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.
Up until day 9, the weather has generally been quite pleasant.
And in fact in very recent days we haven’t had much wind at all, and the seas have been lovely and flat, we have been getting in the sea and also doing lots of cooking.
We managed to catch another fish, our first Mahi Mahi.
Somehow we have never caught the same fish twice on this entire adventure.
We roasted it with some veggies along side some fajita filling that we had made earlier.
However this morning the clouds started to appear and the rain started to fall, with the wind speed picking up again.
Before 9am we had our first 2 squalls of the passage, with further increased wind speeds.
At the time of writing this, we are actually in 20+knts of wind with a reef in the main (first time since setting off), and with the cockpit covers closed keeping the rain out, averaging 7.1knts SOG (speed over ground).
Also as writing this, we are crossing the 1,000 mile mark.
A bunch of us that are crossing at the same time are in communication daily, reporting our positions to each other and generally chatting about what’s been going on on each boat .
This now includes plotting all of our routes on a single map.
You can see clearly the 2 different groups that set off a few day apart. We are in group 1 which has headed further east initially, and the second group initially headed further north.
As we start to approach the final 10 days we start to have a better idea of what the weather will look like as we approach the Azores.
The weather routing by predict wind above shows us sailing beneath the Azores high in an area of lower winds for the coming days, before taking up to the Azores. And it look like this might be the route most of us follow.
With any luck (and according to the forecast) this rain should subside as the evening draws closer, and the winds should also stabilize. Otherwise sleeping tonight might be a bit of a challenge.
Until next time!
Atlantic Day 8: It only took 8 days to catch a fish
We have started turning to the east, and in general are making great progress to the Azores. So far we are very happy with the window that we set off in, as we have had rather flat seas the whole way, and mostly enough wind, though we have been motor sailing through some lighter wind spots.
During some of those lighter wind spots, we jump in the sea, have a cool down and a little wash, before rinsing with fresh water onboard Hannah with the solar shower.
We (one by one) hang off the back of the ladder at the back of the boat while sailing, with an extra line also out the back in the water. We wouldn’t be doing this if we were in lighter winds and flatter seas. This time, we also jumped off the bow to try and get a picture of Hannah sailing past before grabbing the line, but you can’t get very far away
During our peaceful sailing times, we keep getting more and more birdy visits. The larger of these birds kept swooping down right next to the cockpit on the look out for scraps of food.
Also recently up for dinner was pizza. Little did we know before setting off, we accidentally bought cashew milk mozzarella. It’s okay, but looking forward to opening the real pack of mozzarella we have soon.
We were not very successful in fishing coming east to west due to all of the seaweed. The rods have been out the back of Hannah during the day time since day 3 of this crossing. We had one bite, that came off while being reeled in. Another bit that took the whole lure and leader. But finally today, we reeled in a little tasty Amber Jack for our dinner. We cooked it with some tomato, onions, courgette, lemon juice, dill and butter.
Another evening draws to a close aboard Hannah, as the magic autopilot continues to steer us on.
Tomorrow might be quite a low wind day, and we may end up motoring quite a bit, after which the winds should come back and allows us to continue sailing on toward the Azores.
Still no sign of the other boats we are near, but hopefully we will catch up with them in the coming days.
It’s Friday, and we are 2 hours away from being into our 5th day of sailing.
We are currently plodding along northward (course over ground of 15 degrees) at a speed of 3.5 knots. The sea has calmed and we have 4 knots of true wind, so all things considered we are going quite fast.
When looking at the weather some days ago, Friday may have been the right day to break north, and the last 2 weather forecasts also confirmed this, hence the new direction.
Yesterday (Thursday), we didn’t have so much wind and had to motor sail for some hours to keep some momentum up. This included heading a little south hunting for wind, before ultimately deciding to go north this morning.
We left the BVIs with 2 bunches of nice green bananas hoping that they would last some time. Unfortunately, they are already all getting mushy, not helped by the fact that we stood on 2 of them.
Eating 2 bunches of bananas at any speed when they are already mushy is probably a bit much.
So, on with the baking! And delicious banana bread and some breakfast cookies.
While sailing we have now spotted at least 3 buoys adrift, one of which we managed to pick up and which includes the lettering “EH6425” on it.
We jumped in the sea yesterday in the lighter winds (one at a time), and will be doing so again today.
Unlike our crossing from east to west, we have seen and heard quite a few other boats in the first days.
Right now we actually have a boat called “Caringa” (mmsi 211167510) 4 miles in front of us.
You probably can’t see them in the picture, but doesn’t the sea look awesome?!
We will probably be heading this way for some time now, before gradually curving east to stay below the Atlantic low-pressure systems.
Saga and Escapade are still somewhere northeast of us, and the others we know in the BVIs have not yet left.
We are over 24 hours into a crossing back to Europe, and yesterday (Tuesday) we were visited by the first pod of dolphins we have seen in quite some time!!
They stayed with us for some time and we managed to snap this picture of them playing around the bow
So far it’s been quite the bumpy ride, as we have spent the past 42 hours beating into wind close hauled, and it’s unlikely that will stop in the next day or so, though the winds might vary a little.
The boat is getting sprayed quite a bit as we pound our way through the waves.
We managed to achieve an average of 6 knots so far, but this will probably be unrealistic to maintain for the entire crossing.
The big decision for us will be when to cross the high pressure zone, or just when to head further north. We might decide something for this come Friday.
Generally you might cross to the north of this high pressure, however in recent weeks it’s been all over the place, as well as there being little wind in the western Atlantic, north of the BVIs, so we are taking a slightly less conventional route.
Thanks to Ollie for posting this. We were just about to send it to Ollie to post, and another giant pod of dolphins just appeared, so here is another picture from the bow (Wednesday).
Hopefully these past 2 days are a song of things to come in terms of dolphin sightings. Very excited to have them back, as there were not many around the Carribbean.
It’s already been over 2 weeks since we made it to the Caribbean. Our Atlantic crossing took us roughly 20 days from Mindelo, Cape Verde to Barbados. We set off at a similar time to another 8 or so boats that we were in contact with and we experienced a variety of different weather and sailing conditions along the way.
The direct route would have been around 2030 nautical miles, and our route was 2147 nautical miles averaging only 4.5 knots. So an extra 117 miles, which isn’t bad, and would only take roughly 1 day to sail.
For the first day or so while leaving the shelter of the island we had relatively calm seas, light-ish winds and we could see the odd spot of rain. The light winds lead to the occasional spot of motoring, but this was a wonderful light and easy start to the crossing.
We started on a broad reach to get away from the island before setting up our twin headsails on day 2 with the plan of following the wind all the way to Barbados.
Come day 3, sailing was easy, we were not needing to touch the sails and the sunsets were beautiful.
One thing we did notice early on was that twin head sails and following the wind was leading to us staying quite north, which we suspected was going to end up being a bad idea as the forecast said there would be more wind in the South, and many of the other boats that left at the same time as us headed further south right away. But we really wanted to sail with the twin headsails.
We knew the other boats were further south as we were all messaging each other via our various satellite messengers, and we then plotted their points daily as we went.
As you can see, right at the start as the wind curved around the island we (the black line) got pushed very far north, vs Extress who left moments before us (the green line) stayed much further south on their broad reach.
Day 2 onwards
The whole of the first week was very in line with the first few days. Lighter winds, occasional motoring in no-wind spots, and lots of time to relax and have some fun on and in the flat seas.
We ended up in the water most days during these flatter times and did lots of more interesting cooking, as well as other boaty jobs and shenanigans aboard.
The dips in the sea included dragging behind the boat on a rope or holding onto the steps while we were sailing. Very cool as with a snorkeling mask on you could see fishes swimming in the shadow of the boat near the rudder.
Day 13 onwards
Nearing the third week the swell had started building a little, and the wind was becoming a more consistent higher average (approx 15kts), and sometimes gusty (up to around 30 knots). But still no squalls at this point.
We were still trying to push our twin headsail setup to take us further south, and unfortunately, we think this is what caused us to tear our Ghoster sail. It backwinded, and caught its edge on one of the mast steps on the opposite side, before filling with wind again and tearing a seam.
We didn’t want to try to take both headsails down from the furler in the high seas so decided to leave them furled and switch to a different sail setup (mainsail and a gib) for the rest of the crossing. We ended up with the main always having 1 or 2 reefs in it.
The sail change and continued building of swell and wind lead to some slightly less comfortable sailing compared to the first weeks.
Needless to say, meals started getting simpler, we spent less time in the water, and generally, we were starting to look forward to reaching the other side.
At least now being on a broad reach again, we could more easily change our course to either chase the wind, or head directly to our destination.
The squalls begin
We didn’t get a single squall until we were 3 days out from Barbados, and fortunately, our first squall came during daytime, we saw it coming from miles away and were thus very prepared. This also happened to be the biggest squall of our crossing.
We reduced our sails to a double-reefed main and no jib and steered away from the center of the squall as much as possible. We saw a prolonged period of 40 knots of wind and some rain for around 20 minutes before we could get back on course and put a little more sail out. It was an interesting experience and we stayed very alert for the duration but Hannah Penn handled it perfectly.
This first squall also allowed us to experiment with spotting squalls on a radar. We got all the dials set up so that we could see the squall on screen, and track its progress and thought this might be useful at night, but we didn’t end up using the radar much as we decided to just mostly sail with a fully reefed main overnight and the autopilot in wind vane mode and a high wind alarm set up. We figured that we should be able to weather most of the squalls in this way, and had the high wind alarm setup in case we got a bigger one and needed to re-evaluate.
Also at night, the squalls were easy to see without even looking out of the windows. We track our speed-over-ground and also course over the ground in an app called SailGrib WR which displays lovely charts. While on night watch it was always easy to see a squall coming as there would be a wind shift and increase in our speed long before the squall actually reached you.
Below you can see speed over ground increasing over the course of 7 minutes, but long before this, there was a big wind shift 20-30 minutes before, which is where the wind is sucked toward a distant squall, meaning we change our heading a little to stay at a constant wind angle for our sail set up.
It was very nice to see lights from land on our final night sail and also head in behind the shelter of Barbados to find flat seas. But not before some quite steep seas on the approach to Barbados as the ocean got shallower.
We wanted to arrive during daylight and found that we didn’t need to adjust the course or speed much to achieve this. We were approaching the island at 7am, around the corner and approaching the anchorage at 2pm, and checking into customs at 5pm, although we did have to go back at 9am the following day to finish our check-in as one of the key customs officers had gone home!
We spent some time walking on land, it was great, and had a delicious meal on shore, the rest of Barbados exploration is for future blog posts. Stay tuned!…