We are a few days from our waypoint off the Brazilian coast - going relatively slowly due to a lack of the normal winds in this region. The forecast for the next few days does not look promising with light winds from the southeast, getting even lighter off the coast of Brazil.
Adrian has decided that he would like to make a short stop in Fortaleza so once we are in the coastal current, we will swing to port and cross the continental shelf and pop into the marina at the Marina Park Hotel.
The above may sound idyllic but to cross the shallow continental shelf is quite a navigational nightmare as there are hundreds of small fishing boats and thousands of crayfish and lobster pot markers you have to avoid. At night the smaller fishing boats either are very poorly lit or have no lights displayed until you are a few hundred metres from them when they suddenly flick on a light or light a candle in a jar.
We have also not had our fishing lines out for a few days as the last attempt to catch some Dorado ended in some fine skipjack but no Dorado. Luke and I have discussed our lack of fine Dorado and have decided that at first light we will try again - anything else that takes the lure will go back to be caught another day.
At the moment I am able to send and receive email via the Winlink station in Halifax, Canada, VE1YZ. We get a reasonably good signal on 20 metres (14 MHz) in the evening just around sunset. This said, we are still struggling to get good voice contact with Jack, AA3GZ, in Pennsylvania in the US. He appears to be able to hear me far better than I can hear him, which leads me to believe that we have a lot of electrical interference being generated on the boat from all the electronics on board.
So, some of you may be wondering what we do on board all day. Firstly, there is a watch roster and somebody is on watch at all times. Because of the odd hours you are woken for your three hour watch, your sleep pattern is severely disrupted and a person tends to have odd sleeping patterns. When not sleeping or on watch, there is a lot of reading taking place. Luke is the most prolific reader out of the four of us and has read eleven books so far and has basically run out of reading material. Of all things, he found a book on board on how to catch fish and is busy studying that. He is also busy tuning up his skills to write his yachtmasters examination in between the other books. Then somebody has to cook our only set meal, dinner. We have quite a selection of frozen meats and chicken and, plenty of fish. So, around lunch time we decide who is the cook for the evening meal and what that meal will be. We have no pre-cooked meals so each meal is prepared from the raw ingredients.
We also spend time on deck marvelling at the flying fish and other sea life. We had a pod of dolphin around the boat the other evening and their chatter could be clearly heard through the hull. As we now close in on the Brazilian coast we will start seeing more bird life and, hopefully, more dolphin, which have been pretty scarce on this trip.
Then we have had one or two ships pass close to us each day. It appears that a lot of them are heading for the Cape of Good Hope to get to destinations in the Indian Ocean and not taking the route through the Suez Canal and past the pirate infested waters between Somalia and Yemen. In a day or so we will pass the main shipping route between South America and Europe, which should be interesting to see with the use of the AIS system we have on board.
Well, as the flying fish fly and Oceans Dream sails, our greetings to all the readers and my thanks to Shaun (ZS1RA) for sending me copies of the comments from the blog. Until the next post - John.
Today, 12 January, we have crossed the halfway mark between St Helena and our waypoint situated between the Brazilian mainland and the small island of Fernando De Noronha. Our winds have been very light and we have had our spinnaker up most of the time to get as many miles as possible in the light airs.
Also, we have had fishing lines of the back of the boat the entire time - not a bite! However, yesterday we suddenly caught three fish - two large Bonito and a reasonable sized Wahoo. We kept the one Bonito and the Wahoo, putting the largest Bonito back for another person to catch. Our freezer is nearly full again.
Our bananas have, as they always do, ripened all at once. We have been eating them until they com out of our ears and today we will be baking two loves of banana bread.
Radio propagation is still down in the dumps! However, I did manage to check in with Jack, AA3GZ, who runs the Maritime Mobile Net for the north Atlantic, last night. He reported a good signal from me but I really struggled to have a good signal from him. I think that one of our problems on board is that we have so much electronic equipment running that it is interfering with reception on the HF radio. Lets just hope that I can post this blog report before we loose reception from some of the Winlink stations.
Now I need to vent my anger. This is addressed to the idiot who is obviously reading this blog and took it upon himself to phone Joy one evening a few days back, claiming to be the US Coast Guard and stating that we were in difficulty. You are sick and need to get help. My thanks to Fred (ZS1FCS), Shaun (ZS1RA) and the HAM community in Cape Town, together with the guys at Cape Town Radio and the South African MRCC who helped put matters to rest and assure Joy that it was a hoax call and we were actually happily sailing along. Please remember that if you do not see an update to the blog or our position reports, we just have bad radio propagation and we are not in difficulty.
Talking about position reports, as we are struggling to post blog reports, for those trying to track us, the best is to click the "ShipTrak" link on the right of this page. It will be updated on a more regular basis than the map on the right of the blog page.
So, as there is now a full moon and the weather is fine, we are plodding along and hope to be off the Brazilian coast this time next week, I bid you all well until the next blog post. Regards from Jackie, Adrian, Luke and myself - John.
On the morning we left St Helena I received a message that Colin Williams had a small gift for us. Soon his son Ian arrived with a large bunch of bananas, which is now tied under the hardtop on the boat - picture above. Our thanks to Colin for his gift. Fortunately I have the ingredients and recipe for banana bread!
We are currently sailing under spinnaker on our way to the north eastern coast of Brazil. The weather in mostly blue sky with the occasional build-up of cloud and wind of 12 to 14 knots from the south-east varying slightly from the east south-east - ideal for sailing under spinnaker!
We have all settled back into our watch routine but cannot sail under spinnaker all night as we only have moonlight until about 2 am. So, we bring down the "bag" at midnight but, with the moonset becoming later each night, we are looking at sailing with the spinnaker throughout the day and night by Friday.
Not much else is happening on board at the moment. We have our fishing lines out all day but the Dorado are being elusive and are not going for our lures just yet - hopefully we will land a decent sized one in the next few days as there is no better fish on the plate.
Radio propagation is still a big problem and we are struggling to make a link to send an receive email. So, if there are periods where there is no blog post, don't worry - we just cannot get through in the HF/SSB radio.
Many thanks to all the folks who have emailed me and to those that have left comments on the blog. Until the next report . . . . regards from all aboard Oceans Dream - John.
We arrived in James Bay, St Helena, at 09:20 on 1 January 2009 and on the second attempt had our anchor catch on the rocky bottom. I had already called St Helena Radio just before six in the morning and again notified them when we had our anchor down. I gave my name to the operator and she passed it along to Barry Williams, the port manager, and soon came back to us on the radio that Barry sent me and the crew his greetings for the New Year and granted permission to go ashore and see him the next morning to do our clearance.
Well, we did get ashore and found everything closed but did find Mike at SaintFM up and about, although suffering from flu (well, that's what he claimed but I am sure it was more to do with the previous nights celebrations). Soon Jacky, Adrian, Luke and I were walking up Main Street with Mike to join him in a bottle of lunch at The Standard. That beer really went down well. Luke and I then had a relaxing afternoon whilst Adrian and Jackie ventured up the 699 steps of Jacobs Ladder, the very steep stairs leading from Jamestown up Ladder Hill to the village at the top, Halftree Hollow.
Friday morning we did our clearance and got all our paperwork in order. Then it was time for a few bottles of "lunch" with Mike at The Standard again. As I write this, we have finished our chores on the boat, fixing a few niggles and servicing the engines. We have repaired the genset, which would not start two days out of Cape Town and topped up our main diesel tank from the extra drums we carry on board.
On Saturday Luke and I were invited to accompany Bishop John (the Bishop of St Helena) and a visiting Bishop from England, Bishop Lindsay, to a pub on the other side of the island at an area called Sandy Bay. We were collected just after 14:00 in Jamestown and taken to the lush Sandy Bay hills (photo of view from the pub above), where Collins Pub is located. I have seen the area from afar before but have never actually been there. The view from the pub is magnificent and our thanks go to the Bishops for their hospitality.
Monday morning is the turn of Adrian and Jackie to go on an island tour with Robert, a local tour guide and taxi operator. He gives a good tour, which lasts about five hours. On their return to the boat we will be ready to up-anchor and start on the next leg of the delivery to a waypoint off the north eastern coast of South America - a distance of approximately 1850 nautical miles. So, cheers for now - regards from all on board - John
Oceans Dream is equipped with an SSB radio via which we have been sending and receiving our email. Unfortunately, radio propagation is so poor at the moment that we have been struggling to connect to the email server, located in Durban. So, this blog update is being sent via Iridium satellite telephone.
Not only is radio propagation down in the dumps, the fine electrical contractors that did the wiring, connections and set-up of Oceans Dream did not bother to install any ferrite suppressors on the wiring as they were supposed to. What happens each time we transmit on the SSB/HF radio, is that RF travels all around the boat via the electrical wiring and we loose our autopilot and other electronic navigation equipment. We also have LED indicator lights on the main switchboard light up when the circuits are off and RF interference on other equipment such as the battery charger and solar panel control unit. Not very nice when you need the systems to be reliable.
Since Christmas day we have been sailing during daylight hours under spinnaker, and doing reasonable mileage. However, at night we have been making very slow progress under genoa alone. The winds are really very light and are constant at around 8 to 12 knots only.
We have changed time zones twice so far and are now on GMT or UTC. There are no further time zone changes until a few days after we depart St Helena. And talking of St Helena, we calculated that at our present daily runs of 135 nautical miles, we would arrive during the night of 31 December and 1 January. We discussed this and have decided to go very slow during the next two nights which will result in us making landfall on the morning of 1 January 2009 so that all aboard can view the island from the sea during daylight hours, rather than making landfall at night and not having the opportunity to view the island as we make our approach in the dark.
As I type this I am on watch and every and I is pitch dark outside. I have been monitoring everything around us and we have had no visual shipping seen for the last few days. When I came on watch I switched on the radar and note that there is another small boat about 10 nautical miles on our starboard beam. I will pass this knowledge on to Luke when he comes on watch at midnight and he will in turn pass it on with each watch change through the remainder of the night. If the boat is still there in the morning, I will get a position and give it a call.
Today we had a magnificent display of a huge pod of dolphin come bouncing past us. They were obviously busy catching their dinner and did not come and investigate us and give us a personal show - pity, as we have not had much sea life around us for a few days. We have had a whale next to the boat but the bird life has all but disappeared. Lets hope we get some more sea-life as we get closer to St Helena.
Thanks for taking the time to read my notes and thanks to Shaun, ZS1RA, for sending the comments on to me. Until the next posting, regards from Adrian, Jackie, Luke and myself, John.