19 July 2017

TransAtlantic - Leg Two

Leaving St George's Harbour.  Nothing but the ocean in front of us.

Distance travelled - 1,706 NM
Time taken - Just shy of 11 days.

Behind us, entering as we left, was a Canadian boat.  We are always on the lookout for the Canadian flag.  This one was on a rather ramshackle schooner and admirably demonstrated that the dream can be followed on even a basic boat at presumably low cost.   

We left Bermuda on June 6th in sunny skies with a good forecast for moderate winds interspersed with the occasional light breeze.  Immediately, on leaving the protection of St Georges Harbour, we met large and confused waves and rode them upwind for the next two days.  This meant tight grasps on any solid part of the boat at all times.  With the constant motion even when sleeping, I’m sure we burned through a quantity of calories that otherwise wouldn’t occur while sitting around for days, walking 20 feet at a time tops.  Of course, my slightly ill stomach meant a lower calorie intake as well - although M & Ms tasted good.  Luckily, Lee, with her iron gut, took the brunt of the galley work on those wavy days.

Dense fog on Peter's watch.  He was glad that we were able to get the radar fixed.
 After two days we were ready for a day of calm.  Motoring was a bit of a relief.  Any other time, the noise of “iron genny” and consumption of diesel is unwelcome.

Then a couple of downwind sails with spinnaker during the day and wing-on-wing with two headsails at night or single headsail depending on the wind angle.
Always miraculous to see the ocean so calm - especially when we found out what boats were suffering through north of us.

A second calm day let us take a dip in the sea exactly midway between the last and the next ports of call.

The location of our dip.  Exactly half way.  Our boat looks pretty big on the screen.  Sure doesn't feel that way when you see the immensity of the sky and ocean!
Portuguese-Man-of-War dotted the ocean with their florescent trimmed sails.  We had to keep watch for them as we went for our swim/drag.

Captain looking happy.

And Lee looking happier.  She took two dips.
And then for the final six days, the wind gave us a pretty consistent broad to beam reach at 14-20 knots.  We zipped along through pretty large swells from the north.  We had a couple of days when we made of distance of more than 200 NM - a record for Milly.
Always a scramble to the bow when dolphins sighted.  Great entertainment!

We set the anchor on Jun 17 in the Lajes harbour on the island of Flores.  Stunning beauty of rugged cliffs topped by steep pastoral fields of green with red roofed, white homes nestled in shelter.
First magnificent views of Flores at dawn, appearing out of the clouds.

Shortly after arriving, we received an email from previous crew, Connie, who told us of hurricane force wind north of us as we crossed when several boats had to have crew rescued.  What??  We knew nothing of this!  She sent us details.  After arriving in Horta about ten days later we had dinner with a solo sailor who had been taking part in the famous OSTAR race from Plymouth, England to Newport, US.  The fleet had been caught in an enormous low, spreading from the Azores to Iceland and the result of two smaller lows from Canada and the US. It had been likened to the "Perfect Storm".  David had seen 60 knot winds.  All electronics on his boat had failed and his portlights on the leeward side were constantly submerged, he was heeled over so far.  He told me over dinner that it was being on a submarine.  His friend in another boat was taking on water and had to be rescued by the Queen Mary.  The crews of three other boats also were rescued through a major effort of coast guards from four nations.  Dave abandoned the race and limped into Horta to recover, fix his broken boat and then head back to England, solo again.  He was grateful for his life.  There was no loss of life but four boats were scuttled and now rest on the ocean floor.  

All this on June 9th while we had 15-20 knot wind!  We rode the southern edge of this enormous low all the way to Flores!  Predict Wind routed us successfully and Peter who knew there was a “big wind” north of us stayed safely on the reasonable edge.
The team - safely arrived in our cruising best.  It was cold!

Thanks to Peter for getting us safely across the sea - our first trans ocean passage. And to Lee for braving her first passage longer than one night!  She truly jumped into the deep end - she took watch every night, slightly nervous but always gung ho.  And a big thanks to Milly for being a comfy and safe home and mode of travel.

4 July 2017

Beautiful, Blue Bermuda

We spent over two weeks in Bermuda. It was an easy place to be with a totally different flavour to the Carribean.  “Yachting” is huge.  Enormous mega yachts are in harbour waiting for the America’s Cup and provide great entertainment and eye candy for boat lovers.
The glam boats

The racing boats

The tall boats

The sensational boats

The sailing tender to the mother ship
Even the city hall has a sailboat as wind vane - the first settlers on the island as a result of the shipwreck of the said model boat. The "clock" on the tower is actually a compass that tells wind direction.  This island is a boater's dream.
The cruising boats at anchor in St George harbour, all on their way across the ocean.

The spacey eco motor boat run solely on solar and hydrogen power.

And my favourite, the teeny tiny boats - a serious fleet in Bermuda
Bermuda is highly developed but the buildings and homes dotting the island are sweet, pastel with pure white roofs.
These guys are whitewashing the roofs with a special paint.  The roofs are used to collect rain, filling cisterns a providing the individual buildings with water.
The sea is a beautiful clear blue
  The people are incredibly friendly and helpful - probably the friendliest we’ve encountered.  “Good Afternoon” as entering, announced to the whole sorry lineup of people waiting at the mobility store with all responding equally brightly, kept a smile on my face for nearly an hour.  And, unique to any place we have been, including Florida, there is hardly a speck of litter on land or sea - goes along with pride of place and history.  Great place to hang out with my big brother and watch America’s Cup boats practicing. 

Beautiful, Blue Highlights:
America’s Cup - we were able to take Milly out three times to view the boats in action.  We also viewed a close up anchored at the windward mark on a motor yacht of another Antares owner who happens to live in Bermuda.  Thanks for including us, George and Melanie, s/v Carefree
As it turns out, not the winning boat!  We were secretly cheering for NZ.

Tall Ships - Twenty-one registered tall ships paraded by us.  A sight from yesteryear.  They are on their way to Canada to celebrate 150 years.

Crew changeover - We said good-bye to new friends, Randy and Michele, and gave dear Lee a big, welcoming hug.

Friendly people - probably the friendliest we’ve met.  Everyone greeted us on the sidewalk except in the big city of Hamilton where only some did - the others were probably tourists.
We happened to see the Independence Day Parade.  Each neighbourhood or extended family staked out a part of the sidewalk, set up chairs, grills, tables with buffet, drinks and watched the parade that took the entire day - slow motion.  Bermuda has it's own island time.

Surprising number of great anchorages in gorgeous blue water - we hadn’t expected to be able to sail as much as we did.  Other islands of similar size have one or two anchorages but you can actually cruise Bermuda for a week.  Charter boats must be coming soon!

Pride of place and history - Museums, cemeteries, churches are all worth a visit.

History in the foreground and the AC village in the background.  Great juxtaposition
They did it so well.

We often check out cemeteries.  This naval cemetery was unique.  In many cases, the headstone reported how the person had died.  "Falling from aloft" was unfortunately common.  Cholera another taker of families.  Another unique feature told of the sponsor of the stone "his ship's mates" being a repeated one.

And you have to read this one that was in the church below.

St Peter's Church in St George - just a sweet on the inside.

Best of all - a visit with my big brother, Tim, who is the general manager at one of the island’s high end resorts.  He attempted to spend each of his days off with us but with all the activity on the island, he was often called in to work.  So great to see you and introduce you to Milly, Tim! xo

After a good rest, a little more very expensive provisioning, walking and sightseeing, it’s time for leg two of our TransAtlantic!

5 June 2017

TransAtlantic - Leg One

Preparations are never finished for a passage but Milly was looking good, the pantry was overfull and Peter and I were more than ready.  Crew Randy and Michele joined us in the a.m. and by noon we had untied the lines in Stuart, Florida.  After three months in Florida, departure was overdue.
Choosing a weather window in Milly's saloon.

Randy caught a mahi mahi.  Delicious dinner on board and still some in the freezer.

Apart from three separate overnighters, Peter and I had never had crew on board for our passages.  We have found that shorter passages are harder on our bodies than longer.  Time on the seas needs to be three days or longer to get into a routine where sleep in three hour hunks doesn’t deplete.  Of course, we’re still exhausted when we get to port, no matter how long the passage but somehow the body is able to adapt a new circadian rhythm with time.
So great to be back at sea in beautiful blue water seen through the escape hatch.
Lovely sunsets with a couple of green flashes.

For the Florida to Bermuda passage we had four people to take watch.  Day watches were flexible with whoever happened to be in the cockpit on duty - we were all there most of the time.  But night watches were amazing - one 3-hour stint each!  We arrived in Bermuda more rested than we had ever been before, getting as much sleep, although broken, as we wanted.
The crew

Randy and Michele were checking out life on board a catamaran.  They seemed to enjoy the bow.

The exception was night three when we were all up, preparing and trying to avoid lightning strikes.  None of us had ever experienced a light show quite like that night.  We were often surrounded by cloud to sea strikes in near constant rhythm.  The storm cells appeared as great red blobs on our radar screen and, because of little wind, they hung on top of us for over four hours.  I had packed our oven/Faraday Cage with electronics while Peter and crew attempted to escape the blobs. 
One of the smaller blobs.  This one was 8 NM across.  Long and skinny and about to run right over us.
We spent at least two hours in one of the storm centers - when we tried to escape one side, the cell developed on that side or travelled right along with us.  When we stayed put so did the cell.  Finally, we escaped only to be caught by another.  It was quite a night and miraculous that we weren’t hit.  Never did we fear for our own safety, only Milly’s.
Our large companion on the sea.

On day watch - reading, with occasional glances at the chart and instruments.  Life is good.
In some ways, after having so much work done in Stuart, the passage was like a shakedown cruise.  We had some complaints.  Our Rolls Royce service at Hinckley resulted in a couple of motor leaks. Frustrating!  A mysterious salt water leak into our starboard hull turned out to be from water surging up our dryer vent.  Nothing serious but aggravating all the same.
Mysterious leak.  The taste test concluded salt water.

The first night we rocked along in the Gulf Stream - I won top speed that night at a consistent 12 knots, a decent wind helped along by the current. The last few days with very light wind almost on the nose, we motored.  We had anticipated the passage would take 4-6 days.  We arrived on day 8. 
Bermuda sighted.  Leg One completed.

10 May 2017

Final Preparations pre TransAtlantic

Spring in Brooklyn. Haven't seen those pale greens and pinks for three years and didn't realize until I saw them how truly lovely they are.  Even though it was cold! for our tropical blood, I was happy to arrive in spring.
Our host, Emily, in front of another Milly.  Not as sophisticated as my darling daughter but still....

We ate our way around Brookly and NYC.  This is schlag (SP?), a huge bowl of whipped cream to put in our post lunch coffee at Peter Luger's famous steakhouse.  This was after an enormous steak and burgers around the table.  

Dear friends, Anne and Rob, came to spend the weekend after missing us in Mexico/Florida.  Em and Gid hosted and showed us the best of Brooklyn.  Had a great time!
And then to Toronto, where we spent time with family hosted generously by Lisa and David, as always.  So lovely to see everyone.  And thanks Em and Gid for giving your wayward parents a comfy bed.
After returning from a fun filled ten days in Brooklyn and Toronto visiting friends and family,
Got to be a good omen when we return to Milly and an end to end rainbow so big that I couldn't get it in the picture frame.
Peter has been working nonstop on the boat. Final list items and then some that always turn up at the last moment.  We found a strange new leak and our second head, important for our crew, gave up flushing.  We ordered parts and paid the bigger bucks for quick transit.  Peter fixed both items and continued with the list - which never seems to end.

Installed 12V water maker.  This will mean we can make water from solar...and quietly we hope.  

A last minute breakdown - the head flusher switch.  There will be four of us on the first leg to Bermuda.  We weren't leaving until both heads were flushing.  Luckily, Two Fish had a spare AND our order came through.  We now have two spares for future use.

And I have begun to provision in earnest.  Provisioning for the TransAtlantic, although not quite as complicated as crossing the Pacific, is still a cause for lists, lists and more lists.  Our freezer which, so far, miraculously recovered on it’s own, was empty.  Our stocks of canned goods was seriously depleted.  And then there are nonfood but equally important items: toilet paper - you really don't want to run out of that half way across the Atlantic, paper towel, boat cleansers, personal cleansers etc. etc. all which are reportedly cheaper in the US.  Bermuda is especially expensive so I am trying to ensure that we will only restock with fresh food there.

During the first few days of passage and on rough days when being in the galley for any length of time is uncomfortable at best, I do not want to cook.  I precook and freeze numerous meals in double portion size for lunch and dinner.  Our crew, Randy and Michele, have pitched in in a big way - Michele has vacuum packed and frozen numerous packs of meat, and taken me on excursions to big box stores for grocery carts full of stuff.

I've stocked up on lots of canned goods - beans, meat and fish - as well as grains that can be made into stews, pasta, spreads, dips.  I prefer frozen fruit and veg although they take up  precious freezer space.  We want to keep room for any fish caught.

Snacks are super important on passage.  M&Ms don’t melt.  Cookies are a favourite as are nuts.  Chips work but take a lot of room.  Crackers replace bread, for me at least.  We are well stocked for four.
Sweet dishes of sprouts from the market lady - red cabbage, broccoli, and mustard.  Should keep us in greens.

Fresh stuff is difficult.  Greens don’t keep well.  I've purchased some sprouted greens at the Stuart market and some seeds to sprout on the way.  We have hammocks to hang our fruit and root veggies in.  And will put our potatoes and onions in different cupboards.  I’m hoping to find some eggs that haven’t been refrigerated so I can keep them in a cupboard but I wonder if that is possible in Florida.  

As you can see, provisioning is no easy task.  When faced with the plethora of goods in the grocery store, I am tempted to get 12 of each.  Storing it is the next logistical nightmare.
Under the settee we have an enormous storage area with 7 bins for cans etc, piles of cookies and crackers beside, bottles and a sack of tea and coffee.

A bin of cans, labelled for easy identification when the boat is rocking. Each bin is then labelled with inventory - what goes in and out.
All cardboard is removed and many items are repackaged in ziplock with directions written on how to cook if required.  Each can is washed and labelled on the top so it's easily read inside a bin.  Boxed wine is deboxed and put inside a cooler.  Beer and canned drinks are put under the mattress of our third bed.   UHT milk and juice along with lots of miscellaneous stuff gets a solid bottomed bin to avoid mess in case of leakage.  I have inventoried all items and labelled each bin with contents.

Tomorrow is our last day here.  Peter's list is full.  Michele and I are going to get the fresh produce.

Our water line will definitely be lower by the end of the day.....we should be ready to leave within 36 hours or so if the weather window holds.  It should take us 4-5 days.  Bermuda here we come!!  So happy to be on our way.  We feel rusty after 2 months in Stuart and anxious to get going - back to hiking, swimming, exploring.  People ask if I am nervous to cross the Atlantic.  Yes, a little.  I think it would be a bit naive not to be.  But I have great faith in the boat and in Peter so I'm more excited than anxious to get to Bermuda and the Azores.  Can't wait!