North Atlantic, NY-Azores

10/05/2014 08:46 is for me, like many others, the ultimate supplier on everything we want and need in life.  The fact that I have an office job where one of two screens constantly stood up with boat-advertisements did that I could all sail boat ads by heart.

One December day an immensely interesting boat apperared, a Baltic 37CR from  1980. Good old uncompromising quality from Finland,  equipped for the long trip. Perfect !! But it was a minor inconvenience of it all, the boat was in Panama. Anyway, this had to be examined. I picked up the phone and called the seller, on the other end answered a very pleasant Bergenser, both willing and eager to sell. The information I got out of the phone call became like fuel to the fire. It was just this extremely small issue with Panama! Reasonable people would probably have chosen a safer solution, buy a boat in the next village or something like that. But not everyone is favored with proper sanity. In my opinion this is a blemish you find frequently in sailors. It became quite a few phone calls to Bergen, and in consultation we found a solution. Seller was not quite finished with the sailing, and could maybe sail a distance, we could meet somewhere so the tranport home became a little more affordable. Hmmm .. not stupid .. New York maybe ??  An insane plan began to take shape. Seller sailing from Colon in Panama to New York, buyer (me) flies to NY in April. Good plan, both parties extremely satisfied, madness in a contract and both parties get started on their own sides without any further form of security for anything. Funding was paramount, the wife was skeptical but became bought and paid for with new sofa, -corruption at home!! People around us shook their head. Purchased boat, what, Panama ?? Well, geography wasn`t your favorite subject ?? Have a good novel you should read, -The world atlas . Since the wife had no sense for me to sail alone,  crew was required. Fortunately, there are several of these "reason dyslexics' out there who do not quite understand what they are getting into. There is a common word for such, they are called explorers. After a surprisingly short time, I had two guys that were willing to forsake a warm an safe home and tempt a cold, wet and miserable existance in the north Atlantic. So began a long waiting time from July to April, spended with packing, planning and reading of "storm tactics."  I ordered new genoa with SuperSailmakers in Florida, wrote lengthy shopping lists since I would provide what was beneficial to buy in the US when I was there. Then finally came the day of departure, with a large bag and a sail bag with extra storm sail trooped I up at the airport. Wifey remained dry until I went in the security check, then came crying, snot and tears. But I didn`t see that as i had to buy tobacco.
Fly one does only when one must, because all airplanes have a black hole installed onboard. (Time passes slower near a black hole, event horizon etc) Often hidden in a black box. The purpose of this is to make the time to go slowly on board, so it will be extra uncomfortable to travel by plane. A flight hour equivalent of four normal hours. This is a well-guarded secret and consequently this hysteria find the aforementioned black box after the plane crash. Poor those who spend much of their lives travveling with plane. So after four hundred and forty-two hours of flight from Trondheim via Island to NY I was finally arrived.

The ship was in the North cove marina, smack in the middle of Mathattan. 1250 NOK day is a stiff price for mooring, but compared to the hotel is not so bad. The crew had nevertheless agreed to share port fees with me so it became affordable to stay there a few days. For the first time I saw "Værbitt" and met two very pleasant owners who had done their utmost to get the ship shipshape. We went through the whole boat from bilges to masthead light, things looked good. I transferred money and then we drank beer. Both I and the seller was incredibly relieved, and purely out pleased that we had carried off with something thatthe man in the street wouldnt dare. Sometimes it pays to be less gifted regarded to common sense.

Hectic days in NY, my crew came by a few days. Magnus, a former work colleague and Lars, a buddy from college years. New 135% genoa diaper delivered, water maker, clothing, food, AIS, diesel cans ol. A certain holder of West Marine was fit till measured when I came on  Monday. But on Friday he stood ready in the door and shook hands when I came in. Well, after having shopped there all week as visa card caught fire in the payment terminal. Anyway, this was the equipment we needed before crossing, too late to act when you are out. Tips For those of you who at one time or another to act 15 diesel cans and take taxi back to the boat in Rush in NY; Take taxi to the store to let the taxi wait. Do not stand on the street with 15 cans to scream on a taxi when you cry for a while. I had to.

A lot to drink and eat in NY, always a dehli or beerhall nearby. On one occasion we came ambling into a beerhall having robbed West Marine once again. Had browse an entire bag full of rope I threw down by the table. A waitress in a lederhosen costume came to take the orders when she saw the bag full of rope, after which she exclaimed - "my god, what are you boys up to ??".

We moved over to the other side of the Hudson River eventually, to Staten Island. Much nicer and cheaper here. Here was a small community of people who lived in their boats. We got to know with Mike eventually, he had a car and drove us around. Really okay with that kind of friendly natives. Enjoyable days with pleasant company but much work with supplies that were aboard. Here did Lars and Magnus lot of heavy lifting to get food and supplies on board. It is not easy to calculate exactly how much food is needed. So we made it easy, packed it full!! I installed the watermaker meanwhile.  Food, water, boat, sail, dense toilet Repair, tens of thousands other big and small things, -Check at all. Thus only one remaining thing, fill diesel. We went to the diesel docking and lined up our 18 fuel cans. The advantage of having water maker is that we only need to have enough drinking water, tank water, we can make along the way. This way we have more room for fuel. That, in turn again provides propulsion, piping and flow further be used to create water.

Before we it know it, a journalist comes by. He saw the number of dieselcans, and suspeced that we were going for a long trip. Interview no problem, but also he had a wish to follow us out and take pictures. He thought it was going to look good with the boat fully sailed with NY in the background. Sure he's on to something there, I as skipper thought about the New unknown boat, fresh crews and world's busiest port. We were supposed to get out in the open sea before we set sails, not in the Hudson River. But a ned incident of madness came to life: yeah it should go  justfine. We went clear of all traffic, 8kn and fine wind. Occasionally a little sweaty skipper, but it was worth it when we got the pictures.

 The tension on board is sky high, we are finally out and the shifts are being set; four hours on, eight off. Long island disappears out of sight. When will we see next landfall, Hebrides Scotland? Well time will tell. We need halfway around 1000nm at 90 degrees before we can break the Northeast, this in order to get well clear of the waters south of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland with cold ocean currents meet golfstreem providing a lot of heavy weather, ice and fog. Another reason for course selection is that we can continue straight ahead to the Azores (2000nm) if we are out of time and speed.

There are two days of pleasant conditions, then the meteorolopgist from the new couch at home reports that a storm is approaching. We just have to make clear storm sails, drogue and fix everything on deck. Everything below deck is cleaned and stored away. Nothing gets to be loose.  We eat well and rest what we can before showtime. The wind is blowing, and worse then. Storm jib is up in good time, the mainsail is furled and packed on the boom. We sail away with good speed at first, but as the wind gets the sea worked up, it gets worse. When the anemometer showed 72kn winds on stable reading and occasionally spinned out of its scale, it all became a little unpleasant. The ocean went into a whole new league, will not try to estimate some wave height since I think this is very difficult when you see the sea over the masthead traveling downhill surf. Two-hour guard was set, one hour on, then an hour on the deed and moral support to the helmsman. So far so well and we put more and more new speed records, -so long as there was daylight. What if the darkness comes? Skipper (I) proposed to shorten the time on duty for one hour. I just needed some food first. Went down to get some oatmeal, I opened the box, and the the next moment I was lying on my back over the chart table with oatmeal box upside down over my head. Oatmeal everywhere !! Do not eat oatmeal in storm over 55kn. Wet, tired, hungry and miserable after 14 hours in the storm which was now a full-grown hurricane I got enough. "We hive to dammit!" The last of the daylight went to get up a mainsail to the third reef in, we turned into the wind and set the stormsail. The boat lay flat on the wind with the wind to wave "beam two."  Not good, this boat is obviously best hove to with just mainsail. But we still lacked a few degrees, so we sat the driftanchor in the bow. Now it began to look like something, we got a good angle and a nice slipstream for the entire hull length. It`s a crafty thing to heave to, waves broke fore and aft but not on the slip stream! We turned in and battened down the hatches and made an effort to eat, drink and rest. Not so easy when we felt like we were living in a roller coaster. It was mostly just to hold on. No one said anything, each one of us thought enough about the situations potential outcomes. A somewhat pressed mood prevailed while Hurricane played orchestra on the rig and it trickled water into the strangest places, so everything onboard gradually became more and more wet. Ongoing for 48 hours, interrupted only by clinging firmly in map table to check wind instrument and barometer, hoping that the storm was going to give up. The storm finally came to rest,  and we woke up to old sea and wiggle. The drift anchor had been torn off and became replaced with a bucket with steel handle which we cut a hole in the bottom of.

We had 24hrs with normal conditions before the well known bad weather decided to turn around and come back. It walked all over us once more, It´s always nice to meet an old friend, but this one we din´t want to come visit. But that´s what we got. Of course, it had already used it´s youthful force to make our lives miserable. But when it discovered that there was no sailboat left to play rubberduck with, it found out that it had to come back for another turn. Well, this time it was "only" 50 knts on the detour. It has blown out four sailshackles in the top, and we didn´t have any time to fix it. As a result, the captain got to take a ride on the boom to make new ones in the storm, We could hive to, threw out the bukcet as a driftanchor, and enjoyed another 36 hrs of rubberducking again. I can´t remember to much from these hours, other than that the bucket worked excellent.

Eventually we realized that we had to give up plan A that was Norway via Scotland. From the meteorologist in the new couch we got the weather-report;  Whatever you do, do not sail north. We implemented plan B, kept heading straight east towards the Azores.
Well worth mentioning during these days is the food-situation. The food was bought with care, and should cover most of the situations. Lots of good food which unfortunately had to be cooked, we had no chance to get anything cooked. Even boiling water was a challenge with overhanging risk of burns. In addition, we had a lot of canned food. Unfortunately, this was beans in various occult sauces of unknown origin. Beans is not tempting in the daily life, even less when you live like a pair of socks in the dryer, only except that socks are pleased to be dry, while we became more and more wet. Finally the hunger reflex stoppd to bother us and we were just happy with it, except that we were a little bit listless. So going to the bathroom felt like a fmarathon and a biscuit filled as well as a big burger.
The worst part was when we got an injured crewmember, extremely worst possible situation for a skipper, absolute nightmare !!. During handling of storm jib. Can not remember if the sail was going up or down. One good reason was that the wind blew som much that the compass lost contact with the magnetic north pole. We had the wind in the downwind and third reef in the mainsail. I stood at the helm while Lars and Magnus was kneeling far below the boom and handled fall and joints. When Magnus stretched forth a hand to pick up a glove struck the boom. I screamed BOM of my voice, but too late. Magnus got a full blown stroke of the block at the bottom of the main sheet and immediately became pale and unwell. We got laid captaincy bi in a momentum and the patient was below deck. A bone fracture in the middle of the north Atlantic is not ta joke. So we all, especially Magnus, was ta bit worried. Having examined the hand we were able to determine with relief that all the bones were intact. Got the hand cooled dowm and compressive bandages on. A crew of three are quite vulnerable to injury and illness. Fortunately Magnus quickly recovered after a few days. Well, at least until Popeye lost balance and with an unfortunate positioned foot came accidentally stepping on your coffee cup to Magnus as he held with the bad hand .. Skipper takes self-criticism ...
10 days with storm for dinner each day is doing something special with both boat and crew. Everything was wet both below and above deck. Where there wasn´t wet from before, we hang up wet clothes.  Good weather finally arrived, and we could dry clothes on the deck as well. The ship looked like a full-rigger who sailed with all articles of the drought hanging in everyone wins and stays. Fantastic to feel some heat again. Life began to feel livable again. When Lars got the computer fixed so we could watch movies, the comfort factor was rising further.  Yet we were not halfway, but now we could log 150nm day, so it went ahead. Cooking and eating became easier, we almost got a little spoiled. Finally we were able to sail on a real show, not only fitghting around in stormy weather.
 From home, we got news that Petter Northug had been drinking and driving. Most boring news ever, so we sat down to come up on our own news instead. While we sat there to drink a beer in the cockpit, I heard Lars swearing before he went off the gas to the engine. As I looked forward I saw the back of a whale diving down right starboard bow on a straight collision course. Damn, just four meters away, it was just to hold on when the keel clasps in the back killer rock. In the worst case, it takes the helm!! But relief, we saw the whale coming up behind the boat while it blew angry that we did not hold the right of way for starboard. We also saw a great white, a big bastard! Otherwise there were dolphins visiting both early and late.
Finally, after 20 days we saw Flores emerge over the horizon. Lars had the honor to get the first sight of land. Magnus sent immediately twitter message: Land Fucking O'hoi !! Popeye ordered landfall drink to all ,and the weel-beeing onboard rose to the same height as when we shoved off three weeks ago.
As long as it lasted...Two hours again into the harbor, there was a strong head wind. We went for the engine and the speed went from 5,5kn to 1,5kn, so after two hours it was still two hours left. Ironic that we had sailed 2000nm without turning a single blow, and finally close to the harbour, we had to cross all the way. Well,we just had jo get it together and begin to cross into 35kn breeze. So;dead engine ... first engineer Lars swung around and got blown out of the filter and fired up the engine. Maybe the dieseltank is empty?? We should fill. But for those of you who have not tried diesel filling out on the row in strong sea... not easy. Lars towed pot while Magnus was le-wall and kept the lid of the fuel tank. I turned the ship around so we got downwind to get captaincy quieter. Fuel in place, now we gave gas for motor and sail into the harbor. As we rounded the first breakwater the engine died -again ... Lars spit and roar oaths and curses as he disappeared into the engine compartment. I and Magnus knocked out of the harbor while we watched the sea spray from the tip, black and bloody lava rock beat high inshore. Lars did start the engine in record time and we turned in for a second attempt. It all felt something like a tragic comedy. Now I do not know which god the ancient Greeks prayed to regarding engine trouble, but I swore a certain ye at King Neptune and Mr. Rudolf Diesel (diesel engine father). Here we crossed the North Atlantic in the worst possible conditions, and we can´t fucking come into the harbor which is 50 meters away. We hit and got us on course again, aim well and gave full throttle. As we rounded the first breakwater, we met a stone wall agan. An inner breakwater, it is f .. not on the map and in wind and seaspray it was impossible to see any opening. But we have a radar, after a quick consultation with radar we found an virginal opening and slipped back. We added the first and best brew and made permanent mooring in a fatherly speed. Lars and Magnus run ashore to know the land sickness, and kissed the ground. I went down and opened a bottle, felt no urge to go ashore yet. After a short while we was cheering together in the lounge.
In hindsight I can say that we sailed a bit early in the season, and got to know the consequences of it. In defense I can say that the departure time from New York was linked to when one should get out of the caribbean before hurricane season starts. I went down 7 kg in weight. Magnus 6 kg. Lars does not know, he never cares about the weight, but he could tighten a notch on the belt for pants to hang in place. Despite all the ship is still floating, mast stands and crew are still buddies. So I can not say other than that we did a good job after all.
- Captain Halvard-
(Photos in the photo gallery below)

S/Y Wilhelm

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