de Carnival is fun, don't stop de Carnival" Children's refrain
July 21, 2008
We went to Customs to make crew changes as Annette and Terry are flying home tomorrow and Wayne P arrived and moved onboard. We made those adjustments and I told them we were leaving 0400 Tuesday and they allowed me to clear out at the same time, otherwise we would have had to fill the same form out in quadruplicate for a third time in the morning.
Wayne P and I took a local taxi ($1 USD) to downtown Castries where Carnival was in progress. It is extremely colorful with loud music blasting everywhere (both Carnival and the local bus ride). I got wet with misting machines but it felt great in the tropical environment as we drank the local lager; Piton. Everyone was drinking something and everyone was convivial. Many of the girls were whining (not what you think) and there was an underlying faster than usual up tempo calypso beat which you could feel in your gut.
We are ready to leave early in the morning (island time) but the fuel dock does not open until 0800 and we need to check out with the marina first. About 1600 miles to Ft. Lauderdale and we are hoping to use the spinnaker for the entire run. The only weather system we are watching carefully now is coming off of North Africa: it looks like we have time to get to FL before anything can get to us.
I have been away four months and am getting home sick for Donna, the puppies, my friends and the Yacht club (not necessarily in that order, but it looks about right).
We are working out some warranty issues for Ft. Lauderdale and hopefully that will not hold me up too long.
I will keep a log and update when I get to FL.
"If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain."
I was able to procure both propane and alternator belts prior to our departure from Brazil although it did take all day. On Tuesday morning we were up at 6am, topped off the water tank, stowed everything and prepared to get underway. The docks at Fortaleza are Mediterranean (Med) moorings. This means as you back into a space only a few feet wider than your boat and the other boat owners are nervously pacing their decks, you drop an anchor to windward and then back down. Sounds simple until you attempt to back a house into a very tight place. Fortunately John was on the sugar scoop and helped get things "sorted out". Leaving was not as bad but we needed to use our wash down pump for the first time because the chain and anchor came up as a big mud ball. It worked well and we got out of there with no problems, full fuel, water and propane tanks, groceries and 4 more alternator belts. We managed to get past the oil platforms and through the shipping lanes before dark and got in a 245 mile 24 hour run. Our highest speed was 17.5 knots and all that was despite having to take down the spinnaker at 3am.
July 10, 2008
We crossed the equator today (unceremoniously) since it was early morning and half of the crew was sleeping. When I got up it was a part of the morning report along with another alternator belt breaking. It is a good thing that there are 3 engineers on board because it I were alone I would be without electricity and water. They had to disassemble the alternator bracket and file out the inside so we could get the belts tighter, something that could not be accomplished with either WD40 or Duct tape.
We are approaching the Amazon River and then French Guyana. Although I always wanted to see piranha and Devils Island (of Papillion fame), Terry has been there and he says Devils Island is interesting but the jungle has reclaimed it and it is in ruins. There is an untenable anchorage there due to high currents; so we will give it a pass.
July 11, 2008
0600 watch and it is true what they say about it being darkest before the dawn. Because we are on UTC dawn does not come until 0900 and I get to see the whole thing. Just prior to sunrise there is a brightening of some stars and planets as others blend in; like background singers. We have seen Venus, Mars and Jupiter as well as some Southern constellations we are not as familiar with. Although we know some astronomy (not astrology) we cannot figure out how ancient Greeks and Romans saw things in the stars; they must have been drinking lots of wine.
As I look west I know the mouth of the Amazon is just over 140 miles away. I have read that the current can be felt 1000 miles out to sea. Muddy water, logs and dead animals have been reported to be a hazard from the river. We cannot see or feel any adverse effects but are keeping it in mind. 1000 miles to go to Barbados and we are getting some light winds which could be a sign of impending doldrums (no wind). Yesterday we had an incredible sail with good winds, flat seas, and traveling over 10 knots the whole day as if we were sitting in our living room. I used to like putting the rail in the water on my monohulls, but those days are over. The fatigue factor is too high and I really like being able to put my drink on the table and walk away without fear of it falling over.
July 12, 2008
Yesterday we had a 265 mile 24 hour run. Then the doldrums started and we were down to 3-4 knots of wind and 3 knots of boat speed. We continued to sail non-stop and today we are back up to 9 knots of wind and 7+ knots of boat speed. Both Alternator belts have been changed in the last 3 days and both have just broken. There is too much electrical load on them and maybe I should have been stronger in my insistence on the generator being installed to cross.
July 13, 2008
We fixed the alternator belt problem! While working on the brackets, which did not allow adequate travel of the alternator for loosening or tightening, we noticed that if we were to turn the bracket around we would have unlimited travel for adjustments. It worked perfectly and we have had no further problems. On the port side we had filed and cut to allow more travel and it was not enough so we flipped that one around as well and it seems be to be doing fine. (Donna's comments: Is this the same man I left in Africa? He is talking crazy like a "handyman" when I left him he couldn't fix anything!)
Once we got 150 miles north of the Amazon mouth, we started to notice effects with browner water, tree limbs and when we ran the water maker it made 11gph as opposed to the usual 7gph, much more water for 3 reasons; the Amazon is fresh water, the water is less dense and warmer. We also noticed a false depth probably due to the layering of the fresh water; which is not a problem but when the depth sounder goes from thousands of feet to 14 feet it grabs your attention. We entered the doldrums and have been motoring on one engine for 24 hours. We have still done 150 nautical miles in 24 hours, but have burned 12 gallons of diesel doing it. We are so optimistic that the wind will return that we have left the spinnaker in position and ready to launch. 600 nautical miles to Barbados and we are getting Caribbean and Tropical forecast from the NWS (National Weather Service) via the SSB (Single Side Band) ham radio. Bertha is having no effect on us but we are currently following a tropical wave entering the Caribbean.
July 14, 2008
As we motor 100 miles off the coast of Surinam the wind dies again. After Surinam we pass British Guyana, Venezuela and finally approach the entrance of the Caribbean. Where we will stop is anyone's guess since the tropical wave shows signs of organizing and I do not want to have any part of a storm. I am leaning toward Grenada which until a few years ago was considered below the hurricane belt: it was then hit with a storm and reclassified by the insurance companies as in the hurricane area. Any place below the hurricane belt (Trinidad &Tobago etc.) Is crowded, above the belt is not. We need a slip as we still don't have a dinghy (it is being delivered to Ft. Lauderdale) and we need to drop off crew to return home to South Africa.
We are just a little over 400 miles from Barbados and will not change our waypoint until we have more information. We only have a day or so to decide on our destination. The good news when the wind died we stopped and swam in 3000 feet deep water. It was 92 degree F and only slightly refreshing. I was surprised to see that the bottom of the boat is picking up some slime despite our constant moving. If we can find a nice clean place to snorkel in the islands I can go down and scrub it off. We have been running one engine at a time while powering and the belts are presently intact and the batteries are charged. It is a shame that we do not have air conditioning yet. If you need air conditioning there is no better time or place then a marina in the Caribbean during the summer months.
July 15, 2008
We sailed with a full main and Genoa for about 8 hours before the wind died again. We are now into our 12th hour of motoring today and 34 hours total since entering the doldrums (dull-drums). Our last weather report indicates no intensification of the tropical system 1000 miles east of Barbados. Our new plan is to head for St. Lucia as it has better protection in case a storm develops while we wait for new crew. Wayne Proulx (here after known as Wayne P or Chief Electrical Engineer) is planning on joining us for the passage to Ft. Lauderdale. Since he sails with us often it will be good for him to become familiar with the boat, and begin his never ending crusade against the dreaded corrosion.
We have a pretty complete tool kit, but Wayne P usually brings some of his own tools as I only carry WD 40 and Duct tape in mine (not really but that is what Donna says).
0600 we had 12 dolphins off the bow, as I lay face down on the trampoline one of them exhaled under me and I was anointed: I felt honored, it was half an hour before they left us. I always wonder; do they have somewhere better to go?
July 16, 2008
Still motoring: after some squalls and shifty winds we are going right into 15 knots. NWS reports from the Hurricane Center say that the Tropical wave we have been following has not organized and if it does not do so in the next 24 hours we will probably just get some gusty winds up to 25 knots. It is currently 650 miles to the east of us and we are hoping never to see it. We are coming up on 5,500 nautical miles of sailing in 32 days of sailing (not including lay days). That is not too bad. We only had 4 or 5 "bad" days: but you know what they say about a bad day of sailing is still better than a good day in the office. (Donna's comments: If I was sailing the first 3 days out of Africa and the waves were 34 ft high I would rather be at work!)
July 17, 2008
We are twelve hours from St. Lucia traveling 10 knots under spinnaker along the southwest coast of Barbados. We broke another alternator belt this morning and will fix it under more controlled conditions at the marina in St. Lucia. Speaking of conditions all day yesterday we commented on how rare it is to have prolonged doldrums, the unusual cloud formations along with squalls that were surrounding us continuously. None of us put it all together until we received the NWS National Hurricane Center report that a Tropical Low is forming around us. They will be a sending a surveillance aircraft today to study it. So far it has only meant some wind for sailing, and being so far south we are thinking it will not develop into anything bigger. How could three Captains miss that! I guess we should call this the duh-droms.
July 18, 2008
That Tropical low ended up giving St. Lucia some gusty winds before heading west and away from us. The whole night from Barbados to St. Lucia was rough seas off the beam and windy squally conditions. We made Rodney bay at 0600 and took a primo spot in the marina. When we arrived it was on one engine as the port alternator belt was close to breaking and we had to put a band aid (bungee cord) over it to reinforce it long enough to get into the slip. After breakfast and clearing in (one of the nicest and easiest Custom/ Immigration anywhere), Annette and Terry went to town to check on their Airline tickets home. John and I in 3 hours got the alternator belts we need with four spares, propane, laundry service, fixed both engines and purchased a couple of other thing we needed. That took 3 days to do in our previous layovers. I also talked to Donna and was pleased to hear everything was fine. She was calling Wayne P to get his skinny butt down here ASAP so we can set sail to Ft. Lauderdale.
July 6, 2008
"Once freedom has exploded in the soul of a man, the gods have no more power over him." Jean-Paul Sartre
Yesterday (Saturday) it took all day to do 3 things First, to find 2 alternator belts, to do the laundry and finally grocery shop.
No one speaks or seems to want to speak English or even help me. Nothing is written in anything but Portuguese so it takes twice as long to accomplish anything. It gives me a better appreciation for what immigrants and foreign visitors experience in America.
We could not find anyone who could fill our propane tank due to a difference in regulators but we have a tip where we can purchase a propane bottle with an attached burner for $45 Reals ($30 USD). That is much more preferable than eating out of a cans because without propane we wouldn't be able to cook anything.
I went walking in the industrial section today to see if I could find a place to get alternator belts tomorrow (we adjusted the bracket and the ones I got yesterday no longer fit). Everything (and I mean everything) is closed today including convenience stores (is that an oxymoron?).
Brazil is pretty, and tropical and the pool is nice here (attached to a five star hotel) but we are ready to leave after a couple of nights rest. We know we are ready to leave because when we get up in the middle of the night to go to the head we start checking the battery banks etc. as if we are going on watch.
Everything is ready to make passage: we had delivered to us 400 liters of diesel at $1.50 USD per liter (is that good?) not as cheap as my friend purchased last year in Venezuela ($0.14 per gallon) yes I said fourteen cents per gallon. I am carrying 200 liters in jerry jugs as well as our 100 gallon tank. We only used 40 gallons from St. Helena to Fortaleza just to charge batteries; we were able to sail the entire way.
I have to say I feel great both physically and mentally (I hope this does not jinx me) but the sense of freedom out here is intoxicating.
When I am on watch I am looking at charts of places that would be great to sail to, and dreaming of doing that with Donna, the dogs and friends. That would be the best situation of all. See you when I get back.
Update: July 8, 2008 all stocked and ready our plan is to set sail at 6am. Our heading is Barbados but we will be closely monitoring our route for any tropical storm activity. The alternate plan is to head for St Lucia as provides more protection. Next communication should be 12-14 days.... Stay tuned..............Wayne