Antigua to Azores

Mon - 2 May Up at 6 and squaring the last few things on the boat for departure. It was then into the water for a final quick scrub of the hull and a clean of the log. Even at that time in the morning the water was nice and warm. After a quick internet fix it was up with the anchor and we motorsailed the South coast of Antigua. We had not been underway an hour when the heavens opened. It was the most torrential rain we had seen since the Tuamotos. Thankfully the rain was relatively short lived. We turned the SW corner and started to head North. The seas were flat and we were making good speeds. Come 1600 we were abreast of Barbuda and then it was out to sea away from land. Time for dinner and to settle into the first of many night watches. Tue IMG_1328It has been a great days sail. We are doing 5-6 knots at 60 apparent in gentle seas. The sun is out and it is very pleasant indeed. We are all adjusting to life at sea again and re-establishing our proven routines. V is not yet convinced why she can't yet go for A WALK. Wed The SSB net is working well and we are talking with Super Ted, Iona, Deese and Island Swift (receive only). Super Ted are heading to Bermuda and Deese are leading the pack to the Azores. Despite having the weakest HF set I seem to have become Net Controller! The winds have risen so we have reefed. The seas are still flat so all is quite comfortable. Thu C called me up on deck as she thought a squall was approaching. We made the call to leave the sails but just as I was getting back into my bunk I heard the winds increasing and the rain starting. It was quickly back onto deck and reefing the sails. It only took a couple of minutes but I was drenched. The boat was happy sailing again so I went below and got changed. That was the end of my off watch sleep. I came back up and relieved C. Over the next few hours the winds built to about 24 knots - on the nose, the waves began to develop but Gallinago sailed on smoothly taking water over the bow. When the sun came up the heavens opened, moments later the wind completely dropped off and I could see a rainbow end to end behind us. A few minutes of rest bite and the winds kicked in again. Fri On watch at 0430. The winds are gusting up a bit and we are just about managing to outrun a big squall line. The boat is moving well and only pounding into the sea occasionally when we come off a wave badly. V was awake a couple of times in the night but generally manages to sleep through most things. 0530 and a great sunrise. The boat is continually taking waves and the jerky motion as we plough through waves is far from comfortable. Come the afternoon and sea has a gentle rhythm to it and the winds have abated. We are sliding along at a great pace. C is sleeping and V is watching the iPad. I am enjoying watching the endless sea. 1700 I need to get dinner on before the little one starts screaming. Pasta and veggie stuff - everyone seemed to enjoy it. As the sun sets, the sky to our west has an amazing array of clouds from cirrus to alto-stratus and the beginnings of cumulus. It is building eastwards towards us - pretty but not a good sign. 1830 the little one is in bed. C in bed by 2000. Time to settle down for the first watch. Sat I reef the Main Sail just before 10. Come midnight I go down to do the log and give C a shake for her watch. A disturbed sleep for her as she was up at 10 checking to see if I needed a hand with the Main. I hand over the watch with an uneasy feeling. The winds have been building and the sea becoming livelier. An hour later C calls me. We have a squall upon us with 35 knots of wind. We battle the boat, reef the Main still further and turn down wind for an easier ride. The boat is under control and sailing well again. The seas are feisty. I give it 15 mins with C before heading to my bunk. A lively watch for C who has to take the helm, tweak the sails and wind vain and try and keep dry. I check on her as I hear the wind surging, but she has it all in hand so I return to my turbulent bunk. Sun 0500 the little one wakes up. On the plus side the winds have abated and although we have 3 meter seas running they are not too aggressive. Mon - 9 May IMG_1322The winds are going light but we are still able to make good progress. We used the last of our bagels with the cream cheese and bacon for breakfast - very tasty. After the rougher conditions C has caught up on all the nappies. They are trailed in a bag behind the boat for half an hour, then wrung out and rinsed in fresh water before being pegged out on the guard wires. The little one resisted going to sleep today so it was entertaining duties all day. 1830 though and she was out like a light. We caught up with all the other boats on the net. Everyone seems to be doing well. Tue The sun is slowly rising as we motor away. The water maker has been running for the last five hours and our tanks are almost full. The ocean has a slight swell running beam to us. It is all very peaceful ....apart from when our electronic autopilot trips out with a series of high pitched beeps and the boat starts to steer off in the wrong direction. With our water tanks full it will be shower day today. We also have to drop and repair the headsail which has split 2 seams. Then a good clean though the boat. Hopefully tomorrow will bring some stronger winds and we will be sailing again. 0645 the sail is down and I am stitching away whilst C is entertaining the little one. The tanks are now overflowing with water and we have all had a shower.....it's only 1030.... What to do with the rest of the day 🙂 winds remain light so we motor on. C has made some Brownies and some Banana Muffins whilst I had an hours sleep 1100 - 1200. C hits the sac so I brew some coffee and download the latest weather. A chilled rest of the day motorsailing. I covered the night watches to give C some extra sleep as she was trying to get over a cold. It was a flat night so I was able to get pretty comfortable in the cockpit. Wed It has been great sailing today. The seas have been relatively flat and we have been making good speeds under a polled out headsail.  I eased a bit of main out towards the end of the day as the winds picked up and when I knew the sails wouldn't flap. One ship seen today. Generally we have not sighted much this trip. The little one is running a temperature so we have been dosing her up with Calpol, which she absolutely hates. She has been off her food and quite lethargic.  Hopefully just teething and nothing serious. It has been a restless night with the little one up most hours crying. We are all a bit sleep deprived tonight. Thu The boat is moving quite nicely Goose Winged. The clouds have been rolling in and the heavens have opened. We have spent a fair chunk of the morning below sticking our heads out the hatch to do regular checks. The little ones temperature has gone but as she didn't sleep well and woke at 0530 she is not happy - she spent most of the day screaming. C lacking sleep is also cursing sailing. Well a slightly slower day, definitely wetter. I downloaded the gribs and the models are starting to agree. The Azores High will be starting to re-establishing so we need to track more NE to stay with the wind. We have been following a rhumb line for a day or two. The seas were quite rolly today but seem to have flattered out for the evening. We gybe the head sail and bring the boat to port heading 065 degrees. The next Low passing should give us a good wind boost. C did the net this evening. Well it is just me on watch with some nice peace and quiet and a cup tea. Fri It has been a dismal old day with a frontal system going by. Lots of rain and strong winds this afternoon. We are heavily reefed as we go into the evening. It is still quite squally so better to be safe than sorry. We were unable to hear the other boats on the net this morning. This evening was a little better and at least we got the other boats positions. The waves are roaring past us this evening and tossing the boat around a little. We are well reefed so it is still reasonably comfortable. It is getting quite cold at night now. Multiple layers of clothing on deck and it won't be long till we are using a sleeping bag for real below decks. Sat/Sun We had lots of flapping sails on Sat with light winds and big rollers coming through. Each time the boat would roll 30 or 40 degrees, the sails would collapse and then with a bang fill again. Most annoying. In the end we ended up running under the headsail with a tiny bit of main out. This reduced the airflow turbulence to the headsail and kept it filled more. We made the call to switch from reusable nappies to disposables today. With about 7 days to go and 4 nappies a day we will end up storing 28 used nappies in the aft heads. They will all be bagged and double bagged to minimise the odour. C happily washed and dried the used reusable and stashed them and the towing bag away. The sea temperature has now dropped 10 degrees from when we left Antigua. It is going to be refreshing swimming in the Azores. We tracked further north overnight to pick up some more favourable winds and it seems to have worked. We made great progress all day Sun. Average speed 6knts. We could not pick anyone up on the net in the morning but had great reception in the evening. The joys of HF. Island Swift is still sending us their position. They are 35 ft and a bit slower so are now a few hundred miles behind us. They seem to have resolved the engine issue that they had but still have a leaking stern gland. A worrying issue for them when you are alone hundreds of miles from help. I emailed them a couple of potential fixes so hopefully one will help them out. Another cold night, but a comfortable one with regular seas. Our new passage treat is one teaspoon of peanut butter, plus one teaspoon of chocolate spread put together on a desert spoon and eaten in one mmmm Mon 16 May The gribs have been changing daily. We need to make the call to go to Flores, the most Western Island, where the other boats are going, and where we have been promised Rum. Or to Faial the main hub. If the promised strong winds are not as bad on the gribs today for heading to Flores we will probably go there - it is also 100nm closer. Tue A great days sail. The seas are relatively flat and we are making a good direction. The gribs are still conflicting but one thing is clear.  There is a big Low heading our way. The question is how deep and how fast is it travelling. We can keep heading on our present course for another day before we have to make a call as to which island to head to. Deese and Iona are going to Flores but they are 2 days and a day ahead of us respectively. My new obsession downloading the latest weather. Life on board is actually very pleasant, we are in a good routine with V having plenty of scope to roam the boat in the calmer conditions. C has gone baking mad with rolls and multiple varieties of cookies and whilst we are starting to run low on fresh goods we have a well stocked tinned cupboard which should see us back to the UK. Wed Perfect sailing again. Flat seas, clear skies.  Though we know that storm is fast approaching. The latest gribs show we should be able to make either island before the worst hits.  Either way the wind will turn against us for about 6-12 hours. We decide to motor sail when our speed drops below 5 knots in case the low comes through early. Every mile counts. In the middle of the night I come to the conclusion Horta is our best bet. We can make it in time and whilst we will not meet up with Iona and Deese for a while we will be in a well protected marina in a nice town that will keep us occupied in bad weather. It also means that if a good weather window opens up for the UK we can take it straight away. We are a little time pushed. As the sun goes down, we have a magnificent sight on a crystal clear evening as we are joined by a pod of dolphins that flank us and jump through the air. A great end to the light day. Thu Not much sleep last night. We have been doing 20 minute look outs as there has been very little traffic on route. I took the time to catch up on some emails and tweak the sails some. 0500 and we are not making the best of courses. I gybe the headsail so we are goose winged - slower progress now and not the best course.  An hour later we gybe back onto a broad reach. I hit the sac at about 0830 leaving C and V on watch and the boat motorsailing. When I wake the engine is off and we are making the desired course at 6 kts - it stays like that all day. With the seas relatively flat we make the call to fill our tanks with the fuel we are carrying in jerry cans. We have just over half a tank left and I would hate to be running low when we really need it. An hour later and 80 ltrs are in the tank and it is full to the brim. If we need to motor hard to beat the storm at least we do not need to worry about fuel.  We also repackaged the storm jib so it is ready to go if required. Our Jordan drogue, never used, but is packed ready to go if it really comes to it. Noodles and a can of mixed veg for lunch. 1400 C hits the sac and I entertain the little one... C is doing the double watch tonight, I rustle up some dinner - potatoes, tomato sauce, green deans, sweet corn spears and pasta all together with a good dash of spice. It is then off to bed with the little one. As always she protests trying to delay by running around, getting out her toys and giving hugs. With the little one down it is Net time. Superted are on. Racing up from behind the storm - they are going to have to slow down from their 8-9 kts. Palagie who have a broken autopilot and spare are hand steering. It is going to be a long and tiring trip for them. We all swap position and weather reports. Then C is on deck and I get my head down. The four hours go very quickly. I don't think I have slept but I must have. I was up at 2200 to reef the sails as it was getting lively. The weather is turning. Lots of low lying clouds giving rain. 2350 I am on deck and we gybe the head sail over going goose winged - we are now back on course after a wind shift. Time for a cup of tea and a cookie 🙂 Fri storm3We have had everything today. We were broad reaching, then running down wind to get some Northing in. The winds went light so we were motorsailing to maintain speed. Whilst tweaking the radar down below, the heavens opened and we had torrential rain. We were then on deck, sporting our very sophisticated yellow fisherman waterproof jackets (our Musto Jackets now leak) adjusting the sails. The winds then died so we were off motoring. A front then went through with 27 kts of wind so we were off racing along at 7-8 kts. An hour later and the wind had gone forward but dropped considerably. There were cross seas running so the boat was being pitched and rolled in every direction. I helmed under engine making best progress. The seas started to flatten, then bang 400m directly in front of the boat a 15 - 20 m Sperm Whale launched itself vertically out of the water. An amazing site. I shouted C on deck and we watched 2 or 3 whales breaching and probably luckily heading away from us. The little one had a good day, despite getting into a tub of sudacream and seeing how far she could spread it. C did an excellent job entertaining. Not an easy job in such a confined space. Whilst helming I saw what must have been an injured turtle. One of its legs and most of its back were covered in muscles. The first passage we had seen turtles in the middle of the ocean. Must have been following all the Portuguese Man of War jelly fishes We motorsailed on for a good few hours looking for whales but no more were seen. C was on watch into the early evening and did the net whilst I got my head down. By the time I was on deck we were sailing again. It was getting very cold so hats and gloves were order of the day.  The winds built and died a little through the night. Whilst the wind was on the nose we maintained a relatively direct course for Horta. Sat As the sun came up and I took over from a cold looking C the wind picked up and after motorsailing we killed the engine and were making a respectable 5 kts. The sun rose, the sky had only some cirrus clouds and it slowly got clearer. We were sailing close hailed to make the course but the seas were relatively easy going. A pleasant morning indeed. The wind started to die so I powered up the motor and we were off motorsailing doing 5 kts again. C and the little one were awake and cooked up some warming porridge. We made good progress and Faial and Pico came into view in the morning sun and haze.  In our last few hours on route we tidied the boat in and out. Less to do when we arrive. It was a very easy approach in, straight onto the fuel dock with a very quick check in and top up of the tanks with diesel. The little one had a run ashore which lasted 10 minutes. She was knackered so had a good couple of hours sleep - she needs to get her land legs back. We had to wait a couple of hours for a berth to become available. We are now on a 6 ft finger. We are a bit big for it, but the marina is packed with 3 abreast on the wall.  It is good to be in before the storm. Beers and Frey Bentos pie with mash. A real treat after 19 days at sea 🙂