These are the voyages of the sailing vessel Pétillant. Her original eight-month mission: to sail from Baltimore to France via Florida and the Bahamas, to successfully navigate the shoals of the French douane, to boldly go where few Maine Coon cats have gone before was completed in 2008. Now she is berthed in Port Medoc and sails costal Spain, France, and the UK during the summer months.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Two Weeks at Sea to Horta

Well, we are finally in Horta, after a 15 day transit, which is not bad for such a distance (~1800 miles). We understand that we were evidently in a "dead spot" for SPOT, for a while, so there has been some anxiety about our whereabouts. Rest assured that we did fine, and no one was hurt, and nothing major broke. Following is the blow-by-blow, day-by day. We were anchored in Horta last night, but a lot of boats left today because the Azores high is starting to re-form, so we now have a spot on the jetty, as the third boat out in a raft, next to some fussy Brits (sorry Geoffrey and Janet). We finally got a good Wifi signal, and have now even converted the boat's electrical system to plug into 220v, so we are ready for the marina in Port Medoc. Now if we can only get some things fixed, and get one propane tank filled, and see some favorable weather that does not involve gale-force winds...

Read and enjoy the story. We will post some photos later.

May 29, 2008

We left Bermuda in bright sunshine, about 2:20 PM in the afternoon. We did some final grocery shopping, sent some final emails, and finally filled up with fuel ($1.92/liter!!) after one of the cruise ships left. We waiting a bit too long to up-anchor, and had to wait in line for the fuel – seems like lots of other boats have the same idea about leaving today.

Capt. AS thought it would be a good idea for us to sail out of the harbor, so as to not use fuel unnecessarily, so we did, and it was a ball. Underway again after 2 weeks waiting for parts. The boat handles well, everything is working again, and we were off. Winds were from the southwest, about 15 kts, so we did well the first day and evening. Hamburgers for dinner, with some initial mal-de-mer getting sea legs back.

We managed to finally find Herb Hilgenberger’s radio weather forecast, and it seems like we are in for some good, if light winds for a while. We are supposed to have a cold front come thru some time tonight, and the winds will shift to the northwest, but that is not a bad thing.

May 30, 2008

Second day at sea, with all still going well. The front came through about 8:00 PM this morning, and the wind shifted accordingly, but to the NE, and about 10-15 kts. We are now sailing closehauled, with just a bit of the jib out, but a full main. We have seen a few ships passing towards the NW, but otherwise not much interesting. The seas are down to 3-6 feet, and dropping, which is quite a change from our last leg.

The radio weather forecast is for continued NE winds like this thru Sat and into Sunday, when another front is supposed to come down. Herb is telling other boats that they need to get further north, and we are trying, but it is difficult to sail closer than about 070T, and we are being set back by an adverse current of 2-2.5 kts. This is really frustrating because the boat is really hauling along at 7-8 kts thru the water.

Dinner tonite was penne primavera with onions and zucchini and parmesan. Quite tasty and satisfying after a first day at sea. Our first day’s run was about 130 miles, which is pretty respectable, considering the light winds. We are hoping that the winds will back a bit and give us a better push.

May 31, 2008

Wind started the day holding from the NE, at about 10 kts. We had to reef during the night because we had full sail out and we were pushing 9 kts at some points, and the boat was heeling a bit much. With reduced sail, it was much more pleasant for watchstanding and sleeping. We are trying to sail to the wind, holding the boat as close-hauled as possible, on the port tack. The wind is not very constant, however, and we are wandering about 30 degrees to either side of the rhumb line to the Azones. We ran the engine last nite for about 3 hours when the winds shifted dead in our face. We tried to tack, but the stbd tack has us pointing almost directly back towards NY, which is NOT where we want to go.

After lunch, the wind pretty much died, and we started to motor-sail, and then just motor on the rhumb line, or a bit north of it. In his broadcast, Herb is starting to advise boats leaving Bermuda for the Azores to head NE, towards 35N60W, which is about 120 miles north of us. He says there is a ridge located about 34N, and the winds are good to the north of this. We are seeing no wind whatsoever, sitting just south of the ridge. We then decided to head about 060M, which will move us further north, and hopefully we will start to see some wind tonite.

Breakfast as quite calm, and NL decided to take advantage of the calm and make bacon, eggs, and grits. We also like the whole-wheat bread we bought in Bermuda – it is from a local bakery and is not as sweet as the stuff from the US. Late afternoon snacks included our first peanut butter and jeyyly sandwiches of the trip.

After lunch, we started the engine again and also made water, heated it, and took showers. We think this may become a routine, to put the engine to best use to make electricity, to make water, to heat the water, and also to help move us along. The wind and solar panels are doing a good job of keeping the batteries charged, but they can’t provide a hot shower.

The second day’s run is only 76 miles, which is a bit disappointing. We need to start whistling for some more wind. NL says that we should be careful what we wish for…

June 1, 2008

Spent the whole nite motoring towards the NE, and finally found some wind up around 34N. Most of the day was sailing at around 4 kts in light SW winds 10-12 kts. We made contact with Herb, from Southbound II, and he advised staying on this course to the NE, to find better winds. He said that the Bermuda-Azores high is building, and we don’t want to have to motor right thru the middle of it. It was quite fun to talk to someone in Canada over the SSB. We spend some time every day listening to people around the world talking on the short-wave. There are nets for the east coast cruisers, for west coast cruisers, for weather for people in the Bahamas, and for hurricanes, which have just started up, with one deep in the SW Caribbean. Hopefully, that one won’t come near us.

The evening passed with a nice gratin of some sort of tropical vegetable, called chou-chou(sp?) that NL knew from her days in the south Pacific. Quite tasty, with tabouleh and asparagus (out of a can). Because of our long voyage, we are sadly forced to eat stuff out of jars and cans, but NL does a great job with what she has – it seems like ALL of the cooks on this boat have been quite inventive and successful when faced with the limited resources of a boat.

The day ended at midnite with a few rainstorms bearing down on us. The days run was about 120 miles, which was quite respectable.

June 2, 2008

We got rained on during the mid-watch, but this was accompanied by some nice favorable winds, so we did not mind at all. Unfortunately, the winds dropped around dawn, so we started up the engine and motored for a few hours till the wind returned, and we were rewarded with a few hours of sailing at 7 kts with a 15 kt wind on the beam, on a flat sea. It doesn’t get much better than this. We have also picked up about 0.5 kts of a favorable current, which is nice considering that we have been fighting an unfavorable current of up to 2.5 kts for the past few days. Today we made about 104 miles, which seems a bit low, considering how fast we moved during the nite. But we were probably only making 2-3 kts during the day, so it all evened out at about 4 kts average for the day.

We also did a dive into the forward deep storage, under the V-berth, to try to find a bigger pot for pasta, and the muffin pan. Found the larger pot, but the lids have gone somewhere else, and the muffin pan is not here. Where-oh-where has the muffin pan gone? We also found a bit of water up forward, probably from the leg to Bermuda. We opened it all up and aired it out, to dry things, and also re-stowed a number of items.

Wind dropped a bit during the afternoon, but we are still making 5.2 kts. Decent, respectable speed. No need to motor. Quiet. Good. Talked to Herb again and he encouraged us to get north of 35N, where good wind would be. We will stay on ~081T because it edges us up there, and does not sacrifice any easting.

June 3, 2008

Finally made it to 35N, and winds have picked up to very respectable values – 15-20 kts from SSW. As a result, boat speed has gone up to 6-6.5 kts. We are still seeing current against us of ~0.5 kts. Occasionally we will get a boost from current, but it seems that more often than not, it has been agin us. We saw a few rain clouds on radar in the night, and the mid-watch had to close the hatches because one of them came and sat on us for a while, but it was welcome to have a fresh-water washdown. AS also saw a large fishing boat, all lit up like a cruise ship. We gave it a wide berth, and passed like two ships in the night. Days run was 121 miles, which is a bit disappointing, considering how fast we have been going. This is not a bad value, because it shows us making a respectable 5 kts, but hopefully our fast French boat is capable of a bit more…

AS has been trying to catch some fish, but no luck so far. He has used one of the poles, and even a hand line with a piece of heavy seine-cord on it. Fresh fish would be nice right about now. During the day we also passed a long line of floats that appeared to be attached to either a long net or a line of fishing hooks. We could not see what was below the surface, and even though we tried to avoid it, at one point we ended up sailing across the line between two floats, but we did not hit anything. We wondered what would happen if we hit one of these in the night. They are not large, but would certainly make a loud noise, and maybe even cause some damage.

The wind kept blowing at 15-20 kts all day and into the night, and we did not have to motor at all. Herb advised staying at this latitude and heading east. There is a Low forming over NY that will be heading to the north of us, and we don’t want to get too close to it.

June 4, 2008

We made a consistent 6.5 kts through the night, so our days run today should be great. Weather is holding, with bright sunshine. Batteries are down a bit, so today would be a good day to run engine to charge batteries, make water, heat it, and take showers. We will also download some wefax charts to see what has developed with the Low that herb mentioned. Started engine at 9:50 and commenced making water. Speed went up to 7.5 kts, even with the engine just ticking over at 1500 rpm,

The swells are down quite a bit today. Yesterday we noted that they seemed to rise quite a bit in the afternoon, to about 6 feet, and we also noted that we were seeing swells from the south as well as from the NW, which made the ride a bit lumpy. This morning we still have swells from the S, but the NW component is gone, and the surface between each swell is much quieter. The boat motion is a bit better, but this is still not a full-keel boat – it reacts to every wave, from whatever direction, in spite of all of the stuff that is packed on-board.

Ran engine till 2:00 PM, and then tried to transfer fuel from jerry jugs to center tank. Was only able to transfer one and a half cans before we had problems with sloshing, due to boat being on stbd tack, and fill pipe is on port side of boat. We probably could have filled the tank more, but the boat movement was throwing fuel back up the fill line and sloshing it out. We decided to hold off on this evolution till we are eight flat or on a port tack.

Everyone took advantage of engine run time to take showers, and now all feel quite a bit better. The boat speed was a steady 7.5 kts while we ran the engine, but has now dropped back to about 6.2. We made 148 miles for the day’s run, which is quite good – 6 kts average. Sea swells have come back up to about 6 feet, but they are long period and not a problem.

We have now discovered two pieces of hardware on deck for which we have no idea where they came from. One is a small 1-inch machine screw, while the other is about 1 inch long, and looks like a clevis pin without a head or hole for a cotter pin. The pin looks like it could be a center pin for a block, but all of the blocks have plates on the side to keep the pins in. The machine screw looks like it comes off of a cover, and we will have to take a close look at the radome in Horta to see if it came from there. We will also go to the top of the mast to see if anything is missing up there. We tried to look for missing parts with binoculars, but all the important stuff looks like it is still there. Nothing looks like it is missing. This is the sort of thing that will drive you nuts. AS thinks maybe the pin has been down a long time, because it was trapped under a spring that holds up one of the fairlead blocks for the mainsheet. It would have been a real fluke for a pin to have dropped and bounced to fit perfectly through this spring. The block itself is fine, and there appears to be some wear on the plate where the pin was resting, so it really does appear to have been there some time. AS thinks that maybe the rigger dropped it when he inspected the rig in Baltimore. Maybe someone in France wanted to have some fun with future owners…

We are also noticing that the mast is pumping a bit, indicating that the lower shrouds need to be tightened up a bit. If we get a period of calm we will cinch them up, or we may have to wait till Horta. The mast makes an irritating sound as the heel works in its socket on deck.
Although we are listening to Herb, we are also picking up the NWS weather faxes out of Boston, and it is interesting to see the ice reports that show icebergs as far south as 43N. We have on board one chart of the North Atlantic from Imray that shows historical icebergs, and early in the 19th century they were sighted as far south as Bermuda (32N), at this time of year. Maybe this is one thing to be grateful for, in these days of “Global Warming”.

Tonite, Herb advised people to stay south of 36N, even around 35N. We are just below 36N, and are trying to head directly east. The wind piped up during the 9-12 watch, and at midnite we reefed down both the main and the jib. Still making 6.5-7 kts over the ground, with a favorable 0.5 kt current. However, we are making strong leeway, and have to aim quite southerly to keep on a straight east course. We are now close-hauled on stbd tack, with 2-reefs in for the nite.

Great meal tonite. We are out of long-grain rice, so NL used arborio rice to make paella, and it was very much like a risotto, but without the cheese. Quite tasty. We will have to load up on staples in the Azores.

June 5, 2008

The night was lively, after reefing down at midnite. We had to shut all the hatches because we were taking some water on deck. Boat speed stayed pretty constant thru the night, at 6.5-7 kts and the winds rose to ~20kts, still from the south. The Low that we are watching is supposed to shift the wind to the SW, which would be more welcome than from the south. Boat progress for the day was 155 miles, which is a record for this trip. We are now under 1000 miles to Horta, and making very good progress.

Talked to Herb tonite, and he recommended that we move further to south, below 35N, to avoid gale conditions from the approaching low. It is supposed to be building, and unpleasant. This provoked some discussion among the different levels of management on the boat, with one faction wanting to head in a more southerly direction, to avoid the blow, while the other wanted to stay at least on this latitude, and avoid losing northing to get to Horta. In the end, it was agreed to stay on the current latitude, and hope that the low will move north, and also prepare for some more excitement…

Dinner was nachos and leftover paella/risotta. Quite good. Some of us really long for a nice glass of wine, but we will remain “dry” till the anchor goes down in Horta. Then we will be able to try some vinho tinto and vinho verde.

June 6, 2008 (An appropriate day for a group of Americans to be headed in the direction of France)

The overnite sail was quite nice, at about 5 kts with reefed sails. The favorable current comes and goes. Looking at the pilot charts, we are in a region of eddies in the north Atlantic, and sometimes we get a good current, other times it is agin us. C’est la vie. We wanted to have a pleasant nite to get some rest in advance of a future blow, so we sacrificed some speed for a calmer ride. It turns out that there is one nice sea-berth in the boat, right in the middle, next to the salon table. By organizing the salon cushions properly it is possible to set up a narrow berth that is padded on 3 sides, where one can comfortably wedge-in, and get some sleep. This spot is the one that our oldest cat (Zabelle) picked out for her time on the boat, and she evidently knew what she was doing. The aft cabin is alright if you sleep athwartship, while the forward v-berth is only tenable for one person, and then only of you are willing to relocate to one side or the other. It also moves the most vertically, and is not nice in a high seaway.

Winds are still from the SW, at 15 kts, and we started the engine to charge batteries around
11:00. We also changed clocks one hour ahead at 11. Days run was 125 miles, a decent 5 kts, under reduced sail.

1:30 pm – we are battening down for a blow, and waiting for the WEFAX to arrive. At 4:45 we reduced sail a bit more, in anticipation of even more severe conditions, possibly worse than we saw on the way to Bermuda. This engendered some more discussion about the need for more excitement this trip, and a desire to hold down the level of excitement, even if it meant having to go out of the way and take more time getting to the ultimate destination. Unfortunately, we are where we are, and we have to deal with the situation we are in, right now, so we are preparing for more excitement.

5:30 pm – the 24 hr forecast says that the big low will move north, but it has spawned secondary low that is coming down to our latitude. It will be interesting to hear what Herb has to say about this. We may have chosen the correct course, in spite of concerns about staying south. In the end, we may actually thread the needle between a couple of nasty low-pressure systems.

8:00 pm Herb was a bit taken aback that we were still up around 36N, and he encouraged us to move towards the SE. He said that we would see the front pass us tomorrow afternoon, and the wind would shift from SW to NW and N, maybe even NE. He thought we should slow down and wait for the winds to gradually return to W or SW once the front passes us. Until then, we should see SW winds at 25-30, with gusts to 35.

In response to this advice, we have decided to hold the course, and stay at 36N, in the hopes that the front will pass quickly, and we will not lose any ground towards the Azores. We have seen stronger winds and done reasonably well in them.

With this decision made, we set sail for heavy winds, with a scrap of jib and main out, and had a hearty dinner of soup. We are glad that we got out the corners of the enclosure, and they fit well, so we not have a completely enclosed helm station. We are also seeing currents going in our direction of 1-2 kts. This is a nice change from earlier in the trip.

June 7, 2008

The winds rose during the night, peaking during the 3-6 watch, with the max speed seen of about 40 kts. Generally they were in the 25-30 range, with gusts up into the 30s. Seas continued to build, to 9-12 feet, and sleeping was a challenge. During the morning watch the winds abated a bit, and the during the 10-14 watch we got our first appearance of the front on radar. A large batch of rain cells descended on us from the NW, and about 1:30 pm it hit us, with some squalls at first, and very heavy rain, which was welcome to wash down the boat. once the leading edge passed, we settled into a steady rainfall, and cooler temperatures. The winds shifted to the W, and dropped to 15-20, with gusts as high as 30. The rain also knocked down the seas a bit. All-in-all, nothing we could not handle. Days run of 134, which is quite decent considering the small amount of sail that we are carrying.

6:00 pm The NWS weather charts for tomorrow are showing a developing storm right where we are, with winds of 45 kts and seas of 21 ft. We are waiting for Herb to get to our area to see what sort of advice he can give. I expect that he will tell us to slow down and wait, but we have everything reefed down, and are still making nearly 5 kts. Looking at the charts a bit closer, it looks like we may be able to skirt this low along the south. The 500mb charts show a strange loop dipping down to our latitude, and the 48 hr prediction shows the low pushing back north. The winds on the east side of the low will be from the S-SE, so maybe we can sneak around it and then head NE to the Azores.

Herb was again surprised that we were so far north, and he urged us to move SE towards 35N-40W, to avoid serious winds/waves from the large low to the north. After some discussion, it was decided to head more towards the south, so we tried to sail SE as close to the wind as possible. This worked until about midnite, when it became apparent that we were losing the southing we had made earlier, and were in fact drifting NE. So, at midnite we started the engine and tried to motor sail towards the SE. This caused much pounding as this course was opposed to the swells, and about 5:30, we gave that up. During the nite, the mid-watch and morning watches saw winds in the 45-50 kt range, and seas building

June 8, 2008

The 6-10 watch took over and stopped the engine, to see if it was possible to still sail. It was, but only just about dead east, with a little northing. This was considered preferable to pounding, so the day began. Radar revealed pockets of cells marching up from the south, and these dumped torrential rains on the boat, as well as stimulating high-speed gusts, up to 57 kts. Seas were knocked down by the rain somewhat, but were still in the 12-18 ft range. The boat rode them quite well with just a scrap of job and main out, and the wind on the stbd quarter. We had several washover waves, that put green water over the cockpit, and once over the enclosure. We also had one of the water jugs washed loose, but managed to retrieve it before it went completely. We also had to retrieve one of the Life-Slings that lost two of its attachment points to a sideswiping wave. During this watch, there was also a quite intense exchange of views between the owners representative, and the head of the executive team, about whether this all could have been avoided. Nothing was resolved, and both parties left unsatisfied. The use of weather data to try to avoid bad weather is sure to come up again in the future…

After noon the winds seemed to subside, but gusts to 59 kts were still observed. It was very difficult to steer the boat during these gusts in any other direction but downwind, which was approximately 060T, which is exactly the direction we do NOT want to go, so we try to hand steer during the gusts, and let the autopilot take it other times. Around 1 PM the wind shifted more to the W, which may be a good sign that the low is moving north. (We hope!) We took in all sail and are trying to motor east with the winds at our back.

Normally, at this time of the year there should be an enormous stationary High Pressure system right over our heads, with no wind underneath it whatsoever. This requires most boats to go around to the north, or alternatively motor thru the high. But not this year…..

We are currently waiting for the afternoon WEFAXes, to see what the NWS is going to throw at us now…

No good reception in the afternoon, but much improved in the early evening, so we got a whole set. We did not listen to Herb tonite – it would not have made any effect on our plans…

NL decided to do some cooking and made some fresh tomato sauce, with spaghetti, which was well received as a hot meal after a cold day.

At least the winds have subsided, as the low moved north, although the swells are still pretty high. We let out more sail and are moving E at 5 kts. Will stay like this tomorrow, when winds and seas are supposed to be down a bit. But there is ANOTHER low dropping down from the maritimes, and it should be here in about 48 hours. Hopefully we will be well east by then. It is also raining quite a bit, and we are all in full foulies. The temperature has also dropped quite a bit.

The evening watch also had to deal with problems with the GPS and a thunderstorm. The GPS problem had shown up once before, on the trip south, and it appeared to be a loose connection in the GPS “mushroom”. For non-sailors, we should explain that many GPS units for boats are mounted in a small structure the size of your fist, in the shape of a mushroom. It generally mounts on the rail, aft, or up on the arch. This mushroom contains the entire GPS unit, and the wires that connect to it provide it with power and take the GPS information out. There are no other GPS boxes inside the boat for this instrument. We think it actually talks “Sea-Talk”, a proprietary format used by Raymarine, who provided our instruments. Well, the cable for this unit is potted into the bottom, and does not have any user-accessible connections, and it appears that one of the wires, not clear which one, has a break, and is making intermittently. So, we had to fiddle with this, in the rain, haning over the edge of the boat, in 25 kts of wind, to try to get the wires inside the cable to make contact. Eventually, with the application of enough tie-wraps, we were successful, so our GPS connection to the chartplotter was restored. In the Azores we will have to look for a new one, and see if the old one can be fixed. We also have 3 handheld GPS units to use for backup, if necessary.

The thunderstorm was spectacular, but luckily all the lightning was cloud-cloud. We just hung on and prayed that we would not get hit, and we did not. Ahhh the power of prayer…

June 9, 2008

A quiet night, at last. The winds dropped to 15 kts, and eventually we had to start the engine because they all went away. Finally, we have found the Azores High, but the pressure isn’t that high (1010mb). The wefaxes say that we should be in the middle of a band of clear weather, with light NW winds, and this is dead-on. We all got some good sleep in the night, and the 3-6 watch watched the sun some up through the band of clouds to the east – the remnants of the front that battered us. The swells were still about 9 feet when the sun came up, and the seas were generally very confused, on top of the swells, so the boat moved around a bit, but not like during the storm. Full foulies were used thru the night, and were appreciated for their warmth.

By about 9 AM we were able to shake out the sails and do some sailing, about 5 kts to the east.
The Azores now lie about 500 miles east. We also refueled from the jerry jugs, and now have about 85 gal left. If necessary, we could motor the entire remaining distance to Horta.
Breakfast was a treat – eggs, bacon, and grits – when the weather is nice, NL likes to make a special meal.

Now we start the afternoon watch, and we are back into bathing suits and T-shirts. The wind also died about 1 PM, so we are back to motoring. Days run of 97 miles. Good considering the conditions. Took the opportunity to make water and take showers. Clean underwear for all!

Fresh fish! At 5:45, AS hooked a large yellow-fin tuna. He fought it for over 45 minutes before rxc gaffed it and brought it aboard. It dove deep and took a lot of line, and then went in circles, so that we had to maneuver the boat to keep it from getting caught in the rudder or prop or keel. When we finally brought it up, it seemed to be followed by at least one other tuna. It was probably in the 40 pound class, and we got a LOT of meat out of it. The cleaning process was, again, quite messy, with blood all over the cockpit. One might think that we had engaged in a major sea battle to fend off attacks by those dastardly British, who have been known to board American vessels in these waters, looking for sailors to press.

Luckily, we have a SW washdown system, so we were able to give the cockpit a good washing, and we don’t think it smells too much like a fishing boat. Sauteed the first tuna steaks, and they were wonderful. One member of the crew, however, was not enthusiastic about eating a creature that had just looked him in the eye. Maybe tomorrow, after the vision has receded into the distance. BTW, fresh sushi, at body temperature, is quite good, but I think I prefer it slightly chilled.

Evening watches were quite gentle.

June 10, 2008

Midwatch was a good exercise in trying to find patterns in the radar screen. Winds were gentle (15 kts) and favorable, but rain cells kept popping up all over the place, some coming overhead and dropping gentle rains, others going their own way. No excitement. The morning watch did lose most of the wind, though, and decided to start the engine. We then motored for a while, and then began to sail again around 10 AM. This seems to be the pattern – sail when possible, but don’t hesitate to start the engine. We made 134 miles today, which is again a good run.

Breakfast was pain perdu, with sirop d’erable.

Around noon, the winds piped up again, and after an exciting round-up , we reduced sail, but are still heading east at about 6 kts. Made more water and had tuna for lunch, with boat-made mayo. Finally figured out what is screwing up the WEFAX – it is the inverter. Interesting that this just showed up. It looks like something changed in the way the wires run thru the boat, and now we must have a power wire running close to an antenna wire, or other lead into the SSB radio. I checked a few places that might have been prime suspects, such as the antenna wire back aft, which crosses the main power leads into the boat, and where we have been storing trash, so see if we moved anything, but no amount of relocating back there changes anything. We can deal with this in the interim by turning off the inverter and the fridge while receiving faxes. Since the laptop can run on batteries for about 2 hours, we will do this till we can figure out how to shield the inverter. I think we will have to buy a LOT more chokes and hang them all over the boat wiring to suppress RFI.

Dinner proved the earlier conjecture that tuna is better chilled. It turns out that we were able to actually freeze a lot of our catch by placing it against the cold plate in the fridge, and when she went to make tuna provincial tonite, NL left some out to thaw, and we tried it sliced like sashimi with some soy sauce – fabulous! We ate quite a bit raw, and it could easily turn into a regular evening aperitif.

After dinner, we reefed down, as the winds were starting to pick up. The 9-12 watch was uneventful, but some rain came over during the mid-watch, and the morning watch saw the winds pipe up considerably. We also had to talk to a container ship at 5AM, when it appeared to be headed straight for our stern.

June 11, 2008

We are now in the throes of our THIRD gale of this trip. The whole purpose of making this trip in May-June was to avoid this sort of weather, which is just not supposed to be here at this time of year. Unfortunately, the low pressure system to the north is still going strong, and it is therefore churning up some strong counter-clockwise winds that we see as gales from the S and soon the SE. There are some boats that we heard were going straight across, north of the low, but we cannot imagine how they are going to do this, in the face of 30-40kt gales. They will have to go south, and go by the Azores, like us, and we can’t imagine that they won’t stop.

jlm had expressed some concern about making this trip, citing the possibility of boredom, but it can definitely be said that this trip is NOT boring – exhausting maybe, but not boring.

We will be having survival cup-of-soup for lunch today. The winds are steady 30 kts, with gusts to 40-45. We are back to deep, deep, deep reefs, going east at 4-5 kts.

We caught another flying fish last nite, and it eventually washed down to the level of the cockpit around 11 AM. This one was bigger than usual, around 12 inches long. Photos will be posted. We have caught quite a few flying fish, and even one squid, which was found on deck just aft of the mast. How it got there is anyone’s guess – maybe washed up in a green water wave.

1545 UTC - The latest weather charts show that the front has already passed over us, and we are on the back side of the permanent low. The winds should be gradually moderating and backing to the SE, which means that we may have to either beat hard or motor into the wind to get into Horta.

Dinner was tortellini, with olive oil and parmesan. The evening watches settled in to sailing small, with quite reduced sail. No one had a good time sleeping, however, because the seas were so confused that we continually corkscrewed and fell off the edge of waves into the troughs. This can be particularly jarring when you hear it the first time, because you might very well think that the boat has run into something, but it is just the flat bottom of the boat hitting the water below it, with a big smack. Similar smacks on the side of the boat sound quite loud inside, but not up in the cockpit.

June 12, 2008

The winds picked up during the night, and we started to have some problems with the radar scanner. During this trip, it started to trip off when ever we flushed a toilet, either because of the voltage drop caused by the powerful motor, or due to RFI from the motor. However, because this is a new problem, it is more likely related to a loose connection somewhere, probably in the power to the scanner. During the night, this problem got worse, to the point that we had to shut it down completely at about 5 AM this morning. It was not a good thing, because we depend on the radar to see other ships at night, as well as weather. We had many rain-cells pass over during the night, and in the morning, we had a few flashes of lightning, but these seemed to be cloud-cloud. We shook out a bit of the reef in the jib at 5, and then started the engine, because we were not making good progress to windward to make our mark in Horta.
The slow speed of the boat, coupled with the strong winds on the beam combine to push us quite hard to leeward. Later in the forenoon watch, the skies cleared up a bit, and the wind veered more to the SW, so we stopped the engine and unfurled the mainsail completely. The jib is still deeply reefed. Made 7 kts and up to 8 at times before having to reef down again because of blows. Sea-state was still high, but no whitecaps. Finally shook out reef in main around 2 PM.

Sailed nicely at 6 kts thru the afternoon, and just before dinner we shook out the reef for the jib, and with all sail up headed towards Horta at 5 kts. Patches of sunshine all afternoon, interspersed with rain cells, and even some green water over the bow as boat fell off of waves into troughs. We are mightily glad to have the enclosure. Dinner was more tuna provencial, with green beans and mashed potatoes. The tuna was a bit moister than the first time around, because NL had essentially marinated it in the sauce for 2 days before cooking it.

Winds and seas continued to diminish through the evening, and eventually we rolled in the jib and started the engine, motoring east at about 6 kts. The current has been fickle today, as throughout the entire trip. Sometimes 1-1.5 kts with us, sometimes against us. During the mid-watch, we are losing 1 kt to the current. We are now down to less than 60 miles to Horta!

June 13, 2008 (Friday the 13th)

Soon after the mid-watch started, we noticed that the winds were blowing again, so we stopped motoring, rolled out the main and jib, and sailed east at about 6.5 kts. This pattern continued thru the night, sometimes sailing, sometimes motoring. We made water during the night, filling up the central tank in anticipation of needing it in Horta.

Land was sighted about 8:30 AM. The mountains of Faiel appeared briefly and tenuously thru the clouds, and then disappeared. The western end of the island appeared next, and eventually we were able to see the coastline, including buildings and other structures. We sailed almost continuously after about 5 AM, at speeds from 5 to 9(!) kts, sometimes close-hauled, sometimes on a reach, but the boat handled quite nicely. We reached Horta entrance about noon (boat time), anchored in the harbor, and went ashore to clear in. Customs was quite easy, and we talked to some other boaters about sources of re-supply and repair. So far, it appears that we need to deal with the GPS and the depthsounder, which is not responding. The Raymarine GPS works, but it would be best to fix it before we leave. The sounder is a significant problem that may require hauling the boat. The radar has come back on line, after we unplugged and replugged the connector cable. We also had quite a scare when the genset had a “surge and die” episode, but that seems to have passed. Probably some air got into a fuel line, or some water, but the fuel filter looks fine. We also have some mast tuning to do.

Re-provisioning includes fresh fruits and veggies, propane, other consumables. We also discovered that we had to advance our clock by 2 hours, instead of the one hour we thought. We are definitely getting closer to France…

AS and NL went off hiking in the hills while rxc and ch went off in search of good food and likker. We found both at the Peter Cafe Sport, an internationally known dive for sailors in Horta. It is decorated with all sorts of boatie-stuff, and is right there on the water. Food was good, at a reasonable price, and we got both local beer and vinho tinto to asuage our thirst.

June 14, 2008

We were up early this AM, to get to the laundry and to the nearest marine supply place, which is supposed to be a Raymarine repair center, to see whether they could do anything about the GPS or the depthsounder. Unfortunately, it is Saturday, and their technician does not work on weekends, so we will have to come back on Monday at 10. We also left the empty propane bottle but that will not be ready till Monday at 3:30(!), so we are consigned (?) to stay here till probably Tuesday.

We did get laundry done, and NL found the local market, which is not open on Sunday, but which will be open on Monday. We now have enough to cook on board, so we will see what we do tonite. It looks like there is not much left to do on the boat till Monday, and we are trying to decide whether to even try to fix the depth sounder. The track into the Gironde is well-marked, and deep, and if we have good GPS fixes, we should be fine. Replacing the tranducer would require hauling the boat, and we are not sure it could be done in slings, but might instead require putting the boat on the hard for a few days. The GPS seems to be fine, and we have confirmed that we can hook up one of the handhelds thru the autopilot, as a backup.

While AS and NL and ch worked on laundry, rxc put together a 220v shorepower cable, and rewired the taps on the isolation transformer to take 220, and we now have shorepower. The fussy Brit (identified from this point as the FB) offered to let us plug into one of his outlets - he said that it had French plugs, and we could use it, but we declined. We didn't want to sully his pristine sockets with our connectors, and in and case, we don't have any French plugs on board, yet.

No comments: