May-June 2021 — These are pictures that go along with the posts contained in the following GPS Tracking page:
Here are the posts from Bermuda to the Azores:
Away We Go!
Wed May 26 2021
The Emmanou crew settled into an easy Bermudan tempo of meals with local friends (Tricia and Dan at Henry VIII — a pub and sushi house — and on board Emmanou and Stacey and Chris, friends of Nuno, members of the Bermudan Azorian mafia) punctuated by a major team effort to diagnose and fix Tony’s recalcitrant head (the one he sits on). After resorting to the offshore medical kit’s stethoscope to locate the air leak and replacing the sanitation hose (amazingly there was fresh flexible hose left over from prior YachtTech work — the upside of Thach’s reluctance to throw anything away) we declared victory after five days of stop and go action (pun intended) and Tony got his head back (pun unintended). A forecast of a consistent high pressure ridge all the way to the Azores jogged the crew into more purposeful action this week. Continuing his mission to turn Emmanou into a truly presentable ocean going vessel, Nuno tackled cleaning out each of the bilges (forward, mid, and rear), shining the tender and jet ski, and even scuba diving the main prop to realign the kelp cutter. With help from Chris we were able to secure duty free diesel at significant savings from the local gas station price (run by the mayor of St George’s) and Emmanou docked and stayed on Penno’s Wharf on her last night after fueling up (vessels fueling up duty free need to depart within 24 hours) next to Liberty, a 180’ Trinity Yacht that took on board four tanker truckloads of diesel (we piggy-backed on the left overs from the last truck). Following advice from the weather routing services we waited till mid afternoon on Wednesday for the seas to subside before leaving. This afforded time for Karin to perform her Native American sage bush smoke ceremony on Emmanou’s foredeck to all four cardinal points to ensure a safe crossing. Predictably, after a lazy morning with little activity on the dock, the moment we started up Emmanou’s engines a local Bermudan decides to engage us in extended conversation about Emmanou and once we finally cast off two large vessels enter the narrow Town Cut. After that flurry of activity Emmanou surged into the Atlantic on nicely spaced rolling 6 foot waves and settled into a rhumb line route to Flores, the Easternmost island in the Azores. In a minor contravention of Karin no booze underway rule, the crew broke out Jim Hennessy’s fine gift bottle of Jamiesons for a toast to Neptune — we’re not superstitious but this is a deep ocean…
Weather Routes and Lunar Eclipses
Wed May 26 2021
In addition to our onboard Iridium satellite weather GRIB file downloads we rely on two weather services: Chris Parker and Commander’s Weather. Commander’s Weather gave a go ahead to take the shortest course (Great Circle route) to Flores whereas Chris advised more of a Rhumb line course further South to maximize our options should a low pressure ridge coming out of the Chesapeake descend on our pristine Azores high pressure ridge some four days out. We opt for the more conservative option adding distance in exchange for comfort. Only a couple of hours out from Bermuda we are overtaken by A2, a luxury yacht doing 16 knots (to our 8 knots) crossing our bow. Karin’s VHF call to A2 confirmed their tracking the Great Circle route to the Azores triggered some second guessing among the crew. But we stuck to our first choice given our slower speed — A2 would be long out of reach of the potentially descending cold front in four days time. The reality of small course adjustments across huge distances travelled at bicycle pace did not escape us. A quick email exchange with Commander’s Weather reaffirmed our course choice. Meanwhile, Tony alerted us to the pending Lunar Eclipse over America but we were likely to miss this event in the North Atlantic. We were nevertheless happy to enjoy clear skies and full moonlit nights for the night watches (cue Game of Thrones music)…
Seasickness, Phantom Radar Bogey, and Crisis Averted
Thu May 27 2021
Traditionally, the first 24-36 hours of any trip, Tony suffers from major seasickness (of the cover the teak rails kind — always good to know which way the wind is blowing). On the leg to Bermuda his newly purchased $200 anti-seasickness bracelet failed the test (even though Captain Sandy of Bellow Deck endorses it). On this leg Tony tried the behind the ear patch Karin handed him from the voluminous offshore medical kit and it seems to work well. Other than a slightly dry mouth and a tempering of his otherwise voluble nature (maybe a secondary benefit?) Tony was fine into day two. Thach sometimes gets a little queasy (which he counters by lying down in a fetal position across the roll axis) but Karin and Nuno never get sea sick — befitting their true mariner stature and putting the fake sailors on the crew to shame.
At 2am the radar collision avoidance (set at a forward arc +/- 45 degrees 2 to 5 nm out) alerted us to a radar target crossing our path at over 10 knots. With no AIS there was no identification on the Raymarine Nav chart and no boat lights visible under a full moon. It approached within less than 4 nm running ahead of a rain squall and eventually disappeared having come from nowhere and headed to nowhere. Thach speculated a military craft (likely a Russian sub captained by Sean Connery). Nuno explained more likely a small sailboat on a broad reach also headed for the Azores. Also, Sean Connery recently passed away (shadly) RIP.
Thach awoke to Karin in a somber mood in the salon. Apparently our trusty Jura coffee maker would not work. After over 15 faultless years and tens of thousands of Cappuccinos and Americanos our Jura has gone to coffee maker heaven leaving us stranded for the rest of the trip. Thach reluctantly resorted to the box of Maxwell House International Cappuccino powder mix Jonathan had left behind (strangely the same brand that Thach’s mother enjoys). The gloom was lifted when Tony discovered the on/off switch which had been hiding all those years at the back of the Jura. (Cue heavenly choir singing)
Belts, belts, belts, and belts
Fri May 28 2021
Pre-departure engine room checks usually include engine oil and coolant level and belt inspection on the main, wing and generators. Thach had neglected the main generator and was instantly reminded when it had a high temperature shutdown just after Karin had cooked some of the frozen pasties purchased from Munchies (an excellent waterfront joint in St George’s) in the oven. On inspection Nuno found bits of disintegrated raw water pump drive belt inside the generator sound enclosure. Engine drive belts are made of reinforced rubber with high carbon content so when they disintegrate it make for quite the cleaning job. After replacing the drive belt and checking the impeller in the raw water pump we were back in business only for the Stabilizers (articulated wings on the bottom of the hull that mitigate roll) to quit working. Emmanou started rocking and rolling in modest seas which made Karin’s make you own veggie burrito — with optional Azorean Chourico (spicy sausage) — dinner service pretty challenging. This time it was one of the alternator drive belts which fell apart and took out the Stabilizer hydraulic pump drive belt next to it. We shut down the main engine (not really advisable in mid Atlantic) and switched over to the wing engine, and with Karin at the helm the boys proceeded to change all three drive belts on the main engine — akin to taking apart a slowly cooling hot stove in a Sauna. After two hours and a shower to wash off the carbon dust, everyone was back up top and the Emmanou was back on track and making up for lost time. It had been a rare “four belt day” — something only guys like to brag about in the aisles of Home Depot.
p.s. I’m sure some of the more discerning readers might think that we should have changed all the belts before leaving Bermuda (some have even commented so) and we couldn’t agree more. But as they say about boating: it’s boat maintenance in exotic locations — and sometimes these exotic locations have golf courses.
Route Adjustment and Drone Test Flight
Sat May 29 2021
Following a detailed overnight email from Chris Parker, one of our two weather routers, we adjust our course to the NE to start gaining latitude and traverse a zone of adverse currents more quickly. Course selection is a compromise between avoiding bad weather (and keeping options open for adjustments in the path of cold fronts) and avoiding strong counter currents or sea chop on the bow which would slow us down — motor propulsion frees us from the added complication of finding optimal wind angle for sailing. An hour of bad seas is interminable and worth exchanging for even an extra half day of cruising in good weather. The sea conditions are wonderfully benign and winds are mild from the SE. We’ve taken to hanging laundry to dry on the foredeck. Doors and hatches are open to air out the boat and the boys are taking sea water bucket showers off the swim deck while underway (instigated by Nuno with eager participation from the boys) — hardly a George Clooney Perfect Storm setting (Tony had suggested a more dramatic weather report for this blog).
Similar conditions yesterday encouraged Tony and Thach to test fly the drone. Far away from Airport no fly zones, the plan was to perfect camera pans with fly-by’s and overhead horizon scans. Thach was somewhat apprehensive as this was to be the inaugural flight over water (a lot of water) of his new drone gifted by Zhachary to his dad to replace the one which disappeared off Roque Island in Maine last year while under Thach’s “control”. As the more experienced drone pilot, Tony was put in charge of the controls while Thach was in charge of drone launch and retrieval off the moving foredeck. Neither were prepared for how fast the drone disappeared stern-wards as Emmanou was doing over 9 knots (Karin at the helm refused to give up forward progress to accommodate the boys’ fun and games). Rising panic ensued as the drone quickly became a speck on the horizon before Tony managed to bring it back to the boat to a small crash landing on the Portuguese Deck. A more controlled landing was impeded by the drone’s collision avoidance system — something we will need to iron out back on land. Ultimately no harm, no foul and the drone lives to fly another day.
Champions League Final in Porto
Sat May 29 2021
If anyone reading this has the time and inclination, please email us a match report for the Chelsea vs Manchester City game today to[email protected]. No pictures or attachments please. Just text email in less than 500 kB. Cheers, Thach
Go Blues! (I know that’s ambiguous)
Thanks Jim and Hubert!
Chelsea 1 Man City 0
We beat them twice —no three times — in a row! Champions of Europe! Woo Hoo!
What Makes for a Happy Crew?
Sat May 29 2021
Having a happy crew on long voyages depends on many factors, and approaching the halfway mark of our Atlantic Crossing it’s worth examining how these factors have played out so far. Most important is that the crew get along, like and appreciate each other. The extended weather wait in Bermuda after switching out Jonathan for Nuno, allowed us to get to know Nuno better and appreciate the many things he brings — not least the many years of ocean going cruising experience, but also a sense of humor to match our individual quirkiness. Although Emmanou can sleep 11, the consensus is that the optimal long-range crew size on Emmanou is four, which allows everyone to have their own bunk and private head, leave the crew quarters for general storage and the pilot berth as a muster station for ditch bags and snacks. After trying a 3 four-hour day shifts and 4 three-hour night shifts (which allows the crew to rotate and sample different times of the day on watch) from Florida to Bermuda we decided to adopt Nuno’s suggested 4 four-hour day shifts and 4 two-hour night shifts (keeping each crew on the same time of day and avoiding induced jet-lag) which seems more sustainable. Unintended/intended consequences were that Tony got all the sunrises (and seemingly also the moonrises), Nuno got all the sunsets, Thach got to write his daily PredictWind GPS blogposts in the peace and quiet of his midnight to 2am night watch (cue GOT and all that), and Karin was up for her normal 2 to 4am insomnia slot. A time zone adjustment of an hour every 600 nm (or three days) was made where one day shift would be shorter. The boys decided to give the first short day shift to Karin in recognition of her doing fuel management on board — both for Emmanou’s engines and most of the cooking for the crew — and then draw lots (rock/paper/scissor or some other wager?) for the second short day shift. So far the shifts have worked well, as watches have gone by quickly and uneventfully — other than the all-hands four belts drill episode. Other than an engine room check at the start of a watch and a boat vital statistics log entry at the end (which Thach somehow manages to consistently forget to do) there is not much else expected other than checking over the radar and Nav screens and looking out the window for signs of life out there. Boring is good as it pertains to watches.
A side note about hearing: specifically Karin’s hearing and Tony’s and Thach’s hearing. Karin’s hearing is almost canine: from down in the galley and over the sound of the main engine she can hear Thach up in the pilot house helping himself to Cheetos from the snack box or snoring on watch. Whereas Tony’s remaining hearing aid (refer to the newspaper plastic bag incident) seems to have given up working while Thach’s deteriorating hearing is not helped by his inattention and wandering thoughts so our conversations last twice as long — but then again, time is what we have…
Two Ships Passing in the Fog
Mon May 31 2021
Yesterday morning we woke up to dense fog. The AIS (Automatic Identification System) on the electronic chart indicated we were playing chicken with a certain Mookda Naree, a 600ft cargo ship, headed for the US (FPO?) with a CPA (Closest Point of Approach) of 2 nm in 30 min. In normal visibility that would have been of little concern but in fog with less than 400 Yards line of sight and about 25 knots combined closing speed (and her beam was 1.5x Emmanou’s length) we turned on the automatic foghorn (one long blast every 2 minutes) and raised her on the radio (both on emergency channel 16 and commercial traffic channel 13). Unfortunately their response was garbled over the VHF radio. Then the radar indicated her adjusting course to starboard to increase CPA to 4 nm and we responded by adjusting our course 3 degrees to starboard in acknowledgement. We passed each other well out of sight.
Up in Maine we encountered fog fairly regularly. It’s eerie having another ship cross your bow at less than a few hundred yards when you’re staring into a dense fog bank. Lobster boats not responding to VHF were particularly troubling. In the middle of the Atlantic the sensation is heightened. It’s a big ocean out there, till it isn’t…
Mon May 31 2021
A while back Zhachary suggested on our family WhatsApp that we should each contribute a weekly favorite piece of music — New Song Saturday. Thach added Throwback Thursdays for his golden oldies. Myles pulled these offerings into a Spotify playlist (an eclectic mix of Lumineers, Chic Corea, Mac Miller, The Waterboys, Trampled by Turtles, Harry Stiles, Michael Kiwanuka, Bandalos Chinos, James Taylor, Rising Appalachia and the Small Faces among others). This downloaded 5 hour collection now keeps us entertained on night watches as an alternative to podcasts and audiobooks. Well played Zhach & Myles!
Water Sports and Whaling
Mon May 31 2021
Just before her afternoon shift today, Karin relented and joined the sea water bucket shower brigade. Thus emboldened Emmanou was turned into the wind, put into neutral (avoid turning off the main engine!) and the boys went for a swim in 13,000 feet of water. Soon after getting back underway we came across yet another field of Portuguese Man o War (timing is everything) and a Sperm Whale coming up for a breather.
Azorean history is inexorably linked to New England, particularly New Bedford on the Cape, through the whaling industry. Many stout Azorians joined whaling expeditions and formed the extensive Portuguese migration to the US. This diaspora contributed to much wealth building in the new world without much improving the agrarian and fishing community back home. At one time whaling and textile mills made New Bedford the most prosperous city in the world (so they claimed when Emmanou was there last Summer) with whaling ships running over to the Azores for years on end. The last whales killed off Pico was in 1987. Now whale watching tours are a staple of the Azorean tourist trade. The Emmanou crew are now on the lookout for more Sperm Whales. Thach hopes to keep his inner Ahab in check.
Before Karin’s day shift is over, a school of thirty or so dolphins arrive to ride Emmanou’s bow wave making her quite the party boat.
Crossing, Ready or Not!
Mon May 31 2021
Now that we’ve passed the point of no return (closer to Flores than Bermuda), it’s worth considering how Emmanou got here. Over four seasons of cruising up and down the Eastern US seaboard, North to Nova Scotia and South to the Exumas, Emmanou accumulated over 15,000 nm and a trove of spare parts & tools as the crew learned to fix things as stuff broke down. The running joke since Nuno’s arrival is that the only thing he has asked for that we could not provide was a kitchen apron. Had we not been able to get the stabilizers working again three days out of Bermuda we would have had to turn around — so critical is roll mitigation on long trips. After a bow to stern final inspection and a particularly harried sea trial the day before we left Florida, Nordhavn Guru James Knight of YachtTech questioned whether Emmanou and her crew (specifically Thach as Captain) were ready for the crossing. In a final one-on-one conversation that evening as the crew were getting ready to carbo-pack at Uncle Eddy’s Italian restaurant, James concluded that Thach was not about to be deterred and conceded that of all the Nordhavns he’s inspected prior to a crossing, none had been fully ready and Emmanou was more ready than most. Like getting married or raising a family (not always in that order) one is never really ready until one does it…
Sunrises, Moonrises and Sunsets
Mon May 31 2021
As we enter a low impulse zone for the next 15-24 hours, Emmanou’s ride has turned more choppy and the sky has turned cloudy — a bit of a shock to the psyche as the crew had gotten used to clear skies and moonlit starry nights. Folks living by the sea know, you never tire of watching a beautiful sunrise, moonrise or sunset. It stirs a sense of primeval wonderment. Tony is amassing an impressive photographic collection of them for future publication. To quote Woody Allen: “Is there anyone out there, and why do they have to make so much noise?”
Routines and Surprises
Tue Jun 01 2021
As we chug along into our sixth day out of Bermuda, the crew continue to enjoy their personal routines. Shared tasks like engine room checks and logging boat vital stats (particularly temperatures and pressures). Specialized tasks such as Karin changing the Racor fuel filters, transferring diesel to keep the day tank filled and Emmanou balanced on an even keel. Intermittent tasks like starting the main generator for cooking, water heating, running the air conditioning zones, and making water. Thach and Karin downloading weather GRIB (GRiddled Information in Binary — whatever that means) files, and sending and receiving weather router emails. Pumping out the black water tanks. All these routine tasks are interconnected by a common goal of keeping Emmanou humming along and avoiding surprises (of the four belt kind). Everyone pitches in on laundry, tidying up and dish washing — dirty dishes don’t hang out in the sink long. Such routines also keeps each of the crew involved, contributing to positive outlook, while still allowing for individual pursuits such as Tony’s daily quixotic trawling for Tuna, boning up on storms at sea and planning a future Northwest passage, Karin’s continuing weather studies and listening to Obama’s latest audiobook, Nuno building up an Emmanou todo list for Sao Miguel and planning for his wife Julia’s start up Stone Ground Bakery business, and Thach’s catching up on old recordings of Premier League Soccer and Six Nations Rugby games on TV. As they say in the movies: it’s quiet out there sir, maybe too quiet…
As it turns out, Tuesday morning the Impulse Low intensified with Northeast winds gusting up to 30 knots with waves over 6 feet with periods under 6 seconds. We were in Beaufort 5-6 conditions. No more fishing rod deployments, sea water bucket showers off the swim deck, or sunning on the foredeck. We changed our bearing more into the wind (074 True) and Emmanou responded by reducing her roll in exchange for a little more pitching — more comfortable in the pilot house, but judging by the slamming of her bulbous bow after she crested a big wave we were thankful we had no one trying to sleep in the crew quarters up front. A throttling back revs to 1300 rpm slowed us down to 5 knots and reduced the frequency of bow slams. It will be a long day.
Weather Only a Dolphin Could Love
Tue Jun 01 2021
As predicted, Tuesday was a bit of a write off. Tony was pretty seasick but rallied like a trooper to take his regular night watch. As Emmanou was getting shaken and stirred by the confused seas on her nose, schools of dolphins came out to play and we were entertained by a Seaworld number of synchronized leaping out of the surf. In the middle of which Nuno reported from his pre watch engine room check no cooling sea water flow through the Stabilizer hydraulic fluid heat exchanger (per the ping pong ball flow indicator). In all the bumps and slams, air had made it into the sea chest and introduced an airlock in the stabilizer cooling water system. The cooling sea water pump was pumping air. The stabilizers were still operating, thankfully, but the system was running hot. The reason the high temp alarm had not shut down the stabilizers is that there is also a stabilizer cooler on the main engine using circulated engine coolant in addition to the one now not getting cooling sea water. To get the air out of the system we bled the sea chest, turned on the in-line back up cooling water pump, bled that, then turned on the main cooling water pump again once water was running through it. This simple diagnosis and fix sounds simple, but it was less easy to be so clear eyed in a rocking and rolling hot and loud engine room. By the end of the day, the seas had abated somewhat, but not enough for Emmanou to resume full cruising speed. The weather routers and PredictWind GRIB files indicated a return to smoother conditions the remainder of the way to Flores. Fingers crossed.
No we are not superstitious — Really
Wed Jun 02 2021
What we endured yesterday would have been categorized as Beaufort 6 (22-27 knots wind, 10-13 feet waves) on a 12 point scale — strangely understated as a “Strong Breeze”. The Beaufort scale runs from 0-1 (calm to light air) through five increasing levels of “Breeze”, three levels of Gale, two levels of Storm, to a Hurricane at Beaufort 12. When somebody says “it was just a breeze” we might recall yesterday’s mayhem.
With the return of daylight and fair weather, Karin started the morning with a ritual we borrowed from our friend Theresa Smith (an ER nurse in COVID times) who starts each day by playing Lovely Day by Bill Withers — this brings an overwhelming optimistic mood to the pilot house. There are many superstitions in the Mariners world: never start a trip on a Friday, don’t whistle up a storm, no bananas on board (a particularly tough one for Thach), a toast to Neptune, the smoldering Sage bush offering to the four cardinal points (that one we just added to the mariner tradition). As Karin observes: 7 rituals is virtually a religion.
Time for a Change
Wed Jun 02 2021
Today we hit our second time zone mark and adjusted our clocks back to UTC -2 (UTC is the same as GMT — don’t know why they don’t just say GMT) and Tony got the short day shift in recognition of his sturdy recovery (at least to 90%). The crew reinstated the midday sea water bucket shower ritual, swim platform rinse and sun drying on the foredeck. Hanging out at the pulpit (forward railing — where Kate whatshername hung out with Leo DiCaprio on Titanic) and just looking out at the approaching ocean is remarkably cathartic. If you get the chance, spend some time doing that. You might gain some insight.
Ocean Fauna and Thoughts
Thu Jun 03 2021
Nary a day goes by without our seeing fields of dreaded Portuguese Man o Wars. A confetti field of purple trimmed floating Ziplock bags — is this what the Pacific garbage gyre might look like? These passive menaces trail tentacles as long as 30 m that stun and consume as much as 100 small fish a day. From a human perspective it is hard to see any benefit in these hogs of sea surface acreage. Maybe we can try tagging them to track ocean currents?
Other sightings included sea turtles, a Pilot Whale, a Sperm Whale (hoping to see more as we approach the Azores), basking moon fishes waving their fins above the water surface, and lots of dolphins. One tern — dubbed George by the crew — hung out for hours on our pulpit preening itself and depositing copious amounts of bird shit on our foredeck (which Karin renamed the poop deck — not sure where that actually is technically but we now have one up front). Sea birds hundreds of miles from nearest land, from circling White Bermuda Long Tails to floating flocks of seagulls make one wonder: do sea birds view ocean and land as one and the same? After all, they collect fish from the sea and can float if they want to rest. Do they not need fresh water? Do they get enough hydration from fish? Can they maybe process sea water? And if so, why did the Ancient Mariner make such a big deal about sighting an Albatross? Google?
What’s on the Menu?
Thu Jun 03 2021
Between Nuno’s special Avocado and poached eggs on toast and Quinoa salad, and Karin’s array of vegan fare (Zucchini Zoodles, Impossible Beef Shepherd’s Pie, Roasted Veggie Burritos, Veggie Lasagna, Veggie Curry and so on) the crew was not short of dinning choices, but Tony and Thach (mostly Thach) still found time to slip in a Ramen bag or two. Legend has it that at 16, Michael Chang travelled to Paris with his mom who fed him ramen in their hotel room. Michael proceeded to mow down the field, including the fearsome Ivan Lendl in the final, and win the French Open at Stade Rolland Garros. Such is the mighty, ubiquitous and humble bag of ramen.
Two days out, Karin has done an amazing job of provisioning — particularly in the freshies. Emmanou’s once bulging fresh fruit and vegetable net is down to two apples, two yellow onions, one purple onion and one lemon. On an alarming side note, the ramen bag inventory is down to three. The only significant overshoot is that we still have 42 eggs. We’re looking forward to checking out fresh Azorean provisions including the famed pineapples on Sao Miguel.
Grumpy Italian Cargo Captain
Thu Jun 03 2021
This morning Sider Liu, a 456 ft cargo ship, came on the radar screen approaching Emmanou’s Rear Port Quarter headed for Italy (Gaetano?) at 12 knots (to our 8.5 knots). AIS indicated CPA (closest point of approach) of less than 0.25nm in an hour or so. Tony called her on VHF only to get a gruff “watta you want!” When we told him we were headed for Flores and our CPA was less than 0.25nm, his response was “I see you on radar. Maintain course and direction” which is correct procedure given we were the stand on vessel. But we couldn’t help think that as big as the ocean is, do we have to get so close? 30 minutes from CPA (now down to 0.125 nm) we rouse the Italian again to ask him if his intention was to pass in front or behind us. He conceded that he was going to overtake us and then adjusted course to port. With CPA now up to 1.1 nm anxiety levels in Emmanou’s pilot house subsided. We proceeded on parallel tracks about a mile apart for half an hour or so before Sider Liu turned back to her original heading bound for Italy, clearly on a tight schedule. Thach resisted the urge to call out “Arrivaderci Paisano!” over the VHF.
Waste Not, Want Not
Thu Jun 03 2021
Waste management is an important function on long voyages. From the source (many of you will have heard Thach wax lyrical about Japanese toilets) through to disposal. Emmanou’s black water tanks get pumped out when in a marina or ditched while offshore (more than 3 nm from land in the US). On large yachts, like the Trinity class Liberty we fueled next to in Bermuda, black water is treated through a series of septic tanks containing maggots to digest the solid waste and filters to purify the residual water for overboard disposal.
For trash on Emmanou, a garbage compactor is used to minimize the volume of trash stacking up in the cockpit and, following Nuno’s suggestion, we are now separating organic matter for “composting” overboard (better than a landfill) which saves the garbage from smelling, leaving just recyclables for disposal upon arrival in port. We had one full regular kitchen garbage bag after day two but after instituting “composting” and compacting it took us another five days to fill our second bag. What is disturbing is the paucity of recycling in marinas along the US eastern seaboard. We are hoping to see greater commitment to recycling in Europe.
Is that a Boy or a Boowee?
Fri Jun 04 2021
Approaching less than a day from Flores we have to remind ourselves that we have moved from IALA B (red right returning) to IALA A (red on red). Supposedly the IALA B convention originated from the revolutionary war to confuse British ships. Not sure that swayed the course of the war, but it sure is confusing. A bit like driving on the left — like they do in Bermuda to keep the tourist scooter population in check.
To help remind us, we have sitting under the MFDs (Multi-Function Displays) a gift from our original training Captain John Stemke: a wine bottle cork with one end painted red and the other end painted green. We flip over this passive analogue instrument — no batteries required.
Coming in to Land
Fri Jun 04 2021
Friday (day nine) morning is greeted by Bill Withers in the pilot house. With overcast skies and following seas swaying Emmanou’s stern, the stabilizers do their best to fight the yaw. A large band of dolphins form a welcoming party by criss-crossing our bow. Karin announces that she’s turning on the generator, the oven and water heater, making croissants, and having a shower — in that order. We alert the press.
As we approach within VHF range, we deploy our not-so-secret weapon: Nuno our Azorean Portuguese-speaking emissary to rouse his buddy who manages the fuel dock at Lajes das Flores Marina. The marina pontoons were destroyed by a storm a couple of winters ago but the substantial concrete breakwaters still offer great protection (other than from NE conditions) for anchoring or for berthing up against the sea wall. Were we to follow recommended protocol and contact marina manager Tiago Pimentel directly, he might be tempted to tell us to by-pass Flores and head straight to Horta on Faial — one of the three official ports of entry — and we would have missed out on a visit to Flores, a rare stop for transient boaters, and considered the jewel of the Azores by those in the know. Pimentel is a popular family name in the Azores (kind of like Pham in Vietnam) and the same as our new friends Chris and Stacey in Bermuda — but no relation. Tiago’s mother also runs the only laundry service in Lajes — maybe an opportunity for fresh linen service.
Weak cellular and VHF service appears 32 nm out. First text received is from BBC Sports that Chelsea are European Champions (yessss!) followed by three scam voicemails: two offering us half price Direct TV service that we cancelled before leaving Bermuda and one giving us a last chance to extend the repair warranty on a car we don’t have — welcome back to check civilization. Eagle-eye Nuno claims first land sighting 29 nm out and Karin confirms. Thach makes a mental note to add that crows nest he’s always wanted. Karin comes on watch and puts Emmanou into WOT (Wide Open Throttle) to blow out accumulated soot from the exhaust stack (to prevent sooting of Emmanou’s deck upon start up). Tony turns up in a fresh floral pattern shirt only to be informed that Hawaii is in the opposite direction.
Two hours out, Nuno is able to make contact with his buddy and then Tiago Pimentel (who predictably tells us not o come as the marina is closed), then the Maritime Police. Consistent with COVID times, no one is too sure what the current entry protocol might be, but everyone is super friendly and more than happy to help in any way, except Emmanou’s crew will need to get tested before being allowed off the boat (and that test samples need to be flown to Faial for processing). Less than 10 nm out, rain and fog obscure the cliff and mountains of Flores…
As expected, the winds clock North and the rains and clouds clear to reveal a majestic landscape of lush green oceanside cliffs reminiscent of Jurassic Park. Dozens of bottlenose dolphins, large and small, descend to show off their synchronized leaping skills. All that’s missing is a John Williams epic film score.
Emmanou came into Lajes with little fanfare and anchored up behind a breakwater that had been severely broken up by past winter storms (awesome to witness the sheer destruction that the Atlantic is capable of) but the rubble was still functional. The crew tendered in to submit to the private attention of two medical, one police and two national guard personnel — this may have been their only task of the day. Super friendly folks. Obrigado!
Back on board Emmanou to await COVID test results, the crew broke out cheese and crackers, truffle honey, and the wine bottle gift from the Pimentels of Bermuda. Rain descends, situation normal in Flores which accounts for the lushness of the landscape.
Salt Glands in Sea Birds
Sat Jun 05 2021
Better than Google, on our sea bird question, we reached out to a friend at Yale, Richard Prum, ornithologist supreme and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient for his work on Sexual Selection and the Evolution of Beauty (I’m sure I butchered that). Here is an extract of his comprehensive and wide-ranging response:
So how do they manage their sodium balance?? Great question. Lots of creatures evolve to be the same salt concentration as the sea, but these are mostly invertebrates and fishes. Birds can’t handle that. Curiously, sea birds have evolved novel organs called salt glands that are above their eyes. Like kidneys, they have capillary beds that isolate the blood plasma, and then a series of tubes where they pump ions like hell! The exact details are vague in my memory. On the cabinets above my desk I have taped diagram sketched on a napkin by a Harvard nephrologist I met on a boat to Svalbard which diagrams the distinct physiology of the avian salt gland.
The product is a very salty solution which out the nostrils– convenient hey! One important group of pelagic birds including all the petrels, shearwaters, storm petrels and albatross are called “tubenoses” because they have special tubular channels extending from their nostrils to drip near the tip of their beaks. Even more convenient!
With binos, you should be able to see these tubes on their beaks.
So there you go! As for the Albatross fuss in the Ancient Mariner? Poetic license.
Waiting for Results
Sat Jun 05 2021
Following a request from the Maritime Police, we weigh anchor early this morning and head out of Lajes to allow dredging operations to proceed in the harbor. We cruise a short way North to a picturesque (really no need to say that on Flores) anchorage between Ponta de Fora and Ponta da Caveira in a cove featuring numerous waterfalls and sea caves. Although the conditions are mild, we put out the Flopper Stoppers on Emmanou’s outriggers mainly for the look, and take team photos in our new bright-red Trans-Atlantic Crossing 2021 crew shirts which Karin released from ship stores (Jonathan, you are free to wear yours now). We drop Nuno off in Santa Cruz, a short tender ride North past Anawa, a 203 ft luxury expedition vessel. Anawa, owned by a Brazilian junk food and beverage investor, has the look of a Bond evil villain (are there other kinds?) yacht complete with Alouette helicopter and pad, tender hangars, and at least five floor levels. As soon as we drop Nuno off to catch his flight home to his family, the tender outboard cuts out. Efforts to revive are intermittent and we drift back to the dinghy dock for Nuno to troubleshoot. (He did say to call him if we needed anything — just not immediately). Seemed to be air in the fuel line or a dirty fuel tank. We find a modest rpm at which the outboard is happy to putter our way back to Emmanou and wait on our COVID test results.
The rest of the day is spent getting drone footage of the cove (to be posted on Vimeo as soon as we can find decent WiFi), fishing (Tony manages to snag a Portuguese Man O War), the obligatory cup of tea and biscuits, and watching the second half of Ghandi. Rough is life at sea.
https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/694136724 Drone footage of Emmanou in Flores