Archive for 'St. Helena to Brazil'

Same same

Lat: 9 21.597′ S
Lon: 30 50.839′ W

The water has warmed up about 30 degrees since we’ve left Simon’s Town (from mid-fifties to mid-eighties), and combined with the clear, sunny tropical skies and light winds, it’s made for some warm, lethargic days. It’s been difficult to use part of the mainsail without blanketing the spinnaker, so our mileage has been hovering around 100 nm each day (106, 104, 115 the last 3 days), which is definitely on the slow side for us in terms of ocean passages. If we weren’t benefitting from a helpful current, we’d probably be below 100 nm several days. It’s been so calm that Lauren gave me my first haircut at sea and I never once heard “Ooops”.

DSC_0441 Laptop-based movie watching is a mainstay for the modern cruiser

Yesterday we got a little break from the heat when the squalls returned. Several passed over us, bringing their typical enhanced winds, followed by rain and then very light winds. We crossed most of the Indian Ocean with only two sail changes (double-reefed main up and then back down 24 hours later), but yesterday, with all the wind changes, we made the first sail change early in the morning and the last one at midnight, with several in between.

The AIS seems to be flaking out again, but we’ve only seen two ships since we cleared the traffic off of the Namibia coast. A couple of days ago one passed across our bow, and hailed us on the VHF (sailing yacht, sailing yacht, …). It turns out the captain was just curious about us and wanted to have a friendly chat. They were a cargo ship loaded with iron ore sailing from Brazil to Japan with 21 Pilipino crew.

DSC_0443 Lots of iron ore headed to Japan

At the moment, we’re motoring with clear morning skies, very little wind, and only about 250 nm to go to Recife. So far, the South Atlantic has been far and away the most gentle and docile long stretch of sailing that we’ve ever had. Like Bob on Boomerang said on the radio the other day, “It’s another Groundhog Day here”. I’m sure we’ll look back on the South Atlantic fondly, but after so many days of the same weather, with light winds and low speeds, it will be nice to make landfall or reach the North Atlantic NE trades and have a bit of a change.

Getting into the Swing

Lat: 10 47.872′ S

Long: 26 08.395′ W

Yesterday was one of our best days at sea thus far, if you ask me. We had steady trade winds at the right angle for keeping both the spinnaker and main set, keeping us at speeds of 4-5 knots. It was a warm, sunny day with relatively calm seas (these have been the norm for us in the South Atlantic), and Dallas was inspired to come up with new ways for us to cool down. Since we don’t have any water guns on board, he opted to set up a kind of swing from the end of boom, which was already resting above the water on the port side of the boat. We used a spare bosun’s chair that we had on board and attached it to the end of the boom with a line running through a block that swiveled, with the other end of the line wrapped around the mainsail wench. It was a good setup, and I was eager to be the first volunteer to try it out.

I put my legs through the holes of the chair while still standing on board and stepped outside the lifelines to prepare to jump. I signaled to Dallas that I was ready, and then went for it. I tried to propel myself as far from the boat as I could before my weight dropped me down to the water, but with the amount of line that was paid out, this was only about 5′. Regardless, it was a great feeling when Dallas tensioned the line so that I hit the water and got caught up in its refreshing, fast-moving wake without getting totally submerged. After soaking this in for a while and trying to get used to moving around in the chair with endless currents of water pushing me aft of the boat, I asked Dallas to hoist me up and out of the water so that I could simply swing around, using the hull of the boat as a springboard. I probably could have stayed in the swing all afternoon, but it was time to give someone else a go.

Tracey was a little reluctant to follow in my wake. I can’t imagine why observing me, "Ms. Extreme" (according to my sister, but in reality more like wanna-be extreme), hadn’t convinced her of the safety of the activity, but with some gentle coaxing from Dallas, she hopped in and enjoyed it thoroughly. Of course Dallas got into it as well and is looking forward to getting his younger brother into the swing when he visits us in late April.

DSC_0332 Woo hoo!DSC_0295

Tracey descended a little more gingerly

DSC_0376 So refreshing!

When it was already 80 degrees in the salon in the early morning, I thought today might be a swing day as well. Instead, a couple of large, dark clouds brought winds from forward of the beam, so we needed to bring in the boom to use the full mainsail. Now we are missing the dark clouds and their accompanying wind, as we’re just crawling along at 3 knots in less than 10 knots of wind from astern….at this rate, we’ll arrive in Brazil the day after Carnival is finished! But we have faith in the trade winds and expect them to pick up again tomorrow to take us the remaining 540 miles to the land of hearty revelry and colorful spectacles competing for attention, with a bit of chaos thrown in. Should be fun!

Double Celebration

Lat: 12 00.177′ S

Long: 21 53.936′ W

After a couple of days of things not quite going our way, a day arrived for celebration. Not only did we reach the halfway mark of the St Helene-Recife passage, but the Pura Vida hosted her first mid-Ocean birthday celebration!

Upon waking to his dawn watch shift, Dallas was surprised by balloons in the salon and a colourful "HAPPY BIRTHDAY DALLAS" banner. When making the banner, Lauren had used the back of what she thought was an old chart, having seen the continent of Africa featured, and feeling confident that that region had now been left behind. Only afterwards did she notice the chart also featured the rest of the Atlantic plus South America… our destination. Nevertheless, the chart is still useable and is now uniquely enhanced with bits of coloured marker from the reverse reading "SALLAD YADHTRIB YPPAH".


As per usual, resident chef Lauren outdid herself with both a scrumptious birthday lunch and dinner, but now birthday boy and guest chef Dallas also got into the mix and produced a yummy garlic and olive bread, which is disappearing almost as fast as the delicious lures he has been making (the local fishies have munched 2 of his lure creations right off in almost as many days!)

DSC_0195 Best bread yet!

Later in the afternoon, "890 miles to go" marked the passage halfway stage and added to the day’s celebratory mood.

On the sailing front, although the winds have lightened somewhat, at least they are once again consistent and after the previous couple of overcast and squally days, we are also once more enjoying soaking up some of that glorious south Atlantic sunshine during the day and some heavenly star-gazing at night.

Not Our Best Day

Lat: 13 32.186′ S
Lon: 16 11.321′ W

The last couple of days haven’t been our best. Skies have been overcast and we’ve been surrounded by rain squalls from hours before dawn until nearly sunset. Between the squalls, winds have been extremely light and the squalls themselves have resulted in winds shifting around through 180 degrees within a 24 hour period. Yesterday we had wind on the starboard beam at one point and right now it’s on the port beam. It’s feels like an early taste of the ITCZ. It’s been nice hearing from other boats on our twice-daily radio skeds and it sounds like light winds have been the norm for everyone so far, although boats that have crossed north of the ITCZ are finding the NE trades to be stronger and more reliable.

Unfortunately the weather hasn’t been our only problem. Yesterday morning Tracey and I were setting the spinnaker, which had become nice and routine, when I made the mistake of pulling the line to raise the sock surrounding it before she had a chance to cleat off the halyard. She was hosting the sail in it’s sock and my job was to pull the line that raised the sock and exposed the sail once it was raised and in position. I failed to make sure she was finished before I started, and as a result the full spinnaker popped out of the sock and filled with air while the halyard (line used to raise the sail) was still in her hands instead of cleated off securely. A spinnaker full of air produces quite a bit of force, and the result was a pretty bad case of rope burn on her left hand and a few burn spots on her leg as well caused by flaked halyard line running free. Within a couple of seconds, the bitter end of the halyard was at the top of the mast and the spinnaker was in the water underneath the boat. Just when you’ve got something down to a routine…

Luckily conditions were light, so we had time to get the fishing lines in before they were tangled in the props. Tracey got some burn cream on her hand and leg while we managed to pull the spinnaker to the bow and out of the water. Going up the stick at sea is always an adventure. Even in very good conditions, you’re still holding on with both hands and both feet to keep from getting tossed around and against the mast like a lure dangling from a fishing pole. The spinnaker itself didn’t fare too badly. It has plenty of blue bits of bottom paint scattered here and there, and one panel has some abrasions and tears that were probably caused by barnacles on the bottom of the boat. After raising flying it for 40 minutes or so just before sunset, it was dry enough to put a bit of duct tape on both sides of the tears and re-hoist it. With Band-Aids (a.k.a. plasters) in place on both Tracey and the spinnaker we prepared for another night at sea. Hopefully there’s a sailmaker with a good selection of spinnaker cloth in Recife.

DSC_0179 Duct tape really does work miracles…

Pulling in the fishing lines before dinner, we found that one of them had lost the leader and lure, which seemed about right for the day. Oh well, you can’t have sunny skies, calm seas, perfect breezes, and fish on the hook every day. Maybe tomorrow…

Lucky Man

Lat: 14 22.457′ S

Long: 012 40.297′ W

It’s a beautiful, sunny day out here in the South Atlantic. Unlike the last couple of days in which our reliable trade winds were interrupted by a series of squalls carrying light winds and rain, today we have the more typical 15 knots of SE wind and are cruising along at over 6 knots.

We have been tuning in to hear BBC news each day and heard about the four American cruisers who were shot by the Somali pirates. We are pretty sure that we have seen their boat before but don’t know them personally. Regardless, it’s a tragic incident. I’m thankful that we are not on that route and concerned about others that are. The good news is that we received word today from our good friend Martin on S/V Anima, and he is safely in Yemen along with the other nine boats in his convoy. They still have to pass through the Bab el Mandeb with strong winds and occasional piracy, but they seem to be out of the most dangerous pirate territory.

Other than that, we’re just enjoying our leisure time and trying to finalize plans for the Caribbean. We are excited about our three groups of visitors tentatively scheduled to fly in from the U.S., but this means that we won’t have the space on board to take Tracey all the way to her destination (Antigua), so she will most likely be jumping off in Brazil. Bob from S/V Boomerang was teasing Dallas on the radio this morning, saying that he is one lucky man having two women on board. This runs counter to the old adage that it’s bad luck to have women on board, but I think that Bob’s got it right. Tracey couldn’t possibly be more enthusiastic or helpful, and she and I get along very well. Were this not the case, it could be a much different scenario!

Apparently the early explorers were well aware of the risks of coed crew. Dallas just finished reading “Blue Latitudes”, a recounting of Captain Cook’s three journeys mixed with entertaining stories from the author’s (Horowitz) visits to many of Cook’s landfalls. He shared some interesting info from the book over lunch. While women were prohibited from participating in the voyages of discovery that occurred during that period, a woman served on one vessel disguised as a man, and her gender went unnoticed all the way from Europe to Tahiti, where the transvestite-friendly Polynesians readily identified her as she stepped ashore!

It sounds like the gender rules were pretty justified considering the conditions on board. Their “head” consisted of a plank at the head of the boat extending over the water with large holes in which to sit! And imagine the atmosphere on board after the young sailors started imbibing their daily ration of a gallon of beer or a pint of rum! As much as I enjoy a good party, I think you would find me voluntarily marooned at the first port.

Not much else to report. We have about 1350 miles to go…