Leaving New York, I headed south-east to sail along the 39th parallel to the Azores. Ninety miles from land we passed close to Texas Tower Number 4, a fantastic-looking object in the middle of the sea, with three large white domes like a cluster of spider’s eggs on top of a three-legged platform. When we were half way to the Azores this tower was damaged by the hurricane ‘Donna’, and later it capsized in a storm with the loss of many lives.
We had lovely weather, though too calm to suit me, and too hot to suit Sheila. It was up to 98 °F. in the cabin. I rigged an old sail in the cockpit, and filled it with Gulf Stream water, and we used to take turns to wallow in this several times a day.
Trips To New York Photo Gallery
I found only two flying fish on deck during this voyage. They were delicious, fried. One knocked some paint off the cabin top when it landed there. Perhaps more interesting were the small squid which flew aboard at night. The Kon-Tiki crew were the first to discover that squid flew when one hit a member of the crew in the face at night.
The weather and seas roughened as we approached the Azores. When we arrived towards the end of the day at the northern end of the channel between Fayal and Pico Islands we were faced with a beat into a head-on gale, under spitfire jib and trysail, in order to reach the port of Horta. There was a strong current against us, and we could not have arrived till the middle of the night. I decided to start the motor, but I could not get a kick out of it. This made me angry. The motor had been temperamental before I left England, and the boatyard at Buckler’s Hard had put in a lot of time on it; then it jibbed in New York, and the City Island boatyard had worked on it. This time, I said, I would damn well find out for myself what was the matter with it. It was no picnic, with Gipsy Moth bucking about in the short steep sea kicked up by the gale, and presently I was lying at full length under the cockpit to get at the bottom of the petrol tank. Every few minutes I had to pop up and tack the ship. But I found the trouble: the petrol tank was made of iron, and there was %-inch of rust sludge at the bottom, which kept on choking the carburettor. After I cleaned the pipes I could get it to run only for a few minutes before the sludge choked it again. Finally I said to Sheila, ‘Do you mind if we heave to and wait outside the channel till dawn? She was relieved. I backed the spitfire jib, and we jibbed about in the lee of Fayal while I fished out a bottle of Californian wine and we had a good dinner. Next morning we beat up the channel against a Force 8 wind, but had a great welcome from the charming Portuguese people at Horta when we finally arrived.
We stayed there for two weeks while I had a new petrol tank made of copper. We enjoyed a lazy life; our only disappointment was being unable to get a bath. That, and a feast ashore, are the chief things a yachtsman looks forward to after a passage of twenty-six days. All the island’s plumbing had been fractured by a big earthquake.