Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Tackling the Triangle

In the nine and a half days that it took us to finally reach Bermuda, I think we had every imaginable set of weather conditions, from dead calm to gale force winds and thunderstorms. We even had some stretches of wonderful sailing in between! Here is Terry's summary of the voyage:

Well, that was the voyage from hell and I’m glad it’s over and done.  We’re sitting nicely in the St George Dinghy and Sports Club marina in St George, Bermuda. 
What was supposed to take us 7 days actually took us 10 days, with three storms and then no wind in between.  The first storm was the longest – while the weather forecasting clowns were showing wind out of the East at 18 knots, we were hanging on to the wheel at 36-38 knots with gusts to 44 knots for 15 hours.  One would assume you could see something like that but perhaps you can’t.

The final storm, on the second last day, was a ripper.  Padraig actually got flattened in a squall with him hanging on to one side of the wheel and me holding the other side telling him that it was a sailboat and that eventually it would come back upright.  The last reading I saw before all the drama took off was 55 knots over the deck.  I don’t know how you can be a NOAA weather forecaster and put your hand out for your pay once a fortnight.  Still..
Well, we are here now and this is a wonderful harbor and country.  It has only 60,000 people in total, about what’s in Bunbury and surrounds.  We have spent the last two days doing all those little boat jobs that mount up.  Padraig went up the mast today first to untangle the Radar reflector and second to install the Lightning dissipater.  Hard work and the second one was beyond where I could lift myself.  Boat is running very well, but both sails are off for minor fixes.  The Hydrovane is a superb item to have.  It’s wonderful to lie back in the cockpit and watch it do all the work.
We had a group dinner tonight followed by a rum tasting put on by Goslings, the oldest business in Bermuda  - 1806.
We are all leaving here on Wednesday morning for the Azores, all 37 boats.  We’ve already made plans to visit the owner of the other Catalina 42 in the Rally, who has bought an apartment in Turkey, and to cruise in company with some Danes through the bottom of the Med.
We will have a SPOT tracker for the voyage, probably accessible through the ARC website (World Cruising Club)

[Carol] We sailed the final twenty miles in the early hours of the morning, and it was wonderful to see the glow of lights ahead and the flash of the lighthouse on St David's Island. And what a thrill to see the beautiful island in the morning sunlight, and to head in through the narrow St George Cut to a perfect harbour filled with yachts from the rally. We had been listening all night to the boats being hailed in turn by the operators at Radio Bermuda - pleasant and patient chaps who tracked each boat and assisted us all safely inside. 

I am quite besotted with Bermuda - if only we had more time to explore this exquisite island which seems to have been blessed with everything - great climate, fertile soil, a relaxed lifestyle but still enough productivity and infrastructure for everyone to live well, beautiful architecture and gardens, the ocean indescribably gorgeous, delightful people, no crime to speak of, interesting history ... 
We're leaving tomorrow on the major leg of the ARC Europe, from Bermuda to the Azores, so it might be a few weeks until I can finish the Bermuda story and update the blog. All the best folks - you can track us at the ARC website, as Terry notes above. Might be a bit like watching your lawn grow, but we will get there!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Passage to Bermuda Part 1

We set off on Wednesday morning in good spirits – a trouble-free exit from Mangoes Marina in Marsh Harbour, and a quick stop to top up our fuel and we were underway – almost.  A bit of confusion over which of the 752 ropes on board were our jacklines before setting them up, then we made our way out of the Sea of Abaco through Man O War Channel and into the open ocean. Within minutes Padraig had his fishing lines in the water, all kitted out with the pink squid jig recommended by the locals. Success came quickly – a good-sized Mahi Mahi (dolphin fish) struck hard and the fight was on! Pat battled with it for about 15 minutes, with Terry positioning the boat so the fish couldn’t double back and sever the line. What a beautiful fish they are – it broke the surface with its strange bull head, and you could see the gorgeous dark green and flashing yellow of its skin, and its brilliant blue fins. Pat brought it in with great skill for a novice fisherman – his first ever ‘proper fish’ – Terry gaffed it and I administered the bourbon sedative, skinned and filleted it.

We’ve had fried fish, fish curry, fish fingers – and there’s more to go so it might even be fish tacos tomorrow for Cinquo de Mayo.

There was a decent breeze for the first 24 hours and we followed advice based on the weather reports to make as much way north as we could before the wind slackened and turned northerly. We were getting great speeds up to 8 knots and really fun sailing, but unfortunately the wind turned north easterly instead - right on the nose - and we were able to make little headway the next day. It was frustrating being able to travel in any direction but the one we wanted, so we did a bit of motoring just to get some miles on the clock.

Day 3 began well with a beautiful sunrise over silky calm water, and thankfully the wind gradually picked up so we were able to skim along at a respectable 4 – 5 knots over a smooth sea.

 Another great Mahi Mahi lunch helped to keep our spirits up, as did the deployment of our Hydrovane (we are still debating the name of this valuable crew member)* which kept us tonking along nicely all day. All we really had to do was check our progress and make little adjustments – mostly to pretend that we humans were still in control of the boat.

 The vane really came into its own on Day 4 when we had a following breeze from the west. It’s hard to steer on this reach, with the constant threat of jibing, but the vane took over and handled it expertly for hours on end. We were pretty much redundant so we read, listened to music, Padraig went for his daily dip in the Atlantic and I made the tacos to celebrate Cinquo de Mayo, Mexican Independence Day.

* The Hydrovane is now officially named ‘Arthur’ after my father – calm, steady, hardworking and totally reliable. I like to think he’s here with us in spirit.

The next part of the Bermuda passage gets scary and exciting - stay posted!