Day two – trials and tribulations.

Don't let the title stop you reading further, it 's not all gloomy! Statistics first. The first day's run, noon to noon was 121 miles of which about 115 were towards our waypoint off Cape Finisterre. The winds were largely weak and variable to start with, strengthening a little late afternoon, allowing us to sail all night though rather slowly. The first surprise of the day was spotting two rally boats which should be slower than us, two miles ahead and pulling away. Mid morning we decided to do something about them. No, torpedoes wouldn't be very friendly! We rolled the genoa away and pulled up the colourful cruising chute, Starblazer responded instantly and we quickly overhauled the two yachts. It's only the second time we have flown that sail on this boat so it is a bit of a learning curve. We sailed magnificently for about 4 hours then we noticed the wind was building and had already reached force 5. It was time to take the chute down, before we were ready our hand was forced. The tack line, holding the forward corner of the sail down, decided to extricate itself from the round turn and two half hitches on the shackle and release the tack up in the air! Frantically I sorted out the jumble of flapping sail and flailing lines and pulled the sock down then we lowered the sail and repacked it in its bag before pulling out the genoa. While all this was going on we were hunted down and overtaken by one of the boats we had passed 3 hours earlier, they were making very good speed flying a spinnaker. Very depressing. Their own trials were about to confront them when they decided it was time to drop the spinnaker, which didn't quite go according to plan, meanwhile we were sailing fast under plain sails and had once again got ahead! The very bright part of the day was when John managed to download e-mails, including the important weather one. We still can't send, so that problem will have to be sorted in Baiona. As I plated up the dinner the wind and waves suddenly increased in unison. We quickly ate dinner then set about reefing down as the wind was now force 6. We turned off the wind to roll away some headsail but one of the genoa cars jumped off its track and was flailing around madly. There was nothing for it but to roll away the entire sail and fix the genoa car. John decided we would put two reefs in the main so I went forward to pull down the sail and pull in the reef. This job, at the mast, on a pitching deck, in strong winds isn't easy at the best of times. Today wasn't 'the best of times'. Somehow the stopper knot on the first reef line had worked undone so the line had disappeared inside the boom, not too desperate as skipper had ordered two reefs which I struggled to put in. Job done and I gratefully returned to the safety and shelter of the cockpit. We reset the main then tried to pull out some genoa. It got stuck. John noticed that one spinnaker halyard had got wrapped around the genoa halyard. It was an easy fix to roll away the small bit of genoa, tighten up the spinnaker halyards then pull out some genoa again. It seemed to take a long time but, eventually, we were sailing quite fast, with much reduced canvas, on an acceptable heading, and continued that way all night. Today's menu comprised porridge and grilled bacon with scrambled egg wraps for breakfast, wraps for lunch similar to yesterday's, and a creamy chicken pasta, with lots of chicken for dinner. We are safe and enjoying the roller coaster. More tomorrow. Joyce

Day one at sea

Sorry, I can't think of a snappier title. I have just written the midnight log entry and plotted our position on the chart, John is asleep and all is well on Starblazer. The night is certainly living up to our boat name, with a very bright starry sky and no moon yet. When I finish this blog I intend to play with the Star Walk app on the iPad. Vital statistics first: we cast off at 0815 and waved goodbye to Cathy and Jamie, then motored towards the start. C and J were already ashore waiting for us when we got there. There was very little wind until we pulled out the genoa about 4 minutes before the start, a gust sent us hurtling ( bit of exaggeration there) towards the start line so we had to turn away and go right round, so then the wind dropped back to next to nothing. Sorry, Richard, it was not our most glorious start! We crossed the line safely with at least 3 of the fleet behind us. See Cathy's Facebook page for departure pics. The sail out of Plymouth was fairly slow and there were a lot of coloured sails flying. As we are only double handed we didn't bother because the wind wasn't that settled and setting the chute, getting it snuffed, leading the sheet around the other way to gybe the sail and resetting us takes us ages. At midnight, 15 hours after the start, we had covered 75 miles, not quite the average we are hoping for and not all in the right direction. We only achieved this total by motoring for four hours so with a time penalty that rather lowers our average speed, but it was better than drifting at less than 2 knots. We are now sailing at 5 knots so the noisy engine does not disturb the sleeper. Wildlife of the day: not a lot. There were numerous seabirds, possibly gannets, but the undoubted star was the little martin which made a number of attempts to land, perched briefly a few times then flew back towards Plymouth. I don't think he left a calling card but I haven't checked the life raft where he rested briefly. Today we have eaten well, as our friends have come to expect. I made wraps for lunch: cream cheese and smoked salmon for both of us, cheese for me and Ikea crab paste for John. As today was Sunday we had a roast, turkey breast and roast potatoes with carrots and mushrooms. This blog might be ancient history by the time you read it. We can receive e-mail but, so far, have been unable to send so I'll just have to wait and see if John manages to get the system working in the morning. Joyce

Starblazer has started her adventure

First of all, introductions are in order. Starblazer is a 20 year old Hallberg Rassy 42F, owned by John and Joyce Easteal. We completed an Atlantic circuit in 2009/10 in our much loved Westerly Corsair. We enjoyed it so much we set out to buy a bigger boat within months of returning home. Now we have arrived in Plymouth for the start of a four year adventure. We left Hardway Sailing Club an hour later than planned, refuelled then passed through Portsmouth harbour entrance at 1330. We hadn't heard the gale warning...oops! We had intended to overnight in Yarmouth but that was where the wind was coming from so we diverted to Cowes. Folly Reach is well sheltered but shallow, we stuck in the mud or an hour...oops again! Saturday morning was lovely, sunny but chilly with a gentle wind. We ghosted towards Hurst point, helped along by the tide, but had to revert to engine to avoid the Lymington toYarmouth ferry and motorsailed most of the way across Poole Bay. The wind came up, unhelpfully from the Plymouth direction, so we practised tacking the rest of the way. Tacking out of Weymouth Bay, giving safe clearance from the over falls around Portland Bill, the tide turned against us. The next 6 hours saw us claw very few miles towards our destination however the tide eventually turned in our favour and we made progress across Lyme Bay. Sunday morning was sunny but very chilly. The wind went variable and very light so the engine went on again. The major 'excitement' was navigating through a racing fleet who were drifting against the tide under spinnakers in less than 10 knots of wind! We arrived in Plymouth just after noon and are now safely tied up in Mayflower Marina. ARC Portugal starts from here next Sunday. We arrived early so that our son and daughter-in-law could visit us on a flying visit while they are in the UK for a wedding. The next blog will probably be just before we leave Plymouth on Saturday. More later. Joyce