Friday, July 13, 2018

Crossing the Atlantic Finale Bermuda to the Azores

Atlantic crossing - Bermuda to the Azores Passage Day 1 Day one was a bit of a disaster at first. We put up the main and Mizzen sails with following seas. Which made it very rolly. Then we put up the jib but the main was blocking its wind. So we steered back up wind to get the main down and strapped it down and we begin to sail with just the jib and mizzen making 5-7 knots. I then begin to get my expected nausea. But so did Aleks and Dan. It was very rough with 20 knot winds and we were used to a protected anchorage, this caused us to all feel a bit queasy. But the boat was stable and we were headed in the right direction. I didn’t eat for the first day and took my nausea medicine. Laid down and watched the sails and listened to the sounds of the boat and waves. I like to get in tune with the sounds of the boat, so when I hear a pop or a snap or a bang or a creak, or squeak I hadn’t heard before I know something is going or went wrong. It’s like the boat becomes a part of you. I didn’t feel 100% confident in the boat. It is a 40 year old boat with no major refit ever done. The hour meter on the engine quit working at 8120 hours. None of the fuel gauges worked and there were no alarms for oil or water. The sails were in good shape but I noticed some of the cleats were wobbly and loose and the winches needed work badly. The halyards were thick and the wrong size making them hard to cleat off. Then comes the bug surprise. I first noticed Dan wasn’t cleating off the lines properly which was a bad sign. Then when I said we should tack Dan said “whats that???” My heart started racing..was this a language barrier misunderstanding? No!! He didn’t know what a tack was! And when we went to tack he oversteered and jibed the boat ripping the boom from my hand as I tried to hold on to slow it and prevent all the hardware from being ripped off the boat, I strained my right hand badly and could barely use it. I talked with Dan and realized he hadn’t sailed much more than Florida to Bermuda. On the good side he was an expert diesel mechanic and had worked commercial fishing boats. But it was a little unnerving finding out I was the most experienced sailor on the boat, which is not what I wanted to find out after we set sail. So from then on Dan gave me the helm when we made tacks and I showed him the proper sail configurations. I had never sailed a ketch but it was pretty much like having a second mast. You can’t see the masts from inside the pilot house so going down wind you risk an accidental jibe. And the helm up on the deck was too dangerous offering no protection or stability. Thank goodness we had an efficient autopilot. Dan turned out to be an excellent captain before this trip would be over. Passage Day two The next morning I helped Aleks attach the reel to the stansion post and we rigged up one of the lures. Within an hour I was reeling in a 75 pound marlin. I got him all the way to the boat but there was no gaff on the boat. So I tried to muscle him in by grabbing his bill but broke the line right as I grabbed it. What a beautiful fish. The adrenaline got me going and I began to feel normal again. Then we got another fish on. This time it was a three foot ribbon fish. I threw him back. We had no fish so we had beef tips, rice and corn for dinner. Dan is constantly checking the sat phone weather. You can pick a waypoint on the ipad map and get the wind speed and direction and chance of rain at that location. And you could send and receive texts. So a lot of our weather updates came from friends via texts. Passage Day three Its Thursday the 21st 10:00 pm everyone is asleep and I’m on watch for the next four hours. All is well. We are now making 3.5 knots SOG and the autopilot is doing its job hut Dan seems to think its clutch is getting weak. There is a heavy mist outside making the whole boat wet, and the wind is howling through the rigging. Phosphorous disburses through the waves. And a red light keeps the cockpit aglow. Outside clouds build off the starboard bow but no lightning. Yet.. Passage Day four I did my four hour watch. Woke Aleks up at 3:00 am and I hit the hay. At 7:00am Dan was hollering David we need to change the jib to the bigger one. We are only doing 4.5 knots. So I went forward and Aleks lowered the sail as Dan pointed the boat upwind. I released all the hanks from the small jib and hanked on the big jib. Secured the sheet to the winch and cleat it and the boat took off. We Started to make 6-7 knots. I made breakfast and coffee. Always a fun task at sea. I usually try to brace myself between the galley post and cabinet. I make coffee then oatmeal and Aleks helps me serve it up. I laid back down for a while only to hear Fish, Fish !! From Dan. The reel was screaming Aleks grabbed my gloves and I started to tighten the drag. I let it play itself out behind the pull of the boat. It finally gave up and I reeled it to the side of the boat and Aleks gaffed it with his home made gaff of two large hooks, screws and gorilla tape, and a mop-stick. It worked and we landed It a beautiful 15 pound Mahi Mahi. I filleted it out. Aleks cut it up and put it in baggies and I served it pan fried with a light crust, mashed potatoes and peas. What a Day! Its 10pm now on Friday the 22nd of June and I’m whipped. Just standing up straight is a work out! We’ve averaged 110 miles per day since we left. The wind and waves have been in our favor and the outlook is good from what Dans Swedish friends have texted him on his sat phone. So we are just praying the wind holds out. 270 down 1430 miles to go! Passage Day five It’s 6:00am and I stood watch last night until 2:00am. Aleks hands me a plate with two huge pizza wedge shaped slices of his signature Spanish omelette. Had green beans, onion and potatoes inside and cooked to perfection. I scarfed it down and went back to bed for an hour or two. Then I helped Dan put up the main and set a preventer line on the boom. Aleks wash dishes with seawater on the aft deck. We watched dolphins swim toward the boat in some kind of feeding frenzy, that didn’t last long. Then a boat popped up on AIS named Trendy and was approaching rapidly on our stern. Dan hailed him on the VHF and he answered and they talked for a minute and asked if we had everything we needed. We said yes and they said they would be passing closely soon and give us a wave. We hadn’t seen anyone in several days. The boat was a 1/2 billion dollar mega yacht. Then the captain hailed again and Dan told me to talk. The captain asked again about our provisioning and I told him we were okay as far as we could tell. He gave us a weather update and said it would be the same for the next five days. He said they would arrive in 5 days and we told him we will be there in three weeks. Nice guy and we wished each other a safe passage. Made us all feel a little better knowing someone in the middle of the Atlantic was willing to help if necessary. I fried pork-chops and made creamed carrots and fried potatoes with onion gravy and white cheddar for dinner. We relaxed for a while. Aleks and I played go fish and crazy eight til 9:30 and I took the first night watch. I decided to put out a whisker pole on the jib to reduce the luffing, and Dan came out to help. We had it in place and he was heading back to adjust the tension on the winch when he kicked the vent box and broke his pinky toe. It was sticking out to one side. It’s also the first time I’ve ever heard Dan speak in Swedish, but I don’t think I want to know what he was saying. It’s swollen and looks bad. But he said it doesn’t hurt too bad! He said he’s going to the doctor when he gets to Horta. Its been slow going today at sea only averaging four knots. But we’re moving and in the right direction. Slowly but surely. Passage Day six Its 2:18 am Tuesday the 26th of June. We are in 30 knot winds and we have a double reefed main a mid sized storm sail and our mizzen out. We are doing 8-10 knots. From inside my v-berth it sounds like a war is taking place out there. The hull is jumping side to side and up and down, the spray and white cap of the 10 foot swells sounds like a tornado. Occasionally a rogue wave slaps the side of the hull and it sounds like a stay popped apart. The swells look like mini mountains as the catch the boat and lift it high into the air. The boat lays over and the white wash and phosphorous spray into the air. All while the moon sits peacefully in the distance almost like its enjoying the show. The wind howls through the stays and swishes across the deck and the vibrations of the crashing waves to the hull make you cringe. We are headed east toward the Azores. And we still have 1100 miles to go. So I’ve skipped a few uneventful days. We are still sailing east now but we had to tack north 80 miles then go back east. Dans toe is in bad shape. He has a swelling sock on it to keep it down. We are making good time now but a low pressure area is ahead for us and the wind will drop from 21 to 16 knots by 5 pm today the 26th of June. I hope water and food hold up if we get into a headwind or a dead calm. As of right now we are ahead of schedule having come 650 nautical miles in 6 days. The boat is holding up well in the massive swells. We are mid-Atlantic now and the weather can be heavy and unpredictable. We left at 2:00 pm on the 20th so we are three hours into our ninth day at sea today is Thursday at 5:00 pm. I taughtAlex how to make home made tortillas and we had that for lunch. He tried making rice with sea water. We all agreed it was bad too salty. We ate it any way. We’ve only mad 24 miles in as many hours toward the Azores. The wind changed directly at us. So we sailed south then back north for a full day. We are looking good now and by Saturday we should be in good position for a northern approach to the Azores. Aleks read a book about Jimmy Buffet to learn about Americans but ended up learning more about himself. So he wrote a long letter and he plans to send it to him in admiration of the book. Dan has been focused on the navigating. He’s now started to read a book. I just read my Bible, listen to my podcasts and my music. I cook all the dinners which is nice. Having spam casserole tonight. Lol. Yummm! ( in a casserole pan, 1 layer of onions, one layer of round thin potatoe slices, 1 layer spam slices, 1 layer velveeta slices, salt pepper repeat another layer then bake 1 hour at 350). I’ve learned that comfort food makes us all a lot happier at sea! Passage Day 12 July 2,2018 I was in a deep sleep, when awakened by Aleks voice. “Whales whales, David whales!” I grab my Nikon p900 fling off the lens cover and run to the starboard hatch to see two huge gray whales swimming within 6 feet alongside our boat? Blowing as they surfaced each time. Beautiful creatures and so docile and peaceful. More off the stern could have been as many as twelve. It was hard to say. They stayed close for a few minutes before we slowly pulled away from them. Aleks tried to lure them back with his yukalele but to no avail. The day was slow and we read books and listened to music talking occasionally. Which has pretty much become the routine. The wind is light and the boat is moving slow. Dans friends are telling him there is a high building northwest of us and will probably move southeast so he is concerned. Could cause a problem if it hits us. I am waiting to hear from Steve. If he tells me to be concerned then I may be but until then I am going to hope for the best. We are still 804 nautical miles from Horta in the Azores. Passage day 13 Tuesday July 3rd Woke up and played scrabble with Aleks. He made us oatmeal patties with egg bacon and cheese. Thats a first and a last. We struggled to keep between 39 and 40 degree longitudes, which seems to be where the only wind is at. There is a low to our north (too much wind) and a high to our south (no wind). We only made 45 miles in 24 hours and hope to be close enough on Saturday that when the Low hits us the north wind will blow us south toward the aZores. The sun was setting and Dan was smoking on the port side hatch when he said “I heard a whale”. I look over and boy was it a whale. Had to be 35 foot long and almost as big around as the boat. It surfaced 15 feet off the port stern. I was instantly nervous. This thing could sink us if he slapped the rudder off. He stayed close by for half an hour before turning off to the North. Dan was relieved and so was I. A whale that size could do some damage if he wanted to. Dan won’t let us whistle on the boat. As a Swedish fisherman it’s a superstition. When you whistle you’re asking for a wind storm. Shortly after the whale sighting a Pod of dolphins stirred up the waters around the boat and quickly disappeared. Then a sailboat that had been following us on AIS for a while finally turned south. Thought they would follow is all the way to the Azores. All the excitement is over for now. Passage Day 16 July 6th What a couple of days it has been. We were being chased by a storm for the past two days. We were able to see the lightning and out run it for a while and take advantage of the winds but our luck finally ran out last night when it caught up to us. Aleks and I were playing cards in the pilot house when I noticed the lightning strikes light up the night sky. And I felt the wind pick up and instantly we hit 9 knots boat speed. We had the largest jib poled out with the whisker pole and the main was all the way out as was the mizzen. We had to get the pole off in 20 plus knot winds. It was a job even for three men. We got it and put up the storm jib up and took down both the main and the mizzen. We were hit with 30 plus knot winds. The swells increased to ten feet. There were a few times were hit with waves and it sounded like someone took a sledged hammer and pounded the hull. The boat leaned over so far I thought the mast would hit the water. Spray was going over one side of the boat to the other. It was a bad feeling. I prayed a lot. When the storm passed we sustained no major damage other than a messy salon and we had an easy day of five knots steady. We have all the sail back up and 500 miles to get to the Azores. I have learned a lot about my shipmates on this trip. Dan is from a coastal town in southwest Sweden. He comes from a long line of ancestral fisherman although he retired as a marine diesel mechanic and traveled on ships all over the world. Even from as far as Japan to Africa. He’s never been married and he’s 49 years old and retired. He’s all business but a lot of fun to be around and knows all kinds of funny facts about things makes us laugh a lot. He’s a straight forward meat and taters kind of guy. He jokes “ My dream was to buy a boat in Sweden and sail it to Florida some day. Instead I bought a boat in Florida and I’m sailing it to Sweden”. Aleks is from a small town in Latvia. A very smart guy. Knows a lot about everything. Having grown up in a small town and got into a few fights when he was out numbered he’s been through some rough times. He went to marine college and worked as a tanker-man and he’s crossed the Atlantic a few times on ships. He once saw a guy lose his leg when a mooring line snapped and decided at he age of 21 that it would be his last job on a tanker. So he packed up his bags and left for Spain. Nine years later and having lived in Colombia and Venezuela he is finally headed home. He is now a self proclaimed Shaman, actor, and Ukulele player and speaks Spanish better than he speaks Latvian. He married a Cali Colombian girl from New York in Cali but it didn’t work out. He has taken Ayahuasca 40 times. He carries his tobacco paraphernalia and snorts it through an antler looking thing and uses a bone to cook and pulverize the tobacco. He’s a hard worker and has very strong opinions. He has lived without money for a long time. He’s out to make the world a better place and searching for the best way. I’m glad he’s aboard the boat even if he did try to eat everything on the boat in the first week. Guess thats what happens when you’ve spent nine years on the verge of starvation. I really like him. He’s fun to be around. Passage Day 19 July 9, 2018 Yesterday I caught a small Durango (amberjack) just big enough to feed the three of us. Aleks went out on the back deck to do the dishes and called out fish fish. We reeled it in and grilled it up with some black-eyed peas. He asked me to keep it a secret from captain Dan so he could surprise him with “the fish song” on his Ukulele as we brought out the prize catch from the galley on a plate. He made up the song a half hour before. I can’t remember the words. Dan didn’t seem impressed it, but doesn’t show emotion much anyway. Cooking is always fun on the boat. You have to wash dishes in salt water with a bucket on the back deck. Drop the small metal pale over the side and fill the larger orange bucket. The soap really never suds up in salt water. Wash and rinse and carry them into the galley in a mesh shopping bag. Rinse and hand dry in the sink. Aleks was soaking a bread pan over night in the orange bucket. A storm moved passed and we were securing things and I tossed the water out pan and all! Oops. Down to one bread pan. That’s okay. Only 160 miles to go and motoring ... no wind. We can be there in 24 hours at this pace. What a ride its been. I’m sitting here listening to a 1991 Garth brooks CD on a 1995 laptop if that tells you anything. They say sailing is 90% boredom and 10% sheer terror and I’ve found that to be pretty accurate. Dolphins, nearby boats, the occasional FISH!, and dinner are the highligts of our day. I’ve listened to 20 podcasts watched 10 youtube red offline sailing videos, read three books, and listened to every song on my iphone four times, played 20 games of rummy, and yaniv. We even started a new way to play scrabble with the only rules being you can’t use words in the dictionary and they have to make sense. Unless the other player objects which never happens. Alohwatitititito was one word that scored triple word and Aleks claimed meant aloha in portuguese! Aleks almost lost on that word alone. The player with the most points loses and the objective is to have fun. We’ve been out here waaay too long. Passage day 20 July 10 2018 Today was interesting. Aleks and I had an all out Christianity battle. I firmly believe we are called to be in places and situations for a reason and I will leave it at that. We are now 90 miles from shouting “Land Ho”! Ilha Do Faial is just ahead and is a part of the Portuguese Azores island chain 900 miles from the coast and Lisbon Portugal. Dan will most likely leave the boat and fly home for a much needed break, Aleks is flying to Stockholm to spend quality time with his parents who he hasn’t seen in four years and only twice in nine years. I am flying to Lisbon and then I’ll meet up with a friend in Greece. This has been one heck of a ride. I’m glad I did it! As I look of the port side down into the water I’m reminded of just how magical the ocean is. The phosphorous glows as the boat makes a gentle wake. It looks like hundreds of fireflies momentarily light up the sea as we pass by. Then they fade behind and more light our way. The fish startled by our passing dart off in another flash of underwater glow and it makes the entire sea look like electricity is arcing throughout the ocean around us in an array like lightning trickling just beneath the surface. Especially when the dolphins come at night you don’t even see them but The phosphorus makes it look like greenish blue missiles are spinning underwater all around the boat. It’s quite a show and I’m mesmerized by it. Passage Day 22 We made it!! 22 Days at sea and 1768 Nautical miles. Thank you Jesus!! There were times I was not so sure I would be typing this message from the Horta Marina. We arrived at 3:00 Am. We tied up to a massive yacht at the harbor masters request and woke up the owner who helped us with the lines and bumpers. When I stepped only land I couldn’t stop the swaying. We slept two hours and headed to customs and checked in then went to eat at Peters sport Cafe. After breakfast We had to move our boat to a spot along the wall in the marina where a nice guy helped us with the lines who had seen us arrive at 4am. We then headed to Laundry, showers, and electrical adapter shopping. Had the best shower of my life. (We had showered with a bucket of saltwater on the back deck and sponge baths for a month to conserve water.) Horta is an amazing little flemish inspired town. Really friendly and helpful people. Around 3:00 pm we had another boat tie up to our boat and they ended up being the couple that sailed out of Bermuda the same day we did on the 20th of June. What are the odds. Nice German couple! Looking forward to meeting and talking with other sailors who have also fulfilled this amazing dream of getting across the Atlantic Ocean on a sailboat. I’ve always had a dream of crossing an ocean, and I’m elated that we made it! Such an amazing experience. One I will never forget!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Atlantic crossing - Bermuda to the Azores #3

Fill the stainless kettle. Close the lid so it’ll whistle. Turn the burner to high, light it with the lighter and hold the knob in til it stays lit. Bring it to a boil. Take out the bacon and lay out eight slices in the nonstick pan. Cook the eggs sunny side up in the bacon grease. Throw in a cut up leftover boiled potato from last night and fry it. Toast the bread in the pan. The kettle begins to whistle. Add five scoops of folgers Colombian coffee then fill the lid with cold water and dump it in and the grinds will sink to the bottom. Dan is at the table on the aft deck. Ah this looks good. I pour the coffee slowly so not too many grains go into the cup. The air is cool and the mood is tense. Dan is focused on his plan for the day. Its a big day. We load the laundry, the water bladder, and dans bag into the dinghy. I stay at the laundry mat and Dan takes the bus to Hamilton. The machine is broke. Not taking cash. The ladies tell me to take #6 to St. Davids by the airport, theres another laundromat. I wait for the bus and make friends with a man with a beard and a cane named Mike. Said his mom was at a dance in New Jersey laughed and out he popped which is how he has dual citizenship?! I get on the bus, pay and tell the driver I’m going to St. Davids and to stop at the laundromat. He says you gotta tell me when to stop its not my job. Mike says I’ll show you. But the driver has a change of heart and stops anyway, okay go down the street. You’ll see a hole in the fence go through it and down the dirt path. It comes out at the laundromat. When you come back stand on the street below and a bus will come at 11:40. I thanked him. Laundry done and cutting it close I rush to the bus stop. A lady pulls up in an suv. Do you need a ride? Yeah! Going to st. George? I’ll take you. She says the bus is unpredictable. We chat for a while. Tell her thanks. I whatsapp Dan and meet him at the dinghy. We row back for lunch. He leaves me at the boat to go get Aleks from the airport while I take a food inventory and make fresh bread. Two hours later the dinghy pulls up and its Aleks! He had been stranded at sea with just he and an English captain in Barbados. Missed his flight and had to book another. But he was finally here. He’d been through a lot. I helped him with his backpack, made him a cup of coffee and a sandwich with hot bread fresh out of the oven. We talked a while then heard someone whistle. Dan was back and needed a row. We had a discussion about the provisioning. Then departed the boat in the dinghy. Headed to Hamilton the big city. Bought groceries amounting to $600. Packed it all in three back packs, one with wheels. Bus was an hour and a half wait. So we chipped in with some Seattle Americans and a local on a $60 taxi van back to St. Georges since the bus was still an hour wait. Got back to the boat and put everything away. Its 11pm and we are leaving in the morning. Wow today is the day. As I type this from the deck of the boat we are waiting in line to top off the fuel and add water. After that theres no turning back. For 21 days at sea. We will be at the mercy of the wind and the waves. Its windy and the weather looks good for he next week. Zoloft and his wife are just ahead of us. He atmosphere is good. We are going to have a good trip. I’ll see you all on the other side! A dios!