August 6, 2017, 0530 hrs, 36.04 N, 006.00 W, Log: 203,257 miles
Baro: 1012.2, Cabin Temp: 77 F, Cockpit: 86 F, Sea Water: 81.5 F
Motorsailing in light and variable winds, calm seas
Straits of Gibraltar on the Bow!
Amanda and I had an excellent time in Cascais, Portugal between Legs 4 & 5 with perfect weather for varnishing the toerail and dodger trim, our first in a year and instead of renting a car or taking the train for explorations, we hiked and ran around Cascais. Leg 2 expedition member Helge lives near the marina and we enjoyed his company along with meeting his wife Susanne and 3 kids. Together we had lovely home visits, a fun outing to the market and a sail on MT down the coast to the entrance of the river to Lisbon.
Helge, Susanne and the three wee trolls after sailing on MT
A Zen moment for Amanda in downtown Cascais
Amanda demonstrates the trucker’s hitch that secures the high life line
Our Leg 5 crew came aboard Thursday and within an hour we were off on a fast broad reach 30 miles to anchor off the cliffs near Sesimbra for a swim and dinner before setting sail again.
The remote Cabo de Sao Vincent lighthouse
Our 120-mile overnight sail to Portimao, Portugal was a powerful downwind sail and it was quick learning curve for crew as the got to reef and unreef, rig the whisker pole and set the preventer on numerous gybes. Once daylight arrived the wind increased to 27 kts and John K. hit our season high boat speed of 10.1 kts surfing down a roller. We were so intent on passing Scottish friends on their Island Packet 420 that we didn’t think to lower the pole before rounding Cabo de Sao Vincent where our point of sail changed from a deep broad reach to a close reach. Caught off guard Amanda and I had to smartly wrestle down the pole and throw in a few reefs while MT charged off into the Atlantic.
Portimao Marina and surrounding condo, hotel and beachfront development is all relatively new, and we found the marina excellent and the staff very professional. They have a registration and fuel pontoon directly in front of the marina office where we easily topped up our fuel and slooooowly checked in.
Slowly because the customs/immigration officer was concerned that we didn’t have inbound clearance into the Schengen area with our arrival in La Coruna, Spain from the UK. I explained that the marina had checked us in, made copies of all passports and ship’s registry, saying they would forward these to the border control. According to this officer, we should have properly cleared in with a retaining clearance paper. Eventually he had me sign a statement stating the date and time we had arrived in Spain and I was relieved when he finally gave us outbound clearance to Gibraltar, our next landfall.
The temperature in Portmao was considerably warmer than in Cascais, and it felt like walking into an oven as we left the marina, looking for the adjacent beach. The beach was highly commercialized with areas roped off where beach goers pay €15 for access and more for beach clubs with pools to hear DJ’s play loud music. Mindy and Nils went wading, while Amanda and I climbed a fort to a lookout with a view of thousands of party beachgoers for miles down the beach and as is not quite our scene so we soon all headed back to MT for dinner.
Trendy apartments in Portimoa Marina
Blanco Beach Club in its pulsating splendor
Early yesterday morning Amanda and I went ran along the river to the commercial harbor checking out views of the old fishing village, beaches and castle on the other side which the cruising guide and Lonely Planet say area highlights.
By 0800 we were underway, hoping to cover the 175 miles to the Straits of Gibraltar before a forecasted wind shift from favorable westerly to a fresh easterly outflow Levante occurred. We’ve found www.windy.com the most helpful site for wind forecasts and have been able to utilize wi-fi as far as 12 miles offshore for updates. Otherwise, we’re receiving GRIB forecasts from www.saildocs.com over our Iridium satphone and frequent very accurate Navtex updates.
We had some brilliant downwind sailing in modest winds but winds have now become light and variable, making it prudent to motor to ensure we get past the narrowest part of the Straits before conditions deteriorate.
Highlights have been having a visit by a pod of dolphins, Eva spotting the first flying fish, a spectacular moonset and sunrise at the same time, seeing the lights of Morocco, Africa for the first time and passing a huge mid-channel parking lot of anchored super oil tankers lit up like a themed amusement park. We’ve been able to stay well out of the busy TSS traffic lanes but now we’re just 10 miles W of Tarifa, Spain which is the southern-most tip of Europe and one of the narrowest and busiest points in the Straits. Fortunately, daylight is just about 30 minutes away.
Rigging Spares class
The MFD display of the oil tanker parking lot
Daylight over Gibraltar’s Rock
August 8, 2017, 1630 hrs, 36.36 N, 003.33 W, Log: 203,392 miles
Baro: 1006.8, Cabin Temp: 85 F, Cockpit: 90 F, Sea Water: 78.6 F, (up 13 degrees in 48 hrs)
Broadreaching at 6.5-7.5 kts under double-reefed main and poled out genoa
Our runway view kept us entertained with John K giving us the commentary on each aircraft type
Light conditions held and by 1045 we’d tied up and Ocean Village Marina, next to a swanky permanently-moored cruise ship hotel/casino with inbound customs clearance completed in a couple minutes by marina staff.
After tidying up we all headed to the cable car queue to get to the top of the Rock. The queue seemed long, but the ride up the mountain was spectacular, reminding us of Madeira. Even before the car reached the terminal, a monkey jumped on the front window, scaring the kids who had their noses pressed to the glass. Monkeys (technically macaques) hang about all over the mountaintop lookout, some sitting unconcernedly in the middle of footpaths nursing their tiny babies while others just wander and laze about although a few are rather cheeky and leap onto the half open windows of the tourists taxis.
Looking north from the Rock, MT is moored further around the Rock to the right
A monkey scratching his itchy back with his right foot
The baby macaques are very peculiar
We all hiked down the mountain, stopping to visit St Micheal’s Cave, an amazing huge grotto with many stalagmites and stalactites, that has been lit in technicolor and also functions as a concert venue. On the way down we visited a Moorish castle and various gun emplacements. The signage and maps were challenging and we all ended up seemingly hiking up and down the mountain several times in the blazing sun but with amazing spectacular views across to Morocco, Africa, and NE up along Spain’s coast it was hard to complain.
With strobing lights and pounding tunes at St Michael’s Cave John quickly broke out his Dancing Queen moves
MT in Gibraltar’s Ocean Village Marina
We were all exhausted by the time we returned down the mountain to town and MT and we’d hoped to go exploring following dinner, but after a sing-along all but Amanda (who checked out the swim deck and casino of the adjacent cruise ship) crept off to bed.
With ABBA still on John’s mind it’s time for a Sing-Along session
Monday morning Amanda and I were too exhausted to go for our normal hour run so instead hiked the waterfront for a fairly serious shop at Morrison’s, a UK-chain supermarket that has a huge nearly-new store with excellent selection and prices.
We had hardly a breath of wind as we set sail at 1000 for Benalmadena, Spain, 50 miles up the coast but used the opportunity to complete our marine weather and rig check and spares classes while we motored in and out of numerous fog banks before arriving at our destination, a very densely-developed beachfront city with 1000-berth marina.
A ship appears out of the fog as we pass by Gib’s Rock
We tied to the registration/fuel dock, just inside the breakwater and in a couple minutes the marina had copied our Gibraltar outbound clearance, ship’s registration and insurance papers, our passports and given us a berth assignment. One of the marina staff hopped in a marina car and met us at the slip, taking our bow lines and pointing out the tag line which was connected to the stern line he instructed us to haul up, pull in on, and secure to our aft mooring cleat. The whole operation was done in a couple minutes and from reading the cruising guide, this is the standard mooring arrangement for much of the Med.
After dinner, we tried walking to town, but never made it out of the absolutely packed marina/hotel/shopping development. Along the walkway industrious young African men and Asian women were selling purses, logo wear and flashing toys as thousands of locals and tourists wandered about, shopping, strolling, visiting and checking out the abundant restaurants.
Early this morning we went Amanda and I ran the part of the super long beachfront run but we never saw the end and it all began to blur to the sameness. Hundreds of people were out walking, running and cycling with hotels on the inland side of the wide pedestrian boulevard and beaches scattered with beach restaurants here and there on the seaward side. The apartments, condos and hotels stretched up the side of the hills as far as we could see. Amanda investigated the options for renting a beach chair with shared umbrella and prices ranged from five to six euro depending on how close to the water you were although most front rows were booked out for weeks in advance.
We’d all been frequently a monitoring www.windy.com and had noticed a break in the normal NE winds, with a forecast of following WSW winds for 60 hrs. Aha! We all got the same idea. Instead of daysailing along this very developed and not too interesting coast, why not take advantage of the fresh following winds and travel as far as possible before the wind changed to headwinds? Our goal is to now get to the Balearic Islands as quickly as possible, providing more time to explore the islands which we’ve all heard are much more attractive than this coast.
Small problem – the next time we checked the forecast, it showed that at midnight tonight instead of tomorrow, the winds will change to 24-35 kt headwinds. It seems that the weather is quite changeable. Since setting sail this morning we’ve been enjoying surfing up to 9.5 kts in following winds gusting to 30. We’ve had some excellent downwind reefing practice, set the whisker pole and before lunch Amanda taught provisioning and cooking at sea and now this afternoon she’s teaching sail design and construction as we continue to surf along. Although it’s toasty outside in the sun, under the dodger with the windscreen open or below with all hatches and ports open, it is lovely!
We’re hoping to at least make it the 180 miles to Cartagena, which we read is a charming, historic city just three-minutes’ walk from a first-class marina, but we may end up with strong headwinds tonight.
Cartagena town hall and plaza
August 14, 2017, 1510 hrs, 39.06 N, 001.34 E, Log: 203,746 miles
Baro: 1017.8, Cabin Temp: 81 F, Cockpit: 90 F, Sea Water: 79.6 F
Close-hauled and tacking to windward at 6 kts under full sail in 11 kt ESE winds, up Ibiza’s NW coast
WE MADE IT TO THE BALAERICS AND IT WAS WORTH IT!!!
We sailed and motorsailed 90 miles, stopping for a rolly six hours of sleep while anchored off Almerimar before continuing on another 90 miles, arriving at Cartagena at 2000, well before dark. Amanda, always planning ahead, served a delicious fish dinner at sea and after the very helpful marineros met us and gave us a hand squeezing into a berth we all took off in the full moonlight to explore this old, historical and very beautiful city. Just six blocks from the marina we were in the old city center – the streets were packed with local families and couples out walking, dining, chatting and just enjoying life. The historic buildings including the town hall were all lit up with colored lights and although we were exhausted, we didn’t want to stop exploring. We all caught up at a cool waterfront street-side bistro, enjoying beer and ice cream.
Thursday our first-light run (7:15 in Spain) saw Amanda and I exploring the fishing district and fortified hills above before returning to check in with the marina, wash down and fill the water before touring the striking 1st century BC Roman amphitheater and one of the dozen or so museums. Our crew spent the day exploring and tasting tapas before we set sail in the late afternoon to anchor at Caleta Cortina, just outside the Cartagena harbor entrance. We all dived into the 80-degree water after Amanda taught Sail Trim and delighted in a few cool, calm, quiet hours at anchor.
Staffan, Nils, Mindy and John K devouring tapas
The restored Roman Theatre
At 0200 we departed Caleta Cortina to play dodgem through a chaotic fleet of active fishing boats for an hour. We then covered a boisterous 96 miles to windward before arriving at Morairo, a small town and marina located just 12 miles from Cabo de la Nao. We poked MT’s nose into the small marina and two marineros (dock attendants) motioned us toward a slip, but Amanda shouted we were just having a look and would be anchoring outside the marina. We found sandy bottom and dramatic cliffs, enjoyed a swim and colorful sunset.
Saturday, we slept in until 0600 before setting sail for Formentera, the southern-most of Spain’s Balearic Islands. We had an excellent beam reach for the first half of the 60-mile passage, but had to motorsail the second half in diminishing winds. Dozens of pleasure boats between 40 and 100’ passed us, headed back to Spain, their vacations ended, but we were unprepared for the 100+ boats anchored off Cala Sahona, Formentera that included many very radical 50-120’ motor yachts and a massive Wally 120’ sloop. We ended up far from the madding crowd in a quiet anchorage with a view of Ibiza that looked like Bora Bora, clear water and an interesting cave to snorkel to. I taught Storm Survival before dinner and after sunset, masthead lights looked like a constantly-moving field of lights as the anchored yachts rolled back and forth in the swell.
Staffan takes a noon site
Sail Repair class with Amanda
Sunset over the iles of Ibiza remind us of Bora Bora
A tranquil downwind sail to Ibiza
Yesterday we swam and several of our gang did yoga on the back deck before we sailed and motorsailed 38 miles to Ibiza. Our first stop was San Antonio, the second largest city where we anchored for an hour, going ashore to buy groceries and explore before continuing, checking out each bay on Ibiza’s west coast. We passed several stunning anchorages, all framed by rugged cliffs and one, Cala Portixol, was so tiny that we would have had to anchor bow and stern so we wouldn’t bounce off the cliff walls.
Our crew chose Puerto de San Miguel which proved spectacular, if a little crowded. Early this morning four out of five of our crew joined us for a sunrise hike/run up the steep dirt roads and trails.
It’s called “Fitness”
Eva ready for going aloft
We had a relaxed departure at noon after Going Aloft class and spent considerable time demonstrating and learning Lifesling Rescue techniques. Everyone got it and since then we’ve been tacking our way up the windward coast in moderate winds, enjoying the sea and seeing the island from offshore.
We had a less desirable anchoring spot here before securing this one, in the late evening, when the smaller boats had departed back to their marina’s.
We’ve all been studying our Imray Balearic Islands cruising guide and several of us came up with the idea of anchoring in the lee of Isla Tagomago, a tiny island, one mile offshore the E side of Ibiza, with a trail to the lighthouse.
August 16, 2017, 1415 hrs
We arrived at Mallorca this afternoon, the Club de Velas (yacht club), Puerto de Andratx had the mooring we’d reserved and we enjoyed exploring town before meeting ashore for dinner. William, the marinero (yacht club boat man) recommended a restaurant that his mother cooks at, directly ashore of our mooring. We were seated on the edge of the water overlooking the bay and mountainside and the food was excellent. We had magical moments after dinner as we stood around listening to two street musicians, one playing the saxophone, the other the guitar plus singing. Behind them were the lights of homes going up the steep hills behind the Yacht Club.
A happy arrival in Puerto De Andratx
The view of the waterfront from our mooring
Crew enjoying the free entertainment
August 16, 2017
WE MADE IT TO PALMA!
We had a fascinating morning including five of us running and exploring the waterfront and hills behind Puerto de Andratx followed by Clearing Customs Worldwide class and a viewing of Jim and Katie’s Hallberg-Rassy 40 that White’s International Yacht Brokerage has for sale. Jim and Katie were not sailors (Jim was a surfer and they were keen skiers and kayakers before joining us on Leg 1-2007. They took delivery of their lovely new boat in The Netherlands, where they lived, sailing several years through the Pacific to Philippines, from where the shipped Tenaya to Turkey, sailed to St. Petersburg in the Black Sea Rally and eventually to Palma where they left Tenaya in Dirk Jan Colgee’s capable hands. Both Eva and Staffan and Mindy and Nils were very interested in checking out this turn-key 2006 bluewater cruiser now listed for only €199k. Here you’ll find Jim & Katie’s incredible story of sailing to 50 countries over eight years aboard Tenaya: http://www.tenayatravels.com/
Tenaya awaits her new owner
Dirk Jan Colgee on Tenaya’s transom
Oh…we’re ever so thankful for our new buddies!
This evening was very special, and a kind of a roast. Staffan, former cruise ship captain, gave a speech after desert (amazing Mallorcan almond torte and ice cream – thank you Mindy, Nils & John), giving me a hard time for temporarily misplacing the key to the dinghy (it has slipped behind our spare sails when I chucked it in the head window) awarding me a funny little fluffy yellow key chain doll.
Amanda was given a Gibraltar monkey, she’s named Rocky, that screeches, but his main job will be to now keep Sallyhamna, our polar bear from Svalbard, company.
Our crew, keen to master the latitude by noonsite sweated away on calculations, even with all of our cabin fans on, until 22:30 tonight. It is rare that we see this level of dedication to learning, and it is exciting!
Here’s our extremely dedicated Leg 5 crew at 11:30pm: Eva, Staffan, Nils, Mindy and John K
I’m an American/Norwegian petroleum engineer that has lived in a variety of locations worldwide. Started sailing when I had a small sailboat while on assignment in Papua New Guinea. That led to some ocean passages and we joined this expedition to get a better understanding of ocean voyaging. We like it! Now we will need to start more detailed planning which we have a great foundation to expand upon.
Never in my life did I think I would be sailing at this age! Sailing entered our lives while we were living in PNG as Nils said “You have to do something while there”. Of course, a bit reluctant, but he persisted, and here we are! (Mindy also was involved in setting up some schools in PNG and was an ER nurse before that. Currently they live in Abu Dhabi.
I’m a Swede living in the Netherlands with my husband Staffan and our two teenage children. We’ve previously lived and worked in Germany and India. I am an engineer, seamstress, clothing designer and I have a line of skin care products which I make. We’ve owned two sailboats, a 40’ steel Langedrag and a Rasmus 35.
I’m a merchant marine captain having mainly worked on cruise ships before I became a marine pilot in Sweden. I’ve been working at CSMART which is Carnival Cruise Corporation’s simulator training center where I’m in charge of all training. Being part of a Mahina expedition will help me understand which sailboat to purchase and refresh my sailing skills.
John K, 62
I’m a retired airline captain from Scottsdale, Arizona who’s been on numerous sailing adventures including recently sailing to Newport to Bermuda and back to see the Kiwi’s win the America’s Cup. On this expedition I’ve learned, done and eaten many new things. The challenges and accomplishments have been very rewarding!
August 20, 2017, 200 hrs, 39.31 N, 002.33 E, Log: 203,827 miles
Baro: 1017.3, Cabin Temp: 83 F, Cockpit: 90 F, Sea Water: 81.3 F
At anchor near Puerto Portals, Mallorca
That dedication to learning of our Leg 5 crew never diminished, even on the final morning! We still had a couple of requests to meet, so first off, they hoisted both the storm staysail and storm trysail, then we reviewed their 13-page test books and covered, for the first time, overall cost of ownership and maintenance in detail.
Trysail rigged and ready for wind!
Two weeks had flown by. Both couples went away with serious lists of attributes they would be looking for in their yet-to-be-purchased cruising boats and John K. went away considering purchasing a boat to put into charter or timeshare either in the Virgin Islands or San Diego.
We HAD to leave La Lonja Marina Charter Friday morning as 40 bareboat charter boats were due back, and as ALL marinas were full, we anchored off the iconic Palma cathedral. Since Amanda had visited the island 30 years earlier, when she was crew on the King of Spain s Fife yacht Tuiga, she volunteered to stand anchor watch so that I could accept Staffan and Eva’s invitation to tour the island with them by rental car.
We traveled incredibly steep and windy roads to see cool, mountainside villages, isolated beaches and best of all, tour the Cartuja de Valldemossa, the former king’s palace which had been turned into a monastery in 1399 and was actively used as such until the monk’s expulsion in 1835. During the winter of 1838-39, Frederic Chopin and his lady friend, the French writer George Sand rented one of the monk’s cells and she completed “A Winter in Mallorca” while Chopin composed many of his most important works. 15 minutes after we arrived, we were invited to a free 15-minute mini-concert in the chapel. The acoustics, piano and pianist were excellent and as we wandered the buildings, gardens and grounds we understood why this peaceful place could be such a catalyst for creativity.
Eva and Staffan discovering Valldemossa’s secrects
Chopin concert at Cartuja de Valldemossa
Another highlight was a superb lunch at a Es Vergeret Restaurant, overlooking a handful of yachts anchored in tiny Cala Tuent.
This afternoon Amanda and I cruised along the coast west of Palma until we found a somewhat protected anchorage with clear water and a beach and marina ashore for landing the dinghy. It’s fantastic to be away from the very busy port and delightful to swim when we get hot.
Resources used on Leg 5, Lisbon, Portugal to Palma de Mallorca:
Cruising Guides: Imray Atlantic Spain and Portugal, Costas del Sol and Blanca, Islas Baleares (brilliant cruising guides, frequently updated)
Imray charts: C-49, 50, 19, 11, 13, M-3
C-Map running on Rose Point Coastal Explorer
Navionics Silver running on both our lovely new Raymarine MFD’s (multi-function displays), one at the chart table, and for the first time, one in the cockpit under the hard dodger
General Sailing Conditions: coasts of Spain and Portugal and Balearics – On Portugal and Spain’s Atlantic Coast N or NW winds prevail during summer months, dropping off after dark and frequently gusting to 25-35 during the afternoons. Finding a marina berth is easy, and average cost for Mahina Tiare (14 meters’ length) is €45. Sailing N, from Gibraltar is a much more difficult story, and frequently knowledgeable skippers make time motorsailing north at night or whenever the winds are lighter. Having said this, we had some excellent downwind and reaching conditions. There are numerous marinas and a few semi-protected anchorages between Gibraltar and the Balearics and the closer one gets to the Balearics, the higher the cost and the more difficult to find marina berths or available moorings. Our highest price to date has been €54 for a mooring at Puerto de Andratx and €94.37 for a stern-to berth at Palma’s La Lonja Marina Charter. In all but one instance, Portimao, Portugal, customs clearance has been handled by the marina offices who photocopy all passports and documents, forwarding them to the appropriate offices. Without exception, the marina staff have been very professional and helpful. Fuel is readily available at every marina at surprisingly reasonable rates. Water costs are GBPounds 1.75 PER LITER!!! At Ocean Village, Gibraltar and a flat fee of €8 at Cartagena and Andratx, otherwise, water has been included in moorage. Shore power has been included at all but two locations. We’ve not had any enquiries about how long MT has been in the VAT area of the EU, and Portimao is the only place where my length of stay in the Schengen area has been brought up. I’ve learned to document every time we leave and enter the Schengen area with passport or marina stamps, clearance papers and marina moorage bills.
General Anchoring Conditions: We soon learnt that most of the boats leave the rolly anchorages for their marina in the early evenings so it works well to be patient. Often, we’d drop anchor further down the coast for the bay or beach in a rolly spot and then reposition for the night at a more desirable spot once most of the other yachts departed.
All in all, our adventures south of Lisbon and into the Med have been fabulous, learning more every day! We now truly appreciate the deserted beaches and tranquil anchorages of the South Pacific and Skype Amanda’s parent’s, Lesley and Robert Swan aboard their latest yacht Julie to catch up on their current cruising season in Fiji, where we’ll all cruise together next year.
Leg 5 Itinerary
Leg 5 , Aug 2017 : Lisbon-Malloracaadmin2021-05-02T14:50:09+00:00
June 22, 2017, 0750 hrs, 52.30 N, 009.57 W, Log: 201,773 miles
Baro: 1010.6, Cabin Temp: 65 F (no heater, for several days!), Cockpit: 57 F, Sea Water: 52.5
Broad reaching at 8.1 kts in 14 kt WNW winds, slight seas
Sailing Down Ireland’s Lovely Green Coastline
Our enthusiastic Leg 3 crew with Mahina Tiare in the background at Cullipool, one of Scotland’s Slate Islands: Matthew and son Jonathan, John, Marty, Mark and Amanda
Between Legs 2 & 3 Amanda and I sailed south of Oban to a group of islands where slate had been quarried and exported for many years. We also spent a night Ardfern Marina where we moored across from Princess Anne’s handsome new Rustler 44 and ran over the peninsula, through the woods, the following morning to check out Craobh Marina which was a much better organized operation.
Our Leg 3 crew joined us at Oban Marina on Kerrera Island on Saturday, June 17 and after lunch we set sail and practiced reefing enroute to Isle of Luing. We picked up a mooring off the village of Cullipool where Amanda and I had visited earlier and enjoyed exploring the village, slate quarries and café/museum before dinner.
The slate quarry worker’s cottages
Sunday morning our focus was safety orientation and navigation before setting sail 250 miles for Inishbofin, a small island off Ireland’s NW coast, home to Grace O’Malley, the pirate queen.
Mark, John and Jonathan on watch
John multitasking on MFD watch and weatherfax analysis
After weather class and a hike, we choose to take advantage of the somewhat-rare NW winds and set sail that afternoon for Roundstone, a protected anchorage on the south side of Connemara Peninsula, 28 miles further south. It was an early start the next morning for Inishmore, the main village in the offshore Aran Islands and with sunny warm skies we were all keen to rent bikes and cycle to Dun Aengus Fort
John and Matt discuss as to our next day’s tactics on our arrival at More Bay
Today is another brilliant sail and we’re currently between Loop and Kerry Heads, crossing the Shannon River estuary. Because of an impending 980 mb low, we sailed from Inishmore in the late afternoon to More Bay on the Kilkee peninsula, arriving at 1900.
After experiencing a night of serious pitching at anchor we were happy to be up and sailing by 0500 this morning. Fenit Harbour, one of the most secure in the area, should be a great location to ride out the predicted gale force winds that are to start ramping up this afternoon and evening. Our Leg 3 crew are certainly keen sailors who seem to relish a bit of weather, and sometimes we practically need to peel their hands off the wheel.
June 28, 2017, 1035 hrs, 50.09 N, 006.58 W, Log: 202,040 miles
Baro: 1000.3, Cabin Temp: 65F, Cockpit: 66F, Sea Water: 61.5F (thank you, Gulf Stream!)
Broad reaching at 7 kts in 15 kt NW winds under full sail with whisker pole on genoa
We made Fenit Harbour several hours before the forecasted gale and were surprised to find three end-tie docks available. We had time for hiking, showers and exploring before the strongest winds arrived. We were totally sheltered behind a 40’ tall breakwater although Amanda said MT was substantially heeled over at the dock all night. I slept through the blow, content that we’d found the most protected harbor for many miles.
Friday morning, we cooled our heels waiting for the strong westerlies to die down with Amanda teaching Sail Design, Sail Trim and I taught Anchoring Worldwide. By 1500 the wind had moderated to 15 kts in the harbor, so we wound our way out Fenit’s channel, motorsailing into headwinds and very sloppy large seas to Smerwick Harbour, on North tip of Dingle Peninsula. We found one fishing boat on a mooring in the entire large bay and spent a secure night anchored off the sandy beach.
Saturday morning dawned much clearer and by 0720 we were underway for Great Blasket Island, just west of the Dingle Peninsula. Formerly home to a hearty group of Gaelic speaking fishermen, shepherds and smugglers, the island was evacuated in 1953. After anchoring of the village in a white sandy bottom I managed to safely landed our eager crew through the surge onto a tiny landing. I chose to stand anchor watch and stopped by to chat with the skipper of a local 50’ tourist launch who was tied to a mooring near the landing. He said he’d been hired to pick up the ship’s pilot off the mega-yacht just appearing on the horizon which had been chartered by Elton John. Half an hour later the sleek 130’ motor yacht stopped just outside the anchorage while the skipper I’d just spoken with ran out in an inflatable to retrieve the pilot. The mega yacht certainly looked out of place at the Blaskets as the only other traffic we’ve seen so far has been one sail boat yesterday (towing a dinghy!) and small local fishing boats.
Matt happy at the helm
Lelia and Gwen; the two charming French girls who run the Blasket Café
Crew of to check out the seals on the beach
The seals are rather skittish and quickly scamper into the sea
Meanwhile our crew and Amanda explored the rebuilt cottages and ruins, visited a beach with hundreds of seals then hiked to a ridge for an outstanding view. Surprisingly they found a café/coffee shop in an ancient refurbished house on this isolated island. www.blasket.ie
Our destination Saturday night was Knight’s Town, a historic town on Valentia Island. Always hoping to find Celtic music, we were disappointed when the information office said there was a singer/songwriter performing, but it was in the next village, 6 km away, and wasn’t starting until 2230 – long past our bedtime. Our crew enjoyed exploring and a dinner ashore while Amanda and I found an unattended self-service greenhouse offering organic strawberries and lettuce.
Jonathan busy in the galley
John’s mum would be proud of his flag repair
Sunday morning Jonathan helped me make smoked salmon and vegie scramble before Amanda taught sail repair. Our destination for the evening was Crookhaven Harbour, 57 miles around Mizen Head, the SW corner of Ireland and inside Fastnet Rock to the. We were greeted with a well-sheltered, sunny and warm inlet and visitor’s moorings. Dozens of folks were soaking up sun and enjoying a Guinness with their fish and chips while of their kids played in the water and jumped off the wharf. What a welcome and delightful change from the drizzly, foggy weather that is so persistent in Scotland
Hilltop view of Crookhaven Harbour
Crew lineup outside Sullivans: the most southern pint in Ireland
Another front was passing through Monday morning, but that didn’t stop most of our keen crew from heading ashore with Amanda and I at 6:30 for an hour of running, hiking and exploring. Monday morning was just that, drizzly and foggy with visibility was under .3 mile for most of the 15 miles as we motorsailed through narrow channels between rocky islands to Baltimore. By the time we anchored, visibility improved enough that we could just barely see the harbor quay a quarter mile away. Four of us made a quick dinghy run ashore finding everything but the pub and one restaurant buttoned up tight.
Yesterday morning the sun was out (occasionally) and we all enjoyed exploring the restored 800-year-old Dun Na Sead castle (now a private home, but open to the public) before setting sail at noon for the 160-mile passage to the Iles of Scilly, located 25 miles W of Land’s End, the SW tip of Britain. We’ve had some of the best sailing of the year, with excellent and fast broad-reaching conditions plus whales, dolphins and surprisingly little traffic.
June 29, 2017, 0635 hrs, 49.55 N, 006.18 W, Log: 202,071 miles
Baro: 997.0, Cabin Temp: 63F, Cockpit: 66F, Sea Water: 59F
On a mooring, St. Mary’s, Iles of Scilly. Wind NNW 20-25, occasional heavy rain
Mark on night watch
We had a good landfall at Iles of Scilly yesterday, picked up a mooring in St. Mary’s Pool, and headed ashore to Hugh Town to check in with the harbourmaster. When I said we’d like to stay two nights so that we could explore nearby Tresco Island by shore boat, he said, “I don’t think so, you won’t want to be in this harbour tomorrow night and Friday as it’s exposed to the forecasted northerly gale. Boats will be breaking loose in here given the forecasted wind speeds”. He showed us an alternative bay on the chart, just a half-mile away on the south side of the harbour but mentioned the visitor moorings were all taken and there was little room for anchoring. He suggested we head to Falmouth first thing the following day so that’s what we’re planning.
We all delighted in a quick look around St. Mary’s, a small and attractive island holiday town, and a pub-grub dinner at The Atlantic Hotel before returning to Mahina Tiare just as the wind and rain started. We had an uneventful night, other than one of our two mooring pennants chafing through (we should have rigged chafe hose) but this morning during breakfast another harbour master made the rounds of all the occupied cruising boats in the harbour, again strongly advising everyone to leave. He mentioned they’d already had several visiting yachts end up on the rocks this year so after breakfast we departed for Helford River, located just before the entrance to Falmouth. Today’s passage should give our Leg 3 crew some valuable heavy-weather conditions with the addition of currents and overfalls created by the 15’ tides in near gale conditions.
July 1, 2017, 1335 hrs, 50.09 N, 005.03 W, Log: 202,149 miles
Baro: 1023.0, Cabin Temp: 66F, Cockpit: 69F, Sea Water: 61F
Moored at Port Pendennis in front of the National Maritime Museum, Falmouth, Cornwall
Our passage from Iles of Scilly to Helford was a real duzey, with winds gusting into the low 30’s, wind against tide for much of the time, and just to make it more challenging, fog and drizzle when we were crossing the busy Traffic Separating Zone. We had one cruise ship break through the fog to suddenly become VERY visible with a CPA (Closest Point of Approach) of as little as 100 meters, requiring a quick course change and a discussion resulting in a directive to always notify Amanda or me when seeing a CPA of under two miles. Fortunately, winds started slightly aft of the beam and moved further aft as we neared Land’s End and passed The Lizard. We found the Helford River anchorage recommended by the cruising guide to be extremely protected without any swell.
Jonathan, John and Mark keeping watch while Matts stays focused on steering course
Never seasick Marty ensures we’re on track to Falmouth
Yeah! We’re romping now!
Friday morning, we practiced Lifesling Overboard Rescue in very gusty and difficult (but realistic) conditions before heading into Falmouth Harbour entrance to tie up at Port Pendennis Marina. Because of the squally weather the marina was packed with visiting yachts and we got the last berth. We all enjoyed looking at the classic yachts and our generous crew shouted us to dinner at a very tasty Thai restaurant.
Matt packs the Lifesling after a successful rescue
MT moored near the new Volvo Ocean 65, Team Akzo Nobel, the Dutch entry in the upcoming Volvo Ocean Race
Saturday morning the sun came out, temperatures shot up and Amanda taught going aloft for rig inspection and before breakfast. It’s was then time to pack and cleaned cabins before heading for the maritime museum and sharing minivan to Newquay airport.
Leg 3 lads on Falmouth High Street: Mark, John N, Jonathan, Marty, Matt and John.
This crew received a real workout with navigation, having to deal with large tides and strong tidal currents and they all enjoyed the hours underway rarely going below except at night. Here they are:
I am a soon-to-be-retired Master Sergent of 26 years in the US Army, living in Okinawa, Japan. I currently sail in both Japan and Washington State and have chartered in the BI and Bahamas. After retirement, I plan on attending 1-2 years of intensive maritime training before purchasing a cruising boat.
Jonathan, 12 (Matt’s son)
I am 12 years old, so right now I do not have a job, but one day I’d like to work for Microsoft. I live in Japan and sail with my dad at a place called Ginouan. When I get home, I want to tidy up our boat and apply the things I’ve learned on MT.
I’m a retired software engineer now doing occasional consulting. I live in Satellite Beach, Florida and sail the local inland waters on my Catalina 30. I also race on a friend’s J-30 at our yacht club. I joined Mahina Tiare to experience ocean cruising in a new area and see a part of the world I have been wanting to visit.
I’m a semi-retired builder from Colorado and have been enjoying getting back on the water after being land bound for several years, having sailed most recently in the SF Bay area.
I’m a just-retired financial services professional currently living in Illinois. My wife and I bought a Hallberg-Rassy 39 last year and are preparing to go blue water cruising. We’ve been upgrading our boat recently and are considering trucking it to the Pacific Northwest to start a cruising.
Amanda and I are looking forward to some warmer drier weather in our week off to allow us to re-seal MT’s new teak decks with SEMCO, touch up the exterior varnish, and rent a car and go exploring!
Resources used on Leg 3, Oban, Scotland to Falmouth, England:
The Scottish Islands, Hamish Haswell-Smith
Imray: Isle of Mull and adjacent coasts
Irish Cruising Club: South & West Coasts of Ireland
Imray charts: C 65, 64, 53, 54, 55, 56, C7, Y58
US chart 35000
C-Map running on Rose Point Coastal Explorer
Navionics Silver running on both our lovely new Raymarine MFD’s (multi-function displays), one at the chart table, and for the first time, one in the cockpit under the hard dodger
Leg 3 Itinerary
Leg 3,June 2017 : Oban,Scotland,Ireland ; Falmouth,Englandadmin2021-05-02T14:23:16+00:00
May 31, 2017, 1720 hrs, 58.13 N, 006.15 W, Log: 201,186 miles Baro: 1014.2, Cabin Temp: 65 F (no heater, hooray!), Cockpit: 64 F, Sea Water: 52.5 Nearing Stornoway Harbour, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Amanda and I enjoyed exploring a little of the Shetland Islands between Legs 1 & 2, first by sailing north to Whalsay Island, then to Vidlin village on Mainland where did a couple of hitchhiking excursions including one to visit Brae. Once we were back in Lerwick we hired a car to explore hikes in the west country, visit Scalloway and run errands. Everywhere we went we met very friendly, although somewhat shy, Shetlanders and the weather was amazingly cooperative. We saw only one other cruising yacht during our entire time in Shetland, other than in Lerwick, where there was often 5-10 yachts visiting yachts, mostly arriving and leaving for Norway, Iceland, Svalbard and Faroes.
We moored in front of a traditional Shetland/Viking longship and the skipper and former Jarl proudly explained the importance of keeping alive the Viking heritage in Shetland.
Our intrepid Leg 2-2017 crew, Helge, Andy, Wei with Gandal Nicolson aboard historic Viking Longship in Lewick Harbour, Shetland Islands
Our crew arrived at noon and after orientation we set sail, practicing Lifesling overboard rescue before anchoring in a very rural Aith Voe on nearby Bressay Island.
John and crew test our three bilge pump system and two high water alarms
Wei and crew study the day’s navigation
Thursday, we had a crackin’ 22-mile broad reach north to Burravoe, a small village and harbor at the south end of Yell Island. We enjoyed hiking the misty green hills and cliffs plus visiting the small museum with its baked treats and were surprised to find free showers and laundry (by donation) at the campground adjacent to the harbor.
Amanda plays tug-of-war with a friendly Shetland pony
Our navigators correctly calculated the Yell Sound tides which run up to 7 kts and we had clear skies and good sailing as we left Shetland for the Faroe Islands, 180 miles north. Overall our passage was a mixed bag – some very sweet broad reaching and preventer practice in 16 kt winds, and a little motoring at the end.
Crew delighted to be on passage to Faroe
Calm seas as we make landfall in Faroe
We stopped at Vagur, the southernmost harbor in the Faroe Islands, and found a place to tie in a fishing harbor where an old fisherman took our lines. In minutes the harbormaster arrived, followed by customs. Vagur is a deep bay, nearly splitting Sudroy Island in half, and after dinner Wei and Andy hiked to the top of a nearby mountain with spectacular views in all direction. Amanda and I hiked across the isthmus for a look at a very rugged old harbor that must have been used for unloading ships before the breakwater had been built in Vagur.
Our fishing wharf berthage in Vagur
The township of Vagur
Andy enjoying a mountain top Zen moment
We had some sailing, some motoring but LOTS of contrary current on our passage to Torshavn
Sunday morning, we motored MT across the harbor to tie up next to the new community swimming pool, only to learn it had just closed for two hours. So we set sail to Torshavn, capital of the Faroes, 37 miles north.
As we pulled into Torshavn guest dock, we were surprised to see Hummingbird, the Rubicon 3 sail-training boat we’d read about in Yachting World and were even more surprised when Cruising World editor Herb McCormick greeted us, saying he’d just sailed up from Scotland aboard Hummingbird.
Monday morning, we were surprised by a fishermen’s protest – dozens of huge (100-180’) Faroese fishing boats blocked the departing ferry to Denmark tooting their horns and later their crew gave speeches in front of parliament. By 1400 we’d finished shopping and exploring and set sail for Sandur village on the Sandoy Island.
Ready to leave Torshavn armed with tasty rhubarb cake
We’d not met anyone who had sailed to Sandur and were pleasantly surprised to find a lovely little unused inner harbor. Overlooking the harbor was an older building with comfortable couches, dining area and a kitchen plus free showers and washing machine downstairs. There were numerous binders full of pictures of old fishing boats and fishermen and a local fisherman explained that the retired fishermen of the village met here every morning for coffee.
A quaint turf roofed church near the village waterfront
Winds are gusting to 41 knots
Tuesday morning we set sail south from Sandoy, with a goal of reaching St. Kilda, which inclement weather prevented us from visiting in 2001 and 2008. We had a barometer reading of 1003 and a forecast that included a frontal passage with winds of 18, gusting to 24 just aft of the beam but watched the barometer plummeting. By 1800 the barometer bottomed out at 989.9 and when it started rising, so did the winds which peaked out at 35 gusting to 41 kts at 2200. We had all three reefs in the main plus four in the genoa and still MT surged along at 7.5 – 8 kts in extremely confused seas. Several of our crew looked seriously green around the gills and I was the second to become seasick – first time in four years for me!
By 0600 Wednesday morning the wind speed dropped to 18-24, but the winds clocked around to the south, making it a challenge to lay our new course to Stornoway. We decided that tacking to St. Kilda would be challenging in the predicted near gale force winds, plus the anchorage was likely to be untenable so we instead chose to make landfall at Stornoway, the northernmost port of entry for Scotland’s Outer Hebrides.
John and Wei shake out the third reef
Still trucking nicely
We found only three other cruising boats in Stornoway and after an excellent dinner aboard made plans for land exploring in the morning. Wei studied a travel guide and we got some additional tips from the tourist office before we set off on a circuit of Lewis Island which included standing stones, a Neolithic brogue (three-storied round fort/living structure) the sod-roofed black houses, and a very interesting independent weaver.
More and more we are getting expedition members to not just figure tides, courses and waypoints, but also to select anchorages, and Wei, our navigator on Thursday chose Loch Odhain which proved to be a bombproof and scenic anchorage.
Canna Island, one of the Small Isles was our crew’s next choice and proved a favorite with excellent hiking, showers and a first-rate tea house/café. The island has only 26 inhabitants, but they are very friendly and serious about making a go out of their isolated homestead. Our next navigator Helge chose a 42-mile passage to Loch Dunvegan, the northwestern most anchorage on Isle of Skye. With an early start we arrived just after noon and our crew explored Dunvegan Castle and grounds before we anchored further up the loch off the village.
Hillside view of the anchorage at Canna
Sunday the sun favored us and it was hard to believe we were in Scotland as we sailed further south to Muck, an even smaller island owned by one family for 150 years.
Monday Tobermory was our goal. Long a tourist destination, this town really does a great job of still being an authentic Scottish fishing port, yet catering to visiting yachts with an excellent recently-enlarged marina. We enjoyed a sunny and warm evening dinner in the cockpit with a great view of the harbor and town.
The ever-delightful small town on of Tobermory
On Tuesday navigator Helge said (to the groans of several of us!) we should set sail by 0830 to avoid strong contrary tidal currents, so that’s what we did, and we ended up having a glorious downwind sail the 26 miles to Oban be it somewhat in drizzle. Strong winds were forecasted to arrive in early afternoon, and just as we were entering Oban Bay we got caught out by a blast. We were sailing deep downwind and quickly found ourselves running out of sea room as ferry traffic and cardinal markers quickly approached. In order or execute a safe gybe we were furiously sheeting in the main, when, with a great BANG we gybed! Andy was fortunately positioned aft of the mainsheet, but Amanda was not happy that the crash gybe destroyed one of the three mainsheet blocks! In hindsight, we should have done a 180 degree turn or dropped the main before entering the bay.
We found new owners and a much more positive attitude at Oban Marina on Kerrera Island across from downtown Oban and we all ferried over to town for an excellent curry dinner.
And with that, Leg 2 was complete! Helge headed home to Cascais, near Lisbon, Wei caught a series of flights home to Shanghai and Andy flew nearly non-stop home to Toronto. Amanda and I don’t have any repairs to make (hooray!) and after catching up on office work and cleaning are looking forward to spending a week checking out new anchorages and marinas in the general area.
Here’s our excellent and strong international Leg 2 crew:
Helge, 39 (originally from Norway, but has lived in Sweden and recently moved to Portugal) My wife and I started sailing 4-5 years ago, sometimes with our three kids. We like coastal sailing, but I wanted to try an ocean passage. We don’t own a boat, but have done a long-term charter of a boat in Cascais Marina very near our home, mostly daysailing while our kids have been at school. I’ll be introducing our children to sailing in a few years. This has been an amazing learning experience!
Wei, 46 from Shanghai, China Our first family sailing experience was three years ago when we (my wife and three children) chartered on the east coast of Australia. I wanted to try a longer voyage to learn more and most importantly to figure out whether this is something I’m able to do and will enjoy. The trip was awesome and now I will try and sail more in the East China Sea and charter in tropical destinations.
Andy, 63 from Toronto, Canada I learned to sail from my father when I was a small child and have enjoyed sailing all my life. My wife and I have a Tartan 3400 on Lake Ontario and enjoy daysailing. I have always wanted to step up to a larger sailing adventure and have now learned so much and seen places I never would have sailed to. Now I’m thinking of more sailing adventures on my own!
Leg 2 Itinerary
Leg 2,May 2017 Shetland – Faroe – Scotlandadmin2021-05-02T13:59:06+00:00
August 19, 2016, 1400 hrs, 56.25 N, 05.29 W, Log: 197,472 miles
Baro: 1021.1, Cabin Temp: 61 F, Cockpit: 66 F, Sea Water: 58.1F
Docked at Oban Marina, Kerrera Island
WHIRLWIND OF ADVENTURE!
Our Leg 4 crew joined us in Reykjavik, Iceland on Tuesday at noon and following lunch we set sail on a 120 mile overnighter for the Westman Islands, located right on the rumbline for the Faroe Islands. We arrived in time for breakfast and were able to again tie to an uncompleted new pontoon moored loosely alongside the main wharf as we did on the last leg. It took some fancy line work, but Amanda and Eirik managed to limit the movement of the float so that we wouldn’t clunk into the 200’ steel trawler close astern of us.
Originally we’d planned to spend Wednesday night in Vestmannjayer but it looked likely that a powerful, 980 mb low would beat us to the Faroe Islands if we did, so we enjoyed an intense day of adventures instead. These included climbing to the top of the mountain overlooking the harbor, swimming at the excellent community pool, visiting the volcano museum and lava flow and checking out the little town before setting sail at 1830. WHEW!
Hill top view of Vestmannjayer and harbor. MT is circled in red
John reviewing the days testing with crew
Calm early morning landfall in the Faroe’s
Arriving into sunny Torshavn
We had a spectacular departure as we sailed along Iceland’s south coats with sun on the glaciers and smooth seas. Too smooth, in fact, as we had to motor for much of the 390 passage to Torshavn.
Torshavn bills itself as the world’s smallest capital city, and with a population of 12,650, it really feels more like a friendly small town than a city. The very active boating club and the port have arranged guest moorage, showers and laundry in the inner harbor and we were moored near six very friendly ARC World yachts who were just completing their world circumnavigation.
Torshavn and marina
Traditional boat and grass-roofed building in the Tinganes parliament district
Thankfully we’d just managed to beat the severe depression, which dropped down to 971 mb at one point and during dinner the wind started picking up, reaching well over 40 kts in the harbor several times over the next 36 hours. This system resulted in a nearby container ship having several containers washed overboard and an oil rig breaking its towline and grounding on Scotland’s nearby Outer Hebrides. The locals in Torshavn seemed totally oblivious to the blow, with ferries to the outer islands and Denmark coming and going regularly, even though seas were forecast to 8 meters just offshore!
We made good use of a stormy Sunday, covering Storm Tactics and Communications Options before some of us and crew from the ARC boats headed up the hill to the local pool to swim laps.
Local boat practices rowing in between the rain showers
Brad whips us a tasty breakfast with local smoked salmon
Monday was a hit! Although it was still blowing and raining, out intrepid crew organized an excellent half day plus tour of two of the islands. Several of the Faroe Islands are connected by long undersea tunnels which is much simpler than ferries as several of the islands are quite close together. Tour guide Ula and driver Jon showed us several places where the updraft winds were so strong that the waterfalls were blowing up the sides of hills and mountains, plus several neat little seaside villages.
Brad and Eirik explore an old whaling station
A windy view of the northern coastline
Eirik takes a close inspection of an upwinded waterfall
The village of Funningsleid
The river and seaside village of Gjogv
Gjogv’s small boat landing
In the northern village of Gjogv we stopped for lunch and Ula pointed out the Danish prime minister’s modest summer house. The prime minister is married to a girl from the village.
Monday evening, we presented our South Pacific PowerPoint talk to the boating club and all of the ARC World crews. It was great to see so many keen local boaters turn up, many of whom had very little knowledge of the South Pacific but seemed to find the concept of sailing there on their own boats quite intriguing.
MT moored to a traditional sailing vessel in Tvoroyri
By Tuesday the blow had mostly gone through, leaving clear skies so at 0600 we set sail for Tvoroyri on Suduroy Island, 33 miles to the south. We had some great sailing conditions providing serious reefing practice before stopping for lunch and to explore the town.
That afternoon we set sail for North Rona, an uninhabited island north of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides but when we received a forecast showing fresh southerlies we altered course directly for Stornoway, the northernmost harbor and port of entry on the Scottish island of Lewis.
We arrived at the harbor entrance at midnight, and as an afterthought called the harbormaster on VHF Ch 16, never expecting to receive a reply. What a shock when the night watch stander came right back giving us directions to a guest moorage pontoon and saying he would be there momentarily to take our lines and welcome us to Scotland! Although it was drizzly and foggy, several of us couldn’t resist looking around the small harbor town which looked like a set for a Harry Potter film.
Thursday after clearing Customs we covered Clearing Customs and Anchoring Worldwide before setting off exploring. There was Lews Castle and museum across the river, shops with cool Harris Tweed knitwear, plus haggis to tempt one’s taste buds.
Joanna, a fashion design student works on an ensemble at Rarebird for the Harris Tweed Festival Fashion Showcase
Saturday we had an excellent 25 sail with time for celestial navigation and Lifesling Overboard practice before reaching South Rona. The Stornoway harbormaster’s mother had been raised by her lighthouse-keeper parents on Rona and he recommended a fine anchorage.
Friday we set sail for the uninhabited Shiant Isles, finding a fairly secure anchorage and magnificent but wet hiking to the top of the main island.
Eirik and Ken study the latest weather charts
Mallaig, the small but busy fishing/ferry port village that serves many of the Inner Hebrides beckoned on Sunday and as we arrived, we noticed a large cloud of smoke just up from the harbor. For years we have wanted to see The Jacobite; an ancient steam passenger train also known as the Hogwarts Express as seen in the Harry Potter films, and for the first time, we were in luck! The storm that we’d experienced in Torshavn had caused a landslide closing both the only road in and out of Mallaig and the rail line so the steam train was stuck in Mallaig. We had fun talking with the engineers and peeking into the ornate carriages. The locomotive seemed alive – hissing, smoking with occasionally jets of steam and water shooting down on the ground beside the tracks.
Monday we had a glorious sail to Muck, the smallest of the four Small Isles and long a favorite of ours. Several of our crew had enjoyed reading “A Drop in the Ocean” Polly Pullar’s amazing story of how one exceptional family has struggled successfully to keep this tiny island a vibrant and welcoming community since 1896.
Ken, Sandy and Heather are all smiles as we sail for Muck
Heather takes a noon site
Wonderful beach anchorage on Mucks north coast
Sadly, we just missed the 1630 closing of the island’s amazing tea house, but several of our crew enjoyed visiting the new lodge overlooking Gallanach Bay. With water temps around 60F, Eirik, Brad and Steve went swimming on the sunny afternoon.
Tuesday Amanda and I scrubbed MT’s hull and prop before setting sail for Tobermory, the most touristy, but very fun little fishing port on the Isle of Mull. Calling the harbormaster ahead of time meant there was a place for us to dock and by dinner time the docks and moorings were all full with boats from all over Europe and even a NZ yacht.
Brad, Heather and Sandy tuck in another reef on our way to Tobermory
Here’s our hearty Leg 4 crew (ready to explore Tobermory) Heather, Sandy, Brad, Eirik, Steve and Ken
I’m a registered nurse from Canada although I’ve have been travel nursing in the US for the past year. I wanted to gain ocean sailing experience before purchasing an offshore boat with my husband and this expedition has been great to enhance sailing techniques, weather and navigation skill as well as meet many new people who share our same interest of sailing.
Sandy, 54 (Heather’s husband)
I just retired after 30 years as a paramedic in Canada. This expedition is helping us gain the experience we felt we needed and we’re now excited about purchasing a boat for our own sailing adventures!
I’m a café owner from Calgary, Canada and sail my Jeanneau 439 out of Victoria, BC with my wife and two kids. My 13-year-old son and I joined this expedition to have a “Boy’s Trip” and we’re sharing a wonderful adventure which I will always cherish.
Me and one of my best friend’s dream is to sail around the world. My father owns two boats, one big and one small. I have to do some touch-ups on both after this trip.
I have dreamed about offshore sailing for a long time and although I currently don’t own a boat, this expedition is a great learning opportunity and has been very helpful to start formulating plans.
I’m a retired USCG officer living in Annapolis and actively race my sloop out of the Annapolis Yacht Club. I don’t plan to buy a larger boat, but will continue to enjoy ocean passages on other people’s boats. This is my fourth expedition aboard MT and I always learn something new or relearn things I’d forgotten.
We anchored directly off the Regent Hotel where we’d enjoyed a farewell dinner with Amanda’s parents last year and our crew treated us to an excellent dinner there.
Duart Castle, home of the Maclean clan on the eastern tip of Mull was impossible to sail past without stopping, and we enjoyed a visit there Wednesday before sailing to Oban.
All too soon it was Thursday morning and our crew were off to explore more of Scotland on their own, and we headed across the bay to Oban Marina on nearby Kerrera Island.
Resources used for Leg 4, Reykjavik, Iceland to Oban, Scotland:
Weather: YR.NO: NRK Met Institute – Norwegian government weather site which we think must use the EC forecast model. Incredibly accurate and helpful with very detailed coverage of Svalbard! WINDYTY.COM: Worldwide GRIB forecast charts utilizing US GFS computer model.
July 11, 2016, 1400 hrs, 75.26 N, 03.12 E, Log: 195,381 miles
Baro: 1010.1, Cabin Temp: 63 F (with a furnace on), Cockpit: 50 F, Sea Water: 45.7F
Broad reaching at 6.5 – 7.5 kts with 17-20 kt NW winds, no reefs, whisker pole set
315 miles from Jan Mayen
GOODBYE TO AN OLD FRIEND
The eight days between expeditions slipped by so fast, but Amanda and I found time for trail running around Longyearbyen and out to the Global Seed Vault (basically the only places one can run or hike without carrying a rifle). We also undertook numerous hikes up the valley, checked out the old coal miners’ accommodation and dining hall that has now been turned into a hotel, the extensive local artist gallery and visited with a jeweler friend before setting sail for a place quieter than the frequently bustling port town.
Strong NE winds were forecast for Monday and owing to the thick kelp bottom conditions off town we searched the chart for an interesting anchorage that would provide a safer alternative. We came up with Kapp Wijk, 22 miles away, where we could anchor on a sandy glacial sill in moderate depths and set off sailing downwind under headsail smoothly and quietly with a cloudless sky. Upon arriving in the bay we anchored a mile past three huts, four snow machines and a skiff all located above the beach that held a seal meat structure, but saw no sign of life over the next 24 hours. We assumed this must be a fur trapper’s hut, used only in winter.
Monday afternoon we’d completed our chores just as the wind moderated so we packed the rifle, flare gun, PLB and headed ashore. We had two concerns; meeting a bear on the beach or backing marshland and having the rising tide float the dinghy away. The beach was pea gravel rendering our dinghy beaching wheels useless so we used driftwood as rollers and slid the dinghy as high as we could, wishing we’d brought our dinghy anchor for even more security. It turned out to be considerably further than it looked to the cabins and when we were about halfway there, Amanda noticed a person walking between the huts.
When we arrived at the huts we went up to say hello and shake hands, meeting Harald, who said he’d lived there for 39 years. He seemed a little shy, but when I asked him if he knew what time high tide was, he eagerly invited me inside, (Amanda was busy studying the nesting eider ducks surrounding Harald’s cabin), where he promptly turned on his computer, opened C-Map (the same electronic charts we use) from which he got the time of high tide.
Harald had been a microbiologist in Bergen and at the age of 36 decided to try a winter season on Svalbard, living off the land. At the end of the winter he’d a million things he wanted to do and so 39 years have now passed. He said his arctic fox trap area was 250 km long, and before snowmobiles were available, he used a sled and dog team, working all winter out of three additional huts in different bays, as well as his home base.
We asked when he’d last been to Longyearbyen for supplies, and he said it had been many months as his Suzuki outboard had repeatedly broken down but a new one was due any day. Harald said he really missed the dependability of his last motor; a Yamaha. While I was looking for a postcard with our website to give Harald, Amanda spied the banana I’d slipped into my knapsack and offered it to Harald. He not only ate the banana, but used his teeth to scrape clean the inside of the peel. We offered him a ride to Longyearbyen to buy supplies when we planned to return the following day, but he declined.
Last week when aboard the Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise, we’d watched a stunning piano composition played by an Italian composer in front of an actively calving glacier that happened to be six miles away and very visible from Harald’s front door. He mentioned that the Wahlenbergbreen glacier had been inactive for decades but had now suddenly and dramatically started to move and calve. This made us want to check it out more so we said goodbye, headed back up the beach grateful to find our dinghy still well above the tide line.
We motored across Nordfjorden into Yoldiabukta where we planned to anchor for the night. Our hope was to get close enough for Amanda to sail along the glacier face while I took pictures from the dinghy but the high concentration of brash ice and 20-25 kt winds quickly torpedoed this plan so we just motored up relatively close, enjoying the vast beauty, before turning away and trying to find a place to anchor. The two potential anchorages we’d earlier identified on the charts were both choked with ice and quite windy so we set sail back for Longyearbyen arriving at 2100 to happily find an empty berth on the visiting yacht dock.
Wednesday morning, we returned our rented rifle and flare gun, completed our main grocery shop for the next expedition, and just as the taxi dropped us off, noticed a massive cruise ship docking at the pier outside the yacht pontoon. Not wanting to be trapped again by cruise ship’s mooring lines, we tossed the groceries aboard and signaled to the harbormaster boat that was towing the huge stern lines ashore, asking if we could quickly depart before they secured the lines. Initially the answer was no but after consulting with the pilot he motioned that we could depart if we could do it immediately. This we did and anchored off the pier in deep water with poor holding. When the winds started gusting to 25 kts that afternoon we moved closer to the harbor and picked up the only mooring, intended for small expedition ships.
Our crew joined us noon Friday and following orientation we set sail for a secure anchorage in Bellsund, 70 miles to the south where a polar bear and her two cubs had been recently sighted. They certainly take the cake in terms of eagerness for adventure as four out of six arrived up to a week early to have adventures ashore before joining us.
Leg 3 Crew: Carol, Abby, Bob, Dallis, Sean and Donnie
I first learned to sail in Hong Kong, where I grew up. A career in engineering and construction meant 20+ years of non-stop adventures as I was sent around the world to build motorways, railroads and other infrastructure. I’m now looking forward to getting my own boat to continue exploring and adventuring!
I’m a pastor from Maine who has always loved the ocean. My husband Bob and I have an HR 40 we sail on the Maine coast and are now planning on sailing up into Canada next summer.
I have a construction company in Maine where I live with Abby and our four kids. During college I crewed for several summers on 100’ classic schooners and now we’re both gaining confidence and eager to expand our future cruising plans on our HR 40.
I’m a freshwater scientist at the Cawthron Institute in Nelson, New Zealand and sailed Cherub class dinghies as a kid, as well as wooden Outward Bound cutters but have spent little time on keelboats. I joined this expedition to learn more about offshore sailing and to get a taste of passage making as my wife Dallis and I hope to head to sea sometime in the not too distant future with the eventual goal of high-latitude sailing/climbing adventures.
I’m a self-employed business consultant based in Nelson, but working all over New Zealand and in Antarctica. Joining this expedition is a step toward building our own experience.
I grew up in a beach town in Florida but now reside and practice medicine in North Carolina. I have always been drawn to the ocean and traveling and currently own a Cape Dory 25. Sailing will be the perfect way to travel the world and to reach remote islands for exciting surfing, climbing and hiking.
It was 0030 Saturday when we arrived in Fridtjovhamna, Bellsund anchoring in the lee of a sandbar in 30’ of very sticky mud with MT’s stern facing an impressive and actively calving tidewater Fridtjovbreen (Fridtjov glacier) two miles further in the bay. We all had a good look for bears from the cockpit before turning in.
A view of Fridtjovbreen from our anchorage
A quick regrease of the main winch as it was making dreadful noises due to the cold.
Sunday morning, we completed galley, engine room, safety, liferaft, Lifesling and harness orientation, enjoyed lunch and then set sail up to the face of the glacier.
Abby keeps watch while Dallis trims headsail as we sail towards Fridtjovbreen.
The impressive glacier face
MT sailing along Fridtjovbreen
A happy crew: Amanda, Sean, Donnie, Carol, Dallis, Abby and Bob
After cruising along the glacier in windy conditions we headed five miles away in the lee of Akseloya Island enjoying expansive views of Bellsund and its several stunning tributaries. After dinner we set our alarm clocks for an 0200 departure and before heading off to bed, I stood in the cockpit for some time, absorbing the wild and grand beauty of the glaciers and rugged mountains surrounding us.
It was so bright at 0200 we all had to wear sunglasses as we raised anchor, hoisted and reefed sails, set the preventer (hooray for downwind sailing!) and bore away for Jan Mayen, 550 miles SW with 20-25 kts of wind and smooth seas. Many times Amanda and I looked back at Svalbard, wondering if and when we will return. Amanda talks about spending more time on our next visit and perhaps circumnavigating the entire archipelago since the eastern side is now mostly ice free. As it was Abby and Amanda’s watch, I headed back to bed, only to later learn that shortly after I’d crashed, they’d seen a blue whale blow numerous times. At up to 110’ in length they are the largest mammals in the world and two were recently sighted off Longyearbyen.
Abby takes her trick at the helm leaving Svalbard
Surfacing blue whale
Amanda teaches rig check
We had to motor a few hours yesterday afternoon, but steady winds of 15-22 kts have given us speeds between 6.5 and 8.2 kts. Our teaching is on schedule and everyone is relishing the enjoyable downwind sailing.
July 15, 2016, 0700 hrs, 69.03 N, 10.36 W, Log: 195,855 miles
Baro: 1015.7, Cabin Temp: 58 F (with a furnace on), Cockpit: 44 F, Sea Water: 46.8F
Broad reaching at 7 kts in 15 kt ENE winds, calm seas
240 miles from Iceland
Our first view of Jan Mayen was of tall cliffs shored in fog but then the fog lifted and we had an amazing sunny view of the 6000’ tall glacier-clad volcano Beerenberg.
For 3.5 days we broad reached under full main and poled-out genoa without once touching the sheets or reefing, in brilliant 24 hours a day sunshine to start with, but with increasing bands of fog as we approached Jan Mayen.
View of Jan Mayen Station from sea
As we sailed along Jan Mayen’s impressive cliffs, glaciers and waterfalls we spotted one small trappers hut then the dirt airstrip, along with the LORAN and radio towers as we approached the meteorological station buildings located 2/3 of the way down the island. I hadn’t received a reply to the email I’d sent to the Norwegian base commander but once I contacted Jan Mayen Radio on VHF I was able to speak with him. He approved our stopping for a maximum 24 hrs and said he’d meet us on the beach just south of their base.
The base commander Lt. Col. Rune Leirvik, a handsome Norwegian air force officer, helped us carry our RIB up the beach and then filled us in on Jan Mayen’s colorful history as we walked the short distance to the Norwegian base.
Batvika, the only approved anchorage on Jan Mayen’s south coast is an open roadstead, but wasn’t too rolly and the anchor felt like it set securely in the black volcanic sand. In no time flat we’d launched the RIB and headed ashore, uncertain if we’d be able to land our first group through the swell. The beach was gorgeous black volcanic sand that dropped off quickly allowing me to unload half our crew over the bow before quickly backing out of the surf line, returning with the second load of crew.
Rune is a climber and skier and a couple years ago he’d skied across Greenland with a group of friends. He’d only arrived for his one-year posting in March and by June had summited Mt. Beerenberg with five of his base staff in a massive 22-hour effort.
Mahina Tiare at anchor off Batvika
Jan Mayen station
Crew checking out the station’s memorabilia
Wednesday and Saturday nights are “social pub nights” at the base and most of the 19 staff were enjoying quizzes and libations when we arrived. Rune had Ellen, the nurse, open the shop which sold souvenirs, postcards and warm clothes and then introduced us to Elisabeth the assistant chef who served us homemade bread and excellent soup during which our crew enjoyed chatting with a few of the base members learning of their six-month job rotations on the island. We asked the head chef if they were short of food supplies she shyly mentioned they had run out of tomatoes and fruit which we promised to bring the morning.
Ellen, Amanda, Elisabeth and Rune with our evening soup and olive bread supper
When we walked the five minutes back to the beach where we’d left our RIB, we were grateful to see MT calmly at anchor and easily got everyone back aboard. It was 2330 but with tranquil conditions Sean and Donnie dove in for a swim and we all enjoyed chocolate and tea, celebrating our safe arrival.
Carol hiking up a mountain ridge behind the anchorage
The base commander had asked that I return with our passports the following morning, so after breakfast we headed ashore. Crew took off on runs and hikes while Amanda and I chatted with Rune. When we came into his office, he had our application form up on his computer and was interested in possibly joining us on a future expedition.
Rune had mentioned that the weather on Jan Mayen is constantly changing – what might be a protected anchorage one moment could become a dangerous lee shore the next and by the time we got out to MT, winds were gusting to 30 kts making it temporarily impossible to retrieve the motor and RIB. Once we were ready to depart we used a temporary lull in the wind speed to quickly winch the motor, then the RIB on deck.
July 16, 2016, 0700 hrs, 66.34 N, 12.50 W, Log: 196,024 miles
Baro: 1007.1, Cabin Temp: 62 F (with a furnace on), Cockpit: 44 F, Sea Water: 50.0F (Gulf Stream influenced, no doubt!)
Broad reaching at 7 kts in 20 kt ENE winds under double reefed main and genoa
76 miles from Iceland – Rockin along at good speed!
After raising anchor, we sailed south along the coast and close by Fyrtamet Rock, a 150’ dramatic sea stack before setting a course for Iceland.
Donnie tucks in the second reef
Whales are spotted as we get our first twilight in months
A slow-moving low pressure cell has given us great sailing with 30-34 kt beam and now broad reaching conditions. As the low moves slowly towards Norway, our wind has been backing so what started out as a close reach is now a broad reach. This allows us to take the sometimes breaking confused seas on the quarter, giving us some good bursts of surfing speed. During orientation several of our crew specifically mentioned they were interested in gaining heavy weather experience so they’re keenly enjoying these conditions which are forecasted to moderate this afternoon. We’re all excited about landfall sometime after dinner tonight and everyone has been busy reading up about the east coast in Lonely Planet Iceland.
July 16, 2019, 1500 hrs, 66.34 N, 12.50 W, Log: 196,024 miles
Baro: 1007.1, Cabin Temp: 60 F (no furnace on, hooray!), Cockpit: 66 F, Sea Water: 50.0F
Bob keeps lookout as we make landfall
We had an easy arrival at Seydisfjordur and a Polish training yacht that we’d followed up the fjord was just completing clearing customs. We tied ahead of them and before we’d completed adjusting fenders and lines, I welcomed the very friendly customs officer aboard. He said he is always on call (it was a Saturday night) and there was no charge for customs. The harbormaster stopped by briefly, but when we mentioned we hadn’t been able to purchase any Icelandic kroner, he said he wasn’t set up for credit cards so, “Don’t worry about paying, but let me know if you would like electricity”.
We’d arrived during an annual rock concert and several thousand very chatty and slightly drunk young people were catching busses to the nearby concert venue. With a population of 650, it didn’t take long to locate the one small supermarket and a gas station where we hoped to fill our propane tank the following morning. We all slept like the dead, never hearing Peter Smith (www.PeterSmith.net.nz), inventor of the Rocna Anchor (www.rocna.com) moor directly in front of us.
Sunday morning Amanda and I visited the service station. It is illegal to fill propane tanks in the EU and exchanging tanks is difficult as nearly every country has a different size and style. Fortunately, our US pipe fittings are similar to the older, non-current Swedish and Norwegian fittings so we’ve been able to refill tanks near Gothenburg and Tromso. One of our tanks was nearly empty (I’d resisted my urge to bake muffins) so when the owner said we could pay for exchanging tanks, but actually fill ours by gravity, I was ecstatic. I carry a gravity feed hose with assorted connectors so a 9 kg tank filled our 25 lb tank 2/3 full, and a 5 kg tank topped it off with a little left over.
The waterfront quay in Seydisfjorfur
The quaint main street with pub, café and Blue Church
Carol and Donnie explore Seydisfjordur
Chores and exploring complete, we set sail at 1600, on what turned out to be a very rough upwind start to Faskrudsfjordur, arriving at 2200. We had excellent coverage on C-Map of the newly-expanded small boat harbor and could see a 42’ Norwegian yacht inside but when the depth got down to 0.5’ in the channel, we gingerly backed out.
Dallis, standing bow lookout, commented that there was a guy ashore watching us intensely and walking quickly towards the tiny harbor. Minutes later, a police car and another car rolled up and Bob called out, asking what the depth was in mid-channel. The reply was “Half a meter!”, so Bob asked for mooring suggestions. The guy on shore pointed back out the way we’d come, and said, “In front of the yellow house”, and then got in a waiting car and took off in that direction. Turns out the town had recently completed a handsome new guest pier in front of the old French fisherman’s hospital which is now a very nice hotel/museum/restaurant.
Sigmar Hardarson was waiting when we arrived, as were several hotel guests, and took our lines accepting our invitation to come aboard. He said he crewed on the village rescue boat and had been watching our AIS signal on www.MarineTraffic.com before we ever entered the bay. We had a great chat. Sigmar was born in the village, has two kids and drives forklifts in the impressive cooperatively-owned fish processing plant directly off our bow. The operation employs over 200 people and owns three 180’ fishing boats that work locally and off Greenland catching cod and haddock, much of which is exported to Belgium, Poland and the UK. He asked if we would like some frozen cod and said he would drop it by in the morning.
Monday morning Amanda taught sail repair and finishing splices before our crew went exploring town and visiting the French hospital museum, a tribute to 300 years of French sailors and fishermen working out of this village, losing over 400 boats and 4000 men.
As we were getting ready to cast off a waitress from the hotel restaurant came down the dock saying she’d would really like to sail with us next year and could another waitress possibly sail with us to Breiddalsvik, the next bay down the coast. Stefania arrived in a flash all smiles asking if her boyfriend Bjarni could come also. She crews on the lifeboat which her father Oscar is skipper of and happily answered all the questions we peppered her with about growing up in an isolated village including the pronunciation of the Icelandic language.
Ingolfur, Oscar, Stefania and Bjarni
When I asked if she thought there might be a place for us to moor in Breiddalsvik, Stefania said, “Just a minute”, whipped out her phone and called Ingolfur, the volunteer captain of the lifeboat there who assured her there would be a berth for us. Stefania steered us into the tiny harbor as Oscar, who had just driven over the hill to collect her and her boyfriend, looked on proudly from shore. When we asked Ingolfur if we could pay for the moorage he got a quizzical look on his face and told us the woman who might collect moorage fees was out of town, and not to worry.
Carol’s view mountainside view of Breiddalsvik
Breiddalsvik was a wide-open fjord, with lots of light and a very different feel to the narrow, deep and high-sided fjords we’d previously visited. Yesterday morning following going aloft for rig inspection class, some went swimming in the small community pool while others went hiking along the beach or up the valley. After lunch we set a course for Westman Islands, 210 miles south and then east.
We’d hoped to stop for dinner at one of the only two harbors, but the entrances looked a little dodgy with sandbars and the timing didn’t work. Although we started out with light following winds, they’ve filled nicely with Carol hit 10.2 kts surfing under full main and poled out genoa.
We’ve been getting periodic glimpses of very impressive mountains and glaciers to shoreward through the clouds as we sail west along Iceland’s southern coast.
July 25, 2016, 2015 hrs, 64.09 N, 21.56 W, Log: 196,531 miles
Baro: 1012.2, Cabin Temp: 62 F (no furnace!), Cockpit: 44 F, Sea Water: 57.2F (seriously!)
Moored at Brokey Yacht Club, Reykjavik, Iceland
We’ve since tucked reefs in both sails and are trucking along nicely at 7-8 kts.
For the first time in months it got dark enough to require compass and nav lights as we carefully approached Vestmannaeyjar Island in occasional fog and drizzle at 2300. The Imray RCC Faroe-Iceland-Greenland cruising guide mentioned that the harbor had nearly been sealed off by the 1973 volcanic eruption and we were pleased to spot the red buoy marking the edge of the lava flow, squeezing in past impressive overhanging 300’ cliffs into a harbor that was jammed with 200’-300’ fishing vessels and even larger freighters.
Approaching Vestmannaeyjar Island in fog and drizzle at 2300
We found the small boat harbor, but it was chokka with whale watch RIBs and local boats. The only empty spot was a small part of the fuel dock and we managed to secure about 1/3 of MT with the rest overhanging. At 0730 I found a harbor employee arriving at the port building, and explained where we were moored. She apologized for the lack of space and facilities and said there would be no need to pay because of this. When I mentioned I hadn’t been able to get the self-service fuel pump to work with my credit card, she explained it wasn’t working properly and that she’d call the fuel company. Shortly after, a guy showed up with a wireless credit card terminal and we were able to top up our tank.
Upon entering the harbor Donnie had pointed out two new concrete docks, without cleats, loosely lashed to the end of the wharf across from the fuel dock. As soon as we’d finished fueling, harbor employees towed one of the floats away, leaving a gorgeous new 60’ long float beckoning us to tie alongside. The harbormaster called her colleagues and got an OK for us to moor alongside for a few hours. Amanda and Carol figured we could tie to the docks rub and soon we were all set just in the nick of time for the three-hour volcano summit and town walking tour that Carol had graciously organized.
We met Unnure and Edda of Viking Tours and were soon learning about the local economy (both had earlier worked in the fish processing plant we walked by) and the devastation and changes brought about by the 1973 eruption of Eldfel. Half of the homes in town were destroyed and the harbor nearly sealed shut by lava, but thanks to the gift of many large diesel-powered pumps from the US Army Corps of Engineers and weeks of dedication from the local firefighters, the lava flow didn’t completely block the harbor entrance, instead it considerably narrowed it, providing much better protection in northerly winds.
Unnure demonstrates the area of houses that were buried by lava.
No view of town today from the volcano summit
Today Vestmannaeyjar is booming with the five fish procession plants and dozens of huge bottom trawlers coming and going at all hours of the day and night. Freighters anchored outside the harbor shuttle loads of frozen and dried/salted fish all over Europe and also to Africa. Tourism is also growing with whale and birdwatching plus hiking bringing many visitors.
Carol’s evening view of the harbor and MT (in red circle) dwarfed by fishing boats
Friday morning we all took off climbing before breakfast. After returning we covered cruising medicine and once we were underway we practiced towing warp and the Galerider drogue before hoisting the storm staysail and trysail. We had fairly light conditions for most of the 130-mile passage to Reykjavik, but managed some good sailing in the early morning hours. We arrived at Reykjavik harbor at 0800 and found a perfect, sheltered spot to moor at the Brokey Yacht Club directly in front of the very new and impressive Harpa Concert Hall. Our final class after breakfast was celestial navigation where we worked out a latitude by noonsite.
Our adventuresome crew took off on many different directions; Dallis and Sean were picking up rented bikes and a car for mountain biking, climbing and camping activities, Donny headed off to the Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon, Carol was off to experience everything from glacier climbing to diving while Abby and Bob planned to visit a few museums.
Amanda and I have an eight-hour Golden Circle mini-bus tour planned to see volcanoes, geysers, waterfalls and a national park then will set sail to a nearby small town.
Resources used for Leg 3, Longyearbyen, Svalbard to Reykjavik, Iceland:
Weather: YR.NO: NRK Met Institute – Norwegian government weather site which we think must use the EC forecast model. Incredibly accurate and helpful with very detailed coverage of Svalbard! WINDYTY.COM: Worldwide GRIB forecast charts utilizing US GFS computer model.
Special thanks to Ken Appleton for forwarding us analysis of yr.no forecasts when we were out of cell range to receive them.
June 17, 2016, 1500 hrs, 72.05 N, 19.23 E, Log: 194,124 miles
Baro: 1013.6, Cabin Temp: 62 F (without the furnace on!), Cockpit: 50 F, Sea Water: 48.6F
Closehauled and double-reefed into 16-18 kt NE winds with slight seas
Barents Sea, 120 miles south of Bjornoya (Bear) Island
SPITSBERGEN, HERE WE COME!
For a few days between Legs 1 & 2 Amanda and I managed to slip away from bustling and booming Tromso to intensely enjoy a quiet anchorage off tiny Finnkroken Village on Reinoy Island, 12 miles but many years away from Tromso. Amanda managed to catch a cod every time she tried her hand at fishing and we had long runs, hikes and exploring hitchhikes ashore. The anchorage was especially appealing because in every direction we could see snow-capped peaks and a steady parade of passing vessels kept us entertained with their AIS information. They ranged from freighters, cruise ships and fishing vessels to state-of-the-art 200’ salmon farm tenders and their destinations and home ports varied from Svalbard, Faroes, Iceland or just further north along the coast.
In Norway refilling our new US propane tanks had proven impossible until, on the advice of Norwegian Cruising Guide we tracked down LPG Tromso, a few miles out of town above the private Skatorra Marina. Because of the challenge of refilling, I asked Ole, the owner if he had any old LPG tanks he wanted to sell, and he ended up giving us a 5kg tank that was out of date but had a compatible hose fitting.
Following our Wednesday 4-6 pm safety briefing our eager crew researched first night anchorages, and within minutes of their arrival Thursday noon, we set sail, first for Finnkroken where our crew landed a couple cod in the misty drizzle, then for a dinner stop at Torsvag, a small fishing and whaling port and the very last stop before jumping off for Bjornoya and Svalbard.
Leg 2 Crew
We had earlier planned to spend the night in Torsvag, but from all indications on www.windyty.com, www.yr.no and from our very recent Commanders Weather Forecast, it looked like we would end up experiencing northerly headwinds of 20-25 kts for several days if we were to stop for the night. All forecasts indicated we had a narrow window to get north before fresh northerlies developed, and so far we have been successful, although it required some motorsailing in 6-10 kt winds at the start.
Until early this morning we had nearly constant fishing and occasionally freighter traffic visually or on AIS, but now we are alone, except for several visits from whales this morning. One was so close that Kevin had to quickly change course to avoid a collision.
We enjoyed a brief visit to Bjornoya Island on our 2007 expedition but it looks like this year we may get to enjoy several days exploring while we wait for favorable winds for the second half of our passage to Svalbard. Tom, our navigator of the day has been researching possible anchorages and has found one on the SE end of the island used by polar explorer Fritjof Nansen to refill water casks at a shoreline waterfall.
Leg 2 – 2016, Update 2
June 21, 2016, 0500 hrs, 76.47 N, 14.43 E, Log: 194,465 miles
Baro: 1009.3, Cabin Temp: 60 F (without the one furnace on), Cockpit: 50 F, Sea Water: 40.1F
Closehauled at 7.1 kts without reefs 16-18 kt NE winds with slight seas
11 miles west of Hornsund entrance, Spitsbergen
STEADY WINDS AND A FAST PASSAGE!
With a contrary current and light winds from the direction we wated to go, we motored the last few miles to our Bjornoya (Bear) Island landfall at Sorhamna on the SE corner, giving us the opportunity to run the watermaker, warm up the water heater and enjoy hot showers before anchoring. What a luxury!
Sorhamna is mentioned in the cruising guides as being by far the best anchorage on the island, and we could tell why. Surrounded by cliffs on two sides and an island close to the east, it is only open to the south and has a sandy bottom with modest depths allowing us to anchor securely in 22’ at 1900. After a yummy cod curry dinner, we double-checked the anchor, gazed about at the impressive surroundings and slept like babies until the following morning.
Sunday was busy with engine room orientation, safety systems and reefing test and while Amanda taught liferaft and Lifesling launching I did an engine oil change.
We welcomed the Coast Guard inspection officers aboard and they told us their icebreaker/patrol vessel was nearby and that they’d been aware of our AIS presence for more than two days. The southern end of Bjornoya Island is off limits for yachts over 40’ to approach or anchor, but Sorhamna was just north of this area, so we were ok. The inspectors were mainly ensuring we were aware of the rules for Bjornoya and Svalbard and asked our crew if they felt safe (which brought some laughs!). After the formalities, which included a stern warning of the dangers of polar bears, they shared some of their favorite Svalbard anchorages and information on additional bays to the north of Longyearbyen. Before long they were off to board and check several large (220’ to 450’) Russian fishing vessels
We launched the RIB and motored slowly along the shoreline, marveling at the thousands of nesting seabirds lining the cliffs. There was a sandy beach where we could have landed, but vertical cliffs meant very little hiking if we did land, so we raised anchor and headed north along the coast, passing a 67’ whaling vessel, complete with harpoon gun on the bow before anchoring in Austervag Bay, site of an abandoned coal mine.
Although sheltered from the now westerly wind (one of our reasons for stopping was to wait until the wind shifted from NNW to W), a powerful swell was wrapping around the N end of the island making the anchorage very rolly. Any ideas of going for a hike were quashed by impressive surf on the beach so instead our eager gang piled into the RIB and we cruised the shoreline, checking out the extensive ruins of the coal mine which ceased operation in 1910.
It was 2200 by the time we’d finished dinner, and wanting to take advantage of the favorable forecast, but also not wanting to rush we decided on two hours of sleep, followed by raising anchor and setting sail at 0000. It takes a bit of getting used to, having it nearly as bright at midnight as noon, but it sure makes getting underway at all hours easy.
Once at sea we found 20 kts, gusting 29 upon rounding the northern tip of the island, making us glad for having tucked two reefs while hoisting the main. We were able to just lay course to clear Sorkapp, the southernmost tip of Spitsbergen, but it was rough, partly due to the relatively shallow depths and opposing swells.
By Sunday night the winds were down to 20 and had backed to the SW as forecasted, allowing us to ease sheets and enjoy some great sailing. We’ve now been paralleling the coast for several hours but have only seen land on the radar because of hazy conditions. Currently we’re passing (10 miles off) the entrance to Hornsund, home to a Polish research base and several spectacular anchorages. We’d love to stop but before landing we’re required to check in with the Sysselmannen (governor) and pick up our rental (required for polar bear protection), so in order to do so we’ll continue on another 120 miles to Longyearbyen, the capital and only commercial settlement.
June 25, 2016, 1140 hrs, 79 53 N, 11.43 E, Log: 194,465 miles
Baro: 1013.8, Cabin Temp: 60 F (without the one furnace on), Cockpit: 51 F, Sea Water: 42.1F
Motorsailing at 7 kts back from 80 N in 5 kt SSW winds and calm seas
6 miles N of Sallyhamna, Spitsbergen
WALRUS, BELUGA WHALES AND POLAR BEARS!!!
Our landfall in Longyearbyen, capital of Svalbard was at 2355 and we were surprised and delighted to find one of the two floats reserved for visiting yachts totally empty. Ishmael, a guide on a small expedition ship anchored nearby was leaving by RIB and said we’d need to check with the harbormaster in the morning, but as far as he knew, we should be fine using the berth for the rest of the night. Perfect. Our plan was to do our town errands and be away by noon.
We were awakened at 0500 by the sound of the pilot boat departing and looked out across the wharf to see the huge hulk of the Pacific Princess cruise ship drawing alongside. I ran ashore and asked a line handler if we could leave before the ship’s stern lines boxed us in and he said “There’s the harbormaster, ask him”. The harbormaster was Kjetil Braten, same delightful guy who we’d gotten to know in 2007 and as I ran up, he yelled, “Too late! You’ll be here for the day”. He asked why I hadn’t tried calling him on the VHF and I said, “It was nearly midnight”. He replied that he always sleeps with channel 16 on and that he’d have advised us that if we used the slip we’d be boxed until 1700.
MT berthed at the yachts pontoon and boxed in by the Pacific Princess
Reindeer graze in the valley before the town Longyearbyen
Never mind, it wasn’t a problem as crew enjoyed showers, laundry and exploring the town and museums before we set sail for Trygghamna, 24 miles away.
What an incredible two days we’ve had since leaving Longyearyen. First night we anchored in front of an actively-calving tidewater glacier in Trygghamna (Safe Harbor), formerly a favorite anchorage of whaling ships. We got an early start Thursday morning and were amazed at the number of walrus we saw ashore at Poolepynten Point. In a flash we’d anchored, launched the RIB and hiked down the beach.
We stayed a discreet distance from the pile of walrus huddled on top of each other.
Only two walruses occasionally looked unconcernedly at us, while another walrus of swam back and forth along the shoreline.
Our anchorage that afternoon was Engelsbukta, and not long after we anchored, ten reindeer showed up ashore to watch us as they grazed along the hillside. We thought about landing and hiking up the hillside, but the 15 kt southerly winds on a lee shore would have made for a wet, boot-filling landing, so Amanda taught Sail Design and Sail Trim classes.
Yesterday we got another early start and diverted around halfway to visit Magdalena Fjord, site of a Syssellmanen guard hut. Previously we’d found the park guards an excellent source of info on where bears had been sighted, but Martin and Ole had only recently arrived and didn’t have any sightings to report. We welcomed them aboard for hot showers, but they busy completing repairs to their boat, having sliced it open on an unseen bit of ice.
Martin (wearing black hat) shares the history of the whaling site and grave yard
Never wanting to arrive empty handed, we presented Martin with a very-welcomed bar of dark chocolate
We continued north in the afternoon. Over the period of an hour, we passed four southbound expedition sailing vessels, and I called each one on the VHF, asking if they’d seen bears. All said no bears, except for the last one, mentioning they’d spotted bears in Hamiltonbukta and across to the eastern shore of Raudfjord. We immediately changed our destination from Sallyhamna to Hamiltonbukta which would be a totally new fjord and anchorage for us.
Sailing past a small piece of brash ice
Tom and Carol on whale lookout
We all spent hours scanning the shoreline and partially snow-clad slopes of the anchorage for bears spotting some tracks, but no bears.
The pilotage information in Norwegian Cruising Guide for Hamiltonbukta is somewhat confusing, but we slowly crept in to what was a spectacular anchorage; quite close to a calving tidewater glacier which afforded an expansive view of some of Svalbard’s highest peaks under a nearly cloudless sky. The beauty surrounding us was simply astounding.
After we’d anchored I’d called Ocean Nova, a small expedition cruise ship managed by Quark Expeditions that had anchored a few miles away, asking if they had seen any bears. They said hadn’t seen any in the past week.
This crew is having a laugh a minute. After dinner Jamie and Tom had us playing The Cookie Game: Everyone places a cookie on their forehead and on “GO” you have to get the cookie onto your mouth without using your hands. It requires a lot of face scrunching and tongue work.
Jamie about the win a cookie game against Tom
This morning I was still sleeping when I heard an eager bear-watcher on deck. I’d overslept! With only one brief look ashore for bears, I cleared the engine room of drying boots, socks and gloves as the bosun of the day started raising the anchor. Our original plan was to again sail to the edge of the ice pack as in 2007, however the ice pack was currently 200 miles north so that idea was out. LaVerne, navigator of the day, proposed we head across and up Raudfjord to check out the passing expedition yacht’s bear sighting before sailing 12 miles north to 80 North, and then further east to Woodfjord for the evening anchorage.
We’d only started raising anchor when Kevin, who had been looking out the window below said, “Do you see the polar bear there on the beach?” He was pointing directly shoreward from us where a very active young bear (possibly a three-year-old) had just swum to the shore and was climbing out of the water. The polar bear started ambling north along the beach, not more than 150’ feet off our bow. We stopped raising the anchor and I said, “Let’s get the dinghy in the water ASAP and follow him along the beach. Amanda – get the gun!”.
Once the dinghy was in the water and outboard lowered and attached, I asked for the fuel tank and hose to be handed down, only to learn there was no fuel line, anywhere. All I can think is that at Magdalene Bay in my hurry to get the dinghy back aboard I must have disconnected both ends of the fuel line, handed up the fuel tank and left the fuel hose in the bottom of the dinghy. It must have slipped into the water when we hoisted the dinghy vertically to then lay it down on the foredeck.
So…we stowed the dinghy, raised anchor, motored slowly through a pod of curious beluga whales and for three incredible hours, followed the bear a it walked north along the waterfront and swam around numerous headlands covering a total of 3.5 miles.
Upon settling in to our bear watching I called Ocean Nova and told them of our sighting. The watchstander asked me to standby, and a minute later, I was speaking with John, the Aussie cruise director who excitedly told us he could see our AIS position on their radar, and thanked us profusely, asking after the general health of the bear. He also asked if it would be ok if they steamed closer to us and launched their Zodiacs with passengers. I assured him that would be fine and asked if they might have a spare outboard fuel line. John said he’d ask the bosun to locate one and said they’d be underway ASAP. It was an hour before Ocean Nova hove into view, but while they were still several miles off, John said they’d already spotted the bear.
The polar bear knew we were there, as he would glance unconcernedly at us now and then.
It was great to watch the polar bear. It was really on the move and tried to avoid walking in the snowy patches preferring to step from rock to rock. After two hour of walking and swimming he put his head and front paws onto some snow and for 100’ slid along using his hind legs before coming to rest on the snow for a few moments. Next he was rolling over onto his back with paws in the air before getting up to continue walking. At one point we anchored in just 12′ of water, directly off the snow-covered slope where the bear was taking another nap on a mossy ledge but just before the five large Ocean Nova’s Zodiacs started to arrive, the bear was up and on the move again, so we raised anchor, but held back so their guests could all get a great, unobstructed view and photos.
Playing in the snow
The last Zodiac came directly toward us, instead of heading to the bear and John, the jovial Aussie at the helm came alongside, handing us a brand new Yamaha fuel line with a great big smile. When I tried to pay him, he just said, “Bugger off, mate, we’re happy to help you! You lot are all invited aboard for drinks and dinner if we ever share an anchorage or port!”. He had four of expedition and ship’s crew but no passengers aboard his Zodiac, and explained that they were ecstatic to be able to have this bear sighting for their guests. He also related how on a previous expedition he’d sighted several starving bears at Andoyane Islands in Woodfjord, 30 miles to the east also relating that Woodfjord had unusually remained ice-free the past winter, with few if any seals for the bears to hunt.
John and crew from Ocean Nova deliver a new outboard fuel line
Ocean Nova on standby, waiting for the return of her Zodiacs and passengers
At this point, we decided to resume our planned schedule of heading 11 miles north to pass the 80 degrees North latitude, which we did.
Our accomplished 80 degrees North crew: LaVerne, Kevin, Carol, Tom, Kay and Jamie
I love the Arctic and all its flora fauna and glory and hope to do more high latitude sailing when not engaged in outdoor adventures. I practice law in Seattle and upon leaving Svalbard I’m headed to Norway’s Lofoten Islands on a sea kayaking adventure.
I recently retired after being a pharmacist for over 40 years on Vancouver Island and now that my three boys are on their way I’m looking to re-start my sailing career. Pre-children I did the Vic-Maui plus 15 Swiftsure races. My wife is meeting me in Scotland following this expedition and we’ve chartered a 29’ sailboat to sail the Caledonian Canal. I’ll be looking for other boats to crew on, hopefully including an Atlantic crossing this November.
Originally from Hong Kong, but now based in London, I’ve spent the last 20 years managing commercial infrastructure projects (airports, mass transit and tunnels) on four continents. Now my sailing goal is to explore by sea areas of the world untouched by zealous builders and mass population. Other interests when not sailing include skiing and sharing good food and wine with friends.
I am the mother of three boys, a physician and former veterinarian originally from Wisconsin, but have spent the last 36 years in the Pacific Northwest and am now eager to retire after 20+ years in OB-GYN and hoping to begin blue water cruising, diving and exploring the world. I’m looking for a like-minded soul to join me.
I am a sales guy who loves adventure and travel. When I was young, I biked around the world, and Tom joined me on part of that trip. Now I am looking at sailing which is much easier on the body. I only sailed on one-week adventure before this trip, and this was my first overnight sailing – it was fun! Be fearless and get out of your comfort one and learn something!
I am an American tax lawyer working in Munich, but always looking for cruising opportunities. I’d like to do an ocean crossing at some point and John and Amanda have helped me make great steps in that direction.
It was now decision time. For several days a southerly of 25-30 kts had been forecasted for Sunday, the day we’d been heading south on an exposed leg of our return trip to Longyearbyen. Should we continue to sail 30 miles further away to Woodfjord to look for starving bears, or, count our blessings (and sightings) and set sail to Ny Alesund, 110 miles south, stopping at nearby Sallyhamna for lunch and to check out the 250-year-old trappers cabin?
After enjoying a pleasant wander and crew photo at Sallyhamna our crew unanimously chose to head south
We pushed on through the evening arriving at Ny Alesund at 0030 Sunday morning. When I’d called the harbormaster several hours earlier, he said he’d be up and would show us where to tie up. Surprisingly the T-pontoon at the end of the small boat dock was open and Aspeth, a shy carpenter/engineer from Bodo took our lines and invited us to the “summer party” in the boathouse overlooking the harbor which was in full swing. 30 or so people were dancing in wacky costumes to everything from the Beach Boys to Neo funk and through the binoculars spied a children’s swimming pool overflowing with glacier ice and beer cans.
Later that morning after we visited the excellent always-open self-service museum and had a wander around town, I raised Aspeth on the radio, and he came down to the main wharf where we’d rafted to a research boat and were able to top our fuel tanks up.
MT berthed at Ny Alesund
Crew wandering up Ny Alesund’s main street
We headed south, motorsailing into ever-increasing headwinds gusting to nearly 30 kts before seeking shelter at the glacial face in Inglesbukta where we found a very protected and surprisingly secure and dramatic anchorage. Amanda pulled out the sewing machine and taught sail repair.
Monday we had a leisurely (for us) 0600 departure and in sometimes dense fog, light winds and occasional drizzle motored 45 miles south to Farmhamna. After lunch it was still foggy so we waited until after class (electrical power systems and watermakers) before heading ashore. We were concerned about being able to spot any polar bears in the fog, so stuck close together as we enjoyed a ridge walk and a very curious reindeer that kept us well entertained. It seems that all of the animals in Svalbard are curious and fearless around humans.
Tuesday morning to fog totally lifted as we entered Isfjord (the fjord that Longyearbyen is located on) and the minute the wind arrived, we started practicing Lifesling overboard retrieval. As usual, our expedition members said, “Why weren’t we taught this simple method (modified Quick-Stop procedure) instead of the ridiculous Figure 8 or Deep-Beam-Reach methods.
LaVerne returns to the helm after deploying the Lifesling
Next on the teaching schedule were sextant sights for latitude by noonsite and with a glassy calm sea, everyone enjoyed taking multiple sights.
Kevin was our navigator of the day, and we asked him to, with the input of the rest of the crew, choose an anchorage for the night. Options included the active Russian coal mining town of Barentsburg, the nearly abandoned Russian mining town of Pyramiden or Scansbukta, a quiet and magnificent anchorage surrounded by bird-filled cliffs and sight of an abandoned Swedish gypsum mine.
Scansbukta was the choice and once the anchor was down at 1430, Amanda taught going aloft for rig inspection before we launched the RIB, landing ashore to check out the abandoned mine, shipwreck and trapper’s hut.
Carol’s masthead view of the mine and hut at Scansbukta
Upon returning we reanchored on the other side of the bay which afforded us an amazing hike Wednesday morning. LaVerne taught us the names of the tiny flowering plants that blossom and thrive in the few snow-free months, Kevin found fossilized shellfish high on the slopes and we all enjoyed a close encounter with a ptarmigian before heading down the mountain.
I joked with our crew, saying that I was visualizing a place for us to moor alongside in Longyearbyen (instead of anchoring out) and true to form for this expedition, there was (unusually!) one open spot on the pontoon which normally is rafted three-deep, just perfect for Mahina Tiare! In minutes our crew were headed for showers and laundry, but thanks to LaVerne’s keen persistence, we all sat down and worked out the sextant noon site before they headed up town.
We enjoyed an amazing dinner at Kroa, a trapper’s hut-themed restaurant which serves whale, NZ lamb plus excellent fish. Everyone was happy and joking around, and we all agreed that the group just “clicked”!
Someone had noticed a poster in town inviting all to an open house aboard the Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise and although we arrived after their stated hours, the Greenpeace crew welcomed us aboard and allowed to tag on to the end of a tour. In the ship’s hold we learned that because the southern limit of the pack ice is rapidly receding north annually, there is now huge pressure from the Russian and Norwegian bottom trawlers to fish these pristine waters. We know from talking with scientists that the 200’ – 250’ bottom trawlers drag large steel trawl doors along the ocean floor, disrupting and displacing all sea life. Greenpeace is wisely campaigning for a fishing moratorium long enough for base line species surveys to be conducted. They’re also asking for countries to go slow on the rush toward Arctic oil drilling, based on the extremely hazardous ice conditions and vulnerability of the seafloor, plants and animals. We certainly support these requests.
Also in the hold of Arctic Sunrise they were displaying an amazing video, filmed last week at the nearby glacier, of a piano piece played by the composer Ludovico Einaudi. Click here to view.
Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise
Crew strike a pose for the environment aboard Arctic Sunrise
Several days have passed, and Mahina Tiare is currently anchored off Kapp Wijk, 20 miles N of Longyearbyen, as Amanda and I wait out a blow. The barometer is rising, winds are down from 24 to 14 kts and the sun is breaking through. Now that we’re caught up with sorting images and completing this update, it’s time to launch the dinghy and explore the shoreline and historic trapper’s huts! We sure do love Svalbard.
Resources used for Leg 1, Orkney, Scotland to Tromso, Norway:
Weather: YR.NO: NRK Met Institute – Norwegian government weather site which we think must use the EC forecast model. Incredibly accurate and helpful with very detailed coverage of Svalbard! WINDYTY.COM: Worldwide GRIB forecast charts utilizing US GFS computer model.
July 3, 2015, 0100 hrs, 22.08 N, 64.19 W, Log: 186,812 miles
Baro: 1022.1, Cabin Temp: 83 F, Cockpit: 82 F, Sea Water: 83.5F
Close reaching at 6.5 kts in 22 kt ESE trade winds with moderate sea conditions
Triple-reefed main and genoa
HANG ON – WE’RE ON OUR WAY TO THE AZORES!
After an enjoyable but busy time between expeditions mostly spent at a quiet anchorage just four miles from bustling little Road Town, it was time for Amanda and I to get ready for our next expeditions.
WE LOVE THE BVI’s!
We will remember the BVI’s for very friendly local people, nearly all of whom say “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” when we meet or pass on the colorful streets. The customs and immigration officers were also friendly, efficient and always enquired if we were enjoying their islands. The three pillars of the BVI economy, tourism, business and financial services all seem to be thriving and the country really feels like it is moving forward in a positive direction. They are keenly protective of their environment and culture with many parks and protected areas and no franchise business are allowed which is quite refreshing.
Leg 5 crew joined Monday noon and after clearing customs we set sail for Little Harbour on nearby Peter Island.
Leg 5 Crew – Left to Right – John, Tom, Ron, Dave, Anne, Jo and Pred
After anchoring Dave, a keen swimmer, tied our 180′ three strand line around his waist, dove in, swam it ashore, tying it around a tree. Keeping some tension on the stern line meant that our chain stayed in one place instead of dragging back and forth over the coral in the variable winds. ‘
Ron and Pred take up on the stern line
With 83 F water temp and good visibility all of our crew were soon in the water snorkeling, several sighting an octopus and a spotted ray along with quite healthy coral and fish populations.
Crew at Foxy’s: John Amanda, Dave, Tom, Anne, Jose, Ron and Pred
We completed our safety orientation that afternoon and Tuesday morning after some more snorkeling and engine room orientation we had an easy downwind sail under headsail alone to Soper’s Hole, a colorful BVI marina-village in search of fresh fruit and bread. Next we made the four mile crossing to Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke Island where we picked up a mooring and enjoyed checking out the Great Harbour beach village before a colorful and tasty dinner at Foxy’s.
Foxy, now in his 70’s is a West Indian icon, frequently appearing at the BVI booth in US boat shows and it was a treat to have him stop by our table entertaining us with his non-stop jokes and banter. His beach shack restaurant and bar chocka with memorabilia of signed articles of clothing, yacht club flags and number plates has been a real going concern for many years with a dinghy dock, sandy beach with hammocks strung between palm trees, beach bar- barbecue joint and gift shop. His daughter runs a second, smaller fine dining restaurant, Foxy’s Taboo a couple miles east along the coast. Crew had the choice of either dinning at either and with no one wanting to make a decision a coin was flipped and Foxy’s won,
After a last look around ashore Wednesday morning, in search of one last snorkeling experience we stopped off Little Jost Van Dyke before setting sail for the Azores.
Offshore we found fresh easterly trade winds blowing 22-28 kts so before long we had both the main and genoa triple-reefed and were off on a breezy, bumpy and very wet beam reach which caused half our crew to succumb, sometimes quite dramatically, to seasickness. We were a little surprised at the steady progression of traffic throughout the night as we frequently had multiple cruise ships and freighters on both radar and AIS.
Yesterday (Thursday, July 2) conditions gradually moderated, the wind, as predicted slowly shifted to the ESE allowing us to steer closer to the ideal course recommended by Commandersweather.com.
Click HERE to read our initial departure weather forecast from Commanders Weather.
With the moderating winds we shook out one of the reefs in the main and at 1600
Predominant North Atlantic Summer Winds
we eased sheets, falling off on a smoother broad reach so everyone could take turns showering on the aft deck, resulting in smiles all around.
If we were to attempt to sail a direct course from the BVI to the Azores, we would pass directly through the windless North Atlantic high pressure cell so instead we are first aiming for 28N, 60W, a course that will take us over the northern edge of the high pressure, hopefully providing us with modest downwind sailing conditions.
Leg 5 – 2015, Update 2
July 14, 2015, 0600 hrs, 36.34 N, 39.38 W, Log: 188,548 miles
Baro: 1022.1, Cabin Temp: 80 F, Cockpit: 77 F, Sea Water: 77F
Broad reaching at 7-8.5 kts in 18-24 kt W winds with moderate sea conditions
Full main and poled-out genoa
435 miles to Flores, Azores Islands
SURFING ALONG, SINGING A SONG!
What an incredible Atlantic crossing this has been – far and away our best!
This morning as Amanda taught braid splicing I stood watch at the bow, mesmerized as MT’s bow repeatedly lifted high out of the water on the start of a surf, then as she zoomed down the face of the wave the rushing water nearly reached the anchors. Numerous small flying fish zipped back and forth, startled by the roar of our bow wave. We zoomed close by an unconcerned green sea turtle who turned as watched as we surfed by.
Amanda teaching rig check class
We’ve had some boisterous close and broad reaching with winds gusting to 35, but mainly excellent sailing, frequently hitting 8 and occasionally 9 kts with moderate sea conditions allowing us runs of 145-170 miles per day without breaking a sweat, even with an adverse current that at times has run close to 2 kts against us. In the first week at sea the winds went light so we did have a bit of motor sailing in a slight swell, but this allowed us to top up our water tank and fully charge the batteries.
We’ve had some boisterous close and broad reaching with winds gusting to 35, but mainly excellent sailing, frequently hitting 8 and occasionally 9 kts with moderate sea conditions allowing us runs of 145-170 miles per day without breaking a sweat, even with an adverse current that at times has run close to 2 kts against us. In the first week at sea the winds went light so we did have a bit of motor sailing in a slight swell, but this allowed us to top up our water tank and fully charge the batteries. Commanders Weather has confirmed my theory that the fairly active El Nino episode in the Pacific not only substantially reduces the number and severity of Atlantic-Caribbean hurricanes, it also reduces the amount of convection and squalls, overall improving the weather of the Atlantic and Caribbean basins.
Joe takes care of laundry following our afternoon swim while Dave drip dries and Tom helms.
Mahina Tiare charging along
Amanda checking Pred’s 3-strand splicing
Our only breakage has been the whisker pole’s inboard end latch which slots onto the nozzle of the mast pole car control. On hoisting the pole this end came detached as we raised the pole’s inboard end on the mast. Fortunately the pole landed gently enough on the high lifeline and no one was beneath it. Upon examination, we found bits of oxidized aluminum on deck, and it appears that after 19 years the internal latch has disintegrated. Amanda lashed the latch to the mast car so it shouldn’t pop out and we’ve added replacing the latch to our list for Adam’s Boat Care’s refit this winter.
Dave sets the main halyard after tucking in first reef while Pred helps on the reefing lines
Weather fax showing exceptionally fine weather scenario for our Atlantic passage
Last week our keen crew landed and demolished a mahi mahi, but since then we’ve been focused on generating power with our Ampair towed water generator which is nearly keeping up with our charging needs. Today we’re try fishing with the water generator also deployed and hopefully we can keep the two apart by steering a very straight course. We’ve seen more than a dozen ships either on AIS, radar, or visually but haven’t yet needed to change course to steer clear.
Yesterday we were twice visited by groups of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins and when we went to record it in our whale and dolphin book we were amazed to see we had made a note of spotting them on exactly the same day, in the same location in 2006, the last time we made this passage. Now we’re on the lookout for sperm whale as we had many sightings of them in 2006 but none so far, although turtles are regularly spotted along with numerous flying fish landing aboard.
Joe and Tom enjoying perfect sailing conditions
Joe presented us with a chocolate oatmeal no bake cookie recipe which he and John whipped up as an afternoon treat
The moderate conditions have made our teaching schedule pleasant, and we’ve been able to utilize PowerPoint modules for many topics. This morning Amanda taught double-braid splicing, soft eyes and whipping line ends and I covered 12 volt power system options and watermakers. Our goal while at sea is to complete the majority of our teaching, except going aloft for rig inspection, before arrival so we can all maximize our exploring and adventures upon making landfall at Flores, the first and most dramatic of the Azores Islands.
Anne, Tom, Pred and Joe proudly display their braided eye splices
Here’s our relaxed and jovial Leg 5 crew:
I recently moved just south of Boston where I work at Gillette on the next generation of razors. Last summer I sailed with Boston Sailing Club and this summer I’m thinking of buying my first boat so I can enjoy the prime sailing areas near Boston. This is my third expedition aboard MT and I enjoy the challenges associated with long ocean passages.
Today I’m journeying home to the Azores in a very traditional way. I grew up on Terceira in the Azores and immigrated to Ontario, Canada with my family when I was 12. After this expedition my wife Anne and I will visit three of the islands for the first time before returning to Terceira for a wedding and to visit my relatives. At home in Ontario we sail a Contessa 26.
I’m a housewife from Ontario who enjoys sailing. We joined this expedition to learn more about sailing and to gain a better understanding about our dream of going cruising. One thing I’ve learned is that we will have to upgrade our Contessa 26 to something more comfortable and faster!
I’m an IT manager from Chicago and my ambition is to retire early in the southern coastal US, Caribbean or South Pacific and become a sailboat charter captain and sailing instructor. My boat is a Rhodes 19.
My wife and I own Elm Brook Farm in Vermont that distils maple sugar into Literary Dog Vodka and Rail Dog Barrel Aged Maple Spirit, both made from 100% maple sugar. Prior to becoming a farmer, I worked in finance and banking in dozens and dozens of countries around the world. I’m interested in purchasing a catamaran to explore the Atlantic and South Pacific with my wife.
I live in the desert near Palm Springs, CA but am hooked on the adventure of sailing to exotic destination, fresh air, stars and good camaraderie. This is my eighth expedition aboard Mahina Tiare.
Leg 5 – 2015, Update 3
July 20, 2015, 0730 hrs, 38.32 N, 28.53 W, Log: 189,140 miles
Baro: 1017.3, Cabin Temp: 77 F, Cockpit: 77 F, Sea Water: 74F
Broad reaching at 6.7 kts in 12.5 kt NNW winds
13 miles from Horta, Faial Island, Azores
WE LOVE FLORES – What a treasure!
Although it wasn’t forecasted, our excellent broad reaching conditions remained until we were only hours from landfall at Flores Island. The last few hours of motor sailing meant that we arrived with fully charged batteries and plenty of water in our water tanks.
Just before departing on Leg 1 we downloaded the latest updates for C-Map charts and are delighted at the level of detail provided. Normally we’re very reluctant to enter harbors in the dark but as we had excellent detail on the PC running C-Map charts on Rose Point Navigation software, the radar and AIS working along with twice previously anchoring here we decided to proceed to the anchorage.
At 0400 we dropped anchor in 20′ halfway between an anchored cruising yacht and breakwater which also serves as the commercial wharf and although we’d viewed internet images of the new small marina tucked into the bays corner we didn’t attempt to enter it. We were pretty tired, but before crashing we rigged our second anchor light; a blue LED light suspended from the boom above the hardtop.
When I peeked through the aft cabin’s curtains at first light I thought I was seeing a ghost ship as off in the distance, just occasionally visible through the misty early morning light, a frigate was steaming back and forth across the harbor entrance. I awoke again at 0730 and checking through the aft portlight I could see there was indeed a naval frigate, it was now bearing down on us, obviously heading toward the wharf. At once, still with the anchor down, we reversed away from the wharf to make more room for the frigate to maneuver alongside the wharf.
Eager to check out the new marina I went to scope it out by dinghy. I found an ideal situation – the end of one of the docks had a 60′ berth open, and a local motioned that it would be fine to moor MT there.
Mahina Tiare moored on the end pier at Lajes
Joe (who is originally from the Azores) came with me to the harbormaster who proved to be the most efficient I’ve met in 41 years. Harbourmaster Tiago Pimental, (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) acted like a one man island promoter. When I mentioned we were keen to check out the island, he quickly pulled up details on his computer of what he described as a spectacular hike down a cliff face to a wild and isolated beach within walking distance from the port. I also commentated on the tour guide sign located at the marina gangway of tour guide. Tiago said that Silvio Medina of Tours of Flores (www.toursofflores.com, email: email@example.com) does an excellent job of showing many of the visiting yachties around the island and that he has two nine passenger vans, either of which could accommodate our crew. He proceeded to call Silvio, passed me his phone and I made a tentative booking for a half-day tour the following day.
Tiago said that the annual Festival of the Immigrants which this year is celebrating the 500th anniversary of the town of Lajes was starting that night, and that we must see it. We’d seen this incredible celebration twice before and wouldn’t miss it for anything.
As Joe (in Portugese) and I peppered him with questions, Tiago was filling entering all of our boat and passport information into his computer, and after a few minutes printed out and emailed us entrance and exit clearance forms, advising us that all of the information would also sbe available to the harbormaster in Horta, so entrance there should be quick and easy.
Tiago said the new marina was mostly paid for (like seemingly all the infrastructure in the Azores) by the EU and had proved very popular with over 150 boats per year visiting. Showers, internet, electricity and water are all included for the amazingly reasonable price of 18 euro per night, the least we’ve ever paid for moorage, anywhere!
A view from town of Lajes Marina and harbour
When asked about the island’s population, Tiago said that the current count of 3,600 included the many people who’d long ago immigrated to the States and those who’d also passed away. He said the young people (he looked to be around 40) continue to leave for brighter lights but we sensed his strong love and connection to the island as although his parents had immigrated to Lisbon he’d chosen to return.
Our crew were excited! After showers and with Joe using Tiago’s directions they headed off on what turned out to be a very challenging cliff to sea hike while Amanda and I hitchhiked 15 km the opposite direction to check out the amazing new whaling museum in Santa Cruz, the island’s largest town.
A gardener digs up his potatoes
Anne and Joe at the start of the 2km Faja de Lopo Vaz trail
That afternoon in the harbor the two traditional Azorean whaling boats were boarded by a group of kids and adults who promptly got them ready for sailing. Long used for whaling, these historic boats are now used for racing under sail and oar. Whaling was an important part of the Azores economy until 1981. Whales were spotted by lookouts high on the island who fired signal rockets, alerting the farmers to head for the boat ramps.
Azorean sailing whaling boat preparing for an afternoon sail
As whaling was only every done under sail or rowing, the number of whales never diminished. Powered launches were only used to tow the whale boats out and tow the whales back to the shore-based rendering plants.
We all met at restaurant overlooking the 1910 lighthouse and harbor for a typically HUGE Portuguese fish dinner. David had met the town mayor who invited us to the festival opening at the new civic hall where a classical music performance would follow the opening speeches, and not having a clue of what to expect, four of us went. After listening to many speeches in Portuguese, a musical group from Boston composed of seven string instruments, an accordion player plus three folk singers put on an amazing performance of mainly Portuguese folk songs.
Dinner is served to Ron, Tom and Anne
The Boston musical group in full swing
Saturday morning Amanda and I took off running at dawn and got a bit lost in the hydrangea and rock hedged lanes between the corn and cow fields trying to find the start of the cliff hike. I’d anticipated the trail too soon but still enjoyed being out in nature and eventually Amanda figured out where to head to for the start of the hike. On our return to MT we stopped by the new cash and carryâ€ supermarket, the harbormaster had proudly told us about, and bought some fresh pineapple and warm maize bread.
The town of Santa Cruz
Hill top view of Fajazinha
Silvio Medina (www.toursofflores.com, firstname.lastname@example.org) picked us up at the harbor at 1 pm and took us on an amazing tour of the very rugged island, checking out all anchorage and harbor options (very few!) and telling us the history of each village. The best of all was returning to
A group photo on the pathway to Poco do Bacalhau: Pred, Joe, Anne, Tom Amanda, Ron and Silvio
Faja Grande, literally at the end of the road on the west side, where stormy conditions in Lajes had forced us to seek anchorage several years ago. Now there is a stone-paved walkway past historic water-powered grain mills to a large pool underneath the island’s tallest waterfall.
At the base of the waterfall the entire music group from previous night’s concert and their families were swimming and frolicking in the pool.
Perched on the cliff to the right of the waterfall is an ancient stone mill house that has been restored and rents out for 60 euro a night, http://casasdacascata.com. What a treat it would be to stay there and hike the miles and miles of gorgeous trails on that side of the island!
Silvio saved another real treat for last. Just 2 km from Faja Grande, www.aldeiadacuada.com are 16 charming homes restored in a small-cobbled stoned village that was abandoned in the 1960’s when its inhabitants emigrated to the New World. A local purchased the site and now runs the homes as guest houses. We looked into one of the homes that serves as the front desk/registration area, and it was like entering a farmhouse museum.
Our thanks goes to Silvio for showing us the wonders of Flores for five hours and answering our many questions all for the amazing price of 20 euro each!
Silvio and one of his vans
Our crew had dinner at the festival food tents where Joe got them to try several local specialties. Earlier in the day the ferry from Horta arrived for the first time this year bringing several hundred visitors and it was obvious everyone was incredibly proud of their culture and tradition. At sunset the parade started down the long main street towards the harbor although it was short on numbers this year as there hadn’t been enough funds to cover transportation of bands and dancers from other islands as in the past. So when the band from Fajainha finished providing the accompaniment for a very exuberant folk dancing group they rushed back to the top of the hill to accompany the dancers that followed school dancers and band.
Dancers making their way down the crowd lined street
The band from Fajazinha
John and Ron get ready to devour hot crepes
It was interesting to watch the crowds. Out of at least a thousand people, no one appeared drunk or rude, there was no visible police presence, small children wandered about with everyone greeting them and keeping an eye on them and everyone was enjoying the evening. We were invited to a symphonic concert in the park but headed back exhausted. We were also repeatedly invited to a free lunch Sunday noon in the town hall.
Actually, in our early morning hike (we were too exhausted and the streets to hilly to run!) yesterday Amanda and I stumbled upon an industrial soup kitchen behind the church where seven 10 gallon pots had Portuguese Holy Ghost soup cooking and volunteers were preparing for the luncheon. We were again invited and the cooks explained the lunch was a way of saying thanks to the immigrants who had returned to the town from overseas for the celebration.
Not wanting to arrive before dawn in Horta, we waited until 1100 yesterday before setting sail on the 135 mile passage. As we sailed away, the sun came out on the rugged island and the string of red-roofed whitewashed stone houses stretching along the cliffs looked like doll houses. We could see waterfalls and mist covered the jagged peaks and it felt like we were leaving Shangri-La.
Crew and MT ready to depart Lajes
We’ve had a mixed bag of conditions, some sloppy seas left over from a little frontal passage, some good downwind sailing and some motoring.
Final Leg 5 Entry:
We had an excellent sunrise with the island of Faial in the background and when we entered Horta harbor there were tons of local kids in Optis and Lasers zipping around the harbor as part of the yacht club summer sailing program. Check-in at the harbor office was a cinch, thanks to Tiago’s having already entered all of our info, and in no time we were assigned a berth rafted one out from a catamaran on the breakwater wall. Amanda was off and running once MT was secure, eager and pleased to find paintings she had made on the wall of Maiden (1989), Taitoa (her parent’s boat visiting in 1988) and Mahina Tiare III (2000 & 2006) were still visible and hadn’t been painted over.
Dancers making their way down the crowd lined street
Dave points the way to Horta at sunrise
MT at Horta Marina wall with distinctive 2,351m peak of Pico Island in the background
Our crew chose dinner at Pousada do Santa Cruz, a 500 year old fort converted into a fine hotel and restaurant which we all enjoyed. Tuesday morning everyone pitched in to clean their cabins and then were soon off to explore the Azores and yesterday (Wednesday) Amanda and I set sail for 21 miles to a tiny new marina at Lajes do Pico for our own adventures.
May 26, 2015, 1500 hrs, 9.14 N, 79.55 W, Log: 185,107 miles
Baro: 1008.7, Cabin Temp: 87 F, Cockpit: 89 F, Sea Water: 85.1F (Gatun Lake – freshwater)
Motoring at 7.5 kts with 14 kts NW headwinds
Inside the Panama Canal – approaching Gatun Locks
WE ADMIT IT! WE LOVE THE PANAMA CANAL AND CONSIDER OURSELVES “CANAL JUNKIES!!!”
We’re ¾ the way through our Panama Canal transit and it has been an exciting and excellent transit so far. Currently Guillermo, our Pilot Advisor, has asked for “best possible speed” to see if we can reach Gatun Lock, the final lock, before we enter Limon Bay and the Caribbean Sea. If we’re quick enough, he has permission from the lockmaster for us to slip into the lock before a blue and white PANAMAX car carrier that is currently raising anchor in Gatun Lake ready for its scheduled lock down. Upon entering the chamber first, we’ll be tying center chamber by ourselves with the huge car carrier behind. If we don’t make enough speed we’ll be spending the night side-tied to a huge mooring buoy in the lake, locking down the next day.
Leg 4-15 crew:Derek, canal pilot advisor, Jennifer, Pierre, Geir, Peter, Momi, and linehandler Blondie and Amanda in front.
Side-tied to local tour boat in Miraflores Loc
To show you how much we love the canal, I went with our Leg 3 crew to the first ever public viewing of the new, not-yet-completed giant-sized third lock (absolutely huge!) and for a holiday we spent a night in the Country Suites Hotel on the banks of the Pacific Balboa canal entrance where we could watch a steady parade of ships day and night.
Our current crew all took the time to go to the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center to watch canal lock operation and generally learn how the locks work.
We had our normal safety orientation Sunday from 4-6 pm, collecting passports and filling out tourist visa applications.
First thing Monday morning Elias Castillo collected our passports, got our visas and zarpe (outbound clearance) returning at noon Monday when our crew joined us. Tina McBride, (www.panamacanaltransits.com, email@example.com) our excellent canal agent and long-time friend came aboard at noon to meet our crew and inspect her rental lines (4 lines, each 125′ long with 18″ eye splices).
After expedition orientation Monday afternoon we readied and re-arranged all of our ten docklines (the surge in La Playita Marina had been incredible, so we kept adding more lines!) and tied on our 12 fender tires ready for our pre-dawn departure. After refreshing showers we then hiked a mile or so out to the snazzy Flamenco Marina where we enjoyed an excellent Lebanese dinner at a new restaurant chain Beirut.
This morning Blondie, the professional line handler supplied by Tina McBride arrived at 0530 and by 0600 we were underway and shortly after we were on standby waiting for our pilot advisor.
Leg 4 – 2015, Update 2
June 24, 2015, 1500 hrs, 18.32 N, 64.36 W, Log: 186,560 miles
Baro: 1022.2, Cabin Temp: 87 F, Cockpit: 88 F, Sea Water: 84.6F
At anchor, Peter Island, 4 miles S of Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Thankfully our full steam ahead for Gatun Lock proved to be adequate and we successfully locked down ahead of the car carrier.
Mahina Tiare entering Gatun locks ahead of Panamax car carrier – image taken from the canal web cam
Panamax car carrier towering behind Mahina Tiare in Gatun Lock
Our canal transit ended with a canal launch picking up Guillermo, our pilot advisor off Colon and then us high-tailing to arrive at Shelter Bay Marina, (www.shelterbaymarina.com) three miles away just before dark. Marina manager John Halley kindly met us, directing us to a slip, taking our lines and welcoming us to Shelter Bay. Minutes later our crew helped Blondie cart the transit dock lines and tires ashore and then headed ashore for showers, cold drinks and dinner. What a blur the day had been and with no scrapes or bruises we were ready to set sail for the San Blas Islands in the morning.
Actually, we set sail for Portobelo, a wild-west kind of end-of-the-road town which had been a major Spanish port transporting silver and gold and was heavily fortified against pirate attacks although the notorious Henry Morgan managed to successfully sack the town.
Portobelo’s historic cathedral and counting house
We were surprised to find nearly 50 vessels including many cruising boats apparently left anchored unattended while owners flew back to Europe or North America for the hurricane season and even a rusty old ferry.
Scanning the shoreline for a safe place to leave our dinghy while we explored ashore, we saw several dinghies tied up at house with a “Casa Vela” (sail house) sign. The German owners were sailmakers and sold beer and said we were welcome to leave
Casa Vela; cruiser’s hangout in Portobelo
our dinghy there. Ashore we found several new hostels, and met a guy from one who said there was a regular business of taking backpackers on sailboats from Portobelo to Cartagena, Columbia and vice versa, a distance of about 150 miles with only very expensive air flights.
Early the next morning we set sail on a 42 mile passage direct to the San Blas Islands. Our navigator for the day was busy as we wove our way through some narrow and shallow coral and sand channels to Yansadar, a favorite anchorage off an uninhabited islet and in no time most of our crew were in the water exploring and helping sponge the bottom. For the first time since Oregon we had rain and overcast which was a respite from the hot tropical sun.
Crew navigating through narrow, shallow channels to Yansadar
Shortly after we had anchored, two Kuna men pulled up in a skiff, but instead of offering us molas (traditional embroidered applique panels) to purchase, they had potatoes, onions, broccoli, frozen chicken and many types of local fruit plus beer and Coke which they had purchased in Panama City, transported across the country and were now selling to cruisers. Very industrious and we were pleased to purchase some more fruit and veg!
Friday we briefly stopped off Mormake Tupu, telling the Restrepo family we would return in the morning to visit the village and deliver school books and supplies to the headmaster. Venancio, the oldest son of this family of artists was away, but shortly after we anchored at Gaigar, a protected fairly remote mangrove anchorage a few miles away, Venancio, returning from a visit to Panama City came aboard and said that he would speak to the sila, or village chief about our visit the following morning.
Shortly after, Lisa Harris the most famous mola-maker (and transvestite) came by to show us her latest molas, explaining the designs and symbols.
Lisa displaying molas
Peter with Lisa and mola
Saturday morning we anchored off Mormake Tupu islet and went ashore at the Restrepo family dock. We’ve visited this family four times in the past 15 years, having first been introduced by other cruisers. As in previous visits, we brought reading glasses (thank you Charles & TC), which are much sought-after by the women who sew and sell molas to cruisers as the one source of cash income in their society. Jennifer and Pierre had also generously purchased a substantial amount of school reading glasses in Panama along with school supplies which they were able to donate to the school headmaster along with three boxes of Spanish Scholastic Books we had earlier purchased.
Kuna woman trying on reading glasses donated by Jennifer and Pierre
Delivering Scholastic Books and school supplies
That afternoon we headed to a new anchorage on the far NW corner of Western Holandes Cays, in a cove between two outer barrier islands, each having only one family of residents. Here we found the most vibrant and healthy coral reef and fish population we have ever seen ANYWHERE! Many, many different types of vibrant coral, dozens of species of fish and good visibility. The location; 9.35N, 78.46W is one we have marked on our chart and circled on Eric Bauhaus’ recently-updated and expanded excellent Panama Cruising Guide.
Panama Cruising Guide
Mahina Tiare anchored in Paradise (Western Holandes Cays)
First thing Sunday morning most of our crew were snorkeling again, mesmerized by the beauty. After class we dinghied ashore, hiking around the island meeting the single family living there.
Jennifer & Pierre on Western Holandes Cay beach.
That afternoon we sailed to an anchorage nicknamed “Swimming Pool” by cruisers, the most famous in the San Blas. Surrounded by palm-tree clad islets, a few of which have a Kuna family or two living on them, cruisers have congregated here for many years. I had expected to find 15-20 cruising boats, but there were only five, and the crews of three of the boats said they had been based there from 5-17 years, only occasionally returning to Shelter Bay Marina for supplies.
Monday morning while we were covering our weather class, an older Kuna man in a dugout paddled up and asked if he could trade us fruit for charging his cell phone. He returned just before we set sail with a few mangoes and avocados and asked if we could also full his water jug.
Returning a charged cell phone in exchange for fruit
That afternoon we sailed to At 1300 on Monday, June 1st we set sail, slightly unsure of our destination. We were considering stopping at a new IGY marina in Punta Marta, west of Cartagena and Baranquilla, Columbia, but not as far along as the Venezuelan border, but on emailing the marina’s ship’s agent they said clearing in and out of Columbia required a minimum of 2-3 days, too long for our liking.
Calm seas and favorable N winds prevailed as we sailed whenever possible and motorsailed when necessary staying 20-50 miles offshore to avoid headwinds and contrary currents. Tuesday we passed several ships drifting off Cartagena, waiting for dock space and Wednesday we passed Baranquilla where the sea turned the color of mud and trees and small bits of islands drifted by. At times the headwinds increased to 20-25 kts and we would reef down the main, motorsailing and tacking to avoid rougher conditions offshore.
Thursday morning we held an inshore tack until we were in calm waters just a few miles from shore and an oil platform in the lee of Punta Vela. While crew ghosted MT along, I changed engine oil and watermaker pre-filter and we transferred our deck and lazarette fuel jugs into the main tank. That done, we tacked to sail NE toward Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. Friday was our roughest day and with winds of 20-25, gusting 35 we had all three reefs in the main and four in the genoa. We concentrated on keeping boat speed down to 5-6 kts so the motion below would be tolerable, but overall sea conditions weren’t bad considering we were going against the trade winds. The forecasted SE winds that would have allowed us to ease sheets and go on a close reach only materialized the last night, but Saturday brought much nicer sea conditions and Amanda was able to teach galley orientation and provisioning.
By 1100 Sunday our crew spotted skyscrapers ashore and by 1300 we had passed the capital, Santo Domingo and were winding our way into Marina ZarPar, a joint venture between an American and local guy. Just as we were approaching the dock, our throttle cable broke and so we had Jennifer in the engine room to increase engine revs while docking.
First view of Marina ZarPar
Our first impression of the DR was that of exuberant total chaos! 50′ sportfishing boats would zoom by just a few feet off our beam (we were moored on the face of a long marina dock) with music blasting and people dancing on the foredeck. Yep, it’s the weekend…time to party!
I’d learned of Marina ZarPar through Seven Seas Cruising Association bulletin (www.ssca.org) and from www.noonsite.com and had found Yolanda Renal, firstname.lastname@example.org, marina office manager and dockmaster Rigo Pichardo, email@example.com to be most helpful both by email and now in person. I’d also read that DR customs have been working at overcoming their previous bad reputation and we had no difficulty clearing in with customs, immigration and security officials, several of whom had offices in the marina.
Tasty crew dinner at Teresita restaurant in the marina
We were pleased to find huge commercial self-service washers and dryers, a friendly little restaurant, free w-fi and showers in the marina.
Monday was a very busy day. Amanda and I went for a long run along the beach and toward the small local resort town of Boca Chica, then after making breakfast took a taxi to an excellent new supermarket a couple miles away. Rigo helped arrange taxis and after lunch we all headed 12 miles away to Santo Domingo, first to a large marine store where unbelievably, I found the exact throttle cable we needed, then to the “old colonial city” where we met Felix, an excellent professionally-trained and licensed guide who guided us on a fascinating walking tour of the many restored historic buildings, most of which are 500 years old. Santo Domingo is very proud of the fact that this is where Columbus landed, and site of the first church in all of the New World.
Crew listening to Felix as he describes the Cathedral’s features
Parque Colon, located beside the Cathedral, is a delightful square surrounded by interesting architecture, galleries, shady trees and café’s and would be a great place to chill for a few hours
Fortaleza Ozama is the oldest Military Plaza in the Americas. It was used as a garrison and prison well into the 60’s.
Having arrived the Fortaleza Ozama situated on the river Amanda now had her bearings and pointed out where the sea wall was that Maiden moored to in 1988. The roadway and buildings in the image are a recent additions since Amanda was here.
Maiden won the Whitbread qualifying race from Cadiz, Spain to Santo Domingo on handicap. Their win caused such an uproar with the maxi yachts that they protested to the Whitbread Race organizers to change the handicapping rating for the round the world race so that there was no chance of a small boat taking a prize.
Felix recommended the colonial Mimosa Restaurant for dinner which was very enjoyable dining experience in the tranquil bricked mango tree courtyard. Once back aboard MT, Amanda and I managed to change out the throttle cable late into the evening without having to dismantle the shifter mechanism – a cause for celebration!
Early Tuesday morning immigration, customs, the navy and security service, complete with a German shepherd drug sniffing dog came aboard to clear us out. Rigo had earlier explained that the DR has a deal with the US that all boats clearing out and headed for Puerto Rico must be checked by the sniffer dog. Rather bizarre and the dog REALLY did not want to go aboard, but we had no problems, other than having to quickly remove all traces of our pancake breakfast as it was confusing the dog, and were soon on our way.
Customs drug sniffing dog searching for pancakes
By hugging the S coast of the DR we had very mellow motorsailing conditions and our plan was to cross the often tempestuous Mona Passage at night when the trades are generally considerably lighter. Sure enough, we had only 8-11 kts for the Mona Passage and by 1330 on Wednesday we’d moored to the new Ponce US Customs & Border Patrol dock next to Caribbean Images “marina”. It took several hours to clear customs but eventually we were given the all clear and happily moved to the new “marina” which actually turned out to be a small dock without any services other than water, but perfectly ok.
Thursday our crew took off to explore Ponce town and an interesting castle while Amanda and I rented a car for a 2 hour drive to Fajardo’s West Marine and Costco enroute. Puerto Rico seemed prosperous, well-organized and clean after the Dominican Republic and Panama.
Friday morning we topped up fuel at Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club with the cheapest diesel we’ve seen in decades: US$2.47 per gallon before motorsailing to Patilla, a coastal village for the night. Saturday morning we had a 0330 start for the channel crossing to Puerto Rico’s Vieques Is, where we enjoyed visiting Esperanza, a small beach and fishing village. Sunday we got another 0330 start, this time for the choppy channel crossing to St. Croix, in the US Virgin Islands. We moored at St. Croix Marine and toured historic Christiansted that afternoon.
Charging to windward toward St. Croix
Monday morning I cleared us out of the USVI, (US Customs Border Control office is conveniently located adjacent to St. Croix Marine) and Amanda went aloft to check the mainsail track and at 1130 we set sail on a glorious reach for the British Virgin Islands. As this was our first serious off-the-wind sailing, our crew were in a celebratory mood! Geir had recently completed two instructional cruises of the BVI and pointed out several of his favorite snorkeling and anchoring spots as we sailed past Norman and Peter Islands. We arrived at Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda at 1900, just before dark, finding many available berths in the well-organized and impressive marina complex.
Early the following morning we cleared customs near the marina then set sail for Gorda Sound, the famous area at the north end of Virgin Gorda Island. Derek, an excellent swimmer and diver and I surprised the rest of the crew with a surprise man-overboard situation where Derek “fell” overboard and I demonstrated our version of the Quick-Stop Lifesling rescue. Once we reached Gorda Sound, each crew member executed the same maneuver.
We picked up a mooring ball in front of the Bitter End Yacht Club and enjoyed walks along the boardwalk that afternoon and cold drinks overlooking the protected harbor with Saba Rock and Richard Branson’s Necker Island visible. Wednesday morning we all headed long out on long hikes to the summit and along the ridge of Virgin Gorda with stunning vistas before doing a photo shoot of MT in front of the Bitter End YC and setting sail.
Fabulous view of Bitter End Yacht Club and Gorda Sound, Virgin Gorda Island
MT sailing past Bitter End YC
We found Mark Bunzel & Joe Russell’s “Exploring the Virgin Island Islands” superbly helpful
We had planned to sail south, nearly to The Baths, but with daylight fading, Geir suggested picking up a mooring at Great Dog Island, where he’d snorkeled. It was perfect, there weren’t any boats, the snorkeling was incredible, and when a passing rain squall really tipped on us, goats clamored down the steep rocky cliff to drinking water that had collected in small rock pools. Early Thursday morning we sailed to The Baths, the remarkable jumble of giant granite boulders found on nearly every chartering ad or brochure for the BVI’s. We arrived before any charter boats, took a mooring, swam ashore and had a great time hiking from one beach to the next.
Jennifer exploring The Baths, Virgin Gorda
MT sailing past The Baths
Shortly we set sail for Salt Island, practicing taking sextant shots enroute to where Geir recommended we pick up a mooring and snorkel over the wreck of the Royal Mail Ship Rhone, as he had done earlier this year. We were surprised to see how huge (310′ with 300 passenger cabins) and how accessible (stern is in only 20′ depths) the well-preserved 1867 wreck is.
Geir and Peter exploring the Rhone wreck
We had a great sail to Great Harbor, Peter Island where we took a mooring and after covering boat maintenance, splicing and going aloft we headed ashore to check out the
Arriving in Road Town, Tortola
small bar and restaurant. Friday morning we covered passage planning, using our Panama to Australia PowerPoint show as an example. As Momi and family will be departing within weeks of this passage and as several other expedition members are planning similar voyages, it was keenly received. Soon after we set sail on the four mile passage to Road Town, capital of the BVI and home to Village Cay Marina & Hotel, our destination. Once docked, we enjoyed lunch before Amanda and I went to sign crew off at Immigration.
That night for our graduation dinner crew chose Dove, an upscale Asian/French restaurant located in a quaint Caribbean, and we were delighted with an exquisite dinner. Saturday morning it was a final round up on our teaching after cleaning and packing and then on to new adventures!
Here’s our hearty Leg 4 crew:
I am an academic anesthesiologist working at the U of W Seattle and am originally from Scotland. My earliest boating memories were of exploring the little islands in Loch Lomond in a dinghy from our motor boat. By the time I was seven I was sailing and have not looked back spending every summer sailing around the Hebrides with my parents. I moved to the USA in 1980 and eventually to Seattle where I introduced my sons to sailing lessons at an early age. I have owned a few boats but my longest term dream has been ocean voyaging and my present boat is a Najad 355 which came without instructions– so I joined John and Amanda to learn how to use her for ocean cruising. I plan to sail her or perhaps another yacht with my family and friends when I retire, which will be soon!
I’m from Israel and me and my family “invest” all our time and money traveling to new places around the world, sometimes also climbing high mountains. Usually we travel for a few weeks, and from time to time we leave for longer trips. On our last long (one year) trip, we (me, my wife and 1.5 yr old) traveled overland to Russia, Mongolia, China, NZ and finished in Australia. Now one week after this expedition ends, I will be leaving with my wife and three boys aboard our Lagoon 380 catamaran for two years of adventure, sailing from Greece to the South Pacific.
I’m a contractor, furniture and cabinet maker in San Francisco. In my late teens I sailed on a schooner off the coast of Maine and the experience never left me. Since then I have had the dream of getting a boat and sailing around the world. Besides being on the ocean, I also have a passion for freediving and underwater photography. My plans are to fulfill my dream and sail to the South Pacific and New Zealand.
Originally from Norway, but living in Vancouver, Canada
I have dreamt about blue water sailing for most of my life, but have been a power boater for the past 30 years, only starting taking sailing lessons two years ago. I joined this expedition (and chose a difficult one!) to see if I have what it takes to sail offshore. This has been a great experience that has encouraged me to pursue my dream.
With my husband Pierre, I own a Bongers 39, a South African-built sloop which we are considering sailing from Vancouver to Mexico and the South Pacific. Two years ago I crewed with two girlfriends on their Morgan 38 from the Galapagos to the Marquesas. It was a very easy downwind passage and I chose this leg in order to experience and build confidence in heavier upwind sailing conditions. It’s been a fantastic experience and a long beat to windward is no longer a scary thought!
I was introduced sailing in Quebec in 1980 and crewed in local races aboard a Catalina 27 in Victoria, Canada in the late 80’s. We bought our current boat in 2003 and lived aboard in Vancouver for five years. We now enjoy exploring B.C.’s coast and came on this expedition to help decide if we want to get ready to cruise the Pacific.
Leg 4 Itinerary
Leg 4 , July 2015 :Tortola , BVI ; Horta, Azoresadmin2021-05-03T09:21:31+00:00
October 1, 2014, 2100 hrs, 49.17 N, 124.08 W, Log: 180,444 miles
Baro: 1020.6, Cabin Temp: 68 F, Cockpit: 62 F, Sea Water: 59F
Moored at Schooner Cove, 15 mi N of Nanaimo, British Columbia
SUNSHINE, But what happened to the wind?
Leg 6 has provided us with some serious winds forecasts, frequently gale and occasionally storm force, but fortunately, other than our Dixon Entrance crossing from south of Ketchikan, Alaska to Dundas Island, BC, we’ve experienced quite modest conditions.
Michelle and John take the watch as we cross Dixon Entrance
Crew research our next days passage and suitable anchorages
Some very spectacular, clear days have helped make up for the lack of wind although we did get a few really great short sails with boat speeds nearing 8.5 kts and we’ve probably seen more whales on Leg 6 than all of our previous Alaska legs combined.
Leg 6 crew ready to depart from Dolly’s Creek St Whore House in Ketchikan. John, Russ, Brad, Dolly, Michele, Stephen, John and Amanda
Let’s introduce you to our first-class Leg 6 crew:
Hi! I’m Stephen. I’m 62 and live in the Toronto area where I’m a communications manager for an architecture and engineering firm. I sailed a C & C 25 for five years in Vancouver and now plan to purchase a 32-35’ sailboat when I move back to Vancouver in 2015. (Stephen is also a published novelist: www.onegoodwriter.com)
My name is Brad and I’m a 52 year old restaurateur from Calgary. I sail with my 12 year old son Erik on our Bavaria 32 out of Sidney and will be joining Mahina Tiare for a 2016 coastal passage from Sweden to Norway and up to Bergen, where we have a lot of relatives.
I’m a retired reinsurance executive from the Washington DC area and recently bought a sistership to Mahina Tiare. I found this expedition an excellent primer for my sailing days ahead as I plan to sail for the remainder of the year on the Chesapeake Bay, heading to Maine next summer and perhaps to the Med the year after.
I live in the Bay Area and work as a software engineer for Google. My wife Michele and I are preparing to move our recently purchased Hans Christian Offshore Explorer 4750 from Florida to New York City. We’ve gained valuable insights and experience aboard Mahina Tiare II.
I currently live in the San Francisco Bay area and work as a dietician. My husband John and I are planning on taking our boat up and down the East Coast then off to Europe if all goes well.
I’m from Pembroke, Ontario and this third consecutive expedition has greatly assisted in improving my sailing skills, enjoyment and confidence.
(Peter’s wife Joan will met us in Sidney. They are then setting off on a grand hiking/beach walking road trip down the Washington and Oregon coast. Sounds like a lot of fun!)
Here are some of our most memorable landfalls and events:
Cowpuccino’s, Prince Rupert. It was fun to catch up with Jud, the café’s owner, and see that the cozy eclectic cafe was still hopping with wonderful treats including their infamous “sex in a pan”. Jud contributed this recipes and others to Amanda’s Galley Essentials book and web articles. http://www.mahina.com/galleyessentials2.html
Peter and Brad enjoy chatting with Jud and Rachel at Cowpuccino’s
Brad surprised us underway with Cowpuccino’s monster ginger cookies which were snatched up fast
Bottleneck Inlet, Roderick Island, Finlayson Channel. After a mammoth non-stop 140 mile day and night passage south from Prince Rupert we entered one of the first all-weather anchorages in many miles, in the dark, a few hours before dawn. We could hear the waterfalls on either side of the narrow entrance and when we awoke a few hours later we gazed about in amazement for it was a beautiful tiny bay, surrounded by mountains and glaciers.
Leaving Bottleneck Inlet
Stephen enjoying some sail trimming
Canadian lighthouses are very picturesque and as Surf Light at Ivory Island is no exception we take a moment for a staged photo shoot for 48 North Magazine
With strong winds still forecasted it’s time to drill the crew with reefing procedures. You lose five seconds off your reefing time for every duck whistle Amanda blows
Shearwater Resort & Marina http://shearwater.ca/ on Denny Island an ex-WWII RCAF flying boat base is a fishing & bear watching resort/marina and it was chokka with local fishermen who were between openings. It is one of the friendliest places on the coast.
Codville Lagoon provided a peaceful, nearly landlocked anchorage.
Ocean Falls Yacht Club maintains an impressive stretch of boardwalk that’s a fun hike/climb to a lovely white sand beach bordering a large mountain lake.
Michele, John and Peter and Brad dove into the lake and spent a fair amount of time splashing and swimming about.
Namu an abandoned cannery enroute from Codville Lagoon to Pruth had previously been an interesting stop for us as nine years ago the caretaker showed us around the buildings and setup.
There are no longer caretakers living on site and it’s a little too precarious to step ashore as many more of the rooves and boardwalks have fallen in. It was rather sad to see the state of decay and we doubt it will ever be rebuilt. Here’s an interesting video posted three weeks ago of the cannery and the ship we tied to by Grant Callegari taken from a helicopter. (http://vimeo.com/106036995) he also has another great video of our next stop (http://vimeo.com/76746121) Calvert Island which has always been another favorite place mainly for its easy pathway access to some wild, exposed West Coast beaches.
Finding no floating docks this time we gingerly rafted up to a funky derelict seriously-listing 200’ fish processing ship.
Malcolm Island’s Finnish utopian community of Sointula (www.sointula.ca) was as beautiful and peaceful as ever and our visit to the new bakery was extremely tasty!
Hakai Instiute: Calvert Island Field Lodge (www.hakai.org) is formerly a high-end salmon fishing lodge that has been purchased by a philanthropist and turned into a marine biology research facility capable of housing 100 grad students and scientists (www.tula.org).
We arrived the institute during their final stages of shutting down for the season but Keith, a friendly chap responsible for the fresh water plant, kindly gave us a tour of the solar/battery installation, generator and water treatment plant
We then hiked across to the wild west coast of Calvert Island in glorious sunshine where miles of white sandy beach are interspersed with spectacular rocky headlands.
Umista Cultural Centre and former St Michael’s Indian Residential School
Alert Bay, (www.alertbay.ca) on Cormorant Island is just south of Port Hardy and Malcolm Island It is home to the U’Mista Cultural Centre (www.umista.org) which houses a stunning collection of native masks and carvings that have been returned from museums around the world, having been seized and illegally sold off by authorities following a forbidden potlatch in 1921.
We’d heard that there was a wedding/potlatch going on that Saturday at “the BIG house” (the Indian band’s longhouse) on the hill and we peaked in a side door to watch masked and traditionally-clothed dancers perform around an open fire in the middle of the huge cedar planked longhouse. The dancing and surroundings looked exactly what we’d seen playing in the museum and seemed like a window into the past.
Telegraph Cove (www.telegraphcoveresort.com) on Vancouver Island is the site of the first one-man telegraph station on Vancouver Island in 1912 and a historical sawmill and salmon saltery all located on a wide boardwalk
Pierre’s Echo Bay Resort is owned by an outrageous French-Canadian who hosts weekly pig roasts utilizing a giant steel oven donated by Des Moines YC. It was off season and the small float home village was nearly deserted, but Pierre gladly showed us around and our crew enjoyed his showers and laundry.
After a hike over the hill to the next bay we were lucky enough to find Billy at home on his idyllic property.
Soon to turn 80 Billy has spent his entire life in this very small group of isolated islands fishing and hand logging.
We certainly enjoyed listening to Billy’s colorful stories, looking through his museum at the treasures he’s collected and been.
That brings us to now!
Yesterday we caught up on a lot of teaching while underway sailing in a light breeze including winches as Amanda is now quite proficient at it even with the boat moving.
We stopped for the night at Schooner Cove, a cozy marina inside in a picturesque rock-bound cove just 12 miles north of Nanaimo and this morning Amanda and crew completed our last official last class; going aloft for rig inspection.
October 5, 2014, 1600 hrs, 49.17 N, 124.08 W, Log: 180,516 miles
Baro: 1019.2, Cabin Temp: 69 F, Cockpit: 67 F
Moored at Port Sidney Marina, 15 mi N of Victoria, British Columbia
It’s all over, just like that!
We enjoyed being hosted by Nanaimo Yacht Club member Lorraine Willgress who arranged for a berth for MT and gave us all an orientation as what not to miss in Nanaimo, an attractive artsy town.
We invited Lorraine to join us for dinner and ended the evening by sampling 3 batches of decadent Nanaimo bars courtesy of Lorraine, Stephen and myself. If you’re wondering what Nanaimo bars check out Amanda’s future galley columns as I’m sure she’s going to write about them.
Friday we met friends at a small island just south of DoddsNarrows and enjoyed hiking (and getting lost) on their pristine 300 acre island plus viewing their progress at milling timber and starting construction on their cabin.
They encouraged us not to miss Ganges, http://www.saltspringisland.org/ganges/ganges.htm the largest town in Canada’s Gulf Islands, located on Saltspring Island. We hadn’t counted on the HUGE Saturday market just across from the public marina and we were soon in awe of every type of craft, art and organically grown food you could imagine. It was tough to drag Amanda away and I can see we’ll have to plan a return visit in the future.
For the final ten miles to Port Sidney Marina http://www.portsidney.com/ where the expedition ended Amanda held court with a double braid splicing demo which was then duly executed and completed by Russ. Expedition member Brad keeps his Bavaria 32 in Island Cruising’s charter fleet and their manager had a vacant berth waiting for us front and center on the main dock. Peter’s wife Joan and a friend were waiting on the dock and joined us for an excellent dinner ashore.
This crew have bonded so well that they went to Brad’s favorite diner 3rd Street Café for breakfast and at noon today no one was in a hurry to leave.
Hard to believe our 24th season is done! It is extremely sunny, totally calm and very warm this afternoon and Amanda and I are about to run up town to check it out plus the West Marine store. MT will be wintering on the hard at a nearby boatyard so we’ll need to see what supplies are available in town.
Tomorrow we’ll check out the boatyard before heading home to Roche Harbor to start unloading and cleaning Mahina Tiare, getting her ready for her 18th (and Amanda’s 50th) birthday party in Friday Harbor this Friday.
Leg 6 , September 2014 : Ketchikan , Alaska : Victoria , Canadaadmin2021-05-04T00:04:48+00:00
September 11, 2014, 2100 hrs, 55.44 N, 132.15 W, Log: 179,734 miles
Baro: 1026.8, Cabin Temp: 68 F, Cockpit: 73 F, Sea Water: 61F
Moored alongside at Meyers Chuck, Cleveland Peninsula, Tongass National Park
SUNSHINE, SAILING, BEARS, WHALES AND NON-STOP ADVENTURES IN ALASKA!!!
We hit the ground running with Leg 5, asking our crew to come aboard at 10 am instead of noon so we could catch a strong favorable tide out of Prince Rupert and north toward Alaska.
Exiting Venn Passage we had a brilliant 25 mile downwind sail to Dundas Island, just a few miles south of the Alaskan border, passing the picturesque Green Island lighthouse in late afternoon.
Donna enjoying smooth sailing conditions as we pass GreenIsland lighthouse
Brundidge Inlet provided a totally protected anchorage giving our crew the opportunity to learn how to lay out courses and input waypoints for the 54 mile passage the following morning to Ketchikan.
Ketchikan harbor was still in late summer mode with three huge cruise ships tied up alongside town just outside of Thomas Basin and the nearby logging show drawing a large crowd that sent resounding whoops and cheers across town intermingled with the burst of chain sawing.
Larry is somewhere in the mist of yacht club children, plus Donna and Peter, reviewing a video of their summer cruising.
We were delighted to find an empty slip at Ketchikan Yacht Club’s dock and were instantly invited to a very fun member’s potluck that evening after we’d cleared customs and all done some exploring and shopping. Ketchikan is home to Tongass Trading Company, the largest outdoor outfitting store we’ve ever seen outside REI’s flagship Seattle store. I found some great Sorel slippers for cold mornings aboard and we already have a list going for when we return!
Amanda had scrupulously observed the list of fruit and vegetables supposedly excluded from entry into Alaska so at 6 am we ran with knapsacks and canvas grocery bags to the Northern end of town to shop at the gigantic re-vamped Safeway. After years of provisioning in challenging South Pacific countries, we were totally blown away by the quality, selection, very reasonable prices plus friendly, helpful service.
Soon after returning we set sail for Thorne Bay, http://www.thornebayalaska.net/ 36 miles north. Well, we set sail, but ended up motoring. After threading our way through Thorne Bay’s narrow, twisting entrance, we noticed a very handsome cruising sloop at the public docks, but couldn’t determine the builder. Before we had even tied up, Sheryl and Greg Kekof, who had taken our seminar in Seattle ten years earlier, popped their heads through the hatch and then came to take our dock lines. When we last chatted with ten years ago, they were just celebrating finally launching the 50′ sloop that they had spent the last 20 years completing from a bare hull. Now Toccata, their Skookum 50, is their Alaskan home, and what a home! They proudly showed us their amazing woodwork and welding and told us great stories of using the boat as a base for hunting, fishing and exploring Prince of Wales Island. It was wonderful to see two people still in love and living their dream!
Sheryl and Greg Kekof
Toccata, Sheryl and Greg’s Skookum 50
A younger Sheryl and Greg laminating a beam for Taccata
After carefully listening to the forecast, we decided to take advantage of unusually warm and fine weather and
We could barely wait and the minute the anchor was down we started preparing to launch the RIB and headed ashore for the 20 minute boardwalk hike up to the waterfall where bears frequently wait for salmon trying to fight their way against the current to spawn. The forest service has built an open platform/shelter overlooking a bend in
Bearing up well at the Anan bear observatory – John, Donna, Jerry, Peter and Amanda
the river and we spent an hour waiting for bears before giving up and heading back down.
Just as we started down, a young Australian family from a ketch anchored next to us came trudging up the track, so we stayed to chat with them a few minutes. Almost immediately they spotted a bear across the river, which had appeared from out behind a rock and was now patiently waiting for salmon to swim past. We stayed, enjoying watching it until nearly dusk, then headed back to the dinghy. The tide was now in so we enjoyed a tiki tour of the creek’s wide estuary where seals popped up now and then to have a peek at us. In the fading light we also spotted a bear on the river bank and were able to get quite close while it gazed at us, then got bored and wandered off into the brambles.
John and Larry on the bear viewing platform at the river’s edge. There is a bear on the other side of the river inside the added red circle.
A close up view of our first black bear sighting
Very early Friday morning we all headed ashore again, and this time we were very lucky, A female and her year-old cub were directly across the river from us, and totally unconcerned by our presence.
The mum would wait patiently, for up to ten minutes, for the perfect salmon, but her yearling was constantly on the move, pacing up and down the river. It was exciting to watch how effortlessly they ate the large salmon with the help of their huge front claws.
Friday early afternoon we set sail 30 miles with the current through narrow Eastern Passage for rough and ready port of Wrangell http://www.wrangell.com/. Our surprise was to find moorage in the busy harbor and to discover that there was a public pool next to the school; perfect for swimming laps and a decadent long hot shower.
Hot soup lunch underway
Donna lends a hand in changing the engine water impeller
Petersburg http://www.ci.petersburg.ak.us/ is at the narrow end of the tortuous, but extremely well-marked 22 mile Wrangell Narrows http://wrangellnarrows.com/ . Brilliant sunny weather prevailed and we had very little traffic, a big change from the last time we made that passage in thick fog and drizzle. We’d read in a regional newspaper that Petersburg was having a Rainforest Festival (www.tongassrainforestfestival.org) and eagerly attended an informative lecture by Kate Wynn at the new library titled, “Alaska’s Pinnipeds: Biology and Behavior of Seals and Sea Lions”.
Several of the immaculately-maintained fishing boats were switching out seine nets to go crab fishing and we enjoyed watching net mending on a boat across the dock from us.
With its strong Norwegian heritage, we think Petersburg is the most attractive and friendliest town we’ve visited in Alaska, even in the rain.
Getting ready to depart Petersburg
Having attended Kate’s lecture we were better informed on the traits of these hauled out Stellar sea lions
Originally we’d planned to sail as far as Tracy Arm, another 85 miles north of Petersburg and home to the very active South Sawyer tidewater glacier but with a smaller crew, this would have meant long hours on the helm so we decided to check out Thomas Bay http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Bay which also has several glaciers.
What we found was exquisite and although the glaciers have receded and no longer calve into the bay we were able to anchor right on the edge of the alluvial fan of Baird Glacier and take the dinghy up the river that was coming off the glacier face.
Happy dinghy crew – Donna, Peter, John and Larry
The current was strong and all was going well as we dodged floating ice chunks so we shut down the engine to enjoy the surroundings. Amanda then gave me a surprise wedding anniversary present (more hair in the form
John’s dressed in his anniversary present
of fur attached to an Alaskan Hat). We now on our way being swiftly swept back down river and when Peter made a polite mention that maybe he should paddle a little to steer us in main stream we were all rather sidetracked. By the time we paid heed to Peter’s suggestion we’d been swept onto a gravel bank that divided the river.
We were now pinned sideways onto the shallow gravel by the icy current and push as we might with the oars we were unable to dislodge ourselves. Peter and I jumped out (with boots on) and were able to finally get the dinghy floating again. Peter offered to push us into motoring depths and didn’t even complain when his boots filled with icy water. Thankfully he got a hot shower and a loan of dry socks from Jerry, plus we were able to dry his boots out overnight in the engine room. Perhaps next time crew make suggestions we should act on them a little quicker!
Peter the privateer still smiling as he empties his boots of icy water
We anchored briefly in Scenery Cove (the view of yet another glacier was spectacular, but the only place with shallow enough depths to safely anchor was very narrow and tenuous, so we headed five miles south to a very protected and beautiful anchorage at the S end of Ruth Is. for the night).
At first light the next morning Amanda and I dinghied over to a gravel mine dock for a very interesting run and explore before we set sail south, across Frederick Sound where a pod of orca whales put on a show and past Petersburg in brilliant sun, through Wrangell Narrows to another excellent, sunny anchorage at Deception Pt. Bay.
On Amanda’s suggestion we inflated and rigged our Walker Bay Airis tandem kayak and Peter headed out to explore the bay. The following morning Amanda and I enjoyed a long kayak and walk on the beach before breakfast.
Peter guides past Petersburg and into WrangellNarrows
Donna’s happily shinnies up the mast for rig inspections
Tuesday we had some sailing but more motoring on the 31 mile passage to Kindergarten Cove on EtolinIsland. What a perfect, protected anchorage. Soon after we anchored a small salmon troller joined us in the bay.
Wednesday we had our first headwinds and seas of the expedition enroute to McHenry anchorage on the S end of Etolin Island, another secure anchorage with great kayaking and beach hiking.
Yesterday we had an easy 18 mile passage to Meyers Chuck, a tiny (4 in winter, 50 in summer) community of very interesting beach cottages complete with a real post office. We tied to the public float just astern of Betsy, a salty looking salmon troller and when a couple came by skiff from across the bay I asked the woman if Cassie, the lady who used to advertise baked pies on the notice board still lived there. She replied, “Yes, I still
As we were talking, a DeHavilland Beaver float plane buzzed the bay and then landed and tied to the float astern of us.
live here, but I stopped baking pies years ago – now I bake cinnamon rolls to sell to the visiting boats”. It had been almost exactly nine years since previous EM Sam Parker had bought a delicious cherry pie from Cassie for our desert, and we had a great time listening to Cassie’s husband Steve who turned out to be the owner of Betsy, the boat we were moored behind, talk about fishing, his boat, and 53 years of living in the tiny cove.
A dozen people came running out of the trees and Cassie, who is also the post mistress greeted the pilot and exchanged mail bags. A group of very keen fishermen who were friends of one of the cabin owners had hitched a ride on the mail plane and within minutes they took off fishing. Later that evening we watched them fillet their many fresh caught salmon and this morning Donna, Jerry and Peter came across them smoking some of their catch.
Today we’ve had some brilliant broad reaching under genoa alone as a ridge of high pressure has brought
Tied to the dock at Meyers Chuck
sunny condition and following NW winds. We’re now underway for Loring, site of an amazing reversing tidal rapids that the really brave can surf through on their kayaks or dinghies, plus an abandoned salmon cannery, plenty of bears and hiking trails with boardwalks. Should be lots of fun!
UPDATE! Just minutes ago as I was shutting this computer down having completed writing the above, Jerry who was at the helm motoring through a channel enroute to our night’s anchorage drastically altered course to port, yelling, “A whale just hit us!” He and Donna had been watching two 50′ humpback whales feeding about ¼ of a mile away,
I asked Jerry to shut the engine off and we drifted for the next ten minutes as the whales continued to feed, slowing moving away. WOW!
then they sounded. A few minutes later Jerry saw hundreds of herring leaping out of the water off our bow then two seconds later a whale lurched out of the water and careened to our starboard side. Jerry quickly put the wheel hard over, all the while doing 7.5 kts, as another whale surfaced beside it. The two whales must have been engrossed in their chase of the herring ball. The closest whale quickly rolled over onto the second whale to avoid hitting us, and in doing so its 10′ long pectoral fin brushed our kayak lashed outside the lifelines. It didn’t feel like the whale touched the boat at all – just the kayak.
September 15, 2014, 0615 hrs, 55.44 N, 132.15 W, Log: 179,799 miles
Baro: 1012.8, Cabin Temp: 60 F cockpit 53 F, sea water: 60F
Moored in Thomas Basin, Ketchikan
After our whale incident we enjoyed a very warm, sunny and quiet afternoon being the only boat tied to a small state park dock near Loring, Naha Bay, http://loringalaska.info/ site of a now abandoned cannery.
This place is very special as a short trail walk from the dock you can view a reversing 20′ tidal rapids and its planked small boat skid that allows you to skirt the rapids. Harbor seals play either side of the rapids waiting for a salmon meal and often play in the rapids.
Yesterday morning we went for an hour long run/hike up the boardwalks along the shore of Roosevelt Lake, hoping to reach a remote private ranch mentioned in the park signs but we didn’t make it that far as Amanda kept stopping to chat to the noisy squirrels who were busy harvesting small pine cones. After breakfast we headed for Ketchikan were we found a berth at the always-friendly Ketchikan Yacht Club http://ketchikanyachtclub.com/blog/ and enjoyed a graduation dinner at the native-owned and operated Cape Fox Lodge with an amazing view of the harbor and departing cruise ships
Here’s our Leg 5 crew:
I’m a graphic artist from Grass Valley, CA and an illustrator of children’s books. I began sailing six years ago and Jerry and I currently own a Pearson 38.5 moored in the Sea of Cortez. I signed up for this expedition seeking more experience and knowledge, but besides learning much-needed skills we discovered adventure awaiting around each corner from whales and bears to enchanted forests. Today we discovered Meyers Chuck; a gracious, welcoming community secluded in a tiny village where people shared their lifestyle with us, smoking freshly-caught salmon from their waters. I now realize that sailing provides a feast for your eyes, as well as for your soul.
Currently I’m in the restaurant business but I’m looking forward to spending more time on our Pearson 38.5 in Mexico. I’ve enjoyed my time aboard MT and increasing my skills, particularly in dealing with the 20′ tides and resulting currents.
Peter, 62 from Ontario
I’ve continued on from Leg 4 enjoying my time aboard MT and exploring the coastal passages in BC & Alaska. The navigation has been challenging and the beautiful weather and sites amazing!
Leg 5 – 2014, Itinerary
Leg 5 , September 2014 : Prince Rupert , Canada : Ketchikan , Alaskaadmin2021-05-03T16:15:29+00:00