On to Cabadelo

Our last port in Brazil is Cabadelo, just a bit north of Recife. We set off on the Friday morning, followed by Airpower and Misto, next morning we were joined in the SSB schedule by Aranui and PretAixte who left Salvador next morning, then Blue Pearl and Callisto joined in (they had been exploring further south) so we had quite an ARCarmada going on. A bit of a slow trip, little wind and coming increasingly from ahead, also the need to keep well offshore to avoid getting entangled in small fishing boats and fishing gear meant we made some very slow tacks out. But on Tuesday we were motoring in no wind then as the wind got up motorsailing quite fast, we realised if we kept this up we could make Port on Wednesday rather than waiting until Thursday. As Cabadelo is in a river you have to come in on the rising tide and berthing on the pontoon is only possible at slack water. So first thing Wednesday the boats wended there way up river one by one to get berthed in the marina. Marina Jacare is run by 2 Frenchmen and there are many French boats here, but at least it’s easier to speak French than Portuguese. Jacare means alligator in Portuguese but we haven’t seen any live ones yet. Very pleasant and friendly here, very much a holiday place with bars and little shops as well as local fisherman going about. There is a guy who plays Ravels Bolero at sunset every night on the saxophone from a small rowing boat, and has been doing so for the last 25 years! And of course it is Mardi Gras, carnival time! Wednesday evening went to the opening of the carnival at Jao Pessoa the biggest local city. Yesterday (Saturday) we went to the Carnival at the old town of Olinda near Recife during the day. This was very much a local thing, there were stages for big bands being set up – guess they were for the evening. What we saw was local folk all in fancy dress, families, friends, groups all matching or coordinating, small bands marching with lots of drums and brass. Quite a spectacle. And very noisy and busy. We felt simultaneously over and under dressed – too many clothes on in shirts and shorts but not enough glitter and fishnets. In general folk in Brazil are out in the streets in less clothes, no need for cultural modesty and covering up with sarongs here. We are here until Thursday when we set off for Grenada and the Caribbean – the last Ocean passage of the World ARC rally. There is the possibly to stop for 24 hrs en route at Devils Island off French Guyana- of Papillon fame.

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Salvador de Bahia

Salvador in the state of Bahia was the first capital city of Brazil, built in an easily defensible locality with a steep escarpment above the bay. Many African slaves were brought here so the area still reflects the traditions, culture and music that they brought with them. We were stationed at Terminal Nautico marina which set in behind the Fort Sao Marcelo and was very pleasant (though there was some swell at times), you were moored stern to the dock with lazy lines at the bow. Marina manager Dominic and Alex spoke good English and were very helpful. They also spoke French and there were a lot of French boats in. We were just below the old town reached by the Elevator Lacerda – basically a lift, there were other funiculars. The place is very busy, vibrant and colourful even though carnival hadn’t started yet. The old town called Pelourinho was all narrow streets with lots of little restaurants, crafts for sale, some of the many churches (apparently there are 365) for which Salvador is famous, including with the whole inside decorated with intricate gold plated carvings, lots of vendors selling tourist stuff, cold beer, cold water etc. All seemed very safe although we were warned not to wear expensive jewellery or watches and to take taxis or Uber’s after dark. Lots of tower blocks – it’s a big city, some very posh bits (gated) close by people sleeping in the street, lots of derelict buildings next to smart ones. There are also some nice beaches, high the Brazilians seem to make full of staying on the sand until well after dark. After a few days we made an excursion to explore the big bay – Baia de Todos os Santos in company with Misto and Emily Morgan. We anchored at Ilha Bom Jesus and with Misto had a wonderful fish stew with accompaniments for lunch at a tiny street cafe – they said one would be enough for 4 – and they were right! Misto had kindly given us a circumnavigation of the island in their dinghy – actually we were looking for somewhere to park it while we explored the sleepy little island. Then we spent a couple of nights at Ilha Itaparica – good swimming to cool off and to clean the bottom of the boat, a night at Salinas de Margarida (shallow), then back to Salvador for a few days before setting off to sail north up the coast to Cabadelo.

St Helena to Salvador Brazil

Sunny, warm gentle trade winds, perhaps often a little too gentle. Dead downwind. We spent a lot of days with the cruising chute set with a pole as a spinnaker trying to make best speed. It would have been idyllic except that we really wanted to arrive. Mostly we were sailing over an empty ocean, but we did see the occasional ship. Of course when the spinnaker had decided to wind itself round the forestay, that was when we realised a ship was heading straight for us! We also had the twice daily SSB schedule with the other World ARC yachts. We arrived in Salvador just in time for the tour and the prize giving party. We were most surprised to get a prize for place in our class, as we had started one day late. Don’t tell anyone that there were only 4 boats on the class.

Swimming with whale sharks

Whale sharks are the worlds largest fish up to 12m long (same length as Timshel) and are found in large numbers around St Helena in January and February, it is thought that they may breed there. They are docile filter feeders and go about near the surface with their huge mouths gaping feeding mainly on plankton and fish eggs. Each fish has many Remoras or sucker fish attached. You can go on a boat trip to snorkel with these giant sharks, the interaction is quite regulated, only so many swimmers per fish, time limited to 45 minutes, and you must be at least 3m away, 4m from the tail. But the sharks don’t seem to have been told this, they are curious and tend to follow you so you are often frantically swimming backwards to get out of the way; even though you know they are filter feeders it is quite alarming when you find yourself close to the mouth. We found a group of 3 sharks, often you had a fish to yourself, it was a fantastic experience – and the water was even warm.

St Helena

St Helena is a British Overseas Territory in the middle of the South Atlantic. The language is English (with a distinctive St Helena lilt), the currency is pounds, you can use U.K. ones but St Helena notes and coins don’t work at home, they drive on the left and strangely the time zone is GMT, just at the other side of the world. The island was first discovered by the Portuguese in 1502. Later it was a Dutch then a British possession. For many years ships needed St Helena as it was a vital staging post until the opening of the Suez Canal and the advent of steam ships; later St Helena needed the ships as they were the only means of supply. The airport (subject to much controversy when first built as the wind shear was found to be too great for planes to land) has only recently opened. St Helena is famous as the place where Napoleon was exiled and died, our tour of the island included the house where he lived, his original tomb (his remains were later removed to Paris) set in a scenic peaceful Glen, Plantation house where the Governor lives, and also the islands oldest inhabitant at 150 years, Jonathan the giant tortoise, launching the daily meteorological balloon, High Knoll Fort, the Arboretum and various scenic views. Jamestown is a picturesque old Georgian town with a castle, entered from the harbour area via an ornate archway and with narrow streets with lots of small shops. Contrary to our advance information we were able to buy provisions here, including fresh meat and some vegetables, fruit did not seem to feature. Of course it is expensive and you have to visit all the small shops rather than one big one. The island also boasts a distillery and an exclusive coffee plantation. At the prize giving and pizza social on Thursday night we and Airpower were awarded a bottle of St Helena gin each for assisting Pinta. On Friday night there was a fish fry at the St Helena yacht club down near the Wharf – very sociable. The club and also St Helena Yacht Services is run by the redoubtable James and family. We did the checking out with Immigration, Customs and Port Control on Friday afternoon, the official start for the leg to Salvador in Brazil was on Saturday morning, but because Steve had not yet seen anything of the Island being busy getting the mainsail furling gear fixed (we were lucky to find Larry who welded and fabricated a part for us) we elected to stay an extra day, as did Misto. This gave us a chance for a tour of the interior of the island, a look round the little museum in Jamestown, and for Anita to do Jacobs ladder – the 699 steep steps up to the upper town at Half Tree Hollow. Her time of 8.34 for the ascent seemed fairly creditable; fastest in the WARC fleet was Jack from Blue Pearl, followed by Suzanne from Emily Morgan (8 min dead). And we got to go to the Australia Day Barbie held that evening on Influencer along with the group of boats also leaving later taking an alternative route via Ascension Island and Fernando di Noronha. We will meet up with them again at Cabadelo our final Port in Brazil.

Cape Town to St Helena

Just by chance, we got quite a good start out in Table Bay and were sailing nicely towards Robben Island when disaster struck. Our Raymarine instruments started to check out one by one, presumably some failure of communication between them; of course we have some paper charts, an independent GPS and AIS and even a sextant,but at this early stage it seemed most prudent to head back in and try to get them fixed. We got the details of an electrician from John on Madrigal, we contacted Karl and he met us at V&A marina almost as soon as we tied up again. Then he was through the boat like a whirlwind, ceiling panels don all over the place, declaring it must be “the backbone”. The offending bad part was located and fixed and we were able to set off again that afternoon following 1 bridge opening behind Airpower. Out in the bay again we met Misto who’d suffered a broken bowsprit in a sudden gust, which also ripped a hole in their forward strut, so they were also returning for repairs. Looking at the weather maps it seemed advantageous to head up the West Cape coast to avoid a big hole in the wind before turning west for St Helena. But the next morning the wind went light then ahead, so we spent some days motoring or tacking slowly up the coast. Some of the faster boat went north to Walvis Bay in Namibia, we considered checking into Ludervitz to get fuel, but at this point we got a favourable forecast and headed west towards our destination instead. A few days later we heard a plea over the SSB from Pinta (Halberg Rassy 48 from Hungary) for someone to give them so fuel; both their diesel tanks were contaminated with sea water and they needed clean fuel to run the generator and keep their systems running. The closest boats were us sailing a parallel course about 80 nm to the E, and catamaran AirPower about 80 nm behind (SE). So we agreed to divert across and Airpower to attempt to catch up. A day later the 3 boats managed to rendezvous, but only after we persuaded George that he had to stop and wait as Pinta was going faster than the two craft trying to assist. There was 20 knots of wind and a big sea, somehow Airpower (who had rather more spare fuel than Timshel and trading on catamaran stability) in a fantastic display of seamanship managed pick up the fender trailed on a long line from Pinta and transfer one can of fuel, but the next attempt resulted in the line getting round their starboard prop. We agreed to sail on and try again the next day. Airpower set their Parasailor, undeterred by the fender and fuel can dragging underneath the boat – it was far too rough to consider trying to free them. George managed to get his generator running with the first portion of fuel. Next day, another mid-Ocean rendezvous, Dave and Jill on Airpower heroically managed to transfer another 20L of fuel, despite only having one engine but this time due to a miscommunication their long line was lost – let go both ends. However this was enough for Pinta to generate electricity for the remainder of the voyage. We had only stood by to render help if needed but it was a relief to be able to set sail again for our destination. Discovered to our horror a few days later that the bottom of the foil of our in mast furling gear had sheared off AGAIN. This had happened on the way to South Africa and had been welded together, now another bit had broken. Fortunately the forecast for the remainder of the passage was fairly benign so we decided our only option was to sail on with the main as it was setting more or less headsail or cruising chute depending on the conditions. Bones from Emily Morgan kindly offered to come aboard to help get the sail off as we came into St Helena. We were very pleased to have his assistance when we arrived on the Wednesday evening just in time for the island tour next day.

The mainsail reefing gear was serviced and fixed last March at great expense by the riggers in Newcastle NSW. They had trouble getting the system apart and cut off one piece of tube at the bottom – declaring that it was just a covering piece and that everything would be fine without it – WRONG – that part is actually a torsion tube not just a cover and without it the rest of the lower foil is subject to unacceptable shearing forces. The riggers were lovely guys very helpful and good at sail repairs, but I guess we had felt at the time that they weren’t that familiar with the Selden furling system and we were paying top rates for them to “learn on the job” – our job! N.B we also found that had completely failed to set up the rig, merely relying on tape to indicate previous set, rather than checking wire tension or anything, with the result that the whole rig was massively slack- not a professional job at all.

We were lucky that in remote St Helena we found someone (Larry) to weld the stainless steel and fabricate the required part for the reefing gear otherwise we would have been sailing on headsails only.

Moving on from Cape Town

We’ve had a great Christmas and new year here – must come back. Finished up with a go at Dragon boating. But it’s now time to go, the fridge is stuffed, fruit and veg nets bulging and on every boat any spare space has been filled with South African wine. Oh and we filled with diesel and water too. Next leg may be slow as forecast is no wind. Looking forward to St Helena though. Not sure how the comms will be from there. The parrot came for Christmas but he’s staying.