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August 1- “Fleetwood” returns to Jack’s old neighborhood

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

At 15.30 hrs UTC Im am at 44.19 N 11.57 W with 3995 miles to go. Only a 75 mile day. A near gale force wind piped up from the west at midnight. All sails went down and the building waves and clocking wind, to the North, slowed me down to about 2 knots and set me off course. With a slightly calmer morning the direction and speed improved to 3 1/2 knots with he storm jib. Just an hour ago I was able to rehoist the main with 3 reefs in it, doing better yet.

The polling of a number of Dutch sailing friends has resulted in a better than I could have hoped for mooring spot. John van Doorn, friend of Magda & Kees Scholten, managed to get me a spot at the WSV (Y.C.) “de Schinkel”. This is on the Southern edge of Amsterdam, near Schiphol, 10 minutes on the klapfiets to my sister’s home in Badhhoevedorp, 5 minutes from Evelyn in Amstelveen. My father’s younger brother, Fred van Ommen, was a member here for many years. John van Doorn remembers him. I used to do some of my earliest sailing from the “Schinkel” with my uncle and our long neighborhood friend Dick Hooijer’s parents were members and we used to sail with Dick from the “Schinkel”. Memory Lane……. I can live aboard. It is a 5 minute walk from a metro station. Sailing options are somewhat limited in the immediate vicinity but the Ijselmeer and the North Sea can be reached through two locks and opening bridges through the city of Amsterdam on restricted schedules. It fits me to a tee for the beginning of the Dutch visit and I will then get a chance to look for a possible move closer to the Ijselmeer or Friesland for the summer of 2010. I am hoping to organize a get together for family and friends shortly after the arrival to celebrate the return to my roots, hopefully at the “Schinkel” if facilities permit. Stay tuned.

July 31 less than a week from landfall

Friday, July 31st, 2009

At 15.30 I am at 43.47N 13.35W 471 miles to go , a 110 mile day. At this rate we’d be in Loctudy by Wednesday the 5th but realistically the 6th or even the 7th. The weather forecasts for the next 5 days are favorable. My plan is then to leave Loctudy for Amsterdam on Sunday afternoon, the 9th and the 550 miles to Amsterdam then would take anywhere from 6 to 10 days, depending on the weather, wind, strong currents in the Channel and a possible stop at Guernsey/Dover and/or Ostend.

I sent a request for mooring places suggestions to a number of my Dutch sailor friends, yesterday, and at least for a starting point, Monnickendam looks like a good spot. It is just a 15/20 miles North of Amsterdam on the old Zuiderzee and is easily reached by regular bus service from the Amsterdam Central Station. The wind came back yesterday evening and it steadily grew to around 20 plus knots and we are just flying the storm jib, doing better than 5 knots, dead down wind. It drizzled/rained off and on all day and it is dark in the cabin, with the wash boards closing off the companion way. The eggs are gone and I made a fish soup from the pickled/dried fish I made from the extra fish we caught earlier this week, for breakfast. Crew liked it. To-day is Cryptogram….

Thusrday 30 July, light winds

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

At 15.10 hrs UTC we are at 42.48 N 15.45 W 98 mile day with 583 miles to go, better than half way. We are about abreast of Cape Finisterre on the most N.W. corner of Spain. Less than 300 miles to the East of us. Giving the infamous Gulf of Biscayne a wide berth. On the very first trip to Mexico with Mattie, my last wife, we stayed at the Cabo Finisterre Hotel in Cabo San Lucas, in 1991. Some places and events remain in the memory for a long time. The wind fizzled out to nothing and the motor ran from yesterday evening till the morning. A half hour ago the motor was cranked up once more. We are between two High pressure areas. The forecasts for the next 5 days are a little more promising. We have one egg, cabbage, carrots and potatoes left for a few more days. Lettuce was finished at dinner time with Ron’s deviled eggs routine. We had a hit on the pole but lost the lure. Boobies kept diving on and nipping the bait. Done some clean up in the cabin and Ron has been polishing the stainless stanchions and pulpits, while we are in relative calm waters.

Wednesday July 29. Steady progress

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

At 15.30 hrs UTC I am at 41.51 N 17.27 W with 678 miles to Loctudy, a 94 mile day. The storm jib that had been our power source since yesterday morning came down at day break and after several sail changes we are now under our maximum canvas, the full main and 140% genoa and when I am done wit this posting the engine will be cranked on. The wind has gone into hiding. This is the furthest distance “Fleetwood” has come away from the equator since the spring of 2005. Last year it was 39 North at St. Michael’s, Maryland and before that it was 35 degrees at Cape Town, in 2007. I am not sure I like to have to go to the foredeck, like this morning, and get hosed with salt water and wear more than nothing and my safety harness and wristwatch. I still have not found my pair of jeans yet. Herb and the Grib files predict decent wind directions for the next 4 days. Friday might end up similar to to-day with light winds. To-morrow we should be half way with about 6 days to go to Loctudy.

Tuesday 28 July, lots of wind.

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

At 15.20 hrs UTC I am at 41.12 N 19.28 W. with 774 miles to go Loctudy, a 111 mile day. The wind filled in after yesterday afternoon’s posting, from the south. It increased steadily and from full main and 140% headsail we are down, as of this morning, to the storm jib. Big waves, doing 5 knots and better and are right on our course, with a s.w. wind of about 25 Knots. Herb is promising us N.W. for to-morrow 10/15 knots, o.k. but not ideal, a beat and for Thursday 15/20K from the S.W., right direction and strength, Friday another front with 15/25K from the N.W., which might slow me down and set me further east than the rhumb line. A few more freighters and the ferry/cruise-liner that keeps a regular schedule between Lisbon and the Azores.

Monday 27 July. No wind

Monday, July 27th, 2009

At 15.20 hours UTC I am at 40.31 N 21.48 W with 885 miles to go to Loctudy. A 91 mile day. The wind dropped during the night and went more to the N.E., on the nose, forcing me 30 degrees below the rhumb line. We have been motoring since early this morning. Practically no wind. We had to hand steer because both the ST1000 and ST2000 Autohelm auto pilots would quit unexpectedly. A real pain when you have been spoiled with hardly ever touching the helm. It turned out to be a loose ground connection and fixed it at sun light. It is a beautiful sunny day. I took a cockpit bath, sliced up the second fish for jerky and made a fish soup for lunch from the bones and leftovers with the last of our cauliflower, some onion, bouillon cubes and soup noodles. I started this a little earlier. Herb suggested a way point slightly to the east of our rhumb line to try and avoid 25/30 knot potential winds to-morrow. At least they will be on our stern. A French CGM container ship just passed us half hour ago heading towards the West. The first traffic we have seen since leaving Horta. I am enjoying the book “Salty Dream” translated from “Zoute Droom”. Written by Arie Twigt, our new friend, the accordion player at our Wednesday night party at Peter’s Place in Horta. It is the story of him and his wife, Hella, sailing to the Med and Caribbean and back to Holland on a 28 foot engine less boat when they were in their mid twenties, in the mid seventies. He tells it just like I heard him speak, a great read. Ron is practicing his bowline knots. To-day is Sid Nesbit’s 70th birthday…..We became friends in 1972 and since 1974 I have missed being at his birthday party only about 4 or 5 times till I left on this journey. Wished I could be there, to-day.

Sunday July 26th. When it finally rains it pours

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

At 20.00 hrs UTC I am at 40.17 N 23.25 W with 954 miles to Loctudy, a 92 mile day. The wind did a 180 degree turn around 2.30 a.m. and instead of running down wind we are beating upwind and not quite making the rhumb line. Once in a while we get lifted and then headed again. It is a much slower sail. Ron had set out a lure on the fishing pole, in addition to the trap line and this afternoon we had a fish on both lines at the same time. Must have been a family outing. Nice size fishes about 12 inches, not sure of the kind of fish. Never caught them before. They taste delicious, no scales, firm white meat. Last night and this morning we had heavy clouds and some rain. Strong winds during the night from the North. It has become much cooler. The sun came out mid day. As you might have noticed in yesterday’s posting title I was confused in the day of the week, so I missed the Cryptogram. The wind direction forecast for the next few days is more favorable and we should be back to 100 plus days. I talked to Herb last night and will do so to-night at 11 p.m.

July 24 Good Progress

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

At 19.15 hrs UTC I am at 39.50 N 25.30 W with 1049 Miles to Loctudy, a 110 mile day. It has been a fabulous sailing day. The winds picked up in the early morning and now at about 20 knots from the SW. Triple reefed main and 90% doing about 6 knots. At this rate I’ll arrive Loctudy around August 4 or 5. But much can still happen, the Grib files for the next 4 days look good with decent reaching or following winds. Ron acts like a kid in a cookie jar and his discoveries remind me that I have been starting to take so many of the blessings of this journey for granted. I heard his “oohs and aahs”, last night, when he was captivated by the millions of stars. The days go faster for me with company aboard. Last night I read my watch wrong and missed Herb’s transmission. I’ll try again to-night. So, to-day my youngest grandchild turned teenager. Who knows, the two sons might still bring the next wave of grandchild babies, their cousins will be too old to be baby sitters, but then there will be at least a couple of nieces/nephews who might be interested in baby sitting their potential aunts/uncles….. This sarcasm is totally harmless because the sons are too busy to read these lines.

July 24 On our way to France

Friday, July 24th, 2009

At 21.10 hrs UTC we are at 39.10 N 27.30 W with 1143 miles to go to Loctudy. We left Horta at 6 a.m. The northerly calmed down during the evening but I decided to stay at the dock till daybreak. We motored most of the day in choppy seas and little to no wind. Right now we are sailing with full main and a poled out, wing on wing 140% and doing close to 5 knots. It was a beautiful clear day. We passed Sao Jorge, Graciosa and can see the lights of Terceira island. The coast line and steep volcanic slopes dressed in lush green plants and shrubs remind me of the Marquesas. Lots of dolphins near the islands. Accompanying the boat and chasing the herring. We also saw a large whale, about 30 feet long feeding on the surface and blowing steam. I think they are Rigth Whales, here. Ron got the dolphins on video on his Black Berry. There is a boat catching up with us now, under power. I think it may be our new friends from Holland, they were also supposed to leave this morning for Holland. Aad and Hella Twigt. He celebrates his 62nd birthday to-day. I’ll try and see if I can raise him on VHF. I could vaguely hear Herb last night. I’ll check in at 11 p.m. Ron is already getting in the routine. We did a lot of rearranging of the way the boat was stowed in the last days. There was only one bunk in the cabin till then. Now Ron has the quarter birth and I sleep on the leeward of the two lower cabin bunks.

Friday 17 July

Friday, July 17th, 2009

At 19.30 hrs UTC I am at 38.22 N 29.37 W with 48 miles to go a 99 mile day. Just as Herb predicted, last night,the winds calmed and lifted me towards Horta. At midday I was able to shake out the reefs and sailed with maximum sails, the 140% Genoa and the full Main sail. Beautiful day and a great sail. Just a bit of a surge but very small waves. Then the winds died and I motor sailed for a while, then they filled in again, but 5 minutes ago I turned the engine on once more and I suspect that this might last all night. At least I know that way that I will arrive early morning in Horta. I should start seeing the lights later this evening. No fish for Friday. I’ll try find out in Horta what type of lure works in these waters. Ron Seiler will meet me at the marina. He found me their e-mail and I have sent them a message advising them of my arrival. All clearing in is done right at the marina. I had a cockpit bath and started soaking some of my laundry in a bucket with bleach and soap. I get the Azores AM stations now. Armstrong is not having much luck in the Tour de France. His front rider Contador, last week, decided to take the end sprint glory for him self instead of pulling Lantz. Then to-day another helper on his team took a spill and is out of the tour. Yesterday a Dane won the etappe, and earlier in the week a Norwegian. A Swede next? This used to be the playground of the Italians and French. I will add a few photos of the crossing to to-morrow’s posting, when I have internet access again. I’m excited to be back in Europe again, in my own home. I have dug out the left over Euroes.