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One month in Brasil

Already one month gone since we arrived in Salvador. A lot has happen since that. Some of you may have continued to follow via the articles in French and or the Twitter feed, for the rest here is a summary of these 5 weeks.

August 27 to September 2

We stayed in Salvador’s terminal Nautico Marina the whole week. Our programme included:

  • Do the clearance (Policia Federal (immigration), Receita Federal (Customs) and Capitania do Portos (Coast Guards/port police). And this, in Salvador is very very easy compared to other places in Brasil as we will learn later
  • visit of the city: is there anything to see beyond the ruins of the commercial district? The answer is yes definitely: the upper city or historical centre with maginificent building from the 18th century build at the time when Salvador was the capital of Brasil. The middle and upper class seems to have migrated to the modern distric of Barra, facing the ocean but it is only modern towers, nothing for us there.
  • Fix the items that have shown some weaknesses or wear during the crossing and do the usual checking and preventive maintenance on the critical pieces of equipment. Not much fortunately but enough to keep me busy a couple of hour everyday
  • Replenish our food supplies well depleted by two and a half week at sea. And these I must say was a very interesting experience. Our nautical guide was recomending a “Bom Preco” hypermarket in Barra. This is part of WallMart. But we have ben disappointed. The quality was reasonable but the price was high (by Brasilian standards) and the sortment rather limited. For fruit, vegetables, fish and meat, we found the “Mercado Popular” in Sao Joachim. It is a kind of huge fruit and vegetable souk with hindreds of small stalls. Products are very fresh, you can choose the best and prices are unbeatable.On the other side of the road there are also 2 gigantic hypermarkets well sorted at prices much lower than Barra.
  • Rest and recover from our fast trip down from France.

    After 5 days we had enough of the big city and its noise and we were done with our cores but the marina office was closed preventing us to pay our dues. We were forced to wait Monday morning. Fortunately on Sunday, another french boat came into the marina and we spent a nice evening with them

 

September 3 to 9

 

Exploration of the Bahia dos todos los Santos.

 

The bay is huge and full of islands most of them are very nice, covered with tropical forest and hosting small very typical fishermen villages. Unfortunately, the north end of the bay is spoiled by the huge oil terminal and refinery on Madre de Deus island. Navigation in the bay is not easy as there are many shoals and some current but moorings were peacefull and enjoyable. We visited:

  • Bom Jesus: a lovely mooring rght in the middle of the mangroves
  • Brimabaras: suposedly a nature reserve actually a private island with some luxury villas and forbidden access Las Vacas
  • Maria Guarda: a very nice and quite fishing community, we could buy some fresh crab meat from women who were just preparing it under a mango tree
  • La Vacas no mamals but only tropical forest and birds
  • Itaparica: the weekend/holidays resort for Salvador middle and upper class. We called there on a Thursday when it was quite and peacefull but unfortunately before we left on Satruday morning we could have a glimpse on how active and noisy it can be during the weekends
  • Matarandiba: home of a tiny but popular waterfall.
  • Unfortunately, we were advised to avoid sailing up the rio Paraguaçu and especially the city of Maragogipe were crime rate is very high and several cases of armed robery against visiting yachts have been reported.
  • We returned on Salvador on Sunday evening same marina

September 10 to 17

 

Fast clearance in the early morning (Policia Federal and Capitania, Customs indicated that they are a federal administration and therefore don’t need to se us before we leave Brasil) we leave the marina at 10.

Target is to go down to Rio de Janeiro some 800 miles to the south but the weather forecast is not good with cold fronts generating strong winds and high waves on the second half of the passage. We decide to do it in 2 or 3 steps depending to the weather conditions en route. First stop will be Carvelas 300 miles from Salvador. This will be a fast journey with tail wind and reasonably flat sea. A quite one too, with very few ships and no fishing boats at night. In the morning before landing we had a fantastic encounter with many whales. We are close to the Abrolhos archipelago famous as a breeding ground for whales. Its quite an experience to see big whales rising their tail some ten metres above the sea surface to hit it violently and repeatidly, probably some male stuff to showoff in front of the females… At some stage I had to do an emergency tack to avoid two of them swimming casually “fin in fin” right under our bow.

Caravelas entrance is easy and the chanel well buoyed but it is a bit scary the first time, first you have to pass between the very low and flat coast and reefs and shoals just beneath the surface: in the moderate sea we had on that day, you know the coast and the shoals are there but you see nothing. Then we identified the first buoy from the fairway but the depth iwas reducing fast to a lower number than the chart datum (and we were only 3 hours from high tide), as the depth in the fairway was given at 2.5 m we were getting concerned that we may not have enough water. Add to that the fairway is narrow, not aligned at all with the range markers on shore and exposed to a stron lateral current… but finally everything went very smooth, the fairway is dredged to 4 metres and the buoys are well maintained (the job is done by the timber company which is using it daily for its ocean going barges.)

Caravelas is quite a strange place. Definitely not touristy (except it is the departure port for whale watching and diving trips to the Abrolhos – we saw only one diving boat going during the few days we were there). It’s an active fishing village yet there are only very small boats. The village is like it is at the end of the world and in another time scale (probably some 100 years ago). Very few cars, a bus station like you see only in the old movies, narrow cobble stones streets, pretty churches and squares, colorful painted houses and abandonned ruins. We spend there 2 very relaxing days (this is a place where nothing happen, ever) until the weather forecast improved just enough to let us continue our progression south .

We left Caravelas Sunday morning with the ebb tide , 25 knots tail wind but a relatively flat sea. According to the forecast, condition might deteriorate further south so we planned to stop and wait for improvement in Vitoria.

September 14 to 21

 

Given the forecast we sailed conservative with the jib only making never the less good speed all day without any effort. During the night the wind finally decreased and vired south east. We could hoist the main sail. Just before sunrise, we even had to get help from the engine to pass the Pontal de Regencia. We saw many fishing boat and in the morning we spotted a whale again. We thought they were all congregating in Abrolhios archipelagos 300 miles north and we were done with them until the southern latitudes. But no, during the whole day we saw very many of them swimming leisurely in pairs or small groups or doing their usual male stuff with the tail.

By mid day we were just offshore Vitoria. We downloaded a new grib file and studied the last forecast sent by email by our friend Michel. It confirmed the evolution already seen yesterday. The strong wind area is moving furthe offshore, leaving a 25 to 50 miles quiter wind all along the coast till Rio. Decision is rapidly taken to continue till at least Cabo Frio and possibly Rio (we had very little appetite for Vitoria anyway and the perspective of being trapped there for up to a week waiting for favorable winds to continue was not appealing to us).

The offshore area between Vitoria and Cabo Frio is the main oil and gas basin for Brasil and it’s covered with dozens and dozens of production platforms and oil rigs.This is generating a very heavy traffic of supply and anchor, survey, cable laying and other service vessels. This area is also on one of the busiest maritime route and a rich fishing ground. All this makes this area even more busy than our North Sea at the glorious time of the oil and gas boom. This make obviously sailing there at night an heavy burden on Reve à Deux crew. We have to be fully alert during our complete watch checking frequently the AIS , the radar and visulally the suroundings (small fishing boats have no AIS and being low and wooden they are not visible on the radar at more than 200 metres.) Often the second pair of eyes is summonned in the cockpit just to be sure.

On Tuesday morning the wind picked up again nicely from NE 15 to 18 knots and we were making good progress toward Cabo Frio. We are very tempted to make a stop there. Cabo Frio is famous for wonderfull coves and its cold but very clear water. We know that in Rio Bay the water is extremely polluted, swimming in clear water before getting there would be a treat. Unfortunately our ETA to Cabo Frio is at 2 AM: the clouds are obscuring the moon: it will be pitch dark and the 3 metres Easterly swell we are surfing on is likely to make the moorings incomfortably rolly. Therfore, no stop at Cabo Frio let’s continue to Rio.

As the sun rise, the wind is letting us down completely (but the swell subsides). We have to motor on till we can see the famous Sugar Loaf emerging from the fog some 15 miles ahead. But before entering the murky waters of Rio bay proper, we make our stop at Itaipu just for a last quick swim.

Late afternoon we enter the famous bay. Seen from a distance the city and its steep hills and rocks are at least as beautifull as we imagined but the bay water is dirtier than in our worst nightmare. It is grey brownish and littered with all kind of debris mostly plastics (bags of all size, food packaging diapers, bottles and containers etc). The next morning we will see a small turtle swimming in the middle of all that, wondering how and how long it can survive in such an awfull environment.

We chosen not to go too close to the city centre to be quiter and safer. We called in to Niteroi/Charitas Naval Club on the other side of the bay. We are welcomed by Marco a young retired naval officer, sailing passionate speaking perfect French.

 

Tuesday is dedicated to the formalities. For that we need to take the ferry to cross the bay and find the different administration in the old dock area. As Salvador police gave us an exit document (of the state of Bahia not Brasil) we are supposed to check in with them here. But at the address given by the marina (and written in our nautical guide) ther is now some kind of art exhibition hall. We find a Policia Federal HQ building nearby but after inquiring we are told that they don’t do immigration related formalities here anymore. The only solution proposed would be to go to Rio International Airport. We decide to give up Policia Federal: afterall, they are supposed to be federal, we have legally entered the country and our passeport are bearing the proper entry stamps… same apply for the Receita Federal (Customs). We then go to the Capitania dos Portos but by then it is already 15:00 and the public office just closed and they don’t open on Friday. This is bad: we want to leave on Sunday, we don’t want to comeback here on Monday. We start getting desperate and out of luck we enquire at the reception desk of a nearby Navy administration department where we are met by a young sailor, Nathan, speaking perfect English. We explain our misfortune and he kindly takes us to the main gate, negotiates with his colleague there, gets us in and after some 30′ we get the magic paper! Thank you so much Nathan! You saved our day!

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By then it is time to cross the bay again and returen to the Club Naval. We are invited for a drink onboard Pegasus, Marco’s sailing boat together with his wife Rosanna. They lived in France for several years and they fell in love with our country, their daughter is still at the university in Lyon and they are going there in November for a couple of months. We spent a very nice evening with them exchanging info about what to see in France and in Brasil.

Friday is shopping day, we need to replenish our food supplies especially as we want to spent some time on Ilha Grande where there are no supermarkets. Marco and Rosana, very kindly drove us to their favorite supermarket in Niteroy where we can find lots of European products.

Saturday is our Tourist day. We want to go to Corcovado (the famous Christ statue) an see the legendary view of the bay from up there. We struggle a little to find the right bus but we get there in good time and we board the little train. Unfortunately, the entire summit including the statue is drowned in clouds. It’s like thick fog and it’s impossible to see anything. We go back down and take another bus for Copacabana. The cloudy weather has not discouraged the Cariocas who are crowding the beach and playing their favorite games and beach activites.

Saturday is for the usual boat check and preventive maintenance. Our plan is to leave for Ilha Grande (distant form 65 miles) in the evening in order to get there early morning. We finally leave with a beautifull sundown over the Sugar Loaf. When we get out of Guanabara bay, night is already there and we are blessed with the wonderfull view of Copacabana and Ipanema illuminated and overlooked by the Corcovado Christ illumnated too. A beautifull and very romantic moment.

The passage is uneventfull and around 4 AM we enter Ilha Grande bay. At the entrance of the bay there are many oil tankers and other cargo ships moored: there are several commercial harbours and large oil terminal in the bay. This is a bit worrying given that Ilha Grande is a unique nature reserve. Let’s hope the authorities are prepared to do the needfull to protect it in case of spillage or pollution.

 

At 5: 30 as the sun rise, we drop the anchor at Praia do Pouso. After busy Rio this is like paradize for us (by now you have understood that we are not great fan of cities ::)): clear and calm water, beautifull smal beach surrounded by tropical forest. We spent the rest of the day relaxing, swimming and enjoying the place. The next morning we go ashore for a walk across the Island to explore the famous beach of Lopes Mendes said to be the most beautifull in Americas and one of the best in the world which is actually very well possible: the place is really great and we can walk for several km on the beach without seeing any human being.

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Next day we move to another cove called Saco de Ceu completely protected from all directions. Water is clear and warm, we take the opportunity to check the boat bottoms. We are experimenting with Copper Coat: a permanent antifouling (10 years according to the datasheet) based on pure copper metal powder diluted in hard epoxy resin and I must say that, so far, it behave better than a traditional anti fouling paint. The hull and the apendages are actually still fairly clean after 3 months in warm waters: just a thin film of brown algae that go away very easyly with a sponge. It is also much better for the environement as, as soon as the epoxy has hardened, you can brush it as many times as you need, the product is staying on the hull instead of going away in the water like traditional antifouling. Let’s see on the longer time how it will perform.

 

On Thursday we go to Angra Do Reis to buy some groceries and do the usual formalities at Capitania dos portos. But there we have a bad surprises. The first marina (Iate Club Aquidaba) initially let us in but after few minutes an employee come and tell vehemently us to leave at once, removing our mooring lines from the dock.

In the next Marina (Piratas) we could stay free of charge for a couple of hours, enough to go to the Capitania. There the navy officer tells me that he can’t check me in because I have not checked out from Rio. (Capitanias are separate jurisdictions, not related to the federal structure) . He kindly explain that I have to go back to Rio to get the exit stamp, without it I won’t be able to enter any other prort in Brasil… However, we can go to Rio Capitania by bus if we wish so. Tomorrow is Friday, based on previous experience we prefer to wait till Monday, to make sure the public office will be open. With very heavy thunderstorm in the late afternoon, we moor by the Bomfim chapel for the nigh and return to Ilha Grande first thing the next morning. We moor at Lago Azul a very nice anchorage at the north tip of the island.

 

There we meet Robert and Armelle on Aquadoria who are just back from 2 trips in Patagonian Channels and they kindly let us have their notes and advices about the best moorings and the places to go or not. We spent great moments with them.

 

Sunday is busy day in this supposedly secluded cove. Boats, (motor and sailing) loaded with weekenders are coming from everywhere often with loud music and always quite fast to enjoy the place for few minutes or the whole day. It is very tiring. By lunch time we returnt to Angra to try and find a good place to leave the boat while we go to Rio tomorrow. We choose the Angra do Reis Marina Club which is said to be very welcoming in our guide. The place looks nice but the admitance is quite complicated, the guard wants to make sure that we are not going to use the facility or leave before paying the 230 reals (about 50 Euros) dayly fee. We finally manage to find the Comodore and the deal is settled. We pay 250 now and the rest on Tuesday morning before leaving. In the mean time we went to the restaurant managed by Michel (who also owns a very nice gastronomic restaurant in Jacancagua) and we enjoy our first caipirinha since we get in Brasil (prepared by a cocktail master such as Michel it was delicious)

 

Monday October 1

Michel very kindly offered to take us to the bus Termimal and at 6:30 he is at the gate waiting for us. We catch the 7:00 bus and arrive in Rio around 10:00 in spite of the heavy traffic jams. Getting into Rio by land from the west is quite a choc. For kilometers one can see many favelas as well as peole sleeping in the middle of the motorway. We are glad to be born in the right environment.

A quick VLT (the new tramway build for the Olympics) trip to Praça XV and we are at Capitania dos Portos. The public office is open but they are not sure how to deal with us and send us back to the main gate. There the officer on duty negociates for some time on the phone to finally accompany us back to the public office where we get the needed stamp in a few seconds! Then starts another experience of Brasil administrative efficiency. Our hydrogenerator was suffering technical problem and after discussion with the manufacturer it was decided to send it back to France for repair. We went to the central post office to ship it as express parcel. At the counter the ladies did their best to help and find the suitable box, pack it properly and started to enter the necessary shipping information in the computer. That when the nightmare started: we had to fill dozens of forms, to sign tens of documents, search with the employees (3 of them) for the right export code and so on. Finally after more than 2 hours at the counter, all documents were stamped and we could pay the shipping fee (760 reals = 180 euros for a 4 kg parcel) we hope it will arrive safely in France. We will not try to get it back while we are still in Brazil but rather in Uruguay were formalities are said to be a little simpler.

By 19:00 we were back at the club enjoying one of Michel’s cocktails

 

To be continued

 

Our first passage: Mindelo (Cabo Verde) – Salvator de Bahia (Brazil)

As I said in a previous post, Mindelo was a very pelasant surprise. Originally, based on too many negative feedback collected from many sailing forums (mugging, burglary and corruption) we were not intending to stop in Cabo Verde . But after talking with some friends who stayed there recently, we decided to give it a try and we do not regret it. We definitely recommend Mindello as a nice stopover enroute to the other side of the Atlantic. The people are very friendly and the city is nice and very well sorted for fruits, vegetable, an fishes. Fruits (bananas, papayas and mangoes) are of good quality. We did lost any and we still had good fresh fruits on our last breakfast of the crossing.

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At the marina, we were only 3 visiting boats: a South African going back to Cape Town non stop and an Ukrainian also on the way back home. This one had a fantastic history. They were two 70+ retired engineers from Kiev. They build the boat themselves from space rockets exotic aluminium scraps. They started their journey from Kiev on September 2017, went al the way down to Chile, rounded Cabo de Horno and where on their way back home via Azores when we met them. Such a trip in less than a year this is quite a performance!

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We left lunch time on August 11 (exactly a month after we started from Les Sables d’Olonne). The 2 other boats had already left earlier the same morning. Most of the preparation was done the day before: fresh food for 3 weeks, preventive maintenance of crtical items onboard etc. Such as on the morning we had only to run the last errand to be sure to leave with the freshest fruits. I also spent a good hours fine tuning the routeing for the entire crossing taking benefit from the marina wifi to download very large grib files. I used NOAA gribs and their Huricane discussion bulletin (which I asked a friend in France to email me twice a day during the crossing). This bulletin is very interresting because it reports the movement of the tropical wave as they form on the cost of West Africa and develop over the Atlantic, it also follow the development of the monsoon through in the same area. These are very important phenomenas which are not easily (if at all) identifiable on a grib. Tropical wave exhibiting high convection may develop rapidly into tropical storm and eventually cyclone and in this season one has to be extra carefull. On this basis our routeing parameters were basically to try to find an optimal route where we would get the least time without wind while avoiding these tropical waves as well as the areas of highest potential thunder storm. And I must say, it worked quite well.

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The 2 fist days we hade very good wind and we could go fast with a lot of west in our south which allowed us to turn and go due south on the third day, to pass in between the 2 active tropical waves. What we are really happy about is that we didn’t have to go through any thunder storm or strong squall while in the doldrums. We had very heavy rain a couple of times but no lighting or thunder directly around the boat. We saw some lightning in the night sky once but it was far far away.
The surprise came from the very long period of calm: no wind at all for some days and nearly a week with less than 6 knots and even when this 6 knots wind was blowwing it was always dead down wind I.e not enough to keep the sails from flapping endlessly regradless how tight we set the preventer . We had to be patient, we could not motor through it all the time because I didn’t re-fuel in Mindelo and we left with less than 200 litres onboard which means about 60 hours or 300 miles if we used it all, but we wanted to keep at least 80 litres as emergency reserve and for the “landing”. Finally, we motored about 40 hours in total but only 12 at full regime the rest was at 1000 RPM just to support the sails and make sure that the pilot could still steer resulting in a consumption of about 100 litres.

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These long calms could have been frustrating from a navigation point of view especially as the gribs kept forecasting light (6 knots) southerly wind i.e. we would have ben going upwind (and 6 knots up wind would have been enough to get out boat moving nicely) but we got indeed about 6 knots but only northerly i.e. down wind. We suspect the guys at NOAA used south arrows because they had no graphical representation for “we think you gonna have some light wind now and then but we have no clue as to where the f… it is going to come from”.

But actually it was a great time. The sea was never totally flat it was always some moderate swell (growing as we were gaining toward the south) which was no good for the sails but it was not too bad for the crew. We could do a lot of reading and sleeping, good fishing (Coryphene, Wahoo and Amber jacks, plus of course the morning harvest of flying fishes on the deck – once I even found one in my shoes on the cabin floor), proper cooking and fantastic meals (Coryphen sushis, flying fishes paté :)) and moreover we could bath and swim at least once a day. Swimming in this deep blue ocean cristal clear warm water (28°C) is a fantastic experience. Of course we always did it only one of us at a time and on a tether: safety first. We expected these calms to be so boring but in fact it was very enjoyable and even relaxing.
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On the 6th day, after a couple of terrible rain showers with no wind, we finally catched the southerly forecasted for so many days. It was a gentle breeze of 7 to 9 knots allowing us to sail very comfortably at 5 to 6 knots at 45-50° TWD.

After about 2 days due south, we crossed the commercial route Brasil – Africa – Europe. Lots of ships on the AIS going in both direction. This is the time when the wind shifted SE allowing us to tack and get on a direct route to Salvador passing some 100 miles east of rocky islets of San Pietro and San Paolo as well as Fernandho de Noronha. For a couple of days the wind stayed moderate and stable in force in spite of frequent shifts in direction. On August 21, we passed the equator with the traditional celebration including the glass of rhum to Neptune.

By then, the sea was bulding up to 3 m perpendicular to our route with a secondary wave at 30°, not the most confortable. Then the squalls started. It goes like this: the wind is 10 knots we are sailing confortably at 6 knots 95° TWD, very dark huge clouds move toward us, the wind shift and is now only 45° from the route, from 10 knots the wind speed gets up to 12, 15, 18, then shift back 95° TWD and up again 20, 22 up to 28 or 30 knots for 20′ and settles at 20 -22 knots for an hour or 2 then suddenly goes down to 11. Obviously a lot of reefing and sails trimming is required to keep the boat under control. The first squalls we found actually quite fun, keeping as much sails on as we could dare to. The boat was accelerating: 8, 9, 10, 11 knots. But after a while we told ourselves that we were not in a race and that it was our home that we were using as a surfing toy. So we anticipated a lot more the sails reduction and delayed the unreefing longer. But it didn’t help much we still had to trim and adjust in every gust. Going in this cross sea perpendicular to our route was also quite wet: we were very happy to be dry and confortable without foul weather gear under our dog house form where we can do all the triming, reefing and furling.

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And during all this we were on the cargo ships route so we had to watch the AIS and the radar all the time. Fortunately we saw only one ship without AIS transponder and it was in full day light. Most ship adjusted their course to pass a couple of miles away (according to international rules they have to), we only had to deviate twice from our route.

No need to say that this part of the trip was less relaxing than the first one. It was very sailing intensive (which we like) but after few days it was a bit exhausting. We could still keep more or less normal meals (just we had to serve them in deep bowls or mugs rather than plates and obviously we had to hold them tight). No time for reading, we remembered ourselves the original significance of the expression “being on watch”.

On the last night the weather was the same and so was the traffic and as we were obviously getting closer to shore, we expected to see many fishing boats (Brasilian fishermen are famous for using long nets at night) but fortunately we didn’t see a single one.

On Tuesday 28 at 5:30 localtime as the daylight was coming we passed the south buoy indicating the sand bank at the entrance of All Saints Bay (Bahia de todos los Santos) and we saw Salvador sky scrappers emerging from the clouds. Two hours later we berthed at Terminal Nautico right in the city centre… We did it! 2300 miles on the log in 16 days and 23 hours.

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Passage

 

During this nearly 17 days we were like on another planet, only the 2 of us in our little bubble with the waves and wind. This arrival was kind of a choc. The city looks really grand from a but getting closer, it’s likes it has been trough better times long ago. Ithe lower city and commercial district is basically in ruins with many buildings like empty shells whithout roof or windows. Then the very heavy traffic, the noise and the loud music. But the people are so nice and friendly (at least during day time) and always smiling and laughing that immediately you forget about the rest.

But let’s leave our discovery of Brasil for a next article.

Stay tuned 🙂

Down to Mindelo

Hello Everyone!

When I last published in English on this blog we were preparing to leave Quinta do Lorder and Madeira. Ten days have gone since and we have obviously moved ahead. From the position reports you have probably seen that we are in Mindelo on Sao Vincente one of the island forming the Cabo Verde Archipelago. But quite a lot has been happening in between let me try to sum it up for you.

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The 250 miles crossing Madeira to La Palma (the most western of the Canary islands) was one of the smoothest ever, downwind in moderate northerly wind, mostly under spinaker or main plus jib in butterfly. No special encounter, few maneuvres mostly for switching from spinaker to white sails. We like it like that, we are very confortable at sea on our boat and we are enjoying ourselves very much with lot of time spent sleeping and reading. So, the crossing was very peacefull until we reached 40 miles from La Palma. We should have seen the high peak of the island already long ago but it was night and cloudy. The wind had picked up in the beginning of the night and we had replaced the spinaker by the jib. Now as the morning sun was trying to break the clouds, the wind was veering and we had to remove the jib pole. As we approached further the northern tip of the island we got in the so called accelaration zone the the wind speed started to go up quite fast from the steady 18 we had overnight to 23 knots then 27 to finally peak at 32. We took 2 reefs in the main but kept the jib (we were still at 100° TWA). The boat was surfing the short waves at 12 knots. This was fun. Then has we got to the lee of the island everything got much calmer. Based on the pilot book recommentation we had decided to make our stop at Tazacorte on the west coast of La Palma. This is definitely the right choice: very nice and cheap marina with friendly and helpful staff, well sheltered from all directions and no effect form the swell inside (which is reported as an issue in Santa Cruz). It was almost lunch time when the marinheros took our lines.

After the usual boat, crew and laundry washing, in the late afternoon, we rented a car and went to renew our food supplies to the nearby city of Los Llanos which is blessed with one Lidl and one HyperDino. Back to the boat we celebrated my first day of retirement (until now I was just on holidays :)) with a glass of a strong but decent local wine.

We used the next day to go to the caldeira and visit some part of the island. La Palma feels vey different from Tenerife that we know very well. It’s much greener, with still a lot of flowers including blooming chestnut trees. The landscape around the caldeira is breathtaking but we couldn’t enjoy it for very long as heavy clouds engulfed the mountain and obscured the view in the early afternoon. Below 1000 m it was raining. We went down to Santa Cruz. The old city centre (Centro historico) is very pleasant. We could also see that Santa Cruz marina, in spite of being located at theinner end of the large commercial harbor is rolly and further more in the middle of the city traffic.

 

Next day (August 3) we set sails in the late morning catching a very nice meckerel just on time for lunch. In the lee of the archipelago the condition were very mild which is always nice when starting a crossing. This time it will be 800 miles to Mindelo. Again a first time for us, our longest so far was 500. That may surprise you: both of us have been sailing intensively ever since the age of 14 and we went many places by but we never clocked more than 450 miles in one go even if we did it many times (that’s the distance between our home port and our favourite play ground in the south part of Galicia).

The 2 first days were slowish at around140 miles a day but the sea was flat and the cloud cover only 50%. Temp went up to around 30°C for a couple of hours but the average was more like 25. On the third day, the wind picked up finally. We dozed the spinaker and went for our “pensioneer rig” ie we took the main down and established the jib on the pole with the stay sail in butterfly configuration. We hardly slow down and we can sail dead downwind with a good margin on both side. It is also pulling the boat from the front making the job very easy for the pilot: it is almost self steering. The wind was oscilating from 20 to 23 knots all night going down to 15 to 18 in the morning (we put the main up again) We clocked our best day of the crossing at almost 200 miles in 24 hours. This was also our first flying fishes harvest (4 of them on the deck this morning and plenty flying around all day) which is a sure sign that we have reach the tropical area. Fried at lunch it’s delicious. Anne also catched a strange flatish fish. According to the cards we have on board it would be a small “greater amber jack” of less than 2 kg. We cooked it on a vegetable stew and it gave us two tasty dinners.

 

 

Fourth and fifth day were more complicated with unsettled sea and shifting wind blowing less and less. The 22 knots wind sea was still there while the wind was gone blowing now less than 8 knots making the sails flapping a lot inspite of the preventers which is causing a lot of wear and shafing. We couldn’t keep the spinaker up because it was to shaky unless we went at 140° TWA but the speed gain was not compensating for the longer distance . I spent a lot of time at the nav station to download and interpret the latest grib files (gribs are raw weather files issued by the US NOAA and freely available from their server, you can download them to your computer and visualize up to 14 days predictions for wind, waves, pressure and many other weather parameter). I am glad I have got a data unlimited Iridium subscription! The verdict is no wind toward the east and larger waves to the west but no stronger wind. The best option is to stay on the shorter route but that means a lot of jybing. But jybing is quite a task when you are only 2 on a 42 footer: removing the boom preventer, furling the gib, removing the pole from the gib, jybing the main and reinstalling everything on the other tack. No need to say that we get exhausted after a few of those in the afternoon. Consequently we adjust our unrully watch system (manoeuver when optimum, that is all the time, and sleep when nothing else can be done) to a more oderly pattern in order to allow a minimum of 2 times 3 consecutive hours of sleep for each of us and I can insure you that we are using every minute of it.

This means also trying as much as possible to plan the gybesand other manoeuvers to the watch change time when we are 2 on deck. Do we still see each other with such a system or is it just a short “Hi!” at the change. No in fact we spend still a lot of time together during the day and we talk a lot, exchanging views on a lot of topics most of the time totally unrealted to our navigation.

In the afternoon of the 5th day, we are only 70 miles from Sao Vincente. We are 7 knots under spinaker, wich gives an ETA in the middle of the night which we don’t like especially this is a very dark night, no moon, low clouds and this yellow desert dust which is in the air since our third day and making every thing farther than 2 miles desapearing in a kind of hazy fog. We are preparing to doze the spinaker but the wind drops and we slow down gently to 4 knots wich give us a perfect arrival timing

The arrival at Mindelo will be in the same saharian dust haze. The bay is clutterered with numerous ship wrecks getting us worried with what we are going to find ashore. But no Mindelo is a great place, a small but proud African city out there in the middle of the Atlantic. We dock at 10:00 local time the marina staff is very helpful. The clearance formalities are quickly and efficiently expedited (entrance and exit at the same time because we are leaving on Saturday). We then discover the old part of the city with it’s old Portugese colonial buildings. The fish market is fantastic. People are very nice and kind. The local language is Portugese which we don’t speak but most of the people we met prefer to speak with us in French rather than English.

 

We will spend 2 nights in Mindelo. Tomorrow we are heading to Brazil our first ocean crossing. The ultimate goal is Salvador de Bahia but given the routeing we have run based on the latest weather forecast, we will cross the dolldrums fairly west which means that we will probably stop at Fernando de Noronha and/or Joa Pessoa on the way.

The next article will be posted from Brazil (hopefully) Don’t expect it before 2 to 3 weeks. In the mean time stay tuned on our Twitter feed.

Cascais to Madeira

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As you have probably understood from our tweets and article in French we have reached Porto Santo the northernmost island of the Madeira Archipelago. It is a lovely island with a fantastic golden sand beach (not common on volcanic island) where one can moor safely and a very good well sheltered marina. A quiet and relaxing place to stay. Some tourists (mostly British and Portugese) but not the sun seeking crowd you might find in some other places and no big hotel or resort is visible. It is small and almost secluded, yet it has all the commodities needed. The island is very dry at this season and the scarce vegetation is mostly yellow brown. Being from volcanic origin the landscape is quite impressive with steep cliffs and black peaks.

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The crossing from Cascais was one of the most relaxing ever. Single tack at 120 to 140° from the wind mostly under spinnaker. Wind never exceed 14 knots and the sea was really flat. The third day was very light wind (around 6 knots) but we kept moving at 3 – 4 knots. It could have been an uneventfull crossing but we had actually some interesting encounters:

  • On the first evening soon after sundown we saw tunas jumping all around the boat with dolphins going after them and seabirds trying to catch the left overs overhead. The sea was like a bubling jacuzzi. Looks like we were disturbing them because they went rapidly away still jumping and chasing all over.
  • In the morning while I was doing my morning inspection tour (rig, sails etc) I found a small fresh squid on the deck. How did it end up there remain a mistery. As I never hear of flying squids I suppose it was chased by a big fish and somehow rode a wave that brought it up there. It escaped its hunter but not its fate.
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  • On the third day morning we met a huge whale (don’t ask me what type I am no expert in whale). It was at least as big as the boat, black with a smooth skin. I saw it first approaching us from port. It surfaced at about ten meters from the boat and dove right under our keel (hopefully it did it very softly with no big tail waving or anything). Next it surfaced right behind us and turned to follow us at again about ten meters. We saw it small eye observing us. I have seen whales before but never so close. After some time, it decided that it saw enough of us and went away.
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  • On the same day late afternoon, we were visited by a pigeon, the kind of pigeon educated to fly messages (I am not sure how its called in English: our French naming of it would translate as “traveller pigeon”)
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We arrived Porto Santo at 16:00 on the fourth day, which means that we did the 485 miles at an average of 6.3 knots which isn’t too bad considering that we spent about 15 hours at less than 4 knots.

We really love being at sea, sailing the two of us with no land or boat in sight . We’ll see if we feel the same after a 20 days crossing but these 500 miles were perfect. No maneuvring (except for hoisting the spinnaker and taking it down twice) good sleeping (in shifts), lots of reading for both of us and excellent meals properly cooked 3 times a day. This was really cool.

 

Arriving here also felt very different from previous stops. All the port we called before including Cascais were very familiar, some like Cedeira or Camariñas we visited at least twelve or fifteen times. But from now on, we are discovering new places, ports where we have never been, waters that se have never sailed.But there is something else that we start to realize and which is making this time special: we don’t have to think about coming back. We are not on our four weeks traditional summer leave. We are here, farther than we ever been (on a sailing boat from a French port) and we are free to go further as far and as long as we want. That sounds like freedom and it feels bloody good!

We spent two days in Porto Santo. We did the usual chores, grocery sopping and boat preventive maintenance (this time update of computers operating system and software – neglected before leaving France and oilig/greasing steering system and pilot.). Then, we went for a long walk around the south eastern peninsula on a path along the cliffs to enjoy the breath taking view on the archipelago. We had our dinner in a small local retaurant ou our way back to the port.

 

Next day we moved to Madeira proper (Madeira is both the name of the archipelago and its main island. 25 miles under light spinnaker in 8 knots north wind. We droped the anchor at Bahia d’Abra, one of the very few safe mooring on the island. Its a grogeous place, well protected by the surrounding steep red lava cliffs, 10 m deep with nice sand bottom. Swimming and relaxing, peace full night with the boat rolling gently (just enough to sleep like a baby :)) Then today some kayaking around the bay to see the cliffs from right beneath and finally moving a mile away to Quinta do Lorde marina where we hope to be able to do our departure clearence tomorrow.

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To be continued…

PS: as expected as we leave the busy European coasts, our AIS signal is not forwarded anymore by coastal stations or commercial vessels and we are not visible anymore on Marine Traffic. To remedy that I will be tweeting our GPS position from time to time so you can still follow (tweet feed is on the right column of the Article page of our blog). This will show as a link to an Iridium.com page. When you click it you’ll get to a google type of map with a dot showing our location. However the map opens at maximum zoom and in the middle of the ocean there is nothing to show therefore you’ll have to zoom out until you see some coast to figure out our location:). My apologies for the inconvenience. I’ll try to come up with something more user friendly later

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Already gone for 10 days

I am a bad guy.

I promised English articles and we have been already gone for10 days and nothing published yet.

Actually the original intention was to translate one and every articles published (by Anne) in French but I couldn’t find the time to do it over the past days.

I hear you saying: “ you lazy boy! You’re on holidays and nearly retired and you have no time! That’s bull s…!

Actually it’s not. Let me explain. My wife Anne and myself we are both co-skipper of the boat but then we have also our own area of responsibility. She does the helm, she is the finance, admin and supply manager (that’s including fishing :)) and moreover the media (wo)man or onboard reporter whereas I am the trimmer, the bow man, the navigator and the chief engineer (the benefit being skipper even co- is that you can promote yourself easily). When we left Les Sable d’Olonne, the boat was technically ready in that sense that we had completed our turn around and the todo list was all ticked off But obviously with so many new systems onboard it was a fair bit of commissioning, calibration and tuning to do. Hence the chief engineer was very busy until now when we can relax and enjoy the weekend in Cascais.

Anyway here is the account of our first 10 days.

We left les Sables d’Olonne on July 11

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We took a night rest at l’île d’Yeu before the first jump: Biscaye. We left on 12/7 at 14:30. Crossing was very smooth one of the most relaxing ever. North eathterly wind 8 to 10 knots. We were dead down wind with our sails in butterfly most of the time. We even had the spinaker up for some hours but the sea was a bit choppy (no big swell or anything just kind of disorganized) and we had to sail at 160° from the wind and the speed gain was not compensating for the extra distance (bad VMG) so we went back to our butterfly.

Right in the middle of the gulf where the water is at is deepest (like -4000m or something) we were met by a very large fleet of spanish fishing boats hunting for tunas. They were more than 50. Must have been some tunas around. We put our tuna line in the water with the nice lure fabricated by Martin with special Borlink materials and trailed it for a good part of the day without catching anything. We finally pull it completely up and realized that the lure was gone probably between the teeth of a very big one. Sad because it was a gift! To make up for it, we put another one on immediately (some kind of plastic squid) and 10′ later we had our first tuna. A beautiful one of 4 kg. (when I say we here, I mean Anne: I was just watching :)) Getting it on board was a bloody business (literally: my hook catched it in the belly…). This was the first large fish we ever catched so we were really happy and proud!

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About 40 hours after our departure from l’île d’Yeu, we were in front of the cape Ortegal but we never saw it: it was surrounded by low clouds and mist. Also the temperature change was amazing during the past 2 days we had nice warm weather 20°C to 26°C and the sea water was also warm  on the surface (23°) but there at 20 miles from the coast it was 18°C both air and water. The wind was completely gone too.

We reach Cedeira and we moored in the bay at 23:30 on 14/7 (our French national day!). We have been there many times and we love it. First of all it’s a very easy to access and well sheltered mooring (360° wind and sea protection). The landscape is gorgeous with the Eucalyptus forest going from the surrounding mountains right into the sea. And the old village is very typical and beautyfull.

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In the morning we inflate the kayak to go ashore. We come back with Galicia’s specialties: Empanada de Bacalau and Tarta de Santiago, just to make sure we are really there.

The next day (16/7) we leave to Camariñas clause hauled in 10 knots southerly wind and cloudy sky. We use the opportunity to have to tack several times to finish the calibration of the wind instruments. As we reach the Islas Sisargas the wind change again and we hoist the genaker.Unfortunately not for very long the mist is coming again and the wind die on us and we have to put the engine on to reach our destination around midnight . We drop the anchor in the north east angle of the bay and settle for dinner under our dog house. That’s when they start the firework in the fishing harbour. Camariñas is a small place lost on the wild Galician coast but the firework was a huge magnificent one. Once the last rocket is fired the music starts (although we are about 2 miles upwind, we hear it lound and clear) It will go till 6 AM.

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We spent the day (17/7) at the small marina (the cheapest and friendliest on the west coast of Spain). A bit of grocery shopping, laundry washing and a walk in the forest along the coast in the afternoon. We leave the marina at 20:00 to return to the mooring. The “Fiesta” is resuming and it is really too noisy to stay.

18/7: cloudy and cold weather again. No problem we are going south. The “Portugese trade winds” are not properly established yet. We have a northerly but only 12 knots which go down to 8 once we have passed the famous Cape Finisterre. We have the spinaker up but the wind is giving up on us when we pass by the island of Salvora (Ria d’Arosa). We decide to stop for the night at San Vincente de Grove.

19/7 Lazy morning, swimmming (water temp almost 20°c) showering and breakfast. It is already 10:30 when I check my mail and surprise: there is a message from our friends Fanny and Alain. They were staying in O Grove 1km away with their mobilehome (camping car in French) and they saw us coming on Marine Traffic. They came to the beach and tried to contact us… we call them back and go ashore to have a coffee with them ato share our adventures since we last met… this was a very nice moment. By 13:00 we leave them and get ready to go. We are not sure to where, though, because the sky is still mostly grey and the wind almost non existent. Anyway, we start going between the islands (Ons and Cies) and the continent with Bayona as a possible stop over. The islands are beautifull and to make it even better, the sun is starting to shine.

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I download a grib. The Portugese trade wind should be finally establishing. We decide to go directly to Cascais. A quick routeing gives us an ETA around 4 AM on Saturday: on time for grocery shopping. The wind finally pickup in the evening, about 15 knots and obviously we are again dead down wind in our favorite butterfly configuration. It will reach up to 27 knots in the middle of the night. The sea is again completely disorganized with very steep and short waves. It is a bit scarry with the full main. We decide to reef and experiment the downwind reefing technique (without altering the course or the sheeting). It works really well: you just have to coordinate very well the halyard and the reef line. With this we still go at more than 8 knots.

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21/7 01:30 AM we drop our achor in front of Cascais beach. We get some sleep and in the morning we go to the marina. Our nephew Adrien and his family on holidays in Nazaré came to visit us. We had a wonderfull lunch with them and he drove us to the “Jumbo” supermarket for grocery shopping in the afternoon.

Cascais is a lovely resort a short train trip from Lisbon, most of the villas have been build in the beginning of the century by the Lisbon establishment and the city as kept the atmosphere.

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22/07 the morning is spent cleaning and washing for Anne and checking all critical equipment for me. In the afternoon we go back to the outside mooring to get ready to leave tomorrow (probably for Madeira).

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This is it for now.

Cheers!

We are back in the water

After one month of heavy works on shore to overhaul completely Rève à Deux we are finally back in the water. After a short stay home to say Goodbye to the family and settle some admin matters we should be back on board and ready to sail.