Fernando de Noronha 29.01.14

Well we are finally in Brazilian waters after 13 days at sea. We started out with several days of churning seas and force 6s and 7s, followed by two days sloshing in the northern doldrums and then across the equator, to pick up the SE trade winds with occasional squals and arrive here at the island of Fernando de Neronha …….. 200nm off the mainland of Brazil.

We have fallen into the rhythm of the trip and the three hour watches seem to pass much more quickly than a the start of the voyage.

We have had days of fighting to stay up right in the galley and needing to wedge ourselves into bed…….

days of endless sunshine, when sunbathing was too much of a chore and every bit of shade was bagged…….

days of motoring, ‘to give the batteries a decent charge’, but also to make progress of more than one mile an hour…..

days with squally showers, when the sails have to be reduced to allow for down draughts from variable directions, and increased again once they have passed……

………and one unforgettable day when we went ashore a cluster of rocks in the middle of the ocean!

The food has lasted …just…and, considering the temperature, very little has gone off. We still have some stiff carrots!! and we ate the last tomato last night. Taking it in turns to cook has relieved the monotony of gourmet fare every day! One of the crew is a dab hand with the can opener and the M&S Irish stew, that Steve and Helen kindly sent us off with, came into its own.

Dan making bread

Dan making bread

We have manged to cook paella, home made pizza, bread and pastry, and all those ‘staple’ potato, rice and pasta ‘surprise’ dishes, that challenge our ingenuity.

One of the more surprising 'surprise' stews!

One of the more surprising ‘surprise’ stews!

We have had the fishing line out most days, but apart from the flying fish that landed on the deck, we haven’t landed any ourselves.

One of the flying fish Marcus marinaded

One of the flying fish Marcus marinaded

One of our first trolls with the fluorescent lure was successful and we caught a MahiMahi, but the line broke just as we were about to land it……

The one that got away

The one that got away

Since stumbling across a fishing vessel, 4 days ago at São Pedro and São Paulo, we have had more than just flying fish to supplement our protein, which is now down to tinned ham, chicken, cured Spanish Jamon and chorizo ……… the freezer is still not operational.

Back on Dry Land! (Briefly)

São Pedro and São Paulo are two tiny rocks half way between the Cape Verdes and Brazil……..A tiny speck Dan found on Google Earth. They measure about the size of four football pitches and rise sharply from the sea bed. As we neared them we saw a fishing boat moored to the one buoy…..

Land Ahoy!

Land Ahoy!

A traffic jam in the middle of nowhere!

We nosed up to the boat , threw them a mooring line  and dropped back ......simple!

We nosed up to the boat , threw them a mooring line and dropped back ……simple!

Jenni’s Portuguese again came to the rescue and she contacted the fishing boat on the VHF. They put us in touch with the scientists on the island who arranged with the fishermen to take us ashore in their dinghy. There is no way that we would have ventured through the swell, between the ragged rocks and moored up to a rickety ladder and clambered ashore without their expertise.

Our 'taxi' waiting in the swell.

Our ‘taxi’ waiting in the swell.

We were welcomed by four broom stick wielding scientists who were collecting samples for research. The broom sticks had nothing to do with their research…….they carried them to ward off the vicious  pecks from nesting boobies that were breeding all over the rocks.

Jenni, broom stick in hand. making it safely to the look out point.

Jenni, broom stick in hand. making it safely to the look out point.

The Scientist's accomodation

The Scientist’s accommodation…..the front door

The back door

The back door

They came, they saw, they conquered!

They came, they saw, they conquered!

We had a tour of the island and found out a bit about life on São Pedro & São Paulo …….. The scientists and all their gear are ferried to the island from Fernando de Norunha by the fishing boat and they stay for two weeks at a time. Whilst the scientists fill their mornings with sciencie  things and their afternoons ‘chilling’, the fishing boat fishes in waters that no other boats are allowed to work around the island. After the fortnight, there is a change around and the scientists are replaced by the next lot brought by a sister ship.

The Boobies have no fear of humans, despite the broom handles.

The Boobies have no fear of humans, despite the broom handles.

One interesting fact we learnt is that the rocks are unique. They are the only place on earth where the earth’s mantle has pushed up through a fault line and created the islands. Earthquakes are a regular occurrence and we saw Richter scale sensors, but didn’t feel any shakes.

The accommodation for the scientists is spartan,

The bunk room for the scientists.

The bunk room for the scientists.

but they have wifi and masses of food supplies and drinking water all supplied by the Brazilian government, so it’s really a bit of a working holiday for them.

The scientists and the skipper and us!

The scientists and the skipper and us!

The balcony Booby

The balcony Booby

 

The three fishermen who took us over to the island were making calls home, using the station’s radio phone. When they had finished  and we set off back to the boat.

Having heard our pitiful tale of our lack of success with our fishing….. they took pity on us and we stooped off at their boat and went aboard. As we stepped aboard a man scuttled down into the ice hold and came up with a caballero (horse) fish, which was over a metre long. Our driver promptly sliced and chopped it up into 22 steaks on the deck and put them in a bin liner for us.

Slice.....

Slice…..

....chop and pop it in the bag.

….chop and pop it in the bag.

We have managed to get through most of them, fried in garlic and ginger, grilled on the plancher,  flaked and served in a coconut curry sauce and marinated fish kebabs………all very tasty! A bottle of Smirnoff seemed a fair exchange for such a magnificent fish.

Goodbye to Sao Pedro and Sao Paulo

Goodbye to Sao Pedro and Sao Paulo

We were on our way again and on the second day at about 0830 we got the champagne out of the fridge for a toast to Neptune as we crossed the equator…….

Almost there.....

Still in the northern hemisphere……

Proof that we were there.

……Now in the southern hemisphere

……we actually crossed it 3 times as we turn back and crossed it again to get the latitude caught on film.

In the evening of the third day, we saw the lights of Fernando de Noronha on the horizon. We had hoped to arrive in daylight, but the winds had pushed us on faster than estimated and so at midnight we made our way into the anchorage marked on the chart………..what the chart doesn’t show is where the local boat moorings are! I was up on the bow with the flash light and suddenly picked out a line boats just off to port…….we were lucky not to run into one of them or foul our prop on the long pick up lines to the empty buoys.

The moorings we bumbled through in the dark.

The moorings we bumbled through in the dark.

After creeping around for a while we eventually moored up to an unlit  scuba diving platform and took turns on ‘anchor watch’ until it was light enough to move to anchor.

With the dawn the looming shapes of small islands and rocky outcrops slowly took on colour and we realised what a beautiful place we had arrived in.

Daylight and the view that greeted us.

Daylight and the view that greeted us.

We were the only yacht anchored in the bay and before breakfast we were treated to a dolphin display. These islands are a dolphin breeding ground and a pod of about 50 young bucks were showing off by leaping out of the water and putting in a couple of 360s before belly flopping back into the sea and swimming away.
Jen and I went for our first swim off the back of the boat in warm water (26c) and did a bit of ‘boat babe’ sun bathing on the foredeck. Suddenly the dolphins were back with us and I got back in and swam with them

Boat Babe and Dolphin's mate. All part of a day's work!

Boat Babe and Dolphin’s mate. All part of a day’s work!

…….unbelievably exciting. I tried squeaking to them, but I’m an alto!

We went ashore and were struck by the very laid back and easy way everyone lives……a bit like the Scilies. The port officials and federal policeman were very friendly and understanding and not the least concerned when we told them we couldn’t access cash. Jenni and her ability to speak Portuguese is a great hit. By the time we had finished the signing in and out of the islands, she had been invited to a dancing party, given a cup of coffee and one of the oficials gave her his contact details!

 As we had no Reais, we couldn’t take the bus or taxi to the ATM. We started hitching, hoping for a ‘carona’ and almost immediately someone pulled up and gave us a lift. It turns out that carona-ing (giving people a lift) is commonplace and we relied on them for most of the time, as our bank cards wouldn’t work until the next day……we even got a lift from the police!

Fernando de Noronha was settled by the Portuguese, who used it as staging post for their slave trade. The old colonial official buildings and church are very grand and the old roads are made of large rock cobbles.

Colonial grandeur.

Colonial grandeur.

I felt the echo of the presence of all the slaves that must have been put to work to build them.

These islands are used as a holiday destination for wealthy Brazilians and honeymooning couples, so prices here reflect that. We knew we were going to be charged tourist taxes and inflated anchorage prices, but it was well worth every R$ (Real).

We took a walk down a track down to deserted beach and walked along ending up at one of the surfers beaches.

Amazing air roots supporting a massive tree.

Amazing air roots supporting a massive tree.

Paradise 1

Paradise 1

Paradise 2

Paradise 2

Paradise 3

Paradise 3

Paradise 4

Paradise 4

Outside the beach cafe there was a slack line……a low level tight rope….which we all had a go on. Needless to say we impressed!!

A fisherman casting his net in the breakers

A fisherman casting his net in the breakers

Whilst we privileged are sauntering around, the life for locals is not easy. We saw this guy following the birds along the beach to cast the net, slung over his shoulder, to catch whatever the birds were interested in.

30.01.14

After a delightful couple of days ashore, we set off at in the evening towards Recife.
The currents, seas and winds are very confused this close to the equator and we found swells coming from off the port bow and from behind us at the same time. The wind was blowing steadily from the SE to start with, but them came in from the south, so we ended up beating into it for the last 24hrs.

02.02.14

We finally saw the coast of Brazil emerging from the haze on the horizon. We decided to start the motor to make better time, but despite having worked perfectly the day before, it decided to stop pumping out the cooling water.
Marcus boldly went where no man wants to go……down into the engine compartment to replace the impeller (a paddle wheel in the engine that pumps sea water around the sealed cooling system). Mission accomplished, but after running for 15 minutes, water still refused to appear out of the exhaust pipe, so we decided we would have to sail as far up the river as we could before turning on the engine and hope to moor up before the engine overheated.
The coastline gradually revealed itself.

Recife looming out of the haze.

Recife looming out of the haze.

Recife is the capital city of Pernambuco State and home to 1.5 million people, so the skyscraper skyline should not have surprised me really. We had a struggle against the tide on our approach, but managed to sail into the mouth of the port and half the way to our planned mooring before turning on the engine. To our surprise and relief there was water!! I think it just likes to remind us who’s boss.

Our first night's mooring outside the Pernambuco Iate Clube.

Our first night’s mooring outside the Pernambuco Iate Clube.

2 Comments

  1. FANTASTIC Well done all of you.
    http://d.ibtimes.co.uk/en/full/343113/rio-carnival-2013-samba-dancers.jpg Margie or Jen ??

    Take care Kay & Rich

  2. Dave And Rebecca

    Congratulations and well done. I think that your weather is a bit better than the weather you have left us in the UK… Now chill out and party! Dave and Rebecca

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