What was suppose to be an easy sail turned into 17 days on the atlantic ocean all rolled up into 30 hours!!! Leaving Flores at 9:00 in the morning on August 21, the winds were already around 15 kts and on the beam; MSM (Michelle’s Swell Metre) was already at a 6 or 7. The winds were suppose to stay that way, but of course they didn’t. Around 9 pm the wind started to pipe up and were between 22 and 27kts, swinging so that they were right on our nose. There was no way I wanted to spend anytime in the cockpit; the waves were big and the waves crashing over the beam (poor Larry). The strong winds were pushing us further and further south from where we wanted to go – of course. It was impossible to pinch any tighter to the wind. It was awful; we were heeling so much, getting food or getting up to pee was a challenge. Thank god Larry had installed so many handholds – we needed them. Actually neither one of us ate until the next day. Around 5 am Larry put the boat in the heave-to position so we could eat a protein bar and attempt to rest. I think we both managed about an hour’s sleep. At 8 a.m he told me he was going up to put the boat in the heave-to position on the other side. Larry didn’t come back down and nor could I hear the auto helm. As it turns out, Larry started to hand steer since there was no way the autohelm could manage the huge waves.
Finally when in the lee of the island and the waves were manageable, Larry turned on the engine in an attempt to get us closer to our goal. He was truly my hero that day. He was on the helm in that heavy weather for a solid 9 hours. I managed to make it to the ice box to get a piece of omelet and some cheese for Larry to eat. The hatch boards were in, so I opened the princess berth window and passed him food; like feeding a bird.
This picture was post-trauma, in the lee of the island where the water was more manageable and we were able to turn the auto helm on. When we arrived in Horta, we had to first go to the gas dock to see if there was space for us. Don’t know what the marina staff were trying to say “if there is space”; boats are rafted 5-deep in that harbour. I was hoping we didn’t have to stay on that outer check-in wall, because we were being pushed against it to the pointthe fenders were being squeezed beyond the squeezing point. I thought they were going to burst!
When Larry walked back to the boat, the first thing I said was, ‘please tell me we don’t have to spend the night on this wall?’ Anchoring is forbidden in the harbour, but I wouldn’t have cared. I didn’t want to spend another minute on the wall. But luckily there was a spot for us on the inner harbour wall, rafting against another boat.
Now, this was my first time rafting other than in Sandy Cove in the Bay of Quinte. Larry went in nice and slow, bloody backwards I might add, (apparently he said it’s easier to steer reverse into the wind- I think he was just showing off! :)) as I repeated “oh my god, oh my god” over and over again and out loud! Approaching the boat we needed to raft up against involved climbing over life lines, jamming toes in netting and grabbing a shroud. You think I needed a drink after the 30 hrs? Well I really needed one now!!!!! It was close to 6 pm at that point. It was interesting seeing the hundreds of boat names painted on the wall. I was already coming up with a pattern in my brain.
We put the boat to bed as best and as quickly as possible. Both of us were very cranky and very hungry, so we headed up straight away to Peter’s bar. A couple of G&T’s, beer and a burger (complete with fried egg on top, but no bun – that’s not a burger!!! That’s a burger with an egg!). Anyhoo, too tired and hungry to complain, we wolfed it down.
While at the visitors dock we met a British couple (John & Jane) sailing on a wooden sloop named ‘Great Days’ out of Devon/Cornwall area. This year John turned 60; same age as his boat. He had brought it up from Bermuda to Flores, then Horta and was getting ready to take her back to England. Jane & John:
The next day the marina staff stopped by to tell us that we had rafted up against the wrong boat. Much to my chagrin we had to move, no need to start the engine, just grap lines and drag the boat. So now we were rafted against a guy from Spain, who thought because we could speak a few words of spanish, thought we were fluent. Anyhow, I can honestly say, hand-on-heart, he was the first asshole that we had met. He was parked against the wall and it was quite obvious he did not want us rafted to him. He made us put out extra stupid lines, extra fenders, all that made a horrible noise all night long. I continued to hunker down in the princess berth to avoid the rope squeak. Our last night in Horta, the spanish idiot moved to a dock (which I’m sure he wanted all along) and we were finally on the wall by ourselves! What a treat! This is us rafted against the spanish a-hole!
While crossing the Atlantic, Larry noticed movement in the top of the rudder stock where it comes through the floor. He wasn’t overly worried about it, but it meant the floor wasn’t strong enough to take the side pressure it was experiencing; fine for the great lakes, but the last thing you want or need is to have your rudder fall off in the middle of the ocean. We had heard about ‘MidAtlantic Services’ in Horta; in the Azores, that’s the only place you can get things repaired, and properly. The owner was working on the spanish bastard’s boat for like a week (he must be loaded!), so at the first opportunity, Larry asked him about having a
reinforcement plate made. It was suppose to be ready on thursday and we eventually got it on the following Saturday, but it was worth the wait. According to Larry it was perfect! Larry did his epoxy work one day and the next we butyl’ed (top 10 pieces of kit) it into place.
The other thing he noticed for the first time ever, was water in the bilge; about a bucket full. He thinks that one of the keel bolts were loosened, when I hit the shoal in Valleyfield. So we may have to have the boat lifted in Lagos. More to be determined on that one :).
Sarah and Numa ( SV Squall) came in a few days after us, as well did Neil, although his engine quit on him while coming from Flores. Sarah and Numa were at one of the cafes one night and saw a boat out on the water. They knew Neil was having problems, and Numa recognized the boat. Would you believe Numa and Sarah motored out and towed him in? Now that speaks volumes!!! Larry and I were already fast asleep next to the spanish bastard :).
Sarah & Numa:
While we were waiting for the piece we did a lot of entertaining, eating, drinking, meeting people, painting the wall and I had my first (not to be my last) visit to a portugese dentist (more about that later). Horta is a lovely Azorean town; super quaint and has everything you could possibly need on a small scale. Everything seems to be super cheap from groceries, to alcohol, eating out, even the dentist; except laundry! One load to wash and dry is about $10 cdn; we had 4 loads to wash and dry; came to about $50 cdn! We cannot figure out how or why it is so expensive when everything else is so cheap. They say if you pay more than 5€ for a bottle of wine, you’ve paid too much! Aside from rafting up against other boats, the harbour seems to be well protected. Although some blogs say it can get pretty rough in there if the winds are strong enough and from the wrong direction.
Again a night at the marina is 12€ ($18 Canadian). That includes power, water and dockage. Showers are cleanish, and for 2€ you can get a towel and soap, oh and the water was actually warm! We are quickly learning that wifi, although free at the marina is pretty much non-existent. So everyday we go up to the little marina cafe to do our “administration”. There are umbrellas and tables and a large beer is only 2.50€. Besides it gets us off the boat. We never had a bad meal in Horta, but there are some places that are more touristy than others; we tried to stay away from those places. We found a lovely bakery and Larry even had a zipper replaced in his warmer jacket for 10€.
So yea, on the 24th of august I started to feel some familiar pain in my lower right jaw, right where I have a tooth implant. I had been to see my Cdn dentist last fall about the exact same pain, but he couldn’t see anything wrong. Most of you already know I had 4 root canals before we left ottawa and along our journey to quebec city. Surprisingly there are many dentists in the AZores. We were just walking down the street and just walked into a clinic. Actually I didn’t get to see the dentist, but was treated by the receptionist/dental assistant/ hygienest. Not sure exactly what she was. But for 50€ I had an xray and consult and she filed down some teeth to help with my bite; she actually cut the outside of my lip with the drill. They said there was nothing wrong with the implant, although I wasn’t sure how they came to this conclusion holding my X-ray up to a lightbulb (no exageration). They put me on antibiotics and ibuprofen. However leaving Horta, I was worried about the whole tooth situation. I now am scheduled to see a dentist in Faro on September 25th, if we make it to Lagos.
Painting of the Wall: this was a 4-day process, but I was determined to get our name on the wall since I didn’t see too many canadian paintings. First step was to find a spot. Typically a spot where someone else’s mural is no longer visable. But I’m pretty happy with how it turned out!
We’ve met some wonderful people in Horta from (far left) Kristin (Rhode Island, US), Sarah (orig Switzerland & now Canadian citizen), Numa (France), me, Neil (England), Steve (Oxford & Barbados), Tchella (Bahamas – I think), and Yuri (Russia). Missing, Elke (Bulgaria). And we always enjoy having a beer and having a chat, talking shite and sometimes sitting at the cafe for hours, despite wind and rain.
Oh and this is where I celebrated my birthday on the 25th! First with cake for breakfast (yum) and then a lovely dinner out.
All of our energy has been spent on getting to Lagos on the mainland. Exercise hasn’t been in our vocabulary for months now, but we did take some time to check out the beach in Horta and climbed to the top of one of the “hills” to see a cauldron. Breath taking scenery.
Larry was always cognizant that we had to get going before our weather window permantently closed to get to Lagos. Our next stop was on to the island of Sao Miguel, landing in the city of Ponta Delgada. With only 130 miles to go, we didn’t care if there was no wind. After the trip to Horta, we were more than happy to motor all the way to Ponta Delgada.
This is us (obviously) with Pico Island’s volcano in the background.