“Looks like we can clear out in Bequia” Jasper says with a big smile and an air of ‘I told you so’. For weeks it was not possible to clear either in or out of Bequia, after some yachties had not respected the quarantine rules. Boats wanting to leave the country had to go to mainland St Vincent to check out, which is not really a problem, only a lot more hussle. Jasper hated the idea of having to go to St Vincent so much that he did a magic trick. Every day he repeated the words “I’m sure we will clear out in Bequia when we leave” – which I found a little annoying after a while, but it worked! Or were the officials finally fed up with him asking “any changes yet?” every time he passed the office?
After some last provisioning and saying goodbye to our friends we pull the anchor up. Exciting. Terrifying! “Thank you Bequia!” we shout. “See you again some day!” How I hate goodbyes. Sailing between the islands of Bequia and St Vincent we find the trade winds on the nose, but we manage to sail out in two racks only. It is a typical hot Caribbean day and Jasper pours a bucket of seawater over his head. “A last Caribbean shower” he says a little too early, because soon after the wind picks up and we get hit by a strong squall. Waves slam into the cockpit and leave us soaked. A proper goodbye that is!
The sea turns into perfect trade wind weatherconditions and we sail, close-hauled for the next days (and almost the whole passage). There’s not a lot of wind but just fine to make good progress and feel comfortable on board, which gives us the time to adjust and find the rhythm of keeping watch. There is a moonless sky and therefor we see a lot of stars. The wake of the boat is fluorescent from the seaweed.
The sargassum seaweed is giving problems to the windvane rudder. All the securitybolds break under the heavy weight of the weed that’s stuck behind it. So Jasper drills a hole and fixes it with a tie-wrap. Now one of our main activities on board is to remove the seaweed from the windvanes rudder every half hour. It is very annoying, but gives something to do while on watch. The big patches of seaweed seem endless. One evening, right before dark I see something different being dragged by the boat. Fishing lines. We stop the boat and I jump into the water, a little terrified by the darkness beneath me. The fishing lines are wrapped around the rudder but come off easily. Unfortunately, I let go off the lines, a little afraid I would get tangled, but I immediately regret that I didn’t take them on board. We would see a lot of garbage during this passage, mainly from boats.
The clouds in the sky become bigger and bigger and turn into impressive cumulonimbus clouds. A few days later we are surrounded by thunder, lightning and heavy showers. Many squalls pass us, followed by short, frustrating periods of no wind. We put electronics in the high pressure cooker -a handheld GPS, portofoon and the Garmin Inreach, in case we get hit by lighting. Chances are not big, but you never know.
Slowly we sail out of the front into a huge high pressure system. Days of light winds follow, until the wind completely drops. Not planning to motor all the way to Horta, we lower all the sails and wait for the wind to come back. The sea is flat and it is hot, so we go for a swim. How strange and wonderful it is to float in this big mass of blue! What is beneath us? There is almost no sound, just our voices and the ticking, cracking and squeaking sound of our ship.
We enjoy the simple life on the ocean. We read, listen to podcasts, cook nice meals and bake bread and cookies. No news about corona, no distractions. I think a lot about friends and family, the ocean somehow always amplifies my feelings of love and gratitude. The Garmin Inreach ables us to have contact with friends on the ocean. SV Annie, sailing the whole time behind us in a range of 100 to 15 nm and SV Twoflower, who left four days after us but is doing a good job in catching us up. We joke a lot and update each other about the culinary happenings on board. Some more serious updates we get from SV Stip op de Horizon, who left two weeks before us. He and SV Beau4 got to deal with storm Arthur. Beau4 is having problems with the engine and the Stip also needs to do some repairs.
We sail again, upwind like usual, but nicely. The Azores are coming closer. Suddenly a lot of animal life appears. Humpback whales jump high on the horizon, tuna and dolphins play in the water. A massive fleet of Portuguese man o’ war is passing our boat continuously; peculiar, dangerous little purple jellyfish who sail on the surface (they really have some sort of sail). We course towards the north of the islands, to make it easier to reach Horta in NE winds. We see other boats passing by and chat on VHF about the strong winds predicted in a few days. No one really seems to know what to expect, so a lot if boats have started their engine and motor as fast as possible towards Horta. We decide to lower our speed and wait until the low passes in front of us. Henk and Meeke, who send us a weatherforecast everyday, confirm our strategy and keep us posted.
The swell starts to build up and suddenly we find ourselves in a cold, windy and bumpy sea. The waves are very uncomfortable, especially with our low speed. Giramondo gets a beating and the sounds of the hull being slammed on the waves is horrific. For one and a half days we wait, frustrated and fed up with the whole thing. We decide to set more sail, a little earlier than planned, to get more grip on the waves. A good decision, although now we are sailing a bit more into the hard winds. Nothing too much for our sloop though, Giramondo is holding on tight and so are we.
A wave slams over the boat and enters the cabin trough the hatch, destroying are almost brand-new laptop. Just a minor problem, compared to what is happening to our friend a few hundred miles away. “Beau4 has broken his mast”, Jeroen of Stip op de Horizon text us. “I’m going back to help him.” Damn, this is bad. Later on we hear the events ended well. Marcel of Beau4 managed to fix his mast with his back stays and a Portuguese warship (not to be confused with the jellyfish) who came to help him fixed his engine and escorted him all the way to Horta. What an adventure!
The low pressure system fades away and the waves ease down. Not long before the wind would die completely, we put all the sail up and Giramondo races her way to Horta. We sail 150 miles in 24 hours, that’s a record for us! We reach the island of Faial in the night, looking at the dark shapes, smelling the land close to us. Right before the harbor we call the marina on channel 10 for permission to anchor. We can come in, but we have to stay on board and are not allowed to launch the dinghy. A familiar voice calls us on the VHF. “Well done guys!” Jeroen of the Stip cheers. We anchor in front of his boat and talk from a distance, because we all have to stay quarantined until we are tested negative on Covid 19. It’s ok, we don’t mind. We crossed the Atlantic safely, we are here!
***Meanwhile we have been tested negative and have been drinking several beers in Peter Café Sport already, sooner than we expected (some people have been waiting for weeks on their boats before they were allowed on land!) Thanks to the very patient and friendly marina and police who worked very hard to get everybody tested. More about that in a next blog!***
***Pictures are updated in this blog one of these days, now our laptop is halfly functioning again, but working soooo slooow…***
X Sanne and Jasper