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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The Passage Back

Caribbean to the Azores via Bermuda

From the windswept dusty anchorages of Cape Verde to nights spent amongst flamingos in mangrove-lined rivers of Brazil to the turquoise waters and coral sand beaches in the Caribbean, it felt as if the best bits – all that we had come to see – were past. There had been very long passages, and plenty of adventure, but these passed in a blur after nine months of touring the tropics. Nearly 5000 miles lay between us, in Antigua, and the prospect of starting a life on land at home. Somehow the finality of the passage magnified the distance, so it felt very significant when we hauled up the anchor in Jolly harbour bay. Our toughest challenge lay ahead.

Reading up on routing advice and studying the pilot charts, we elected to take the traditional route. We would refrain from turning East for the Azores until making 35 degrees North, the latitude of Bermuda. After the crossing, chatting at dockside parties in Horta, I got the impression that the field was split; many sailors followed the shorter, direct route from the Caribbean. However, the windless Horse latitudes haven't changed since ancient times. You need to be prepared to make progress in very light airs, either with specialised sails or by carrying enough diesel. We were rafted with a heavy French steel yacht that had neither. Due to their desire to take a short cut en route to Europe, they were stuck for 35 days, static in the Sargasso sea.

Brazilian Bureaucracy

What follows are a few tales of our trials with Brazilian bureaucracy. Stressful at the time, amusing in the reminiscing. Maybe you’ll enjoy them, but if any sailors happen across this later while planing a voyage to Brazil maybe our experiences will provide food for thought. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions.

A Flight In, A Boat Out

Brazil technically requires a tourist, on arrival, to have proof of onward travel. Stating “I plan to leave your country on my yacht” is unusual enough to cause confusion. An onward flight ticket is what the bureaucrats would like you to present. Giulia was lucky to come across this by chance, having already booked a one way flight a month prior.

The Brazilian consulate in Milan were able to confirm this requirement but were unable to help further on the phone. What follows was a wild goose chase for Giulia. Calls to the Brazilian embassy in Rome suggested contacting the federal police in Brazil (the guys in charge of immigration). Sadly this was futile in practice, every officer Giulia reached spoke only Portuguese and hung up after a few lines of English or Italian. Calls to the Italian consulate in Rio or the embassy in Brazillia were also fruitless.

It was apparent that the rule existed, but officials were clueless about how it would be applied in practice. For example, would a very cheap bus ticket across the boarder be sufficient? The most reliable solution was the prohibitively pricey option: buy a flight home as well.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Cruising in the Caribbean - Auriga takes a holiday!


16 days out at sea on the passage from Brazil, all we really wanted was some fresh food and ice cream. After wandering Barbados' capital, Bridgetown we didn't find either. Heading back to Auriga (moored off the most touristy beach, and the biggest bar strip) what we stumbled upon turned out to be much better.

At Dees with Tony

Most bars on Carlisle beach are huge commercial affairs that charge a (high!) set price for the meal and to see the “local” show. Avoiding these, but nonetheless driven by desire for drinks we walked into a tatty looking local bar nestled amongst the tourist traps.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Tropical sailing equals squalls...

The last passage of our Brazil cruise was an easy one and there is no need for a blow by blow description. We were blessed with excellent weather. Prevailing winds are North Easterly, so we were lucky, given our destination in the North East to get Easterlies all week. 

However. The squalls, a prominent feature of our tropical sailing experience, were back in force. After a hot summer a train of thunderstorms built up out at sea, a series of billowing cumulonimbus clouds came shuffling across the sky, loaded with rain. Bringing brief but very intense downpours and gusts they are not so much a hazard to navigation as an irritation. During the day they pass and we huddle in the cabin sitting out the rain. During the night they seem to arrive whenever you get your head down to sleep, and shake the boat to keep you awake. 

I have tried to describe them before, but given a video is worth 10,000 words and all that here is a brief snippet of me caught out helming during one such squall.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Fernando de Noronha

At the end of the last Brazillian passage, our 700 mile trip upwind from Salvador was Fernando de Noronha. There are honestly no good words to describe this place, and for Giulia and I it was the best stop on our travels to date1.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Brazil to Barbados - A Passage Diary

Our longest passage to date - 2000 miles and 16 days a sea. I thought I would keep a diary, as a record of how the passage progressed day to day, including notes on what we ate, as fresh stores diminished over the course of the passage.
Overall we had a really good passage, making good time and keeping up good spirits through out.

Day 1

Easterly F4 – Almost dead downwind, full main and poled out jib.

Lunch: Egg, tomato, carrot and tuna salad.
Dinner: Scrambled egg with potato, tomato and onion.

Waved goodbye to paradise. Saw one last turtle alongside while motoring out of the harbour. Hoisted main and poled out jib top. Everything good! Loving sailing downwind after 1500 miles upwind from Rio. Spent most of the day sleeping.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Brazil Cruising 4 - The long distance route to Salvador

 I think if Robert Frost were to be alive today he would rewrite “The Road not Taken” about routing decisions on a sailing yacht.* 

There is a huge oilfield lying 50 miles of the coast just outside of Buzios, and you have two options, each committing you to your chosen path for the following 48 hours: Begin by heading offshore, and go around the outside, or take the narrower inner passage. The inside route crosses shallower water, likely facing a stronger contrary current. The outside route necessitates heading South East to begin with, a path leading back into the same area of gales we faced on our way to Buzios.