0900Z 13MAY24, arrival in Ålesund, Norway! We enjoyed a quick and easy passage from Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland to Ålesund, Norway. 

We arrived in the morning on a beautiful day. We completed all of our check-in business, walked around, talked to fellow sailors and ate a celebratory meal ashore. 

Passage Summary:

258 nautical miles sailed

1 day 15 hours (38.7 hours)

6.7 knots average speed over ground

8 hours of engine time

We had hoped to explore the Shetland Islands for a few more days; however, watching the weather we decided we needed to get going to Norway. It seems we were not the only ones with this idea as the port of Ålesund had a large number of arrivals throughout Monday. 

Leaving Scotland

We had a great, quick sail across. We left Lerwick on Saturday evening at 1815Z with the north going tide. It took 3 tries to move to sailing as the winds seemed to establish only to drop to less than 5 knots. By 1945Z, we were sailing a close reach on starboard tack in 15kts of breeze and clear of the land effects. By 2130Z we were seeing 20+kts and put 2 reefs in the main for the night. 

2100Z, Saturday Sunset

The night passed smoothly, with the skies never getting completely dark. Unfortunately, there were no northern lights sighted by Zephyros even though the solar storm was still supposed to be strong. 

2300Z Sky

0330Z Sky sun already rising

The morning saw the winds build a bit and we added a reef to the genoa. We were moving well with 25+/- kts and a starboard tack, beam reach. The waves built and we passed the numerous oil platforms and a big wind farm. 

Oil Platform

Wind Farm

Fast sailing

By the afternoon, we were still on a beam reach and back to a full genoa with winds around 22kts. By evening, we were still on a beam reach and shaking out a reef in the main, with winds around 18kts.

Before sunset we could see land and had limited cell connectivity with around 70nm left to get to Ålesund. Overnight we shook out the last reef in the main and did our best to keep sailing. By 0200Z, the winds were down and didn’t seem to want to return so the engine came on. 

Sunday Sunset 2330Z

2330Z view towards Norway with land in sight & cellphone service

The last 7 hours were all motoring and the seas flattened out to absolutely flat. We enjoyed the morning in sunshine and took in the Norwegian coast line as we motored along to our port of entry. 

Motor sailing, morning light & Norway welcome (0415Z)

Svinøy Lighthouse

Mountains with snow!

Flat water and beautiful weather

At 0900Z we were tied up to a finger pier in downtown Ålesund. There is another Boreal here - a 47.2 named L’elephant with an Aussie and an American on board. 

Walking around Ålesund

Skyline to the south

Harbor entry - the light building is a honeymoon suite!

Harbor scene

Harbor filling ups with new arrivals & Friday National Day Holiday

Day 10, Arrival in Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland!

0930Z 10AUG23, Day 10, Arrival in Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland! We were alongside at 0830Z and consider our passage to be 9 days and 22.5 hour as the last half hour was in the marina getting set up and parked. 

Current Position: 51 42N / 008 31W Kinsale Yacht Club Marina

22.5 hour progress: 137nm, 6.1kts avg SOG. Our fastest day!

Passage Summary

1,229 nautical miles sailed

9 days 22.5hours (238.5 hours)

5.15 knots average speed over ground

31 hours of engine time

1 fish, a small Mahi Mahi

Casualties: none! 

Our last day was our quickest sailing of the passage. We were close reaching on a starboard tack and moving along well, pointed directly at Kinsale. By 10am the winds had built enough to put a second reef in the main. 

Around lunch time we experimented with sail configurations as we expected the winds to build some more and we were wondering if we could get a better (ie comfortable and fast) setup. 

We ended up with the 2 reefs in the main and 2 in the genoa. We really didn't need to sail as fast as possible as the goal was to arrive after sunrise. 

By mid afternoon we put a 3rd reef in the main. We were starting to see higher gusts and we still expected the winds to build some more. Soon the wind dropped so we rolled out a reef from the genoa. This in turn brought more wind again and we eventually put the second reef back in the genoa. This continued for the late afternoon hours into the evening. 

We settled on a conservative configuration as the boys took their watches. They both did a great job. They adjusted course as needed to keep us pointing directly to Kinsale and watched to see if the winds would build. 

By the overnight watch it seemed the winds really weren't going to build any more and a reef came back out of the genoa. Zephyros was getting pushed around by a bit of current as we made our way along the South Eastern Irish coast. 

Just before 6:30UTC (7:30am local) we were rounding the Old Head of Kinsale which was barely visible in the fog! Good thing we waited to make landfall during the day! We were grateful that GPS and electronic charting is so good but also used the radar as we piloted our way in. 

We fell off around the corner and had a nice sail up towards the head of the river. We then turned on the engine, rolled in the sails and brought down the main. We then turned up the river and motored in to Kinsale. 

There was quite a bit of current bringing us in and we quickly moved past the two old forts that guarded the town. The fog had lifted, a little. So we could see enough to make it down the river and to the marina. We ended up alongside in a visitor berth and were very happy that the Kinsale Yacht Club was able to find space for us. 

We were warmly greeted and welcomed. Then we set to cleaning and organizing. Soon customs arrived and did their checks and inspections. Then Jon went to check in with the marina and the harbor master. 

We made appointments with the Department of Agricultural to check-in Poseidon and called immigration to see whether they needed to see us. As we are US citizens they did want to see us and stamp us in so an appointment was made to meet them at the police station that evening. 

We then welcomed Saga, catching their lines. They arrived about 2.5 hours after us and were given the berth right in front of us. 

After that it was showers and off to a lunch of fish and chips. Then the check-in appointments and a walk around town to pick up dinner and have a pint. Whew! A busy, busy day. 

(And then Friday featured a little sun so we were out exploring and this post is even later. Thanks for following along!)

Day 9, Azores to Ireland

0930Z 09AUG23, Day 9, Azores to Ireland. Another good day of sailing followed by a slow night of sailing. We are in the home stretch and the winds are picking up for Zephyros to kick up her heels and fly in.

Current Position: 50 24N / 011 20W
24 hour progress: 120nm, 5kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 1092nm, approximately 130nm to Kinsale.

We again sailed wing-on-wing throughout the day with the genoa poled out to our starboard side and the full main off to port. We made good speed with a good course.

We had a nice, relaxed day. We listened to an audiobook, looked at weather and made pizza. The downwind ride was comfortable and everyone's sea legs were well established.

We checked in with Saga a couple of times during the day. We were slowly clawing back the miles that we had given up as we both ran straight to the same point and compared mileage remaining.

Our setup was perfect this time with the main on the side it should be for the way the winds would change. As the wind moved towards the south we could keep adjusting our course to stay on rhumb line and the poled out genoa kept working.

The weather suggested we would want to bring down the pole around midnight or 1am. On Ronan's watch the wind started moving to the south and he was needing to steer around 135AWA so he woke up Megan (she was on standby watch). She watched it for a bit and decided to get Jon up at midnight. The three of us got the pole down and set up a broad reach on a starboard tack while a few dolphins chased us. Of course the winds moved back towards the west and our broad reach had us pointed a bit more easterly.

No matter. The winds were light and we were making around 4kts so it was no problem to give up a few degrees waiting for the winds to actually shift. As expected they did come around in the next hours and we sailed a comfortable broad reach in light winds for a few hours.

As the sun rose the wind continued to move around to the south bringing us to a beam reach. The course and sails were adjusted with the wind. The winds were still light but we expected that and were happy to be moving along under sail.

The winds began picking up around 7 and by 7:30am we had a reef in the main and Zephyros was gaining her stride on a close reach with fresh winds and a flat sea.

Our morning check-in with Saga showed that we had regained the lead. We are 8nm closer to Kinsale and sailing faster now. Apparently we had done well to get a bit more north as we had winds to sail overnight while they struggled to keep moving.

Now we both will work to balance our speed for the right arrival times. We are both aiming to be outside Kinsale at first light. The weather looks like we should have gusts up to 25kts and a close reach for the rest of the way. This is weather that Zephyros moves well in.

There are lots of dolphins in these waters. Delectable food must be abundant for them. We haven't caught any more fish, but we have enjoyed watching the dolphins play around the boat. Sometimes we see the large pods jumping out of the water as they race towards us from far away. Other times they just suddenly appear alongside. It's thrilling to watch them effortlessly fly through the water. Every so often one jumps out of the water while alongside as if they just want a better look at Zephyros.

Less than a day to go. We are finally doing the sailing that Zephyros likes to do. We are ready to end on a good note and excited for landfall. Fish 'n chips or something with fresh greens for lunch tomorrow?

Day 8, Azores to Ireland

0930Z 08AUG23, Day 8, Azores to Ireland. The best mileage day of the trip and we are down to 250nm to go! Looking good for a morning arrival on Thursday the 10th.

Current Position: 49 16N / 013 52W
24 hour progress: 136nm, 5.7kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 972nm, approximately 250nm to Kinsale.

We sailed wing-on-wing throughout the day with the genoa poled out to our starboard side and the main off to port with one reef in. We made good speed with an ok course. However, through the day our course gradually moved more south of rhumb line.

Saga sailed with a single poled out headsail and made a nice direct course. This kept them and their lead steady.

We enjoyed a couple of dolphin visits in the afternoon with dolphins leaping out of the water next to the bow. They are always a morale booster and never get old. They stayed with us for a bit playing joyfully in our 6.5-7kt bow wake.

Around 4pm we gybed the main across and sailed a deep broad reach on port tack with the genoa still poled out which gave us more of a direct course.

In the early evening, we analyzed weather. The winds were expected to continue to move towards the west before coming back to the SW. There was also supposed to be a bit more wind expected to the north. Therefore we decided to take down the pole and sail a broad reach overnight. We also shook out the reef. This kept our speeds up and kept everything comfortable through the night. As expected our course gradually veered a bit more north of rhumb line.

On the early morning watch turn over, with a fog bow as the sun tried to burn through the haze and fog, Jon and Megan got the pole back up and set the sails back up wing-on-wing for a direct course again. The pole and genoa are off to starboard and the full main off to port.

We gained a new sailboat on AIS, SV Swea, that showed up in the early morning hours. We have been slowly opening on them since setting up wing-on-wing and they are headed about 20 degrees further east. There was no way we could even have a chance of seeing them as visibility has been very low since fog rolled in early last night.

Our morning check-in with Saga showed that we had crossed over to the north while they enjoyed slower but direct sailing on their single poled out sail set up. They were 24nm away but only about 5nm closer to Kinsale. It seems we clawed back a few miles even if our course was less direct.

While it is fun to be comparing notes and racing, in the end we are both trying for an early morning arrival to Kinsale on Thursday so in all likelihood we will both be adjusting course and speeds to arrive at similar times. Safe arrivals for all are really the goal - though bragging rights at the dock are a fun bonus.

We are all looking forward to landfall and some Irish food. Kinsale is apparently a bit of a gastronomic destination. Daxton is excited about crossing over the shelf and through the fishing fleet as he thinks our chances to catch a fish will improve. The parents are less excited about all the fishing and shipping traffic that we will soon encounter. Life is quiet and comfortable aboard.

Day 7, Azores to Ireland

0930Z 07AUG23, Day 7, Azores to Ireland. A week at sea complete! After a slow first half of the day, Zephyros' speeds are (finally) up. It is feeling like the home stretch but there are still a few days to go.

Current Position: 47 37N / 015 59W
24 hour progress: 119nm, 5kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 836nm, approximately 380nm to Kinsale.

At the start of our day 7, we were in the lead with Saga and Take Five to either side. We were sailing, but the others were motor sailing and quickly gobbled up our small lead, then passed us by.

We then started tinkering to figure out how to get some more speed under sail. The winds were light and not expected to build much over the day, and we decided to deploy our asymmetric spinnaker. As the winds moved around and we couldn't really make the rhumb line course anyway, we decided to try wing-on-wing to get the most out of our sails with a course just east of north

Saga decided to sail as well and set up their kite too. We had hoped to converge a bit for a photo shoot, but it wasn't meant to be and they pulled ahead in the light winds. Take Five seemingly kept motor-sailing and was off the AIS fairly quickly.

It was a very pleasant afternoon that turned quite sunny and warm. Daxton was starting to go stir crazy and making us all crazy as he bounced off of the walls. We baked cookies and played a puzzle / riddle game over the radio with Saga. We could only ask yes or no questions and Daxton ended up especially frustrated (but in good humor) as everyone else slowly figured out the clues. In the end he solved it, everyone had some fun and we passed an hour and a half well entertained. It made the 3.3kt avg over the first 6 hours of the day that much more enjoyable.

In the evening we tried reefing down the main and gybing it across in front of the asymmetric to put us back to a rhumb line course. In higher winds we have been able to use this tactic to go deeper down wind without needing to fully drop our main.

We checked the weather forecasts and decided to keep the kite up past sunset. The winds were supposed to build, but were expected to still be manageable for the kite. As the winds slowly built, this all worked ok, but was a bit slower than Saga's configuration and they continued to pull ahead.

Around 11pm the winds started to build and we decided to bring down the kite. This was easily accomplished. It was Ronan's watch so he helped Jon & Megan with the task. It is really nice to have the extra hands when managing the kite, especially in the dark.

Sailing with the genoa and 4 reefs in the main and just 20kts of true wind, we just couldn't go deep downwind. It tends to work better for us in heavier winds and / or with a poled out headsail. Despite our efforts, it wasn't quite enough wind so we brought our heading up into the wind and settled for a broad reach pointed south of rhumb line. This was all a bit slower than we expected (or wanted) to be, and Saga slipped out beyond AIS range.

At 1am we shook out a couple of reefs to increase our boat speed on the broad reach. The winds were a bit variable but +/- 20kts. We wanted to go closer to rhumb line, but our night time sail setup didn't really facilitate that and slightly south of a direct course was still in-line with the weather routing.

At 8:30am with Jon and Megan turning over watch and the sun up we decided to tinker to see if we could get a better set up and improve our course and speed. We tried a couple of things but settled back into a wing-on-wing configuration. We poled out the genoa to the starboard side and set the main with 1 reef in, out on the port side. This moved our course closer to rhumb line and boosted speeds.

Our morning check-in with Saga showed they had enjoyed a great night and really pulled away at the cost of a little comfort. They were around 14nm to the NNE of us. Well done Saga & crew! So we start day 8 with a mission and a lot of work to do to catch up. They can apparently also move well deep downwind in these building winds.

The weather has gotten chilly and we are all quite happy. The afternoon yesterday was warm in the sun but overnight it really cooled off. We took advantage of being able to close our pilot house door and stayed warm inside on watches. Today is off to a chilly, gray start.

The fishing line is back in with no catches yesterday. There continues to be cargo ship traffic passing us from time to time. This morning 2 energetic dolphins leapt out of the water on their way to play by our bow for a bit.

Day 6, Azores to Ireland

0930Z 06AUG23, Day 6, Azores to Ireland. It was an unexpected day of sailing followed by a very busy night watch followed by some motoring and back to slow sailing.

Current Position: 46 29N / 018 12W
24 hour progress: 117nm, 4.9kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 717nm, approximately 490nm to Kinsale. On the engine for about 5.5 hours.

As we sailed into the start of day 6, we were soon close hauled and headed east. It was a strange sensation to be close hauled in a following sea. We kept with that tack until the winds moved east. Once we started heading ESE we tacked north, which was around 12:30.

We tightened up our sheets and went as close to the wind as we could. As the winds were still 10-15kts we found ourselves able to pinch into the wind a little extra. It costs some speed, but with the more-than-expected wind it worked out well enough. Saga tacked north shortly after us for the same reasons.

We were back to bouncy, close hauled, heeled over sailing. Soon we found gusty winds pushing our apparent wind over 20kts so we put a reef in the main. We then debated about a second reef and added that as well. Along with being more wind than we expected, the winds were quite variable.

The boys were anxiously watching our GPS display, waiting for our "miles to go" indicator to go below 560nm for the official halfway mark. However our northerly course had the miles made good clicking down very, very slowly much to their dismay.

In the early afternoon Ronan shook out the second reef. Crew training continues on Zephyros making sure that the boys know how to do more sail related tasks. It is kind of like making sure you know how to change the oil and a tire on a car when you learn to drive. You might never have to do these things yourself but it is good to know how to, if you need to. Plus it is good exercise and Jon certainly doesn't mind the option of being able to send someone else out on the deck.

We soon became curious as to what Saga was up to. We had spent the whole day about 5-6nm behind them with each of us going faster or slower from time to time. They were just under 6nm ahead and because the winds were so variable with speed we weren't sure if they were motoring or getting more wind than us. If they had less wind then we wanted to shake out the reef and if they had more we would leave it in. Therefore we made a radio call to gather intelligence from our unwitting scout. As they are our friends, they happily told us they were still sailing and under full sail. They had not reefed at all.

So, Daxton went up and shook out the last reef and we were back to full sails. From there we didn't see the apparent wind go under 15kts and it was often up at or close to 20kts. We finally reached the halfway point and had our little party with loud music and treats of M&Ms, hard candy and dried cranberries (Daxton's absolute favorite treat and often difficult to find). We followed up the party with a delicious curry for dinner and put the 1st reef back in the main in a particularly gusty section of ocean.

Soon we decided to gather more intel and again called up Saga. They said they had turned on the engine but had decided to go right back to sailing. (The winds were really that variable!) We chatted and they hadn't seen any apparent wind over 15kts the whole day where as we were seeing 20kts quite often. We are bigger and have more sail area, so this wasn't really surprising but you usually only have direct information about your own boat and not about other boats along the same passage. It was an interesting conversation.

We decided to shake the reef back out and that we would just manage any gusts by loosening the main sheet to dump air as the weather forecasts suggested the winds should be getting lighter over night. We then stayed on the radio and enjoyed another dice game, before they said goodnight to go have their special "halfway there" dinner.

During the night watches the winds became variable in direction as well as speed. We remained close hauled but as the winds were moving around to the south our course improved and varied from north to near rhumb line. On Ronan's watch he saw a new sailboat join our flotilla - Take Five, a Belgian boat that we believe we saw but didn't meet back in Ponta Delgada. We worked to gain on Saga and Take Five worked to gain on us. We wonder what day they left Ponta Delgada.

Soon after Megan started her watch things got interesting. Take Five was trying to sail rather close to us. With the variable winds Megan was busy falling off, adjusting sails, trying to keep a rhumb line course while trying not to get too close to anyone. Take Five was presumably still sailing an apparent wind direction and potentially annoyed that we were acting "erratic" while Megan was annoyed they kept closing in. Eventually we came to an unspoken understanding where they veered to the east and we veered north. We also gained some distance with good speeds in the gusts.

We found ourselves with 3 sailboats in about 3 or 4nm of each other. Then a new sailing contact appeared! A smaller sailboat, Fettler, joined in on the fun. He was headed east crossing in front of all of us such that there were now 4 sailboats within a 5nm radius in the middle of the northern Atlantic Ocean! Party crashers to the halfway party?

After things had all worked themselves out, the winds stopped gusting and started dying. Saga and Take Five seemingly turned on their engines while Fettler continued east bound. We soon followed suit with our engine on just after 3am once the winds dropped below 3kts and boat speeds below 1kt. Zephyros motors well so we moved into the lead with Saga and Take Five falling about 5nm behind as we motored direct to Kinsale.

In the morning hours the winds seemed to be becoming steady at 8-10kts and we shifted back to sailing. As it was a broad reach the winds were a bit light to move Zephyros, but we secured the engine and are back to slowly sailing in the right direction. How long will it take for Saga and Take Five to catch us?

Yesterday was mostly gray with the sun only coming out occasionally for short spells. Today is off to a similar start. The weather has cooled off. We find it quite pleasant and are in long sleeves and pants with slippers or shoes and often an extra layer at night.

The fishing line has been in but there have been no new catches. There continue to be birds—mostly sheer waters. This morning a cargo ship passed between us and Take Five, right through our 3 sailboat flotilla, passing us at about 2nm. We have visual contact with both Take Five and Saga so it doesn't currently feel very lonely on the great big ocean.

Day 5, Azores to Ireland

0930Z 05AUG23, Day 5, Azores to Ireland. We are just about halfway there! It was a slow progress day, under cloudy but sometimes sunny skies with drizzling rain overnight.

Current Position: 44 56N / 019 21W
24 hour progress: 113nm, 4.7kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 600nm, approximately 590nm to Kinsale.

We sailed wing-on-wing for a good bit of the day. Saga appeared on the AIS shortly after the log entry around 11nm behind. The winds were mostly 15kts and we did ok with the wing-on-wing setup. They only gained a few miles on us.

Just before dinner we gybed the genoa across and were sailing a broad reach on a port tack. At this point Saga was about 8nm back. They were still too far back for a radio game so we tried over text on the iridium after dinner. It mostly worked but the radio was definitely easier and more fun.

The winds kept shifting north and we found ourselves tightening the sails up and on a beam reach. Saga was starting to gain ground in lighter winds.

Then around 9:30 the winds picked up to about 20kts and Jon woke up to put in a reef. The sky was pretty dark and we suspected some rain clouds were moving in, potentially with gusty winds so we decided a night reef was a good plan. A couple hours later the winds were back to a steady 10kts but we kept the reef in. The fog and rain did show up, and the light winds became rather shifty and variable.

Our reduced sail was an opening that Saga deftly exploited. They started clicking away on the gap. By 03:30 they were passing us about 1.6nm to starboard. We then decided to shake out the night reef on our watch turnover. This allowed us to keep up when the winds picked up, but when they were lighter Saga kept expanding their lead. They are now 5.5nm ahead of us. Well done Lianne & Bernhard and well done Saga!

After a night of shifting winds and sail adjustments, the wind has continued to move around and we are working towards being close hauled. We expect the wind to die off again some time today and to be back on the engine again. This should allow us to catch back up to Saga. It's quite amazing that we have stayed so close over the first half of the passage!

We are all doing well. It was taco night last night which is always a hit. Poseidon continues to be out and about with us often stealing the watch seat in the pilot house, but failing to actually stand watch over anything other than attempted incursions onto his seat. It's an ongoing battle as he doesn't really like to share the space.

We will celebrate half way today! There will be a little party with music and treats. We are hoping for an arrival late on the 9th but if not we should (hopefully) arrive sometime on the 10th. The forecasts look like some better sailing, but only time will tell how we get on for the second half.