On arrival in Horta in the Azores we learned of the news of the lost yacht and crew, having left Antigua about a week after us. As a concerned boating community everyone was talking of it and sharing stories. Since the tragic news has come that the crew are indeed lost, we all take time to think, as sailors crossing the same oceans, racing in neighbouring regattas, winning prizes on the same stages it seems close to our lives. Our thoughts are now with the families and friends of those winning sailors. The ocean can be a cruel place for sure. It can also be a good place and now I will tell you our fair tale of our Atlantic ocean crossing onboard the Grayhound.We left Jolly Harbour on the 29th of April , relaxed and ready with our clean bottom and smart new look. The Grayhound was full up with water, fuel, food, crew and Children’s DVDs.
Myself Freya, Marcus, Malachi, Ruth and Sarah headed the permanent crew. Marina Hogan a fellow Classics racer joined us to bulk up our numbers. Voyage crew booked through Classic Sailing , Julia and Tom flew out to join us. We were a nice number of eight, a jolly group. After much frolicking around in the water, last Caribbean swims and lovers goodbyes we waved a friendly and sad goodbye to islands that we love so much. The Caribbean season had been so good for us, it twinkled and shined all season. After 3 months we felt so at home it seemed sad to leave. But the fresh cool air of the north was calling and we up anchored and sailed at noon.
“We have got a Fish !!!” I heard someone call, brilliant a beautiful Bonito for supper I was happy. New potatoes and salad were served up with the fish, what a great start to the voyage. The weather was benign and we set sail on a Northerly track with decent wind making a steady 6/7 knots. The first few days flew by with great wind and weather pushing us north. The stars were out to impress us all and the magic of the ocean enveloped us . A lot of interest was shown in the sextant, so with so much calm and lovely weather Marcus taught the practical and I taught the theory. Soon Tom and Marina could do it themselves. Astro nav is tricky to get your head round and takes a lot of concentration. With Tom’s new phone App he could test my accuracy and I was pleased with the results. I found myself very annoyed with ease of the App and what seemed like a right pa-larva doing it the old way but I still like working it all out.
Malachi was a darling, bubbly and fun and full of energy. We were all getting fed up with his DVDs already and it was only a few days in. Julia took our advice and used the shower ie the bucket and sea water and loved it of course. Everyone spent time preening and cleaning, washing up and eating lots.
Ruth had been doing some last minute sail repairs in port and had pricked her finger with the needle before we left, like we all do all the time. But this time the pulp at the end of her right index finger decided it would go and get infected. Poor Ruth was struggling with the pain and pressure building up . Marcus the ship’s medic and voyage crew Julia ( a Dentist) both monitored the finger over the next few days and started Ruth on some antibiotics to fight the infection. We all felt for Ruth, she was very stoic and carried on her watches regardless of the pain she was in. It is not nice to have to deal with medical situations out there. You feel the isolation and you are so glad of all the endless preparation you have done on land so you have all you need when you are out there. The infection was not clearing and the finger was getting white and numb. On the allotted day, a minor finger operation was performed in the makeshift surgery in the saloon. They anaesthetised the area and cut open the finger pad and let the pus ooze out. They then carefully dressed the wound and gave Ruth some strong pain killers. She then was told to rest for a couple of days.
A big thanks to Marcus’ mum Wendy for doing some research for us at her end and great use of the sat phone our end to help deal with the situation. Ruth soon recovered and the pain subsided. And she got out of the washing up for the rest of the voyage ! Well done Marina for doing it all on their watch. During the finger days we had a bit of weather. Probably a force 7 at most, Grayhound was flying and we put in a reef which is easily done on deck. We had a good solid , classic cold front pass above and a good dose of rain. Not so warm and no showers this time not like the Atlantic passage over. Now it was full oilskins and hats, brrrrrrrrrrr its getting colder. Though Sarah was still stoically donning her bikini bottoms all the way to the Azores. The depression past and the lighter airs arrived.
The calms came and the ocean turned to a mirror pond. Turtles swam by with seagulls perched on their backs, we spotted whales and dolphins and a dead octopus. The engine went on and 5 knots was maintained. Then one beautiful morning we turned everything off and breathed the stillness and the quiet. Then one by one we took off our clothes and jumped into the blue ocean which looked like a mirror. Those of us who feared the sharks and hated the cold didn’t stay in long. But Sarah and Marina fearless and bold swam around for a while and collected a bit of floating rubbish, we called them the no knicker litter pickers of the Atlantic. We do take our litter picking seriously on the Grayhound ! Even Ruth got in with a glove for her finger. Malachi was on shark watch and stayed on deck. After a refreshing and liberating swim, we all sat on deck with a coffee and ate chocolate biscuit cake. Rejoicing in our activity and its remoteness. The calms continued for another 24 hrs then a breeze sprung and the sails went up topsails too this time. Topsails out there wow what a treat. A mega yacht past us heading for Horta what a sight we must have been for them. So 700 miles to go , we said come on wind , we could be there soon we thought. The wind dutifully built and soon we were flying again with topsails up under the stars. This lasted for another 24 hrs, so lucky for us. We reduced sail to the lower courses and headed for the islands. The wind crept around to the South East and then East we were getting pushed north and West of the Archipelago. We kept on to windward with a stiff breeze. The plan was to sail north of Flores, then tack. The forecast said it was going NE and this direction would take us to Horta. We had been tracking the weather twice daily on the SSB weather fax picking up Boston’s transmissions.
30 miles to the north west of Horta we heard a noise up forward and saw that one of the forward chain plates had failed. The shroud was quickly lashed with block and tackle and secured. But the fore had to come down. The wind stayed in the SE which was straight on the nose for Flores, what a pain. We had to motor in through the night. As dawn broke the wind died and the island of Flores was right there. I made us smoked salmon quiche with potato wedges and peas for lunch as we all sat in the sun and looked at this amazing island before us. Waterfalls running down the mountain cliffs. We arrived in Lajes that afternoon and dropped the hook after being at sea for 19 days, Grayhound made a 130 mile a day average which we were pleased with. That afternoon was spent cleaning and airing, clean beds made up and a trip ashore for a glass of Vino Verde. Well done crew what a smashing passage.
RIP the crew of the Cheeki Rafiki.