Plymouth, home.

Saturday 3rd August finds me on a train to Plymouth, with a dream forecast for the days ahead, to join Tom and Daisy in bringing Cherubino back to her home port. Plymouth Haven marina, which won the prize of best marina showers of the entire trip (they even had a bath!) had requested that we leave by Sunday as they were hosting the Fastnet race fleet who’d started on Saturday. They’d have a fairly long wait though as even the biggest boats were all still on their way out to the rock on Sunday morning, a pretty impressive sight on AIS.

Purple blobs are sailing yachts!

This is the 40th anniversary of the tragic 1979 Fastnet, in which many sailors drowned and several boats were lost completely. As a 9 year old I was taken to the memorial service held in London for those lost. I remember so clearly, when we sang Eternal Father Strong to Save, it felt like the roof would lift off and then the walls crumble. This year’s fleet should have had a much more forgiving race.

We left the racing boats behind and continued west through drizzle and fog with occasional glimpses of white cliffs of Sussex. Once at Royal Sovereign the weather started to lift and we picked up the ‘magic carpet’. If you time it right you can get fair tides of up to 4 knots and hold it all the way to Dover, then round the corner the tide sweeps you into the North Sea and right up the River Orwell.

We made astonishingly fast progress. We hardly had time to savour our last hours on passage and it was far busier than we were used to. Sluicing through Dover at 10 knots whilst dodging three ferries coming in and out of Dover doing

20 knots required plenty of attention. The navigation in the Thames estuary is more intricate than mid Atlantic, with sand banks, wind farms and shipping all to be avoided. Saturday evening had us fetching up outside the Goodwin sands with the sun setting in to the sea, which isn’t a sight you expect on the East coast.

Keeping a careful eye on those ferries

We arrived just off Felixstowe at around 11pm and because Tom is very familiar with those waters, we made our entry in the dark. It’s really hard to pick up the navigation lights with the bright lights of Felixstowe dock in the background and we had a container ship and the Stena Hollandica ferry to dodge. Finally with Daisy on the foredeck with a powerful torch we found the safe water mark buoy at the entrance to Levington marina, then we crept in between the posts, Daisy’s torch swinging side to side to illuminate them and all breathed in as we squeezed into the inside berth where Cherubino set off from last October. Then we breathed out and had a glass of wine!

Cherubino leaving Levington on 14 October 2018. Those boats in the background were still in the same place on our return. Had they moved at all during our nearly 10,000 mile odyssey?!

What we’ve been up to in La Coruña

This is our short video about what we’ve been up to while we wait to sail back home. Polly and Dora have flown back to England and Hum and Marlow have joined us to make our last voyage. A big low developed over Biscay so we’ve been waiting it out in the marina but should be able to set off tomorrow lunchtime. While we’ve been out here there has been a superb medieval festival lining the old cobbled streets of Coruña so we’ve been spending our evenings wondering and gaping at the amazing musicians who play around the city. Lot’s of boat maintenance has been completed, easy jobs like polishing and the tricky job of getting all the small weeds off the hull above water line. We’ll update again when we land in England wherever that might be…

And so it goes on

Position: 44° 29’N 011° 45’W

Wind. NE 20-25

Course: 110

Day’s run: 104 miles

We have big seas and winds gusting up to 30 knots. We even heaved to for a few hours this morning to try and let Tom and I get a little sleep. It’s very tedious but at least the sun is shining now. Bizarrely there’s another yacht out here about 2 miles to leeward of us. Poor sods. Those of you who spend a lot of time in the open ocean will know how rare that is.

More tomorrow no doubt….

Where are you going?!

Position. 44°16’N 016°18’W
Wind W 12-14knots
Course: 055
Day’s run: 139 miles

Well that’s a good question. Our intention on leaving the Azores had been to go to La Coruna in Galicia but we are currently north of La Coruna and still sailing north east. So you can assume either we’ve gone mad or the weather gods are playing cruel games. It is the latter. Let’s hope it doesn’t lead to the former.

From Friday, the wind off Galicia is forecast to blow strongly from the north east ie right from where we want to go. Sailing boats don’t like going straight into the wind. In a small dinghy or a lightweight racing yacht you might be able to steer as close to 30° from the direction of the wind. For beautiful solid, but less nimble Cherubino, it is more like 60°. And it is quite wet and uncomfortable. So we have to sail miles out of our way to open up the angle to La Coruna to 60° if we are to get there. Hence our enormous detour. We’ve been checking the forecast every 12 hours for the last few days hoping for less wind or a slight change in direction, and considering the alternative options (Falmouth? Cork even?) all of which are a very long way further.

Friday morning will be decision time so if you happen to be up in time for the shipping forecast, keep an ear out for Fitzroy and hope that it isn’t north east 4-5, occasionally 6 later. North 2-3 would do fine. Whatever the forecast it will be exciting to return to ‘home’ waters of the UK shipping areas for the first time this year.

More tomorrow…..

Whale!

Position:42°30’N 18°36’W
Wind:SW 9-10
Day’s run: 113
Speed: 5.3 knots
Course: 076°

Yesterday evening, whilst mummy and I were making supper, daddy shouted that he’d seen a whale so we all dashed up on deck and waited we didn’t see anything so mummy and I went back to cooking then daddy shouted again. This time we saw it a huge arched back dive slowly back into the water it must have been at least the size of our boat but it was much bigger. The second time it popped back up it’s dorsal fin was at least a boat length away from its blow hole. The whale was a deep navy in colour and was extremely slow it wasn’t a humpback whale we knew that because daddy has seen many of them. We decided it was either a fin whale or a blue whale. After it had gone we decided it was too big to be a fin whale so it was a blue whale. The biggest creature on Earth. I feel honoured to have seen one as they aren’t very common. Today, nothing as exciting as that has happened. We will keep you updated.

Dora

Fun at Sea

Position: 42.04N 020.36W
Day’s Run: 154M
Speed: 5.5 knots
Course: 080T
Wind: S 10 knots

Last night’s 1800-2100 watch was amazing, even though it was raining and blowing 30 knots. It was just me on deck when the first drops of rain hit but I’d been caught out too many times not to immediately slip into my oilies and put on my Pablo beanie – I was very grateful I’d done this!

The wind picked up under the rain cloud pretty slowly but kept increasing over a course of half an hour and then whipping up to 30 knots, I had already rolled in the jib and felt comfortable with just the main and mizzen up. We were surfing along at 8.5 knots so I called Mummy up to make sure everything was comfortable down below. Because of the very heavy rain the waves were flattened out a bit so there everyone could sleep, although I don’t think anyone did!

I had snuggled into a corner underneath the spray hood for warmth and took my first look around. It was quite weird because even though it was rainy, it was no longer chucking it down and the wind wasn’t creating a monster of a sea and our visibility was still pretty good. Out to the West the sun was very slowly setting and had created a golden glow across the sky and as the rain fell the rain drops looked like golden flecks and the light had also illuminated the sails, it was pretty!

Daddy joined me at about 2045 and we discussed the weather, wind and sail trimming. I hadn’t realised by this time but I couldn’t feel my bare feet so I went down below to make coffee and put on some woolly socks.

The weather has calmed dramatically over the last 16 hours and we are now slowly creeping along at 5.5 knots over quiet, calm sea. Everyone is well and we are spending the day drying off in the sun and blue sky.

Daisy

We are singing in the rain

Position: 40.58’N 23.30’W
Day’s run: 146 miles
Course:075
Wind: S15

Today, it rained all morning but at lunch the weather began to perk up and at the moment it’s rather nice. Most of the oil skins have dried out but we are expecting more rain with in the next 30 minutes. Though we are hoping that it won’t rain and the big grey cloud behind us is just going to pass through. The day has been rather free from any calamities and we hope nothing awful happens on this trip. We are expecting to arrive in Spain on Sunday or Monday. We will keep you updated. Dora

Gentle beginnings

Position: 39° 48’N 026° 08’W
Wind: SW 14knots
Daily run. 135 miles
Course: 070

We finally tore ourselves away from Horta yesterday morning. We had a lovely sail down to Sao Jorge and admired the precipitous coast that Daisy and I had made intimate friends with (don’t think we would have attempted it had we seen it from the sea first). Then the wind slowly died and reluctantly we turned the engine on. By early evening we were off the inviting coast of Graciosa, beckoning us to pop in until the wind picked up again. We resisted, knowing that next week is forecast to be even lighter and less reliable, and thinking we could easily find ourselves still here in September!

With limited fuel, the last thing you want is to blow most of it in the first 48 hours, so throughout the night we sailed whenever possible and only used the engine when we no longer had steerage. There was no shipping during the night, but quite a lot of yachts to be found on AIS, purple shapes heading our way or further north if making for the channel. And one going in the opposite direction, making a painfully slow 0.75 knots, a straggler from the two handed Les Sables – Azores race, the early finishers from which had been creeping in on Saturday morning. No opportunity to use the engine for those poor bods.

By dawn things were looking rosier as the sun rose in a very clear sky, the sea gently heaved underneath us and the winds began to reach dizzying strengths of 10 knots. We’ve held the wind through the day, making 5-6 knots, fighting an irritating current which will stay with us all the way to Spain.

Crew morale is high on this glorious gentle day, as we slip back into passage making mode – picking up a good book, sleeping two hours during the day, answering Dora’s Nat Geo quizzes (again). I think much patience will be required on this leg but we just have to take each day as it comes, as is always the way at sea.