Wednesday, May 16th 2007, 17:23 UTC
[René>>] As promised I will write some English lines as from today. It will not necessarily be a translation from the Dutch text, because some parts might not be interesting to the English readers.
Yesterday we left the Marina Fort Louis around 14:30. A bit later than we hoped for, but there were lots of things to do at the very last moment. Several boats wished us fair winds and a safe trip, either face to face or through the VHF.
Since yesterday sailing conditions are good. The wind is from the east-south-east, 12-16 knots. We are able to steer east from north, around 25 degrees true. We are experiencing some countercurrent, so speed could be better, but hey, can't have it all...
We had a quiet night and slept reasonable well. Currently the sun is shining and we feel good.
At 16:00 UTC our log showed 111 miles. 2086 miles to go to Horta. Click "Huidige positie" on the homepage if you like to see our latest position.
Thursday, May 17th 2007, 17:23 UTC
[René>>] When people ask us what an ocean crossing is like we usualy answer: "Boring, but boring is good on an ocean crossing". Well, yesterday was nog boring at all!
Just when I was finishing the website report we approached a very dark sky. One that makes you reef in advance. Within minutes we were double reefed and furled the jib to a much smaller size. The wind was near 35 knots, gusting close to 40, accompanied by torrential rain. For a while I even wore my divemask! We lay ahull for about half an hour and waited for conditions to improve. Something we never did before.
After a while windspeed settled around 22 knots, gusting 28, and we were on our way again. The sea got rough and uncomfortable. Vagebond took a beating.
Despite all that Frank and Helga slept well. I didn't. With every serious move of Vagebond I woke up.
As for now, conditions have improved a little, although the sun is nowhere to be seen. We are under double reef en the jib furled away a little.
At 12:00 (16:00 UTC) the log showed a distance of 123 miles. Distance to Horta is 1992 miles. The forcast for next week looks good: SE 10-15 knots. Yeah, I'd like that!
Tot morgen (you guys need to learn some Dutch)
Friday, May 18th 2007, 17:23 UTC
[René>>] What a difference a day makes! We all had a great night of sleep and especially I needed it. The sun shines and the wind is ESE 15 knots. We are still beating, but conditions are much better than during the last 48 hours.
De wind is expected to ease down some more in the upcoming days, but strenght and direction seem ok. A few calm(er) days are more than welcome, because there was no room for any culinary adventures so far. Both Helga and Frank are great cooks, you know!
In the last 24 hours we covered 128 miles. Those miles took us 118 miles closer to the Azores. Distance to Horta: 1874 miles.
Gegroet! (I know you guys love those G's)
Saturday, May 19th 2007, 16:38 UTC
[René>>] Have you ever seen de movie "48 hours" with Eddy Murphy en Nick Nolte? The scene with Eddy Murphy in a police cell with a walkman screaming Roxanne from The Police? Now picture a similar scene with Frank and his I-pod "singing" a famous Dutch song in the cockpit. My god, these weeks are going to be long!!!
Since yesterday the wind gradualy eased down. This morning we were only doing about 3 knots. We replaced the jib with the genoa en now we are doing 5 knots in ESE winds of 10-12 knots. The sun shines and as long as the wind does not ease down any further conditions are near perfect.
We ran out of fresh meat, so since this morning we are trawling two lines.
By now all tree of us got into the rhythm of life on board. I usually acompany Frank during the last hour of his watch (until 8:00) and serve him coffee. Helga gets to sleep an hour longer because she is the only one with a "broken" night. Breakfast is around 9:30. After that I usually start writing these reports. At noon we clock our 24-hour distance and place a little cross on the chart. Supper is around 14:30. At 16:40 we listen to what Herb has to say to a boat close to us. After that it's the day's main event: happy hour (one beer and a snack). At 19:00 we chat on the SSB with some other Dutch boats on their way to Bermuda or the Azores. And before we know it it's 20:00 and Helga and Frank go to sleep.
At 12:00 we clock 110 miles. Distance to Horta 1766 miles.
Sunday, May 20th 2007, 16:19 UTC
[René>>] A catamaran named "Destiny" passed us by within 1,5 miles yesterday. We chatted with the German (delivery)skipper for a while. With a crew of 3 he sailes the cat to the Azores and there the owner takes over.
We are very lucky with the weather so far and also with the forcast for next week. Other boats are not so lucky. Over the SSB we hear from Dutch boat "Tarpan". They are 650 miles NNO from us (this morning 36,52N 54,18W). Since they left Bermuda they have not had any decent conditions. They are in the path of the lows.
An overcast sky today, but besides that conditions are perfect. The wind is SE 14-17 knots. With one reef in the main and the genoa furled in a tiny little bit we are doing near 6 knots over ground.
No fish so far ;-(
We clock 127 miles over the past 24 hours. Distance to Horta: 1642 miles. The seawater is about 5 degrees colder then in St. Maarten. The airtemperature is also noticeable cooler.
Monday, May 21th 2007, 16:19 UTC
[René>>] Yesterday afternoon the wind finally veered to SSE, so in stead of 50 degrees to the wind, we could sail 60-70 degrees. A huge difference, in speed as well as in comfort. Too bad we had a countercurrent of about 0,5 knots.
Early this morning we had a little chat with English skipper Robbie from the "Splendid" a Stanfast 56 with a Dutch/Belgium crew. They were 20 miles behind us, but we expect to see them this afternoon because their speed is about 8-9 knots.
Later this morning we went through some squalls. Not as bad as on day two, but still with 30+ knot gusts and a lot of rain. By now the skies have cleared a little.
At 16:00 UTC we clocked 141 through the water and "just" 133 over the ground. Distance to Horta: 1512 miles.
The weather on our route still looks good. Wednesday a low is going to pass north of us, but it is not going to effect us. During the weekend the Azores High will move to a position SW of the Azores. For us that means that we will probably steer a more northerly course after wednesday to make sure we stay in favourable winds (in stead of no winds at all).
Tuesday, May 22th 2007, 16:19 UTC
[René>>] Today a week ago we left St. Martin. Besides the second day we may not complain. Although I think I've got a right to complain about my watch last night. We went trough a system with showers and within two hours I had to start the engine three times because of lack of wind. Each time the wind came back in 20+ knot gusts, only to die down again after a few minutes. And all the time it drizzled. Ugh! And I even had to wear my foul weather gear.
Yesterday for the third time since we left the Netherlands the block broke that keeps the boom down (I don´t know how to call that thing). We were able to make provisional repairs and it should hold until the Azores. This size block is just to light for the brute forces it has to handle.
Yesterday I wrote that by easing of a little we had more speed and comfort. Well, we stil have plenty of speed, but with winds in de 22-24 knot range and building seas it is not so comfortable any more. Space in the cockpit is limited, because you have to sit under the dodger to stay dry. Further back chances of getting wet are near 100%. Frank knows...
The gribfile shows two lows that will merge NW of us late this week. It looks like it will then develop into a storm system and track towards Nova Scotia. It is not going to effect us, but the nearest low will produce some stronger winds for us. Probably 25 knots on Thursday. We head a little south of our rumbline, just to stay away from the stronger winds north of us.
At 13:00 local time we clock a fair distance of 142 miles. Distance to Horta: 1370.
Ps. is it true that there's no fish left in this ocean?
Wednesday, May 23th 2007, 16:22 UTC
[René>>] We all agree that this crossing is heavier that the previous one (Gran Canaria -> Tobago). Vagebond lies on her port side for 8 days now and it slowly but surely wears us out. As I wrote yesterday living space in the cockpit is limited, let alone the rest of the deck. In the trades we sometimes did happy hour on the foredeck, but that is impossible now. Anyway, another two days and we are probably on a broad reach.
This morning we had a (very!) close encounter with a whale. Frank and I sat in the cockpit during a shower. I took a sip of water and saw a whale surface about 5 meters from our stern! I almost choked and stammered: "Look, look!". Frank saw him too, but Helga was just too late. Apparently nature called, because the animal left a huge cloud of sludge. Great!!!
An hour later we finally caught a fish. It was a small mahi-mahi, about 50cm long. Just enough for a meal for three.
For the last 24 hours we steered 70 degrees (Horta bearing 58), to prevent us getting caught in heavier winds further north. That strategy paid out. According to the latest gribfile we should not get more than 25 knots. Tommorow we can probably ease of a little and steer a beam reach in the slipstream of the low.
Despite a counter current of about 0,5 knot we clock 130 miles. Distance to Horta: 1242 miles.
Thursday, May 24th 2007, 16:31 UTC
[René>>] Yesterday we received the schocking news that our former colleague Walter Boks suddenly passed away last Tuesday. Words cannot express our feelings. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.
And next? Life goes on? Yes and no. It's great sailing today. Couldn't be better actually. But still there's a dark cloud above Vagebond today.
24 hour distance 135 miles. Distance to Horta 1109 miles. We are half way.
Friday, May 25th 2007, 16:41 UTC
[René>>] During the last 36 hours the low that I wrote about earlier passed us to the north. Last night we had the strongest winds, about 26 knots SSE. The wind was very gusty and the Windpilot had a hard time keeping Vagebond on course. By the way, what a fantastic piece of equipment that is!
Yesterday we were half way and this morning we passed the 1000 miles to go limit. So we are going to have a little party this afternoon with not only a beer, but also a whisky (a Glenmorangie my mother gave us).
There is still a nice breeze, 24 knots from the south. Under double reefed main and with the genoa furled in a little we are doing close to 7 knots. Thanks to that we clock a decent 150 miles over the last 24 hours. Distance to Horta: 960 miles.
We calculate our ETA almost every hour. Saturday, June 2th seems to be the most realistic.
Saturday, May 26th 2007, 16:19 UTC
[René>>] It's getting fresher every day. At night we wear long trousers and a sweater and we sleep under a sleeping bag. Sea water temperature dropped to 22 degrees Celsius.
Last 24 hours were very comfortable. A clear sky, flat sea, winds from the south 13-15 knots, so a beam reach. We could not ask for anything more!
Bizarre story: The Open 40 "Dangerous When Wet", we sailed on with skipper/owner John is lost. John got into bad weather heading to Bermuda. He suffered badly from seasickness and some issues on the boat and put out a Mayday. He got picked up by a cruiseliner somewhere of Puerto Rico. John is safe and in Newport, but Dangerous was lost.
The gribfile for next week tells us that the question is not if, but when we have to start the engine. Probably late tommorow. The Azores High is expanding and moving south. Later next week another low will pass north of us, so the last 2-3 days we could have strong, but good winds (SW).
Last 24 hours: 132 miles (lots of counter current). Horta: 830 miles.
Sunday, May 27th 2007, 16:44 UTC
[René>>] Yesterday afternoon the wind started to decrease. During the evening we were only doing 4,5 knots through the water and half a knot less over ground. During Helga's watch it got even worse, so she started the engine. At 10:00 this morning we cut the engine, but it looks like we will be motoring again soon. Nothing is going to change that, because we are entering the Azores High. The barometer reads 1029Mb.
It looks like the new low that I briefly mentioned yesterday might develop into a serious storm. That could(!) affect us next Thursday. To make this absolute clear: we are NOT going to get into a storm! It is just that we might get some strong winds because this storm is passing us hundreds of miles to the north. We are curious what Herb has to say to two boats that are about 60 miles ahead of us. Depending on that advice and/or tommorow's gribfile we might decide to steer a more easterly course to prevent us from getting into 30+ knot winds.
Despite decreasing winds and counter current, and thanks to the engine we were able to do 116 miles. Distance to Horta: 714 miles.
Monday, May 28th 2007, 16:44 UTC
[René>>] Yesterday at 14:00 the wind died down and we had to start the engine again. Helga was able to sail for two hours during her watch, but besides those hours the engine has been running all the time. Last night was splendid with a flat sea, clear sky and a 3/4 moon. This morning we were overtaken by the "Tafia", a French yacht. We chatted with the skipper over the VHF.
Yesterday we had a large group of dolphins around the boat. We also saw several whales, but none of them as close as a week ago.
Herb's advise to the two boats 70-80 miles ahead of us was to slow down en to not go east of 35 degrees west before Thursday night. This because of that approaching low I wrote about yesterday. We did not like that advice (yet) and decided to continue with the same speed and heading. Both Thursday night and 35 west are still far away. At the same time it gave us the oportunity to close in on those two boats, so that Herb's next advice applies even more to us.
This morning's gribfile shows a substantial different picture from yesterday. On the direct track to the Azores there's going to be 30-35 knots of wind on Thursday, whether you slow down or not. We changed our course to 85 degrees (Horta lies at 65). That way we avoid the 30-35 knots (SW) and get 20-25 at most. Should the situation change for better or worse in the next 48 hours we keep all our options open. The strongest winds are going to be north of us, that is for sure. South is safe. The question is how far south do we go. It looks like we are going to make a detour of 60 miles at most.
I think Herb is going to give a similar advice to those two boats. In that case they slowed down for nothing...
So we keep ourselves pretty busy with the weather these days. Last 24 hours we did 127 miles. Distance to Horta: 588.
Tuesday, May 29th 2007, 16:11 UTC
[René>>] Last night we were able to sail for a couple of hours and we are currenly under sail also. De wind is dead on the stern so we have the genoa on the pole to windward. We are doing about 4,5 knots over ground.
By the way, we caught a nice mahi-mahi yesterday. The fish was about 80cm and we can eat from it for three days. The lure we caught it with was Frank's choice.
According to this morning's gribfile we can expect 25-30 knots from Thursday evening into Friday night. We are almost there and then we get these strong winds... Anyway, there's nothing we can do about it. The wind is going to be on the stern and that is 100% more preferable than on the nose. If tommorow or the day after shows conditions worse, then we van still go southeast. That would mean a serious detour, but rather that, then real rough conditions.
Herb's advice to those two boats was to slow down even more and not go east of 36 west. That is on the direct track to the Azores (we are not on that track anymore, because we are steering east). According to the gribfile these boats can expect at least 30 knots on Thursday night. Not only will we be 200 miles closer to the Azores by then, but we get less wind AND still have the oportunity to go southeast in case it gets worse. These boats have nowhere to go. We don't understand Herb's motives at all!
At 14:00 local time (we set the clock an hour ahead) we clock 117 miles. Distance to Horta: 480 miles.
Wednesday, May 30th 2007, 16:16 UTC
[René>>] Too bad we cannot publish pictures right now, because I would realy like to show you the gribfile for Friday morning. On the direct track to Horta (from where we are now) it is going to blow 30-35 knots. Dat is 7-8 Beaufort. That's the reason we decided earlier to head east.
Like every day we listened to Herb yesterday. The two boats I wrote about earlier (a few days ago they were 80 miles ahead of us, nog we are 100 miles ahead of them) got the advice to head due south, to 34 degrees north. Now that's an advice that we could understand.
On Friday we are going to have the most wind, that's for sure. Depending on where we are by then it will blow 25-30 knots or 20-25. On the short(er) route we will have more wind. If we decide to detour even more we get less wind and more comfort. We decided for the latter and changed course to ESE. Horta is 390 miles in a straigt line, but we probably have to sail about 500 miles. Arrival on Saturday is not an option any more, so it will probably be Sunday afternoon.
Yesterday we replaced the genoa with the jib. We are under sail again. Over the last few days we have run the engine for 60 hours. Distance over the last 24 hours: 119 miles.
Thursday, May 31th 2007, 16:44 UTC
[René>>] For the last couple of days every new gribfile showed more or at least equal winds for the next 48 hours. This morning's gribfile finaly showed slightly better conditions than the previous ones. We like that of course!
Our strategy is as follows. We are currently heading 70 degrees (true), but wil slowly ease of to 50 degrees in the next 24 hours. With a little luck we will keep these SW winds until Saturday afternoon when the front is going to pass us. By then we will be about 80 miles SE of Horta. On the other side of the front we will have NE-E winds, so good conditions for the final miles to Horta. We expect to arrive on Sunday morning.
The wind is currenly about 23 knots SSW. We are under double reefed main en have the jib slightly furled in. We are rolling a little, but speed is good.
We clock a 24-hour distance of 135, but those miles brought us only 75 miles closer to Horta :-(. Distance to Horta: 315 miles.
Friday, June 1st 2007, 16:17 UTC
[René>>] Yesterday afternoon we set the third reef in the main. It didn't slow Vagebond down at all. Until midnight we had 20-25 knots out of the SSW. De winds were very gusty, which made it hard to decide on how much sail to set.
During Helga's watch winds increased to 25-30, gusting 35. We took the mainsail down and been under jib alone since. We are sailing almost dead downwind. The rolling reminds us of the crossing to Tobago. We're not used to it anymore, and therefore neither one of us slept well.
Apart from an occasional short shower the weather is still great. The seas are rather rough and every now and then Vagebond surfes down a wave. In the cockpit we have to stay alert for that one unexpected crashing wave...
In the next couple of hours we expect the winds to decrease to 15-20 knots. Tommorow morning the front will pass us and then we will have NE winds. ETA early Sunday morning.
Last 24 hours: 138 miles. Distance to Horta: 193.
Saturday, June 2nd 2007, 16:17 UTC
[René>>] 9:18 (local time): Almost there, but... Again we had a very uncomfortable night. Neither one of us got much sleep. Rolling? Well, this was more like a rollercoaster. Terrible! We are now motorsailing. The front passes us now, there is hardly any wind, and outside it is grey and wet. Helga and Frank are asleep (finally). I spend some time in the cockpit, but since there is not a lot to see I went inside again. The radar shows an echo at 5 miles, but besides that it shows only rain :-(
14:55: By now the seas have calmed down. We took turns sleeping en feel much better now. It is still raining, but the skies are not as grey as this morning. We clock only 120 miles (counter current of 0,5 knots) and the distance to Horta is 93 miles. Almost there...
Sunday, June 3rd 2007, 16:17 UTC
[René>>] At 9:30 local time we arrived in Horta on the island Faial. Lots of boats here. We are moored number 5 (from the quay) alongside another Dutch boat "Tarpan" (also a Koopmans design).
After we went alongside we opened a bottle of champagne right away and smoked a big sigar (thanks to Long White Cloud). We've been to the authoroties already and are about to go ashore for a big brunch.
For the statisticians: the direct route from St. Martin to Horta is 2175 miles. We sailed 2390 miles, so an extra 214 miles. Average speed (over ground) 5,33 knots = 128 miles per day. The crossing took us 447 hours = 18 days and 14 hours.
This is the last message in this Oceanlog and also the last message in English I'm afraid. Within a few days we will publish the pictures we took over the last 2,5 weeks. We hope you enjoyed sailing with us.
Greetings from Horta!