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.

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.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Before North Atlantic Passage

Before departure for North Atlantic crossing we were very busy and we didn't have internet access all the time, so there are many photos that didn't get the chance to be published on the blog. So here they are ... and the story that goes with them.

Our journey across North Atlantic actually started in Ponte a Pitre in Guadeloupe. Tadej joined us there on Friday, 10th of May. We did most of the provisioning right that evening. It was so much easier to buy food for only 3 people than for 5 like for our first Atlantic passage. And I already had experience from our first crossing in 2011. I won't go into details here, I plan on writing a dedicated post on the food topic. Lets just say that we still had to drive to supermarket twice with rental car to bring back all the stuff.

On Saturday we did some boat project, most important being the installation of short wave radio and antenna that Tadej brought with him. 

In the afternoon we sailed to Le Saintes and we anchored behind Paine de sucre. Next morning, while guys were busy with boat electronics, I went snorkeling. There were so many great things to see but I was sad at the same time, knowing it is my last snorkeling here for quite some time.

This Conch looks like it has a human face.

Beautiful Corralimorph

Flying Gurnards in their prettiest colors

And the Club Hydromedusa, my best find this day

In the afternoon we lifted the anchor from anchorage at Paine de sucre ...

... and sailed to SW point of Guadeloupe ....

... and then along West coast up to Deshaies. Next morning boys went to buy some fresh baguettes and to do the checking out and afterwards it was time to do some boat preparations. Boys used scuba gear to clean the boat. It is really important to have a clean boat, on a long stretch it makes a lot of difference in how fast and smooth the sailing is and also how long you have to be at sea. This is Tomaz working on the prop...

... and Tadej on the kiel.

Before leaving Deshaies we were boarded by French customs officers again (for the second time this year), and while they were friendly and polite, it delayed our departure to Antigua for another half an hour. But we had fast and nice sailing and we arrived in Antigua before dark. We anchored in Jolly Harbour and on Tuesday we did a check-in, topped up the fuel and did some more food shopping. And rum shopping.

Tadej climbed up on the mast to check the halyards and the rigging.

In the afternoon it was enough time for some fun and Tadej tested our sailing dinghy.

In the late afternoon there was the smell of fuel in the boat. After checking the bilge and the tanks we realized that a fuel tank lid broke and fuel started leaking. We spent the evening cleaning the boat and repairing the lid. It was unnecessary affair, but this is the way it is on the boat, things just appear from nowhere. In the morning we finished the cleaning and repairs and shortly before noon we finally sailed off to Barbuda.

We sailed pass the Five Islands and I picked the island that I'm going to buy when I win the lottery. It is this one, it is the perfect size, it has a sand beach, some nice rocks, some plants, and it sits in the most beautifully colored water.

On our way to Barbuda we caught a Little Tunny...

... and a Cero. Finally our fishing luck was changing!

Barbuda has the same "wow" effect on me like the first time we came here. I was so happy that I managed to convince captain that we make a stop here, he actually wanted to sail towards Azores straight from Antigua. 

We had a nice afternoon, we tried to pick some coco nuts on the shore, but there were none, all were picked. Pity, we would like to have some for the passage. After a good meal of burritos and salsa and couple of beers we had a quiet and peaceful night, the last one on anchor for quite some time.

Next morning we went snorkeling. I managed to make some photos of my beloved Tunicates.

There were some pretty Hydroids too.

Tunicates look so delicate, like some sort of glass ornaments.

They "grow" in different places, on rocks, on Gorgonians, or like here on Fire Coral.

The landscape under water looks nice, but for good visibility in Barbuda there has to be absolutely no northerly swell, otherwise there's too much sand mixed in the water.

This is Nassau Grouper with the distinct square pattern on the head.

There were pretty little fishes under our boat. Surely you can see, how perfectly clean the boat is.

We had a good lunch - both fish that we caught the day before, and afterwards we had a swim. And then it was time to lift the anchor and set the course towards Azores.