The days with no wind were the most challenging. The dynamic shock load of a slapping mainsail will quickly drive a sane man crazy. The only remedy is to turn on the motor. Somehow forward motion creates a bit of apparent wind and lengthens out the wave period so that the violent snapping of the rig turns into a gentle roll.
Three hundred miles offshore of Nova Scotia we were politely asked over the VHF radio (after a loud blast on an air horn) to hove-to for an hour and wait while a five-mile long seismic cable was towed past us by three large ships. When I asked what they were up to the answer was vague. I can only imagine that they were looking for oil to justify the expense of running three ships and an escort vessel.
We sailed over the southern edge of the Grand Bands south of Newfoundland and were engulfed in thick fog for a day. It was the first time I'd sailed on the open ocean through the fog. Fortunately, we didn't encounter any other vessels but I did manage to scare myself just imagining what was out in the miasmic obscurity. The air was thick with petrels which would fly at our running lights like bats. At one point on the nightwatch with fog so thick the masthead light was only a murky glimmer, two dolphins surfaced an arms length away and I almost fell overboard in shock.
We had lots of dolphin and whales on this trip which is always fun. Sometimes Seffa and I would be the only ones awake in the morning and a couple of dozen dolphins would surface all around Vixen. Seffa would laugh and point at each one.
Playing with Solianna and Seffa was actually the highlight of the trip. I feel like this is the real reason we are taking another couple of years to finish our circumnavigation. I want my girls to know the oceans and the natural world in an intimate way that is not really possible in a house on land. Every night Solianna would sit with me in the cockpit before going to bed and we would watch the stars. The voyage started with no moon and the skies were often clear so we had quite a show: Venus would set after the sun. Then Soli would point out Arcturus, Spica, Vega, Polaris and a brilliant Saturn in Virgo. The moon was in Scorpio which started off crisply defined but two weeks later was washed out by the full moon a couple of nights before our arrival in Flores.
Solianna and I finished the second book of the Swallows and Amazons series and this turned her into a semaphore fanatic. Every night before our stargazing and after ukulele practice we had mandatory semaphore practice – mandatory for me that is even thought I had to tell her how to spell the messages.
Tiffany and I were a little concerned about how Seffa would fare on her first really big ocean crossing. We need not have worried. It appeared that she would not have minded if we sailed for years and years without seeing land. Everyday there were books read to her and crafts to do. Plus lots of eating. Seffa single-highhandedly finished off a large quart of peanut butter during the crossing and ended up a little chubbier than she started.
So now we are at anchor off the little village of Lajes on the southern end of Flores. I had forgotten how good the local corn bread is and the cheese from the grass-fed cows.
Flores was first inhabited in the 15th century so there are some wonderful old buildings. One of the local whaleboats has been restored which is a direct result of my year when I lived in the Azores in 1997 and built the first whaleboat in fifty years with Joao Tavares. That boat, Bela Vista, sparked a revival even on this outer island of Flores.
The island of Fayal lies 130 miles east.. We plan to head there in a few days with the idea of possibly living there for the winter depending on how things go.