Underway Still and Again

We left Praia da Vitória on Ilha Terceira at about 1400 Wednesday the 23rd of April, 2024, and two days later (well, about a day and three-quarters) put the hook down off the island of Santa Maria, our final stop in the Azorean chain and not exactly a planned one. After five months of (damn-near) static living aboard, we silently glided out of the marina and back into that one big ocean. It was incredible! It wasn’t kind, it wasn’t calm, it was fucking awesome! The winds were a northeasterly 18-30 knots with a 2-3 meter chop across our port beam leaving the lee of Terceira, so a reef went in the mainsail just outside the harbor breakwaters with a full staysail and no yankee. The gusting got worse and the staysail got smaller, but that didn’t last long. We rocked and rolled…and I’m talking from sunset on! The full moon was devoured by a thick gray-shield of cumulus that never gave us a peak of our local satellite. An ambient sky-wide light kept it from feeling like a new-moon night and made it easy to get around the little we moved on that first night of watches. That first overnight was hard but doable simply because we were both so stoked to be underway again. The cat not so much. As the sun rose, the winds abated and moved abaft so we furled the staysail and went mainsail alone for the rest of the adventure, clipping along at a respectable 3-5 knots. Shortly after leaving Terceira, I (James) got a text from my brother informing me that my sister had had a heart attack and was in a third-world Texas hospital with a grim prognosis. Just after that text, our internet went dark. We decided to sail as close[…]

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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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John Barth is dead

On March 26th, 2024, the Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore was struck by a ship and destroyed in seconds. Exactly a week later, John Barth died. He had been in hospice for a while so I can’t help but think he might not have known. Like the aforementioned structure, Barth was synonymous with the Chesapeake Bay and more specifically Baltimore, Maryland. He taught at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for many years and wrote some of the most incredible tales of the Chesapeake I (James) have ever read. I can honestly say that Professor Barth was the main reason I moved to the Chesapeake Bay in 2009. Dena and I had been living in India for almost a year when we discovered a great deal on a sailboat in Norfolk, Virginia. We bought that boat (S/V SN Nomad) and sailed her up the Bay to Baltimore by the end of our first year. And we did that because we both (Dena and I) had spent the previous decade devouring the works of John Barth. I was first introduced to the works of Barth in the winter of 1987, when a good friend (and marriage relation) found out that I was a big fan of “post-Modern” fiction. Dude went to his library and landed right on the B’s. He looked at me with a wry smile and picked out two books by an author I’d never heard of. The first one was “The Sot-Weed Factor” by John Barth and the second was “Giles Goat-Boy” by the same dude. He held both book in his hands as if weighing them, shoved “Goat-Boy” into my face and said, “This one first.” I spent the next two months reading that book, whenever I wasn’t working on my own last year of manufacturing a bachelor’s[…]

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