While we waited patiently for nine days in the Azores for our new engine coolant pump to arrive, we took advantage of the marina’s provisioning services and enjoyed some pizza and local fresh produce. It was a comfort to be able wake up to fresh Portuguese coffee, toast, and eggs while we were there.
After making great time motoring and sailing out of Gibraltar, a small disaster strikes and we are forced to make a pit stop in the beautiful Azores.
Dodging multiple gales and bunkering down in Spain we finally have arrived in Gibraltar! It was really looking like we weren’t going to make it here by May 15th but a lucky spell of weather put just enough wind at our backs and with just enough diesel we puttered into Gibraltar harbor on the morning of the 15th to our biggest refuel ever and to gather some fresh provisions and BEER! As we sailed close to the Moroccan coast, we slowed down considerably as we hit the east setting current that flows through the strait of Gibraltar from the Atlantic into the Mediterranean. It was then that our prospects grew dim. Luckily however, we magically found an unexplained counter current that carried us into motoring range.
We opted to increase our Garmin Inreach plan to “unlimited messages” for our Atlantic crossing in order to keep in touch and receive our FastSeas weather routing.
We are really happy to have a crew of three for our Atlantic crossing. This article really highlights a lot of the hardships we have faced in the past couple months culminating to our long Atlantic crossing back to our home country. We haven’t been chased out of a country yet, but the price gouging is real. Another big thanks from SV Speck crew to all of those who have supported us. We would certainly be in for much harder times without it.
We said goodbye to Syracuse and finally enjoyed some really nice downwind sailing. This came as a well needed reprieve from the thunderstorms and squalls that had us hunkered down below decks without sleep for days.
Not waiting for weather and with our sights set on home, the crew of SV Speck pushes on from Port Ghalib, Egypt to Syracuse, Italy sailing through strong winds and one of the fiercest thunderstorms to date. Determined to make the Atlantic crossing and armed with our new route planning service, “FastSeas“, we are making some of the best times we have seen yet.
Sometimes when the wind is just right, you keep on going. Originally intended upon stopping in Djibouti, SV Speck and crew decide to keep going after crossing the Gulf of Aden. This made for a 35 day crossing – the most days at sea for for us to date. A good training run for what is to come.
From Phuket, Thailand to Cochin, India took us just about 13 days. Most of the way was smooth sailing, and winds were in our favor. Every morning was a beautiful sunrise and every evening was a gorgeous sunset. There is definitely something magical about being in the wide open ocean with nothing but rolling blue waves as far as the eye can see.
We’ve arrived in India but have been quarantined to our boat for four more days! The India officials are making sure we don’t become the first cases of the coronavirus here. Everyone on board feels healthy, time for some boat projects!
With the NE monsoon season now in full swing we began our passage from Sabang, Indonesia to Phuket, Thailand with no shortage of wind. Unfortunately the wind was dominating out of the NE and that is where we wanted to go.
Being chased out of the Southern Hemisphere by the NE monsoon season, we have been sailing almost nonstop since leaving Labuan Bajo. In only two weeks we have covered a distance similar to the entire eastern seaboard of the United States. It’s not half bad considering the amount of doldrums we have encountered. Where we are now, the NE monsoon is characterized by light to nonexistent winds during the day accompanied by strong squalls at night complete with 40+ knots of wind, torrents of rain and thunderous lightning storms.
Our stop in Labuan Bajo was motivated by the need to extend our visas to a total of 60 days in Indonesia. This visa extension process turned out to take longer than expected.
We had almost given up hope of catching a glimpse of the giant manta rays in Komodo National park when we came across a local who pointed us in the right direction. After a bit of swimming around, Byron pointed after one that he glimpsed and Dan dove after it. Sinking deeper and deeper, fixated on trying to get a good shot, the ray slipped farther and farther out of range. Dan, realizing he was out of breath and about 30 feet deep, turned around only to be face to face with five of these majestic creatures at point blank range. Already oxygen deprived a wave of shock and fear coursed through him immediately followed by a calm as the group of giant manta rays (easily twice his size) glided by respectfully.
At long last after nearly a week of sailing through the Sumba straight from Kupang we have arrived at daybreak to the island cluster belonging to the Komodo National Park. The current through this area was so strong we found ourselves having to inch our way through with the tides. After anchoring near an outer island and waiting for the current to change in our favor, we are now anchored at Komodo Island in the heart of the park. These islands appear to be volcanic in their origin and host little vegetation. Adventure awaits.
Today we set sail for the port of Labuanbajo, where we will get our visas extended to 60 days. This should be a 3-4 day sail but we are expecting it to take longer as the NW monsoon season makes this area very light with winds. As such we have stocked up on sanding pads, varnish, brushes and hoses so Dan can get some varnish work done and Byron van install a saltwater washdown while floating around in the middle of the ocean. Just west of Labuanbajo lies the island of Komodo. And yes it is the home of the famous Komodo dragon, the last of the living dinosaurs. We will sail there and check out the dinosaurs before heading to Bali.
Forced to leave Australia due to our expiring visas, we cast off hoping for wind and a quick four day journey to Indonesia. What we found were light winds and doldrums (characteristic of this time between monsoon seasons) and arrived in Kupang, Indonesia twelve days later.
After a quick downwind run to Darwin, Byron flew back to the United States for his little brother’s wedding while Dan biked, camped, and explored the Darwin area.
After a long stretch of downwind sailing North, we stopped at Lizard Island in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef where we could do some hiking and snorkeling.
For some months now, the crew of SV Speck has been struggling with its power grid, often times having to turn off the fridge at night in order to keep the house batteries above the minimum voltage. Thanks to generous donations from both of Dan’s parents, Karen and David, we were able to acquire two massive 250 amp hour gel batteries. The difference was noticed right away. That week we experienced two overcast days in a row without our battery bank even flinching. Two new charge controllers for the solar panels were also purchased to get further efficiency out of them. Prior to this upgrade we would often have to run the engine about an hour a day to make up the deficit. Now we are easily able to embark on week-long passages without even turning on the engine once.
We spent one week in Suva, the capital of Fiji, also known as “little India”. Meeting plenty of friendly smiling faces and finding the food cheap and delicious, this port quickly established Fiji as our favorite island country thus far.
While in Tahiti we partook in an ago-old mariners’ tradition. Swallow tattoos mark a person who has sailed 5000 contiguous miles. The results were gorgeous.
Wrapping up our stay in Panama, we began gearing up for our push West across the Pacific Ocean. This would be the crew’s longest stint at sea yet. As such, we prepared our boat to be our universe for the next 4-5 weeks. Cut off from all outside contact and supply, we would have to be totally self sufficient.
We’ve received a few donations that have allowed us to upgrade little parts of the boat as needed.
Nervous to leave the boat alone for an extended period of time but excited for a land adventure, we packed for a week and made the trip to our friend’s house in Costa Rica. An 18 hour bus ride from Puertobello, Panama to Uvita, Costa Rica provided for an opportunity to see the countryside and reconnect with friends from back home. Our friend and most generous host Joel provided beautiful accommodations in the rainforest with a spectacular view. We enjoyed some great locales where we were able to partake in some hiking, beachcombing, surfing, and canyoning.
We filled our remaining weeks in the Bahamas with kite boarding, snorkeling, fishing, boat projects, and exploring deserted islands. We went days heading south without seeing another soul.
We’ve fallen into a bit of a daily routine. Each day is either an exploring day filled with secluded islands, snorkeling, and reading, or a sailing day filled with fishing, navigation, and learning. Each evening has a catch of the day dinner, a game of cribbage, popcorn, and an episode or two of Black Sails.
After consulting Byron’s Uncle Bob on best practices for navigating the Gulf Stream, we set off and crossed into the Bahamas and into 2019. We checked into West End, then made our way to Freeport to meet up with three friends Steph, Anna, and Peter who would adventure with us through the Bahamas over the next weeks.
Well, the last month has felt like a year. We’re finally in a place with WiFi and in a position where the bold items on our boat’s repair list can wait.
After two years of not-sailing, it felt great to raise those sails.
We were happy to find the boat came with a Perkins 4108 engine and even happier to find that it came in pieces. We were able to piece it back together over the winter and…. it started up!
Many of the systems were 1985 original to the boat. Luckily, most electronics and plumbing ran on the starboard side of the boat and we had easy access. With our tight budget we refurbished what we could, and learned from the original design.
Now that the major pieces were together (hull, keel, mast, and rudder) it was time to focus on the inside of the boat. We knew the boat had been previously repaired on the starboard side hull (we think it may have fallen off its stands at one point in its life, but we’re not certain). The previous owner was in the middle of rebuilding the boat when he passed away from cancer.
After moving our 62ft mast down the pier and over next to our boat, Foster Rigging gave us the best quote (and excellent business) for our first mast step.
We hired LV Marine and Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina to attach our keel and install the rudder. Perfect. We’ll only have to do this once, right? Next: Mast!
After a few more visits to Chaumont, we made an offer and they accepted! Next step: get the boat (and all of the pieces) to Boston. Brownell (boat transportation company) to the rescue! ~$4k later, our boat was in East Boston and read to be assembled.
We dreamt of sailing the world. Step one: the most inexpensive Bluewater boat we could find and rebuild. Craigslist revealed a Beneteau First 42 in Chaumont, NY. We made the 6 hour drive from Boston and found a hull, a keel, and a mast!