Chapter Eleven July, 2004

 

 

            Sixteen days, one thousand nine hundred and twenty nautical miles, eight cans of spam and we have gone from the Americas to Europe.  Or, rather, from Bermuda to the island of Faial in the Azores.

            It has been a terrific passage.  We were late out of Bermuda, trapped there by headwinds, but once out of Saint George’s the plan was to strike north to find the winds which would blow us eastward. Day 5 the wind found us – a half-gale that reduced us to staysail alone and whipped us fast northwards through grey, hissing seas and pelting rain.  ‘Everything is wet’ the midnight log reads on June 27th, but next morning, in improving weather, we saw our first dolphin, hoisted the mainsail (two reefs), and turned east towards the Azores, now 1,250 nautical miles away.

            We had been driven a little westward of our planned track, but now we were wind-hunting with a vengeance.  John and Sharon’s newest toy is the ‘grib’.  The ‘grib’ is downloaded by sat-phone and shows, on the onboard computer, the pattern of  prevailing winds, so every couple of days a new grib was downloaded and that dictated our course. If there was wind to the south we went there, too successfully as it turned out, for we were eventually dropped into a windless hole and had to motor-sail for two days, but the passage is notorious for calms so it was only to be expected.  Most days the log has comments like ‘perfect sailing’ – ‘good wind on the beam’ – ‘sunny, warm, gorgeous’.

            There were dolphins, sea-turtles and, even a thousand miles from land, shearwaters.  The shearwaters are glorious birds, skimming the waves with a careless grace.  There were remarkably few other vessels, all of them cargo ships, but one afternoon a helicopter buzzed us.  He was a US Navy craft, evidence that there was a warship or task force beyond the horizon, and he came low to identify us, gave us a friendly wave and vanished northwards.  There were sunsets and sunrises of extraordinary beauty, nights when the stars were hard and sharp as diamonds, and the odd mishap.  The engine died on us, which was bad news, but John discovered the cause, repaired it, and so kept the refrigerator cold, but no amount of engineering could keep the loo working.  John insists the toilet is NOT broken, it merely doesn’t work, a distinction that was lost on the writer in residence.  There is, of course, a very efficient en-suite bucket, and all I can say is that it’s very good that we started such close friends and nothing short of miraculous that we have finished as even closer.

            My other impressions?  This is a very competent, safe ship.  The number one priority aboard is safety, and John and Sharon meet crises with a very calm confidence.  Seraphim is in good hands, and the hands are in a superb ship.  As for the rest, we have crossed from the new world to the old with a great deal of laughter and much talk of those we left behind. Right now we’re lying in Horta Marina and I have to fly home today and wish I could stay and travel further (more spam next time, please), but it has been a huge joy and privilege to sail this far.  Thanks, guys.