Azores to Southampton

The Passage Plan

An extract from Jimmy Cornell’s sixth edition of World Cruising Routes, p161, suggesting June-July as the best time, makes for interesting reading and advice:

“The prevailing winds of summer are NE and therefore all passages from the Azores to Northern Europe are usually closed hauled. A direct course for the English Channel is rarely possible, nor is it advisable, as the westerly winds and east-setting current that prevail in higher latitudes will set the boat into the Bay of Biscay. The usual tactic is to sail due north until steady westerly winds are encountered, but not to join the great circle route to the English Channel before latitude 45°N is reached.

In the area immediately to the north of the Azores calms are frequent, their extent depending on the position of the Azores high and the ridge of high pressure that normally extends from it towards Europe during summer. If such calm spots are encountered one should be prepared to motor through them and make the desired northing. Even if there is no wind, the weather will be fine and sunny before it gives way to westerly winds, overcast skies, and generally wet and cold weather. Summer weather for the English Channel is difficult to predict and the winds can come from any direction and at any strength. Visibility can become poor in the approaches to the Channel and both this fact and the presence of strong tidal currents, as well as the large amount of shipping, must all be borne in mind when making landfall on the English coast.”

 Note that the first edition of World Cruising Routes was published in 1987, almost 30 years ago, well before the advent of the Internet and down loadable 10-day GRIB weather forecasts that is available today. Nevertheless, it does provide tactical insight when less information is at hand.

Above is the GRIB ten day weather forecast obtained on Sat 27 June 2015 just before our departure from Ponta Delgada. The area covered is limited because of bandwidth download limitations on the smart phone. What is clear is a developing low, centred just north of the Azores (with gale force winds) and travelling NE which would be unlikely to have posed a threat as it would have remained ‘out of reach’ as we travelled initially north and then northeast towards the English Channel. However, the next developing low, further west would pose a bigger threat as the forecast indicated strong winds that would sweep east much of the way towards the Portuguese mainland coast before heading northeast.

SailGRIB weather routing run based on GRIB forecast of 27 June 2015 indicating strong winds late Thu 2 July into Fri 3 July. It is not far from the route actually taken.
SailGRIB weather routing run based on GRIB forecast of 27 June 2015 indicating strong winds late Thu 2 July into Fri 3 July. It is not far from the route actually taken. The time taken is also comparable.

I ran the weather routing Android app SailGrib using the same GRIB file specifying an approximate polar performance diagram for an Island Packet 380 as well as a maximum allowable headwind and tailwind true speeds of 15 and 25 knots, respectively. (Baybreeze is, after all, a cruising yacht and not a racing one!). The optimal route follows approximately the great circle for the first 400 nm and heads with a more easterly component as the wind strengthens so as to avoid much of the onslaught. So, this was roughly the plan adopted, with La Coruña acting as a safe haven should the need arise. However, there is no guarantee that things will turn out as predicted. GRIB files are just forecasts, after all!

We did not have the ability to download GRIB files on passage but instead relied heavily on weather faxes provided by an SSB radio receiver and weatherfax software on a PC. With much more sophisticated information available, the advice was to head NE then E before heading towards the Channel rather than N to the 45th parallel then NE to the Channel as recommended in Cornell’s book.

Extracts from the Ship’s Log

Day 1. Sat 27 June 2015. WSW 2-3 -> W 3.
1040 departed Ponta Delgada. 1440 arrived at Caldeira Franca du Campo and anchored for lunch. Sunny day. Dived underwater to scrape clean the hull as best we could. 1845 departed for Southampton.

Illustrates the dangers of using a chartplotter alone, in this case OpenCPN and C-MAP! The location is Caldeira Franca du Campo on the south coast of São Miguel. The track should actually lie one cable (about the island's width) to the north.The above chart illustrates the dangers of using a chartplotter alone, in this case OpenCPN and C-MAP! The location is Caldeira Franca du Campo on the south coast of São Miguel Island. The boat’s track should actually lie one cable (about the island’s width) to the north.

Day 2. Sun 28 June 2015. SW 4.
0000 at SE corner of São Miguel Island. 0600-0900 two small bonitos caught by rod and line. Distance logged: 111nm.

Day 3. Mon 29 June 2015. SW 4-5.
1640 wind shift accompanied by squalls, briefly F8. Evening rain. Distance logged: 130nm. Distance to Lizard Point: 931nm.

Day 4. Tue 30 June 2015. NW5 – WNW4-5, occnl F6.
Developing gale at 44°N 26°W. Occasionally very rough seas N Fitzroy forecast. Distance logged: 113nm. Distance to Lizard Point: 813nm.

Day 5. Wed 1 July 2015. NW5-WNW4.
Early morning rain squalls, occnly F6. Sunny later. Barometer rising. Practised heaving to for an hour. Took sextant sun sights to verify GPS position. Distance logged: 107nm.

Day 6. Thu 2 July 2015. W3-4 – S6-7.
0110 patrol vessel without AIS spotted and approaches 200m to starboard travelling in opposite direction. 0600 wind shift so gybed to starboard. Wind increases during day. Higher winds expected soon. Distance logged: 129nm. Distance to Lizard Point: 596nm.

Day 7. Fri 3 July 2015. S6-8.
Battened down. Gale force winds, occnly F9. Rough seas. Forecast: West Finisterre to 0800 Sat S6-7 -> SW5-6, later W/SW3-4. Distance logged: 137nm. Distance to Lizard Point: 441nm.

Day 8. Sat 4 July 2015. WSW5-06 -> SW4.
0600 Genoa poled out on main boom. 1930 two whales sighted in the distance. Distance logged: 122nm. Distance to Lizard Point: 314nm.

Day 9. Sun 5 July 2015. SW4-5 ->SW3.
Engine run for 2.8 hrs to recharge batteries. Forecast: Plymouth/N Biscay SW4-5 b S5-6 later. 1500 200m depth contour passed. Distance logged: 112nm. Distance to Lizard Point: 179nm.

Chart of the Western Approaches to the English Channel with Traffic Separation Schemes and Baybreeze’s AIS display showing numerous ships.

Day 10. Mon 6 July 2015. SSW3-4->SSW6.
1305 Light aircraft swoops past to starboard. 2320 course change to avoid Plymouth/Roscoff ferry, unable or unwilling to change direction. Now in busy shipping lanes. Strong spring tides. Distance logged: 145nm. Distance to Lizard 48nm. Distance to Needles fairway 179nm.

Day 11. Tue 7 July 2015. WSW6-7 -> WSW5.
1500 practised heave to. 1800 anchored at Studland Bay sheltered for overnight stay. Distance logged: 92nm.

Day 12. Wed 8 July 2015. WSW5.
0705 weighed anchor to catch fair tide through the Needles Channel. Route via North Channel. 1300 berthed at Shamrock Quay. Distance logged: 30nm.

Travel statistics: logged distance: 1223 nm, engine hours: 8, duration: 11 days, 18 hours (excludes overnight stop at Studland Bay).

Note: Throughout the entire voyage and with three crew in total, we operated on a 3 hours on, 6 hours off rota, as follows:

3personwatch
In practice, we found it easier that whoever cooked lunch and dinner also cleaned and washed up.

Finally

A big THANK YOU to my crew, Len Hiley and Tony Stattersfield. I suggested the trip to Len in November last year to which he readily agreed. It was some time later that Tony, whom I’d met on one other occasion, emailed me to ask if he could join us, even if it was for just one of the outward or return voyages. This was rather fortuitous, as my yacht insurer required a minimum of three able-bodied crew aboard, so I gladly accepted!

I could not have asked for a better crew. Both had expert knowledge of seamanship, boat maintenance and repair which they were happy to exercise and impart. The key to the voyage’s success lay in preparation, something to which we all contributed substantially. A special thanks to Len who masterminded the passage plan allowing us to comfortably sail with the wind on the quarter or behind us for much of the way! A special thanks also to Pedro Pinto of Terceira who showed us great kindness and hospitality.

Messaging while at sea: satellite track and blog

Azores Islands

Terceira

The final fifty miles to Praia da Vitória on the eastern side of the Azores island of Terceira took quite a while as we decided not to use the motor in the calm conditions. However, so as to arrive before the customs and immigration offices closed for the day, we eventually used the engine to cover the remaining few miles and docked at 1610 Thu 18 June 2015.

Next to us was the colourful Capt’n Bob Burns on Roamer, a steel junk-rigged 12m yacht. Capt’n Bob (75) is a former oil executive who has been sailing the high seas for the past 30 years and had published a book titled “Roamer Round the World” in 2010 outlining his exploits.

We checked in with the authorities, showered, washed clothes and set about a checklist of things to do. One was to repair the mainsail’s clew as ultra-violet degradation had weakened and unraveled the stitching. We inquired at the marina offices and were informed of a chap with a boat in the marina who was in possession of a sail cloth sewing machine who would most likely be prepared to do the job. We were told he frequented his boat often and so we would have to keep a lookout for him.

That evening Len took the opportunity to renew old acquaintances from his visit during the Jester Challenge the previous year and invited Pedro Pinto, a yachtsman, dentist and politician, aboard for dinner. We learned a lot more about the island and decided to hire a car sometime during our stay for a day trip for a closer look.

The following day, the yacht No Limit with German nationals Antonio and Silvia (a mathematician/oceanographer!) aboard arrived and rafted next to us. They had come from mainland Portugal and were in transit to the Canary Islands to participate in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) with the Caribbean as their destination. Another dinner invitation on board followed with Pedro included, all dining in part on the tuna and bonito fish I had caught a few days earlier.

A few days passed when our sail-maker contact eventually came over, inspected the clew and pronounced that it would need to be hand stitched as it was not possible by machine. It was then that Len volunteered his services and offered to repair the sail.

On our whistle-stop day tour around the island we visited the island’s highest point (Reserva Florestal Parcial da Serra de S. Barbara e dos Misterios Negros) and were able to see, above the clouds, the volcanic peak on the Island of Pico some 100 km away to the southwest. The fumeroles at the island’s centre was also visited after which we made way to Angra do Heriosmo, the island’s capital, where an annual week-long festival was underway. Street processions of dancers and musicians began at about 2100 and went on to the wee hours of the morning, long after we’d left. Thanks to the invitation of Pedro we were able to view the procession from a first floor balcony overlooking the main street.

We planned to depart Terceira the next day, Wed 24 June. As time was limited – we all had to be back in the UK by mid-July – a decision had to be made as to what islands to next visit. The wind forecast for the next two days was from the southwest so we decided to head southeast towards São Miguel. This would provide a more comfortable sail with the wind on the starboard quarter.

Praia da Vitória to Ponta Delgada Passage

We were farewelled by Pedro as we departed Praia da Vitória marina at 1550. Winds SSW F6 soon strengthened to F7 before abating during the night. The passage plan was for an overnight journey covering the 90nm so as to arrive at São Miguel island’s westernmost Cape Ferraria at dawn and then to be able to enjoy the coastal scenery as we sailed along the island’s southern coast to Ponta Delgada.

Cape Ferraria, Sao Miguel Island, in early morning.
Cape Ferraria in early morning.

The passage went according to plan pretty well. We arrived at the reception quay at Ponta Delgada 0920 and were subject to the usual formalities of Customs, Immigration and Police, a reasonably quick procedure taking about 15 minutes. We planned to briefly look over the town and wait for a window of opportunity in the 10-day weather forecasts for the return sail home. After a day, the weather forecast look promising so, rather than risking a further delay, we made the decision to leave the following day, Sat 27 June. Our stay in the Azores was brief – a total of 8 days, six days at Praia da Vitória and two at Ponta Delgada.

The next post: “Azores to Southampton” shows how we negotiated comfortably a Force 8, gusting Force 9 gale despite attempts to avoid it!

Note: For those of you reading the posts, you might like to know that the previous post ‘Plymouth to the Azores’ has been updated with images and videos.

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 Jester.org), 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.

SARAH

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.

pidgeon1

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.

OCCFlag
Ocean Cruising Club members’ qualifying ocean passage.

Southampton to Plymouth

Our intended departure from Southampton was planned for Monday 1 June but was delayed by gales. While we waited we got on with various tasks on the boat, one of which was to pressure wash and disinfect the 640 litre aluminium water tank to ensure we had good potable water for the journey. We carried an extra 150 litres of water in separate containers so as not to rely on a single source. We had a plentiful supply of food on board – enough to provide 1600 calories per person per day over 45 days (I had counted the calories provided on each can!). There was also a generous supply of pre-prepared frozen meals – bolognese sauce, beef casserole, vegetable curry, chicken tikka masala, Thai green chicken curry, lamb tagine, and cottage, fish and apple pies. Besides of fresh food, there were also loads of canned food. Len donated 30 rusty old cans of baked beans from a stash of 150 from a boat he recently purchased from an owner who had abandoned plans for an Atlantic crossing. The former boat owner did care for at least a degree of variety for he/she had both Tesco and Asda brands!

The gales abated and we decided to leave Shamrock Quay at 0730 hours Wednesday 3 June for the non-stop journey to Plymouth. As with any disciplined and well-trained crew we were up in readiness and departed within a minute of the scheduled departure time. We left at the mid-rising-tide stand working initially against a weak tide that would prepare us for an exit through The Needles during a strong ebb. Unfortunately, we hadn’t bargained for Force 4 wind against tide which made conditions a little choppy in the Needles channel with breakers clearly audible and visible on the Shingles to starboard. Sailing had to be assisted with the engine through the narrow channel.

We comfortably cleared the Needles Channel and headed out to the open sea for a near mid-English Channel route to gain a maximum advantage of the ebbing tide and wind conditions. While out from Lyme Bay the wind and tide abated and so we thought it wise to motor on to Bolt Head in order to catch the tidal gate there for the final leg to Plymouth where we arrived at Queen Anne’s Battery Marina (QAB) at 1700 hours Thursday 4 June. The journey in fine weather had taken 33.5 hours, 12.9 hours of which were under motor.

The journey gave us the final opportunity to check the integrity of the boat systems including our three-hour watch-keeping schedule- all seemed to work well. A few maintenance issues were addressed while at QAB in our final preparations for the Azores trip. Although not yet due for another 30 engine hours, the engine oil and filter were changed and the alternator belt checked and adjusted. It was time now to wait for the next weather window for the long journey to the Azores!

We’re Off!

We are presently at Queen Anne’s Battery Marina in Plymouth ready for a Saturday midnight departure in a couple of hours time. The eight day GRIB weather forecast shows this to be close to the best opportunity as the winds will ease a little from a force 5 and veer to a north-west or northerly direction. The plan is to make it to The Lizard by about noon on Sunday in time to catch the strong west-going mid-channel tide. The journey from Plymouth to the Lizard should take about 10 hours, hence the very early departure. On this leg, tides are less vigorous as we will be in a bay and close to the coast.

From the Lizard to the Azores, rather than a direct route to the Azores, we plan to head further to the west initially for the first 350 nm making haste to the 200 m depth contour and then head directly for the Azores. This will avoid some rougher weather that will be impinging nearer the Portuguese coast. This is confirmed by Sailgrib route optimization software. If the GRIB forecasts are correct we should have quite a pleasant ride over the 7-11 day journey with winds mainly on the stern quarter and no tacking against headwinds! While at sea, we will no longer have access to GRIB weather forecasts but will use an SSB radio to receive weather faxes to monitor the weather patterns and to alter course if necessary in order to avoid an uncomfortable ride.

Everything is ship-shape with the help of a very able, competent and enthusiastic crew. Our position will be logged every 12 hours and can be followed on Baybreeze’s main page which. Here’s hoping for a very safe and pleasant journey with air winds and sunny skies!

Azores Shake-Down Cruise / Ferry Gliding

My two crew members, Len Hiley and Tony Stattersfield, turned up Wednesday 22 April at 0730 as planned for our two-day shake-down cruise around the Solent in preparation for the Azores trip in June-July. The objective was for the crew to familiarize themselves with the boat and to note any deficiencies that may require attention. No sooner had they lodged themselves and their gear on board when Len asked the inevitable question: “Well, What’s the plan? You gotta have a plan!” “Yes, I have”, I said. “The plan is this: we head off in about half an hour when we’re at low water. It will take a couple of hours to sail out of the Itchen River and Southampton Water and then the flood will start to take a hold. An early start will give us more sailing hours.” I figured this wasn’t going to be good enough and surely Len would have a trick up his sleeve. Right I was. “There’s not much of a tidal stand at low water after which the tide will strengthen quite quickly. As we’re in a spring tide, Southampton Water exhibits a nice mid-tide stand which today will be around 1000-1100. I suggest we wait till then. We’ll have far less tidal current against us”. It was a matter easily settled, especially when ever-generous Tony offered to treat us all to a cooked breakfast at the Yellow Welly.

We left the berth at the scheduled time and were sailing soon after. On reaching the Solent we headed east towards the Nab Tower with fair two knot tidal current. On showing signs of weakening we then headed west towards the planned overnight anchorage at Newtown River. Within half an hour, the instruments showed the tide was again assisting us by at least a knot and strengthening. The timing could not have been better.

Our journey was generally uneventful and accompanied with the usual sharp lookout for passenger ferries and cargo ships. One incident worthy of mention was an accidental gybe (before a preventer could be installed) when, as helmsman, I was distracted by the goings on on deck. Fortunately, the gybe was without excessive force and no damage was done.

I have expressed concern a number of times now about the difficulty of manoeuvreing a long-keeled vessel via a dog-legged path into the marina berth that Baybreeze had been encumbered with. Getting into the berth stern-first appeared to be out of the question. I expressed this concern to my experienced crew. Len suggested ‘ferry gliding’ in during the flood tide and suggested I get some practice on a buoy. We chose a yellow research buoy just north-east of Newtown River and we all took turns to practice. It looked like a pretty nice solution to my berthing problem – at least on a flood tide. It appeared that the marina itself was conspiring to make me a better skipper by allocating such a berth. “Infamy, infamy – they’ve all got it in for me!”*

We arrived at our planned Newtown River anchorage at about 1600 and settled down for the evening. Len and I got out the guitar and mandolin while Tony got out his earplugs, we shared a bottle of wine and later a chilli con carne meal prepared by Tony. It had been a pleasant day with blue skies and a lovely sunset though perhaps a little chilly. Overnight a little rain set in and the wind piped up. As it was too early in the season, the dawn chorus of nearby migratory birds was absent. The following day turned out to be much the same weather-wise – nice and sunny with blue skies. Great – but this was England after all!

We weighed anchor around 0900 and set off with the flood tide eventually sailing downwind up Southampton Water. By the time we reached the Itchen Bridge the tide was flooding in at about half a knot with a gentle cross-wind. It was time to put ferry-gliding into practice.

ferryglidetoberth
Ferry gliding into berth: the plan.

The plan is outlined in the schematic above. I was to manoeuvre the boat to the marina entrance then motor against the tide but holding my position. This meant that the boat was travelling forward through the water in relative terms and so was relatively easy to steer. A slight reduction in revs meant that steerage was maintained while the boat slowly moved backward through the entrance. When the time came to ferry glide, the revs were increased slightly while turning to starboard. At the end of the glide, she was steered back directly against the tide and allowed to gently move into her berth stern-first.

At the start of the manoeuvre, I was anxious to have at my disposal the bow thruster just in case it was needed in a tight situation. I soon discovered it had been turned off.  I was about to turn it back on when “No, that’s not allowed” exclaimed Len. “You can’t have that on” reiterated Tony. It seemed like yet another conspiracy! It appeared my crew had metamorphosed into a couple of rabid sea-dogs adamant in preventing me from using the bow thruster! Help!

Anyway, the manoeuvre turned out pretty well and went as planned, even without the bow thruster, although with a tiny half knot tide the going was slow and a slight cross-wind didn’t help. Critical during the ferry glide was to maintain sufficient room forward and aft and this was achieved quite nicely.

Shake-down cruise outcome

Early on, there was a problem with the Raymarine autopilot which displayed an ‘AUTORELSE’ error message. This meant that the autopilot rudder sensor was not aligned to the actual rudder position. A loose jubilee clip turned out to be the source of the problem.

The Air Breeze wind generator worked beautifully cutting in when the batteries dropped below a specified voltage and cutting out when the batteries were fully charged. It was also nice to be able to switch off the generator using the stop switch which meant that the generator blades rotated about once a second irrespective of wind speed.

The out-haul traveller on the boom appeared to stick but was soon loosened. I put this down to the four months of inactivity while on the hard.

Other than these minor problems all systems appeared to work well.

Travel statistics

Distance covered: 70.4 nm; engine hours: 2.0 (most of which was used in practicing ferry gliding). Had we covered the distance by engine alone and without sail, we would have required at least 15 engine hours (at 5 knots).

 

Recommended reading:
Jerome K Jerome: Three Men in a Boat

*from Kenneth Williams: Carry On Cleo.

Back in the Water & Preparing for the Azores

Back in the Water

Baybreeze went on the hard from mid-November last year to mid-March this year – a winter lay period of four months. I had planned to put a couple of coats of anti-fouling on the hull and to strip and re-varnish the toe-rail and many other minor maintenance jobs. However, I just managed one coat of anti-foul requiring 5 litres of International Micron Extra 2 and a new bootline strip (international Trilux Bootline – 375ml) in a slightly different ‘blue’ colour – figuring that there was sufficient anti-foul remaining from over ten years of anti-foul treatment to keep the marine organisms at bay. The hull is due for a good ‘sand’ blast to remove the many old anti-foul layers – a job for the next layup.

I made an attempt at gelcoat repair of a couple of small nicks on the hull though not too successfully as the colour matching was poor. I was advised to obtain the exact match gelcoat from the Island Packet boat builders, so this is a non-urgent job for the future. After this I polished the gelcoat topsides using an orbital sander with a foam polishing disk velcroed on and 3M’s Fibreglass Cleaner and Wax. This seemed to work well and the hull ended up looking immaculate and beautifully shiny. The nice thing about a hull with a shallow 1.3m draft is that it’s easy to get to without requiring scaffolding, just a metre-high platform.

2015-03-20 14.23.12

2015-03-20 14.22.20

The autoprop folding propeller was cleaned of marine growth and its bearings greased. I was unable to remove the bow-thruster propellers for a better clean but its anode appeared plentiful. All other anodes were replaced with new ones. She was then ready for launch.

On launch, I was hoping to be re-allocated a new berth, one that wouldn’t require a dog-leg maneuver to get into and out of as the present one does. Traditionally-designed long keelers like the Island Packet are far more difficult to maneuver than a modern twin-engined power boat. I was hopeful that a swap could be made. Alas! I continue to hope.

Preparing for the Azores

Preparation for the Azores trip is now well underway. I will have a couple of experienced crew on board, yachtmaster and Jester challenger Len Hiley and also Tony Stattersfield, each themselves boat owners. We are planning a departure early in June with an overnight dash to Plymouth, then a cruise to the Azores when a weather window permits, a look at some of its islands, then returning to the southern Ireland coast before heading for the Scilly Isles and then home to Shamrock Quay. It is planned to take around six weeks and should qualify any of us for full membership of the Ocean Cruising Club.

A two-day shake-down cruise is planned for next week to familiarize the crew and to iron out any deficiencies with the boat. I have already decommissioned the Digital Yacht Wifi/AIS receiver and have installed in its place an Icom MA-500TR AIS transponder and so now Baybreeze’s location, when the transponder transmits, can be gleaned from a number of websites such as vesselfinder.com and marinetraffic.com providing her position is not too distant from a coastline. A new Icom M-423 VHF radio with a smaller spatial footprint has been installed and  links with the AIS transponder to allow rapid and easy communication with a user-selected AIS target should the need arise. Also installed on the push-pit rail is a dual-band Echomax radar target enhancer (RTE) which enhances the echo whenever it’s painted by a radar signal. The RTE, as with the AIS, allows an alarm to be set to warn of approaching ships – very handy for single-handers and short-handers.

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Two house batteries each with 105Ah capacity had to be replaced over the winter. There are a couple of flexible solar panels mounted on deck, each rated at about 40 watts, which have been very useful in keeping the batteries topped up and fully charged. I decided to have installed a wind generator and chose the US-made Air Breeze from the excellent reviews it has received. This is a robust light-weight (6.3 kg) unit that self-regulates to prevent battery over-charging and has a stop switch which essentially short-circuits the unit to prevent turbine rotation. All the installation work for both the electronics and the wind-charger was admirably and efficiently carried out by Landau UK, based in Swanick, Southampton.

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Other aspects of planning include victualing, a watch-keeping rota, spares availability and safety procedures. For the trip, I also plan to maintain a blog and boat track while underway using satellite communications with the information accessible via a web post page. Stay tuned!

 

 

On the Hard

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Baybreeze at Shamrock Quay awaiting lift-out overshadowed by an unusually large cargo ship heading up-river (Image courtesy MDL Marinas).

 

Baybreeze is now out of the water and on the hard for the next three months. This will give her a chance to dry out a little so as to minimize osmotic blistering on the glass-reinforced plastic (GRP). Thankfully, to date, there is little evidence of it. Her diesel fuel tank has been filled to minimize water condensation and thus fuel contamination and her diesel engine has been winterized by draining both fresh and salt water coolants.

There are a few gouges and scratches on the gelcoat on the hull sides that could do with some repair work followed by wash-down and polish. The hard anti-foul at the boot-top* will be scraped down (with scrapings collected and disposed of as hazardous waste) and repainted. The soft anti-foul below it will then be sanded down with an electric random orbit sander (with vacuum extractor) and repainted with a couple of coats of new anti-foul paint. New zinc anodes will replace sacrificially depleted ones and a new aluminium anode fixed to the propeller shaft. I have been told that it is not unusual for the propeller shaft anode to last no more than six months! The feathering propeller will be greased and cleaned and the bow thruster checked and cleaned.

On the deck, the existing paint on the teak toe-rail will be removed and then repainted with International Woodskin which will highlight the teak and provide a much nicer finish. Much of the running rigging (ropes) will  be removed and washed clean before replacing.

Needless to say, the list goes on… However, when the time comes for re-launch she should be in a lovely condition and in a much better state than a year ago when I first took ownership.

 

 

Over the past year, Baybreeze has logged a mere 700 nautical miles (and some 100 odd engine hours), largely because of preparatory work. This is still greater than the sea miles I have managed to log via courses and charter boat hire over the previous four years. But all this will change next year when much greater distances will be tackled, something as a sea-going vessel she is truly designed for. One plan is for an accompanied June trip  to the Azores, then back to explore the south-west coast of Ireland before returning home. Other plans are being hatched…

 

*Boot-top: the strip on the hull that lies between the loaded and unloaded waterlines.

Third Single-Handed Sail

As this is yet another trip around the Solent, I shall try not to be repetitive but highlight new personal experiences that may be of interest to the reader.

My original intention was to push the boundaries a little by doing a solo trip from Shamrock Quay to Torquay and back – a return distance of about 200 nm. Unfortunately, an unforseen family engagement meant that had to be curtailed and so I settled for a trip around the Solent. In spite of sailing there on many occasions, it had been several years since I visited Newtown River in NE Isle of Wight. I thought I’d use this occasion to call in.

I set off from Shamrock Quay at high water at 1345 on Sunday 28 September. At spring tides I am always reluctant to exit or enter the marina at times other than at slack water as the force of the tide can be something to contend with, particularly for single-handers. Calm conditions meant motoring the three-hour trip to my first overnight anchorage at Osborne Bay. The overnight stay was relatively calm with light SE winds while the next morning turned out to be flat calm with a little fog (see first slide).

I then left at 1245 to catch the tide for my next anchorage at the Beaulieu River. As the wind had picked up, I was able to sail most of the way. The overnight stay was quiet and peaceful with the quietness occasionally interrupted by the squawk of wading birds feeding. I recorded a few bird sounds but only managed to visually identify a few such as the egret, sandpiper and, of course, the common  seagull.

I then left the Beaulieu River around 1015 the next morning on a rising tide in Force 3-4 westerly winds. As I intended heading for Newtown River, it meant many tacks against the flooding tidal current. I eventually arrived at the river entrance at 1500 and negotiated the entrance transit to anchor in the calm just south of the Eastern Spit. The river was not as I remembered it, for my last and only visit was a brief entry and exit of the river followed by an hour’s anchoring outside the entrance. It was far more beautiful than I had expected. During the day, two seals and its pup were either frolicking in the nearby waters or sun-baking on the mud-flats while, at night, a cacophony of noise was heard emanating from one of the largest colonies of migratory wading birds on England’s south coast. This was evidenced the next morning by floating bird feathers and detritus that was visible on the ebb tide. I partook of my traditional swim – but only in the much cleaner flood tide!

Over the past couple of days while sailing or motoring in the Solent at slow speeds (2-4 knots), I tried my luck at fishing for bass or similar with a rod and lure. No such luck! I now have a dozen or so lures, but it appears that the fishing tackle shop was much more successful in catching me than I am at catching fish. However, persistence may have its rewards. Late at night while at anchor in Newtown River, I jiggled a trio of small imitation fish lures with coloured movable beads at their mouths. The fish lures actually glow in the dark and with jiggling give the impression that they are in pursuit of food in the form of a bead. In the darkness, nothing appeared to happen. However, after several minutes of torchlight and jiggling, small fish became inquisitive and were attracted. There would have been about two dozen fish (herring?) visible in the strong torchlight close to the surface, all about 12-15cm long. None, however, were daring enough to take the hook! Just one little fella would have been good tucker!

 

 

The Newtown River anchorage was such a lovely place that I remained anchored in its splendor over two nights. As I had to be back Wednesday night, I made the move to catch the tide at about midday. Alas, the fog was quite thick with visibility down to about 200m in spite it already being midday. Nevertheless, I decided to proceed cautiously in the hope that, as the day progressed, it would eventually lift. As I exited the entrance, only the nearest of the two transit markers was visible. I heard someone on a yacht waiting nearby yell out to ask a yacht approaching from seaward whether conditions were the same out in the Solent. Unfortunately, I was unable to hear the reply but nevertheless proceeded in the knowledge that my chartplotter and AIS receiver would greatly assist in preventing my being mown down in the fog but a large ship. As it turned out, the fog gradually lifted over the next hour or so, though some remained entrenched near the coast particularly around the headland near Cowes.

All in all, another few nice days of cruising. On approaching the marina, I called for assistance (being single-handed). My confidence in handling the 12m boat is greatly improved and I was tempted to go it alone but, as assistance was available, I thought: why risk it?

New reading material: Sea Fishing Properly Explained, Ian Ball, 2008.

Note 1: Previous sail with Jude, Aidan and Claire sail not posted. Sailed in Solent, anchored in Beaulieu River one night and berthed at the marina for another. Comprised 3 days, 58 nm and no night hours.

Note 2: There was also the lovely Island Packet Boat Show Dinner at Southampton Yacht Club which I attended. A talk with overheads was presented by a Danish statistician who traveled with her family to Svalbard (of which Spitzbergen is one island) and beyond to the 80th parallel in an Island Packet 380 (hull 147 – mine is hull 135). Icebergs, polar bears, etc..

Bank Holiday Solent Jaunt

When I checked it before the Channel Islands trip, the anchor light wasn’t working. With the help of Judith’s two ‘boys’, Aidan and Marcus, I was hoisted up the mast in a bosun’s chair with a replacement bulb – a LED light this time using only 1.5w as opposed to 20w. Succeeded in replacing it after a few minutes of figuring! Lovely view, even if a tad breezy.

Departed at sunset at around 2000 hours Friday 22 August from Shamrock Quay. Sailed and motor-sailed down Southampton Water. Had to dog-leg it at Calshot Spit because of an approaching high-speed passenger ferry. Arrived Osborne Bay 2215 after two hours night sailing. Anchored with W-NW Force 4 winds. Not particularly well-sheltered. Set smart phone anchor watch. Had a lovely chilli con carne supper, prepared before departure. Failed to check that anchor had grabbed so only had moderate sleep. [There must be a lesson here!]

A filling pre-sail English breakfast of sausage, bacon, egg with bread and coffee. We planned to sail with the tide to Hurst Point, taking the turning tide back to the Beaulieu River to anchor overnight. Headed off at 1100 hours. Forgot to log boat’s track until 1415 hours, so track till then is estimated. Arrived 1515 hours and found a dozen yachts anchored at Hurst Point – obviously a popular spot under the prevailing conditions. Many yachts in Needles channel and in North passage.

Arrived Beaulieu River entrance at 1745 with sufficient tide to negotiate the two sandbars and then to the first anchorage but failed to secure boat in a tight location. Moved 200m further upstream and successfully anchored at 1840. This time checked that the anchor had grabbed by reversing under anchor. Led to a very secure and restful night under calm sheltered conditions.

The next morning, with very little coaxing, Aidan and Marcus went for a pre-breakfast swim off the boat in a 1-2 knot flood tide with a water temperature of 13.5 degrees Centigrade. Brrrr! Judith and I didn’t join them as we thought it only fair to hold towels and prepare hot drinks …

Departed Beaulieu River anchorage 1115 hours amongst an exodus of boats. As we motored in windless, partially cloudy conditions nearing Calshot Spit, we spotted two Lancasters flanked by two Spitfires flying  in formation. The Lancasters were low and close together whereas the Spitfires skirted them at a much higher altitude. What a treat!

The world's two only properly functioning Lancaster bombers over the Solent, 24 August 2014.
The world’s two only properly functioning Lancaster bombers over the Solent, 24 August 2014.

Motored until half way up Southampton Water when wind picked up sufficiently to set all sails. Furled all sails when we reached the mouth of the Itchen River and motored back to the marina. Total distance logged 87 nm, including 2 night hours.