Arriving in the Azores!
When last heard from, we were approaching the Azores but unsure, with wind and weather, when we would arrive. The seas had been relatively calm and the winds, while helpful, were somewhat low so that it did not appear as if we would get to Porta Delga in the Azores until sometime on Saturday, 3 days later than our scheduled arrival. I called V on my satellite phone to let her know and promised to get back in touch if there was a change.
Later that Wednesday afternoon, 16 days out of Bermuda, the winds picked up, the swells grew, and while it was nothing like our first week at sea, nonetheless it was not comfortable sailing and once more we were rolling with considerable vigour. On the plus side we were able to add a couple of knots to our speed which moved our likely arrival time forward.
On Friday morning, 18 days out, we made landfall at 1030 and since our watch was on duty from noon until 1600 I knew that we would arrive sometime during our watch. As we came on watch, lots of crew looking over the side to see how close we were getting and activity increased as the ship was made ready for arrival. Then came one of the highlight moments of the trip for me. I had been on the helm for about an hour and a half as we drew closer to the harbour. The wind was shifty and still blowing with some force as we approached the harbour mouth and I expected to turn the wheel over to one of the permanent crew to land the ship. I was very surprised when Chris, our captain, joined me at the wheel and told me to steer her in.
Slightly terrifying! I had felt very confident of my ability to handle the helm and to keep the ship on a bearing but this was the first time that I was steering it like a moving vehicle surrounded by things to crash into. This was not the open sea with some forgiveness to make adjustments to keep the ship on a heading with little attention being directly paid to where the bow was pointing instead this was all about where the bow was pointing and no attention needed to be paid to the compass bearing! Because of the size of the vessel it takes time for changes in the helm to be reflected in the ship’s course, it therefore called for a very rapid mental readjustment to very new sailing conditions with no margin for error! As we got closer to our mooring, the moment for professional hands had arrived and I was very happy to surrender the helm to Chris, but as nervous-making as it was, still a moment for my internal highlight reel and a great way to end the voyage.
A little sidenote for good friends Chuck & Eileen, as we passed the harbour mouth and entered the harbour, I was very surprised to see that one of the moored ships past which we sailed was the Boreal, a little cruise vessel that the four of us, C&E and V & I had taken on an Arctic cruise north of 80º from Svalbard to Greenland and Iceland, it felt somehow fitting.
V had been watching the ship sail in, not knowing that I was on the helm, and by the time that we were tied up and tidying up the lines, she had found our mooring and was waiting to come aboard. As a measure of how weary I was feeling, while everyone had earlier assembled their belongings and were packed and ready to depart on arrival, it had not even occurred to me to pack and get ready to leave, so as V sat in the saloon and chatted with my crew mates I hurried to my cabin and with no thought of order or organization I simply stuffed all my belongings in any bag where I could find room. Nota bene: things take twice as much room when packed this way as compared to folding them and so with bags so stuffed that I could not close them and with sleeves and legs and socks dangling from every opening I stepped off Blue Clipper for the last time and headed for a rare steak, much red wine and a very long hot shower.
Next post, Reflections and Summing Up, stay tuned!