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9 days to England

9 days to England

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.

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 🙂

Flores, Azores: Everything is green!

Flores, Azores: Everything is green!

Our first destination after our west-to-east Atlantic crossing was Flores, Azores.

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 🙂

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).

Atlantic Day 2: Dolphins & Spray

Atlantic Day 2: Dolphins & Spray

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.

Day 71-72: Nazaré

Day 71-72: Nazaré

After a lovely time in Figueria, Andrew had rejoined the boat after his bout of COVID and it was time to head off to our next port down the coast, Nazaré.

We were a little apprehensive about coming into Nazaré knowing that this is the place which has recorded the biggest waves in the world, but fortunately, our day of sailing saw near 0 swell.

If you don’t know much about Nazaré you need to read about the North Canyon to see why the swell gets so large, or watch the waves on YouTube.

We apparently forgot to start the Navionics track when leaving Figueria, so half of the route is missing below.

Of course there were more dolphins along the way, this time doing something rather interesting… I checked in with a marina mammal expert, and yes they may be doing what you are thinking while enjoying the bow wave of Hannah.

Shortly after… Baby dolphins!

Due to the dropping wind in the evening, we had to motor the last couple of miles around the Nazaré headland and into the marina. Once again, we were entirely engulfed in fog.

We spent one of our free days before needing to get to Lisbon for Andrews flight here exploring on land.

That of course meant a trip to the headland to see the red lighthouse of Nazaré, the museum at the top as well as Praia do Norte from the headland. A shame there was no swell!

Sunset from the south beach
Day 39: Camarinas to Louro

Day 39: Camarinas to Louro

It was a slow start this morning, we tried to leave our anchorage early to make use of the morning sea breeze as there was very little wind forecast, a sea breeze is when the land and the sea are different temperatures, in the mornings the sea is warmer than the land so the cold air is drawn off the land and over the warm sea as that air rises.. well that’s the idea anyway.

The sea breeze sailing didn’t really go to plan so we very slowly sailed down the coast till we lost the wind completely, sadly having to motor for a little while.

Eventually, we got the wind back and were able to pole out the Genoa with the reaching strut to sail directly downwind

Poled-out Genoa using the reaching strut

We had had the fishing rods out for the whole day again not getting a nibble.. till we had the awkward poled-out sail and then we got a bite! Just our luck!

Adam grabbed the rod whilst I (Kathryn) furled the sail got the engine going and turned so we could bring the fish alongside, ready with the landing net and bucket we brought it closer, excited to see what we had caught!

It came into view but was not the sort of fish we were expecting, we debated letting it go for a moment but decided to give it go and bring it aboard. It turned out to be a 1.3lb Needlefish otherwise called a Garfish which has a greeny blue tint to its flesh.

Our first ‘big’ fish, a Needlefish

So with the fish excitement over we were approaching our chosen anchorage, just in time for the wind to pick up and we had a quick beam reach into the bay just as the sun was setting.

Sunset with the Porpoises

But the day wasn’t over yet when I heard a big breath of air right next to the boat, of course, it was dolphins escorting us in! They stayed with us for over 45mins! The pod was quite large with what looked like a number of generations, mum and baby and a very large older-looking one with a white speckled fin and tail. I actually think these were porpoises, not dolphins as they have a much stubbier nose.

Definitely the best end to a very long day of sailing.

As I’m finishing typing up this Adam is filleting the fish… I’m sure you’ll find out tomorrow how we cook it and how good it was when we eat it for lunch tomorrow 😛

Day 31-34: Biscay, from France to Spain

Day 31-34: Biscay, from France to Spain

Biscay was the biggest crossing in the first months of the trip. As the crow flies the bay is around 300 nautical miles wide. Our channel crossing from the Isles of Scilly to Brest was closer to 100 nautical miles.

As the crossing was going to take a few days, the main task in the days and weeks ahead of setting off was finding a weather window that both provided wind for sailing and a bit of comfort too (not too much swell).

The window we were aiming for primarily had a north or northwesterly wind around 10 to 20 knots with 1.2 to 1.7m swell, but also had a high pressure passing through the bay around the evening of day 33 which would give us a big lull before some easterly wind to finally bring us to A Coruna, Spain.

We used Fast Seas weather routing to come up with the initial route, and we used our Garmin InReach throughout the crossing to update this weather routing, and also to get weather updates. The route remained mostly the same throughout the crossing, although we ended up crossing in around 20 hours less than the initially predicted 3 days 12 hours. (Very satisfying).

Throughout the crossing, we literally saw hundreds of dolphins, too many to count, in 10s of different pods throughout the various days.

As we were far ahead of schedule when making landfall we got to our anchorage at around 3am and anchored in the dark.

Waking up around noon the next day, according to the plan we would still be sailing, but instead, we headed to the beach to relax.