Thursday, December 19, 2013

North Atlantic crossing from 3.6. to 10.6.2013 - Ponta Delgada to Gibraltar

Finally, almost half a year after it really happened - here is the last sequel of North Atlantic crossing.
WARNING! this one is really looooong...

We tied the boat to Ponta Delgada marina pontoon at about 1.30 in the afternoon on 3rd of June. Boys went to marina office to arrange everything and I cleaned the boat a little - it is much easier task to do when the boat is not moving too much. 

One of the first things we noticed was this Beneteau Cyclades (white boat on the other side of the pontoon) without the mast. We immediately concluded they must have sailed from Caribbean and have taken the northern route, got into bad weather and mast got broken. Like with the Swedish boat Amel we met in Flores, that got it's genoa torn in a storm on northern route. But later we spoke with the boat's Russian skipper and he told us that it must have been a factory fault because mast fell down in perfectly nice weather.

In the afternoon we went to explore the town. The wether was not very good and tall buildings surrounding the marina did not promise much...

... but luckily the town itself was quite pretty. Lots of historical buildings and monuments...

... and some not so historical. Boys thought this cow in front of the supermarket was worth photographing too.

We did some shopping and had a great dinner in a local restaurant. It was an early night, we were glad to have a calm and peaceful night.

Next morning I went to fruit and vegetable market and bought such a quantity of everything that it was hard to transport it to the boat. Selection was great, everything looked really fresh and delicious, especially locally grown pineapples. As it later turned out they were best pineapples we ever had. Boys went to some chandleries and after a late lunch it was time to sail on. I was a bit sorry for not taking the time to do some whale watching. Well, maybe the next time...

We sailed off at about 5 in the afternoon of 4th of June. The weather got even worse, so we didn't see much of the scenery. Azores looked very green, but there was not much sun in the time we were there. I imagine Ireland must look something like this. It doesn't seem like a classic holiday destination, maybe we should have visited in July or August.

Two big pods of dolphins came to see us off.

We mainly motored along the south side of Sao Miguel island, and then the wind picked up. Before long we had good wind, bumpy sea and nice speed. In the middle of night wind slowed down a bit and we got some sleep.

And in the morning it was back again and the skies have cleared. It was still very cold.

There were big atlantic rollers (waves), that rocked Heron like on our passage to Caribbean. While surfing down the wave the speed can be quite high, maximum for that day was 10,3 knots. But this was what I could capture with my camera on my morning watch.

Dolphins came by several times, jumping out of the water, clapping with their tails against the water and some were surfing the big waves. You could just see they were having fun!

In the evening, just at the beginning of my shift of course, the wind brought big dark clouds from the North, along with some rain and lots of wind. We reefed the sails several times, and after an hour we rolled the genoa and hoist a storm jib. A good decision, with steady 25 - 27 knots of wind from the side we were sailing fast even with only a storm jib and second reef on main. It was all a bit wild to my taste.

At around 11 a weirdest thing happened. I went below to check on AIS (collision avoidance system) and when I came back out there was light outside. First I got scared that this was a big spotlight from some ship that we got too close to without noticing. Then I noticed that light was coming from above. I got scared that it was some sort of lightning or some sort of electricity in the clouds. But then I saw a big bright white star, high up in the sky, falling down, dividing itself into two pieces after a while and then it disappeared and all was dark again. I thought - a meteorite. Or a piece of satellite entering atmosphere. The nigh was unpleasant as it was - with clouds, rain, strong wind and big waves, and this thing gave me some additional fright.

I ended my shift at midnight and the rest of the night was quite rolly, so we didn't sleep too well. In the morning at breakfast I told the guys what I've seen in the night. Captain asked if it could have been a flare and I was shocked. The thought never even entered my brain. Ok, it was wrong color and it was too high for a flare, but anyway... with the bad weather, darkness and cold Atlantic ocean I can't bear the thought that there may have been someone needing our help and I failed to notice it. This thing still haunts me a bit. Btw, later I tried to find any information about boats in distress in the area, meteorites etc, but couldn't find anything. So I guess I'll never know what it really was...

Morning was cold, but sunny. There was plenty of wind and big Atlantic rollers, and our speed was good.

Day was sunny and nice, with lots of wind and good sailing speed. No dolphins though. Sunny day turned into clear night with millions of stars. Once again my evening shift was very nice.  In the night captain turned on the engine for half an hour to top up the batteries. Obviously autopilot is using lots of energy in this kind of wild sea.

Next morning , on Friday 7th of June, was sunny, but still rather cold, and there were big waves coming from North. There must have been a big storm up there. The waves came from the side, so the ride was bumpy and rolly. The waves were also guilty that tray with captain's breakfast and coffee flew through the kitchen. Next one and a half hour we spent cleaning the kitchen and washing the floor and under the floor boards.

Dolphins must have heard my complaints from the day before and they sent one dolphin already in the morning, to do some jumping and swimming around Heron. Dolphins came by twice more in the afternoon. We were all on deck watching the show.

We ate tuna again that day with paprika sauce and pasta, and of course with good wine from Azores.

My evening shift was ok, just a bit wild and bumpy. It was the second day with average speed over 7 knots.

Night was not too bad, we motored for one hour to top up the batteries. For sure not because there was not enough wind.

Early in the morning Tomaz caught a tuna - not again! I had a hard time thinking of different recipes to prepare it. And I'm not really a fan, I like white fish better.

Morning was grey, but by noon skies cleared up. The wind was coming more from behind and waves were even more rolly.

Dolphins came by twice again. A ship came very close, just 0.3 miles away. I was glad it was day, with such small distance one feels better if one can see what's coming.

Wind was getting a bit weaker, it didn't affect our speed much though.

We ate tuna of course, this time with lemon, garlic and olive oil and boiled potatoes on the side.

At around 22.00 we came to a shallow plateau with charted minimum depth of 28 meters. Who knew there was such thing in the middle of Atlantic! We sailed right over it and although it was on my shift (all the interesting things happened on my shift!), captain came out to watch. Even before we reached the shallowest part, the depth sounder found something in 42m depth and within seconds went to 14m. We were both surprised. After a minute the whole thing repeated, only this time depth sounder went up to 2,3m! We were quite shocked and I was glad I wasn't alone on deck. After the shallowest reading the sounder lost the depth, which means the depth was over 100m again. Then the real, charted shallow came, depth sounder registered it at 164m, then went up to around 60m couple of times and after half an hour everything was over. We were guessing the next day, what there was in the water that sounder found at 2,3m. I suggested it might have been some whales sleeping, but probably more realistic is that there were some algae or even the layer of dense plankton. But it was scary none the less. And it would be a huge embarrassment to run aground in the middle of the ocean!

The rest of the night was ok, there was a bit less wind but also less waves, so we slept well. Just our speed got a bit lower. We woke to a sunny morning and it was a little bit warmer. About time, it was June after all!

With wind getting weaker we decided to roll the genoa and hoist the gennacker.

We saw couple of whales quite close to our boat, unfortunately there wasn't enough time to get the camera. And guess what - Tomaz caught another tuna! Luckily a rather small one. So this was the second one in our freezer.

The day was quite calm so we had a BBQ - steaks with eggplant risotto and salad.

In the evening we switched from gennacker to genoa again. As we're getting closer to Gibraltar, there were more and more ships around us.

Night was quiet and we slept well. Also the sunrise was pretty...

... and even the speed was not too bad.

In the morning the wind slowed down again and we hoist the gennacker . The ride was nice and the wether good. As we were approaching the Spannish coast there were more and more fishing boats.

We decided to spend the night in marina in Spanish town of Barbate, we would not make it to Gibraltar in time - the marina we planed on going to closes at 9 in the evening.  So at 5:30 local time we landed at Barbate, after being at sea for 5 days, 12 hours and 26 minutes and sailing 970 miles from Ponta Delgada. Or all together for 25 days since Barbuda.

Guys had a well deserved beer while we waited on waiting pontoon.

We spent the rest of the day on boat, Barbate is quite far away from marina and didn't look very pretty, so there was no real reason to go there. We rather cleaned the boat with plenty of fresh water and later made a good use of free Internet.

We ate tuna, risotto and cabbage salad for dinner.

Mosquitoes found their way inside the boat - there are disadvantages of being close to land. But we slept well, it was unusually calm and quiet.

We left Barbate around 11 in the morning, after the morning coffee and a bit of work on Internet.

 I managed to convince the guys to sail towards the middle of Gibraltar strait, I read that there should be whales out there.  We had a nice sail, saw a lot of cargo ships, but no whales.

Shortly before Tarifa (on the photo) we saw a sunfish (Mola Mola), it was the first time for me.

We also saw two turtles near Gibraltar.  Wind picked up again and we had a fast sail all the way into the harbor.

In the afternoon we tied Heron in Oueensway Quay Marina. We had a nice and quiet evening and a long sleep.

Our adventure didn't end in Gibraltar. On 16.6. we sailed on, along the Spanish coast, then South of Balearic island to Sardinia, then on to Sicily, along the north coast of Sicily and through Messina Strait and then along Italian coast up through the Adriatic and on 9th of July we moored Heron in Monfalcone near Triest. In less than two months we sailed 5500 miles.

In Mediterranean we had quite good access to Internet and I wrote lots of posts already on the way. If you're interested, check the June and July posts.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Another short update

 I can't believe how time flies! It's been more than a month since my previous post...

Not much happened in the meantime, we've been pretty busy with work. And both of us got a nasty cold.

The winter is slowly coming, we've had many frosty mornings lately. Everything in the garden looked like Christmas decoration.

Last week I was in England for work. It must have been some 15 years since I've been to England - not counting stopping at airports to change planes, and I was glad to be back. It was a very good week, I met some nice people. Even the weather was not too bad, now and then there was even sunshine.

On Saturday, on my day off, I walked around and went shopping in Harrogate. Bought some books, several from Alexander McCall Smith, and a book called "The hundred-year-old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared" from Jonas Jonasson. It is about an old man who escapes from the old people home right before his 100th-birthday party and it is hilarious. 

After so much time I was happy to eat pub food again, like this fish & chips. Yumm.