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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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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To Azores Day 29

Tuesday August 22 Day 29 and Faial is in full view! I can see details on the entire western face of the island. We traveled 39.4nm over the last 24 hours and we are now 39.2nm to Horta…the wind finally came around to the west giving us a much better and faster angle. We are now, as the albatross flys, 2773.4nm from Marathon, Florida! Dena’s 4-5 pm watch The chartplotter tells us the distance and ETA to our destination and today, for the first time, it’s not a joke. It only give the time of day, so we’d read it out to each other and laugh. “Yeah, but 2:45 pm of which day?” Now, we’re approaching Faial and it’s so very real out there. It’ll be today or very very early tomorrow morning.  Whew. Dena’s 4-5 am watch Landfall 0500 Horta, Ilha Faial, Azores, Portugal…29d16h40m

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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 27

Sunday August 20 Day 27 starts on a beating to port. Dena had a lot to deal with last night with actually getting the boat on a tack that wasn’t going backwards…she succeeded but at a restless expense. Dena’s 4-5 pm watch 4:42 pm: Damn, this is frustrating! A hundred miles from our destination and we can’t head within 60° of it…and even that is so slow. Unless we have major growth on the bottom again, I don’t know why we can’t point any better than this. Ugh. It’s not even that being out here is bad. It’s not that much different than plenty of the other 27 days we’ve been on this leg of the journey. It’s the proximity of the sojourn point that creates the tension. At this point, there’s no way we’ll be arriving overnight tonight. That’s a null possibility. We may still arrive the next night. All the maybes I want to think about involve a wind change, which will either happen or not. Nothing I can do. So yeah, we’ll keep on keeping on and wait to find out what’s in store. James’ overnight watch My long overnight…we’re within a hundred NM of Horta and still plowing the close haul into the same nor’easter we’ve been trudging along all day…but, we’re going in the right direction and the boat is preforming admirably with a single reef and a slightly reduced staysail only…1.8-2.5 knots, can’t complain. Monday August 21 James’ 10-11 am watch 10:20am Land Ho! I (James) sighted the island of Pico off the port bow…now if only we could get a break from this fucking Nor’easter. 10:23 am: I (Dena) got a good night’s sleep and we did get quite a bit closer overnight. That helped my mood. I’m still maintaining a mellow attitude,[…]

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To Azores Day 26

Saturday August 19 26 days of living here… We eat, we sleep we read we write we love on each other we pet the cat and we sail the boat through our world. The marching rain cells have descended…they started just before 6 this morning and have been rolling on by all day. I got soaked…grrr. …And Cetacea performs her survival trick with us aboard. Dena’s 5-6 pm watch 5:13 pm: After so much dead air (it went absolutely still in the morning) and yesterday’s blazing fast average of 1.5 knots, it’s a sudden and welcome pleasure to have real wind to sail with. It’s only been coming up for about a half an hour, but is already about 10-12 knots.  5:35 pm: Back out in the cockpit. I finished that last sentence right as it started raining. The clouds are moving quickly, though and that one is done. Out here, we can so attentively watch the clouds build and then tatter at the bottom and finally unravel scarves or whole blankets of rain into the sea below. We watched earlier while an arrestingly solid cloud bank emptied its entire being on the surface, salt water welcoming fresh, and became whatever you have when a skein of yarn is all used up. While that drama, miles high and wide, played out, a hunting party crossed our path. Lots and lots of dolphin, as many as 50, circled, darted, and breathed. Some ce closer to check us out but most kept working until…leaping! Right out of the water! One left two body-lengths of clear sky visible under its tail before summersaulting to descend, as though it were just one of its many options, and cleave the water without a splash.  I’ve seen documentaries about dolphins corralling the prey fish and then[…]

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To Azores Day 25

Friday August 18 Day 25 to Horta…we read the Azores Islands section of the Atlantic Islands guide again this morning…only, this time we read it together on the starboard lee settee. A hot steaming bowl of craisin oatmeal, a calming sea, and a change in wind direction got us (me, James) in the right frame of mind for our explorations…it’s breath taking out here. LoveBot, the Yankee, the mainsail and the electric propulsion has got us pointing directly at the anchorage in Horta Harbor. 177.8nm away. Hehe… James’ 5-6 watch 5:16 pm: The wind really died on us. We have a total goldilocks problem lately, with too much or not enough wind. The Azores themselves are famous for summer calms and there’s no guarantee we’ll get any more wind than we have right now between here and there. These last 170 miles could take 3 days or more. We had gained a lot of charge back on propulsion battery, so we’re okay for now. It’s peaceful, though, and I made a coconut peanut curry for lunch since it was such good conditions for it. Saturday August 19 On the way to Bermuda from Fk. Lauderdale I I(James) had A Day…a hard day that made me not want to be here! Yes, meaning here in the middle of the Atlantic flow…well… Yesterday I had another one…the seas were huge for no apparent reason…the sky seemed angry and everything was making me mad. Dena, she listened and sympathized but bit right into it and let it all slide on by like a Cetacea through the verse. She’s cool like that. The long overnight…doldrums, ships and rain…oh my. Sunrise was a spooky affair with a big bright orange hole in the sky with no sun in it and purple rain to left and[…]

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