Overnight to Ponta Delgada

The island of Santa Maria was a unexpected and wonderful first stop in the Azores. Our guide today was Pedro Diaz. He drove us around on dramatic cliff roads to a lush forest of Japanese pine trees, 100 meter high waterfalls and a tremendously varied landscape. 7 hours of wonders. Photos are a poor substitute but here goes:

We are leaving NOW for an overnight. Update soon.

Hello from Santa Maria, Azores.

We are safely cocooned in the little harbor of Vila do Porto on Santa Maria Islnd in the Azores. We were 5 days from Lagos and we had a bit on everything. High winds, steep waves, clouds, rain and a bit of sun. What we did not have was the sound of our main engine because we sailed the entire way. All 825 miles. Sweet! We have just returned from walking up a steep road to the town where we had a simple and delicious meal. We are staying here through tomorrow night when we will leave around 8:30pm for an overnight sail to Ponta Delgada on Sao Miquel Island which is only about 60 miles away. Tomorrow we have a guide taking us around the island to see the uniqueness of this unexpected stop. Sleep should be very easy for the crew tonight. Best regards to all.

Change of Destination

Due to the fact that we have been moving along rather quickly, it looks like we will arrive at Ponta Delgada in the dark tomorrow Night.I make it a rule that unless it is an emergency, we will not enter an unknown harbor at night. Too many variables. So…we can reef the sails and plod along and arrive early morning Monday in Ponta Delgada. Another option would be to carry on at speed, arrive, and do figure 8’s outside the harbor till morning (we actually did this last summer approaching Cadiz, Spain). OR we can add another island to the voyage and stop around noon at Santa Maria Island, Azores and stay the night and then do an easy 60 mile trip to Ponta Delgada on Monday. We have decided on this last option and since we have stayed well south of the rhumb line (to keep the wind) Santa Maria is right on our way. I have just called ahead and they have room for us. So, hopefully a nice overnight’s sail (will we ever see the stars??…) followed by a pancake breakfast then a noo
n arrival into Vila do Porto, Santa Maria, Azores. Check the tracker (Live Map) and send us a note! Bye for now.

Noon Update #4 -The Fish War takes a Surprising Turn!

As the Red Watch was replacing the White Watch early this morning, Laurie said “Whoa!” and I heard the sound of the Red Watch’s fishing line playing out at speed and there was a victory and a fish to be had! I started to reel the monster in and as it was predawn and dark, I could just make out the shape as I finally brought the beast aboard. What type of fish you might ask? Well, it was a rare one indeed. It was a….wait for it….it was a RUBBER CHICKEN!!! Yup, a customized Rubber Chicken courtesy of Kevin Fink, Laurie’s devious husband. Written on the Chicken was ‘Expecting a Fish? This is Chicken of the Sea’ and ‘Take me to America’ and #caughtsomething and finally ‘trademark KFINK’. This was serious funny stuff and perfectly executed. We reset the ‘bait’ and had Mattia reel the chicken in when he arrived in the cockpit. Well Done Kevin! This will be the stuff of legend! It was bought hook, line and sinker! My only consolation is that the Chicken was vastly, one might say stupendously larger then Laurie’s poor, little, microscopic tuna.
As for the boat… we travelled 138 miles noon to noon with 191 miles to go. Last night was dry but cold which was all good with us compared to the moist environment of the past few days. Life aboard is good. We shared a French toast breakfast this morning and are now discussing a change of destination. Stay tuned!

Noon Update #3

All is well aboard S/V Heldeleine. Last night was similar to the previous night with strong winds and high boat speeds. There was the additional element of Everything being Wet. With waves crashing into the cockpit (a nasty first for Heldeleine) it was impossible to avoid getting soaked. Preparing for your watch and having to put on wet follies it rather unpleasant. This morning Mattia got a real first good look at FOG in action. Wet, wet and wet. We started the day in this dense environment and gentle winds. Neither lasted long. The winds are back up and the seas chunky. I was down below off watch when I heard a loud noise and I looked up through the hatch to the mast where I noticed that the brand new Hailer (we had just used it as a foghorn this morning) had been garroted by the spinnaker halyard. Shit. It was swinging around 30 feet up in the air, hanging by 2 feet of wire, banging into the mast. I remember an email exchange over the winter with the yard at Sopromar about where they installed the hailer and that I felt that it was a doomed location. Well, guess what? I went forward and with Pete at the wheel and Laurie controlling the halyard tension we were able to lasso the Foghorn and rip the one wire holding it. I saw no other option at the time. I was not sending any crew including myself up the mast in these lousy conditions. It had to be removed. Quickly. It finally was and I watched as the $250 unit took a swan dive, bounced once on deck and plummeting into the sea. Or should I say that it fell into “the hole in the water” where most boat owner’s money goes….
The fishing tournament between Red Watch (Dan and Mattia) and White Watch (Laurie and Pete) is definitely heating up. Trash talking has begun and bets have been made. White Watch was out to a small, minuscule, diminutive and rather pathetic lead yesterday with Laurie’s Dwarf Albacore but we shall see what the future brings!, Send a note and place your bets. Until tomorrow, regards, Hornblower.

Noon Update #2

We are currently 350miles away from Lagos with 500 miles remaining. Last night was a repeat of the previous night. Double reefs in the mainsail and jib.20-32 knots of wind BUT the sea state smoothed out somewhat allowing for a slightly more pleasant ride. Our noon to noon mileage was 167. The winds have moderated to 8-12 knots, we are shaking out the reefs and sailing SW on a broad reach to stay with the wind. . It is Goldilocks sailing for the moment, not too little and not too much wind. Very pleasant. We have also noticed a golden orb in the sky (we have not seen this since departing) we are calling this the SUN. Pete is working his sextant, Mattia is asleep and …..damn…wait…..
Laurie just caught a FISH!!! A small Albacore Tuna and she is now officially INSUFFERABLE! You should see how she is strutting about yelling “Oh Yay, oh yay!, who’s the queen of fish now!” And “I am woman, watch me roar.”…..See what I mean, insufferable!! Though we had to throw it back because of its scrawny size, I fear that Captain Ahab has been reborn in the vision of my sister and her hand line. The QUEST has begun.
Another day at sea. If you have any questions, send us a NOTE through the ‘Live Map’ section and we will try to answer them. Regards to all!

Heldeleine’s Noon Update

Hello Friends and Family! This is your noon update for our Day 2 trip to the Azores from Lagos,Portugal.
It was a long tough night aboard. As I suspected, the Predictwind routing model, wind speeds and wave action were wrong. Where we should’ve had 15 knots we had a sustained 25 knots with gusts to the low 30’s. That would’ve been fun enough but the sneaky little Algorithm informed us of 1 meter seas and we, of course, found 2-3 meters seas all chunked up by the past few days. We reefed down and hand steered through the night (Harry, the autohelm could not handle the situation). We reached a scary 12.4 knots racing down the front of a wave and, on the positive side, broke Heldeleine’s 24 hour miles-made with 183 miles!!
The crew is hanging in there with only 1 1/2 feeling queasy. Good spirits this morning. The boat is doing wonderfully with all systems doing what they should do. I will try to update each day.

Heldeleine departs Tomorrow

The Crew and Heldeleine are ready to Go! Tomorrow morning between 9-11 local time (4-6am EDT) we depart Lagos, Portugal bound for Ponta Delgada, Azores.
My crew includes my sister Laurie, my uncle Pete and the Italian newbie Mattia. We have really bonded during the past 2 days of cleaning, provisioning and the many other jobs required prior to departure. Mattia has proven to be a wonderful addition.

The trip should be between 850-950 miles (depending on the sailing route we must take) and take 6-7 days. The routing models from Predictwind are telling us that the winds should be fair and between 8-22 knots for a majority of the passage. Sounds lovely but I simply will prepare for the models being completely wrong.
We will try to post updates from sea and explain more about weather models, satellite communication, life aboard etc.
Watch the live tracker and send along a note by satellite and we will try to respond. Warm regards to you all.

Work the problem, People!

I am sorry for the lack of updates but I am sure nobody wishes to read the whining from a grown man aboard his yacht in Portugal. The boat was in a deplorable condition on my arrival on Monday night. Each job the yard did over the winter (and there were many) seemed to leave behind unfinished work. Floorboards displaced, wall panels removed, sink removed (to get to wiring..), spinnaker pole removed from track, and nothing replaced.


In their defense, working on a boat is just like a game of Tetris, always trying to fit the pieces together. There were about 2 dozen black trash bags filled with clothes, sheets, towels, cushions, blankets, foam bed toppers etc…..carefully labeled and placed in the main cabin (where little work was scheduled). But move them they did. Perhaps to follow a wiring run or they were not sure where the big components were located. Whatever. Time to “work the problem, People!” (my favorite line from “Apollo 13” and something my daughters are so sick of hearing). Remembering that this is a Boat, that this is what I pined for all year and that nobody will die on re-entry, I got to it.
So, 3 days later here she is. Floating.

Ahhhhh….Last night, I got more than 3 hours of sleep and with the cool nights here (Yup, cool in southern Portugal, the locals are freezing) it was pure bliss.
A few jobs more to do. I had a complete and thorough rig tuning yesterday (all the wires that hold up the Mast) and the rig looks excellent and strong but unrelated to the rig, while they were at the top of the Mast (65′), they were not able to find a problem with the wind speed/ direction indicator that is not working. The problem is probably electrical someplace at the bottom of the mast or the instrument in the cockpit. I have an electrician hopefully arriving today to help with this vital piece of equipment (on the positive side, our claims of 50 knot gusts can’t be refuted by facts…). Today I am taking on fresh water and scrubbing heads and galley. 2 batteries that died during the winter….should be received and installed this afternoon (critical for large winches and generator start).
First crew arrives today. Mattia from Italy should be here tonight with sister Laurie and Uncle Pete following tomorrow. More about the crew later, time to “work the problem” and get ready for voyaging!

Post Shower Treat. Yes, gelato.


Heldeleine’s Summer Plans 2018

Happy New Year to you all!

It will soon be time to bring Heldeleine home. There are a few reasons for this:

1. I miss having the boat around. Sailing, especially sailing long distances takes a lot of time. We sailed Heldeleine only about 11 days last summer before laying her up for the winter. With a week of preparations in Italy and a couple days of packing up in Portugal for the winter, that is not a very satisfying ratio. We DID cover 1200+miles during those sailing days but I think you get my point. Use it or lose it. Also, I’d like the boat around because I wish to do the work that is necessary myself. It is just how I am wired. I am a sailor and real sailors fix shit. Literally, at times.
2. With one daughter in college and the other one tremendously busy with high school, harp, tap dance etc., they miss the peace and more casual pace of the boat nearby and available for weekends of a couple days and maybe a cruise in Maine. Destinations that do not require air travel and are not 4,000 miles away. They are very aware of how fortunate they have been to have had these amazing experiences because Heldeleine was abroad but, that said, spending only a few days aboard this summer was not enough for them (bless their little hearts…!).
3. Coming back should prove to be a good challenge. As you will see from the planned schedule below.

The Plan:

In early June I will fly to Portugal and spent about a week preparing Heldeleine for the 3,000 miles east to west crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. June/July is not the ideal time to be crossing the Atlantic from the east. It is a trip best done in November/December, by going south to the Canary Islands and then on to the Caribbean. The winds are in your favor and the threat of Hurricanes is significantly reduced that time of year. Due to the fact that I am not able to take the necessary time later in the year (prime time for a musician), I am obliged to do this trip during a more challenging time of the year. We made the crossing in 2015 in May/June but that was with mostly favorable winds and early for storms. We will be traveling later in the season and will have to negotiate a course that will stay south of icebergs and north of contrarian winds and potentially nasty weather. Thread the needle, keep our eyes open and watch the weather updates very carefully. I remember a Safety-at-Sea seminar at which Stan Honey (probably the greatest living yacht racing navigator with a dozen circumnavigations and multiple world records) brought out a race chart that showed him the only boat to execute a U-turn as a storm approached. The captain was really pissed but deferred to Stan and they watched and waited as the fleet that did not turn around was severely damaged by the storm with dismastings, sails shredded, and crews beaten up. After 12 hours in the wrong direction they turned back on course and arrived safely and in first place. His lesson: forget the macho crap.  Be smart, be safe and a better result will follow.


Leg 1:

We will sail west from Lagos, Portugal to the islands of the Azores. In 2015, during our west to east crossing we stopped in the Azores for a brief…too brief…visit. We plan to linger a bit this time. The Azores belong to Portugal and are situated 800 miles from mainland Europe, consisting of 9 islands spread over 370 miles to the west. The trip should be less than a week. We will first arrive at Ponta Delgado on the island of São Miguel. Family will arrive (the same cast of characters as the Moroccan Expedition) and we will begin….

Leg 2:

We will remain on Sao Miguel for several days of hiking, horseback riding (sorry, no camels this time) and biking through a fantastic land of volcanic lakes, mountains and lush valleys. We will then sail overnight (110 miles) to the port of Angra do Heroismo  on the island of Terceira. There are many wonderful little towns on Terceira and last time we enjoyed terrific food and witnessed the ritualistic torture of animals during the ‘running of the bulls’. Note: the ‘running of the bulls’ is a hugely popular cultural tradition that is not for everyone. It is a very festive atmosphere with each town proudly showing its stuff. As for the bull part….I found myself hoping that the tethered and bleeding bull would gore one his testosterone-fueled abusers. In fact, a couple people die each year during the festivities. Next up will be a 60 mile day or night sail to Horta on the island of Faial. Horta was our first landfall in 2015 and is a great yacht haven. There is the famous marina walls and docks where you can paint something about your trip and boat (the day we tried to do this last time it rained buckets…). Horta is the home of the legendary Cafe Sport where sailors have congregated for decades. Boat repairs, parts and last minute supplies are available here…oh yes, and the island is also stunningly beautiful. This is also the town where we will sadly say goodbye to those who will be flying home. They will fly from Horta back to Punta Delgado and then back to the US from there. The remaining crew will do final preps on Heldeleine and then depart on Leg 3.

Leg 3:

2,000+ miles back to the US. Jimmy Cornel, in his ‘World Cruising Routes’, suggested the rhumb line (straight) route west from the Azores to NYC. We will use that as a starting point and deviate as necessary for weather issues that arise. When we leave land we will have a weather forecast that is only really accurate for 3-5 days. I will have satellite weather to update the information but we must be prepared to cope or turn around, as needed, (thanks Stan Honey!) and arrive safely at home. The trip itself will take 2-3 weeks. Hopefully, we will clear into to the U.S. in Newport, RI, depending on weather and wind directions as we approach the coast. As you can see from the map below, any strong SW winds could head us to Newfoundland….lovely but not ideal. Crew needs to be flexible and enjoy the zen-like pace of long distance sailing.

So, here comes the invitation. Do you want to sail across an ocean? I have a confirmed crew of 3 for the crossing so far. Ideally, I would like to have an additional 2 crew members for a total of 5. We had 4-4-5 for the 3 legs of the 2015 crossing. It worked wonderfully, and they were a spectacular crew. My Dad, my sister, Tom, Pierre and Eric: The Best. For this trip there are 3 Legs. Leg #2 is pretty much family and space aboard is limited, though we will also be using hotels ashore. Delta has just added direct service to the Azores from JFK/NYC. When we bought tickets a few weeks ago they were really cheap. If you want to do all 3 Legs, we can discuss that. Time commitment is usually the issue. As I stated above, ocean sailing takes a lot of time. Basically the month of June and most of July for the entire crossing. Leg#1: 1 week, Leg #2: 2 weeks and Leg #3: 2-3 weeks. Remember, sailing experience is not a prerequisite. We can sail the boat just fine with the crew of 3. What you do need to join is a positive attitude, a desire to learn and an adventurous spirit.

So, please give this some thought and contact me through this website’s email and we will talk. Priority will go to those who have previously sailed aboard Heldeleine, family, friends, gourmet chefs, sail makers, diesel mechanics and olympic sailing team members. Seriously, don’t hesitate to contact me. It should be one hell of a good time.

Finally…..after this crossing Heldeleine will be a coastal voyager for the next couple of years until both girls are in college. Then, who knows….It’s a big world and most of it is covered with Water….