Archive for May, 2012

The Azores to England Part II

Posted in Photographs, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean, the English Channel with tags on May 12, 2012 by maidofmettle

Day 10: Friday 12th August
The next week (at sea, but it still seems odd to write that about a Friday!) continued well, with Maid surging along with just one of the large jibs up. Having made several hundred miles north from the Azores I’d been gradually changing course over the last few days, and was now heading more or less towards England, not that I was really thinking about that yet.

I had a rather surprising encounter with another boat – especially as I was talking on the satellite phone on the time saying how unlikely it was! I’d only ever seen 4 other boats out sailing since leaving the Canaries, and always with land in sight as well, so out here I certainly didn’t expect to! But just as I was saying that a little white triangle appeared…

Richard and I had quite a chat on the VHF radio for as long as we were in range – he presumably hadn’t seen another boat for even longer since he had sailed from the east coast of the United States. We were both slightly surprised to discover that we were heading for the same place since it looked as though he was crossing in front of me almost at right-angles! So we swapped weather forecasts as well as chatting, but both continued with broadly the same plan.

I don’t know if it occurred to him to consider trying to keep company for the rest of the trip, though we did swap satellite phone numbers – it didn’t to me at the time. Even if I had thought of it close proximity to another boat while sailing long-distances single handed would seem to bring as much risk as reassurance, not to mention the fact that he was probably going to go rather faster.

I seem to have managed an entire day without any photos – or at least not any on wordpress ready to slot in. Never mind, this is late enough anyway!


Day 11: Saturday 13th August

The log (or ship’s diary) for 0130 on Saturday reads ‘dolphins! or something’ in slightly wavy handwriting. I could certainly hear something…. Dolphins seemed more likely than a whale or giant squid, and happily more likely to be benign as well.

The wind was getting a lot lighter but I tended not to increase sail during the night unless Maid was starting to roll around, and we were still making pretty good speed. I had turned eastwards from my original northerly course a few days before and definitely seemed to be getting a helping hand from the Gulf Stream.

With full sail in the day things were going very well. There was even a bit of a lull for a peaceful lunchtime, and a generally fairly good forecast.

After the strong winds of the day before, progress was slowly but certainly more relaxing.

Day 12: Sunday 14th August

The wind was fitful early Sunday morning – half five is never a good time to wonder if the wind is about to die completely – but happily the lull was only brief.

After that it was a glorious day – the wind varied a little requiring a few sail changes but the weather was beautiful. Like many tasks – when things are going well overall it’s no hardship, and a pleasure to get the boat sailing at her best.

 

After a couple of days sailing close to the wind we were back to having it coming from behind us again – a smoother ride but with more rolling. It may look worse than it felt – it’s certainly something you get used to.



I was having no problems with solar power for the batteries either, with plenty spare for playing music in the afternoons, though I tended to conserve it at night.

Horace was doing an impressive job of steering – this is a tricky point of sailing as the wind feels relatively light since you’re sailing away from it and a large deviation from the course can cause a nasty surprise if the wind comes the wrong side of one of the sails.

Day 13: Monday 15th August

Early the next morning I saw the first boats from the UK, though I can’t say I was exactly pleased to be worrying about keeping clear of a fishing fleet in the early hours of the morning, especially when the wind changed at one point and I found Horace had brought us surprisingly close to them!

Still, if he hadn’t I suppose the photo wouldn’t have come out this well….

 

Dolphins are much better than coffee for waking up after a busy night though.

Maid was doing a speed they seemed quite happy with and we kep company for quite a while.

 

Photos can’t really convey the excitement of seeing dolphins in the wild but the next one gives a reasonable impression of the boat sailing fast and shoving her way through the waves- though of course a video would give a better idea of the noise!

 

In fact, why don’t we try that?



Day 14: Tuesday 16th August

The next day had rather less excitement, unless you counted the fact that it was starting to seem like I was getting lose enough to home that tidal streams might be starting to affect us more strongly – they’re much more powerful in narrow spaces like the English Channel than the open ocean.

I don’t think that counts though, especially as I tended to wonder it when going slowly! Thinking of 3 knots as slow showed how well the trip was going though – at two weeks in the routine of regularly looking round, plotting position and occasional course and sail changes was feeling very normal.


It felt far from dull though, as we were usually making good progress, which felt good in itself as much as it did as a means towards getting home.

The evening’s sunset was rather lurid. In theory this is as delightful for sailors as shepherds’s but it ddid’t quite work out like that.



The wind was dying away in the evening, though we were making reasonable ground with a lot of sail up. However, I was expecting stronger wind in the early hours of the next morning so reduced to the normal maximum, but ended up going very slowly indeed, and then even more so when the wind died away at around 11.

It ended up seeming best to take everything down – the boat rolled a little more but at last it wasn’t making a huge racket by flapping the mainsail back and forth. It would have been a lovely peaceful nights sleep, except that knowing we were drifting the wrong way wasn’t exactly ideal.

Day 15: Wednesday 17th August
The wind did come back the next morning, but nothing like the strength I’d been concerned about. The direction was tricky though – more or less straight from where I wanted to go, and (again blaming this on the tide flowing west) I seemed to have the choice of heading for Ireland or France!


It was especially frustrating as a few days before I’d been concerned about getting pushed too far north and putting up with spray crashing over the boat and a bumpy ride to avoid it. With hindsight I’d have been much better positioned now as well as more comfortable then if I’d just gone with it.

Still, with the latest forecast it looked like the best plan for now was to head straight north while I could and then turn eastward when the wind went northerly, even if I was wishing I’d done it earlier!

Tonight’s sunset was much less colourful…

…but we were making much better progress, though it was frustrating at times when the wind pushed us slightly east. Having made my plan I was happy to stick with it though – it seemed best still and even if it hadn’t I might have been inclined to wait till morning to change it dramatically.

Day 16: Thursday 18th August

The earl hours of the morning brought a fair bit of excitement, with the AIS showing lots of boats nearby.

It took me a little while to figure out what was going on, but I eventually realised my cunning plan involved crossing the fleet of yachts competing in the Fastnet Race (from Cowes round the Fastnet Rock just off southern Ireland and back to Plymouth) at right angles. Oops.

Not that I’d have wanted to go the way they were going – the whole point of my plan was to get north while I could and have an easier sail later on, rather than heading south of the Scillies and then having to try and sail close to the wind. Not that it was likely to pose much of a problem for them, but then racing is a different matter.

It was exciting to see the islands though – I would have loved to stop there but didn’t have any detailed charts of the area, which is very rocky and not a good place to go without them.

There was a horribly frustrating calm spell in the morning making that especially irritating – it’s much easier to be patient in mid-ocean that within sight of land – partly psychological and partly for very good reasons relating to the strong tides and number of ships and boats around.

Thankfully the wind did get up again, quickly going from very light airs to a lovely breeze – facing the challenge of trying to fold a sail measuring several hundred square feet into a sensible size on deck felt a very small price to pay!



From then on the sailing was fantastic, with a great wind, smooth seas and the tide helping Maid charge past the Scillies. There was added excitement from sightseeing – from the Seven Stones lightship…


…to Land’s End and Cape Cornwall..

…and the Wolf Rock lighthouse.

After a fortnight of measuring progress on a chart it was a real thrill to actually pass things I could see, especially with the boat going so beautifully.

 

There were even some welcome-back fireworks at Land’s End that evening.

It could be considered slightly anti-climatic to spend that evening becalmed off Mount’s Bay, but lying just north of the shipping lanes it was a very peaceful night.

Day 17: Friday 19th August
The morning was beautiful but calm, and the forecast wasn’t promising much wind.

I rather fancied stopping somewhere quiet for a first night or two, and ended up heading to the nearest anchorage in Mullion Cove, tucked in behind Mullion Island. That is, I did after belatedly realising I was heading into the next bay north and turning round rather hastily in case there were any rocks lurking – even after a thousand miles a few hundred yards can make a lot of difference!

Although the previous day’s sailing had been among the best of the whole trip, it still felt very nice to have the anchor down – and it helped that it was a beautiful day, perfect for getting the kayak out, taking some photos, going to the beach and seeing if I could buy some fish off a couple of locals….

Of course, readers with impressive memories might recall some of that, and recognise that last photo 🙂 but then getting to this post has taken quite a while – time definitely seems to move rather differently now!