Pedlar Returns to Europe

Pedlar Returns was a 42 foot steel hull cutter with a center cockpit that I crewed on to the Azores during the Summer of 2004. The captain took his wife, grandson, and two crew (of which I was one) across the pond, ultimatley to cruise the Med for a couple of years. I went along as far as time permitted, ultimately landing in the Azores. We left the South River in Annapolis on May 21at 2200 hours EDT, made a brief stop in Cape May on May 23, and landed in Horta, Fiail, Azores on June 13 at 2400 GMT.

Below are excerpts from the e-mail logs I sent to those following along on the CBPSA.ORG e-mail list.



We left Cape May at 2pm today (May 23, 2004) after a good hot shower. We will start our daily position reports tomorrow but we want to let you know we are off without incident,

We left the dock last Friday night to lots of lightning from approaching storms that never materialized. After motoring north up Chesapeake Bay, the engine overheated just after we got under the Bay Bridge north of Annapolis. Apparently we were so anxious to get underway, we were running the engine too hard for the size of the boat and prop. Pedlar displaces approximately 26K lbs but we've got lots of stores and equipment aboard so we are pushing 30K displacement. We were at least able to raise the sails and sail north to the C&D canal. BY 4:30 am we were up to Pooles Island where we were able to start the engine sucessfully once the wind died.

We made the C&D canal under power by 9 am and were in the Delaware Bay by Noon. Because we had unfavorable tidal current, it was a long motor down the Bay. In order to play the tides to our advanatage, however, we would have had to wait 6 hours and chance a night arrival. As it turned out, that is what happened anyway... By 8 pm we had Cape May in sight and it was a long hard slog/motor around Cape May. By 2 am we sighted the Cape May entrance channel and by 3:30 Sunday morning, we dropped the anchor near the Coast Guard station in Cape May Harbor. In the morning we made our way to Utches' Marina to shower and pick up ice.

We left Cape May and are now finally under sail holding a course of 82 degrees true in 12 knots of breeze from the SSW with a moderate 2 foot swell from the same direction. Forcast for tomorrow when we get to the Gulf Stream is for more wind.. up to 25+ knots out of the SSW. We'll send another update as soon as we can tomorrow.


Noon local time position was 38 deg - 54.02 min North 072 deg - 20.00 min West Course 100 deg. magnetic.

Our 3 pm position puts us 138 miles East of Cape May NJ. We are still looking for the gulf stream. The wind has increased some from the 12 knots we had leaving Cape May yesterday. It is currently 18-20 knots out of the SW with waves running 3-5 feet. Because we are on a broad reach (wind on the starboard quarter of the stern), we've had to reduce sail quite a bit to ease the weather helm and balance the boat so that the wind vane (Fred) can steer the boat instead of one of us. Fred has shown a tendency to let the weatherhelm determine our course a bit so we are a bit more south than where we would like. We are waiting for the gulf stream to give us a push North.

Some of the crew have the mal de mare... Jake has assumed cooking duties when not on watch. We've currently got two reefs in the main and the staysail up doing 6-7 knots through the water. We've had a shark following us, but haven't seen him in a few hours.

More tomorrow...


Noon local time position was 39 deg - 09.7 min North 069 deg - 30.7 min West Course 065 deg. magnetic

Things are a bit slower today... Our 24 hour run was only about 125 nm and its now much colder. We found the gulf stream around dinner time last night and had a wild ride at speeds up to 9 knots at times throughout the night. Unfortunately, by day break we lost the current and the wind. We started motoring in a more northerly direction to find wind. Once we found it, we found it out of the NE. We are on a hard beat to windward holding a course of 90 deg magnetic. Fred the autopilot does fairly well although it looses the wind at times only to recover and put us back on the tilt. It is very cold now at 6pm local time... in the low 50s.

We think we may have solved the internet connection problem so you should get this e-mail along with the three others we've been trying to send.

More tomorrow...


Noon local time position was 39 deg - 27 min North 068 deg - 03.5 min West Course 085 deg. magnetic

Things were a bit slower yesterday and now are a LOT SLOWER today. Last night we sailed (or tried) to windward as the winds swung around to the ENE. Apparently there was a low forming off Cape May and we were caught in it, although it wasn't much of anything except really cold and foggy. As we ghosted along after dark, a pod of dolphins followed us until we tunred on the engine around midnight. We couldn't see them since everytime I tried to shine a light, it bounced back in the fog. But we certainly heard them clicking and chirping. We hand steered for most of the night till morning. I'm glad of the investment I made in my foul weather gear since the temp. was down past 15 deg. celcius (high 40s? yes its metric-- its a British boat!).

We did a short burial at sea ceremony today when we scattered the ashes of Robert Caskey, a friend of crew member Mike Hughes who passed away recently. He was a sailor and artist and we hope he will rest in peace out here.

We've been motor sailing all day with winds on the nose working our way closer to 40 deg. North Lat. and east. Just saw a containership headed west who reported rain and 10 knots of wind out of the East a head of us. we are tired of errant forks and knives flying every which way during dinner so tonight we are heaving-to and having roast lamb in the cockpit.

More tomorrow...


Noon local time position was 39 deg - 58.4 min North 066 deg - 33.1 min West Course 085 deg. magnetic

Ship's time was changed to Atlantic Time as we passed 67.5 degrees longitude. Still not much progress as the winds have not been much over 12 knots and have been variable, We sailed all night so we can use Fred (it beats hand steering). We've had lightning any night it is cloudy but no thunder or high winds. About 8 am the wind died completely and we motored most of he day through fog bank after fog bank. Right now the wind is finally out of the WNW and we hope we have finally picked up the westerlies.

This morning and all last night we've had several pods of dolphin following the boat playing in the bow wake (despite the motor) and a large bird (a fisher or small heron) landed on the boat. It looked lost. It took off as we had to readjust the rigging for the sails, but I suspect we will see more of it today or tonight.

We are averaging only 100 miles a day and are hoping for more wind so we can start lifting that average, but I'm mindful of the phrase "be careful what you wish for!" We have approximately 2600 miles to Lisbon... 800 less to the Azores.

ARAS: we'll try and send you the appropriate SSB frequency to try us on on Saturday at 1800 GMT... we should be far enough away by now. :)

Apologies to those who are getting too many e-mails. I think we finally got this sorted out.

More tomorrow...


Noon local time position was 39 deg - 56 min North 064 deg - 18 min West Course 098 deg. magnetic

While we were searching for the gulf stream a few days ago, today we found the North Atlantic drift which is what the gulf stream becomes when it curves around and heads toward Europe. Its giving us an extra knot or two toward the East. Our 24 hour run was around 110 miles but should improve as the wind and current do.

Yesterday we contacted Herb, an amateur radio weatherman who has a daily "sked" on the SSB (12359.0 on the upper band @ 2000 GMT if you are interested) who dispenses weather routing and forcasting to cruisers plying the North Atlantic from the Caribbean north. Herb keeps calling us "Settlers Return" From what I can tell we are the furthest North of any of the other boats... most of them are in or en route to Bermuda and those continuing on to the Azores are waiting out a major storm to the East of Bermuda. We found out from Herb that we too are in for a blow most likely Saturday night. We'll know more after today's sked. The weather right now is cloudy with lumpy seas out of the North and only 10-12 knots of wind out of the NE.

Jake spent most of the morning tweaking Fred the autopilot. Last night it tended to round up and hold a course too close to the wind. We found ourselves a bit more North of 40 degrees Latitutde than we wanted. We had another night of dense fog patches with temps in the high 40s/ low 50s (15 deg. celcius).

This morning at first light we spotted a very large red bouy (at least twice the size of the big ones on Chesapeake Bay) a mile North of N 40 deg - 03.7 min, W 064 deg - 57.2 min. I doubt it could be anchored in ocean water 3-4 miles deep! Perhaps the Coasties are looking for a lost bouy?

More tomorrow...


Noon local time position was 40 deg - 08.45 min North 062 deg - 18.5 min West Course 098 deg. magnetic

The storm that was forcast for Saturday night came early on Friday night. Luckily we had some advanced warning from Herb. About 10 pm we had squalls with the winds at about 30-35 knots sustained with gusts to 40 or 45 depending on how you interpret the screeching noises made by the rigging at those speeds.

Instead of riding the wind, we hove-to. By heaving-to, we were actually able to move the boat in the direction we wanted at about 4 knots (even though the boat is "stopped" it forereaches through the water in a given direction). More importantly, it was a comfortable ride through the night and we were able to get some sleep at varying times. Before the second front came through, a container ship passed within half a mile. We shined a light into our sails and immediately, the ship changed direction to avoid us.

Today we have 25-30 knots, AVERAGING 7 - 10 knots of boat speed and mostly cloudy skies with folloing seas running 7-10 feet. Its a bit roly-poly with Fred steering, but none of us can do any better. We are finaly making some good progress.


Noon local time position was 38 deg - 50.693 min North 060 deg - 47.544 min West Course 160 deg. magnetic

Tonight instead of a storm, we had gale force winds. It started small but by dinner time was at full force of roughly 35-45 knots. The decision was made about midnight to "lay ahull." Lying ahull basically means taking down all sail and lashing the helm one way or another. The boat will then find a position and course it finds comfortable. Unfortunatley it isn't necessarily the most comfortable for the crew... but it saves wear and tear on the boat and sails-- not to mention the crew on watch.

Once the helm was lashed, however, we noticed that the binnacle was coming loose from the boat. The binnacle houses the wheel steering and engine control cables along with the ship's compass. On Pedlar, it is mounted outside the cockpit on the aft deck. Although we generally use the tiller steering for the windpilot (Fred) which is separate from the binnable, loosing it would be serious. After several attempts Jake was able to lash things down, although the lashings make it difficult to hand steer using the tiller.

Despite the wind, the heavy weather has cost us some time and miles. We estimate we are averaging 100 miles a day which will take us longer than expected.


Noon local time position was 38 deg - 52.38 min North 057 deg - 54.08 min West Course 88 deg. magnetic

We inspected the sails Sunday morning to find a giant gordian knot in the staysail sheets which prevented us from fully furling that sail during the gale. The clew of the staysail is a little ragged. After half an hour on the fordeck untangling, we got back underway under the staysail alone in 20-25 knots of wind. Luckily the winds have been steady with the occasional gust to 30 and waves 7 to 10 feet. We are finally making good time-- about 150 miles between yesterday and today we estimate.

The night watch was difficult with a couple of squalls coming through and the need to hand steer the boat sometimes when Fred gets overwhelmed. We are settling down to a routine though and hope the weather does too. It looks like we will make landfall in the Azores-- hopefully early next week!


0930 local time position was 39 deg - 16 min North 055 deg - 26.5 min West Course 97 deg. magnetic

Today we were able to relax a bit. The winds moderated down to about 12 knots and then became variable but the sun was out and it gave us time to clean ship, make needed repairs and catch up on needed sleep. I even got to put shorts on for the first time the whole trip!

Jake was able to repair the binnicle and also fixed (Fred) the self steering vane. Fred kept rounding up into the wind after a few minutes which was why we had to hand steer throughout the night.

I wanted to take this opportunity to recognize and thank the ship's cook, Vicki, Jake's wife. Of all the crew members she probably works the hardest and, after so many sea miles, she is also the most banged up of us all (we've only seen 30% of the bruises she says she has) the most visible being the black eye she got when she banged her glasses against a bulkhead. We might have suspected spousal abuse on Jake's part, except Jake too got a shiner a couple hours before trying to navigate the head. So if you are keeping score, they are one and one.

Vicki, having no sea experience whatsoever before this trip has managed to cook some amazing dinners for us all. Roast lamb, curried chicken, real turkey, roast beef were all recent menu items that, I have no doubt, would have confounded most cooks not used to cooking on a small boat that feels more like the inside of a washing machine.

Thanks Vicki!


Noon local time position was 39 deg - 12.652 min North 052 deg - 39.165 min West Course 125 deg. magnetic

Currently we are making 7.5 knots under staysail and three reefs in the mainsail under sunny skies and bumpy seas. But its a whole lot better than last night...

Herb (the weather guy) suggested to us a couple of days ago that we should alter course and head further SE to avoid the eastern edge of a large low pressure system and gale force conditions and also to pick up favorable currents. Jake made the decision, however, that would would stay the course and stay on the rumb line for the Azores. The reason: we need to make better time and we need wind to do it without chasing a couple hundred miles out of our way just for easier conditions (must be a British thing). Last night proved a sound decision despite the conditions.

The squalls started at 8 pm local time and within an hour we had 35 knots of wind. We dropped the mainsail and with only the staysail, Fred was able to hold a rumb line course all night long. The best part was, with Fred steering so well and the staysail balancing the boat, we were able to all go below of the 12 hours it took for the gale to blow itself out. At one point, for about 4 hours this morning, we had Force 9 conditions with the wind well over 40 knots and seas approaching 20 feet. Even better: we averaged 5-6 knots of speed in the direction we needed to go.

If conditions hold, we hope to make landfall in the Azores on Sunday or Monday, probably in Flores, the western-most island. We are looking to changing the ship's clock forward yet another hour in about 6 miles.


Noon local time position was 38 deg - 42.05 min North 050 deg - 46.8 min West Course 110 deg. magnetic

Jake's knot meter (a beer can thrown over the side) sank before it could tell us how fast we were going. In otherwords, we were going nowhere fast.

We are bacalmed this morning although the 2-3 foot swells are just enough to fill the sails and they lift the boat up and down. The sails flutter and flap loudly with the wind to fill them. Otherwise, its a beautiful sunny day!

We are also waiting for wind to run our wind generator to charge the batteries so we can do things like send this e-mail and run the engine. So here is our predicament: Although Pedlar carries 150 gallons of diesel fuel, we need electricty to start the engine. And although the last couple of days gave us more wind than we could use, we would have burned out the generator running it in 40 knots of wind. So here we sit.

This is, btw, the first time in many days we've been able to use the full main sail. When we too it down the other day for the gale, it fell out of the track and we just had to gather it up and lash it down. This morning we started sorting things out and put the main back together only to find it was a tangled mess. Because it is loose-footed, we had the clew wrapped around the tack wraped around the foot. As three of us were intently sorting it out, a huge container ship steamed by within a half a mile of us. Scared the heck out of us as we didn't see it until it was right on top of us punching through the swell at 20+ knots.

Only 800 miles to go I think... I feel the breeze picking up!


Noon local time position was 39 deg - 10 min North 048 deg - 16 min West Course 110 deg. magnetic 7.5 knots boat speed

No good day goes unpunished it seems.

We finally got our wind yesterday afternoon and it turned out to be one of the best days of the trip so far: temp in the high 70s, clear, sunny, 12-15 knots of breeze out of the South for a broad reach that lasted until early this morning. The full moon rose last night and was the brightest I've ever seen it. The waves were little to non-existent.

By 4 am this morning, when I started my watch, the wind was rising steadily and it has been blowing a near gale (force 6-7 on the Beaufort scale) since 8 am. The waves are now up to 5 feet and we seems to be getting more waves that are "cheeky" (the ones that sneak up and slap the side of the hull and dump water into the cockpit).

Once again, we are down to only the staysail and making 6 knots of boat speed.

Hoping for better weather!.....


Noon local time position was 39 deg - 04 min North 046 deg - 28.5 min West Course 150 deg. magnetic 3.5 knots boat speed

The better weather promised us finally arrived this morning but with the clouds went the wind. We also find ourselves in a 2 knot counter current and are headed more South to minimize the effects of the western set of the current and to find our way out of it. Because of the opposing current and wind, the seas remain very lumpy.

Despite this, I used the day to do some much needed laundry... I haven't touched the t-shirts or shorts I brought, but the few clothes I brought for cold weather (i.e. long johns) need to be cleaned! We also dried out cushions and foul weather gear.

The wind picked up later in the day and we are on our way again... about 700 miles to go.


Noon local time position was 38 deg - 03 min North 045 deg - 22 min West Course 100 deg. magnetic 6.5 knots boat speed

The wind blew 20 knots last night and we had our first truely cloudless night sky ... if only for a few hours. The stars are breathtaking.

Two tankers passed within a couple of miles of us on their way eastward.

Looks like we are out of the counter current and are hopefully back to knocking off 3 degrees of Longitude a day.


N 38d 40.5m, W 042d 43m


N 38d 59.5m, W 040d 28.5m


1000 local time position was 39 deg - 16 min North 039 deg - 34 min West Course 100 deg. magnetic 6.5 knots boat speed

We are back to making good speed toward our destination after a few days where the wind took a hiatus. The last few days have actually been what we were supposed to get most of the way here: 12-15 knots out of the NW or SSW. Unfortunately, it has been less and less intense and our boat speed dropped significantly. Then yesterday afternoon, the wind died completely.

The engine still remains an issue since we need significant battery power to crank it through to "bleed" the system of any air. In addition, the engine battery will not accept a charge anymore and is virtually useless and we don't want to deplete the house batteries in case we are bacalmed again.

After bobbing around from 2000 to about 0200 the next morning, the high pressure system is slowing being replaced by a big low pressure system coming up behind us. We should have another blow here this afternoon so hopefully we can make better speed.

Despite earlier, very optomistic estimates, I estimate now that we are approximately 500 miles from the island of Faial and the city harbor of Horta. It will be cutting it close as to whether or not I will make my flight home in time. While we were originally hoping for a Saturday landing, we may be SOL if we get beclamed again. Our next option would be to stop at the closer island of Flores which is only 400 miles away where I could catch an island flight to Horta and then a flight to Lisbon. The entrance is trickier though and according to the pilot book, the frequency of inter island flights is sporadic. We'll see in the coming days. We change another time zone at W 037.5 degrees latitude, so we will shortly be 3 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time and only one hour behind Greenwich Mean Time.


Noon local time (GMT +2 hrs) position was N39d 28.6m W037d 48.2m


1200 local time (GMT +1 hr) position was 38 deg - 28 min North 036 deg - 06.5 min West

Course 120 deg. magnetic 5.5 knots boat speed

Current position at 1800 local time is N38d 26m, W 035d 26m. We are approximatley 350 miles from Faial, the island in the Azores group where the city port of Horta and our destination is located.

Despite being becalmed for most of the night before last (6/9-6/10), a Force 7 gale managed to push through with 35 - 40 knots of wind (42 - 48 mph in case you were wondering) for 12 hours straight. The seas weren't as bad, but the wind was out of the East and since that is the way we need to go, we were sailing to weather most of the night (sailor rule #1: Gentlemen never sail to weather ... you might spill your drink)... but withtout an engine we are grateful for the wind. A smaller system pushed through in the wee hours this morning (6/10) and is still giving us much needed wind out of the West now at 15 - 20 knots. We are steering by hand when the wind gets light because Fred is starting to show signs of wear. He's not as sensitive to the lighter air after steering us through the lousy weather we've had.

All told, we have weathered 4 true gales. The Pilot Chart for the North Atlantic gives historical data for wind force and direction and we consulted it in choosing our northward route. The Pilot Chart told us we would have less than a 1 percent chance of gale force winds the entire way... it also claimed we'd have a solid 15-20 knot beam reach the whole way. I should have bought a lottery ticket with the odds we've generated on this trip!

Despite Fred and the binnicle, we've had some minor gear failure... a shackle here and there... that we've quickly repaired. I think once we get to Horta though, Jake will order a new staysail exactly like the one we have now. It has done the most work of any of the sails and is starting to show it. We've been prepared for the clew (the part of the sail where the sheets or control lines are attached) to give way in the next blow, but somehow, it manages to hang in there and carry the boat sometime at hull speed in anything over 25 knots.


1200 local time position was 38 deg - 16 min North 034 deg - 13 min West

Course 115 deg. magnetic 3 knots boat speed

At 1410 local time, we finally got the engine fully bled and started and we are under power now. We have approximately 240 miles to go and should start to see the volcanic peak of Pico tomorrow if it is clear. With luck we should make Horta sometime on Monday.

Right now the winds are light but a front is slowing coming up behind us, but now With an engine we won't have to wait for a gale to blow us in! The dolphins have been visiting regularly but I've been successfully warding them off with my camera!

We're running low on Iridium satellite phone minutes so this will probably be the last e-mail you get from us underway unless there is anything interesting to report... otherwise, we'll try and send one once we arrive in Horta.


As Susan already told you, we made it in Monday night (June 14) about 2300 ship's time which was actually 2400 local time. The Azores are on GMT despite the fact that the longitude would normally be one hour earlier than GMT.

We cleared customs and immigartion yesterday morning (Tuesday 6-15) and have been enjoying Horta although I found it touch to get a flight home without having to spend a night in Lisbon. I finally got a direct flight to Bostson on SATA airlines and made it home to Washington last Friday night around midnight.

I would urge all of you to go to the Azores at some time. It is an incredible place with sailors from all over the world in boats of varying condition... but everyone speaks the language of sailing. My last night in Horta, I closed Cafe Sport with a friend I made from St. Croix. We drank with some crazy Czechs who built a lifesize replica of Magellen's square rigger that was first to navigate the globe. The claimed they knew nothing of carpentry until they were halfway through the project, and then they sailed it around the world, retracing Magellen's route (although they cheated around Cape Horn and went through the straights at Tierra del Fuego).

Pedlar Returns should have left Horta yesterday after repairs were made to the binnicle and a new battery. We'll continue the list server while Mike Hughes is aboard so he can send us updates. Once the boat reaches Gibralter, we'll scuttle the list. If you wish to unsubscribe before then, please send a message to the list address with the word unsubscribe in the subject line.

I have many movies of dolphins and whales and more pictures which I will post to a web site once I have a chance I'm home. Thanks everyone for your interest in our adventure!

Mike Lehmkuhl & the crew of Pedlar Returns