Archive for the ‘Ellis Island to Cobh’ Category

Two very different nights…

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

I realise I haven’t posted a blog in a few days, but things have been pretty busy here!

It’s the middle of the night and I’ve just finished a three hour watch on deck. I’ve climbed into the warm bunk vacated by Andy, while he takes my place on deck getting soaked by every fourth or so wave. Bless him. That said it’s a beautiful night out there, if a little cold and wet. The sky is clear, and the shooting stars of the Perseids are stunning.

The Perseids are so called as they appear to be mostly distributed around the constellation Perseus. The shooting stars are actually caused by particles emitted by the comet Swift-Tuttle. They are visible every year around this time, with activity peaking usually around the second week in August. Early navigators often recorded the event in their logs, and I believe records of the Perseids even go back to the time of Christ. If you’ve never seen it then get yourself outside somewhere dark any clear evening over the next few weeks and just wait a few minutes. Out here, away from any light pollution, the show is spectacular. Literally hundreds of shooting stars every night. I’d love to be out here during the peak activity one of these years to see it at its best.

It’s a very different night out there to the one we had last night. We had to deal with a full on North Atlantic storm. It got up to the mid 40knts for a few hours at its worst point, and lasted about 14hrs in total. The only good thing about the night was the phosphorescence in the water. As the storm churned up the water, the huge waves looked like walls of glowing green light, one breaking wave after another away off into the distance. An absolutely amazing sight, that will be another of those memories that won’t fade. To be lucky enough to be in such a plankton rich part of the ocean on such a dark night nearly made up for being unlucky enough to be battered by the storm for hour after hour.

The storm put huge strains on both Dinah and ourselves. Kevlar sail reinforcements chafed right through. A mainsail reef line snapped like string during a gybe. At one point I was working on the bow when a big wave washed through, and when the water dissipated again I was sprawled on the deck with only one shoe! I’ve no idea what forces must have been involved in removing the vagrant shoe, but I ended up barefoot on one side for the rest of the night! Myself and Andy had a good laugh at that. This morning just after dawn, the boat went into an involuntary gybe surfing in the low teens. Unfortunately I didn’t quite react quickly enough, and the mainsheet caught my arm as it flashed across the cockpit. My arm got smashed against the side of the cockpit, and I’m going to have some very pretty bruises for some time to come to remind me of the incident. Two of my fingers are still not right, so I have my left hand strapped up. It brings a whole new meaning to single-handed sailing! Still, I have a great first aid kit, and it’s not that bad really. It certainly won’t slow us down getting to Ireland…

Thanks to the storm accelerating us in the right direction, tonight we only have 500nm left to the Old Head of Kinsale. We should see it sometime on Saturday, and we may even have time to stop off for a shower, a beer, and a nap, before sailing into Cobh on Sunday afternoon. The next few days of sailing look straightforward, which should allow us recover from the nasty conditions. It looks like we may get one more proper blow as we approach the coast, but it’s a little too early to be sure. Fingers crossed we get through before it!


Underwater Disco Lights

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

When I last blogged we were in light drizzle and light breeze. As the night went on the breeze built and the rain got heavier. After a few hours we were both soaked and quite cold. It was the first time we’ve been cold on the whole trip though so we can’t complain! There was only one thing for it… A large helping of Andy’s patented “you’ll never be cold again” curry…


It was a very very dark night. No moon. No stars. The only light outside the boat was from another strange natural phenomenon. As we sailed through an enormous smack of jellyfish and disturbed them, pushing them out of the way, they glowed bright blue! It was a superb vision, all these dinner plate sized lights glowing neon blue in our wake. I had seen it happen once or twice before, but never to this extent.

The rain continued until after dawn, and the breeze gave one last squall which sent us scurrying to reduce the amount of sail being carried. But soon afterwards everything started to die down again. As the day went on the sun came out, the breeze dropped away, the waves died down,. and it started to get warm again. Another beautiful hot sunny afternoon on the water,  making great progress, and everything is warm and dry again. We’re looking forward to a drier, warmer, clearer night tonight. Although I’ll need to find a new excuse to get Andy to cook again!


First Day Back at Sea

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

We motored North for many hours yesterday in the sunshine. The volcanic islands cast such a wind shadow in their lee we were almost 50nm clear of them before we got clear air. Just as the sun set over the Northernmost island, the first sector of the waxing moon appeared overhead also. It was a stunning sight, and a fitting last view of the Azores.


The breeze built quickly after dark and we spent the night and this morning running in 25knts of wind and surfing large waves. It’s funny how after so long at sea, 20 to 30ft waves become the norm. Rarely before this trip had I ever pushed a boat hard in those conditions, but Dinah was in her element, averaging about 11knts of boatspeed hour after hour.

The one fly in the ointment, if you pardon the pun, is that we have a stowaway. A mosquito seems to wish to go to Ireland on holidays! Every time myself or Andy get up to go on watch we are sporting fresh bites. We’ve both searched and searched for the culprit, but to no avail.

This afternoon we sailed into a warm front as predicted. Grey skies and drizzle for hours. The breeze has dropped right off here in the middle of the front, but in an hour or two the rain should stop, the breeze will swing to the West and build, and we’ll be making good progress again. The flat water and light air for a few hours are quite nice actually, allowing us to tidy up anything that got thrown around in the big seas last night.

Life has settled back into routine watches. We have only about 950nm to go before we see the light from the Old Head of Kinsale and the excitement of shore fall starts to mount again. The forecast for the rest of the trip is looking slightly better than it did yesterday. One of the weather systems I thought we would need to navigate seems to have accelerated, and looks like it will hit Ireland over the next 48hrs, so we’ll miss it. No harm (for us anyway… Enjoy that at home!).

I’m off back out into the drizzle. At least I won’t get bitten out there!


Exploring Faial, and Leaving Paradise

Friday, July 24th, 2009

Yesterday we rented a car and explored the island. It’s just such a nice place, I can’t recommend it enough. We went up to the top of the original volcano and walked around the rim, then puffed and panted our way to the very highest point on the island. The view up there was amazing. Blue sky, blue water, you could see the rest of the archipelago scattered round, and the curvature of the earth was clearly visible on the horizon.

We brought the handheld VHF radio with us, and from the top we were able to speak to Andy Petty on Jemima Nicholas who was still well offshore. He had a good giggle at how out of breath we were, and how surreal it was for us to be standing on top of a mountain speaking to him out at sea, having last seen each other a few days out of New York just off Georges Bank.

We then headed over to the West-most point on the island, where the most recent volcano erupted in 1957. Very strange to drive from lush green vegetation to what can only be described as a moonscape. Volcanic ash everywhere, and very little left in terms of civilisation. We also found the amazing little beach we had been told about and sat there for a while watching the world go by. Andy Petty sailed past, and we headed back to Horta via the only supermarket on the island. Armed with a trolley full of food we were ready to head offshore again.


Last night the crews of the three Ostar boats present, Dinah, Flamingo Lady, and Jemima Nicholas, all had dinner together and a very pleasant few beers in Peters Cafe. We said our goodbyes, and went to bed relatively early.

This morning with heavy hearts we left Horta, bound for the South of Ireland. The forecast looks quite interesting. Having managed to avoid all the bad weather on the crossing from New York, it looks like we have finally run out of space to dodge the depressions, and we will have to navigate through two full on North Atlantic Lows over the next week. At least it should make for a fast passage, even if it is going to be a bit wild. If we have time we may stop in one or two places on the South coast of Ireland before heading into Cobh on the afternoon of August 2nd.


For now, myself and Andy are getting used to life on the wave again. With Aileen gone we’ll get less sleep, so we need to be much more conscious of resting whenever possible. The wind shadow of the islands stretches for miles, so we’re still motoring to get out into the clear air, but this looks like the last of the light airs sailing for the whole trip. Dinah is in great condition, and hopefully the next 1,150nm will be just as kind to her as the last 2,200nm were.

I’ll continue to post here every day, so keep an eye out. The adventure’s not over yet!


At 1500 UTC: 38 deg 47.059N   28deg 23.447W   COG 065 SOG 5.7.

Motor sailing. Island dodging. Sunny and hot.