The end of my trip is near. I will make my last big sailing trip to Europe. It is a trip of more than 7000km. A huge trip. No steady trade winds, no internet, no land for weeks. But in to me it is preparation business as usual. Food, water, fuel and thorough boat check.
So I made an estimate, doubled that and the last week before sailing I started provisioning.
A thorough check on the boat, sails, etc. And a close look at the weather predictions with the various winds on different days.
Most crossings are using some kind of trade wind. A steady wind, constant blowing from the same direction usually coming from the West worldwide. But this trip is in the other direction and for a long time. So I have to keep a course, more North, staying away from these trade winds in opposite direction.
Between the Caribbean and the Azores is a big area with no wind at all, called The Doldrums. North of that, the air is mostly blowing back to Europe from different directions. Close planning and every now and then a weather report is necessary.
But after numerous trips I feel quite comfortable with this boat and equipment.
So after all the preparations it was time to leave. I made a round trip through the bay to say goodbye to several friends. Especially Jeroen. He will be leaving for the Azores with a friend. They have a sophisticated satellite connection and he will send me every now and then a weather report to my more simple satellite device.
So I started my big trip the 31th of May.
The first couple of days I encountered a fair wind heading for Bermuda. Half way I will be turning to the East. Fishing was not really an option while my lure caught the Sargasso seaweed all the time.
After a week or so the wind died out. It is a strange feeling laying still in the middle of the ocean knowing you still have 6000km ahead of you. Not knowing where to go. In search for wind I send messages to several people, but all the answers where negative. Hmm, just have to wait. Using the engines is not an option. I could only carry diesel for about 5 days and I will be sailing for 35 days. I will have to be careful with the diesel supply. I probably will have to use the engines a lot in Gibraltar and maybe around the Azores. So I have to be careful with fuel.
A good time for fishing. And I caught my favorite fish! Only managed once to catch a small one, but this one was huge! A Mahi Mahi. Best taste you will ever find. A big problem will be however, getting him on board. They are known for their fighting skills. And fighting he did. A hundred meters from the boat he jumped out of the water, went around the boat and even dove 200 meters deep! It took me over an hour to get him near the boat. I must be very careful not to break the line. Now I would like to use my hook, but when I grabbed it, it just fell apart. Rust.
So now there is only one option left to get this big one on board. The net is not strong enough, I have to grab him by hand. So I let him swim in circles behind the boat until he was really tired. I managed to put the net around his head and I could grab him by his tail.
This was the biggest fish I ever caught. Way too big for me. I took out the best part and left the rest for the sharks.
Seagulls are here too. They live here. Only once a year they leave for land to breed. They look for the areas with little or no wind like here. The water is very clear. So they float on the water with their head under water to look for fish.
My violent fight got their attention. They gathered around the boat with their head under water to see what was going on. So I had an audience!
I finally reached the point for going East with better wind. And here the Ellena surprised me. All the time she did around 10kts, but after some time I saw 15kts on my GPS. That is really too fast. You could go water skiing behind her. Going down a wave you gain speed and the Ellena could be diving into the next wave. So I slowed her down. I have no idea if it was dangerous, but better safe then sorrow. But with 15kts speed and then a sudden stop does not look like a safe way of sailing to me.
During the day I was doing some repairs, cleaned the engine rooms and took out the cork floor in the main cabin.
When you are sailing a long way from the coast, you will not encounter any ships. There are some routes, called shipping lanes, for commercial ships crossing the ocean. If you stay away from those routes it will be completely quiet.
Now I approached the Azores. I will stay away from them, because I would like to keep some wind. And since I did not have any weather predictions anymore, it is better to keep away from these influencing islands. Still not much wind as I anticipated and so I used the engines every now and then. In the Gulf of Gibraltar I will have to use them extensively again. And I needed to be careful looking for fisherman and other commercial traffic.
With my satellite equipment I send messages to Ellen everyday. For her it is like using sms. Very handy. And every couple of days I received a short weather report from Jeroen. Although this is a infamous route, it all went according to plan.
But I never realized that it introduces also a huge problem. And that happened to me. The device stopped working! Totally dead. No weather, but more importantly, a complete silence from my part to Ellen. I mean what will she think. Everyday messages like “All good” and suddenly nothing. No way for me to say this stupid satellite device stopped working. Besides that, I also became quit angry. This device also is supposed to be an SOS device. Well they should have made this a much more rugged then this GARMIN INREACH! Totally unreliable! My life could depend on this. Glad I have got an EPIRB.
The only thing I could do is waiting for a freighter come by. They have a solid satellite internet connection.
After a couple of days I finally spotted one.
I called them with my radio asking to send an email on my behalf. Hard to spell an email address over the radio, I can tell you! So I was not sure this message would be received by Ellen. I stayed alert on other freighters. In a week I could reach 4 ships. Hopefully she will receive these messages!
Not having such a device wouldn’t be me giving this kind of trouble. Hmmm. Sometimes it is better to keep things simple.
The planning changed also of course. Now I needed an internet connection as soon as possible. So I headed for the South of Portugal. After a week I finally reached the South coast and anchored in a small fishing village, Sagres, in the South-West of Portugal. I rushed to shore in search for a WiFi signal.