26-29 March 08: Fernando de Noronha, Brasil! .... & on ....

Tuesday/Wednesday 25/26th March

I ambled along over Tuesday under motor at around 4-4.5 knots SOG in 3-4knots of SSE wind from astern using minimum revs, trying not to get to Fernando de Noronha too early on Wednesday... & then slowed down even more when I got to the N end of the Archipelago because it was well before sunrise and I'd hoped to get to the anchorage in reasonable light. I was hoping it wouldn't be too rolly & that the strong N swell that had been causing a problem all over the northern S Atlantic coasts over the
previous few days would have lain down sufficiently to allow me to stop there & get some fuel for the ongoing passage. Still another 3-4 days of motoring to get to the Equator & then another 9-11 days on to Trinidad - hopefully, mainly sailing. Fortunately, the moon was still nearly full and the sky clear, so although I came in to anchor in the dark hours just before sunrise, I could see well enough in the moonlight to avoid the many unlit small boats at anchor inshore... and the swell wasn't too
bad... no worse than many W. coast Mexican anchorages I've been in!

It had been very hot and sticky on passage in the daytime 35C, although on deck it was better, with some refreshing breeze. Mostly, it was bright and sunny, with clouds only building a little later in the day & not too many threatening rainclouds except near sunset - big, dark grey, towering..ugly!... but they often dissipated with nightfall.

I saw quite a lot of shipping around - S. of Fernando, we were clearly in the main shipping lanes around Brazil between S.Africa/Indian Ocean & Caribbean/Europe/N.America.

Before sunset on Tuesday, since we were in no rush to make landfall, I had a fabulous dip in the sea!! Turned off the motor, tied a rope around me... and in I went, off the stern... It was beautifully refreshing... The water was a gorgeous clear deep blue and really tepid... I even spotted fresh rainwater in a bucket on deck to rinse off with afterwards.

Wed/Thurs 26/27th March

Fernando de Noronha was definitely a worthwhile stop - such lovely, friendly people! On finally getting ashore on Thursday, I kept hearing, "Welcome to Brazil!" (But unlike Europeans & Canadians, US visitors need a prior visa - with no visa, they are, regretfully, I was told, only allowed to stay the day to get fuel & then leave.) I was continually being offered ice-cold water & tiny cups of sweet strong coffee by the local 'Federal Police' Officer while I was waiting in the Harbourmaster's Office
for various 'agents' to appear to do the obligatory paperwork - everyone I met seemed fascinated by the thought that I was sailing alone...

I had waited to watch the sun rise over the dramatic volcanic 'core' rising high above the south end of Bahia de Santo Antonio after anchoring there... and then went down below for a long sleep! Later that day, I tidied up & inflated the dinghy but by the time I'd finished lowering it into the water, it had started to rain heavily - so I took a refreshing swim and showered off the stern and relaxed - there was no going ashore for Clearance until tomorrow.... especially since the swell was bad enough
to make it impossible for me to lower the outboard onto the stern of the dinghy, we were rolling about so much...

The next morning, the big Leopard catamaran 'Indigo' arrived - they knew me from Simon's Town.... and when they saw me struggling to get my outboard onto the dinghy (in the unabated swell) they took pity & came over to help me - and ended up taking me and my fuel jerrycans onshore, as being safer for me than using my little dinghy and 2h.p. motor in the sea state prevailing... yet more kind people! As soon as I landed, I was met by a local man who insisted on helping me with my cans to the fuel
station up on the hill above the dock, waited for me to fill up... and then insisted on carrying my full cans down to the dock, calling over to a couple of young lads nearby to help with the ones he couldn't manage ... so I ended up walking back down empty-handed...!! His English was pretty good for someone just learning over the last few months, far better than my meagre Portuguese (limited to 'Bom Dias' - Good Day - & 'Obrigado' - Thank you !), although my 'pocito Espanol' came in handy at times.

I later met up with Mike, Lynn & Coen when they came onshore to complete their check-in & then we all jumped on to the local bus to make a quick (& easy!) circular tour of the island (The Port Officer who dealt with my paperwork had told me about the bus, given me a map of the island and, with a broad smile, lent me a 10 Reales note to pay for the return fare..& more - "If you can't pay me back, don't worry"..!!...I repaid him, of course.) The island has a very green interior, lovely little bays
with sandy beaches, rocky outcrops & dramatic volcano cores sticking up as backdrops. There seemed to be lots of 'Pousadas' (B&B!) - the main 'industry' seems to be tourism, with fishing, diving, snorkelling & lying around on beaches clearly very popular! I caught sight of a couple of BIG black & yellow lizards among rocks beside a lovely cove at the far end of the 'tour' while waiting for the return bus. It's all a well-kept marine reserve - with lots of rubbish bins available everywhere ... so
there was no rubbish dropped all over the place & it was all very clean-looking - nice to see, for a change!

Mike & co. dinghied me back out & I filled my fuel tanks while they caught up on sleep. I then decided to use my dinghy to take my empty cans back onshore to refuel again so as not to disturb 'Indigo' too much - they had offered to take me again for that after their nap. I started up the outboard & got going.... the motor died.. I started up again... it died again.. and again... By now I was drifting in the direction of the surf crashing onto the rocks below the high volcanic peak.... Not good
news... & not really the time to start opening up the motor to have a look at it...!! I'd taken my handheld VHF in my bag to contact Indigo earlier but was sure they were now asleep, although I knew the Harbourmaster's Office kept watch on VHF16 so that was one option. I knew that my trying to row would not be effective enough... the dock was quite a distance away up-current and the sizeable swell was causing a big surf crashing onto the beach close inshore of the jetty I needed to get to.

I saw a local tourist boat inshore from me, heading towards the jetty ... I made my 'distress' SOS arm-waving signal, hoping they would see me & understand, .. & also kept trying to start the outboard so they'd see nothing was happening!! (It's a very recogniseable movement from a distance for anyone who's used an outboard motor!!) Luckily, after a short time, I saw them beginning to turn towards me... they had a boatload of people returning from the afternoon on some nearby beach. What a relief..!
I threw my line & they towed me in... "Obrigado mucho!!"

I took my empty cans up for more diesel ... and yet another kind Brazilian couple in a car fetched me back down to the dock with my load of fuel... smiles from them & lots of "Obrigado" from me! .... "No problema!" I then DID have a problem - trying to contact 'Indigo' by VHF to ask them to pick me up to bring me back to 'Nereida' with my load of fuel & an unreliable outboard on my dinghy....! Many more little cups of the Harbourmaster's strong sweet black coffee later, I finally made contact...
but if I hadn't, people on a local diveboat had smilingly offered to take me out... It seemed to me the whole island was full of friendly, helpful, smiling people ... all concerned for my wellbeing!

Before sunset, I'd topped up my tanks, stowed everything back into the cockpit locker and then raised the dinghy, deflated it and stowed it on deck as darkness fell, making sure everything on deck was secure & ready for leaving first thing Friday morning..... Which I did, under sail for quite a time, soon after a lovely sunrise with a rainbow arching over the dramatic peak nearby... and accompanied by lots of leaping, speeding dolphins as I left the anchorage to waves from 'Indigo'... a great memory
& a place to try to return to - I'd like to see more of Brazil!

After a few minor rainshowers over the day, and a total failure, on heading NNW initially, to find the hoped-for 1-2knot WNW-going current to help speed us on our way, we've ended up motoring all Friday night and Saturday, after sailing or motor-sailing over the day on Friday. We're taking the rhumb-line course (297T - WNW) to Trinidad in SE or NE 2-5 knots of wind (the direction seems to depend totally on whether clouds are nearby or not - it's actually 2 knots from every direction as I write this
in a light shower). There's a very slight current - initially, it was SW-going 0.3kn, went S, then W & is now SE-going 0.3kn - it's never been strong nor particularly helpful. The weather forecast seems to indicate no great gain by going off course & trying to head due N or NW to get to the Equator and possible NE Trades sooner.

The sky cleared up by midday on Friday and it has been mainly clear since, although Saturday afternoon has seen a few light showers. The sea has become very calm with a long NE slight swell and a slightly rippled surface. I suppose the one good thing about having to motor is the lack of concern over the batteries - they stay well-charged!!

Written by : Mike

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