After passing to the north of the shipping lanes and approaching St Vincent Point, we expected to see less wind. We assumed the land would buffet the wind. Not the case, the strong winds continued right up to until we were about 4 nm from Lagos. As we passed the Point, we had to be vigilant to avoid fish traps. Sailing directly into the sun it was hard to see them, until we passed them. However, we managed to avoid wrapping fish netting around the keel, sail drive, and rudder. As we were dodging fish traps, it became clear that we would soon be docked at Customs in Lagos. It was quite a feeling of elation, with a bit of relief we averted potential disasters. The music sounded better than normal. I’ll admit to a little of dancing at the helm. It reminded my of a comment from a waitress in Flagstaff, AZ, who mentioned having a Grand Canyon high, while hiking below the rim. During the final few miles it certainly was a great natural high.
After three days of sailing in modest winds, we were greeted with much stronger winds. Initially, the winds grew to 14-17 kts. They gradually built to 17-20 kts with gusts almost to 30 kts. The wind was out of the north but then shifted northeast. This made for a close reach and the pounding of the bow began. The waves were coming from the north. Initially they were in the 4-6 ft range. Eventually, they grew to 8-10. Every once and while, there were waves that were at 12 ft that showed signs of breaking. They may have been 14 ft, but I have heard sailors often overestimate the size of waves. Hence, I adjusted my estimate down to 12 ft. Regardless when you are in the trough of the wave and look up at the crest of the wave next to you, it seems like a wall of water could crash down on you.
We wanted to go directly east and going parallel with big waves was scary. There were times that we fell off the crest of a wave and were blown sideways, heeling at an angle that felt like a broach or knockdown was imminent. Roy was not worried. Carlos mentioned there was considerable righting force generated by more than 10,000 lbs of ballast in the keel.
The last thing I wanted was to dip the sails in the water and risk breaking the boom or rigging. The loss of the standing rigging would mean dismasting. I chose to head up and take the waves at an angle from 15-30 degrees. The boat settled down, riding the wave down and coasting up the next wave continuing the same angle of attack. The wild fishtailing stopped and comfort level increased. I was very pleased that through trial and error, I was able to find the heading to bring the boat under control. I kept on the same heading for the duration of my shift. The negative part was we were off our intended course and would do more miles. Eventually the wind shifted again, and we were at to head southeast between a beam and broad reach and recoup the extra miles.
Fast forward to the evening and almost complete darkness. The issue is that you can’t see the waves and the autohelm follows more or less the heading you set. On a flat sea the autohelm tracks straight on course. In the current seas the heading would vacillate across 30 degrees. It was a rough last night on the approach to Lagos. Carlos and Kathy were unable to sleep in the forward v-berth cabin. Since we were heeling at an extreme angle in combination with the pounding of the bow, it meant they would be briefly suspended in the air and then slammed in the mattress. This went on and on. They moved to the salon and unsuccessfully attempted to sleep.
Rather than one person on watch, there were 2 or more. In the final approach to Portugal we chose to go north of the shipping lanes. We had been warned that shipping lanes were dangerous. A cargo ship can take out a sailboat and not even know it. It would be like a mosquito hitting your car windshield. In the Azores we heard a rumor that a sailboat met an unfortunate fate with cargo ship in the Atlantic.
Carlos yelled, “Whale.” Kathy and Roy were up through the companionway like a shot. I was in bed, grabbed my camera and was right behind them. Off the starboard beam about 50 yards were two whales moving in the opposite direction of the boat. They would spout shooting water 10-15 ft in the air. Then their dorsal side behind their blow hole would appear and continue above the water till their dorsal fin broke the surface. Moving forward their dorsal fins would disappear and their dorsal side behind the fin would submerge. I never saw the classic whale tail shot. Nevertheless, very cool. Again, there wasn’t time to get the camera, turn it on, and find the whales. Given how quickly the whales passed, I made the right decision not to mess with turning the camera on and trying zoom in where I thought the whales would be next.
More good news was that we had 12 kts of wind on a beam reach, moving us at an average rate of 7.2 kts closer to Lagos. It is nice when the forecast in wrong in the right direction, i.e., more wind than was forecast.
While I was sleeping at the start of Kathy’s 0200 watch, the wind died and the Yanmar sail was fired up. Much to my chagrin, the Yanmar was still running at the start of my watch. It was cold enough to wear a fleece and my rain jacket. It was misty and we were surrounded by clouds. The exception was a sliver of light on the horizon that appeared to be the sunrise. The strange part was the light was not coming from the east. It was directly south. The clouds were so thick in the east that the sun could not peek through.
For an hour the Yanmar sail droned on. Then the wind emerged off the port beam. Not much only about 6 kts, but enough to unfurl the genoa. Soon the wind was giving us a 1 kt boast. After an hour of many minor heading and sail adjustments, my shifted ended. It looked like we are in for a slow day.
When my shift ended at 0800, I made a nice egg, cheese and prosueto grilled sandwich. I used goat butter and grilled the bread. Goat butter is pure white. It looks like Crisco, but tastes like regular salted butter.
Shortly after my watch ended and I had eaten, it was off to my bunk. This has been my pattern for the last 24 hours; watch – eat – sleep, watch – eat – sleep, watch – eat – sleep.
I woke at noon to a beautiful blue sky, and super light wind. The engine drones on, aided somewhat by wind on the port beam. It looks like another 48 hours of comparable wind. Then I expect to have North Wind on its hull speed.
I woke up early and took a walk up the steep hill to the town. I had learned that a century or so ago, Azoreans displayed their good fortune with ornate ironwork on their first-floor balconies. Each design is unique. I looked for duplicates and was unable to find one.
Shortly before casting off lines, there was excitement in the air. Doing last minute chores, I took the trash to the dumpster. I passed ten or more crew from various boats. Everyone was smiling and had an upbeat greeting. Anticipating the imminent departure, said; “Safe sail,” “Safe travels,” or “Fair views.” With 5 kts of wind forecast for the next 3 days, fair winds was optimistic.
Much to everyone’s surprise, the winds were close to 10 kts as we lined up for the 1200 start. Carlos was cautious, and we were .2 nm from the starting line when the final horn blasted. Eventually we caught the pack and over several miles passed half the boats.
For most of the reminder of the day, the winds held, about 10-12 kts. We were on a close reach and doing a respectable 6-7. When the wind shifted so we could do a board reach, we were able to do between 7.5 and 8.5. By making small adjustments to the heading, we saw low 8. Knots. Great fun.
At the end of my 2200 watch, the wind started to drop.
First order of business was getting the sail patched. A check of resources available in Santa Maria revealed no one on the island with a sewing machine for sailed. Dave of Himmel, volunteered to help. He brought his patch kit and Carlos brought out the sail repair kit he bought at West Marine in Portsmouth, VA. We hauled the genoa down and for the next 90 minutes Carlos sewed. Pushing a needle through the heavy Dacron at the foot of sail took a lot of strength. I took over and finished the job in a little more than an hour. The patch looked darn good, considering Carlos and I had never sewn one before.
To celebrate our victory with the sail tape, I went with Roy to get a grilled tuna lunch. I wish I had a picture. It was a big tuna steak, grilled and served with a cup of butter. The flavor of the wood grill added a new dimension to tuna.
Tomorrow we set sail for Portugal. Hard to believe it is the last leg. The winds are forecast to be less than 10 kts for the next three days. It would be nice to have more wind, but it is what it is.
We had to take on fuel, so we were slow getting out of Sao Meguel. We had to wait while Flying Doplin finished. Eventually, the dock was free. We fueled and headed out. The wind was mild and right on our stern. We sailed between 5 and 6 knots for five hours. We had to gibe and in the process of shifting the whisker pole to the starboard side, the pole ripped a 5 inch tear in the foot of the genoa sail. We sailed on because it was in the foot of the sail there was two layers of fabric.
We were the last ones to leave Sao Miguel and eventually caught Migaloo. At that point the wind died and we used the Yanmar sail, i.e., the diesel engine to reach Santa Maria before customs closed.
Once in Santa Maria, we were invited to Principal Interest for drinks and appetizers. We received the tour of another incredible boat. If the Oyster is a Rolls, a Farr is a Bentley. The mast is 95 ft tall, the keel is 9.5 ft. Even the rudder is 7.5 deep. It is 60 ft long. The boat is built to go fast. On AIS, Carlos and Kathy watched Ed maneuver the boat in the very tight marina. Keeping with the auto metaphor, it was like parking a Chevy Suburban in a European parking garage designed for Smart cars. Somehow without crashing into another boat or the dock, Ed found a space that would fit. The Migaloo crew joined the North Wind crew and told docking horror tales.
“Azorean legend has it that long ago a beautiful Princess with piercing blue eyes used to roam the countryside because she was in love with land. One day she came across a humble shepherd tending to his flock on a nearby hillside. She and the shepherd began talking about their shared love of the flora and fauna all around. They returned to the same spot day after day to meet and quickly fell into love. When the King found out his daughter was in love in a lowly shepherd, he was displeased and told his daughter she had to marry a foreign prince and she was no longer allowed to see the shepherd. The Princess knew she must oblige her father, but asked the King if she could see her love one more time. She and the shepherd met a final time, at the same spot on the hillside, and she shared the sad news. They both cried endless tears, and it’s said that her flowing blue tears filled the Blue Lake and tears from his emerald colored eyes filled the Green Lake. While they were separated from that moment on, they were still together forever in those two connecting lakes.” from http://compassandtwine.com/kayaking-around-the-green-blue-lakes-of-sete-cidades-in-the-azores/
I enjoyed a Coke with ice and lemon at the above resturant. If you ask for a coke with ice, they normally a slice of lemon. This little town is on the banks of the Blue Lake. Our guide mentioned that the houses are small and very expensive, 2 million Euros ($2.300,000).
Even small towns have large churches. The lichens covered the trees on the path to the church.
Last night, we left Terceira at 1800. As we motored out of the harbor, we stowed the dock lines and the fenders. We had daylight for a couple of hours, so were able to see the sails and trim properly. Before departing, I was not sure about an evening departure. I questioned voluntarily submitting to a night of interrupted sleep. I was on for the 2200 shift. Roy had trimmed the sails well and we were cruising at a comfortable 7-8 kts, very pleasant. Himmel was .2 nm behind us and Principal Interest was about the same in front of us. During my shift the wind picked up to 14-16 and we were doing a solid 8 – 8.5 kts. During the next two hours we passed Principal Interest and put more than a 1 nm between us and both boots.
Carlos took over after my shift. About an hour into his shift there was a gust of wind that suddenly heeled us over, not to the point of putting the sails in the water. It was enough to shut off the autopilot. Carlos was teethed to the table and unable to get to the helm in time to avert a 360. I slept through it, while Roy emerged from his cabin to help. It turned out the gusting winds returned to a steady 14-15 kts. My morning shift started at 0600 and the wind had dropped to 6-8 kts. Eventually, we dropped the sails and I steered us to Ponta Delgada. Carlos parked us in a slip. While Kathy and Carlos went to customs to check us in, I had granola and several cups of English Breakfast tea. Very tranquil start of the day. After the experience of the 90 nm night sail, I decided I liked it. Something worth doing in the future.
On the way to meet Carlos and Kathy, and the Migaloo and Prinicpal Interest crews, Roy and I came across an 585 Oyster that was rafted up to us in Bermuda. Back in Bermuda on board of North Wind, we shared a number of drinks with Louie and his crew. Louie had mentioned his dad woul be taking the boat from the Azores. Sure enough, we introduced ourselves to John, Louie’s dad, and were invited aboard. He welcomed us by giving us an indepth tour of the boat; electronics, galley, thruhulls, cabins, and hydraulics for winches, furling genoa, backstay, etc. Burled wood on the table was worthy of a photo, but I did not have my camera. Oysters are build in Great Britton and if you think of a parellel to autos, it would be comparable to a Rolls Royce. John insisted on gin and tonics, so that delayed enough that we missed dinner with the other crews.