As much as I like St Maarten, eight weeks is a long time here! Fortunately, besides working on Blue Heeler, there’s always Lagoonies, JabJabs, and the Yacht Club to get off the boat and catch up with friends.
But tomorrow the weather is right and we are off to the Azores!
Sailors agree that the best time to cross from the Caribbean to the Azores is from mid May and June as high pressure systems make their way into the Horse Latitudes pushing those nasty low pressure systems farther north. (Apparently in the days of tall ships, to conserve precious water, sailors would sometimes throw the horses they were transporting overboard. Hence the phrase ‘horse latitudes’. Maybe they should have taken more water…).
This could be a challenging trip, particularly as we approach the Azores at 40 degrees north where there are a potential for large seas to knock us around. With the Atlantic hurricane season starting on 1st June, we are hopeful that we have a safe sail with no dramas! In 2015 our sail to Bermuda then New York was fine and we didn’t encounter any gales. This year the distance is far greater – 2300 to Azores then 1300 to UK – so our wait could be rewarded by favourable weather conditions.
Although we are heading into ‘summer’ it will be nothing like a Caribbean or Aussie summer. From the lockers I’ve uncovered and laundered polar fleeces, beanies, gloves, warm clothes and blankets. Further down in the lockers our Dubarry sea-boots have been revived with a generous smear of Dubbin wax to keep them dry (mine also have a good dollop of 3M-5200 sealer at the toes which deteriorated somewhere near South Africa!). Life jackets are re-armed with CO2 cannisters for automatic deployment in case we fall in the drink; grab bag stocked with all sorts of survival stuff is ready; safety gear and flares checked; jack-stays in place; rigging inspected; hull cleaned and cupboards stocked with food! Wayne has been super busy making sure the boat is in top shape for offshore sailing. Now, the whiteboard has no more jobs listed and I’m hoping it stays that way, at least until we reach the Azores!
Blue Heeler carries 500 litres of diesel aboard (we will have to motor at least a few days as we cross the calms of the Horse Latitudes); gas bottles are filled and ready for cooking up plenty of meals; water tanks are filled with 400 litres of water, although we also have a watermaker; I whipped up a few of flags – one for Azores and one for Portugal (Azores is part of Portugal), plus another one for the Ocean Cruising Club as I’m not able to buy one out here.
We are as ready as we can be.
Unlike the Indian Ocean or South Atlantic crossings, I haven’t stocked up with many month’s worth of food. Sometimes it’s easy to go overboard (pardon the pun) with food, but this time I’ve kept it simple and plan to cook easy meals along the way. It’s only a few weeks after all and we definitely won’t starve!
So that we can keep in touch with our sailor friends who are also making the crossing, I’ve organised an SSB net with about eight boats. Each morning, four vessels which have already left, report their positions and weather conditions. They are making good progress and will be around 700nm from us when we depart. The call quality isn’t always good, but between us all we can usually hear each other. Other vessels will leave next week so we’ll be scattered across the North Atlantic.
While we are offshore I’ll be posting to this blog and the Blue Heeler Facebook page every few days so you can follow our voyage. Look out for Tweets now and again too which are also visible on the right hand side of this page (#BHAtlanticXing).
That’s it! It will take a few days to settle into our trip and get used to the effects of sleep deprivation then in around three weeks we should be in the Azores.
Until then… fair winds!