Mad Fish

Mad Fish
On delivery from Scotland

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Azores - to Padstow - Friday12pm 28th June 2013 to Sunday 3am 7th July 2013

The First Half - written Tuesday 2nd July 2013

We left Terceira in the Azores on Friday Lunch time. It is now Tuesday 5pm and we have just passed the halfway to go stage. We are 550 miles from the Scillies. If the weather is good we will stop and if not we will keep going a further 70 miles to Padstow. 46 20 n 19 07 w

We had a nice start with light winds pretty much on the nose. This was ok as we wanted to put in some North. This was a tactical move to pick up some decent wind as the Azores high was sitting in the way. We were able to sail for the first 24 hours and then the sun shone and the wind dropped and the sea became a glassy mirror. The engine therefore had to go on and we motored at our low rev speed of 5 knots. Again we were putting in North so the first 2 days saw only 225 miles off our target. At 4pm the wind started to shift round to the port beam and we got out the new kite. This was very exciting and it seemed to work well. It propelled us along at a good 7 knots in 7 knots of breeze. We took it down at 8pm for the night watch. It has stayed in the bag ever since.

The wind now filled in and we could happily white sail by the morning. We were now heading for target. There was no need to put a spinnaker up as we were slipping along nicely at 7 kts. The sun shone. We saw a whale close up. 
By the evening the wind had picked up and we had a steady 20 knots, with gusts up to 28. The first reef was in by 8pm and I was left on watch with full genoa. This did not last long and I started reefing every 15 minutes until there was not much left. We were rocketing along at 8 kts with touches of 9 and 10 as we surfed down what was developing into a rather large sea.
I thought a 2nd reef maybe in order as i went off watch but Russell was happy so I left him to it and sought out my nice warm bed. Sleep was difficult as the boat creaks and groans and bangs and crashes its way down the waves. I was rudely awakened by the alarm at 2am and that was my 3 hours up. We then put the 2nd reef in and the boat seemed to be a little more settled.

The ipod is very much my friend and I huddled in the hatchway listening to music and playing scrabble. I seem to beat the computer but the teacher function keeps telling me i could do better. This can get annoying, and also I have no idea that the words it suggests even exist. It appears there are quite a few Q words that don't need a U which is proving useful. Every 15 minutes i creep out from my hidy hole and look into the bleak sea and check there is nothing on the horizon. The plotter also gets a check and a surprise look if it has an AIS target on it.
This morning (Tuesday) at 4.30am 2 targets appeared and said they were engaged in fishing. We were heading directly for them and eta was 1 hour. Great, i needn't worry, Russ was up at 5am.

The thing with sleep deprivation is it makes you grumpy and both of us are now pretty tired and grumpy. No good morning or how are you? Just a comment of "we seem to be rolling alot"! yep, I agree with you there but blame the sea and not me. He fiddled with the sails and decided it was better. I was duly dismissed to bed. I kindly asked if he wanted to know about the fishing boats. He said he would keep an eye. An hour or so later, I could hear the AIS alarm bleating and assumed we were close to our target fishing boats. This goes off if anything comes within a mile. Russell had to amend this to half a mile as when he checked the plotter after i went off watch we had moved up the screen to reveal not 2 but 31 targets. This was a whole fishing fleet that seemed to have all decided to fish in exactly the same spot. Russell found himself in the midst of it all and through the grey and mist spotted a few of the targets. This sort of thing normally happens to me, so nice that it was someone else for a change.

The sea is still pretty roly and making life uncomfortable on board. The kids have found a friend in the DS and I am reading books, whilst Russell is trying to beat Ethans score on Subway surfers  game. The thermals are out and my hair is so windswept i think i may have to cut the knots out. We cheared ourself up with a Toblerone at 4pm tea and treat time. The Dairy Milk has been saved for another day.
We picked up a whole load of DVDs in the Azores that were reasonably priced so i do movie night with the kids at 6pm. Tonight we are showing the Lion King.

As we get closer to home waters our thoughts are very much looking forward to some familiar food and drinks. We haven't quite decided where we will first touch land, and it will likely be a last minute decision dependent on wind, fuel, daylight, tides and overall morale. We hope to achieve this on Saturday.

 The Second Half - written 7th July 2013

The seconds half has been very much calmer than the first. We have been enjoying a day of surfing down waves with the old spinnaker. We hit 11.2 knots and then with 20 knots of apparent wind when surfing we decided to take it down. We continued to sail at a steady 7 knots with just the main up. The waves were pretty big still and without the kite or jib out we did tend to roll a bit. As the winds eased so did the swell.

We have seen very little ships and no other yachts. The odd bird and a few dolphins have been all that we have seen.  On Thursday the wind died and we had a day of motoring. Yesterday (Fri 5th July) Russell was concerned that we would not have enough fuel to motor the 240 miles remaining to Padstow. I could not see how this was the case as we had the same amount of fuel as our Bermuda to Azores trip where we had calculated a conservative 450 miles of fuel. At 2.5 liters an hour this would give us easily 100 hours of motoring and we had done 50 hours so far. My maths said another 50 should get us there. 

We poured the 60 liters in cans into the tank as it was pretty calm now and Russell called the Scillys to enquiry about a fuel pitstop. I was not keen on this as to be that close to land and not stop was going to be torture. As it was on the way we didn't have to make a decision yet anyway.

The wind god then swung into action and gave us a lovely breeze where we could happily sail at 6 knots on a fetch. At 8pm we put the engine on we're motor sailing at reduced revs through 8 am the next morning. The fuel gauge marked at where it was before we emptied the cans would now serve as a good gauge of our motoring distance. We now only have 80 miles to Padstow.

As you may have gathered by now my 3 hour watches are 8 to 11 and 2 to 5. My night watch is seeing it get dark at 10 pm and light at 3am (utc). At 4am on Saturday 6th of July the sea was mirror calm. Not a breath of wind. Nothing on the horizon except a few vapor trails left by planes and a dim orange glow as the sun started to rise. It is moments like these that are magic and make all the really tough times worthwhile. The sunrise was spectacular and the pictures do not do it justice. I went to the bow away from the noise of the engine to enjoy the spectacle. The mirror calm sea reflected the great ball of fire and it looked like stepping stones had been cast on the water drawing you towards it. The lone bird that decided to land in front of the path of the only boat for miles played chicken before scampering away. He didn't even fly just almost walked on the water as if it was glass. Vapor trails from the planes could be seen dancing in the water as if a fish darting below. I wanted to try and capture the moment on film and leant over the bow to take a video of the bow piercing through the water and the beautiful sound it made. This was when I noticed my reflection and spent the next 30 minutes taking pictures. This one clearly shows that it is a reflection as the name appears as a mirror image. I had such fun. I was like a little kid, clicking away.

I kept a lookout for Russell coming on watch as I was conscious that he would walk into an empty cockpit and fear the worst. Despite trying to attract his attention as his head popped out to check how cold it was I failed. A quick bang on the hatch stopped him from starting a panic search for me. We enjoyed a cup of tea and I excitedly showed him my pictures. He was half asleep so his enthusiasm was not as abundant as mine but he was impressed. 

So here we are starting the day with visual reflections. And then we move onto the more personal reflections. The macho men will not bother to read this next bit and the women will be hopefully stick with me, especially my fellow female sailors. A blog would also not be complete without an end. The word blog is just a trendy name for a diary. One which, all of us during our journeys have felt a slave to but recognised the importance of perseverance, even in our darkest hours. With the exception of Gill on Fabiola, I think the blog has mainly been women's work. I am sorry if I have offended other males who do contribute.

To write a blog that friends and family can enjoy and feel a part of the adventure is not easy. To write it so that in years to come when we look back and reminisce we do not cringe at what we wrote is another. I hope that I have managed to achieve a fairly frank humorous and accurate account of our travels.
Eleven months after leaving Hamble we will be back in the UK having sailed 11,000 miles. This is the average mileage driven in a car.

Yesterday at tea and treat time we wrote down questions that we thought we would be asked by those that we come into contact with  back in the UK. This was mainly to get the children to reflect in the hope they would answer in a positive and enthusiastic way. I do not want to put words in their mouths, it is just they think what we have done is normal. They are like yeah, we swam with turtles, dolphins seen loads of them, can't even be bothered to get up and look at them anymore. They don't gush with enthusiasm and where normally you can't shut them up you struggle to get them to speak. This is perceived by parents as a real insult for all the hard work and effort put in to give them the experience. Those asking the questions give a quiet "oh",  as they struggle to comprehend why they are getting such a mediocre reaction.  I suspect the adults are also guilty of this, just better at sensing the needs of the listener.

When asked if we would do this again. After a discussion we got the answer and some narrative. In the future yes, but right now no. And Ethan wants to go to New York. I think I would agree. A year had been long enough. If someone gave me £25,000 and said have another year out. I wouldn't take it.
Last night we watched Shrek 4. Weighed down by the traps of 3 children and monotonous life in general, he trades one day of being carefree and single and feared for being an ogre, for a day in his past he can't remember.
It is only when he realises he has become tricked by Rumpelstiltskin, to give up the day he was born, he realises he will never exist and starts to appreciate the life he had before. It is odd that a Shrek movie should prove to sum up how I feel, as do the boys about going home. They don't talk endlessly about our adventures; they talk about food, friends, school, and family. All the things they have missed, not the things they have gained. I am positive that as they speak with friends they will share experiences. The barracuda will be bigger and waves higher. This will only increase as they age, and those they come into contact with may share a glimpse of what they have seen at such a young age.
I have prattled on too long. Let's just say I am looking forward to roast lamb, cider and a hug from my mum.


At around 3am on Sunday the 7th July, we entered Padstow harbour. We had completed an Atlantic Circuit. It took a while to moor up and get things sorted before we could embark on a celebratory superbok beer. I think by 8am we had had 5 and were getting some strange looks from tourists taking a leisurely stroll around the harbour. Breakfast would be from the local bakery along with some nice strong coffee. We rang customs but they were not interested in us. Just as we were off for a roast lunch and a pint of real ale and cider my Mum arrived. What a surprise! Later that day, Andy Murray would win wimbledon. A quiz question I hope I will never forget the answer too....

Padstow at dawn................

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