Category Archives: PASSAGES

Sailing from point A to point B with at least one 24-hour sail

Passage to the UK August 2015

Monday, August 17

When we awoke Monday morning, we checked the weather, and, once again, found our plans had changed. Instead of dinghying to the next island to view a medieval church, we were going to cross the North Sea.

Christopher on SILA thoughtfully let us view a great app (Weather Track, which we’ll be downloading) that overlaid our track from Norway to Scotland. The view confirmed the decision:  time to go.

JUANONA  was pretty shipshape anyhow; but, Max took the anchor off the bow (in case of plunging seas, this saves the anchor from banging around and also limits our taking water into the anchor chain locker, which can find it’s incipient way into our V-berth bedding).

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We stowed the cruising spinnaker below, stashed our toothbrush pot holders (Christmas-themed yogurt containers from our time spent with Betsy and the Sumners last December), and put sleeping bags in the main cabin for hot bunking (one of us would be off-watch and in the sleeping bags while the other would be on watch).

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Last photos as we exit this scenic harbor, and we’re off!

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As predicted we needed to motor, then motor-sail to get a good start. We had 320 miles to cover before we reached Peterhead. With our eyes on that Low coming across our path, we wanted to get as far west and south as possible before it overtook us, so that when the strong winds arrived they would not be forward of the beam.

When it’s dead calm, there’s not a lot you can do so you just sit back and read while scouting out the area and hoping for some wind.

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Our views consisted of oil and gas rigs; at one point we counted seven all around us.

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One was being towed,

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some looked like robotic creatures stalking the sea while others appeared as modern Stonehenges.

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When your chart looks like this:

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it’s not surprising to know you’ll be maneuvering around those rigs.

We were hailed by a security boat warning us to keep clear of the exclusion zone in one of the gas fields ahead. So we altered course for a mile then switched back to our original heading. It’s a bit odd to be sailing along in our own little cosmo only to be startled by someone calling out ‘JUANONA’ over the radio. A voice over the radio definitely is an event, breaking into the sameness of gray-weather cruising.

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The beautiful day slowly moved into a dark night fell around 11:00 p.m. and visibility was difficult due to dark, cloudy skies.

Knowing the remainder of the passage could be windy, we put a reef in the main and added the staysail, a smaller jib, to our sail configuration.

Tuesday, August 18

The day broke beautifully with streaks of mauve, rose, cream and blue. Nothing to hint of the wind that would be blasting us later in the day except for that old adage ‘red sky at morning, sailor take warning…’

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With only two of us, our watch shifts were flexible. One of us would be up and looking for obstacles (rigs, ships, and fishing boats via the AIS, radar overlay on our chart plotter, and eyes). The other would be grabbing up to three hours of sleep.

We always had a physical check (every 15 minutes or so) versus relying solely on any electronic ‘eyes’, which is how we saw two large fishing vessels dragging nets headed in our direction. Fortunately, it was daylight for the boats weren’t broadcasting their positions on AIS. I just hope they turn their lights on at night.

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As forecasted, the wind was slowly edging its way up to 30+ knots as the day progressed. We had the main sail (with one reef), the staysail, and our regular jib up.  As the winds built we put a second reef in the main and eventually furled the jib as the seas began rocking ’n rolling. Waves crashed across the deck causing water to stream down on either side of the cockpit while below-deck started on spin cycle.

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When you see the gimbaled stove tilting crazily you start doing the same, becoming a walking italic.

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Before too long we were navigating below by clutching at any hand railings. JUANONA began squeaking and moaning as our two-water tanks (55 gallons each) located under the main cabin seats sloshed in tandem with the salt water outside.

More oil rigs caused us to adjust our course frequently through the night. At one point someone announced ‘you’re clear of the Fair Isle channel.’ Since we weren’t cognizant of any channel needing to be crossed, all we could think of is that the message was for two fishing boats mentioned earlier.

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With such high winds we were making up to 8 knots per hour. And, just so my navigational description is correct, I asked Max to explain our strategy… “We were intentionally steering up to 25 degrees south of our rhumb line (the direct course to Peterhead). We did not want to take any chances in case the wind clocked more to the southwest, which would bring the wind well forward of the beam and make for very uncomfortable or even treacherous conditions. I know from racing that steering up to 15 degrees off course increases the distance sailed only slightly, and even 20 or 25 degrees not excessive, so it seemed well worth the trade off to build some safety cushion to windward of the direct route.”

Wednesday, August 19

Finally, about 1:00 a.m. we cleared the last of the major oil fields and adjusted our course to Peterhead.

The seas and wind had calmed down a bit, and we realized we could be in Scotland by early afternoon.

With gray skies and 17+ knots of wind we arrived outside the entrance to Peterhead’s harbor and ghosted through fog to the pontoons.

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We had landed with neither of us nor JUANONA the worse for wear. At least, nothing that fresh-water rinses, clean clothes and a celebratory drink or two couldn’t revive.

Freshly showered and with the last load of clean clothes I walked the pontoons back to JUANONA hearing, believe it or not, the ice cream truck merrily announcing itself on the streets above the marina with, of all tunes, ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’.

With fond memories of all the sights and all the people we met, our summer cruising was drawing to a close. We still have our UK coastal route to voyage down before reaching Ipswich, our winter’s home, so some good sailing is hopefully on the horizon, just not requiring crossing a sea or ocean to enjoy.

And, to that, we raise our glasses and shout ‘Skaal’! :)

Ja!

Norway Passage

Tuesday, June 16, to Thursday, June 18

Because north winds were forecast for the following week, we decided to skip the Shetland islands (our planned next port of call) and head straight to Norway, our ultimate destination for this summer. The winds would be good for for the next two days (direction and speed) then lighten up on Thursday but still favorable direction (west).

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So, early Tuesday morning we left Peterhead at 4 a.m. with our course set for Alesund, Norway. It’s not as far north as we wanted but at this point we’d be happy just to be anywhere along the coast of Norway.

And, I can’t leave this port town without, once again, commenting how exceptionally gracious and warm these folk are. From the town librarians who helped us with our wifi to the guy who saw us with our load of groceries and insisted on driving us back to the marina to Charlie the car rental man who shared some good road trips with us to Billy at the marina who made us feel at home just from his huge smile and Scottish Burr. These harbor towns are amazing in their hospitality.

The weather was beautiful Tuesday as we made excellent time, reaching seven knots with the wind directly perpendicular to our sails.

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And, I made sure I had my crackers just in case I got a bit of queasiness.

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Throughout the day Max doublechecked weather and course while we settled into our watch routines.

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Believe it or not, there is a body (Chris) hidden in that bedding. We have similar snaps of our crew Ricardo (to Flores, Azores) and Steve (to Falmouth, England) from our crossing last summer :)

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The few obstacles we had to avoid were the oil and gas rigs sticking out of the ocean waters. Like the wind turbines we saw off the coast of the UK, these large, metal, man-made structures just seemed odd to be poking up out of something so natural and fundamental as the sea.

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Because we’re so far north, night watches were almost twilighty, which always makes it easier for me to keep my eyes open.

Wednesday, our second passage day, dawned cool and gray; and, for those who want to know what it’s like, it’s like a whole lot of nothing at times.

But, then it’s pretty spectacular to be out there surrounded by the North Sea with two other people and your boat watching the steely waters. A few gulls come sweeping by eyeing you while continuing their soaring highs and lows. You’re part of a vastness that goes on and on and on.

And, it’s pretty wonderful to go below where the heater’s on.

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Once again we were thankful for our AIS as we were hailed by a ship towing seismic cables. He told us we needed to keep a minimum of two miles (from his bow and sides) and five miles (from his stern) to ensure we wouldn’t be in his way. Happy to comply, we tracked him and his accompanying ship via the AIS.

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On Thursday we were hoping to make Alesund by 9 p.m., and, we motored for most of the day as the wind slowly died.

We were excited to see our first glimpse of Norway in the early evening, and we were all thinking of hot showers (if you notice, we have the same clothes on Thursday night that we left in Tuesday morning), celebratory drinks, and a full night of sleep.

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Then, the engine starting acting up–no cooling water coming out of the exhaust. So we quickly killed the motor and unfurled the jib while Max began problem-solving. After an hour, he found the culprit:  the impeller wasn’t spinning. With a quick repair (thankfully, JUANONA has tons of spare parts), we were able to head to the harbor.

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Max raised the Norwegian courtesy flag and our OCC burgee as the three of us just gazed in awe at the coast appearing out of the clouds.

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We docked with no problem in this very protected harbor,

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then pulled out the bubbly compliments of Anne and Peter in Ipswich and used flags that Max’s sister Krissy had given us a year ago to decorate our cocktails.

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It was a perfect ending to a good passage.

And, with a visit from Frank Cormer, Ocean Cruising Club’s Alesund Port Captain, our first morning here, we feel really welcomed and oh so glad to be able to cruise in this lovely land.

Tomorrow night we’ll be celebrating Summer Sailstice (www.summersailstice.com) by watching a huge burning bonfire with a whole bunch of Norwegians.

At least that’s the plan :)

Ja!

A bouncing we will go, a bouncing we will go, high-ho the dairy ho, a bouncing we will go

Which is why, on Thursday morning, August 14, a shout went up as we spotted the southwest coast of England, and it couldn’t have come soon enough, at least for me.

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Although, like with Dick, aka Ricardo, our passage was blessed with yet another enthusiastic and helpful crewmate, Steve, who arrived from Boston on Tuesday, August 5th, only to be fast-forwarded through a shower and coffee, before being impressed by Juanona’s captain. Within three hours we were heading out to sea.

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Steve donned his special blue shirt

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and later presented us with a book of poems from him and Katie.

It took just a bit before Max realized Katie had personalized the cover with a recent photo of Juanona.

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With clear skies and some minor (thankfully) head winds, we motor-sailed along the length of Sao Miguel until we could turn north for our passage to England.

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After relaxing a bit,

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Steve introduced us to his grandfather’s ditty bag;

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and, he meticulously demonstrated the how-to of the old sailing art of whipping lines.

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Since life at sea can be snoozeville at times, i.e., BO-ring, (again, Sailor girl writing) and, since Steve must have seen a comotose look starting to creep across my face, he asked me if I’d like to do some.

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So, now I can add whipper to my resume, and, if we’d been out much longer, I can safely say more than lines would have been decorated with thin, waxy string…

There are times when all you do is bounce on a boat, and, thanks to tropical storm Bertha, the fast miles we covered were primarily due to being bounced up the Atlantic Ocean to England.

And, just so you can get a feel for what I mean, here’s a composite of some sea days…

This meant adjusting the number and size of sails we had out.

I smartly kept watch from the cockpit to make sure our snack bin below didn’t overturn or get too jostled (the snickers bars took exceptional watching, I found) while Max and Steve were either reefing the mainsail,

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setting the staysail (a smaller one between jib and mainsail),

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and, at one time, prepping the drogue (something to toss off the back to reduce boat speed and help keep the stern perpendicular to the waves),

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then deploying it, which was the fun part.

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Again, I safely watched from the companionway as the spray started to coat Juanona, and I began to realize I should probably slap another half of a seasick medicine patch to my head. This also contributed to my sleeping A LOT, which then contributed to Max and Steve not having to hear my ‘oh, dang!’ as yet another body part became indented by some previously innocuous, but now lethal, piece of Juanona.

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Due to our being on designated watches every three hours from evening (8p) until early morning (8a), you typically grab sleep during the day…

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which also means, if you’re the one up, you can dress up the sleeper however you want.

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At times there are some interesting events at sea, and one of ours was the pee pot episode. No photos but just imagine one crew member doing the early-morning ritual of emptying the pot while another crew member gets up to use it without realizing the most important piece of the composting head isn’t there.

Thankfully, no harm was done but suffice it to say it did require an extra thirty minutes of clean-up…

On August 10th, halfway to our designation, we decided to have cocktails, so we opened up our cans of Schweppes ginger ale and toasted our not being bounced out into the ocean’s cold waters.

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Then we returned to enjoying the bouncing seas once more on August 11th… (note the lovely swaying towels)

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Max occupied himself by inventing his coffee runway to hold the all-important caffeine vehicles on the stove.

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The bouncing and swaying and grabbing every handhold was pretty much the norm for most of the trip, which is why it wasn’t a surprise when I caught our GPS one day clocking at 12kts.

Just so you know, we are aware of what’s coming our way, thanks to the Internet access via the satellite phone. Every morning at 9a Max checked and analyzed the weather.

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And, most of the days it showed nice, strong winds (thanks to Bertha)

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with accompanying lumpy, rolling, sloshy seas.

One of the true marvels to me is our AIS (automatic identification system). It takes (almost) all of the fear of running into a much bigger ship than us in the middle of a dark night. By broadcasting its course, its bearing to us, the CPA (closest point of approach) and timing of that (TCPA), size and speed,

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we could easily avoid it and vice versa because we also transmitted our location as well as received theirs.

The only concern was when the white triangle turned black;

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but, I had their number to contact via our VHF radio if I REALLY became nervous.

As the night turned to day

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the tanker’s silhouette

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brightened to full color as morning approached. And, I relaxed my sweaty grip on the microphone’s PTT (push to talk) button.

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Because life at sea can be a bit uninteresting (sailor girl’s take on it), you can look for ways to spice it up, which is exactly what we did on August 12th.

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And, yes, we were a bit punchy by our seventh day out…

Sometimes I didn’t have to find something to make the days and nights interesting. It just happened, such as hearing yet another humoungous SPLAT! against the hull, peering into the cockpit where Max was on watch, and seeing him perched on the seats to avoid a rather large dump of salt water landing in the cockpit.

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By the time I got the camera on it, the foot of water had sloshed and drained down to less than half that.

But, the fun wasn’t over, because I became complacent and, after checking on Steve above, I ducked below without closing the hatchway cover and, yes, sure enough, another BANG and there we go… several gallons of salt water flew below.

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The saving grace was that now the boat was really clean below because of all the applying of precious fresh water along with the mopping and wiping I had to do to eliminate it. FYI: These episodes are called pooping, which to me was the perfect description.

We didn’t see many ships at all until our approach and entry into the English Channel, and then it was as if we were on an entrance ramp trying to cross two lanes of traffic. It wouldn’t have been so hairy if they were our size, but, as Steve and Max related (I was asleep below), these were BIG ships.

On our ninth day at sea we entered the English Channel

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and toasted with coffee our entry into historic Falmouth Harbor (YAHOO!!!).

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Within three hours, we had picked up a Visitors’ Yacht Haven guest mooring, checked in with customs and the harbor master, SHOWERED (we again followed our pattern of one every five days…, and, Carolie, yes, I was slack on the clothing changes…) and proceeded to R&R while the activity unfolded around us.

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With the passing of a quick rain shower, a rainbow appeared and all we could do was gaze in thankful awe

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while we spotted land all around us and we weren’t bouncing!

For the next two days we enjoyed getting our land legs while strolling along the seaside street of this charming village.

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Friday morning we awoke to the harbor master asking us what our plans were (signed on for almost a week) and issuing an invitation from the boat we saw picking up a mooring behind us the night before.

Not being quite certain if it was a joke or not, we weren’t sure if we should hop in our dinghy and drift downwind to Scorpio Lady; but, Nick, captain of said boat, saved us the embarrassment and dinghied over to formally ask us aboard for eggs and bacon and coffee with him and Jim, a friend from Norfolk. It didn’t take more than one second before we all said ‘Sure!’ and off we went for our very first eggs+bacon breakfast since we left Maine June 6th, and, boy, did they taste good.

We contributed melon but never got around to it

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but did have a wonderful time sharing easy conversation with these two old friends (Jim had been sailing with Nick every summer for a week or so in the past 12 years).

Friday night was our official celebratory dinner, which we began with champagne toasts with a bottle Steve managed to bring

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followed by a dinghy ride into town to check out the scene and where we met Clint, aka Mr. T., and his other costumed friends (Falmouth Week hosted a wild costume party) at the Cutty Sark Bar. They just reinforced the friendliness of this enchanting town as we toasted being amidst friendly folk.

We managed to grab a reservation at a South African restaurant, Amanzi, owned and operated by this great couple, Carolyn and Ian.

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A sweet young waitress, Gallia, who announced she was new to her job, was also South African. I asked if she knew Johnny Clegg, one of my favorite musicians and, frankly, a hero to me having formed and toured with a mixed band in South Africa during apartheid.

Well, my mouth dropped open and kept doing the jaw drop when she softly said yes, she knew of him… she was his godchild. OMG, it was as if I had met Paul McCartney’s god daughter. Of course, having the Mala Mala (translation: Crazy) drink helped with my dopey, smiley gaze.

Anyway, we had an amazing dining experience and promised to be back.

[which Max and I did our last night in Falmouth. Like Tasca in Ponta Delgada, we could see coming here at least once a week and we may possibly return by train this winter it’s that wonderful.]

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Returning to our mooring, we decided the night wasn’t over yet, and we proceeded to sip some port (again, brought by Steve) with some Cornish cheese and grapes.

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More toasting…

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and, the dancing began (poor Steve, I think he thought he’d escape this…).

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The next morning Max dinghies Steve to shore for the start of his trek home,

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and, with calm seas no bouncing was to be had.

Days at Sea… No. 1 thru 13

Days at Sea… No. 1 thru 13

Because my blob blogging was intermittent at best these past two weeks, I’ll just mention a few highlights per day. I may call on crew member Dick Stevens, whom we were extremely fortunate to snag as our third voyager, to help me with some of these events (he was a much more faithful scribe with his log).

So, off we go…

JUN 6 Day 1: Set off at 9am from Orr’s-Bailey Yacht Club (OBYC) with hugs and waves and a special guardian angel charm in my pocket and a butterfly one on my necklace;

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then initiated diet plan promptly at 1:36pm, i.e., started my normal course of being seasick. oh joy. but did complete my night time watches (8-11p and 5-8a).

JUN 7 Day 2: Managed to get spinnaker wrapped around one of the lines only to have Max climb the mast to free it up while Dick and I tried to help from below… success (thank king neptune)

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All settling into a routine with prepping meals, washing dishes

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checking weather and route

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and catching naps when off watch. Juanona starting to get into passage decor.

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while dolphins appear.

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JUN 8 Day 3: Realizing that passage hygiene is now in full force with Dick, I’m ashamed to say, beating me to the first underwear change. Spotting sargasso seaweed and man o war jelly fish as we near the gulf stream

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JUN 9 Day 4: Awaken my body during my 5am watch by dancing to “Happy” and “September” (blessedly no photos of this) while later getting the guys to join me in another rendition of “Happy” captured by the go-pro camera facing the cockpit. Made our breakfast yogurt bowls.

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Also, enjoying the other animal aboard (black spider) as it attacks its image in the starboard winch

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JUN 10 Day 5: SHOWER DAY!

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Boat smelling sweet. And, the closest encounter we’ve had all passage with Baltic Mercur, a cargo ship approximately 520 ft long, 69 ft wide traveling 12.5 knots.

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JUN 11 Day 6: On spin cycle as we sail in a turmoil of frothing seas and high winds, even surfing down one wave to over 15 knots! Most of day spent going 8 to 10 knots, even 11, as we hunker down.

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At night a big splat sounded against Juanona’s hull resulting in a burst of salty water where it travelled via the cockpit down a bit into the galley. Dick, in his aft berth, got a shot of the water, too. Not a fun way to spend the night. We are all religious about wearing our harnesses when on deck

JUN 12 Day 7: Snack Bin raid… thanks to Dick bringing aboard some tasty snacks to add to our provisioning, we have a HUGE snack bin.

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Although we try to limit ourselves to just one small square of chocolate after dinner and a few fireballs during the day, I just HAVE to have something else from that pile of delicious, non-nutritious treats. Only Max seems to be able to resist the calling of the snack bin, but he’s been known to relish a fireball or two.

JUN 13 Day 8: I’m now resembling an over-ripe banana with my purple, yellow, and black bruises. Trying to perform the most elementary tasks (such as putting on foul weather pants) requires a form of athleticism more suited to a contortionist vs. a middle-age sailorette. And, if the unpredictable sway of the boat isn’t enough, there are boisterous slaps of waves against the hull that startles you just as you’re about to finish a task; and, what’s worse, bruised banana hues just aren’t my colors. But we are rewarded with a flying fish found on deck

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and, captain finally gets some well-deserved sleep

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while Dick performs his clean-up magic in the galley

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JUN 14 Day 9: More slip sliding around… but the sunrise if gorgeous

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we manage a smorgasbord lunch

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and, later we believe we entice dolphins at sunset with some Pavoratti at dinner time

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JUN 15 Day 10: SHOWER DAY NUMBER TWO! And, we use a mustard bottle to send a message to sea

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Have been enjoying our eggs from Two Cove Farm in Harpswell, ones we didn’t need to refrigerate as long as we turned them every day (although later we did put them in fridge just to be safe)

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Captain invents best way to block out light for sleeping off watch

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JUN 16 Day 11: Today I witnessed another guy thing… napkin shirts. I nearly choked when I saw Dick perform the same dining etiquette that Max does: using the shirt as their napkin.

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JUN 17 Day 12: It’s another washing machine day with all of us being bounced around. It is good isometric exercise but, boy, can it make me cranky. fortunately, that can be mollified with a visit to the snack bin. Dick has figured out how to wedge himself into his berth

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JUN 18 Day 13: Almost there!

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JUN 19 Day 14: LAND HO!

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Arrive at Lajes approximately 1:00p

Waiting for Dawn

Waiting for Dawn

I’m 38 minutes into my morning watch and the clouds are just showing some peek-a-boo light as we drift 8 miles off of Flores, our first Azorean island.

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Keeping an eye out for other watercraft, I see a catamaran will soon pass our stern as it most likely makes its way to the island of Fial, the most popular yachtie stop-over, roughly 135 miles to the east.

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This morning, around 7am, we’ll make our way to our second landing on this westernmost Azorean island, anchoring in the harbor of Faije Grande on the the northwest coast of Flores. It’ll be our second visit in less than 24 hours. We actually arrived yesterday early afternoon at Lajes’ new marina on the southern tip of this island only to leave four hours later to find a safer spot for Juanona (and us).

After thirteen days at sea we vacated our docking berth due to forecasted surge. This unpleasant and potentially dangerous condition is created by current rushing in and out of a harbor causing boats to violently rock to and fro. A British boat at the same dock showed us their lines that had snapped clean from a previous surge, which was more than enough impetus for us to plan a quick exit.

We weren’t unfamiliar with this phenomenon. In 2002 we had stopped at this same port but anchored in the little harbor. Getting ashore using one’s dinghy was akin to being spit onto land by the King Neptune.

Those four hours ashore, though, were productive. Not only did we meet cute customs guys

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but also filled one of our three water tanks, visited the post office, and purchased some fresh provisions. Dick, our great crew from Orr’s, sampled his first Azorean cheese

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along with some Portugese wine, the latter being something we all agreed would have been better if never opened.

The walk straight up a hill allowed Dick and I to admire the amazing flowers from which this island earns its name. Hydrangeas,

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birds of paradise, IMG 0986

even wild ginger (Ellen, I think of you when I see these :)

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lined the streets. The volcanic soil just burst with lushness, enticing us to literally stop and smell the flora.

The three of us also walked along the sea wall in search of the sign Max’s son Chris painted back in 2002.

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Putting one’s mark on the seawall was begun in Fial many years ago while a relatively recent activity in Flores. Ours was one of the first in 2002, and we really didn’t believe we’d find any evidence of it 12 years later, but we did! A bit faded but definitely there (if you knew what you were looking at).

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But, back to our exit. Max orchestrated our departure: Dick on board, myself on the dock, and Max at the helm. To say it was hairy is putting it mildly.

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I’m not one to easily get stomachaches from tension, but I did on this occasion. We had to time our tossing the lines with the wind and building surge only to have the engine quit while Max was backing us out within six feet of rocks. Why it cut out, we don’t know. What I do know is that it was not an event I hope to experience anytime in the future.

Now, five hours later we’re anchored in Faije Grande after following a group of dolphins along the west coast of Flores.

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We’ll go ashore later just to stretch our limbs.

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And, possibly, even most absolutely probably, we’ll open one of the bottles of good wishes sent with us from Maine and toast the completion of our first passage of Juanona Voyage II.