In June 2014 we – Lynnie Bruce and Max Fletcher with crew Dick Stevens (Maine to Azores) and Steve Palmer (Azores to England) sailed our Nordic 40 from Orrs Island, Maine to Northern Europe. After five seasons living and cruising throughout that spectacular part of the world it was time to sail home. In the summer of 2019 we sailed to Spain to stage for a May 2020 Atlantic crossing. Covid delayed that trip by a year. The Spring of 2021 we returned to Spain and sailed back to home waters with our nephew Rudy Guliani joining us as crew.
Our voyage covered 3,900 nautical miles and took 30 days. We carried an Iridium satellite phone for weather and emergency communications, and a Garmin InReach as a communications backup and to affordably stay in touch with friends and family back home.
We used a professional weather router based in Camden, Maine who helped guide us along the south side of the Azores and Bermuda Highs, and steer us clear of Tropical Storm Bill for which we turned around and backtracked 35 miles before heaving to, in order to let it pass.
To finish off my writings during our JUANONA Voyage 2 (JV2) I decided to post our 16 updates from sea and add photos.
There are three posts covering our 30 days on the Atlantic and JUANONA’s amazing welcome home. After seven years she landed on Orr’s Island June 19, 2021, at the exact spot from which we left June 6, 2014.
Many of you have most likely read the following posts penned during our 2021 “Spain to Maine” passage.
For those who haven’t read these, a quick explanation: every two days Max (Captain), myself (First Mate) or Rudy, our nephew (Second Mate) crafted a brief missive relaying activity aboard. We emailed them using our Iridium Satellite phone by noon (JUANONA’s ship time) to our land-based, 4th crew member Steve Palmer. He then distributed these updates to those following our progress.
Max wrote the first one May 19 on the eve of our departure from Portosín, and the final one June 18 the day before our arrival. In between we wrote 14 more, some elegant (Max), some creative (Rudy), and some, well, zany (mine).
And, with that, I’ll leave you but not before thanking everyone who joined me on JV2. Your messages over these past seven years meant we had fellow travelers. You not only gave me a friendly audience but also reminded me, as one of our friends often stated, the world truly is one small, wonderful ball.
Steve: Hi there, here’s the first of this stream of emails from Lynnie and Max. I talked to them today (Wed 5/19) and they intend to depart tomorrow (Thur) morning.
Sailing is an activity that has always required flexibility and adaptability, and that is especially true during a global pandemic. Juanona was stuck in Galicia, Spain, and it wasn’t until late March that Lynnie and I got vaccinated and saw an opening to ask permission to enter Spain (one of the most restrictive countries in Europe with regard to Covid travel). Our Dutch residency proved instrumental in allowing us to return to the boat May 1 and within a week or so we had her back in good shape.
Our nephew Rudy, who had been planning to make the crossing with us in May 2020, has patiently bided the intervening months while keeping the voyage a priority if and when it materialized. Lynnie recently wrote a blog about the efforts put in by many folks to get permission for a vaccinated Rudy to be allowed into Spain. He never did receive formal prior approval, but his USCG Seafarers credential helped him get through immigration screenings in Boston, JFK and Madrid airports (Seafarers is one of the few exceptions to the travel restrictions). Talk about the need to be flexible and adaptable – not knowing until the final clearance in Madrid how he would be spending the next month of his life!
Our final note about being flexible entails our intended route itself. Having followed the May-June weather pattern for the North Atlantic for the past three years, we have been assuming we would sail southwest down to the Trade Winds, which typically gravitate north as spring turns to summer, and cross the Atlantic at something like 26-28 degrees North latitude before curving north to Maine. Possible bail out stops could be the Canary Islands, Antigua, or Bermuda.
We received a preliminary weather outlook from our professional weather router based in Camden, Maine, yesterday (Monday), and reiterated today, that we may have an unusual opportunity to start our crossing by sailing first towards the Azores – far further north than anticipated, and consequently far fewer miles to sail than the southerly route (where the earth is much ‘fatter’). We will hopefully have moderate northerly winds much of the first week. The potential downside is running into the middle of High pressure and much lighter winds, but we could then head south to the Trades or else wait in the Azores for a better pattern to emerge. This new plan also helps avoid some potentially rougher weather further south.
In any event, we have adapted our plans and plan to head out first thing Thursday morning on a more westerly (not southwesterly) route. We will attempt to send occasional updates on our progress and thank you for your interest.
Max, Lynnie and Rudy
Steve: Here’s something to brighten your day. The first sentence could not be better (IMHO). Enjoy!
Hello everyone! Rudy here. Our first two days at sea have been excellent, with a fairly steady wind out of the Northwest. We left Portosín and headed out obliquely for 40N to meet a High and make our way toward the Azores. We happily crossed the continental shelf with calm seas, although the water has grown a bit more bumpy since.
We have had a smattering of dolphin and whale sightings, with Max catching a large dolphin pod swarming around Juanona on our first day and him and Lynnie seeing a series of whales surfacing yesterday. Meanwhile, I have engaged myself in some nap-time cartography, mapping out the sharpest and most abstract corners of my berth using my head. I believe that I now have a firm understanding of this terra nova, and I am quite ready to move on to a different activity.
Lynnie has concocted a series of activities to keep us entertained, including memorizing a new Shakespearean curse every day day. So, if you hear me later this summer mutter under my breath “Peace, ye fat guts!” don’t take it personally. Or maybe do, but blame Lynnie too.
Overall it’s a pleasure to be here and we’re all looking forward to the rest of the passage!
(Max) Our current conditions have wind speeds between 12-20 knots a little forward of the beam, and very manageable seas. We are averaging anywhere from 6.5-7.5 knots under 100% jib and single-reefed main. We expect this to continue until about Monday when the winds will gradually ease. We are keeping open the option of a brief stop at Ponta Delgada to wait out a potential strong Cold Front mid-week, and hoping a strong High develops thereafter which would provide good conditions to continue on our journey. The only hiccup so far seems to be a dispute between Lynnie and Rudy as to who hid the Snickers bars. Maintaining shipboard discipline may require them to be locked away.
Steve: They are making great progress!
After contemplating a stop-over in São Miguel (37.5° N) we decided to continue on. A severe front didn’t materialize, and due to Covid protocol a stop could require a two- to three-day layover. This layover could cause us to miss a developing favorable weather window.
Instead we’ll sail to 35°N. We will have to do some motoring but we’ll be positioned for some better winds towards the end of the week. After 3+ days of brisk Northerly winds giving us ~7 knot speeds we will have to adapt to a slower pace of 5 knots +/- for the next few days.
If necessary we’ll land in Bermuda to avoid a weather system and/or to top up our fuel. But, our preference is non-stop Spain to Maine.
The crew are happily adjusting to living quarters. With some gymnastic and ballet moves the three of us have managed to avoid bodily mishaps. The use of travel trivia and memorizing the best Shakespearean curses keeps us intellectually stimulated; and Origami fish will soon be added to satisfy our arts and crafts skill set.
Speaking of fish one jumped aboard Saturday when a wave slapped our stern. The tiny eel-like creature, which must have died upon impact, remains perched off our stern on our radar pole. That’s after Rudy and I engaged in the Battle of the critters…
Checking the deck this morning we discovered three small squid also tossed aboard by Neptune. Alas, none are sushi appropriate.
Other entertainment arises when spotting fellow sailors at sea. After crossing the shipping channel Thursday night, few boats appear on our AIS. So, there’s a bit of excitement when we site one. Just now a catamaran WATER AND WIND comes up, most likely heading to the Azores; and, Friday we briefly spoke with PEN KREO, the French boat moored next to us at Portosín, also heading to the Azores.
With the wind dropping and smoother seas we’ll enjoy our first real dinner tonight. Yesterday we actually had some one-can delight: chili con carne with kidney beans added. We even broke out the Snicker bars and Twix, with our non-sweet tooth captain partaking of the latter. And, yes, I purchased more than 12 Snickers and, no, I didn’t stash any in a secret compartment… yet.
Besides a real meal tonight we’re looking forward to showers for the bodies tomorrow (we aim for one every five or so days); and, that’s not a Royal “we” but an inclusive “we.” I must admit I’m becoming one of the gang when I realize I have yet to change clothes since last Thursday morning. However, I am the only one not growing facial hair.
As my morning watch ends with captain Max awake and second mate asleep, I’ll brew some good Java (first time since we left that I can stomach it) and explore the cockpit for more Neptune surprises. But, not before we thank our land communicator Steve who’s forwarding these updates. Unfortunately, we don’t get replies as we need to preserve our satellite minutes.
Have a great Monday and we’ll be back soon!
Steve: A comforting note from Max, they are in a very special place, and doing well.
This morning we are close-hauled, sailing NW towards a frontal system which we expect to arrive late this evening.
Those of you tracking our progress via our InReach device are well aware that we came to a screeching halt on Monday. We’d spent 72 hours averaging close to 7 knots, and in the blink of an eye the wind dropped and we were down to 2 or 3 knots. Worse, the seas left over from the sustained breeze rocked the boat, knocking the light wind out of the sails and causing them to flop around. Any sailor reading this knows the feeling.
We explored the possibility of motoring for a couple days, then stopping in Ponta Delgada to replace the burned fuel. We confirmed with the marina there that we could in fact stop to refuel and immediately leave, without having to go through their Covid quarantine protocol for yachts who plan to stay. The overall point was to have full or nearly full fuel tanks before heading off on the long mid-Atlantic stretch coming up.
In the end we decided to be patient in the light winds and not use much fuel, knowing that the front will be coming through later this evening, followed by a strong high pressure system. We expect this system will give us another long stretch of favorable winds along its southern side. The longer term outlook is similarly (tentatively) positive.
For those interested in more detail, we carry 92 gallons of diesel, which gives us at least 130 hours at modest RPMs, or about 650 nautical miles range. We’ve used only 5 gallons to date. Our solar panels have been supplying all our electrical needs.
We also carry 150 gallons of water in 3 different tanks plus two jugs – I am fortunate that Lynnie is deathly afraid of running out of water and uses it sparingly. Rudy is being similarly careful. That said, we DO take brief cockpit showers every 5 days. We have an on-demand propane water heater set to 100 degrees, and can get clean with minimal use of water. Tuesday’s showers were highly appreciated by us all (and the fact that our fellow shipmates took one too!)
In the calmer conditions our last two meals were Hungarian Goulash, and salmon sushi rolls. With the front coming through later today bringing gusty winds we will keep it simple – perhaps just pepperoni and cheese.
This evening will mark a week with neither political news nor alcohol. Perhaps indulging the first leads to the second. Instead we’ve started to be reminded of the magnificence of the oceans, and the heavens, and have become a little more attuned to the rhythms of nature. It’s nice to be out here after such a strange and disconcerting year back home.
Steve: Visions of Juanona … enjoy.
Good afternoon all!
Two days ago we changed our course to the northwest in order to meet up with a storm front which promised good northeasterly winds in its wake. Low and behold, this was a nearly perfect bearing for the island of São Miguel! For the next several hours, as we reefed the main and prepared for a short but possibly intense squall, Max and Lynnie casually remarked about their time in the Azores in past crossings.
“What was the name of that lovely restaurant on Sao Miguel?” “Oh Tasco? Brook and Micah said they had the best octopus there during their honeymoon.”
“There is a beautiful hike that Christopher and I did up Pico Mountain back in 2003.”
“The hydrangeas bloom all over Flores, it’s incredible!”
“Gail flew out to meet Dick Stevens in Horta on Faial after he joined us for the first passage. It sounded like a great little holiday for them!”
“Oooh, remember the bunny barbecue on Flores with Dick after meeting a wonderful local couple, Orlando and Anna?”
“I think Steve Palmer had a great time, even though he was only there for a few hours when he flew in to sail to England with us.”
“Wasn’t that cheese factory we visited fascinating?”
“We would love to come back for a few days, maybe later this year.”
With a poetic sense of irony, we were within 20 miles of the eastern islands when we passed through the storm front and turned to the southwest with a strong following breeze. I contented myself with my Azorean adventure of drinking decaf coffee at 3 AM, watching the lights of São Miguel and Santa Maria on the horizon as we passed between the two.
The next 24 hours were some of the best sailing we could have hoped for. With easily manageable seas, 14-18 Kts out of the northeast, lightly dispersed clouds, and, eventually, a full moon for our evening watches, it was a nearly perfect day. All joking aside, yesterday was a day that makes you appreciate the beauty of the ocean and the amazing adventure we are partaking in.
And besides, now I have a list of places to check out when I finally get on land.
Warm wishes from Juanona,
After inadvertently enticing Rudy with visions of the Azores (honestly, one of our favorite places in the world) we are taking advantage of the favorable winds. Unfortunately they’re not quite as strong as we need. With the wind well aft the beam we suffer when it’s in the 8-11 knot range with boat speed in the 4s and 5s. Once it gets above 13 we start to fly, in the 6s. Hopefully we’ll get more of the latter.
In the meantime, this morning we took down the 100% jib that has been our workhorse for the past few years, a sail that we love for its ease of handling. We replaced it with a #2 Genoa, which should help the boat speed in lighter wind (we gave away our #1 Genoa a few years ago in England, as it was getting very tired. The #2 was in our attic leftover from purchasing the boat in the year 2000).
We hope everyone has a great Memorial Day weekend!
Steve: Lynnie’s musings from the celestial sea …
Just up from post-morning-watch nap and Captain Max announces flying fish sighting.
Trust me. This is big news because anything hopping out of the ocean becomes major excitement after 10 days at sea. To date we’ve seen dolphins, a school of fish, and whale spouts. Oh, and little squid plastered on deck, one that I just missed squishing further when the three of us wrestled a jib replacement to the fore deck two days ago.
240 hours floating on a boat in the middle of the ocean offers points of reflection. I wish I could claim erudite or poetic moments. But, no, not my forté. Rather my mind roams the practical: how many cockpit shower days are in our future… don’t forget to double the pizza recipe… when will we reach 32º LAT… what if we hit a whale or, what I worried more last night, what if a whale decides to hit us… All these thoughts and questions tumble around as JUANONA runs, and stumbles on a SW heading at speeds of high 4s to low 6s with the 7.5-12.5 kt wind.
There has been one moment of fear these past two days. One that caused Rudy and me to hustle to the stern and quickly remedy the situation as Max directed. You see we had two lines trolling for a fish to freshen up our dinners. The two lures happily skipped in unison in JUANONA’s wake. Only no fresh mahi mahi followed them. Instead, two swooping birds traded scouting out our bait. Suddenly their wings appeared to be skimming ever closer to our frolicking rubber squid.
Acknowledging Captain Max’s culinary skill we realized even he couldn’t make a tasty meal out of a drowned and roasted sea gull. So, Rudy and I raced to the stern and started windmilling our arms as we wound up the lines. Catastrophe averted. And, our taste buds switched into pizza mode.
Another diversion: learning celestial navigation. We all took a round of sun sights with Max helping Rudy and me with the calculations.
So, as I reach for my breakfast of a peanut butter cracker, I contemplate adding origami fish to our daily entertainment and luxuriate in knowing it’s shower day. And miracle of miracles even Max says he plans to change his pants.
And with that we wish you all a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend.