Saturday, 8 November 2014

Travel Report No 72: From Falmouth and Home

Travel Report No 72: Falmouth-Gosport-Kristiansand-Lier.            
For more pictures and captions go to: Picture Gallery No 72


Andreas had to leave on July 5th, the day after White Admiral arrived in Falmouth for a 5 ½ hour long train-ride to London before flying back to Norway. 

Andreas being made to feel welcome on the train to London by the conductor
Stein had a day on his own to do some work on the boat before Diana returned also by train, after a flight from Glasgow to London. She was happy with the rehearsals for the play, and also quite happy to have missed the sail over the rough and foggy Bay of Biscay! We were well behind schedule and keen to get back home to Norway, so spent just one more day in Falmouth, having a good walk around this nautical town with its big harbour full of boats of all kinds.
Diana is back and we are leaving Falmouth together.
On the morning of 7th July, we were ready to leave and for once there was a good, gentle weather forecast, fine for the two of us to sail along the Channel. We started off with good genoa sailing in a following breeze, but had to motor-sail as the wind slackened. Stein had a tummy bug the next day, with several visits to the head (=boat toilet), but felt better in the evening after a day mostly on camomile tea. The next day was mainly motoring, sometimes at a frustrating 3 knots when the current was against us, and at other times an enjoyable 7 knots when it was with us. This current was strongly felt along the whole English Channel and out into the first part of North Sea. 
Entering The Solent and passing The Needles of Isle of  Wight on starboard side. 
Fortunately we had it with us as we passed The Needles just west of the Isle of Wight, and we sped along the Solent to Gosport, which is just across the estuary from Portsmouth, and has huge marinas with plenty space for visiting yachts. We called one marina on the VHF and were immediately assigned to a berth where we tied up.

Gosport is not very interesting, but Portsmouth which is just a short ferry ride away is fascinating for anybody interested in maritime history. There is a large dock area, with various exhibitions relating to British Navy, the pride being Nelson’s ship “Victory” which of course we had to visit.  It is a huge ship of impressive dimensions and complexity built from 1759 - 1765 and has been reconstructed to show just what it was like in Nelson’s time at the Battle of Trafalgar, with information about life aboard for the officers and crew. Quite a contrast to see the difference between the ordinary seamen’s simple quarters (including their outside toilet in the bow, hence the name “the head”) and Nelson’s luxurious cabin and dining room! Since we were now quite near London we took the opportunity to visit Hugh, Elisabeth and kids, an hour and a half train ride from Portsmouth to Waterloo. 

Elisabeth's birthday on 9th July: Diana, Stein, Hugh, Soren and Elisabeth.

Soren is happy with the new T-shirt from Faial, Azores!
This was very suitable as it was Elisabeth’s 42nd birthday, and we were able to share the birthday dinner and cake, and meet the whole family and their lovey Brazilian nanny, Lili.  We were also able to deliver our birthday present on the correct date, a bag from the sail-maker’s shop on Man O’ War Cay in the Bahamas.
Leaving Gosport  Marina with Robert.
Fortunately Robert had agreed to sail with us across the North Sea to Kristiansand. He flew over from Norway where he was on his summer holiday, and Diana met him as he came off the Gosport ferry. The next day was 10th July and we wasted no time getting away as the weather forecast promised gentle weather for four days, but then a possible gale off the south coast of Norway - which we hoped to avoid. 


The Channel and the North Sea are very busy places, lots of ships, navigation buoys, fishing buoys, gas installations, oil-rigs and in the Thames Estuary even huge wind mill electricity generators. There are also shipping lanes which one has to follow or keep well away from, and even a virtual ships’ roundabout! 
Here are some of the obstacles in the Channel!
We counted about 30 of these monsters in this area alone. Fog affected the visibility.
This means a constant sharp look-out and frequent checks on the GPS as to our position, so we were glad to have Robert aboard to share the watches and split the night into three.
It was dusk by the time we left the marina, and just after we motored out, Robert noticed that there were lots of seagulls circling nearby and threw out a line on the fishing rod. Sure enough in a few seconds he had drawn in a good sized mullet, which Diana filleted to have for dinner the next day. The only catch since the Bahamas! As forecast there were light variable winds for the first three days, so we motored or motor-sailed, and it was foggy most of the time, sometimes so dense that we sat with a fog-horn at the ready, but fortunately did not need to use it.  We had one fright on the first day when we did run into the rope from a fishing-buoy and realized that we were trailing something very heavy! We got the sails quickly down and Stein and Robert had to lean out and cut off the buoy – hoping our rudder and the fishing gear was not too damaged!  On the fourth day the fog lifted, and a breeze blew up from west, giving us two good days of sailing in to Kristiansand. The sea was rough on the last day as the wind increased, and also because of the current just off the Norwegian coast, but fortunately the gale that was forecast did not quite materialize in this area.
Oksøy lighthouse!

Happy 46 years' Anniversary, Diana, and there is Kristiansand and friends waiting in the harbour! 
It was lovely to sail in between the lighthouses on Oksøy and Grønningen islands and into the protected water south of town, and the sun even came out as we got the sails down and motored into the visitors’ part of the harbour. It was July 15th, our wedding anniversary, 46 years since we were married in Glasgow University Chapel. (We have done and seen so much together and have so much to be grateful for!)  An old friend Bjørn Jordan had called and said he would make sure there was a free berth for us, which we were very thankful for when we saw that the harbour was full of visiting yachts and motor-boats sheltering from the strong wind. As we tied up we saw that as well as Bjørn, there were our daughter-in-law Tonje with mother Selle Marie and Aunt Karen, little grandson Oscar, old sailing friends Anne and Knut and Bjørn’s wife Annelise all waving flags and waiting to welcome us with champagne and a big cake made by Anne. A photographer and a journalist from Fædrelandsvennen newspaper were also present. Wonderful to be back in Norway!
Bjørn Jordan, Annelise Hordang, Knut Nilsen and Anne's kringle!

Dinner at Mother India! Stein "Buster", Diana, Knut, Robert and Anne.
After a hug from the waiting friends and relatives, we were in for another surprise when cousin Stein “Buster” from Trondheim (800 km away) suddenly appeared on the jetty! He had first driven down to Oslo to see his daughter, then on to Kristiansand to welcome us, so we felt honoured. After we all celebrated with the champagne in the cockpit, Stein Buster, Anne and Knut took the three of us out to dinner at “Mother India”, an old favourite from days when we lived in Kristiansand. It just got better and better being home!    
The article the next morning in Fædrelandsvennen was a bit exaggerated, but it was great because many our friends in the neighbourhood saw that we had arrived and were in the harbour and for the three days we lay there we had one visit after another. It was eleven years since we sailed from Kristiansand on White Admiral, although just five years since we moved from there to our present apartment in Lier, and we still have many good friends here that we try to keep in touch with. It was a pleasure to renew these friendships, and never have we been given so much champagne and strawberries!
Gun, Andreas and Gro.


Robert having gone off to visit old friends, Diana and Stein were ready to begin the journey along the Norwegian coast. We set off in the afternoon of 18th July, in beautiful sunny and gentle weather. The first stop at the fuel jetty reminded us that we were back to Norwegian prices, and that Norwegians are not always the politest of races as a motor boat sneaked in before us!
Tonje and Martin's "new" cottage in Frillestadkilen has a super setting.

Dinner of salmon, shrimps and salad on the terrasse: Tonje, Oscar, Martin and Diana
Martin and Tonje had bought a cottage last year near Høvåg in the south of Norway. We were really looking forward to seeing this place which sounded so lovely. It took three hours of slow motoring along the coast to get there, in and out of passages created by larger islands and small skerries, and in the perfect weather Norway could not have looked more beautiful.  Unfortunately the narrow channel outside where the cottage lies is at one point only five meters broad, not enough for our catamaran which has a breadth of six and a half meters. Martin came along in his dinghy to meet us and help us find a place to tie up. We saw a cliff face just outside the narrow point which looked perfect, and feeling sure the owners would not mind, we decided to tie up before asking. Just as we were finished, the lady of the house appeared for a swim and fortunately had no objections to us lying alongside her property. It transpired she had been to Diana as a patient many years ago! Then we were off with Martin in the dinghy to see the new cottage, which lived up to all our expectations, a white wooden house which they have had redecorated and a new kitchen fitted, and made even nicer with Tonje’s good taste in interior design. It sits on a promontory over the sea with great views from the terrace, and a few meters down to the jetty and bathing steps, a paradise for big and small!
Same place a couple of days later,  now with Diana, Soren, Finn, Martin, Oscar, Tonje, Hugh and Elisabeth.
For the next few days we had a family reunion, with Elisabeth, Hugh and their boys arriving in a hired car from Torp Airport near Sandefjord and Robert returning with our car. The great weather (best in man’s memory!) continued making it the perfect holiday. Highlights were a garden party at Aunt Karen’s cottage a short drive away, a boat trip in Sondre’s (Tonje’s brother) boat around the nearby skerries and to see a kayak regatta, and a trip to the Kristiansand amusement park, when Stein, Diana and Robert took the two small boys Finn and Soren for a day with pirates, car-rides, spinning cups and ice-cream!  On 22nd July, which is Robert’s birthday, we had a big get-together on White Admiral, with help to eat the two cakes from Sondre and his family.
Jorunn and Kåre Høyvik who let us tie up along their property came for breakfast.
It was time to move on, and after breakfast with the landowners Jorunn and Kåre Høyvik, we were joined on 24th July, by Elisabeth and family, Tonje’s mother and aunt and two of Aunt Karen’s grandchildren for a ride along the coast to Lillesand. The amazing summer weather was still holding, so it was a two hour sunshine cruise, with everybody sunning themselves and enjoying the scenery. Tonje drove along with Oscar to meet us in the car and Sondre came in his boat to take some of the others home. Lillesand harbour was choc-a-bloc with boats of all kinds jostling for a place, but we found a buoy to hang onto just off the jetty where we could lie safely for lunch.

Some narrow passages between Lillesand and Arendal

Frode at the helm as we pass a navigational marker.
We planned to reach Rørendal the same day. Here our faithful crew member Frode has his home at the sea, and had offered to let us lie on his buoy alongside his small sailing yacht for as long as we needed. As the weather was so fine, he arrived in Lillesand with his wife Susanne and old friend Johan Georg to sail there with us. We were also joined by our old sailing friend Anne Kollandsrud who has an optician’s shop in the town, and happily left it for the chance of a boat trip! We had to motor again as there was no wind, five hours along the coast, still warm, sunny and beautiful. The bay at Frode and Susanne’s home is sheltered and calm, and we could lie here safely, sharing the buoy and dwarfing their small sailing yacht. 
Third and final meal of the day in our White Admiral's spacious cockpit. Late dinner at Rørendal with Anne, Johan Georg, Frode, Susanne and Diana (and Stein behind the camera!)

We had a fish dinner on board before the others left us. For us it was time to get home after nearly nine months abroad, and the next morning Robert came with the car so we could all drive back home to Gullaug.


Three weeks later it was time for the very last leg of our journey home from the Bahamas. In the meantime Diana had been back in Scotland to take part in a play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which had been both great fun and a success. Stein had had a few days back at work at the Cardiology out-patient clinic in Drammen, before a quick visit to Edinburgh to see Diana, and also spent some time starting the repairs on White Admiral, with assistance from Frode.

Our oldest grand-children Hedda and Johan came for what was first a wet sail along the coast.
Now we came with our two eldest grand-children, Hedda aged 12 and Johan aged 10, who would sail with us to Veierland, where we wanted to see what the new owners had done with Stein’s family’s old cottage which was sold last year.  There was now a change of weather and we left on 14th August on a cloudy, rainy morning, 33 nautical miles to our first stop at the island of Jomfruland. The children have been on board many times before, and soon made themselves at home, lying in the netting near the bow reading Donald Duck paperbacks. It was a slow drive into a light head-wind and took most of the day, finally anchoring off Tårnbrygga on the west coast at half past eight in the evening. We had a fish dinner, and as the evenings were still long and light in these northern latitudes, had time for a good walk across the island and along the stony beach on the east coast.
The next morning we were up early to get to Veierland, and we motored off at 6.30 a.m. while Hedda and Johan were still asleep. It was a cold, clear morning, after a while a light breeze blew up and we could put up the genoa.  At 2 p.m. we motored into Krika, the bay in front of the old cottage and dropped anchor in 1.6 meters. 
But the weather was greatly improved the next day when we could anchor in Krikakilen, Veierland!

Dinner in front of our old cottage, Veierland, now with new owners and new looks. Johan and Hedda were upset last year when we sold the old cottage, but with Tonje and Martin's new "hytte" in Frillestadkilen near Kristiansand, we are forgiven!
It was quite a surprise to see that most of the trees around the cottage were gone, the ochre colour had been changed to grey-brown and the boat-house had been rebuilt! The new owners had told us we were welcome to visit, so we rowed ashore and went up to have a look. They were not at home, so we could only look through the windows and we found the inside totally renovated with open-plan style and modern furniture – a new generation has taken over! We hoped to see some of our old neighbours, but there was only life in one cottage across the bay and we went over to visit Sigrid and Geir who had visitors, but were happy to let us join in and served us the rest of their lunch.
Martin came to collect the children the next morning at the mainland marina at Engø, and we motored off to cover the last 35 nautical miles home. We hoped for a last sail, but there was no more than a light head-wind and we motored the whole way. We had arranged with the small marina where we live, Engersand båthavn, that we could lie in a double space with a pontoon between our hulls, and we tied up at 6.30 p.m.
Finally moored at Engersand not far from our apartment at ground level in the background.

25th September White Admiral is lifted ashore at Tofte.

"White Admiral" stored on land for the winter - and her owners are ready for some more travelling - but by plane, this time.
But first, thank you, you big, old "butterfly" for the thousands of sea-miles that we have sailed together!
With that our days of long distance sailing are over and that is probably the end of White Admiral’s blog. It is a bit sad, but we are getting older and have decided that we would like more time for other type of travelling, like mountain walking and visiting interesting cities and other parts of the World. We have had a wonderful eleven years - ten of them in the Caribbean - but have now had enough white beaches and snorkeling and challenging boat maintenance and repair. We will probably change next year to a motor boat, more suited to the Norwegian coast and not so big that it cannot visit Tonje and Martin’s cottage! 
Stein is not finished with the sea, however, he likes a challenge and loves it out there in the wide open blue spaces, and plans to do another ocean row in 2016, this time in the wake of the first ocean rowers, Norwegian-Americans Georg Harbo and Gabriel (“Frank”) Samuelsen, who crossed from New York to Scilly Isles in 1896.  Life is still an adventure!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Travel Report No 71: Sailing from the Azores to England via Spain

Report No 71    Horta – Baiona - Falmouth. 

For all the pictures and captions go to: Picture Gallery No 71


We had entered the harbour of Fajal on Horta island in the Azores at dawn on the 8th June. After first anchoring as instructed, Stein rowed ashore with our passports at 8 am, and it did not take him long to check in and return with the news that we could get a place alongside the quay. We immediately weighed anchor and motored over to the fairly tight free space between two other yachts, but with Stein’s good maneuvering and some help pulling ropes from other boats, we got into the space and tied up, and then a French catamaran tied up outside us. It felt good to be alongside, although it is not a great harbour, there was a bit of a swell in the part we were, and we were exposed to strong gusts of wind. Regardless - we have been in Horta twice before with Red Admiral (1982 and 1991, having sailed there from Anguilla), had many good memories from these visits, so it was exciting to revisit this interesting town after many years. 

Still blue skies on the first day alongside the quay in Faial, Horta -
a famous meeting place for sailing ships for more than 500 years.
It is a Mecca for all yachts crossing the Atlantic from West to East, and most leave a painting of their boat on the walls or walkways around the harbour. It is also an interesting town due to its old Portuguese architecture. Facilities for yachts have improved since we were last here, with a new building containing a café with wi-fi, showers and laundry facilities. The favourite meeting place though is still Café Sport, or Peter’s Café, now run by Peter the younger, who is obviously more of a business man than his father, as there is now also a souvenir shop attached, still with scrimshaw as its specialty (engravings on whale teeth and whale bone). There is even a branch of his shop at the airport and he is a general tour operator on the island.
Two days later, Andreas Hauge arrived at the airport, and we met him in our hired car. Andreas is another experienced sailor, he has sailed with us from Portugal to Canary Islands in 2003, and from Panama to Florida last year, in 2013, and proved himself to be another uncomplaining, humorous crew member, so we were very happy that he came to replace Andrew, and would sail back to Norway with us.

For a few days in Horta we were five aboard: Diana, Andrew (about to leave), Andreas (just arrived) and Frode (still here!) as well as Stein behind the camera.
The days in the Azores we hoped would be a sunny interlude between ocean crossings, but apart from the first day and a half, turned out to be cold, misty and rainy. Nevertheless we made the best of it, driving round Faial in the hired car, enjoying the very reasonably priced restaurants and visited some places of interest. One of the best restaurant visits was to Ricardo’s restaurant where we had an impressive lobster feast, another was to Genuino’s newly opened restaurant full of souvenirs from his solo sails around the world (the only person from the Azores to have done this and he did it twice!) and Canto da Doca where we cooked our own fish, squid or meat on boiling hot pieces of lava stone!

Three circumnavigators together at Genuino's restaurant (but Genuino sailed twice solo around the World in his "Hemingway" - a genuine achievement!)

Hard (well, not very...) and hot work cooking your own dinner at Canto da Doca,
a very popular restaurant next to the harbour

One of the main tourist attractions is the Volcanic Centre on the north west of the island. Here there was a large volcanic eruption in 1957 adding a new peninsula. The lighthouse at the coast was no longer of use once it was inland, and instead became part of an impressive  museum, with lots of information about volcanic activity in general and about this particular eruption and its consequences. It caused a crisis which led to USA admitting inhabitants of the island, and a lot more people than necessary joined the band-wagon, leading to a large immigration of Portuguese from Faial to USA.  
On the way to the Volcanic Centre. Most of it is under-ground, above is the rebuilt, original light-house
that ended up too far from the sea to be of navigational use after a new peninsula formed outside.
Andrew as always wanted to get some geo-caches, particularly as with a geo-cache from the Azores
he would be the person in Switzerland who had found caches in the most countries! So as we drove round, we stopped to hunt at various sites and ended up with nine finds. Otherwise our drive in Faial was rather disappointing as there was low cloud over the island and we did not get to see the wonderful views which exist in good weather. The island is well-known for its spectacular wild hydrangea plants and bushes which grow everywhere. We did see a number of these, but most were just starting to flower so it was not the full show. We also managed to get a puncture on a rather stony road. When we saw the worn-down state of the tyre it was not surprising. As we were jacking up the car, the jack slipped, causing a dent on the side, but we got the new tyre on and took the car back early as the weather was more suited to walking, eating and drinking than sight-seeing.
One day when we were sitting in the yachties café with our I-pads, a young man came up and asked Stein in Norwegian if he was Stein Hoff! This was Bjarne Marcussen on the yacht ‘Peyotl’, who had sailed here with his friend Morten Michalsen and Morten’s father. Bjarne is now a doctor, but as a student worked one summer in the same unit as Stein in Kristiansand! 
Frode is also enjoying the visit from 'Peyotl' crew Bjarne and Morten from Kristiansand (and they enjoyed Diana's cooking!)
The two younger men were going to sail on together back to Norway. We were able to be of use to each other. They were having some problems with their autopilot and managed to get our old one to function on their boat, and we needed some epoxy fillers which they were able to give us.
Soon it was time for Andrew to leave us after his first (and probably last) dramatic sail over an ocean. Considering he had no previous experience he was an amazing member of the crew. He pulled his weight with the night duties, kept calm in the emergency and worked hard to get the boat safe again, in addition was always in a good mood and ready for a chat about any subject as well as being a cheerful dish-washer. During the trip he had been promoted from deck-hand to able bodied seaman! We said goodbye to him on the main road outside the harbor and off he went in his taxi to the airport, as Frode and Andreas got ready to take the ferry over to Pico to experience another island. 

Pico is next to Horta, but as the weather and visibility worsened, we only saw the island like this the day we sailed in.
Here there is an old whaling station, where we had seen one of the last sperm whales to be caught when we were here in 1982. To our surprise Andrew turned up at White Admiral an hour or two later, the travel agent had booked him in on the wrong date! He had been given a new booking that evening, so was just in time to catch up with the others for a day on Pico.


By the 14th June, we were ready to set out again, small jobs were done and the repair in the stern seemed solid, so a more cosmetic repair could wait until we reached Norway. The weather forecast was not great, but was not going to get better soon either, so it was time to get going. Late afternoon we drove along in a gusty wind to the fuel-dock where we nearly crashed into a crazy bunch of Swedes/Americans who had lost control over their boat which was swinging wildly out from the jetty. 

The crew on this yacht were celebrating safe arrival at the fuel-dock after a terrible journey with too many beers, more or less refusing to move when others needed diesel. They momentarily lost control of their mooring-lines in a strong gust of wind  as we were tying up outside them: Scary!
 They just managed to get it pulled in and we tied up outside them to fill diesel. Frode drove us slowly around in the harbor while Stein cleared away ropes and fenders and shut all hatches, and out we went into the rough passage between Horta and Pico -  1223 n.miles to go to Falmouth. 
The first night was bumpy, drizzling and the sky was dark and cloudy, but after the first few hours of howling tail-winds, the wind left us altogether and we motor- sailed for the first 24 hours. Stein and I saw some smoke on the horizon the next morning, and wondered what it was, could it be volcanic activity or a burning ship? Then Andreas looked out and said 'oh, there is a whale!', which it was of course! We motored towards it and saw that there were several large animals spouting, probably sperm whales, but we only managed to get close enough to see the odd back breaking the surface of the water. A couple of days followed with some good sailing in a NW breeze, but on the 18th June drama struck again. Diana was on watch in the early morning, when about 5.30 a.m. she heard a funny noise and looking out saw the boat hook rattling on the back stay. When she took this down she found that the back stays were very loose and woke up Stein. The cause was not immediately obvious, but then he saw that the genoa sail was falling away from the main mast, the 10 mm thick stainless steel wire of the fore-stay inside the roller-furling mechanism had broken up top and only the rope halyard was holding it all up! Now it was all hands on deck, and it was quite a struggle to get the genoa under control, rolled up, lowered and laid round the deck. 
Stein aloft with a rope for the second time after the loose genoa sail was finally rolled up. The genoa is still hanging by the rope halyard, which could break any moment, and the top of the mast is unstable.
Most important now is to stabilize the top of the mast with more ropes.
Stein had to climb up the mast twice to tie strong ropes from the top down to the bow, to stop the mast being pulled back and breaking. In the rough sea this caused him to be thrown about and come down with bruises all over his legs. (And a couple of days later, after a new trip up top, with a cut above his right eyebrow.) Finally he hoisted a flying jib to take the place of the genoa. All this took three hours, after which we were all ready for a fry-up for breakfast!
Flying jib being hoisted in place of the genoa. (But its rope halyard broke after a few hours of beating into the rough seas and 25-30 knot wind.)

After the morning ordeal, Diana treated us to a fry-up of mushrooms, tomatoes and eggs - and an extra bonus for the skipper: A squid that had landed on the fore-deck during the night (skipper loves almost all types of sea-food and shell-fish!)
The barometer was falling again, the wind was northerly and the chances of getting to Falmouth were diminishing, but Andrew was texting us a weather forecast on the satellite phone that there were southerly winds nearer the coast of Portugal, which we hoped might take us north. However after a night of rough seas, gusts up to 35 knots and hand-steering we made the decision to head for Baiona (Bayona) in Galicia, North Spain, and get our rigging repaired. This was a good decision as the wind was mainly from the north the rest of the way, fortunately a bit calmer the last couple of days. We got a text message from the boys on Peyotl that they were also making for Spain, so even with normal rigging and a mono-hull it was difficult to go north.
We had no luck with our fishing on this crossing. As on the previous leg there seemed to be too much sea-weed and that was all we got on the line. Fortunately we had taken some bacalao (dried and salted Norwegian cod) from the Azores, and after watering it out for 3 days, had two good meals, the first baked with onion and garlic, and the second fried with tomatoes and onions. Bacalao dishes happen also to be one of Andreas’s special interests – and he approved!
Bacalao with onion and garlic a la Diana was highly approved of by he crew!
At 2.30 a.m. on the 25th June, Stein was the first to spot land – Spain and the European continent! In the grey dawn we passed into the Baia de Vigo. Lovely to be in calm water again - and motored into the bay at Baiona. The first impression was of a nautical town, jetties and boats everywhere. A dinghy approached and a friendly voice called to us and waved us alongside the floating jetty of Baiona’s Municipal Marina. How wonderful to tie up alongside, there is nothing like rough weather at sea for making one appreciate simple pleasures like just lying still!


Baiona is a great town – nautical milieu, historical buildings, charming small back streets, good beach, cheap restaurants, excellent sea-food and friendly people! In the harbour is also a fascinating reconstruction of ‘Pinta’, one of Christopher Columbus’ three ships from the original 1492 expedition when America was discovered. Captain Martin Alfonso Pinzon was in charge of Pinta and sailed her into Baiona in March 1493, four days before Columbus arrived in Lisbon on ‘El Ninjo’. Thus Baiona was the first place in Europe to receive news about the New World and see strange plants, food and some animals still alive as well as two surviving  Amero-Indians that were brought back to Europe. (A third died during the voyage and one of the two also died shortly after arriving in Baiona.) To celebrate this, there is a festival held every March and in 1993, 500 years after the historical event, the Pinta replica was launched and still remains a large attraction and worthwhile visit. (‘Santa Maria’, Columbus’ main ship was lost on the return voyage. But whether what the Europeans later did in the Americas is truly worth celebrating is another matter… )
The Pinta replica gives an excellent insight in sailing conditions 500 years ago.

Replica of the two Amero-indians and a parrot who arrived in Baiona in March 1493 must have been both very cold and extremely frightened. One died shortly afterwards.
Particularly Andreas is a bit of a gourmet, and he had soon found out where the best places to eat were from asking the locals, and sure enough that first evening a friendly woman served us a great meal cooked by her husband to celebrate our tough but successful Atlantic crossing! Frode and Andreas insisted on taking the bill, although Stein and Diana felt that they were the grateful ones, and owed thanks to the uncomplaining, ever cheerful crew.
Diana ready to head for the bus to Oporto in Portugal and a Ryanair plane to Scotland,
Frode also has to leave for Norway a couple of days later, but first he and Andreas are off to visit Santiago de Compostelo.
Diana had by this time an appointment with her cousin Tom in Scotland with whom she was going to perform in a play (Plaza Suite) at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August, and after another day went off by bus to Oporto in Portugal to get a Ryanair flight to Edinburgh. Frode had also to leave the ship here as he had promised his wife Susanne that he would be back by the end of the month, so he too went off to Oporto a day later. But he and Andreas first took a day trip to Santiago de Compostelo, where they thoroughly enjoyed visiting this interesting old city with one of the most beautiful town squares in the world. They also had an evening with the ‘Peyotl’ boys, who had chosen to berth further into the bay at Vigo. They came by bus for an evening on White Admiral with sailing chat and good food prepared by Andreas and Stein. The evening continued in a local pub watching one of the World Cup football matches before Bjarne and Morten headed back to Vigo in a taxi to meet a new crew-member coming from Norway.
Now there was just Stein and Andreas left on board. It is tougher to sail with only two people sharing the night watches, but sporty Andreas was willing to sail to Falmouth with Stein if the repairs were done before Diana could return. We certainly cannot complain of any ’manana’ attitude among the Spanish people here, the marina office immediately found us a rigger, a friendly young man and himself an experienced sailor called Javier, who did all he could to get the repairs on the fore- stay done as quickly and reasonably as possible. 

Well, here is a job! Says Javier, an experienced sailor and rigger. This is soon after we arrived and the genoa with bent fore-stay profile is still lashed along starboard side and across the bow.
(It is nearly 18 m long and not easy to stow on a boat that is 12,6 m long!).

Four days later, a brand new fore-stay wire is collected from Vigo and a second-hand roller-reefing
adjusted and elongated and made to fit by Javier. (Stein took all the original bits and pieces apart.)
in fact it fitted so perfectly that it was quite a struggle to get the last pin and shackle in place.
The result: Excellent!

He even managed to find good second hand roller reefing equipment to fit on to an exact copy of the broken fore-stay wire made to his specifications in Vigo.


By 29th June, the rigging was as good as new or better, and damage to the genoa had also been repaired by a local sail-maker, all done in four days! Andreas’ wife Marit was on the phone at first very worried about Andreas sailing across the Bay of Biscay with just two aboard after the two near-disasters on the ocean, but was reassured by all that there was now no great danger and she relented. A new safety factor employed was Andrew’s little “Spot” transmitter, which he had left behind in Horta. With this clever GPS device the position was transmitted  twice daily on e-mail to up to 10 selected persons, Marit now being added to the list by Andrew, he was himself back in Switzerland.
At 15.30 with a reasonable weather forecast, White Admiral passed outside the huge breakwaters of Baiona and headed for Cape Finisterre, the most westerly point of Spain. (Finis terre meaning ‘end of earth’.)
The first part was sailing in relative shelter behind large islands before hitting the Atlantic swells as White Admiral approached the cape. This impressive and feared landmark was passed at night and soon we were in the infamous Bay of Biscay. The Bay could have been a lot worse, but this time seemed to provide either strong wind and rough seas or little wind and thick fog. Fog and poor visibility is in fact more nerve-wracking than rough seas, especially when the radar decided not to work… (Just as well Marit had not thought of this possibility!)
So the sailing was a bit uncomfortable and erratic and it was good to have two engines whenever the progress was poor. Again and disappointingly, no fish was caught on the trolling line, but on July 1st, after a rough night doing two hour duties on and off, Andreas and Stein were treated to a great dolphin show as a big pod suddenly appeared from nowhere and zig-zagged and jumped in front of the bows for more than one hour.
Master chef Andreas at work and about to serve a tasty chicken dish lavishly garnished with garlic.
Diana usually prefers to do all the cooking herself (it is suspected that she does not like tidying up), but Andreas and Stein proved at least to each other that they could provide delicious dinners every day as well as good, home-baked bread!
On 3rd July, the day before arriving in Falmouth, Otto (the autopilot) struggled with the steering as the clutch for the autopilot kept slipping and had to be tightened. Stein could only get this done by taking the wheel completely off while Andreas used an emergency tiller to keep the yacht on course. The metal tiller enters through a fitting in the steps on starboard side directly to top of the rudder on that side (from which there is an aluminum rod across to the portside rudder). It is good to check that emergency systems work occasionally, and after the clutch was tightened and the wheel was back in place, Otto was much more reliable.
Dense fog and Andreas has the fog-horn ready!
4th July may be a great day of celebration in USA, but as the distance to Falmouth decreased, the conditions seemed to worsen proportionately! With the shallow continental shelf underneath, currents, tides and swells increased, cold rain decreased the visibility and made it necessary to have a constant look-out for ships, yachts, fish-pots, navigational aids and land-marks. The sea and wind only calmed down when there was a couple of miles left. Falmouth Harbour, a famous English yachting and shipping centre was a beautiful sight, made more beautiful by the rough conditions left behind.
The floating docks for visiting yachts were crammed with boats, many tied outside each other, and we were told to head for a string of large, green buoys on solid moorings (for rent at half the price of lying dockside) a short distance away. Several were vacent. Soon White Admiral was hanging safely to ropes from a buoy to each bow bollard and Marit was duly informed over the mobile phone of her husband’s safe arrival. Skipper and crew could celebrate a successful six days’ short-handed sail across the dreaded B of B with a wee anchor-dram before rowing ashore for dinner in a picturesque restaurant a few steps from the pier. 
Andreas about to have as anchor-dram a small malt whisky (found in the back of the cupboard) while dressed in his Islandic, woolen jumper, his slightly obscene, but (at least for men) very functional, oilskin trousers and warm, wet neoprene boots.
Before sitting down, Andreas asked if staff or guests objected if he just kept his neoprene shoes (wet and no doubt smelly) and oilskin trousers on during the meal. Nobody did of course, probably suspecting here comes a rough and possibly mentally unstable, Norwegian sailor... So the two enjoyed good wine and a wonderful shell-fish selection in peace and contentment. No silicone mats were need to keep glass and plate from slipping, and Andreas and Stein could repeatedly congratulate each other on a safe crossing and the fact that tonight somebody else would tidy up and wash the dishes!  
First night ashore in Falmouth Harbour: Andreas in a clean top, still in oilskin trousers and neoprene boots and together with Stein enjoying a perfect meal!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Travel Report No 70: From Bahamas to Bermuda and the Azores

Travel Report  No 70

From Bahamas to Bermuda and the AzoresFor all the pictures & captions: Picture Gallery No 70

Now that family visits were over, the plan was to sail White Admiral back home to Norway after  more than 10 years of cruising around in the Caribbean. Although we have had a wonderful time, we are now getting older, have had our fill of white beaches and snorkeling and would like to have more time to do other types of travelling.  It is much easier to do ocean crossing with a crew of four rather than two, mainly because of the night watches, and we were happy that two good friends were able to join us for the first leg to the Azores:  Frode Filseth, our old friend and Diana’s colleague, who is an experienced sailor and has sailed with us many times, and Andrew Fraser, an old University friend of Stein’s who studied engineering in Glasgow and is an intrepid traveler. This however was to be his first ocean sail.  

The captain and crew a few days later out at sea: 17th May - Norwegian National Day, hence all the flags.
Stein, Andrew and Frode
Frode arrived on the 10th May and Andrew on the 12th, so more exercise marching to the airport. Frode came through immigration no problem, but Andrew was stopped because he had no return ticket, and had to pay for a flight out of the country which he has hopefully now been refunded. We had ordered a new satellite telephone via Frode, which we knew he had bought, but could not understand why he had not replied to our requests for his bank account number. Now we got the answer, he presented it to Diana with a birthday card, a present from himself, Andrew and their wives, Andreas Hauge (who would join us in the Azores) and his wife, and our old sailing friends Anne and Knut, many thanks to all! The time in Marsh Harbour was spent shopping for provisions and getting the boat ship-shape for the crossing.  Andrew is a keen geo-cacher, so we had a stop first in Hope Town, Elbow Cay, where we also filled water and diesel, and at Man of War Cay, where he could find caches as well as enjoying two interesting islands in the Bahamas.
On the evening of 14th May we were all set to leave, and after a last swim at the Narrows, motored out through the north Man of War channel into the Atlantic Ocean.  Ahead lay 733 nautical miles to St George’s in Bermuda! There was a moderately strong SE breeze the first night and a big swell so we made good progress with the genoa, but it was pretty bumpy. Diana is usually tired on the first day if the weather is rough, so often prepares a casserole dish to eat, this time a chicken stew which we ate on the first day, Stein has to do the serving and any other cooking until Diana is in action again by the second day.  Frode and Andrew soon became friends and made a good team, especially at the kitchen sink where they made short work of the washing-up.  We decided to split the night duties into four, Frode and Andrew would take the first two from 8-11p.m. and 11p.m.-2a.m., alternating as they wished, Stein took the middle of the night watch from 2-5a.m. and Diana the dawn watch from 5-8a.m. This worked well as necessary sail changes could often be made at the beginning or end of Stein’s watch. He generally slept on the sofa in the central cabin, so that it was easy for the person on duty to give him a call if there was any problem. This was particularly important for Andrew who had never had a night duty on a yacht before, but he is a quick learner and was soon able to judge if everything was going as planned, and if any sighted ships were on a collision course or not.

Our biggest problem on this journey was the new  Raymarine autopilot, which had trouble steering, it made us go zig-zag and kept peeping to tell us that we were off-course, so Stein spent quite a bit of time trying to calibrate it, and did eventually manage to get it to steer quite well. This is absolutely necessary for comfort during the night, hand steering is very tiring, even with a crew of four. We began to use our new satellite telephone, nice to be able to send text messages to the family, although we were a bit disappointed that not everybody were able to send messages back, and also that it was not always possible to get adequate satellite connection.
The 733 nautical miles took us five and a half days. For the first two there was a strong SE breeze, then there was a period with variable winds, cloud and  rain when we had to do a lot of motoring, but the wind picked up again the last day with a light NW breeze which gave us a pleasant last night as we approached Bermuda. There was a bright half-moon as we approached and saw the lights on land getting closer, always a thrill after an ocean crossing. After dawn we motored in through the narrow buoyed entrance into St George’s sheltered bay on the north-east side of the island, and we knew from an old Atlantic guide of Frode’s where to tie up at the customs jetty.
Safely tied up at the Custom's Jetty, St George, Bermuda


Checking in was easy and friendly, a minimum of forms to fill out, 35 dollars each to pay, and we were free to explore Bermuda. There was little room for yachts to tie up so an hour later we were lying at anchor out in the bay with other yachts from many countries. Bermuda was new to us all and we spent three days having a good look around.  St George’s is the oldest town on the island, a UNESCO world heritage site, settled in 1612. We found it delightful, with its old well-kept buildings and friendly people. There are no car-hire firms on the island, so we hired a taxi for one day, and were driven around with a running commentary on what we saw. Bermuda looks very prosperous, lots of luxurious homes with well-tended gardens, no litter, small sandy bays and interesting rock formations along the coast.  The prosperity of this old British Colony is due mainly to off-shore banking and to tourism, more than 100 cruise ships stop every year, and the income from these for 2014 is expected to be about 82 million dollars! In addition there are many hotels with visitors from Europe and the States, and a few yachties!  Our patient driver stopped every time Andrew called out that there was a geo-cache nearby, and Andrew and Diana logged 18 new finds! Another day we took a local bus to Hamilton, the capital in the south end of the island, a bright little city on the sea-front with a population of only 1800. Nevertheless it is a busy shopping centre, and we made our way to the marine warehouse for a couple of boat items and new rain-clothes for Stein. His old wet-weather gear was not keeping him dry anymore, so he needed both a good pair of waterproof trousers which we got at the marine store, and a jacket which we found in a sports shop, surprisingly a Norwegian make, Helly Hansen. The city is also very modern and prosperous looking, due to Bermuda’s successful financial and business sectors.  It was amusing to see the dress of the business men which consisted of shirt, tie, jacket and Bermuda shorts! When we stopped one of these men to take his picture he was a little skeptical, but Stein asked so nicely that he let himself be photographed.
Frode, Diana, a local gentleman in typical attire and Andrew. Hamilton, Bermuda.

A Tough Crossing
On 23rd May we were ready to set out on the longest leg of the crossing, 1793 nautical miles to the Azores and Europe! We had managed to get a place alongside one of the quays in St. George’s for the last night, making it much easier for us to get our provisions aboard. As we moved out from the quay, a strong wind caught us giving a little bump and a scratch on the starboard bow. We filled diesel and water at the fuel jetty, took a round in the bay as we tidied up ropes and fenders, then made our way back out through the channel to the Atlantic ocean.  We started off in a fresh SE breeze sailing with the genoa , but by the next day the wind had increased to 35 knots and when Stein saw us surfing at 18 knots for a moment on the speedometer he was quick to reduce sail! The next few days were pretty miserable weather-wise, periods of rain with thunder and lightning, varying winds mostly about 20 knots from N or NW, current which seemed to be against us and bumpy seas. Our new autopilot managed to steer most of the time, but we had periods of hand-steering when there was a strong following wind. Andrew had brought a gadget called Spot which could send out coordinates to up to ten people, so our families and friends could follow our progress using these spots on Google maps. The satellite telephone kept us more or less in touch with families, and Stein and Diana heard about their crazy son Martin’s non-stop 720 km cycle trip from Stockholm to Oslo! It was also surprisingly cold, only about 14 degrees in the sea, and not much more in the air, so we were very happy to have a well-functioning cabin-heater on board.


On the28th May the weather was deteriorating and the barometer falling. By the next day there was 30-40 knots following winds and big, rough seas, and there was no way the autopilot could manage to steer. After two days of hand-steering, doing one hour on and three hours off, we were all tired and on the evening of the 29th, decided that we would lie hove-to for the night with a tiny storm-sail and try to get a good sleep. Once we had done this the boat seemed to be riding the waves ok, and we had our supper with a glass of red wine. But suddenly we experienced the biggest crash we have ever felt as the boat was thrown by what we think must have been a freak wave, which partly broke over us on to port-side. Everything that was loose flew out of its place - books, shells, galley equipment, and we all began to tidy up.  

Just after the freak wave hit port-side and before we knew about the damage outside. Diana starting to tidy up (Photo by Andrew Fraser) 

As Frode went down to his cabin, he noticed water trickling from under his bunk, and at the same time Stein went out to the cockpit to pump out the engine room as a routine and discovered that the port-side engine was covered in sea-water!! It did not take him long to discover the cause – a big hole in the back steps of the port-side hull! The bottom step must have been pushed in by the wave, maybe because it had the bathing steps resting on it. The most important job was to plug the hole, the port-side was already floating lower in the water. First Stein and Frode tried the plastic kayak, but that was too stiff, then they tried the extra genoa sail – a large amount of polyester cloth - and managed to get it into the hole which pretty well stopped the sea flowing in. Towels and sailbags were added later and all heavy items on that end of the boat, inside and outside, were shifted to the opposite end of the boat to get the port stern to float higher. They bailed out the engine compartment, Frode working the pump from outside, Stein standing in water inside nearly up to his waist, and throwing buckets up through the opening. (It is true as the saying goes that there is no pump as efficient as a scared man with a bucket!) while Andrew and Diana bailed the bilges inside the boat, and gradually we managed to get the place fairly dry. Then we discovered that there was a huge compartment under Frode’s bunk which was supposed to be watertight, but it was also full of water and Stein had to drill a hole and cut it wider with a saw before pumping it out.  We spent the first few hours of the night bailing out as seas kept splashing through the plugged hole, with a little sleep for some, but none for Stein who was up all night. As we had no guarantee that the sail would stay in place we gave a message to Martin that we had some damage and a leak in the boat, and that we would send another report when we were sure we were safe.
Next morning, May 30th, the weather has improved, the waves and splashes are smaller and repairs can begin. (Photo by Andrew Fraser)

By morning to our delight the weather had settled and the day was sunny, the barometer was rising quickly and there was a light NE breeze. This was a blessing as it was now essential to get the hole repaired. Stein got out some old boards which had been in our dinghy before we got an inflatable floor, and cut them and some rubber canvas (from an old water tank) to shape to make a cover for the back steps. This he managed to get into place, hanging with a safety line over the stern, with Frode handing him tools and screws and hoping nothing would end up in the sea, which amazingly it didn’t. When the repair was finished and seemed solid, we felt a great sense of relief, and Diana made raisin buns to celebrate. Never has a lunch been more enjoyed! But then we heard a plane over us, in fact it was circling over us and calling us on the VHF. Andrew is an old pilot and recognized it is a Hercules, it was the American Coast Guard! They told us that they had been given a message that we had a problem and came to see if we needed help, and we were able to tell them that we were now fine. What had happened was that Martin had been trying to call us and send text messages on the satellite telephone, but had not been able to get through, so of course he thought something serious had happened and called the emergency services. We feel bad about criticizing a kind gift, but this showed that the new telephone was absolutely useless for an emergency situation. It had been recommended to Frode as very reliable for this purpose, but we will be taking it back and upgrading to a better model with an external antenna.

We were now nearly half way to the Azores, it was nice to get under 1000n.miles the next day. There was still current against us, where was the Gulf Stream? The weather was now reasonable, in fact we had one day of good sailing in a moderate southerly breeze! Stein had another job to do and that was to see if it was possible to get the port side engine going again. During the first night he had already poured a lot of fresh water over the engine and taken off the starter and alternator and left them submerged in fresh water until we would reach Faial and expert help. Now he changed the oil, took out the injectors, flushed the cylinders with diesel, cleaned all electrical connections with WD40, cleaned and dried the air filter and replaced the starter and alternator with old spares. We all held our breath as he pressed the starter – and hallelujah - after about 20 seconds it coughed into life! This was also worth a celebration, this time in the form of apple-pie and custard!

Horta of Faial, Island in the Azores

The last few days were mostly cold and rough with east or south winds, giving us fairly good progress, but on the 5th June it was again very unpleasant with the wind up to 35 knots, though no more damage. The day before reaching Horta , the weather calmed down, making the last night at sea quite magical, motoring quietly round the north and east sides of Faial to reach the main town of Horta. 
Nearly there! Only a few minutes before we enter the breakwater outside Faial, Horta.
We passed the breakwater outside the harbor at dawn on 8th June after a 16 day trip which was the toughest and most dramatic we have experienced in all our years of sailing. The harbour was surprisingly full of yachts of all nationalities. Out at sea one hardly ever sees another yacht, but when they all meet at the same place in the middle of the Atlantic there are quite a few gathered. We drove near the jetty where the authorities seemed to be, and an official told us on the VHF to anchor until 8 a.m. when we could check in. There were already many yachts at anchor, but we managed to find enough space to join them. Never has it felt better to lie peacefully at anchor in flat water!

Looking back at our tough crossing, it is funny how the bad memories fade, and one remembers the good things. We had a marvelous crew, Frode always calm and good humoured and Andrew acting as though he had done nothing else but steer downwind in 35 knots! (The most difficult point of sailing.) We had lots of good meals and chats together, and did not exchange one cross word in spite of often differing political and religious beliefs. Nature showed herself in different moods, and we saw various forms of wild-life, including dolphins, a turtle, Portuguese Men of War (a nasty jelly-fish also known as Blue Bottle) and sea-birds, mainly skuas and storm petrels.  Andrew wrote in our guest-book that the reality of the crossing did not quite correspond to the smooth, comfortable sail which the brochure offered; at times it was scary and awful! But in conclusion he would not have missed it for anything – it was the experience of a lifetime!

Safely alongside the quay in Faial with another large catamaran outside us. The temporary repair on port side is seen + an extension of canvas that was added a few days later to stop spray and rain from entering.