To Azores Day 28

Monday August 21 Day 28 slow moving on an awkward beat to Horta…Day three of a frustrating nor’easter that won’t let go. Dena’s 7-8 pm watch 7:36 pm: We just trimmed the staysail and got a bit higher into the wind. A little more speed too. I’m still hoping for a wind shift so that we don’t have to sail northwest and spend time backtracking, but this will get us close enough that it won’t be the end of the world if we do. I’m going to take another long overnight unless the traffic picks up and I have to spend too much time awake. Last thing I want is to be exhausted while doing the approach and either anchoring or docking on the wall for the officials who will clear us in. Especially if it’s dark when we arrive. The entrance couldn’t be easier, but looking out for other boats and picking the best spot for anchoring will be harder in the dark. Dena’s overnight watch Tuesday August 22 2:39 am: Wind started getting extra flukey around 2 am and I am now nursing hope that this is a wind shift to the west. Meanwhile I have to babysit the steering so we don’t end up bow into the waves because it’s too light to keep the mainsail full. Oh well, I was going to be up to set the 3 am breadcrumb (we’re doing waypoints so we don’t run the chartplotter all the time). May as well do some stargazing. The night isn’t perfectly clear…dark streaks cross the Milky Way like new dust lanes…but there’s a lot to see with the waxing crescent well set for the night. 8:10 am: Northwest, baby! We’re finally sailing for our destination and it feels good. Since everything is so changeable, I[…]

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To Azores Day 23

Wednesday August 16 Day 23… 323.8nm to Horta. We traveled 91.3nm in the last 24 hours blowing our 72nm average out of the water…so to speak. Did a full inspection of the rig and she looks good. Despite the stresses we’ve been pretty gentle on this leg. The Yankee roller furling needs repairs again…same problem as last time. The seas kicked up on Dena’s long overnight watch last night. And she dropped that second reef sometime in the night…I was not awake for that. 1581.1nm out of Bermuda, I don’t miss it a bit. James’ 1-4 watch 1:14 pm: It’s that time again! Or, it’s a new longitude again. We’ve gone more than 1500 nautical miles (the last 24 hours, we made 91 miles which is good for us) and so it’s time to do the last round of advancing the clocks. We should now be on Azorean summer time. We’re almost down to 300 NM remaining, and it’s a 4-6 day trip now. It really does feel like we’re approaching something. Partly because the first of the islands is a hundred miles closer and partly because we expect to start seeing fishing vessels. In another day or two, we’ll have to return to a higher level of vigilance. We’re going almost directly downwind and the waves are causing a certain amount of havoc. We’ll be lined up for a few and then get a couple that toss us back and forth as they pass. This isn’t anyone’s favorite way to sail, especially Beluga Greyfinger. James’ overnight watch The winds kicked up overnight making my long watch very, very long. The sky was perfectly clear for most of the night with lots of the usual satellites and meteor action but the seas are still in the 18-25ft range…fuck that! 8:16[…]

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To Azores Day 11

Friday August 4 Dena’s noon shift Day 11…just as another storm creeps over the western horizon, gray curls of claws out with a banshee moan. Yeah, yeah I know this one. The rain on deck is a washing we desperately need…so that’s what we get. We did 73.8nm in the last 24 hours and it’s weird that that seems fast. We’ve come 773.2nm and we have 1048nm to got to Horta. 12:06 pm: A storm is reaching us just now and it was led by a wind increase. Not too bad, but James rolled in about 20% of the yankee and adjusted our course perpendicular to the storm line. That’ll give us the least possible amount of time inside. We’re both dressed for weather just in case, but we’re sitting it out belowdecks, doing the work of managing the tension. James’ overnight watch: My home is a massive living thing… !!!Slap!!! We just took a crazy rogue. My body hurts all over like it’s reacting to a major barometric change…our weems and plath says no…we think it’s a broken piece of shit. Pissy rain and flukey winds rule the day. What appeared to be a clear beautiful sunset just turned into another storm cell. Tonight is my first 12 hour overnight watch. Saturday August 5 2am: the moon was brilliant next to the lightning from abaft…the rains never came and I’m okay with that. Then, of course, the sun rose and the Ocean was brand new. James’ 10-11 am watch 10:27 am: The storm we prepped for did come, but not with a fury. We had rain all afternoon and then a brief clearing around sunset. It’s been on and off since then. We read a lot. I (Dena) worked on Shriving for a few hours. It felt like any[…]

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To Azores Day 10

Thursday August 3 Day 10 to Horta, farther east than I’ve ever sailed… 699.4nm in and 1117nm to Horta 1:29 pm: Charlie Echo Tango Alpha Charlie Echo Alpha is an incredible sailing vessel. We (Beluga Greyfinger, Dena and I) are all gravitationally inclined (huddled down below decks) to starboard. Cetacea does the rest…all I can do is trust the work we’ve done. Below decks on S/VSN-E Cetacea…full-on storm (F-8ish) abovedecks…Dena and I hanging with the cat talking about…us, stuff down below. We live here. …And this shit is hard. We don’t actually go out of our way for the hard bits but is sure nice to see our hard work make those bits a little easier on us. Dena’s first overnight watch, 9pm to 9am 9:10pm: We’re trying a new thing. With the weather we’ve been having, there’s not much to do on watch. Even the supervisory aspect is just not that demanding. We’re going to take a page out of the singlehanders’ book and do more sleeping on watch. We’re also going to trade off entire nights. I’m first. So tonight I have the AIS alarm to let me know if anyone is within a half hour of getting within 2 miles. I’ll set the alarm on my phone for an hour each time and do my general checks…course, vessels, Lovebot, look around for anomalies. That’ll still be more sleep than most nights, and James will be totally off, barring the kind of situation that requires us both. I’ll wake him to back me up if I need to go forward to reef, for example. That’s not an issue tonight…we’re reaching under 60% yankee alone. So yeah. It’s an experiment. Now’s the time! August 4 Friday August 4 7:53 am: Almost 8 and I’d say the experiment is a[…]

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To Azores Day 7

Monday, July 31 Day Seven, a week at sea in the Atlantic Flow, Earth’s Ocean. The seas are huge and tumultuous again…and again and again. One of my love/hate design elements about the Baba 30 is the rubstrake. When contrary seas come from abeam , the waves smack the rubstrake and it can be a bit intense down below decks…and again…and again! Dena’s 1-4 pm watch 3:32 pm: I (Dena) sincerely hope that the weather gets better between now and sundown, like the (week-old) forecast said it would. The boat’s motion has been a challenge since yesterday and it’s been tough. Makes me think of people who do this kind of trip in boats with less ballast, less keel…more motion. Every feature of this boat that keeps us on track and something like steady is something I’m glad we have! The funny part is that it’s not that bad compared to what I was nervous about. (And we could still get some of that. We’re one-quarter of the way there in space, whatever that means in time.) It’s just laborious to even sit still because there’s nothing still. I remember the theme from the SF-Hilo trip becoming “no coffee breaks on the ocean”. You can scream at it to stop, but it won’t. The antidote to feeling powerless (when that’s not what I want to ponder) is cleaning something or checking our course or refilling the water bottle. Slowly, carefully, because having it go poorly negates the purpose of the exercise. So it’s all focused mind, controlled body, while pouring water from one container to another on a rollercoaster. James’ 5-6pm watch The lead-line on the port side of the Monitor keeps jumping out of its cam-cleat. I (James) tied it down but we’ve never seen a linear line jump[…]

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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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The proving grounds

…and then we went sailing! Marathon was such a fucking drag in the end that we couldn’t help but laugh on our way out of there. We’d been in that place and interacting with that community of workers and boaters for about six weeks and we were fleeing that buggy heat like the environmental refugees we are. The tiller project was wrapped up with the intention of completing it in some anchorage between here and…well..there, wherever that was. The point is, we had to get underway so we did. We sailed off the hook from the outside Boot Key anchorage with very little assistance from the electric propulsion. We were breaking the new propulsion system in so we left it on throughout the day in all the conditions. It took us about six and a half hours to reach (precise data available on our Patreon page) and go hook-down off Craig Key. When we left there, we had an unusually pleasurable tacking beat out to Hawk Channel with a little bit of motor assist to keep speed up during the tacks. Tavernier Key is the neighbor to our previously visited Rodriguez Key, so we stopped there for a fresh view after about the same amount of time. We spent a couple days on projects… …and struggling to get Marlec to do the right thing, but the views were satisfyingly beautiful. We even cut that long hippy hair we’d both grown! When we left there, we spent just under 6 hours getting to a quiet-ish spot off Key Largo’s Crocodile Lake. As much as we wanted to test the motor system and run the battery pack down, the outrageous heat (over 90F with a feels-like of about 105F) boosted the propulsion bay to over 36C. We started getting the high-temp warning[…]

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