"Rosita" Reports - Leg 5

Ship Bar

09 03 00 Horta.
It seems to be hard to get inanimate objects to arrive in Horta. Carolyn Miller arrived easily today to join us for two weeks. But her baggage is malingering in the US still. Likewise the generator part is still a mystery to all of the seemingly endless chain of middle people who should know where it is. So come what may - weather permitting - we leave Horta Monday for Flores and then a survey tract west and south to be back in Horta by about the 13th. There are reasons in the literature to believe we may see a whale or two but who knows of what kind. Time will show. Thanks to Bill Lange at WHOI, Carolyn arrived today with a digital camera that can actually disgorge its contents. The previous one would shoot, but not deliver after a tumble. Images of the Horta right whale moniker and of other local attractions may be viewable soon at http://whale.wheelock.edu/Rosita .

Yesterday we took the ferry to Pico and drove around the island - there being no place to park Rosita over there. Vineyard plots criss-crossed with rock walls. A whaling factory preserved in Sao Roque, and a whaling museum in Lajes de Pico. Historic footage of a sperm whale hunt. Serious amount of spear-chucking. Also did the Horta museum circuit this week. Sacred and secular. Michael

Where are the Azores?

09 05 00 0002UTC 38 47N 29 20W Departed Horta 090400 1600
Headed for Flores before survey legs W & S. ETA Flores late afternoon today. Carolyn's bag and genset part both on board. Genset fixed. UK seems to specialize in tinpot courier services. GPO seems a better bet. Gentle 8-10 knot so'wester. Reaching at 5 knots to Flores all plain sail. Dusk off w. end of Faial found a flock of Cory's shearwaters feeding with c. 10 Stenella frontalis - Atlantic spotted dolphins. Small, quick and curious. Curved dorsal, whitish underbelly, streaked spots on side. Initially very cryptic, then increasingly acrobatic around the boat. Have fixed hydrophone hum (low voltage on cable supply): hearing distant sperm whales periodically. Good to be sailing again. Horta full of happy, kind people but hot and hard to do business. 1/4 moon, long swell, boat in stride, weather ugly north and south of us, Azores high in place. Need to return Carolyn to Horta by 13th.

09 05 00 2020 UTC. 39 23N 31 10 W
Arrived @ Lajes de Flores 1830 after a special day on passage from Horta. Half way between Newfoundland and Portugal. Water clarity is excellent. Water temp in the mid 70's F. First we saw two Sowerby's beaked whales, then a group of about 12 killer whales, then about 10 common dolphins bow riding and finally a dispersed group of about 20 grampus. The beaked whales showed a couple of times and then dove. The killer whales were in a group milling around. We kept our distance and speed. While the larger group did what ever they were doing, two large males came over and gave us a series of very close approaches, rolling under the keel and from stern to bows. Hard not to think of the Bailey's and their 120 days in a raft. But I guess aluminum wasn't deemed tasty enough. The grampus seemed tame in comparison. Explore Flores tomorrow and then survey west and south. Water seems too warm for right whales. Michael.

Pico 09 06 00 2230 UTC 39 19N 31 15W
Headed SW to the SE corner of Maury's Smear - an enigmatic piece of water that the right whale literature holds as a quasi-potential lair for awol clan members between now and spring. The smear stretches almost from Azores to Grand Banks. We are nibbling off a piece of it in the next few days as don't fancy being here in winter. Plan to skirt the west edge of the Mid Atlantic Ridge: then return to Horta. Watching weather. Departed Flores (the western most point of Europe) at dusk after a grand afternoon touring the island. Verdant, well cared for, peaceful island. Awesome views, waterfalls, lakes, and flowers with villages nestling on the coast. Export cheese and beef to Lisbon. Economy apparently much better than 20 y ago. Family and Carolyn doing well. Oliver now bosun. Sam and he routinely stand watch. Chris has good eyes for whales and dolphins. School has started with remarkably little fuss. Dad having to drag out long forgotten algebra...

Sperm Whales09 08 00 38 01N 32 26W Hove to 100m SW of Flores.
Yesterday surveyed west and south from Flores along and across 1000fm lines: 4 different groups of sperm whales - some with dolphins inter-mixed. About 10-15 animals per group. Two individual sp wh checked out the hydrophone very carefully. Belly up and rolling around the wire. Seeing floating weed, trash and wind lines. Suspect we are in a frontal zone, although temp steady at 76F. Low dvlping to NW: so drifting SE and will survey that way with daylight. The tug of war between school curriculum and observational whale biology is an interesting one. It's hard to concentrate on algebra with a bunch of sperm whales strutting their stuff off the stern. All the guys proving to have remarkably sharp eyes. But no right whales - so far Maury's Smear smells strongly of spermaceti. Spent pm dickering with watermaker. The enduring cost of such luxuries is engine room servitude. Mkl

09 09 00 0655UTC 35 57N 31 12W 140m SW of Horta.
Weather not completely cooperative. Wind currently SW 15-20. String of weak lows passing to our NW. Sighting conditions yesterday and forecast not perfect by any means. Yesterday we saw one turtle..... Still hearing sperm whales periodically. Decided to head for Sao Miguel over next few days to try and get back into the high. Will also give us a jump on the next leg to Madiera. No birds out here at all. Michael.

Watching Dolphin Ggriseus Sam
Click on an image for a larger version. Photos by M. Moore

09 10 00 0040UTC 3735N 2920W 65m SW of Horta.
Wind prescribes 36h R&R in Horta b4 psg to Sao Miguel. Pilot wh. y'day. Today will do 2 banks S of Horta. ? great turf for right whale tourists. Took literary stock yesterday: Dick Francis given way to higher stuff: Swift, Defoe, Melville, Slocum & Rowling (Carolyn's pick). Moby Dick has two quotes of relevance: the first defines my emotions in the office zoo. "But these are all landsmen; of week days pent up in lath and plaster - tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks." The second (re dicor in Spouter Inn) bears weight to the concerns some of us have raised reimplantable objects migrating in large whales: "And that harpoon - so like a corkscrew now - was flung in Javan seas, and run away with by a whale, years afterwards slain off the Cape of Blanco. The original iron entered near the tail, and like a restless needle sojourning in the body of a man, traveled full forty feet, and at last was found embedded in the hump." Mkl

09 11 00 Arrived Horta 2100 UTC last night.
Deep sleep. Sails now off at sailmaker for minor repairs. Expect to depart for Sao Miguel Wednesday. Horta almost feels like home. Good to have a day for school on the level with no gastric recesses. Our children have an amazing ability to throw up, and then go back to whatever they were doing - whether it be eating or reading. Sam's best quote was, after loosing his lunch - "Oh bother - that means I've got to go eat again"...Michael

09 13 00 Horta
Today I take the liberty of sending you all a msg written by Chris - our ten year old - to his penpal - Aunt Jo-Ann I hope he doesnt get mad at me for this. I thought you might be interested in a fresh perspective of the past few weeks. His sense of wave scale needs a bit of adjustment.. Weather stinks for the next few days. Happy to be tied up. Mkl

Dear Jo-Ann,

There are lots of things I've got to tell you. We're in the Azores now, and having a blast. The sun is shining, the water's super transparent blue, and there is always a beach to turn to. It doesn't get much better than this. The trip over here was rough but fun. Quite a knew experience. The waves were so high; it looked like a 20-foot wall of foaming pool water, bearing down on us. Rosita takes waves surprisingly well. They'd just slither under us, rising like an escalator, and throw us forward. Luckily, the waves were coming from the stern. I think we would have felt like a submarine. The wind could gust up to 40 knots. Slowly, it calmed down. The mountain Pico, on Pico, was the first thing we saw. It is supposed to be the tallest peak in Portugal. Next to it, was Horta, on the isle of Faial(it is spelled in a dozen different ways). Over all, it was a nice passage.

We are having a great time in Horta. All along the pier, there are paintings done by the people that have been there. Everybody who comes by boat must paint a painting, with the boat's name, the homeport, and the date of the arrival. We painted a Right Whale with the boat's name on it. It came out quite well. We spend most of our time on the beach. The water is great. I'm not used to being able to see so far under water. We took a cab around the island. The volcano that created the island is amazing! I looked down, thinking all of the green stuff was heather was grass, but they turned out to be trees. Eyes can be deceiving.

One day, we decided to take the ferry over to Pico. We took the ferry because it would have been real hard to get Rosita over there. Tom and I have made two Swedish friends. One is my age and the other is Tom's. They speak a little English, and I've learned a few Swedish words. Their alphabet is looks almost the same. The pronunciation is only a little different. Their mom and dad speak great English. It's nice to have some friends over here.

We went over to Flores, and saw lots of things along the way: Atlantic spotted dolphin (close to Faial), Sowerbie's beaked whale (I saw them while puking), a pod of killer whales, common dolphins, and grampus. Now, the killer whales were amazing. From a distance, they looked like dolphins, although the dorsal fins didn't look right. A female came closer, and it looked a bit too big for a dolphins. When we saw huge, male, triangular fins and white patches, we knew what they were. They would roll over with their bellies upward, and swim right under us. Thanks to the crystal clear water, we could see them very well. I'll never forget it.

Flores is not what I thought it would be like. For one thing, there were much less people. For a second, I didn't see any crops, but lots of wild berries. For a third, there were so many cows. I had just seen a couple on Pico and that was it. Anyway, cows seemed to be their main production line, which includes cheese and milk. It was just plain beautiful. There were long, thin, waterfalls, quarry-like lakes, and colossal volcanic creations. The beaches were pretty rocky. There were some ugly looking jellyfish, but we went swimming anyway and didn't get stung. When Sam was snorkeling, he took an eroded fish bone for a shark tooth. It was disappointing when we had to leave.

There wasn't much of an improvement on the speceis on the way back, due to the weather. There were occasional downpours, with a rather ruff sea state. All the white-caps and spray shortened visibility. However, once the weather calmed down a bit, a pod of sperm whales started breaching. They all have a strange white V shaped mark on their bellies. Just like the killer whales, they would roll over and swim under us. Since there were so many so close, and they make a sort of clicking sound, the hydra-phone sounded like machine-guns. We only saw a turtle for the rest of the day.

Every minute so far has been 100% fun. Well, maybe not school. Anyhow, I've been having the time of my life. I can't imagine being behind a desk in school.

Wish you were here,
Chris

09 17 00 0030 37 36.2N 26 46.8W Departed Horta 8am yesterday headed SE to Madiera.
High seems to be setting up again. Cse to Madeira passes Santa Maria, the SE' most Azore, so planning a pit stop there later today and overnight. Seem to begetting in to a fairly solid passage routine. Hannah does the majority of the daytime deck work with the guys, while I putz below. I tend to be the at sea galley slave with prompting. Oliver and Sam do the 8-12 evening watch, getting the weather maps in. Then Hannah and I trade off the midnight to 4 and 4 to 8 slots.
Saw some Stenella S of Pico yesterday. Otherwise things look and sound quiet on the whale and dolphin front. Carolyn headed back to the Woods Hole grind last Friday. 09 17 00 2200UTC Santa Maria, Azores 36 57N 25 09W.
Pulled in here at 2pm. First sight is rusting Nissen huts from US airbase. Lg school of common dolphin as we rounded the sw corner of island. Nothing larger heard or seen since Horta. Closer to, the cliffs around the harbor have cacti clinging to them. We'll explore ashore tomorrow. Kids behaving like airborne water buffalo swinging from halyards into water. Nav pc got stuck in DOS this evening. Eventually rebuilt windows with plenty anguish but without too much devastation, but not before I vowed to get that old sextant out in the sun- and star-shine. PC gone today, GPS gone tomorrow..... Columbus found his way here in 1493 so I suspect we'll find our way onwards to Madeira in a day or two. Weather looking uglier in New England and UK: happy to be here. Mkl


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