On Thursday, for the entire afternoon, we had thousands of what appeared to be Bonito (a fish of the tuna family) jumping out the water. They were obviously feeding on something and enjoying what they were eating! However, to us four humans stuck on a forty foot plastic sailing boat, it was a remarkable sight - they seemed to be happy and so were we.
Then the sun started setting and just after our evening dinner (bacon, onion and cheese tart), we crossed from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere. Out log records the event as happening at 18:39 local time (21:39 UTC/GMT/Zulu or 23:39 SAST) and at 42 degrees 31 minutes west. Instead of the normal bubbly to celebrate the occasion, we opened a bottle of good South African Muscadel wine and enjoyed the sweet aromatic wine, remembering to each give a little to old Neptune in appreciation of bringing us safely to the equator and ensuring a safe journey to our destination.
So, we are now off the Amazon River delta (which will take another day or two to cross) and expect to arrive in Trinidad on Saturday 31 January. However, in a day or two we will experience the changing of the colour of the sea from blue to a green/brown, caused by the massive outflow of the river. Then, as we head further north, we will encounter the ITCZ, better known to most as the "doldrums". Hopefully there will be some breeze to keep us going but on most of my previous trips up this coast we have had a day or two (or sometimes three) of motoring.
At the moment the wind has changed slightly and is out of the east at about 14 knots, giving us a good push. Lets hope it stays like this for a few days more as we need to have a some more of good noon-to-noon runs. We are still experiencing heavily overcast skies and the occasional rain squalls.
A good weekend to all out there - regards from Jackie, Adrian, Luke and myself, John.
As predicted, we arrived in Fortaleza, Brazil, on Tuesday at noon. During our approach, we had a continual wind change, with the wind out of the south-east changing to our of the north-east. This was accompanied by a large swell, also out of the north-east. When we arrived at the marina, there was quite a serge into the marina and the stern-to mooring was not ideal. We dropped anchor three times and each time the anchor dragged just sufficiently to make the stern punts of the boat want to hit up against the steel floating jetty - not safe!
So, we made the disappointing decision to up anchor, make a few calls in the bay where cellular telephone reception was good and continue our final leg to Trinidad.
There are oil fields on the continental shelf about 40 nautical miles north-west of Fortaleza and we had a hard beat into the wind to make our waypoint just to the east of the fields. Downloading the latest GRIB files via Winlink, we found the cause of the adverse winds - there is a large coastal low sitting on the Brazilian coast and we are sailing through it!
At the moment we still have north-easterly winds, which are predicted to stay for the next few days, with rain squall after rain squall. Not a pleasant sailing experience as it is hard to keep dry when on watch and the rain squalls either bring strong winds for a short time from a different direction than the norm or no wind at all. Both situations need you out adjusting the sails and sometimes doing some motor sailing.
Due to us not stopping in Brazil, we could not get any fresh produce such as tomatoes, carrots, cabbage or eggs. So, we are becoming inventive to keep our diet changed. Tonight I am making an onion, bacon and cheese tart - we have plenty of those ingredients remaining. We also still have plenty of fish in our freezer and, weather and motion of the boat permitting, tomorrow evening will most likely be fish cakes and three-bean salad. We will see.
So, when I post this blog I will be requesting the latest weather file and sending off our position report and a couple of emails and hopefully receiving a few as well. We are getting a weak connection from the Winlink station in Trinidad at the moment and hope to start getting some signals from US based stations as we close on the Caribbean.
We should be in Trinidad by the end of the month but have built in a three day extra sailing due to the adverse winds and slow running current that we are experiencing.
Sometime today we should cross the equator and have a small calibration to commemorate the event as it is Adrian and Jackie's first crossing of the equator by sea.
So, from Adrian, Jackie, Luke and myself, we wish you well until the next blog posting. John.
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.