Full Moon & Fireworks

Sunday August 12, 2014

moon rising over Pico, Azores

Wow, Semana do Mar has kept us out every single night this week.  Since forced into a marina though (they don’t allow anchoring in the harbor here, we were a little disppointed about that), there’s no reason not to step off the boat every night and check out the festivities.  Plus I can usually talk Matt into buying us at least one round of those incredibly delicious 1€ sangrias, which are almost worth getting off the boat for themselves.  With equally incredibly low wine prices here, I’ve found 1 liter boxes at the supermarket for 1,25€, I’ve actually tried to make my own sangria but have come nowhere close.  I may have to spend much of my time in Europe perfecting this and possibly buying some brandy or Triple Sec.

While sitting around this evening drinking one of my own not-so-perfect sangrias while making dinner, and momentarily running up the companion way to take some photos of the sunset reflecting off the volcano of Pico, I heard a friendly ‘Hello!’ off the dock next to me.  It looks as if someone else had the same idea as I did, and happened to be another American who was quite surprised to see another vessel in the marina carrying stars and stripes on it’s stern.  He introduced himself as Richard, a New Yorker that had just arrived in his 44 ft Katy Krogan, the exact same boat that our friend Luis owns in Guatemala.  After talking for a few moments about our trips over from the States, he informed me that not only was tonight going to be a full moon, something I’m not sure I’d been paying attention to, but that this moon was going to rise right over the peak of Pico.

An awesome photo opportunity it sounded like, and while thanking him I let him know of the fireworks show that was supposed to be going on that night, a piece of information I’d gathered from the local OCC Port Officer when he came to greet us a day or two after our arrival.  (João, an extremely nice gentleman that gave us so much great information on the town and on Sea Week).  I let Richard know that I didn’t know exactly what time these fireworks would be put on, but if they followed suit of the late night beginnings of most other events, it would probably be sometime between 10:30 and midnight.

After my nice chat with Richard I went back to making dinner and almost forgot to keep an eye on the time for when the sun was setting and the moon was rising.  I had barley cleared the plates from the table when I remembered, and I grabbed Matt’s arm and rushed him out the door with me as I ran down the docks to the breakwater to try and get the best spot for a photo op.  We were just in time to get a few shots of the full moon hovering right over the cap of the volcano, although I am a little sad I didn’t get there just a few minutes before to watch it peaking out from behind.

sunset over Horta Marina

sunset over Pico, Azores

full moon over Pico, Azores

full moon over Pico, Azores

After going back to the ‘Dip for a bit, honestly after going out every night since we’ve been here can be a little exhausting after our recent laid back lifestyle, we waited a little bit before going back out for the fireworks.  We knew they must be starting soon since the walls overlooking the harbor were quickly lining up with people.  Snagging one of the last available spots we sat down and waited for the bright explosions of light to begin.

There must have been a lost in translation moment somewhere along the way, or fireworks in Europe are completely different than they are back home, but we never got the big bangs and fizzles.  What the show was instead was a bunch of sky lanterns.  Over by the quilt-work patterns of the breakwater, glowing lights began floating into the sky, a few at a time.  We oooh’ed and awwww’ed, still not aware this was their ‘fireworks’ show.  Soon the sky was full of tiny glowing dots, drifting off toward the dark horizon, and then it hit us.  Ohhhhh, this is the fireworks display.  We weren’t let down though.  How could you be?  Watching those soft lights float over the harbor, past the volcanic cone of Pico, and out into the darkness of the Atlantic was one of the most beautiful sights either of us have ever seen.

fire lanterns at Horta's Semana do Mar

fire lanterns over Horta's harbor

fire lanterns over Horta's harbor, Azores

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Horta’s Sea Week

Saturday August 9, 2014

view of Horta from marina

Did you know that when we checked into Horta this week, we were the 1,000th boat to pass through? They decided to throw a party in our honor, Semana do Mar, or Sea Week.  Eight days of celebrating just for lil’ ol’ Serenipity’s crossing.  No, I’m just playing.  Yes, there is something called Sea Week, and yes, it did happen to be going on when we got here, but it was no way in honor of us.  (Although we truly were the 1,000th boat of the year….so the man at the marina told me.)

The tradition of Sea Week began back in 1975 geared towards yachtman, but is now a big tourist draw between all the Azorean islands and even folks from the mainland.  It is always held between the first and second Sundays of August, which is great news for us because we thought it was soley the first weekend of August and that we’d just missed it.  Luckily that was not the case, and even after we pulled in after our multiple weeks at sea after leaving Bermuda, things were in full swing, current American music blasting from speakers lining the street as we covered the mainsail and began throwing out fenders.  Let’s just hope that everyone was already tipsy enough that they didn’t notice our dock line debacle as we were just hundreds of feet from the marina office.

I am just a little bit disappointed that we weren’t here to experience the whole thing, because the open ceremonies sound pretty cool.  Here’s a little description taken from The Azores Islands Blog.  Following the official opening of the event, a Mass is celebrated in the chapel of Our Lady of Guia, on top of the hill of the same name and the image is then transported by boats in the Nautical Procession, passing through Porto Pim Beach, entering the Horta Harbour and disembarking in the Santa Cruz quay. The image is then carried in procession to the Church of Angústias under the alert gaze of the people with houses along the route, who exhibit their valuable mattresses out of the windows of the upper floors.  Sounds pretty cool, right?

There was still plenty to keep us entertained though, even though we’d arrived half way through the celebrations.  Most of our interest was focused on the nightly events, although all the nautical competitions are held during the day. This includes a full list of things ranging from the typical yacht races (Regattas of the Channel; of the Mermaids; of the Former Participants; and of the Horta trophy) down to things like a Horta to Porto Pim canoe race, swimming across the harbor competition, and even water polo.  I um, may not have researched these awesome sounding events until they were already over.  Ooops.  Now you can see why we were focused on the evening activities.

Each night so far we’ve wandered out, still on East Coast time, which seems to be perfect because it fits perfectly into European lifestyles.  Music groups start at at the big stage around 10 pm, and last until 3 in the morning.  Even little kids are wandering the streets with their parents until well after midnight.

During these nights we break up our time between watching shows of traditional music and dance at the little park situated across from the marina, browsing the crafts sold by locals and gypsies, although honestly, half of it looks like the $1 junk made in China and breaks after three uses.  Loooots of cheap plastic toys for kids.  There are also tables set up with jewelry and knickknacks made from whale bones and other stones and jems.  Then we’ll usually grab a 1sangria and sit on the sea wall, doing a bit of people watching until something starts on the main stage, or we find ourselves in bed a little too early because we still haven’t gotten over our exhaustion of 29 days of sleeping in 4 hour shifts.

Last night though, the best thing in the world happened.  Not only had we met up with two other young cruisers to wander around with, always fun to hang out with people around our age, but after milling around the large stage and listening to a band that I think is popular in mainland Portugal, they brought a DJ up on stage to start playing electronic music for the rest of the night.  We l-o-v-e electronic music.  We’ve been listening to DJ Tiesto since he first came on the scene over a decade ago.  One of the best parts of being in Miami was getting an electronic station on the radio, something that is very hard to do, and we’re normally left trying to download new music through A State of Trance.

Breaking to the front of the crowd, we literally rushed the gate as we began jumping up and down and pumping our hands in the air.  Being outside, a light rainy mist fell on us and caught the lights that pulsed out through the crowds.  It was honestly like a scene out of a music video, and possibly one that we looked ten years too old to be a part of. Behind us I’m sure the adolescent crowd wondered what these old people were doing, but we couldn’t have cared less.  At least we weren’t as bad as the guy next to us.  Late 30’s, semi bald, bearded face, wearing glasses and a skin tight leotard and doing the robot.  Does seeing that mean that we’ve officially arrived in Europe?

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Horta Sea Week

Pico, Azores, at sunset

Horta, Azores, breakwater at dusk

Horta's marina at dusk

musical performance Horta Sea Week

musical performance Horta Sea Week

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Our Atlantic Crossing by the Numbers

8.8.14

Our pathetic attempt at a crossing, I should be calling it.  Wow, looking back at these numbers?  Dang, we was slow!  Check out our numbers below to find out where we were on this globe each day, how many miles we completed each day, and our total miles.  If you look closely you’ll notice that we only had 6 days that we even made 100 miles.  You’ll also get a laugh when you see our 35 mile day.  Or at the fact that we had to jump from 37° North down to 33° North to avoid a low pressure system.

I do have to say though, for the comfort we experienced during this crossing and the lack of hardships for Serendipity made the slow pace well worth it.  An average of 3 knots of speed?  That’s ok.  So far we’re the only boat in Horta that’s not making some kind of repairs after their crossing.  So, here are the numbers of our 48 day* crossing from Miami, Florida to Horta, Azores, Portugal.

 

Day 1 – 6/12/14 –  26°.00 N  80°.02 W –  0 nautical miles

Day 2 – 6/13/14 –  27°.18 N  80°.00 W –  88 nautical miles

Day 3 – 6/14/14 –  28°.56 N  80°.01 W –  95 nautical miles – 183 total

Day 4 – 6/15/14 –  30°.33 N  79°.36 W –  115 nautical miles –  298 total

Day 5 – 6/16/14 –  30°.36 N  78°.48 W –  58 nautical miles –  356 total

Day 6 – 6/17/14 –  31°.14 N  78°.37 W –  39 nautical miles –  395 total

Day 7 – 6/18/14 –  31°.43 N  78°.01 W –  45 nautical miles –  440 total

Day 8 – 6/19/14 –  32°.00 N  77°.00 W –  59 nautical miles –  499 total

Day 9 – 6/20/14 –  31°.39 N  75°.36 W –  76 nautical miles –  574 total

Day 10 – 6/21/14 –  31°.37 N  74°.07 W –  68 nautical miles – 642 total

Day 11 – 6/22/14 –  31°.22 N  72°.24 W –  97 nautical miles –  739 total

Day 12 – 6/23/14 –  31°.21 N  70°.54 W –  80 nautical miles – 819 total

Day 13 – 6/24/14 –  31°.30N  69°.50 W –   60 nautical miles – 879 total

Day 14 – 6/25/14 –  31°.30 N  68°.44 W –  55 nautical miles – 934 total

Day 15 – 6/26/14 –  31°.34 N  67°.26 W –  70 nautical miles – 1,004 total

Day 16 – 6/27/14 –  31°.31 N  66°.05 W –  70 nautical miles –  1,074 total

Day 17 – 6/28/14 –  31°.33 N  65°.09 W –  52 nautical miles –  1,126 total

Day 18 – 6/29/14 –  32°.22 N  64°.40 W –  70 nautical miles –  1,196 total

Bermudian Break

Day 19 – 7/8/14 –  32°.22 N  64°.40 W – 0 nautical miles –  1,196 total

Day 20 – 7/9/14 –  32°.39 N  62°.43 W  – 99 nautical miles –  1, 295 total

Day 21 – 7/10/14 –  33°.04 N  61°.32 W –  68 nautical miles –  1,363 total

Day 22 – 7/11/14 –  33°.33 N  60°.29 W –  68 nautical miles –  1,431 total

Day 23 – 7/12/14 –  34°.07 N  58°.49 W –  89 nautical miles –  1,520 total

Day 24 – 7/13/14 –  34°.36 N  56°.56 W –  100 nautical miles –  1,620 total

Day 25 – 7/14/14 –  34°.59 N  55°.38 W –  68 nautical miles –  1,688 total

Day 26 – 7/15/14 –  35°.15 N  54°.37 W –  55 nautical miles –  1,743 total

Day 27 – 7/16/14 –  35°.38 N  53°.46 W –  51 nautical miles –  1,794 total

Day 28 – 7/17/14 –  36°.12 N  52°.58 W –  53 nautical miles –  1,847 total

Day 29 – 7/18/14 –  36°.50 N  51°.41 W –  74 nautical miles –  1,921 total

Day 30 – 7/19/14 –  37°.03 N  50°.39 W –  56 nautical miles –  1,975 total

Day 31 – 7/20/14 –  36°.55 N  49°.59 W –  35 nautical miles –  2,010 total

Day 32 –  7/21/14 –  36°.36 N  49°.08 W –  56 nautical miles –  2,066 total

Day 33 –  7/22/14 –  36°.03 N  47°.27 W –  86 nautical miles –  2,152 total

Day 34 –  7/23/14 –  35°.28 N  45°.03 W –  129 nautical miles –  2,281 total

Day 35 – 7/24/14 –  34°.38 N  43°.41 W –  87 nautical miles –  2,368 total

Day 36 – 7/25/14 –  34°.31 N  42°.57 W –  47 nautical miles –  2,415 total

Day 37 – 7/26/14 –  34°.10 N  42°.17 W –  44 nautical miles –  2,459 total

Day 38 – 7/27/14 –  33°.47 N  41°.00 W –  68 nautical miles –  2,527 total

Day 39 – 7/28/14 –  33°.32 N  39°.09 W –  95 nautical miles –  2,622 total

Day 40 – 7/29/14 –  33°.07 N  36°.48 W –  120 nautical miles –  2,742 total

Day 41 – 7/30/14 –  33°.08 N  34°.30 W –  117 nautical miles –  2,859 total

Day 42 – 7/31/14 –  33°.25 N  33°.27 W –  64 nautical miles –  2,923 total

Day 43 – 8/1/14 –  34°.55 N  33°.05 W –  93 nautical miles –  3,016 total

Day 44 – 8/2/14 –  35°.25 N  32°.51 W –  57 nautical miles –  3,073 total

Day 45 – 8/3/14 –  35°.54 N  31°.34 W –  87 nautical miles –  3,160 total

Day 46 – 8/4/14 –  36°.06 N  30°.55 W –  43 nautical miles –  3,203 total

Day 47 – 8/5/14 –  36°.54 N  29°.45 W –  83 nautical miles – 3,286 total

Day 48 – 8/6/14 –  38°.31 N  28°.37 W – 114 nautical miles – 3,400 total

 

Now that our Atlantic crossing is finished, at least the West to East part, I’d like to know what questions you have for us regarding it.  Anything you’re curious to know that wasn’t mentioned on the blog?  Please ask!  I’d love to put together a Q & A post about our crossing.

*In the above number I’ve added our first days out of Miami and Bermuda, although it took us 24 hours to actually gain any miles.  So technically there were only 46 days of 24 hours sailing straight.

 

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Blue Island

Thursday August 7, 2014

blue hydrangeas of Horta, Azores

We could live here, we honestly could.  Horta is so much better than we ever could have expected, and our expectations were already pretty high.  It doesn’t matter that we’ve been here all of 24 hours or that we’ve only seen within a few blocks of the city center….we’re sold.

A little history on Faial is that it’s called Blue Island, for the masses of blue hydrangeas that cover the island.  Introduced from China in the 18th century, these flowers have become a symbol for the Azores as a whole.  Originally settled in 1468, this island has gone back and forth between Spanish and Portuguese rule with many bloody battles fought here, and the town of Horta had to be built back up after being burned to the ground twice.  City status was given to Horta in 1833, and in 1877 the building of the harbor’s breakwater began.

Horta itself has three very big draws to the traveling sailor.  The first is viewing the insignias of transient yachts that line the breakwater. Once this tradition started it only took two seasons for the walls to be completely covered. Bright images contain boat names, crew members, burgees, and designs of the yachtsman that have passed through.  The tradition has now built up to ghe point that it’s considered unlucky to leave Horta without making your mark.

A second draw to the visiting sailor is a stop at The Cafe Sport, a meeting place for yachtsman that overlooks the harbor.  Opened by Peter Azevodo in 1953, this cafe has stayed in the family for three generations and has been catering especially to the cruising crowd.  The rooms above the cafe hold a museum of Azorean scrimshaw,  and the walls of the cafe itself are hung two to three deep with burgees bearing the names  of some of the best known yachts of ocean cruising.

The last, and biggest draw, I think, is the Semana do Mar, or Sea Week, and something we were lucky enough to make landfall during.  It begins during the first week of August and is a week and a half of festivals with music, dancing, craft displays, and of course, yacht races.  There’s a fully crewed opening race, a single-handed race, ladies race, and the all-comers Canal Race.  From what we’ve experienced last night, it looks like a pretty big deal with plenty to do.  More than I can give a quick synopsis on, and something I’ll have to dedicate a full post towards.

Of the 9 islans of the Azores, Faial is one of the smaller ones with a size of 22km by 15km.  The highest point of the island is the rim of Cabeco Gordo, part of its volcanic crater.  Farming and fishing are the biggest trades on the island, but as they’re becoming more of a tourist destination, restaurants, shops, ansd whale watching tour offices line the waterfront.

As we’ve spent the past day wandering around we’ve fallen in love with its small town European charm.  The sidewalks are paved with black and white stones that form cute little designs, and the buildings give off an old world appeal.  The many churches that sit atop the hillsides have an interesting and beautiful style of architecture.   We found an abandoned one at the top of a hill that we think would be a perfect place for us to renovate and move in to.  I think I can definitely live the rest of my life staring across the water to the volcanic crown of Pico.

*Information on Horta taken from Imray’s guide to the Atlantic Islands.

house at Porto Pim, Horta, Azores

Porto Pim, Horta, Azores

Porto Pim, Horta, Azores

Horta marina, Azores

views of Pico, Azores

abandoned church, Horta, Azores

abandoned church, Horta, Azores

 

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Our Never Ending Atlantic Crossing; Aka We Bought a New Boat and We’re Headed Back to Florida

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So it looks like after all of our hard work to get ourselves from Miami to the Azores, we will not be sailing the azul waters of the Mediterranean this year. Or next. Maybe the year after that.

This is because we are now turning our butts around and hightailing it back to Florida. What?! I know, something about that state just has a certain pull on us. We also have something waiting for us there in the form of 37 feet of aluminum hull.

But I am getting way, way ahead of myself here, let me back up a moment. First just let me say that we love Serendipity. She’s been a great boat to us and we’ve never been openly seeking to get rid of her. I just happen to be married to a man that spends a fair amount of hours cruising Yacht World, just for fun and just to see what’s out there. A little pastime of his. I have blogging…he has researching boats for sale.

We’ve known since we bought her that Serendipity would not be our forever boat, but she fit the bill for what we were looking to do at the time. A young couple that could comfortably cruise around for a few years in 34 feet. In the back of our minds though, there’s always been what we want in our next boat. The next boat will have a bigger galley (me), preferably be an aluminum hull (Matt), have more general storage (me), and have a pilot house (Matt). Plus we both agreed that an extra 8 to 10 feet would be pretty nice, something we can grow into and maybe eventually start a family on. Nothing that we needed right away, but something to keep an eye out for in case it came along.

Well, it did. While sitting in Horta, just as we were about to cast off the lines to sail the remaining 1,200 miles to Gibraltar and really begin our European cruising, my ever searching hubby came across a 48 foot aluminum boat with a pilot house sitting back in Rhode Island for a very affordable price. Introducing the idea of this new boat to me, I was a little less than enthusiastic about not only giving up on Europe, which I’m dying to see, but crossing back over the Atlantic so we can get this new boat and probably have to spend a year working in restaurants or Bed Bath & Beyond to build up the kitty again. When I say it was affordable all I mean by that is we have the money to buy it, but it would have taken up just about all of it.

This would be however, our f-o-r-e-v-e-r boat. Worth the sacrifice in the end, so I told him to go ahead and put an offer on it. A little bit of a low ball offer, and I’m not sure what I was expecting from it, maybe a big ‘eff you!’ from the current owner, but imagine my surprise when the broker came back the next day stating our offer had been accepted.

But wait? Didn’t you just say that this new boat is 37 feet and sitting in Florida? Yes, I did. Keep following along, I promise I will explain everything and it will all make sense in the end.

With this 48 foot boat we were not going to have a survey done since it was recently purchased by it’s current owner and a full survey had just been done last October. We felt comfortable that this recent survey along with a disclosure agreement from the owner, as well as a flight from Matt to view it in person, would be enough for us. When the disclosure agreement came back though we found there was corrosion by the stern tube, information that was not on the listing and we had no prior knowledge of. The current owner had already had a quote done for repairs, and with this new cost added to it we didn’t know if it was still in our budget. It was something we wanted to mull over for a few days.

Thinking about it long and hard we decided that we’d go back to the owner and say that if they were willing to lower the price to cover half the cost of repairs we’d still take it. Unfortunately the owner was quite firm on the price, especially since our initial offer was already at the bottom of what he’d be willing to sell for. We were disappointed but at the same time could understand. We thanked him and moved on. It appeared as if the Mediterranean was still in our future, but now we were two weeks even further behind. Fall weather was coming along and those last 1,200 miles were not looking too appealing. Seeing there were very high winds sitting between us in Gibraltar, we decided to break up the trip and get ourselves to Sao Miguel, an Azorean island 150 miles east of Faial.

The trip was a quick 36 hours, but still gave Matt enough time to think about this new dream boat that he was letting slip through his fingers. As soon as we pulled up to the docks in Ponta Delgada and aquired an internet signal he was online with the broker stating that we’d take the boat, corrosion and all, for the originally agreed upon price. Au contraire….., things do not always work out the way we hope. During our little sail in the Azores, other potential buyers had gone to see this boat and new offers were coming in. We found ourselves in the middle of a bidding war, and even though we had upped our previous offer by 5k, we still lost in the end.

To say that Matt was let down would be a complete understatement. The next 48 were spent with him sulking about Serendipity, lamenting how he screwed it all up. The overcast skies and rain we were getting complemented his mood perfectly. So while he was going back to his favorite pastime of hunting new boats on Yacht World, his mood cheered a little when he found a 37 foot aluminum boat with a pilot house, sitting in Florida, with a very affordable price tag. He was so hopeful and excited when he looked at me with big saucer eyes, asking if he could put an offer on it, that there was no way I could turn him down. Just to see what we could get away with though, and I think part of me still hoping that we’d make it into the Med, we put in an extremely low offer of ten thousand less than the asking price.

This broker was very quick and efficient and within a few hours we had a counter offer splitting the difference between the two. The big saucer eyes turned me to again. I knew it was all over. Just like when Matt knew we’d be coming home with a cat the moment we walked into the rescue shelter in Georgia two years ago, I knew we’d be heading back to Florida with a new project boat on our hands.

Ok, now for the details! Our new boat is of French design, a custom built Trisalu 37, built in Quebec in 1983. It’s a shoal draft cutter that has a center board with a draft of 7′, but when raised we’ll be down to 3’6”. Something that will be great for the Caribbean. One of the things Matt likes best about it is the deck salon, and was a big selling point for us. There’s been recently replaced sails and engine, but there are definitely areas that need work as well. We’ll be going through and replacing all the wires and hoses, and transferring over some random items from Serendipity, like the water maker. To see a list of all her features, check the link here.

This new purchase is definitely going to be a project boat for us. As Matt likes to say, it’s basically going to be a gut and rebuild. But we’ll be able to make it exactly how we want it, so I think it will be worth all the time and the effort in the end.

So what does all this mean for Serendipity? She’ll be coming back to Florida with us where she’ll promptly be put up for sale. The plan is to get ourselves to the Canary Islands shortly, spend a few months exploring them, and then depart in December or January with a planned landfall of St. Martin. From there we’ll do a bit of quick island hopping on our way north, hopefully still making visits to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, skipping the Bahamas, and getting ourselves to the new boat sometime in March.

This is definitely a huge change in plans for us, which is why I told Matt that I’m never making plans again. They just never happen. So if you ask what we’re going to do when this new boat is ready to cruise, I really couldn’t tell you. We might hang around the Caribbean or we might do another Atlantic crossing, finally seeing Europe. I don’t think we’ll know until we’re out on the water and we’ll see how we feel at that point. I do know however that this extra time back in the States will allow us a visit out to my parents in Arizona (who I haven’t seen in almost two years!!), possibly a visit back to Michigan to see friends and family there, but best of all, a chance to cruise with our boating besties, Jackie and Ron of Skelton Crew, who should be arriving in Florida with their boat just as we’ll be getting ready to toss off our lines. And isn’t that worth going back for just in itself?

*This post has been written about two months in advance so that those of you who follow us on Facebook will have an explanation of why we’re now moving south and not east..  All information will be still given as it happens in future posts, so hopefully I don’t confuse you when I begin talking about the daily trials of looking into the first boat, not getting it, and then moving on to this one that we have currently purchased.

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Atlantic Crossing Part II – Day 48

What happens when you chase high pressure systems instead of lows?  You find yourself drifting at an average of 3 knots, but….., 29 days later you find yourself on land after an extremely comfortable passage.  That’s right, we’ve made it to the Azores!!  All is ok.  3400 nm.  38.31 n 28.37 w

Azores coord

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Atlantic Crossing Part II Day 48: Land Ho!!

Wednesday August 6, 2014

Faial, Azores

When I woke up this morning there were only 45 miles separating us from Horta. A very dangerous distance because it gives you just enough hope that you will in fact be there before the sun goes down, but also allows you enough leeway to completely eff it up and leave yourself at sea for another night. We had 10 hours of daylight left and would have to average 4.5 knots to make it in time. Not normally hard, but the king of ‘I won’t turn on the engine, what’s another few days out here’ has seemed to move on board sometime since the Bahamas.

Luckily for me the winds have shifted behind us and built up enough, near 20 knots, that we were just holding that 4.5 average when I came up on watch. Through my whole four hours I watched the spedometer like a hawk, and even a momentary dip down to 4.3 would result in a sharp intake of breath. I was not going to lose landfall tonight.

Just as I was beginning to go crazy near the end of my shift since the winds were now almost completely downwind of us which was causing the headsail to flop around a bit (and drop into the low 4s..gasp!), Matt woke up from his sleep shift and I quickly ordered that we raise the spinnaker pole to get our speed back. That did the trick and we were comfortably coasting at 5 knots.

All afternoon I kept my eyes glued to the horizon in front of us for any sign of land or life. Directly across from the island we’re landing at, Faial, is another island, Pico, with a volcanic peak of 2350m high. It’s said that on a clear day you can spot it from 50 M away. This unfortunately, was not a clear day. After thousands of miles of nothing but sun and clear skies, our welcome back to terra firma was presented with low lying clouds and mist ahead of us. I had been burning holes into my eyeballs staring into the reflected light, trying to be the first one to yell ‘Land ho!’ while Matt napped below, but I couldn’t make anything out through the haze.

It wasn’t until hours later when I had given up and begun my showering routine to make myself presentable to people again after a month at sea that Matt was able to pick out a shadow through the clouds. After lots of pointing and references I was able to see it too, honestly a little disappointed that this barely visible outline was my welcome back to humanity. It was land though, and we were quickly approaching it with just enough time to eek in before sunset. Although I think it’s high time we finally update our clocks to the proper time zone, a full two hours ahead of what they’re currently reading.

If anyone was even going to be there to check us in at the now revised hour of 8:30, I wanted to make sure I looked very nice and hopefully distract them from the fact that I was handing over veterinary papers for our cat, just in case we didn’t have all the right ones. Plus I was just excited to have any reason to wear something different than the pajamas I’ve been living in for the past four weeks. Now came the very important decision of what to wear for my first night in Europe. Khakis and a cable knit sweater? My llama skirt from Peru?…there were just so many choices! I had finally settled on a pair of skinny jeans, a tank and a cardigan, but Matt stared with disappointed eyes. “I thought you were going to wear a dress?” he asked. “Have you looked around?”, I replied, “It’s cold out here”. I guess a drop down into the low to mid 70’s now makes freezing weather for us, and it was more than my Caribbean geared attire could handle.

Finally I changed into a somewhat nautical themed sweater dress and applied some eyeliner before joining Matt out on deck again to watch that shadow on the horizon grow larger. We were finally getting to the point now where we could make out features on land and spot little houses and villages on the hilltop. The nearly setting sun was throwing rosy glows off the clouds, and even though I had imagined coming in to the crystal clear images splayed throughout our guidebooks, the view of Faial as we sailed in was indelible. It was just as beautiful as I could ever have imagined, and I stood there slack jawed until I remembered that we actually had to begin taking steps to get ourselves in the harbor.

Bringing down the spinnaker pole, we rolled in the genoa and coasted along with just the main for a little bit, until we were well into the channel between the two islands. As the engine was turned on and sputtered to life, we brought down the main and began running dock lines and hanging fenders. I swear, Matt and I can sail a whole ocean together and not have any arguments or communication issues until we’re landing. As I was trying to run the dock line at the bow it kept getting tangled in the wrachet straps for the dinghy, and since it wasn’t being done in a timely matter, a very impatient and agitated person was yelling at me from the cockpit until I became so flustered that I couldn’t touch anything and went to switch places instead. Since it was the only boat related spat we’d had since coming into Bermuda though, I think I’ll still consider our overall travel a success.

Faial, Azores, Portugal

Monte da Guia, Faial, Azores

Matt & Georgie coming in to Horta

Horta, Faial, Azores

Monte da Guia, Faial, Azores

Getting all the lines squared away we pulled up to the reception desk and music blasted from the main road. Unbeknownst to us, we arrived in the middle of Semana do Mar, or Sea Week. Horta’s biggest yearly event. Having read about it in our guidebook we knew that it was at the beginning of August, but we thought it only spanned one weekend and that we had already missed it. But from the sights and sounds on shore, it was still in full swing, lasting ten days instead of 3, and we could not wait to get out and partake.

Before we could go party though, ourselves and the boat needed to be checked in to Portugal. Having called many times on the radio prior to arriving and getting no response, I went to scour the office of the marina but could find no sign of life there either. Getting ourselves tied up to the fuel dock at 8:05, it looks as if we had just missed them. Our passports wouldn’t be stamped until tomorrow, allowing us one more day in a Schengen country. Darn.

We used up our last remaining hour of daylight talking to other sailors that had just come in within the past two days, many of them not faring as well as us. While we had taken a more southerly route and became trapped in the stillness of high pressure systems, most others took the northerly trade wind route and got a little bashed up along the way. We talked with one boat that had their autopilot crap out their second day out, meaning the crew of 4 had to hand steer the whole way. And to make matters worse, the halyard for their headsail broke not too long after, meaning they completed the rest of the journey with just the mainsail. Stories like that make me extremely happy we took the route we did, even if it means it took us twice as long to get there. Time we have. Money for fixing boat issues…not so much. Or at least, not that we’d be wiling to part with.

Bidding adieu to our new friends as our stomachs growled with the recognition that it had been about 8 hours since we’d last eaten, we pulled some Euros out of an ATM and went to join the throngs of people milling in the streets. One small section of park was set up with a stage playing what I’m guessing was traditional Portuguese music, and small food stands were set up all around it. Our noses guided us toward a mini doughnut stand where we happily handed over a few Euro for our first taste of fried sweet goodness in months. Continuing up the road we wandered into a tent filled with other food stands and restaurants.

Getting an eye full of this one stand that was selling huge sandwiches filled with sausage or presunto, we were sold. As Matt grabbed his sausage filled baguette and I asked for my presunto to be slathered in a creamy cheese, we ordered a few cans of Coke and went to sit with our new treasures on a wall overlooking the harbor.

Taking everything in as we enjoyed the food and the sights, I turned to Matt after about ten minutes and asked, “Does it feel strange to you to be sitting here, finally on land after 30 days, surrounded by people, and drinking a can of Coke? Do you feel as excited as you thought you would to be back on land after so long? Like this is what’s been missing from your life?”

He thought about it a second and observed, “No, not really. This is definitely nice, but it just feel like ‘Today we were at sea, now we’re on land’, easy transition, not as big of a deal as I thought it would be.” I pondered on it for a second, kind of surprised to hear myself say, “Yeah me too.” Smirking he looked over at me and asked, “So then you think you could go back out to sea for another month?” Laughing I looked back and him and replied with a resounding “Absolutely not!”.

Horta Harbor, Azores

Horta fuel dock, Azores

Horta insignia

Horta harbor at dusk, Azores

 

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Atlantic Crossing Part II Day 46: Last Days

Monday August 4, 2014

Another windless day!  And just when we were getting so close!  We’re just under 200 miles from Horta now, so I have to assume that we’ll actually be getting there sometime this week.  I’m having my heart set on Wednesday, but I have learned long long ago that getting your hopes up for a specific arrival date or time can be a very dangerous thing.  I’ll just say that if the winds swing around to the south and fill in like they’re supposed to, then just over 48 hours from now I should be sitting in a bar with a cold and well deserved beer in my hand.  In the meantime though, I have to get back to talking Georgie off a ledge.  I’m pretty sure she’s had it with this sailing crap and is about to abandon ship.

8.4.14 (3)

Georgie was getting ready to jump.  I had to talk her down.

8.4.14 (2)

At this point we’re just getting stubborn.  ‘Will..not..use..engine.’

8.4.14 (1)

A Zen moment for Georgie.  ‘I will never see land for the rest of my life.  I have to accept this’.

 

 

 

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Atlantic Crossing Part II – Day 45

The finish line is almost in sight, only 211 nm left. Hoping to make landfall on the 6th, just need winds to move S All is ok. 3161 nm. 35.54 n 31.33 w. Day 45

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Atlantic Crossing Part II Days 42 & 43: Alien Encounters

Thursday July 31, 2014

I’m not going to lie, it’s starting to get really hard (and boring, probably for all of us) for me to come up with something to put for every single day of this crossing.  So until we make landfall, I’m only going to put down things that are worth putting down.  And then hopefully, just hopefully, I can start getting pictures and stories up of what I’m assuming is amazingly beautiful Horta.

On that note though, something happened that I thought was kind of cool and noteworthy.  Today we crossed a spot on the globe where we had the exact same coordinates for latitude and longitude.  I wonder how often that happens for people?  I obviously haven’t done a lot of research on the subject, but it seems like a lot of areas covered by land (or at least the United States) are higher than 80 degrees West, meaning there is no matching latitude.  So to find numbers close enough to match pretty much means you’re going to be over water.  Maybe something random I can add to my bucket list?  Seems like a cool enough accomplishment.

matching latitude and longitude

Oh, and if you can tell from the photo, we’ve now passed the stationary gale (which has all dissipated now) and we can begin heading north and directly toward Horta again!

 

Friday August 1, 2014

There’s just something about me and night shifts and strange lights. Don’t get me wrong, that fireball I spied just a few days outside of Bermuda was probably a once in a lifetime sight that I’ll never forget and may be worth crossing the Atlantic for itself (mayb-be), but the past few nights seem to be surprising me with questionable lights amidst the dark. Yesterday morning around 2 am I was popping my head up on deck between relaxing with my podcast on the comfortable settee below to see what looked like a flashlight beam oh so briefly shine on our American flag flapping at the stern. There is nothing on the boat that could have illuminated it at that angle so brightly unless Matt decided to sneak up behind me with an actual flashlight, unnoticed by me, while I still stood on the steps. Very unlikely. As my heart quickly jumped into my throat I thought it was another boat trying to identify us, but after frantically searching the horizon and then turning to the radar, we were the only thing out there. Alien encounter? Apparently once they realized we were American it was enough to make them leave us alone.

Which brings me to this morning’s odd light. More astrological than extraterrestrial, but still startling nonetheless. It was moments into my 12-4 am shift when I was just climbing up the steps to do a cursory glance before my more in depth check that would be coming up in ten minutes (what can I say?, I like to stick to my schedule), the sky directly in front of us suddenly lit up as if the deck light had been thrown on. In the split second it took my mind to register that this shouldn’t be happening I saw a very bright greenish-white sphere fall from the sky leaving a bright trail behind it. My first thought was ‘Oh my god, it’s a flare!!’. Although from what I’ve been told, flares are red or orange and nothing else. But this was close! As in, someone must be lighting off fireworks next to our boat close. Surely it couldn’t be a meteor?

Quite startled and still not fully registering what had just happened in the two seconds it took to happen I let out an audible and nervous “Ummm….” as Matt was still settling himself into bed. Asking what was the matter I told him that I’d just seen a very bright light that looked flare-like just ahead of us, and as he raced to untangle himself from the sheets he had just slipped under, I added “But it was greenish-white”, knowing that his first thought would be that someone in a life raft was trying to alert us to their existence. By now my head was finally wrapping itself around the fact that it probably was a meteor. Just a very, very close meteor, and that there was no need to worry. Not taking any chances though, he dove into full rescue mode, not wanting to risk the possibility of missing someone out there trying to signal us. Asking me question after question of exactly where I’d seen the light, how close it was, and what kind of shape it took, he set about trying to figure out our drift and trajectory while trying to find out when and how close we’d come to the source of the light After ten minutes of more horizon scans, scrutinizing the radar, and follow up questions such as ‘If it were you, how long would you wait to set off a second flare?’, I assured him that, as amazing and unlikely as it was, I think we were just incredibly close to a meteor that happen to be falling in this vast ocean that we’re traveling. He finally relented and went back to bed as I promised to stay up there for a while longer, keeping an eye out for any more lights or loud signaling noises.

In non-astrological news, we’re continuing our path directly north as we ride the east winds before they shift east in the next day or two and force us to turn directly east instead. So close and yet so far away. I keep focusing on the miles remaining as the crow flies, wishing we could take that same direct path, trying to count down our arrival based on those numbers, but instead preparing myself for yet another day or possibly two at sea on top of my predictions because we’re forced to travel at 90 degree angles instead. The pressure is still steadily rising, now at 1022, 10 mb higher than we were 48 hours ago, and I guess I should just be grateful for having any wind at all as we make our way into yet another high pressure system.

In more exciting news, I saw another sailboat today. What??!! I honestly didn’t think that would happen until we were within 20 miles of Faial. For some reason this sight makes me extremely giddy. We’re not alone out here, the only thing under 400 ft and carrying cargo. Part of me wants to call them up on the VHF just to say hi and find out where they’re going. Possibly get a little encouragement from someone out here that’s just as crazy as us. Another voice to say, ‘Yup, we’re right there with you’. Except, knowing our luck, they’d come back with, ‘You’ve been out how long??!! We just left the states two weeks ago. You must be traveling extremely slow’. Yup, that’s a much more likely scenario. Maybe they won’t get a call after all.

Atlantic sunset

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