We had left later than expected but there was no rush. It was 15:00 as we slowly made our way through ‘Town Cut’ and into the turquoise waters surrounding Bermuda. Again with a heavy feeling knowing what we were trying to undertake would take us over two weeks in possibly challenging weather conditions.
Our first evening saw us all feeling a bit low with Will suffering from sun burn and slight sea-sickness and all of us feeling a bit under the weather after enjoying St Georges a bit too much the night before. I could kick myself for allowing the last bottle of wine we drunk go down so easily and we were all paying for it now.
The wind was light as we headed North. We poled out the genoa but made very slow progress and this was how our night was going to be. Ollie made dinner and we tried to settle into the routine of life back at sea. I can’t say that I was in the happiest frame of mind but this was mainly die to tiredness.
As daylight arrived the wind picked up and we headed slightly more East enjoying greater speeds. I cooked a breakfast of bacon and egg sandwiched but Will struggled due to sea-sickness.
The day was pretty uneventful. I tried to take a noon site but it was cloudy so I gave up. We were beginning to receive warnings of storm Bonnie so decided to make some more Easterly progress.
Winds light again and very frustrating. There is nothing I hate more than flogging sails and this is something we are experiencing a lot of. It will be amazing if I have any sails left be the time we reach the Azores.
Ollie went tin crazy for dinner with three different types of pasta in red sauce were mixed to make a very interesting concoction. It went down well though.
The evening saw some faster sailing but nothing we had become accustomed too on our was up to Bermuda. Will spent the eving re-stringing his guitar whilst Ollie and I looked towards the horizon, sitting and thinking.
We were poled out again in the morning with the wind now coming from the West. We are making okay progress to the East now and the miles are dropping although slowly.
It was a hot day but with some very fierce looking Nimbus Cumulus around 5 miles to the North. We appear to be stuck in the middle of the storm clouds in very light conditions.
We had carrots and humus for lunch and I made a chicked pasta dish for dinner. Will read us a very interesting short story about mice and cheese and then I want to bed.
The evening saw us surrounded by lightening but nothing too close to worry about yet. We had received more reports from family that Bonnie was coming for us although my weather reports showed nothing, which is strange. We are prepared though for stronger winds, which would be welcomed at this point.
I awoke to the sound of flogging sails. Our wind was now none existent. I decided to motor and remove the poled out genoa and centre the main so at least we could stop the incessant noise. This, however posed a new problem. Our friends installed our new Raymarine auto-helm had managed to incorrectly wire it up so that when we wanted to set the auto-helm to go starboard it would go port and likewise on the other tack. This was no good and all that would happen is Troskala would try to go round in a circle.
Ollie and Will were on hand to test the wiring and trace them back to where we swap the connections over. This was no easy task with the engine running and the internal temperature rising to 30* C. Ollie managed to trace them back and shortly after the auto-helm was up and running, which was very pleasing.
Our next job involved the hydrovane. The head unit had worked loose and was twisted, so when we locked the rudder in what we thought was the centre line Troskala would heavily pull to port, which meant that the auto-helm could not cope with the correction and would stop keeping the needed heading. This was fixed by Will and I and Troskala then settled into six hours of motoring.
In the late afternoon we picked up wind from was left of tropical storm Bonnie and we could once again sail, which was pleasing. Our speed increased in the right direction so spirits were lifted slightly.
We spotted two ships this evening. One was probably the largest container vessel we had ever seen and the second was a very unusual French research vessel. Watching them make there passage passed some time and Will cooked a lovely pasta dish for dinner.
No sooner had I written the last blog problems arose on my watch. The wind began to veer to the North. Will was up so in order to make good use of this change I asked if he could assist in removing the genoa pole so that we could get on a beam reach. This should have been easy and as we turned to head on to our next course we found the main sail was strapped to the spreader by one of the reefing ties. No matter what we did we were unable to release it.
I decided that it would be safer to go up the mast in daylight as it would be too dangerous in darkness. Will agreed to go up the mast in the morning so we settled Troskala and eased the pressure off the reefing tie so as not to risk tearing the mainsail. Three hours later Will was up the mast with all hands assisting and we managed to remove the trapped line.
I made a bacon and egg sandwich to celebrate and then went to bed. The rest of the day was uneventful and there is still very little wind, which is becoming more and more frustrating. I cooked dinner, which consisted of a very nice spaghetti Bolognese.
We were notified of Tropical Storm Colin approaching. The storm has now intensified but we appear to be in the right position not to be on its leading edge. To be honest, at the moment I would give anything to have some wind.
I awoke to the flapping of sails again and got up to start the engine. The sea was like a mirror, which gave us a great opportunity to prepare Troskala for the upcoming weather. We had a tidy up and secured things that may go missing on deck. We dropped the genoa and lubricated the furlex swizzle on the halyard as it had started squeaking. We systematically went through the boat looking for chafe and things that look odd but luckily very little seemed to be out of place and we felt she was ready for the conditions ahead.
After lunch we sensed a good breeze coming from the East so we immediately unfurled the genoa and cut the engine. We may have to head North a bit but at least we can sail and not motor.
Our afternoon turned into a busy one. One moment we were full sail, then putting one reef in the genoa, then two, then one reef in the main and finally full sail again. The wind was fickle in its direction but there was wind and we were beginning to make very good progress in the right direction.
One thing I will mention here, which I think has surprised all of us is the amount of detritus in the North Atlantic Ocean. Every day we have spotted some rubbish from plastic containers to piles of floating rope. Yesterday we spotted a green marker buoy for a channel and the red one a few days earlier. It was quite strange to see a channel marker floating happily mid Atlantic. Lets also point out that these were not small markers and would have easily caused a lot of damage to Troskala. What does worry us is the things we cannot see at night. Only this morning we passed a large bit of floating pontoon that would have taken a nice chunk out of our hull. It is a shame our oceans are becoming so littered.
The evening passed well. The sea has become a little more boisterous. The phosphorescence is stunning tonight. At night you see such an amazing sight with Troskala’s bow ploughing and displacing thousands of stars twinkling away for minutes on end. Something new I have experienced is that the crests of the waves now glow with this sparkling so all you see are trains of waves with glowing caps. It really is hard to describe and no photo would do it justice.
Unfortunately it was a day of breakages; two in fact. Firstly I manged to fall onto out new lee cloth, which ripped the seam and secondly the kicking strap boom fitting snapped leaving us without a kicking strap. There is a nasty swell starting, which could be forewarning of the impending storm Colin.
Nothing else much happened. We seem to have two birds that have been following us, one swallow looking chap who we have named Simon and another ‘frigate’ looking chap we have named Graham. Every day they make there appearance. We do not know if they are following or if we are in their area, but it is nice company and a good distraction.
Tinned ravioli tonight for dinner.
I do not think we realised just how big Colin was. We were filly aware that we would experience gale force winds but maybe not as strong as they turned out to be.
The morning was faily non-descript. My watch runs from 00:00 to 04:00 so I am normally asleep until ten or eleven the next morning.
We had the genoa poled out and were making fairly good speed. Shortly after lunch we put a reef in the genoa and one in the main as the wind began to increase and Troskala was feeling heavy on the Hydrovane. One our later the pole was removed and another reef put in in the main and Genoa. Shortly after we fitted the third reef to our genoa.
Colin arrived in a bad mood. Our pressure dropped six hpa’s within four hours, which was a clear indiction that Colin was upon us. The wind increased to over thirty notes true around 16:00. By 17:00 we were reaching wind gusts of forty-five knots true with a constant thirty-seven knot wind.
The sea state was becoming overwhelming. Will was sat on the stern locker, harnessed on and enjoying the spray and the sheer chaos that was our view. All of a sudden a monster wave rolled into the cockpit. Will was pinned against the push-pit for what seemed over a minute. Water cascaded from every angle and we were left with over ten inches of water in the cockpit. The sheer panic on Will’s face once we knew there was no danger was priceless but it does drill home how powerfall these waves can be out here.
By now Troskala was setting new records. We recorded a speed down a wave of 14.6 knots. Her propeller would start singing as we reached these speeds. I did not feel we needed any more reefs in the main but the speed we were reaching at times was concerning but this was more to do with wave height than wind speed and the Hydrovane seemed to manage fairly well, which is a good indication on how stressed she is.
Shortly after our monster wave came another first. We were still joking around about Will’s near swim when he turned to us and sail, ‘theres a f*****g whale in front of us’. It took us a second to take him seriously. On looking over the spray-hood I saw nothing and then, after Troskala come on-top of a crest we saw the beast. The whale was the size of a bus. What the hell do you do in this situation? We were on our way down the wave to meet our new friend at around ten knots. I pushed will out of the way and dived for the helm. We had seconds on which to overt a near disaster. Troskala lurched over to starboard clearing the whale by two feet at least. As we went past it spurted some water out of it’s blowhole. We were silent and then our fears were met as the beast starting to follow us. Luckily after five minutes it stopped and we lost sight of Walter the Whale. We did not really know what to say to each other apart from that if it came back we could throw some pork pies at it to try and deter it from using us as its new ball, but I really do not know what the best option is in this situation.
We all stayed up during what was to be a challenging evening. The wind howled and the waves came in. Every fifth wave would hot one of us and by 03:00 AM it was not funny any more. We were all cold and tired but we persisted.
I managed to get a little bit of sleep before the morning.
Pasta from the night before for dinner.
I woke up to flogging sails. I hate flogging sails. We tried to pole of out the genoa but this helped little. I was then about to make a breakfast omelette but we have somehow ran out of eggs, so not a good start to our day at all.
By lunch time the wind increased again and we had to put two reefs in the main and two in the genoa. The wind was back giving us a consistent thirty knots. The sea remained aggressive and we experienced numerous squalls. It was another day of just surviving. I do not know how people do this for month on end when completing round-the-world voyages. I could not even comprehend another month of this.
I managed to rest in the afternoon and when I awoke I cooked a fisherman’s pie, which went down a treat with a glass of wine mixed with salt water to celebrate our half way mark.
Celebration was a bit short lived though. As we were running our engine to charge it cut out displaying signs of something in the fuel as we had experienced in the early days. Our main tanks are fairly empty and we reckon that another piece of sealant is blocking the valve. We will take it apart tomorrow and top up the main tanks with our reserve fuel, which should help the situation.
I awoke to the sound of rushing water against Troskala’s hull. For me this is a pleasing sound and indicates good progress. It always seem to be disheartening wakening up to flapping sails. As I made my way to the saloon I could see that our speed was six knots and over, which was very pleasing. We were making good progress and the miles were falling off.
As I was in a faily good mood seeing our progress I cooked bacon sandwiches for all. Unfortunately because we have ran out of eggs the sandwich was not as good as it could have been.
In the early afternoon we were forces to put a second reef in the mainsail. The Hydrovane was struggling to keep a course and this is always a good indication that Troskala is over-pressed. Ollie and I went about our business of preparing and executing the reefing, whilst Will kept Troskala to wind to enable us to easily reef to main sail. Out of the corner of our eyes we spotted something in the water, in fact we spotted three large objects. We at first thought they must be dolphins but to our horror and surprise we saw that we were being chased by three large killer whales. One came up on the starboard side, twisting its body as it went past, whilst the other two made for our rudders. There was silence amongst us while we watched what their next movement would be. I have heard some scary stories of what angry killer whales can do to boats and I just hoped and prayed that they came in peace. After five minutes they dropped back and then followed from a distance. We still cannot believe what we experienced and luckily it was a good one at that.
The rest of the evening went without incident although we experienced a lot of rain. Nearly every item of clothing we own is wet and we have not managed to dry anything since storm Colin. The boat is wet and the evenings are becoming colder the more North we are, which is making our evening shifts more uncomfortable. Ollie cooked a lovely dinner and the evening fell upon us.
I awoke of the sound of frapping sails. We were still making some progress however and after two hours the wind picked up to a lovely 15-20 knots. I cooked bagels and baked beans covered in cheese and ham, which went down well.
Will slept for most of the day as he was not feeling all to well. The weather in the morning was overcast and wet. By mid-afternoon the sun was coming out and by three we had everything open and all our clothes hanging off the guard rails. It was fantastic to see the sun after nearly five days without it.
The afternoon was spent cleaning and removing rust-stains from the deck. We managed to dry the majority of our clothes.
We were joined on the early evening by a pod of Dolphins. We must have had at least eight of them. They stayed with us for twenty minutes, splashing their fins and looking pretty happy to have some kind of distraction in the vast ocean.
Will cooked dinner tonight. Will dinner tonight that was similar to a corned-beef hash – very tasty. Ollie washed up the dishes.
We celebrated in the evening. We celebrated because we had out-run storm Bonnie, survived storm Colin, missed a humpback whale by two feet, survived a visit from three killer whales and seen Dolphins. We put some music on and enjoyed a couple of bottles of wine and some rum for the nightcap. It was a lovely evening and one of those evenings where you would not want to be anywhere else.
No wind! We knew this day was coming and here it is. We were making no progress so had to resort to the engine. We still have 60 litres spare so we decided to empty forty litres and burn this for as long as we can. After that I will have twenty litres of fuel left to get me safely into Horta.
The day was pretty uneventful. We were all suffering from the night before but this did not last. After lunch we all felt normal.
I replaced the main halyard today as some chafe had occurred at the masthead. I also replaced a shackle from the main sheet travelled that had split in the storm. Apart from that Troskala is running well.
More dolphins joined us this evening and we managed to motor through a pod of roughly twenty of them. The water is like glass today, a very strange shade with an amazing sky.
Ollie cooked a lovely smoked salmon, pea and pasta dish with cream cheese. I ate too much of it though.
It looks like we will have to prepare to be becalmed for the next two days, which is frustrating. The wind will hopefully pick up on Wednesday morning.
I stayed up for a while over my watch to over sea the burning of the last of our fuel apart from the twenty litres saved to get us the last step of the way to Horta. After we reached Empty and the clock turned 05:00 we turned off the engine and let Troskala wallow in the swell. I took this opportunity to have a couple of hours sleep before I heard the wind generator come to life indicating the coming of a breeze.
I got up and we decided to set the main and our large light-weight gennaker to make the most of the light breeze. Unfortunately we managed to get the main halyard trapped around the radar reflector so Will had to take another trip up the mast.
After this was completed we spent the morning making food. Will made some croissants and I made bread and together we made a casserole to slow cook for dinner.
The weather is bleak and the wind is light, which is not helping our spirits. We are heading at least in the right direction although slowly.
We are making very little ground tour waypoint. The wind is coming from the East stronger than expected so we have to head North close-hauled, which is making life uncomfortable.
We removed our Gennaker last night and have run under genoa, which is sufficient with 17 knots apparent wind. Last night I made the decision to now head to Flores. We can see that the Azores high is still settled over Faial and we risk not being able to make it there with our limited fuel supply. Also, as our heading is more North is makes more sense to stop by and collect more fuel before pressing onto Horta.
We had pasta for dinner and it rained all day. It does feel like sailing in England and is just as cold. We hope the weather improves soon and that we get at least one day of sunshine to dry out our belongings.
I woke up to us heading more North than we wanted but there was very little we could do about it. I decided the throw the last container of fuel in the main tanks and motor for a while. I calculated that I could get away with running under motor for six hours, which would leave us with 9 litres to motor into Flores. It is also good for morale that we are making way in the right direction.
After our six hours was up the engine was turned off and all went silent. We had no wind and were left with no option but to drift. We took this opportunity to fix things. I spend most of the day whipping the ends of all the lines and cutting new fender lines, which now look very smart. I also fixed the forward navigation light, which had developed a loose connection.
The wind came in in the evening and with no swell we were making good progress. We saw another whale in the distance and were joined by more Dolphins. We celebrated with wine again although had less than the last time.
I slept in more than usual but Ollie and Will kept a good watch. We had started to see more birds and more tankers, which would lead us to believe we were getting closer to our destination.
We were excited as we knew that all being well we would be arriving in Flores the next day.
This day was pretty uneventful. We had light winds but a calm see so Troskala was making way at around 4.3 knots, which we were not going to complain about. At least we were moving although a little North than we had anticipated.
As night falls we are looking out for the lighthouses of Flores. The fog has again descended and visibility is down to less than half a mile. We have decided to go around the North of the Island as it makes more sense in relation to our limited fuel supply.
The sight that welcomed me when I arose was outstanding. To the right stood the island of Flores and to the left Corvo. It is an amazing sight. The island is stunning. We can now see waterfalls. Will mentioned that it looks like something out of Jurassic Park, and have to agree with him.
We had coffee and sat in silence watching the island as we approached and making out more detail with every mile. We could not wait to be on land.
As we came over the North side we lost our wind and had to use the engine for the last two hours. It was however a beautiful journey, the island really is stunning as seen from the sea.
At around ten we could see the South East side and shortly after the breakwater outside Porto Das Lajes. We were all tired but excited. We prepared Troskala with fenders and lines and with only 5 litres of fuel left on-board we nudged our way into the marina dodging the rocks as we entered.
Luckily there was a space for us in this pretty little marina. We were back in Europe and I could not be happier. I went to clear customs, who were very polite whilst Will and Ollie went to get fuel before everything closed for the weekend. Can you believe that it only costs ten Euros a night! We cant wait to sip a beer and relax. It has been a tough passage but successful in every way.
Longitude: 031*10.18 W