Thursday, July 15, 2004

Log 24 - Our Atlantic Crossing - Part I - Miami to the mid-Atlantic Azores

"Whenever you feel like giving up, remember why you set this goal in the first place." - Unknown

This log covers May 27th to July 8th, 2004 where we sail from Miami to the mid-Atlantic Azores .  Crossing an ocean is something we had talked about for many it was here.  We can't begin to explain the excitement and yet apprehension all mixed together in a Tioga stew.  We know we have a great boat and yet taking our young sons across an ocean.  They trust in is totally.  Writing this now we obviously made it.  WOW, what a family accomplishment to embrace for a lifetime. 

Saturday, May 29th - Back in the USA ... Next Door to the 'Real'   Parrot Jungle

Miami's Parrot Jungle Island theme park
Well, we know we truly are back in the USA and it does not take us long to adjust to conveniences now at our fingertips.   The first big 'to do' on our list is to see if we'll be cleared into the country with no problems, in light of G.W. Bushes new laws regarding vessels returning to the US after visiting Cuba.  Customs and immigration is a short dinghy ride away from where Tioga is anchored so off we go to meet our destiny.  Everyone is very friendly and when it comes up that our last port was Havana, Cuba, they hesitate for an eternal second...then proceed to clear us with a grunt, but no further questions.   We breath a sigh of relief and by the time we leave their office, all the agents are goggling over our website and telling our boys how lucky they are!

Monday, May 31st - Provisioning for the Atlantic Crossing

Trying to sink the dinghy?

We decide to rent a car for our time in Miami to assist with all the chores to be done before our departure.  Sails are dropped at the sailmaker for inspections and repairs, rigging and equipment inspected, sea anchors configured....the list goes on and on.  Another huge task is to restock the provisions as Tioga's holds are empty!  Nothing three trips to the mega-grocery store and a Visa card can't solve, though that is the easy part.   Then we have to make numerous trips in the dinghy out to our anchored boat, unload our haul onto our boat, pile it all on board and then, finally, find a spot for it all!    Whew, when can we get going to have a break!

Tuesday, June 1st - Flames Fever

For our Atlantic crossing, we decided to bring extra crew on board to help with the huge undertaking ahead of us.   Our dear friend, Wayne Boldt, whom was on board for our first off shore passage from Vancouver Island to San Francisco back in 2002, has once again offered his invaluable services.  He arrives in Miami with revitalizing energy for us and a  care package from home. 

Wayne brings a huge care package!

Go Flames Go! (hard to write as Oilers fan!)

Amongst the wonderful package of goodies, Wayne has brought the boys these Calgary Flames hockey banners which, they proudly display on our rental car.  The Flames are our hometown hockey team, whom happen to be in the Stanley Cup finals against Florida's  Tampa Bay Lightening...just down the road!  Our little 12" TV screen on board Tioga is able to pick up the games with tolerable reception, depending on who is hanging on the antennae and if they have their tongue in the right direction!    Unfortunately, our team loses in game 7 of a best of  7 series, but thank you Calgary Flames for providing us with a much needed distraction in the evenings from all the mega-tasks currently on hand.

Crews of s/v Tioga and Atalanta - last time :(

Though we haven't seen our good friends on s/v Atalanta since Belize, oddly we hear them on the VHF radio the other night and thus one last grand reunion before our departure. We will truly miss these guys.  Friends forever.

Crew, raring to go...

Saturday, June 12th - Our Atlantic Crossing Crew

After almost 2 weeks of solid predeparture preparations, we are up at 6am and raring to go.  With over-flowing food lockers and full water and diesel tanks, our dear friends on s/v Atalanta cast our dock lines after teary good-byes. With Tioga  in top form, her crew excited and nervous all in one, it is time to 'just do-it!'

Sunday, June 13th - Deploying the tow-generator

With about 3000 miles of  ocean to cover, we do not want to have to use our diesel motor to charge the batteries in the event that our solar panels can not keep up with the extra demand of night time running lights, radar, etc.  We have enough diesel fuel to motor 600 miles and we want to save it for the infamous Azores High, a semi-permanent high pressure system that can becalm you for weeks if you don't have the fuel for motoring.  The tow-generator, shown in Joel's hand, is a propeller on a heavy rod attached to a rope which then attaches to a 1/3 HP DC motor mounted at the stern.  When the boat moves through the water the propeller turns (hence the DC motor shaft) and the motor becomes a  generator, putting 5 amp/hr of power straight into the battery bank.  It works great.  Hope we don't catch a shark!

Rigging the tow generator

Wednesday, June 16th - US Navy Ship, we're not alone out here!

US Navy vessel - didn't see us sneaking up on them!

For the first 4 days, we parallel the US coast, as we travel more north than east trying to remain in the infamous 'gulf stream', a stream of current traveling in our direction offering  a chance to put extra miles under our keel.  We are excited to note that our noon-to-noon position from yesterday to today, shows we managed a 190 mile day!    Keep these speeds up and we'll be there in no time....(famous last words)    This days entertainment consists of numerous US Navy training ships that we sail right through!  We appeared to be their enemy target as their helicopters, loaded with personal toting BIG guns, would swoop and arc around us, ready to blow us out of the water at any wrong move!   We would wave at them as they zoomed past but, they didn't venture back even the smallest signal of a hello.

Sunday, June 22nd - Cooking underway

By now, we are in the groove of a routine and everyone helps out in any way they can.  Here, Joel and Gerrit prepare their famous 'enchilada pie' for supper.  They are wearing their harnesses and are tethered to the high side of the boat.  That way, if Tioga gets tossed, they don't fall into the stove or end up wearing supper!

Cooking underway and having some fun

Now that is blue water. 

Each night, once supper dishes are away and everything is safely stowed, Sheila begins her 9-11pm night shift.  Wayne is then called upon for the 11-1am shift,  followed by Chris for the 1-3am shift.  At this point it would all repeat, until 9am the following morning.  This allows everyone to get eight hours of sleep through a night, albeit broken into segments and it allows Chris to be on shift each morning to talk on the ham radio to our weather router who's weather updates are invaluable.  Generally, the updates allow us to either steer clear of foul weather systems or at least be prepared for them. Here Chris is making an adjustment to our gennaker sheet

Sunday, June 20th - How big where those seas???

A line squall goes through
Well, you can't win them all when it comes to ocean weather and as always, when the going gets crazy, the camera never manages to surface, but I am sure the seas were at least this big, and Chris did have all this sail up ;-) when we got blasted by a line-squall packing 35 knot winds, which proceeded to lay Tioga over on her side just before both our spinnaker poles snapped like toothpicks!  As we scrambled to furl in our head sail, it backed and created two open balloons of sail which proceeded to flog and flog and flog in the now 30 knots of wind.  We had to get the sail secured before it blew totally to shreds,  thus nerve wracking deck work in the midst of it all.  Thankfully, it all happened just at day break so we could at least see as we crawled about on deck.  We ended up having to wrap the head sail with halyards to tie it down until the cold front passed and we could safely pull the entire sail out again and rerun the furling gear.  Thankfully, this was our only really serious situation.

Thursday, June 24th - The Perfect Cribbage Hand--Really, Really!

Well back in calmer conditions, out come the cards.  Have a closer look all you cribbage players.  Ever had (or even seen) a perfect hand?   Chris has Wayne as his witness for an eye-popping 29 points!!  As the cut card was turned over, matching Chris's jack, his eyes almost popped out.  Never in our lives have we seen a perfect hand let alone had one and will likely never see it again.

Perfect cribbage hand - 29 points!

Happy Canada Day

Thursday, July 1st - Happy Canada Day!

We are proud Canadians and being in the middle of the Atlantic ocean was not going to stop us from celebrating our nation's birthday.  We bake a chocolate cake and use canned cherries for the maple leaf and flag edges, while icing sugar provides the white background.   We proudly sing 'Oh Canada' at the top of our lungs just before we devour our masterpiece.  Was anybody listening???  Who knows!

Monday, July 5th - Busy at sea!

Hours whiled away at sea were largely determined by the state of the ocean.  We had a couple of real drifters as we plodded along in 6-7 knots of wind.  This day is not only calm enough for the boys to pull out paint and crayons, but it also hits the other end of the spectrum with respect to miles traveled from a noon-to-noon position.  We manage a measly 53 miles towards our destination and we are beginning to wonder if we will ever get there!

Joel & Gerrit keep busy

Propeller fouled by a fishing net

Tuesday, July 6th - Propeller snarl!

With the Azores a mere couple hundred miles off,  we decide it  is safe to burn some of our precious fuel as we find ourselves sitting in flat calm seas.  When we start the engine and put the motor into gear, it immediately stalls.  Hummm, let's try that again...stall.  There must be something caught on our propeller.  Into the water goes Chris while the rest of us stand shark look out.   Sure enough this mess of fishing netting is completely wrapped around our propeller.   When we picked it up...who knows!

Thursday, July 8th, - Land Ahoy!!!

Though we could see the lights of land the entire night, sunrise brought this welcome sight of the volcano on the island of Pico, just ahead of our boat.  The land off to the left in the photo is the neighboring island of Faial, where we will make our land fall in the town of Horta.  We have all been through some ups and downs over the course of the trip, but we jokingly always make the analogy to child birth.  Once it's over, it's over and you forget all the pain really fast!  It has been 26 days since we left the US and we are feeling euphoric!!  Words cannot explain what it feels like to have this family accomplishment under our belt.  Another major milestone!

Land (Pico) Ahoy!!

Thursday, July 8th - Safe and sound on the island of Faial in the Azores

Apporaching Horta on the island of Faial

The Azores are a group of 9 islands, owned by Portugal, which form the western most edge of the European Union.  As we approach nearer and nearer to land, the quaint little white homes with red tile roofs set amongst the lush green vegetation become visible.  We pull up to the reception dock at the marina and cautiously test our legs on land.  The formalities of checking into the country are a breeze and soon we are tied up to a dock.  Tioga stops moving for the first time in a long time.

Tioga's Atlantic Crossing Team - Wayne, Joel, Sheila, Gerrit & Chris

Here is Tioga's successful Atlantic crossing team high above the harbor at Horta!  The current plan is to rest for a few days while restocking provisions and then head out for mainland Europe as soon as possible.  We have found over our years of cruising that plans are 'writing in the sand' so to speak.  Catch our next log of the Azores to see what really happened!

The team...

Atlantic Crossing Part I

Our route - dots are the daily noon positions

To summarize the trip, it takes us 26 days to go almost 3000 miles.  We end up traveling about 10% further than the direct rhumb line, but that is because we zig and zag to avoid low pressure systems that just kept rolling in from the north and, conversely, to move back towards wind when we're about to run out.  We even had head winds from time to time.

The Azores turn out to far exceed our expectations and we end up staying for months.  Check out Log 25 to understand what makes them such a fantastic place.