Atlantic Island Voyage: 12deg 28min North- 55deg 25min West - 1999

Crew's Log- January 7, 1999
Joel Rowland (nephew etc.)
What shall we do with the Drunken Sailor?
Position- 12deg 28min North- 55deg 25min West

My last entry and news from home about the huge snowstorm got me thinking (ouch) and I entertained myself for the duration of an entire 4 hour night watch pondering these two questions...

What would be worse to be hit by than a flying fish?

a flying cow
a frying pan
a snowstorm
the Mafia
an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile
a flying fish wrapped in a lawsuit
a wet cat
a truck driver
What are things I'd rather be hit by than a flying fish?
beer
ice cream
a thrown kiss
a biscuit
a flying fish wrapped in a hundred dollar bill
a revelation
(this has got to end somewhere)
(truck optional)

Believe me the list goes on, but 4 hours of things that make me snigger at 4 o'clock in the morning probably isn't what ya'll were hoping for when you logged onto this website.

Onward and upward---

Mother Ocean and our galaxy have been putting on a spectacular show for the past week and a half. At night when the sky's clear the moon and stars have been spectacular- a few days ago when the moon was full it was so bright that I couldn't look directly at it without hurting my eyes. Sunrises and sunsets have also been of the religious experience order and I'm lucky enough to be on watch from 4-8 morning and evening, so I see them all. The other evening there was a particularly amazing one which inspired me to write in my neglected journal, here it is... Before I start I'd like to point out the lack of references to beer and ice cream- thank you very much.

'The sunset tonight was long and slow and beautiful. I was enjoying steering the boat, wind shifty enough to keep it entertaining. I was focused on the seas coming up behind us, wheel in my hand, our sails winged out in front of me and the boat moving and alive beneath my feet, hardly noticed the sun was setting. My mind drifted and I became aware of the sky, first the colors pulled me in, pretty sunset colors shimmering orange and pink against the blue, then the texture of the clouds, all at different altitudes and distances- Tall, billowing cumulus clouds- distant and sweeping black and gray squall lines, high cirrus wisps and tiger stripes of stratus, and I noticed that one side of each cloud was dark- they had a day side and a night side. The sky behind the clouds was a deep blue with a hazy silvery sheen- For a moment all my senses opened up and I felt like I was on the outside looking in at the vast sky above me- I saw the line where day and night meet- Twilight- I could feel the Earth moving through space and sensed the planet spinning beneath me. I watched the twilight line move westward. We are over a thousand miles in the middle of the Atlantic and I know we shared this sunset and this twilight with no-one on Earth, the colors of the clouds darkened, the sky became azure and stars began to appear and to sparkle and the night began.'

So that's it, things are well. We are now within 350 miles of Tobago. Next island, next party. Quality, Mon.

Peas Ruv, Joel

Atlantic Island Voyage: 260 miles West of Brava - 1998

Captain's Log, 28 December 1998
Position: 14d 42m North, 29d 08m West (260 miles west of Brava)
Wind 20-30 knots, northeast
Course 264 degrees true, speed 6-7 knots

The "Milk Run" to Tobago has begun as more of a Milkshake; lots of wind, 15-foot waves, lots of water aboard, and caked salt has now replaced the harmattan dust on our decks and persons, arguably an improvement. We are making fine progress, 144 miles in the past 24 hours, and happy to be moving purposefully again, though we could all do with a bit more modest motion. 1900 miles to go--New World, here we come!

MR

Atlantic Island Voyage: South of Tenerife, 29 November 1998

29 November 1998

Position: 26d 3m North, 18d 33m West 120 miles south of Tenerife
Steering 210 degrees, for Ilha do Sal, Cape Verde archipelago


Wind is the NE trade, dead aft, 20-25 knots, occasional gusts to 30.
Barometer is rock solid and the weather is fine.
We are tearing off the 780 miles to Sal with a bone in our teeth: 
6-7 knots under double-reefed mainsail and poled-out genoa deeply
reefed.

Ashore on Gomera

Ashore on Gomera

After a furious last-minute round of negotiations with Pirahna Brothers Press, the threatened launch of the tactical thermonuclear device was called off and the missile rolled back into their garage. Their parting observation was, "we wouldn't throw away a good piece of equipment on this piece of #@&*!".We believe that was intended as an insult, but it appears that we once again have the freedom to write whatever pops into our waterlogged brains. Our apologies if you were among those many readers hoping for a direct hit.

The Canaries are among the islands now referred to as Macaronesia, very loosely translated as The Fortunate Isles. This group also includes the Azores, Madeira, and the Cape Verdes. While there is controversy about the exact sequence of their formation, there appears to be consensus that all these islands began with great volcanic events, in some cases combined with either uplifting or separating tectonic plates. The high islands, like Flores, Madeira Grande, and Gomera have been able to capture moisture from the clouds which form high on their upwind slopes, resulting in deep valleys where streams occasionally run. (Think Grand Canyon). The lower islands, like Porto Santo and Lanzarote, look more like the Sahara just over the horizon. The high, "wet" islands are suitable for farming, with some difficulty: terraces have to be made on the very steep hillsides by building stone walls and backfilling with dirt, and water has to be brought to the fields somehow. The levadas of Madeira are the highest evolution of this process. In Gomera, the more popular strategy is to impound water in reservoirs created by building dams in a stream bed to catch all of the occasional rainfall. The fields are clustered in valleys below each reservoir. During the 1930's and 40's, there was a sudden drop in the population of Gomera, from 30,000 to 20,000: the old-timers we talked to said it was partly due to men going off to fight Franco, but more because the climate became gradually drier, forcing many farmsteads to be abandoned.

We saw a number of very extensive ghost settlements and terraces which looked fairly recently inhabited, a depressing sight when one considers the heroic effort of carving out terraces in the hillside to begin with (not unlike what happened in New England in the 1800's as better land opened up out West and people got tired of growing rocks). In the case of Gomera, people emigrated to Venezuela and Tenerife or shifted into tourism-related work. Agriculture is far from abandoned, however. Where water can be gotten, there are banana groves, large vineyards, citrus groves, and lots of goats (we encountered one herd of nearly 200).

Although it is too steep and craggy for anything more than a small landing strip, tourism has also found Gomera, with crowds of Germans (and other pasty-faced white people like ourselves)arriving by ferry from Tenerife. For the active hiker/masochist, the island offers a dramatic, vertical landscape, with walking trails through either desert, mountains, or the lovely laurel forest which grows on the northern slopes of the island. This is a carefully guarded treasure, being one of only 2 remaining examples of this type of forest which used to cover the entire Mediterranean basin. Madeira Grande has the other.

The Canaries have had more in the way of human history than either the Azores or Madeira, both of which were unpopulated at the time of Portugese discovery. The original inhabitants are genetically African, blue-eyed Berbers from the west coast of Africa. This stone-age culture, known as the Guanches, were "discovered" and subdued (i.e., exterminated, mostly) by the conquistadores in the 1400's. On Gomera, some traces of that culture can still be found in the form of unique foods such as almagrote, a whistling language known as "silbo", and some folk music and dance that is primarily rhythmic and not very Spanish-sounding. One of the early visitors to the island was C. Columbus, who almost didn't make it to the Caribben because of his obsessive attachment to Beatriz de Bobadilla. Some speculate that he made 3 more voyages as a pretext for visiting Gomera again.

These islands for centuries marked the Western border of the known European world, giving rise to numerous legends. They have been variously called Atlantis, the Garden of the Hesperides, the Elysian Fields, the Fortunate Isles, and one of them was probably St. Brendan's Isle. (Gomerans make a pretty good argument that is was Gomera itself). It is imaginable that the Tir na Nogh of Irish legend, the enchanted place to the west, was one of these islands, perhaps in the Azores, which actually look a lot like parts of Ireland. We found some ancient maps while we were here, one of which gave Flores (westernmost Azores) as the prime meridian (now Greenwich), and the other Hierro (westernmost of the Canaries). In the pre-Columbian mindset, the end of the earth would not have been much further west. 

We ended up staying for 3 weeks in Gomera, which included a wonderful visit from Connie, who also brought along some much-needed supplies and equipment. Then on to Santa Cruz, Tenerife, for final resupply, topping off of propane, diesel and water tanks, and food supplies, before pushing on for the Cape Verdes, where all these things will be harder to find. This passage should take about a week, and our itinerary is still up in the air: we'll clear in at Sal, and we'd like to see the volcano on Fogo, but the rest we'll play by ear.

MR

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: Canary Islands

17 November 1998
La Gomera

We're still here. We like it. A lot.

MR

.....Editors note: We apologize for the sad decline in the quality of the recent Captain's Logs. We have revoked funding for this pitiful expedition, and a tactical thermonuclear device has been launched, which should remove the literary blight known as "the crew of Tammy Norie" once and for all. We hope you will enjoy "The Adventures of Flossie the Flying Cow", which will be taking over this web site shortly.......-Pirahna Bros. Press

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: Canary Islands

Captain's Log, Halloween, 1998
La Gomera, Canary Islands

We left Funchal on Thursday noon, and had a very fast run to La
Gomera, 304 miles in 52 hours, a record for us. En route, we thoroughly cleaned the bilges and topped off the batteries, so the boat is happy with us. While here, we will also clean the Funchal harbor gunk off the sides of the hull. Midway here, we ran into an easterly wind with a haze of very fine red dust, the Harmattan wind from the Sahara desert, which plagues the Canary Islands from time to time. Not really surprising, since the west coast of Africa is only 200 miles to the east of us right now. We picked up the coast of Tenerife on radar at sixteen miles, but never saw it, even though we passed within 4 miles. We couldn't see Gomera until we were 2 miles away. Under normal conditions Pico Teide, the 12,000-foot volcano in the center of Tenerife, can be seen as far away as 100 miles. We are tucked snugly into the fine, cheap, modern, new marina in San Sebastian de Gomera, where we will stay for 2 weeks or so. Connie is flying in next week, and we look forward to exploring the island with her. From here, we can also take ferries to the 2 other equally remote islands of the Western Canaries, Hierro and La Palma. We may also go to one of the larger islands, Tenerife or Gran Canaria for boat supplies before moving on. The skiing here is not very good, and it's hot and muggy at the moment, but we can take all the cold showers we want, so no hay problema.

Hasta luego, 
MR

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: Madeira, 24 October

October 24, 1998 
Crew's Log 

Madeira Grande, Portugal
Joel Rowland, Nephew extraordinaire 

Hope you all have V-chips 'cause here comes Joel's adventures on Madeira (ma darlin')- No, no, you can uncover the kids eyes, the only dirty stuff in this entry are my feet, which you should count yourself lucky are on the other side of the Atlantic.

Anyhow, I just finished a couple day stint tromping around this island, pack on my back, boots on my feet, eyes wide open and a song on my lips (for the scary parts). I started from a mountain pass called Encumeada, it gave me a head start of 3000 vertical feet, and on this island the bus ride up is half the adventure. The busses themselves are ultra modern, no old school busses with chickens and pigs in your lap here. But the roads, now paved smooth, were built for horse carts, and Madeira probably has a bus system in the first place because the horses refused to work on such roads. 

Anyway, if there have been any horse/bus tragedies in the past they're keeping them quiet, though that would make a great museum.... So I hopped off the bus at Encumeada, and bounded the 40 feet to the cafe at the top of the pass. There is no shortage of places to spend money on Madeira, and this particular place had really good empanadas. So three empanadas and a Coke later, I started up my trail, contemplating the concept of 'independence'. That didn't last too long though as I had also bought a pack of malted milk balls at the cafe, trail food ya know, and as the trail got steeper and hotter I became engrossed in how quickly they disintegrated in my cheek, and how much further I had to go before I could have another one. A pack of malt balls will only last for so long under such strenuous circumstances and eventually I was forced to concentrate on the task at hand. This trail was intense, flight after flight of stairs either carved into the rock or built onto it, there were sections that had been built outward from a sheer rock cliff, I stood back and tried to figure out how it had been done but the only thing that I could come up with was, "Damn, whoever built this was crazy.". They must have gotten a special deal from the malt ball factory, too.

Eventually the stairs ran out and the trail became a normal dirt and gravel path. Slowly but surely I gained altitude, stopping often to take in the beauty of the mountains around me and the valley way, way below me. I groaned a little when the trail would descend to traverse a ravine or skirt some impassable terrain, but it always continued back up. Up and up, switching back and forth, sometimes looking over the dry, hot South side of the island, and sometimes over the green and lush North, always with the sea in the distance, a reminder that I was a little guy in the middle of a small island that's in the middle of a big ocean (at the end of a long sentence, ed.). It was on this walk that I perfected my Ba-aa-aaa. The computer really doesn't do it justice, ask me next time you see me. There were lots of sheep along the trail, some of them quite conversational, of course, I had no idea what I was saying, and it scared most of them away.

That's funny, that pretty much sums up the majority of my conversations with the people on this island, too.

Anyway, as I am, after all, the hero of this entry, I eventually found my way to the top of Madeira's tallest mountain, Pico Ruivo at 6200 feet. The climb was well worth it, from the top I had a 360 degree view of the island. Clouds as far as I could see had surrounded its perimeter and from my elevated vantage point it looked as if Madeira was floating in a sea of clouds. And then, as the sun sank lower, and the land cooled, the clouds swirled below me and engulfed the island, cutting the tops of the tallest peaks adrift, including the one on which I stood. The sun began to set, and that settled it, I was sleeping right there. I set up my tent and lay with my head outside for awhile and watched the stars come out, sipping wine (trail juice) and eating olives.... It was a good night, not too cold up there, just enough to make me feel that much more snug inside my sleeping bag. I woke up and once again the island was clear of clouds. I soaked up the morning sunshine and marveled at the scenery while I ate breakfast. Packed up and started down the hill towards Caldeirao Verde, the Green Cauldron!

It took me a little while to find the right trail down into the valley- Yeah, so there was a big, huge carved sign pointing to the trail, but sometimes you have to look just a bit deeper than the obvious, to go out on a limb, to explore the unexplored,to seek out new life and new civilizations....to get lost. I found a trail. I wasn't sure if it was the trail I was looking for, but beggars can't be choosers (I think that's the moral of this entry), so I followed it. This time it went down, down, down. It practically plunged into a valley of ferns and laurel trees. Oh man, the air down there was so cool and fragrant. I half hoped a giant butterfly would come land on my shoulder. I had left all my sheep friends far behind though, so I decided that I had a perfect opportunity to try talking to myself. We, I and I, that is, talked about all sorts of incredibly boring stuff, in the end I decided it would be best if I just shut up and enjoy the walk down. It was quite nice, like I said, thick with plants, and such a nice change to be going down. After an hour of continuously walking downhill I started thinking about how much quicker it would be if I could roll down, Joel Rowland, nephew extraordinaire and pioneer of the sport of rolling down steep hills with a big pack. Everybody follow me!!! In the end I decided not to risk breaking my precious bottle of trail juice and I rode the slow train down.

Lo and behold, I had managed to find the right trail, a fork in just the right place with all the right landmarks, the world looked shiny and new. I even stashed my pack in the bushes to skip up the fork I didn't want, just to check out the view. Continuing on down MY path I came to the Levada do Caldeirao Verde- Canal of the Green Cauldron- which sounded pretty good, but what truly got me stoked (ha) was knowing that at the end of the Caldeirao Verde levada another levada began, which ended at the Caldeirao do Inferno- The Cauldron of Hell! Maybe I would never come back or wanna come back, but this I had to see. So I started stepping, and promptly came to a tunnel bobbing with flashlight beams, headed my way. I stepped off the path at my end of the tunnel and allowed the group to pass, they were Germans, led and caboosed by two obviously Madeiran guides with stout walking sticks, which no doubt could quickly become weapons if I didn't give way. It was plain to see that they had turned back before Caldeirao do Inferno, they didn't look the least bit tormented or charred. I hurried through the tunnel and carried on my way.

The levadas are not very demanding physically, for the most part they remain fairly level. The thing is that sometimes to obtain this nice level run, the builders had to remove sections of cliffs or dig through solid granite. So not only do they meander by some spectacular scenery, sometimes they are the spectacular scenery. There were many times along this walk that I would like to have stopped to scratch my head and say "How'd they do that?" but I was too occupied with putting one foot in front of the other. The times that I was able to look up and around I saw that I was in one of the lush ravines that I had feasted my eyes on at the top of Pico Ruivo that morning. I was looking down on a now dry, thanks to the levada, riverbed, maybe 700 feet down. The walls of the levada and the sides of the ravine were covered with vegetation and sometimes dripping with water and waterfalls. As I walked I passed another unsinged group, and was shooed off the path once again by a Madeiran with a big stick, fair enough, they were working, I was playing. In a few more minutes, walking along some particularly inspiring levada work I came to the Caldeirao Verde. A 300 ft waterfall with a series of pools at the base of a half-round shaped cliff that gives the impression that its surrounding you. The entire cliff face and the area around the pools is absolutely blanketed- carpeted- covered with ferns so thick that they look like scales. I was dazzled by green.

Perhaps influenced by faeries and despite the possibility of a thwacking by a stout stick I went swimming under the waterfall. It was cold but I got away with it, and being cold I felt even better prepared for my next stop at the Cauldron of Hell. On I went, at one point climbing a crumbling and heaving stone stairwell 350 ft.. I felt sort of funny ascending when I thought I should be descending, but who am I to question where Satan puts his crockpot, so I went with it. 
When I got within a few minutes of the end (of the Levada), I ditched my pack in some bushes, confident that I would collect it upon my return. I came to a series of tunnels, a couple of them had sharp bends so that I couldn't see any light at the other end. One had a small waterfall at the entrance which left me no choice but to get wet in order to continue. I started to feel a little like a glutton between getting doused and the anxiety I felt in the bending tunnels. Finally I came to a particularly long tunnel, that had a strong breeze and a faint rumbling at the entrance, as I plunged deeper the rumble became louder and louder until I came round the final bend, and the tunnel opened up to a waterfall in a dark ravine, this was actually the head of the ravine I'd walked down into and had been walking along on all day. I stood on the edge of a spillway, collecting water from the falls and shunting it down the levada. The path carried on over a couple of sturdy wood and steel bridges, built not only to dodge the waterfall, but to cross the now dry gully 100 feet down. Man, you'd think I'd have been tired of all the crazy scenery and stuff, but no, there was more to see, I hadn't even reached my Ultimate Destination. But I was close, I could practically hear the water boiling. More tunnels, and I kept expecting to be blasted by steam at every bend, but alas, the anti-climax, which I will spare you all from.

All I'll say is that I've been to the Portuguese Cauldron of Hell, and it wasn't that bad. No flames, no horned beasts (besides me), no otherworldly maniacal laughter, all in all a fairly benign place. The coolest part was that I got to walk back along the same path that I walked earlier that day. Which had everything I could have asked for in a path. Adventures, ah yes.

This entry is long enough. Hope you all are good, as you can tell, I'm having all sorts of fun, and now we are on Gomera, a whole new island to explore. Quality, Mon. - Joel 

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: Madeira, 18 October

Captain's Log
18 October 1998
Funchal, Madeira

It has been 3 weeks since the last log entry, and it's time to write before there is so much to say that it becomes impossible. Our "brief stop" in Porto Santo, turned into 11 days. As anchorages go, it was almost ideal: perfectly protected, water clean enough to swim in, excellent inexpensive moorings, and a large and friendly community of other sailboats from all over the world. Here we finally joined the annual southward migration from Europe which occurs every fall. At one point, there were 30 other boats anchored, moored or tied to the dock in Porto Santo, a sort of United Nations flotilla, with crews from the four corners of the globe. In this case, however, the 4 corners would be Alaska, South Africa, Israel and perhaps Norway. We don't see many boats from places like Pakistan or Ethiopia. So far, in decreasing order, we have seen boats from England, France, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Denmark, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, South Africa (they all say "the NEW South Africa"), Italy, Ireland and Israel. And of course the USA. And conveniently for us, whenever groups of several nationalities get together to socialize, everyone speaks English. So while we are working on our Portugese, our German, French and Spanish are gathering dust. The Pax Romani is long gone, and in its place, the one-two combination of the Pax Britannica and Hollywood has moved into the vacuum. The Brits, of course, don't like to hear us say we speak "English". They like the quip that England and the US are "two nations divided by a common language" (Oscar Wilde?, Mark Twain?)

Porto Santo is most notable for its 3 miles of perfect sandy beach, almost completely undeveloped, although that won't last much longer. Until fairly recently, this small island was accessible only by small ferry from Madeira Grande, and scratched along on subsistence agriculture and fishing. Now there is a jet airport, a daily car ferry, and a fine harbor created by the building of a mammoth breakwater, while tourism has quickly eclipsed all other economic activity. So far, this has meant mostly visitors from Madeira Grande, which is cooler, wetter, and without any sandy beaches. But the wider world is discovering it as well, and hotels are starting to spring up. The EC has pumped money into development there as well, enlarging the harbor, and funding a huge desalination plant. My theory is that the EC is preparing the island for the day when drug-resistant Tuberculosis spills out of Russia, and thousands of people have to be isolated somewhere warm, dry and pleasant, sort of like the US Public Health Service did with Leprosy patients on Lanai. Naturally, no one will fess up to that. It is a volcanic island, but none of the peaks are very tall, so it doesn't catch rain in the way Madeira Grande does. There is enough moisture at the higher elevations to grow trees, which they are doing, but the rest is desert. One of our favorite walks was up Pico de Castelo, a perfectly symmetrical volcanic cone, the top of which has been terraced, with stone stairs for walking, and a huge arboretum with all sorts of native and exotic trees. The top is a beautiful herb garden, with 360 degree views of the whole island.

We did tear ourselves away from the very relaxing anchorage at Porto Santo just as we began to feel ourselves becoming invertebrates. The night before departure, all the crews got together for a barbecue in honor of Shifra’s 16th birthday. A brisk 8-hour run to Madeira woke us up a bit, and we arrived in the harbor at Funchal on the 11th of October, birthday of Cristobal Colon and Shifra Adler. The inside yacht harbor was completely full, as it always is this time of year, so we spent the night rolling wildly at anchor in the outer harbor. Next day the weather improved, about 20 boats which had been penned in by the strong easterly winds left, and we rafted up against the sea wall where we had stayed in 1995. The sign we painted on the wall then is still there. We started out on the outside of a raft-up of 6 boats, and have steadily worked our way closer to the wall as others have left. At the moment, our raft up includes a 38' British boat owned by a former GP who got disgusted with medicine and went into computer consulting, a 33' British boat owned by a semi-retired pilot who is sailing alone, a tiny French boat sailed by 2 lunatics, Ziggy and Bimbo. And taking up the outside is another American boat a little smaller than ours. Other good friends who have just left included STREET LEGAL, a British boat sailed by a couple of MBA dropouts, and ALVA, a burly little wooden boat from Norway, crewed by 3 completely inexperienced but delightful young men: "a computer expert, a mountaineer, and a philosopher (the owner)". Almost everyone is following a route similar to ours, but some are continuing on around the world, and others will come back to Europe in the spring.

Funchal is as delightful as we remembered it: a clean, beautiful city, which somehow manages to be both sophisticated and friendly. It reminds me a little of Victoria, or Seattle before all the skyscrapers went up. And this time we have gotten out to explore more of the island, which is spectacular. The main attraction is the system of Levadas, which are concrete and stone irrigation channels carrying water from springs in the mountains to fields on the dryer parts of the island. There are a total of 1400 miles of levadas, and all have trails alongside which make perfect hiking, since they are almost level. They also include tunnels of varying lengths, some as long as 2 miles, which provide an unusual hiking experience. Others are carved into the sides of cliffs (this was done by slaves hanging down in wicker baskets), which is also pretty exciting. And there are regular mountain trails which connect the levadas. As if that weren't enough, the place is green year-round, with lush forests and flowering plants of almost infinite variety.

It's the sort of place that could turn even the most craven techno-geek into an ardent botanist; even to the ignorant eye the vegetation is impressive. There are dense laurel forests, some of which flower in the fall, groves of huge pine, cedar and eucalyptus trees, and areas of painstakingly terraced farmland. Yesterday we walked along the cliffs on the north side of the island, in some places with a 1000-meter almost-vertical drop to the ocean. To give some idea of the terrain, the trails are rated on a scale which begins with "potential for vertigo" and "danger of vertigo", on up to "terribly vertiginous" and "horrendously vertiginous". Yesterday's walk was in the latter category. So we kept singing and didn't look down until we got to wider spots in the path. There are, of course, very sedate walks which are equally interesting in their own way, and all quite beautiful. Like the Maine Coast, one could easily spend months, or even a lifetime, exploring the place. We have decided to extend our stay to 2 weeks, to savor it a bit more.

I apologize for the excessive use of words like "beautiful", "lush” and "delightful" in this entry. Winter is coming on back home and a little restraint would be tactful. If I can, I'll tone it down a bit next time. Perhaps the Eastern Canaries will be better; Lanzarote was just described to me as "the ashtray of the North Atlantic".

MR

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: Azores, 29 September

Captain's Log, 29 Sept 1998, 1200 UTC
Position: 33d 30m north, 19d 14m west

We are now closing on the Madeiran Archipelago, with the island of Porto Santo, our destination, 150 miles to the east. The remnants of Tropical Storm Ivan passed about 350 miles north of us on Sunday, giving us a nice westerly flow of wind for the first day or so, but nothing over 20 knots. We covered 154 miles in our first 24 hours out of Santa Maria, which is our record for this trip. It was a little strange knowing that a tropical storm was in the neighborhood, but having only fair winds, blue skies, and no dip in the barometer. There weren't even any high cirrus clouds, which invariably precede a low pressure system of any kind. All we really got was about 24 hours of oppressive humidity, like summertime in the Caribbean. Now we are alternately wafting along under cruising spinnaker, and motoring through the lulls, just enjoying the fine weather. Yesterday, we hove to in the heat of the day for a swim. The bottom of the boat is remarkably free of growth, for almost 3 months in the water. It is always strange to swim in mid-ocean, with miles of water beneath you; none of us strays very far from the boat. It is a bit like the sensation of being at great height.

Reflections on the Azores: Due to my work schedule, we ended up arriving much later in the season than we would have liked, but got enough of a taste of the islands to feel they would be worth a real visit in the future. July and August would be the ideal time, with lots of festivals, and more settled weather. It would also be good to come back with more fluent Portugese. There are a remarkable number of people under 40 who have lived in the US or Canada, and we mostly communicated with them. It is quite common for young people to work outside the Azores for a time to accumulate some capital, then come back and buy land and perhaps a fishing boat. Many of our impressions are therefore filtered through people who have lived much of their lives in North America. With true natives we had very little contact.

There is a kind of small town syndrome at work in all the islands, something like what we see in Maine. Young people bemoan the lack of action, long for the stimulus of city life on the continent, and go to Lisbon or Boston or Toronto; many come back regretting they ever left. We saw other examples of this phenomenon: we had heard that there was an excellent Azorean wine made in Graciosa, but whenever we asked about it people would laugh and say, no, no, you should get wine from the continent, not these local wines. Finally, we did manage to find some, and it was excellent. Sort of reverse marketing. Even on Flores, which easily rivals Maui for charm and stunning physical beauty, most of the people we talked to were a little bemused that anyone would come out of their way to visit the island, which to their eyes was nothing special.

There is an interesting east-west gradient as well. In the west, there is lush vegetation, lots of moisture, a more simple and open friendliness, and villages with houses which are neat, well-maintained and fairly uniform in style, none very opulent. Fishing and farming are active, and appear to dominate the economy. As one goes east, the islands get drier, more tired and exploited-looking, the people more urbane and less friendly. And class differences seem more blatant, with well-demarcated rich neighborhoods and more dilapidated obviously poor neighborhoods. Faial suffered a major earthquake a month before we got there, and people were pretty preoccupied with getting their lives and homes put back together, so it is difficult to say what Faial is normally like. This may account for Horta being less welcoming than usual. And even in Santa Maria, we encountered unexpected warmth and friendliness. The port captain there is keen on having more visiting yachts, which he views as a mark of prestige for the island. He was 
ludicrously cordial, even to the point of saying I spoke excellent Portugese--Ha,ha.. So, generalities are dangerous. But, overall, a fascinating place, and we are glad we were able to at least scratch the surface.

MR 

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: Azores, 24 September

Captain's Log, 24 September 1998
10 miles West of Santa Maria, Azores

We've had a very pleasant run from Horta, 190 miles in just under 48 hours, wind with us all the way. Spinnaker halyard chafed through and parted during the night, with all hands on deck in a hurry to fish the spinnaker out of the water. I guess that problem isn't solved yet. Will have another go at it when we are at anchor. The wind is now building to low 20's, and forecast to increase to northwest force 7 (28-33 knots) tonight, due to Hurricane Ivan, which will pass about 800 miles to the west of us. No real threat there, but we will sit it out in Vila do Porto until settled weather returns, hopefully in a day or two. This will give us a little time to explore Santa Maria, the first of the Azores to be settled, but now something of a backwater, eclipsed by the larger and more populous islands to the north and west. At 37 north, 25 west, we should now be pretty well south and east of the major storm tracks (lots of wood to knock on around here).

MR

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: Azores, 22 September

Captain's Log 22 Sept 1998

All repairs completed, left Horta marina at 1400 UTC. Now rounding the island of Pico, bound for Ilha de Santa Maria,180 miles to the southeast. This will be a very brief pit stop en route to Madeira. Wind is gentle, northeast, barometer preposterously high. We are on the eastern edge of a large high, and should pick up the northeast trade winds between Santa Maria and Madeira. All systems and crew doing fine.

MR

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: Azores, 18 September

Captain's Log, 18 Sept 1998
Horta Harbor, Island of Faial, Azores

Bom dia:

If you are a reader in search of calamity and epic feats of stupidity at sea, read no further. We have nothing of the kind to report (this time). We had an uneventful passage from Flores to Horta, aside from the fact that the wind was dead against us, making a 120 mile trip into a 200 mile, 2 day slog tacking back and forth. However, the blessed anemometer never went over 25 knots. We enjoyed the bonito caught by Joel, which provided 2 dinners en route. By the way, for those who have asked about the toxicology reports on the famous swordfish, we actually stopped eating it when Joel caught the first dorado. At that point it had been in the reefer for a week and was quite fresh; probably about as fresh as what we buy at Shop'n'Save. And the signs of delirium seen among the crew were, in my professional opinion, baseline--not due to mercury toxicity.

Horta is legendary on several counts: It has, since the great age of exploration began in the time of Prince Henry the Navigator, been a stopping place for European and American ships going in every direction across the Atlantic. Because it is nearly mid Atlantic, it was a stopping place for Amphibious planes going from New York to Europe. More recently, and for the same reasons, it has been THE stopping place for sailboats crossing the Atlantic, and has long had the most protected harbor in the Azores for small boats. This was the first rest stop for Joshua Slocum, who brought SPRAY here in the late 1800's at the start of the first solo circumnavigation of the globe. Since then, virtually every famous sailboat has stopped here as well. The sea walls are covered with the painted logos of hundreds of cruising boats. And the equally famous Cafe Sport, watering hole for the crews of said boats, is also covered with flags and memorabilia from boats passing through. Horta has been reputed to be one of the friendliest ports in the world as well. We haven't seen so much of that: I think the locals are shagged out after a long season of boat people, and ready for the lot of us to go away for a few months. Perhaps this is only by contrast with the atmosphere on Flores.

For us, it has been an excellent place for repairs, as there is a good supply of marine hardware and other essentials. In the 4 days we have been here, we have steadily worked down through our list. Sail repairs are done, the new spreader is made, winches are working again after removing great clumps of salt. Numerous changes have been made at the mast head to reduce chafe, and a new inner forestay fitting is being fabricated. Our old fitting was showing some cracks in the welding, and we decided to have a completely new one made. The heroic parachute sea anchor has been lovingly rinsed with fresh water, dried and carefully repacked, ready to save our bacon again. Joel has torn down the propane cooking stove, cleaned up all the salt water and old cooking schmutz, and got it back in tip-top condition. Shifra has painted our logo on the sea wall, and so we join the long tradition. We have also found a fine bakery and pastry shop, which we are generously supporting.

We are quite late in the season here, so the marina is far less crowded. Rather than rafting up 10 deep along the sea wall, we have been 1-2 deep, first alongside a South African boat, and now alongside SEA BEAR, a steel boat from Bath, Maine. Aft of us is a British boat, DOVE, with a BBC film crew filming whales and sharks. Among other things, they have a huge cage for filming sharks on their foredeck; quite a sight on a 60' boat. Hard to imagine them actually sailing. Forward of us lies a sad tale in the form of MAREBLU, a 72' German charter boat which has been sold and is en route to its new owner in France, but has been laid up here for 2 months with a broken propeller shaft and twisted roller furling rig. It is already very late in the season for heading to Europe, and they will probably break lots of other things before they make France. A friendly Canadian aboard FREDHEIM gave us a fine piece of close-grained western red cedar to make our new spreader with, in exchange for a cup of coffee. It had been looking like we'd have to use some of the oak we have aboard, which would have been heresy.

We will finish up our refitting work in a day or two, with luck, and then will look for a good weather window for Madeira, possibly with a brief stop in Santa Maria, the southeasternmost of the Azores. There is great turmoil to the north of us, with poor old England getting one deep low after another. Here we get the southern edges of these systems, with brief episodes of rain and strong westerly winds. As time goes on, however, they will get closer and closer. The general wisdom is that late August is the deadline for getting safely to northern Europe, and mid-September for Spain and the Mediterranean. For Madeira and the Canaries, late September is OK, but not later unless one is a masochist. Interestingly, it is mostly Americans who are left here. Is this because we think we are immune to the forces of nature, or because this weather seems quite delightful compared to what we are used to in New England? I would compare this weeks weather, for example, to a fine July in Penobscot Bay, without the fog.

I notice, as I look over this and previous logs, that weather occupies the bulk of the discussion. This is peculiar to sailors, and perhaps people who fly. This may be why books about voyaging hold so little general interest, and generally fail to qualify as literature, except perhaps for those authors who deal with psychosis at sea, like Melville and Conrad. Among seafarers, even those able to feign normalcy by land, there seems to be an inversion of priorities, with weather dominating all other topics. For example, people will sometimes open a conversation with an innocuous weather comment, such a "Hot today, isn't it", en route to what they are really interested in discussing, such as, "I notice you have an amputated leg...". Among sailors, by contrast, such a conversation might begin like this:

"Nice wooden leg you've got there, mate". 
"Ar, shark bit off me leg". 
"Did he now, well that's a pisser. What sort of wood is that?" 
"Ar, teak that is; carved it me'self. Won't never rot, that leg." 
Haven't primed the conversational pump, they would quickly move on to the real meat of the discussion. "Hell of a blow we had coming down here; force 10 for 36 hours, barometer got down to 980 millibars in the middle of it....." And they're off for a good hour, reviewing in minute detail the weather of the past month, storms they've seen, high-pressure ridges, 500 millibar prognoses, the 96-hour surface prediction, equinoctal gales, etc., etc. It's best to avoid discussions like this if you are a truly normal person: they can induce coma within minutes, even death in artistic or literary persons......

Well, perhaps next time we will have some actual news. Until then, we hope you have really good weather wherever you are.

MR 

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: Azores, 12 September

Captain's Log, 12 September 1998
Position: 39d 36m north, 31d 7m west (passing between Corvo and Flores)

We have spread our wings again, after a delightful stay on the island of Flores. We had intended to make a brief pit stop here, but it was so beautiful, and the people so friendly, that we stayed 5 days. The harbor of Lajes is nestled within 300' cliffs to the north and west, hence our inability to get any kind of radio signal out.

Flores is one of those end-of-the-earth kinds of places, the westernmost point of Europe. 3000 people live here, on an island so craggy and wildly volcanic in origin as to be almost unbelievable. Tiny communities, some with as few as 50 people, have sprung up wherever there was enough of a flat spot for dirt to form. In 3 places, rudimentary ports huddle behind breakwaters, providing just enough shelter for fishermen to launch small boats. Seven large caldeiras, each with its own beautiful lake, crown the top of the island, which is almost permanently shrouded in a cloud cap. Those who do not fish, eke out a living raising cattle and goats. The cattle are genetically adapted to the 45 degree slopes on which they must graze, some with shortened left legs, who munch counterclockwise around the hills, and some with short right legs, who go the other way. Ha, ha, gotcha!

It is a magical place, just being discovered by Europe, but still holding on to its unique identity. There is now a small airport, and the port of Lajes is being enlarged, courtesy of EU funds. So, eventually, it will become a major tourist destination. But we were one of only 2 visiting boats, and if there were tourists they were well hidden. The other vessel, belonging to an American couple, arrived in July, intending to stay a few days. They never left, have bought a house and land, and are in the process of "going native". It is a place that exerts that kind of magnetism.

None of our crew has jumped ship, thankfully, and we are all well rested and fed. We hooked up with a local fisherman, Jose, who showed us around. Joel went fishing for tuna with him one day. Joel has become our resident fisherman; he caught a fine dorado a couple of days out from the Azores, and today caught a 10-lb bonito which we will have for dinner. Blackberry picking was at its peak while we were there, and Shifra made some outrageous blackberry tarts, which we shared with our boat neighbors.

Now we are headed for Horta, where we will visit the legendary Cafe Sport, get some sail repairs done, and hopefully get the hardware items we need for our other repairs. There was a major eruption and earthquake elsewhere on the island of Faial a month ago, and we should also get a chance to see the effects of that. Probably we will head south to Madeira after that, as the weather in the Azores gets pretty unsettled toward the end of September.

MR 

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: First Passage, 6 September

Captain's Log, 6 September 1998


Position: 39d 37m North, 32d 29m West. Flores 62 miles, bearing 93 
degrees true.
Wind SW at 15 knots, we are holding our speed to 4 knots to make an 
early morning landfall.

Last entry was several days ago, and it is difficult to know where to start this one. For certain, we will not book with this cruise line again: the steady diet of humble pie is becoming monotonous. After Bonnie passed, we had 3 nice days in which to regroup. We cleaned up the terminals on the electric ram, which got that autopilot back in action. That bought us time until the wild, random post-storm seas subsided enough to allow us to work, at which point we hove to and replaced the frayed steering cable. 

By that time we were getting very frequent radio weather bulletins from the NWS and a daily set of fax maps to track Danielle's progress. She, too, had originally been predicted to track much further north, but each update put her track closer to us. Our basic game plan was to turn more southward now, rather than follow the 40th parallel along to just before the Azores. We also drove the boat harder than usual to widen the distance as much as we could. That produced a casualty, in the form of a broken upper spreader on the mainmast, caused by winching up the mainsail at night, not seeing that the halyard was wrapped against the spreader. We normally do not do that maneuver in the dark if we can avoid it. This was my goof, so at the same time we hove to to fix the steering cable, I went up the mast to clear the pieces of spreader. At 40 feet up the mast, backing off screws between 10' arcs, and periodically whacking up against the mast, out of the depths of the dumb song and jingle neocortex, came "There's one thing can revive a guy, and that is a piece of rhubarb pie/ Serve it up, nice and hot, maybe things aren't as bad as you thought./ Momma loves rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb, Be-bop-a-re-bop rhubarb pie." When Garrison Keillor sings it, everyone laughs, and the show goes merrily on. Didn't work for me, somehow: I still had to get those damn screws out, and eventually did. Then on we ran, lickety split, looking over our shoulders.

This time, Danielle's path put her about 300-350 miles north of us, and winds of up to 45 knots were predicted. We’d heard that before, and figured we'd better assume worse. As Tristan Jones said, there are 4 kinds of sailors: dead, retired, novices and pessimists. Even though our steering system, and the boat in general were perfectly up to actively running with a gale, as we did the other night, we felt it more prudent to ride it out under storm anchor, which would be easier on us and the boat.

Once the barometer had clearly begun its dive, and the wind hit 30 knots and climbing, we deployed the 18' nylon parachute and 550 feet of chain and 3/4" nylon rope. The parachute is a heavy ballistic nylon, designed for just this purpose. If you jumped out of a plane with it, it would hit you on the top of the head. It took about 2 hours to set, and another several hours of fiddling until we had things just right. While a "passive" tactic, it actually took a lot more work to set up than simply dropping sails and running, as we did before. However, it is a much more controlled situation, and it was miraculous to be at a dead stop, watching the bow cleanly part these huge breaking crests, while we sat dry in the cockpit eating bonbons. It did feel unnatural somehow, and the tradeoff was that the motion was quite horrible: pitching, yawing, rolling, corkscrewing in every combination, especially later in the storm as the wind swung from southwest to northwest, and we got waves from different directions. The wind did indeed get into the mid to high 40's around midnight, and by daybreak was dropping below 30 at times. We spent about 2 hours hauling in all the gear, and were back under way by noon. Aside from some scrapes and bruises, the only casualty was a chewed up rail forward where the anchor chain jumped out of its roller. We will rig a pin there for next time (if there is a next time), along with a few other improvements, but overall the system worked as advertised, and we spent a somewhat better night than before. On a comfort scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being Eating Cherry Garcia ice cream by the pool, and 0 being public evisceration and beheading at the Tower of London, I would put this one around a 3. What we did the other night was perhaps a 1. Night shift in the ER would be up around 5 perhaps. 

The weather has steadily moderated since then, and we are caught up on our sleep. Now we are cleaning up and preparing for landfall tomorrow, at which point the "is it worth it?" meter will go more positive. We are still looking over our shoulders at Earl, but at this point it looks clear.

Now, of course, we know why the hurricane tracks go up to Newfoundland and trail off, and we really did get past the true hurricane track on about day 4. However, there is still 
the matter of these ex-hurricanes, embittered by their failure to wreak devastation in Florida, and looking for one last chance before they are completely spent. God forbid we should ever encounter an actual hurricane in its prime. 

MR

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: First Passage, 1 September

Captain's Log, 1 September, 1300 utc

Position: 40d 28m north, 42d 54m west
Heading due east, 6 knots. Wind SW at 20 knots.

Update on Extraterrestrial storm Bonnie;

We have now almost fully recovered from the effects of this most unusual storm which is just now finally breaking up over the Azores. We were somewhat surprised when she turned away from Miami last week and headed ashore in the Carolinas; we were very surprised when she headed back out to sea, contrary to polite hurricane behavior. We were a little concerned about our friends when she turned toward New England, still at the very stately pace of 200 miles or so per day. We continued to feel pretty smug about our own position, 1000 miles to the east, in a zone which has seen only 1 low pressure system of this kind in august in the past 25 years. Needless to say, we were astounded to learn on Sunday afternoon that she had not only turned our way, but had covered 800 miles in 24 hours and was still packing a wallop: 50 knot winds predicted for our area. This had not been on our agenda for the evening. As it turned out, it was not a direct hit. The storm passed 200 miles to the north of us, but with a 900-mile diameter, the difference was academic.

So we battened down the hatches (literally), removed all extraneous canvas, lashed everything down, and went through our pre-storm checklist, at which point we discovered a seriously frayed steering cable, which would not be reliable under the kind of loads we expected. This required setting up our emergency tiller for steering, which is fine in a pinch, but not the easiest way to handle a 40 foot boat in a storm. We had a choice of 2 tactics: the passive one would have been to put out a storm anchor, an 18-foot diameter nylon parachute which is designed to hold the boat head-to-wind. Its main advantage is that the crew can get out of the weather and rest somewhat. The active approach would be to sail with the wind under storm jib, then bare masts only above 40 knots or so. This seemed preferable to us, since it would keep us moving toward our destination and Joel and I had successfully done it on the trip to Ireland in similar winds for several days, albeit with a steering wheel. It should be easier here, with much warmer water and a shorter exposure time.

We decided on the active tactic, and it worked, although there were times during the night as the wind built to 60 knots and beyond, that I cursed me'self for a worthless lubber. It was quite the scene, in retrospect; wind shrieking, 25-30 foot waves exploding into foam and spindrift at the crests. At times, all 3 of us were steering, one hauling on the tiller and looking aft to be sure we were dead perpendicular to the next wave, the second adding oomph where needed, and the third hauling on the wheel on the side with the good cable when the boat threatened to broach, (turn sideways) on the face of a wave. We knew that the previous owner had managed this trick in a 60-knot storm in the Bay of Biscay in 1969 on Tammy Norie's maiden voyage, which gave us additional confidence, and once into it, in the middle of the night, it would have been pretty tough to change tactics and try to rig a storm anchor. Fortunately, we got away with it, in large part due to Surfin' Tammy Norie and her uncanny ability to swim through just about anything, god bless her.

No doubt it was all very cinematic, but not much fun, and needless to say, no one slept a wink. The fortunate part about the rapid eastward movement of the storm was that it moved off quickly. By daybreak the wind was down to 40 knots and 1 person could steer, although the motion was horrible for about 24 hours due to seas coming from various directions. This was Shifra's first real storm at sea, and she hung in there very bravely, despite getting pretty motion sick toward morning. Joel, being the strongest, bore the brunt of hauling on the tiller, and was equally brave and tireless. No one was injured, just sore arms and backs. Some of our electronics, including the electric autopilot, were out of commission for a while, due to the amount of salt water which came aboard, but all of the essentials are back on line now after some judicious cleaning with fresh water and weasel piss. I'm waiting for a calm to get under the cockpit and replace the steering cable: for now we are fine with the combination of tiller and electric ram. We are catching up on sleep now, praising Neptune and whoever else will listen for our deliverance, and slowly scraping the layers of salt off ourselves. Most amazingly, we turned in a nice 24-hour run of 110 miles in the right direction, and are that much closer to a snug harbor and a hot shower. At which point, we will all begin to endlessly embroider the tale. This may be the last truthful version anyone will hear.

Lunatic irony is at times helpful in such situations, and I kept humming this old British broadside during the night; I've written down what I can remember:

One night there came a hurricane, the seas were mountains rolling,/
When Barney Buntline turns his quid, and says to Billy Bowline,/
"A fine norwester's blowin' Bill, Hark can't you hear it roar now./
God help em, how I pity all unhappy folks ashore now.

Foolhardy chaps who live in towns, what dangers they are all in/
Right now they're quakin in their beds for fear the roof may fall in./
Poor creatures how they envy us, and wish as I've a notion/
For our good luck in such a storm to be out on the ocean

And as for those who're out all day on business from their houses/
And late at night are coming home to cheer the babes and spouses/
While you and I, Bill, on the deck are comfortably lying/
My eyes, what bowls and chimney pots around their necks are flying.

And very often have we heard how men are killed and undone/
By overturns of carriages, by thieves and fire in London/
We know what risks all landsmen take, from noblemen to tailors/
Then Bill, let us thank Providence that you and I are sailors." 

A warm bed and dry underwear to you all, and god bless you.

MR

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: First Passage, 28 August

Captain's log 29 AUGUST, Local noon

Position: 40d 23m North, 49d 21m West; 1050 miles down, 830 miles to Flores, as the cow flies.

Bit of a respite today. Yesterday was a Twilight Zone kind of day. We stopped counting squalls after about #20, beginning around midnight. No "white squalls", whatever those are, but lots of gray ones, a couple of pink ones around sunset, and some really black ones during the night. Some just had a little wind, some a little rain, some lots of both. Our beloved cruising spinnaker tore in a sudden squall to 30 knots. A small tear, fixable in the Azores, but that's out of the repertoire for the moment. We also spent the day caught in another back eddy off the gulf stream, and had to get way north to get out of it, which we are now. We really miss having the Gulf Stream fax maps from NOAA, which are no longer broadcast, so we are just guessing at the location of the stream based on historical data, water temperature, and which direction we seem to be getting pushed at the moment. Fortunately, we have now pushed east of the Grand Banks, at which the Stream begins to widen, diffuse and hopefully quit boxing us about the ears. We almost hove to for a rest last night, we were all so tired, but the prospect of the remnants of Major Depression Bonnie nipping at our heels kept us doggies moving right along. 

Swordfish day 7; headaches, manic behavior, slurred speech. Do we dare try another dose? Tune in tomorrow for another exciting episode of "Toxicology at Sea"..........

MR

Atlantic Island Voyage: First Passage, 27 August

Captain's log, Local noon, 27 August

Position: 40 North, 53 deg. 33 min West
Now 800 miles out from Monhegan, about 1000 to go to Flores, easternmost of the Azores.

Presently running due east along the 40th parallel under cruising spinnaker and mainsail, with wind from the SW and the Gulf Stream in our favor. Speed through the water 5.5 knots; over the bottom, a blistering 6.5. The Concorde it's not.

Bonnie is pretty well out of our picture, and hopefully Maine's as well. However we have had some busy weather, with a parade of lows to the north, squalls and frequent wind shifts over the past 2 days. That translates into lots of sail changes and lots of "all hands on deck" in the middle of the night. Through all that, we've managed to keep moving in the right direction, and are happy with our progress. It has been appallingly hot and humid, which makes sense, since we are traveling on 85 degree water that came from the Caribbean in July.

The swordfish is holding out; no crawly things yet. It is difficult to know, given our baseline, if mercury poisoning has set in yet.

MR 

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: First Passage, 25 August

Captain's log, 8/25

Position: 40 degrees 15 minutes north, 59 degrees 24 minutes west
Heading: 130 degrees (southeast)

We have now entered the Gulf Stream, which should boost us by up to a knot over the next few days. Fortunately, the wind and current are both southwest, which avoids the unpleasant condition of wind against current. That is the situation which causes the nasty, vertical seas the Gulf Stream is famous for. We will soon be turning eastward to follow the 40th parallel for most of the passage to the Azores. Yesterday was a rocky, wet one with winds to 30 knots, and a contrary current due to a back eddy off the north wall of the gulf stream. We are back to moderately reefed sails now, in a brisk but pleasant SW wind at 20 knots.

Shifra is on watch now, and keeping an eye on Fleming, the wind vane that does most of our steering for us. He's a wonder, but takes more tending than Otto, our electric autopilot which we only use when under power because of the current consumption. Wind-powered steering is also more elegant in other ways, being quiet and more in harmony with the ethos of working with the wind.

It looks like we have dodged Hurricane Bonnie. Even if it turns northward at this point, we will be far to the east. For once, we can say that a hurricane blew safely ashore. Sorry, Miami, nothing personal.

MR

 

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: First Passage, 22 August

Captain's Log, 22 August

Position 42 degrees, 07 minutes north latitude
65 degrees, 16 minutes west longitude

We are now off the continental shelf, depth of water about 8000 feet. We spoke with a fishing vessel from Nova Scotia this morning, the Derrick and Stephane, who offered us a "little piece" of freshly caught swordfish. We offered some beer in return, and got about 30 pounds of fish, most of which we've crammed into the icebox. We also baked some up on the spot, and it was stupendous. So it's swordfish for breakfast lunch and dinner for the next 2 weeks, or however long we can keep it. We've cranked the little reefer unit as low as the thermostat will go in hopes of stretching it out.

By now we're pretty well adapted to the schedule, which is 4 hours on watch, and 8 hours off, with Joel and I taking turns backing Shifra up until she feels OK about standing watch alone at night. She does 8-12, Mike does 12-4, and Joel takes 4-8, the graveyard watch. He likes to watch the sun come up. No one has been seasick yet, and we are pretty well done being cautious about spending too much time below decks.

Weather has been very cooperative, now sunny with a gentle 12-knot breeze directly behind us. We could use more of it, having motored about 10 of the last 48 hours. But no one is whistling yet.

Saw a large sunfish lolling on the surface yesterday, about 6 feet in diameter. Strange creature. The usual small whales and occasional dolphins, but not as many as we expected on the banks.

Thanks for the e-mail messages. We do mail call around noon each day and greatly enjoy hearing from home. Keep those beeps and squawks coming!

 

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: First Passage, 20 August

20 August, 1998

Departed Monhegan Island 1200 hours EDT.
Wind is light, southwest, and we are reaching along under cruising spinnaker and all plain sail. A delightful day, not a cloud in the sky. Course is 140 magnetic, our first waypoint is the cut between Brown's Bank and George's Bank, 185 nautical miles distant. Thanks to all the McDonough family of Monhegan for their generous hospitality and great food. (Thanks for the cookies, Judy)

MR

Atlantic Island Voyage 1998: Preparation

18 August 1998 

Departed our mooring in Clarks Cove at 1 PM August 18th, filled our diesel and water tanks to the brim. We are now carrying 120 gallons of each. If we've forgotten anything important, we haven't discovered it yet....

Fine sail to Monhegan Harbor, all systems working well. Now for a couple of days of safety drills and shakedown before the big jump to the Azores, and perhaps a bit of carousing with Joel and Shifra's friends on the island. 

Weather looks good for departure in the next 2-3 days. No hurricanes in the North Atlantic at the moment.

MR