Perhaps not so noteworthy for the rest of the OCC membership, but particularly so for us aboard Toodle-oo!, was our passage this year from Boston to the Azores and then on to Ireland. This was our qualifying passage, taking us from Associate to Full Members of the OCC - and was celebrated at Cafe Sport in Horta during the OCC 's Azores Rally dinner.
The first leg was a nearly 13 day trip, which my fuzzy memory has as being full of wind and waves right from the outset until we arrived in Flores. We set off into a forecast of 25kts, close hauled which was something of a baptism by fire as the seas grew over the course of the first 2 days. My memory has us connecting with Herb at Southbound II and enjoying the relief as he routed us to port, allowing a much smoother and faster ride - and less vomit inducing motion! However, consultation with the logbook shows that in fact the wind died away on the evening of the third day, not long after connecting with Herb and then had us motoring and sailing alternately for the next 4 days as we turned south to head for the gulf stream.
The log shows our second week also with much more mixed weather than I remember as we dodged gales to the north and calms to the south. We did however, get a bit of a roller coaster ride for a couple of days in 30kt winds and large following seas that required a weighted warp to be towed for a while to keep the bow pointing in the right direction!
At the tail end of the passage we were unable to copy Herb any longer (on his last week of broadcasting prior to retirement) and felt seriously exposed with little experience in weather forecasting - and unfamiliar with GRIB files and how to get them over the SSB. Fortunately, we were able to converse with other boats in the area and managed to successfully complete the passage. After slowing the boat down for the last 24 hours we managed an early morning arrival in Flores, just shy of 13 days after departure and 2,227 NM travelled, at an average 7.2kts or 173NM/day!
In Flores we met many OCC members - early gatherers for the rally - and were made to feel very much a part of the group - no longer the outsiders as wannabe Associate members!
Having been coached by numerous of our new sailing friends while in the Azores, we managed to get the SSB working considerably better - and more importantly, with the assistance of Tony Brighton of Saltwhistle III, learned a good deal about GRIB files and weather forecasting in general.
The second leg of the passage, from Praia da Vitoria on Terceira to Ireland was fortuitous indeed as we managed to find a westerly course that kept Toodle-oo! in wind for the entire passage, while other boats that had left the islands at similar times were finding very little wind. We found ourselves on a starboard tack with 25kts over the beam for the next 7 days, making life below rather challenging for the downstairs skipper. We ended up hoping that the wind would die just so that we could stand upright for a while!
Glengarriff is perhaps a strange place to make landfall - and the local Garda were somewhat non-plussed - making it all that much sweeter! The first Guinness certainly tasted good!
Our first year of cruising has been a wonderful experience. We can no longer say that we are hindered by our limited sailing experience - having completed some significant distance - though we recognize we 've still got plenty to learn - and more importantly perhaps, we understand more of our limitations. We have met many wonderful people along the way who have offered their help and assistance in numerous different ways and we truly feel a part of the OCC family and look forward to reuniting with some of them - and many new faces when we continue on next year into the Baltic.