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
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