Friday, December 30, 2011

Sophia's Crew Carries On Despite Wind Vane Failure

As the spot track indicates Sophia is now sailing 260 degrees (WSW) which is not toward the Cape Verdes. The crew assessed the breakage of the wind vane (the mechanical self steering equipment see photo below) ,the 3 day very rough beat back to the Cape Verdes and have decided to carry on for St Lucia.
They are hand steering, two people on shift for six hours. Just talked with Chris, they are not getting too tired and Sophia is still making 8 knots. The 12-15 ft Northwesterly swells from the North Atlantic storm that were expected to arrive today and make the sea state worse have not materialized. The weather forecast looks like they will be in more of the same (25+ kts and 9-12 seas from the ENE) for the next 2-3 days.

Click Here to check weather in the Atlantic where Sophia is currently sailing

Monitor Wind Vane Failure: The failure of Sophia's wind vane occurred at the weld that holds the water vane to the hinge (bottom of photo). The crew were able to recover the water vane because it was secured by the line used to raise it when not in use. Sophia and her crew still have 2000 miles to go to St Lucia and fixing this failure at sea will be very difficult. Any ideas out there?

Sophia Turns Back to Cape Verde

We (the land based crew) just received word from the Sophianauts via the satellite phone that they are heading to the Cape Verde Islands. The windvane self-steering has received damaged and is inoperable. Sophia is presently about 350 miles N/NW of the Cape Verdes, so will alter course to land there and repair the windvane. The winds are currently around 25 knots with 9-12 foot seas, so it will be a tiring 3+ days steering by hand to get to the Cape Verdes. Certainly a good decision, rather than continuing on 2000 miles without an operable windvane.

Despite this breakage, the crew is in good spirits with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70s.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sophia Leaves The Canaries

As of 4:30 am PST Sophia disembarked on her longest crossing to date from Las Palmas to Saint Lucia. The weather report was for 10-15 knots from the Northeast. The crew - Joan, Jeff, Phil, and Chris. Track them on Spot.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Madeira to the Canaries

Sophia has set out again on her way to the Canaries, this time with Phil as skipper and Jeffrey and Christine as crew. The Three Amigos! They headed out on Friday (12/16) and arrived in Las Palmas on Sunday (12/18). It was a quick crossing -- just under 48 hours -- and according to Christine the first 30 hours were quite rough.

Joan joined the other Sophianauts on Tuesday in the Canaries, and now they are the Four Musketeers! They are preparing to head out for St. Lucia in the Caribbean in a couple days. You can watch their progress -- nearly 3000 miles of ocean to cross -- on the "Follow our breadcrumb trail" link on the left.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Crosshaven to Madeira

We have been late to post our last adventures but here is the update from August 2011:

Joan in her dress best waves to the send off crowd in Crosshaven, Ireland
This ended up being a false start. We were forced to return to the dock after the engine stopped running only 100 feet off the dock. Filters were clogged with water! Sh*#T. After polishing the
fuel with the help from Roger at Salve Marina we pushed off from the dock a few days later. Under a full moon and darkening skys we left Cork Channel. By midn
ight we were reaching at 8 plus knots with a double reef and staysail flying. The deck was constantly wet and all the leaks we did not find at the dock were now showing themeless.
Phil and Joan looking forward to the warm breezes of Madeira
After 24 hours of breezy fast sailing the wind eased. By the second morning we were experiencing the Bay of Biscay at its calmest. We struggled for the next 5 days to keep the boat moving under sail. We had 10 days before our flights out of Madeira and we were not getting much closer. A low pressure that was forecasted to move north of us stalled, change directions and passed to our south delivering rain, lightning and shifting winds for 3 days. Just as we were getting worried about making it in time the wind came in giving us a couple of fast days sailing straight at the mark.
Rachel on "watch"

In the cockpit without rain gear! Finally (just 24 hours out from Madeira). We thought this was going to be a warm sunny sail.

The runway in Madeira.

Sophia will spend the next few months on the hard under the tarmac. Yes those pillars are tall enough for a boat to go under with the mast stepped.

We arrived in Funchal, Madeira with two days to spare greeted by clear hot weather and a beautiful city full of flowers. We wished we did not need to leave so quickly.

We toasted our arrival with a bottle of Madeira of course.

We turned a few heads as we pulled skis and back country gear off the boat and starting packing on the sea wall.

After being on the boat for 10 days we need to get the heart pumping so we went for a walk to the top of the tourist tram that runs out of Funchal, were we found these guys...

They drink at this bar...

Gamble on the steps of the church...
Then push tourists down the hill in these wicker baskets.

This is a must do while in Madeira!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cape Wrath | The Turning Point

It is a rare sunny warm day in northwest Scotland. The wind built later this afternoon, but no bother as we're snugly tied up at the dock in the lovely village of Lochinver. We arrived in the early afternoon from Kinlochbervie which lies about 30 nautical miles to the north. Our path more or less followed the coastline, giving us peeks of cliffs and spires through the fog. The landscape is quite different from the low lying Orkney Islands (like sailing through eastern Washington fields), the dramatic and fertile Fair Isle, and the more fragile feeling Shetland Islands. Here, on the Scottish west coast, the rock dominates, grey, rounded, and veined with green vegetation with an occasional shock of red sandstone. Not far in the distance inland are higher ridges and old cinder cones, remnants from bygone geological times. It is a stunning place.

At the northwest corner of the Scottish mainland lies Cape Wrath, an impressive cliff plunging into the sea. The name inspires fear and respect, and for good reason. The name, however, derives from an old Norse word (hvarf) meaning 'turning point.' While the current name seems apt, it is comforting to know that it is also simply directional, as in 'turn left here.' Fortunately for us, our experience was closer to the latter meaning; we turned around the cape under mostly sunny skies with low clouds clinging to the cliffs.

Cape Wrath, Scotland

We will continue to make our way down the Scottish west coast, around the Isles of Skye and Mull, and possibly with a brief stop in at the Hebrides. Our time here only limited by the need to get to Ireland where we'll meet Joan. We'll try to post photos soon (of which we have many, but none seem to really capture the place). And we'll try to make time to say more about the Shetlands, Fair Isle, and the Orkneys. They are really due some space, but sometimes it is difficult to thoroughly chronicle our travels when there is a rare Scottish wood to walk...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Shetlands Islands, Fair Isle, and Orkney Islands

[9 July to 17 July, 2011]

Mainland Shetland appeared on the horizon late in the morning. We were far closer to land than we expected for our first site, due in part to the low-lying terrain and in part to the low-lying clouds. Low as it may be (the highest peak is some 400 meters), the edges are still jagged from millennia of the North Sea pounding against these shores.

Mainland, Shetland Islands

Lerwick is snuggled in a well-protected harbor with stone buildings terracing the hillside; a monochrome of grey water, skies, and structures. People have lived in this part of the world for a long time (with archeological sites dating back 5000 years), but one doesn’t get the sense that the living has been easy. Although this was not always the case. Nearly 2000 years ago, the climate here shifted from more Mediterranean-type climes to the cold wet weather now associated with the Shetland Islands, likely a result of significant worldwide volcanic activity. The more favorable climate prior to this change allowed for migration into the Shetlands, as well as Færoe Islands to the northwest and Orkney Islands to the south. Today there is still evidence of these cultures in the form of brochs dating back 2000 years and cairns (or crypts) from 5000 years ago.
Lerwick, Shetland Islands

Lerwick, Shetland Islands

Rachel, Karl, and Phil in Lerwick

Mousa Island, one of the Shetlands to the south of Lerwick, is home to one of the most intact brochs. We anchored in the small bay and explored this amazing piece of history. The exact use of brochs -- as strongholds for protection or prominent markers of settlement -- are still matters of speculation. The cylindrical structure is impressive, with interior walls forming spiraled pathways around the circumference. The quality of the construction is evidenced by the fact that many are still at least partially standing after 2000 years.
Mousa Broch, with Phil in foreground

A view down inside the Mousa Broch
Forty miles south of the Shetlands lies lonely Fair Isle. The present name is thought to derive from a Norse word for "far island," although no one can doubt that it is also quite fair. We made the passage with a following wind and sun breaks.
Phil (and the solar panels) catching some much-longed-for sunshine.

Sun-inspired scrubbing of the decks
We had begun to make a practice of long walks, and Fair Isle was a lovely place to walk. It has become a birders' paradise with many migratory birds passing through and nesting in the cliffs and the open grasslands. There is a new observatory that houses researchers and enthusiasts, as well as providing facilities for visiting sailors.
Lovely Fair Isle

Cemetery on Fair Isle, with southern lighthouse in distance
(the last UK lighthouse to be automated)

Rachel at the helm leaving Fair Isle
Our stays in each port have been wanting of more time. There is a schedule to keep, so we were off to the Orkney Islands after one night on Fair Isle. We set off for Westray Island in the northwestern Orkneys, considered (at least by Westray-ites) as the "Queen of the Orkneys" especially because of the varied terrain on the island that captures all the Orkneys have to offer. We were indeed surprised to find quite a variety of sites, ranging from a 16th century castle to a tropical beach.
The Westray Dinghy

White sand beach on the north shore of Westray, Orkney Islands

Found at the beach
We made our way south to the island of Rousay, to the northwest of Kirkwall on mainland Orkney Island. Rousay is known for having some of the oldest and most intact archeological sites in the Orkneys. We wended our way from an 18th century castle to a 5000-year-old cairns to 3000-year-old broch. On the way we encountered an in-progress archeological dig. The enthusiasm of the archeologists was infectious as she showed us the picture of civilization they were putting together based on their finds. It is amazing how they can weave together stories of a long-distant past, and striking to experience that archeology is very much alive.
Rousay Castle, Orkney Islands

Entrance to a 5000-year-old cairn (or crypt)

"Sørlandet" - a Norwegian tall ship sailing into the Orkneys as part of the Tall Ship Races

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sophia leaves Norway

We set off this afternoon from Kvitsøy, Norway heading for Lerwick in the Shetland Islands. A new journey always brings the excitement of adventure, seeing new landscapes, and meeting new friends. Yet it is also with sadness that we leave Norway.

Our sail around the south of Norway, from Oslo to Kvitsøy (near Stavanger), was spectacular. We found cozy anchorages on little islands and comfortable tie ups in quaint villages. Jim (Rachel's Dad) sailed with us from Oslo to Kristiansand, after which point Karl and I continued on to Tanager where Phil (Karl's Dad) joined us. At every point we were met with a kindness that has become so typical, and continuously remarkable, of our experience in Norway. Here are a few images from the trip from Oslo to Kvitsøy:
Jim and Rachel on the dock near Hvasser, Oslofjord, Norway

Risør, Norway

Hanne and Leif's Cabin at Teistholmen, Kristiansand, Norway

Våre near Lidenes (southern most point in Norway)

Farsund, Norway at midnight

We also met our first American sailors since arriving in Norway. Jack and Joselyn Hoopes on Windleblo have been cruising in Scandinavia for a few summers after taking delivery of their Halberg Rassy in Sweden. They graciously loaned us their charts so we could go a wee bit further north before heading across the North Sea. They too are heading to Lerwick where we'll see each other in a couple days.

Rachel Sadly lowers the Norwegian Flag for maybe the last time...So, a new adventure begins.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Casting Off the Dock Lines

Lief, Hanne, Karl, and Rachel
I considered writing that we are leaving Oslo today, but the sailor in me knows those are dangerous words to utter when projects are still underway this morning. So, to be on the cautious side, we are scheduled to leave Oslo this afternoon. Ten months to day from our arrival.

Sophia is mostly ready to go, at least enough for the first segment from Oslo to Kristiansand (on the southern tip of Norway). Karl and I, however, are not. We are saddened to leave the wonderful friends who have welcomed us so generously into their lives. Tusen takk for alle! Vi sees snart, vi hoper.

Rachel, Karl, Inger, and Jan Ivar
Hilde and Karl

Petter (Eystein, Alma, and Oscar in background)

Eystein and Alma (I see a sailor in the making)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mast Un- and Re-Stepping

Sophia took here first voyage in 2011 last Thursday. She left as a sailboat and came back as a powerboat. It was short trip - just up to the harbor crane and back.

Moving the crane in to position - about 10:30

Hooking up the strap - 11:00

Cranking the cable up the mast to the spreaders by hand - forever.

Lots of stuff happened here - took all the stays off, moved the crane over the land and lowered. Just one scary moment - the mast got hung up on the crane for moment then settled with a bang. 12:30

The mast step after we cleaned out the 30 years of dirt. We thought we might find dinosaur bones in the sediment. 

Taking off the spreaders - 1:00 

It took us another hour to move the mast on a wheeled dolly around the boats in this photos, swing one end over another person power boat (glad he was not there at the time, he might of been nervous), then move a guys bike, displace a women working at one of the picnic tables and roll the mast down the dock to a couple of free mast stands. All told it took us 4 hours from leaving the dock to back to the dock. whooo!

So, why did we take the mast down? Primarily it was for maintenance and also to add some wiring for a new steaming/deck light and new VHF antenna. But once it's down, there's lots to be done.

Karl sanding. Ohh ahh!  We first planned to repaint the mast, but since decided to take the paint off and leave the bare aluminum. It is better for the aluminum and less maintenance in the future. Unfortunately it meant a lot more sanding. If the photos were proportionate to the time it took, you'd be looking at a lot of sanding photos.

This is the conduit inside the mast for the wires. There were some old wires, which had been cut off at some earlier point inside the conduit, and very securely attached such that we couldn't pull them out. We had to drill out the rivets holding the conduit in order to remove the old wire. We then reattached the conduit, which is not an easy process...

Every few feet was a set of rivet holes. One for affixing the conduit and the other "helper" hole to hold the conduit in place.

Once the "holding" rivet was in place we'd fill the other "helper" hole with another rivet, just so it looks nice.

After the end of a long day, nothing makes Karl happier than tidying up. Actually he's been pining over a small wet/dry vacuum for the boat. We happened to see a 12-volt version earlier in the day so we can use it on the boat. See how happy he is!

Rachel got "Tom Sawyered" into finishing sanding the mast. Never had a better time in her life! 

This is the wiring job for the masthead lights, antenna, and wind instrument. There's a protective hose to prevent chafe and the zip tie helps take the weight of 60 feet of wire so it isn't hanging on the connections. Also, another messenger line for future use if we need to run a new wire up the mast.

We restepped the mast on Monday night, after 5 days of work, finishing up just at dark (10:00pm).  Here's what it looked like...

At the staging area doing all the final preparations before lift off...

I sure hope this thing holds! Here's the mast precariously perched part way above land and part way over Sophia.

And what it looks like on the Sophia end of things. Karl controlled the mast base with line.

The restepping went fairly smoothly. The forestay was a bit of bugger to attach, but with a quick pulley system we were able to get it tight enough to get the pin in. Then, just as we were finished the crane strap got caught and while we had a retrieval line tied to it, we couldn't get it clear of the track on the front of the mast. A quick tape job between the pole hook and a piece of pipe did the job, and we were able to get free of the crane.