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.

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