Friday, August 30, 2013

North Atlantic Passage from 23.5. to 31.5.2013

And here's next sequel...

Thursday, 23rd of May started with lots of clouds and even more wind than in the night, but no rain. We could see the rain falling all around us. This isn't Caribbean weather any more, every day it gets colder and clouds are different too.

Towards noon wind died and we were motoring for 8 hours. We were seeing huge groups of Portuguese Man O' War jelly fish (Portugalske ladjice). They are very pretty, but highly toxic, so instead of swimming in the ocean we just showered on swimming platform.

In the afternoon sailboat Ruby sailed by our boat. We "saw" them earlier on AIS and we talked over VHF. Both crews were excited over this meeting in the middle of the sea and we promised each other to have a beer together if we meet in Azores.

We used the calm weather and had a BBQ in late afternoon, we ate last of the burritos we bought in Antigua.

Wind picked up from NE and we killed the engine and were sailing towards ESE. Night was calm, not much wind and waves, and we kept our course. 

At dawn Tomaz caught a big tuna that managed to get away only 1m from the boat. I wasn't too sad, we had enough fish in past days.

Day was nice, with lots of clouds, and we were sailing with good speed. 

Waves threw some small Portuguese Man O' Wars on the deck. By the time we saw them it was too late to return them to sea alive.

We saw our first whales on the passage in the afternoon, two of them jumped completely out of the water. They were quite far away from us, otherwise I would probably want to change the course and sail towards them.

Evening was cloudy and windy, towards midnight it calmed a bit. But already at dawn first squall (nevihta) hit us. Captain reefed the sails and tacked to NNE. Day was fast, with lots of wind and the waves got bigger also. I cooked pasta with tuna-aubergine sauce for dinner. Cooking was very difficult and we ate from bowls.

In the evening wind increased and there were several squalls. I hate squalls at night, when I can't see them coming. The strongest squall was at 11 in the night, we reefed sails again, but still set the passage speed record - 10 knots.

Night was wild and bumpy, but in the morning wind got even stronger and several more squalls hit us. All three of us were busy working the sails till 1 in the afternoon. On top of everything our main fell down, knot on the halyard (dviznica) got loose, and the halyard disappeared into the mast. In spite of rough sea Tadej decided to climb up the mast to the second spreader (kriz) to tie the spare halyard to the main so we could use it at least on second reef.

Tadej preparing...

... climbing the mast ...

... and holding on to dear life!

I still can't believe he climbed up there in such weather, even secured with two lines. Respect! Boat was jumping over the waves and when we tried to slow it down, the movement just got worse. Neither me or captain would have climbed up, we would have sailed without the main on genoa alone until the weather would improve.

In the afternoon the sun came out from behind the clouds and waves got a bit smaller.

In the evening a group of dolphins came to swim with Heron. My night shift was beautiful, with lots of bioluminescence before the moonrise. Despite all the problems during the day this was our fastest day on passage yet with 172 miles in 24 hours.

Night was a bit calmer and we slept well. In early morning we had a couple of squalls and some rain. It seems that weather gets wild when the sun comes up or goes down. Later in the morning sun came out, wind got a bit weaker and waves smaller. Sailing was still fast though.

Since we didn't get proper Sunday breakfast the day before because of bad weather, we decided to have Sunday breakfast on Monday. We had eggs in pita bread with condiments and veggies, and it tasted even better than it looked.

Afternoon was beautiful, with blue skies and white fluffy clouds. Dolphins came to the boat three times.

It was again a fast day.

And it was a BBQ evening again. With steaks, corn, celery and potatoes. And salsa and garlic mayo, of course.

There was a lot of stars and pretty bioluminescence before moon came out at 11 in the evening. Wind was good and our speed also.

At 3 in the morning wind started shifting and there was a lot of work with sails until the morning. We even motored for half an hour.

Morning was grey and cloudy and wind shifted a lot and there was some rain.

This is definitely not Caribbean any more. Even the sea is cold, so it's not just the jelly fish that keep us from swimming in the ocean.

In the afternoon we got some sun and more pleasant temperature. We were reading, resting, listening to music.

Wind picked up during my evening shift again, to 18 to 24 knots. Wild sailing is not my thing, especially not at night, but with good speed we were having for last couple of days we hoped to reach Azores much sooner than originally planned.

At 3 in the morning squalls started again, and in between there was almost no wind, so we needed to run the engine for some periods of time.

Morning was grey and windy, we were reefing the sails again. In wind like this small jib we had at the beginning of passage would be more than enough, but we were sure we're going to hit the area of calm around Azores, that's why changed it for the big genoa. And that's why we needed to reef so much.

The whole Wednesday was cloudy and windy, but we maintained good speed throughout the whole day. In the evening the dolphins were fishing around Heron. Night was even more windy, we reefed the sails even more. But we set another speed record with 175 miles sailed in 24 hours.

Thursday started windy and with a squall. And dolphins came to say good morning. After the squall wind died and we motored till afternoon.

We saw a pod of whales, quite close to the boat this time. Not sure what kind they were, but they were smaller than humpbacks and with sharp back finn. I was too slow to make a photo.

Wind was back in the afternoon and we were able to sail nicely. We decided to make a stop in Flores, and then to sail to Horta. At present wind speed we would get to Horta in the middle of the night if we would sail directly there. This decision "shortened" our trip a bit, so we anticipated to reach the land in two days.

In the evening we saw some whale sprays in the distance. I would so wish they would come closer to Heron.

Night was fast and bumpy. We saw three sailboats sailing from N towards Azores, probably Horta. In the morning Tomaz caught a tuna.

Day was windy, with more wind that we needed. There is no sign of Azores calm. Dolphins came by, this time they did the complete acrobatic show with jumping, but only until I got my camera out. We also saw a turtle.

For dinner we had the freshest tuna with potatoes and salad. We still had full fridge and a lot of food we bought before departure, I didn't count we would be so successful at fishing. 

In the evening a big rainy cloud came and took away all the wind, so we motored for an hour.

The night was cloudy, windy and bumpy. We all were excited to land on Flores the next morning, after being at sea for 15 and the half days.

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