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Flores Azores

NotePlease listen to the NBR reportHere & Now is carried by 425 stations, so each time this runs the TOPtoTOP story is probably reaching 750,000 to 1,000,000+ million people.

At sunrise today the 21st of Many we made landfall at Flores in the Azores, just in time before some strong Southerly winds kick in.

Last week was eventful. We celebrated our 17th wedding day on the 10th and Alegra’s 6th birthday on the 18th. Andri became our best climber on board in climbing the mast twice in heavy swells. This was necessary when a rope collapsed on the top of the 20m mast in 60 knots of wind and was several times around the Genua furling system.

Again we identified some whales and many dolphins. We were exited to here from Rob about the progress to get a hydrophone that would allow us to collect even more valuable data. The biggest peace of plastic we encountered was about 2 m2.

All in all it was a fast trip with some uncomfortable seas. Thanks to our volunteer Elliott, it became a fun trip for our kids. He just finished Highschool and joined the boat in New York. The kids love him! He became the big brother to them and a valuable crew member on the journey.

Many thanks also to our Bermuda friends Swiss Honorary Consul Fabian and Petra Schönenberg, Isabella and Tamara Betschart, Kerry and Sasha Howland for all the delicious food. The former Swiss Honorary Consul Leo Betschart baked us cookies and fresh bred and even a Swiss Zopf for the trip.
Some joined us on Pachamama on our sail from Hamilton to St. George’s, where we cleared out of the country and shared with us the exiting moment with the Americas Cub boat.

Many thanks again to the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. The GM David Furtada gave us the flag of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and the dock master Reggie Horsemann a fishing rod as a goodbye gift. Many thanks also to Tom Watlington, Pierre Honegger and Paul Henry Doughty for having fun with our kids giving dinghi driving -, French and history lessons.

A reminder that “Murphy’s Law” is still in place was a message we got yesterday from our friend Martin, Commanding Officer of the School-ship SVANEN from the Danish Navy. Thanks to his great skills and wisdom a disaster could be prevented. They left Bermuda 60 hours ahead of us with new cadets. After his message below, we decided to intensify our MOB drills with the kids. Starting today with a unexpected MOB drill at 3 am on the approach to Flores.

“Dear Dario

So cool to hear from you! I hope that the Danish Arctic Command will be positive towards your requests.

We are currently (Friday afternoon) a bit ahead of you at 37 33N – 32 43 W, and our ETA at Horta is Saturday afternoon/early evening. Have you decided on a port of call at the Azores?

Everything is quite well, despite a rather unfortunate crossing from Bermuda. Here on board SVANEN we have had one of those accidents that just must not happen: A man overboard. Even though all our safety measures were taken and the weather was not that bad, one of our trainees slipped overboard in the middle of the night last week. Luckily, she was wearing a lifevest, and we got her picked up again in a matter of a few minutes. Since she had pains from her back and neck, we were worried that something was fractured, so in agreement with the Danish Radio Medical and our JRCC back home, we had her evacuated to a passing commercial vessel which to all luck was nearby. She was dropped off at Bermuda, and as it turned out everything was all right with her, she is now safely home in Denmark where she is being taken good care of. Of course, it was a dreadful experience for all of us, but we have worked it through and everyone on board is fine. It is the first time ever we have had an accident like that, but the fortunate outcome has shown us that our procedures works and that hundreds of times of training a MOB situation actually does pay off. The sea can sure be dangerous, none of us should ever forget that.

Adding to this, our engine here on SVANEN broke down yesterday, and as it is a highly computerized, modern engine, we have not been able to fix it out here. Good thing we are in company with THYRA so they can tow us to our berth in Horta when we arrive!

I hope that you have had a more pleasant crossing than us, and hope to see you again, if not in the Azores, then perhaps at Greenland next year – who knows? 🙂

Sincerely,
Martin, Commanding Officer of SVANEN”

Now in the Azores we start visiting schools and organizing clean-ups. Also important is that we can recover and refill our batteries for the long trip to Arctic waters. Specially Sabine in the 7th month of her pregnancy.
We hope that the encounter with the grey whale did not cause some major damage. We dive ASAP to find out! To brush off the ink of the giant octopus on deck will be an easy task.
We also hope to find the parts to fix our main sail. But most important, after Martin’s report, would be a donation to get a new MOB marker with a light integrated. The one we have, got submerged by the heavy seas and stopped working.

You can call, text or what’s up again to our phone number +1 415 516 36 79 and if it is not working always to our Iridium number +881623415208.

Good news!

1. Elliot survived his Ocean Crossing Baptism, thanks to some hours of calm conditions between two frontal systems:

“The baptism marking my first ocean crossing started late afternoon with the sound of an air horn in my sleeping ear. The culprit was Alegra, or regarded to as “Dolphin” while on the ocean, decked out in the full captain underpants look and tugging me out of bed. Confused, I spring to my feet and follow her to the cockpit to be greeted by King Neptune, the captain and ruler of the sea, followed by the rest of the crew dressed in similar ways complete with bandana and machete. All eyes are on me as I agree to the rules and commencement begins. My legs are then tied and leashed to Manta Ray, or Salina as the land goers call her, and am raced around the gunwales of the boat dodging metal wire and playing limbo through the sheets. I complete this first task in good time, but have no idea what’s coming next. I am brought back up the bow, untied this time, and take off what I don’t want to get wet assuming what the next task might be. It was much more complicated than just jumping
in the water Neptune explains, because we are still sailing at a decent speed. I will have to be more timely than before and make it the floating rope attached to the stern of the boat before it drifts out of reach, leaving me about 30 seconds of dive and swim time. I hit the frigid water and instantly speed to the line, grabbing hold and struggle to pull myself up against the wake of the boat. When I finally make it back on deck, my baptism is complete and I am given an ocean name of my own, “Mahi”.”

2. Main sail is flying again and Pachamama got baptized by a giant octopus:

After the top of the genaker sail failed and all hands were needed to rescue the sail out of the ocean, we improvised and were finally able to set the main sail again. We closed the day with some dancing for Mother’s Day joined by dolphins. Overnight a giant octopus colored our front deck with its dark blue ink. It’s nice to see that there is still a lot of sea mammals out there.

3. Alegra’s 6th birthday on the 18th:

Frank reported good winds for Alegra’s birthday, another birthday for her at sea. She likes it wild and has already crossed 6 oceans. Sabine started to cook a birthday cake what is a hard job to do with all the shaking. It would be great if some folks could call in to congratulate Alegra. Here our Iridium Satelite Number: +881623415208

Bermuda to Azores: Bad luck!

Last days we had crossed seas and swells. The wind speed and direction was changing a lot because of the thunderstorms. In the afternoon we were ready to put another reef into the main sail. Unfortunately the top glider got damaged in a big blow. The only way to bring the main down was by Dario climbing the mast with a big hammer. That was not an easy task in the big swell and Dario crashed several times against the mast. The sea conditions at the moment do not allow any repairs. We sail without the main sail for the moment and use the staysail. That does not allow us to go higher to the wind and makes the boat very unstable, means no chance to cook.

Today Pachamama was surfing with 9 knots in a 35 knots breeze down a wave, when she hit a grey wale. It was like an earthquake and we came to a sudden stop. Everybody jumped on deck. My first thought was that we hit another floating container. But than the kids saw the wale and the water turning red from the blood. We felt so sorry and everybody was very sad.
Luckily no water coming into the boat, but the rudder does a strange noise since. No chance to inspect hull and keel under current conditions.

Crew is all fine and we hope that conditions are improving so that we reach the Azores to inspect the impact of the collision.

Bermuda

Follow us to Iceland and Greenland here! … and join us in June/July/August in Iceland and in Scoresby Sound at the East Coast of Greenland.

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by Elliott:

It took 6 days to sail to Bermuda from the Lower Bay of New York City. We crossed the Gulf Stream blowing approximately 45 knots giving us a full day with massive waves overtaking the bow and swimming all the way back to the cockpit. The water was 19 degrees celsius, and then slowly dropping back down to around 12 degrees signaling to us that we have completed crossing the Gulf Stream. I felt a sigh of relief when this happened because were we looking forward to clear skies and fair winds, and also the end of my sea sickness. At the same moment, a squad of singing dolphins approached the stern of the boat, dancing in our wake as we moved forward, almost assuring us we were still headed in the right direction of land. They kicked their dorsals in the air wishing us good luck for the rest of the journey to Bermuda.

IMG_7973While meeting Charles Joynes, the principal of Northlands Primary School, he described to us the many pros and cons of moving to an island like Bermuda. For example, a little known fact that in Bermuda, residents are allowed only once vehicle per household, no matter how many people live there. With economical and political challenges very different than we face in the United States, Mr. Joynes and most other Bermudians face surcharges of taxed items up to two times the original retail price on clothing, food, and other imported goods like oil. This makes it increasingly difficult to survive in the islands and support a family with these economical pressures. People have some solutions that may help such as catching rain water, farming their own foods, and using public transport around the island. I found the bus and ferry system to be very convenient and probably the quickest way to travel from one town to another on the island without having to worry about parking. Luckily, the RBYC (Royal Bermuda Yacht Club) is placed in the center of Hamilton’s town, making it easy to walk most places.

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General Manager Royal Bermuda Yacht Club David Furtado and Dockmaster Reggie Horseman on the TOPtoTOP expedition sailboat.

During the week we had 3 times students visiting the boat thanks to the courtesy dockage at Royal Bermuda Yacht Club:

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We maintained Pachamama and were able to talk to Danish Navy Captains Jens and Martin with Greenland experience:

We were featured in the article in the Royal Gazette that helped us to organize the events.

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by Andri:

The minute we pulled into Hamilton Harbor we passed by multiple America’s Cup boats training for the upcoming competition. It is amazing to see a boat literally floating above the water using its foils and advantageous use of weight throughout the boat to fly 45 plus knots across the water. The wings produce so much underpressure that the water starts evaporating limiting the speed . Each boat weighs in around 3.5 tons, compared to our boat which is 13 tons, you can see how that can affect the speed. The boats they use here are constantly being changed to be used well in the waters they are going to sail in. For instance, it seems that when a boat tacks, the sails barely move. But, it is the boom that is being altered, not the main sail. This makes it easier to keep the same tension on the lines with only altering which way the wind is hitting the sail. In the race there are 6 national teams competing, but not one from Bermuda. Nowadays in these boats, it is mostly controlled by computer technologies, and because of its changes cannot be sailed in heavy storms or even waves higher than one meters. An America’s Cup boat can travel two times the speed of the wind, meaning when there is twenty knots of wind, a boat can get up to 45 knots easy. Once we docked at RBYC, we took a ferry to Dockyard where we toured the National Museum of Bermuda. It was really cool to see how the maritime industry has had a huge impact on Bermuda itself and on the rest of the world with major inventions and innovations that changed the way we navigate and conduct ourselves on the water.

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by Salina:

Since New York, I was desperate to go swimming. When we finally saw Bermuda I nearly flipped out in joy of going in the clear, blue water. But not just yet. We still had to go through customs and make it to our anchorage spot on the other side of the island. Right when I felt the anchor hook on the ground below, I instantly jumped in the warm water. Everybody followed in, and we all had an awesome time.

Yesterday, on the 6th of May, we walked the 30th year anniversary “End to End” charity fundraiser in which we walked from Hamilton to the Dockyard, a 24k race. On the way, there was an abundance of pit stops where we could refuel on water and snacks, making the trip feel not so bad. We finally reached the finish line, congratulated by hundreds of people and many tents with gifts and food.

We took the ferry back to Hamilton, then walked up the hill to BHS (Bermuda High School) to a school fair.

IMG_0544There was a bunch of games where if you win, you were given gold coins, and the more coins you got, the more toys you could trade them in for. I got 2, and my brothers got 76. One of my friends at the fair invited me to her house, taking a steep hill and narrow roads to get there. On the roof of every house, there was a step-like structure with holes that would collect rain water for the house to use. I found this interesting because Bermuda apparently has been in a drought for 3 months, so they find the water very precious.

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by Alegra:

I was surprised with an early birthday gift from my dad of a really nice, new snorkel set. We took to Horseshoe Bay, a beautiful beach on the islands South side where we discovered an amazing array of coral rock spread throughout the beach. I snapped on my new snorkel set and began exploring the wonderful coastline. When we got home back at the Yacht Club, I started fishing and quickly felt a tug on the line. Unfortunately, I caught a puffer fish which is not very tasty and difficult to unhook. It took about an hour before we got the fish safely back in the water. I am so happy we got to stay at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club because it is a beautiful spot in Hamilton Harbor and everyone is so friendly. The water is even nice to swim here, but we have to look out for moving boats!

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by Noé:

On Friday we visited Northlands Primary School, and gave a presentation about our mission followed by a cleanup of plastic around the school. The students were very nice and invited us to stay at the school the whole day and go through classes with them. We first started with a math class then moved on to the fun part, recess. We learned how to play cricket, a native sport here on the island, then played futbol.

On Sunday the 7th of May we climbed the highest peak in Bermuda, Gibbs Hill Lighthouse together with our friend Fabian Schoenenberg, the Swiss Honorary Counselor, tin 20 minutes to the ocean :

On Monday the 8th of May we did the last two schools in Rockaway and Hamilton, before setting sail on Tuesday. Because of a problem on board we couldn’t manage to do the Somerset Primary School Tuesday morning, but promised to do it when back in Bermuda end of the year.

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Primary School in Rockaway and Hamilton High School.

A great goodbye:

We had the former Swiss Honorary Counselor, Leo Betschart and our friend Pierre Honegger wishing us farewell.

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Thanks to our friend Kerri with her daughter Sasha we were able to explore the caves on the island at the last day.

Tom Watlington invited us on his island for lunch:

Indiana SUP overall statements:

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Noé: “So easy to set up, we got it going in less than 5 minutes. Once it was in the water we were zooming! It is fast and easy to paddle, even with extra weight on the board we stayed stable and didn’t get wet unless we wanted to.”

Alegra: “It is so good that it is soft and filled with air so I don’t have to worry about falling at all, I just get to enjoy the paddling. The paddle even changes sizes so someone as young and as short as me can use it perfectly. I wanted to bring snorkel gear with me so I just stuck it below the bungee cord on the nose of the board and it stayed in place the whole ride.”  

Andri: “ Its perfect that the whole board fits into a bag which made it easy to carry from one point to another without having the inconvenience of holding the board. The board is so stable it works in any environment from beach waves to just paddling around in the harbor. “

Salina:  “The board gives people the opportunity to see nature from a different perspective and at their own pace, it’s fun to look below the surface and explore the ocean below you, the board makes it so easy to do that. For my mom, she was so excited she could paddle even with the baby with her. This is by far the best experience I’ve had with a stand up paddle board in my life, makes it so easy to connect with nature for my whole family.”

More pics here!

New York to Bermuda

We sailed in 5 days from New York to Bermuda and experienced some interesting sea conditions in the Gulf Stream. The sea temperature changed from 4 to 19 degrees Celsius, causing its own weather with thunderstorms combined with uncomfortable sea conditions. Thanks to Frank Bohlen’s advice we were able to sail the best route. We were escorted by dolphins as soon as we left the Gulf Stream. From the first moment we felt in love in this beautiful and charming country and had a warm welcome by the Bermuda immigration officer.

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