Archive for the the Atlantic Ocean Category


Posted in Cooking, Cornwall, French canals and rivers, Music, Photographs, Sailing, Surfing, the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores, the Canary Islands, the Madeira archipelago, Walking, Wildlife with tags , , on August 19, 2016 by maidofmettle

5 years ago yesterday night (yesternight?) I sailed between the Wolf Rock and Gwennap Head / Tol Pedn to the accompaniment of fireworks exploding somewhere over Land’s End (yep, I’m claiming they were for me 😉 ).

And 5 years ago today I dropped anchor in Mullion Cove after leaving the Azores on the 3rd of August.

2011-08-19 #09 Mullion Cove (Custom).JPG

That was the beginning of the end of two years of living on Maid of Mettle, just over a year and over two thousand miles with Chris and Caroline and another 10 months or so and a couple of thousand miles on my own. It seems a while ago now..

So, what don’t I miss?

  • handling wet and very cold ropes on the canals, not to mention stamping my feet to keep the circulation going while motoring in a wet and chilly France. This may have had a permanent effect – warmth is definitely one of the things I do miss!

2009-11-10 #01 Vitry-le-Francois to St Dizier (Custom).JPG

  • rough seas, when you know things may well get worse before they get better and there is no escape till they calm down – while they were only a small part of the trip, and on the whole a price well worth paying, they do leave some lasting impressions. I seem to have blanked nearly the entire trip from Madeira to Tenerife from my memory after a few days when I didn’t feel well, despite the fact that looking over some photos and videos there were clearly some nice parts to the journey as well. Some passages you just want to end.

2010-10-25 #06 Madeira to Tenerife (Custom).JPG

And what were the best things?

  • the freedom – the time to properly enjoy cooking, to go walking and get to know places, to meet people, to take up new hobbies such as surfing and playing harmonica, or simply spend at least an hour in the surf to end up with one half-decent picture of a breaking wave – this is special, more so than exotic places.

2010-10-18 #07 Boaventura (Custom)

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Thanks Jon for that photo

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and thanks Quiksilver for that one

2010-08-02 #04 Praia da Culatra (Custom)

Though that said:

  • discovering beautiful places, and experiencing things I never knew existed. I could name something in any region we went, but the following stand out particularly:
    • the peaceful waters of the Guadiana,

2010-05-20 #6 Vila Real to Alcoutim (Custom).JPG

  • the levada canals winding among the peaks, valleys and terraces of Madeira,

2011-06-15 #40 Boca da Corrida to Barreiras (Custom)

  • the hill country of northern Gran Canaria

2011-02-13 #11 Cruz de Tejeda to Artenara (Custom)

  • and the hot springs of the Azores

2011-07-12 #37 Sao Miguel - Poco da Dona Beija (Custom)

  •  the people – while getting to spend time with my family and friends in this country again is fantastic, for meeting and getting to know new people it’s much easier while sailing (though the same effect can be true coastal sailing in this country, especially in the west country).

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  • Also in the first part of the trip having so much (okay – yes, sometimes too much at times!) time with two of my best friends

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  • the sailing on passage – there is a real satisfaction in taking plenty of time and patience to the boat set up to travel as safely, quickly and comfortably as you can, and a peaceful night sail miles from anything is a delight. There are similar pleasures in coastal cruising but it’s a different mindset as you usually have to change things much quicker!

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  • the accomplishment of offshore passage-making – it’s a rare opportunity,  definitely a special feeling, and one that lasts whereas so often in other fields there is always the next deadline lurking.

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  • the stars at sea – an incredible spectacle. You could reach out and touch them, but you could never count them (they’re not easy to photograph from a small boat either)
  • dolphins – very hard to predict when they’ll turn up, and there is something utterly magical about their presence, bringing an instant and lasting smile (that got crossed off after seeing dolphins several days in a row sailing west down the Cornish coast, culminating in them playing round the boat for ages sailing into Portscatho in the evening sun)

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  • the food – the Madeira market is the greatest for spectacle, but my favourites are those in Alcoutim (tiny but welcoming, frequently including a massive bunch of coriander as a gift) and Las Palmas (enormous and well worth browsing all round), the challenge of provisioning and cooking on a boat in general and especially on passage, and the many regional delicacies. Except the barbecued dried squid, which I’m not convinced was actually edible

2011-06-17 #03 (Custom)

You’ll notice many of those overlap – a symptom, I think, of a fundamentally different lifestyle. Though that said, there are many things I have taken (or try to) from the time away:

  • the willingness and confidence to try new things – without some of the experiences while away I’m not sure I’d ever have ended up playing for my football team, or sung at my local folk club (to be fair that’s pretty rare even now)

2014-07-29 (Custom)

  • friendships with people I/we met while away. While I hear from others further afield, it was a special pleasure to be present when Si and Cat launched Kensa, the fishing boat they’d built since returning from their extensive travels in the Mediterranean

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  • and more than that, I think I’ve managed to stay in better contact with at least some friends since being away and having that bit more time and impetus to keep in touch via email etc when not meeting face to face (if you’ve read this with some surprise, disappointment and/or offence, please drop me a line and we can start putting things right! 🙂 )
  • enjoying a continuing connection to offshore sailing through various friends; the members of the Ocean Cruising Club – I am still amazed and humbled that they awarded me their Rose Medal for 2011, just being part of a club containing so many people who have achieved extraordinary things is an honour; and the general collective of sailors coming and going from and enjoying the south-west

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2011-08-30 #11 St Mawes - Wylo II (Custom).JPG

  • speaking of which, discovering south Cornwall as a cruising ground – it is a very special area

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It seems a good time to repeat this sentiment from 2010, for adventures near or far 🙂


“A toast to onward voyages on land and sea”

(that last picture and inspiration for the style of post come from Caroline’s last entry 400 days to get there 400 minutes to get back)

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!

The Azores to England Part I

Posted in Cooking, Photographs, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean on November 4, 2011 by maidofmettle

normal service is resumed : )

Day 1: Wednesday 3rd August

It was a pleasant surprise to have a nice breeze leaving the sheltered eastern coast of Graciosa, and an even nicer one when the wind and waves didn’t increase significantly on getting clear of the island. In fact, my immediate reaction was ‘is this it?’ – though with a fair bit of excitement at starting the trip, with over 1000 miles to go.

Of course it helped that things were going well – sailing quickly and comfortably, and also with some desserts from a cafe in Vila da Praia to savour. I’ve forgotten what this is called, but it’s effectively a pastry containing a caramelised miniature rice pudding, and extremely tasty.

I was heading almost due north initially, following the advice of the pilot book and also hoping to follow the movement of favourable winds for a significant chunk of the way back towards England.

There was some initial excitement that night – I called an approaching ship up on the radio and was told they could see me were keeping well clear of me, but it didn’t look that way. The AIS showed them swerving suddenly to one side after I called them, and then back again after they’d passed, and 3-400m (confirmed on the AIS) didn’t feel like a long way off at all in the dark!

Day 2: Thursday 4th August

Maid was still sailing very well the next day, though the latest forecast suggested I might not be quite as lucky with the weather as I’d hoped.

Here’s another anonymous dessert (or two!) from Graciosa – this one a layered coconut confection.

The wind had been gradually increasing and by the middle of the night I’d taken one of the jibs down and reefed the mainsail to it’s smallest possible sail area. We were still making excellent progress northwards, though I was careful to make sure we stayed clear of a large underwater ridge extending north from Graciosa.

Day 3: Friday 5th August

The next day was similar, although the wind was forecast to get significantly lighter that evening and Saturday.

It did reduce during the day, but also swung round to come more from ahead rather than the side, and together with me putting more sail up again we kept moving nicely.

Day 4: Saturday 6th August

That lasted though the night, but not long after breakfast the wind pretty much died for half the day. I did have another visitor, though much less chatty than Cheepcheep, and more inclined to lurk in corners than perch on heads.

I definitely need the Passagemakers’ Bird Care handbook, as this one died as well..

The last time that had happened a strong headwind blew up not long afterwards. There was indeed a forecast of strong winds for the next day, but from a more favourable direction, and a nice light wind to get going again in the meantime. It was a bit shifty at first but I was glad to be able to get onto a settled course by the evening.

Then it changed again. It’s hard to convey the depth of the (ridiculous) indignation this can inspire when you think you’re just going to be popping out for the occasional look around overnight and then find you’re heading for Portugal.

Still, having tacked I was able to head in about the right direction….

Day 5: Sunday 7th August

…until very early the next morning. The situation eventually resolved itself with a dead calm. No concerns about sailing in the wrong direction now!

This is one of the things I was getting on with – cutting some plywood blanks to go over the fittings where the anchor chain passes down through the deck into the chain lockers below, and tying the chain on and lowering it right in before sealing it up.

Normally that’s not necessary, but a near gale was forecast which would probably mean that area of the deck getting quite wet, and draining water out of the chain lockers is a time-consuming and awkward job, definitely best avoided if possible.

After a while of pottering around doing jobs with all the sails down the wind eventually increased a little. I guessed wrong the first time about which side to pole out on of the largest jibs, but didn’t mind too much since we were moving again.

This continued steadily for a while, until quite a sudden increase in the evening. I got the large jib down and was rather impressed to see Maid was sailing at 2 knots with no sails up at all!

Unsurprisingly, putting a couple of smaller jibs up made for even better progress.

Day 6: Monday 8th August

There was a very odd sea state early the next morning. The waves weren’t at all big but breaking a lot – noisy and disconcerting, and making the boat roll quite jerkily. I tried altering course and setting a jib either side of the boat, but that didn’t improve matters at all.

It seemed a bit better by the morning – I think the waves had settled down a bit though of course daylight may have helped! Noises and motion are definitely more significant when you’re trying to sleep.

The wind was gradually decreasing, and by the evening I set the mainsail to get going a bit faster.

It gave a nice speed boost for a while, but later that evening the wind increased and it came down again. It seemed to be a pattern that the wind was stronger overnight – not particularly welcome!

Day 7: Tuesday 9th August

The next day broke the pattern though, with the wind increasing further and gusts reaching the forecast near gale strength. With the wind slightly from behind it wasn’t a problem though, and Maid was storming along doing around her theoretical maximum speed despite a lot of weed and barnacles on the bottom.

I was glad I wasn’t further west, where there was a lot more wind, and hoped to keep moving north-east to get closer to home and keep away from the stronger winds nearer the centre of the low.

There’s always a balance to strike between progress and preparedness though, and I took one of the jibs down late in the evening and turned more away from the wind for a quieter night.

Day 8: Wednesday 10th August

Things were still going well on Wednesday, gradually increasing sail a little as the wind dropped. The weather was not great though..

I decided it definitely wasn’t worth setting an alarm to keep looking round when I couldn’t see anything anyway, and it actually led to a very nice night’s sleep – a very pleasant novelty not to be regularly interrupted for once!

Day 9: Thursday 11th August

I might have been less at ease if it had been the next night, as I was clearly approaching a shipping route, and after ages without seeing any several appeared in the space of a few hours.

There definitely weren’t enough to interfere with cooking though…

All in all, it was a pretty good first week.

Going to Graciosa, and further on. Or should I say further back?

Posted in Fun, Photographs, Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores, Walking with tags on October 6, 2011 by maidofmettle

After the tour of Faial my thoughts turned to leaving the island again. I had been hoping to travel a couple of hundred miles further west to Flores and Corvo, but after spending nearly a week in Horta it still wasn’t looking like it was going to happen, with either calms or wind from the west.

It was looking quite a good forecast for heading home, though I did want to make a stop at Graciosa first, and it looked like that might even be an advantage for the trip back.

Again it was a bit frustrating leaving, with the choice between either leaving in the day and probably arriving in the dark, or leaving in the evening and quite possibly getting becalmed by the wind dropping at night. I nearly left one evening, but I stopped by Harry’s boat to say goodbye, and got invited to share dinner with him and Reiner, by which time the wind had died.

Early the next morning was beautifully still

but the wind started picking up, so off I went.

The first hour or so sailing away from Horta were beautiful, but as I turned towards Graciosa the wind died, and I ended up rolling around while the catamaran I’d been more or less keeping pace with shot away to the east. I was starting to think that while I’d be sorry to leave the islands I was rather fed up of sailing between them.

The wind kept reappearing in bursts, sending Maid hurtling in one direction, then stopping, and then off in another.

Eventually I decided that on average, sailing straight downwind with one of the largest jibs up would probably work, and was rather surprised when it did!

You can see the end of Sao Jorge in the background. It’s a very long, narrow island, and the view of the western tip with the lighthouse I’d walked to and along the coast was quite something, especially with the thick layer of cloud above it.

Here’s the view from the other side of the point, where you can see further along the north coast.

The wind got slightly stronger and steadier and it turned into a superb sail until I eventually dropped the anchor off the little fishing harbour at Vila da Praia on Graciosa at about 4 am. Any doubts about the plan to stop had been firmly quashed when I realised I was considering starting a voyage that would probably take 2-3 weeks without any garlic aboard.

Besides the obvious, I was also looking forward to following in Prince Albert of Monaco’s path and visiting the ‘Furnas do Enxhofre’ caves in one of the largest craters on the island.

So at 8 or 9 in the morning I nosed my way into the fishing harbour to try and find a berth. It was pretty windy, so initially I just went in for a look before going alongside the easiest looking pontoon on the second go, though I was guessing I’d probably have to move… once I could find someone to tell me.

Or as it ended up being, someone who would tell me the right answer. I didn’t really understand the first bloke I asked, but he didn’t seem very encouraging. Happily I could understand the second man I found much better, and he seemed to think Maid would be fine just where she was.

Handily there was a bus due to go into the capital where I could change to go to the crater, though I ended up going a bit earlier as the man I’d been checking directions with and I were both offered a lift in another local’s truck.

I had a little time to look around Santa Cruz, the not-particularly-bustling capital,

before getting a bus towards the Caldeira. From the nearest village it was quite a nice walk to the crater’s edge

though I was glad there was a tunnel through the rim rather than having to climb up it – maybe later..

I got as far as the entrance to the caves and accompanying visitor’s centre

but unfortunately no further. Carbon dioxide emissions within the caves are monitored continually as they can build up to dangerous levels at times, especially when the temperature difference between inside and outside is relatively small.

The readouts definitely didn’t look good today, in fact promising unconsciousness or death within a matter of seconds in the area of the subterranean lake. Here are a couple of pictures from the visitors centre to show you what I’d been hoping to see – the 7 storey entrance tower (strongly resembling Orthanc, I’m sure Saruman could have bred some hideous orcs down there)

and the underground lake.

Maybe another time, if there is one.

I got talking to Manny and Bea, an emigrant couple returning to the Azores on holiday from their home in America, on the way back up and accepted their kind offer of a lift up to and around the crater rim. We couldn’t always see very much due to low clouds, but it was still relatively clear over the east coast and Vila da Praia.

As the weather improved slightly I said my goodbyes and hopped out to continue on foot and visit a couple of lava tubes before returning to the boat.

The most impressive one was a big pear-drop shaped (as the lava tend to pool downwards) tunnel

going right through the top of the crater wall

The weather got better still as I descended the crater side, and in the end I was quite glad of the shade of an old tree-lined path once used by ox-carts hauling goods inland from the harbour.

There were lots of abandoned buildings along the route. Several waves of people have emigrated from many of the Azores in times of economic hardship or poor harvests, leaving a number of the islands still relatively sparsely populated today.

It was also time for me to head off once I’d done a final restocking of the galley and check out the weather forecast in Vila da Praia, in a little bar with the locals noisily watching bull-running videos inside and football outside.

That said, there was nearly a last-minute hiccup – just as I was stowing the food below another sailing boat which had temporarily moored alongside me during the day moved to another berth which had become free. In the process of very nearly executing an impressively slick turning manoeuvre they motored straight into the back of Horace.

Leaving for England with a damaged self-steering gear did not appeal – though nor did sailing the 40 miles or so back to Horta and the probable nearest machine shop if anything needed fixing. Fortunately Hydrovanes are very strongly built and he seemed fine, though I would now need to check the adjustable vane wouldn’t rub as it’s upright position appeared to have been shifted forwards slightly.

After that it was a bit of a relief to get out of the harbour and past the little island just offshore.

Normally I’ve had a strange kind of sense of unreality, of feeling almost like I’ll come to my senses and change my mind any moment, while leaving places, but though this would be easily the longest passage so far it was also very much the clearest good forecast.

Waiting would mean sitting out another few days of calms before rather strong westerlies, which might have tempted me to delay further, and that would get me uncomfortably close to the time I wanted to have gone by, with the likelihood of rough weather increasing as August wore on. Sooner definitely looked better than later.

0945: Land ho!

Posted in Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean on August 18, 2011 by maidofmettle

That’s great Horace, but remember it doesn’t count for the competition, right?
What? That’s Scilly…
Exactly, not the UK mainland..
Oh, never mind. I’ll just get on with steering, shall I?

1200: position 50 degrees 2 minutes north, 6 degrees 29 minutes west – it’s a long story, and involves at least one Cunning Plan.

1600: Land ho! – either Land’s End or Cape Cornwall, either of which definitely qualify..
Hey, just because you saw it first this time…

Same result either way though – Caroline wins with her guess of the 20th (though David was very close, later that day), not far off in the end! Thanks to everyone who joined in.

Now to see if I can find a handy harbour…

Nearly home, and a lot drier than yesterday

Posted in Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean on August 16, 2011 by maidofmettle

Nearly in terms of distance, anyway – over 1,000 nautical miles travelled now and I’m less than 150 from Falmouth, or the Helford.

It gets tempting to start thinking in terms of times rather than distances when it gets to this scale, but since you’re not averaging over a long period of time a spell of head-winds or calm can actually have a huge impact on how long it might take to arrive – the difference between doing 6 knots in the right direction, 2-3 knots at a big angle away from it or going nowhere at all is pretty significant.

My current position is 49 degrees 31 minutes north, 7 degrees 27 minutes west. The Scillies are actually only around 70 miles away, but I don’t plan on stopping there at the moment – still aiming eastwards for Lizard Point and hoping to turn north-north-east from there. With good wind, I could be in in a couple of days. However, the latest weather forecasts suggest even sighting land might take a while longer.

However, the weather is decidedly changeable at the moment. I’ve made excellent progress for most of the last week, including a very windy and spectacularly wet day yesterday with spray crashing all over the boat on a few occasions. A group of dolphins loved playing under the bow in it though.

Today has been much slower, but I’ve been very happy with the progress I have made since I’d been expecting the wind to turn against me by now, Of course, it may well still do that at some point in the near future. So from thinking Caroline’s guess (the earliest time) was a certain winner of the ‘land ho!’ game, I’m now starting to think it might be rather more open.. personally I have my fingers crossed for her though!

Carolyn – hehe, there might be a prize for the first people to find me…

Getting there..

Posted in Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean on August 13, 2011 by maidofmettle

Just today and tomorrow left for getting contest entries in – I have a few but I think it’s still very open.. I won’t say much more than that yet, position updates can resume next week. Chris has added a comment on one of those entries for anyone having trouble with the password – thanks!

There seems to have been a pattern of slow-and-steady during the day and swift progress at night lately – pity it’s not been the other way around, but miles gained are miles gained. Today has been pretty good with a lot of tweaking – reef in, reef out, change course & adjust sails, change course again – satisfying when it’s working.

And I did get a very nice surprise when changing the sails very early this morning. It started with me hearing some very strange noises… This is by no means unknown but usually it’s just an odd trick of gurgling water or something. This time it was a school of very big dolphins (don’t think they were big enough to be pilot whales) all around the boat – well worth missing a bit more sleep for!

A little competition?

Posted in Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean on August 9, 2011 by maidofmettle

Noon position 08/08 44 degrees 15 minutes north, 24 degrees 48 minutes west
Noon position 09/08 45 degrees 45 minutes north, 23 degrees 26 minutes west

Going very fast lately though it’s quite splashy outside and gets uncomfortable at times. Sometimes it feels very good, at others the continuous noise and motion can get a bit much.

If it gets too bad I can always pause and heave to for a while, but generally I prefer to be making good progress all the time I can – after all it may not last!

I have some more direct ‘competition’ as well now – it was a big surprise yesterday evening when I saw another sailing boat passing ahead of me – the first other one I’ve ever seen in open ocean! We had quite a chat over the radio and will hopefully meet up in Falmouth.

Seriously, racing of that sort isn’t really a factor (easy for me to say as Maid is slower!) compared to trying to make a quick passage avoiding any bad weather, but it will be fascinating to compare notes along the way and hopefully when we get there. Currently he seems to be taking the low road and I’m taking the high road in terms of route there – we’ll see what happens!

On that note, does anyone care to try and guess when I’ll sight land?

The prize is a bottle of Madeira, or Canarian honey rum, or the best imitation I can make of some kind of delicious Azorean pastries, to be delivered next time I see you in England or soon after at least.

If it’s close the first guess made will probably get priority, or there might be a second prize or something. The judge’s (my) decision is final!

Departure from Vila da Praia on Graciosa was 2000 GMT on the 3rd – I’m heading for the UK mainland, probably Falmouth so at a guess I’ll see The Lizard first whether it’s night or day.

A few tips if you need a hand..
The total distance is about 1200-1250 nautical miles according to the pilot book and I’m about 770 nm from the Lizard now, though my route may take me slightly further to get the best wind and current I can.
Average speed was..
about 3.3 knots from Faro to Porto Santo
about 3.3 knots from Madeira to Tenerife
1.8 knots (mostly very light winds) from Gran Canaria to Madeira
3 knots from Madeira to Santa Maria
and if you want to get serious of course there are my position reports up to now, weather forecasts….

Enter by sending a free message to my satellite phone by Sunday night – details of how in the last couple of posts.

I’ll try and post an entry list at some point..


Posted in Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean on August 7, 2011 by maidofmettle

Noon position 04/08 42 degrees 9 minutes north, 27 degrees 24 minutes west
Noon position 05/08 42 degrees 38 minutes north, 25 degrees 54 minutes west
Noon position 06/08 43 degrees 3 minutes north, 25 degrees 43 minutes west

I made very good progress during the first couple of days and nights, and indeed had a nice wind for longer than I’d expected to.

Since then, progress has been rather slower, with occasional regress. It’s not too uncomfortable, but the noise and feeling of the boat rolling around in the waves without any wind to steady her is extremely irritating at times.

I think last night was the low point so far. It had been a slow day with a lot of shifts in the wind, but it was forecast to steady and increase overnight. I’d just got everything settled, set less sail in anticipation, read up on my weather books which suggested conditions agreed with the forecast wind direction and change, had dinner and washed up and felt vindicated by the wind getting up.

So I was about to go to bed very contentedly when I noticed the motion of the boat had suddenly got a lot worse . At this point I found the wind had switched around completely and was sending us back south towards Madeira. The frustration I felt is hard to describe, but it did lessen once I got Maid sailing in a slightly better direction (the wind was light and coming from where I wanted to go, so there wasn’t really a good option..). It’s not good for sleep to always be wondering if you’re sailing in the right direction though.

Admittedly that issue was cleared up this morning by the certainty of drifting very slowly in the wrong direction, though I’m doing a little better at the moment.

I have been getting a fair few useful jobs done – restowing the anchor down below so there’s not a 20 kilo weight high up at the very front of the boat, and making some wooden covers and using sealant to block up the chain pipes and stop water getting down into the chain lockers, and some general tidying and cleaning.

I saw a couple of dolphins this morning as well : ) And I did have another avian visitor (the rather less loquacious Cheep), though I don’t think he stuck around for long. And there should be stronger winds to come.. possibly stronger than I’d like – we’ll see.. It’ll be a change at least, and much quicker!

Adeus Açores

Posted in Sailing, the Atlantic Ocean on August 4, 2011 by maidofmettle

Noon position 40 degrees 15 minutes North, 028 degrees West

Posting the remaining blogs for the Azores will probably have to wait..

I should really go and haul those Portuguese/Azorean courtesy flags down soon, not sure what the territorial limits are here but I’d guess at 12 nautical miles, and Graciosa is nearly 100 behind me now having left yesterday evening.

Very good and quick sailing so far. I was getting a bit tense about going yesterday afternoon but that disappeared once I started actually doing it. Mostly feeling pretty good though occasional brief periods of seasickness.

I have a plan based on yesterday’s forecast, and I’ll see how it goes from here. Currently I’m sailing north and intending to turn westwards for England in a few days.