Shopping Cart
Your Cart is Empty
There was an error with PayPalClick here to try again
CelebrateThank you for your business!You should be receiving an order confirmation from Paypal shortly.Exit Shopping Cart


view:  full / summary

Azores to Jersey

Posted on June 10, 2009 at 9:25 AM

We received our new Balmar alternator and installed it. On the 23rd of May we departed Horta, arriving in Jersey in the Channel Islands (U.K.) on the 3rd of June.



We enjoyed light conditions for most of the passage with the worst weather being 35 knots of wind on the nose.


For two days we had about 12 knots of wind (true) on the starboard aft quarter and we were able to try out the new assymmetrical spinnaker. It worked beautifully with the wind aft of the beam and we made 6 to 7 knots. It was glorious sailing and sailing as I imagined it might be: scarcely any sea, a warm sun and good progress.




Around 200 miles from the French coast we hit head-winds - the gods seemed determined to frustrate us. We tacked north and waited for the wind to die down and then, because time was short, decided to motor with the wind still on the nose.


We also picked up two passengers: racing pigeons that we guessed had been blown out to sea. It took them some hours to get their sea-legs and, yes, pigeons get sea-sick.


Fed and watered, they departed after 36 hours.



After a tiring day of punching into the swell, being ordered out of a military exercise zone by a French military surveillance plane and crossing one of the world's busiest shipping lanes (12 ships in a 12 mile radius at one time) we decided to pull into Lampaul Bay on Ushant (Baie Lampaul, Ile d'Ouessant).



The bay is a deep finger running in from the Atlantic and provides excellent shelter in anything except a south-westerly blow. We carefully made our way into the bay under a full moon and with some help from the GPS,  picked our way through the moored boats and the fish-farm and tied up to a steel mooring buoy (obviously designed for someone a bit bigger than us).


It was 0215 on the 1st of June. We had crossed the Atlantic in just under 27 days.


Two cans of beer later it was lights out: "home is the sailor, home from the sea".


The following day we pressed on to L'aber Wrac'h on the North Brittany coast. Still with light head winds, we motored.


About 15 miles out from L'aber Wrac'h we were stopped by a French customs cutter, boarded and searched. Needless to say nothing was found - thank God - and we were allowed to get on our way. We suspect it was a "box ticking" exercise.


L'aber Wrac'h turned out to be a delightful spot with an excellent, modern marina and adjacent bar and restaurants.



The entrance to L'aber Wrac'h is very well marked with both buoys and transits and, i would guess, is "all weather". The marina can be entered at any tide.


After having a traditional sailors' meal of pizza, a sufficiency of red wine - and then some, a sound sleep and refilling the diesel tanks we departed in the late morning for Jersey.


The wind was still on the nose and so we motor-sailed and tacked north until we felt we could lay a comforatble course for St.Helier. Unfortunately we had been a little premature when we tacked back and so had to pass south of Plateau des Roches .


All in all it was an uneventful day and night sail apart from, that is, almost being run down by a trawler that we had turned early to avoid.


We approached St. Helier from the SSW, passed the Passage Rock cardinal mark at around 0530 and were tied up at the visitors pontoon in the St. Helier marina around an hour later.


Whew! We'd made it.


An interesting point is that over the entire trip from Wilmington, NC to St. Helier, Jersey, the barometer was never lower than 1010 or higer than 1020.


Bermuda to Azores

Posted on June 10, 2009 at 9:13 AM

We departed Bermuda on 04 May 2009 at 1700 and arrived in Horta, the Azores, 13 days and 19 hours later on May 18 after logging 1947 miles. We generally had SW winds of around 15 kts or less though, frustratingly, 200 miles from Horta we were hit with head-winds - right on the nose.


I have to say I was not sorry to depart Bermuda. We met some charming and very kind people and, God knows, the place is attractive enough - in fact verging on twee - but it is absurdly expensive. Two examples:


- one night at the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club Marina cost $US147 ($3.5/ft/day) - their shower and toilet facilities can be most kindly described as basic, there is no laundry, the WiFi didn't work and the centre of Hamilton is about a 20 min walk (if you're 1.93m/6ft 4in)


- one night at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club cost $US193 ($4/ft/day plus $25 for electricity) - their shower and toilet facilities were quite simply primitive and dirty, again no laundry and, again, the WiFi didn't work but only a few minutes from the centre of Hamilton 


We got good use out of the "Hydrovane" wind vane which took the broad-reaching in it's stride and steered for about 90% of the time. Initially we found it wandered but after reading the instructions - always to be recommended - we found it would steer to within about 5 degrees.



Three days out from Bermuda we noticed that the water-maker control panel had gone dead. Checking all of the circuitry to the water-maker we found that a solenoid switch had burnt out and when I say "burnt out" that's what I mean: the plastic coating on the switch had carbonised - a bit frightening when you realise it's screwed to a wooden panel!


We removed the burnt out switch and jumpered across the connection - the water-maker lit up. 


Unfortunately, while looking for the water-maker's electrical fault, I had accidently tripped a relay in the alternator's charging circuit. At the time we were motor-sailing and the alternator was charging the batteries. Instantly unloading the alternator generally leads to a frying of its internals and that's exactly what happened (apparently the technical term is "zapped"!)


The smell of burning plastic filled the boat. We shut down the engine.


The problem now was that we couldn't run the engine because it would cause power to flow through the alternator and continue the burning so what to do?


Removing the drive belt was out of the question as it also powers the engine's salt-water cooling pump. In the end we solved the problem by electrically disconnecting the alternator but leaving it in place as a pulley.


This though meant it couldn't charge the batteries when running the engine though we could run the engine.


Happily the boat has a diesel gen-set and so we could run that to keep the batteries topped up and power all the comforts a modern boat has: navigation instruments, fridge and freezer, auto-pilot, radios and the micro-wave.


Unhappily it meant we were getting through our diesel fuel supply that much more quickly.


Fishing proved to an almost complete bust: literally. We caught one small tuna and got broken off twice - within seconds - close to the island of Faial.


Dolphins and porpoises were plentiful and there were whales. We saw two whales broaching almost clear of the water (in photo: just below horizon about one third from left) and several others moving quietly along. Their size is quite intimidating and the one we had to turn to avoid was significantly longer than the boat.




In mitigation of my efforts at wild-life photography I would offer that the difficulties of trying to take a picture from a heaving sail-boat deck with a small camera of an animal doing jack-in-the-box appearances in a large ocean is not to be underestimated.



Photo shows us moored against the breakwater in Horta. The painted "logos" are the colourful graffiti from years of passing yachts and below is our "flag" displayed amongst the others in the justly famous "Peter's Bar" on the Horta waterfront.


Peter's Bar has for many years beena traditional watering-hole for the crusing sailor. The food is good if plain and the company enjoyable. As someone remarked, "there's probably no-one in here who didn't sail a 1000 miles to get here."


In the busy summer period boats can be rafted five deep. A new breakwater and marina are planned.



We found Horta to be a most enjoyable place. Relatively inexpensive with an excellent supermarket - fantasticly cheap wine and the best canned tuna (local) I've eaten - and well stocked hardware and chandlery stores. Competent marine tradesmen were available and we got very good support from Mid-Atlantic Yacht Services.


I got to practice the Portuguese I learned many years ago in Brazil but in truth most of the locals - and especially the young locals - spoke much better English than I did Portuguese.


We were gifted a good chunk of a freshly caught yellow fin tuna. I baked it with capers and lemon zest and, as someone who has never been very keen on fresh tuna, I have to say it was absolutely delicious


Being a part of Portugal the town has a very Iberian feel with many small restuarants, cafes and markets



The town's architecture very definitely reflects the mother country but what was particularly surprising to an expat New Zealander was to find a park containg  very large (i.e. very old) New Zealand pohutakawas and Norfolk Island pines. These can be seen in the photos below: new world plants with old world buildings.




I enjoyed Horta and would like to return to the Azores for a more leisurely exploration of all the islands.


Unfortunately I lost a crewman in Horta or, I should say, he jumped ship (no, it wasn't carelessness).


Around my age, 35 years in the Royal Navy, an RYA Yachmaster (with "commercial" endorsement) he seemed to loose all confidence once we had left sight of land.


On paper he had looked a perfect fit for an ocean passage.


He developed obsessions which he wanted to endlessly discuss: did we have the right type of fire-extinguishers, are the bilges free of cooking gas accumulation, were the "band-it" straps around the life raft cannister meant to be there ("yes, yes and yes") and on and on.


Every cloud in the sky became a portent of "out-of-season" tropical depressions, high cirrus indicated approaching storm fronts (which for some reason never arrived in contradiction of the old adage "mackeral skies and mares tails make tall ships shorten sails") and he argued with a quiet desperation against any tack to the north to pick up more wind.


All of this in spite of the fact that, thanks to our satellite phone, we were able to, daily, download synoptic charts, text forecasts and GRIB files.


I was, in equal parts, sorry to see him go and greatly relieved by his departure.


We had a replacement for him within 30 minutes of his announcement.


Once at sea with our new crew memeber we noticed our water usage had dropped by 25 gallons per day - an incredible amount on a sailboat.



Wilmington, NC, USA to Bermuda

Posted on June 10, 2009 at 4:57 AM


I made the decision to move the boat to Jersey and so that means an Atlantic crossing. I toyed with the idea of having her transported across but difficult to find a carrier who goes to Northern Europe from the East Coast of the U.S.


We departed Wrightsville Beach, NC, on 12th May '08 and arrived St. George, Bermuda 4 1/2 days later.



20 - 30 kt winds out of the west for the first two days with a moderate following sea and then very light westerlies for the last 2 1/2 days. We ended up motorsailing for around 50 hours.


Photo shows us moored in front of the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club, Hamilton, Bermuda.



We stayed at the RHADC marina for four days and then I moved "Karen M" up to what had formerly been the British naval dockyards (and which is still know as "R N Dockyards"). West End Yachts have a slipway and travel-lift at Dockyards. 



The photo below shows "Karen M" moored adjacent to what had been the Admiralty buildings at Dockyards. One of the towers in the background houses a "time" clock and the other (closer) tower originally housed a "tide" clock.


The buiding now houses an assortment of tourist-type shops and restaurants - there is a cruise-ship dock 200m away.




The boat will be stored on the hard over the winter at West End Yachts and we'll head for the UK next spring.





Subsea engineer

Cruising sailor

Enthusiastic cook

Hopeful fisherman