Posted by: catamarantwooceans | March 3, 2014

Crossing the South Atlantic–part 3

            Ascension to  Fernando De Noronha

19.2.14 – Wednesday – At 0830  we went out of the anchorage; destination – Fernando de Noronha 1105 miles away. We promptly changed the boat watches to U.T.C –1 to agree with our longitude. Once out of the island’s influence, the wind freshened, coming from the ESE at 15-22 knots; we were going fast. In the first 12 hours we did 83 miles. I was fighting the tendency to think about ETA so early in the game even though the forecast point at similar conditions in the coming days.

20.2.14 – Thursday – During the night wind speed went up and down and at 0830Z (Z=GMT or U.T.C) we were 158 miles from Ascension. Seas generally slight apart from some areas of disturbance, with irregular waves and even some contrary current. Later in the day the seas calmed, the wind was good and we enjoyed a fast, comfortable ride.

21.2.14 – Friday – Every morning we check our progress at the same hour of our departure; we did 154 miles in 24 hours. Sea mostly slight (that’s quite calm) and sunny skies make it a lovely day. We pass the time conversing, reading and resting. I’m reading Richard Dawkins’ “The Greatest Show on Earth”, a book about Evolution and Natural Selection, another battle of the author against Creationists. My stock of unread books, mostly on Kindle, will have to be refilled once we get to a place where 3G and internet are available.

22.2.14 – Saturday – 161 miles in 24 hours. Sea became moderate, wind 18-22 with gusts up to 27. Fast going but we reefed the main for the night to get smoother ride.

On a long passage meals take center stage; we still have tuna meals in the freezer. Trying to diversify from the regular seared or grilled version, I prepared tuna pieces on a bed of potatoes and fried onions, packed in dough and baked in the oven.

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23.2.14 – Sunday – 176 miles were sailed from yesterday morning; with this pace we might even get to FDN Tuesday evening! Downloading a new forecast nipped that possibility in the bud, showing moderating winds on Tuesday.

24.2.14 – Monday – Still the going is fast; in the last 24 hours we sailed 173 miles. At 1830 local time, which was 12 hours after our morning distance checking time, we were closer by 95 miles to the north point of the archipelago, average speed – 7.9 knots.

25.2.14 – Tuesday – During the night the wind abated to less than 15. Boat speed 6 – 7 knots. We’ll get there when we get there. I plotted a route for night entry, keeping one mile off shore, up to the final leg to the anchorage, just in case the chart is inaccurate.

In the afternoon the wind went up but not enough for daylight arrival. At 20 miles to the island I hollered:”Land Ho!” as some terrain shapes came into view. As we got close enough for a picture the sun was setting.

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We sailed around the northern tip of the archipelago, took the sails down and motored cautiously towards the anchorage. We spotted some masthead lights of yachts and found a place near them, dropping the anchor at 12.5 meters.

That was a fantastic trip; we sailed 1105 miles in just over six and a half days, (we planned on eight days!) an average of 6.99 knots. That was achieved with no real need by the crew to do anything – we set the sails going out of Ascension and we changed the configuration once or twice quite unnecessarily only to satisfy ourselves that we were doing something. The autopilot was “on” all the time, steering impeccably.

So here we are in Brazil! We will stay here a few days and go to Fortaleza on the mainland, 367 miles away.

26.2.14 – Wednesday – Morning revealed the beauty of the place. The pinnacle we saw from afar and then looming menacingly as we entered the anchorage in the dark looked completely different in daylight.

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We went ashore for the formalities, which were all accomplished in the port control office; everybody was nice and efficient. The only unpleasant surprise was the cost; 1088 Reais for four calendar days. The only place to change our dollars was the Atlantis dive club, which gave a rate of 2.1 rial to the dollar. We wanted to dive with them but the quoted price for two dives was 205 U.S $ per person so we declined.

We took a “taxi”, a yellow buggy, the parts of which were held together by steel wires, to go to the ATMs in the airport (none of them was serviceable) and then to do some shopping. Our driver told us about another, cheaper dive club – Aguas Claras – which gave us a better deal. Funnily enough, the man in the club addressed us in Hebrew! Elliott is a Brazilian Jew, who studied a bit of the language as a kid.

On the way back to port, the buggy spluttered and died. We paid the driver and continued on foot.

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Yellow Limo in the background (pic by Dany)

Noronha is very expensive. A simple lunch for two cost more than a hundred U.S$, with upset stomach afterwards included; taxi, including the breakdown – 38$. We hope that Brazil mainland would be more reasonable.

27.2.14 – Thursday – We did two dives in the morning – not bad, but remember we were spoilt in Palau, Cocos Island and the like. Another try at the airport’s ATMs was successful and then we went to an internet place near a restaurant named “Flamboyant”. After a few misfires I was able to post two installments of our voyage across the South Atlantic.

Our next task was finding a source of drinking water, the water from the taps on the pier was not potable. After asking around, we found “Agua Cacimba Do Padre” which sells purified water in 20 liters plastic bottles for 10 Reais each. We bought four, which were brought by a wheelbarrow to the pier.

Dany had a bright idea.  The payment for the stay here is by calendar days, so we pay for Saturday, although we planned to depart very early in the morning; so why not leave just before midnight and save us some money?

29.2.14 – Friday – As we were motoring the dinghy ashore, a movement on the left caught the eye – dolphins! We turned towards them and had some very close encounters with those lovely and lively creatures.

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After returning the empty water bottles we went hiking. A 3700 meters trail was quite strenuous and took two hours, part of the time walking on volcanic rocks on the beach. There were beautiful views of the eastern shores of the island, where the seas were breaking on the rocks and some rocky pinnacles stood dramatically just offshore.

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                                                        last two pics taken by Dany

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Other hikers we met coming in the opposite direction as we were 1000 meters from the end of the trail, cautioned us about going that way. “You are not allowed to go this way, you are going to have problems with the Policia Federal”. It seems all trails are regulated and to go into any beach or other nature attraction one must buy a pass to the tune of 150 Reais. We went out of the gate at the end and thankfully nobody stopped us.

Back on the boat we reflected about the island as a sailing destination; although we enjoyed it greatly the costs may make it prohibitive for some. 20$ U.S environment preservation tax per person per day (first day free) and 82$ for anchoring each day are certainly excessive! So is the cost of all other services.

At 1630 we entered the port office; in 10 minutes our papers were ready. At 1700 we were ready to leave.

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