On Monday May 3rd 2021, Oroboro started her second ocean crossing. We were lucky to share this voyage with our friend Philippe.
We had a great time, and despite a nasty low and associated cold front, the weather has been perfect.
To get help in picking up the right weather window, we hired a great meteorologist, Chris Parker. We recommend anyone attempting an ocean crossing to hire a professional meteorologist. Safety always comes first.
Here are some metrics of our North Atlantic crossing:
Total nm: 3,054
Number of days: 20
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
Number of garbage bags filled: 4
And this is an excerpt from Oroboro’s Log Book.
Comfortable sail, averaged 6.0 SOG under full main and genoa in the first 19 hours. Yuka made excellent lasagna, and we also had the Spanish tortilla made by Monica. Didn’t catch any fish, too much sargassum floating around. Life is good. We miss our friends.
As predicted, we’ll be in a patch of very light winds until tomorrow, so we decided to take down the white sails and hoist the spinnaker.
Last night we had to bring down the parasailor and motorsail for 7 hours. This morning we’re sailing again (very light wind).
At 6 am I caught the biggest Mahi Mahi I’ve ever seen! It was huge! When standing, it arrived to my shoulder! The fight was insane, but I won! Now we have fish for a month! The freezer is full!
Yuka kept the bones to make the broth for the Arroz a banda. Philippe promised to make us the famous Thelma Fish Lasagna.
I’m reading ” The Ship And The Storm” by Jim Carrier. Reminds me of last hurricanes season spent in the eastern Caribbean and Gonzalo.
In the afternoon the wind picked up again and we’re now sailing at 8.5 knots SOG. Finally the currents are with us (1.2 knots)!
We are watching a cold front developing along the US east coast. It will be far north of us on Friday. Glad we decided not to stop in Bermuda…
We are making good progress towards the imaginary destination I put on our chart plotter, which is a waypoint at 30N/60W.
I come out with this reference point after reading a ton of literature about the West to East Atlantic crossing. Most wad written for old-school type of boats, that needed a lot of wind to move and that didn’t have a lot of fuel range. And that’s why Bermuda has always been a mandatory stop on the way to Europe. The ARC Rally still stops there.
But, if you are ready to give up Bermuda and sail below 30N until you reach 60W, you can avoid the worst of the gales coming from the US east coast every 3/4 days this time of the year. But you need to be capable of sailing in light winds!
As a matter of facts, the next gale is predicted to pass north of Bermuda next Friday.
We are monitoring the weather so that we can be well positioned when that happens:
We are planning to sail about 160 nm south of Bermuda and I think we’ll be able to ride on the tail of the cold front, just like we have done so many times when sailing up the coast of Brazil.
So our plan is to take advantage of the cold front to move from 30N/60W up to the other magic number, which is 35N/50W. This position is based on where we expect the Azores High to be in a week time. This time of the year the Azores High appears to be positioned more north than usual.
We hope that at last 35/37N we’ll be well on top of the Azores High, where we can sail in the westerlies.
Of course, this is just a theory. We adjust our plans as we go, each time we’ll get new forecasts.
But so far we can’t complain: We’ve had “magazine-like” sailing conditions. Flat seas, sunny days and starring nights.
On Oroboro every day is a feast. Yuka is spoiling us with beautiful meals. Night watches are easy. So far nothing important has broken other than a leak in the toilet, that I was able to fix.
We are making good progress and so far our 24 hour runs have been:
Day 1: 128.0 nm Day 2: 133.2 nm Day 3: 133.5 nm
Philippe come out with a more precise method to calculate our mileage then the readings provided by our speed log: He come out with a formula in Excel to compute the miles travelled based on the latitude and longitude we log every 3 hours in our log book every day. He’s very good with numbers!
And he never stops to surprise us with ideas on how to improve things: Today for example he come out with a very neat system on how to calculate our remaining motoring hours.
He calculated that in order to get to the Azores without totally depleting our fuel tanks, we can motor for 7 hours a day for each of the 22 days that it takes to get there, and that we can arrive there with an “safety reserve” of 24 extra motoring hours.
By using a table he created and attached on the wall under our watch schedule, we can now log how many hours we motor every day and add credits to the balance.
So if the wind drops, and we have to decide if we want to motorsail instead of drifting while waiting for the wind to come back, we don’t feel guilty to turn on the engine.
So far we have motored for only 13 hours (the wind here always drops at night) and so we have a credit of 15 hours already!
The genius of this system is in its simplicity. Every sailboat should be using this template!
While we are motorsailing east in light wind conditions, we are also preparing for the arrival of the infamous Cold Front.
Downloading and studying grib files and synoptic charts. Plotting the course and analyzing the forecasts models. GFS, ECMWF, PWG, PWE… you name it.
There are dozens of different mathematical models out there. And none of them is exactly right, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many.
For us, the European model (ECMWF) is the one that has proven himself more accurate then the others in the last three years and two continents. So we stick to it.
What a mess the North Atlantic synoptic chart looks like right now! There are 4 different low pressure systems, and Throughs (Trofs) and Ridges moving, merging reshaping themselves.
And did you see the low between Azores and Ireland! Looks like a hurricane! It’s isobars are do tight! And it shows little flags (symbols for winds over 50 knots).
Even Philippe is puzzled, when looking at these synoptic charts.
Weather in Brazil was so much easier to understand! Take a synoptic chart of Brazil and it looks like it was drawn by an artist. Take the North Atlantic one, and it looks like a mess!
Cold fronts in Brazil were all so well defined and come one at the time.
The enormous land masses of the North American continent it’s a low pressure machine!
This is what screws up the weather in the North Atlantic. Land masses! And imagine in the Med!
Anyways, I think we’ll soon find out what squalls look like in the North Atlantic. Hopefully they’re not as bad as they seem.
The good thing is that the crew is well rested and in good spirit. It was great to have 5 easy days at the beginning of our journey.
Philippe today cooked the famous Thelma Fish Lasagna. It’s the signature dish of Thelma, the owner of this little shack in Brazil where we used to anchor. It was delicious!
Yuka and Philippe are preparing a lot of food to avoid cooking on Fri/Sat/Sun, when the cold front and associated squalls will pass over us.
Umbrellas are ready!
Yesterday afternoon we finally turned off the engine after 17 hours motorsailing.
The Cold Front was finally here, and now it was time to face the music!
At 20:13 UTC time a steady 15/18 knots wind started blowing from SE, slowly increasing up to 20 knots.
With full main and genoa, Oroboro was surfing the waves at 10 knots. The average Speed Over Ground during my 3 hours shift was 8.01 knots!
At 23:00 UTC (18:00 local time) we decided to put a reef in the main before it was dark. During the night we had winds up to 25 knots, but no squalls!
Oroboro was very stable all night long, While we were keeping an eye on the radar watching out for squalls, we spent the night seated in the saloon, reading books (Philippe), watching movies (me) or learning Spanish with Duolingo (Yuka).
We clocked 153 miles in 24 hours, our fastest day so far.
Today the wind is still 20/25, so we put a second reef in the main, just because. We lost perhaps 1 knot in boat speed, but we gained in stability and we decreased the weather helm.
Seas are building, so we want to play it safe. We are still just 1/3 of the way to Azores.
Last night Yuka made a fantastic “risotto ai funghi”. The crew is happy, well rested and well fed.
We clocked 159 nm in a day! We had sustained winds of 25 gusting 28 knots all day, big 3 meters waves and Oroboro was steadily surfing at 10 knots SOG. The adrenaline is still flowing!
Unfortunately I spent my night shift pumping out water from the port bilge and investigating a leak. The electric bilge pump decided to fail in the most inappropriate moment. So I also had to replace it.
We still don’t know where the water is coming from. I suspect a water maker hose under the floor. It’s impossible to access that location, so tomorrow I think I’ll stick a camera in there.
Also, our stupid water maker through a Salinity Probe Failure error. Why does it always have to give me problems during an ocean crossing? It’s like having a trouble kid at home…
Anyways, I found out the Joaquin apparently had the same problem with the Salinity Probe, and that by overriding it via software you can still make water. So unlike when we crossed the South Atlantic, this time we won’t need to ration water!
And all these problems at once, while riding a massive cold front.
Exactly as predicted by Chris Parker, our meteorologist, the wind shifted 40 degrees in the late afternoon and we had to jibe.
Jibing in 25 knots of wind was a piece of cake. We just furled in the Genoa and by using the German mainsheet system, Yuka smoothly jibed the main sail.
Luckily at the end of this hard day, Yuka made a delicious dinner as the wind went down.
It’s funny how you can get used to a lot of wind. After you spend a couple of days in 20/25 knots wind, you start thinking it’s normal. And now that the wind is down to 15, we complain that it’s not enough…
I can’t believe one week has already gone by. It seems like yesterday when we said goodbye to our friends in the Bahamas. Two more weeks to go for the Azores! Hope they will fly as fast as the first week.
The barometric pressure has been rising constantly and it’s now 1022 (up from 1016).
However, we don’t see the blue skies normally associated with a High. The sky is overcast. Are we in a Ridge between the Bermuda’s High and the Azores High?
We have good wind now for sailing close hauled. That’s an added bonus, since by now we were supposed to be motoring in a no wind area. Maybe we’ve found the sweet spot between the two Highs?
We will know better tonight, once we receive an update from our meteorologist.
Crossing the North Atlantic west to east is no joke. The Atlantic ocean is compressed between two enormous land masses that create a very complex weather system. You have two high pressure systems, the Bermuda High and the Azores High, that constantly change shape, move north or south and can even merge. Finding a sweet spot to quickly get to the top of the Azores High is the secret.
We are now at the same latitude as San Diego, and the same longitude as Antigua. But what a difference!
When Philippe come up for his watch last night, he had to turn the engine on. When Yuka came up, she switched off the engine and we started sailing again. We still have a balance of some 13 engine hours, So if in the next few days we’ll have to motor, it’s not going to be a problem.
Yuka made us a great Sunday lunch: Her signature kitchen with roast potatoes! And she treated us with a dessert as well. We treat ourself better when we’re in the middle of the ocean than when we’re on land.
So the morale is high. We are 1 day into the second week and we’re dreaming about getting to Europe every day,
Yesterday I was decommissioned all day, because of a heavy headache. Today I felt better, so I dealt with my to-do list.
First the water maker. I found a way to disable the Salinity Probe via software, so that the water maker doesn’t throw an alarm and stop. It’s called the “Oliva method”. The procedure documented in the User Manual is too cumbersome. I ditched that, the “Oliva Method” is the way to go.
So after disabling the Salinity Probe, we disconnected the hose to the water tank in order to discharge the water produced in the first few minutes of operation of the water maker.
Then we took turns to taste the water and only when the three of us agreed that the water was fine, we reconnected the hose to the tank.
We were able to make water for a couple of hours and top off the tank. Success!
Since a couple of days ago I discovered that the port bilge pump wasn’t working and I had to replace it, I decided to test the starboard bilge pump as well just in case. And of course that wasn’t working either. So I had to replace that as well. Lucky I have 2 spares.
I discovered a leak in the sink of the master’s bathroom. So I fixed that too.
One of the propane sensors alarm failed. It happened just when Yuka was preparing lunch. Lucky I have a spare one.
I further investigated the leak in the starboard bilge, but I’m still unable to locate it. It’s still a mystery that drives me crazy.
We’ve been motoring east for 17 hours now in a windless high pressure area. If only there was some wind from the right direction to fly the spinnaker…
There is a big low forming next week on our path. The ECMWF model puts it to the north, the GFS to the south. Which one is right? Too soon to tell, but we need to take evasive action as soon as possible.
Our meteorologist should have sent an update yesterday but he told us he needed more time. He promised to send it today around 20:00 UTC. Probably the situation is not clear even to him, so he’s buying time. We’ll see what he recommends when I get his email.
Our friends on a monohull who left 3 hours before us from Marsh Harbor, sailed all the way to the latitude of Bermuda (33N) but have just changed course and are now quickly sailing south-east to avoid the next low. They are 100 nm north west of us. They got beaten up by the previous low, so they don’t want this to happen again. It would be nice if they could connect with us so that we can sail together. Let’s see if they can make it.
Our friends on Gerty on the other hand, who departed from USVI a couple of weeks ago, have just made landfall in the Azores. It took them 16 days to cover 2,538nm! I am impressed. That’s a fast passage.
Oroboro is still 1,500 nm from the Azores. So far we sailed 1,160 nm. We’re almost half way, and so far we have no complains.
On a positive note: We finished the mahi mahi we caught a few days ago, so Yuka authorized me to open the shop again! I want to catch a tuna this time!
Today marks our half way through the voyage. Let me give you some “vanity” metrics:
Hours of motoring: 70
Diesel burnt: 100L
Distance covered Over Ground:
Day 1: 128 nm
Day 2: 118 nm
Day 3: 118 nm
Day 4: 140 nm
Day 5: 109 nm
Day 6: 153 nm
Day 7: 159 nm
Day 8: 120 nm
Day 9: 129 nm
Books read: 3
Film watched: 10+ Fish caught: 1 huge Mahi Mahi
Water Maker (Salinity Probe)
Bilge pumps (two of them)
Leak in the stateroom sink
Propane alarm sensor
Parasailor (small tear)
Sail pack (small tear)
Unfortunately today we found out that there is an L shaped tear on the Parasailor. Must have happened last time I brought it down. I felt pain in my heart, since this is the sail we love the most.
We had the option to repair it with sail tape, but we decided against it. We want a proz to do the job. Probably in the Azores. So we store it away and we hoisted the Asymmetrical spinnaker instead.
In the meanwhile, we received the updated forecasts by Chris, and he doesn’t seem to be too concerned with a low pressure system that apparently will form later this week on our path. It’s too soon to worry about it.
So we are sticking to his recommended route. If we get too much wind, we’ll head south.
For now, we are sailing beautifully under spinnaker. The swell is so mild that Philippe and I decided to transfer diesel from the jerry cans into our tanks. So our tanks are now full again.
Yuka is playing with Duolingo, I think her Spanish will be better than mine by the time we get to the Balearic. I’m being lazy, and still haven’t cranked up with my Portuguese course.
Philippe’s wife sent us a very nice list of things to do and see in the Azores. We shared it with our friends on Gerty, who just arrived there. They were very happy to get it. We are looking forward to their feedback.
We just can’t believe that we’ll soon be in Europe. Everything is going well. Oroboro is taking such a good care of us. She’s an excellent boat.
Big seas are building. We sailed all night with the Asymmetrical spinnaker. The wind was supposed to stay in the 14/16 knots range, instead it went up to 20/22. The boat at times was surfing at 10/11 knots over a 3 meters swell.
So when Philippe come up at dawn for his watch, I woke up Yuka and the three of us brought down the spinnaker. We work like a well oiled team now, so the delicate maneuver went very smooth.
We are under reefed main and full genoa now, and we’re sailing at 7/8 knots in 20/24 knots of True Wind.
Yuka and Philippe prepared a South of France classic today: Ratatouille.
It was delicious! This ocean crossing is turning into a fantastic culinary trip! Italian, Japanese, Brazilian, Spanish and now French.
I slept all morning because couldn’t sleep much at night. I was with Yuka during her night watch because I was preoccupied about the spinnaker in such strong winds.
Chris Parker, our meteorologist is not preoccupied by the huge low pressure system shown by the GFS model on Wed 19th. He’s more concerned about what will happen after Wed 19th, when we’ll either have no winds or winds on the nose for our final stretch to the Azores. We’ll see. I hope that low will disappear from the next forecast.
There’s a second boat some 100 nm north of us sailing to the Azores: SV Zuma. Couple of French kids, we met them in Dominican Republic I think.
So in a 100 nm radius we have a total of three boats: Oroboro, Acqua, and Zuma. This ocean is overcrowded!
While crossing the mighty Atlantic Ocean, I often find myself day dreaming about Europe.
In particular, now for some reasons I’m dreaming about the city of Cadiz. I see myself and Yuka walking in the narrow streets of the old town, with so much history from the Romans, the Carthaginians and the Phoenicians (who named it Gadir, or the Walled Place).
And also Tarifa, Europe’s most southerly town, from where on a clear day we should be able to see the snow covered Atlas Mountains in Morocco.
The only regret is that my dear friends Joaquin and Monica will not be there with us, because I’m sure they would delight us with countless anecdotes about the history of these iconic towns.
But I’m sure when we’ll meet again next Christmas we’ll have the opportunity to catch up with stories!
We are making good progress under reefed main and full genoa, sailing at 7/8 knots SOG with 19/22 knots of wind aft of the beam.
The swell has gone down a bit, and in the morning we finally had some decent favorable current of 1.4 knots.
Currents in this part of the ocean are variable, they seem to turn counter clockwise during a 24 hours period.
We are heading east keeping below the 34 degree of latitude, towards an imaginary waypoint at 34N-40W.
I should play these numbers together with the previous 30N-60W at the Lotto once we are in the Azores. I think they’re lucky numbers.
Today I found out that the bilge pump I replaced only two days ago it’s not working. It gets warm but it doesn’t turn. The motor is seized. What caused these bilge pumps to fail it’s a mystery. I run out of spares, so hopefully we can replace it in Horta.
At this pace, we’ll make landfall in 7 days, on May 20th. Much earlier than anticipated. But for the last stretch, we may have either no wind or head winds. I hope the forecasts will change.
Today I tried fishing but I didn’t catch anything other then sargassum. I need to catch a tuna to make Yuka happy!
Last night Philippe spotted what seemed to be a weather buoy with a flashing light on it. When he told me, I asked if he was sure it was not a strobe light attached to a PFD… He said it wasn’t.
Unlike our previous ocean crossing in the South Atlantic, every day we see one or more cargos passing by in either directions. We are right in the middle of a highway.
For lunch Yuka delighted us with a delicious salmon with potatoes. She is really spoiling us! She did a great job at provisioning, even without a list in a spreadsheet…
I watched the Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher, recommended by my friend Malika. What an incredible story! Thank you Malika!
I hope tonight I’m going to have a good rest, because tomorrow the weather may change. I find it difficult to sleep down below in the cabin when the boat is doing 8 knots in 20 knots of wind.
Every noise gets amplified and you have the feeling that you’re going much faster and that the waves are much bigger than what they really are. Then there’s the occasional stray wave passing at a different angle and upsetting the boat and waking you up. And of course the darkness makes everything more dramatic.
The only one who doesn’t seem to be affected and sleeps well is Philippe. Lucky him.
Nights are getting cold. at 22C The sea temp is down to 20C. At night we wear long pants, warm socks, and a sweater.
Sleepless night: Winds 22/25 sustained, swell 3 meters high plus wind chop.
Yuka woke up 3 times during the night to ask me how it was. Down below in the cabin everything is amplified. But if you’re in the saloon, it’s not that dramatic.
The winds abided in the morning, so we had a chance to recuperate the lost sleep.
We set a new 24 hours run record: 167 nautical miles!!!
Later in the day, we continued investigating the water ingress in the port bilge. I’m 99% sure it comes from the port bow locker. There must be a crack between the floor and the wall behind the water maker tank.
In rough seas, with big waves coming hard from the starboard, sea waters enters the locker through the drain hole. Not all the water then escapes through the drain, and some remains on the floor. From there, through a crack, it enters the hull and ends up in the bilge.
Locating this leak has been hard, because it only happens in rough seas with waves from starboard and it’s in an impossible to reach location.
When at anchor, or when sailing in normal conditions, the bilge is dry.
The final step would be to remove the water tank and inspect the floor, but we can’t do it now. This will have to wait until Horta. If this turns to be true as I hope, it’s going to be an easy fix.
For lunch Yuka prepared spaghetti alla bolognese, an all-time classic. I could eat spaghetti alla bolognese every day.
We are waiting for Chris weather’s update. Hopefully the last stretch to Horta will be as nice and easy as the initial one.
Still no fish caught. We lost our lucky rapalla. Must have been a huge fish to be able to cut the metal wire the lure was attached to. Bummer!
Running away from the storm: With an inexplicable delay of 20 hours, our meteorologist emailed us the long awaited report at about 3 am in the morning local time.
There’s a menacing low pressure system and associated trailing cold front forming right where we are in 3 days time.
We need to change our plans and turn SE towards latitude 32-40N / 40W to position ourselves to the south of it. Then we’ll have to time our turn to NE and ride the tail of the cold front up towards the Azores. Once we are a few days from the Azores, a new low will develop west of it and hopefully we can get another ride there.
Sailing in the North Atlantic is very complicated. You need to take advantage of cyclones and anticyclones, hopping from one to another. And forecasts beyond 3 days are not very reliable.
We have sailed again 160+ nm for two consecutive days. Today on a beam reach, we were doing 8 and 9 surfing 10.
Not much happened today on board. I spent the day napping, watching movies and checking the forecasts.
During one of my naps, Yuka woke me up to reef the main. If Yuka says “reef” you just do it. She is always right.
Philippe spent his time reading and Yuka made us a fantastic chicken with roast potatoes. The crew is well fed, hydrated and rested for the hard days that lay ahead.
We’ve been sailing on a beam reach at double digit speed, squall after squall.
In his latest report, our meteorologist predicted “mild squalls up to 25”, but our instruments read 31+.
At night, squalls show on the radar as yellow and red donuts, the yellow representing the echo from a wall of rain. You can mark them as targets and you will be able to see their tracks.
Squalls usually follow the wind, but one of these went crazy and kept changing direction all the time. There was no evasive maneuver we could do, it seemed like our boat attracted the squall as a magnet. The only one on board happy about it was Yuka, because the rain would give the boat a good fresh water rinse.
During the day, you can see squalls in the form of towering cumulonimbus, these dense clouds with exceptional vertical development. Particularly nasty are those with an anvil-like top. They bring a lot of wind, rain and thunders. In our case, we were luckily spared the thunders.
At 16:00 UTC, finally we saw some blue sky and the sun for the very first time in a long while. Imagine that in the morning we had to run one engine for 1.5 hours to recharge the batteries.
The wind is finally down from 20 to 17, but we still haven’t seen it backing from 230 to 190. When the wind backs, we’ll change course to East as planned.
Yuka fixed us a marvelous lunch, one of her latest new recipes: Ratatouille a la provençal avec cous cous.
And for dinner we’re going to have Japanese Curry Rise, another of my all-time favorites!
Tonight I’m going to sleep like a rock now that the wind has finally abided!
P.S.: New 24-hour-run record: 183 nm!!!
We put some 200 nm between us and the bad weather. Today in the afternoon we finally reached latitude 32-30N and we started heading east.
Tomorrow the peak of the Cold Front will be around 18:00 UTC, and we’ll start riding it pointing to Horta, some 450 nm from us!
We didn’t have any squall today and the wind now is a steady 13/14 knots.
I had to swap the propane tanks. This time it lasted only 4 weeks instead of 6. Maybe we’re cooking too much?
We had a great dinner tonight: Fresh backed bread, cheese, prosciutto and some French pate. All with a good bottle of white wine. Life is hard at sea!
In about 4 days we’ll be in Horta. Strange feeling: We are not tired to be at sea, I think once you are over the first two weeks, it doesn’t really matter if it’s going to be one or two weeks more.
But now that I see the ETA of 3d 20h 14m on my display I admit that I’m looking forward to it.
Can’t wait to smell land!
Ok, so many things happened today that I don’t know where to start.
Well, first of all Oroboro set another speed record, clocking 12.5 knots SOG while surfing a big wave with 30 knots of wind from the stern. It was exhilarating! Usually the boat stays on top of a wave for a very short time, but on this one the ride was really long! After a few hours surfing, we decided to put a second reef to the main and slow down a bit.
Second: We set a new 24-hour-run record at 181nm. If there’s one thing that we learned during this ocean crossing is this: How to sail fast. At any point of sail!
Third: We crossed Latitude 33 Longitude 33. How cool is that?
Fourth: We crossed a huge cargo ship and they called us on VHF to ask if we were all right. Very nice of them! We should have asked for a tow to Horta!
Fifth: Yuka made us one all-time classic for dinner: Tonno e fagioli! In San Francisco I know a supposedly “Italian” restaurant where they ask 30 bucks for this dish. Crazy.
The only negative note of the day is that most probably we will not get to Horta in just a couple of days as we should, because at some point on Thursday another system is kicking in and we will have to turn NW and beat into the wind for a couple of days…
That sucks, we are so close to Horta and yet so far away!
But we’ll have to deal with what we get, suck it in and keep moving. The goal now is sail as fast as possible north until the wind starts blowing on our nose on Thursday. Then we’ll be suffering beating into 20 knots of wind, and big and confused seas.
I’m so not looking forward to it.
In the morning we were sailing under asymmetrical in very light wind and we were having a nice time. Philippe took the time to show us how to jibe the asymmetric with only two lines!
In all these years and +15K nautical miles, we probably had the necessity to jibe a spinnaker maybe twice. And we’ve always done it by bringing it down, changing the settings, and hoisting back up. All it takes to us is 10 minutes. Nothing compared to jibing an Imoca Open 60!
Contrary to the vast majority of sailors, we fly the spinnaker with only 2 lines, to minimize the clutter on deck and simplify operations. We are not racers, we are a cruising couple. We like to keep things simple and safe.
Then at some point during late morning, while I was down below trying to rest and Yuka was on watch, I saw on my iPhone that she started the Radar. The Radar on on a sunny day? Why? Well, there’s only one reason she would do that!
So I jumped off the bed, run outside, and right on the bow I saw a huge, black line of menacing clouds!
We took the spinnaker down very fast, and by the time we stowed it away, the wind went from 8 knots from the stern to 30 on the nose! The infamous cold front was here!
We hoisted deep reefed main and genoa, and we watched the sea building to 8 feet of swell and 5 feet of wind chop. The wind was 26 knots sustained!
We perfectly knew it was coming, we didn’t think conditions would change this fast though.
The most horrible part was the night: We were on starboard tack 40 degrees into the wind, with 15 feet waves at maybe 6 seconds distance, right on the bow!
We were desperately trying to slow down the boat to avoid the constant pounding into the waves. Taking them at an angle was even worse.
The noise of Oroboro hitting the waves like that was horrible. It broke my hearth. The standing rigging were shattering. Books were flying around in the saloon. I thought the boat was going to break into pieces.
It was also a very cold night. The temperature dropped to 19C. The helm station was damp. Nobody wanted to stay outside. We closed the saloon door and put on warm clothes. I prayed for the swell to go down and change direction.
Philippe at some point asked: “Francesco, you should have encountered bad weather like this before”. Well, it may be surprising but in 3 years and +15K nautical miles sailed, we have never sailed in such bad conditions. We always managed to avoid bed weather.
I remember a few years ago while sailing the coast of Brazil with our buddy boat Plan B, a huge cold front was forecasted on our way. What did we do? We stopped in Vitoria, put the boats in a marina, bought flight tickets online and spent a week exploring Brazil inland. By the time we were back, the cold front was gone and we resumed our voyage from Brazil to the Caribbean.
We are retired. We have the luxury of time. We have the technology to check the weather even out at sea. There’s no excuse to find yourself in bad weather like this.
This time it was unavoidable. The west to east Atlantic Crossing is very difficult. We were lucky to have perfect first two and half weeks. Now we paid our dues. It was just one night. Today things are back to normal.
This was a pretty boring day. We have been sailing/motorsailing NW all day, to reach 38 degrees latitude (same as San Francisco, btw), where we “supposedly” had to get some northerly winds good for sailing on port tack toward Horta.
That never happened, unfortunately. Philippe and I debated if to turn east anyways or keep going north. He was for keeping going north. I made him happy going up to 38 10, but then I pulled the plug and turned east. Couldn’t wait any longer.
For me the situation was clear: The High Pressure area formed more east then predicted, so now we could only get wind from the south side of the High, hence ENE and not NNE. And then it really didn’t matter anyways, because by tomorrow afternoon there’s going to be no wind at all, with the High moving on to us.
So we are about 100 nm from our destination, motoring all the way! Don’t take me wrong, I’d rather motor than sail upwind in big and confused seas like yesterday…
On a positive note, Yuka is back in business and preparing delicious meals. Yesterday when we were in bad weather and the boat was moving a lot, she didn’t feel like cooking and went to bed.
Philippe volunteered to cook something and he almost poisoned me: He prepared something with some canned food he bought in Marsh Harbor.
It was some US crap food that he used to eat when he was a student I suppose. Some “potato and cheese”, I think it was called. It almost made me sea sick. It tasted like the stinky sole of a pair of rented snowboard boots… ;)
Luckily during her midnight watch, Yuka made me a bowl of Japanese instant ramen. The perfect bad weather comfort food.
That reminds me of an episode: During one of my first motorcycle adventure trips with my friends in California, when we set up camp after a long hard day ride, everybody pulls out their astronaut-like bags of food.
The crap you buy at REI and that on the package reads something on the lines of “this is what astronauts eats in the space station”.
I pull out my bags of instant food from the local Japanese grocery store. I think it was a variety of curry rise and some ramen.
Needless to say, I was the only one smiling while eating. My friend Bill asked to try it. He has never bought the astronaut crap anymore for his camping trips!
Japanese are clever people for food.
Yuka saw land at 15:30 UTC. For some reasons, she’s always the one to see land first.
In 8 hours we’ll be in Horta. I’m praying the gods to keep giving us favorable winds!
I’m so happy that I feel like someone opened up the top of my scull, grabbed my brain, slapped it, and put it back into my skull!
Oroboro did an incredible job! She will soon get a fresh water rinse and all the attention she deserves.
For us? A good night sleep, Alas!
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 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. He’s Brazilian, so he’s used to that. They have a lot of red tape for sailors in Brazil.
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 since Customs and Immigration where next to his office, to kindly go talk to them and make sure.
After a few minutes he come back on the radio 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 Europe.
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!
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!
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.
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…
Dark clouds. Confused 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.
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 in 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.
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!
We made it! We crossed the North Atlantic!
And here is the biggest Mahi Mahi I ever caught.
Yuka prepared a great fish lasagna with it:
Refilling with diesel in the middle of the Atlantic:
At our arrival in Horta, we had a very warm welcome comity: S/V Gerty!