Sunday, 1 March 2015

Brazil Cruising 3 - Rounding the Cape

After a beautiful week spent at easy in Ilha Grande, Giulia and I were back in full passage mode. With our Brazilian odyssey coming to an end, the faster we move North and reach Salvador, our last port of call in mainland Brazil, the more time we can spend in the Caribbean.

After a good start, motoring for a few hours in a calm sea with light cloud cover reflecting a mellow sunrise, we began to sail by noon, heading upwind and making good speed with our newly cleaned hull, reaching Guanabara bay by nightfall. With dark thunder clouds building over Christ the Redeemer and a stormy entry to Rio on the cards we considered continuing onward to our next stop at Cabo Frio, and with a good forecast from Igor we hardened sheets and set best course to windward - to the cold cape.

Every sailor knows headlands can be capricious and Cabo Frio is one of the major headlands on the Brazilian coast. Coastal mountains squeeze and accelerate any wind and currents while the uniform ocean swell is refracted and the sea becomes choppy and confused. Why is it that I know this, but still always sigh as the wind begins to build and the waves start to throw themselves on anyone foolish enough to venture out of the cockpit? On our second night at sea, a F6 breeze began to freshen, and the gale materialised at sunset.

They say one should not speak I'll of the seasick so I hope this won't be read as such, but Giulia was a touch unwell. While she was able to keep watch, and doing a great job of keeping up spirits, the foredeck work was up to me. A string of jobs – reef the main, change the jib, rerun the sheets, rig the inner forestay, hoist the storm sails, lash the unused jibs – were carried out around and frequently underneath a confused 4 m sea, and I began to tire. Pounding upwind, flying like a dolphin off every wave it wasn't looking like we would have the energy to keep this up.

So far Igor and I have sailed actively through rough weather, but I began to think of more passive alternatives. The sea anchor seemed a bit drastic – we were still sailing fine, after all. Running off the wind, and heading back to Rio would have been too disheartening after so many hours fighting the current and clawing our way to the cape. In the end Giulia suggested a technique forgotten to most who sail in boats with big crews, but one that is well known for short-handed cruisers – how about heaving too?

Cabo Frio - looks like a turtle?*
*Accoring to Tanya
For non-sailors this may get a bit technical, but to try and explain: it is a technique for parking a boat at sea. The foresail is backed (on the wrong side) and tries to force the boat away from the wind while the main sail and rudder try to turn the boat towards the wind. The result is that you sit at a comfy angle to the waves and bob up and down like a cork. It might not sound like an improvement, but consider active sailing means flying into the same waves at pace, each sending a cloud of water right over the boat with a skull shaking smack it is pleasant by comparison. It worked for us, and we spent just enough hours like this for me to get some proper sleep before resuming progress in the morning.

A night without moving, and fighting the tide and wind it was not a fast passage, but after 4 days we made it around the headland and in settled weather entered Cabo Frio. The town at Cabo Frio was an ugly metropolis and the yacht club was nothing but an uninviting rocky wall. We turned around with barely a wave and headed back to beautiful Buzios – Rio's favourite holiday stop - for some proper rest.

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