One week ago today we departed Horta. The trip computer says that we have travelled 883 miles and averaged 5.8 knots. We have SAILED all those miles with the exception of the Drone fiasco and the Spinnaker Failure 2.0 which just occurred 1 hour ago.
As was tradition aboard sailing vessels of old we have been using this Sunday for mending and washing. Clothes were drying on the lifelines and the majestic spinnaker loomed over us as we relaxed reading and sailing the rhumbline to Newport. Things were obviously going too smoothly and peaceably. I was observing Mattia and Andres at the bow when we all heard a very loud BANG! at the top of the mast and down came the spinnaker like a billowing tent into the sea, quickly dragging along and under the boat. After making sure that everyone was OK we were able to steer the boat away from the sail and the crew heaved the large wet mess aboard. We then made sure that there were no lines or debris in the water before we started the engine (the boat was rocking badly in the waves) to calm things down. Sails were set and we sat in the cockpit and assessed what the hell went wrong. Something similar had occurred on the 2015 crossing with the spinnaker ending up in the water. The cause of that incident was a chafed halyard line at the top of the mast from the rubbing back and forth motion over the sheave in the mast. We had learned our lesson and on this trip had been adjusting the halyard line a few inches to change the stress location on the line. Today’s failure ended up being caused by a broken block at the top of the mast (the line we were flying the spinnaker from was an external line attached to an external block). As the adrenaline eases Laurie casually mentions that she is bleeding! She must’ve stepped on some deck hardware with her bare feet and sliced open a bit of the bottom of her foot. Ouch, it looked nasty. She was so chill about the whole thing we assumed that she was in shock. Yippee! Time for the medical kit. This kit was put together by Dr. Steven Dane (we did the Newport-Bermuda double-handed together) for the 2015 crossing. He was thorough. Short of brain surgery we should be good. The necessary ointments, gauze and tape were applied (she refused to allow me to make a cool looking CAST for her foot. So much for a team player….) and she will live to fight another day. Tough lady indeed, is my sister! So, no spinnaker on starboard tack (wind from the right side of the boat) until another block is attached to the top of the mast 65 feet in the air. That will not happen on this ocean passage. We still have port tack and hopefully SW winds will be in our future. That’s it for now. Over and out.
So, it was a simple plan. Launch the Drone from the aft solar panels, fly around the boat filming a moving Heldeleine under full spinnaker and then retrieve said Drone at the bow. What could possibly go wrong ??? Well….a few things….. Launch went flawlessly and the Drone was soon buzzing around the mothership recording Heldeleine, the spinnaker, the crew and the….ocean. Yup, the ocean. This should not have come as a surprise to the skipper/drone operator that he was flying his drone without a safety net. But I get ahead of myself. All was going along beautifully and then…..then.. .a tiny female voice from the drone controller stated “maximum distance from home reached” what??…WHAT? WTF??? Home?. Oh, no. The little drone just stopped. We, aboard Heldeleine obviously continued under full spinnaker at 7 knots. Oops. Houston, we have a problem. The little dot that was our drone slowly faded away behind us. Oh boy. Skipper becomes obsessed with finding his lost flying baby. Like a crazed Ahab he Crash Tacks with full spinnaker. Laurie and Andres to the bow, Mattia and Pete to the spinnaker clew and halyard. Massive sail comes down in controlled chaos and is muscled into the front Tool/Honeymoon cabin by the extraordinary efforts of Laurie and Andres. Eagle-eyed Mattia has now locked on to the tiny dot that nobody else can see. Off we go in pursuit. Massive Waves spring up and Whales breach in front of us…..no, wait, that last part didn’t happen…. but excitement was in the air. The hunt was on! “Battery at 5 percent, battery at 5 percent” says the little controller voice. Mattia at the helm, skipper at the drone controls and Laurie, heroic Laurie ready at the bow to receive the four spinning Blades of Death. Tick tick tick. Time is running out! Red wire, blue wire…!!!! Which one!!!! The Drone is flown into Laurie at Warp 8 and she deftly snatches the landing gear with the grace of Baryshnikov and the reflects of Muhammad Ali. What a performance!! The cheering is reportedly heard in Horta. What a crew! What A CREW!!
The drone has been put back in the bag and though I understand that the HOME feature can be disarmed and the drone will then follow the boat for miles, I also realize that though I may be an idiot, I am not a fool.
We have travelled 651 miles since leaving Horta. Not all of these miles have been towards our destination and we have at least 1500 miles to go. Things aboard are rather pleasant at this time. The sun is bright and the sea is an amazing blue. We are sailing under spinnaker alone making a sedate 6 knots with a slight rolling motion. Most of the crew is asleep and those awake are in a drowsy state. We had a rare ship sighting this morning. A 1,000 foot bulk carrier crossed our bow at about 2 miles. We saw the ship on the A.I.S. at 25 miles and so were very much aware of its presence. But that was this morning and we are now back to empty horizons in all directions. Dinner last night was the Mahi Mahi caught by Team Matdan. It was prepared to perfection by Mattia in an stew of vegetables on a bed of couscous. Tonight will be the remnants of last night’s meal in a Ragu of rice. We are obviously in no fear of scurvy or starvation anytime soon. Westward Ho!!!
Team Laurete has official announce at this afternoon press conference aboard S/V Heldeleine that they will be rebranding in a desperate attempt to regain some Fishimg Mojo. The new Team Petaurie will retain most of their old management team with the exception of Lure Sucko who will be leaving after repeated dismal performance reviews. Lure states that he is looking forward to spending more time with his Sucko wife and the little Sucko kids. Team MATDAN wishes the new Team Petaurie nothing, but good wishes.
After heading SW since we left on Sunday, we have finally made the turn to the west. I am hoping that we are sufficiently below the high pressure to our north to give us a nice ride to the west. Currently we are in 15-20kts from the NE in 6-8 foot rolling seas. Harry, our autohelm, is bothered by the confused wave patterns and we are hand steering our 4 hour day watches (Andres did a 5 hours stint this morning!). The sky is beyond beautiful with a Wedgewood Blue and porcelain white clouds. There have been losses to both fishing teams overnight. Team MATDAN suffered the total loss of all handline fishing tackle. “Somehow” it untied itself from the aft pulpit and spooled itself into the sea. We are not implying that there was foul play involved. We would be the last people to cast aspersions on our competitors and except the fact that we must go to our backup rod and reel to retain the crown. Meanwhile Team Laurete somehow managed to wrap there line around the rudder in the middle of the night (confirmed by GoPro waterproof camera). Just as the captain was becoming excited with thoughts of wetsuits, Cold Atlantic water and giant sharks , the line miraculously sprung free and all was well in the world. Total miles since Horta is 536 with 130 in the last 24 hours.
Please keep the comments and notes to us on board coming. Any specific question you would like answered please go to Live Map on the website and send us a note. Bye for now!
So far it has been a floaty spinnaker day. After a MacGyver repair of the sheave at the top of the spinnaker sleeve (the spinnaker is contained in a large sock sleeve that controls the sail until deployed. This is very important for the simple reason that this is a Big Ass Sail that deserves respect). On the food front, Mattia made a wonderful couscous with vegetables last night for dinner and plans are afoot to have the first of Team MATDAN’s TWO GIANT FISH, tonight. He used satellite time to call his cousin (a chef) and his Momma for advice on preparing the tuna tonight. The verdict is Tuna with Pasta. Yum. As for the watch schedule. We are using the legendary ‘Fink Astral Rotation Timetable’ as designed by my sister Laurie. This FART schedule involves single person watches during the day and 2 person watches overnight with a hour overlap so that 5 people do the night. This schedule has allowed for 7 hours on watch and 17 hours off watch. Absolutely brilliant and full credit goes to Laurie for hatching this plan. That’s all for now. Noon to noon mileage was 124 and life is good.
TEAM MATDAN scores another stunning VICTORY!
This time it’s a 15lb Mahi Mahi!!
Reports from the scene say that Team Laurete needed to be restrained from leaping overboard in their embarrassing failure to secure even another tiny, minuscule fish….Laurie, Team Laurete co-Loser, is quoted as saying “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings”. Observers on the scene are confused because the chances of a fat lady starting a vocal recital in the mid-Atlantic are slim indeed. Team MATDAN was heard chanting “Two fish in Two day, two fish in two days” in a modest undertone so as not to upset those who can’t seem to catch any real adult sized fish. This is your objective reporter, Hornblower, over and out.
All crew are healthy and safe. We had a pleasant enough overnight. Harry Helmsley, our auto pilot, has been erratic and we are trying today to fix him. We had the spinnaker flying yesterday afternoon for 6 hours. It was beautiful. But Just las in Fashion where some outfits should not be worn out at night, so it is that the spinnaker is not evening wear aboard Heldeleine. Reason for this is that there are too many variables at night with a spinnaker flying. If the wind would increase to 15 kts ++ it would be difficult and dangerous to be on the foredeck in the dark lowering the flapping beast while it bruised you and then flung you overboard. Cool and calm is the goal in lower the spinnaker. So, down at night and back up at sunrise. We have accomplished our goal to sail down to 35 degrees north latitude. The plan at this point is to sail west on i35 for the next 700 miles. But the weather models we are getting via satellite should only be trusted for 5 days so….we will be flexible and change plans as we go. So far, so good. Noon to Noon mileage was 130, added to the first day’s 148, we are 278 miles but since we have gone SW not directly to Newport, we have a few more miles to go…. Request from Crew. Please send World Cup scores!!
Team MatDan is officially first on the Fish Leaderboard with a solid effort this morning of a small but dynamic Skipjack Bonito. The opposition was on watch at the time and their cries of “Fish On!!!” were met with EXTREME SKEPTICISM by the sleeping off watch. (Remember that Kevin, the evil genius of Rubber Chicken fame, visited us in the Azores and we are sure that his bag was bursting with little “surprises”!). But No, it was a real fish. It is now disassembled and loaded into the freezer for dinner tomorrow. I am the first one to admit that I am not a lover of fish but catching it from the stern of your boat while crossing the Atlantic is pretty cool. We will except this ENORMOUS VICTORY QUIETLY AND WITH DIGNITY. ‘Nuf said…
The crew is adapting well to this Always moving environment. Meals were light the first day but today began with pancakes and some of Mattie’s flavored rice might be on the menu for lunch. Captain’s orders require us all to drink a 1 1/2 liter bottle of water each day. The bottles are marked for each crew and checked by ‘smother’ Laurie. Noon to noon mileage was a respectable 148 The Sun is out and the wind is a steady 10-13 knots. What’s not to love! Send along a note if you wish. Regards, Hornblower.
It has been quiet on the Captain’s Log recently because ‘Land Travel’ with my FAMILY has been the focus. And here I must brag about what a big, amazing family I have. Fly to the Azores?? Hike for hours?? Camp amidst Banana trees?? Barf on a Boat?? Sign us up!!! One of the great things about traveling with this gang is that each moment seems to be documented via Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat and I can lazily just enjoy myself. The sailing between islands was both tough (overnight with 8 aboard and some feeding of the fishes …) and pleasant (day sail from Terceira to Faial). But the sailing was NOT the point. It was FAMILY and the spectacular islands of the Azores. My heartfelt thanks to this crazy, adventurous, and LOVING family. The warmth and affection, not to mention HILARITY, we share has taken us from the Italian Islands to Morocco and now to the Azores. Thank you so very much for doing this!!: Maryly, Maddy, Helen, Pete, Pam, Cindy, Roger, Laurie, Kevin, Will and Cassie. I love each and every one of you. Next year anyone??
So, as I write this, we have prepared Heldeleine for the longest and most challenging Leg of this east to west Transatlantic passage. Who is We? Joining me on this leg is the CORE of Pete, Laurie and Mattia (what a tremendous addition Mattia
has been! All the mothers in the family wanted to adopt him!!). After 1000 miles together we are a formidable team. We add for this Leg the world class 470 sailor Andres from Spain. With a quick smile and quiet manner he has been settling in the past few days and adapting to life aboard.
A quick word about where we are. Horta in Faial Island in the Azores is a legendary island in the sailing world. This small port has hosted many great names in sailing and is always a ‘pinch-me-I-am-here’ place for me. But small it is and parking is at a premium. For the past 5 days we have been rafted next to an italian boat (with 2 French delivery crew and the italian owner aboard). Since they are tied to the sea wall, we are obliged to walk shoeless across their deck to Heldeleine which,in turn, is tied to their boat. We are lucky. Many boats are anchored and last time we were here we were the 3rd boat in a 4 boat raft. With boats in the raft departing at different times, rafting can involve much tying and untying, reassembling and trouble. Again, we were lucky. The italian boat next door was waiting for a new mainsail and has not moved the whole time we have been here.
So, off we go in the morning. We are fueled, watered, provisioned and cleared to depart. Wish us luck and fair winds. As always, the tracker is on the website in the menu called Live Map. We will do our best to update at noon (Boat time UTC) each day.