Today is World Oceans Day Monday, June 8th, and the 39ft ketch Danu of Galway Bay has an Azores landfall in prospect for celebration as she approaches the ocean-crossroads port of Horta in the island of Faial.
Although still 150 miles from Horta itself, Danu and her Quinlan-Owens family crew are within the ambit of the Azores archipelago after a month of voyaging northeastwards across the Atlantic from Antigua in the Caribbean. There, the Danu plans for detailed exploration in the islands as the highlight of an Atlantic circuit cruise had been greatly curtailed by the onset of COVID-19, with particularly severe restrictions being imposed on visiting boats and their crews by the small and vulnerable island communities.
Nevertheless, Danu’s crew have much to celebrate on this special Oceans Day, as Vera Quinlan is a scientist with the Marine Institute in Galway. While she has taken a sabbatical with husband Peter Owens, daughter Lillian (12) and son Ruairi (10) to make this voyage, Danu carried a scientific Argo research float from the Marine Institute which was duly launched at mid-ocean last December on the westward voyage and has been transmitting useful information back to the Institute in Galway ever since.
The return voyage has been less favoured with fair winds but much-plagued by calms, yet Lillian and Ruari have been adding to their experience with being entrusted to stand their own watches. Increasingly, the prospect of very slow sailing progress in light winds became a matter of increasing concern, but the camaraderie of the sea manifested itself in the friendliest possible way when a passing ship transferred 200 litres of fuel to Danu, and since then they have been plodding on for much of the time at their most economical motoring speed of 4.6 knots, which means they may not reach Horta until Wednesday.
That may be no great hardship, for the word is that the Azores will be lifting COVID-19 restrictions in a week’s time on Monday, June 15th. Although Danu may have to stay in quarantine anchored in the Outer Harbour until then, her crew will have access to sanitized supplies, and if they stay on until next Monday, they’ll be free to go ashore and visit other islands before heading for Galway Bay.