The final passage of Spellbinder’s Atlantic circuit was Ponta Delgada in the Azores to her home berth in Gosport, a trip of some 1400 nautical miles. Normally I would expect to be in Falmouth after 7 or 8 days, but we were faced with an interesting routeing challenge, with a large depression forming over north west Spain.
The Grib (weather forecast) file showing strong northerly and north easterly winds west of Spain and into Biscay
We were therefore obliged to head north first, using some light southerly winds to get ourselves up to around 46 or 47 degrees north, before turning east and trying to find some fair winds and favourable currents to take us into the Western Approaches.
Crew for this leg were eldest son Tom and friend Crispin, who were each returning for their third time during this year’s voyage. After preparations had been completed in Ponta Delgada, we refueled and headed off.
Leaving Sao Miguel
For the first few days we had fair winds, making good use of the Parasailor, motoring a fair bit and gradually gaining the required degrees north. Julian, my ever faithful weather adviser, kept us on the straight and narrow through nightly email exchanges and we had to make careful note of the engine hours used, as fuel consumption would be critical. Eventually I made the call after 7 days to head east at 46 degrees 30 minutes north, and we cut the corner of the low pressure, motor sailing though the swell until we reached the other side.
Sailing with the Parasailor…
…and furling gennaker, when we had the angle. Sailing into the dawn, and away from the sunset was, of course, the exact opposite of our Atlantic crossing in December
We kept ourselves busy – reading, cooking, carrying out running repairs and for two of the crew, daily exercises.
The advantages of having a son studying physics at university – electrical and electronic repairs were effected flawlessly
Wholly unnecessary physical exercise carried out enthusiastically by two of the crew, while the skipper watched, glass of wine in hand…
…their exertions seemed to make them happy though
We baked five loaves, all them a disaster with the texture of bricks. We think that the tropical climate wasn’t good for the yeast
Once through the low pressure system we had light winds and fair currents, and gradually made progress towards Scilly, where we needed to refuel. I had been concerned about fuel consumption, but having emptied the contents of the reserve tank into the main one, I was able to calculate it more scientifically. Having kept the revs down, we had been sipping fuel at about 2.2 litres an hour, which gave us plenty in hand.
‘Hands To Bathe’…post exercise dip in the deep Atlantic
Motoring through glassy calms
We saw many dolphins, and many whales – particularly one evening, when all around us there appeared to be whale spouts, showing up white against the dark cloud which was in front of the setting sun. You will have to take my word for it, as they were too far away to photograph effectively.
Approaching Scilly after 10 days, we flew the drone and enjoyed spectacular images and video of passing Bishop’s Rock lighthouse.
Approaching the Western Isles, Scilly
Sailing past Bishop’s Rock lighthouse
Retrieving the drone – always a slightly nerve-wracking experience
Once past Bishop’s Rock we went into Hugh Town on St Mary’s to refuel and Crispin topped us up with fresh food. To await a fair tide round Land’s End and the Lizard, we anchored in the Eastern Isles for lunch.
At anchor in the wonderful Eastern Isles. We were lucky to have calm conditions
We had a good a good sail down the south coast, enjoying a spectacular Parasailor run from Portland to Swanage, before anchoring again in Studland Bay to await a window into Hurst Narrows and the Solent.
Parasailor propelling us along nicely, a few miles off Portland Bill
At anchor off Old Harry’s Rock – almost home…
Our night entry into the Solent was uneventful, and we tied up in Cowes in the RYS Haven at 0330. We thought we would have some kudos for sailing in from the Azores, but the neighbouring yacht had just come in from a Transat race from Newport, Rhode Island, and was turning around overnight to race to Saint Malo!
After a fine breakfast, we cleaned Spellbinder up and then had an excellent lunch to celebrate our arrival and the end of the year’s voyage. My friend Peter had kindly ordered champagne for us – thank you for your thoughtful and timely gesture! After lunch Tom and I took Spellbinder back to her berth in Gosport, completing our circuit of the North Atlantic. Thank you Tom and Crispin for your excellent company on this memorable trip.
Reflections on this wonderful year’s voyage will follow in a few days.
All dressed up for a celebratory lunch