Before I tell you what I’ve heard, I’d like to make the following statement. I have heard conflicting reports about what follows. I have done what I can to collect accurate information, but a lot of different stories seem to be floating around the dock. Hopefully, I will be able to give an update tomorrow with better information.
Autumn Wind, a Nordhavn 62 that was escorting Division 2, is still not into port. Sometime yesterday, 150 miles out, their main propeller became tangled in a fishing net. Details are sketchy, but apparently Atlantic Escort went back 50 miles to help them. Autumn Wind had to run overnight, at 2.7 knots on the wing engine, waiting for calm enough seas that a diver could go under the boat to cut away whatever was stuck in the prop. I asked who had done the diving, and was told Eric Leishman from Atlantic Escort. Apparently he was successful, as Autumn Wind is now running at 9 knots and will arrive tonight. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be beneath Autumn Wind, as a solo diver, trying to cut away a net, in open ocean. The winds have subsided a bit, but I doubt it was anything that could be called a calm sea.
Had Atlantic Escort not been around, Autumn Wind would still have reached Horta, although it would have taken a while, thanks to their wing engine. I don’t remember if I have already explained what a wing engine is, but a wing engine, as defined by Nordhavn, is a completely redundant engine and prop. The prop for the wing engine is small, with roughly a one-foot diameter. It is located about midway between the main prop and the starboard side of the boat, and is a feathering propeller, which means that when it isn’t being used, it folds up neatly so that it does not create excess drag, which would slow the boat down and reduce fuel efficiency. It does not spin at all unless the wing engine is being used to power the boat. The wing engine itself is reasonably small – only 75 horsepower on Sans Souci. I am constantly amazed that such a small motor and propeller can move a 65-ton boat! Roberta and I once used our wing engine to get into port, while nearly 100 miles from shore. I remember being VERY happy I had the wing engine.
Not all of the boats on the rally have a wing engine. There is some debate amongst boaters as to the best way to implement “get home” capability. An alternate solution being employed by some of the boats is to have an alternate power source, such as a generator, that can also power the main shaft (prop). I would never consider a solution that did not employ a redundant propeller. What would they do in a situation such as occurred with Autumn Wind? There are rare situations where the main shaft can freeze, or the main propeller gets damaged, such that repairs can’t be made at sea. What would these boats do in such a situation? Float and hope for help? Maybe there is a solution I’m not thinking of….
I was confused when I heard this story because I didn’t understand why Atlantic Escort would have been running 50 miles in front of Autumn Wind, and the explanation raised more unanswered questions. I was told that Autumn Wind had been lagging the balance of the fleet in order to provide assistance to Uno Mas. In the version of the story I heard, Uno Mas had both their main engine and the wing engine fail, which sounds unlikely. My apologies, but the only thing I know for certain is that Uno Mas is not here in port. Someone else told me that there never was a problem with Uno Mas, and that it will arrive here later tonight.
I also heard that Satchmo, which IS here at the docks, had a problem with their stabilizer cooling system that had to be repaired at sea. The waves were too high to launch a tender, so one of the young men aboard Atlantic Escort, Justin, decided to swim to Satchmo. This is unconceivable to me. Prior to the trip, Dr. Kevin Hare spoke to the group about triage. His rule: you do not put a second boat into danger in order to rescue a boat in trouble. Justin must not have attended that lecture, and based on the seas I witnessed yesterday, is a true hero. When his swim was described to me, the words used were “He had to be fished from the sea both when he got to Satchmo, and when he returned to Atlantic Escort.”
Stabilizers seem to have been a major failure point throughout the fleet. Within our own group, 10 miles before arrival, a call came on the radio from Emeritus, who had just lost their stabilizers. We don’t know what is wrong yet, but assume that they snagged a rope or fishing net. I was just on the docks, and Garret, from Sans Souci, was about to dive under Emeritus to see whether or not, as we suspect, something had become tangled in the stabilizers.
As lumpy as the seas were, I was surprised to hear how much seasickness was a major issue on this last leg. On Sans Souci, we had no one who was seasick, but we were an exception. I do not know the exact count, but there are several people who will not be going on the next leg. One reporter from a major boating magazine is said to have spent the entire trip in a fetal position, crying sometimes for hours. I spoke to another person who was horribly sick throughout this last leg, even though she had come from Seattle to Bermuda without a problem. We are now 12 hours beyond arrival and she said she is still having trouble breathing, and will be flying to Gibraltar.
As Roberta and I arrived yesterday, we were greeted at the docks by Roberta’s parents, John and Nova. They had flown in just hours before, and will be joining us on the next leg. I’ve mentioned before that I am worried about them. Our third leg will be “the rough one,” as the run from here to Gibraltar is known for high seas and wind. Sans Souci’s pilothouse is upstairs, and we go up and down the stairs dozens of times each day. I’m thinking ahead to Nova climbing those stairs as we are being slammed by waves, and don’t like the thought. Nor do I like the thought that her or John might become seriously seasick. That said, a couple of the captains on this rally are in their seventies, and are having no trouble whatsoever. John and Nova are extremely athletic and have traveled the world with Roberta and I, so I’m sure it won’t be an issue – I hope.
Most of the activity this morning on the docks revolved around the quest for shorepower. I’ve gone through this before in other marinas in Europe. Each marina has their own system, and connectors. There is no standard, and there is no documentation. As someone said to me on the docks this morning, “I’ve just wired up a cable and plugged it in, now I need to go aboard ship and see if I’ve blown anything up.” He was not smiling as he said it.
We moved into a hotel, leaving the crew behind with the boat. It appears that we are the only ones to have done this, and it seems to bother both our crew and the other owners. It is making us outsiders in the group. Hopefully everyone understands that this is not our intention. We just think its better to provide everyone a little space when possible. One owner I spoke with this morning asked if I thought there were additional hotel rooms available for his crew. His tone hinted that his was not a crew that had bound together well. He wanted some time away from the crew, and I understand how he feels. Our boat has had no dissent. Everyone is getting along amazingly well, and I’m hoping that we maintain our relationship with these people for many years to come. That said, Roberta and I are looking forward to “when we get our boat back.”
Our first evening in Horta was strange. EVERYTHING was closed. We hadn’t realized it was a holiday and had thought at first that we were in an episode of the twilight zone. We hiked for an hour around town, in the rain, without seeing anything that was open. Finally, we had dinner in our hotel, which was a mistake. I’ve never been a fan of hotel food, and last night’s dinner was no exception.
We have been told that “the place to be” in Horta is Peter’s Sport Café, a local pub, frequented by boaters. We went there at around 6:00pm and discovered it was absolutely packed. There was no hope of finding a place to sit and we were too tired to stand. None of the rally group was there, although apparently our group did successfully arrive there later in the evening. Most boats have a no alcohol policy at sea, including our own, so you can imagine that Peter’s was a very welcome sight. Our group apparently had quite a successful evening at Peter’s. I was warned that Peter’s packs in an international crowd, and confirmed this during my brief visit. I heard French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and other languages I didn’t recognize. It had the feel of a great place, and my prediction is that we will become well acquainted with it.
It’s perhaps good that I couldn’t understand our fellow mariners at Peter’s, as I believe we may have been a popular discussion topic. Nordhavn must have pulled a lot of strings to get all of us berths in the marina. Horta is a popular stop for boaters crossing the Atlantic. They do not normally have 18 open slips at this time of the year. In order to accommodate us, they had to move other boats out of the way. Sailboats were rafted four deep along the outer quay. I don’t know, and don’t want to know, how they explained to these people that they had to raft up to make room for our powerboats. I feel a little guilty each time I walk past them.
Horta has exceeded all our expectations. Prior to our arrival, Horta was described to me as “somewhat third world.” I’m not sure I know what this means, but it isn’t an accurate depiction of Horta. We live most of the year in Mexico, so we are acquainted with life in “out of the way” places, which is not what we found. Horta is a very modern city.
Thus far we have been impressed with all we have seen. It is amazingly clean, modern and the people have been very nice to us. Our only frustration has been with trying to communicate. Roberta speaks Spanish, and I speak French. Between us we usually get by well in Europe, but here, we seem to get nowhere. Today at lunch was comical as Roberta’s mom tried to explain that she wanted her hamburger well done. We tried every word we could think of, but nothing worked. Somehow whatever we said translated into “warm milk” which she liked, so at least the story had a happy ending.
Tomorrow I want to spend more time around the port. Our friends sometimes think we are crazy, and I can’t explain it, but both Roberta and I love being in marinas. We’ve spent many months of our life living aboard Sans Souci in one marina or another, and feel at home with boaters. There is a common bond that links boaters, regardless of their nationality or background. The people we’ve met in marinas are fun to hang out with, and interesting almost without exception. I also want to learn more facts about what happened with Autumn Wind, Satchmo and Uno Mas. I try to learn what I can from other’s problems, as I know that sooner or later it will be my turn, and I’d like to deal with whatever comes my way as well as I possibly can.
One cool thing from yesterday… We are parked beside another Nordhavn 62, called Karma! It was purely a coincidence. They are circumnavigating the world going “the other way.” I’m looking forward to speaking with the owner to hear about their voyage.
Lastly, I received an email asking whether Roberta and I would now be willing to make this trip again, without the rally. The answer is: Yes – to the extent that we had someone along who was a skilled mechanic. I am not at the same level as most of the owners here. I can handle filter changes, and oil changes, and perhaps even bleeding the lines – but, diagnosing any type of serious electrical problem, or fixing a leaking hydraulic system, is over my head. Even with the wing engine as a backup device, I wouldn’t feel comfortable. However, this trip has definitely expanded what I would feel comfortable doing. I remember worrying about 10 hour runs in 15-knot winds. This now sounds like a milk run. Roberta and I wouldn’t hesitate to undertake a 24 or 48 hour run.
Although I would be nervous to cross an ocean alone, I suspect that mine is a minority opinion. I haven’t spoken with everyone about their plans, but most of whom I have spoken to are in no hurry to go home. Some see this as the first leg of a circumnavigation. Others plan on cruising the Med for a few years before deciding where to go next. Sooner or later, most of the other boats on the rally WILL be making the trip back to the U.S., and I assume that most will make the trip alone. Sans Souci is the only boat I’m aware of that is being shipped back to the U.S. I am SO jealous of the other boats, who are just beginning their time in the Med. We’ve already spent four years there and are ready for something new, but I will be very sad when Sans Souci begins its journey home.
P.S. – Several of you have written asking that I try to find their logo, which has been painted on the dock here in Horta. We didn’t have time today, but I haven’t forgotten. We will search the docks within the next couple of days.
P.P.S. – We’re just going out the door to dinner. I have more pictures that I will post later tonight…
(Re: RE:Re: Re: Day 33 – We’re in Horta!!!)
(RE:Re: Re: Day 33 – We’re in Horta!!!) Congratulations to all!!