Confessions from Saetta

We always try to be as honest as possible about what is going on in our blog, videos and Instagram. This is one of the reasons we loved that we had found a way to keep on posting blogs during our crossing. Our experience is that you get a better image how things really are, if you write straight away.
This blog has (mostly) been written underway, but on purpose published after arriving.

The blogs we wrote were all true, but we have left a couple of situations out. We did this because we didn’t want our family and friends (especially non sailors) worry too much. But now we have arrived safe and sound, so it is confession time..

We were very, very anxious before beginning this trip. It sounded so much longer than any trip we did before and we knew the weather wouldn’t be as stable as the way to the Carribean. And although we were also excited and happy to start, being anxious was definitely part of us! It didn’t help that we knew that three of the boats that left before us, ran into to quite some trouble: temporarily broken autopilot, a broken furler, engine problems, problems with the SSB, movement in the keel structure.. no small things! We knew they all arrived safe and sound, but it did scare us.

I told you before that in our first week we sailed very close to the wind. We haven’t done that a lot before (it is not comfortable so we try to avoid it), which made that it took some time to get used to it. We know sort of how much Saetta can take with winds from most angles, but now we weren’t too sure what was ‘normal ‘ and what wasn’t. We had a couple very rough bangs through the boat, specially being inside, it sounded sometimes things would brake. After a while I could not stand it anymore: the banging sounded so violent, I was sure things would brake, so we decided to change course more to the North to be a bit more comfortable. I guess it is true what they say: a boat can usually handle more than the skipper! But how far do you want to go to find out how much the boat can handle?!
So nothing broke, except from the heads (toilet) door, when a wave slammed me into it, which unhinged the door. It was easily screwed back in!

After another week of sailing, we had to use the engine. During my shift (it was around 21.00h in the evening) all of the sudden the rpms dropped. I put the engine in neutral and shut it off. Miguel looked into it and came to the conclusion there must be debris in the diesel tank. We filled up our tank with diesel from our jerry cans, in the hope this would push the debris down. Whilst we did this, the wind picked up and we could sail again. Since it was nighttime we left it with this, and had a better look the next day.
We checked the filter, which was clean, and checked the hoses to see if anything was blocking. Miguel blew through a hose, which was clogged, he unclogged it by blowing in it. This meant the debris was back in the tank, the chance of clogging again was definitely there.
We added some anti diesel bug liquid into the tank, but our bottle was almost empty, so we weren’t sure if this would do the trick. Miguel decided it would be better not to use the diesel from our diesel tank, but to run the engine on a jerry can. I am so impressed with him when he trouble shoots, checks possible problems and creates ways to fix the problem! We filtered the diesel from one of the jerry cans, bypassed the diesel tank, added the jerry can and tried this set up: it seemed to work! For now we didn’t need the engine, but it felt good to gave something in place.
We flew the spinnaker, even during the night, to avoid turning the engine on.

The next day Miguel wanted to check the shaft, since the problem might come from a bent shaft. There were long waves, but quite high, so Miguel having to go into the water wasn’t something I really liked. Even with all the sails down, you could really feel and see how the waves moved Saetta. Miguel went in to the water, checked the shaft, which seemed okay, but he did see a plastic bag on the propeller. With the hook he went back into the water to see if he could get it loose and just after he got in, I saw a jelly fish behind him! I noticed it too late: Miguel got stung already. He quickly came out of the water. I was really freaked out, since worse case scenario it would be a deadly sting! We got vinegar to put on his leg and checked our medical book what to do more. As they should, they covered all the bases, but that only made us freak out more. We learned that an allergic reaction can be very dangerous. We checked our medicine bag and the only thing we could use would be antihistamine: it works against the itchiness and can be used by an allergic reaction. Maybe we over reacted, maybe we did not but we sat down and repeated the talk about what to do when Miguel wouldn’t be responsive: call the coast guard, turn on the epirb, when using the engine change the jerry can every three hours. After talking this through, Miguel decided to call the Portuguese coast guard, just to inform them and give them information. A bit later a doctor called to check up on him, and he mentioned that all sounded well. Miguel initially felt a bit strange, but we think this might have been more from ‘what if’ and anxiety than the sting itself. He went to bed to take a rest and I checked I him every couple of hours. All was fine! As I said, maybe we overreacted, but better safe than sorry!

On day 21 we had 95 nm to go to the Azores. Unfortunately, the wind changed direction and was now coming straight from the east, the direction we wanted to go. It builded up, and so did the seastate. I do not handle 3 meter waves well, I fell pretty seasick. On my shift, I was standing behind the wheel, clinging on to the plotter stand, trying to keep my balance with wave after wave hitting us. I was sure I was going to throw up once I sat down, so I tried to stay up as long as possible, trying not too cry too much. I felt terrible. The day before, Miguel had asked me if I was worried about the change or weather and I wasn’t, but I had forgotten how quickly things can turn bad. When Miguel saw how I felt, he came on deck and took over over wheel. He tried to steer so that the waves wouldn’t feel too bad. Not an easy task! He got very tired, but pushed through. We considered going to Ilha de Flores instead of Horta, since we had favorable winds to go there, but we decided to keep on going. Our friends (4 boats) all had arrived, which we were a bit jealous of!
In the evening the wind calmed down so much that we couldn’t sail anymore. We had 2 options: drift around and wait for the wind, or try the set up of the engine. It was nervewrecking, but we decided to try the engine, and hurray!! It ran smoothly! On we went, straight to Horta! Every couple of hours we topped up the jerrycan and in the afternoon we finally arrived!
22 days at sea, I don’t think I’ve every been happier to see land again. I am not sure if it was the tiredness, seasickness or something else, but I’ve been quite emotional! Miguel did mention that I don’t respond in a very Saskia like manner the last days. But here we are, we have time to settle down (although even before arriving Miguel started to make a to do list on our white board). Time to enjoy the Azores, because we know we have a long way ahead of us.

On and all, I think we’ve had a very good trip. I know this blog is much longer than the others I wrote, but it is so much easier to spent more words on things going bad than when things are going well. We’ve had some challenges, but we’ve dealt with them well. And we have had plenty very nice, enjoyable smooth, sunny, zen days. Let’s not forget those! In our next blog we’ll show you some of the photo’s we’ve made underway. They will show the calm seas and amazing views.

And about the engine: we emptied the diesel tank and found our the gasket had deteriorated and pieces had fallen into the tank. One of the pieces must have blocked a fuel hose. Cleaning it was a hard job since we can not reach the bottom of the tank with our hands, but we managed and everything should be good now!