Mad Fish

Mad Fish
On delivery from Scotland

Monday, 3 June 2013

Bermuda to Azores - 15th to 29th May 2013


We enjoyed our down time in Bermuda. We generally chilled out. We loved the knitted trees.

Day One

Ok so we are off on leg 2. This is the big one, 1800 miles. I know this is less than the 2700 we did to cross the Atlantic, but it has much less predictable weather. No trade winds to shove us across. I have obviously read all the doom and gloom articles. I am expecting to hit a whale, container and be knocked down by gales and freak waves. Russell has read the ones where there is no wind and we flog hopelessly in becalmed conditions having run out of diesel.

Well the start was quite exciting as we started in the harbour and then had to sail out through the cut. This is a narrow gap as the name suggests. Cruise ships just fit. We got a god start, pipped to the post for being first across the start line by Peter Von Danzig. The name of the boat rather than skipper. The crew are students from Kiel university in Germany. It was then a race to the cut, this would prove to be a bottleneck and use of spinnakers was banned for safety. It was quite scary. Easy Rider the catamaran was first through. This showed us that there was a wind shadow in the cut and they came to a standstill. Peter von Danzig and Beatoo other were both heading for the same spot. Amazingly Nyctea came steaming through between them under engine. We were next battling it out with Caimen. It was a nail biting 10 minutes as we slowly edged our way out. We thanked Kieran for the exciting start and hoped he had some good pictures. Once out into open water we were hard on the wind and enjoying 6 knots in the sunshine and reasonably calm seas. We managed to keep the wind all night but by 10 am the next morning the engine was on as the wind died to nothing and the sea turned glassy and like a mirror.

We had an uneventful start to day 2 as we motored along.
At 7pm the wind had shifted to behind and we were able to sneak the kite up. There is barely enough wind (5 knots apparent) to keep it filled, but we were making 5 knots and better to sail than use precious diesel. The main continues to flap and flog which is very annoying. If we could just have a few knots more wind life would be sweet.
We have been seeing lots of Portuguese man of war telly fish. They look very odd. They have a sort of sail that looks like a plastic bottle. We saw a big logger head turtle today and Russell and Sean (our Canadian Crew)  saw a whale.
The weather is definitely colder and the thermal layers are required for night watches. The Bimini is down as the sun offers welcome warmth and the opportunity to take off the jumpers. The boys are enjoying their duvets.
We have all made predictions of our finish time. They range from 12 to 14 days.
I have got the book out on the Azores to see what they are all about. We will cruise through some islands with the rally and then have time to explore them some more before we head back to the UK.

It is now 5 am and starting to just get light. It is amazing how the sun itself does not rise for sometime after the light. You assume it would come first. The same with the sunset which was  at 8pm. We are used to 6 pm. It was just dark at 9pm.


The cut - we have to sail through here.

Kieran taking Photo's

The cut - a tight squeeze.

Day Two

The wind picked up just after my watch finished. I could feel as I lay in my bunk the boat accelerate under the extra pressure a few more knots of wind brings. We were off. We finally took it down at 2 pm as the gentle seas had now been taken over by a powerful swell that saw our back end be picked up and surfed at a top speed of 10.9 knots. Ethan was loving this, but with 1500 miles still to go Russ and I felt the risk of wiping out and breaking something was too great and we took it down. Ethan stropped in his cabin and now hates us, again! We decided to learn from the arc and not pole the genoa for fear of backing it and ripping the track from the mast. We are still doing a respectable 6 plus knots with just the main. We must be getting old and have changed our moto from "sail it like you stole it" to " sail it like you own it"! Ethan is convinced everyone else will be going 10 knots and we will be way behind in tomorrow’s results. I don’t think so and expect that many boats will be just under genoa.
The sea is much more like I remember. A big swell but only 2 metres rather than the 4 or 5 that made me say Jesus Christ at regular intervals in November. It is not the most comfortable of seas as we rock from side to side. The forecast is for more of the same tomorrow.
We have chosen to head north on our route first. The forecast showed stronger winds to the north with no wind at all if you followed the direct route of the rhum line. This makes for more disappointment as our miles taken off the distance to go are reduced compared to the amount sailed. This is both disheartening and frustrating, as the gps suggests that if we continue on this heading it will be another 16 days. We expect to have a further 24 hours until we hit 38 degrees north which is the latitude for the Azores. We will then alter course to head east to the Azores themselves. This should then see a great improvement in our daily run reducing our distance to go. It is 9pm on the 17 th and we had 1509 to go.
We are currently being helped with our speed over the ground with .9 of a knot of current. By the end of tomorrow we should have done 1/4 of the journey. We may celebrate with a shower, but it will be cold so maybe not.
We will try fishing tomorrow, although Ethan now hates fish and would rather eat something out of a tin. Ethan has become a teenager overnight, I am hoping it is just his frustration of being cooped up on the boat and bored. I played battleships with him and he beat me without me hitting one of his ships. I am certainly able to spend more time with the kids and I am enjoying the 6 hours off watch which is definitely a luxury when it comes to sleep. I am sharing Oli’s cabin as it has a lee cloth fitted. We had a nice chat in bed this morning. I think Ethan is probably jealous but wouldn't like it if I slept in his cabin as I would roll on top of him.


Day Three

This is day 3 but night 4.
This is getting boring...,.
Highlights of today. Obviously my chocolate brownie, Heinz tomato soup with fresh bread rolls. So basically food.
Oh and at 8.30 am half an hour before my watch ended the wind shifted by 90 degrees going forward and putting us on a fetch. We could now feel smug for putting in so much north as we could bear off in the new wind rather than having to beat into it. Fleetingly Ethan loved his parents and we were tactical geniuses. We are now making 7 plus knots in the direct direction of the Azores so our distance to go was falling rapidly and the plotter was giving an eta of 7 days rather than ten. However as the wind freed a bit we headed up to keep our north trend. This put us above the rhum line again and our eta was less favourable. Ethan then hated us again. A common theme is developing. The position reports are showing us mid fleet, given we are the second slowest this is brilliant. Ethan however is unhappy that his pool partner on Easy Rider a 40 foot catamaran did 199.33 miles yesterday to our 127. I felt for Dave the owner who the night before we left was saying the illusive 200 mile day had still not come and alas it looked like it had been missed by a whisker yet again. Matt on La Capitana may be in trouble for his bet he would beat them on a jeaneau sun oddesy 43. I did say he should just buy the whiskey now. He is American and finds me highly amusing as I try and tell a tale and then forget what I am saying as I have to explain an English word. I am sure he is now doing it on purpose. He also got Ethan to call his girlfriend a tart during a Skype call. He thought it was funny, not sure she did and Ethan was oblivious.

We are still ahead of Johanem a Moody 47.
Today a big yacht passed behind us and so did a tanker. We get very excited if we get an ais target.

It is cold again tonight and the Dubarry wellies are out.
Oli complained I smelled today, I wonder if we could run the engine for an hour tomorrow to generate hot water for a shower? It will be sacrificing about 5 miles of motoring. It's a tough one!

We are now a quarter of the way there. There is a real physiological boost to hitting a mile stone. I have just used a calculator to work out 1/3rd of 1800 dohhh. I need to go back to work. Tomorrow we should have covered a third and maybe the day after the half way.
Sean (our crew) said today it is a long way. Yep! I can understand his dismay as there is a point to our trip but he is along for the ride and ocean experience before he takes his own family from Canada to the Caribbean. His longest trip will be 1500 miles. His longest trip before was just short of 400 mile in a race around lake Ontario. Wow that far round a lake just seems an amazing distance. He has told the boys about bears on parts of the lakes, makes the red squirrells on brown sea island seem rather tame in comparison.

I am becoming addicted to tetris. It passes the time. Not sure what it will be like sailing in the Solent again where you actually have to look where you are going. I never understood how single handed sailors could just sleep with no one on watch. I do now. There is nothing out here.

Day Four

This trip is feeling really long. I think it is because it is so cold. Today on off watches we took to wrapping up in duvets and watching DVDs or playing tetris. The boys and I enjoyed watching puss in boots (thanks to ruffian who allowed us to have a few of their DVDs) . So today's school was media studies where we discussed what a spinoff was and maths because tetris uses shapes that you fit together to build a wall. Oli and I did some reading of Huckleberry Finn and geography was talking about icebergs. Now I was not thinking we would be seeing any of those. It is cold granted, but icebergs! Apparently they can form as low as 40 degrees north and we are at 38.30 minutes. Each minute is a mile and there are 60 minutes to a degree, so maybe 90 miles north of us is some ice floating around. We are on the north latitude for the Azores so do not  need to head further north.
Kailani passed us today. This is the boat from Hawaii with the surfing dudes aboard. Carson had his 15 th birthday at the prize giving. I tipped off rally Lyall so he was suitably embarrassed when we all sang to him. His brother and friend are rather gorgeous in a model type way, so some European girls are going to be in for a treat this summer. They told us about the ice and confirmed it was proper freezing. I didn't expect nose numbing cold yet. I mean the Azores are in my mind warm. Intrepid Bear weather routing have warned of a low pressure to hit Bermuda on Tuesday ( I wonder if this is a weekly thing as it was Tuesday last week too) and we should feel effect Wednesday. We are expecting to  have 30 to 35 knots of wind and 5 m swells to look forward too. On the plus side it should be from behind so we will be surfing. This should suit the Kailani boys.
We are really tramping along. Still with a reef in the main we are seeing a steady 7.5 to 8 knots on a fetch. We did have the genoa reefed too earlier. The boat just loves it and the log read 184 miles in 24 hours with 164 off our distance to go. We should better this when we check at 9 am tomorrow. I checked as I came on watch at 3 am and it read 1141. We are a third of the way there and the next mile stone is 1000 to go. This will definitely be a morale boost.
I persuaded Russell to use half an hour of diesel on hot water for a shower but it was decided that as we are leaned over and it is hard to stand up it might be difficult to shower. It is hard enough to go for a wee. We will just smell instead. My hair might have to be cut to get the knots out, I have that windswept look.
Tonight's dinner of pasta with a chicken chowder soup was not a hit with the boys. It was a bit spicy. It was quite tasty though. Mental note to self, taste before entering tin to pasta so if no good I can just add cheese. Tried oli with tin of macaroni beef and he was not keen either. Ummm he might be eating Cheerios for the rest of the trip. I do have some chicken breast in the freezer as a surprise. We tried fishing but no luck.
I got out the sleeping bag liner but it smells horrible. I am using it now and even outside it smells yuck. It seems vacuum packing stuff doesn't always work.
The cold is not helping my bread to rise. I think I may have to resort to a hot water bottle to help it along.
Today we were treated to 50 dolphins all jumping as they swam across our bow. They didn't come close and play, but it was an amazing site. They were black in colour.
Having said two hours ago, “at least it's not raining”. You guessed it. Now it is. Only a brief little shower to coincide with me shaking a reef out on my own. A never before. The wind is now playing silly b*****s . There is another yacht below us (Kailani) and it's back drop is two rainbows. In front the sun is trying its best to rise and break through the clouds. Hopefully we will see more of it today and it will warm us up a bit.
Dolphins - wish I had a more powerful zoom.

One of the many pictures Kailani took of us
Day Five

The day of showers.

It doesn't matter how much of you is touching wood, if you say it could be worse, it could be raining then pretty soon it will be. Two hours after saying this at watch changeover I was in for a treat. I had shaken out the reef in the main as the wind had continued to lighten. I could hear Russell saying in my head shake the reef out so I did. I have never done it on my own and I struggled to get enough main halliard on so it looked a bit s**t, but we were going faster. Chuffed with myself I sat down for another game of tetris and life was good. The sun was rising and I could see Kailani below us with 2 beautiful rainbows. There had been a few spot of rain but I assumed it had passed behind. I hadn't spotted the squall in front. Huddled under the spray hood now encrusted with salt everything is pretty blurry. I was just about to go and gently wake Russell for his watch when the wind piped up to 18 knots. The boat accelerated and the wind started to howl. I grabbed the helm from Ben the auto pilot  (named by Russell as Ben Ainslie is a better driver than him and so is the auto pilot. Every one should have a name apparently! All I can think of now is other things men name...) . I bore off as the wind accelerated more. Handily Ethan popped up to check speed and I was able to tell him to wake Daddy. He did and apparently said I was going the wrong way. Russ checked his watch ever doubtful that he is being woken for his watch. He came too and I requested help sooner rather than later. With my new found unreefing skills I decided to test the reefing the genoa skills. Ben was entrusted with the helm whilst I winched on the furler like Ellen MacArthur. The wind and now torrential rain battering me. I proudly showed Russell that I was under some semblance of control now and apologised for my misshapen main. The wind continued to build so the reef went back in the main. I passed over and went in search of my warm dry bed. Oli opened his eyes and peered out of his duvet as I staggered in. I asked for a cuddle but on me touching his nose he told me to get lost. Charming! Oli and I both then slept until gone 9 am. All was well , the reefs were all back out and I was just getting ready for my watch when we started to accelerate and heel. Sean shouted for a reef and Russell put one in the main wearing his pants.
The rain started and I thought great, must be my watch. Due to the fickle wind and it being lunch time Russell decided to do the first hour of my watch so he got wet instead of me. As it was light and we were relatively upright it was decided to heat water and have a shower. We even put the heating on. Wow, I am amazed we were allowed to use that much diesel. Kailani must have wondered what we were doing as we bore off as the wind was back and we couldn't shower leaned over. Everyone felt so much better for being clean. I tried to persuade the kids to put clothes on but they decided that pyjamas are the offshore attire and went back to bed.
I then did the rest of mine and some of Russell's. We have changed the clocks by an hour now too.
Just as I was getting ready for my watch at 9pm I saw Sean huddled in the spray good and asked "is it raining" yep and then we had a squall. I have had 2 more in this watch and the reefed genoa can stay that way. I am not tempting fate again!
Whilst having dinner I could see great plumes of water shooting into the sky. I can only assume this was a whale clearing it's blowhole . A shame it was so far away, although whales can do a lot of damage so you don't want them too close.
Ethan was very pleased today to see we are lying 4th based on the distance to go reports. Wind walker in our class might be a problem on handicap. We are hoping that we will hold our own in the lighter winds forecast as we approach the Azores. We are 50 miles off breaking the 1000 miles to go barrier and tomorrow should reach half way. Let's hope that the low pressures behind us give us fair winds with which to allow a half way celebration meal.

Day Six

Rainbows, dolphins and champagne. That us how we celebrated half way!

The day had started with my watch at 6 am with the engine on. By 7am there was enough wind to sail at about 3 knots. Ethan helped me unfurl the genoa. It took a bit of concentration but we managed to coax 4 to 5 knots out of 7 knots of wind. Hoping that the bigger boats were still having to resort to engine we plodded on. By 8 am the wind had shifted aft and we needed the kite. We woke Russell an hour before his watch and got the kite up. Russell had to hand trim for the next 3 hours as we continued in the light wind to make 5 knots. Sean was taught to trim the kite and with careful course alterations the next 3 hours saw us hold the kite in winds none of us would normally bother to even think about sailing. Amazing how little wind we actually need to sail when you are forced to. As lunch approached the breeze had picked up just enough to lock off the sheet. During the afternoon the breeze continued to build and by 6 pm we were surfing along at a steady 7 knots, sun shining and life was sweet. We decided to celebrate at this point about 17 miles before the 900 miles being our official half way. We have sailed much more than that on the log as we have not sailed the rhum line. We had cake and California's famous champagne Andre. We laughed at the American health and safety warning not to fire the cork at your face. We then decided to fire the cork in any direction other than the spinnaker in case it shot through it, highly unlikely, but we didn't feel that a claim for a second spinnaker blown out by a champagne cork would be very believable.

The rainbow suggested it was going to rain, and it did. We left Russell to drink his fizzy in the rain and hid below. At 7 am my female face look of "I think we should get this kite down now" worked better than my words. We changed to white sails and I started 7 pm movie showing of Kung Fu Panda 2. I have no idea what happened in the middle as I fell asleep.

We were expecting a low pressure to hit at midnight with 30 knots of breeze. Now it was a case of waiting.....

Day Seven

When you are forecast bad weather then you are constantly waiting and looking for it. My watch was supposed to be the one when it would hit. I had squalls which came and went bringing 20 knots of wind so I would furl genoa and then it would die again. By the end of the watch the breeze was looking like it was more established and at watch change we put a reef in the main. It continued to build but not from the direction expected. We should have been surfing on 30 knots behind. We had 25 knots on the beam and were being pushed north du e to the large waves which we could not head up into without making life very uncomfortable. The day was pretty s****y. Cold grey windy and rough. This was what I expected the whole trip to be and I was glad it hadn't been.

Now at 5 am I am still waiting for that damn low pressure with 30 knots of wind from behind. The wind has eased and the two reefs seem a bit overkill in 16 knots of breeze. The waves have decreased so at least we can head up a bit and it is more comfortable. The dark clouds suggest that there is weather out there. We must be ahead if it. With less than 700 miles we are hopeful that we should get 2 more days of breeze before we hit the Azores high.

Day Eight

Ummm well it seems the low was a bit of a damp squib. Found myself shaking out reefs at first light. By 2 pm we had zero wind. The sea was like a mirror. We motored for an hour and a half before we got 9 knots of breeze enabling us to sail close hauled. There is so little wind and the sea is so flat we are not really healed and it is all very comfortable. I cooked roast chicken for dinner which went down well. Ethan made a cake which he iced and decorated with chocolate drops. We all managed to catch up on much needed sleep and enjoyed a shower, seemed a shame to waste the hot water. Seems we are still doing ok against everyone else. We thought the big boys down south would have really enjoyed the stronger winds yesterday and put in some impressive distances but not the case. Yesterday's wind pushed us north and today's breeze has switched to push us back south. All relieved by this. The forecast is for winds on the nose and we don't really want to beat so if we can get the angles right to sail it will be useful. Just dipped below 600 miles to go at 5 knots we are looking at 4 and a half days so Tuesday morning. Think this was my prediction to arrive.

Not so cold today as the sun shone and we had a couple of dolphin visits. Tried fishing but think we are going too slow.


Ethan standing straight. The boat is heeled at 45 degrees.

Days 9 to 14

It became more difficult to write my daily blog on night watch as the damp air hampered ipod use. Also there was not much to report. We caught 3 tuna and landed 2. We saw more dolphins. The wind was light and on the nose for 600 miles. We kept a close eye on VMG and only motored if it dropped below 2 knots, so we did very little. 26 hours in the whole trip. We arrived at 9am on Wednesday morning, having motored the last 12 miles as no wind. We were warmly welcomed by the other yachts. Glad to be on dry land.
A very Grey Horta in Failal.