Helen’s first 2018 Post!

Soooooooo hello!!!! It’s me!!!!!! The one everybody has been undoubtedly waiting for, faces pressed against all available media screens desperately pressing the refresh button for the slightest hint of a post from Helen Culpepper. Well here I am, to bring you a first hand account of our spectacularly beautiful and fascinating journey through the Azores!!!
With that, let’s start talking about stinky brown pool water. Quite a smooth transition I know, but that’s seriously the first thing that fascinated me on the trip. See, our first hotel, the Furnas Boutique Hotel, had these pools with volcanic minerals in them. They are naturally warm and really bouncy. You could press buttons and watch all these different waterfalls turn on. It really was spectacular.
Another spectacular thing about the Azores and another weird topic to start off with are the lizards. So. Many. Lizards. They’re brown and stripped and love the volcanic rocks. They’re quite cute if you like the whole pet reptile thing which I do. That’s becuase actually ten months ago I had a gecko, Mystic, he’d been my pet for ten years and sadly passed away the night before school started (he was quite cold blooded for doing that and now I might throw up for making a joke like my dad would). Anyways it was really nice to see lizards running around again; reminded me of playing with Mystic, or more accurately, holding him in my hand while he stared at me without blinking….He had no eyelids…
Moving onto our next hotel, the one we’re actually leaving right as I’m writing this post, was this Airbnb house we rented. It has a real wonderful view of the ocean. I harp practiced on the steps leading up to this look out platform. It was really beautiful to play my pieces there but the best part was watching all the drivers on the road below me looking around like “wtf?” Because though they could hear me with their windows rolled down I was way too high to see.


So I spent a lot of my days at the house there playing peacefully but my nights I spent angry and awake in bed. See, there’s this certain kind of bird in the Azores, it’s called the Cagarro and it sounds like a cat going through a trash compactor while singing jazz. So, terrible. It would swoop by our window screaming it’s head off, determined to keep us awake. Now, I’m a real pacifist. I save all the bugs in my house and put them outside, I never kill spiders, etc. But at 4 a.m. yesterday with a horde of Cagarro screeching in my head, I was ready to take out a chain mace and start swinging.
Luckily our next activity wasn’t so loud. It was rappelling and waterfall jumping up in the mountains of the island. Reppelling down waterfalls was actually pretty easy. After the first one I was pretty cocky. Then I took a look at the waterfalls we were going to jump off of and my mouth went surprisingly dry considering I was swimming at the time. The drops went from seven to fourteen to twenty feet down. After nearly losing my helmet and my dignity on the second jump I was first in line for the last one. I was NOT going to think about it hard otherwise I was sure I’d be taking the walk of shame marker by a dusty trail that you could take if you couldn’t jump. Anyways, I stood at the top of the waterfall looking down, trying not to think about looking down from the top of the water and trying not to think about not thinking about the top of the waterfall or more concerning, the bottom. So I eventually jumped and didn’t break every bone in my body so I categorize it as a big success.
Well lastly I’d like to add that while I was writing about the damn birds we were in the car and my father was giving the “bird”. He gave a single fingered salute to the car insistently honking behind our car. Two guys leap out of the car and start coming towards us, let me rephrase that, two POLICEMEN leap out of the COPCAR in FRONT OF THE POLICE STATION and start coming toward us. My dad was able to apologize them into submission but it was still a fabulous moment for Maddy and I, watching our father get IN TROUBLE.

Sooooooo that’s about it for this post. SEA U SOON!!!!!!
Bye!!

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 seriously 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.
Regards

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.