For some unaccountable reason over a period of many years I have wanted to sail to the Azores. I think the idea goes back to when I was a sixteen year old. An elderly fellow who owned a miniature St. Ives lugger that he converted into a gaff cutter, taught me much of what I know about sailing. He kept his little boat at Dartmouth and often he would take me as his crew for weekend sailing. One weekend the whole of Dartmouth was excited about a small yacht that had arrived there directly from the Azores. It seemed that people were astonished because the four man crew were all septuagenarians. I just had to look at their boat, which was a well-found carvel yawl of about thirty feet in length.
I believe this may have been the origin of my desire to sail to the Azores. Well, before my attempt at doing it with ‘Aziz’ I had already had three goes at it, two of them single-handed. The first was with my tiny Hunter 19 Europa; the second was with my Folksong, and the third was a two-handed attempt aboard ‘Ishani’ (See recent article about the Cruise of ‘Ishani’). Could I succeed at my fourth attempt?
The story will unfold as I bring it to life from the ship’s log. If I was going to succeed it would surely be with ‘Aziz’ my Van de Sadt Pioneer 9. She had proven herself as being more than capable when Nicolette Milnes-Walker successfully sailed her across the Atlantic to grab the record for being the first woman to do so unassisted and non-stop.
My adventure began on Sunday, 29th June, 1997. I believed I had fully prepared the yacht for blue water sailing. At 0905 I excitedly cast ‘Aziz’ off her mooring at Fambridge. Then we were on our way. I speak on behalf of my yacht and myself as a team, because she was my partner in all things. Without her cooperation I knew my dreams would be unfulfilled. I sensed a wonderful feeling of freedom. The air was very good and the blood throbbing in my veins confirmed I was very much alive. I was at the beginning of a new chapter in my life, the end of which I could not be certain.
By 1338 we were at Barrow No 5, a starboard hand buoy to the north-east of the shallows of East Barrow Bank. This sand and gravel bank dries to a height of 5.6 metres above sea level at low water springs. There I brought the yacht around onto a course of 226 degrees compass heading for Barrow Deep No 6 port hand buoy. We were still under engine, as there was very little wind. At Barrow Deep No 6 buoy I judged there would be sufficient water for crossing between South West Sunk and Knock John if I kept near to the South West Sunk Beacon. However, this was not the case, and I was alarmed when ‘Aziz’ felt the ground and she started bumping over what appeared to be a bouldery terrain. Fortunately at that very moment the wind sprang up sufficiently for the yacht to heel. This saved our bacon by reducing her draught and before long we were in deeper water heading for Black Deep No 7.
Entrance to the River Swale
From there we kept north of the Shingles Bank on a course for the north-west Shingles buoy. Eventually we felt for sure we were heading towards the entrance to the River Swale, and once we were at the Spaniard Buoy, it was a simple matter of finding our way into the River by following the channel between the port and starboard buoys. At 2022 I was thankful that ‘Aziz’ was securely tied to a visitor’s buoy.
Text for the Day
1 Thessalonians 1:2 'We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers'