in we went for a quick walk around the local area.  First we found Peter's Sports Bar and for 10 Euros had a pint of beer, a gin & tonic, two bottles of sparkling water and two sandwiches.  Great value.  Peter's is decorated with flags and burgees from yacht clubs all over the world.  We didn't spot a FSC burgee so may donate one.

From Peter's we walked to the chandlers where we bought Portuguese and Azores courtesy flags.  Then to the small dockside supermarket for bread and back to the boat.  En route we visited Australian yacht Tuuletar and had a chat with them before returning to Zen Again.

Back aboard we set to work on the post-arrival list.  So far we have….

  • Filled the main fuel tanks from jerries (60 litres)
  • Partially filled the main water tanks from jerries (60 litres, probably need another 40 litres to fill)
  • Drained the space under the chain locker
  • Big clean-up below decks (to be continued)
  • Washed all s/s on deck
  • Washed harness tethers and sail ties
  • Cleaned lazarette
  • Aired bunk cushions and various towels, rugs etc

Tomorrow we plan to continue cleaning the boat and will further explore Horta.  Apparently there is a very good supermarket a 20 minute walk away.  And we'll find the showers - well overdue - and sort out WiFi access.    Tomorrow I also hope to post a passage summary.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Azores Inbound - Day 15

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 37 54N 030 40W, saillng at 6 knots on a course of 080M. The wind is NW at 22-26 knots with a confused 2m sea and 3m swell.  We are sailing under triple-furled yankee.  Scattered cirrus and some cumulus cloud but generally sunny!  Our day's run was approximately 119nm, our DMG was 114nm and we have 104nm to go.

Dawn this morning

Yesterday afternoon winds remained 20-25 knots from the SW under mostly overcast skies.  The only exceptoin was a 15 minute squall which came through with 35 knot winds and heavy rain.  With only the yankee set we could simply furl it away and run before the wind.  We were sitting on hull speed under bare poles while it lasted.  Happily I had my full wet weather gear on in time and didn't get drenched.  After the squall we unfurled the staysail instead of the yankee.

Overnight the wind backed around to the WNW and rain squalls came past but happily missed us.  We even saw the stars occasionally.  More importantly we got some much needed sleep.  At 0630 this morning we gybed on to port tack and set course directly for Horta.

Trust all's well where you are.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Azores Inbound - Day 14

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 37 31N 033 02W, saillng at 5 knots on a course of 090M. The wind is SW at 20-25 knots with a 3m leftover sea and 2m swell. We are sailing under triple-furled yankee. Overcast sky with very low base slowly lifting. Our day's run was not correctly recorded, our DMG was 122nm and we have 218nm to go. Less than a Geraldton!

Our log problem continues. Previously the impeller was stopping. Now the unit shows reasonable speeds but clearly incorrect distances. Time for a reboot!

We had a pretty good blow last night. Winds got up to around 35 knots steady, probably reaching 40 in the gusts. The boat handled it very well. The only incident was my timing one of my quick look-arounds with the biggest greenie of the night. I had just slid back the companionway hatch when it hit us. It jetted through the gates (gaps for halyards etc) at the bottom of the dodger and cascaded below. The only apparent damage is that one of the gas detector sensors appears to have "drowned".

Yesterday afternoon the wind gradually built from the S. At 1800 we handed the main and went on under staysail alone. Initially the wind was from the S and we were beam reaching. Eventually the waves built to the point where we were no longer comfortable on that point of sail - too many breaking waves and too rolly. So we bore away and also partially furled the (storm jib sized) staysail. That was much more comfortable. The beam reach had ensured we weren't "sucked in" towards the centre of the low to our N. Within a couple of hours the wind had veered to the SW and we were steering 090M again.

Blows like this are somewhat stressful in a little boat - perhaps in any boat. The boat performed brilliantly but I'd have to say we didn't get much sleep! I'd much rather have been where we were than where a couple of other boats were - racing to their landfalls to try to beat the weather. I always think that a risky undertaking.

This morning we spent several hours cleaning up 'apres le deluge'. At least we were on starboard tack, otherwise this computer would be dead. The cooker got a thorough dowsing and the bilge in that area is now saltier but probably cleaner than it was before.

Our gas detector controls a solenoid and with a dead sensor we get no gas. After an hour or two the sensor showed no sign of recovery so I dug out my "hot-wire" harness and have now fitted and tested it. So we can have a cuppa shortly. We managed to kill one of the sensors earlier this year with a mis-directed insect spray. I made the harness as a temporary measure but kept it "just in case".

The wind is gradually abating. We expect it to be around 18-22 this afternoon before easing further tonight and tomorrow. Our ETA in Horta is Wednesday morning. Bring it on!

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Azores Inbound - Day 13

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 37 18N 035 39W, saillng at 5 knots on a course of 125M. The wind is WSW at 14-18 knots with a 1m sea and 2m swell.  We are sailing under double-reefed main and single-furled yankee.  Broken cirrus cloud overhead with mid-level cloud around the horizon.  Our day's run was 107nm (see below), our DMG was 116nmnm and we have 340nm to go.

The day's run above is clearly incorrect since our DMG is higher.  The log impeller continued to freeze yesterday afternoon but I think we've fixed it now.  Amazing how much trouble a strand of hair can cause.  I estimate we actually did 160nm yesterday and 130nm today, based on our DMGs and the degree to which we off the direct course.

For those interested in the unusual - we noticed an unusual characteristic of our position yesterday evening.  The magnitudes of our latitudes and longitudes were equal.  More than unusual at home in Australia since it can't happen beyond +/-90 degrees longitude.  We didn't notice it in the South Atlantic shortly after leaving St Helena.  Nor did we notice it enroute from Richards Bay to Port Elizabeth in South Africa.  So now we've crossed three of the four "lines" on which the equality occurs.  The only other one (NE from 0N 0E) is most easily crossed in the eastern Med.  No plans to complete the set at present! ;)

Latitude == Longitude

Yesterday afternoon winds decreased to 20-25 knots from the WNW.  It was a fairly dreary afternoon with overcast sky and frequent drizzle.  It was cold too, with the air brought to us from _way_ north by the depression to our NE.  In the evening the wind lightened to 15-20 knots with periods of 20-25 in showers.  The cloud became broken but the drizzle turned to occasional rain.  We spent most of the night under yankee only which was very quiet but not fast!

At 0500 we hoisted the main with a single reef.  This got us moving nicely.  The rain stopped and the skies slowly cleared.  At the moment there is a light covering of high cirrus cloud overhead but heavier mid-level clouds all around.  Nice to be having a little sun before the next depression comes through.

At 0900 we gybed onto starboard tack as the wind went into the WSW.  We expect it to continue backing and this evening it should start increasing again.  We'll follow it around until heading for Horta.  We expect 30-35 knots tonight and tomorrow morning and will have the boat tidied up in preparation for the last blow of the passage.

Trust all's well where you are.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Azores Inbound - Day 12

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 37 14N 038 07W, saillng at 6 knots on a course of 085M. The wind is WNW at 26-30 knots with a 2m sea and 3m+ swell.  We are sailing under triple-furled yankee only.  Overcast sky with some nasty looking black-based clouds around.  Our day's run was 151nm, our DMG was 136nm and we have 456nm to go.

The last 24 hours have been the fastest of the passage, with an average boat speed of 6.3 knots.  That's despite our having to "scare the log" after it stopped several times.  The wind and sea combination suit the boat.  Initially we were beam reaching but it gradually became a broad reach, all with 24-28 knots of wind.  The dominant noise below was the rush of water past the hull, with overtones of wind in rig.  The boat gets "on the rails" and goes.  It felt like "racing" but whenever we furled a little more yankee the boat slowed and was thrown around by the waves much more.

We've been steering alternately with Aires vane gear and the autopilot.  Both manage the conditions really well.  The Aires shows no sign of diving off to leeward as it did so often in the Indian Ocean, perhaps because there's little cross-swell here.  The Pelagic Autopilot actuator is performing well too, driven by our Raymarine course computer.  I've also hand-steered for short periods to assure myself the tiller is remaining intimate with the rudder - thankfully it is.  The boat steers very precisely at speed.  At lower speeds the helm movements become much larger.

Just another passing low pressure system!
(recommended route to Horta shown)

At 1100 this morning the wind increased to 30+ knots and backed around to the WNW.  The boat was then overpressed so we handed the main.  We can sail lower under headsail alone which countered the backed wind direction. The wind has moderated a little and we're continuing less stressfully under headsail alone.

The latest GRIBs show the current strong wind abating later today.  We'll then have about 24 hours of lighter winds before the next system arrives.  Where previously the next system looked scary, each new GRIB shows it as being less strong.  Long may that trend continue!

We have decided on our destination in the Azores.  We are heading towards Horta.  Horta is the "traditional" destination for cruisers and yet another iconic place for us to visit.  Looking forward to checking out Peter's Cafe Sport, the "most famous bar in the North Atlantic"!

Friday, 3 June 2016

Azores Inbound - Day 11

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 36 48N 040 52W, saillng at 6.5 knots on a course of 085M. The wind is NNW at 24-28 knots with a 2m sea and 3m+ swell. We are sailing under double-reefed main and triple-furled yankee. Broken cumulus cloud. Our day's run was 135nm, our DMG was 102nm and we have 592nm to go. Less than a Sydney Hobart!

Yesterday afternoon the wind gradually built up to 20-25 knots in the evening before easing in the small hours. At dawn it was down to less than 15 knots. Since then it has gradually built again and we're currently romping along.

We had a bit of excitement last night when I found the tiller had about 5 degrees of "play" before it moved the rudder. Alarming. But then I thought through the possibilities and realised the most likely cause was the bolt which orients and holds the tiller bracket in line with the rudder shaft. After years of perfect service the s/s bolt had worked loose. It took two minutes to retighten it and all now seems well. Item added to inspection list!

We continue to see lots of Velella / Portuguese Men'o'War. We're now seeing them in fairly windy conditions too. Last night we had our first flying fish aboard since Bermuda. He must have been lost. Last night we also saw and heard dolphins playing around the bow. That's always a treat. The water temperature is now 18C. Twilights are becoming very noticably longer as our latitude gradually increases.

On the HF/SSB nets the boats are discussing the developing depression approaching our area from the west. It is due to pass to our north on Monday night and Tuesday bringing yet another cold front. We're watching the forecasts closely.

Western Australian yacht Taipan came up on the net a couple of nights ago. We came across them in Bermuda after last seeing them more than 10 years ago in WA. We both took part in the 2002 Fremantle to Darwin "Splash" event (we in our previous boat Degrees of Freedom). Nice to be in the same part of the world with them again.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Azores Inbound - Day 10

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 37 06N 043 09W, saillng at 5 knots on a course of 120M. The wind is NW at 15-20 knots with a 2m leftover sea and 2m swell. We are sailing under double-furled yankee only. Overcast sky. Our day's run was 137nm, our DMG was 106nm and we have 694nm to go.

We've just come through a weak cold front and a few minutes ago were under staysail alone in 25-30 knot WSW winds. It's always nice to see the far side of a front!

Yesterday afternoon the WNW wind decreased to 12-16 for a few hours before filling in overnight and backing to the WSW. It was a mostly overcast night with lumpy seas and plenty of wind. We handed the main this morning at 0930 when the wind reached 30 knots and the front was clearly approaching. We both slept very well in our off-watches with the boat nicely snugged down.

We ended up travelling a lot further north overnight than we had planned, which explains the poor DMG. We decided to get through the front in the hope that the NW winds beyond it will give us a good push east. Remains to be seen how that pans out!

It looks like we'll have more practice dealing with fronts before reaching the Azores. There are several more depressions approaching from the W, each of which will probably have a front associated with it.

Craig in Fremantle has advised there is a fleet of racing yachts passing through our area - a New York to France event apparently. Like him I hope they monitor their AIS closely. Thanks Craig!

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Azores Inbound - Day 9

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 35 55N 045 06W, saillng at 6 knots on a course of 080M. The wind is WNW at 20-25 knots with a 2m sea and 2m swell. We are sailing under double-reefed main and single-furled yankee. Scattered mid-level cloud. Our day's run was 134nm, our DMG was 125nm and we have 800nm to go. We're well past the half-way mark!

Yesterday afternoon conditions were uncomfortable with light winds and a high swell. We struggled on under sail in 8-12 knot winds until 2230 when the wind dropped to 6-8 knots. With that wind the sails were slatting horribly so we motor-sailed. Happily only 2 hours later the wind built to 12-15 from the NW and we could kill the motor. Since then the wind has continued to build and back around to the WNW.

Apart from the large swell last night was very nice. With only scattered cloud and no moon for much of the night the stars were bright and clear. Moonrise at about 0300 was spectacular again - just 1/8 but very bright. By morning the swell had decreased somewhat.

We spent much of the night within a few miles of another yacht. We got her name from AIS but didn't recognise her. At times I thought I could see two other yachts in the distance but the swell made it hard to be sure. Getting crowded out here!

Sea temperature is now down to 20C and some nights have been distinctly chilly. The depressions passing to our north drag down some quite cold air. Thermals have been retrieved from deep stowage and put to use.

It looks like we should have pretty good winds for the next few days, perhaps all the way. It's been frustrating having to motor every few days with near-gales in between. That seems to be the way of the world hereabouts. Hopefully our speeds will improve with more consistent weather.