Monday, 7 July 2014


Moon through the North Atlantic mist.

Sunbathing North Atlantic style.

SV Passat II - Postcard En-route Horta to Falmouth

"Humans plan and the Gods laugh."

Old saying, but true today as ever.

The predicted winds for this passage were not to exceed 30 kts. Yesterday we experience gusts in the low 40s. The seas were choppy and the rumb line was straight downwind. Can you say "Mal de Mer". We were both so doped up on anti-sea sick medication we were zombies. Sigh! On the plus side we were going up to 9 kts down the back of the swells, with only the triple reefed main drawing wind.

Did I mention that it was totally overcast, rainy and cold. We were in long underwear and full wet gear. Shades of Pacific NW sailing in Spring.

Tonight the winds and seas have settled down and conditions are pleasant, but still overcast, with intermittent showers.

Speaking of Gods laughing. During the hight of the weather I decided it would be nice to have a Lemon Tea, with honey. Going downwind the boat was not heeled over, but was bucking like a wild pony. I was wedged into the Galley in a classic three point stance; feet placed wide apart and braced against bulkheads, bum wedged between stairs and counter leaving my hands free. By some miracle I managed to boil the water, make the tea and stir in the honey without spilling a drop! It was too hot to drink. Never mind I thought, I will wait until it cools. I set the wide bottom, tight lidded cup on the counter, on an anti-skid pad, next to the bulkhead, braced fore and aft by anti-skid cutting boards. This left only the interior nominally "uphill" side open. I then sat opposite, at the nav station, to play Solitaire on my tab.

Having lost several games I decided it was time to taste my tea. At that very moment a rouge wave hit. The Nominally "uphill" side became the decidedly "downhill" side. The cup took flight, hitting the companionway way ladder, loosing its lid and distributing honey laden tea across my drying wet gear and the entire galley sole. After the clean up I decided it was not my day to have tea. If I really needed a taste I need only chew on my wet gear.

On the plus side, I won my next two games of Solitaire.

All is well with us and we hope with you.

Wishing you fair winds and calm seas.


At 6/10/2014 3:50 AM (utc) our position was 41°13.37'N 025°55.08'W

SV Passat II - Postcard En-route Horta, Azores to Falmouth, UK

It is a cool, damp and foggy night. The world outside the cabin is shades of grey. Dark grey seas, lighter grey fog, back lit by the 86 % moon.

Passat drifts along, in light winds, on a gentle swell. The only sounds are the creaking of the rigging and gentle snores of the off watch crew (aka Sandra).

My mug of hot mint chocolate cools, firmly clamped to the stove by the pot holders. Lesson learned!

A quiet day. Minor rigging repair, reading, movie (Live Free or Die Hard) eating and radio nets. Half sailing / half motoring.

We talk to people all over and download weather faxes twice a day on the SSB radio. We check in with our "Buddy Boat" SV "Voila" (out of Montreal) to share position reports and weather. They are currently about 36 miles to the North. At about 01:00 I check into the Maritime Mobile Service Net, then after 02:00 talk to the net controllers of the Pacific Seafarers Net. Often I am talking to HAMs in Florida, California and Hawaii. I have even heard boats checking in as far away as Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific. Once, while in the Caribbean, I spoke to a net controller in New Zealand. Not bad for a 150 Watt radio.

My hot chocolate is ready so will sign off for now.

All is well with us and we hope with you.

Wishing you all fair winds and calm seas.


At 11/06/2014 02:49 (utc) our position was 42°19.75'N 023°52.47'W

SV Passat II - Postcard from the North Atlantic

Funny what one thinks about at 2 am on the "Dog Watch".

Was it Oscar Wilde who said something like "Going to sea is like going to prison, adding the possibility of drowning"?

He was no doubt talking of Ocean Liners. What would he think of a 34 ft sailboat?

As a bachelor I lived in a one bedroom apartment of about 700 sq ft. Our homes have all been over 1200 sq ft. On Passat II the two of us live in about 170 sq ft. Sometimes we have one or two guests aboard.

At sea, in the North Atlantic, going out for a walk involves; putting on wet gear, boots and hat; adding a "personal floatation devise" (with built in harness); snapping onto a lifeline; walking about 20 ft each way from the Cockpit to the Bow on a wet deck; heeled over 5 to 15 degrees. You burn more calories getting dressed to go out.

Prisoners, in Canada at least, would sue, claiming cruel and unusual punishment.

I spend virtually no time thinking about the "drowning" risk. It is a risk that is there, much like the drive to work or crossing the street. You manage it in much the same way. Drive safely, look both ways before crossing the road, etc. On the boat it includes; wear the PFD, snap onto a lifeline, have all the safety and communication tools available, etc.

Is the cruising life worth the prison like confinement and risk of drowning?

The question is best asked on a sunny day in the Caribbean, not on a foggy night in the North Atlantic.

All is well with us and we hope with you.

Wishing you fair winds and calm seas.


At 14/06/2014 03:24 (utc) our position was 45°32.32'N 016°57.89'W

SV Passat II - Postcard from the North Atlantic

A beach bar waiter at the El Cid Resort and Marina told me he could always identify the "Boaters" as they had no tan lines on their feet. "Tourists" were more inclined to ware sandals, resulting in tan lines. (I got the distinct impression he was more interested in other tan lines on the younger female patrons, but made no effort to confirm this with him.)

It is true that many (most?) of us boaters go barefoot on our boats in the tropics. After toughening the soles and learning the location of all the deck fittings (OUCH!) it is the most sure footed way to go. Besides deck shoes and boots are way too hot.

I have Scottish and Irish in my bloodline's, resulting in a low tolerance to sun. I like to say "I have two colors, White and Red; and in between I am very A-Peal-ing". To achieve any level of tan is hard work. Sandra, on the other hand, tans in a rain storm.

On really hot days, at sea or in isolated anchorages, I will wear only an old pair of sweat shorts. These were made by one of my sons (Mike or James) in a Home Economics class in about grade 7. They (the boys) are now in their 30s so the shorts are comfortably broken in. They (the shorts) are in still in great shape, except for the elastic in the waste, which is shot, leading to some interesting (scary?) moments, from time to time. Other then these scary moments I make no effort to eliminate tan lines.

Some boaters do "the full Monty (sp?)" to, I assume, eliminate tan lines. I recall one anchorage in Costa Rica we were spending Xmas in. Two Swedish boats joined us in the anchorage. The crews were nude. There comes a certain age when it is no longer attractive. They were beyond this "best before date".

That being said; I have after 7 years in the sub-tropics achieved a certain level of tan, complete with "age appropriate" tan lines.

The North Atlantic provides few (read no) opportunities to maintain, let alone improve ones tan. Our passage log provides a place to enter cloud cover. It reads 100% or fog for all but a few (make that rare) entries. Yesterday proved an exception for a few precious hours. Sandra now has a picture of me sun bathing in the North Atlantic. The fact that I am wearing a minimum of three layers of clothes may restrict the actual tanning benefit, other than the 3 or 4 square inches of unbearded face that remains exposed.

Lilly white and un-a-peal-ing in the North Atlantic.


At 17/06/2014 03:58 (utc) our position was 49°10.32'N 012°06.73'W


Converting 115V/15Amp adaptor to 230v/16.5Amp.

SV Passat II - Postcard From the North Atlantic

The North American boater faces a number of challenges coming to Europe, including:

- fixed concrete docks (sometimes rafted 4 deep).
- 230 V / 50 Hz electrical power vs 115 V / 60 Hz.
- Butane "GAZ" vs Propane.
- The "Schengen" Agreement.

All were known to us before we left, other than the excessive rafting in busy ports. The "Schengen" Agreement is worthy of a separate Postcard (rant), which I may do at another time.

It is hard to imagine poor little Passat II put against a fixed concrete dock, with a 3 ft tide range, swell serge and 3 larger boats rafted to it. BUT this is exactly what happened in our first stop, Horta, Azores. The constant movement and excessive pressure causes the concrete to embed particles of grit in the fenders, resulting in their becoming "sandpaper" against the hull. That is if the fenders do not pop first. Not to mention the mud tracked across your boat by some less thoughtful boaters. Of all the North American boats in the harbor we were the most prepared. In Mexico I bought a 2 X 10 board, to which I bonded three plastic cutting boards as ware surfaces. This is hung by ropes from the lifelines between the concrete and the fenders. The board prevents the grit from getting on the fenders. I use two 10" regular fenders with a 4" flat fender between them. The flat fender prevents the regular fenders from being squashed too the point of popping. So far it has worked.

I thought that I would be able to by a transformer, at a reasonable price, to address the electrical issue. Ha! For about $1,000 CDN, plus installation, you can get a transformer to convert from 230V to 115V, but it will not change the Hz from 50 to 60. Many battery chargers and appliances will not work with 50 Hz. Those that do are not as efficient. The handout supplied by MAY recommended that you check your battery charger to see if it accepted 50 Hz. Glory be!!! My battery charger not only accepts 50 Hz, it accepts 230V. All I needed to do was flip a switch and change a fuse. How to provide a 230V connection to the charger? I consulted (over an adult beverage) a Canadian boater, who happened to be an electrician. It turns out my wiring can handle it. All I needed to do was shut off the breakers to the plugs to prevent damage if someone plugged in a 115V appliance and get a European 230V plug for my extension cord. For about $8 CDN I got the plug and fuse and sacrificed my 15 amp to 30 amp Pig Tail to convert to European power. Now we can keep the batteries charged, then use our 150 Watt 12 v dc converter to produce 115 V ac for our electronics (computer, etc). The only challenge remaining will be to provide wiring for a 230V heater, but that is a problem for another day.

Butane "Gaz" vs propane. Propane appliances will work with butane, loosing some efficiency. I had heard that you could buy an adaptor so that the North American propane bottles could be filled with Butane. They were not available in Horta. However, they must exist as the supplier of Gaz in Horta can fill propane tanks. Hopefully this is common. If not we will have to find an adaptor or convert to Gaz. Sigh!

All is well with us and we hope with you.

Wishing you fair winds and calm seas.


At 12/06/2014 03:55 (utc) our position was 43°29.07'N 021°15.22'W