In the middle of a night watch last week I was counting up on my fingers the number of long passages Velvet Lady had completed that were over 600 miles long and I was amazed to discover that in fact, this last one to the Azores was the 30th.
These trips are always popular to a wide range of audiences and this last week was no different. A minimum of 600 miles by the log is one of the criteria that the RYA require for a trip to be counted as an ocean passage towards an exam. We often have people who aspire to holding a Yachtmaster Ocean certificate and they are either new to passage making and coming to learn about ocean voyaging or already experienced and want to ‘act as mate’ for the passage to count towards an exam.
Many of our guests however do not want the pressure of learning and exams but want to experience the freedom of a ‘life on the ocean wave’. Away from phones, radio and newspapers it is wonderful to enjoy the wind in your hair and the motion of the boat on the waves. Time is spent looking out for other ships but also gazing at stars, watching sunrises and sunsets and looking for wildlife. Turtles, birds, dolphins, whales, jellyfish ….
Last week was no different. We had 2 potential Yachtmaster Ocean candidates, Kit on his first trip with us and Martin on his second who is also staying for the real roughy toughy one to Plymouth coming up next. Jim who recently completed his competent crew course and wanted something a bit different from day sailing, and Pippa to experience sailing in windier weather than she would usually go out in.
We always start the trip with briefing followed by a familiarisation day sail, and this week we had a fantastic reach to Porto Santo. With the wind fluctuating during the day we had plenty of opportunity to practice reefing.
The weather forecast for the week was for NW winds at the start, light winds in the middle and NE winds at the end. We started with plenty of tacking to keep north of Porto Santo and Madeira, and finished on a very fast broad reach in force seven winds and big seas. We made such good time that after completing our 600 miles we still had 2 days to spend on the tiny island of Santa Maria before sailing to San Miguel.
With all the boxes ticked bar one, we were anxious on our last day to ‘find a whale’ We were not to be disappointed and the piece de resistance for the week was watching a spectacular sperm whale breaching a short distance off the bow on our last days sailing about 3 hours before we arrived in Ponta Delgada. That memory will stay with all of us.
Next is the long one. Our roughest, toughest passage of the year, 1200 miles between the Azores and Plymouth. Always booked well in advance and always full! Theoretically you start in the centre of the Azores high and end up motoring north for about 200 miles to find the strong westerly airflow which predominates the north Atlantic. We really hope that this is the case this year, as the previous 2 years we were bogged down in easterlies. Early weather forecasts are promising.
If you fancy an ocean passage – for an exam, to learn or for experience, you are welcome to join us. They always book up soon and our next ones are already listed on our website
If however you fancy sailing with us in more sheltered waters, why not join us as we cruise the Danish Archipelago this summer. Here the sailing will still be exhilarating but we will focus on day sailing and visiting harbours rather than overnight sailing and watchkeeping.
All our holidays are listed in our schedule and sailors of all levels beginners to experienced are always welcome.