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Author: Adam

Velas, Azores: Hiking, Friends & Food

Velas, Azores: Hiking, Friends & Food

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.

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).

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.

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.

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!

Velas, Azores: Hiding from a low

Velas, Azores: Hiding from a low

Our journey from Flores to Velas was primarily a motor sail, with about 6 hours of “wind” that helped us along the way. Other than that the sails were primarily hoisted to stop us from rocking around.

Though boring in terms of sailing, the wildlife was rather epic on the journey, we had multiple large pods of dolphins, many Cory’s Shearwater birds, Portuguese Man O’ War and some whales in the distance.

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 🙂

Atlantic crossing, BVIs to Azores

Atlantic crossing, BVIs to Azores

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
Blue Note

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)

Atlantic Day 22: Arrival in Flores

Atlantic Day 22: Arrival in Flores

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).

Pre-crossing boat jobs, again

Pre-crossing boat jobs, again

We wrote up a bunch of boat jobs pre-crossing to the Caribbean from Cape Verde back in December. Similarly, we have collected a mixture of jobs for our last weeks waiting to cross back.

You can already read about our new Iridium and the new flow switch for the UV light in our freshwater system, but here is a summary of the other goings on…

Fix the Danbouy light

A Danbuoy is a floating marker that is deployed from a boat to indicate a person’s location in the water in a MOB (Man Over Board) situation. It typically consists of a long telescopic pole with a buoyant float in the middle, a flag or other high-visibility marker attached to the top of the pole, and a weight at the bottom to keep it upright. In an emergency, such as a man overboard situation, the Danbuoy can be quickly thrown into the water to mark the spot where the person went overboard, it’s designed to float in the wind and current at the same rate a person would in the water. Even in big waves and at night, it should be very visible as the light sits about 2.5m above sea level, allowing the boat to circle back and retrieve them without losing the person’s position.

We have an extendable Danbouy onboard Hannah near our port solar panel. It has a bright LED light made by ACR attached to the top of it, but recently the plastic tube connecting the light to the Danbouy broke when accidentally leaned on.

This would have been fixable, and we were in the process of fixing it to find that the AA batteries inside had also recently exploded, and when trying to clean the mess from the internals, the spring for the battery connection also seemed to have corroded and disintegrated, so it would no longer be possible to power.

We needed to source a new light! Lucky for us one of the chandleries that we had recently been to had the exact same light, so we headed to buy it, but unfortunately it had already been sold since we saw it.

So, instead, we bought a different LED light that is generally used for life buoys, and worked out a secure way to attach it and also have it automatically set off if the danbuoy is deployed.

We started by super gluing a bolt to the bottom of the light, which we then also secured with some twisted wire to the bottom of the light. This was then entirely covered in epoxy putty. The bolt could then be attached to the top of the Danbouy, also using lock-tight to keep everything secure, and the entire contraption was then wrapped in tape. The new light already had a cord to pull to turn the light on, so we attached this to the previous string attached to the boat, so when extending the Danbouy, the light should come on.

Oiling the cockpit floor

Back in Saint Martin, we bought some Teak Oil.

Applying teak oil to teak floors on a boat is a popular practice to help maintain their appearance and protect them from the elements. Teak oil penetrates deep into the wood, providing a protective layer that helps to prevent moisture from penetrating the surface and causing damage. It also restores the natural beauty of the wood, enhancing the grain and bringing out its rich color. Additionally, teak oil helps to protect the wood from UV rays and other environmental factors that can cause it to deteriorate, making it a smart choice for anyone looking to keep their teak floors in top condition.

We used the oil on various parts of the internals of Hannah, but you really can see the biggest difference with this halfway progress shot of the cockpit floor.

Reattaching gas locker

Hannah has 2 gas lockers on the aft deck, each of which holds a single gas bottle.

From lots of sailing and the boat moving around some of the screws into the fiberglass that they are attached to had become loose and the threads didn’t really hold anymore.

So to get a handle on the situation, first, off came the locker.

This is the first time in more than 2 years the lockers came off, so everything was in need of a clean underneath.

You can also clearly see the attachments to both the back of the cabin, as well as into the deck.

Kathryn re-threaded the holes to a larger size, used some new stainless bolts, and then fitted everything back together.

Mast step string

Half way through our East to West Atlantic crossing we put a small tear in our Ghoster sail (now fixed) when it got backwinded and became stuck on one of the upper mast steps on the main mast.

We have had a plan to stop this from happening again since December, but are only just putting it into action.

So, time to go up the mast!

The plan is to tie strings from the steps to the nearest stay so that nothing (including halyards) can get caught on them. And the challenge is to do this in an aesthetically pleasing way.

We went for a zig zag pattern to minimize the number of individual bits of string we would need.

Not long till the crossing now.

At the time of writing this its 6th of May 2023, and we plan on setting off on the 8th May.

An Iridium Go for West to East

An Iridium Go for West to East

On our crossing from East to West, we had a Garmin InReach for both tracking, weather routing (use Fast Seas), and satellite communication with the outside world.

For the crossing East to West this was a great solution for us. Nice and cheap (comparatively), and provided us with enough information for what should always be a rather uneventful crossing due to the trade winds present in the area.

For the crossing West to East, you are much more likely to be affected by low-pressure systems flicking off Norther America, progressing across the Atlantic past Bermuda toward the Azores, before then heading a bit further north over the UK and Europe.

We purchased the Iridium secondhand from Vela who recently sold their boat in the BVIs before flying home, and it now lives “permanently” on the back wall of our Navigation table.

The setup came with an external antenna which is also “permanently” mounted outside near our port solar panel, with the cable routed into the boat using the same route as the solar panel.

The key difference between the Garmin Inreach and Iridium Go for us is the amount of “data” that you can receive and transmit and also the format.

The Garmin Inreach only allows you to send and receive short SMS-like messages (though you can email from the InReach, they are still SMS lengthed).

This means weather retrieval and weather routing can be a bit more of a pain, sending text instructions and receiving multiple test messages back telling you where you should maybe go and what the weather may be if you are there at the right time. It’s very hard to get a big picture from this though.

With Iridium it allows us to download Grib files for detailed weather information across a whole area, but also we can choose to pay for and use Predict Wind, which we will be doing for this crossing.

In comparison to the messages above from Fast Seas, the Predict Wind app can work directly with the Iridium Go, providing all of the routings and weather information in an easy to read display on your phone.

It’s all certainly more $$$, but should make the crossing a little easier to plan and we go.

Let’s see what we think about it all when we reach the other side!

Freshwater UV light Flow Switch

Freshwater UV light Flow Switch

We have had a UV light fitted to Hannah now for 2 years. You can read more about our water filtering setup in a previous post.

UV light kills harmful microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites that may be present in the water, making it safe to drink and reducing the risk of waterborne illnesses. Unlike chemical treatment methods such as chlorine, UV water treatment does not leave any residual taste or odor in the water, and it is environmentally friendly. A UV water treatment system is generally low-maintenance and easy to install.

You can see our UV light below on the back wall.

The UV light of this setup draws roughly 1.2 amps, and out of the box, it is on all of the time. So to save power for the last 2 years we have actually been flicking the “water pump” switch on and off whenever not using the water taps for longer periods of time.

This is a lot of effort for some taps on the boat, as the switch is centrally in the main switchboard, so if you are brushing your teeth in the heads, you need to venture into the corner of the saloon, flick the switch and go back to the heads if you want fresh water.

Since leaving the UK we have had all of the components to fix this problem for us thanks to Matt, a colleague of Kathryn, but we didn’t bring it all together until April 2023…

The solution is made up of a flow switch which will be put after our water pump and accumulation tank that will detect the flow of water through pipes. This will be used to turn the UV light on and off whenever water is flowing. In order to make sure the water does get to see the UV light, and also to avoid the light flicking on and off too often we also then have this switch going through a 555 timer chip circuit to delay the turn off once water flow has stopped.

We were following the following circuit diagram also provided by Matt.

We have multiple soldering irons onboard, but not of the highest quality (on a boat you normally need them for simple jobs), so soldering a circuit board together on a slightly moving boat was a bit more of a challenge than normal. (So let’s ignore the small mess in the top right of the backside of the board 😜)

This circuit board has 5 cables leaving it that need to be connected: +/- 12v power for the board, 2x cables connecting to the flow switch, 1x + for the UV light itself.

This circuit board was then enclosed in a little waterproof case with external LED and mounted near most of our other electrical water components (such as the 12v regulator and UV ballast)

Finding the correct adapters to get the flow switch from a 3/8ths of an inch pipe thread all the way up to 19mm hose proved to be a bit of a problem, but once we had visited all the nearby chandleries we finally had a setup that should work.

We cut the pipe after the accumulator, added the flow switch, fitted everything back together, wired it in, and it all looked fairly nice. The water filter area also has these 2 nice metal bars which are perfectly placed to protect the flow switch from our pots and pans!

Now we can leave the water pump and UV light on all-day knowing that the 1.2 amps will only be drawn when water is actually flowing. The UV light then stays on for a few seconds before switching off.

The switch is nice and sensitive, so even if you just trickle water out of the tap the UV light will be switched on!

Perfect, and thanks Matt!

The little harbour convoy

The little harbour convoy

After our little beach party, we all wanted to move anchorage to find somewhere slightly flatter and to explore the BVIs some more. Some of our boat friends such as Danae and Vela had already spent quite some time in the BVIs and had recommended a spot called Little Harbour, come to think of it SV Zoe whom we met back in Portugal also recommended this anchorage to us, as we have a waypoint set form them.

So our little convoy set off to Little Harbour.

Despite our best efforts, Blue Note, Extress and Escapade all beat us to anchor, but no worries, there was plenty of space to anchor and tie to shore (though that wouldn’t be the case in the coming days).

Escapade put their drone up and got what might be one of our favorite shots from the whole trip so far…

The water in the BVIs is super clear, as you can see in the drone shot above. The one downside of Little Harbour is there is not much beach, and what beach there is is rather stoney.

To get around this while enjoying the cooling sea we created a floating SUP bar for 8!

Little did we know, this was the start of a magical 4 days anchored in Little Harbour, including joint meals switching between the 4 boats, and 3 day trips out all on 1 boat per day.

Outing number one took us to The Indians aboard Extress where we picked up a buoy and snorkeled around some lovely rocks. There wasn’t much wind so motored there and back again, so taking one boat really made sense!

The snorkeling here included a bit of a drop-off filled with sea life, and a cave that we could swim through.

The second outing took us to Salt Island to snorkel around a wreck. The weather for this sail wasn’t so nice, and we ended up sheltering down below aboard Escapade to hide from the rain for most of the journey to the moorings.

Once getting in the water at Salt Island we found a fairly strong current dragging us past the wreck (just about okay to swim against), but snorkeling on the wreck was quite a bit of effort and it was fairly deep.

The wreck is of the RMS Rhone, which was a Royal Mail Ship that sank in a hurricane in 1867. The size of the propeller on this wreck was rather insane.

Thirdly we headed to Road Town aboard Blue Note to visit the chandlery, throw out some trash, do some shopping, and fill up a bunch of water jerry cans. To make this easier, as we would be shopping, we actually took 3 dinghies with us!

We even managed to sail on the way back to the anchorage!

That night the dinner was Paella aboard Hannah Penn for 8, one of the largest paellas we have had to make ever, let alone on board Hannah with smaller hobs and pans. It was delicious, but we were also apparently enjoying ourselves too much to have any foody pictures.

Fun was had, and as the night continued many hats came out…

Escapade were the first boat to leave Little Harbour, setting sail once again to Saint Martin where they would be restocking, picking someone up from the airport, and also leaving for the crossing from.

Extress and Blue Note also headed off to other anchorages one by one over the coming days.

For us aboard Hannah, it’s boat job time…

  • Rig check
  • Fitting the water flow switch for the UV light
  • Adding string to mast steps
  • etc…

Some of this will be covered in future posts, and we can wrap this post up with the great turtle we saw with a shark sucker on its back in the bay.

We also went snorkeling and saw some Yellowhead Jawfish under the boat. These little fish swim backward into their holes in the sand when you approach, but also have these funny little faces.

Night sail to the BVIs

Night sail to the BVIs

We restocked in Saint Martin before heading off, also doing laundry on land, collecting some full gas bottles and filling up jerry cans with water a couple of times. We were having so much “fun” doing these chores that we almost missed the bridge opening on the French side to let us leave the lagoon.

Just a few minutes before the bridge opened we made it into the queue, though it felt list a lot of rushing around on land, and we didn’t manage to tumble dry any of our laundry like we wanted to.

Not the most exciting of pictures, but with all of the rushing around we didn’t take many.

We headed out through the bridge at 5pm and anchored just outside so that we could start getting the boat ready including stowing the shopping, and eat some dinner before starting to sail.

The plan was to mostly run (straight downwind) all the way to the BVIs.

Ideally, we would do this with 2 headsails up, our genoa and larger ghoster, so before the sun set we also prepared the poles to keep these sails more stable and stop them from flapping around on the crossing.

There are no pictures of this amazing setup that night, however, there are some from the following morning but with the ghoster already lowered, and also some great shadow puppets on the sails from the middle of the night.

The sail itself was a breeze, setting off at around 7pm once away from the weird wind that was happening near the shore of Saint Martin we put both head sales up and wouldn’t need to adjust until after sunrise the following day.

Overnight we once again tried our 6 hour watch cycle which also worked a charm and we both managed to get plenty of sleep.

We headed straight to Spanish Town where would do all of the normal formalities checking into the country. and spent the night in the Spanish Town anchorage.

Just south of Spanish town there is a tourist attraction called “The Baths” which we were keen to explore.

The Baths are a popular tourist attraction and are known for their unique geological formations, including giant granite boulders that form natural tidal pools, tunnels, and grottoes. The area is also home to white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, making it a popular destination for swimming, snorkeling, and exploring.

We moved Hannah slightly down the island, anchoring around what felts like hundreds (but actually just 10s) of catamarans and swam over to the beach from which you could enter the baths.

It was great fun exploring the boulders, walkways, sandy beaches and little pools.

Off we went again, to a gathering on a beach we had organized with some other boat freinds.

In total 5 boats and 10 people were in attendance on a beach on Peter Island (Hannah Penn, Danae, Blue Note, Extress, Escapade)

Once again, there was lots of catching up to do as some of us had not seen each other in some weeks, or even months.

We did a potluck, which is where each guest brings a dish of food to share with everyone. In a potluck, the dishes are usually not coordinated or pre-planned, so guests may bring anything from appetizers to desserts. The idea is to create a shared meal where everyone contributes something, and there is usually a lot of variety and abundance of food.

There was bread, dips, pate, cheese, a cheesy spinach bake, potatoes, tuna salad, pasta and more.

And of course, there was a fire!

Much more to come from the BVIs, and we are happy to report that the night of the fire was 20th April, and at the time of writing this it is the 2nd of May, so we are nearly caught up. We might even be setting off back across the Atlantic in as little as 3 days, but only the weather can determine that!

An engine service

An engine service

Our last engine service was just before crossing the Atlantic east to west in Cape Verde. Part of any long crossing is making sure everything on board is in tip-top condition so you don’t get any surprises in the middle of an ocean, so, for us, it was time for another engine service.

For us, this meant doing the following on our Volvo Penta D2-40:

  • Changing the raw water impeller & filter
  • Changing the fuel pre-filter & filter
  • Changing the oil & oil filter
  • Changing the coolant (but we will leave that for another day)

The engine in Hannah is beneath the cockpit floor, which in some cases is quite convenient, but reaching some engine areas it can be a bit of a challenge, but most boats will have this for some part of their engine…

Although we picked up a new fuel pre-filter in Gibraltar, we didn’t fit in on our last service, so time to change the fuel pre-filter for the first time!

The fuel pre-filter is made up of multiple parts:

  • A metal mounting plate, which includes the connections for fuel in and out
  • A cartridge that contains the filter medium itself
  • A collection housing for various bits and water that are filtered out of the fuel
  • A metal base and bolt that holds all of these components together and also includes a small screw release valve to drain water from the bottom

First, we unscrewed the drain plug to drain the excess fuel from the filter into a little container.

Then we unscrewed the top bolt that held all of the components together, and they all came apart in a little tower.

The fuel that we drained from the collection housing was already quite full of bits. And the filter itself was also clogged up with all kinds of gross stuff.

The raw water intake can get all kinds of stuff coming in from the sea. On Hannah the through whole is not covered by any sort of mesh or filter, instead, the filter lives inside the engine bay. But this makes it very easy to regularly clean.

The filter had all kinds of bits of seaweed and plant life in it, probably not enough to impair water flow. The impeller also looked like it could do with a bit of a rest/replacement.

The oil change also went smoothly after heating the engine up and making use of our 12v oil pump.

Both the main fuel filter and oil filter were replaced, the air was removed from the fuel system using the small manual priming pump on the side of the engine, we started her up, and everything sounded great!

We will get back to sailing in the next post 😉