It wasn’t far along the coast to get back to Dartmouth from Falmouth. In order to arrive before lunch on the 28th (our plan), we wanted to get along the coast as much as possible, so headed on to Salcombe.
The weather wasn’t as clear as for our arrival in the UK, so all of our pictures ended up being a little washed out.
Nevertheless, the sail was lovely, we followed a pretty straight line, avoiding a lighthouse, a bouy and a navy ship.
Our night in Salcombe was peaceful, and the harbour master recognized Hannah from before her paint job, so before we set off.
We didn’t have much wind leading Salcombe to Dartmouth, so had to motor most of the way.
We had prepared a flag chain to hoist for our final journey, which looked rather epic when we arrived in the Marina to a welcome from our families.
We unloaded most of the boat in a few hours, then headed out for lunch with the families. Heading back to Hannah the following day for a quick clean, and move back across the river dart to her trot mooring.
The boatyard that we leave the dinghy at when leaving the trot is up a side creek of the river and dries out totally at low tide.
We cut the timing of the tide far too tight (not used to all this tidal stuff after our year in the Caribbean), and Kathryn had to wade through the mud in the final meters so that we could pull the dinghy to the dock.
We set off in some rougher weather, 3m large swell and up to 20 knots of wind. Due to this Kathryn wasn’t feeling great, but at least we saw lots of dolphins and were going nice and fast.
The general plan was to set off in this worse weather and have it drop down to something nice within a day or two. Sail most of the way, and as we approach the UK have a lull, before the subsequent low pressure would start to catch us, and then boost our way into the English channel.
All of this weather planning ended up being fairly accurate and we mostly sailed as planned with a couple of days of motoring in the middle and made it into the UK after 9 days.
On the way we saw these interesting cluster-type things that at the time we thought were some kind of jellyfish, but it turns out were Gooseneck Barnacles in a little cluster.
The blender that we bought in Velas came in handy once again. We still had leftover frozen fruit from our last smoothies to blend along with some fresh stuff, so we had mid-crossing smoothies!
We ended up watching quite a number of films in the cockpit during this passage, so popcorn was also needed.
We came toward England quite close to the Isles of Scilly, and this was the first land we saw, we were almost home. One more night sailing along the English coast and we came in for our approach to Falmouth in very light winds the following morning.
We anchored in the corner of the inner anchorage area, and were the closest boat to shore. It turns out that it was “Armed forces day” and there were quite some celebrations going on, including a flyover of the red arrows just after we anchored, and a parade through the streets of Falmouth. This started to explain the presence of 3 naval boats in the harbour too.
Our friends Tom and Nat arrived in Falmouth shortly after to whisk us away for brunch, and evening BBQ on the beach, and a nice evening in a land bed, which was absolutely great!
Just a few more hops along the English coastline till Hannah is back in her home port of Dartmouth.
Off we set to Horta in the morning. When first getting out of the marina it felt like the wind was really going to work in our favor, and we were making good progress to Horta. The forecast was for the wind to totally swing around and come from Horta, and for it to drop quite some before we were scheduled to arrive.
In reality, the wind swing happened much earlier, and there was no real period of light winds, so after a few minutes of sailing, we found ourselves tacking to Horta through changeable wind directions and choppy swell. This turned into one of the wobbliest curvey tracks we have sailed to date (see below and don’t judge!).
On our journey to Horta, we also crossed paths with Artemis, who was heading from Horta to Velas. We managed to come quite close to each other as they were gull-winging downwind and both got some good snaps of each other.
Artemis gullwinging to VelasHannah Penn from Artemis
Arriving in Horta we anchored on the edge of the anchor field. We counted another 30 or so boats at anchor, and it’s crazy to think a week before during the low pressure that passed over the Azores there were around 80 boats at anchor, things must have been tight!
After checking into the Azores finally, we headed to Peter Sport Cafe, a rather iconic and long-standing (104 years) cafe/bar in Horta that has been frequented by many a sailor over the years.
For people sailing the Atlantic, Café Peter is more of an institution than a café. With its bright blue facade and orange sign, it serves as a currency exchange, yachting club, hobby, post office, tourist attraction and even as a charity on many occasions. (…) “
in Travel Section of “El Monde” San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1982
Upstairs they have a small whaling museum with a large focus on whale teeth, bones, and also the history of the cafe. Of course, not just whale teeth, but rather art on and with the teeth and bones of whales that has been performed for many years, a tradition called Scrimshaw.
Sperm Whale jaw bonesWhale made of whale boneAlex Thompson on a toothCollection of whale tooth and bone carvings and sculptures
Our next job was to explore the area around the harbor a little, and we were recommended a hike up to the closest point which was also next to a local Caldera. Here we also walked past some old whaling factories, now turned museums, and you can see the ramps that they would have used to winch whales onto land from the sea.
Whale factory rampCaldera near Horta
We wanted to explore as much of the Azores as possible but were also aware that we needed to be back in the UK for July, and time was starting to feel tight. So rather than sail to Pico (the island next to Horta), we got a rather cheap ferry one morning to bus around and explore with Saga.
Here we went to another whaling museum that included a short film we could watch as well as quite a few rather graphic pictures from the time of whaling still in the Azores, which only came to an end in the mid 1980’s.
Small boats being towed out to catch a whaleA whale on shore about to be cut up
Originally we wanted to also sail to Terceira, but as the weather continued evolving, we decided we had better head back to the UK sooner rather than later to avoid more motoring and arrive with plenty of time so as not to rush the last few days of our adventures.
This meant leaving directly from Horta early on the morning of 15th June. But before departing we wanted to partake in the tradition of painting the harbor wall with a small mural for our crossing ahead. This is something we have seen in many other ports, but haven’t found the time to get painting to date.
We managed to have one more night of food, drinks, fun, and conversation before really starting to prep for the crossing back to the UK.
As part of this night, Sam from Blue Note was going around Peter Sport Cafe trying to get people to dance. In doing so, he found someone else in the bar from Devon, UK, and brought them over to our table, as we are also both from Devon. The world is a small place, and this turned out to be someone Kathryn personally knew through horse-related living arrangements!
We will gloss over our winch fix the evening before leaving, as well as restocking the boat with fuel and food, as you readers must be bored of this by now.
Needless to say, the Azores was great fun, but the next step is the rest of the Atlantic crossing West to East, back to the South coast of the UK.
We were once again in the land of cheaper food, so decided to have another meat-filled BBQ with Blue Note, Atlas, Extress, and Escapade (who just arrived in time for the BBQ anchored outside). We fetched Escapade from the anchorage in our dinghy which was still inflated from used in Flores, and ended up leaving it with them for most of a week until they found space in the marina.
Sam and Joost contemplating meat purchasesSam BBQing
This was the first of 2 BBQs, but before the second we needed to wear off some of that food. On the morning of the scheduled low pressure, we headed up the nearest hill to a little viewpoint overlooking the harbor and town.
We used roads to get to the top, which were very steep and had many switchbacks, but as we walked along the top of the hill we found there was a nature trail and fruit tree path that we could use to walk back down to the town. And along the way, we saw many a Maderia lizard (why they are all Maderia Lizards here we don’t know).
Velas town and marinaFlower bouquet made by KathrynThree little lizards
Up next Atlas had organized 2 rental cars for us to take around the island and do some further exploring and longer hikes. The weather didn’t start off perfectly, with fog at the top of the island, so we headed to a small coffee plantation and cafe for a coffee and mini tour, before exploring the coast of the north side of the island (with the swell rolling in), and finally heading for our hike in the afternoon followed by a quick drink, and a steak dinner out in the town.
A foggy driveNorth side costal townAdam avoiding getting splashedRout of the walkWalking over a bridgeLesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni)
Getting into the Portuguese cake spirit once again, we set off one morning in search of a cake, however, found ourselves eating a Crème brûlée for breakfast (at noon!) with a coffee/juice.
For the next two evenings on the trot, we met with Tomas and Lindy of Extress on their boat for games night, on night 1 we played Dutch Dominion and Port Royal both of which were fun card games, and along with it, we made hot chocolate with a shot of rum and tasty homemade caramelised popcorn, then on night 2 we brought over Azul, a Portuguese coloured tile game and Werewords which is a guessing game, this night we also took marshmallows over for more hot chocolate and tried an orange liqueur which Lindy had picked up from the shop earlier.
We also hiked up the hill to the west of Velas which provided another view over the town, as well as a view further west along the island over a sheer cliff edge. The hill itself was a very green caldera (a large cauldron-like hollow that forms shortly after the emptying of a magma chamber in a volcano eruption), so once at the “top” you would descend further into this cauldron.
Inside the calderaThe view over the cliffBlackbird in a treeKathryn looking over the cliffKathryn taking a picture over the cliff
We finished off our time in Velas with a final BBQ with at least 7 or 8 boats from the marina and anchorage. This time with 3 BBQs in attendance, and in the boat park area instead of the breakwater to protect us from the wind a little, lots of great food was eaten!
Just before this final BBQ we had also decided to sail to Horta the following day, so this also acted as a farewell BBQ, as we would be speeding along for 1 more week through the Azores before heading in the general direction of the UK with another ~10-day crossing.
But before ending this post, another highlight of this food-filled week would be the purchase of 2 packets of frozen pastel de natas for cooking onboard, and also the purchase of a blender for smoothie making!
We arrived in the evening in Velas, a little while after sunset, and anchored outside the marina, on a mixed sand and rock bottom.
In the morning Adam jumped in the sea to check the anchor and found it to be right on the edge of a sand patch. We were thinking of moving it further into the sand patch in preparation for the stormy low pressure that was approaching, but fortunately, Blue Note had found us a space in the marina.
So up the anchor came, and into the marina we went! We left some of our large yellow fenders on the outside as the space was rather tight. But very happy to be protected for the coming days.
After arriving we walked through the town to find somewhere to eat lunch with the other boats. We came across an awesome-looking eroded archway by the cost and had a little picnic there.
The low pressure wasn’t scheduled to pass over for a couple of days, but depending on the accuracy of the forcast, we could have seen 40+ knots of wind and lots of rain.
Fortunately, the main body of winds passed far to the east and in reality, in our very protected marina we saw at most 25 knots spiraling around and coming from the opposite direction of the predominant wind. Though we still got some heavy rains.
Nothing a good Chinese takeaway and film can’t help with 🙂
Flores, the easternmost island of the Azores archipelago, is a captivating destination known for its stunning natural beauty. With lush valleys, dramatic cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and secluded beaches
In 2019 the Port of Lajes das Flores was partially destroyed by Hurricane Lorenzo, and efforts to rebuild are still underway. A result of this means that the harbor was not fully protected by a breakwater, and inside the harbor, there are only minimal pontoons for use. You can find some images of the destruction and plan for the future in this article.
Escapade and Saga, 2 Dutch boats we know, were already moored in the harbor and had the situation all figured out. We were not able to moor in the main body of the harbor, but were able to use the inside quay wall and also optionally the outside quay wall. Anchoring was also an option, but we really wanted to be moored!
We started off rafted up in 4 columns, and over the next few days, 3 of these rafts would be 3 boats deep, with the outermost raft being 2 deep. So 11 boats on the inside harbor quay wall. Upon leaving there were 2 boats also rafted on the quay wall next to the anchorage, and 3 more boats in the anchorage itself.
The harbor master is lovely, and after a few days of being on the quay wall, we were informed that a new rule would be in place for future boats visiting, where they would only be able to stay on the quay wall for 48 hours before needing to move on. The quay wall is high, so expect to used your dinghy to get to the ladders!
Step one for us being back on land, food (that we didn’t have to cook), and bed (that isn’t rocking around or leaning over)!
We tidied the boat, did laundry (5EUR wash and 5EUR dry), and had a lovely free warm shower.
Boats we knew continued to arrive the day after us, bringing the full list to include us, Blue Note, Extress, Saga, Escapade and Atlas.
Walking up the hill to the small supermarket we got a little taste of what the other Azorean islands were likely to look like. Rather beautiful.
Unfortunately, as we spent our first days exploring the area around the harbor, the weather forecast looked like it was going to turn and push a large low-pressure system over right over the Azores, and sending swell straight toward and probably into the Flores harbor.
Most of us decided that we wanted to leave the harbor before this weather in a few day’s time, so started planning a departure, but also a quick tour and hike around some of the most beautiful nearby locations.
We found a tour and taxi number on the wall which lead us to Sílvio Medina who is easily contactable via WhatsApp, Email, Telephone etc. After some negotiations for hike length and pickup time our Friday plan had formed. Starting with an early morning boat shuffle as some people in the rafts wanted to leave, followed by a 9:30 am pickup, driving tour of the 4 large lakes, hike to a waterfall, and back down to a town for pickup. And then, head off to the other islands overnight.
Firstly from Miradouro Lagoas Rasa e Funda we could see Lagoa Funda das Lajes and Lagoa Rasa, two lakes that are at dramatically different heights.
Next, we had another 2 large lakes, right next to each other. These were Lagoa Funda and Lagoa Comprida which are very different depths and also very different colors!
We were dropped in a car park where we could both start our main hike down into Fajã Grande, but first, hike up to a waterfall called Poço Ribeira do Ferreiro (Alagoinha). There was a beautifully maintained path to the fall, and a large still lake just beneath it.
The hike then took us through some of the greenest lands we have seen since being in the mountains of Santo Antão in Cape Verde. So many green fields, cows, European wildlife, water, and high green cliffs.
We continued down toward Fajã Grande, where we could see one boat at anchor and another that was just leaving to avoid some swell.
Just before reaching the town we stopped at one final waterfall.
Overwhelmed with our first “long” walk of the month, we headed into town to our pickup point for a burger and drink right next to the ocean.
We stopped in at the shop again on the way to the harbor, picking up some frozen pizzas for our night sail, and arrived back at the harbor at around 3pm and started getting ready to leave. We topped up our water tanks with a few jerry cans full of water, had a final on-land shower, and cast our lines to start heading on to the other islands.
After 30 minutes the lines and fenders were stowed, pizzas were in the oven, and the dolphins were back, escorting us on our night motor sail (not much wind at all).
And at the time of writing this, we are roughly 3 hours from our next port of call 🙂
Our crossing is complete, and thanks to Ollie we managed to blog including pictures on the route on Day 2, Day 4, Day 8, Day 9, Day 14, Day 17 with Day 22 being the final day with a post from the Azores.
We sailed roughly 2630 nautical miles over 22 days according to our Garmin Inreach, which means an average speed of around 5 knots (4.98). If we were to sail as the crow flies, the distance would be 2160 nautical miles, so we sailed 500 miles more than the most direct route.
During lighter winds, or when against annoying swell we would use the Volvo Penta D2-40 engine at 1000rpm to keep our speed up and give us a boost, (roughly 1-1.5 knots extra). Actually having run the engine for a prolonged period it was easier to figure out our fuel consumption, and on average we used 0.78 liters per hour at 1000rpm.
We didn’t set off alone, and both Escapade and Saga set off on the same day as us, but in the morning and from Saint Martin. Extress, Blue Note and Atlas all set off 4 days later, but caught up due to higher winds and a slightly more direct route.
Regularly in contact via email using our Iridium Go with the other boats, we had a nightly position report for everyone, which I plotted and you can see below. (There is also a combined screenshot from OpenCPN with dated waypoints at the bottom of this post).
Click title to show track
Hannah Penn Extress Escapade Blue Note Atlas Artemis Toubab Saga JestX
At one point as we were all leaving the Caribbean we actually all sailed within the same 50 nautical miles of the Atlantic ocean before then splitting off for our more southerly or northerly routes.
Artemis were in Bermuda and set off a few days after both groups, meeting Extress etc on their northerly route after a few days.
All in all, we had a good crossing, seeing lots of dolphins, jellyfish, birds, and many cargo ships, some of which had to alter course to avoid us.
For the entire crossing, we were close hauled, meaning the boat was healed over quite a lot, it was such a relief stepping back onto flat land again after living at 45 degrees for 22 days! (really it’s more like a 8-15deg heal angle but you wouldn’t guess it when you’re sliding across the cockpit floor!)
Finally, here is the OpenCPN screenshot of all the boat routes with dated waypoints. (Click to open the image full screen)
We set off in the afternoon of the 8th May from the BVIs, and arrival in Flores, Azores was to happen in the afternoon of the 30th May, so a 22-day crossing in total!
Wildlife sightings were on the increase, with more and more dolphins and birds appearing every day.
One little bird even came and had a little rest on board for half a day.
The air temperature was getting noticeably colder still, and we had to dig around in our deep storage to find a wooly hat and a nice blanket for our night shifts in the cockpit.
On day 21 (the day before we arrived) we had our biggest lull in the wind for the whole trip, which latest around 12 hours. But this was a lovely opportunity to each have a nice long shower inside Hannah as we knew we were close to land and could spare the water, and the boat was nice and stable.
After the lull the wind picked up, as an area of low pressure was passing by the Azores.
We didn’t have the best approach to the island, needing to tack multiple times in the final half a day, on the southwestern corner, which is also where most of the chop and swell was building up and crossing over.
The tacking angles were annoying, and every time we tacked, after 5-20 minuites, the wind will have shifted (probably as it comes off the land) and we would find ourselves needing to tack once more to actually get closer to the island.
But, Land Ho!
What a wonderful sight!
And once within 1 mile of the island, the swell and chop really decreased!
Escapade had come into the port of Flores a few days prior and had tried out figure out where we were all going to moor as there is no marina, only a concrete harbor. Saga were a few hours ahead of us and already moored up.
They managed to take some pretty nice pictures of us approaching the harbor with our sails still up, before then helping us moor in the harbor. Here is our favorite.
We moored up alongside Sweet Life, and once secured and happy, we could head to land!
Having been cooking and cleaning for 22 days straight, job 1 was to find a local restaurant and eat some food prepared by someone else.
Steak and fish time, and of course a beer (for Adam).
Tacking continues, and whenever we get a wind shift, that pushes us too far away from our target of Flores, Azores we tack.
We expect to be tacking for the next 48 hours at least, and then hopefully curve north on a port tack all the way to the Azores, hopefully ahead of the low pressure that is forecast to pass beneath the Azores.
The forecast is still changing day by day, and we currently plan to make landfall on either Monday 29th or Tuesday 30th May with around 550 miles left to sail.
We have had a few more container ship sightings, but more interestingly we probably came within 200 meters of a French sailing catamaran a few days ago, so close we could wave to each other 😀👋.
Podcasts have become our latest focus of entertainment during the mornings, and yesterday we also spent some time trying to get some great pictures of Portuguese man o’ wars. After managing to snap 20-30, here are two of the best.
The temperature continues to drop as we head north, and the days are noticing longer with the sun rising at 5 am and not setting until after 8 pm
One thing we really should have done before setting off was taking down the ensign we have on the mizzen topping lift, it really hasn’t enjoyed a month of sailing
We are still in contact with the other boats we have met along the way that all set off at roughly the same time.
One thing we like to do by email is riddles and quizzes.
Here is a copy of the music quiz we just created. We might put the answers in the next post!
The first 10 questions are lyrics, please guess the song name and artist!
You were always on my mind, you were always on my mind
Here’s a little song I wrote, you might want to sing it note for note
And I would do anything for love, I’d run right into hell and back
I tried so hard, and got so far, in the end, it doesn’t even matter
You’re my doll, rock’n’roll, feel the glamour in pink, kiss me there, touch me there, hanky panky
Are you ready, are you ready for this, are you hanging on the edge of your seat?
I was scared of pretty girls, and starting conversations
In one single moment your whole life can turn around, stand there for a minute staring straight into the ground
I wanna love ya, and treat you right
Instinctively you give to me, the love that I need, I cherish the moments with you
The second 10 questions are general music trivia
How old was Michael Jackson his song ABC was released as part of the Jackson 5?
How many times is the name “Jolene” sung in the song Jolene by Dolly Parton
What are the first 17 words to the song Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen?
What is the first instrument you hear in Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash?
What was the first major sea shanty to become popular on TikTok? Bonus points if you know the original origin of the song.
What year did daft punk disband/retire?
Who is the lead singer in the band Gorillaz?
What comedy band features in the song “Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie?
Where does the artist “Tones” come from, who sang the recent-ish hit song “Dance Monkey”?
Who sang the latest James Bond theme song? What song? And what film?
The crossing has continued to progress, we have sailed around 1,515 nautical miles at this point, and estimate we have another 1,000 to go at least.
We continue heading north east close hauled with full canvas during the day and some reefs in the main and Genoa at night on starboard tack.
Currently we have 15 knots of wind, equating to 19 knots apparent wind, and doing 6.5 knots in moderate swell with chop. Saga, who are around 80 miles ahead of us, have flatter seas and less winds now. We are looking forward to reaching this lower wind portion of the journey.
We are not alone out here and have had a few chats with other boats over VHF, including a French sailing boat called “Mustang”.
Last night in the darkness the AIS alarm went off as a 1,000 ft container ship approached us from behind. After a quick check on VHF at 3am they adjusted course to pass behind us with around 1nm clearance.
If your curious what we get to see on a night watch, here you go.
No dolphin sightings since the early days of the crossing, but the number of Portuguese man o’ wars floating around is increasing dramatically (at least we think that’s what they are).
Sorry for the low quality slightly blurry picture, it’s hard to get a good one of them!
We have been experimenting with our comfort aboard, and setup a hammock in the cockpit that we use sometimes. It’s not free swinging, as you’d swing all over the place, but is a lovely place to sit on the starboard side to not need to have to wedge yourself into the seat.
For the 3 days we have been heaving to for half an hour each day over lunch to bring a bit more stability to our lives.
This provides a lovely opportunity for a quick little shower / rise, using the loo while not being thrown around, eating some lunch and doing the dishes.
When heaving to for 30 minutes, we travel at roughly 1 knot backward, which is around 0.5 miles, but you also loose the 2.5-3 miles that you would have travelled forward. So this 30 minutes break looses us only 3 miles a day.
Over the coming 5 days we will likely be tacking east while still making some progress north. All of the forecast now seem to agree on this. Though the approach is still yet to be decided upon with a small low pressure forecast to be somewhere, and the position of the Azores high still also up in the air.