Sunday, 15 February 2015

Brazil Cruising 2 - Squalls in paradise

A week of change around for Auriga at the start of February. After Tanya and Igor leaving me to 10 days in Rio I got some company first with the arrival of Giulia on the 30th. After 3 weeks in Rio without a drop of rain here (plenty of snow at home I hear!) Giulia managed to bring a small taste of the weather from England and every single afternoon since her arrival has been marked by the build-up of ominous clouds, torrential rain and lightning. Now, I know British summer lightning but this is something else. The clouds build up over Rio until they hover over the city trapped by the surrounding mountains and then they let loose all the electricity in the world. Lighning marks the sky with multiple bursts per second either arcing through the clouds or hitting the nearby skyscrapers and hills. It feels like the end of the world. Is the fact that this started when Giulia arrived prophetic? Time will tell.

Leaving Rio at daybreak. Looks better from afar!

 Somehow in the midst of one of these evening apocalypses Tim Clunan, who joined us for a week, managed to both persuade both the yacht club security to let him enter and then persuade the taxi boat to take him out to Auriga and arrived as we sheltered in Auriga sending him texts about how we would never be able to get to shore (sorry Tim!).

En route to Ilha Grande, the mighty drifter
gets it's first airing in 3 months.

Now consider that Giulia has written up the fastest PhD of anyone I have known (less than two months!) and managed to squeeze a viva, corrections and packing for a 6 month trip into the space of a week. I tell you this so you can imagine the relief for Giulia to when, chores finished, we finally sailed for Ilha Grande, and island universally cited by Cariocas (people from Rio) as the best stop in the state.

Our passage to Ilha Grande was very slow - we barely exceeded 2 knots – and inspection of the hull when we finally stopped in clear waters revealed the reason: we had been carrying a whole corral reef around on the hull. In addition to diving down and scraping the shells off the hull we had some local helpers, in the form of a shoal of hungry, and curious, fish who enjoyed the change of flavours we bought with us.

5 very relaxed days were spent cruising around the beaches, swimming and drinking while Giulia managed to get in 2 dives.

In a 5 mile passage between Praia dos Manga (beach of mangoes) to the Lagoa Azul (blue lagoon) we met an unusually intense squall. The approaching clouds and wall of white water were warning enough to reef down and peel to a smaller jib but the timing was atrocious. In the exact moment we tacked to avoid the oncoming rocks the wind hit at 38 knots. Now Auriga, bless her, has some quirks and one is that in big wind and waves she requires a little pushing to complete the tack. Unfortunately in this case we started the tack in light winds. As the gale hit we lurched to one side with a wall of spray over the deck and we got stuck in irons with the sail flapping like a flag at a parade. The wall of rain and spray reduced the visability to nothing and the island and cliffs, only 500 meters apart vanished. As the jib bellowed and the wind shrieked we decided it was time to take it down. Even in the time Tim sheeted it in and I moved forward to the halyard the damage was done. A sail usually tears with an almighty bang but in this case the noise of the wind was enough we didn't hear it go. By the time I pulled it down it was torn in three places.

After the gust the wind dropped to only 30 kts and we drifted back to our favourite beach under main sail alone, to pick up the pieces and consider the major sewing project ahead. 38 knots of wind is not huge in the grand scheme of things. In this case it was the sudden arrival and the timing, mid tack, that caused the damage. Just 15 seconds later and we would have had the jib under control and taken it down smoothly. I like to think we were not foolish or unseamanly. We had the storm jib ready to hoist.

From here on Giulia and I need to push hard against the wind and currents to get North and stay on schedule, so there will follow a passage to Cabo Frio and a long upwind leg to Salvador. We are looking forward to the sailing, but know full well most of the next month will be spent at sea, so we have been glad of the break in Ilha Grande. Wish us luck as we procede North. I will update again from Salvador.

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