Day 30 (June 3) – at sea

Finally back underway. I enjoyed Bermuda very much – particularly the taste of my old life – but I am ready to keep moving forward.  Busy day today with last minute leave prep work. The boys coming home late followed a couple hours later by massive rains meant I was a bit tired but being jazzed to go made up for it.

After filling our water tanks and diesel canisters (nightmare – sat my freshly showered ass and washed clothes in a huge puddle of diesel and I still smell) we made our way under motor back to St. Georges to check out of customs. We went under motor because we wanted to test the engine repairs. The oil situation seems a bit odd, but we are moving ahead and will keep an eye on it.

We were a bit worried about customs since the asshole jumped ship without checking of the boat. There was a chance we could be held or fined but it all went off painlessly.  20 minutes later, we were making our way through the channel and towards the open Atlantic.

Our new crew member is a treat! He has said more in the 24 hours since he has been on board than the asshole said in the entire trip. The atmosphere on the boat is night and day and I no longer feel the need to sequester myself in my room and read just to avoid the negative vibes.

I am on dinner watch now and we have steady, if fairly weak, winds. Seas are rolly but not too bad. Fingers crossed, the rest of the trip goes like this. Hopefully all the bad crap happened on the last leg and with the new, positive vibe, it will be smooth sailing.

Day 31 (June 4) – at sea

Quiet day at sea. The winds aren’t too bad except for the fact that they are taking us directly towards the Azores. That may seem like a good thing since it is our destination but there is an 800 mike long spot of doldrums in the middle that we need to avoid. So, we are trying to get as far north as possible to catch better winds.

The guys put up the pole for the Genoa tonight as the wind is coming from directly behind us. We go slower without the main up but it is much more relaxing for everyone as we don’t have to spend the entire watch staring at the wind gauge to make sure we don’t accidentally jibe.

The engine is working well and, at this point, the biggest challenge onboard is figuring out how to prepare meals to feed both a vegetarian and a meat lover at the same time.  It is going OK so far, but if the meat eater persists in eating food that is kind of earmarked for the veg, there may be challenges at the end. Should have bought lots more dried beans but at $3 a small bag it was challenging.

Movie night tonight. Everyone watched Captain Ron but I went to bed. I had the chance for 9 straight hours of sleep and I wanted to get as much as possible since I am behind.

Day 32 (June 5) – at sea

Another quiet day. Seas were quite rolly as we are in the midst of some strange currents, but the wind was steady so we made good progress most of the day. Things died down a bit towards dinner time but picked back up a couple hours after sunset. Lots of clouds today so we ran the engines to charge the batteries and steady the rolling a bit. Another movie night. I find watching movies on the flat screen in rolling seas to be a challenge. Caused a headache and a bit of queezyness. Doesn’t bother me when the screen is close (like my laptop) but at a distance it is uncomfortable.

Day 33 (June 6) – at sea

Winds are virtually non existent and will stay that way for another 24 hours or so. We semi-furled the Genoa (with the pole still attached) at around 6:30 as it was luffing quite a bit. Now making our way (slowly) under motor to the north where we should catch some better currents and winds. The fumes from the engine burning off the oil and a bit sickening. Will be glad to go back under sail.

Sailed a bit in the afternoon, but there is virtually no wind so have been motoring most of the day. Have a raging headache caused, I think, by the fumes from the engine. Should enjoy the calm while I can though because apparently we are heading towards a category 8 storm. We are not planning to enter it but will ride the edges to take advantage of the increased winds. Unfortunately, with a storm like that things change quickly so things a could get dicey.

Tonight the skies are clear and I am seeing the milky way for the first time in I don’t know how long. Wish I had picked up an astronomy app while we were in Bermuda. Might have to grab one when we get to the Azores to use on the rest of the trip.

Day 34 (June 7) – at sea

Today was a perfect day for sailing. Calm seas and 10-15 knots right on our beam. We made good progress and if we continue at this pace, we should arrive in 8-10 days. Would be nice if we could have this kind of sailing every day, but I am not holding my breath.

We were able to top off the tanks today with the water maker so it was a shower day. Feels good to get at least some of the grime off. It is pretty gross to see how brown my 1/2 inch of wash water turns by the time I am done – and know that isn’t the half of it!  I haven’t had a real shower since St Martin and even those were timed and therefore rushed.  Can’t wait to have a long, stand under full blast hot water for as long as I want, shower! Maybe there will be a marina in the Azores or a cheap hotel I can get for a night.

Day 34 (June 8) – at sea

Another nice day weather-wise though not as good for winds. We are probably 2/5 of the way across now and in the last 24 hours we have encountered 4 ships. This is the first time we have crossed paths so we must be crossing some kind of shipping route.  Apparently today was also the day for animals with dolphins, whales, turtles and birds spotted. I, unfortunately, only saw the bird – though he was lovely and graceful.

We ate the last of our fresh meat tonight and have little fresh veggies left. Feeding a veg has been interesting but has gone well so far. Since we are more than 1/3 across we opened one of the wine bottles tonight. Not generally a Merlot fan but this was nice. Glad I don’t have watch until 6 am because the 2 glasses I had led to a nice buzz. I will be a total lightweight after this trip. 🙂

Wine drinking led to interesting convo between Chris, Steve and I. I haven’t yet figured out if he (Steve) IS actually a racist homophobe or of his complete lack of political correctness is just part of his Neanderthal tendencies. All I know is that being part of a conversation where someone used the phrases “chinks”, “pakis”, “the browns”, and “the blacks” left me feeling distinctly uncomfortable. Kind of like his questionable comments about “the gays”. Since I am on a boat in the middle of the ocean with this person and really don’t want to to back to hiding in my room, I am letting a LOT of comments pass that I would usually challenge. It isn’t a good feeling not standing by what I believe just to keep the peace.

Day 35 (June 9) – at sea

Another nice day. So far, no sign of the storm we are supposed to be hitting. Aside from some wind-change this morning that took us a few miles south of our course we have been plodding along nicely. Our GPS speed reached 10.2 knots at one point which is the fastest we have gone when I was on watch.

Tired after a short night sleep full of weird dreams about all my friends deserting me. Thinking more about what kind of boat I would want to buy and am leaning more towards a cat. I think, for what I want to do, it would be the most appropriate boat for me. Were I planning on doing lots of long blue water passages I wouldn’t consider it, but since I will really only be doing 2-4 day sails at max (and those rarely) I think the comfort considerations will win. Unfortunately they are more expensive so it might take longer, but I will figure it out.

At 5:20 pm, I released my first of two messages in a bottle. I have wanted to do that for years and it will be interesting to see if it ever shows up. 🙂

Day 36 (June 10) – at sea

For some unknown reason, Chris is just hanging about in his underwear. I understand not putting on pants if you are just getting up to pee, but he is sitting and chatting and just carrying on as usual. Weird.

At about noon today we passed the halfway mark. Yay! It has been a bit challenging since last night. We aren’t in the storm yet, but we are getting close. The skies are cloudy, the winds have picked up (and have gusted up to 27 knots) and the swells are much larger and rougher. I have to say, looking out the stern of the boat and seeing a wall of water moving towards you that is many feet over your head is a bit intimidating.  It isn’t dangerous as long as they are hitting our rear, but it is still a bit freaky. The most uncomfortable part is the rolling. We have had several quite violent and extreme rolls which makes sleeping a challenge.

At 5:15 pm we experienced a bout of heavy rain and an 80° direction shift in the winds – circumstances that closely mirror those of the knock down they had a few months ago. We have furled the sails and are now under engine power. I have the midnight to 3 am shift. I am not looking forward to it.

Day 37 (June 11) – at sea

We have turned to the south a bit to get away from the worst of the winds and waves. We all agree that going a bit slower is better than going faster and being very uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, by moving south we have entered a current that is moving against us. It has cost us about a day sailing so far.  Add weaker winds and our progress has slowed. Even with that, Steve has estimated that we will arrive in the morning in 6 days. Woo hoo!

This crossing has – so far – been immeasurably better than the one to Bermuda, but I am ready for it to be over.  Crossings are boring. And, if they aren’t boring, they are scary as hell. 🙂  it doesn’t help that I am suffering from lack of sleep.

Since we are on a rotating schedule, it isn’t possible to get into a sleep pattern. Since there isn’t much to do, I lay in bed and read and nap all day but getting hours of solid sleep is virtually impossible.  To add insult to injury, for the last few sleep sessions I have had bad dreams about my friends all hating me and weird sea creatures attacking the boat. The latest was about a giant octopus – which is exactly what you want to dream before sitting alone in the pitch black for 3 hours.

Day 38 (June 12) – at sea

We are moving back north in an attempt to break out of the current. It is 5 am and we have had sails down and engines on higher than normal for hours because there is no wind at all and the current is pushing us back.  We are hoping to find the balance between good winds and crap conditions. Apparently it is supposed to kick off tomorrow night. Very happy that my late shift today is 3-6 pm and then I am off again until 6 am the following day. Though, if it is bad enough I won’t be able to sleep anyway and might be needed on deck.  My biggest concern is rain as I am in no way appropriately kitted out for big rain.

We have encountered two big (12+) groups of dolphins today – or perhaps the same group twice. Watching the play is amazing. Racing the boat and each other, surfing the break on the waves, jumping and playing tag. You can just tell they are having a blast playing with their big cousin the boat.

We also have seen our first sailing yacht of the trip which was fun. We talked to them for a bit. They’re a husband and wife from Austria heading to the Azores. It is nice to have another small boat around. Makes you feel not so alone – even if they are a ways away.

It is 4:30 and I am half way through my 2nd watch. We just recalculated and we are 599 miles from our destination with an ETA of less than 90 hours. That will, of course, change but it is awesome to finally see something in the ‘time to destination’ box.

Day 39 (June 13) – at sea

More nightmares last night. I think my brain is starting to freak out because I can’t complete a REM cycle. I took a muscle relaxer last night and even with that I didn’t sleep well. Between painful bruises on all sides of my body, the stench of chain smoked cigarettes, and being flung about by the rocking of the boat, a good night sleep is a dream.  If we stay in one spot for a couple days in the Azores, I might get a hotel for a night or two.

By the end of my shift at 9am, we had 505 miles to go but were making very slow progress. Hopefully the winds pick back up.

Day 40 (June 14) – at sea

We finally have decent winds again. Yesterday was terrible with slow winds and a current against us. Even with the engine on, we averaged less than five knots per hour.

At the start of my 9 am shift, we have 374 miles to go with an eta of just over 62 hours. Woo hoo! 2.5-3 days left and I can’t wait to have a full day of no sailing. We haven’t hit anything TOO bad, but no one is sleeping well and I personally am wearing down.

There were several things I wanted to complete during this trip but the reality is that you have no energy and your brain stops functioning well.  All I have the energy or motivation to do is sleep, eat, stand watch and read/watch a movie until I doze off. I feel like a slug and my back hurts from spending so much time laying down.

Thankfully we are going to take a week or so to bum around the Azores before doing the 6 day final crossing to Portugal. Really hoping Chris stays aboard so we have an excuse to eat more veggies and can stay with the 3 hour shifts. If there are 3 of us, we switch to 4 on/8 off – which doesn’t sound bad, unless you are doing it.

12:40 pm: Just when things seemed to be going well, at approximately 12:15 pm with 356 miles to go we were hit by a huge gust and a wave that spun us around like a top. This had been happening for a couple days and the pressure was finally too much and we lost our rudder. We ended up hove to and we are currently drifting north. We notified the UK Coast Guard and have made contact with a boat in the area. Our plan at this point is to just drift today and tomorrow we will try to attach a makeshift rudder to try to steer to the Azores. There is a chance we will need to be rescued but it seems unlikely. The winds are in our favor and it is supposed to be calm. We also have plenty of fuel to motor the rest of the way.

3:20 pm: We are still just drifting but conditions are deteriorating. Winds are picking up and we are moving in somewhat the correct direction but visibility is down. Apparently the UK Coast Guard put out an alert and another vessel contacted us, but at this point there is nothing anyone else can do except give us a tow and we aren’t in a desperate situation yet.

The guys have begun rigging the rudder for tomorrow and have a plan in place. Hoping that the weather that is currently threatening passes and we have a calm night.

We were so excited earlier because we had broken the 52 hours to arrival mark. Now we are just hoping we get there with out more problems and without it taking too much time.  Sleeping with a life jacket to hand and my go bag just in case the shit hits the fan as we have no way to react if something bad happens.