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.

We opted for the outside route. The inside route has the additional disadvantages of increased shipping and limited searoom that would make watchkeeping much more involved, while the outside path would give us miles of searoom and no traffic, so we could sleep easily.

With no way to go back in time and try the other route, do I think the decision paid off? Needless to say, we were immediately facing a strengthening breeze and building waves, and for a few hours I rued my choice, but in hindsight I believe we were very lucky. This time we were ready for it and had the smallest sails prepared. Better still, the gales came from the North and so while it may have been rough we were blasting East at top speed.

In the teeth of the storm we sailed through a cluster of oil platforms outside of the marked field. In the lashing waves and howling wind, and helped by fatigue induced halucination these floating cities of the ocean look like some magical citadels, not mundane drilling rigs, and gave an air of the mythical to our experience.

When the storm broke the weather was beautiful.
When the wind abated it veered around to the East, so the subsequent miles were covered without having to tack, Auriga flying at top speed. Progress was good despite strong current against us. The wind direction all we could have asked for, but the sky was not quite yet ready to let us settle, and for the next 6 days flung squally at us as fast as it could brew them up beyond the horizon.

Squall ahead!
It can be tough at times sailing through these conditions. The monstrous, billowing rainy clouds act like magnets on the wind, and as they pass overhead the weathervane spins like a top, demanding full attention if you wish to avoid sailing in spirals. Exactly when you were happy to be cowering in the cabin, you have to go on deck and play with the sails.

We we rewarded for our effort steering through the clouds with some glorious sunsets and on the 6th night a curious family of dolphins came to play as we ate our dinner. These are the moments that make ocean sailing a delight.

Domestically it was a nervous 9 days, as we had not been able to get gas at the last stop and had no idea when we would run out, we were rationing to one coffee and one hot meal a day. Like the weather we were lucky, and arrived in Salvador after an enjoyable 9 days with gas remaining and a coffee in hand, for another all too short break before we tackle the beaurocracy and finally head out of Brazil, bound for the Caribbean. 

*Or maybe not? Who knows!? A quick read on Wikipedia told me I should probably leave poetry metaphores to other people in future.


  1. That is a great metaphor about Frost's poem and relating it to a yacht. Who says that the "road less traveled," has to be an actual road. It can be the high seas taken by a yacht. Wouldn't it be fun to take the road less traveled via a boat?

  2. Great to read your accounts – keep them coming to give us landlubbers a vicarious pleasure.
    Many years ago I did this same passage – only in na 80 ft sailboat. We had to bear off eastwards for 2 days and bent forward stanchions where a spare sail was tied. In this immaculate italian built boat water found its way through deck fittings. The forward cabin floorboards floated up – there were dozens of champagne bottles stored in the bilge and the labels had floated off and blocked the limber holes to the midships bilge pump.
    On arrival in Salvador I suggested that we drank at least on of these now anonymous bottles, but the Swiss (really nice fellow) said no. The only thing the owner really checked when he came on board was the wine stock.
    One night at anchor in Salvador there was a bang on the hull and we found a yound frenchman has swum the considerable distance from shore. He was almost out of money and looking for a ride out of Brazil. We took him on (the skipper was a french speaker) and I will never forget the look in his eyes when he saw the opulence of the interior of the boat. Although he had never sailed before, he was an excellent addition and always ready to do his share (replacing a rich kid who got off in salvador who never did his share!).
    Sorry – I had not intended to monopolise your blog – it just kept coming!
    Bons ventos!
    Nick (Urca, Rio de Janeiro)