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Wild Song
from the UK to the south Atlantic Ocean
Now, where was I.....?
February 17, 2012, 12:00 am

Sorry, I was rudely interrupted by my flight home and wasn't able to finish the story of our approach to Uruguay. As you will know if you've been reading so far, it's been a pretty easy trip with no severe weather since leaving Lisbon, and winds light to moderate and mostly over the port quarter. I expected that to change after Rio but the fair winds held as far a Florianopolis, then we had 36 hours of torrential rain, and then back to the fair stuff - no complaints. My favourite sail is fast becoming our MPG (multi purporse genoa made by Hood). It flies beautifully with support from a pole and is as effective downwind as a 'reefed spinnaker' if there were such a thing. We were flying this as we crossed the border from Brazil into Uruguay, with a cheer. Then the wind dropped and it was giving us little drive, and I thought it best to get it down before dark. It was STUCK. Well and truly jammed. Both of us swung on it with our full weight and it did not budge. We were at the stage of thinking Mike might go up the mast and cut it down when I thought we might make one more attempt. But by now it was getting dark so we attempted to wrap it round the furled yankee, helped by motoring in circles, but we ended up with a bit of a wineglass. To keep the wind out of this, and to stop too much flapping, we hoisted the main and shadowed it for the night while we motored on. I thought it might somehow sort itself by dawn, but it didn't. So I rigged a block on the bow, reached as high as we could and put a rolling hitch round the sail, and took the bitter end of the line back to the windlass. It came, slowly, inch by inch, the powerful windlass struggling at times. It is a tribute to Hood's stitching that it came down in one piece. It took us the best part of an hour, getting it down a foot at a time. Later inspection showed that, somehow, the hallyard had jumped off the sheave and dropped between that and the cheek of the block. Can't imagine how. It all looked very tight, and took a hammer to get it out. All credit to Mike for sorting this out aloft.

FInal Approach
February 17, 2012, 12:00 am

I have been going on a lot about how kind the weather has been, so it had to go wrong on us eventually. The weather Gods saved their little joke till the very end. We motored west into the mouth of he vast River Plate, and in a foggy dawn passed glitzy Punta Del Este. We were bound for Piriapolis ten miles further on which is a bit cheaper and well used to visiting yachts on passage. It also has Imperial Yachts where English speaking Laurence and Eliza offer a full boatyard service. Just as we were tidying up, thinking it was just about over, the wind came from ahead, strengthening, up to 28 knots for a time. What a bore. Even worse we the current, at over 2 knots, flowing out against us. It was all too much to expect the engine to drive into this, so we sailed and were rewarded with 5 knots through the water, yet on 0.5knots made good towards our destination. It was mid afternoon and the dream of steak and chips was fast fading. Then, as is often the case round here, it seems, the wind dropped and we motored into Piriapolis in a calm and moored bows to the quay with a stern line to buoys on each quarter. It was good to be there, and even better to discover that the Uruguayans have the Spanish habit of eating late. The steak and chips would be ours!

And Now the End is Near
February 12, 2012, 12:00 am

A perfect day to be sailing north across the River Plate. Piriapolis, our destination, now less than 40 miles away. In terms of contrasts this has been one of the most remarkable passages I have done. We started in the majestic landscape of the Beagle Channel and the wild waters around Tierra Del Fuego which, over a week became more benign until this morning when we are in hot sun, blue water and a gentle breeze pushing us on course at five lovely knots having suffered a couple of gales to get here. We have seen no land since leaving the Beagle, and the only sea life has been a daily visit by dolphins. But in the last few days, as we closed the Argentine coast, we have been visited by butterflies, moths and giant dragonflies. The sailing has been tough at times with the two gales sufficient to make us heave to, and one depressing day when a combination of headwinds and adverse current gave us a mere one mile towards our destination. If you want to know the statistics: in 15 days we have sailed 1633 miles which gives us 108 miles per day, and of those miles 84 were made good to the destination. On board life has been bumpy at times with much strength and agility needed to get from cockpit to bunk, but my excellent crew have never complained. The bread has run out, the fruit is gone, and last night we had the last of the cabbage with the required Fray Bentos pie (steak and kidney) Magic!For breakfast this morning we had toasted pannetone which, for some reason, I found in a tiny shop back in Puerto Williams. We shall be too late tonight for the much anticipated steak and chips but I will give a full report in due course. This is where Mike and Malcolme will leave and my 5,000 miles solo voyage back to the UK begins, but not for several days yet.

Another long leg over
ph
February 9, 2012, 3:24 pm, Piriapolis bus station

And so another long leg comes to an end at Piriapolis, Uruguay, where Mike and I have been sorting the boat for the last few days. She now stands on the hard and will remain here till September. In fact, getting her hauled out has been the hardest part of the trip so far. South America is smothered in beurocracy and Uruguay is no exception. From application to hauling took four days of paperwork. Some of the locals were aghast- they'd know of people who'd taken four weeks to get a boat out of the water.
We made one stop between Ile Grande and Piriapolis, and that was at Florianopolis to check out of Brazil. Nice place. None of the stress of Rio or Salvador, a bit Mediterranean with a touch of east coast USA. Only problem- there's no water there. Certainly not for our 1.7 metre draft. We motored for two miles with the sounder often showing zero. When we finally got into the marina. (clean, well run, hospitable) we ground to a halt. The guy on the dock told me to drive through the mud, which I did full throttle. Getting out again was not as easy, although we did manage in the end.
Fuel continued to bug us, as it has most of this leg. We are still leaking diesel into the bilge, which is boring, expensive, and smelly.
One other problem - but I'm about to leave wifi land so I'll post again when I get chance.

Goodbye Rio
February 2, 2012, 3:10 pm, heading south

The best bit of Rio is leaving it behind, without doubt. A little light mugging apart, we had endured the close proximity of a disco boat for two nights running - not finishing till five in the morning. Our heads were ringing. I'm trying to think of something positive to say about the place, but from a cruising point of view I can't think of one. We took some advice and nipped across the bay for the night to Niteroi,which was blissfully peaceful; but then again it's not Rio. You have to admit that there are some wonderful parts of the world but not all of them make great sailing destinations.
Next stop, Ile Grande. Now you're talking. It has islands, distant blue mountains, jungle vegetation that comes down the sea, and enough snug anchorages to keep you busy for weeks. And peace! It is, of course, a playground for the rich people of Rio and Sao Paulo, and there are many waterside residences to droll over, but we found ourselves the only sea loch in Brazil. Think Loch Lomond with palm trees.
A word about anchoring. So far, ever place we have been we have found the bottom to be the vilest, most glutinous black mud very have ever seen, and it rapidly solidifies in the heat of the sun and becomes as hard as iron. It is a complete bugger to get off the anchor, the chain, and the deck. However, it provides superb holding although for the last couple of weeks, Cabo Frio apart, the winds have rarely been above force four.
Paraty is a great little place. You find it on thr western side of the Ile Grande bay. The colonial architecture survives, cars are banned from the cobble streets, and the high tide creeps over the pavements and you could almost be in a low rise Venice. Careful, though. It is expensive - St Tropez prices. We fell into a restaurant and when we saw the steak and chips was nearly forty quid, we quickly dropped out again!
However, despite all the romance of the place, the best find of the day was in the supermarket where we found REAL BACON. As Mike quite rightly says, it is not a proper cruising yacht without the occasional smell of bacon coming from the galley. It was another sign, incidentally, that changes were taking place as we sailed further south. We were now leaving far behind the African influences of the north, and I swear it felt, degree by degree, a touch more European.
This is where Al leaves us and Mike and I will now head south without him. He says he is going to spend a day wandering round Rio. Given our recent experience, we are wondering if we will ever see him again.


###

A gentle little mugging
January 23, 2012, 9:55 am, Rio de Janeiro

If you go to Blackpool you expect to come away with a stick of rock, and if you come to Rio you expect to get mugged. It happened to us, swiftly, yesterday afternoon. It was deserted side street close by the cathedral (modern, v ugly) and three lads appeared behind, then four in front. A knife appeared and cries of "money, money, money" though not to the Abba tune. I was taken for about twenty quid but Mike lost his cards and camera, which is more of a nuisance. Al, bravely, returned to the scene of the crime to see if he could recover his specs. The tourist pdolice accompanied him and decided to give the kids who were living under an arch a strip search and a bit of a beating with their batons, just for the sake of it as Al doubted they were the culprits. Rough justice here in Rio.

sailing south
January 22, 2012, 1:24 pm, now in Rio

And another apology, this time for the spelling and punctuation in the previous post but it was written in haste during a bumpy ride.

The sail south was about as easy as it could be. In fact, this boat has been on the same tack pretty much since leaving Lisbon. If it started leaning the other way I think the shock would kill me. We have got to grips with the Parasailor, which is worth Googling if you don't know what I'm talking about. As a downwind sail it does seem much easier and more stable than a spinnaker. I wish the makers would supply some kind of instructions, or 'tips', as I suspect I'm not getting the best out of it. Also, whenever you ask what the upper limit is they reply 'fly it for as long as you feel comfortable.' Some help. Anyway, around 20 knots is where I lose my bottle and down it comes. We've always got it down with ease so far.
Cabo Frio gave us a bit of a shock. It turned cold! We needed a sweater on the night watch. Yet here in Rio it is hotter than ever. We also used a very pretty anchorage close to a cleft in the rocks through which you can squeeze and s ave ten miles on the course to Rio. It turned out to be a wind hole and a gentle NE4 started to hit us at over 30 knots and gave the anchor chain a decent stretch.
As we had hoped, Rio appeared in the dawn, the Sugar Loaf Mountain and the statue of Christ the Redeemer keeping lookout. And as he looks out over this city, what he sees must sadden his heart, as my next post will reveal.

Sorry things went quiet
January 21, 2012, 11:07 am, Marina Gloria, Rio

I've having trouble connecting through the satphone and I've been wasting a lot. of precious minutes, hence the silence.
After a great deal of not being able to make up my mind about what to do next, and where to go, we headed off for Rio, having had to sail 30 miles back to Salvador to get clearance, only to find it. was a public holiday. Damn these officials and their system.
Thinking thr engine problems were over, they resurfaced in Buzios- a smart. resort just north of Rio once favoured by Bridgette Bardot. Great place to buy Gucci but not so good for fuel pipe fittings. All our problems were the remsult of a pinprick hole in thr copper fuel pipe, in a conduit, underneath the galley. Repaired with Araldicte. Will probably outlive the boat now. So I am striking engine problems off the list of things to sort. All thanks to Al who brought his Cambridge e ducated analytical mind to bear on the problem. Mike mostly read the Daily Telegraph which seems to be delivered for free to his Kindle every morning for free! However, his efforts to keep morale high during the testing afternoon should not be underestimated.
More soon.

A hole develops in our plans
January 9, 2012, 12:00 am

One tiny hole is all it takes for plans to quickly fall apart. The boat was in great condition when we found her after three months laid up in Brazil. The lads at Pier Salvador had given her a wash and brush up and she looked great. Below, I was told to expect mildew on the bulkheads and mushrooms on the upholstery, but she was as clean as a whistle and ready to sail away. Then a few symptoms started to present themselves, suggesting all was not well. I had filled the diesel tank to the brim before I left, but the fuel guage showed the tank to be half full.Then a pumping of the bilge showed it not only to be full of water (not a worry given the intensity of the rainfall here) but also a large amount of diesel was down there too. Worrying. Alasdair, my mathematically minded crew, went into analytical mode and we deduced a leak in the fuel tank- not good. After the removal of many floorboads, much pumping of water through the bilges and the use of some kind of cleanser of dubious origin (it was only sold to us in unmarked bottles) we decided the tank was not leaking after all, shrugged, and headed off towards Itaparica, a large and leafy tropical,island opposite Salvador. The engine was not happy. It coughed as an engine does when it is sucking air, revs rising and falling, full revs unattainable. Back to Pier Salvador, the only option. Suspicion falls on a Lucus priming pump which sits between the engine and the primary filter. It leaks diesel when you press it - bad sign. We have now opened it up and there is a pinprick hole in the diaphragm. That is all it takes to bring things to a halt. What now? I'll let you know. Meanwhile, we have discovered a most congenial bar in the front room of a Portuguese colonial house. Alasdair and I perform most of the analytical thinking required to get the engine going again, while Mike reads to us, with growing indignation, from the Daily Telegraph which he is receiving via his new Kindle. At the moment,Tony Blair does not seem to be at the top of his favourite people list, for some

The second legs begins...
January 5, 2012, 12:00 am, 30,000 feet above the Atlantic

I am writing this from the 'comfort' of a crowded Boeing 767 which is gliding effortlesly south from Madrid, following pretty much the route down which I sailed not three months ago. Atlantic Ocean beneath us, Cape Verdes behind, and a vivid tropical sunset, just as I remember them. All that apart, the contrast could not be greater. Alone, then, I am now surrounded by Brazilians returning from Christmas in Europe, and close to one in particular who snorts loudly, inhales, and swallows the product of his efforts every half minute. If there were a shop I would by him a handkerchief and invite him to have a good blow, for all our sakes. Yes, the second leg of the voyage is beginning and within a few hours I hope to find ’Wild Song’ as I left her in the careful care of Pier Salvador marina. There are few clothes in my packing - most remained onboard - but my bag is stuffed with odds and ends, such as new Spectra lines for the self steering, and rubber caps to prevent the boarding ladder from scraping the topsides when the ladder is deployed. Little stuff, but every item needed. I also have crew for company. One is Mike, my brother in law, who never fails to add a little joviality to any voyage; and Alasdair who is a computer genius who I have tasked with the reduction of sun sights from first principles to prove to me that he is as clever as he seems. He says he understands the mathematics of GPS: we’ll see if this is help or a hindrance. So far, they have both scored highly with their skipper by bringing a commendably small amount of luggage. As they are both of the same height,it will be interesting to see how wins the battle for the longer bunk. I don’t know if I am filled more with anticipation or apprehension. Not at the sailing but at everything that surrounds it, and in Brazil that is mostly beaurocracy. I will spare you the traumatic details but I expect to be spending several hours in austere offices before I am finally allowed to drop the warps and head to another harbour where I will have to do it all over again. And with four hours before landing I am wondering about the boat, too. You may remember that I left Salvador in some disorder with my dislocated shoulder in a sling. I managed to do most of my packing, but the thought at the back of mind is that it is quite possible I forgot a chunk of salami which has been festering in the 35 degree heat for two months now. I shall carefully open the hatch and sniff the air before venturing further, and I’ll let you know.

And one I forgot...
November 4, 2011, 12:59 pm

...and probably one of the more useful bits of kit I carried - the Walder Boom Brake

http://boom-brake-walder.com

I found it very useful, even in light airs, and a great safety device. I know that for a fiver you can do exactly the same thing with a length of line by rigging a preventer. However, a preventer requires you to go forward when tacking or gybing (not a problem in light airs but unwelcome in heavy weather) and the boom brake controls the speed of the gybe whether it is intentional or accidental. I found it a great aid to simply go to a cockpit winch and stop the boom slatting, and be safe in the knowledge that if the self steering had a headache there'd be no damaging crashing of the boom. If you've got a big crew and need to keep them busy, then do it the old fashioned way. But if you're shorthanded this is a good bit of kit.

Winners and Losers
November 1, 2011, 3:23 pm

Just a few notes on what worked/what didn't:

THE GOOD:

Two Kycera 85W panels gave great service with a Blue Sky MPPT controller. In the tropical sun I was getting more than seven amps for most of the daylight hours, and the alignment of the panels could have been better. A wind generator would have been useless in this lightish airs tradewind passage. I also used a Aquair towed generator, but not much. This give an amp per knots but I only use it when the boat is going at hull speed and the drag doesn't matter. Retrieving the turbine is not always easy. With this set up I never ran the engine to charge the batteries, and kept the fridge going 15 hours a day. However, I am a frugal user and switch off instruments, plotters etc and all my lights are LEDs.

The Katadyn 40 watermaker was faultless and makes a gallon an hour and draws 4 amps. Again, I don't have the sort of showers that last an hour but managed to enjoy a regular and welcome soaking.

The Monitor windvane is a great piece of kit, but have spare lines ready to go. Chafe happens faster than you think.

I was very impressed by how easy it is to change a Racor fuel filter. Far easier than CAV and far less messy. Having done it once, I wouldn't hesitate to do it at sea in any conditions - and no bleeding.

I have an Echomax radar 'bouncer'. I am sure that, on occasions, ships altered course to avoid me much earlier than they otherwise might. A subjective view, I agree. But I feel much safer with that bit of kit.

AIS is a hugely useful tool. I have had bad luck with NASA kit in the past, and bought VESPER ( New Zealand, I think). Very sensitive. Great display.

You need good sun shade. For various reasons I couldn't fit a bimini and SLIK CUT of Plymouth devised a very good cockpit shade.

We had a MPG (multi purpose genoa) by HOOD. A very versatile sail, halfway between a genoa and a cruising chute. Used it a lot with good results.

I bought a set of gas bottle adapters (from a firm in Southampton) which claim to fit any gas bottle in the world. So far, so good. I managed to change from Propane to Butane in the Canaries and back again in Brazil with no problem using their universal regulator.

LED cabin lights from BEDAZZLED. Nice, warm light and bright - which you need on the long tropical nights.

The ammonia method of washing your clothes, favoured by the Americans, is very effective and saves a lot of water.


AND THE NOT SO GOOD:

LOPOLIGHT- rubbish. I have one on this boat and had one on the previous. Both failed. Never again. Junk.

Various devices for lighting the gas which never lasted very long. Matches were unreliable in the often high humidity.

The diesel in Cape Verde was filthy and I forgot to use my filter funnel which added to the complications of my arrival in Brazil - see previous posts.

Fresh fruit and veg - very limited once south of the Canaries.

I had a complete failure of the instruments which also took out the autopilot. This was traced by me, over a period of 48 hours, to a cable which ran through the throttle housing and had been rubbing away for 15 years. It choose mid-Atlantic to finally part. It's no problem sailing without instruments, and it saves a lot of amps, but for a singlehander an autopilot is often useful. The GPS was on a separate circuit, but this gave unreliable fixes for several hours at various times approaching the equator. As you will read, the sextant proved reliable.

I replaced the pump and all valves on the heads (Jabsco) but should probably have done that before I left.

I should have paid more attention to chafe - spinnaker halyards and sheets in particular, and the reefing line on the yankee which did an innocent, gentle, see-saw motion through the fairlead for 3,000 miles and was close to parting on arrival.

One regret: I bought a (expensive) Parasailor before leaving. It looked and worked great on the test sail and I regret not having got to grips with it on this trip. On the next leg, with a crew, I'll give it a blast.


IN SUMMARY:

It was a fairly average cruise regarding gear failures, and pretty much as I expected. For anyone daunted by the thought of such a passage, I might say that 99 per cent of it could have been safely achieved in a Mirror dinghy



It wasn't supposed to end like this!
PH
October 31, 2011, 8:15 am, back in the UK

So, you sail 3.5K solo miles without too much of a problem and then, when the boat is safely tied up in the marina and you are about to catch the plane home, you slip of the wet cabin steps, fall, dislocate your shoulder, and spend a day in a Brazilian hospital. I think this is what they call bad luck.
The only good thing to come out of this painful little episode is an incredible display of generosity by the Brazilians who are, by nature, a helpful race. Not only was I accompanied every inch of the way to hospital, even to the doors of the operating theatre, but taken home that night by the marina owner himself who thought I needed caring for. It was service far beyond anything I could expect. To need medical help, while in considerable pain, and in a country where the language is completely alien to you in an unsettling experience. Sandoval and his friends insulated me from a lot of that. So, all my votes go to Pier Salvador marina. There is nowhere else quite like it in the world.

Salvador, but only just
October 23, 2011, 12:00 am

Strangely, the last six hours were some of the best sailing of the whole trip. Before that, I had been motoring for twelve hours through a very lumpy but windless sea. The tank was getting low and soon I was sucking up the filth from the bottom of the tank. The first clue was when the engine revs started to drop. I looked at the filters - filthy black. So from now on I had no engine. But a nice breeze was brought on by gathering black clouds and a force 4 sprang up from the SE, but I could just lay the course to a bouy which marked the end of a sandbank and which I had to round. The wind shifted as the raiin squalls came through, but it was a fast, cracking sail in flat water in the fading light. The Salvador skyline took me by surprise - it was like Manhattan. I now had to devise a way of getting into this harbour without any engine to help. I decided I could sail, slowly, under yankee as far as the breakwater and if I could get round the corner I could anchor there/./ The engine/ /would run but only at tickover due to lack of fuel. So I sailed in stately fashion, in the dark, till the breakwater was abeam, furled the jib, and shoved the engine into gear. She lasted just far enough to get me to an anchorage. It was midnight. I now had to get to the final destination, Pier Salvador marina five miles further on. The next morning I decided to change the filters and get the engine going again. I had never done that on this boat, and it was a risk. But thanks to the Racor filter I had fitted before I left, it was the easiest thing. These filters are so easy - spin the top off, remove the old filter, drop a new one in and on your way - no bleeding. Every boat should have them. Pier Salvador marina needs high water to approach, and a little careful navigation to get over the sand bar, but nothing a UK east coaster isn't used to. I was welcomed with fresh orange juice by Sandoval, the owner. It's a great place, and Salvador will help you with anything you want from gas to beer to bread. It was a great welcome after a good trip. We are now 4799 miles from Falmouth by log, and 3130 of those were singlehanded. I'm back to the UK in a few days time and the voyage continues after Christmas. That's when you'll next hear from me, although I will post a list of the heroes and zeroes of the equipment onboard if I get a chance. Thanks for reading so far.

anybody out there?
October 21, 2011, 12:00 am

Is South America still in the same place? I've been sailing down its coast now for three days and haven't seen a thing. A couple of nights back I did see the distant loom of a large city which I guessed must have been Recife. Apart from that I've had three ships in three days and nothing else. So I plod on, hoping that Salvador is where the GPS thinks it is, which is about 24 hours away now. The wind went light last night, and from dead astern and a large swell rolled up from the south. This met an equally large swell coming from the north east and threw the sea into spiky little mountains, enough to knock any wind out a sail. The clatter down below was unbearable, and if I'd removed all the sails I'm sure the motion would have been untenable. So I drew everything in a tightly as I could and retired the aft cabin where it is not so noisy, if hotter. There was a spell of fresher wind this morning but that soon disappeared and it felt uncannily like the doldrums again. Not nice. So far, motoring for long spells has not been an option because of the lack of the autopilt and in the small hours I decided to put my mind to this problem. The result of this contemplation had me, this morning, removing vast amounts of gear from the stern locker, bending double, curling myself into a ball and dropping into the bottom of it with a head torch and screwdriver - this is where the 'computer' is to be found and I can only assume that the placing of it is some boatbuilder's joke. I was also very cautious because our local GP once went into the locker of his Westerly Centaur and the lid closed on him. He was shouting and hammering for a long time before he achieved his release. So, with the locker lid tied back with much rope, I attacked the 'computer' connections and stripped everything off bar the autopilot. The result is that it is now back and working and I am now motoring hard for home. When (touch wood) I get there, I will let you have some statistics, and also those bits of gear which were a triumph, and those which failed, in case such knowledge is of any use to you. Wind still light, sea still tormented. Time for tea

Twang!
October 19, 2011, 12:00 am

It's never good news when things go twang in the night, and so it proved to be. Night falls early here, and fast, and I am now 4 hours behind GMT. Having settled for the evening, grabbed a reef in a rising but unthreatening wind, I took to my bunk. Twang! The self steering lines to the wheel had parted. It was remarkable to see a length of decent sized line lying in frayed tatters on the stern deck. Remembering that I have no electric autopilot due to an earlier failure, action was called for given that the prospect of the last 500 miles of steering by hand is not an attractive one. It's lucky that our stern is not high and the Monitor Windvane is not mounted far down. I could just about reach the distant hole where the new line must pass through if I spreadeagle myself on the narrow stern deck and rest my body and the previously mentioned cracked rib. It is not a complicated thing to do but the boat is rising and falling to the waves, and it is dark. I lost one torch over the side. Half an hour later, after some bad tempered feeding of lines down holes that seemed too small we were back and running, and I was below with a belly full of painkillers saying a prayer that the new, thinner lines would last the night, which they did. Chafe has been a real problem - spinnaker halyard, jib sheets, reefing line, and now self steering. It takes a couple of days to recoverf from the kind of stopover I had in Fernando de Noronha; you still feel some attachment to the land which you must rid yourself of. I've got rid of it now and look forward to the last 400 miles to Salvador. Just opened the first tin of Dutch butter bought in the Canaries -bliss. Struggling now to make the fruit cake last the distance.

Taking a break
October 18, 2011, 12:00 am

I sighted the island of Fernando de Noronha exactly fourteen and half days after leaving the Cape Verdes - not a bad time given it inculded the doldrums. A larger yacht told me they took nearly three weeks to cover the same distance. You can't really miss FdeN. It sticks out of the ocean like a sore thumb and is, in fact, the remnants of a volcanic pug. It's got sea turtles and dolphins and all the stuff you'd expect of a National Park, but go and read it up for yourself if you're interested. It's a handy place for clearing customs and immigration into Brazil, which can be quite testing. Here, it all took place in hut above the beach with a few jokes, a little coffee and generally good humour. However, it was a lengthy process with many showers of paperwork flying around and hadn't been completed by the time the supermarket closed at noon - it was a Sunday. It is a sheltered anchorage; the pilot books warn of the swell but I found it comfortable enough. As far as the island is concerned, you never get a really flavour of a place when you visit by yacht because part of you is always on the water; but I found this an amiable, relaxed, undeveloped kind of place and the lushness had to be seen to be believed. I am feeling a complete prat for not having brought a bird identification book - by the time Darwin has got this far on the Beagle he'd probably fathomed most of evolution and I've yet to get my head round something a basic as ggulls. Talking of things which were forgotten, it is amazing how many basic items were left off the list, like spare batteries for the handheld GPS, a spare lighter for the gas stove, and most importantly no ibuprofen. I mention this because I was standing on the foredeck, at anchor, when the boat took a lurch and I swung hard into the forestay. I cracked a rib. It bloody well hurts and a lively boat is the last place you need to be. I've got other painkillers but the old ibuprofen always works best for me. Never mind, I have made the boat comfortable and am doing a lot of lying down. I left F de N at lunctime yesterday. Six hundred miles to Salvador and the end of the first leg. Fair wind now and easy sailing.

I crossed the line!
October 13, 2011, 12:00 am

I finally crossed the equator shortly after lunch on the 13th, and didn't feel a thing.It had been a long time coming, or so it seemed. All the pilot books advise crossing in 25W, and the sailing ship route as recommended in 'Ocean Passages for the World' advises a huge board across towards Africa before tacking for the line. This, of course, is a relic from the days when sailing ships were not a weatherly as modern yachts and the great fear was not being able to weather bulge of Brazil. The west flowing equatorial current didn't help matters. If this happended then a huge circuit of the Atlantic was needed for a second try. I was wary, though, and after leaving Cape Verde had tried to keep as close as possible to 180T knowing that I was going to be headed sooner or later by the inevitable southerlies. It turned out that the southerlies had quite a bit of east in them so I have been plodding along on about 220T for the last three days. It meant that I crossed the equator at 29 degress west, about which I feel slightly ashamed, as if I hadn't been trying hard enough. Anyway, with the wind now in the ESE I don't think Cape San Roque is going to present a problem. Incidentally, in line with tradition, Neptune was invited on board and offered a precious piece of my daughter's fruit cake and a tot of whiskey. He must have been quite keen because when I cast them on the ocean they disappeared very quickly. Interesting thing: I notice that I was due to cross the equator at more or less local noon. The opportunity to take a meridian sight, on the equator, at noon is surely one that will not arise again so out came the sextant. In fact, at the time of the sight the GPS put us six miles north of the line, and my sight put us eleven miles north - I didn't think that was too bad. There was a bit of a swell running and judging the horizon was difficult, so I was pleased. Talking of GPS, it has been behaving very oddly. It's a Furuno GP32 and it has been getting lost quite often, saying 'NO FIX'. Now we're moving away from the equator it seems to be settling down a bit. The GPS in the Raymarine plotter has been a bit odd as well but not as bad. And I don't think the Iridium has been as good as usual. Satellites - can't trust 'em.Perhaps it's the heat. There might be a tropical island ahead in a couple of days. Stay tuned.

Storming along
October 12, 2011, 12:00 am

I'm now getting some of the fastest sailing since leaving Lisbon. The southerly wind is creeping ever more into the south east and so I am just cracked off the wind sailing with the yankee, staysail and one reef in the main and getting consistent speeds well over six knots. Of course, it makes life a bit of balancing act down below because, at times, the sea is quite lumpy. Then we'll have a few hours where we ride gently over it, then a bit of banging and crashing and so it goes on. So, good progress and although I'm not yet halfway to Salvador it feels much closer because this last leg seems certain to go much faster than the first. The days when I rejoiced when the log went over 3 knots seems a lifetime away but I guess it was only three days. Ventilation is a problem. It really does get quite hot and stuffy below decks because there's so much spray flying the all the hatches have to be closed. For survival I have a superb little fan (Caframo) which uses hardly any power and shifts a lot of air and I find I am spending quite a lot of time in my bunk, reading. Two things to look out for: I'm getting quite close the St Peter and St Paul rocks which sit out here in the middle of the Atlantic for no good reason. Certainly not big enough for habitation but big enough to be a damned nuisance for early navigators. And since I'm about a day away from crossing the equator, I must keep an eye out for King Neptune who, I gather, pays a visit to those crossing for the first time, which includes me. People often ask what I do all day: this morning I completely stripped down the lavatory (heads) and replaced the pump and all the valves. So there.

It's all behind me now
October 10, 2011, 12:00 am

I have hesitated for nearly 24 hours before writing this, but I am now confident enough to say that the doldrums are behind me. I got the first hint yesterday afternoon (Sunday) when a sickly, oily flat sea started to ripple to the slightest of southerly breezes. The doldrums have done this to me before: they try to seduce you into thinking they have forgotten all about you, then they turn and bite. Anyway, the wind is now in the south, where it should be, and a gentle force 3/4 which this remarkable boat is responding to with almost 6 knots to windward. This southerly wind, if it obeys the rules, will gradually shift over the next few days as I approach the equator, and it will move into the south east. These will be the proper south east trades which should waft me to Brazil. It has all come as a bit of a shock to the system. This time yesterday I was wed to the wheel, motoring under engine without instruments or autopilot which have all failed, thinking there might be days of this ahead of me. And now the ocean has come alive again, and the boat with it. The doldrums are not a nice place - don't go there. This is better and the air is fresher. Of course, life is now being lived on the slant. This is the first time we have been on the wind since leaving Falmouth and all those grabs which worked well for a downwind roll aren't quite so useful, and new tricks are having to be learned. Still, life is better for being underway so no complaints. It might be bread baking day.

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