To Azores Day 6

Sunday July 30 We did 96 NM yesterday in 24 hours and that’s a new record for this leg of the adventure. The sea-state is still very angry but moving us, for the most part, in the right direction so it’s still dealable. 1462 NM remaining on this leg. Dena’s 1-4pm watch 1:50 pm: As soon as I came up for my shift, we decided to pull that second reef. We don’t need to do 6 knots in a building wind. “Reef early” may as well be on a needlepoint sampler when it comes to the great and powerful Cetacea. After I pulled the reef and unclipped my tether to return to the cockpit (no lectures, jacklines are on the list), I saw a little flying fish on the deck. There was no saving it but I threw it back in the water regardless. And then I saw it. A large fish, iridescent blue, green, and purple when the light flashed on it just right. James says it’s a dorado, same kind he saw stalking the boat yesterday. Or maybe stalking the flying fish. I’m glad we did reef. We’re still in the 5 knot realm more often than not. A few days of good mileage will balance the slow start we got, but I’m at home on the boat and in no hurry to arrive anywhere. I’m sure I’ll be missing some very common foods by then (bread, eggs, cheese, for example) but if it goes well, we’ll stop to get what we want rather than out of desperation. And to see the Azores, of course! The theme of being at home has been on my mind a lot, and it makes me think about the pandemic restrictions. James and I are so much more fundamentally fit to thrive[…]

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To Azores Day 5

Saturday, July 29 James’ 12:00-12:30 pm watch: Dena and I talked about people of color in our writing. James’ 1-4pm watch: I managed to get her nice and balanced on a straight downwind run by over-compensating Lovebot’s angle to windward and Cetacea’s rudder to lee…we’re clipping along at 4.5-5 knots. I can’t complain! Damn!!! I put a hole in the luff of the mainsail shaking that last reef out…keep an eye on that. James’ 5-6 pm watch 5:22 pm: People say pics or it doesn’t count. I (Dena) think pics means you didn’t see it. Only true for some kinds of experiences, I know. Some things hold still for a long time or repeat. Maybe you watched for a while. The Taj Mahal photo James shot is gorgeous and should in no way be taken to mean that he didn’t also just gaze at that with his full focus. But in this watery realm, only the sky moves that slowly and even there, there’s lightning and birds. All that to say no, I didn’t get a picture. Here’s what I have. After three hours of a long off-watch, I took over from James with my head still in a whirl. I forgot that I’d created some people with character. Also at least one caricature that I’m going to have to work on. I’m cautiously pleased to be picking up a manuscript I started years ago for a storyline that won’t leave me alone. I sat in the cockpit and checked our course on the chartplotter, confirmed that there were no large ships dying to run us down, and shut that shit down. A brace of minutes with my eyes on the waves and the whirl in my brain slowed. And then a set of waves with an especially ornate set[…]

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To Azores Day 4

Friday, July 28 Noontime watch: we split the 12:00 hour into two 30 minute “workout” watches. It gives us an odd switch over so we don’t get stuck with the same dog-watches every night. It’s working out. I (James) started my new sci-fi novel today…it feels so good to be finally putting this work down. I’ve had it in my head for two decades and now it’s going on the page as if I already know the story…I do I guess…until I don’t. There seems to be a weather formation coming up from the west and it is making its presence known in the form of wind fluctuations from abaft…very light and teasing. Dena’s 1-4pm watch 2:03 pm: We’re not really seeing the steadying up of the wind that the forecast (from the morning we left) said we’d see. We’re motorsailing a little under break-even, meaning we’re still adding power to the battery even though we’re also using the motor. We’re only getting about a knot from it but with that bit of wind we have, we’re moving between 2 and 3 knots. And so we go. Dena’s 5-6pm watch 5:49 pm: It’s frustrating to slat the main as much as we have. When the light wind was forward of or just off the beam, we just went slow. Like this, though…I can see stretch marks on the sail where it bends around the shrouds. Not great. I just gybed again, back to a port tack. It’s the third gybe of the day and all in a very short period of time. It’s because we’re trying to go so far downwind in part but mostly because the swell and wind and current make it complicated to figure out the best course. Most direct isn’t always it, but I don’t think[…]

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To Azores Day 3

Thursday, July 27 At midday’s 8 bells we had 1666nm before us to Horta… We’ve switched up the watch schedule to include a 3 hour private time for each of us every other day…I’m thrilled but so far it’s been during the hottest hours of the day 1-4pm. Man is it hot today! The Windy forecast we recorded before taking off from Bermuda was spot on for the previous days on this leg…once again, we’re only three days out…it’s hard nailing it ten days out…we’ll soon see how accurate they’ve gotten over the years. Dena’s 4-5 pm watch 4:18 pm: My first long day watch wasn’t a spectacular success in the writing realm. The best writing I’m doing lately is right here! I spent about an hour going over the synopsis and some of the notes for my partial manuscript, Shriving, and then reading the first two scenes. Without going into exhaustive detail, it needs work. Then I bedded down for a long nap! We’ve only completed two days underway, so it’s not strange that my body wants to use any opportunity to sleep. The broken sleep pattern of a watch system takes a little while to get used to. Plus, it’s not that easy to keep track of how much sleep I’m even getting when so much of it is in snatches. Now I feel really refreshed. Sitting here, it just struck me. The waves are made up quite a few colors and qualities of light. This mid-afternoon angle, looking south, one of the common colors, under the little wavelet peaks, is the blue of James’s eyes. Just a hint of green and with a glow that is from depth rather than surface sheen. Neat. He really fits in out here. James’ 5-6 pm watch: Dressing the boat down[…]

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To Azores Day 2

Wednesday, July 26 Dena’s 12:30-1 pm watch: The sun, wow…it somehow sucked the wind off the surface of the north Atlantic flow…then it came back up, then…our world breathes like our Cetacea. When I (James) wash dishes, the wind generator ramps up to serve power to the battery I just took it from to run the water pump. It happens at the spreed of the resistance we have built into the system. I can hear it when it happens…it’s quite a bit slower than the speed of sound because I notice it. …But not by much. We can do better. We’re at 100% on both house banks and 96% on propulsion 24 hours out of a two week romp through Bermuda. We can do better. Dena’s 1-4 afternoon watch 3:04 pm: It’s hard not to make things up out here. Overactive pattern recognition, I mean, not fibs. The unfoamy crest of a small wave could have been a fin, and the birds have it out for me. Without the blare of constant messaging, the mind will make its own. We got back up to the mid-threes for a couple hours and are now back down to the high-twos. I’m not sad. The breeze is cooling and the solar panels are providing shade. Feels good out here after a couple of hours keeping out of the sun below except to check for other vessels and wind changes. We’ve done well with our one-hour watches between 9 am and 9 pm as far as being able to get out of the sun (or rain) and only hold the on-watch alertness for smaller amounts of time. It doesn’t really lend itself to concentrated endeavours though, and we are both writers. We’re trying a new thing to keep the days from feeling quite so[…]

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To Azores Day 1

Tuesday July 25 Planning a sailing voyage that’s going to take weeks is a funny thing to do. We won’t be meeting any schedules (by setting minimum speeds and such, which some people do, and they have to accept carrying and possibly burning weeks’ worth of fuel, which we don’t). We will be taking advantage of all the wind we can get but also reefing anytime we want for an easier ride. Usually, we’re factoring tides and currents, wind and waves forecasts. For a day trip, or even a couple days, we try to arrange things so that we’ll arrive in whatever unfamiliar place during daylight. This trip is unlikely to take as few as 19 days (averaging about 4 knots) or as many as 38 days (a 2 knot average), but it could. Do either. See that enormous difference in time to travel, when the speed only went from a leisurely walk to a power walk? It doesn’t really matter where in between those extremes we end up. There’s no making firm plans on the water, and it does even less good to try over 1800 nautical miles. So we slept in. Got more eggs and hardboiled 6 of them. (The bagger at the grocery store hugged us goodbye.) Checked out of Bermuda with customs and immigration, no hassle whatsoever, and the officer sent us off with “Have a safe journey, my beloveds.” We returned to the boat, loaded the dinghy and weighed anchor. 1:40 pm: First watch Convicts Bay, Bermuda. I (James) hauled anchor and Dena took us out to the Ocean…I don’t know if I will ever have a reason to go back to Bermuda…it’s a nice place to stop in the middle of the Ocean but it’s even better to leave in our wake. I (Dena)[…]

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fuzzy sheep slippers in front of the waste-oil reservoir

Watching Don from Bermuda

We are officially waiting. Tropical storm Don is circling (WTF!?!) between Bermuda and the Azores. If we were to leave today (which we strongly considered), we would run into the headwinds (easterlies) off the storm several days out. Instead, we’re chill’n in Bermuda. AYFKM!? There’s always something to do. Cleaning (because we got some serious salt) and painting, little things here and there. The weird and wonderful thing? There aren’t any crucial projects because, amazingly, we didn’t break anything on the way here! We blew in here on 18-22 knot winds and rowed hard (one way) in order to check out the town of St George. As soon as it laid down, though, we rowed over to check out the dramatic bones of a wreck right off the small craft mooring area. After the scorching heat and dead calm of the middle-part of the voyage, Bermuda’s fresh breeze and pleasurable warmth have felt reassuring, welcoming. We are getting to know the tangled streets and alleys of St George. The laundromat is just uphill from the dinghy dock on Shinbone Alley. Google maps doesn’t encourage the pedestrian path between the two, but we figured it out on the way back. Every single towel aboard had been pressed into service for sopping up some kinda thing. All those rain storms plus that one rogue wave that inundated even Beluga Greyfinger where he swayed down below in the main saloon…Whew. Lotta work for towels. Buying and adding value to the laundry card has been the one and only transaction that required Bermudian cash. Everyone else accepts BM or US dollars. James circled the neighborhood for the correct BM bills in sufficient quantities for the machine while I (Dena) pretended to understand the nice elderly gentleman who wanted to tell me all about his[…]

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