Saturday, June 14, 2008

Mirasol Delivery - The departure

For Mirasol to meet us in Annapolis she has to be sailed across the Atlantic from France, where she was built. The delivery route takes her from Les Sables-d'Olonne on the west coast of France, out through the Bay of Biscay, south to the Madeira Islands off of Africa to catch the trade winds, a downwind run west to around 60° West Longitude, then back north to Bermuda, and then Annapolis. I joined the delivery crew for the first leg of the passage, which turned out to be from Les Sables-d'Olonne, France to the Madeira Islands. About 1,200 nautical miles, or about 1,400 miles.

When I arrived in Les Sables-d'Olonne, the fishermen had just lifted a blockade on the port. They had blockaded the port for two weeks with a fishing net strung across the exit of the port in protest of high diesel prices and strict fishing quotas. I was surprised that the police didn't simply force them to move the net, but when I asked that question at a cafe near the marina, the local I had asked looked around furtively and said quietly that the fishermen in France were like the Mafia in the US. No one likes to cross them. That explains the news article I read about fishermen trashing a local supermarket that was selling imported fish.

Fortunately, the blockade was over and once we had the crew and boat squared away, we were able to leave without any problems. We had a short delay waiting for boat documentation and insurance approval of our crew, but we received both on the afternoon of May 29th. With the weather looking good, we cast off right away.

The Bay of Biscay is known for rough seas but it treated us with kid gloves. Aside from the wind being on the nose and forcing us to motor-sail, the weather was about as mild as can be found in the Bay of Biscay. I was happy to find that Mirasol did not "pound" repeatedly while heading straight into 8' - 10' seas, even while motoring into them at 7 knots.

To get out of the Bay (which is about 300 miles across) and into the Atlantic you must navigate the shipping lanes that skirt the bay from Spain to the UK. As luck would have it, we were crossing the shipping lanes at night, which made for a busy and nervous crew. At one point we had lights for 20 ships in sight, 10 northbound and 10 southbound, and us in the middle. We were very happy when we left the Bay behind us and made sure to get well west of the busy shipping lanes that run along the coast of Spain and Portugal. We didn't see any more ships until we were quite a bit further south, off of Gibraltar. There we saw several heading for North and South America.

As we turned south after leaving the Bay of Biscay, the wind turned with us and we now had a north wind building from 10 knots to 25 knots. Mirasol handled both the light 10 knot winds and the 25 knot winds just fine. The boat was very comfortable in the big following seas.

We had originally planned on heading for the Azores from Les Sables-d'Olonne, but weather forecasts received via satellite phone and SSB radio weather faxes showed that there would be no wind south of the Azores for many days, so we continued south towards Madeira and the Canery Islands so that Mirasol could ride the trade winds west.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Azores... or not...

Ok, so the boat didn't go to the Azores. It's at Porto Santo in the Madeira Islands. They had no wind and then prop trouble. See our homepage for photos (there are 2 new as of this post, one underway, one in Porto Santo marina). I will be updating our website with more photos and videos as I get them. I'm sure Gregg will be posting commentary here once he gets an opportunity. He is currently in Paris at a hotel - his flight doesn't leave until 11 a.m. or so tomorrow. He said he had been awake for the better part of the last 30 hours.

Back here in Chicago, the river we live on is at no wake because of the GIANT rain storm that went through here last night. The water level continues to rise, as our location is well downriver of the worst part of the storm (and it was pretty bad here so I can imagine what Milwaukee looks like this morning!). Anyway, it's gone up probably 2 inches in the last hour or so.

My two weeks alone with Quinn have been spent weaning the boy of pacifiers. First week was HORRIBLE. Progress is slow. I have bruises.