24/06/2017 – Welcome to the English Channel!

Yesterday’s improvement in the wind happened sooner than expected. We finally turned the engine off at 1450 and have sailed well ever since. In fact we have only seen our speed drop to about 5 knots during the past 6 hours as we have had a west going tide knocking us back. It is, however, about to change in our favour so our fantastic progress should be maintained. Our day’s run was a wonderful 155.7nM which included 6 consecutive hours where we returned an 8 knot average! This speed does have a potential drawback; we don’t want to arrive at the Needles Channel too early to catch the tide through Hurst narrows though the adverse tide has helped. ..... ..... This morning dawned damp, drizzly and misty with visibility down to shadowy outlines at 4 nM, the damp was increased by intermittent light showers and wall to wall cloud cover. The rest of the morning was no better though the weather has improved within the past 20 minutes. I even spotted some shadows but the sun’s appearance was short lived. The skies have cleared a bit and visibility is much better. The sea has changed from an unattractive inkyblue/black to a lovely sea green colour, gannets are resting on the surface and the swell has decreased. ..... ..... We now expect to arrive at Haslar Marina, Gosport sometime between 12 and 1 tomorrow lunchtime though, of course, too much wind or too little wind can still affect the ETA! ETA updates on our blog page “www.yachtstarblazer.co.uk”, not on World Cruising Club as that is moderated and hence delayed. ..... ..... Minor interlude. I have been checking the AIS and just popped up into the cockpit to have a good look around. A shadowy vessel straight ahead alarmed me as he hadn’t appeared on the AIS list. Back down at the Nav Station the alarm was going off because he had suddenly appeared with a CPA (Closest Point of Approach) of between 0.15 and 0.5 nM passing down our port side within 15 minutes. I dashed back on deck and found he had altered course to starboard and I could see his port side but it still looked like it might be rather close. When we are running down wind, with the mainsail out one side and the genoa poled out the other, our manoeuvrability is somewhat hampered, plus the waves were swinging us about. The wind appeared to have veered so I altered course 5 degrees to starboard and, when the boat coped with that, I altered another 5 degrees. He passed half a mile away. By this time the sun had disappeared, the clouds were back and the colour of the sea had darkened. ..... ..... Last night’s dinner was Spaghetti Carbonara, tonight we will have steak, sweet potato wedges and corn on the cob for our last dinner at sea. ..... ..... Joyce

23/06/2017 – Change of plan!

What are plans for, if not to moderate or change them as circumstances dictate? But more of that later. It can be dangerous to slavishly stick to a plan when conditions change, for example if driving from the South Coast to Scotland you wouldn’t plan your trip on an average speed of 70 m.p.h. then not alter speed when a fog descends because ‘the plan says we average 70.’ ..... ..... Thursday was another gentle day with just enough breeze to allow us to drop the revs to little more than tickover to maintain an average speed of 5 knots or better. The day’s run to noon was a record breaking (at least for this leg) 128 nM, nothing to shout about but, hey, we are making satisfactory progress while conserving fuel. The day was interspersed with meal breaks, cups of tea and not much else. Dinner was spicy Italian sausages with couscous and ratatouille. We were still on schedule to arrive in Camaret shortly after dawn on Saturday. ..... ..... Today, Friday, it’s all change. The wind is still very gentle, the seas are still very calm and we are still motor sailing at between 5 and 6 knots. Now we would really like to average 6 while not using more fuel than necessary. Why? The elephant in the room is the predicted wind pattern for the end of next week when we hoped to be heading for Portsmouth. Yachts can make progress towards the wind, that is not our concern. From Camaret we have to head north up the Chenal du Four inside Ile d’Ouessant (Ushant to Brits) with the tide, this becomes hazardous when the wind is against the tide. It was beginning to look as if we would be stuck in Camaret for at least a week. News from Richard, our potential hitch hiker, is that his passage is possibly going to be postponed and there is no guarantee they would actually make landfall in Camaret before the very strong winds arrive on Tuesday. We are now heading for Portsmouth! ..... ..... The factors deciding this destination are varied. The fuel gauge does appear to be working, we are just being very cautious with the revs and expect to be sailing properly within about 12 hours. If we can average 6 knots we will reach the Needles Channel, another tidal gateway like the Chenal du Four, before the tide turns foul on Sunday morning which will get us into the Solent. Then we will be bashing into the tide all the way to Portsmouth Harbour entrance, but we should have enough fuel and at least the wind should help us. A late afternoon arrival on Sunday, a week earlier than previously predicted, looks possible. The only downside is that the pontoon at Hardway Sailing Club will be very nearly high and dry! We have decided to go into Haslar Marina in Gosport for a few nights to get ourselves sorted out. If we were willing to pay for a marina berth in Camaret we should be willing to do the same in England. ..... ..... Watch this space or Facebook posts from family for updates. We do not have any working phones or iPads for the UK and I might just forget to blog that we have arrived! What a shame, I was looking forward to a nice French meal on Saturday however I am now getting excited about completing our circumnavigation in two days’ time. Tonight’s ‘last night at sea dinner of steak chips and corn on the cob’ will have to wait until tomorrow and I’ll have to get enthusiastic about cooking something different. ..... ..... Joyce

22/06/2017 – Quite a good day

First of all, what went right? The cloudy, cool morning gave way to sunshine and, by mid-afternoon, it was positively hot. We had wall to wall sunshine but, as forecast, very little wind. ..... ..... We have taken the decision to motor at 5 knots, if the breeze sends our speed up we can throttle back. This strategy resulted in a 125 nm day, not stunning but the second highest this trip! There are two reasons for our fuel economy strategy: i) we don’t know exactly how much fuel we have and ii) we don’t want to arrive in the dark. It’s currently a little after 0600 UT, broad daylight and we have 260 nM to go so 52 hours at 5 knots, just under 44 hours at 6 knots. 0200 is pitch dark because there is no moon! ..... ..... On the baking front, I made probably the best loaf of bread for a very long time, and it was ready in time for lunch. It was possibly better than any of the bread that has come out of the bread maker. ..... ..... Motoring has benefits: abundant hot water; full batteries; use of the water maker without worrying about the batteries, therefore a full tank of water; and calm seas, the very reason we are motoring! I did some more laundry, especially the long sleeved tops which demand a cold wash and which I therefore wouldn’t dare dump in the washing machine. ..... ..... Late afternoon my attention was caught by a surface disturbance which quickly confirmed the presence of a whale. It was quite a way off and made its way diagonally across our stern, getting further away. John wasn’t convinced that it wasn’t a dolphin. Very shortly after that I spotted another one, but got a much better look at it. It was a bit closer and we could see the shape of the fin much more clearly and I caught a glimpse of the shape of the head. I believe they were both short-finned pilot whales. There is no way we could have seen a 2-3 metre long dolphin that far away and be able to make out the detail of its fin. Anyway, to confirm its DNA it helpfully blew several times! ..... ..... So what went wrong? When John got up at 0800 he went to check the fuel level. Unfortunately the gauge hadn’t moved since the previous evening though we have motored constantly. It looks very much as if the fuel sensor has failed, again. We replaced it in New Zealand and then again somewhere in the US last summer. It’s a fragile design where a float goes up and down two very thin wires. Given some of the rough seas we have been in and the way the fuel sloshes about in the tank, I suppose we should expect this sort of breakage but, seriously, why has it broken now when we have ‘suffered’ almost no wind and very calm seas for days? ..... ..... Dinner was meatballs in a tomato sauce with pasta and green beans. ..... ..... It is now 0630 on Thursday and I turned off the engine 45 minutes ago. We are sailing at 6 knots in 13 knots of apparent wind, it would be slower if the seas weren’t so flat. Every hour sailed makes it more certain that we will have enough fuel to motor in to Camaret. On the other hand, re-read paragraph 2, we don’t really want to sail at 6 knots! According to the GRIBs the breeze will not last and we’ll be motoring again by this evening. The fallback position, as ever, will be to inflate and launch the dinghy then drive ourselves onto the fuel dock with the dinghy tied alongside. It’s a very easy fuel dock to approach, fortunately! We have also become quite practised in the art of anchoring under sail but that does demand enough wind to reach the anchorage. We shall see. ..... ..... Joyce

19/06/2017 – The Highs and Lows of passage making.

This title can be taken two ways: meteorologically and in terms of our feelings. I’ll start with the latter. ..... ..... It’s not quite the extremes of mania and depression, rather more a question of happiness or gloominess. What makes us happy? I’m sure just about every sailor will agree that the sight of dolphins playing around the boat puts a smile on the face and a sighting of whales is very special. Seeing the log or GPS reach the heady heights of 6 knots is doing it for us on this passage. In the past we have expected to achieve a 6.5 knot average, then the happiness factor is reaching a 7 knot average over 3 hours or longer. This passage has not been fast but I’ll deal with that when I consider ‘Gloominess’. Good food is a necessity, with pleasant surprises increasing the happiness. Calm seas, offering a more stable platform for showering, cooking and sleeping, also make us happy but not if they come with a dearth of wind! ..... ..... Gloominess is seeing the log (speed through the water – not working) or GPS (speed across the ground a mile under the sea surface) announcing a boat speed of less than 2 knots and we know we have to sail if possible because we don’t carry enough fuel for the 705 nM remaining (as at 0900 yesterday morning). 2 knots is 2 nautical miles per hour, if that is our average speed then we won’t arrive for another 14 days! On the bright side, our careful use of the engine does mean we can possibly motor almost all of the now remaining 575 Nm (1800 today, Monday.) The cold and damp also makes us gloomy, why are we returning to the UK? The South Pacific was much hotter! The weather introduces the other meaning of the title. ..... ..... When we left the Azores we steered a northerly course to try to keep the wind. The Azores High was established between us and the European mainland, a weak Low pressure system was making its way towards the Western Approaches of the English Channel. The strength of the wind is determined by the pressure gradient between the Low and the High, in this instance it was a weak low and a weak high so the gradient wasn’t steep so there wasn’t a lot of wind on our side of the Low. When we made the decision to aim for Camaret on Friday afternoon the GRIB files showed that the High had expanded and the Low was no longer producing useful winds unless we fancied heading towards Iceland. We were pleasantly surprised when we managed to sail at least half the time, though the average of between 3 and 4 knots was not so pleasing but it was miles ticked off. ..... ..... The High became a group of 3 or 4 weak Highs, think of a lumpy cushion each lump represents the peak of a High, characterised by fickle ever changing weak breezes! Over land the barometer would say ‘Fair weather’, one day was quite sunny but the others have left a lot to be desired. Today the GRIBs show a very different situation. We are now in an area controlled by a group of poorly defined Lows which have replaced the Highs! It’s colder, damper and mistier. We have difficulty seeing ships 3 miles away. Fortunately, possibly, the Lows are not expected to develop any further. If one was to deepen we could experience much stronger winds than we would be happy with, though we should arrive sooner. ..... ..... Sailors are never totally satisfied, there is either too much wind, too little wind or it’s from the wrong direction. I think I should just concentrate on what makes us happy. Sunday’s dinner was chicken curry followed by oranges in spiced red wine syrup and yogurt; Monday started like every day on this chilly passage, with porridge. John made bacon butties mid-morning (using up the last of the bread) so I cooked a scallops and spaghetti dish for lunch, dinner was cold roast pork with chilli apple sauce, mashed potatoes and ratatouille. We continue to eat well though I boobed on the provisioning as we are just about out of potatoes. We do, however, have lots of two types of rice, several types of pasta, polenta and some sweet potatoes plus instant mash and tinned potatoes. We won’t starve! ..... ..... I (John) took a careful look at the fuel situation this afternoon (Monday). As an Engineer I like spreadsheets. The present one analysing “the fuel used/fuel remaining/miles motored/distance to go” unfortunately has the accuracy of a financial profit and loss forecast for a new product in a new market generated on the assumptions of the new Sales Director. (Cynical Engineer may be detectable). ..... ..... It confidently predicts that we have fuel for either:- 1 100 miles more than we need 30% of tank used 2 Exactly enough to get 5 miles from the marina 35% of tank used or 3 We will run out 100 miles short. 40% of tank used ..... ..... These are based on our reading of a fuel gauge that ignores the 25-50L (estimated) above FULL and also ignores the knowledge that the tank is rectangular at the top and a shallow V shape at the bottom. Have we used 30 or 35 or 40% of the tank? Tomorrow I will transfer the deck mounted 20L cans into the tank and try to reduce the inaccuracy! For tonight we continue to motor. If Monday morning’s weather GRIB is correct then on Tuesday or Wednesday we get some help from a sailing wind for a while……. ..... ..... Joyce & John

18/06/2017 – Challenging sailing!

The challenge we are facing on this leg is to keep Starblazer moving as far as possible without reverting to the engine. Friday morning’s efforts are a bit more than our normal cruising behaviour though probably familiar to racers. It was a foggy morning, we only saw the ship passing 1.5 miles behind us as a blurred outline though he knew we were there. AIS is a wonderful tool; we had received notification of his details and a CPA (Closest Point of Approach) of between 0.1nM (18.4 metres) and half a mile when he was 12 miles away. John called him up and he offered to alter course to starboard to pass safely behind us. The separation between us increased when the wind piped up a bit and we sailed at a speedy 6 knots for about a quarter of an hour. Ocne he was clear of us we altered course to aim for a new waypoint a little further east, as the new GRIB file suggested no strong headwinds in a few days’ time and the possibility of keeping the weak but usable breeze for another day or so. The new heading brought the wind aft of midships so we decided to try the cruising chute since John has repaired the stem head fitting damaged last time we used the chute. Unfortunately we still had the inner forestay attached, in readiness for the staysail if the strong headwinds materialised, which made pulling up the sock to allow the chute to fly rather difficult. The wind was a bit variable, the mainsail kept blocking the air flow to the chute so it kept collapsing and cuddling the inner forestay! I succeeded in pulling the sock most of the way up before it stuck, possibly because it was wet from being stored on deck. Ten minutes later we decided to snuff the chute, pack it back in the bag and pull the genoa back out on the pole to port. Half an hour later we had to gybe the genoa which meant rolling it away, attaching the pole on the starboard side, sorting out the sheet so it goes through the aft block then back to the winch and pulling the sail back out. This represents several days’ worth of activity for us, well not quite but certainly several hours’ worth. After lunch we changed the waypoint again, this time heading straight for Camaret as we expected to be motoring in the very near future! We decided to plan on 100 mile day’s so needed an average of just over 4 knots which we maintained until about 0300, then the average dropped to about 3 knots. Sadly the day’s run was only 83 nM towards the waypoint mainly because we had been heading further north for half the time and then suffered very weak winds. We continued sailing until 1800 on Saturday when we had to give up but at least we had conserved some diesel. The highlight of Saturday afternoon was undoubtedly the whale! I looked up and saw a black shape, not the normal dolphin shape. It wasn’t terribly close but you could clearly see the square head with the blow hole right at the front, no obvious fin on its back and a definite whale shaped tail when he dived. My book of Atlantic species clearly identified it as a Sperm Whale. Saturday morning was a cooking frenzy on my part, a loaf of bread for lunch and an old fashion bread pudding (English version not American which is closer to a French Pain Perdu or English bread and butter pudding). My mother used to make a large one every week, baking it in the meat tray; we used to call it ‘thud’ because that’s the noise it made if you dropped it. I’d discovered on Friday that the large white loaf was stale so a quick e-mail resulted in Richard sending a recipe very quickly. A check of the lockers confirmed I had all the ingredients so I made it on Saturday. It tastes just like I remember from more than half a century ago! It’s also not too unhealthy if you only eat small slices as it is low in both fat and sugar compared with a normal cake, just possibly more heavily laden with carbs. On a food note, Friday’s dinner was beefburgers with spiced couscous and ratatouille. Saturday’s dinner was pork chops with chilli apple sauce, mashed potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli. Joyce

16/06/2016 – Progress?

For the first five and a half hours after leaving the marina in Ponta Delgado we had a lovely smooth relatively fast sail along the south coast of the island though we only made about three miles towards the first waypoint we had put in the GPS! If you look at our track on either SPOT or the Yellowbrick (now that we have recharged it) you might well wonder where we plan to make landfall. Iceland perhaps? No we are going to Camaret, close to Brest, in the northwest corner of France. Our bizarre heading is an attempt to keep the wind for as long as possible as there is a large, untidy looking Low between us and mainland Europe. This is ‘déjà vu’ because our previous return with ARC Europe in 2010 was similarly challenged by the Azores High. That year the High went all the way to Scotland so we motored for 900 nM of the 1200 in a straight line to Camaret, arriving with just 30L of diesel! Starblazer has a bigger engine and we have less fuel in cans. We believe we have a range of about 650-700 nM so we have to sail as far as possible! ..... ..... When we left Ponta Delgado we expected to have to motor for up to three days before we would find suitable wind though GRIB files 3-5 days out are not that reliable. In the event we sailed for 36 hours, motored for 12 then sailed until now 18 hours later. ‘Sailed’ might be overstating our progress at times, ‘Drifting’ with just a little help from the wind might be a better description! We averaged about 5 knots for the first 48 hours, the next 24 will be nowhere near as productive. We are expecting to get more wind later today which will enable us to head northeast for up to 24 hours, if the Low does what it is supposed to do, then it will die out completely and we will motor in the right direction. We then hope to sail a little south of the line to Brest before finally heading there. Bermuda to the Azores was characterised by us staying further south than the direct line would suggest, to avoid gale force winds closer to the Lows which regularly whipped past. This time we are trying to keep closer to the Lows to get some favourable winds! ..... ..... Enough of the weather, it is what it is. We should still reach Camaret before Richard, our son. He is crewing on a boat, helping the owner get it from Portsmouth to Camaret, then hitch hiking back with us. We are hoping to arrive back at Hardway Sailing Club on Sunday 2nd July, about 16:00. That is probably the earliest we can get alongside the pontoon on a rising tide, it would be embarrassing to get stuck in the mud 10 metres from tying up! Yes, we have done that before, so we have learnt from that experience. However that is just over two weeks away and the winds might yet spoil our party. The High pressure is forecast to cause strong winds from between east and northeast straight down the English Channel, we cannot or will not battle against them. Hopefully the High will get pressed further south by a Low before then, allowing a flow of southwest winds to waft us home. We are hopeful! ..... ..... Life on board is pretty relaxed. In 48 hours we have seen only two ships both over 5 miles away. The AIS tells me there are no ships within 24 nM of us and it isn’t receiving information for anything up to 48+ nM. Of course we keep a lookout because there might be another yacht in our vicinity, but we have seen none. Closing the French coast we will have to far more vigilant because there are many fishing boats which either don’t have or don’t turn on their AIS transmitters. I believe they are allowed to stop transmitting so that their fishing area remains unknown to their competitors! ..... ..... Tuesday evening’s dinner was Moussaka which I’d cooked and frozen ages ago. Wednesday’s dinner was a lamb and frankfurter casserole which I’d cooked last Friday, before we found out we couldn’t leave, so froze down. Yesterday evening I actually cooked from scratch! I made a Thai Green Vegetable Curry with seven different vegetables to accompany the last of our Wahoo fillets and rice. The curry mix was some I’d made earlier and frozen. It was very tasty and we have a generous double helping left. ..... ..... Joyce

12/06/2017 – Our mini cruise of the Azores

We made landfall in Horta on the island of Faial just before sunrise. The early arrival left us both short of sleep so that day was rather a non-event for us as one or the other was asleep! We did go for a walk and find a paint shop, useful because I wanted to paint our flag on the wall. In 2010 I painted a big one on the pavement close to where we were moored and a smaller one on a wall by some steps, alongside a number of other ARC Europe 2010 boats. I am pleased to say that they are still recognisable though the lettering has deteriorated. Sadly I didn't have enough time to refresh the paintwork. Starblazer's painting is much brighter than Fair Encounter's, I hope it lasts better though I doubt that we'll ever get back to check it! ...... ...... One afternoon we went for a sail on a traditional whaling boat. These are amazing, a very shallow draught coupled with a very big mainsail. The boat is balanced by the crew hanging over the upwind side, but not as athletically as the Yoles we saw racing in Martinique. It is quite amazing to think that people hunted whales in these rather unstable craft. ...... ....... The Azores are volcanic islands and Faial, like several others, has suffered in the fairly recent past. The Capelinhos volcano erupted for about 12 months in 1957/58, increasing the size of the island, destroying homes and causing about 6,000 people to emigrate to the USA. It was an underwater volcano which grew and grew, part of its crater still exists, joined on to the north western corner of the island. The rest of the crater has eroded away. ..... ...... An early start and a fairly brisk sail, interspersed with motoring through areas of wind shadow from the peaks of Pico, saw us cover the 75 nM in good time to our next island, Terceira. The people of the island describe themselves as the fun island. For about five months there are bull runs almost every day in one village or another. This is quite a spectacle as four bulls, one after another, are set loose to run through the streets restrained by about 6 men holding on to a long rope. They don't actually have much control! It is important to find a safe place, whether it is someone's balcony, garden behind a high wall, house or fenced in stage it is not recommended to be in he road when the bull is loose. We watched three before finding a taxi back to the boat. The bull running is a celebration of history, the way the first Spanish invasion was thwarted when a woman suggested bringing the bulls down to the bay to chase off the invaders! ...... ...... Angra do Heroismo, where we were moored, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's a beautifully maintained town, dating from the late 1400's, and has acted as the capital of Portugal twice in its history. The island was shaken by an earthquake in about 1980 which damaged a lot of houses and caused severe damage to the main church where one complete tower was destroyed along with upto 50% of the building. It was rebuilt but, sadly, suffered a major fire just before completion, destroying a lot of the interior wood. It has now been finished in a simpler style. ...... ....... Earthquakes, volcanoes and tectonic plates are all interlinked. A tour guide explained that the island sits astride two plates, with a minor fault line in between and the Goat Islands, remnants of a volcanic crater, are actually moving apart because of movement of the tectonic plates. Inland we visited the Algar do Carvao where we went inside an old volcano, right in to the magma chamber. It was stunning, the very dark walls contrasting with the pearly white amorphous silica stalactites which grow slowly but steadily. ....... ....... We had an overnight sail to the third island of our mini cruise, Sao Miguel, a wonderful fast, smooth sail. This is an older island and I don't think there has been any violent volcanic activity here for a very long time, however there are numerous volcanic domes and a number of crater lakes. There are also some geysers and hot springs so the volcanoes might still come to life! This is probably the best island for reprovisioning as there is Continente hypermarket about a mile away from the marina in Ponta Delgada, as well as a well stocked Spar about half a mile away. There is also an excellent fruit and vegetable market with some butchery shops and a great cheese shop. We have stayed a few days longer than intended because we needed a part repaired which joins the top of the mainsail to a pair of cars on the sail track. It was supposed to be ready Friday afternoon but, in the event, we didn't get it until this afternoon so the plan is to leave about mid morning tomorrow, Tuesday. We'll see! ...... ....... One lovely thing about cruising is meeting boats you have met elsewhere! In Horta we met our friends Annelise and Manfred on Tulasi (World ARC) whom we last saw in Martinique in January, then Pipistrelle came in. We first met Bob and Elaine in Gibraltar in 2009 before we both did the ARC, then met them again in St Martin and Bermuda this year. In Horta we met Roberta and Stephen on Luna of London whom we met in Cape Town in 2015 when they invited many of the World ARC fleet to the apartment they were renting. They kindly invited us on board in Ponta Delgada for a drink. It's a small world. ...... ....... Joyce

31/05/2017 – There are fish in the sea!

If the day’s run from Sunday to Monday was depressing, Monday to Tuesday made up for it. The wind started building at noon and our speed quickly increased, so much so that a very dark night arrival became a possibility. We were a little worried because the very small sliver of moon would set before 2100, not that it would have added any illumination anyway! The upside to our good progress was that we had no need to start the engine. The day’s run to noon was a wonderful 162 nM, with a distance to waypoint of 101 nM. In fact the 6.1 knots recorded in the log was the slowest speed recorded up to our arrival in Horta. ..... ..... Monday had been listed as a working day; that is washing, ironing and mending for me. Sunday’s project, to refurbish the battle flag, took up most of Monday. The first task was ironing the iron-on interface to yellow and blue material, not clothes, then cut out the shapes and hand sew them onto the blank flag fly. It was rather annoying that the sewing machine refused to stitch anything that had come into contact with the interfacing. So, ironing completed, l looked at our estimated time to the waypoint, it was going to be a night time arrival. I never did do the washing! ..... ..... During my second night watch, 0500 to 0800 Tuesday morning, John’s fishing reel began to sing. It stopped quite quickly so I didn’t bother to wake him. Assuming that it was just a bit of weed on the hook I reeled it in. Just as the hook reached the transom all hell broke loose. A rather angry Skipjack Tuna decided that he didn’t want to feature on the dinner menu! I got a bucket ready to receive my catch, found the bottle of cheap gin to sedate the fish, then proceeded to lift him out of the water. Cue frantic waggling about, leaping out of the water etc. until he managed to disengage the hook. Result Fish 1, Starblazer 0. ..... ..... We continued sailing fast, hearing the odd boat calling rally control. The high pressure had created lift conditions which increased radio coverage. The conversation with Silver Penny, 60 nM ahead, came through loud and clear on the VHF, rather surprising for a frequency that is basically line of sight. ..... ..... On Tuesday, just as I was about to dish up dinner, John’s fishing reel started singing. This time he reeled in and landed a Big Eye Tuna. Two large fillets are now in the fridge awaiting dealing with! Result Fish 1, Starblazer 1. ..... ..... We both had one 3 hour ‘off watch’ period asleep, then we both stayed up until the finish. We approached the finish line just before sunrise, dawn was most definitely breaking. We tied up alongside the Customs dock by about 0400 Bermuda time, 0700 local time. Now it is time to go to sleep (2223) we’ll probably wake up early tomorrow morning. ..... ..... Monday night’s dinner was the regular Monday dinner from my childhood, leftover cold roast meat mash and ratatouille. In this instance the leftovers were pork from a couple of months ago, frozen down. Tuesday night was our traditional last night at sea dinner, steak with oven cooked ranch fries and fresh veg ..... ..... Joyce

30/05/2017 – A new record!

Day 12 of this trip, noon Sunday to noon Monday, had some definite highlights plus the odd negative! I’ll get the bad bits out of the way first. The boom strut/vang/kicker thingy decided to follow the lead of the wire rope which formed part of the system for pulling the boom down against the force of the gas strut and the wind trying to lift the boom. John had replaced the wire with some dyneema linking the block and tackle directly to the boom a couple of days ago. Sunday the main body of the unit tore off the end fixing block so it is now on the deck and we must remember to tighten the topping lift otherwise the boom will damage the bimini (a sunshade covering the cockpit) when we drop the mainsail. ..... ..... The second negative was the day’s run, a new record low since arriving back in the Caribbean in 2016 of only 104 NM, a VMG of 4.33 knots. Can you imagine the frustration of travelling so slowly when you still have approximately 250 Nm to go? Looking on the bright side, our record low VMG was on this leg of ARC Europe in 2010 in our last boat, Fair Encounter, which was 30 nM for a VMG of 1.25 knots! There were extenuating circumstances, it wasn’t a case of navigation errors: there was no wind and the engine starter motor had failed so all we could do was drift. At least we have kept sailing this time. ..... ..... I decided to check our Azores flag and remembered that the Portuguese one was badly faded so I attacked it with red, green and black marker pens! When I made the courtesy flag I printed the ‘device’ on iron on transfer paper as there was no way I could piece it together. The device is a shield within a circle of intertwining bands, complicated and so badly faded you couldn’t even tell that the background colours were half red, half green. It looks a lot better now and nobody will be able to see the finer details when it is run up to the first spreaders. The second job took rather longer like most of Monday as well. In Horta there is a tradition of doing a wall painting to celebrate your boat’s arrival. Our painting will be a replica of the battle flag I made; then I remembered that it was in the mending box. The fly, the opposite end of a flag from the hoist which has the top and bottom fixings on a webbing edge, had become badly shredded. In fact the whole flag is suffering UV damage however I just set about replacing the fly. It was not a simple job as it included a large five pointed star which had to be appliqued on both sides plus four of the five stars making up the Southern Cross. To make matters a little more challenging, I had to find an alternative blue fabric for the body. When we get wi-fi in a few days I’ll post some pictures so show what was needed. ..... ..... The best part of the day was when a large school of dolphins came to play with us. We first spotted them rushing towards us, leaping clear out of the water. They spent a long time swimming alongside us, diving across our bow, zig-zagging back and forth and generally enjoying themselves. It was very calm and we both went on deck and took video footage. They stayed around for quite a while making a lovely interlude in the day. After their visit it was time the galley slave returned to her duties. ..... ..... Sunday evening’s dinner was liver and bacon with fried onions with potatoes and fresh veg followed by a chocolate pudding mix. ..... ..... Joyce