Plymouth to Azores

Baybreeze's route from Plymouth to Terceira in the Azores. Data collected by GPSTracker, an Android smartphone app - gaps are due to power outage.
Baybreeze’s route from Plymouth to Terceira in the Azores. Data collected by GPSTracker, an Android smartphone app – gaps are due to power outage.

Apologies to those of you following our track via the website and expecting to see a position point every twelve hours as I had promised. The YellowBrick satellite transmitter had been placed in a port side locker of the boat in with the FM radio. Although it had worked in the past, it appears too heavily obstructed to receive and send a clear signal. That has now been remedied so, hopefully, transmissions will be as normal with positions reported every twelve hours.

Just a brief note about my crew. The boat’s crew consists of Len Hiley (25,000nm), Tony Statersfield (5,000nm) and myself (1,200nm). Both Len and Tony are boat owners and former Jester challengers (see, Tony suffering a knockdown twice before withdrawing. I have been very fortunate indeed to have them as crew with their very detailed knowledge of every aspect of seamanship and boat maintenance and repair. Whenever we are in port, a list of boat maintenance and repair items (too long to mention!) are compiled which are always diligently seen to by everyone and almost always successfully resolved.

Some of the highlights of the journey were stunning starry nights with the Milky Way clearly visible. Just as spectacular was the bio-luminescence from the breaking waves at the bow but also at the stern as water cleared the keel. Bio-luminescent jellyfish also passed by, some the size of dinner plates, perhaps at rates exceeding one per second. During daylight hours and on different occasions we sighted several whales, schools of dolphins and even a small turtle! A real treat!

There were a couple of technical issues worth mentioning. Having adequate power to run the boat’s systems, especially the frig/freezer and the autopilot, is of paramount importance. The frig/freezer was essential to preserve of very delicious pre-prepared meals so that couldn’t be compromised. The autopilot use was minimised by resorting to manual steering for much of the time. Len devised a bungee system which he called Simple And Reliable Automatic Helm (SARAH) which connected a bungee line from the port pushpit side rail to 10 turns around a spoke on the helm thence to the starboard pushpit side rail.


We experimented with the wheel lock both on and off. With the sails nicely trimmed to provide a slight weather helm the system work quite nicely and relieved the watch person of many hours of manual steering while at the same time conserving electrical power.

The second minor technical problem was a torn stitching on parts of the reinforcement straps at the clew of the mainsail which was noticed mid-journey. The remainder of the stitching held out well and has just been beautifully hand-sewn together by Len.


Highlights from the boat’s log book:

Day 1 Sun 7 June 2015: N F1. Becalmed near Lizard Point. Engine hrs 3.3. Later N F6. Magnetic variation 3°W. Distance logged 129nm.

Day 2 Mon 8 June 2015: N F5-6. At 2330 Aurelius VHF radio contact. CPA 0.7nm. Distance logged 134nm.

Day 3 Tue 9 June 2015: NE F5 → E F4. Past 200m depth contour, now in deep water. Distance logged 111nm.


Day 4 Wed 10 June 2015: NE F5. Latitude 47° 38.9’N, longitude 15° 03.4’W. Exhausted pigeon lands on boom, makes way to cockpit. Drinks fresh water offered. Tag: GB 14 B 10657. Engine hrs: 2 to recharge battery. 768 nm to Terceira. Distance logged 137nm.

Day 5 Thu 11 June 2015: NE F5 – NW F5. Beam reach. 1300 hrs pigeon departs and returns a few minutes later. Unsuccessfully tries to land. Repeats this twice before heading south. 622 miles to Teceira. Distance logged 135nm.

Postscript: Our exhausted pigeon hailed from County Armagh in Northern Ireland about 1000 km NE and, as of mid-July, had not returned home.

Day 6 Fri 12 June 2015: NW F5 – WNW F4. Air breeze wind generator cutting out while battery below 90%. Re-adjusted to allow full charging. 477nm to Terceira. Distance logged 124nm.

Bluefin tuna caught by rod and reel.
Bluefin tuna caught by rod and reel.

Day 7 Sat 13 June 2015: NW F3/4 2-3 Spanish fishing boats sighted. Battery level drops to 66%. Engine run for 2 hours to recharge. 1000 hrs cruising chute up. 1500 hrs whale sighted 500m astern. 1800 hrs first fish – a tuna – caught by rod and reel. Tuna for dinner. 2200 hours becalmed, so furled all sails. Deployed cruising chute. 346Nm to Terceira. Distance logged 98nm.

Extra solar panels deployed.
Extra solar panels deployed.

Day 8 Sun 14 June 2015: NW F1 – SW F4/5 Initially becalmed. Engine run for 7.7 hrs. First drizzle towards end of day. Two additional 40W solar panels connected to cigarette lighter socket to assist battery recharge. 273Nm to Terceira. Distance logged 82nm.

Bonito caught by rod and reel.
Bonito caught by rod and reel.

Day 9 Mon 15 June 2015: SW F3/4. 1500 hrs bonito caught by rod and line (second fish caught). Distance logged 78nm.

Day 10 Tue 16 June 2015: SW F1 – SE F3. Initially becalmed. Calm and sunny. Engine run for 3 hours. 1000 hrs morning swim. 1700 hrs 20 min VHF radio chat with Klaus on SV Lubini on return voyage after completing Atlantic circuit. 146nm to Terceira. Distance logged 61nm.

Day 11 Wed 17 June 2015: S F3 – SSE F2/3. 0930 Fin whale spotted 300m ahead. Spectacular breech – vertically upward then crashing down. 1400 hrs small turtle spotted. 2000 hrs Sei whale surfaces 10m on port side travelling in same direction then dives below boat leaving a turbulent wake then surfacing on starboard side before heading off. Engine hours 5.7. 78Nm to Terceira. Distance logged 84nm.

Day 12 Thu 18 June 2015: SE F2 Island of Terceira sighted in very early daylight. Sailed, tacking often under light winds. Tied up at marina Praia da Vittoria at 1610 hrs. Magnetic variation 11°W. Engine hours 0.3. Distance logged 49nm.

Travel statistics: distance travelled: 1312 nm, logged distance: 1223 nm, engine hours: 24, duration: 11 days, 16 hours.

Ocean Cruising Club members’ qualifying ocean passage.