May 2008 Atlantic Crossing

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May 2 - We departed Ft. Lauderdale and sailed up the coast of Florida to St. Augustine.  We chose St. Augustine as our launch point because a regatta departs annually at this time to cross the Atlantic.  We thought we could make some friends and feel a bit more secure traveling with a group.  However, there were only 2 other boats going, and one of them turned around after the first 10 hours due to the rough weather!  Our departure was delayed by one day as we waited for a necessary boat part to arrive.  Our water pump had broken.  So we are going to be on our own.  Herb Hilgenburger, a favorite cruisers' weather forecaster, as our only resource.  We will check in with Herb daily on our SSB radio to get the latest weather and routing advice.

May 7 - Went to the airport and picked up our friend Ray Berndt from Morro Bay, California.  He will join us for the Atlantic Crossing.


May 9 - We got up early to make the 7:30 a.m. bridge opening out of St. Augustine.  The seas were fairly large and rolly.  The wind was about 20 knots.  Ray got queasy pretty quick and couldn't eat or drink all day.  He stayed in the cockpit for fresh air and didn't 'toss his cookies' until later in the evening when he went below.  He was testing to see if he could go without medication, but wisely decided to slap on a patch and was feeling fine by the next morning.  We had fairly bouncy conditions all day and headed southeast on Herb's advice to avoid gale force winds.  We made 7-9 knots on a beam reach all day and all night.

May 10 - The wind got lighter throughout the day.  We have avoided the gale, but now we don't have enough wind to move us!  We're only going 3.5 knots.  We didn't see anything or anyone all day.  Our night watch schedule is: Mike 8-10 p.m.  Linda 10-midnight.  Ray midnight-3 a.m.  Mike 3-8 a.m.  If it sounds out of balance, that is because Mike takes a lot of my hours for me and lets me sleep.  I am supposed to start at 9 p.m. and then relieve him at 6 a.m.  But that's just not going to happen.  The extra sleep is also my reward for doing all the cooking.

May 11 - We have light winds astern that make the boom swing from side to side as we roll through the waves.  I cooked a skillet dinner of chicken, potatoes, onion, and green beans simmered in a tomato sauce.  I used my large skillet but it wasn't deep enough to prevent the sauce from slopping over the sides as we rocked.  From now on, I will use the pressure cooker pot to cook in, even if I'm not pressure cooking.

May 12 - Oh my God!  The winds have grown to 35 knots and the waves are over 20 feet!!  When we slide down the side of the wave to the bottom of the trough, it's like we are being flushed down a toilet.  Walls of water are all around us which are higher than the boat.  Just when it feels like we are going to be swallowed by the sea, we are pushed up the wave and float over the top and then down into the next trough.  Ray later said that he wasn't too freaked out by it only because we didn't seem to be overly concerned.  I guess it was good that I was able to hide my true feelings!

May 13 - Bad night.  Winds and waves are AWFUL.  Got an email via the SSB radio that my grandson Blake (10 years old) is in the hospital.  He has been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  Oh how I wish I were at home.

May 14 - Bad night.  No sleep.  We are on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.  Waves sometimes break on us.  It's hard to move around with the boat moving like this.  It's difficult to even sit without getting ejected from my seat and launched across the boat.  I'm sure I've got some bruises.  I don't like this at all.

May 15 - Seas are somewhat smaller today but the motion is strong and I'm so tired of it.  Right now I can't imagine how I will endure this entire passage.


May 16 - Woke up this morning and could see Bermuda on the horizon.  Yeah!!  We tied up to the Customs Dock in St. George to check in and staggered up the dock.  Ray and I both had sea legs, big time!  The marina is full, so we went to the anchorage.  Another gale is expected tomorrow.  Hope we have good holding.  We're anchored in 35 feet of mud.

May 17 - Ahhhhh.  A full night's sleep.  I cooked a breakfast of eggs, bacon, pancakes, toast and coffee.  We could all sit together at the table and eat on plates, rather than taking shifts and eating out of bowls.  It's windy here, but the water is a very pretty blue.  We couldn't put the dinghy in the water because of the wind, so we played cards and watched a movie.

May 18 - Calm today.  We dinghied over to the yacht club.  Took our computer so we could check email and use Skype on their free wi-fi, while we did our laundry.  It cost $35 in the machines to do only 3 loads!  The sticker-shock continued when we went to the market for groceries.  Prices are at least double here.  Looks like we are going to be here for the rest of the week because gales are expected for the next 5 days.  Talked to Kimberly and got the details on Blake.  He is home from the hospital and will return to school tomorrow.  He will require insulin shots 3 times a day for the rest of his life (or until there is a cure for diabetes).  This is a kid who was scared to death of needles!  He has learned how to prick his finger to check his blood 4 times a day and his diet has to be strictly monitored.  We are all still reeling from this unexpected turn, trying to understand how? and why? why? why?

May 19 - Stuck on the boat all day.  Too windy to get off.  Ray is teaching Mike the game of Chess.

May 20 - Calmer today.  We bought a day pass to take the ferries and buses all over and around the island.  Had fun roaming around the old fort at the Naval Dockyard, eating in a little village on a patio overlooking a small bay, and then roaming around the city of Hamilton before returning to St. George.  Ray purchased and gave to us a case with multiple games which are magnetic.  Perfect for the boat!  Of course, now Mike is pressuring me to learn Chess, so that he will have someone to play when Ray leaves.

May 21 - We bought day passes and took the ferry to Hamilton to continue our exploring.  Mike went to the Goslings store to get a couple of bottles of his favorite rum.  The regular price was $47 for a 2-liter bottle, but we got it duty free for $19!  The wind kicked up during the day, so our dinghy ride back to Aquila was a wet ride.  I talked to my grandson Blake on the telephone today.  He is such an amazing boy.  He said the shots don't really hurt.  He gets them in his abdomen.  He returned to school on Monday and gave a presentation to his class on diabetes, then answered their questions.  He told me that he is normal, he just has to have 3 shots a day.  I want to go home and give him a big hug.

May 22 - Windy and choppy today.  Mike and Ray took the dinghy to get the propane tank filled and to buy some groceries.  They got soaked!  I stayed on board to wash a load of clothes in my own washing machine.  My dryer is not very efficient.  After 2 hours of drying, I gave up.  So the clothes are hanging all over the main saloon trying to air dry.


May 23 - Beautiful blue sky day.  It would have been perfect to tour the island today, but we were checked out and underway by 10:30 a.m.  We had light wind and flew our spinnaker all day and all night.  During our afternoon check-in with Herb on the SSB, we were advised to go southeast to stay on the south side of a front which would bring gale force wind over the weekend.  We are going very slowly, like 2-3 knots, but we don't want to turn on the motor so soon.  We want to save our fuel.

May 24 - Herb was surprised that we weren't farther south.  He said we should have run our motor.  We're going to get hit with the front tomorrow.

May 25 - The wind kicked up at midnight last night and blew hard for over 12 hours.  We had 30+ knots of wind and lots of rain blowing sideways.  Everything was soaked.  We had a north swell that kept us rocking side to side.  We did our watches tonight meerkat-style, staying down below watching the radar screen and just popping our head up to view the horizon periodically.  I was so happy when Ray relieved me at midnight because I was so tired.  But I couldn't sleep in this uncomfortable motion.

May 26 - The swell was manageable this morning.  Mike cooked a breakfast for us of eggs, bacon, toast and coffee.  What a treat!  We lost our wind at noon and started motoring.  Motored all day and all through the night.

May 27 - Started sailing again in the morning.  It's such a nice sunny day.  We caught a fish today!  We determined that it was an Atlantic Bonito (after consulting our fish book).  Ate it for dinner.  Yummm!

May 28 - The skies turned gray and the rain started about noon.  Wave after wave of rain storms all day.  We are plenty tired of being wet and mopping the water off the cushions.  We continued under sail all day making about 6 knots speed.  The sea is very calm (even though it is raining) and we were able to eat dinner on regular plates in the main salon.  I watched an incredible lightning storm on the horizon during my watch tonight.  At 3 a.m. it caught up with us.  Had squall conditions for an hour or so.

May 29 - Woke up to blue skies and fair winds on the stern quarter.  Had great sailing all day with 15-20 knots of wind.  We were doing over 8 knots most of the day on a comfortable point of sail.  In the afternoon it started raining again (sigh).  Now we're rocking again and I hate that!  I couldn't sleep well because of it.

May 30 - We went through a rain cell early in the morning on Mike's watch.  It poured down, with lightning and rough seas.  By daybreak it had passed and now we are sailing in light wind with gray skies and that damned beam swell.  We are sailing under main sail only because our genoa is tearing at the edges.  After talking with Herb we were advised to go east, so we decided to motor again.  Everything feels damp and musty.  Yuk.

May 31 - Motored all night.  Had some rain.  Mostly gray skies today.  At this point, I'm totally questioning my lifestyle choice.  Missing the kids enormously and couldn't care less about seeing Europe.  I can't even begin to imagine making the return voyage.  I watched home movies of my grandkids again.  So, so cute.  Brings such a smile to my face.  I can't decide if watching these DVDs make me feel better or worse.  The sky cleared long enough for the guys to pull down the genoa on the deck.  They put sail repair tape on the separated parts and Mike sewed several spots by hand.  The blunt side of that huge needle got shoved into the palm of Mike's hand when it slipped off the leather palm guard he was wearing.  Ouch!  They finished the job in about 2 hours just as the rain started again.

June 1 - The sun is shining today with light wind and flat seas.  I cooked blueberry pancakes for breakfast.  Learned to play chess today, and I beat Mike on my first game (with Ray's help).  The seas are calm enough for showers, so we are all feeling MUCH better.  I even had 1/2 glass of wine tonight, listening to music and enjoying the sunset.

June 2 - Sailing fast today on a perfect beam reach.  We are making over 8 knots of speed with 18 knots of wind.  It should take us another week to reach the Azores.  I baked beer bread today.  We have our fishing line out whenever it's possible, but can't seem to catch another fish.  Mike and Ray saw a 10-12 foot shark beside the boat, but he was gone before I got up there with my camera.  That certainly put an end to any thoughts of heaving-to and going for a swim.

June 3 - NEW GRANDSON BORN TODAY!  Brady Dawkins weighed in at 9 lbs., 13 oz.   We can't wait to see him and hold him when we fly home next Christmas.  You know you'll be seeing some pictures of him when we get some from Sean and Keni!  We had great weather and sailed all day.

June 4 - Weather remains good.  Clear blue skies, flat seas, and light wind on the beam.  A pod of dolphins played with us this morning and again in the afternoon.  That was cool.  Love it when they jump completely out of the water.  I got some good video footage.  We also saw a small pod of whales.  Later, when we described them to an island local, we were told that we had seen Atlantic Orcas (see picture in photo album).

June 5 - We were unable to connect with Herb yesterday, so we are a bit nervous about the potential gale winds expected tomorrow.  Wondering if we should alter course to go south.  Anyway, we are continuing east.  Got pictures today of dolphins, a turtle, and jellyfish.  There is no moon tonight, so the sky is filled with stars, and shooting stars.  The water sparkles with phosphorescence.  It is so beautiful and calm tonight.

June 6 - The wind picked up today and the seas got a little turbulent.  We are cooking along at 8 kts now close-hauled in 20 kts of wind.  We should arrive in the Azores in 2 more days.  On this point of sail, we are heeled over practically burying the rail.  It is so hard to move around under these conditions.  It's just absolutely exhausting.

June 7 - I slept in the lee cloth as we careened through the night.  Thankfully, the weather has been good even though we've had these increased winds and waves.  The sky is blue and the sun is shining.


June 8 - We are really pushing to arrive today.  Using the genoa to go faster, even though the repair tape is coming off and flapping in the wind.   We are heeled way over with the head sail occasionally scooping into the water.  It was so exciting to see land ahead!  We arrived in the marina in Horta about 7 p.m.  No slips are available.  We rafted up to a boat which was already rafted to another boat (see picture in photo album).  Just so glad to be here.

June 9 - It is raining and will rain all week.  Gale force winds are expected tomorrow.  What is up with this weather???!!!  We are taking care of chores, laundry, grocery shopping, email, etc.  Hopefully we can eventually enjoy being tourists here. 

June 10 - Another boat just arrived and has rafted up to us.  They arrived under wind and rain and it was a bit chaotic getting him secured to us.  He came close to taking out our stanchions with his bowsprit.  They were exhausted as they had just completed a non-stop voyage from Brazil.  We are now 4 boats deep from the dock.  People walking over our deck as they come and go from their boat to the dock.  Not my ideal set up.  We went out for pizza and beer, then came back to the boat to drink, listen to oldies and play dominoes until 1 a.m.  It was fun.  I'm finally starting to unwind.

June 11 - Ray expects to become a grandfather today.  We are awaiting news with the details.  This will be his first and we know it's a girl!  How exciting!

We plan to visit some of the islands of the Azores during the next week before heading out on the final leg of our trans-Atlantic voyage to Portugal.  If only it would stop raining!

My next update will be after we reach mainland Portugal.  Until then, love to all!  You have no idea how much I miss everyone!!!

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