Downwind sailing on Cirrus

There are many ways to sail Cirrus. Because we don’t have a furling sail on the front, we are left with many configurations of stays and sails to be hoisted rather than furled.

In Bilbao we even added a second removable forestay with its dedicated halyard. On the Atlantic crossing that enabled us to sail with two jibs; one poled out in a “classic” manner, the other one with a sheet passing through a block on the end of the boom.

If a squall approached, you just needed to open a clutch and a sail would come down… In theory. Practically many a time one jib would hook itself into both stays, forcing us to drop both at the same time.

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Technical stop in Faial

We are still stuck in the Azores, waiting for a sheave box to arrive. Indeed without this little plastic piece we cannot use the staysail halyard which enables to hoist a stormjib or a staysail. After the weather we have encountered to get here it seems to us silly to leave without it. But meanwhile we use or time to get out the marina and explore the island the best we can.

The first impression left by the local Portuguese is friendly, open and helpful people; most of them will speak either a bit of Spanish, English or French, and even if they don´t they will understand you at the condition you speak with a lot of “checheche”. The islanders produce many excellent products: cheese, meat, vegetables, so that being stuck here ends up being rather pleasant.

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Pico´s mountain, culminating some 1600 meters high

The island at first sight ressembled to Ireland with its green and rocky landscape, steep cliffs and bushes. But when approaching it, the visitor faces a vegetation mixed from tropical and northern weather: bamboos, aloe veras, pineaples and palm trees growing next to pine trees, lichens and spiny bushes. One thing is sure the Azores do not risk to lack of fresh water: from the summit of the island rivers come down in cascade down to the sea, at the top of Pico´s mountain (Pico is the island that we contemplate from the marina) snow can be seen when the clouds are gone, and finally in the week we spent here it did not rain only one day or two. In three words “we like it”. It is amusing considering how the different islands we visited since October differ: the arid Lanzarote, the green and tropical Antigua and finally the mixed green Faial. When the landscape in the Canaries was red, black, brown with black and white houses, in the Carribean blue and green with multicolor houses, here it is grey and green and black and white house. Although the houses have the same color as in the Canaries you could not confuse an Azorian house from a Canarian: the orange clay roofs are typical here and usually the walls are ornamented with curvy shapes or contrasted walls of black stones and white cement.

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Horta´s architecture in what looked like the poshy neighbourhood

The central point of Faial is Horta, with its harbour famous for sailing boats who each year stop here before continuing towards the Med or n0rthern Europe. The harbour is covered of paintings from the boats who passed here and you can easily spend a full day looking at all of them trying to find a known boat. It is apparently bad luck to leave the harbour without leaving your trace. We became sligtly supersticious after our last experience (left Martinique on Friday and we broke, Zebulon left Guadeloupe on Friday, they got bashed up in the storm for four days…) and so left our mark too.

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Horta´s pier from Zebulon´s mast

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Our mark!

As we mentioned Zebulon, the third Glenans´boat had a harder crossing than us. They spent four days in the storm, running in front of gigantic waves, breaking sails and generally being shaken around in their polyester tupperware. So we escorted them inside the harbour: they arrived with a staysail rigged as a main (the mainsail having been ripped from leech to luff in two places). For us it was a pleasure to welcome friends who did not hesitate to turn back to help us when we stopped in Guadeloupe.

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Zebulon´s arrival to Horta

Last Sunday our presence in the marina was not required (nothing to do on the boat, no help to give to our friend) and so we took or chance and rented a car for an express tour of the island. We were recommended to drive around the island anti-clockwise, visit the Western point that extended in a volcanic irruption some sixty years ago. On our way we stopped for a typical lunch and admire the view from some of the many splendid “Miradouro”. Funny enough, these “Miradouro” are all equipped with a stone barbecue which made us think that goiung around with a machette and coal you could survive: chop the cow, light up the fire and eat excellent meat in a wonderful environment.

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Enjoying the view from a “Miradouro”

On the way back we drove up to the summit of the island hoping to climb high enough to be above the clouds. We did not manage… we could only see 20 meters in front of us, far enough to spot the odd cow standing on the road.

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“Slow down it looks like there is… a cow? a cow on the road?!…”

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“How high is it?”   (extension of the island)

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The recent western extension of Faial

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The pine tree forest around the vulcano of Faial

It is indeed very nice in here, but on the other hand we are waiting forward to our piece to arrive as soon as possible and to go out sailing again, this time towards the continent where hopefully our friends and family have not forgotten us. For the moment… we will stay in Horta until next notice.

From Guadaloupe to the Azores

We sailed away from Guadeloupe on the 6th of April at 13h UT.  Des Mers d´Arts, the sistership of our Epok´sea, left in the same time as us. Zebulon the third boat of les Glenans left a day before, on Friday…

We had to clear first the point of Guadeloupe sailing 30 NM upwind in a choppy sea. At the point we were rewarded by our first catch: a barracuda that we threw back in the water (they have a bad reputation of Sicuatera carrier). We headed then NNW, reaching under genoa and full main towards the Anticyclone of Bermuda in a gentle and warm tradewind.

The RM was responding well after a week in Guadeloupe, fresh and happy crew, nets full of fruits and vegetables, sun and breeze….

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The saloon with our netting still full of food, our “cozy” little house for the next month or two.

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Noodles in the morning, the breakfast of the champions

Several days later we were further North but further West than DMA and our secret objective was getting more precise: catch up with Zebulon who started to slow down at the approach of the Anticyclone. Hitting the light airs of this Anticyclone located desperately far North and far West, we took out the spinnaker. We hoped to be fast enough to compensate for the extra miles of contourning the Anticyclone, by opposition of DMA who motored through the calm weather.

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Taking out the big guns, we set as much sails as possible. Result: same speed but more colors.

And one morning, we were slowly making our way under spinnaker and on the horizon we saw the silhouette of a yacht… Zebulon parked in no wind. We hoped to surprise them but the man on watch was attentive: five minutes later VHF call “Epoksea Epoksea Epoksea pour Zebulon Zebulon Zebulon…”. We motored to meet up and exchange some little presents: tobacco, photos, solar shower, limes… After the exchange the wind picked up and we match raced each other under spinnaker. For 30 minutes we held them behind our transom until they beared away and their longer boat overtook us. Wishing to make this common tack last, they dropped their spinnaker for lunch giving us the time for a sneaky gybe. For the first time we were then heading straight towards the Azores. Zebulon on the other hand decided to make a route more North to rally Concarneau without stopping in the Azores.

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Exchange of presents with the spinnaker halyard

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Tricky hoist of the Glenans banner in the light air of Bermuda´s high

We continued our trip towards the east slowly sailing away from the high pressure. As it started getting colder and colder, it was harder for everyone to get out from our sleeping bags, we changed the bikini for the salopette and forgot about taking showers until the arrival.

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5 minutitos más…

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Winter is coming

The conditions had changed after the light wind of the anticyclone and the wind started to come straight from the Azores. Sailing upwind on choppy seas wasn’t much fun and everyone onboard started to get a bit tired of being washed by the wave breaking on the cockpit every minute. We were downloading the weather forecast daily, hoping to see some arrows pointing east, but it was all on our faces and getting stronger as the days passed. Forecast since the 21st of April for the 24th: winds of 40 knots and waves of 8 meters. From then on we started sailing south east as fast as we could to try and avoid this danger area that we had marked in our chart drawing a big square where we didn’t want to be in. We were lucky and only got one day of this bad weather (1 day is enough!). Our barometer went from 1008 to 993 in 12 hours, the waves from the north got bigger and steeper and the wind stronger.At the helm, the objective was to bear away and surf the wave under storm jib. That is how we achieved our maximum speed of the crossing: 12.3 knots!

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Running under the storm jib. Top speed: 12 knots 

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Surfing 8 meter waves, cooking pot on the fire

The nextday the waves calmed down a little bit and they were more long than steep, so everyone onboard took his time to get some sleep. Our Iridium phone had stop working but we had the grib file with the weather forecast from the previous day until the 29th of April. This showed a bit of hope: we´d soon get to southerly winds on the other side of this low pressure which had caused all this nasty weather earlier, enabling us to sail north east straight to the Azores. It proved accurate and we had a couple of days of nice reaching-running and we even caught a big tuna! By the end of the day we were all full but happy to have the luxury of eating so fresh fish after some days of tinned meals.

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Gaspar holding our trophy

We were approaching Horta and the mood of the crew was quite up…but the wind didn’t want us to forget his strength and decided to blow 30 knots from the East on our last day of navigation. 3 x reefed mainsail, staysail hoisted on spinnaker halyard, since the piece that holds the staysail halyard at the mast had come off, and sailing against the waves towards Horta yihaaa!

That night the visibility was very bad so it took a while until we could spot the lights of the island, but then, there it was, waiting for us. We dropped the sails in front of Horta, where another sailing boat was doing the same thing… We got in the visitors pontoon at 4h UT on the 29th of April. And at 4h05min UT, there was Des Mer D’ Arts arriving behind us! Such a coincidence after having departed Guadeloupe at the same time the same day but doing completely different routes, the two RMs got back simultaneously. We celebrated with some beers and breakfast at Peter’s Bar. After 22 days and 12 hours of navigation, most of it upwind and with reefed mainsail and solent, it felt good to be on land.

Our little grey and red RM carried us safely across 3100 NM of sea. It only got bashep up a little bit and we are now fixing its bruises: couple tear in the sail, stay to change… hopefully we will soon be on our way again towards Britanny.

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Our route from Guadeloupe to Horta

Zebulon, the third boat of the Glenans that departed from Guadeloupe, had a bit more of a rough time going North.  We are expecting them in Horta tomorrow morning, 3rd of May.

One thing is sure… crossing the Atlantic back in April is not always so smooth… Unfortunately for some it was even harder: “Grain de Soleil” – a french boat who left St Martin on the 6th and that we overtook on the 13th North of Bermuda´s high – started its distress beacon (EPIRB) on the 24th. Since then we have no news of them. The family and friends of the three sailors are still searching for them. If you wish to help them visit their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Grain-de-soleil-Moussette/

Logbook part 4

07-12-2012

Our respective nightwatches consisted on a brainstorming
session: treasure hunt planning for Thea’s birthday… We started building up the
story and thinking about the different locations to hide the clues. And the night was spent slowly as the wind refused to push us at a decent speed. Having decided on the preparation of Thea´s birthday we went to sleep but only to be woken up a couple hours later by James. When we got on deck we had a little surprise waiting for us; the boom had come off. Split pin + boom banging with no wind = boom falling off from the mast. It took the 4 of us, 1 hour, 2 spinnaker sheets and lots of patience to put it back in place, moving it forward and aft using the two manual winches at the cockpit.

The day was hot and sticky and quite grey. As James and Sara were taking a rest, the wind finally arrived, this time from 30º and 14-17 knots!! We set the sails, and what I am going to explain now is us getting crazy about max VMG:  first we rolled the reacher and hoisted the asymmetric, and put 2 reefs on the main so the womper wouldn’t get its shadow. Then we decided to drop the spinakker and unfurl the reacher, bearing away about 10 degrees and hoisting the full mainsail.

We were still not going very fast, and we felt like Feliz was escaping from our hands… But well we had awesome tuna curry, yes, there was still quite a lot of tuna in the fridge, happy days!

At the end of the day we had done 147 nm. It felt good to see our daily millage come up again.

08-12-2012

This night we relayed at the quill for writing all the clues. In the morning Thea woke up the first to find her present on the saloon tables and a misterious letter from “Jack the Bear”. The ghost of Jack the Bear, apprently charmed of finding a 21st century cruising yacht named after his fregate had hidden a treasure on board… The first task was to dress up the crew in a more fearsome piraty way.

The afternoon was spent in discovering the new Nintendo DS games for some and getting the boat fast for others. The trade winds came back with their share of flying fishes and the good surprise was that we took back 30 NM on Feliz. At this rate we could still make it before them!… Unless they would speed up as well…

Today we recorded our best millage so far; 226 NM!

09-12-2012

Hihaaa! Finally today, the 90 green bananas bought in Las Palmas turned yellow…ish… So banana bread was on the menu (we also still had about 50 eggs to use…).

In the afternoon the boat surfed downed a wave under autopilot and spinnaker at 18.8 knots! Quite scary, knowing that the asymmetric spinnaker had let us down the day before when the clew came undone and a large tear appeared… So we dropped the sail for the night and used the reacher, obliging us to sail five to 10 degrees higher than the straight route to maintain the same speed.

This evening Roro and Gaga were spending a romantic moment sitting both at the helm and enjoying what started to feel like the last moments of this crossing, when they were interrupted by an annoying flying fish who decided to reproduce 9/11 by crashing onto Rocio´s back… After that we took shelter in the cockpit, opening the ears to any flying fish landing noise in order to eject them out the boat asap.

Today 223 NM, but Feliz sped up as well and we only took 7 NM out of him… So the perspective of being first in real time seemed unlikely. On the other hand, depending on how many hours Feliz had motored, we were still in good shapa for taking the first place in compensated time, Feliz being a larger cat which was meant to finish 14 hours ahead of us to take the first place in compensated time.

10-12-2012

Last day and Rocio´s birthday! Cahmpagne and presents from everybody! Shower for Gaspar and spinnaker all day and night. We averaged 10.5 knots over night and saw the lights of St Lucia and Martinique appear around midnigth.

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Roro and Milly, the guapas of Intrepid Bear

We entered Rodney Bay and steemed through the finish line. We were welcomed in the little entrance by hen´s shouting and a strong smell of spices. On the pontoon the commitee of the ARC helped us tying the mooring lines and a local offered us soda for the kids and rum punch for the adults. The tirednes brought in a little confusion and the little bears ended up sipping half of the rum punch while the adults thought that their “punch” strangely tasted of soda…

Our last day was crowned by our best daily millage; 230 NM!

We apologize for all this delay, but keeping the blog up to date was proved to be very difficult once in Carribbean. So we rather keep it short (anyway you guys know we arrived already) and pass on the the more recent activities.

BIG BESOS

Hello world!

Here we are, August in the UK, sitting in front of the computer hearing the sound of the rain against the window. And thinking… only one month to go sailing, seeking sun and adventure!

Everything started when a boat owner from Bilbao asked us to sail accross the Atlantic with him in November. We would have finished our studies in Southampton at the end of September and then we would have enough time to save a little bit of money and go sailing.

But the plan didn´t turn up well and we ended up looking for some other boats which might welcome us onboard for their voyage to the Caribbean.

We checked websites, forums, we put adds, we sent e-mails, curriculums… and we got an answer from an australian owner John who just bought his yacht Vismara 52 in Italy and would like to sail it down to Canarias.

Okay, we had the first bit of the trip sorted, but our main objective is to cross the big pond!

In the case of not finding anything on the web, our plan was to look for boats in the pontoon in Las Palmas, but we have been told that this is not easy since most of the yachts already have the crew… so we went on checking websites, forums, putting adds, sending e-mails, curriculums…

Until yesterday, maybe the rainiest day of the year, we got an answer. The lucky yacht owner that wants to take us accross from Canarias to Guadeloupe is a french man called Christian and he owns a Feeling 486. He is now sailing towards Marocco and we are still waiting for his answer. So nothing is definite yet!

But the fact of having an answer means that nothing is impossible and probably more are going to come!