Previous month:
September 2014
Next month:
November 2014

October 2014

Orion's Belt

It is 0135 on Monday, October 6. As I write this, you folks back home in the Eastern US are watching the last half hour of your ten o'clock show. We are sailing to the Canaries and I'm on watch on an incredibly beautiful night. The moon is nearly full, the major stars are so bright that I made EW get out of bed (he'd just gotten in - I didn't wake him up) and come identify what I was looking at: one satellite and some big honking stars.

The wind died just before my afternoon watch began. We had barely enough wind to sail, but were not going fast enough for Casey, the auto-pilot to work well. EW decided to hand steer, but I was against it. He steered for a bit into my watch until I felt guilty and sent him below to sleep. I steered. It was a beautiful day. Overhead was a clear blue sky, rimmed at the horizon with small, puffy clouds. The sea was a deep blue, with only one to two foot waves. We ghosted along, La Luna and I, finally heading southeast to the Canaries at the breath-taking speed of 2 knots an hour.

This is how I felt sailing my little boat, Selene, in Quohog Bay in Maine. Calm. Accomplished. Happy. Maybe I'll hand steer a bit more on this trip. Reading, cooking, learning a language -- those are all good things to do out here. (I have to cook, EW insists on eating every day.) Being and sailing are two good things to do out here, too.

Gotta remember that.

During my watch the wind picked up to 10-12, and shifted just a bit more to the north -- a great move on the wind's part. Early in EW's watch, we had a target on AIS, a 244 meter cargo ship, heading almost right for us. EW hailed them on the radio and the watch captain was delighted to chat with us. He turned hard to starboard to pass us port to port. Usually these ships turn one or two degrees so that they cross us a mile out instead of less than a half mile. This lovely man turned fully, as he would for another cargo ship, and then he hailed us.

"Where are you going?" "Where did you come from?" "How many on board?" He was delighted to chat with EW about our travels. They are on their way to New Orleans to load up with grain for China, and will then proceed through the Panama Canal. The watch captain is from Greece, and very impressed with our much more minor cruises in a very much smaller vessel. EW and he wished the other safe passages and switched back to Channel 16. Two ships, passing in the night. (Well a big honking cargo ship and a small sailboat, passing in twilight. But you get the idea.)

This was a good day at sea.

As of 01:44 on October 6 we were at North 33 21.54 and West 21 52.08

Hey, Mo. Please let me know these are getting through. Thank you and hugs.

On Watch

I used to think that being "On Watch" meant staying on deck gazing out at the sea, perhaps with binoculars, for hours at a time. That lasted about 10 minutes, so on the way south from Maine, I sat on deck for my entire watch, quartering the sea, looking for boats, going down below every 30 minutes to write in the log, use the head (quickly), and grabbing a snack. All other activities were reserved for off watch times.
Miles more experience, an AIS receiver,and the need for sleep have all resulted in watches that include cooking a pizza, making bread, reading, writing, cleaning -- all while standing watch. I still check the horizon all the way around every 15 to 20 minutes, looking for boats that, like us, don't transit on the AIS. I am on deck most of the time, but below in the navigation station for a third of the time, too.

At sea on La Luna, the person on watch wears a life jacket and tether at all times. We make entries in the log every hour, read, work on learning Portuguese (me) or Spanish (EW), cook, and clean a bit -- all while on watch in our life jackets. I have a friend in a catamaran who told me she wears her iPod with headphones and frequently dances in the cockpit while on watch. We don't have room (or the lack of heeling) for that, but I love the visual.

In our first year out, neither of us liked the store-bought watch books we used. I came up with a new system and we found a rather unique (and ugly)notebook for it in Grenada. This year I modified the pages and we are very happy with it. There are pages for at sea and for being in a port at anchor on on the dock. It gives EW a space to keep track of maintenence and repairs, and lets me note when I last defrosted the fridge and when we took on water. At sea, we now write in the log every hour.

On this trip, we are finally sailing almost in the direction we wish to go. I seriously need to learn how to understand weather reports and grib files, and seek other sources for weather that are available on the SSB. We've had no bad weather, lovely seas, beautiful skies, and companionable watch captains on the ships we've met. I can't complain. (Though I did yesterday.)

As of 0627 (UTC plus 1) on October 5th we are located at North 34 20.67 and West 23 15.11.


The Call of the Azores

I am writing this at 0435 on October 4th. We have been at sea for 40 hours and should be 160-200 miles from Santa Maria. All weather predictions showed east winds at 15 knots or so, since we are traveling southeast to the Canaries, east would have been just fine.
We have seen mostly southeast winds. We have tacked to the northeast twice (and are on that second tack back now) and are only 76 miles from Santa Maria. I'm bitching. It's a beautiful night, the seas are much calmer than they were last night. We have a moon and stars and (so far) no boats coming within sight. There's nothing wrong with this.

The plan now is to actually cross our rhumb line this time. We didn't go far enough on the last tack, instead being seduced by a wind shift that didn't last. When I send this out at 0600 I'll get a new weather report and hope it's right. One of our favorite neighbors at our home in South Portland was Cassie, a sweet, smart, creative, delightful little girl who played with our dog, Coffee, and who loved to talk with Favorite when he was in town. Cassie just earned her PhD in meteorology. I will have questions for her after this sail. Either EW and I are doing something wrong or all the weather gurus are when they compile the gribs. How hard can it be?

I know. Bitch. Bitch. Bitch.

As of 044 on October 4 we are at North 36 00.71 and West 024 04.195.


Shoot Low Harry

Back in Maine there used to be a racing boat with the name, "Shoot Low Harry, They're Riding Chickens". The graphics were appropriately interesting. That's a fine name for a racing boat, particularly one that is too small to take out of Casco Bay, and which will never go through the Inland Waterway or locks or cross any oceans. These are the kind of things I think of when we are at sea, and we are at sea again, having left Santa Maria in the Azores at 1300 on October 2.

The first couple of days at sea (now that this is my third time leaving port for more than 4 days, I can pretend to be experienced) are a little unsettling. It takes nearly three days to get into the routine and sleep well when off watch. I was able to let EW sleep (or try to) when I had the 1800 too midnight shift, but I had to get up during my shift to help adjust sails. I did get some rest though, and feel much better than I had done on my first night watch.

The east winds have not appeared and the east-southeast winds have caused us to sail 50 miles starboard of our course. It's shortly after 0800 and I had to get EW up for a close encounter, so we tacked before he went back to sleep. When I had gotten up two hours ago to take my watch, he told me we had a "target" -- a ship on AIS that would come within a half mile of us. We don't like it when big ships get that close to us. According to our AIS report, they were a tug the MTS Viscount and were heading for Brazil. We especially don't want a tug too close when they have something under tow.

EW reached them on the radio, the gentleman was nice, they had nothing under tow, would maintain their course, and would watch for us. An hour later, I called them again as their CPA (Closest Point of Approach) was less than 300 feet and I really don't like that. He asked our boat name (we don't transmit on AIS, just receive).

I replied, "La Luna". He didn't understand. So I reeled off, "Lima Alpha Lima Uniform November Alpha."

"Would you please repeat more slowly?" I get that a lot. Even when speaking to someone for whom English is their first or only language. No surprise that some called me "motor mouth" in high school.

I repeated much more slowly, reflecting that I was very glad that we named the boat in only six letters. Can you imagine entering a lock and having to say, "Sierra Hotel Oscar Oscar Tango Lima Oscar Whiskey Hotel Alpha Romeo Romeo Yankee .." Well, you get the idea.

This is Lima Alpha Lima Uniform November Alpha signing off from North 35 29.957 and West 024 29.889. We are heading for the Azores, but our current course is 005 - going the wrong way for now. Sailboats are like that.

Oh! It was a small tug. Can't believe they are going to Brazil. They crossed our bow in daylight at about a half mile out. No worries.

Finally! Ilheu de Vila Franca

IMG_5023Throughout the Azorean summer, we didn’t swim at all. Not once. First, I didn’t have my suit with me on the drive in Sao Jorge. Then, it rained. Or EW didn’t feel like swimming and I didn’t want to go alone. Or something. When we left Pico without trying out one of their natural pools I told EW that we were going to swim at Ilheu de Vila Franca, no ifs, ands, or buts!

I took the above photo from land on our car trip with Jose, who reinforced my desire to swim there.

This aerial photo below is from Câmara Municipal de Vila Franca do Campo. Oh. My.

ileau da vila franco

Our cruising guide calls this “the best natural swimming pool in the Azores”. 

No kidding

Cruisers (see the sailboat?) can anchor in 20 feet of water and dinghy to the stone quay. Mere mortals can pay 5 Euro for a ride from the marina at Vila Franca do Campo. We left the dock and checked out of Ponta Delgada and sailed 12 miles south, with the intention of anchoring off the beach at Vila Franca do Campo. We were going to spend a few days there, see the ilheu, visit the town, and take a taxi to the Furnas where they cook your lunch in hot springs.

IMG_6232Unfortunately, while this rainbow may have promised a treasured adventure, the anchorage wasn’t comfortable at all, with the light winds from the southeast resulting in an obnoxious roll. (Winds from the north – as predicted – would have been fine.) We didn’t’ sleep and were tired and grouchy the next day, and EW didn’t want to take the boat into the marina as it is a very small marina with few slips for large transient boats. They do have a mooring system outside of the inner break wall, but we just weren’t comfortable with that idea.

First, we hauled anchor. Then we had breakfast as we discovered that there was no wind for sailing, just wind for creating a roll. We had no intention of motoring all the way to Santa Maria, and I didn’t think the wind was going to change any time soon. Plus there was that rainbow …

So, we motored back to the ilheu, dropped the hook, blew up the dinghy, and donned our swimsuits.

IMG_6247It was totally, totally worth it. A few tourist couples had gotten rides from the town, but we were largely alone on the island. (According to Trip Advisor it can be very crowded in season. Our guide suggests cruisers opt for weekdays when the locals will be at work.)

IMG_6263This is a magical place, with mostly shallow to chest high water, a sandy bottom, snorkeling, rocks to climb, and a large red crab.






















EW climbed the cliffs to the step just below the tree line. I took photos.











Back aboard La Luna, I made a hearty lunch, we napped and rested, and the wind obliged us by increasing just enough from the right direction. Just before dark we hauled anchor and I took the first watch on a lovely overnight sail to Santa Maria.


Travelers --- not Tourists

IMG_5855IMG_5860For our second unplanned Edouard lay day in Sao Miguel, we decided to visit Sete Cidades, described in our tour book as “a crater with a 12km parameter where one can find twin lakes, the Green Lake and the Blue Lake.” There is a legend about the lakes (of course) and the love of a princess and shepherd boy. When she told the shepherd that her father had forbid the romance, they cried so much that their tears formed two beautiful lakes, one green, for the Princess's eyes were green, and the other blue, for the shepherd's eyes were blue.

(I like this legend because nothing is mentioned of them plunging to their deaths in despair, so I can imagine he later married the daughter of a cattleman and therefore prospered (we haven’t seen sheep here) and that she married a prince and lived happily ever after.)

I had checked in with the tourism office to confirm that the bus schedule for Sunday, so when the bus was late, we weren’t worried. We were able to reassure three travelers from the Washington D.C. area, J, L, and E. The ladies, L and E work together and love to travel; they were joined this time by J, who had gone to college with L and who also is a traveler.

“Traveler” is their word. They don’t describe themselves as tourists. Evidently there’s a difference as indicated by this Huffington Post Blog. EW and I are travelers, too. (Here's a cruiser's blog discussing travelors and tourists Ceilydh Set Sail.)

IMG_5863We chatted at the bus stop. They had arrived from Boston the previous day and this hike was part of their planed adventure on the islands of Sao Miguel and Pico.

They are all three energetic hikers and their guidebook showed the hike starting from the town of Set Cidades. Our map showed a start out of town, near the aqueduct. After a half hour of wandering the small town, taking photos of the lake, and looking for the path to the start of the hike, I suggested that the whole trip may be a tad too long to get us back to the bus in time. L said that she usually completes every walk much faster than the books say it will take. My experience in the Azores has been that I am much slower than the maps indicate. They graciously agreed to stay with us and share a taxi. EW found a van taxi driver who agreed to take us to the start of the trail for 3 Euro each. For. The. Win. (That space between where the bus dropped us off and the aqueduct was about 5 kilometers straight up a busy road., and all of us were pleased with our decision to taxi to the start.)


That’s J, L, EW, and E – below. IMG_5869










The lakes are an important water source for the island. Here are remains of the old aqueduct.


This is the Azores.








There were cows.




And trees.IMG_5889






Including some trees that looked ominous.

Can you say earth quake zone?

















This was a medium difficulty trail – according to the map. There were very steep parts up, and very steep parts down, but the whole trail was on a dirt road. Some folks drove the whole trail. Pikers.

And there were glorious views.























IMG_5981It became apparent that this hike offered a special photo opportunity for one of our D.C. travelers. L’s holiday cards always feature a photo of her taken on her travels. Traveling friends vie to have their photo chosen. J and E were on it.

I took a few, but I mostly took photos of the process. Here’s a tip from L:  In the sun, close your eyes and have the photographer count to 3. On 3, open and smile. If you and the photographer are well-timed, your eyes will be open for the shot.

San Miguel Hike


E graciously took my camera for a photo of EW and me. 


I only allowed myself special hydrangea photos. These flowers are still interesting after they’ve passed.



My favorite view.


There were viewpoints or “miradouros” on paths off the road. At the top of one I took the photo at left, and started singing, “The hills are alive, with the sound of music.”  (It’s a generational thing. And a girl thing. L & E got it.)


We learned about J, L, and E and they learned about us. (They don’t blog, so I am protecting their privacy. They know I do and these photos are authorized.) We liked and enjoyed each of them, laughed and teased each other, and EW and I were delighted they had let us invade their party.

Near the end of the day, L found out that I never got “Seinfeld”. She expressed relief that she hadn’t known that earlier. (Apparently the day might not have been as pleasant.) Shortly afterward, I found out she doesn’t like chocolate and expressed a similar thought.


I am submitting this entry for her holiday card.

Because …. cow.


Here’s my favorite shot of EW.







After a very steep descent on loose gravel (not my favorite part of the trail), we arrived back in the village, in time to wander a bit more, have a couple of beers, play with a puppy, and catch the bus for home.





Mainahs and others who live in tourist areas can relate to this guy – working on his roof, while we enjoy the beautiful sights of his island.