Blue Sky and Frigate Bird Flying. An Acrobat with a brown body and white chest

This Photo was originally posted on Flickr as “Magnificent Frigate Bird” by putneymark. We tried to get some snaps of our “Sanity Bird” but because it was so lumpy a lot of the time none of them came out that well.

Brava to Brazil

with a Frigate Bird and a Lucky Ship

Dear Squeak

It was a bit of an unpleasant crossing this time around. At least the first 5 days were just plain nasty. We are so glad we left you cuddled up by the fire with some lovely people; you’d have hated this trip.

 It was proper lumpy! A big swell was running and on top of it were short choppy waves that seemed to have no direction in particular.  The boat handled most of it admirably.

Once in a while, like every 20 mins or so, a huge wave would ride over the swell and hit us from completely the wrong direction.It would  slam against the hull with a loud slap.  this caused  the boat to shimmy at the top of the swells and send  a shower of spray into the cockpit. It drenched everything so no cushions allowed and foulies a must.  I thought, heading for the tropics, we would not have to dig them out of the wardrobe again. No such luck, wet and sticky, deep joy!

After our hike with John John our legs were still feeling the pain and the continual bracing against the motion, even when trying to sleep, wasn’t helping.  The mounting number of bruised we were acquiring just from going below to the loo or to make food weren’t adding to our comfort either, especially as we had to sit on bare boards with no cushions.  We got through it; but was it fun? No!

It reminded me of my sailing days, long ago in Scotland. Back then, I’d be standing out in the fog and pouring rain, steering the boat, wondering why I was using up my holiday entitlement for this.   I try to remind myself that we are paying ahead for all the fantastic sailing days that we’re expecting on this adventure.

The biggest trial of all on this trip was the boredom.  It was too lumpy to read without throwing up.  It was too rough to tackle any little jobs, or tidying up.  There was the trial of preparing meals which took an inordinate amount of time and effort. Preparing food without it flying all over the boat is a definite challenge in those conditions.  That was the total distraction to break up the boredom.   I had a stack of “homemade ready meals” waiting in the fridge as we knew the forecast was a bit suspect.  They still took a monumental effort to get them to the table.  Actually no table just nice wooden bowls filled not too full, held in your hand with a tight grip to avoid accidents and eaten up on deck with a drizzle of salt spray for extra seasoning.

Why leave in those conditions? I hear you say.  There was never any sign of anything else in the forecasts, so sooner or later you just say to yourself in for a penny in for a pound. Off we go. So off we went.

The start of the Trip was pretty lonesome for us both. First off we pass each other like ships in the night. One heading to bed as the other gets up. But outside the boat there was no other sign of life either, except for the wind and the raging sea. No wildlife, no ships, no planes overhead.

There was just one little visitor that came along with us on the trip and he was the highlight of our days. Especially those first five boring days until the weather calmed down a bit and I could pass some of the time with my head in a book.

  On the second or third day long after all the other seabirds had  given up on us, a Frigate bird came and circled round our boat a few times. He  landed on the deck and  flew off again. He gave the place a good once over and decided that we would do as a pit stop for his trip.

Our Frigate bird  stayed with us for almost the entire trip.  Finally leaving us, when he could pass responsibility for us over to the care of the local Brazilian sea-birds that came out from the coast to greet us.

He didn’t stay with us the entire time. He came and went as he saw fit.  As the sun came up on a couple of mornings, I could see that he’d had himself a few hours of shut-eye up on the spreaders.   But he didn’t stay all the time.  We wondered how he knew where to find us. With the boat averaging about 150 miles a day we were obviously not in the same place he left us. But  he kept coming back to check we were alright. 

He would fly round the boat a couple of times, give us a little air-show of acrobatics and disappear again. He kept us entertained with his daily performance.  Sometimes even two shows a day. Im fairly sure he was a Frigate bird I still have to check google to make sure, but for now, let’s just call him the “Sanity bird”.  He certainly broke up the monotony.

Frigate birds can fly for weeks and weeks without stopping and nobody quite knows how they do it.  They are super agile flyers, but are unable to swim or rest on water.  They just keep going for weeks on end. They use the air currents, especially the updrafts to soar and conserve their energy that way.

 As Frigate birds can’t swim, they live off flying fish, or food which they steal from other birds.  I wondered why we had no flying fish on the deck this trip, but clearly our Frigate bird was making a happy meal of them all. The only flying fish we did find was one that flew all the way into the boat and landed at the bottom of the companionway behind the freezer box. We weren’t aware it had come in until a few days later, when a rather pungent aroma started to emanate from behind the freezer. Horror panic, I first thought it had defrosted without me noticing.  It took us 11 days to cross to Brazil from Brava and he stayed with us almost all that time.

Nature’s Beauty never gets old

I love the Sunsets and Sunrises that you witness at sea. I love the feeling of wide open space and I love gazing up at the stars at night. These things never get old and at sea with no light pollution the night skies are spectacular.  We often say how nice it would be if we could set up a time-lapse to show people on land what it’s like, but on a moving boat that’s simply not possible.

 I love the fact that I have plenty of time to just sit and think though I must confess that over thinking things is a dangerous pastime.  I Try to put the time to the most productive use possible.  I now have our garden back home  and our website all totally redesigned in my head.  So lots to get stuck into when we get back.

The downside of our brand of sailing is that although it is a team effort each of us is essentially solo sailing when we are on passage.  Mostly, Steve is asleep when I am on watch and vice- versa.  After a few days  I start to miss him

Finally on day 6 our first ship came into view and ships kept coming steadily after that.  Not many of them were kind enough to respond to the radio but one ship in particular was super sweet to us.  The” Saga Monal” popped up behind us just as we were approaching the equator, chatted to us and slowed down so we had witnesses and company to cross the line.  What are the chances of being nearly a thousand miles from anywhere and having another ship arrive at just the perfect moment? And slowing down? Big ships are usually on a tight schedule. They don’t do that. Well this one did, so how lucky were we?

After the Equator the weather calmed down, we were treated to big rain squalls instead of big wind and big waves.  We didn’t mind the rain as the boat desperately needed washing after the dust storms in Cape Verde.   The temperature warmed right up and we were flying along with the spinnaker wearing only a bikini.  Well I was wearing the bikini Steve’s not really into that sort of thing, not even on Sundays. 

A few days later we finally arrived in Brazil having taken 11 days to travel about 1500 miles.  Finally we could relax in the sunshine for a bit before going out to explore our surroundings. 

Well dear Squeak I’m going to press send on this one now, and tell you all about what we’ve been up to over here in Brazil in my next letter. 

Catch up soon, lots of love A&S x

If you haven’t yet seen the Video of our 2018 Atlantic crossing that accompanies this post why not check it out now

Click to view Atlantic Crossing Video

 

Christmas in Cape Verde

Dear Squeak

How are you?  It’s been a long time since we caught you up on our progress. We have actually arrived in Brazil now and are really enjoying the laid back life in the tropics but let me tell you about our time in Cape Verde first. 

We were really sad to leave the sweet and friendly town of La Restinga.  With hindsight maybe we should have stayed there to get through our pre crossing jobs list. It would have been cleaner, less rolly and provisioning for the trip would have been far easier.  Gluten free is not really a concept that Cape Verde understands.  We wanted to be in the next spot for Christmas though, so we had to get a move on. 

We arrived with just a couple days to spare and some friends we had made in Arrecife were there to greet us.  It was nice to see some friendly faces to share Christmas with.

Our first move was a reccy around town. We checked out the local market where the fruit and veg was a little suspect to be honest.  Most of it looked little better than what we still had stored in our bilge, from our last provisioning in the Canaries.

 We found an interesting little project of local artists in the old Police compound.  They have set up a bunch of workshops, where they make all the paraphernalia that is needed for their festivals, particularly carnival. They make everything out of recycled materials.  There is some fantastic work going on there!

There is one guy there, who is in charge and is paid by the local council. He is said by the rest of the team to have to do the thinking for everyone. I think that was something slightly confused in the translation, but is probably closer to the truth than they would like to admit.  A communal meal is provided for all the artists each day paid for by donations from visitors such as us, so they are not quite the “Starving artists” they might be if they were sole operators.

Brightly painted ship with blue cubes all over it
Ship of Fools

 

A curious thing happened. There is another project that we encountered In Mindelo called “The Ship of Fools” www.azart.org   which is a ship full of entertainers on a pilgrimage around the world in praise of folly.  They landed in Mindelo and came ashore on the fishing quay with crazy costumes and instruments playing.  Almost immediately, they happened upon the same project of artists that we found on our first foray into town..  What followed was a collaboration of the two projects and a show using the fool’s ship as a stage to keep all the visitors entertained over Christmas.

We had quite a low key Christmas. It was just a gathering of a bunch people from our neighbouring boats, who all piled into the floating bar at midday bringing lots of food and festive cheer.  We rounded up the day on a boat called Ambition 2 being treated to drinks and Christmas Cake.

We Didn’t stay in the Marina long, it was a lot of money for what you got and it was still very rolly.  After only a few days in there the line we had tied to their buoy which hadn’t been maintained or cleaned and was full of barnacles had completely worn through. We were leaving whether we wanted to or not, as the boat was one thread away from breaking loose.

We preferred to be at anchor. Thankfully  the holding there was pretty good as it blew almost the entire time we were there so much so that our brand new Cape Verde curtesy flag gave up in disgust and made a break for freedom.

We worked hard from Christmas until New Year trying to get the boat ready, but some of the big jobs were changing the sails and re-tuning the rigging which needed a calm day with little wind. There weren’t  too many of those while we were there. The wind howled and the harmattan dust storm which meant we could hardly see the bow of our own boat for 2 weeks  spread a thick layer of dust over  everything inside and out.

 All that cleaning we did when we left the yard in Portugal, went to hell in a handbasket after the first day.  We were not looking forward to that clean up but there was nothing to do but put up with it until we had left it far behind us.

There was a town party laid on for New Year with fireworks on the beach and bands playing in the main square and a really convivial atmosphere.  It seemed like every single person from the whole of the Island of Sao Vicente and maybe some other islands besides were there. Who knew there were so many people living there?

 It was a great atmosphere and everyone was in a party mood. Just as well because there was not a single security person or policeman to be seen anywhere and there was a crowd of over 2000 people in a very small space.  We saw the New Year in and stayed for a couple of the bands but the party raged on until 6 the next morning.  We headed back to the boat long before that. I think we must be getting old!

We would have liked to take a trip to San Antao the neighbouring island which is supposed to be very beautiful.  With such poor visibility though, any film or photos we might have taken would have been pointless. So we kept our heads down and got on with the”to-do-list” so we could clear out of there a.s.a.p. 

Finally we headed off to Brava the most southerly of the Cape Verde Islands.  We had such a lovely welcome when we arrived, the locals were so friendly. A few local fishermen helped us tie our lines ashore to keep us pointing out into the bay.  It’s only a small anchorage and there were another couple of visiting boats but we squeezed in easily with a little help from the locals.

We were recommended to eat dinner at Isabelle’s place.  As we didn’t want to dig into our supplies for the long trip too much, we took up the invitation.  It seems to be the custom in Brava as it happened again the following day, to treat your guests to a mountain of food. We couldn’t possibly get through all of it. Plates kept coming with meat, fish, all the local vegetables and a salad, which we really didn’t need. It all came to only a few escudos.

The following day we went on a hike with John John our guide, no, it’s not a mistake, he calls himself John John.  He was super friendly and informative and showed us all the local fauna and flora as well as explaining all the history, progress and politics of his tiny island.  We had a super day and the views were spectacular.

Hiking trail with spectacular views on west side of Brava Cape Verde
Hike from Lomba Lomba all the way down to Faja de Agua

 

It was a long steep climb down from Lomba Lomba at the top of the island to Faja de Agua  and  the next day, with our out of shape leg muscles screaming we though he might have secretly been trying to kill us.  We had wanted to do a second hike with John John  to another part of the island the following day, but our poor little legs just couldn’t face the pain. 

We gave ourselves a day off before setting out into the waves on the long leg of the trip to Brazil. . It was really lumpy the first 5 days of the passage and every time we had to brace ourselves against the motion or climb up and down the companionway our muscles kept reminding us of the hike.

 All the People we met on Brava were super friendly and made us feel so at home there. We wished we had left Mindelo weeks ago or not even gone there, but headed straight for Brava.  It was such a lovely place.  It’s like the forgotten island, the poor relation or runt of the litter as far as the Cape Verde islands are concerned.  They get the dregs of the kitty when it comes to any funding that Cape Verde receives and there is a lot of poverty and generally poor conditions there. 

Many people there, have relations in America, Cape Verdeans who have emigrated.  They send funds and supplies to their families back in the Cape Verde’s from time to time.  For those people life is a little better, but for many it’s a very hard existence.

  Lots of things still have to be done by hand there,  as there is no machinery available.  Even the island’s petrol stations are supplied with barrels that arrive by ship and have to be hand-balled onto trucks to be taken up the hill to the main town of Sintra Nova. There the fuel is filled into a big tank at the gas station, which keeps the island ‘s vehicles supplied with fuel. 

Barrels of fuel stacked up at the filling station on Brava Cape Verde
Petrol Station Vila Nova de Sintra

 

Water is also a huge problem on the island. It too is often supplied in barrels to keep the population alive.  They have had a draught for the past couple of years and many of the reservoirs are empty or nearly empty and the mountain streams have run dry.  The Island could really use a desalination plant but that needs funds that they simply don’t have.

We left the Cape Verde’s feeling that the misery we had felt in the thick of the dust storm had been washed clean by the friendliness and rugged beauty of Brava.  Our spirits were well and truly lifted.  Now it just remained for our boat to be washed clean too.  We were praying for some tropical rain on the way, to give our mast, rigging, decks and sails a good swill.   As luck would have it, the universe provided!

Well,  I guess I’m going to leave you for now. I’ll tell you all about the crossing and arriving in Brazil in my next letter.

We still miss you lots

Lots of love A&S x

To see our latest Youtube Video about our “Cape Verde Capers” hit the link bellow

Click to view Video

 

You can also see some of the Photos we took by checking out our Instagram page.

Justbellavista Photos