To all of our eager followers: Greetings!
Some of you, if you have been watching the tracker carefully, may have noticed that our course over the past few days has been an easterly one, perhaps surprising for those who might have been expecting us to turn NE towards Iceland. Well, I haven’t lost it quite yet folks. Today we are crossing the Tail of the Bank, the bottom end of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, and I have deliberately given Newfoundland a good offing, given the high possibility of meeting fishing traffic and thick fog, usually coming both together in abundance. Our course to Iceland would have taken us from here to the NE, or possibly ENE to pick up the fair winds to take us from mid-North Atlantic then up to Iceland.
“Would have?”, the more astute of you will now be saying… Ah, yes. About that…
I have spent the best part of the last few days bent over weather charts, communicating with weather sages ashore, reading emails about volcanoes erupting and generally mulling over options, all the while getting rather frustrated about the persistent headwinds forcing us to motor in otherwise perfect sailing weather. The upshot of all of that is this: over the next couple of weeks there promises to be a series of deep depressions running up the north-west Atlantic towards Iceland, probably capped off by the latest tropical storm, currently having its wicked way with the Bahamas, following in their wake. These promise to create some very challenging conditions between Greenland and Iceland, along our projected track to Reykjavik.
Whilst these would not necessarily prevent us reaching Iceland, the strong southerly or south-westerly winds they would create over the UK and North Sea would make it extremely difficult to head back down to the UK, with a big risk of arriving late in London, and leaving our sponsors Norton Rose Fulbright, the Royal Marines Band and all of our other well-wishers promising to meet us as we arrive triumphantly alongside HMS Belfast, standing at the altar, so to speak.
In order to “de-risk” the programme therefore, I have decided to forgo the pleasures of heavy weather sailing to follow the rather cushier, southern route, and stop at another volcanic paradise, the Azores – a route that promises some good sailing in much more comfortable conditions and with far less risk to upsetting the programme further downstream (there I go again!).
There is of course also the added fun in Iceland of Bardabunga (far more pronounceable than the 2010 volcano) just about to spew oodles of volcanic ash into the sky just 190 miles east of Reykjavik.
So, to those friends and relatives at home who were hoping for some dried Puffin or salted whale steaks to be brought home, I apologise. It will be Bacalao and Peter’s Café Sport t-shirts instead!
Whilst there is some disappointment amongst all of us on board that we cannot take up our rare opportunity to visit Iceland and Faeroe by sea, I am confident that I have made the right decision, and seeing as I haven’t yet been made to walk the plank, I think everybody on board is quite understanding of the reasons I have had to make this decision; certainly the atmosphere on board after we finally set sail again this morning was quite electric. We are now enjoying some good close-hauled sailing to the ESE, making the most of the wind before it falls light (maybe tomorrow), and looking forward to our next stop, which if all goes to plan will be Horta, in the island of Faial.