It took “only” 8 days to get from Azores to Portugal. Overall, it was a pleasant sail But I was a little bit concerned about all the reports of Orcas attacking sailboats and destroying their rudders.
These incidents started to be reported in July 2020 and intensified exponentially since then. From June to mid-July 2021 there were 53 reported incidents.
Initially, these attacks happened west of the Gibraltar strait, but lately the pod of orcas attacked a boat near Cartagena. So it is happening in the Mediterranean sea as well.
There are many videos on YouTube of Orcas attacking sailboats, spinning them 360 degrees and destroying their rudder. A sailboat without a rudder is extremely difficult to control, especially in areas where the commercial shipping cargos traffic is intense. So the safety of the vessel and the life of its crew are in danger.
Luckily for us, we didn’t encounter any Orca. But some friends of ours who crossed on the same route a few weeks later did. And their rudder was destroyed.
Scientists are still researching this strange behavior, and they don’t have an answer as why this is happening. They come out with a useless “safety protocol” that involves dropping all sails and shut off the autopilot and the engine. And pray.
No one has used this protocol successfully so far. But some sailors reported that after dropping the sails and motoring on reverse on a downwind course, made the Orcas go away.
Here is a video of an attack to a British boat:
Quite scary uh? I am not looking forward to cross the Gibraltar straight again.
DAY 1 ATLANTIC CROSSING – 2ND HALF
Mon Jun 07 2021
We left Ponta Delgada at 10 am. We decided to take a northerly route going west around the island to be able to find some wind on the windward side.
After an hour or so, the marina called us on VHF asking where we were going, and why we didn’t clear out with the authorities.
I was very surprised, and answered that I did not think we had any legal obligation to clear out of Ponta Delgada, since Azores are in the EU and our destination is another EU member state. We already have a stamp on our passport and the “temporary import” document needed for the boat.
Philippe looked at me thinking “Told you…”. In fact, the day before he asked me twice if I had to go to custom and immigration to clear out before leaving.
The person on the radio acknowledged me, and said “probably you’re going to be fine”. I didn’t like the “probably” part, so I politely asked him “hey since Customs and Immigration guys are in the office just in front of yours, can you please go and talk to them and make sure?”. After a few minutes he come back on the VHF and said we were good to go.
I heard a big sigh of relief from both Philippe and Yuka. What a drag would have been to turn around and go back for some useless paperwork!
We are sailing NNE to be well positioned when we’ll get strong winds from the north mid week. There’s a weak RIDGE / TROF / RIDGE pattern in place, with light winds along the ridge from Bay Of Biscay to south of the Azores, then a weak Trof south of the Azores and a weak Ridge north of the Azores. In other words, light winds and calm seas until Thursday.
We need to do our best and sail with what we get. Probably 50% of the trip will be motor sailing. The alternative was to wait one extra week, but as much as we loved the Azores, we need to get going. There will be hundreds of beautiful places to visit in the Med.
Yuka made an excellent Japanese chicken rice bowl for dinner. We have dozens of different cheese and wine from Azores and we also managed to buy fresh bread on Sunday.
So even if we can’t sail, we can sure eat our way to Portugal!
As my friend Bill always says: You can only do so much!
DAY 2 ATLANTIC CROSSING – 2ND HALF
Tue Jun 08 2021
Today it was a beautiful sunny day and we sailed under asymmetrical spinnaker all day. We put it up in the morning, and as a precaution we stored at night.
The 24 hour run was 130 nm, which is not bad considering we motor sailed for 7 hours out of Sao Miguel.
We had a magnificent dinner with cheese, bread, salami and wine. We’re really impressed by the quality and variety of cheese in the Azores. You see all these happy cows free roaming in the countryside, you bet they produce good milk. In fact, both cheese and beef are excellent.
I think perhaps we bought too much of it, I think Oroboro is starting smelling like cheese. Well, who cares!
If I think of all the bad food I ate every time I went out sailing with the club in Sausalito, I feel sorry for all those guys. Who says that you can’t eat well on a boat?
On Oroboro, regardless of the fact that Philippe complains that he’s loosing weight, we eat a lot and we eat well. Yuka is a fantastic cook!
I just can’t wait to arrive in Spain. Joaquin e and Monica promised to give us a list of dishes that we have to try.
Last time I was in Spain it was 30 years ago. I hope the country hasn’t changed too much. Can’t wait to be there!
DAY 3 ATLANTIC CROSSING – 2ND HALF
Wed Jun 09 2021
The gods must really like us. We are in the middle of the mighty North Atlantic ocean, sailing close hauled at 7 knots Speed Over Ground, with only 10 knots of True Wind Speed! And the boat is like on rails. No water splashing, no sudden movements, it’s like being on a magic carpet. The sea is almost flat, and we have a nice 0.8 current pushing us.
We are enjoying last wind before we enter into the mystical Azores High. I remember when I was a kid, the weather man on TV was not just a pretty face, it was a guy in an Air Force uniform named Colonel Bernacca. Wow: I just realized how old I am!
Well, going back to the man in a uniform, on his background the tv didn’t show any map with fancy animations, and icons for sun, clouds and rain, but just a good old synoptic chart. And there was no day the guy didn’t mentioned the “Azores High”, in Italian called the “Anticiclone delle Azzorre”.
In the mind of the small kid I was, the Azores High for me represented a mysterious place, just like Atlantis, or the Pillars of Hercules, or Scilla and Cariddi, my Mom’s favorite bed time stories…
And just as the Azores High regulates weather on the European continent, it also dictated our North Atlantic Crossing route.
Sailing on a boat across the Atlantic for me it’s like traveling in history: We started in Africa and South America, from the routes of the great explorers like Diaz, Cabral, Vespucci and Columbus, we are now entering the magic realm of Ulysses, Odysseus, the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians.
As a child I’ve always been afraid of the Atlantic. The Greeks used to call the Atlantic “the Sea of Perpetual Gloom”.
The Romans, who conquered half of the known world, were too scared to venture beyond the Pillars of Hercules!
Only the Phoenicians were brave enough to venture beyond the Pillars to extract purple dye from Dye Murex shells along the Atlantic coast of Morocco, which they then sold at a price double that of gold.
But I’m digressing. Today has been another beautiful sailing day, and I spent the whole day creating our routes across Portugal and Spain, based on a very useful document drafted by another couple of Spanish Explorers: Don Joaquin from Reus and Doña Monica from Bercellona.
You won’t find these guys in any history books, but they have a special place of their own in our hearts.
DAY 4 ATLANTIC CROSSING – 2ND HALF
Thu Jun 10 2021
Today flat calm and no wind. We spent the day relaxing, in preparation for the big blow tomorrow night.
I started swatching Netflix series with Michael Douglas, called The Kominsky Method. Very entertaining.
Yuka is watching Micheal Jordan Last Dance. Philippe is watching Breaking Bad.
The boat is doing fine, the water maker is working properly and there isn’t much to do other than making sure we’ll be at our best for when we have to cross the semi-permanent low pressure system that is just off the coast of Portugal.
We’re going to have winds up to 30 knots, and 2.5 meters significant wave height (average height of the highest 1/3 of the waves).
The blow should last 24 hours but we can adapt our point of sail to minimize its impact.
Funny, if you look at our track when we crossed the south Atlantic ocean from South Africa to Brazil, it’s almost a straight line.
If you look at our track now, it’s a zig zag. And not because we’re drunk. The north Atlantic weather patterns are quite complicated.
The sea temperature is 19C, inside the boat we have 24C. At night is quite cold, we’re all wearing long sleeves.
I haven’t caught a single fish since we left the Azores. Quite strange. We could really use one.
Philippe is very happy today, because his watch is 21-24, so he will be able to sleep from midnight to 6 am.
Yuka is also very happy because she made a zillion points on Duolingo, snd can’t wait to be in Spain and practice her Spanish. She told me she’ll do the talking.
My Spanish is so corrupted with Portuguese (and Italian) that sometimes I think I speak an impossible language like that character in Umberto Eco’s novel The Name Of The Rose. I can’t recollect the name now, was it Enzo? Well, at least I’m prettier than him…
DAY 5 ATLANTIC CROSSING – 2ND HALF
Fri Jun 11 2021
Dark clouds. Disorganized seas. Lot of wind. It’s going to be a long night,
Yuka says that we’ve seen worst. She is right, as always. But she skipped dinner. The motion of the boat spoils her appetite. It’s the exact opposite for Philippe.
It’s pitch dark outside. And also cold. There are 2 big cargo ships 90 degree on our port side, some 15 nm from us, but we should be clear of them. This reminds me than when we round the south western tip of Portugal, we’ll have to sail along 6 shipping lanes some 25 nm wide. I hope we’ll be there in sunlight and light winds.
Our Italian friends on a monohull have just told us they reached Lisbon. I’m happy for them, because they had it rough. It’s been fun to have crossed with them, exchanging our positions on a daily basis. On Oroboro they become a daily conversation topic, and I religiously plotted their position on my chart plotter. We’ll miss them.
Philippe mentioned that today is exactly 3 months since he come on board Oroboro in Dominican Republic. Time flies! I told him that I can put the Oroboro stamp on his passport and clear him out when we arrive in Portimaio. But he wouldn’t let me do that.
We have been very lucky to have him
as a crew for this crossing. He’s a great sailor and, as a scientist, he has an encyclopedic knowledge. We complement each other, since I always have a lot of questions.
It’s going to be hard to see him going.
P.S: I just called HSL Athens on the VHF asking them to please alter their course. Our closest point of spproach was 0.5 nm and I wasn’t comfortable with that. They altered their course 5 degrees to port, so now our CPA distance has increased to 3 nm. I also added a second reef to the Genoa, to slow down a bit.
DAY 6 ATLANTIC CROSSING – 2ND HALF
Sun Jun 13 2021
Horrible night. Wind sustained 28 gusting 35. Huge waves on the beam. Occasionally, they brake when the boat is passing over their crest, and the foam seems to be lifting the boat. I spend the night looking forward to the light of the day. But when the first light comes, the show is so horrible I wished it was dark again so that I can’t see it. The sky is grey, so is the water. Every once n a while, monster waves taller than the cockpit roof coming from port side. The “sea of perpetual gloom”. It’s cold, I have a terrible headache. In the late afternoon finally the wind abides, but not my headache. I pop some advil, but that doesn’t help either. Must be the lack of sleep. Dehydration. I need to remember to drink more water. During the night I had to haul 2 cargo ships on VHF asking them to alter course. They were passing less than 1nm from us and I didn’t feel comfortable with it. They were both happy to abide and give us a wide berth.
Next couple of days is going to get busy traffic wise. I still haven’t figured out how to negotiate Cape St Vincent and the 25 nm wide shipping lanes.
Usually the wind around capes is very strong, so I don’t want to pass too close. But I don’t want to be in a shipping lane either. Maybe we’ll stay in the traffic separation zone. Or maybe we’ll just hug the coast and go around the cape. Everybody talks about Gibraltar, no one mentions this cape. Hope it’s not a big deal. I had enough in the last 34 hours.
DAY 7 ATLANTIC CROSSING – 2ND HALF
Sun Jun 13 2021
Finally I was able to sleep for 6 hours undisturbed. I feel much better today. The sea is flat, there’s no wind, and we’re about 75 nm from the southern tip of Portugal.
Unfortunately though, we lost our starboard Brunton folding prop!!!
During her watch in the early morning, Yuka turned on the starboard engine and noticed that the boat was not gaining any speed.
When I woke up she told me that something was wrong with the engine. I went into the engine room, inspected the engine and the sail drive and everything looked ok. So the next thing to do was inspecting the prop.
We stopped the boat, I put my GoPro under water and to my surprise, the prop was gone!
How did that happened? Last time I dived to clean and inspect the props was in the Bahamas, before the crossing, and everything looked fine. Go figure.
The good news is that catamarans have 2 engines and 2 sail drives, so we can use the other engine. And since we’ll have no wind until our destination, it’s a good thing that we can still motor. Redundancy was one of the reasons we bought a cat instead of a mono-hull.
The other good news is that I have a spare prop. Not the fancy Brunton folding one, but a standard one. I’m very glad we bought a spare one 3 years ago in South Africa!
The bad news is that I can’t replace it in the middle of the ocean. I’m not going to dive in the open ocean, especially after all these reports of Orcas harassing sail boats along the coast of Portugal.
We’ll do that in the anchorage or in the Marina in Portimao.
My good friend and mentor Joaquin suggested you use my dinghy with my 30 hp Suzuki engine to maneuver the boat and dock it. That’s a really great idea and I’m glad we have this option.
So all is good. We have spare and we have a plan. We will make it!
DAY 8 ATLANTIC CROSSING – 2ND HALF
Mon Jun 14 2021
We made it! We crossed the North Atlantic!
We left Bahamas on May 3rd, and arrived in Portugal on June 14. One and a half month almost entirely spent sailing in the ocean, excluding a 2 weeks stop on the Azores.
- Total nm: 4,165
- Number of days: 20 + 8
- Fastest 24 hour run: 185
- Slowest 24 hour run: 116
- Average 24 hour run: 150
- Number of hours motored: 125.5
- Max Average Speed during a 3 hours watch: 8.17 (Yuka at the helm)
- Max speed: 12.5
- Max True Wind Speed: 35 knots