Crossing the Pond (1994)

Personal log by Bob Crompton

On Tuesday 17th May, with the late Cyril Fitton and Peter Riley flew to San Juan the capital of Puerto Rico in the United States where we were met by Stuart and Anne Carter for the 40 mile drive to the marina where Orlanda was berthed. Orlanda is a 49 foot Halberg Rassy owned by Stuart and the intention was to sail her to Europe.  
Thursday 19th May, Anne flew home and we victualled the boat for the voyage.

Friday 20th May.   Cast off making for the US Virgin Islands 40 miles distant.   We anchored off St. Thomas and enjoyed a happy hour ashore drinking John Smiths draught.
Saturday 21st May.   Sailed to St. John, US Virgin Islands, and after a run in with Immigration, had a run ashore and then pressed on to Peters Island where we swam off the exotic palm tree lined white sand beach before entering the marina at Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands.
Sunday 22nd May An early start making towards Bermuda, passing the eastern tip of Aregada, a collection of low lying islands and reefs formerly occupied by pirates.   Next stop Bermuda 835 miles to the north.   Fresh breeze from the S.E. and tramping along.
Monday 23rd May Wind holding from the S.E. and broad reaching, crossed the Tropic of Cancer at 20.26, so now out of the tropics.   Took noon LAT sextant sights for (the late) Bob Holden who had written a new computer sun, run, sun programme for the sextant to be published in Yachting Monthly.   The result was just a mile out against the GPS.   No almanac or nautical tables needed, just this programme using my programmable pocket computer (Casio FX-730P).   We have sighted just two ships in the last 250 miles.
Tuesday 24th May.   Wind blew hard from the east and spinnaker off with a struggle and reef in main, cracking along,   at midday no wind and engine on, very hot.
Wednesday 25th May wind light easterly and dawdling along, at 2000 on CH.16 the sloop Camelot, skipper Ron and six crew, made contact.   They are Americans bound for Bermuda and a contact call was arranged for 2400.
Thursday 26th May after a heavy squall early on ran under spinnaker all day.
Friday 27th May.   Heavy squalls in the morning and then the wind vanished, engine on again, very hot and sunny, ETA Bermuda midday tomorrow.
Saturday 28th May.   1030 arrived in St. Georges harbour after navigating through many reefs and shallow bits.   It was raining and we berthed alongside our “buddy” boat and had a little party on the American yacht with Ron and his friend Tim, two daughters, one son and two young friends.   They were planning to sail to Europe.
Sunday 29th May.   Still raining carried out rigging repairs.   St. George’s very pretty and touristy and expensive, but closed on Sundays.
Monday 30th May.   Hired mopeds and toured the connected islands.   Houses look very English and are an interesting place.
Tuesday 31st May.   Moved to another anchorage and victualled the boat.   Did a few repairs and had a lazy day.
Wed. 1st June.   Up anchor and set off for Horta in the Azores, 2000 miles to the east.   Wind generally from the south but piped up later and spinnaker overpowered.   Warm during the day but nights are noticeably cooler.


Thursday 2nd June weather pattern similar to yesterday.
Friday 3rd June, Doubled reefed main and furled jib, rain showers.
Saturday 4th June rain wind SW 6/7.   Keeping on or south of 35 degrees latitude due to centre of low pressure system to the NW, these met conditions were calculated by observation and barometer as Orlanda carried only VHF radio and therefore out of contact with radio shipping forecasts.   The log was meticulously updated every 6 hours and in particular a watchful eye was kept on the barometer readings for pressure changes, discounting the one or two mill bars diurnal pressure fluctuations in sub-tropical and temperate regions.  
Sunday 5th June weather front passed through with a 90 degree wind shift which later came in from the ENE on the nose.   As we could not lay the course we ran North, later tacking to port so as not to induce too much cross track error.
Monday 6th June wind from ENE all day Only just over 100 miles made good on noon to noon run.
Tuesday 7th June.   Wind still from the same useless direction and collapsed altogether.
Wednesday 8th June.   Hurrah, at midday the wind veered to the SE.   We are over 50 miles north of our intended track.   At 1800 wind went SW and spinnaker up.   Thanks given to Odin.
Thursday 9th June.   Wind SW and creaming along.   160 miles made good to Horta.
Friday 10th June wind holding and 175 miles made good to Horta.   When transferred to the Atlantic chart the days run is insignificant with hardly any progress seemingly made.   The days fall into a routine with 3 four hour watches kept between 8pm and 8am, a second man only called for reefing or hand steering when the seas become too big for the autopilot to handle.   Mealtimes, namely evening dinner, become the highlight of the day with superb meals produced by Stuart or Peter.   As the voyage wears on the crew seek their bunks more and more when off watch.   It is interesting to note that compass variation rose to a maximum of 19 degrees west during the voyage, the Magnetic Variation Chart of the North Atlantic Ocean being the bible.   The GPS is a magnificent boon to the ocean voyager but one has to be mindful of it going on the blink and therefore not neglect the other tools of navigation.   A sextant is carried by a surprising number of ocean travellers in yachts despite the difficulty of taking accurate sights from a pitching deck.   Changing the ships time west of GMT is also logged.   Over 1400 miles completed 500 more to Horta.
Saturday 11th June a mixed bag of wind from S5 to nil. The ocean seems to be empty, no ships or other signs of life apart from an occasional far off sighting of dolphins, though we did spot a couple of whales blowing two or three days ago.
Sunday 12th June.   Motor sailing due to lack of wind, but the diesel tank is getting low.   300 miles to Horta and only about 100 miles of motoring left in the tank.
Monday 13th June still headed by very light E winds and conserving fuel.
Tuesday 14th June much more of the same.
Wednesday 15th June still creeping along making only about 4 knots, 34 miles to Horta.   07:30 tied up in Horta harbour, on Ilya Do Faisal, and admired the beautiful town. Harbour busy with yachts of all sizes who all endeavour to leave a painted memento on the harbour wall. We are exactly 14 days out from Bermuda. After victualling and taking on water and diesel, had a few drinks and yarns in Peters Bar and phoned home. 1912 miles logged from Bermuda.   Just over 5 ½ knots made good on passage.
Thursday 16th June we hired a car and toured the island which is a volcano and is very green and colourful, Volcano last active in 1959.   The island was an important whaling station because it is on the whaling migration route.
Friday 17th June.   Did some shopping and departed Horta in NE winds, making good progress down the St. George Channel, the whale migration track, but we did not spot any making for the port of Ponta Delgada on the Ilya De So Miguel, a 150 mile hop.

Saturday 18th June Arrived Ponta Delgada at 1500 in thick sea mist we went for a walk in the grand old town which was quite busy.   The harbour is large with plenty of commercial shipping but not many yachts.
Sunday 19th June.   San Miguel is the largest island in the Azores group and would merit a few days to explore.   After some supermarket shopping we departed in a fresh NW wind for the 1000 mile leg to Gibraltar.
Monday 20th June running under spinnaker in light W wind, but as usual the wind died and engine on.
Tuesday 21st June still motoring we caught and passed a South African yacht also heading to Gib.   A French girl called Sue chatted to us on the VHF (in English).   At the present the pattern is to sail in the daytime and motor at night.   The barometric pressure is building.   This is mid summers day, very hot and a glassy sea.   In the evening the wind came in from the NE clocking round the assumed building Azores high pressure system, homemade carrot and treacle cakes on the menu.   Cyril’s baking was finally improving; his early efforts were pitched overboard.   We tend to overeat in this lazy weather.   Battered florets from Stuart were a treat.   Cauliflower done in flour, eggs, salt and beer   He is an accomplished chef and I’m his washer up.   Boredom is a problem on long ocean passages when everything is going smoothly.
Wednesday 22nd June spoke to soon, wind freshening from the NE, cloudy and cool. Long swells from the north at 8 second intervals for the past two days indicating big winds up there. In N winds Orlanda is crashing along our intended track.   We have used a lot of diesel so it’s good to have wind power?   Another fry up at happy hour from master chef Stuart.   The seas are now very lumpy and it is not possible to sleep in my forward cabin.   Levitating like a magicians assistant.  Cyril was catapulted over the saloon table and broke a couple of ribs, but he still kept his watches, in pain.
Thursday 23rd June, still bouncing along sleepless, big lumpy seas. On the VHF we heard a cargo vessel talking to a yacht, neither of which we could see, saying that low pressure is to out NW at 45 deg.N, 14 deg.W. off Cape Finisterre in northwest Spain.   Charging along to Cape St. Vincent, SW    Later we picked up a weather forecast from a coast radio station, possibly Lisbon, in English.   It seemed favourable.   Off the west coasts of Spain and Portugal the prevailing trade wind is from a northerly direction and this is the pattern we are now in.   Sighted dozens of Dolphins in a feeding frenzy they are not interested in the yacht when chasing their food.
Friday 24th June another wild night of 30 knot beam winds.   The barometer has dropped 8mb,   approaching Cape St. Vincent in a gale.   Cargo ships sighted making heavy weather northbound rounding the Cape.   The seas flattened dramatically under the lea of the southern Portuguese coast and we anchored off Lagos in the early hours in calm waters.   Goodbye Atlantic Ocean, it had the last laugh.
Saturday 25th June we were ashore at mid-day to the crowded fishing harbour and somewhat touristy town.
Sunday 26th June departed Lagos for Vila Moura to book in with the authorities; all three sets of them had a good run ashore in the busy marina.
Monday 27th June departed Vila Moura on a header for Tangier, North Africa.   Wind persistently strengthening from the east, on the nose.   Slow progress made.
Tuesday 28th June motoring into a gale heavy sea which reached a screaming 50 knots off Cabo Espatel at the south west corner of the Gibraltar Straits. Tied up in Tangier harbour late evening and met by very officious police, everyone knackered.
Wednesday 29th June went to the Kasbah, of course, which is a rip off for carpets and kaftans.   Whilst in the packed food market Cyril felt his wallet being knicked.   We grabbed the thief and after rolling round on the deck recovered it.   The perpetrator was a young lad and after surprisingly warm applause from the locals we let him run off, our reasoning being that if the authorities became involved we might be stuck there for weeks. It was a dirty smelly place anyway.
Thursday 30th June after a frustrating 4 hours trying to recover our passports and ships papers retained by the hostile harbour police, we departed with relief for the 30 mile trip across the Straits to Gibraltar.   It is no wonder that Tangier was almost empty of yachts. They are not welcome.   At 1800 tied up in Marina Bay, Gibraltar. Distance logged in total was 4016 nautical miles.   End of the delivery trip, job done.
Friday 1st July Time spent enjoying the delights of the Rock.
Saturday 2nd July collected Anne from Malaga airport after she was completely fooled by Stuart dressed in full Arab costume complete with Fez and sunshades. Enjoyed a crew dinner in Gib.
Sunday 3rd July flew from Malaga to Uk.   The voyage was a great experience covering 41 days sailing over 4000 miles. The crew worked well together and we all enjoyed the companionship, Orlanda performed well in some trying conditions.   It was good to do it once.
Personal Log by Bob Crompton

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