Sunday, August 25, 2013

North Atlantic Passage from 16.5. to 22.5.2013

Here is the sequel of our North Atlantic passage.

We left Barbuda shortly before 4 in the afternoon on Thursday, May 16th. It was a bit later than what we planned, but we had a great day with snorkeling, nice lunch and some final preparations. Barbuda is a great place for departure, this way the last memory of Caribbean is also the most beautiful one. 

Taking photos at departure

Half an hour into the journey, while we were still sailing pass the SE side of Barbuda, we caught a big mahi mahi (dorado). It was a beautiful male, big and colorful. I felt really sorry for him, but he got hooked so well, there would be no way of getting him off the hook alive to release him. Not that boys would want to. And then something even more sad happened - 50 m from boat another mahi mahi jumped high out of the water, clearly agitated. It was a female, and since mahi mahis mate for life, we assumed it was his wife. My heart was breaking. I still can't think of it without feeling sad and guilty. Sorry Miss Mahi, hope you'll find another husband.

Captain spent an hour cleaning and filleting the fish on swimming platform and our already full fridge got even fuller.

We had a lot of wind and waves that afternoon and evening, and sailing was fast but bumpy, and so it stayed during the night. We didn't sleep too well, but it always takes a while till one gets used to movement of the boat and the night shift schedule. We decided to have two 4-hour shift each, mine being from 8 to 12, Tadej's from 12 to 4, and captain's from 4 to 8. Guys got the hardest night shifts, but in return I agreed to do all the cooking.

Next morning was beautiful, warm and sunny with blue Caribbean skies with some white cumulus clouds.

Captain cleaning the boat of flying fish

At about noon we were ready for solid food - we had pastrami sandwiches for breakfast. In the evening we had a BBQ, despite the heavy sea. We grilled burritos, corn and some fish. It was a lovely meal.

We had the luxury of having fresh weather forecast every day with the help of HAM (shortwave or SSB) radio that Tadej brought with him. Tadej not only has the license to operate the radio, he is really very good with it. He was regularly in contact  with some other sailboats from the area, and over the radio we were able to send some mails and keep sending daily update to this blog.

In the evening wind got a bit weaker and sailing got more comfortable. Wind was blowing from the E and we were sailing to NNE. Our tactics was to sail as close to the East as possible, since we did not plan on sailing to Bermuda but to stay South. This way we would stay on the shortest route to Azores, and avoid possible storms up in North Atlantic. Heron sails very good into the wind, so we were confident our plan would work. We also had plenty of fuel, so we were not too worried about the areas with little or no wind.

Saturday morning was again beautiful. Wind got even weaker, and we pulled up full main, jib and a storm jib. Day was warm and not much happened. We grilled the fish in late afternoon, it was delicious, and had tomato salad with fresh basil with it. Night was calm and we slept well. We were still doing more than 6 knots of speed in average in direction Azores.

On Sunday we woke into another picture perfect Caribbean morning. Wind got a even weaker, and the sea calmer. Around the noon we wanted to replace the jib with much bigger genoa, but the jib wouldn't come down, it obviously got stuck. So captain climbed up the mast to see why, but couldn't solve the problem.

We motored for an hour and a half, then stopped for a swim in Atlantic ocean. It was warm and nice, and the color incredibly deep blue. Afterwards wind picked up a bit and we were sailing again, but with only about 5 knots.

We ate mahi mahi again for dinner, this time with garlic, lime and butter, potatoes on the side and a glass of good French wine. Very nice.

My night shift was beautiful, with half moon shining from the clear sky and enough breeze so I was able to sail. Some night shifts are pure joy.

Towards the morning wind died, the sea was flat and we were motoring to the North in hope to reach the area with more wind.

This would be a perfect day for watching whales and dolphins, but all we saw were some birds and a bright red fender floating a bit to the NW. We picked it up of course.

We were eating a lot of bananas for last two days, they got all ripe at the same time. So I decided to make a good use of them and baked a banana bread that we ate with a cup of coffee in early afternoon.

Afternoon was busy with getting the stuck jib down and the genoa up. Captain climbed up the mast again and managed to convince the jib to come down with few carefully placed blows to the upper swivel of roller furler with the spanner. It was a lot of work to fold the jib and store it away and to pull the genoa up, but we managed to finish it before evening.

We were grilling again for dinner, this time pork meat and corn and had cabbage salad with it. It's nice to have meat from time to time.

My night shift was again nice and calm, I motored through moon lit night and shimmering water. But towards the morning wind started up, at first changing direction frequently, and after a while blowing from NE at about 15 knots. We were tacking (zig-zaging) towards our destination with reefed sails, and the ride stayed fast and bumpy all day long. I invented a new sailing term, f***ing beating (j***na orca), which is sailing as much into the wind as possible and is more unpleasant than beating (orca) or reaching (laska orca).

We had the second loaf of banana bread for late breakfast. In the afternoon boys helped me to make a huge pot of fish curry, it was time to use up mahi mahi we caught 6 days ago. It was hard work, with boat heeling very much and bumping into waves.

In my evening shift sailing was very fast, but towards midnight wind slowed down a bit, waves calmed a little and sailing was more pleasant. At midnight we tacked to N in hope to find wind from better direction there.

Night was not too bad and morning was lovely again. We were sailing N with good speed.

There were some Sheerwaters flying behind our boat and every now and then they plummeted into the water and were sitting in our wake with their heads in the water. Don't know what they were doing, it looked like they tried to spot some fish down there, but I didn't actually see them catch anything.

For lunch we finished off the fish curry from day before.

Each day we were further away from Caribbean and it got colder and colder. I was wearing socks and fleece on my evening watches for some days now and I used the blanket that night for the first time. Night was quite calm and we slept well.

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