Monthly Archives: July 2013

Kinsale and Life Aboard

We arrived in Kinsale on Sunday and plan to stay here until Sunday – then head to Cork where Abby will join the boat.

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Kinsale is a pretty little town, festooned with tourists! That’s not to detract from the tourists, being in a crowded place is strangely very nice, having been in out of the way places in both Ireland and the Azores. Kinsale is twinned with Newport, RI (Toodle-oo!’s hailing port) and they obviously take the twinning seriously. We went to the White House Inn and duly signed the guest register – a collection of guests that have visited from the Newport area – several by boat. We also enjoyed dinner there last night with the OCC Commodore and his crew!P1010417

We’ve been enjoying some Irish music too – most especially at Dolan’s Pub, where the pictured group play on Monday and Tuesdays. What’s neat is that they have various folk throughout the pub sing a song and then accompany them in the choruses – makes for an interesting dynamic.

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We’ve been having a great time as we’ve sailed the Azores and now Ireland – but it’s not been without its challenges…

While underway, the constant motion can become irksome. We found this especially true on our passage from the Azores to Ireland where we thankfully had great wind and made great time – but you can have too much of a good thing – and 7 days of constant heeling to port got old! Especially tiring for the Downstairs Skipper, balancing herself and items on the stove…

Laundry is a major hassle and becomes a very high priority when arriving anywhere new. In Ireland it’s been particularly challenging and we’ve ended up doing laundry by hand.

Internet is very hit or miss – more so in Ireland than in the Azores strangely – due to the fact that in the Azores there were many open signals that could be tapped into whereas in Ireland they’re all security coded.

Cooking and keeping the boat clean while wanting to enjoy the surroundings has been particularly challenging for Laurie and we will re-think some of our approaches to life aboard – make better use of restaurants and expensive drop-off Laundromats.

In Ireland we’ve been thwarted sometimes by the weather – as we try not to rent cars but make use of our walking shoes and tandem.

There have been several boat issues along the way – none major, but all needing attention. The generator quit generating, but we fixed that while underway in the Azores – with Mike Eslinger’s assistance. The engine alternator or charging system seems to be on the blink – only charges for an hour or so at reasonable amperage, then dropping to nothing (I need to fix this!). Nearly losing a mast winch would have been catastrophic (at least financially) but somehow when it disassembled itself in the middle of the night and fell to the deck, all pieces managed to somehow stay aboard – making reassembly easy. Our water heater element died in the Azores and we are awaiting Abby’s arrival with a new heater element. She’s also bringing new cap screws for the Genoa’s furler and new tires for our tandem – which are down to the threads!

Drinking in Ireland has been easy with copious amounts of universally good Guinness available on every street corner – in quaint little pubs! Wine is unfortunately expensive in Ireland whereas it was really cheap ($3/bottle) in the Azores…

Gleangarriff to Baltimore

Boy, having arrived in Ireland, internet opportunities have disappeared (all the viewable ones are secured) – until now – now that we’re paying 40€’s to tie up to a dock in Kinsale!

What’s been happening…

Well, we arrived in Glengarriff – a much smaller town – village – than we were expecting. Very picturesque and good Guinness(!), but not much else. We did get to try out our bubble (cockpit enclosure) to good effect in the damp, cool conditions. Very nice to be able to have dinner outside when it’s raining – which it does daily at various times throughout the day and night – but fortunately not for very long!

Laundry and money were a bit of a problem – lots of the former, precious little of the latter… Glengarriff doesn’t have a bank, an ATM, Internet or a launderette! Time to move on.

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So, after a couple of days (including allowing me to buy a lovely Arran sweater) we do. Planning to head to Baltimore – which is pretty stupid since we don’t have a weather forecast, it’s about 10 hours away and we have to navigate around the south west cape of Ireland – Missen Head. Needless to say, it didn’t happen. Half way down Bantry Bay, the wind driven rain reached 30 kts in our face – so, with reefed main and a little jib out, we decided to head for cover. We motioned towards Lawrence Cove on the north side of Bere Island – and as we did so, the Genoa decided to unravel itself!  Something broke and allowed the bloody great thing to come out – necessitating a manual pull down – always fun in a high wind! But we managed – and an hour or so later we were tucked up on a free visitor’s mooring in Lawrence Cove – parked right next to another American Flagged sailboat!

Mooring was interesting. Not Laurie’s finest hour! We were in a tight spot – with little room between the mooring and the rocks behind us… anyway, Laurie gamely took to the dingy to sort things out and did so admirably! Great recovery!

Bere Island is lovely, but there’s not much there. Certainly no laundromats or banks and unfortunately the pub was closed too!

We invited Tony off the American boat for some drinks. We didn’t have much, but Laurie managed to concoct a devilish Manhattan type drink that she and Jane had developed in Horta. Very nice – though we went through a whole bottle of Vodka in a single night!!!!

The following morning we continued our sail to Baltimore. We left at 9am – but forgot to take the engine off the dingy – so had to do so while on the move – made for an interesting getaway! We ended up having a great sail with Code Zero acting as our Genoa – in winds of 10 – 15 kts, making 8+ kts. We rounded Missen Head and then headed for the infamous Fastnet Rock. What an inspiring place!

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We arrived in Baltimore Harbor at about 2:30 – a nice peaceful town with a very active sailing club!

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Unfortunately, they did not have a launderette or internet – but they did at least have an ATM! Guinness can now flow unimpeded!

Next up: Kinsale – where there is Internet (slow) and Laundry! :-)

 

I’d Rather be Lucky than Smart

It’s blowing outside – 25kts plus – and we’re heeling and bashing into the waves. Not a nice night, we’re below in the saloon, enjoying one of Laurie’s dinners. Life is good.

Bang! Something noisy happens right around the mast area. We look at each other and listen for more noises.  All is quiet. Must have imagined it…

We bash on into the night.

Dawn breaks and the wind is still blowing. We’re still heeling and making good progress towards Ireland – it’s been a fantastic passage – fast, but very tiring since we’ve been on the same tack for a week and walking through and around the boat is challenging. Anything we can avoid doing we avoid – especially if it means going forward where the waves are highly likely to give you a salty dousing.

Holy crap! The port side mast winch is missing! Altogether! It’s gone!

I clip into the lifeline and start to move forward. Lying on the deck beside the cockpit I see a large black plastic washer – it’s part of the innards of the winch. As I move forward, I see that there are components of the winch lying variously around the deck. The main body lying on ropes that had been stored on the winch. The screw on cover that holds the thing together was within inches of going overboard. Bearings are lying on the deck. I pick up all the pieces and miraculously, the entire winch is still aboard.

I’d rather be lucky than smart – but perhaps we’ll modify some passage procedures accordingly! :-)

 

 

It’s All About Weather!

Following some great assistance from new friends Tony and Rachel aboard Saltwistle III, who provided some real insight into weather prediction, tools for same and methods of interpretation, we left Praia da Vitoria on Terceira on Sunday afternoon, just after 1pm. Our GRIB file showed (light) wind forecast for the next 7 days all the way from the Azores to the coasts of Ireland, England, France, Spain and Portugal. Armed with this, we decided to head for Ireland.

The GRIB files show wind direction and strength and it seemed to us that heading north or even west of north for a while would allow us to gain some reasonable wind – whereas everywhere in line between the Azores and England showed a high pressure zone with very little wind.

We also took the precaution of paying for a weather forecast and routing assistance specific to our trip from Chris Parker – who operates out of Florida and provides these services across the Atlantic. Unfortunately, as our order for the forecast was sent out on Sunday, we would not receive it until Monday evening – and only then if the SSB radio is working properly and propagation is in our favor…

‘Toots’ a 40ft Ovni, followed us out of the harbor with a destination of northern France or wherever the wind blows them. Saltwistle III was a full day ahead of us bound for Spain or Portugal. Other OCC boats would be leaving in the next few days – either from Praia or from Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel with destinations from Gibraltar to Ireland and everywhere in between. We had arranged an SSB net for 8:15 every morning so that we could check each other’s progress. We would also be in contact each evening with Saltwistle III – allowing Tony to hold my weather forecasting hand even more.

Winds were very light on Sunday as we headed off dead downwind (north) with just a spinnaker flying, allowing us to make 5+kts, however this was good enough to leave Toots in our wake – who headed off with a more easterly component to their course. Unfortunately Toots does not have an SSB so we were unable to connect with them after leaving.

In the evening, the winds lightened further so we motored through the night… heading west of north in search of wind. We were not able to pick up any emails (or weather forecasts) – either because of propagation or because the SSB was still not working right. Even though I was able to talk with various OCC boats, them being relatively close was less of a challenge than getting a signal the couple of thousand miles required to retrieve email and weather files.

Monday morning the wind began to pick up and by 7:30am we were sailing again – it appeared that my westing was paying off as we gained some distance from the high. We ended up sailing the rest of the day and into the evening picking up speed the whole day.

On Tuesday evening we did manage to pick up emails – and Chris Parker’s weather forecast dated Sunday afternoon – which was particularly pessimistic – starting with: “It’s a good thing you have enough fuel for 800 miles, you’re going to need it all – I just have to find you 400 miles that you can sail” !!! This was a little surprising since we’d already been sailing for all but the 12 hours overnight Sunday/ Monday. Chris seemed adamant that we’d see no wind until Wednesday…

On Tuesday, the wind picked up more and we in fact scored a record (for us) of 193 nautical miles in the 24 hours noon to noon – not bad for no wind! We’ve been steaming along ever since – the only reason the engine goes on at all is to charge batteries and heat water! Our problem is more of slowing the boat to a reasonable speed to stop it banging or worse, broaching – and as I write this on Friday, we’re still moving along at 8kts with two reefs in the main and our smaller jib! Average miles covered so far is about 166NM/day – which includes the first day of only 105NM.

The downside of this trip is that the waves have been a bit of a bugaboo – 6-8 feet, making for a difficult time walking the length of the boat. Also awkward walking on deck with our safety lines and wet under foot from wave action splashing the boat. In spite of this, Laurie has maintained her excellent culinary standards – but managing with fewer pots than the last trip. So far we’ve had chicken curry, pork shops Portuguese, sausage and pasta and as we speak she’s preparing Shepherds Pie – from scratch!

Other boats in the OCC fleet seem to have caught Chris Parker’s forecast – the commodore on Al Shaheen in particular is being told that he won’t see wind until Thursday – six days off! Saltwistle III made good progress the first day but has struggled ever since – and seems to have winds blowing them towards Ireland instead of France! The vagaries of owning a sailboat I guess – you have to go where the wind takes you sometimes… (Commodore made an unfortunate comment: “Yes, we all know Toodle-oo! always has wind!” Not sure to what he was referring!)

I’ve been able to download further GRIB files as we’ve progressed north and it looks like we’ll be able to maintain good wind until tomorrow evening – at which point it looks like we’ll be in very light air. However, by then we’ll be in striking distance of Ireland – so will happily motor the last day – it’ll actually be nice being able to stand up straight! Expected landfall will be Sunday afternoon – unless we get slowed by residual wave action, in which case we’ll slow down and enter Bantry Bay on Monday morning.

The wave action has unfortunately not allowed sightings of any Dolphins or Whales – though we are in the constant company of Shearwaters – which are wonderful birds to observe as the swoop along right on the crest of waves, with wingtips almost touching. They seem revel in the windier conditions. This reminds me, I don’t think I’ve mentioned the Cory Shearwaters that are in high numbers around the Azores. They have a most peculiar call and fly at night around the island cliffs. They sound like Batman screaming at Robin having just inhaled a helium balloon!

We’ve both been very tired this trip – it’s been difficult to sleep with the motion, but this was made worse by the fact that the two evenings prior to our departure from Praia da Vitoria, we were subjected to loud music from a nearby hotel which started at 1:30am and went on until 5am!!! We were therefore very tired at the outset and it has taken several days to get back onto a sound footing sleep-wise.

On Sunday we started motoring towards Bantry Bay. We were being headed by Easterly winds, preventing landfall – so bit the bullet and turned the engine on. Frankly we’d had enough of life on a slant. However, it didn’t get much better with the boat only able to make about 4 knots into the 6ft waves and the hull slammed constantly into the next wave. However, here we are, 4:00am on Monday morning, motoring up Bantry Bay, with landfall expected in about 3 hours time. With any luck there’ll be a visitor’s mooring available… It’s been a very fast passage from the Azores…

Looking forward to some kip – followed by some black beer!

Cheers!

Terceira

Terceira has been a lot of fun. We had quite the group of OCC boats here, including the commodore, Rear Commodore and a whole bunch more making the visit particularly nautical.

The island itself is much more rural and reminded us of Sao Miguel with ordered fields, rolling hills with of course some volcanoes dotted about all over the place. We anchored for several days in Praia da Vittoria harbor and took a trip into Angra de Heroismo by bus – both events interesting!

Angra de Heroismo is a very pretty town with a huge castle overlooking the town that still houses military personnel. We walked to the top of the peninsular that it is on, and got great views of the town, but were unable to get into the castle itself – opening times were quoted as 2:30 in our guide, we got there and they said 3:00pm – so walked to the top and back in 30 minutes – at which point they said it opens at 4! Bugger that! We went back into town and enjoyed a beer!

Yesterday we rented a car and drove around most of the island – it’s very pretty and again has its own unique character. Not nearly as jagged, and with large swaths of clearly bountiful agricultural land. We enjoyed a visit to a volcanic cave – which put us into huge caverns 100M below the surface. Interesting that compared to other caves I’ve been into, the stalactites and stalagmites were much smaller – apparently due to the non-existence of limestone…

Piece de la resistance? We went last night to our first bull fight. Bull Taunt is probably more accurate. In the center of the small village, someone brings out their bull and the whole village – and presumably many others, show up to taunt the poor bugger, who is restrained only by two lines attached to his neck and handled by 5 or 6 guys wearing white overalls and black hats. They lead the bull into the center of town and then villagers taunt it. It gets pissed off and chases – and the crowd that forms to watch suddenly disperses! We thought we had a good viewing point but were then told that we were in one of the most dangerous spots. Laurie ran half a mile away for cover! Sure enough, 5 minutes later, the field we were standing in became the hotbed of activity – the bull crashed through the gate and had watchers scrambling for safety! Talk about a rush! The handlers seem to know how to give the bull enough lead to make it interesting – though I heard that someone was seriously injured just a couple of days ago at another event. They have bull fights almost every evening in one or other of the villages.

It’s been strange in the Azores the lack of people out and about. On Terceira they are certainly more obvious – and then when you witness a bull fight you realize how many folk there are about!

We are packing the boat up now and heading out in about 2 hours for a 10 – 12 day passage. Follow us on our spot.

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PS: The bird photographed in Flores – an Azorian Chaffinch!

Too Close to Home

Unfortunately, Mick Chamberlain on the diminutive Simo, who left Horta late last week, had an unfortunate incident on his way to the UK. He hit a whale which holed the boat. His efforts to pump the water out were insufficient and he ended up setting off his EPIRB and then being picked up by a Spanish fishing boat. Simo is no more… Mick is well but devastated and will be on his way bak to the UK via Vigo, next week.

Sorry for your loss Mick – but glad you’re OK.

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Horta to Terceira

We have now moved over to Terceira – a 15 hour sail away from Horta and the harbor’s mural of yacht insignia.

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We departed at 4:00pm, managing to squeeze our way out from the harbor wall that we’d been attached to without incident (phew!) for an overnight sail with Stephanie, Joe and Matthew aboard.

We sailed out between Faial and Pico, but as soon as we got into the main channel between Sao Jorge and Pico, the wind died – until the end of Sao Jorge. We passed a very interesting village on Sao Jorge – completely isolated by high cliffs – right on the water with a single steep winding road down to it.

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It was an uneventful (boring) trip – with 12 hours of motoring involved and so we arrived the following morning at Praia da Vitoria, only to find the marina jammed full – so set the anchor in the large protected harbor in 8M with 40M scope. After a lengthy (and inaccurate) check-in with harbormaster and immigration and a welcome shower, Laurie, Steph, Joe and Matthew headed for Angra do Heroismo while I stayed aboard for some sleep. This was Steph’s last day with us and the following morning they took a taxi to the airport and left Laurie and I alone for the first time in what felt like ages.

It’s been an interesting time since we moved aboard in May until now. Some things are much more complex than we had anticipated, other things are easier. We certainly are learning to take one day at a time and have made numerous changes to our plans as we adapt to the various situations.

We have been participating in an Ocean Cruising Club cruise – which I was rather fearful might turn into a stuffy event – but it’s been very nice, allowing us to have a reason to introduce ourselves to boats that otherwise we might not have – and we’ve very quickly developed some interesting friendships.

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With the Azores being islands in three groups, OCC members have come and gone as they’ve seen fit and we’ve met them – or not – in other islands. We keep in touch using our radios on a morning ‘Net’ and from time to time there’s an event (like the barbecue with rude Kiwi above!) that tends to bring the majority of the group together. With all the other cruisers so much more experienced than us, we’ve found a wealth of information available – and serious technical help for some of the deficiencies around Toodle-oo! Most notably the rather poor performance of our long range radio (SSB), but also I’ve received great help with weather prediction and routing plans. Our plan had been to spend a few days in Terceira and then head for the south west coast of England – but that might be evaporating now as a high is sitting between the Azores and England – making for very light winds – and we certainly don’t relish the thought of motoring the whole bloody way! We’re therefore “stuck” here for a bit – but we’ll make the most of it. Not sure if we’ll stay here or perhaps make an effort to go to Graciosa, the one island we missed from our plan altogether. Then perhaps we’ll head for Ireland and head to the Lake District from there. Who knows – watch this space!

Pico

We hummed and hawed about walking up to the top of Pico with a small band of folk from the OCC, but in the end thought better of it – the weather didn’t look great on the day and besides, I have a pretty sore toe having stubbed it seriously about 10 days ago – I’m thinking it might be broken. The walk takes 7 or 8 hours and apparently the downhill is really grueling and not much fun.

We took the lazy way out and took the ferry over (just as the diminutive Simo was departing for England) and dragged Stephanie, Joe and Matthew around in a rental car.

 

P1010029P1010031Pico is an island of contrasts. Arriving in Madalena, the coast road north was in a bleak black landscape of basalt lava flows in which the Azoreans managed to eke out a living cultivating vines and figs and making wine and brandy. The red wine from Pico has quickly become one of our favorites!

 

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We visited a wine making museum – more of a village – which was quite interesting. Grapes are grown in what looks to be rock – hardly any soil – in very small enclosures created by walls of black basalt. These walls kept the vines warm and out of the wind. The tending and harvesting of the crop was and remains completely manual.

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We then moved on to a Whaling Museum – inside an old whale processing factory. It was really interesting in spite of the gruesomeness of the whole thing. Unfortunately not allowed to take photos inside – but this is the ramp that the poor buggers were hauled up to the factory on…P1010071

We then drove up on a higher altitude road that took us by way of one of the many calderas. Everything is really lush as you drive up – even the fence posts support an active biology!P1010079P1010080

We were at about half the height of the big volcano, but already right at cloud level. The scenery had now changed to very similar to the high moors of the Yorkshire dales – only lacking in sheep! Amazing the contrast to the other end of the island. Lunch was a wonderful event in Ponta da Ilha – though paying for it was tough as they only took cash and even Matthew had to chip in!

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We drove back along the south side of the island and discovered the beautiful little port of Lajes do Pico. I wish we had the opportunity to go there, but sadly not…

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We arrived back at the boat at about 7pm and then had an enjoyable evening drinking aboard Saltwhistle 3 with new friends Tony and Rachel. All good.

We’ll be leaving Horta on Saturday and sailing with Stephanie et al to Terceira some 90 miles away. Planning to make it an overnight trip which should be interesting!

 

 

Faial

So we arrived at Horta, the main town on Faial and a large yachting harbor a week ago and have enjoyed the island and the cruising camaraderie. The Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) has organized a 2 week cruise in and around the islands and so the 15 or so signed up yachts have a common theme – but are nicely lost in amongst the hustle and bustle of one of the largest cruising harbors in the world.

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OCC Dinner

 

The OCC held an official kick off dinner – we got to sit at the top table as recent ‘Qualifiers’ in the organization having just completed our 1,000 mile non-stop voyage. That’s not a patch on Mick – a really interesting guy who sailed in from Somewhere aboard his 25ft wooden boat. Mick left yesterday for Falmouth – single-handed. Fair winds Mick!

We said goodbye to Jane and Mike and hello to Stephanie, Joe and Matthew.

Faial’s biggest tourist destination is at the far end of the island, and is the site of the 1957/58 eruption that added a couple of square kilometers of land area to the island, which is already being eroded away by the constant winds and sea action. We hired a car for the day and enjoyed the sudden and dramatic change from more typical Azorian landscapes to suddenly a lunar landscape with little vegetation and fine grains of basalt sand. They have an underground museum at the site of the lighthouse that was destroyed during the eruption, but left the tower intact – which we were able to climb to the top of.

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One of the famous aspects of the harbor at Horta is that everyone gets to paint on the harbor wall – to not do so is considered unlucky. We had brought along paints from America and duly picked our spot where now a Toodle-oo! logo can be found… The marvellous mountain in the background is the volcano on Pico – Portugal’s highest mountain… We’re bound for there next – by ferry…

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