Monthly Archives: June 2013

Graciosa? Nope, Sao Jorge…

We left Corvo at around 4:30pm and headed for Graciosa. There was no wind so we motored L but were soon enchanted by a group of dolphins that enjoyed playing in the bow wave – in the clearest water imaginable.


Graciosa lies some 150 miles to the east south east, so we’re in for an overnight sail. I decided that we should run the watermaker – to keep the membranes active and fresh, so started the generator accordingly – only to find that it was giving zero amps! Since we had nothing better to do, Mike and I set about reading the book to find out what might be wrong – and ended up diagnosing a blown capacitor. The unfortunate thing was that in order to get to said capacitor, one has to lift the generator from it’s sound enclosure, the fortunate thing: the previous owner had left a spare capacitor aboard… A couple of hours later, we were back in business and making more water…

Overnight the wind avoided us, allowing just a hint of such that we flew a headsail which added about .2kts to our speed – but the watch keeping was easy, if dull. Come morning the wind picked up a little, but we were unable to head directly for Graciosa – though Sao Jorge was in our sights… OK change of plan – we’re going to Sao Jorge and the boat was sailing again – peace and quiet!

Sighting land was interesting – our first sight was of the top of Pico – at about 4,000M high – a well impressive volcano, peeking out above the clouds.


We arrived in Velas, Sao Jorge and were able to secure a berth inside the wonderful marina which is new and equipped with laundry and excellent shower facilities.


Sao Jorge is a long skinny island, famous for its cheese. Velas is a very pretty little town and the night we arrived the town was holding a fishing celebration – and catered some wonderful food – free! How cool can this be? All the boats in the harbor were dressed for the occasion with flags and music was playing – though oddly sounded like Irish tunes!

We rented a car and toured down the island stopping close to the top of a hill so that Laurie and I could trek down (J). What wonderful views we had – all the way down to the Caldeira de Santo Cristo where a village, complete with restaurant and big church is accessible only by foot or by ATV. We met Mike and Jane there who had walked the 1 hour in from the other direction, had a great burger at the restaurant and then walked back to the car and then on to the boat.



We toured the island from top to bottom, visiting cheese factories, small ports, watermills and waterfalls. Sao Jorge certainly caters for walkers with magnificent walks in abundance. We also enjoyed a really silly climb on the edge of a caldeira – that was falling into the sea… impressive photos huh? Both of us got severe vertigo (ok, I really did!)

We left Sao Jorge yesterday and sailed to Horta – the famous harbor of the Azores and a really nice looking town that we’re anxious to explore.

Click on photos to enlarge.  Having difficulties uploading images sensibly – as you can probably tell…


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On to Corvo

Mike and Jane arrived by plane on Friday and we picked them up in a rental car and toured the island some before returning to the marina in Lajes, then on Saturday we left…

Corvo is a small island lying just north of Flores with 430 inhabitants – looking after 3,000 cows – but there are no facilities there and if the wind is in the wrong direction, the harbor is untenable. There wasn’t any wind to worry about so we motored all the way from Lajes on Flores to Vila Nova on Corvo some 20 miles away, and anchored in 10M of water (yes, we’ve gone metric now that we’re in Europe!)

Our quick stop in Corvo was delightful and we took a lazy taxi ride up to the caldera. Managed to walk some of the distance back – giving opportunity to photograph Toodle-oo! lying at anchor in yet another exotic location! Then we walked back through the older portion of the town with very narrow winding streets – feeling like you’re in everyone’s backyards…

We arrived back at the boat in the afternoon and set off for the main trip – to Graciosa, lying some 150 miles to the east – an overnight sail that we would begin at least with the engine drumming through the night.

(Click on photos to enlarge…)

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Flores is a very dramatic volcanic landscape: Several Calderas filled with water and lush vegetation, steep cliffs coming right to the sea, black jagged rocks capable of shedding a wayward boat in an instant. Then there are the little villages spotted around the place with houses painted white and with red slate roofs, so typical of Portugal. There isn’t much going on in the villages – it’s tough to identify what’s a shop and what’s a house – there aren’t many shops! and as an example, yesterday when we rented a car with another couple and ended up for lunch in Santa Cruz, we gave ourselves 90 minutes to discover the town before regrouping to chose the favored restaurant for lunch… 25 minutes later we’d covered the town and only one couple had found the (apparently) only restaurant in the place. Food was good though! I get the feeling that social events are centered much more around community festivals rather than daily socializing that is more common elsewhere. Seems all rather nice.

Monday we did an interesting walk down a steep path to the sea and an area of microclimate where bananas are grown. Quite a challenging walk back in the heat of the day. Yesterday we toured the entire island in the car – and had great views over to Corvo.

Today is a boat maintenance day, Friday our friends Jane and Mike arrive and Saturday we sail for Corvo and then on to Graciosa.

Will try to upload photos when I have a decent internet connection…

(Click on photos to enlarge)

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Arrival in Flores!

With 500 miles to go, we started planning our arrival in Flores – seems ridiculous compared to our trip to Bermuda – where with 500 miles to go we’d barely left the US! The good news for us was that we were able to sail the rhumb line to Flores – moreover it looked like we’d have good wind – albeit from directly behind us which is not the most comfortable point of sail. We motored a little when the winds dropped below about 5 or 6 knots apparent, suffering the noisy slatting of the main, but otherwise sailed wing on wing and took the consequential rolling motion – which made sleep difficult to come by.

It looked at one point as if we’d be able to make it in on Friday evening – but to do so we had to maintain a 7.4kt average. The winds did not cooperate however, so on the Thursday we quickly decided to plan for an early Saturday arrival and take it nice and easy. Good decision indeed – removed all the stress to get there and we were fortunate to have a really beautiful Friday and spent most of it in the cockpit. I took advantage of the nice weather to obtain a really good sunburn too!

Land Ho! just after midnight on Saturday with the sighting of the leading light of Flores. The wind was up and we had to slow the boat down to below 5kts so as to not arrive too early. When we finally turned towards the harbor, the wind was blowing 30kts – and we had an interesting time anchoring in 50ft of water, anchor down at 3:45EST – 7:45am local. Made it! We sat on the anchor for a couple of hours, getting various things arranged so that we could proceed into the tiny marina to find a slip and then motored on in to find a very tight marina behind a breakwater and squeezed ourselves into a spot adjacent a 33ft ketch that had been single handed from Connecticut by a twenty something young lady! We quickly met up with various other cruisers – Brits and Aussies – and planned drinks for the evening!

Since arriving we’ve basically been sleeping, drinking and doing laundry.The only thing we know about Flores so far is that it’s steep, lush, has cold beer available, no Laundromat, a good general store (but not open on Sunday). I’ll update with some photos when we’ve had a chance to really look around.

(click on photos to enlarge)


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Boston to the Azores – Part II

So we’re into our 10th day now. The engine is humming in my right ear as I type this – we’re motoring and have been since about 10:00pm last night. There’s a concept – 10:00pm… Eastern time or UTC (Universal Time) or Azorean time? Fortunately, Azorean is the same as UTC… Laurie has moved onto Azorean time, I’m still on the East coast – which is what explains why I had Indian Curry for breakfast this morning!
It’s been an interesting few days since I last reported. We received an excellent forecast from our weather router Herb – for three solid days of 20 – 25kt winds abaft the beam and enjoyed the first immensely. It was a day for biology: In the morning I discovered a dead squid on top of the coachroof! We then had sighting of a solitary whale and with an excellent book we have aboard, we are pretty confident that we have identified it correctly as a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale – an unusual species. We saw flying fish off in the distance and various birds – mostly Shearwaters and a few Petrels. We were then joined by a pod of a dozen dolphins – looked like pairs of mothers/calves with dads swimming alone. Difficult to identify – we went from Striped Dolphins to Cylmene Dolphins with the second pod of 20 or more that joined us – to finally Spotted Dolphins (much more common) when the third group arrived and I briefly identified spots that I’d not previously seen. (Presumably each group were of similar make-up over the 2 – 3 hour period we were watching them.) The last group was difficult to watch well as we were amid a sail-change – stronger weather was in the offing.
We were looking forward to the second day of a forecast that Herb had given us the previous day, but the winds were climbing already to the high end of his predicted range. When we reviewed the forecast with Herb on the evening SSB Net, he decides that yes the winds will be solidly in the 30-35kt range (!) tonight and the following day – it was about to get hectic. The winds were as he foretold. Also the seas were up and I estimate that while the majority of waves were around 15ft, there was a couple of swells compounding – such that we often had waves in the 25ft range. How can you tell? Difficult – but standing on deck with my eyes parallel with the solar panels that are mounted at about 15 – 18ft off the sea, it was pretty clear that the tops of the waves (from the bottom of the trough) was a solid 25ft… Fortunately, we were running with the wind and the wave trains, so every time a monster wave would approach us, the stern would simply ride up it – and then fall off the backside as the wave traversed through. (Unfortunately the one exception to this occurred when Laurie was hand steering while I was on the SSB attempting to talk with Herb – she got dumped on by a following wave – the only one that has so far managed to soak the cockpit. Adding insult to injury, we were unable to contact Herb that night due to poor propagation.) We were well positioned for these big winds and seas – being able to run with them with just a portion of our jib out and 350ft warp (rope with a short piece of anchor chain at the end) being towed out the back. This was our first use of a warp – it did really well at keeping the boat pointed in the right direction – rather than riding up a wave to port or starboard – followed by the inevitable wobbly fall-off. We managed the boat like this for 24 hours.
Sleep was tough to come by and we were in touchy recovery mode all the following day – when the winds had abated and the seas were calming – and we were once again sailing in good conditions and making sail changes galore.
Last night the winds died away such that we motor sailed for a good stretch and then finally brought in the genoa and let the engine do its thing. It’s been doing its thing since about 10:00pm…
Charging the batteries is becoming a little touchy. Without the wind generator we are down some anyway – and the engine alternator/charging system is only putting out a fraction of what it should. However, yesterday a new problem appeared – there’s apparently some suspect wiring in the generator circuits – I was unable for a long time to get the AC running. Tried this and that and in the end did nothing and the problem just went away. Needs looking at – probably by someone that understands arcs and sparks! We can’t lose our last method of charging!
Our ship’s compass and all the electronics are out of synch. We knew this going into this passage – and the problem is manageable since our position is reported independently by GPS and how we get there doesn’t really matter – just join the dots to get there. Would be nice to understand headings a little more clearly however. All this requires is some calibration routines – that require riding around in circles in a flat calm sea…
Our Monitor Wind Vane ‘Gail’ has been great – as long as we’re heading into weather. When running she’s useless. We therefore have to use the autopilot – exacerbating the energy issue – plus we are nervous that Otto may suddenly quit on us… Need some changes to the control lines on Gail once we get in.

We’re doing great – just 400 miles left to Flores…

The Passage: Boston – Azores

Friday June 7. It’s day 6. It’s uncomfortable typing this as the desk is at a 20 degree angle and I’m trying to hold on – which is both a bad thing and a good thing. It’s not convenient, but it means we’re sailing – and since I have the computer out, it means the seas are relatively calm. Marvellous!


We left Boston early on Sunday morning on a really nice morning and managed to sail our whole way out of the harbor and on past Cape Cod – though the really nice morning turned into a boisterous sail that was set to stay for a couple of days as we made our way south east towards the gulf stream. Once there, plan is to move in and out of the stream according to weather conditions (in when it’s nice, out when it’s not) in order to take advantage of the positive current when we can.


The seas were nasty – not very high – probably only 4 ft. with occasional bigger waves, but they were closely spaced giving a really choppy ride. Dramamine managed to keep my seasickness at bay (just) and even the hard bellied Laurie had to take the occasional helping pill. By the end of day two, we were both questioning what the hell we were doing miles from land on a bucking bronco that we were forced to stay on for the next two weeks. Laurie’s demeanor was further afflicted on day two by rain and the constantly wet boat – not easy to keep a clean home when every surface is wet or damp.


We were following Commander’s Weather routing – and Dave there had explained to me that the initial days would have good wind – and even when his forecast email arrived and it was there in black and white that we’d see winds in the 20 – 30 knot range and seas building to 9 ft., it didn’t dawn on me that those would be challenging conditions. We’ll reef, the boat will manage it – heck it’s been through worse than that… (I’d forgotten how much I hated the worse than that…). Consequently, on day two when we managed to reach Canadian Maritime Forecaster Herb Hilgenberg who operates a voluntary service for idiot yachties like us and he suggested heading North East, we jumped at the reasoning and immediately began to feel the relief of not pounding into those rotten waves. He was however predicting that the following day we’d see near gale conditions – but with the boat running off, at least she should be able to manage considerably better than if we were still pounding into those  waves…


Day 3 ended up being a really good sailing day with winds from the south west as we headed east north east. We never did see the gale – which had Herb totally baffled when we called in later that day.


It was on day three that I noticed that the wind generator – who had been providing a beautiful 20 – 30A input to the batteries constantly, looked to have suffered some damage. I can only imagine that a bird or a flying fish took a wrong turn through the blades and got chopped into three pieces! Two of the blades are seriously damaged, the third is also affected – I don’t dare run the machine now for fear of a blade letting go and killing one of us! Serious dent in our battery charging regimen…


The day was misty, continuing the wet boat syndrome but with the nice progress and lower seas, plus the knowledge that we were pressing on well ahead of schedule, sprits were up. As evening approached the wind disappeared and what there was came from aft, making sailing very challenging. Making matters worse, Gail, our monitor windvane (mechanical automated steering mechanism) is incapable of holding a course to closer than +/- 20 degrees – which in a downwind sailing configuration is ripe for an accidental gybe with consequent damage possibilities. This left us with an option of running the hydraulic auto pilot (Otto) – but he’s a great consumer of energy and noisy to boot. We ended up opting to run the engine overnight and aim directly for our next waypoint, due east  – and get some rest.


Having motored noisily all through the night, we took the decision to depart from Herb’s latest advice and headed south east instead of east on Day 4 – in an attempt to sail. By heading south east, we could utilize Gale on a heading that she can maintain (reach) – therefore eliminating both the noisy engine – which was now not charging batteries either – and the power hungry Otto. The day ended up being a great day for us.  Sunny and dry. The boat dried out quickly. Sprits soared!


In the evening, once again the winds lightened and for a second time in two nights, we found ourselves missing a gorgeous sunset as we battled various sail combinations all to no avail – ending up running the engine overnight.


We ended up running right through the Gulf Stream without even noticing it! Instead of being this nice straight stream of positive current, the bloody thing meanders this way and that – and unfortunately on Day 5 we managed to go this way when we should have gone that – and in the ended experienced a counter current for more than 24 hours while looking for a good current. The gulf Stream isn’t particularly visible – no road signs tell you where it is and while I thought we’d know by temperature, we’ve so far found that to be a rather elusive method… The saving grace of day five – it was a wonderful sunny day albeit without wind. We motored most of the day (with tunes blasting out from the new cockpit speakers while we sat on the cabin top) and into the night. (How much fuel do we have???) We did however enjoy a very nice sunset with the entire ocean to ourselves. We also managed to get our laundry done and dried in the beautiful sunshine!


The afternoon’s chat with Herb was somewhat curtailed due to poor propagation. His basic instruction, go South East to avoid gale force winds to the north. OK Herb, you da boss! And the engine drones on.


Day six and here we are. Sailing East South  East, with the winds slowly backing to the west allowing us to go further and further south – following Herbs advice – and the noise is wonderful – just rushing water.


We managed to pick up some emails this morning in better propagation than we’ve had for a couple of days, but by the time we’d written responses, the propagation had evaporated again. Rats!


Challenges to date:


We’d been concerned about our watch system – especially regarding night watches. However, it all seems to have worked out quite well. Laurie has been a wonderful support – making sure I get enough sleep to take on the evil serpent watch (11pm – 4am) – so I sleep before and after the watch. Granted the first few days we were tired, but as things have progressed and we’ve gained a rhythm, both of us seem to be getting sufficient sleep.


Our concerns about charging of batteries is being managed by a somewhat reluctant engine alternator putting out some power and the generator that we use to develop power for the watermaker – which so far has added about 60 gallons! Showers aplenty! (Cousin Charles, eat your heart out!!)


The jury is out on the new safety harness regimen – which puts a harness on each jack line, on each side of the mast and two in the cockpit. The idea being you pick up the relevant harness as you roam over the boat – therefore never being un-harnessed at any time. It works, and we like that we never bring a harness inside the boat to ding the woodwork, but it’s complex and sometime so bloody frustrating that we abandon everything! Still working on this.

Laurie has been preparing her usual maritime dinners – Pasta and sausage, Beef Stew, Corned beef and cabbage, fresh bread, etc. It’s been great – though with some of the lumpy ride, difficult to really appreciate most days.


Alcohol: 1st drink for either of us (me) was on day 4. Day 5 saw us both enjoy a beer at lunchtime and a glass of red in the evening. We’re both getting thinner!


Life is good aboard Toodle-oo!


Toodle-oo! Update

By Abs

Woke up to my first Toodle-oo! update this morning on day 3 of their voyage. 

“Had a rough start to the passage with winds running 25kts and 4-6ft choppy seas. Running with double reefed main and reefed jib and still doing over 8kts. As a result our, our first 24 hour run was 185 miles – 35 miles further than expected!

“Had a close call with a fishing boat at 3am yesterday morning – he wasn’t listening to his VHF. Managed to get his attention when only 100 yards away!

“Wet and queezy but otherwise all good aboard Toodle-oo!”

Stay tuned!

Ready for the Off…

We’re on a mooring now, ready for a quick escape tomorrow morning at first light. The dingy is aboard and strapped down, everything is stowed and we’re both (believe it or not) looking forward to actually getting going tomorrow.

Commanders Weather has given us a favorable forecast for the following seven days which should see us reach about the half way mark to the Azores. We’ll be heading South East until we hit latitude 39 which will be the southern edge of the gulf stream at which point we head due east, moving into the stream during good weather and south of it when there look to be squalls around. While in the stream we’ll gain about a knot – not to be sneezed at. We should be able to manage about 150 miles per day – sometime more, sometimes less.

We’ll update our spot position daily – probably twice daily (need some entertainment) so you can follow where we are. Additionally, if I can manage to work out the email system, I may be able to send text messages to Abigail via our SSB HAM radio, for upload onto this blog…

Another piece of entertainment is an open experiment we are participating in – submitting data to Plymouth University in England who are enlisting yachties to take measurements of the plankton health with a Secchi disc. We have a 12” diameter disc, painted while, which we will lower on a measuring tape into the water. When the disc disappears from view, we measure how deep it is. An iPhone app will then record our position and data (depth, water temp, etc) and upload it to the University when we are back in cell range. We took our first measurement today – 2.8 meters… The only downside of this whole think: we have to stop to take measurements… hmmm…


Final Prep

We’re now on final preparation for the trip to the Azores. Commander’s Weather has blessed a Sunday departure. Of course, just to add some spice into the whole thing, the Inverter/Charger stopped working – which is not very comforting. I managed to get it going by turning it off and on a couple of times – but it seems like it’s a bit of a weak link. Adding a problem, it’s remote display is now displaying dutch – as in double – so I can’t even troubleshoot it. We considered strongly delaying until a new unit could be purchased – which would put our departure back to Tuesday, but Commanders feels like the weather will not be nearly as good then, with possible difficulties later in the week. We’ve therefore decided to press on and keep our fingers crossed. We do have a back-up plan – in that the generator also powers a separate 50A charger – and while the generator is on we can recharge any AC equipment. Fingers crossed!

We did our last grocery shop and filled tanks with water – now have to find fuel.

Departure is set for early Sunday morning and we’ll be sending out twice daily Spot signals so you can follow our progress.

Anticipated landfall in Flores is June 16th.