3rd Atlantic crossing – Azores to France

We felt at home in our little floating village, the small marina in Sao Jorge, where we knew almost all our neighbors. Yet, as we had to depart soon, we had already started to provision for our last Atlantic crossing. Fruit and vegetables were of much better quality now than what we had previously found in the Caribbean. We had hoped to also visit Terceira as our last stop in the Azores as it is supposed to be very beautiful. The weather made a different decision, however. A good weather window came up with a weak low that was forecast to move slowly from Iceland to Ireland. The most important thing on this passage is to avoid getting caught up in a strong low. Since there are not so many good weather windows to make the passage from the Azores to Northern Europe, we decided to leave and skip Terceira. We weren’t happy to say good-bye to our small mid-Atlantic paradise, but that is part of sailing the world… Hopefully we’ll be back one day in the Azores!

We untied our lines at 7 pm in the evening. The wind from the low was forecast to arrive the next day and our plan was to make as much north as possible until then, because we’d be sailing upwind. It is also the general tactic to sail north until about 45° N before setting a straight course to Northern Europe. The wind arrived the next day as predicted and soon the waves as well. The next three days we were beating against the wind and didn’t feel very well. In fact, some of our pre-cooked beef soup didn’t make it all the way to our stomachs… Fortunately, this was the hardest part of our passage as the weather improved continuously in our favor. Over the course of the passage the wind decreased and changed direction so that we could sail a good part of it with the wind from the aft, just like on our first Atlantic passage to the Caribbean. In contrast, however, to that first passage, it was getting a bit colder every day and the fact that we hardly ever saw the sun behind the clouds didn’t quite increase our desire to spend much time in the cockpit. Instead, we stayed down below most of the time and only left our shelter to maintain our regular lookout and to adjust the sails. As the passage became more comfortable, our activities inside Naïma’s belly increased. We watched series and documentaries and we discovered a fantastic way to make time go by very quickly: composing music. Poor ancient sailors that didn’t have all this comfort and all these possibilities for entertainment!

While we had spotted a ship about every second day (mostly at 1.30 in the morning), it was on day 11 that I couldn’t believe my eyes… 1, 2, 3, … 5 big freighters ahead!! What was going on here? Well, we were apparently just crossing the direct line between the English Channel and Cap Finisterre in Spain. So all ships that are heading from the Channel to Portugal, the Med, South Africa, and Asia took this route and we were in the midst of it! Captain B and Captain E took their lookout much more serious from this day on…

Getting close to Brittany, we took our cruising guides to decide where to make our landfall and to make a rough plan for the next couple of months as we’ll have a number of visitors. Two days later, on day 13 (after 11.5 days of sailing) we spotted the Ile de Groix, where we made landfall in Port Tudy. It turned out to be an excellent idea to make our landfall in a small touristic island instead of a big port on the mainland, but more about this in our next post.

Passage statistics:

  • 1328 nautical miles
  • 1189 nm under sails
  • 1 day under motor
  • 4 ships sighted till day 11, then about 100 in the last 2 days
  • 1 dolphin only
  • 60 apples eaten
  • 0 fish
  • 1 series of Six Feet Under finished; several documentaries
  • 7 composed piano pieces to make this world a better place

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