Day 18, arrival in Horta, Faial, Azores!

1500Z 14JUN23, Day 18, arrival in Horta, Faial, Azores! We were anchor down at 1500Z which is also 1500 local, just shy of a full 18 day passage. We inflated the dinghy, got checked in and re-anchored a bit forward in the port. Then we enjoyed taco night, a bottle of cava 🥂and collapsed into bed. 

Current Position: 38 32N / 028 37W anchored in Horta, Faial, Azores

22.5 hour progress: 148nm, 6.6kts avg SOG. Our fastest day!

Passage Summary

2,334 nautical miles sailed

17 days 23 hours (431 hours)

5.42 knots average speed over ground

41 hours of engine time

0 fish 

Casualties: sail bag lazy jack haul line (port side), batten issues, blinking AIS display

The winds had filled in to the expected 20-25kts and Zephyros galloped to the port in Horta with our best average speed of the passage but not quite a 24 hour run. 

We sailed a broad reach on starboard tack for the remaining 145nm almost entirely on rhumb line. We were gradually able to turn into the wind giving us a cleaner broad reach and better and better speeds. 

In the morning we added a reef to the main as our speeds were up and the seas were also coming up as the ocean floor became shallower. It was hazy and rainy as we approached Horta. 

The rain didn't last - thankfully. It did look like we might have pouring rain from the forecasts for our arrival. The haze did last. We couldn't see land until about 5 or so miles away! It made landfall and landfall pictures a bit mysterious. 

We sailed most of the way into the harbor. As we turned the SE corner of the island, we first furled in the genoa and sailed the main deep downwind. Then we gybed the main across. Finally we turned on the engine to drop the main, pass through the harbor entrance and find a place to anchor. We made it!

Astreos went to Flores. Emily Morgan beat us in and is anchored in Horta. We arrived before Saba—who was our only declared on passage challenger.

Paikea is due in tomorrow but is likely to run out of wind today or tomorrow. Apparently our rather generous full week handicap was more than sufficient to get us the earlier arrival. We are excited to welcome them to Horta and look forward to exploring with them!

We are also looking forward to seeing our friends on Puff who should be heading back to Horta (they are on Sao Jorge currently) this weekend. A new place, with great friends to hang out and explore with—we are happy to be here!

We will move posts back to Facebook and Instagram for our time in the Azores. We will be back with log posts for our onward passage to northern high latitudes. 

Thank you for following along!

Day 17, St Martin to the Azores

1600Z 13JUN23, Day 17, St Martin to the Azores. We are getting close now! We are hoping for an arrival before sunset tomorrow. The winds have come back but our 24 hour progress was up and down. In the end, we salvaged an average mileage day out of the conditions.

Current Position: 37 57N / 031 35W
24 hour progress: 128nm, 5.3kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 2,186nm, approximately 145nm to Horta.

Yesterday the weather remained beautiful. The night was star-filled and chilly. Today has been a bit hazy at times, but sunny and very pleasant. We have had some really nice weather for the trip with not a lot rain—of course that means the boat will need a good wash down at some point to remove all the accumulated salt.

The winds yesterday were a bit disappointing. We weren't sailing very well and the winds were less than we expected based on the forecasts. This means the estimated arrival time was creeping later and later. The excitement and anticipation of making landfall was being pushed back with this delay. It is a bit of a let down and morale crusher if you fixate on it; but that's how it goes with sailing. You do what you can with what you get.

We continued sailing with the poled out genoa and wing on wing configuration. It was doing ok for us in the lighter than forecasted winds.

Before the overnight watch cycle began, we discussed that Flores no longer seemed possible, at least not with an arrival before sunset. With the forecasted wind direction it seemed to make the most sense to continue on the wing on wing set up and see how we did overnight while continuing to hedge our bets between the two options.

However, our course got worse and worse. We decided to gybe the main across. We sailed a starboard tack with full main and the poled out genoa. This was a bit slow but allowed us a direct to Horta course and to stay deep downwind.

While gybing the main across, Ronan spotted a sailboat on AIS. They were more or less on our course about 8nm behind us. They were going a bit faster than us and we expected them to pass us eventually. Around 0330 UTC they passed about 1nm to our starboard. They are a 55ft sailboat (according to AIS) and were clearly faster than us. (It is always a bit sad to be passed—another morale hit.) We did our best to keep up with them, but they are no longer on our AIS.

We continued to be frustrated by the slower than expected winds and boat speeds. Daylight would mean time to tweak sail configurations and see if we could improve speeds and our corresponding ETA.

After sunrise the winds built up to what we had expected them to be the whole rest of our trip - 15-25kts, rather than the 12-15kts of yesterday. So we kept sailing what we had up as a little more morning sleep was logged.

Once the crew was up we were pretty close to a broad reach. We secured the pole and have been sailing full sails, on a deep broad reach with a good course to Horta. We are hoping the wind will turn a bit to the south to give us a cleaner (better wind through the sails) broad reach. That should increase our speed a little as well.

We decided to keep heading for Horta. It just never looked like we could make Flores before sunset today and we want to be in Horta when Paikea arrives. They are putting impressive miles under their keels and should arrive on Friday—a 13 day passage from St Martin!

In other news, dolphins came to visit. They surfed around the boat for about 5 minutes. Went away for 10-15 minutes and came back for another 5 minutes. They always brighten the mood. Watching them play never gets old.

The fishing line is back in, but still no fish for us. Probably too many dolphins around. The occasional bird is seen, but we haven't seen the numbers build yet as one usually does during the approach to land.

Day 16, St Martin to the Azores

1600Z 12JUN23, Day 16, St Martin to the Azores. We are back to sunny skies. Our winds are now less than expected and our course and speed are suffering. But the sailing is easy and the temperatures are pleasant.

Current Position: 37 27N / 034 10W
24 hour progress: 139nm, 5.8kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 2,058nm, approximately 270nm to Horta or 180nm to Flores.

Yesterday remained dreary, overcast and gray. We played with the radar as we had such limited visibility and good amounts of power.

Our AIS transmitter display started blinking which gave us a good bit of concern. This is how we see other boats and they see us from distances beyond visual range. We have a secondary receiver, but that doesn't let others see us. A reboot was tried. A rest period was tried. Neither of those worked. Then the line to the GPS antenna and the antenna connections were checked. A loose connection was found and tightened. So far, so good.

We continued sailing yesterday with strong winds. To stay on rhumb line we turned deeper down wind, which meant putting a 4th reef in the main for clear air in the headsail. That worked well with the 25+kt winds.

By midnight the winds were dropping (earlier than expected) and our course was moving south of direct. We gybed the boat and sailed a deep broad reach as a course north of rhumb line was preferable. Our course was no longer a nice direct line unfortunately.

By the early morning (3am) watch turnover we were ready to shake out two reefs from the main. Things were slow and a bit rolly. Things were more comfortable with more sail up and more speed on the broad reach.

In the dark, early morning hours a small vessel passed just over 1nm away. They were not broadcasting on AIS and seemed to be going south / southwest. Their radar return was quite weak, but they were lit. We passed quietly in the night. Seemed a bit strange to see someone sailing that direction at this time of year.

After sunrise we slowly shook out the last two reefs as the winds settled at around 17kts. This is too light for us to go deep downwind with a heavily reefed main. So it became time to tinker to see what configuration we could do to make a better course for the Azores.

We settled on a wing on wing setup. The genoa is poled out to the port side and the full main is set with a preventer on the starboard side. The centerboard is up and both dagger boards are down. This is giving us a good course to Flores and we are now debating if we want to make landfall in Flores rather than Horta.

The fishing line is back in. The weather is beautiful and we are dreaming of shore things - walks, fresh salads, food at a restaurant and a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

Day 15, St Martin to the Azores

1600Z 11JUN23, Day 15, St Martin to the Azores. Today is dreary, rainy and chilly. We are back in the winds now and making great progress in the right direction.

Current Position: 36 02N / 036 16W
24 hour progress: 151nm, 6.3kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 1,919nm, approximately 395nm to the Azores.

Soon after yesterday's log entry the winds filled in a little and they have gradually picked up from there. We started off sailing a reach under full sail in about 10kts of breeze. By Daxton's watch the winds were around 15kts and we were still on a beam reach (starboard tack).

At Ronan's watch turnover winds were gusting to 20kts and it was time for a reef in the main. Jon went up to the mast to reef and the port side lazy jacks gave out dropping the sail bag on top of him.

These things nearly always happen at night! It wasn't a huge deal as this has happened before. The one bit of line that isn't dyneema in the system suffers from both UV damage and chaffe from the sail. They just fail every so often. They aren't critical, but they make handling the sail when reefed much easier. The quick fix is to use the topping lift line to lift the dyneema lower pieces of the lazy jack until we can go up the mast and retrieve the broken line.

It was all sorted fairly easily. It just took a little bit of time in the dark and slowed the setting of the reef. The line that broke will need to be retrieved and reset; however, it has wrapped itself out of the way at the mast below the first spreader so it will probably wait until Horta to be corrected unless there is a calm opportunity before then. We will keep an eye on it and can deal with it, if it decides to get in the way or be a problem.

The clouds that had started to cover the sky yesterday afternoon continued to roll in. The night was cloudy, chilly and dark with 15-20kts of wind. We were able to move the apparent wind aft of the beam giving us a deeper beam reach while continuing to point directly to Horta.

As the winds were expected to build before sunrise, during the early morning watch turnover we put a second reef in the main. The winds really didn't build until after sunrise so it was probably added a bit early. No matter, we kept a good speed and direct course.

The sun rose, but the day is gray, dreary, rainy and cool. The winds built to the 20-25kts range and we continued sailing a deep reach. Speedily and on rhumb line.

As the morning rolled on, we began surfing a bit sideways and turning into the wind. As we seemed over powered a third reef went into the main. Winds were now a steady 25kts gusting to 30 with the seas building.

We are now on a broad reach to make rhumb line which is more comfortable. The waves are more following now. We are occasionally getting speeds of 8-9kts surfing the waves. It's a sporty afternoon and Zephyros is happily plowing away.

We expect the winds to stay up until the early morning hours. Then we should have a comfortable 20kts more or less the rest of the way in. At least that's what the weather forecasts suggest. Actual results may vary.

We are excited to be closing in on landfall. As the sailing is sporty today the fishing line is not out. We are still seeing shearwaters and expect that we might start to see other birds as we are getting close to the Azores.

Day 14, St Martin to the Azores

1600Z 10JUN23, Day 14, St Martin to the Azores. Two weeks at sea complete! We were on the engine to cross a dead air zone, but are back to sailing under sunny skies and high clouds.

Current Position: 34 51N / 038 59W
24 hour progress: 138nm, 5.75kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 1,768nm, approximately 545nm to the Azores. 14 hours of engine time.

We continued sailing well yesterday afternoon. After sunset we had some rain cells and put 2 reefs in the main. Those reefs were soon shaken back out as the wind began to disappear, as the forecasts suggested they would.

As the wind died our course went a bit wonky. As we knew the engine was going to come on anyway, we gave up and just after midnight UTC, on went the engine. We could see occasional AIS hits on Saba and Astreos. They seemed to stick with it a bit longer. But then it looked like Saba gave up and turned their engine on as well. We lost AIS contact with Astreos while they were still pointed southeast and hanging with it. However satellite derived AIS data shows them both a bit behind us, on parallel courses to either side making 4.5kts where there was not even 4.5kts of wind. They both seem to be on their engines. Undoubtedly they too will be back to sailing soon, if not already, and the race will again be on.

With the engine on we made lots of water and used lots of hot water. We cleaned ourselves, the dishes, the boat. We've been busy with chores in the sailing down time. We also advanced the ship's clock by an hour. 1 more hour to go as the Azores is on UTC this time of year.

With as much chores done as we felt like doing and 8kts of wind we decided to see if we could sail. It is slow but we are moving along and we don't miss the engine noise. We are hopeful that the steady wind will return soon as the low catches us up. We may just have to be a little patient.

The glassy seas with no winds this morning were very interesting. While the surface looked smooth as an oil slick, there was still a significant swell running. Also notably, there were so many Portuguese Man o' War (they are in today's photo, but likely hard to impossible to see with the iridium low resolution photo)! It certainly didn't make a swim appealing to anyone despite the promise of a warm shower after.

We have had two visits from dolphins in the last day. They don't stay long but they certainly brighten the mood. Still seeing birds. Still haven't caught a fish.

Day 13, St Martin to the Azores

1600Z 09JUN23, Day 13, St Martin to the Azores. Another sunny day in cool weather with good speed in the right direction. A second day over 150nm and our best mileage day of the passage.

Current Position: 33 49N / 041 25W
24 hour progress: 153nm, 6.4kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 1,630nm, approximately 685nm to the Azores.

The past 24 hours have been hard sailing in 15- 20kt winds. Yesterday we continued sailing a close reach with one reef in the main until dinner time. Then we put a second reef in the main to ease the heel for Megan to cook.

Just after sunset we had some rain cells and added the 3rd reef to the main and one to the genoa. This slows us down a bit for night, makes any gusts manageable and generally makes everything a bit more comfortable for everyone.

The winds stayed pretty constant and there were only a few night time rain cells. We went back to a full genoa to keep our speed up. The stars were beautiful, the bio-luminescence continued to impress and the moon shown brightly, once it rose.

We had another sailboat on the AIS, Astreos. They only ever got as close as 5 miles so we never saw them and didn't talk to them. They were sailing a bit faster and a little less direct. Even so they passed 6 miles in front of us.

On the early morning watch turnover we shook out a reef and would occasionally still see hits on Astreos. Their transmissions seem to disappear from our AIS around the 6-7nm mark.

After sunrise we shook out the rest of the main and have been hauling along on a close reach under full sails. The winds have been a little shifty and we have found ourselves constantly adjusting to maintain our rhumb line course. We again started seeing Astreos on the AIS in the morning, but we expect they also took out night reefs and got back to being faster than us. We still receive the occasional AIS hit on them as we try to keep pace.

The temperature has definitely dropped. It is now quite pleasant, even a little chilly at night in the breeze. It continues to stay warm inside Zephyros. We are still just sleeping under sheets. Megan tried a blanket last night but it was a bit too warm still.

We expect the wind to run out in the next 24 hours. The bottom of the low we are currently sailing will outrun us. We will then need to wait for the next low to catch us. We expect that will entail motoring once the wind dies until it picks back up again. But we will see what we get. We then expect to ride the bottom of that new system all the way to Horta.

The fishing line is back in; again. Daxton insists on keeping the same lure and refuses to try a different one. This lure did get a strike back near Anguilla so he believes it should work if there are any fish. Oh well, it gives him something to do anyway. We continue to see birds - shearwaters and a tern over the last day.

Day 12, St Martin to the Azores

1600Z 08JUN23, Day 12, St Martin to the Azores. We are ticking away the miles and moving well. Each of the crew is starting to make projections on when we might reach the Azores, but there is still a bit of sailing left to do!

Current Position: 32 33N / 044 03W
24 hour progress: 145nm, 6kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 1,477nm, approximately 835nm to the Azores.

The past 24 hours have been busy with sail configuration changes and decent winds. At the end of the last log we were wing on wing using both headsails. The wind continued to turn north so we pulled in the staysail and sailed deep downwind on the port tack.

Soon we were close enough to a broad reach that we shook out 2 reefs from the main and sailed that configuration for awhile in 15-20kt winds. As winds were expected to lighten over night we moved to one reef in the main as we continued to gradually move towards a reach.

The winds did not lighten and they kept moving north which meant forward of the beam for us to keep a rhumb line course. At first, the thought was that it was just storm cells so the genoa got a reef. But when the winds were actually building and now 20-25 kts, the 2nd reef went back into the main.

We kept turning higher and higher. Another reef went into the main, then another in the genoa. It was a busy night.

Saba appeared on our AIS again. About 8nm ahead of us and crossing our track. They are definitely sailing harder but not necessarily smarter (at least that is the story we are telling ourselves). We are quite sure they will beat us to Horta, but we get the satisfaction of having a better course while they fly along with more sail up and crisscrossing rhumb line.

The moon rose late and hid behind clouds. It was a dark night with good bio-luminescence. Rain cells passed and the winds gusted. With 3 reefs in the main, the gusts were easily handled with reefs in and out of the genoa as we continued sailing with the wind shifting further forward to a close reach.

Around sunrise, the winds actually began to lighten back to the 15-20kt range. We gradually came back to full genoa and as the crew on the boat awakened, we shook reefs out of the main as well

We are punching along on a close reach with 1 reef left in the main. We have been able to keep a pretty direct course to Horta. The ship's clock was rolled forward another hour yesterday. Two more time changes to go.

The fishing line is back in; again. Still no fish though today there is less sargassum to clear from the line. We had dolphin visitors this morning and a bunch of birds. We had been calling them petrels but we now think they are greater shearwaters—at least the ones we are seeing now. Further research and looking at birds in the Merlin Bird ID app have made us reconsider our initial call.

This morning there was a flock of shearwaters that took interest in us. Daxton was bargaining with them not to take the fishing lure. There were around 10 or so that would come by, land next to the boat and look underwater checking for fish under Zephyros. They would also stop near the fishing lure and put their heads in. Thankfully they have good eyesight and aren't easily fooled by fishing lures! They were quite comical. A bird would land and immediately look in the water. The lure would be pulled away by the boat. The shearwater would paddle/fly forward and get another look then decide it wasn't worth further pursuing. Then a new bird would land and go through the same process. After a little while they deemed us boring and continued on.

Other updates from onboard: Megan's basil has all died. Passages are always hard on Basil. The aloe plant has taken 2 tumbles but seems to be coping alright so far. Sourdough bread is back to working well again, with nearly daily loaves provided to the hungry crew.

Day 11, St Martin to the Azores

1600Z 07JUN23, Day 11, St Martin to the Azores. Yesterday afternoon was sunny with some high cloud cover. Over night was mostly the same then some rain in the early morning hours. This morning is hazy but sunny.

Current Position: 31 29N / 046 34W
24 hour progress: 106nm, 4.4kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 1,332nm, approximately 980nm to the Azores.

The light winds continued yesterday and we did easy, slow miles on the asymmetric spinnaker. We enjoyed a sunny and calm afternoon. Everyone got to rest a bit and did their own thing - napping, reading and listening to music. Megan made a favorite meal for dinner.

At sunset we pulled in the asymmetric as the winds could build overnight according to the forecasts. We crept along and turned into the wind a bit to keep sailing. This pushed us a bit south of rhumb line.

In the early morning watch turnover we shook out reefs, leaving one reef in the main and went for a broad reach and a course south of rhumb line. While the course wasn't great, the speeds were better.

A few storm cells passed over and we had some rain and gusty weather. Then they moved on again. We adjusted the genoa for the gusts - reefing in and then going back to full genoa after the cells passed.

The wind angle is a bit too far behind us to get the most out of the sails and make a good course to Horta. That means tinkering with points of sail. For most of the night we hadn't really had enough wind to sail efficiently deep downwind, but with the morning came just a little more wind. After Megan had a morning nap, we started tinkering.

Our broad reach was now taking us due east so we dropped the main to the 4th reef so that we could go deeper downwind. That still didn't get us to rhumb line course so we decided to gybe. We gybed but that had us going further north than desired. More tinkering needed. We rolled out the staysail to the upwind side, held it out to port and turned deeper downwind with the headsails flying wing-on-wing. Ahhh, now we have ok speed and a great course!

In all the tinkering a sailboat showed up on our AIS about 8nm away. SV Saba was closing in on us. They are going faster; we have a better heading. They look like they are working harder for the miles made good at the moment. Just after we passed (inside of 1nm. Can you see them under the twin headsails in the low resolution photo?), we chatted briefly learning they were French and sailing from Marie Galante island in Guadeloupe. They are a crew of four adults and a 15 year old teenage boy. Hopefully we will get to say hello to them in Horta. If there is more than one boat, it is a race.

We expect the wind to keep moving north today and to be in the 20-25kt range. We are hoping for a better mileage day with a direct course.

The fishing line is back in; still no fish. The occasional petrel still flies by. The days pass and we get closer.

Day 10, St Martin to the Azores

1600Z 06JUN23, Day 10, St Martin to the Azores. About three hours ago we hit the halfway mark on the rhumb line path. Yay halfway! We are creeping along, flying the kite in 10kts of wind, making 3-4kts straight to the Azores. It's not fast but it is in the right direction.

Current Position: 30 57N / 048 29W
24 hour progress: 109nm, 4.5kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 1,226nm, approximately 1080nm to the Azores.
At the halfway point we had sailed 1,215nm in just under 10 days (9.875 days, 5.1kts avg SOG). Let's see if we do the second half more direct and faster!

Yesterday was a pleasant day as the sun was out, the seas calmed and we had enough wind to move well. This all added up to a chance to do boat projects.

We reefed the main and Jon started working on a batten issue that we noticed on this passage. The main sail has 5 battens to help give the sail a good camber and shape. Each batten has a receptacle that goes on the track for the sail to raise up the mast. Well 3 of our 5 battens are getting worn, splintering and now have a strange alignment with their receptacles and the mast.

After an email consult with our friends on Paikea (also on this passage and racing us down after our week head start) to discuss thoughts and possible solutions, Jon began work to MacGuyver up a repair. This consisted of pulling out random bits of stuff that we collect for these impromptu repairs at sea. Jon and Daxton had found a piece of pvc pipe / conduit that was a small size out on a walk one day that they decided might someday be useful. So when digging in our trunk to see what options we had, Jon pulled out wood dowels that are around the size of the fiberglass battens (rod shaped in our sail) and also saw this conduit and pulled that out as well. Today was the day these bits would be useful!

The bottom 2 battens are now too short - likely they always were a bit short and their pockets have probably also stretched. So the repair process ended up being building a lengthening piece out of the conduit and a plug with the dowel. The conduit was used as a joint to join the batten and the plug. All of that was shrink wrapped and then heavily taped together. When that was added Jon swapped the batten end for end and used the undamaged end of the batten in the receptacle at the mast.

The first batten took quite awhile to figure out what the best band-aid fix would be and work out the assembly sizing. There was a lengthy batten protruding across the cockpit and over the water at varying angles with the project end in the cockpit or pulled into the pilot house. There were also occasional rain showers to avoid and that impacted the work. Once we had a fix for the first batten we reefed down to get to the next problem batten and implemented the same fix. That one went fast. We then put the main back up to the 1st reef and it was dinner time—duck breasts and green beans all around.

Daxton reefed the main to the 2nd reef on his watch as there were some very dark storm clouds before sunset. The reef slowed us down enough for the cell to pass ahead and then he shook it back out. We left 1 reef in for the night.

Winds were light over night and the moon was bright. We saw some great bioluminescence in the water before the moonrise. The winds and seas calmed and our speeds began to slow as the night went on. We sailed a reach and adjusted course closer to the wind to keep Nike (our autopilot) happy and sailing without needing to hand steer.

After sunrise the main was hoisted back to full and Jon discovered an issue with the genoa furler. The three pin screws that secure the drum to the foil had fallen out and the foil had slid a few inches down the forestay. Lucky for us 2 of the rather unique screws were recovered from the bow spirit and we had bought extras when this problem occurred early on with the furler. So the morning project was getting the furler fixed. We got that sorted and then decided to put up the asymmetric spinnaker as winds were 8-10kts and sailing is better than motoring—plus sailing under the colorful kite always feels cheerful.

After launching the chute, adjusting point of sail and looking at our course, we decided maybe we launched the kite on the wrong side. We reviewed the weather and decided a starboard tack was probably better for the day. So we gybed Zephyros and dropped the main to the 4th reef so that we could go deep downwind with the kite in clear air. Initially we were heading east but the winds moved as Megan predicted to get us back to rhumb line.

By this point we had some breakfast and watched the miles slowly click down to our halfway point. We blasted music and enjoyed some treats that were stashed away for the occasion. A little halfway there party was enjoyed by all!

After that, the calm conditions and the mainsail being lowered to the 4th reef gave Jon the chance to further drop the main to look at the rest of the battens. The upper wearing batten had less issues than the lower two, so he worked on taping and building the batten back up at the receptacle. He didn't need to build a lengthening piece for that one or swap it end for end.

Boat repairs and chores have kept the crew busy for day 10. Maybe there will be some extra rest on day 11. We shall see.

There have been a few more ships on the AIS and one that passed us over night around 7nm away. It was a clear night and easy to see his lights.

The fishing line is back in; still no fish. We just don't seem to be lucky this passage much to Daxton's dismay. While the days are still quite warm and the winds are light the number of Portuguese Man o' War are increasing and the water temperature is dropping so no one is begging to stop for a swim. The occasional petrel still flies by. There has been more random flotsam and jetsam - a bucket, a hard hat, a cup, a bottle. There is also still some sargassum around.

Day 9, St Martin to the Azores

1600Z 05JUN23, Day 9, St Martin to the Azores. It is a sunny day. We are closing in on the halfway point (We are calling halfway 1090nm to go to Horta as when we left SXM it was 2180nm away). We made it through the depression and put up our best mileage day this passage. The winds have set up around 20kts, aft of the beam and the seas are reasonable. Life is good aboard Zephyros.

Current Position: 30 00N / 050 11W
24 hour progress: 152nm, 6.3kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 1,117nm, approximately 1185nm to the Azores.

The first 18 hours of day 9 had us sailing hard in big seas with a 7kt avg SOG. Then we were again disappointingly slowed by yet another morning of hand steering, low winds, confused seas and us chasing the wind around. It was the third morning of this if you weren't already counting along at home.

In the early afternoon we reefed down to the 4th reef and turned deep downwind (150AWA on a starboard tack). We sailed in 30+kts of wind in 2-3 meter seas that were pretty close together and grew to 4 meters. Zephyros was happily sailing away and surfing waves.

As night was approaching we saw some blue sky and even the sun before sunset. We reefed the genoa to slow down just a little and in case any rain clouds that we were watching delivered extra gusts. Just before twilight was wrapping up the winds started to move just a bit north (as expected in the forecast) so we decided we should gybe while there was still a little light left. There was no lull in the 30+kt winds and we executed a well coordinated gybe to a port tack. We were thankful that all went smoothly in the big seas and we were back to screaming along pointed straight to the Azores.

In the early morning hours the winds began to let up and the seas settled to a longer period but remained around 3m. We gradually turned into the wind giving us a reach to remain on rhumb line. After sunrise the winds kept dropping off, we shook out reefs and kept turning towards the wind until we were down to 5kts of wind again, back to chasing the wind and hand steering. This was quite demoralizing as we had been on a great pace to have one of Zephyros' best mileage days ever. As usual, the wind disappeared just as Megan was about to head below to prepare her breakfast.

We studied the weather and wrung our hands. The wind wasn't forecast to be much and could take a few hours to come back, if it did. However, within about 2 hours the winds were back, arriving just as Megan began to dig down into the refrigerator to reorganize in the calm.

The winds have built to 15-20kts and we are sailing a broad reach on rhumb line. Well, that is better than expected from the forecast! We do seem to have a bit of current slowing us down some, but it is easy sailing in the right direction. So we are happily taking it! Plus we did break the 150nm day barrier that is so elusive for us.

We saw another couple of ships on the AIS this morning and a cargo ship passed about 4nm away. He was visible in the morning haze. AIS is a beautiful thing as he seemed to maneuver to ensure he would pass no closer than a 4nm CPA no matter how the wind shifted our course and speed around. All without any discussion on the radio.

We have continued to see random bits of flotsam and jetsam. Yesterday we ran over a fishing buoy that thankfully didn't catch on to us. Today we caught an old plastic bucket between Watt&Sea and the boat. Thankfully it didn't do any damage and is really brittle anyway. It was retrieved from the ocean and is one less piece of plastic in the sea.

The fishing line is back in. Today is a good fishing day. But will we get lucky? A bucket apparently doesn't count as a successful catch. Nor do the couple of random flying fish that we find occasionally on deck.

There have still been a few birds around. They definitely seem to be sea birds gliding around on the winds and riding off the waves. Probably petrels. We also just passed our first Portuguese Man o' War—the water is definitely cooling off now.

Day 8, St Martin to the Azores

1600Z 04JUN23, Day 8, St Martin to the Azores. A fast start to yesterday's run with excellent average speeds was disappointingly slowed by light winds over night and another morning of hand steering, low winds, confused seas and us chasing the wind around. We are back in the winds and off again.

Current Position: 29 03N / 052 50W
24 hour progress: 117nm, 4.9kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 965nm, approximately 1335nm to the Azores. No engine cheating even though we really considered turning it on.

After yesterday's log post we had a little "one week complete party" with gummy bears and some chocolates. The sunny morning turned to hazy gray as we clipped along with 42nm covered in the first 6 hours—a 7kt average.

In the early afternoon the winds shifted north and we got pressed south with large seas on the beam. It seemed like a good time to gybe. We found a bit of a lull in the winds, gybed and continued on eastward.

The afternoon was overcast and sometimes rainy as the depression passed overhead. We were hit with a significant cell, 45+kt gusts and lots of rain. We reefed the genoa, went deep down wind and closed the door. Zephyros took it in stride and we had a smooth 10kt surf down a wave.

After the cell passed we were back to fast sailing in 20-25kt winds. As the barometer started climbing back up a bit we were back to a broad reach and a course just south of rhumb line.

Overnight the winds began falling. We shook reefs out of the main and did what we could to stay on course. By the early morning we were back to chasing the wind and hand steering in rolling seas coming from 2 different directions (90° apart).

We harnessed occasional bits of wind and gybed back to a starboard tack in anticipation of today's forecasted winds as a different part of the depression is due to catch back up with us.

There was more hand steering and some more adjustments on the main. We put 2 reefs in the main for the weather and waited to get caught up. A few early bands of rain had us thinking we might be off, but they quickly faded away. About 1.5 hours before the log day ended the winds filled in and we were off. We are deep broad reaching along the rhumb line with 2 reefs in the main a definite sweet spot for Zephyros, but a bit rolly to her crew.

The ship's clock has advanced an hour. So we are now UTC - 3. We have 3 more time changes to make before landfall.

The fishing line is back in because Daxton is desperate to catch a fish. But the parents would prefer not to fish, as it is another sporty day. Tough to be a trolling fisherman when you are either going too slow or your parents say too fast.

There have still been a few birds around and we had a dragonfly hitchhiker for a little while. He allowed us to get close for a photo while he rested. He flew away before the winds picked back up. We hope he is ok! Do they migrate across the ocean or is he lost? Things to look up when we have internet again…

Day 7, St Martin to the Azores

1600Z 03JUN23, Day 7, St Martin to the Azores. A week at sea! To wrap up the week, we had an eventful morning with hand steering, low winds, confused seas and us chasing the wind around. Now things have filled in and Zephyros is cruising along in her element.

Current Position: 28 34N / 054 46W
24 hour progress: 119nm, 5.0kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 848nm, approximately 1435nm to the Azores.

Yesterday continued as a haze gray and underway day with the layer of overcast blanketing the whole day. We went from slow close reach sailing in light winds to downwind sailing in a fresh breeze. In the early afternoon we put 2 reefs in the main as we thought maybe the winds had shifted and were starting to build. Not so fast! We ended up back to close reach sailing north of rhumb line over the kids watches. We left the reefs in as we still expected the winds to build quickly overnight.

For Jon's watch there were indeed some winds and rain cells but the wind was back to being from the south rather than the west as forecast. This meant reefs in and out of the genoa and more progress to the north of rhumb line. For Megan's early morning watch the wind continued to be finicky and there was a good bit of rain. The wind would start to turn and then drop away. So Megan found herself out hand steering in a warm rain to bring us back to close reaching north of rhumb line sailing while chasing the wind in confused seas.

About an hour later the winds died again. Back to hand steering and more chasing the wind. This time it was sunny and everyone was awake so there were other hands available. Slowly the winds filled in and we were on a broad reach with the wind from the west, making a course south of east. The seas were quite confused, lumpy and uncomfortable (ie "bouncy").

Now the winds have filled in to 25kts +/- 5kts and the seas have settled to mostly from the aft quarter at 2-3 meters. Zephyros is comfortably moving along headed east—she really loves 20-30kts of wind aft of the beam. We reefed the main down to the 4th reef so that we can head a bit deeper downwind with the genoa in clear air. We plan to gybe, probably late this afternoon, though the weather forecasts continue to be inconsistent. The one thing the models all agree on is warm temperatures. It is nice to be sailing in a little weather while still wearing shorts and not worrying about getting wet.

In the large wind and seas we had three ships all at once on the AIS. Only one was any factor and he just passed in front of us, close enough to see at 4nm.

The fishing line didn't yield anything yesterday and the parents deemed the confused seas too sporty to deal with a fish today. Apparently this is acceptable.

We have seen a new type of bird. There were quite a few of them around when we were chasing the wind. They would float on the sea nearby as well as soar around us. Our best guess is that they are some kind of petrel. Maybe the Bermuda Petrel?

Day 6, St Martin to the Azores

1600Z 02JUN23, Day 6, St Martin to the Azores. The motor is back off after just over 27 hours of it droning on. We are back to sailing a close reach in light winds and slowly falling off as the wind moves around to the west from the east south east.

Current Position: 27 54N / 056 40W
24 hour progress: 132nm, 5.5kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 729nm, approximately 1540nm to the Azores. Just under 19 hours of the past 24 were on the engine.

In the afternoon heat, we took an hour break from the engine and had a lovely ocean swim in glassy calm waters. The sea had a surface layer that was surprisingly warm. There were cold spots and warm spots. You could keep your arms close to the surface and be very warm or churn the water a little and pull up the cooler water. The boys enjoyed jumping and diving in as the water was cold and then as you came back to the surface you felt it change to warmer again. The boat temperature sensor said the water was around 83°F (28°C). The surface temperature was even warmer - it all seems quite warm for the ocean.

After our swim break we showered and got underway. We did some work on the main to tune the battens and re-raised the sail. We also spotted a white thing floating in the distance. We motored over to it and practiced a man overboard to retrieve a drifting fishing marker buoy. One less piece of flotsam in the ocean.

Today is overcast as we wait for a depression to catch up with us and deliver some heavier winds. The overcast is welcome as it is cutting the overall heat. It was finally down to around 80°F (27°C) in the boat this morning. It has been up over 90°F (30°C) during the days and only sort of cools off at night. We know we will eventually miss the heat (particularly the warm water for our swims) but it has still been quite warm and we are looking forward to cooler temperatures.

This morning the winds picked up to over 5kts and the direction became more consistent. So out went the genoa and off went the iron sail. We have been slowly sailing down the rhumb line and expect the wind to strengthen and change direction to be from aft of the beam.

Last night, we enjoyed the rest of our family movie and a taco dinner without much left over. We worked on boat chores and small projects through the day that were easy to do in the calm. We continue to be frustrated by the ever changing weather forecasts. We are prepared for whatever we actually get and trust that Zephyros will take good care of us.

The fishing line is still out; still no takers. We have seen a few more tropic birds and more small flights of flying fish.

Day 5, St Martin to the Azores

1600Z 01JUN23, Day 5, St Martin to the Azores. The wind completely went away. We sailed for as long as we could but once we started losing steerage and going many directions the engine came on.

Current Position: 26 35N / 058 36W
24 hour progress: 92nm, 3.8kts avg SOG. Overall progress for the passage is 597nm, approximately 1670nm to the Azores. 8.5 hours on the engine and still motoring with no sign of much wind to come.

We continued gliding along yesterday making slow speeds in light winds. We did boat chores and took outside showers. We lazed around and read books. Daxton is working through a Harry Potter movie marathon.

As the day went on, we spied a sail far off in the distance. We expected it was the sailboat we passed the previous night as this sailboat also didn't have AIS. In the afternoon he gradually got closer and passed to the stern of us. He called us on the radio and asked about weather. He was headed for the Azores and left St Martin on Friday (we left Saturday). He seemed unaware that we passed him the night before - so he could be a different sailboat or he could be the same, our guess is the same. He was motoring and curious as to how long these light airs would remain. We told him another day or two.

We continued sailing and he apparently turned off his engine around sunset as we began over taking him again. This time he had running lights on and not an anchor light. The kids kept an eye on him for their watches but he fell behind and wasn't a factor for us. We have lost sight of him again.

We had a relaxed chicken curry dinner and started a movie. It was a nice family evening. Then we paused the movie and fell into our watch schedule. We continued being able to sail through the kids watches with only occasional banging of the sails.

By Jon's watch the winds were really getting light and he did his best to keep us sailing. He hand steered and changed the point of sail to try to keep us somewhat pointed at the Azores. By the time Megan was up for turnover it really was no longer working. We pulled weather again and re-studied our options. The challenge is that a bunch of lows will be coming over so we aren't sure which direction to motor towards. We would like to get sail-able winds that aren't too strong but every forecast is different than the last and none of the models agree! In the end, we are hedging our bets and headed just a little north of rhumb line. We expect to start sailing again sometime overnight and then have some strong winds in a couple of days. The question is will we continue to have wind after that or will we find another wind hole. Time will tell.

The fishing line is still out; still no takers. We have seen a few tropic birds and more flights of flying fish. The water is completely glassy, occasionally with very light wind ripples and then back to glassy like an oil slick. It's beautiful and strange.

The afternoon agenda is a swim call, more little chores, the rest of the movie and taco night. Hopefully we will find some wind as well before morning.