Archive for July, 2009

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.


Thursday, July 23rd, 2009


Why does anybody live anywhere other than Horta?

I’m serious!

Horta is a small town, on the island of Faial, in the Azores. It’s beautiful. It’s got an amazing climate. It’s a ridiculously cheap place to be. The people are just lovely. Everything is clean. There is a complete lack of efficiency anywhere… But with a fantastic community feel… Are you getting that I like it here yet?

We’ve had two days of island life. The boat is almost ready to go again. Diesel and food tomorrow and we’re ready. Everything is so easy here. It’s the only place for 1,000nm in any direction, so they’re so used to the likes of Dinah and everything is made simple.

Peters Sport Cafe is the place to be, and needless to say we’ve settled in nicely. Beers at €1 each, and fantastic seafood non stop. It’s a mecca for offshore sailors, and tonight we ended up chatting for hours with some good friends of Jan Kees, the line honours winner of Ostar. It is such a small world. Again, meeting people in the most unlikely places, who had folllowed our progress during the race reminds me that myself and Dinah have done something many people dream of doing someday, but for some reason keep putting off. Life’s not about sitting out the storm, it’s about going outside and dancing in the rain!

Tomorrow we’re up early to take the boat over to the diesel berth. Then we’ve got to do customs. We should be back on our berth by 0900. Then breakfast in Peters, and hire a car to go off for the day. See the top of the volcano, see if we can raise Andy Petty on VHF from up there (He’s getting close now, being due in tomorrow night) , have a look at the rest of the island, and most importantly hit Horta’s one supermarket to provision for the next leg.

Depending on the forecast we’ll leave tomorrow night or Friday morning, for the South of Ireland. Aileen flew home today, so for the rest of the trip it’s myself and Andy doublehanded 1,180nm to Ireland. It’ll be good for me to get back to doublehanded sailing, as I hope to do a lot of doublehanded racing next season.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with an image of how laid back life is here in Horta. I must say not being allowed to shoot my on-board firearm, or rock-climb on the marina has been frustrating, but not being able to take the elephant out for a stroll on the pontoons in the mornings just makes life down below unbearable, what with his flailing trunk, huge footsteps in the custard… and the noise…!


Dinah chegou na Horta, Açores

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009


Showered. Off to find food and beer…
–at 20.32 UTC

–45 minutes after the web cam caught the arrival.