November 15th

Dear all,

So...

Rosalba and I arrived in Ponta Delgado Sao Miguel, the largest of the Azorean islands on Wednesday, 11 Nov, an hour over 7 days from leaving Plymouth. We had travelled over 1200 nautical miles, weathering 3 early winter gales including a violent front with gusts seen on board of 49 knots, with six metre seas. What a week!

 After 24 hours of fair winds after departure off Ushant, the most westerly headland of France, we saw the early effects of the forecast gale in the Bay of Biscay and gybed to the west, to run along its northern side. All well. The met became more complex in the next days with a second gale between Spain and the Azores developing. The routing on the boat's computer and the barometric readings I take regularly indicated a course through the islands. Day three or four brought 24 hour run of 281nm sailing with two reefs in the mainsail and the Solent or J2 jib. Sailing in 25 knots and three metre seas all went well. Monday morning I cooked eggs and bacon for breakfast to cap off a good overnight run and promptly cooked the same again and scoffed the lot washed down with tea!

 Tuesday morning however brought a radical deterioration. Reefed to the third mainsail reef and with the small staysail jib Rosalba and I had been coping with the steady 32 knots of wind, albeit it was uncomfortable. But then the gusts became much stronger with a building sea. I was in the cabin when it became clear that something in the rig had broken. On deck, having quickly donned my lifejacket and helmet, I found the strop attaching the main forestay to the deck had failed and the furled J2 was crashing around the mast. Working steadily with waves breaking over the foredeck and me I secured the furled sail to the base of the mast and rigged another halyard as a stand in main forestay. Gremlins with the electronic controls of the canting keel were a further complication. It was of its own accord suddenly activating and moving the keel unexpectedly and in the wrong direction.

I called Tim to report developments. He intern had bad news, acute pains which were soon diagnosed as requiring urgent medical treatment. Martin and Bronwen stepped in to help me through what were to be 24 very difficult hours.

 The wind and sea continued to build. Darkness came at about 6 pm local time. Tuesday was one of my hardest nights at sea. The back end of the J2 sail destroyed itself, though the front remained furled. Most important though the mast was still standing! The wind gusted to 49 knots and the confused sea reached six metres.

It was clear that I had to make a technical stop. As the wind eased a little the option of heading for Ponto looked to be more feasible. It was still 130 miles, to the south, south west.

With the help of Martin from Hamble and Bronwen agreement was reached with the authorities in Ponto Delgado to allow us in and for someone to come aboard Rosalba to help me into the marina. I was exhausted so that support was vital and much appreciated.

Since Wednesday I have had c 19 test to be allowed ashore, the negative result came through on Friday morning, worked up a plan, with friends old and new, to deal with the various technical issues and mercifully now had two nights ashore, to recover. A new sail to replace the destroyed J2 is being made in England, with various other replacements and parts being sent and telephone advice given.

Hopefully, in about two weeks the sail, rig and keel control issues will be resolved.

Finally, and thankfully, Tim underwent an important operation in hospital on Wednesday successfully and is now recovering well. We all live to fight another day!

My desire and determination to continue remain.

What is possible should become clearer in the days to come.

Stay posted.

Meanwhile, thank you to all, new friends of differing nationalities here in PDG and steadfast ones in England for your help and encouragement.

 

R

PS Photo of weather system