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

 

And then there’s the cat!  

Cat's Garden
My Garden

Is it fair to take her with  us knowing all the challenges she’ll have to face? Or is there some kind soul out there willing to look after her till we get back?

the big trip

Getting ready for the big trip, there are so many things to do its difficult to get your brain in gear. There are so many things competing with each other for your time.

Obviously there is a ton of work to do to the boat to get her ‘Ship Shape’ for the trip. All the systems need to be serviced;  engine, generator, self- steering, water maker, winches, pumps  etc.  Our SSB has to be set up and reconfigured to talk to a new computer, as the old one blew up. The Dinghy needs to be patched and a new cover made, and the list goes on….

In a few days’ time we are off to the boatyard to scrape back the hull to zero and apply Copper Coat. We know that won’t stop the dreaded beasties altogether but it will mean that we can at least clean the hull without rubbing off all the antifoul. We need  to take the mast down and replace some of the 12 year old rigging.  Our boat has very sophisticated B&R rigging with no backstay so those wires have been under a lot of tension for a long time and have probably earned their retirement, but we will see when we get the mast down.

We are in the fortunate position that we have been here many times before, we know what we are up against and we have a few t-shirts in the bag for getting ready for the off. We are not first timers, sailing out into the complete unknown. This may prove to be a ‘swan song’ trip for us as the boat now has to compete with a Motor Cycle tours business and a rural property.

Yet in spite of knowing what we are up against, the list is long and daunting and at times confusing. Not only is there the boat to get ready, but the house needs to be put in a state that we can leave it; or we need to find someone to rent it. We have had to find someone to keep the garden under control when we are gone so we don’t get a massive fine from the fire department.  Wild fires are a huge issue here in Portugal and letting your plot go, puts all your neighbours at risk.

Then there is all the paperwork to sort before heading off the grid again.  Everything needs to be sorted while we still have a proper address that people can reach us at. Here in Portugal all your bills have to be set up to be paid by direct debit or in person by a friend as its impossible to pay when the ‘system’ knows you are outside the country.  Everything has a built in GPS these days and ‘Big Brother’ knows your if you are not home.

Then there are all the Visas which need to be applied for, while you are still  in your home country, inoculations to get up to date and health and dental checks to take care of. A big stash of your usual medication needs to be ordered and the emergency drugs you might need if something bad happens on the trip, far from any doctor.  The checks are not just for you though, what about the cat?

We never wanted to have a pet because we knew that sooner or later we would want to get wet feet again. But two years ago this little scraggly bag of skin and bones appeared on our doorstep looking for food. She was so weak and thin she could barely stand up.  We felt so sorry for her we gave her some food, and the rest as they say, is history.  Now we have the choice to either find some nice person to look after her while we are gone or turn her into a boat cat, but for that she needs to be got ready too.

 She also needs the once over from the vet, the inoculations, the chip and the pet passport before we can go.   It would be a big wrench for us to leave her, as she has got very attached to us, and we to her, but she’s a campo/country cat used to running about, chasing crickets and climbing trees. We’re worried she will find life aboard too sedentary and will miss her local feline friends.  Also we took her on a little trial trip for a month last summer, she did very well adjusting to a different life.  Although she wasn’t actually seasick though, she got so wobbly her legs wouldn’t hold her up and looked awful green about the gills when the weather got a bit lively. 

We are running out of time now to find another good  home for her and she and the ever lengthening list of jobs are starting to keep me awake at night.  Ever notice how the lists only get longer? At least two jobs go on before one comes off.  But…

If you wait until everything is done, you will never leave.

Cat Nap
Cat Nap

So we have checked the tides, which for our deep draft boat, is crucial and set the date.  Hell and high water, ready or not, first week in September if the weather will play we are off! 

 

                                                                      Cat or no Cat?