Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Azores High

That's what we're experiencing now. We made landfall in the wee hours of this morning after eight days on the high seas. They were high, at times, but also low at others. As soon as we rounded Cabo de Sao Vicent, the Nortada began to exact her terrible vengeance in payment for our impending escape. A steady Force 6/7 buffeted us as we wallowed over the lumpiest sea we've ever experienced. There were two cross-swells, at least, with a nasty little chop layered on top, all of which combined to produce a motion that made both of us violently seasick (for a full two days), after these many weeks at sea without complaint.
The following four days were a blissful contrast, wafted along by a gentle breeze under clear skies across a sapphire sea - a balsam to the soul. One day was entirely without wind, so Sven got his exercise, and we profited by the opportunity to stop for a bath. Much to our suprise, the water was much warmer than back on the south coast of Portugal. There were around about 4000 metres of it underneath us at that point - bluest thing I've ever seen...
We got alot of reading done in those days. The only thing apart from sea, sky and the occasional seabird to cross our vision was the occasional freighter. Three or four per day in the early days, though later (more than 400 miles offshore) there passed a couple of days when we saw no human traces whatsoever.
Very symmetrically, the trip was rounded off by two days of tough sailing against adverse winds and through frequent squalls. It was an elated pair of mariners who tied up in Ponta Delgada this morning.
Weather information was hard to come by out there. Initially, the only forecast we could pick up was on Radio France International. Laterally, even that source faded into the aether and I radioed a passing freighter yesterday evening to get the latest forecast. Happy news it was, too, giving tidings of a much-needed favourable wind shift.
It's difficult to describe the feelings engendered by a long ocean passage. I had a stab at it while we were out there, during the blissful middle days:
"Nothing can fully prepare one for the experience of a long offshore passage in a small boat.
Books, films, thoughts and dreams can give an inkling, certainly, but the impression gained is muted, like a bed of brilliantly coloured flowers viewed by moonlight.
When land is left far behind and things are getting rough, the nature of the sea is driven home. The immensity of it. The utter implacability. The sheer, elemental mercilessness of the entity at whose mercy you lie. Always, the awareness that there's no safe harbour or snug anchorage for many hundreds of miles ahead.
One comes to regard the sea with an odd mixture of awe, wonder, fear and respect.
When things are calm, there's an isolated tranquillity only found in the ever-diminishing number of true wildernesses left in this world.
It's you, your thoughts and one other soul (asleep belowdecks) in the midst of this vastness. The sky, horizon and miles of water below. Miles. Ever changing and yet the scene that has changed least on this planet in the aeons since it coalesced from a molten ball.
Standing there alone, on deck, in the middle of the night and gazing out, the fineness of the line we tread becomes clear. Out there, you're on the very edge of existence."
On a lighter note, the lot we've heard and the little we've seen has convinced us that being in the Azores is too rich an opportunity to pass up. The north Atlantic weather's too bad and time remaining in the season too short for us to press on this year so, we've decided to winter the boat here and start the next season with a proper exploration of the archipelago before heading north to Ireland and then home.

1 comment:

Penny said...

The highs and the lows, sounds like quite an experience and one that certainly had my heart plummeting to my stomach -- glad that you had telephoned before I read this......will be more than delighted to see you when you get back home.......glad that you have had such an amazing journey so far and inspired by how emotional that has been....take care, see you soon, love Mum