Crossing the Atlantic eastbound; St Martin – Faial

May 2012 | Scheveningen

Finding the crew for the sail back was still on my to do list. Andy and his family is moving to Thailand, both Marc and Clare switched jobs and can’t take the time off.
But once you put the word out, you soon get a lot of responds.

There are two different kinds of people that respond. Those who would like to join but have to think about it. Most of the time you don’t hear anything. The others are those who say: hmm, okay,… let me check some things and get back to you. They usually do so the next day and they’re either in or out.
So when I got in touch with Frits, Dick and Arie, they all called or mailed me back the next day to tell me the very much wanted to join me 🙂 We met, talked things over and the click was there. Unfortunately for good reasons Dick later had to decide he couldn’t come after all. However, by that time I had met Eline. She also had to check some things and the day after .. she was on too! That settled the crew for the crossing to the Azores.

In the mean time I also had some of the instruments repaired, got a replacement for the broken AIS, got the nautical almanac 2012 and some other stuff. I’m almost done gathering all the stuff that I need to take with me. Of course there were some last minute things I had to pick up at Vrolijk, my chandlery. That trip ended very differently than expected!

After collecting my stuff at Vrolijk, I decided to walk over to the harbor and sat down at the Pasta Company. It was just the perfect day to sit outside in the sun and have a beer. After a while a guy walks by and sits down at the table next to me, 15 minutes later two girlfriends come to join him. One of them asks if she could take the seat next to me so she too could enjoy the sun. We started chatting and for some reason, I don’t know how or why, we start talking about sailing.

It turned out that Jantine is very much into sailing too and recently had been sailing up and down the East coast of Australia.

Of course I told her about my trip so far and my upcoming plans. She thought it to be really cool to cross the Ocean. Anyway, since I still had an open spot for the leg from the Azores back to Scheveningen, I told her she could join us if she wanted. I didn’t really timed it but it couldn’t be more than a few minutes before she agreed to come and join us! Wow, I guess this was just one of those special moments, totally out of the blue, but for some reason meant to happen. Life is beautiful when you live it!

So together with Monique and Willem Jelle I got the crew completed for the last part to finish the trip around the Atlantic. I guess it’s time to go for it!

Friday, May 27th Bobby’s Marina, St Martin

The flight was long but okay. At Antigua they surprised me by having my luggage labeled through to St Martin. I was told to pick it up at the airport at Antigua and have it checked in again since the last part was with a different airline. When the luggage belt stopped and my bags weren’t there I immediately went over to the desk because the plane we just came of was flying on to Tobago, with my bags still on board ?? The lady looked at my baggage tags and told me I should pick it up at St. Martin. I didn’t really believe her but there was nothing else I could do … But it all went well and I could see them unload my bags when we got to St. Martin. Eline was already there, she had landed 10 minutes earlier, arriving from Curacao, right on schedule. She was a bit emotional… coming back after so many years.

Together we got a taxi and went over to Bobby’s Marina. Getting on board was quite a surprise!! When I went down I stepped in the water… salt water. That was not the idea, not at all !!! I took off my shoes and went looking for the leak which obviously was there. It didn’t take long to find it. The sea cock that I had fixed in Brighton was leaking. When I wiggled the sea cock, it snapped completely and now water was really coming in.

Luckily I have wooden plugs hanging at every sea cock and I could stop the leak within a minute. When we had a closer look there was around 2 inches of water above the floor boards. That’s a lot!! We started pumping, by hand since the bilge pump was completely under water, but it went better using buckets. When we got enough water out, the pump did the rest.

In the mean time I had called Mick, the supervisor of the marina, to ask him if he could lift me out. Since he had no one around to help him, he told me he would help us first thing tomorrow morning. That was okay, the plug held fine so we weren’t sinking any longer.

By that time Frits had called my, Arie and he had missed their connection in Miami. Customs and immigration had taken too long …. and they had missed their flight by 10 minutes. Oh well, I guess that wasn’t too bad after all. The four of us might have been too many and we would have gotten in each other’s way.

Around 21:00 Eline and I had had enough and went out for dinner. The first place we could get to was ‘ Curry in a Hurry’ what turned out to be a very nice local restaurant and the food was good too.

Next morning I went over to Mick and an hour later we were on the hard. Andy one of the engineers that was around on a Saturday, looked at it and told me he would be able to help me and replace the hull though fitting. It looked like a classic example of electrolysis that had completely eaten the fitting. Andy also checked all the other fittings and they were all fine. Since we were on the hard, we cleaned the hull. Enough came off to give us a knot or so more in speed!

Anyway, I guess we were very lucky after all. Since our berth was very shallow, the keel was already touching ground and we wouldn’t have sunk If we would have come a day later. If it has to be, this was the best place for it to happen, not mid Atlantic!!

Eline and I spend the day organizing the boat and fix the instruments I had taken home to repair. Nothing seemed to have been damaged by the water. Around 6 pm we went over to have diner and there I got a call from Frits that they had landed. It took them about an hour to get to the marina which is really a 4 minute drive, but anyway. Well this was some arrival … and so much for the plan.

Today we’ll go and do some shopping while Andy will fix the fitting. Monday morning we’ll be in the water again and off to Antigua.

Sunday May 29th, still in Bobby’s Marina but afloat again

So far so good!. Arie and Frits did a very good job in getting the AIS running,  In the meantime Eline and I went to the supermarket to do the shopping. However, the one we wanted to go to was closed Sunday’s and the next one the taxi drove us to was extremely expensive, so we decided to wait until Monday.

Andy and Rene did a good job in fixing a new hull through fitting. All in all it took way more time to get back in the water, but we’re all fine with it. It is what it is and we’re not really in a hurry or something. We decided not to rush, no one says we have to leave today and also we don’t have to go to Antigua either, which is 90 Nm straight upwind. We wanted to do a first short trip before the crossing so instead of Antigua we will go to St. Barth, that’s upwind too but only 20 Nm.

The anchorage at St Barth looks very promising and it would be nice to have a real tropical swim before we leave.

That afternoon Marie, Andy’s wife drove us to the supermarket this afternoon. They really are very friendly and helpful. But then again, Andy is a sailor too. He crossed the Atlantic about 60 times, 3 circumnavigations and a lot of racing.

Doing the shopping was a challenge but fun. The four of us together with Marie went over to CostUless. Arie and Frits where all over the place collecting stuff. Eline, who was in charge of the list, wasn’t getting anywhere, so every 20 minutes or so we had to stop and give her a chance to update and check the list again. Anyway, we got everything quite easy and Marie was really a great help in driving us. When we finally got back to the boat it was about happy hour and a great dinner at Curry in a Hurry’s.

Next morning we got all the stuff delivered and got all the remaining things done, filling up the water and fuel tanks, go over to immigration and lots more. At 4:30 pm we set sail for our first leg to St Barth.

Ange de Colombier, St Barth

We anchored up at Ange de Colombier and spent a beautiful day in a more beautiful bay. We thought to have at least one lazy day before setting sail for the Azores. It wasn’t all lazy however. It turned out the alternator wasn’t working. After an hour or so we found the problem, a simple fuse.

I also tried to mount my new tricolor. However, when one bolt of the old one would not come off, I  decided to leave it. I didn’t want to break something on the day we planned to leave. Still, working at the top of the mast, I just touched the propeller of the wind speed meter and it come off right away, completely dried out. So from now on all information on wind speed is an educated guess.

While Frits and I were checking the alternator, Arie and Eline prepared dinner, so we didn’t have to cook the first night under sail.

Thursday, May 31st, position 19º 43.078N; 62º 06.850 W

We left Ange de Colombier, St Barth around 20:30. We took off with a very nice breeze, around 16 kts, and had a wonderful sail! We were doing over 7 kts most of the time, except for the time we were dragging a fishing line with a couple of buoys. Luckily I could cut the line quite easy.

The night went smooth and fine. I decided to work with the 4 on 4 off watch system to start with, so that there would be 2 on deck all the time. We all felt more confident since it’s a new boat for the Eline, Arie and Frits.

The sailing so far is very close to perfect!! Nice breeze, sunny with some occasionally clouds, running close reach at NE course and we all enjoyed it very very much!!

Position 21º 52.345N; 60º 12.064 W

The sail yesterday became perfect after all when a pack of dolphins came by and played around the bow for 15 minutes or so. Eline and Arie tried to take pictures.. only Frits got a whole dolphin and not just a tail or splash. But then again he was smart enough to film them ha!

We had dinner a bit too late. On the crossing to the Carib it was dark around 6 pm which was a good reference. Now it’s not getting dark before 7:30 meaning we eat around 8 pm which is already during the sleeping time of the second watch :-* So starting today we’ll eat a bit earlier.

The night went very well and with full main, genoa and staysail TC sails really great and perfectly balanced.

Early in the morning we had a bleep on the Sea-me. It took a while before we could actually see the vessel. It was a weird boat, no freighter or fishing vessel. If we had been around Venezuela I would have expect it to be pirates. They gave us right of way but there was no one on deck nor did they tried to contact us. Hmm, they didn’t seemed anxious to be contacted either so we just waved and sailed on. Leaving Eline a bit disappointed cause she’d love to meet up with Johnny Depp.

I installed the shower on the swimming platform, after 3 days we all could use a bit of washing 🙂 Also it’s a nice way to cool off a bit. It’s getting real warm. When we sailed to the Caribbean we went from east to west, meaning that in the afternoon the sun was behind the main sail. Now we sail NE and the sun is shining directly in the cockpit all day. So whatever we need to do, we do in the morning before it gets too hot. This morning Eline and I cleaned the fridge while Frits and Arie were hacking the coleslaw… hmm next time … 🙂

Position 28°21.972N; 54°53.578W

We just gibed, after 2 days motoring through the center of a high we picked up a westerly and had a great day sailing, first with the gennaker and later, when the wind picked up a bit more, we set the twin genoa’s.

During the motoring hours I tried to explain Arie and Frits the basics of astronavigation. That’s not that easy, but with the help of some books we managed.

In the meantime Eline backed a bread. She turns out to be very knowledgeable in making your own stuff like making yoghurt out of yoghurt. In all she’s very enlightening …as she proved by setting my hair on fire 🙂 Arie too backed some bread. So far it’s not eatable, hard like a rock but it might get softer next day or so.

So far we didn’t manage to catch any fish, too bad because we ran out of fresh meat and are now down to canned stuff.

Later that day we had a surfing competition. Frits had set the speed record at 9.6 kts. Arie got to 9.1 and Eline 9.4. Time for me to set a better goal at 9.9 kts. Eline tried very hard to beat me while Frits was riding a real rodeo down below trying to cook dinner. Luckily he knows this game very well and could anticipate the rolling and hold himself more or less. We decided to stop the competition to give Frits a fair chance in cooking. That is.. Arie and I stopped… Eline only pretended and very sneaky clocked 10.8… poor Frits.

We’re pointing directly to Horta. The wind picked up a bit more and we’re doing 8 kts average. The speed record was set by Frits at 13.8 kts.

Position 29°55.629N; 51°35.418W

So far we sailed about 920 Nm. And another 1300 Nm to go.

Today and last night we had good winds and could make up for the days of motoring speedwise.
Last night we had our first meal with canned meat, sort of rubberish meat balls, hmm..

This morning however we caught a huge dolphin fish. With joined forces we got it on board while I was handling the rod, Arie managed to hook it. The baby bath to kill it was too small though. It took more than a couple of blows and a knife to make sure it was dead. After I gutted it, Frits cut it into nice pieces, enough for 4 days. Anyway, for starters we had a very an nice lunch!

As the day went by we changed sails a couple of times. We started with the gennaker and later set the staysail too. Then the wind veered and we had to lose the staysail. Afterwards we went back to the twin genoa’s. It’s keeping you busy.

We also took some sights today and worked out the pro forma’s. Tomorrow we’ll do the plottings. The sun’s out and very hot all day but most of the time not clear enough to take a sight… anyway, it’s fun to use the sextant again except for Eline, she could not be persuaded to give it a try too. She’s sticking to the old fashioned GPS 🙂 and steered the boat while we were fiddling around with the almanac and reduction tables. She also made some more yoghurt, the best so far!

Just when I went down to have a nap, I was called on deck because of some rope we were dragging. Hmm,… we couldn’t find a simple way to lose it so I decided to heave to and put on my swimsuit. Once in the water, it was quite easy to free the rope of the prop and within 10 minutes we were sailing again.

Position 31°33.147W; 47°54.005W

This morning we had bacon and scrambled eggs with champagne to celebrate half way 🙂 At around 7 am we hit the 1100 Nm. Last couple of days we had good winds and sailed on a broad reach, doing around 7 kts. on average.

Lack of sleep is beginning to take its toll. Last night all the guys messed up their watch timing. Frits sort of fell asleep during his watch, I woke up 2 hours early, disorientated, Arie only slept an hour and was told to go back to bed again. Later, when I woke Frits for his next watch, he told me he’d be there in a minute. But 2 seconds later he was vast asleep again…. So, I guess you can say that if it wasn’t for Eline, we wouldn’t be celebrating this morning 🙂

In all fairness I must say that Eline is one of the most complete and most competent crew members.
On the sextant part we aren’t that lucky. Although the weather is fine, the sun is behind thin high clouds most of the day, keeping us from taking a clear sight.

The weather is noticeably changing. Getting more North by the day, the nights are getting cooler. I actually had to put on a sweater. During the day it’s still warm, if not hot, with a nice cool breeze.

Position 33°58.090N; 42°02.437W

Since yesterday we have real great winds. We’re sort of sailing on the edge of a high that gives us a 15 kts on a beam reach. With all sails set, we’re doing over 8 kts for hours, heading straight to Horta.

With only 700 Nm to go, the chart plotter already gives us an ETA, estimated time of arrival, of about 96 hrs. Providing of course that the wind stays like this.

Every day we’re looking for a reason to celebrate. Today is father’s day, what more do we need.
Eline made us all a nice tie: for the dearest father of the whole ocean! She also backed a raisin bread, for sure the best bread she made, delicious !!

Position 35°38.483N; 37°27.002W

Today we crossed a time line again and gained another hour. Officially that is…. I was supposed to cook dinner tonight but woke up late from my afternoon nap, so I decided to stick to the time zone and adjust the clock tomorrow. So, I was still on time and we didn’t have to change the watch times. Captains privilege, Ha.

Last night we had the best night so far star wise. The sky was completely clear and bright. There were so many stars, you could hardly find the ones you know, amazing!!

After breakfast we changed the sails. The night before we put in the first reef and furled in the staysail, still doing over 6 kts. We took out the reef, set the staysail again and changed the genoa for the gennaker. For some reason the gennaker didn’t hold, it wasn’t the wind really. Anyway, we ripped it and an hour later we were back to the sail plan we started with… Well I guess shit happens and so far we’re very lucky weatherwise, so it’s not a big deal and easy to fix.

Tomorrow we’re gonna celebrate Eline’s birthday 🙂 and of course I’ll give her a call over the sat phone 🙂

Position 36°53.466 N; 33°40.766 W

The wind has dropped a bit and we started the engine to keep up the speed. The ocean is flattening and there’s only a nice swell that easily rock you to sleep 🙂

Since its very calm we fueled up a bit. All went well without spilling a drop, but when I got the hose out, the little chain that’s securing the cap broke and next moment it was gone.. I had to use one of the wooden plugs as a cap and added another thing on my to do list when we get to Horta.

We thought to be very lucky catching a real big fish. There was something serious hooked on, and it took a while to get it in. However, when I could finally see it, it turned out to be a fishing net, and of course no fish in it… So, corned beef stayed on the menu…Today Eline will show us how to catch a fish. That’s what she promised anyway… we’ll see…:-)

Our ETA is now Friday afternoon, providing the wind picks up according to my latest grib files. So far they were pretty accurate, so hopefully we don’t have to motor the last part of our trip.  With about 250 Nm still to go, we all are starting to look forward to make landfall. Obviously we’re all in for a real long shower and a nice long night of sleep After having some drinks at Cafe Sport of course !! It would be nice if we get there Friday. That gives us some days to explore the island a bit.

Eline and I already booked our flights to Amsterdam leaving the 20th . Frits and Arie have to check at the airport when we get there. Frits is looking for a flight on Saturday or Sunday so hopefully there’s still an open seat. Arie is planning to stay some more days, I guess he won’t have a problem to get a ticket.

Position 37°45.172 N; 31°02.610 W

We’re sailing again:-) After a day and a night motoring, this morning at around 6am, the wind picked up enough to set the sails and get a decent speed. While setting the sails, we had some real rain, first time since we left the Caribbean 🙂

We hadn’t seen much wildlife during this trip. Some dolphins and an occasional bird. We did see a lot of Portuguese Warships, funny little jellyfish, quite colorful, sailing upwind. We tried to catch one but that didn’t work out. I guess I’m fine with that, wouldn’t know what to do with it and how to get it out of the net …

We’re getting close to Horta now. And then a Portuguese fishing vessel called us over the vhf. for a chat 🙂 For us the first sign of life in 2 weeks..

According to my latest grib files, the wind will hold for the next 24 hrs., by then we’ll be there.

Friday, June 15th Horta, Azores

This morning at around 7:30 am local time we arrived at Horta. It took us 16 days in all. 16 days of great sailing, no storms, only 2 showers and only 3 days with no wind 🙂

After clearing with port control, immigration, customs and the police we were free to go to Cafe Sport for lunch. Walking on the hard again was not easy. The whole place seems to be wobbling all the time..
Right now we’re all sort of exhausted and in for an afternoon nap.. probably till dinner time 🙂

Saturday June16th

Tomorrow Frits is flying home so today was his day. We rented a car to explore the Island. We first stopped over at Mid Atlantic Yacht Service to pick up some stuff for the boat. It’s a small shop but very well equipped and very knowledgeable staff.

The sailmaker recently had a double bypass operation and was not in the mood to fix my gennaker. Well, I can understand that. It can wait until I come back in July…

We had a very challenging drive all the way up to the crater of the volcano. The [dirt]road was steep, with lots of hairpins ad the higher we came the thicker the clouds, until we couldn’t see anything at all. Half way up we had a flat tire, just in a corner of the road… but with 4 guys we had it fixed in no time..

The crater itself we never got to see .. too cloudy …..Anyway we drove on to the western point of the island where we did see the lighthouse and the lava stream that ruined the village some 50 years ago.
All In all we had a great day, in spite of the rain that’s pouring down for two days now 😮

Later this week the weather is supposed to clear but this occlusion front seems to be very stable.
Tomorrow will be an exciting night. we’re gonna watch the football match Portugal – Holland in a local pub ..our table is reserved 🙂

Monday, June 18th

Still raining… never thought off so much fresh water for free, no need to rinse the boat 🙂

We got the paint to put our mural on the wall but with this kind of weather there’s no chance it will last for more than a day. I guess this also will be a project for Rutger and Eline when we come back in July.

Last night we had a great time watching the match at Internacionale, the local pub. Bruno had our table ready, in the middle of all dressed up Portuguese.. I brought my Dutch flag and my fog horn, just in case… It was an exciting and fun match to watch! Especially the first 20 minutes 🙂 Since none of us is really into football, we didn’t mind that the Portuguese won eventually. It was a great match to watch.

After the match we had some drinks and Eline had to buy Bruno and the rest of the staff a drink 😮
Because of the rain we did some jobs on the boat, adjusting the belt tension, putting some new rivets in the boom rail and the vang. The inverter also broke down but they can’t fix it over here.

We had planned to go on a whale watch trip. However.. when we checked later, the trip was canceled because of the bad weather… another thing left to do coming back in July.

Tuesday June 19th

At last, the sun is shining.  The world looks very different now. What a nice way to remember our last day at Horta!

Wednesday June 20th Arie, Eline and I flew back home. I’ll be coming back in July, first to cruise around the Azores and then to sail the final leg of this trip back to Scheveningen.