• Dale

Back Across the Atlantic (Play by Play)

Updated: Jun 4

As if crossing the Atlantic once was not enough...Dale and Megan are back at it again with an all female crew this time (with the exception of Dale). Dale and Megan, Kari and Andrea left St. Thomas for Bermuda at 7am EST on Sunday, April 24, the first of three legs. Timing was based on the fact that we need to move the boat to avoid hurricane season.

Tracker for the second leg from Bermuda to the Azores Islands (see Porto Delgada to the northeast).

Our tracker map looks very different from the first crossing since Dale and Megan are not going with an organized fleet of boats through ARC+ again. Hence, we are only able to track our boat with an app called SPOT, so we are missing the "racing" component this time, but ARC+ was never meant to be a race until they placed!


Although Dale and Megan had an excellent experience with ARC+ when they crossed east to west across the Atlantic, they wanted to get to the Mediterranean on a more accelerated time table and leave earlier so we would have enough time to make it to Italy and Greece before Megan goes to college in August.


Thankfully, I am in contact with Dale once per day by satellite email and will post highlights from him every few days. Updates will appear in reverse chronological order from our boat as they come in. As you can imagine, I look forward to Dale's email every day, confirming that all is well with the crew and the boat.


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Passage 3 of 3 (Azores Islands to Gibraltar)

Days 9-11 (May 29-31)


We made it. Our 4,183 mile Atlantic crossing #2 was completed successfully at 10pm local time on Tuesday, May 31, 2022 when we pulled into the Alcaidesa Marina next to Gibraltar. Our final day was wonderful, with clear skies, a stiff tailwind, and a river-like current pushing us east at 9 knots through the final 10 miles of the Gibraltar Straights and past "The Rock" as the sun set. The crew celebrated with beer and s'mores. What can I say - provisions were getting low.




We'll spend some time here stretching our land legs, relaxing, and sight seeing before starting our next major passage 2,000 miles east across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy and Greece.



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Passage 3 of 3 (Azores Islands to Gibraltar)

Days 5-8 (May 25-28)


We had so many dolphin encounters while in and around the Azores Islands, and then it suddenly cut off with no dolphins in sight for several days. Two of the final encounters were major highlights of our passage. First was a glassy calm day when Dale decided to paddle board alongside Helios for his daily workout. An hour into his paddling a pod of 5 dolphins swam up and accompanied him, swimming just in front of and just under his paddle board. The photos and video Megan took from Helios is spectacular with the expanse of the open Atlantic in the background. For Dale looking down into the clear water, it was as if they were harnessed to his board and pulling him to Gibraltar. That night when Kari was on the flybridge for the midnight watch she heard the sounds of dolphins blowing. Given how dark it was she figured there'd be nothing to see, but when she looked down, there were 10 of them outlined in bioluminescent plankton, where the micro planktons light up like fireflies when the water is disturbed. She could clearly see the outline and path of each dolphin, but couldn't see the dolphins themselves.




Winds have been relatively light this passage. No scary storms, no pounding into heavy seas or headwinds. We're still 400 miles out from Gibraltar and expect to arrive there on May 31 if all goes well.


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Passage 3 of 3 (Azore Islands to Gibraltar)

Days 1-4 (May 21-24)


We had a pleasant but rainy 3-day stopover in Horta on the Azores island of Faial. It is THE stopover point for sailboats crossing the Atlantic, with a tradition for camaraderie amongst the sailors, Peter's Cafe and Sports Bar, and thousands of boat names/logos painted along the seawall. We spent our time cleaning Helios, doing laundry and re-provisioning for our next segment to Gibraltar - our final 1,000 mile passage to the Mediterranean. During our stay we had a wonderful evening entertaining 5 Norwegians from the yacht "Cessa" and a dinner out with the skipper of the yacht "Lorina," both of which had rather challenging but memorable passages to the Azores worthy of expensive repairs but great story telling. We also welcomed aboard our newly arrived crew member Wendy Auldrich.

The long-range weather forecast calls for light winds to Gibraltar, so at dinner on Saturday the 21st we made the abrupt decision to depart at 10pm that evening in order to meet our new inbound crew member Kay Strauss on the island of Sao Miguel rather than wait two days for her arrival in Horta. Our quick Horta getaway was almost foiled when we found our anchor to be caught on a much larger anchor and chain that had been abandoned on the harbor floor. 30 minutes of ingenuity and in-the-dark struggles with the 2,000 pound snag was enough to free us to set off on a dark and foggy night.


After two nights at sea we made a brief stop in Porta Delgada where we dropped off Siri Anderson for her flight back to the States and picked up Kay. Timing could not have been better. The airlines lost Kay's luggage, but she arrived at Helios 10 minutes before Siri's departure, enabling a rapid unpacking of Siri's dirty clothes for Kay to borrow that we quickly laundered at the marina before setting off on the open ocean again for Gibraltar.


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Passage 2 of 3 (Bermuda to the Azore Islands)

Days 12-14 (May 16-18)


The morning after the big storm, with both wind and seas still quite high, we spotted a black sail on the horizon. Any sighting of another boat in the middle of the Atlantic brings a sort of excitement. It just doesn't happen often - about once a week. A black sail is even more unusual, typically only seen on racing boats, and this one appeared to be fully raised despite the continued strong winds (ours was still triple-reefed). As we neared, things became even more perplexing. We were closing the gap too quickly for it to be sailing the same direction as us, but not as fast were it coming towards us. And what at first appeared to be a pennant flying from the top of the mast turned out to in fact be a horribly shredded mainsail with tattered pieces flying every which way. The jib was in shreds across the foredeck and dangling in the water, the boom was broken in two, and one of two helm stations was smashed, evidently from when the boom broke.


We dropped our sails and motored nearer, thinking the boat was abandoned. And suddenly a man popped up on deck and waved. We hailed him on the radio and learned that his boat "Lorina" had not faired as well in the previous night's storm as ours, but that he was OK, had a spare storm jib he was going to put up for the remaining 300 miles to the Azores, and declined our offer of assistance. He clearly had a tough night, and now as a solo sailor had a tough slog to the Azores and certainly tougher repair bill ahead of him.

On a blustery, rainy Day 14 we arrived in Horta on the island of Faial in the Azores Islands. After checking in with customs and immigrations, our first stop was Peter's Sports Bar, a nearly century-old tradition for sailors crossing the North Atlantic.


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Passage 2 of 3 (Bermuda to the Azores Islands)

Days 8-11 (May 12-15)


Lots of action the past few days. Several encounters with dolphins. On Day 9 we had glassy calm seas so we stopped the boat and, despite the man-o-wars all over in the water, we took our obligatory mid-Atlantic swim. As always, the water's blue color was amazing. Dale then paddle-boarded 6 miles for exercise while shadowing Helios under slow engines. Only after the swim did we find out the man-o-war sting is particularly nasty - worse than the typical jellyfish. Fortunately nobody got stung. Shortly after that Siri spotted Jeff in the ocean and we again stopped the boat for a rescue. Jeff (a giant day-glow orange buoy we named Jeff because someone had written that name on it) now sits strapped to our bowsprit with a big smile on his face that Megan drew with a Sharpie. It reminds us all of Wilson in the Tom Hanks flick Castaway. Let's just say we've taken a few too many photos of Jeff already.

We crossed two big milestones on Day 10. We hit the 1,000 mile mark from Bermuda, and we hit the 10,000 mile mark overall since first embarking on this year-long journey in France last July. As May 15 comes to a close, we have 450 miles left until our next planned stop in Horta in the Azores Islands. Also as May 15 comes to a close, the whole crew breaths a sigh of relief for having passed through a rather severe low pressure system that dealt us gale force winds (35-40 knots) all day which in turn generated 5 meter seas. We have never sailed in such conditions. It was at times disconcerting (OK, scary) to look out from atop the flybridge and be staring up at a wave crest approaching from behind. Fortunately we were running with the wind and seas which made for easier conditions than had we been pounding headlong into them. Dale was even able to bake fresh rosemary bread for dinner.


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Passage 2 of 3 (Bermuda to the Azores Islands)

Days 3-7 (May 7-11)

Winds out of Bermuda were wonderful for the first 6 days, helping us make good progress at an average of 6.2 knots. We crossed the halfway point for this 1,900 mile passage today. The last 24 hours, however, have been very calm with glassy seas. The forecast shows calm for another day, followed by some gale force winds a few days from now so we'll enjoy what we have and start preparing for rougher weather soon.


One day blurs into the next out at sea. Our routine onboard is a mix of sail changes, weather and navigation checks, reading, cooking, cleaning, card games and napping. Meals are typically the highlight of the day since we've provisioned lots of good food. Our new crew member for this passage, Siri Anderson, has been making valiant efforts at catching fish, but sadly has so far met with similar null results as during our first Atlantic crossing. Jelly fish are a different matter. Our boat has been surrounded by the translucent blue man-o-war jelly fish since departing Bermuda. They are the kind with the balloon like "sails" that allow them to drift with the winds and currents. They're mostly small (finger-sized, with the biggest being the size of a fist), but we see one every 10 feet or so. Given the calm seas, we'd planned on a mid-Atlantic swim tomorrow, but not sure we will with so many stinging critters around.


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Passage 2 of 3 (Bermuda to the Azores Islands)

Days 1-2 (May 5-6)

We thoroughly enjoyed a 3-day stop-over in Bermuda. Although most of our time was spent cleaning and fueling the boat, doing laundry, making repairs, provisioning, and route planning for the next passage. We also enjoyed the chance to regain our land legs and sample the restaurants in the area. After the final grocery store run for fresh produce, we departed the marina at noon on Thursday, May 5 to travel the 15 miles to St. George's to clear out through customs. With formalities completed, we set off to sea at 4pm for the 1,950 mile passage to The Azores Islands, a group of islands 1,000 miles west of Gibraltar and the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea.

The first two days have been glorious, with blue skies, calm seas and a steady tailwind that allowed us to fly our big colored headsail. The conditions are reminiscent of our east-to-west Atlantic crossing last November with the trade winds blowing at our back, but this time the sun sets off our stern rather than the bow. A highlight was the pod of dolphins that played on our bow wake shortly after departing Bermuda. A good omen for the passage we hope!


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Passage 1 of 3 (St. Thomas, USVI to Bermuda)

Days 5 - 9 (April 29 - May 2)

The second half of the passage was as difficult as the first, alternating between headwinds, and no winds -- neither of which are good for sailing. A highlight, however, was a morning of glassy seas and no wind when we stopped the boat for a mid-ocean swim and a few miles of exercise on a standup paddleboard, shadowing Helios as we motored slowly north. As with our mid-Atlantic swim during the first crossing, we were amazed at the brilliant and unique color of the water.

Our arrival in Bermuda was enchanting. It is a gorgeous island, especially as seen from the sea. We cleared in through customs and immigrations in St. George's first thing on Monday, May 2 and then proceeded to the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club marina in Hamilton on the other side of the island. Our crew change went like clockwork, with Andrea stepping off in St. George's just 3 hours before her homebound flight (that was a close call Andrea, wasn't it?!), and Siri arriving at dockside in Hamilton just 10 minutes after our arrival at the marina. Just enough time between them for us to change the linens!!


We covered 1,048 nautical miles in all on the passage from St. Thomas -- nearly 200 more than as the crow flies due to the tacking required for the headwinds.



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Passage 1 of 3 (St. Thomas, USVI to Bermuda)

Days 1 - 4 (April 24-28)

We departed St. Thomas as planned on Sunday, April 24, 2022, headed straight north to Bermuda for the first leg of our Atlantic re-crossing. The winds have been very uncooperative, on our nose out of the north the first 3 days, and then fading to just 3-4 knots by day 4. That meant a diversion to the northwest towards the Bahamas in anticipation of winds shifting out of the northwest in a couple of days for some better sailing the last few hundred miles into Bermuda. There has been a good bit of motoring the past day, since with winds under about 7-10 knots, the boat would basically be a bobbing cork.

Despite the poor winds, crew spirits are high. I'm thrilled to have my sister Kari onboard for the entire crossing, and her friend Andrea who joined this leg is proving a eager, stoic, and uncomplaining soul who weathered very rough seas and the accompanying queasiness and sleep disruptions beautifully. And of course First Mate Megan is being her normal, awesome sailor-self.


We celebrated reaching our half-way point last night with frozen Snickers bars!!


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