After clearing the crew through customs & immigration at St Georges, Bermuda, on April 27th, 2019, Mira secured a berth alongside the quay opposite the customs office. It was a convenient location for our shore side excursions though lacking any water or electric service and a bit too accessible to the tourists. We opted to stay put for our short stay.
Javier (our third crew member) arrived that same evening from Argentina,
and we all got busy the next morning going about the typical crew tasks following and preceding a long passage:
- clean the boat & ourselves
- make one repair (following the manufacturer’s instructions via satellite phone, we were able to quickly fix the troubling leak on the port shaft seal)
- laundry & haircut
- refill the diesel tanks and jerry cans of extra diesel
- provision (grocery shopping) for the next leg
- plan the route
- and, wait for a good weather window to leave Bermuda
The last task allowed some down time for exploring St Georges and some of its nautical traditions (including dark & stormy drinks & fish and chips).
Like most of Bermuda, St Georges is beautiful and full of history.
After waiting several days for winds to return, we finally departed St Georges harbor on May 1st. We knew from the forecast that the first few days would have very light winds, but we were eager to get going. Also, we had taken on plenty of fuel so we could motor through the doldrums. In fact, by the time we reached the Azores, we had used much less fuel on this passage than on the prior much shorter passage from Tortola.
The rhumb line is the nautical term for the compass heading to sail directly to a destination. Where wind and weather are not a factor, it is usually the preferred route. Of course, wind and weather are always the factor.
How we plan for weather: Our primary system for weather forecasts and route planning is called PredictWind which we run on our onboard Macs and ipad. It’s one of many apps available, but we like it the best. As I mentioned in the prior Leg 1 post, we also use a professional weather routing service (www.mwxc.com) for our longer passages. Their suggested route is based on the experience of professional meteorologists and their interpretation of global weather models – which are shockingly accurate for a 3 to 5 day forecast. So, for a passage of 10-15 days we’d need to receive in-route updates from both sources. Enter satellite communications and IridiumGO! This device acts like an onboard wifi hotspot, only much slower (think dial-up days…).
IridiumGO! is our primary system for all our offshore communications. We rely on it to call, text, and email (without pictures or videos) with family and friends and receive weather forecast updates from PredictWind and MWXC.
On this passage, we would be sailing the north Atlantic during the late spring when the winter pattern of eastward moving low pressure systems (i.e. storms) would still be a threat along the northeastward rhumb line. So, rather than sailing that direct line, we planned to leave Bermuda heading northeast then turn to the southeast for most of the passage – followed by a final steep northeastward jog to the Azores. This would result in a longer but safer passage. In fact, as we later learned, other boats that took the more direct route to the Azores experienced much rougher conditions and damage to their boats. We planned to depart Bermuda on May 1st and make landfall 12 days later at the traditional sailor’s sanctuary harbor of Horta on the island of Faial.
Below is a summary and my diary of Leg 2 – Bermuda to the Azores
- Depart St Georges, Bermuda May 1, 2019 13:00pm
- Arrive Horta, Faial, Azores May 15, 2019 10:00am
- Total distance 1,998 nautical miles
- Total time 336 hours (14.0 days)
- Average speed 6.0kn
- Max speed 18.6kn
- Max wind speed 50kn!
1 May Wednesday
Departed St George’s, Bermuda today at 13:00. Heading 080 (northeast).
Clear skies, winds from 320 at 4-5kn. Seas very calm.
Friends on SV Flying Loon left at 15:00. Talked by VHF. Made water to fill both tanks. We we’re nearly empty as there was no water available on the quay. Pam’s chicken pasta for dinner. Crew settling in. Motoring with mainsail but still very light winds
2 May Thursday
Continued heading 084 to Chris Parker’s (MWXC) suggested waypoints. Benign front passing north to south in the morning. Winds still light. Shifted with the front to heading 069. Still Motoring…
Saw a large pod of dolphins off our stern. They seemed occupied chasing dinner and didn’t visit us. 17:00 Diego caught a nice tuna and we grilled some tonight for dinner.
3 May Friday
Again light winds. Motoring all night with screecher sail set at 04:00. A small front blew through with light rain for 30 min then clear skies. At 9:00 we furled the screecher and set the asymmetric spinnaker.
Winds still light 8-10kn but finally no motor. Gentle rolling seas. Everyday we see large blooms of sargassum (seaweed) floating and for the past 2 days we see jelly fish with clear bubble heads floating on the surface (thought they were empty water bottles or plastic bags). Asym and full main flying with 12k and apparent wind angle 133.
4 May Saturday
Light wind sailing day with asym. Winds from northwest finally shifted to Southwest before midnight but very light so we are motoring. Made water and charged batteries with both engines. Diego, age 48, is doing great. This is his third trans-Atlantic sailing trip. He has a quiet competence and is a very knowledgeable sailor and mechanic with a great sense of humor. He is also a sailing instructor in Argentina. As expected, I am learning from him every day. Fortunately for the crew he also enjoys cooking!
Javier, age 63, is one of his students. He manages his family’s farm business in Argentina. He’s enthusiastic and a great help on the boat.
Both speak good English and I’m improving my Spanish with their patience every day. I’m feeling fortunate to have a great crew.
5 May Sunday
Motor sailing with main and screecher. At Chris Parker’s suggestion we altered our course to the southeast to stay on the southern edge of an approaching front expected Wednesday and a gale (low pressure system) coming on Saturday. Hope to resume northeast route to Azores after sat/sun. Received email from sv Flying Loon. They had a steering failure during the night and were unable to repair the frayed cable. They have turned back to Bermuda with their emergency manual tiller. Later in the afternoon received email from other boat that left at the same time as us, sv Salana. They are sailing to Azores but on a path much further north. They report losing their propeller so have no way to use their engine. They are continuing to sail towards the Azores but will need to be towed into the harbor at Horta. Mira had a great sailing day with wind astern and making 6.5 avg SOG and 150 miles in 24 hrs. Trouble always arrives in three’s so I’m wondering what equipment failure we will face… Oh yeah. Our SSB radio makes the aft electric winch turn when we are transmitting..! Also, it sets off an alarm on the Victron battery inverter/charger too. I turned off the power to the radios and will keep off until we can diagnose the problem. Finished dominoes tournament today. Diego kicked our butts!
6 May Monday
Our turn… During the night we had difficulty maintaining battery charge so I turned on the generator at 1:30am this Morning. Battery was at 83 before and at 7:00 was only 89%. This is not normal. At 12:50 we passed tanker ship mv Scot Leipzig 1m to stbd.
Spent the day trying to diagnose the inverter/charger. It’s just not coming on. No way to charge the batteries with the generator. No way to make water since our watermaker right now is running off the inverter. Contacted a marine electrician in Annapolis for help. Trying to assist via SMS text but so far not good. May need to rig a wire to bypass the inverter… frustrating!
7 May Tuesday
Spent all morning trying to rig a bypass circuit to power the watermaker pumps directly from the generator. Lots of time spent tracing wires. I decided to call the Victron tech support office and got Justin who was very helpful in walking me through a reset of the inverter. Apparently when you switch it off from its on/ off switch vs. the color panel, it gets confused and needs a reset. Simple fix and problem solved. User error..? Nevertheless, Diego and I celebrated with a beer at lunch! Winds picked up this evening as expected ahead of cold front. 20-25 knots of wind and we’re doing 8kn. Talked by VHF with French boat sv Gheo. He’s a solo sailor who was just to the north of Mira enroute from Guadeloupe towards the Azores.
8 May Wednesday
Rough night with winds and seas up on the starboard quarter. 25-30kn and sailing 8-10kn with M2R (main w/ 2 reefs) and G2R (Genoa w/ 2 reefs). At 11:30 local time we level off SE course and now heading east. Crossed 1,000 nautical mile mark!
9 May Thursday
Beautiful sailing today. We finally made the turn back to NE this evening. Horta is now 800 miles away. Expecting stiffer winds and higher seas but mostly will be on our stern until we arrive. Autopilot has been working non stop since Bermuda and seems to drain our batteries faster than in the Caribbean. Each night we are having to run genset or motor to top off batteries. Still plenty of fuel on board so running genset or engine not an issue.
10 May Friday
Light rain last night. This morning the gale/ front finally hit.
Winds and huge seas from the stern – 30kn gusting to 45-50kn. Sailing with no main and small scrap of Genoa. 6-9kn average speed but we saw 18.6kn while surfing large waves. Autopilot working hard against the waves. We were all stunned by strength and size of the wind and waves. Largest by far for Mira. Front passed in about 6 hours by 3pm and winds gradually veered from SW to NW during the night
11 May Saturday
We have traveled 1,400 miles since Bermuda. Less than 600 remaining to Horta.
Morning clear skies with bright sun on large waves from the west. Winds still rocking at 25-30 knots on port quarter making SOG of 7-9 but very rolly. Main and Genoa both have 3 reefs. Mira is well balanced until a bigger wave knocks her sideways, then autopilot recovers and we continue. It’s a continuous roller coaster ride as Mira rises and falls 50′ as the big rollers pass under her hull. Relentless! Occasionally, the sea reminds us who’s in charge by engulfing Mira with a wave from the side. We’ve had the cockpit enclosure down for the past 2 days – so we stay dry. Air and ocean temps have dropped since the front. Today water is 66F; when we left Tortola it was 79F.
Diego: he’s exceptionally good at handling the boat. He knows the Antares boats intimately. He takes his time to think through proper sail set and trim. I let him take the lead on this after the two of us did the leg from BVI to Bermuda. Keeps his cool in stressful situations.
Brutal waves. All day today hitting us from port quarter. Seas definitely still up from yesterday’s front.
Mira taking a pounding. sails reefed down completely.
mainsail with 3 reefs and genoa with 3 reefs. Winds 30kn TWA 125 SOG at 9kn
12 May Sunday
Cold last night. Waves reducing in size, but still large. Longer period waves. Winds down and from 260 and motoring. Nice broad reach when we finally get wind. Feels like the home stretch. Sea temp 66F
13 May Monday
Surfing down big waves from the stern in overcast skies this morning. SW Winds 22-30 knots, and we do up to 14kn down the waves. Main and Genoa 2x reef and wing on wing. Boat is very stable. 280 miles to Horta. Winds died at 1600 as front passed. Motoring since 1800 in choppy seas. 202 miles to Horta. Sea temp 63F.
14 May Tuesday
7:00. 150 miles to Horta. Motored all night in heavy swells from port quarter. Winds just 12-15 knots. Morning overcast skies. Sea birds fishing near us. Breakfast with crew this morning followed by a surprise visit by a large pod of common dolphins – grey with white belly.
Swam and played in our wake for 1 hr. Also lots of birds..must have been attracted by a large school of fish. 100 miles out. All in good spirits. Playing dominoes. Sunny afternoon still motoring, running genset, watermaker, washing clothes for Diego and Javier.
Winds from SW sailing at 7 kn on my watch
15 May Wednesday
Land ho! Woke up to another overcast day but within 10miles of Faial. Hidden in fog. We contacted Marina Horta by radio and were assigned a berth in the marina.
Landfall at 10:00am local time. Tied up Mira, cleared customs, and celebrated our successful passage!