We Depart for Horta, Azores!

Our start was delayed by the late delivery of our bow thruster solenoids.  For most of the morning it looked like we were going to leave without the unit.  Since we only use the thruster while docking, it would not have been mission critical.  We needed to top off the water and diesel, so that added to our late start.  The upside of the late start we got a nice picture of our friends going across the start line.

As I was writing this, a school of tiny flying fishes were headed in the opposite direction on the starboard.  They are interesting as they actually flap their wings and stay out of the water for a surprising distance.  These little ones were flying about 10-12 feet.  It is much nicer to see them flapping their wings, than to clean them off the deck.  At some point on the last leg, there was one by the port helm.  He/she apparently hit, bled some and then ended up further aft with another blood spot.  I did the traditional burial at sea and lamented a sad end.

On a cheery note, there is a wonderful blue sky, few clouds and a modest breeze.  We are averaging 6 knots, occasionally hitting 7.5 or dropping to the mid-5’s.  The apparent wind is consistent at 9 knots and we are on a comfortable beam reach. Sails are set.  There are smaller rollers rocking the boat.  The autopilot is functioning well.   We were able to catch Migaloo after we passed the cut to open ocean.  However, they deployed their spinnaker and are now slightly ahead of us. There are three boats behind us.  We passed two of them and the other got a later start.  Twenty some are ahead of us.

We had to use the engine to charge the house batteries that run the autopilot and frigs.  This moved us up in the pack.  Hard to say our relative standing. Maybe in the top third.

My 2:00 pm (1400) shift was peaceful.  Steady wind and mild seas.

I saw my first sunset of the trip. On the leg to Bermuda there was no sun to see, except one that I apparently slept through.  The sunset today was absolutely beautiful, and it lasted quite a while.

My 2200 shift was the first of the trip to see the big dipper and north star.  As we were on a heading of 050 with a course over ground (COG) of 045.  The winds continued to be consistent.  There is a certain magic seeing so many stars.  I did not see the milky way, despite not being able to see the moon.  Carlos had the shift after me and he said he saw the moon as a tiny sliver.

Today was the first day that I was able to write a post on board while sailing.  Previously it would have been impossible to keep the laptop and my fingers connected.  It would have been a challenge just to keep the laptop on the table.

Tomorrow, We Set Sail for Horta in the Azores

It has been a most pleasant five days in St. George’s.    The warmth of the Bermudians has been felt day after day.  Walking on the streets in the morning, almost every person says hello or good morning.  This was the case whether the individual was young or old, black or white, poor or elegantly dressed.

Today we shopped for groceries and were waiting for a cab.  After 20 minutes or so, a gentleman drove up and asked if we were waiting for a cab.  He noticed we had been waiting for long time.  He said he was headed to his boat in St. George’s.  He volunteered to drive us to St George’s.  We loaded 10 grocery bags in the back of his station wagon. He drove us to the dock where our boat was 100 yards away.   To transfer the bags to the boat we had to leave some by the curb.  A man noticed our predicament and volunteered to watch our bags.

There is a wonderful sense of comradely among the ARC Europe participants.  Invariably, something on the boat breaks during a challenging passage.  In our case the culprit was the bow thruster. While docking at St. George’s, the thruster got stuck on.  That meant the bow was moving without the helmsman being able to lift his finger and turn it off.  Roy shut the main engine off and it simultaneously shut the thruster down.  Crew members from at least four boats agreed to look at the problem.  The source of the problem was initially thought to be the switch at the helm.  Subsequent opinions converged on the solenoids at the bow above the thruster.  At the moment, we are waiting for a mechanic to return with the solenoids and news of the bench test.

St George’s, Bermuda

Walked to Tobacco Bay, a nice beach. Spent some time snorkeling and given how close it was to beach, there were large colorful trigger fish. Water temp was comfortable.

On the walk to Tobacco Beach we met Phil and Norma.  Their blog is: https://www.sailblogs.com/member/philandnorma They have been sailing since 2009.  Nine years is a long time to be traveling with only occasional trips back for family events.  Like initial conversations with other sailors, the questions are typically about where you sailed from, to where and when you plan to sail, your respective boats, and boat repairs.  As the conversation proceeds more detail is learned about noteworthy passages.  After transiting the Panama Canal, they were headed to the Galapagos and ran into a submerged 8-ft metal fishing cage.  Their keel and rudder were compromised.  They hand steered for 350 miles.  Phil did a two-hour shift while Norma did a one-hour shift.   To make matters worse, the parts they needed and the boatyard that could do the job required another passage of the Panama Canal. Norma said the first time through the Canal was exciting and took many pictures.  Not as much fun on the second and third time.  Rather than lamenting their misfortune, they reported feeling good about being able to successfully handle a serious situation.

On land it is common to learn what a person does for work.  We talked with Phil and Norma for close to an hour and the topic of occupations/professions did not come up.  The conversation was focused solely on sailing.

The day was capped off with the awards ceremony for the first leg of ARC-Europe. Team North Wind came in second!

Tiny frogs make incredibly loud and high pitched sounds.

We Are Off to Bermuda

At 0600 we left the dock in Portsmouth. It was overcast and raining. We headed out the Chesapeake. In Dodge Morgan’s book on his record breaking solo circumnavigation, he talked about “marauding emotions” on the day he departed. He also mentioned that his senses were “under siege.” After reading Morgan’s book, I intended to consciously monitor my emotions.

After waiting so long to finally start sailing, I expected a feeling of elation once we untied the dock lines and go on our way. My thoughts were more along the lines of, “darn, it is raining.” There was no feeling of “wow.” On the way to Cape Henry it was amazing to see the number of US. Navy war ships.

Several hours later, as we passed Cape Henry, a big smile emerged and my thoughts revolved around the idea that we were headed across the Atlantic, next stop Bermuda. We were soon battling the gulf stream. We motor sailed to get across the gulf stream before the winds shifted and came out of the north.

Eight Hours and We Are Off

I did not accomplish much today.  I got the GoPro set up to take video from about midship.  When I turned it on, the screen indicated the slot for the micro-SD card was empty.  I was not able to find the extra that I am pretty sure I bought, so my Samsung 360 donated its card.

At 5:30 (1730 sailing time) there was a meeting of the skippers to discuss the weather.  It was decided we would take off at sunrise.

If you want to see our track, the following link will tell you there are multiple tracks.


Select the option: Portsmouth to Bermuda.

A window to the left will give the option of open of selecting a boat.  We are the North Wind.

A Change in Departure

Another trip to West Marine.  We needed the Navionics micro-SD that covered the Azores.  The biggest challenge of the day was negotiating the traffic jams to get through the tunnel that connects Portsmouth to Norfolk.  It was happy day because the overnight order at West Marine had come in.

About midday we learned that weather will delay our start.  Thus, we have another day to do some fine tuning. Projected departure, May 6.

Surprisingly, I was not disappointed.  I took the delay in stride.

First Day on the Boat at the Dock

Spent the day getting food provisions, and a trip to West Marine.  Since Carlos and Kathy have a rental car, Lane (skipper of the Flying Dolphin) came with Kathy and me.  Because the food prices in Bermuda and the Azores are outrageously expensive, we provisioned for six weeks.  The Ford Escape was piled to the brim.  Lane was in the back seat and sitting against the door with grocery bags filling the floor, seat and blocking the rear view.  The back was likewise filled.  This was not the first time for provisions, and as it turned out not the last.

Greg who oversaw the retrofit in Savanah, failed to complete other jobs that he was paid for.  The line on the whisker pole was too short, so we had to buy a longer line and splice them together, so we did not have to climb the mast.

I spent a good chunk of the afternoon rigging the pulleys and lines to connect the dinghy to the stern arch.  It took couple of tries but I eventually got the twist out the lines.  Carlos and I worked on rigging the preventer.  The preventer keeps the boom from slinging with great force during an accidental jibe.

Joined the Boat Today

The day has finally arrived to make the trek to Portsmouth, VA.  Between 6:15 and 7:00, I was rushing to get everything in my bags.  The girls left for the bus stop and forgot to say goodbye.  Marcia returned from the bus stop and we were off the airport.  Getting on the plane to BWI, Sid Shaw was seated in about the 8th row and said a cheerful hello.  Rather than sit in the middle seat next to Sid, I opted to sit in an aisle seat at the back of the plane.  It would have been nice to talk with Sid but being able to stretch my legs and have full access to both armrests won out over being sociable.  Fortunately, Sid waited for me to exit the plane and we had a conversation about our kids and their friends.  I am so glad that friends we met at BDLC have not been lured away to other universities.

Kathy picked me up at the airport.  I learned that at one point in the late morning, Carlos was about to call me and tell me to cancel my flight.  They realized I was already on the flight, so Carlos did not call.  Bob and Jim from Trident Marine Electronics questioned whether they could rewire, install a missing network switch, get the chartplotters working together by the day we were scheduled to leave.  It would have meant that it would have been a no go. However by mid-afternoon, they postponed some other jobs and committed to get it done.  They put in 20 hours to tear out the wiring that was done in Savaanah and eventually update the software.  Kudos to Trident Electronics, and to Bob and Jim!

Sleeping on the boat was like sleeping on the land.  My stateroom has a great mattress. Unlike some marinas, the water was smooth.  Hence, there was no movement of the boat.  Ocean Yacht Marina, Portsmouth, VA is directing across from the Norfolk Navy Yard. With massive cargo ships coming and going, I would have thought we would be bouncing around from their wake.  It was amazing how high the empty cargo ships ride in the water.