We had planned to sail to Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel, the largest island in the archipelago that makes up the Azores. The day before we plan to sail there, we learn that they have many new cases of covid-19 and we choose to skip visiting the island. Instead, we decide to sail directly to Lagos in Portugal.
Day1, leaving The Azores
Jonas: Today we left Horta and sailed towards Lagos in Portugal. We have had varying winds with many sail changes. As we sailed out of the shelter of Sao Jorge, we were hit by a northerly wind of 25 to 30 knots. We reefed the mainsail and use the inner jib instead of the genoa. We do 8 to 10 knots without surfing. It’s fast for Sally. Hope the wind turns west-northwest before it gets dark.
Day 2, windy night
Jonas: It has been a windy night (25 knots from north-northeast) with big waves hitting us with terrible force and water is pouring all over the boat each time. Carina is still seasick and despite that, she took a watch last night so I could sleep for a while. The mast pumps a lot when we sail through the steep waves, unfortunately, it is not possible to tighten the aft lower shrouds right now, it has to wait until the wind and the waves decrease. To reduce the pumping, we fall off a little so that the waves come more from the side and do not stop us as much.
Day 3, finally lower windspeed
Jonas: It was a demanding start to this trip. We have had 20-25 knots of wind from NE wind and steep waves towards us all the time. Carina is still seasick and can not eat or drink anything without starting to feel sick and vomit. Despite that, she took a watch last night again so I could sleep a little.
The boat behaves very well and took us 176 nautical miles closer to Portugal in the last 24 hours. Now we have about 650 M left. We have seen some cargo ships and right now we are passed by the motorboat Liberty 500 m north of us, the nearest passage so far. So close that our AIS alarm went off.
During the day, the wind decreased to 10 knots, and the waves were smaller and not as steep as before. Then we took the opportunity to lower all the sails and motored slowly straight towards the waves while I tightened the aft lower shrouds.
Day 4, finally wind has turned to NV
Jonas: At Portugal’s southwestern cape, it almost always blows hard from the north and we prefer to have tailwinds when we sail there. Today the wind turned so that we can sail a little more to the north and get a stern wind as we approach Portugal.
Carina has not recovered from the seasickness she has had for three days now. She feels better and can eat small simple meals such as mashed potatoes with butter, water, and some milk.
Day 5, 10 knots of wind is perfect
Jonas: 10 knots wind from the north is absolutely perfect for us now. It is enough to stabilize the boat sideways but not enough to create big waves. We make 6 knots speed, which is good, and best of all, it gives Carina good conditions to recover from seasickness. Carina has not been seasick since Wednesday and has eaten her first regular meal since Monday. Hope she continues to recover today and that she has become immune to seasickness this trip. She has previously been ill for the first three days of offshore sailing, but never like this. I think it was due to the very short and steep waves we took on the bow during the first 48 hours. So one lesson is ”never start an offshore sailing in 20-25 knots headwind”.
Now we have about 350 nautical miles left and it takes us about 2 days to sail.
Wow! A dolphin made just 3 big jumps out of the water, long jumps 3 m up in the air.
Day 6, close encounter
Jonas: The wind has increased according to the forecast. We are making good speed in the northerly wind and the waves are building up. Carina has started to feel seasick again, let’s hope she does not vomit this time.
Today we had a scary experience with a ship that came very close to us. We saw the ship Su on the AIS 15 M (nautical miles) away with 1 hour left until our tracks would cross with a very short distance between us, less than 100 m. It is too close to be comfortable. Usually, in situations like this, the cargo ships change their course a little to increase to a safe passage distance, but not Su.
When there were 15 minutes left until the passage, they have not yet changed course and the passage distance is still below 100 m. I call them on VHF channel 16, several times before there is a mumbling response and then nothing more. I call again, and after a while, I got another mumbling response, then silence. They came closer and closer and I call them again. This time also ask about their intentions, will they go in front of or behind us? This time it was another voice that answered and he said something with ”… change course”. I asked him to repeat, more silence. Now the ship was only 1 M away and I called them again. Another voice answered and I asked again about their intentions. He said they should change course, but not if they plan to pass aft or in front of us. I asked again and this time he confirmed that they should go behind.
Now they are really close and have not changed course yet. They are on their way straight towards us 500 m away and I have started the engine so we can turn if needed. Still, no visible change in their course, and AIS showed that they still had the same course as before. I call them again and ask them to go behind us, and then we saw the ship slowly turn and pass less than 100 m behind us. I have never experienced such an uncertain encounter with a ship before.
Day 7, arrived in Lagos
Jonas: There are many cargo ships passing in and out of the Strait of Gibraltar. We have more than 30 vessels in and around the traffic separation zone at the southwestern point of Portugal. We pass just north of the zone and must pass all ships that use the zone. Fortunately, we have a Class B AIS, which means we are visible in their navigation system. It is easy to see which ships will come close to us and call them on VHF to agree on how we should pass each other. Although ships should in principle always give way to sailboats, all passages must take place safely. So it is good to agree in advance on the passage.
When we enter the Algarve coast we are visited by several dolphins playing around the boat and luckily no killer whales come and destroy our rudder.
We had booked a place in the marina when we left the Azores and check-in goes smoothly. What a difference, warm and sunny with many people vacationing here. Almost like before the pandemic, the only difference being the face masks and some other rules when visiting stores, etc.
We will prepare the boat for haul out at Sopromar boatyard before we go home to Sweden over the summer.