Thoughts on Whales by Dora

Yesterday, we all went to a whaling museum in Santa Cruz, Flores. Where we found out many interesting facts about whales and whaling. Whaling, was a rare event as t wasn’t very often that the people on look out spotted a whale. To let the whole island know a whale had been spotted someone near the look out tower would set off a rocket as if to say ‘Let the hunt begin!’. The whalers would gather in Lajes and drag their whaling boats out of the shed and into the water each boat had 7 oars, 6 paddles, a sail and a mast ( the mast was detachable.) they would row to where the whales had been spotted and wait. When they spotted a whale they would host the sails for a faster and quieter approach then the harpooner would throw his harpoon and began to stab the whale. Eventually, the whale would die and they’d drag it back to shore collect what they needed sell it and wait for the next whale hunt. I found the museum rather depressing as we watched a video from 1974 of a whale hunt. I found it hard to watch them kill an innocent whale and then just chop it up and sell it.

After the whaling museum, we slowly walked to an amazing play ground with a zip wire we played around for a while. After that, we went out to lunch in another museum cafeteria. I had a lovely Portuguese soup and a cheese toastie Daisy and Mummy had a tuna baguette and Daddy had a ham and cheese toastie. Sadly, we had to leave early as Daddy’s hay fever was coming back. We had a lovely day in Santa Cruz. We will keep you updated. Dora.

Fajã Grande, Flores

The joy of being back on European soil with the smell of grass, sounds of birdsong and the welcome of the Portuguese.

This is our anchorage!

Our first day here we were confined to the boat since it was too rough to land the dinghy ashore. During the night, the swell died down and we went ashore in the dinghy with two bags of washing and the ships’ papers. Dora and I headed off to Lajes on the other side of the island to the marina/port office to complete formalities and get the salt out of our clothes. We were mightily pleased not to have our boat in there as the waves were slurping into the tiny marina, causing all the occupants to constantly heave against their mooring lines, their masts waving dangerously close together from side to side. The marina manager said he wished they would come round to the safety of our bay!

The scenery is Scotland, Yorkshire and Devon all rolled into one.

We returned happily to Faja Grande, our route taking in the incredible scenery – towering cliffs, staggeringly thick vegetation everywhere and the crazy display of hydrangeas pictured in the tourist brochures. Along the side of virtually all roads and along the walls dividing the fields are thick hedgerows made up entirely of hydrangeas. And not those horrid pink ones, but the lovely blue ones. It is just stunning. Never seen anything like it.

We are so taken with this beautiful outcrop of Europe. Our village has a small shop with all the outlets of the Thoroughfare in Woodbridge rolled into one tiny place – coffee shop, (H+H), basic food supplies (Coop), kitchen utensils (Kitchen Shop), book swap (Oxfam books), men’s checked shirts (Alexanders), cards and china (Happiness store). It is run by a delightful Portuguese lady who speaks excellent English and holds Court with the locals who all manage to squeeze into the tiny coffee shop on their way to work each morning. And at €1 for a coffee, who can blame them.

Looking back towards the anchorage and the village of Faja Grande on our morning walk.

The anchorage is surrounded by huge cliffs, waterfalls, fields broken up by dry stone walls with grazing cows, coastal paths in each direction, beautiful churches, an excellent restaurant and a cat that accompanied us on our walk this morning.

Dora and her new best friend. The cat was far better behaved than Bingo ever is on a walk!

We would love to stay here and walk even further and explore the rest of the island but we are very very much at the mercy of the elements here. The calm and predictable conditions associated with the Azores high are notable in their absence. Instead we have a series of depressions forming and migrating over the top of us with their paths and characteristics changing on a daily basis. This makes for very difficult forecasting and we are finding anything more than 24 hours out cannot be relied on. Fortunately we have good communications and we check the new forecast at 7am and 7pm each day and plan our next 24 hours on that basis. We keep our fingers crossed the wind keeps out of the west, but in the meantime we shall be grateful for our safe anchorage, staggeringly beautiful views and the vast stash of tins and packets of food we have on board. And the local vinho verde at €8 a bottle.

Atlantic crossed. We are officially back in Europe. Hooray!

Position: 34° 28’N. 031° 26’W

Ok, we are in the most westerly anchorage off the coast of Flores, in turn the most westerly island of the Azores. But I feel like I’ve crossed an ocean. Again.

I’m always remiss about an arrival write up as we are usually too tired and then caught up with formalities of customs etc. So I’m writing this at 0215 ships time which is actually 0515 here. We are killing time awaiting the dawn so we can safely find our anchorage. We have been zig zagging our way into land and out to sea again for a couple of miles, turn around and start again. We have no sails up, just our rigging and the wind on the beam. We have locked the wheel and rigged like this we slip along at just over a knot. I can very clearly see he lights of the village ashore. Better still is the smell of land. Every island smells different, some smell of sun on hot rocks and pine (St Kitts was positively Mediterranean in aroma), Some distinctly of vegetation (Martinique smelt more like a Parisian sewer than a tropical paradise- but that’s the swamp for you). Flores smells of hay and very faintly of animals. I know we will be able to get fresh milk here. If you ask me again tomorrow though I probably couldn’t smell anything. Right now it’s heavenly.

Here we are, on the left, as I know you can all identify now. I took this photo the day after we arrived – seems my sense of smell was spot on from 3 miles off!

The sky is lightening almost imperceptibly. Now the sea around me is dark grey not black. I can see the horizon and the top of the island. The sky is made up of distinct clouds, rather than just a black mass. What a treat to see dawn without needing to hurry off somewhere

Nearly there

Position: 39° 04’N 031° 49’W
Course. 065
Wind. S 18-23knots
Daily run: 162 miles

The train ride continues unchecked and we are closing in on Flores where we expect to arrive around midnight tonight. There is no chance of anchoring on this unknown coast in the dark so we will find shelter in the Lee of the island and sail up and down until it gets light. Hopefully there will be a suitable anchorage somewhere – in my mind the Azores is all calm waters and great high pressure systems producing delightful settled conditions. But not for our arrival – we have SE winds force 4-5, occasionally 6. Marvellous.

No voyage is complete without its dramas, big and small. Last night we had one of each. Firstly no fresh water coming out of the taps, which is odd as we’ve used very little. We have a tank on either side of the boat, connected by a pipe. We’ve been heeling over on one tack for days on end so the tank to windward is empty and the pump drawing air. Not a problem that won’t rebalance on our arrival – bottled water for tea in the meantime. Luxury!

The other drama, was less straight forward. Around 2300 the engine starter battery alarm (very high pitched. Very persistent. Ignore at your peril) started to go off, suggesting the battery was worryingly low. Luckily the engine started and we had a really good look at the battery level and all seemed normal. Running the engine for an hour didn’t do anything to stop the alarm though from
Coming back on  (once engine off again) so we opened up the back of the control panel to reveal multicoloured spaghetti aplenty and Tom had a good poke around. It reminded me of those bomb disposal scenes in action movies when they have to snip the right wire. After some deliberation Tom pulled hard on one connection and finally there was peace. What was interesting about the incident was the degree of impairment one has after 10 days with no more than 2.5 hours sleep at a time. We deal with these puzzles, yes, but it takes time and I know my own brain is functioning way below capacity. I’m all in favour of trouble shooting at very slow speeds (if possible of course) because of this.

We are longing to find some respite and rest in the shelter of Flores, but also prepared for it simply not being tenable, due to wind and/or swell. We won’t actually know until we poke our nose into each anchorage. Wish us luck!
Continue reading “Nearly there”

Dolphins

Position: 38.07’N 35.20’W
Day’s run: 162 nautical miles
Course: 090
Wind: SSW 18-22

Last night we had an amazing show of dolphins! There were about 100 of them and we saw them doing the most amazing tricks. Jumping really high and landing on their backs and spinning in the air it was incredible. Here are a few facts about dolphins:

1. Dolphins are some of the most intelligent creatures. Scientists are trying to decode their language.
2. Dolphin pods vary in sizes they can be as small as 20 or as large as 200 dolphins. The one we saw was about 90-100.
3. There are more than 20 different species of dolphin!
4. The strongest adults are at the front of the pod with the teens round the outside protecting the older and younger dolphins in the middle. The dolphins take it in turns “nannying” the youngest dolphins once they can cope without their mothers.

The Portuguese men of war are getting larger and more colourful. Daddy was pulling in the tow generator, which had some tentacles wrapped round it, and got stung! Luckily, he’s all right and it was just a slight tingling. All is well here hope all is well every where else. That’s all today.

Dora

Romping towards Europe

Position – 37’38’N 38’41’W
Wind – 20-25 knots
Speed – 7.5 knots
Daily run – 173 miles

It’s weird, if you look on the chart, we are so very close to the Azores and when we reach the Azores we will be in Europe, and close to home. Dora’s very excited about this.

We are all very excited about arriving in the Azores, we’ve been researching with our guide books and it looks beautiful! I think we are also all itching to get on some of the lushest green hikes…

Sailing around at 7 1/2 knots, progress is fast and we plan to arrive on Thursday morning – a very impressive crossing! The wind has been blowing at 25 knots and although it’s quite uncomfortable, we’re coping and it’s worth it because she’s zooming along!

Bye bye Sargassum. Hello jelly fish

Position: 36° 40’N 046° 25’W
Wind. SW 15knots
Course: 100
Daily run: 159 miles

Sargassum is the thick orange weed that has been ever present since about the half way point on our crossing from the Canaries to the Caribbean. It floats about in great lumps and often gets blown into anchorages harbouring numerous jellies underneath to sting the unwary. That part of the ocean is full of enormous swathes of the stuff. Unlike most seaweed it isn’t initially attached to land. Apparently it caused much sadness in Columbus’s early voyages as the European crew naturally assumed its appearance meant that land was near where in fact they must have been some weeks off. Personally I’m not sorry to see the back of it – jelly fish stinger harbour, tangler of the tow generator, and just the fact that it’s a most unappealing shade of orange.

In its place we’ve been entertained by the most extraordinary flotilla of beautiful jelly fish. Dora (our natural history advisor) tells me they are Portuguese men of war. They are certainly very beautiful. They look like little Japanese rice paper dumplings, with a Cornish pasty style crimping along the top in a stunning pink colour, particularly lovely at sunset. This dumpling is kept anchored by a bulbous deep blue submarine. I’m guessing they are only 20 Cm long and incredibly delicate looking. Yet we see them get flattened by wind and wave and then that beautiful pink pasty edge comes bobbing upright once more. It’s quite mesmerising to watch. They seem to just drift about on the waves at the mercy of the elements, but in huge numbers. If anyone would like to try and add a picture of these beauties and confirm (or correct) Dora’s classification we’d be delighted to see that when we get to the Azores

Nothing much going on

Position: 36’30’N 49’00’W
Course: 095
Wind: S 15 knots
Speed: 7 knots

Daily blog post which is probably going to be really, really boring because nothings happening – by Daisy

Nothing much is really going on at the moment, we are on a beam reach (which is quite uncomfortable) and we are celebrating being halfway back to Europe.
The weather has continued to stay ‘nice’ and dry and the wind is staying between 15-20 knots to the south. But that’s really about it! There still haven’t been any serious disasters and we are all well.
Daisy x

Passing the time

Position: 36.01’N 052.18’W
Wind: SSW 12-13
Boat speed: 6.5 knots
Course: 090

Today we have had lovely weather sun and wind and we have seen many more Portuguese men of war. Earlier, Daisy and I created an iMovie about a super hero, Tiddlezz, (yes it’s spelt with z’s)and the villain, ratatouille the evil rat, which was very entertaining. We’re roughly 1000 miles away from the Azores! Nothing much has happened since yesterday. We are sailing along at a steady 6 knots. The main sail, Genoa and Mizzen are all rigged. The sea has calmed down a bit so it’s more comfortable. That’s all from me today.

Dora

Sun at last

Position: 35° 26’N 055° 30’W
Wind: SSW 10-11
Course: 090
Daily Run: 170 miles

Today, for the first time it hasn’t rained! Though we have entered an area with a very small amount of wind we are lucky to be sailing at 6 knots without the engine. We’ve hung up all our oil skins and they are finally dry. It’s so nice when you’ve had lots of rain for it to stop for just one day so you can dry everything and have the hatches open so you can breathe.

During the rain, we have all the hatches shut so it creates an extremely stuffy atmosphere. Daisy is the only one complaining about the sun she prefers sailing in the rain. We are all well and nothing bad has happened we found out what was wrong with the battery so all is well.

Dora

Ps from Polly. The period from 1730 to 2030 was the heaviest persistent rain I’ve known. Daisy collected an entire bucketful of rain water in the cockpit (most directly though some running off the cockpit seats). On the back of the boat we have a dan-buoy – a safety device that you throw into the sea if someone goes overboard. The dan-buoy is only supposed to trigger its light/inflation when immersed in the sea but last night it got so saturated it started flashing away in its holder on deck.

Pictures from when the sun finally came out. Including amazing double rainbow.