Azores to Portugal

We Complete the Crossing!

The third and final leg of our Atlantic Crossing took us 6 days. This leg was different from the first two in several striking ways:

-- Having completed two major passages within the previous 6 weeks, departing on this 835 mile trip just didn’t seem like that big of a deal. Amazing! We simply topped off the fuel and water and hoisted the dinghy on deck like we always do for any offshore passage, and then we took off. There was no “anticipation anxiety.” In fact, along the way Ty was so relaxed that he read two novels instead of shop manuals!

-- This leg had the best and most consistent winds and sailing we’ve ever experienced. We remained on a port tack the entire 6 days, using main and jib the whole time with no need for spinnaker nor whisker pole.

-- This was the most comfortable leg. Fort the first four days the seas were relatively calm, allowing us to move about below with far more ease than we’d grown used to. Suzanne took advantage of the conditions to do some extra fancy cooking, including making stromboli from scratch. The final two days saw the return of much rocking and rolling, but by then we knew the end was in sight.

-- There were only 3 of us to stand watch, so we stood three hours on/six hours off with a one-hour-each watch mid-day so that we stood watch the same time each day. This allowed our bodies to settle into more of a routine than on the previous two legs. It was still tiring, but not nearly as bad as port and starboard watches had it only been Ty and Suzanne.

Stromboli

Suzanne uses her special rolling pin

Hooked bird

Ty and Suzanne free their “catch of the day”

One thing that didn’t change was our luck with fishing.

Sigh.

After the excitement of catching two mahi mahi the first day out of Beaufort, we failed to hook a single fish the remaining 3000-plus miles!

The first day out of the Azores, however, we did manage to catch something... a seagull! Yikes. Fortunately, the big bird only tangled his wing on the line and not the lure. It was a big relief to watch him fly off -- but not as big a relief as it was for him! As soon as he was free, he and his buddies quickly disappeared!

It’s Always Something

If you looked at the page covering Bermuda to the Azores, you read how the stress of sailing non-stop day after day takes a toll on the boat and crew. It was no different this leg.

Ty up mast with arrow

That’s Ty, way up there!

Our first problem was relatively minor: a burnt out bulb. But nothing on a boat is ever easy. Naturally, this bulb was our steaming light -- a pretty important one -- and it was halfway up the mast! How many people does it take to change a lightbulb? In this case three... one to steer the boat, one to climb the mast, and one to man the safety line. Since most boat jobs require squeezing into small compartments with great bodily contortions, Ty enjoyed the challenge of going up the mast at sea. He had the bad bulb changed out in record time. On the left Suzanne eases the safety line to let him climb back down. She did consider leaving him up there for a while, but didn’t want to stand his watches for him...  

Alas, a burned out bulb was not the most serious problem. The remaining two issues happened within seconds of each other, making for the most “exciting” moments of the passage. Remember, we can do without excitement on an offshore passage! Here’s what happened:

We were due to arrive in Portugal in less than 18 hours and other than the steaming light, had no problems whatsoever. We knew we were stretching our luck. Well, as darkness fell on the night of July 20th the winds increased to 23 knots. Time to reef. We had just started to furl the jib when the screws holding the turning block for the furling line to the stanchion came off. Considering the strong winds, this was not a good thing! The jib immediately hourglassed  itself around the forestay, but not neatly, the way it’s designed to! Naturally it started flogging and trying to beat itself to death. Just at that moment the bail on the boom to which the mainsheet was attached sheered off! It went flying into the water and the boom extended all the way out to the spreaders. The top priority was rescuing the main and boom. Leaving the jib thrashing away at the bow, we immediately brought the boat

bail failure 30

Our boom, temporarily secured to the gallows. The circles indicate where the metal bail holding the mainsheet sheered off.

through the big waves and lowered the main.Ty lashed the boom to the boom gallows, then we turned our attention to the jib. By running the boat in circles and working the winches we were able to untangle the sail before any damage was done. It all sounds rather calm and easy when you read about it, but with the wind, waves, and crashing noises, it was quite exciting. There’s that word again! You can read more about the “excitement” in the Atlantic Crossing Journal for July 21st.

With the strong winds pushing us along we enjoyed a fast trip. On the morning of the 6th day we found ourselves in the shipping lanes off Lisbon. The north-south traffic separation scheme kept the ships traveling up and down the coast from running into each other. We had to cut across those lanes, however, to reach our destination. After many days of having no contacts at all on the radar it was quite a change to have 7-10 BIG contacts on the screen at once! The morning fog only added to the challenge. Ty was used to this kind of situation, having taken Navy ships in and out of some of the world’s busiest harbors. Suzanne was a bit intimidated at first, but by drawing vector diagrams of the radar picture every ten minutes to keep track of which way all the contacts were going, she quickly warmed up to the “game.”

At 0909 “Land Ho!” rang out as the tall capes of the coast of Portugal came into view. In 1980 while enjoying a junior year abroad in Seville, Spain, Suzanne made a side-trip to Portugal. While there she stood at Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point in continental Europe, looking out over the vast ocean and knowing that home was very far away. She never imagined that twenty-five years later she would sail across that ocean on her own boat and pass by that very cape minutes before making landfall!

We sailed into the resort city of Cascais, a suburb of Lisbon. This is the site of this year’s Portugal Match Cup, an international sailing event. It was our luck to arrive right in the middle of one of the races, providing both a beautiful sight and the challenge of dodging the boats! Within minutes we were tied up to the Cascais Marina’s reception pier, high-fiving, hugging, and congratulating ourselves on the completion of a successful voyage.

Before catching up on some much-needed sleep, we took the time to enjoy lunch in a waterside cafe, somewhat stunned by the colorful, cosmopolitan and oh-so-European surroundings.

Congrats

We toast our arrival in Portugal

The thought that the crossing is behind us and exploration of Europe and the Mediterranean now lies ahead is quite a thrill. To explore these new waters and historic lands aboard our boat -- our home -- makes it all the more exciting... and that’s the kind of excitement we like!

We hope you’ll continue to come back and join us month by month as we work away down the coast of Portugal to Spain and on through the Med. As they say in Portugal, “Ate logo!” (See you later!).

For a personal account of the crossing, read excerpts of Suzanne’s daily notes in “Atlantic Crossing Journal.”