Atlantic Crossing: Part One

This post is a collection of the “sail mail” emails (sent over our SSB radio) to close family while we were on our voyage.  Some emails are written by Darold and some by Jennifer.
AC 29/22/14
Current Time (UTC): 16:00
Current Position: 40 deg. 11.2 min N x 067 deg. 39.6 W
Avg SOG:5.1 Kts
Distanced Traveled: 123.5 NM

Nice breeze out of the SW (15 to 20 kts).  A bit bumpy due to a Low pressure system that moved ahead of last night resulting in confused seas today. We are in the washing machine … not a fun way to get your sea legs.  Other than that all is well.
Date: 9/23/14
Current Time (UTC): 16:26
Current Position: 42 deg. 24.1 min N x 064 deg. 30.1 W
Avg SOG: 5.9 Kts
Total Distanced Traveled: 264.1 NM
For most of yesterday the wind was 15 to 20 kts out of the NW.  In the evening it began clocking to the N and blew 25 kt gusting to 30 kt until this morning (9/24).  Continued to clock to the NE and ease this morning to 15 kt range.  Close reaching at 6+ kts.  Not bad sailing for going to weather.

Crew is well. Becoming more active beyond just managing the boat.  Had our best meal yet.  Jen had me video her cooking.  She thought it would be interesting to see what it is like to cook in a rolly kitchen in 15 to 20 kts with a beautiful ocean view. Dante is working on science projects.  I’m reading about Mediterranean weather.  In some ways sailing the Med will be similar to sailing the California waters, such as the diurnal land/sea breeze you can use to your advantage to sail near shore.
AC 19/24

Yay … starting to get our sea legs. We are all feeling a little bit better and are a wee bit more active. Jen is in the galley fixing up some soup – our first cooked meal. We have a nice 15 – 20 kts out of the NW. A little rolly but not too bad. Zipping along at 6.7 kts. If there was a road to Europe we could bike there faster. But what fun would that be. The Atlantic fall weather so far is warmer than summer sailing on the California coast!

The highlight today was avoiding a collision with a cargo ship. Our AIS alarm went off showing a closest point of arrival (CPA)of 0.2 NM in 30 minutes. Jen dutifully gets on the radio to the ship who agrees to alter course. But does so towards us. Now our CPA is less then 500 feet. So now I’m on the radio with the captain who says he is going to pass port to port. I radio back that since he will be so close would he mind taking some mail for us. I suggest he pass in front and alter his course to the south 20 degrees. Which he does. Collision adverted by 1.0 nm.

Nothing else to report. Oh yeah, one more thing…. there sure are alot of stars out here!

Date: 9/25/14
Current Time (UTC): 22:16
Current Position: 42-40N x 058-51W
Avg Trip Speed: 5.1 Kts
Average 24-hour speed: 2.9 kts
Total Distanced Traveled: 521.4 NM
Total Distance To Go (Azores): 1,391 NMIf you have any spare wind please send it our way.  A high pressure overtook us this morning and our winds dropped to < 5 kts.  We are just slightly to the north of it, so on the correct side, and the wind should pick up a bit as it moves east and slightly south of us. For most of the day we sailed at 2 to 3 kts, but the wind has picked up to 9 kts. over the last several hours.  We have the asymmetrical and the main up running wing & wing doing about 4.5 kts. May have light winds for another 24 hours, until another front moves in with a fresh breeze.  Wish us luck. Kind of nice having a little break from all the bouncing around, but we are ready now for a little more speed.

Current Time (UTC): 23:40
Current Position: 43-02.4N x 056-40.9W
Avg Trip Speed: 4.9 Kts
Average 24-hour speed: 4.5 kts
Total Distanced Traveled: 627.3 NM
Total Distance To Go (Azores): 1,296 NM
Not much to report.  Little wind, slow progress.  Breeze suppose to pick up tomorrow, but next week may be light winds.

Date: 9-27-14
Current Time (UTC): 21:44
Current Position: 43-00.9N x 055-02.9W
Avg Trip Speed: 4.7 Kts
Average 24-hour speed: 3.3 kts
Total Distanced Traveled: 699.1 NM
Total Distance To Go (Azores): 1,225 NM

Finally a little wind!  We have a nice 15 kt breeze. Just doused the asymmetrical and are running wing & wing with a full jib and main doing about 6.5 kts. It’s great to be moving again. We had zero wind last night.  We just floated along with the sails down.  We thought we might get a good night’s sleep.  However, there was still a residual swell out of the North that would aggressively roll us, causing everything below to clatter. Very noisy! No sleep.  But, if we put the main up to minimize the rolling, it was still very loud as the sail shuttered loudly as it snapped side-to-side with each passing wave (the only down side to a full batten sail).  So at 2 am I gave in and fired up the engine and we slowly motored along. It was with great reluctance that I hoisted the iron jib as we to save fuel as it looks like will have a fair bit of light wind for the second 1/2 of the trip.  But the batteries needed a charge anyway, so we motored until sunrise.  The Atlantic ocean at 2 am with hardly a breeze feels so vast.  It was completely quiet(except when the next set of waves came rolling in).  Not use to an ocean being so quiet, especially after sailing the Caribbean where it blows 20 kts 24×7.  As I put the boat in gear you could see a little bioluminescence from our wake. Very cool!

AC12Date: 9-28-14
Current Time (UTC): 21:39
Current Position: 42-34N x 051-57W
Avg Trip Speed: 497 Kts
Average 24-hour speed: 6.4 kts
Total Distanced Traveled: 846.6 NM
Total Distance To Go (Azores): 1,087 NM
We had plenty of speed last night.  Wind freshened after sunset.  15, then 20, then 25 gusting to 30.  We started on a run and by 4 am we were on a close haul.  For a few hours we bumped along at 8.5 kts. But by mid morning our wind gradually diminished to 5 where it has remained to present.  There is another high pressure passing just south of us. So once again we are bobbing along. Not protesting mind you, prefer this to a hurricane … so we won’t complain about the weather to loudly less risk the wrath of Aelos (the God of Wind, according to Dante. Sounds good to me, never studied Greek Mythology).  We keep hoping to see a green flash as the sun dips below the horizon. We thought we might get one tonight as the sun took on a green hue just before it dipped below the water.  But atlas this odd phenomena once again alluded us.  Reg and Phoebe, of Three Sheets, have already seen this 3 times in less then a year, so we know it exists (or they are having a good laugh at our expense).

Date: 9-29-14
Current Time (UTC): 21:05
Current Position: 42-23N x 049-53W
Avg Trip Speed: 4.80 kts
Average 24-hour speed: 4.2 kts
Total Distanced Traveled: 942.4 NM
Total Distance To Go (Azores): 995.0 NM

Only have 995 NM!
In the vast blue ocean that surrounds us, we have seen quite a bit of diversity over the last 24 hours.  It began early this morning – around 3:30 – as I (Jennifer) was coming on watch.  We had light winds and were lying ahull and the seas were calm so the boat was uncharacteristically quiet. Then I heard what I thought was a bird in distress.  A strange “eeeee” noise.  It woke Darold and Dante.  I went up above to investigate and I heard the familiar “poof” sound of cetaceans exhaling from their blowholes.  Dolphins!  I actually clapped my hands when I discovered that.  But what kind, we could not tell yet.  But they were noisier than any we’d heard before, most especially down below.  We’ve seen pods of hundreds of dolphins in the Pacific (common usually, sometimes smaller pods of bottlenose), but none of them were as loud as this pod.  I got an audio recording of the sound as they kept on yammering for the next several hours, and as the sun came up, they were still all around us (maybe 50 of them) and I got a video.  We have identified later them as Risso’s Dolphins from a book we have on board.  They finally swam away at about 6:30.  Later in the day, the wind picked up enough that we could deploy the asymmetrical wing and wing with the main.  We were porpoising lightly through the water at 4-5 knots, when we were visited by a smaller group of common dolphins, who did acrobatics off the bow of the boat for us and received ample applause from its audience. The show from the common dolphins was much shorter. Since they are the fastest cetaceans (they can reach up to 25 MPH), they must have felt our 4.5 knots was simply too slow. Nevertheless, we took these sightings as a good omen at the halfway mark of our journey.  Today was a calm day.  We had to motor for a few hours when the wind became very light, but the rest of the day we were “wing and wing” and did a consistent 4 to 5 knots.  We did a lot of reading. Dante proclaimed to be bored only twice – the first time we’ve heard that word in 1,000 miles.  So, once we had him calculate the exact time (to the second) of when we would reach the halfway point based on knowing our speed and distance to go, we gave him a small “halfway there gift” which consisted of some candy (which is exactly what a bored 11 year old boy stuck on a boat needs, right?)  If the wind and seas stayed like this the rest of the way to the Azores, I’d be just fine with that.  A few more dolphins would be nice too.

AC11Date: 9-30-14

Current Time (UTC): 21:29

Current Position: 42-25N x 048-01W

Avg Trip Speed: 4.26 kts

Average 24-hour speed: 4.0 kts

Total Distanced Traveled: 1,039 NM

Total Distance To Go (Azores): 914.1 NM

Today we broke our record of most non-stop miles traveled which was 1,000 NM from Mexico to Panama. We have two more records to break this trip. Most number of days sailing non-stop, and most number of days on the water. While are the number of days sailing not equal to number of days on the water? Good question. It took us ten days to sail to Panama. And it to us 12 days to sail from Jamaica to Puerto Rico. However, those where not non-stop days. We had to anchor near Cabo Beata, Dominican Republic, due to gale force winds preventing us from rounding the point. So we were anchored for four of those 12 days. Technically we went longer without touching land, but the total number of non-stop sailing days were less. Either way, no problem breaking those two records on this leg of the trip. Finally go some wind today, unfortunately out of the SE, the exact direct we need to go. Should clock to the south between tonight and tomorrow (I hope)and then we can sail a proper heading. Highlight today was passing within 2 NM of another sailboat heading to the Azores. We chatted over VHF radio for a while, comparing weather notes and plans for the Azores. What are the odds of passing so close to another sailboat over 1,000 offshore?! All else is well.

Date: 10-1-14

Current Time (UTC): 23:33

Current Position: 42-15N x 044-45W

Avg Trip Speed: 4.80 kts

Average 24-hour speed: 5.4 kts

Total Distanced Traveled: 1,189 NM

Total Distance To Go (Azores): 769.7 NM

You know you’re close when… you hear Portuguese fisherman on the VHF radio! That was the highlight today. Could just barely hear them and only briefly. Just about everyday we have picked up fishing vessels on our AIS. I knew they went far offshore, but I didn’t realize they went so far. I guess I should have realized this given the past “Cod Wars” between the Canadian and Portuguese, when the Portuguese continued to fish in Canadian waters. They were well beyond Portugal! The other highlight today was breaking our record of most days of continuous sailing – ten days! We had plenty of wind last night. Reaching 30 kts sustained for a while. We flew along on a close haul at 8 kts. (had a little current helping us along). We had to slow the boat down as we were plowing into the waves with such force the entire boat would shuttering. But you don’t want to slow down too much either as you need enough punch to make it through the waves without losing too much speed. As is always the case with sailing … it’s a matter of finding the right balance. Around 2 am we finally got the right sail plan to achieve the desired goal. 2 am, when it is blowing hard, seems to consistently be the time of day that all urgent matters are dealt with. Not sure why that is.  All else is well. We hope to make it to the Azores by Tuesday or Wed. next week. Sooner with a little more wind.
Date: 10-2-14

Current Time (UTC): 21:33

Current Position: 41-41N x 042-27W

Avg Trip Speed: 4.8 kts

Average 24-hour speed: 5.0 kts

Total Distanced Traveled: 1,300 NM

Total Distance To Go (Azores): 661.5 NM

Today we didn’t see a single boat, even on AIS. Normally we see at least one, usually several, cargo ships or fishing vessels on AIS even if we don’t see them visually. Today – nada. We have had decent winds – anywhere from 10-20 knots from the South – so that in the past 24 hours we’ve only had to motor for a few hours early in the morning.   We are only slightly stir crazy. I (Jennifer) am now on my third book (Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough was book 1, Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose was book 2 and now I am working on No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin.) Darold is halfway through Almost a Miracle: the American Victory in the War of Independence by John Ferling. Dante is reading King George, What Was His Problem? The Story of the American Revolution by Steve Sheinkin and at the same time he’s reading From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg.   Darold has become the mayor of his own town in Sim City. Dante has also become a mayor. They have both become quite accomplished at Asteroids. Dante has also been playing “bikerace” for a little exercise. Dante has also been doing schoolwork, and at least now has an excuse for his penmanship due to the movement of the boat.  Otherwise, nothing new from the high seas and we sincerely hope it stays that way.
Date: 10-3-14

Current Time (UTC): 21:07

Current Position: 41-32x 039-49W

Avg Trip Speed: 4.9 kts

Average 24-hour speed: 5.4 kts

Total Distanced Traveled: 1,423 NM

Total Distance To Go (Azores): 411.7 NM

Send us pizza. We still have good winds, though we all wish that they would shift so that we could make our proper course, which is southeast. We have a SSW wind tgat is slightly pushing us off course. May clock a bit to the S in the next 24 hours which should be enough for a proper heading.  The most exciting thing that happened today was that we got within about a mile of a cargo ship. It looked huge to us because we hadn’t seen any ships that close for so long.  We are getting a little more stir crazy each day and are looking forward to making landfall and having some stillness and quiet for a while (not to mention uninterrupted sleep.) The boat is handling well and taking good care of us. Our provisions are holding out well – we still have veggies for salad and citrus to ward off scurvy. Nothing else to report…
Date: 10-4-14

Current Time (UTC): 21:00

Current Position: 40-51N x 037-21W

Avg Trip Speed: 4.9 kts

Average 24-hour speed: 5.0 kts

Total Distanced Traveled: 1,542 NM

Total Distance To Go (Azores): 294.4 NM

Today’s update- No mutiny yet! We continue to make good progress. The wind has been blowing anywhere from 18-25+ knots, and has clocked to the South as we hoped. So we have been on a proper heading all day! The seas at 5 – 7′ make it feel like we are riding a galloping horse and we’ve been doing it for the past 24+ hours. You have to walk at a 10-15 degree slant down below. And you have to hold on due to the constant bucking of the boat. We have maintained our sanity by doing a lot reading, playing video games, watching movies and catching beautiful sunrises and sunsets. We would love a moment of stillness; not complaining since we are making progress toward our goal. We have been heaving-to for meals which is a nice break. (Heaving-to for you non-sailors is a way of basically parking your boat – just drifting along. It is actually quite comfortable). We have less than 300 nautical miles to go to our first stop in the Azores!  We forgot to mention yesterday that we reached another milestone: we set a record for the most days we’ve spent without touching land (12 days). Also, forgot to mention that on 10-3-14 at 01:14:47 our latitude and longitude were exactly equal(41 deg 28.547 minutes). It’s the little things like this that help break up the monotony of a being on watch at night.  Another thing to note is that it’s pretty warm. The first few days of the trip were quite cold and we were in our foul weather gear along with hats and gloves. But after that it has been consistently in the 70s and low 80s. Dante has been wearing shorts and a t-shirt during the day.  That’s all we have to report. Now back to Lord of the Rings.
Date: 10-6-14

Current Time (UTC): 1:41

Current Position: 40-02N x 034-03W

Avg Trip Speed: 4.9 kts

Average 24-hour speed: 5.5 kts

Total Distanced Traveled: 1,703 NM

Total Distance To Go (Azores): 135.7 NM

When you are far offshore for so long you can smell land as you approach, like we did when we reaching Jamaica (after being at sea for 7 days) or mainland Mexico (after a 5 day voyage). I wonder if we will smell the Azores as we arrive? (Note: It turns out I (Jennifer) did not smell land in the Azores like we did in Mexico and Jamaica. Perhaps because the Azores aren’t as verdant as either of those two places or maybe due to the lower temperature? At any rate, I did smell a faint hint of garlic!)   We should reach the Azores sometime between tomorrow night and Tuesday. If we reach the island of Flores at night we will either heave-to and wait for light to make landfall or continue to the next island, Faial, if we can time our arrival with daylight. There are nine islands that make up this Portuguese archipelago which are clustered into three groups. “Grupo Ocidental, Grupo Central, and Grupo Oriental.” West group, Central group, and East group. So now you know where the terms Occidental and Oriental come from …. they are Portuguese terms.   Early this morning the wind started to ease, which was followed by an easing of the sea. Our fuel tank is showing ¾, plus we have an additional 20 gallons on deck in jerry cans. Our fuel rationing measure has worked, which means we have plenty of fuel to motor the rest of the way to the Azores if needed. So we fired up the diesel, since we needed to charge the batteries, and have been pleasantly motor sailing and making fresh water the whole day.  The moon is getting full so it’s harder to see the stars at night. When we started the voyage we had a new moon and the stars were brilliant. There were so many it was hard to pick out known constellations. You can see the Milky Way extend all the way down to the horizon. The vast number of stars at sea, is just … well “epic” as Dante would say!
Date: 10-6-14

Current Time (UTC): 23:21

Current Position: 39-22.8N x 031-10.0W

Avg Trip Speed: 4.7 kts

Total Distanced Traveled: 1,853 NM

Subject: Day 16 1/2 – We are on the hook (anchor)

There was a very large, short period, swell rolling in last night that made heaving-to too uncomfortable so we reefed way down slowing our speed significantly. We arrived an hour after sun up. The wind really picked up this morning, plus it accelerates as it hits the island flowing around it. We had gust up to 40 kts as we made our way into the tiny little port here in Flores. We are anchored in calm, but windy waters. So windy we can’t inflate the dingy needed to row to shore to clear-in. But as I’m writing this email it sounds like the wind is abating a bit and we should be able to make it to shore this afternoon.  Next stop … Lisbon. We’ll be in the Azores for about a week resting, exploring, etc. Need to make it to the mainland by November 1st to avoid the bigger gales. Once we shove-off on that passage we will resume our position updates.  Thanks for traveling with us!

After sailing (overnight) from Faial to Horta….

16 days to sail from Cape Cod to Azores! We were very lucky with the weather and had a fairly easy passage. We rested several days in Flores and left there yesterday morning to sail to the port of Horta;

We arrived in Horta this morning. We officially cleared-in to Europe today. We are in a very nice marina with a massive volcano in the background on the neighboring island of Pico – ~ 2 ½ miles away. Good news …. the volcano is dormant. Bad news …. the island we are on has an active volcano which most recently erupted in 1957.

We’ll be here for a while. There is a monster low pressure system coming through and a tropical storm near Bermuda which may head in our direction. So we will rest, explore the island and re-provision. Then hopefully mid next week we can make the final hop to Lisbon.

AC 5AC 4

AC 6   AC 8AC 10



AC 7AC 9


One Response to Atlantic Crossing: Part One

  1. charles

    Awesome. Loved this post too. Wondering if I missed you one year anniversary somewhere in there?

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