Antigua to the Acores, part 1

Carina and I started from Jolly Harbor in Antigua on Saturday morning, May 1st, 2021, and arrived in Horta on the island of Faial in the Azores on Monday morning, May 17th. We had hired Chris Tibbs to get advice on how to deal with the weather while sailing across the Atlantic Ocean.

Our track from Antigua to Horta May 1st to May 17th 2021, the red dots represents a postings

The time indication on the map and in the article is in UTC, on board the boat we have local time, which means that we adjust the time on board when we enter a new time zone.

I reckon that the forecasts we get from PredictWind are correct for the first 2 days, however, I lack the knowledge to make safe routing decisions based on the development of the weather in the coming week. Therefore, we have hired Chris Tibbs to send weather forecast with recommended routing every three days on our way to the Azores. The first recommendation is to keep as high in the wind as we can until we reach the high pressure ridge.

Day 1, it feels like a long day

Jonas: We start by motoring inside the reef along the north coast of Antigua and go out into the Atlantic through the Horse Shoe Reef Channel. The wind comes from the east and it is 1 knot of current from the east that pushes us towards Barbuda. To reduce drift, we motor sail until we get past Barbuda. Without an engine, we need to sail 10 degrees lower (about 40 degrees relative to the wind) to keep the speed through the waves.

Day 2, wind turn more to north

Jonas: Squalls are more common during the night and this night is no exception. I have asked Chris why and it is because when the sun goes down the top of the clouds cools which gives an increasing temperature difference to the sea. The cloud then sucks up more air from the sea surface, which results in increasing wind speed into the cloud and eventually the ascending air condenses and forms rain.

After a series of squalls in the evening, the wind turns to the NE, which means that we have to sail a more northerly course. During the night we got a fantastic starry sky, one you only see out on the sea where there is no lighting from the civilization :slight_smile:

Carina still has a mild seasickness and the best way to deal with it is to lie down and rest. Hopefully it will disappear completely in a few days.

Day 3, another nice day

Jonas: It usually takes us about three days to adjust to non-stop sailing. And most of the adjustment is to learn to sleep while the boat moves in the waves and to get used to all the new sounds.

We have divided the night watches into three shifts, 18-22, 22-04 and 04-09. Carina takes the midnight shift, I the other two. Every morning I download the weather forecast and update the route, send position reports to other boats that make the same trip as us. Run the water maker and charge the batteries. I also make my breakfast, ensure half daily coffee intake and write on the blog. I rest after dinner which we eat around 13. After that it is time to check the weather for the night and change sails if necessary. If it blows over 15 knots, we often reduce the sail area during the night, so that the one that shall sleep, can sleep better.

I have slept a total of 7 hours since yesterday and am alert again after the first day with less sleep. Carina still suffers from a mild seasickness, but she felt better today after a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Carina: We continue to sail close hauled at full speed, but managed to go a little further east today. Feels good, the Azores are there. We have perfect sailing conditions, 10 to 16 knots Trade-wind and small waves. We have swell from the northwest and from the south, it has given a new irregular movement in the boat.

Jonas looks with concern to the light winds of the next few days, perhaps even a calm sea. I (Carina) look forward to experiencing a completely calm, mirror-like sea, which I have never seen. Also, get some rest from a rocking boat. The waves are admittedly small, but many. We have calculated that there will be almost 40,000 waves per day. Better balance training is probably not possible to get.

Day 4, the high pressure ridge

Carina: Today we have had a fantastic wonderful sailing. Light wind, only around 8 knots, but Sally still moves forward at about 6 knots. It does not get nicer than this. Best of all, the seasickness is gone. So tomorrow it will be baked apple pie, drink COFFEE, and read books again. Now the remaining days will be no match at all.
In addition, we have been quarantined on the boat in several rounds in the Caribbean, both in one- and two-week periods. So just being on the boat is not a problem, we are used to it and it is really nothing new.

Jonas: Chris has advised us to continue towards a point north of the high pressure belt and we have around 5 days to get there. We need to keep 5-6 knots speed on average, so the engine can help us through the calm area.

Day 5, from disaster to magical moment

Carina: The day begins with motoring due to bad wind. After 10 minutes, the alarm sounds ”Warning, fuel temperature high, switch off the engine” Sigh… what is it now. We discuss and wonder if we got bad diesel when we refueled in Antigua. It has happened to us once before, and then our fuel filter clogged.

Said and done, time for the ultimate test of whether my seasickness is really gone. Half past seven in the morning, in a rocking boat, on the knees, with my head stuck in the engine compartment. I have to lean down and hold an empty bottle 2 dm from my nose, while Jonas unscrews the bottom plug on the fuel filter and lets the diesel out into my bottle. That smell…:weary:, but I passed the test :+1:

The fuel was clean. What else could be wrong, the fuel pump? Very true, it sounds bad, and we have no spare. What are the consequences of not having an engine and being forced to sail all the way?

We want to try one more thing, we have turned off a tap from the diesel tank. It should not have anything to do with the engine at all. But even the unreasonable should be tested in crisis. It was the solution, the tap was incorrectly marked! Now the fuel pump was happy again and the engine started.

Now we had time to look around us. The sea is like a mirror, no wind at all, just what I wanted to experience. Absolutely magical to see the sea so calm. We could not resist the temptation to stop the boat and swim in the middle of the Atlantic with 6 km of water below me – :heavy_check_mark:Check on that!
Life on board is never monotonous or boring.

Day 6, another calm day at sea

Jonas: We got one hour of sailing today and we sailed around 3 nautical miles. The rest of the day we have zero to 4 knots of wind. That is to little for this boat to move without flapping sails when the swell passes. So the engine has been running the rest of the day. I think we will be able to start sailing tomorrow morning or so.

Day 7, still light wind

Carina: We had two days of calmness and mirror-like sea. Glad to have experienced it. The stillness and silence that was when we turned off the engine, it is probably difficult to experience elsewhere.
But now we want wind. It has started to blow, straight from behind, but far too little. So now during the night we are motoring to catch up to the low pressure north of us before the high pressure spreads with a new calmness. It feels like a world turned upside down. Escape from high pressure and fight to reach low pressure!
An advantage of the calmness is that you can sit and watch TV series in the evenings. Some episodes of House of Card here in the middle of the Atlantic are perfectly ok.

Jonas: The advice from Chris remains and we need to keep the speed up to reach north of 35 degrees in a couple of days. If not, we risk getting stuck in the high pressure ridge that moves north when the low pressure has passed. Today we had apple pie with ice cream for the afternoon coffee, yummy

Day 8, into low pressure zone

Jonas: Today we entered the low pressure area and sail in 16-18 knots southwesterly wind from a low pressure further north. With good weather forecasts, I hope we can balance between the strong winds further north and the light winds south of us.

Carina: Sally flies forward at a speed of 8-9.5 knots, it is pitch black outside so you can not see the water rushing past, just hear it and feel the speed. We are soon halfway, and so far the sailing has been fantastic.

Day 9, cheers! now we are halfway there

Jonas: Today when I went on my watch at 04:00 in the morning, it was so cold that I needed a hoodie instead of the usual t-shirt. It is only 21.5 degrees in the water today, yesterday it was over 25 C. We continue to the northeast until tomorrow or so. After that, we plan to set course directly for Horta.

Carina: Today we have come halfway to Horta and it was traditionally celebrated with a glass of bubbly at sunset :clinking_glasses:and as usual Mirja and Håkan were with us.
We have also passed a time zone, so now it is only 5 hours difference to you in Sweden. Feels like we’ve passed a climate zone too. It’s so cold… brrrrr…

Up next

The low pressure hits us a little earlier and harder than the latest weather forecast showed. We get a quick sailing to Horta and Sally gets to show what she can do when the wind picks up a little more.