Aboard Tenacious

entering Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, Azores
Entering Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, Azores

Well, we finally made it!

Tenacious is now safely tied up alongside in the harbour of Ponta Delgada, the capital of the Azores, on the island of Sao Miguel – St Michael’s as it used to be known to British mariners.

The voyage has lasted six days and has been pretty uneventful. The stiff northerlies that sped us on our way as we took our departure from Cape St Vincent gradually eased and veered into the east and eventually south east. The main excitements – apart from mealtimes – were the occasional visits from dolphins.

at sea
at sea
Stu at the wheel, with Craig
My cabin-mate Stu at the wheel, with Craig – and the ship’s bell!

The low cloud soon returned and there’ve been few opportunities for sextant sights, though I did a round of ten star sights with one of the cadets – with excellent results. I’ve also done another talk or two.

We managed to carry sail until the early hours of today when we were pottering slowly along the south coast of São Miguel in darkness. At 1000 the pilot boat came alongside as we approached the great breakwater that protects the harbour from the Atlantic swells.

The pilot boat approaches - Ponta Delgada, Azores
The pilot boat approaches – Ponta Delgada, Azores

As we came in, we dipped our ensign to HMS Lancaster, a Royal Navy frigate already in the harbour. She returned the compliment.

HMS Lancaster - Ponta Delgada
HMS Lancaster – Ponta Delgada

I haven’t been here since 1981 when I sailed out from England in a Contessa 32. It’s changed a lot. Masses of ugly high rise buildings have shot up and there’s now a cruise ship berth (where we’re tied up) and a marina. But the waterfront is still as elegant as ever and I’m really looking forward to exploring the town again – and the island.

Ponta Delgada
Ponta Delgada

Everyone now has to clean ship – only then we can go ashore!

Tenacious on her berth in Ponta Delgada - by night
Tenacious on her berth in Ponta Delgada – by night

Aboard Tenacious day??

Cape St Vincent
Cape St Vincent and fishing boat

Such are the joys of life on the rolling wave that I’ve lost track of which day this is.

This will be my last post for a while as we are soon going to be making our departure from Cape St Vincent – a cliffy promontory surmounted by a large lighthouse that marks the western limit of continental Europe. After that I’ll be out of cell phone range.

Having spent a cosy night at anchor, to avoid bashing out into the gale then blowing, we set sail this morning in much more comfortable conditions – northerly force 4/5.  And I have a new berth – in a double cabin which I’m sharing with Stu, a garden designer who is besotted with Madeira!

my new cabin - mine is the top bunk
my new cabin – mine is the top bunk

We’re now about to cross the traffic separation scheme designed to prevent collisions among the many ships that sail past this historic headland – named after the great British Admiral.

Cape St Vincent
Cape St Vincent

Lunch today was chicken fajita with salad – very good too!

At 1600 I’m scheduled to do another talk on celestial navigation. Last night at anchor I showed some of the voyage crew how to use the sextant and we took some sights of the moon and Venus. Their results were impressively accurate.

the author on the bridge
the author on the bridge

We’re a more cosmopolitan crew on this voyage. We have people from Spain (Pablo), Portugal (Hélio) and Latvia (Eleanora) on board. Pablo is an expert in the field of artificial intelligence and Hélio has written a thesis exploring Portugal’s changing relationship with the sea.

Eleanora and Helio on the forecastle - at sea
Eleanora and Helio on the forecastle – at sea

And now we head our into the Atlantic, on a broad reach under a warm sun – and on the right course: due west. Who could ask for more?

at sea
at sea
at sea
at sea
at sea
at sea

Aboard Tenacious

Day 8 (I think!)

Just a quick post today, 24 March.

It’s 1400. We’re getting ready to go to sea again, under a cloudless blue Portuguese sky – but there are strong, cold northerlies which are going to make life uncomfortable once we get clear of the land. On the other hand the same winds will speed us on our way to Ponta Delgada.IMG_0032 5

The gangway has just been swung aboard and the line-handlers are standing by to cast off (that includes me). The pilot will soon come aboard. The new crew members are looking a little nervous, which is fair enough if you ask me!

Maybe the clear skies will hold and there’ll be the chance to do some serious sextant work. Lots of people have said they want to learn!

So farewell to Portimão. The open Atlantic awaits us…

Aboard Tenacious

Days 4,5 and 6

Back in touch again as we stand off Portimão on the south coast of Portugal waiting for a pilot to come out and guide us into harbour. If we don’t get one soon we may have to look for a berth further down the coast. The captain is not best pleased…

The sun is at last shining out of a clear blue sky, and there is a gentle breeze blowing – cool but not cold. Various members of the voyage crew who are about to leave the ship are seizing their last chance to go aloft and enjoy the view from on high.

The last few days have seen us pass through the spectacular Straits of Gibraltar


(helped along by the strong surface current that runs out into the Atlantic). The Rock was shrouded in rain for much of the time but the African shore was very clear. We then sailed north west, past Tarifa, and across the historic patch of sea on which the Battle of Trafalgar was fought.


The weather has been ‘unsettled’ – to put it politely. We’ve had little wind and frequent showers often coupled with thunder and lightning. At one stage we even saw a waterspout curling up into the dark clouds. Dolphins have joined us frequently – riding our bow wave with a grace and power that fills you with wonder and delight.

dolphins at the bow
dolphins at the bow

Night watches have been pretty cold and dark, with not a glimpse of the stars – until the clouds rolled back last night to reveal the glory of whole sky. Jupiter shone brightly in the west when my watch – Starboard Aft – came on deck at 0400 this morning.

I did a second, well-attended talk on celestial navigation on day 4 and I’ve given several demos of the use of the sextant. Some of the voyage crew have even said they want to buy my book when they get home! Yesterday however there was too much going on to fit in another talk as planned.

Unfortunately the weather, coupled with the frequent need to adjust the sails, has made it difficult to fit in more than a few real sextant sights. But those have all gone well with the beginners getting some impressively accurate results.

We have a lively group of young merchant navy cadets on board, learning their trade. Last night we had a quiz in which they tied for equal first place – putting some of the older members of the voyage crew to shame!

The cadets in the lower mess
Some of the cadets in the lower mess

Tomorrow the party will break up as the present voyage crew all head for home.

I’m staying on though, to help take the ship to her next destination – Ponta Delgada in the Azores.

More soon I hope!

Tenacious at sea

Days 3-4

Well, so far we’ve had almost every kind of weather but fine! Anybody who was expecting a warm Mediterranean sun and balmy zephyrs will have been disappointed.

IMG_0005 8

The fresh (force 6-7) north easterlies kept up until this morning and pushed us west at a great rate – at one point last night we were making better than 10 knots under courses and topsails, and throwing a terrific bow wave! Five dolphins came and entertained us for a while though I was doing a trick at the wheel at the time so I didn’t get a close look.

Cold north-easterlies - but fast progress
Cold north-easterlies – but fast progress

This morning however – just when we we were hoping for a glimpse of the eclipse – heavy rain squalls with thunder and lightning came through and the wind began veering. The captain was understandably anxious and we were all kept busy bracing the yards and reducing sail. A couple of miserable song birds came aboard for while. Poor things. The heavy rain flattened the waves almost completely.

I’ve just come up on deck again after a short nap and the coast of Spain near Motril is in sight. The wind has now eased and is almost south westerly. It’s still cloudy but the rain has ceased and we’re proceeding slowly westwards towards the Straits of Gibraltar. If the wind goes into the west as predicted well be motoring before long. But everyone now has their sea legs and meal attendance has markedly improved!

My first talk on celestial navigation took place round the mainmast yesterday and seemed popular I’m glad to say! But today’s had to be postponed because of the squalls. So far there’s been no chance of a sextant sight alas.

More soon I hope.

18 March, 2015 10:21

Day 2

Yuk! It’s raining – and quite chilly. Big contrast with yesterday.

Have spent morning going through all the emergency drills and – in my case – being told how to handle the ship’s shorelines. It brings back memories of my days as a deck hand on the Isle of Wight ferry many years ago!

Now doing evac drill, standing at our muster station in lifejackets, in the rain…such fun

Evac drill
Evac drill

We set sail this afternoon.

17 March, 2015 19:54

Day 1

I finally came aboard Tenacious at 5pm this afternoon. She wasn’t hard to find, towering over the harbour here in Valencia.

Tenacious alongside in Valencia
Tenacious alongside in Valencia

Valencia is in festival mood with fireworks going off all day long and huge crowds on the streets for Las Fallas. Lots of women and children in the most elaborate traditional costumes with lace trim and combs in their hair.

Las Fallas procession - Valencia
Las Fallas procession – Valencia

I’ve unpacked my bags and made my bed – in a cosy curtained berth – and met the other members of my watch. We even have hot and cold running water!

My bunk (the lower one)
My bunk (the lower one)

We’ve had an initial briefing from the professional crew (how not block the loos, what the alarm sounds like…) and I’ve volunteered (am I mad?) for the midnight to 0200 harbour watch. Tomorrow morning will be devoted to ‘training’…

Evac drill
Evac drill

People seem interested in hearing about celestial navigation so I won’t be short of an audience. The weather today was lovely but is going to deteriorate tomorrow afternoon – just when we are due to sail!

Time for a brief kip.