Terceria-Santa Maria Day 2

Dena’s 1700-1800 watch  We got close enough to São Miguel to get some new weather forecasts. Now it really does look like we’d be better off stopping at Santa Maria tomorrow, waiting out Saturday’s bad swell, and then taking off again Sunday or Monday. I am underway! I would prefer to stay underway! Also, I don’t like the idea of 4 meters at 9 seconds any more now than I ever did.  It’s hard to believe it’ll be that bad. Right now, we’re motor-sailing in F2, downwind. The sun is bright overhead after an overcast morning and it’s sensationally beautiful.  We’re running the chartplotter, the tiller pilot, all the regular house loads (fridge, a couple lights, chargers), and the motor, and we seem to have enough power that we could maintain this pace (about 3 knots) forever. Once the sun goes down, we’ll be using from the banks rather than from the solar panels. We’ll make sure we leave a good safety margin and just wash along gently under main only if power gets low. Dena’s 2100-2400 watch São Miguel and the capital, Ponta Delgada, are receding more slowly than the last light. The only thing I would have gone there for? The only Indian food restaurant in all the Atlantic islands. The moon will rise a little before 2230 and I’ll be watching for it. (And other vessels, of course!) There’s a thick cloud later ringing the horizon so it might happen a little late, but I can be patient.  All the clouds are an ominous reminder that we’re doing something we try to avoid…racing to safe harbor ahead of storms. Since we’ll never be the fastest boat on the water, we arrive for good planning and I think we have plenty of time. Dena’s 2100-2400 watch The moon[…]

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Terceira-Santa Maria Day 1

4/24, James’s 1700-1800 watch We’re averaging about 4.5 knots on a beam reach, port tack, in a F4-5. The seas are busy but not terrible. It’s definitely something that’ll take getting used to again.  All hail meclazine! I got a little unsteady in my stomach in my first off-watch, below deck. The last hour had been fine in the cockpit and now I’m lying on the starboard settee without queasiness. Beluga Greyfinger is a tense little lump under the covers in the forepeak. Poor kitty will be okay, but I’ll worry about him until he drinks, eats, and uses the litter box. I took the boat out of the slip and, wow, that couldn’t have been easier. Cetacea is handling well despite not being able to clean her bottom. The new paddle for LoveBot is doing its job, and the rest of it seems no worse for a winter of disuse. The sails look good and set well. So far, so good on the gear. James’s 1900-2000 watch I’m already getting stiff from bracing against the boat’s motion. It’ll be ibuprofen for dinner, I guess. On the other hand, I’m glad to be away…underway. I still hope we get propane in Lanzarote or Gran Canaria, but we may not be able to make enough east in the conditions that are coming. I’m not averse to the idea of skipping it for Cabo Verde except that running out of cooking gas partway to Brazil would be…bad. 4/25 Dena’s 2400-0300 watch I’m beginning to get a little more poetic but I’m still pretty focused on the practicalities. The moon is full but the sky is cloudy, so it’s not fully dark but there isn’t that interest point in the sky.  We’re rolling along pretty fast, still on the beam reach. The waves[…]

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60’s

Wow, life! When I (James) was in my 20’s I remember lying in the grass on a warm Texas summer’s night looking up at the stars at the immensity of it all and saying to my friend next to me, “I can’t even imagine living after 30!” My friend exploded with laughter yelling, “Here we are looking up at the infinity of space and time and you can’t even see past 30 years? What could possibly be wrong with living your life as long as you can to experience as much of the universe as possible?” From my current vantage of 60 times around the sun my answer to her would be a resounding, “absolutely nothing!” Now granted, at the ripe old age of 24 I had already experienced a large part of the U.S., Europe and the Caribbean. I had lived through 2nd and 3rd degree burns on about 20% of my body. I had also somehow lived through a broken neck without any permanent paralysis, so my perspective on living was a bit skewed by the drama of trauma and the road well traveled. But wow, life! If I had given in to my own fatal expectations the incredible things I have witnessed in this life would have never existed at all. I wouldn’t have met my friend Dena, the most important influence of them all. I wouldn’t have been a pirate or a rock star in the 90’s in Seattle. I wouldn’t have experienced 10 hours of 40 ft following seas coming around Cape Mendocino. I wouldn’t have walked the halls of the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort or Fatepur Sikri. I wouldn’t have seen the Golden Temple or Kanyakumari. I would have never sailed in an ocean so blue it vibrated my eyes. But wow, life![…]

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Another winter in paradise

We have sailed the ocean blue and found a place of ancient familial connections. We put that hook down and laughed at the effort. When you first show up to a place, newness is pretty much the dominating feeling. The way the autumn light reflects off the particular stone making up the streets (not Fells Point serpentine, something volcanic?), the mysteriously timed bells that chime from the cat-licker buildings, the grudging smiles transforming the (is it just me or is it) ubiquitous resting-bitch-faces, and the way the non-sailors everywhere look at us and pass that very local version of judgment. It feels as if life starts anew every day and then again the next and the next one after. Then one day it all looks so familiar. All of a sudden, we’ve been here in the Azores for a nice long time. We do our epic-walks and our projects and the weather descends upon us like the winter that could give-a-shit about our mortality…like it always does. When anchored, we snuggle down south in southerlies. Shore access at the fishing docks fouls our shoes a bit but convenience and a whole lot of being ignored make us grateful. There’s a bad grocery store and an excellent restaurant. At the northern end, we’re either anchored off the beach or in the marina. Storms spin across the planet and our safe zone shifts as they pass over. The fetch can be brutal, so retreating behind the breakwater has been a prudent move more than once. The marina is also our dinghy dock and we can use the bathrooms and showers and laundry whether we’re paying for a slip or not. Ultimately, the cyclonic reality of seasonal weather inspires us to descend upon another marina in Winter. Not plugged in, not running a[…]

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Un-still life in Praia da Vitoria

Autumn in the Azores is a fantastical experience! The weather is the rockstar and you are only there to watch and survive if you can. Our last post glossed over something we hoped wouldn’t be a big deal. When we anchored and went ashore on day one, right after the sail from Angra, the weather was already starting to get a bit overwhelming. As I (James) was getting in the dinghy, I got a gust that blew me hard into the portside solar panel corner and cracked another rib on my body…my 8th as an adult and, believe me, this one really hurt! I’ve done this enough to know that the first day is actually the best for the pain so we continued with our plans and I rowed us in to the marina. We checked in with officialdom and walked up the hill to the grocery store for a much-needed provisioning run. We were back on the boat less than an hour after making landfall. Two days later, we rowed back to the marina from across the bay (about a nautical mile each way), which proved that we hadn’t been doing that kind of rowing for a while. Even the downwind row to the marina kicked my (James’) ass but then again, I do have a broken rib. Dena rowed back against the wind and the fetch and it was kind of a huge deal. But she rocks like that and made it look easy. Really, I (Dena) just kept on keeping on. I’m pretty good at the endurance game when I’m not wearing the wrong (i.e. knitted) gloves. The gales roll through like trains every other day or so, meaning one day you’re in paradise and the next you’re in Dante’s seventh circle with the hounds of hell[…]

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Ancestral Azores

We woke up early to sail from Faial to São Jorge because we had no idea what it would take to get that hook off the bottom. It was a good thing too! We’d been warned by the guides that there was shit to pick up, but the most dramatic stories involved chain and home-welded grapnel anchors. It didn’t take Dena much longer to weigh anchor, she just got a whole lot of funky garbage up with the chain this time. We’d been in Horta for what seemed like a really long time. I (James) don’t mean years, I mean weeks. After the 29 days crossing from Bermuda to the Azores, any time spent in any one place seemed like a very long time. We did everything we wanted to do in Horta, like hiking, writing, provisioning, and repairs, so the next obvious thing was to sail away. We had another incredible adventure between the islands of Faial and São Jorge! It was only 22 nautical miles but we were on a hard beat in 15 to 20 knots of wind with a double-reefed main and the staysail for about six hours. Finally, we were able to veer off to a close reach and take that all the way into the protected harbor of Velas. S/V SN-E Cetacea performed like a dream and we had the hook down long before the day was done. This was the big one, folks! We’ve been pointing the boat at the Azores and specifically São Jorge for about a decade now so, when we sailed into this harbor, we had some emotional gravity in our wake. Dena’s maternal family came from São Jorge by ship in the early 20th century then crossed the North American continent by thumb and train to the Central Valley[…]

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