Our Impromptu

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June 29 to July 6, 2005: Azores to England

June 29, 2005 (Wednesday)

It was an overcast morning, not one I would have liked to depart Horta but rather one on which I would have liked to hide in my pillows with a good book. It had begun to rain in the early morning hours. The boat was wet. Still, Tony was out there helping us casting off our lines, as was our Italian neighbor on the HR 45. We were on our way again for the next - what, eight, ten, twelve days? Who knows? We photographed the gray harbor of Horta, the surrounding hills and motored out of the harbor in a north-northeast direction.

It did not take long before the seas got choppy and.... I won't bore you with the details. My new medication did not do what I had hoped for though I had taken it approximately one hour before departure, etc. Juergen wanted to check in with Herb, so I lay down for the first three hours, starting at 1930.

June 30, 2005 (Thursday)

The morning was gorgeous but quite cold. Juergen slept till almost 0830. We had breakfast in the cockpit (coffee, homemade bread from Roberto, the carpenter, jams, honey, and a delicious yoghurt drink which I had found in Horta). I still felt bad despite my new remedies (new sea sickness pills and a ginger root) and laid down in the cockpit until Juergen came back up from inputting new waypoints into the computer, navigating, etc. After lunch, Juergen also took a nap to catch up with the sleep he had not be getting last night, followed by a shower for both of us - with all that engine running, we had ample hot water...

You may think what kinds of pigs are they not taking a shower every day? Well, I can only tell you that neither the weather nor your own stamina make you crave for a shower. You get bumped around and shaken up continuously in the boat due to the wave action. You should see all the bruises we had after the trip, virtually everywhere. We have never seen anything like it on any of our Bermuda trips before. Therefore, taking a shower every three or four days seems a luxury (then highly desired and craved). We only know now how luxurious our life is usually with daily showers (in the summer even two at times) etc. You cannot imagine...

There was a little breeze so we let the main out and attached a "preventer" (a line that prevents the boom from changing position and putting a lot of stress on the rigging) on the boom. We tried to sail, but 13 knots of wind from aft do not really move our Impromptu. Suddenly, there was a big bang, one of our shackles had broken and the foot of the main was loose. Of course, Juergen jumped to action/ we tied the boom to another rope to prevent it from moving in this by now eight-foot swell. He got a replacement shackle and after a few challenging moments - more because of the wave action and boat movement than anything else - and a slightly shortened sail (we furled it into the mast a little more) - we were back on our way.

I get nervous in maneuvers like this, mostly because I am concerned that Juergen is getting hurt or that he falls overboard (my greatest nightmare). But now, everything seems fine, except that an increasing cloud cover seems to bring bigger waves and thus even more boat motion. I wished we were a lot closer to Falmouth... though we already made over 240 miles in 34 hours, not bad given the seas.

Juergen could not hear Herb yesterday - the propagation seemed terrible. We hope to have more luck today. We still have the weather forecast through tomorrow but then? Who knows what is going to come our way? This is why we really would like to be able to listen to / speak with Herb. We are still too far to phont into BBC or other British or French weather stations - unfortunately.

It is 1900. My mood sank to the bottom again. I am really not negative generally though some people pointed out a negative attitude in me at times. I can just not be a happy go lucky some of you may want me to be. And whether it is being at sea for all this time or whether it is because I am scared - of what? - I don't know. Juergen gets angry as he sees this as a weakness he cannot and does not want to accept. He also sees my present state jeopardize our next year's plans. I am continuously thinking that I cannot go back to see for another two or three or even more weeks (which it would take from the Canary Islands to St. Lucia). So, we will have to discuss this when all is done (for this year) and we are on terra firma and I have a more balanced view on life ... sailing, not sailing...

I am feeling all these negative things even though our Impromptu has been taking us for about 2500 miles on this trip safely through all kinds of weather and we have had "only" gale / strong gale force winds (into the 40 knot range) and no storm (over 47 knots) on this trip so far (except for the gusts at over 50 knots I referred to earlier). Our engine is purring, our batteries seem great, our regulator seems to be working (something that was not entirely clear when we left Horta). I am feeling bad, too, because I know how important this trip is for Juergen and how disappointing I am in all of this. I also feel guilty because, other than taking my watches, preparing (more or less depending on sea state) the meals, occasionally navigating, I am really not doing anything. I cannot even read and prepare for the next landfall (how does the harbor look, what is the entrance like, what buoys do we have to watch for, are there weather-related or other challenges we need to be aware of? Is Falmouth a harbor which is only accessible around high tide (like many of the harbors on the South shore of England) - it is not... etc. But then, I satisfy myself by reminding me of all the terrible stories of sailors who have taken crew which either was useless, argumentative (mutiny???), drunk. I am so glad we did not take anyone with us. We are responsible only to and for ourselves and we know that we make decisions properly (Juergen as captain / master has the saying in the end, but we generally discuss any steps we feel we should / could be taking).

July 2, 2005 (Saturday)

The day yesterday was plain awful in terms of the way I felt (you must be getting very tired of reading the same old story daily...). Juergen confirmed that the seas were equally awful even though we had sunshine all day and saw not a cloud in the sky. We motored till 1730 and in order to conserve fuel, began pulling the genoa out. The wind was still not entirely settled in one direction, so the rolling continued, as the wind was less powerful than the big rollers throwing Impromptu around. The action occurred less as the evening progressed and the frequency of rollers diminished - Thank God!

It is 0500 and the same must be reported - unfortunately. It seems as if my pills finally begin to work - what a feeling being able to write while on watch and listening to music on our iPod again! We were supposed to have a cold front pass over us - with stronger winds, something we would welcome. We expected it throughout the night - no such thing!

Juergen went to sleep around 0440 - always tells me to sleep a little longer but when I get up when it is my turn, he happily goes to bed and seems to have fallen asleep pretty quickly, too. I know the feeling of relief when the three hours of watch are over and one can look forward to at least some more sleep. Unfortunately, one never really sleeps the full three hours. Initially, it is not so easy to fall asleep right away. And then, one wakes up fearing that one overslept. So we both keep asking the other what time it is and whether it is time to get back to relieve the other...

We passed the 1/4 and the 1/3 mark yesterday and by the time our third day (remember, we count them from 0800 to 0800) is over, we should have made approximately 482 nm. 748 more to go. Depending on whether we sail all day or motor some today and depending on wind and sea conditions, we could hit the 1/2 mark in the upcoming day, certainly something to look forward to.

The expected wind shift finally came around 0730 this morning. The wind also increased to 20 knots true and since we have wind from behind that lets us go at around 6 knots, better than the 5 knots we have been going most of the night. Let's see how long it lasts. The sky is totally overcast with gray, indefinable clouds. What a change to yesterday with NO clouds. Well, the wind increased and the waves kept building. We shortened sails and kept going.

July 3, 2005 (Sunday)

Juergen spoke with Waltraut yesterday and with Silvi the day before that. I spoke with Ulli this afternoon. He/they just came back from a family reunion in Paderborn. He sure was surprised to hear that we are 556 nm away from Falmouth (assuming all keeps going like it has been in the past four days, we expect to make landfall on Thursday).

The weather is very strange, lots of wind, crazy waves, sunshine. We are being bumped around with no end in sight. No wildlife again, except two lonely shearwaters. A couple of ships were visible on AIS/radar, and Juergen saw one with St. Petersburg as its destination. Most of them indicate Rotterdam, Bremerhaven and similar ports. St. Petersburg seemed a little out of the ordinary.
I am feeling rather mixed today, neither sick nor well. Juergen admitted today that he did not like this weather and the commensurate wave action either. At least, he can still read in this awful motion.

We hope to have 470 nm to go by the end of our fifth day (tomorrow morning at 0800). Though Ulli thought this was fast, it feels soooo long still. And what will the English Channel look like with all its traffic, what will the weather be like? Will we have huge seas (wind against the tide), will we have visibility to avoid rocks, etc. All concerns of ours which we hope to be able to work through and not encounter mostly.

More sailing of this kind? I don't think so. I am ready to give it up - entirely? Well, maybe except for real local day trip sailing...

Juergen again could not hear Herb. He will try one last time tonight. If it again does not work, he will try to gain access to the BBC weather channel or a French channel. Juergen had a Silvi tart today because it is Sunday. My stomach will not let me enjoy this delicacy. I hope to serve the Luise/Silvi meat tomorrow in celebration of July 4th.

July 4, 2005 (Monday)

468 nm to go as of 0800 this morning. The early morning hours brought wind straight from behind, we slowed to a snail's pace and were bumped around very uncomfortably. We decided to shorten the genoa further (to avoid its flapping) and to run under engine power. That worked quite well until the wind became increasingly stronger 34 -36 knots sustained and the waves commensurately larger. We slowed the engine (actually put it into neutral for a while). As we still moved at around 6 knots, we turned the engine off and sailed - saving fuel....

We had lunch after I spoke with Christa who is still dealing with remnants of her move. Unfortunately, the connection faded so we said good-bye and agreed to speak once we have arrived in Falmouth on Thursday??

Around 1500 the wind picked up again from previously 28 knots to 32 and the seas started growing again - they actually never subsided. We had been taking on quite some water. To minimize this, we shortened the genoa AGAIN to slow us down sufficiently and to compensate for the erratic wave action.

I feel anything but good and my stomach immediately complains but the pills seem to keep things in check, which I am already grateful for. Juergen thinks it is not the pills that make me feel somewhat better but the anticipation of landfall. Yes, the psyche may play its role...

Juergen has been studying the charts, the pilot books and the tide tables (everything is based on Dover). The tides are enormous because of the narrows of the Channel, and everyone including Tony advised us to play the tides well when continuing along the coast. The tidal effect in the Long Island Sound is minimal compared to here, we have been told. Juergen has also again been trying to find a weather station so we would know what to expect for the next three days or so - to no avail as it seems payment must be arranged for before the trip. That is no longer possible at this stage. Therefore, we continue moving northeast towards our next goal. 426 nm to go.

We "celebrated" July 4th, as planned, with Silvi's wonderful roast and pasta. You should have seen us sit in our cabin, holding our bowls and desperately trying to keep our pasta from sliding out of there - not easy, particularly not for Juergen who simultaneously was trying to hold a bottle of beer upright between his feet. Of course, that was not quite so successful and some of the precious beer ended up washing our carpet instead.

July 5, 2005 (Tuesday)

It was an uneventful night with winds and wave action pretty much like in the afternoon hours - ranging between 22 knots of wind to, at other times, 32 knots. Juergen still could not hear Herb but spoke briefly with "Leeway" a boat we had seen in Bermuda (but never spoke to), which Juergen overheard speaking with Herb. They had heaved to for four hours yesterday morning when it was blowing around 35 knots. Their final destination is Ireland.
Juergen went to sleep at 2300 and then at 0600 this morning again. It is shortly past 0800, a very foggy day, giving little incentive to anyone to wake up. We both spent our watches listening to music and navigating (keeping track of water temperature, wind speed, direction, our position at various times of the night, ensuring the sails get adjusted if necessary - Juergen unfurled the entire genoa at 2300. No further adjustments since). The night watches provide us ample opportunity to think and reflect on our lives, our goals, our achievements, failures. It is not the right place to go into detail, but I have been writing and thinking a lot over these many days and, more importantly, nights at sea.