1 - June 20, 2005: Milford/USA to Horta/Azores
Beginning of our Trip
1, 2005 (Wednesday)
left Milford at 1030, approx. 2.5 hours late as we waited for a
FedEx package we absolutely needed for our trip, a serial port to
USB converter so we can actually access the website while on the
trip - i.e., CRUCIAL!!!
Flo, the Bedners, Doug, Larry and Davie (all boating friends) came
by to wish us a good and safe trip. Many phone calls came in as
we motored to Montauk (Christa, Alexander, Larry King) - making
me more than ever aware of the fact that we were actually going
out to sea tomorrow. On the other hand, the kindness of so many
of our friends gave us a very warm feeling and made us comfortable
that a lot of people were going to be with us while we were out
With the wind straight on the nose, we motored the entire way to
Montauk, the most Eastern harbor on Long Island. We topped off our
Diesel tank to ensure that it was absolutely full for our trip and
then anchored in Montauk Lake for the night. A last Backgammon game,
a last glass of wine before we would embark on the trip of our lifetime
as many of you (and we) call it.
Day at Sea
2, 2005 (Thursday)
was overcast and cool as we left with an outgoing tide and rounded
Montauk Point with its beautiful lighthouse around 0900. Another
phone call from Guenter and Waltraut, another one made by us and
no more cell phone service for quite a while... It was foggy and
ugly out, very little wind, only fishing vessels around trying to
find their catch. We are motoring - again. Today, we heard for the
first time that there was another sailboat (Sam Mumm or Say Mumm?)
on its way to the Azores (focus is on the "o", not the
"a" as per our new European friends). They were a few
miles ahead of us and we agreed to talk to each other every twelve
hours at 0900 and 2100 - except this only lasted for a day or two,
when we lost contact. The distance between our boats had increased,
except, by now, we were ahead.
logs of debris in the water. We are wondering what they would do
to us if we hit them in the dark at 7 or 8 knots, and we are glad
that we did not find out. A dead seal and then in the late afternoon,
a large schooner behind us with gleaming sails - well the sails
disappeared in the haze, to reappear again. It looked weird. The
binoculars lifted the mystery, it was a fairly large whale blowing,
the sails a "fata morgana". Later on, smaller whales (we
believe) with dorsal fins (we promise, these were not porpoises.
We saw those a few days later), small and very curious as they followed
1900 we began crossing the shipping lanes at an exactly 90-degree
angle (COLREGS)... It was a strange feeling in the fog. Thank God,
we have radar and the AIS system I mentioned in our introduction.
Therefore, we could identify what ships were where and whether there
was any danger.
just decided on the night shifts for the first night: Juergen from
2100 to 2400, I from 2400 to 0300, etc. In the beginning of an ocean
trip, I dread the dusk hours and the setting in of the night. It
scares me, makes me melancholic and not fun to be with. So the best
defense is to go to sleep...
3, 2005 (Friday)
night was uneventful - but incredibly cold (14 degrees Celsius in
the cabin). This made us decide that we will no longer sit watch
outside at night but keep watch from the warmer cabin via instruments
and a regular scan of the horizon. Today, I also got seasick again,
and it would stay with me for the next few days. Whatever I ate,
drank or did not eat or drink just wanted to be donated to Neptune...
I hate this feeling. Finally, Birgitt's pills came to the rescue,
and I feel better without the constant nausea. Juergen is fine.
He seems not to be affected by the incredible motion we are exposed
to due to the seas, which at times are reaching 15 feet and more.
night sky was amazing, so bright and covered with stars, so clear,
no more haze, no more fog, just total beauty. Nature is an amazing
had spoken to Commander Weather for an update earlier in the day.
They recommended to stay on our latitude (approx. 40 degrees North)
rather than heading south towards the Gulf Stream. Say Mumm or Sam
Mumm followed the advice, which we had passed on.
finally had a chance to sail, albeit at slow speeds (Wind very light
at 10 - 13 knots). We enjoy the quiet sailing brings (as opposed
to running the engine all the time). We have no schedule but the
desire to cross the ocean in a reasonable manner and, hopefully,
within a reasonable amount of time with comfort being more important
4, 2005; June 5, 2005 (Saturday/Sunday)
not write anything since June 3rd, for reasons you may image. I
just felt miserable and avoided any time down below that was possibly
avoidable. Writing was not my priority. We could sail for a bunch
of hours today, even reefed the main and genoa just to avoid too
much of a heel. We used our Iridium phone to call Luise and Ulli
yesterday just so the family knew we were ok. Juergen spoke with
Guenter today. They were so excited when they heard his voice over
the phone - imagining that we were somewhere in the middle of nowhere....
They reminded us that people are checking the website and that nothing
has been done since we left on June 2nd. I still did not feel like
sitting down below and concentrating on anything other than cooking
/ cleaning the galley.
spoke with Herb Hilgenberger again, the sailor who once had a disastrous
experience sailing with his wife when they both feared for their
lives. He promised to himself that, to the extent he can help it,
no sailor in the North Atlantic would ever have to experience what
Herb and his wife went through. He began "Southbound II"
an operation via Single Side Band (Kurzwellenfunkgeraet) in which
he advises sailors anywhere in the North Atlantic on what conditions
to expect (weather and waves) and what the best course of action
would be given the individual circumstances). Herb is available
from 1600 to approximately 1900 (EST) every day. We have listened
to him many times but never spoke. This time, Juergen called him
with our position (Longitude and Latitude, barometric pressure,
wave action, etc.). Herb suggested that we should cross the Gulf
Stream as soon as possible. Therefore, we changed course and went
south, a great downwind sail throughout the night. Via Herb we indirectly
also learned that Say Mumm or Sam Mumm are approximately 150 miles
6, 2005 (Monday)
last official day at WestLB, my last "vacation day" before
my retirement begins. A strange feeling but still, it is all for
the best. The seas continue to be sloppy to a point where the glorious
sunshine and the great wind pushing us forward (though in a more
Southerly direction than we wished for) no longer are relevant.
We would prefer a little more comfort. Instead we see big ships,
at times seemingly on collision course...
spoke with Herb again who suggests that the weather should be quite
good with winds of no more than 18 - 20-ish knots until Thursday/Friday.
What comes thereafter, we don't know but will try to update you
as soon as possible.
7, 2005 (Tuesday)
made poor Juergen take the early shift just so I can avoid my melancholy....
By 2230 I took over but had to awaken Juergen because the sail needed
handling which, according to our safety rules, may not be handled
by one of us alone, at night. We later decided that we needed some
sleep and took both main and genoa in up to approximately 2-3 feet
each. This morning, we had moved only 4-5 knots in the 2.5 - 3 hours
we let the boat virtually drift. At 0540 I began to set sails again
- with Juergen's help, and began the best sailing so far on this
trip. We passed the first quarter section of our trip (roughly 498
nm) yesterday and expect to reach the 1/3 mark (668 nm) later today
(if the wind plays along - it just almost died on us while we had
up to 25 knots true wind earlier.
8, 2005 (Wednesday)
are having a terrific sail today and are making good distance, something
we have not always been lucky with. Many days, the winds were on
our nose so that we had to tack, covering great distances but without
really gaining distance for our destination. We are at approximately
38 degrees 56 minutes north and 55 degrees and 13 minutes west.
We have made approximately 775 miles towards our first landfall,
Horta. By Friday, we expect to pass the halfway point at 50 degrees
west. I am sure we will celebrate that with a glass of wine or so.
spoke to Ulli today who promised to call Tante Herta, my very dear
aunt who is not really my aunt (I can explain that on another occasion).
We also tried Christine (left a voicemail as she did not answer
the phone). Juergen is on the Single Side Band to listen and speak
with Herb for our daily weather update. Tonight, we will have the
first portion of meat Silvi cooked when she was at Luise's. We are
eating well, doing well, are in great spirits (even though I am
still taking my motion sickness pills).
we passed the halfway mark and celebrated by enjoying one each of
Silvi's walnut tarts and coffee. We have very little interest in
alcohol except that Juergen occasionally has a Coronas beer (something
announced a weather change from gale to storm force winds in the
area between 45 degrees N and 42 degrees W. Therefore, we decided
to move further south (as recommended by Herb) to get hit by lesser
winds. The plan was to move to 36 degrees north but, in the end
we moved all the way to 33 degrees north and still were hit with
gale force winds (between 30 and 40 knots, gusting higher). Around
midnight the wind started picking up. We took the genoa sail in
and started the engine as the boat had been rocking like crazy.
was mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, garlic, all served on Polenta -
not bad for such a mishmash meal...
10, 2005 (Friday)
night was too calm so we started the engine for a while until the
wind picked up enough to sail again. So far the night watches have
not been too strenuous. The weather has been favorable so we are
not as tired and stressed as we have been on our three Bermuda voyages.
Also, this boat is a lot more comfortable, and we have more and
better electronics aboard than we had on our CAL 39. Thus, we can
sit down below during our night watches, just looking out once in
a while (AIS and radar certainly help in this situation).
German apple pancakes for breakfast we sat on deck and talked. I
even copied the CDs of the Da Vinci Code, which Claudia had given
us for the trip - a little painful without Internet access because
I had to type the title or some ID for each track (when having access
to the internet, this occurs automatically). All of this leisurely
living was short-lived when a front approached which brought welcome
stronger winds, some whales and of course the need for getting our
cameras out. The pictures are not great and will be uploaded when
in the Azores (assuming this works. We still have not figured it
out from the boat via Iridium).
11, 2005 (Saturday)
is 0230 right now, clouds are starting to cover the earlier crystal
clear and star-studded sky. I wished I knew more about the stars
so I could better identify and understand what I am looking at.
The wind shifted to Southwest, a better direction compared to our
tumbling around. It is now so light that we must continue using
the engine. The sun came out again for another gorgeous sail. We
had Blueberry cereal with Parmalat milk as the fresh milk curded.
Just right after I had cleaned up the galley, the wind picked up
and we could finally cut the engine.
Herb intensified his warnings as to the weather change. We moved
further South towards 34 - 35 degrees N and 42 degrees W. He also
strongly recommended not to pass the 40 degree N longitude until
Tuesday at least. We moved further south as a second storm system
is brewing, making the effect of the first worse... Sailing was
beautiful as we went down wind with following wind and seas, very
12, 2005 (Sunday)
was a challenging night for me as the AIS showed two ships with
one virtually on our course but in opposite direction, i.e., aiming
directly for us, or so it seemed. What scared me most was that the
bearing on the AIS did not coincide with that on the radar with
an approximately 20 degree difference. I will have to check with
Juergen as to the reason for this and how to compensate, i.e., which
of the two is correct???
happened, the ship passed us at an approximately two-mile distance
(as most of them seem to unless the distance is greater); I let
out the genoa to gain speed and enjoy sailing. Another 848 miles
to Horta. Given our continued detours because of wind, seas, weather,
it is not entirely clear that we will reach Horta next Sunday. We
predicted stronger winds even in our area.
13, 2005 (Monday)
felt that we had gone far enough south and that it was time to make
headway towards Horta. Therefore, we changed course, enjoyed the
breezy conditions and flew through the day even though the seas
were beginning to get huge. We went downwind at 6 knots under very
small sails. It was amazing.
14, 2005 (Tuesday)
night was uneventful except that Juergen reefed the sails a little
as the waves kept getting bigger and the ride a little scary. Breakfast
was boiled eggs, coffee, and bread. The weather was gorgeous. The
winds increased into the high 20 knot range, the white caps looked
like ornaments on the sea. By now, we were going between 6.5 and
7.8 knots in the ever-increasing seas. It became scary as waves
grew to more than 20 feet... but we still lived well, lunch was
cucumber salad and foie gras on crackers... - NO wine though, only
water or juice, I cannot remember. The flag halyard broke loose.
Initially we did not think much of it, but then it wrapped itself
around the genoa sheet... a recipe for disaster. So Juergen put
on his life jacket and harness, strapped himself to the jack line
and went there to take it off and refasten where it belongs. Though
the sun was shining, it was a scary sight given the waves, and I
was very glad when Juergen got back into the cockpit.
15, 2005 (Wednesday)
could not hear Herb at all today and were somewhat concerned...
we had gale force winds (35 to 40 knots, with gusts exceedingly
around 45 knots, Juergen saw over 50). It sure was not comfortable
at all, and the seas were sooooo huuuuuge. We tried to videotape
some of what we saw but don't know yet how it came out. I did NOT
take any still pictures. The idea of just having to go down below
and get my camera was too much for me...
16, 2005 (Thursday)
morning, around 0400 EST, I noticed the wind going down somewhat.
Until then, it still blew at 28 - 35 knots. Then I saw 14 knots
on the wind instrument. I could hardly believe my eyes. Then the
rain started... it sounded so nice... the wind and the waves very
slowly calmed - you cannot imagine how happy I was and even Juergen
was very pleased when he woke up finally !!! He had slept with his
life jacket on during the last two nights, just in case he had to
run out to do something on the boat in a hurry. He also had added
our second board for the companionway last night to avoid any water
coming into our cabin should a wave come into the cockpit. While
getting the board out, the locker cover fell onto Juergen's fingers
- a very painful experience... Juergen never complains and never
even made a sound, but I know he suffered. He is such a tough guy.
Sometimes, I wished he would be a little more open with his feelings.
But then, that would not be him, I guess...
morning was wonderful. We had an early breakfast (yoghurt and frozen
fruit, tea - making filter coffee is still too difficult in the
waves). We talked for a long time - very good for my soul... Then
the wind died down so much that we actually had to start the engine.
Today, we reached our 3/4 mark. We were so happy. We celebrated
this event by eating one of Silvi's wonderful slices of meat (roast
with terrific gravy) and egg noodles. We even had half a bottle
of wine and ate at the table down below, even though we still had
to juggle the plates to avoid the slippery noodles sliding off...
Juergen cleaned the hatches from all the salt, when the genoa sheet
hit him in the face - now the poor man has a rope burn on his cheek
- thank God it is not deep and I know now as I am updating the website
that it was not long-lived.
also talked to Christa today - another chapter in her life ending
with moving the final pieces of her belongings out of the loft,
with Koenigstein picking up his art pieces and Alexander helping
pack it all up. But she seemed happy with her new apartment and
the way things have worked out. We are very glad about that.
17, 2005 (Friday)
is really bad today - again, but we are getting closer towards Horta,
and our concern is easing, as we know to be in an Azore High. Juergen
got the Faial/Azore chart out, i.e., we no longer will be using
our long distance plotting chart. That makes us feel as if we had
arrived already - at least almost, a great feeling. Now we are already
looking forward to getting internet access, to walking on firm ground,
to visiting restaurants, talking with other sailors... I am also
longing to get our laundry taken care of. It is quite a pile by
is a gorgeous evening. We are sailing again. The cloud formations
are beautiful, the sunsets magnificent, and we have lots of pictures
indicated that the winds would remain very light and that one needed
to motor further north to catch some wind for sailing. We decided
that we were so close and that it made no sense to motor north when
we can motor along the rumb line - which is what we did for almost
three days straight until...(see for further detail on June 19).
18, 2005 (Saturday)
428 miles to go. It feels like nothing any more. If you had said
that to me on a trip to Bermuda, I would have complained that we
barely made 2/3 of the trip. Here, it felt like we were almost there,
particularly in this gorgeous sunshine and calm seas (though the
swell rose to enormous heights - yet remained soft). This was a
day to begin land preparations, i.e., things that needed to be done
once we arrived, including the list of friends and family who we
wanted to send postcards to, etc. We also planned our departure
date for England - sort of.
night, we spoke with Kestrel, one of the other boats (32 feet) who
was running out of fuel. They had initially wanted to go to Ireland
straight from the US but because of a non-emergency medical situation
decided to stop at the Azores. Juergen offered some of our Diesel,
if they could figure out a way to siphon it out of our tank. We,
and they, decided to wait until the next morning as it was getting
dark and they were quite a ways a way from us. In addition, our
speed under engine was more than 2 knots faster than theirs. It
would have meant for us to slow down tremendously and still not
to get into Horta on Sunday night as planned. John Atkinson, the
skipper, suggested that we move on but we agreed to monitor Kestrel's
progress on Channel 16 and possibly to send someone to bring fuel
to them, should the wind not pick up the next day to enable them
to sail. Unfortunately, the next morning they were out of range,
and we could not speak with them at all (meanwhile we know that
they got in as well and are tied up to another boat near us).
same night, a container ship contacted us, asking who we were, where
we were going, from where we were coming, etc. In the end, he wished
us a good trip and said that adventurous people like us change the
world - he was very cute, and it felt great that someone from one
of those big ships finally talked to us. I had been amazed that
none of them ever did until today...
19, 2005 (Sunday)/ June 20, 2005 (Monday)
spoke to Luise, Ulli, Christa and tried Guenter a few times (only
got his answering machine). They were all happy to hear that we
were just about 64 miles away from Horta. What we had only briefly
mentioned was that all of our batteries boiled, spewing acid, making
a big "stink" and had blackened some of the wooden beams
that hold the batteries in place. It was a frightening scene and
the thought that a fire could have happened not only today but also
when we were 1000 miles out at sea made me crazy. Juergen filled
distilled water into all the batteries and we hoped that all was
reasonably ok for us to get to Horta. But then, the overheating
recurred forcing us to alternate between 45 minutes of using the
engine (until the batteries got hot but not too hot yet) and then
sailing for one hour in light winds (max. sailing speed ranged between
3 and 4.2 knots). We don't know yet what caused the batteries to
boil, a faulty regulator, the age of the batteries. It will need
to be checked out AND FIXED!!! before we depart for England.
0200 on Monday morning, we finally tied up to another boat, the
"Adrienne May", (im "Paeckchen") at the Immigration
dock where we needed to wait till the next morning to check in.
The owner of the boat we had tied up to was sitting in his boat
reading (we now know that he was actually sleeping, holding his
book. He awoke as Juergen called his boat), so we first asked whether
we were permitted to tie up to his boat, he then helped us with
then, we shared a bottle of red wine and cheese and crackers with
him until 4 a.m.