03 March 2012 | Fortaleza Brazil
We sailed through the night from Fernando reaching the Atol des Rocas by noon. With Diego up the mast pointing out coral heads (dodging bombies under sail always an exciting experience), huge mating turtles surrounded the boat. Being an offshore remote atoll I didn´t think anyone would be living on the tiny sliver of sand, so I was surprised when the Brazilian military came on over the VHF (in Portuguese) and as asked us not to come ashore. They did, however, give permission for a short snorkel after which we picked up hook and carried on.
Good wind from astern pushed us along and spying a red tanker on the horizon we struck up a conversation on the radio with the Philippino captain, en route from Singapore to Columbia. After chatting for a while we discovered he was from a small island Bubbles had sailed to in the Philippines and I even knew which house was his. He invited us over for a barbecue and some Red Horse and we exchanged emails. Even the vastness of the open seas can be a small world.
The next day was a typical South Atlantic sailing day. At 2 am we poled out the jib to port and by sunrise the winds piped up so we double reefed the main and poled the jib to starboard. By 8 we shook out the reef and poled the jib to port. At noon we furled in the jib and dropped the main to raise the spinnaker on a starboard tack and at three we jibed Frankie to a port tack. Then we blew Frankie out again (the third time) and we raised the main and poled the jib out once again. For the first time northeasterly winds dominated giving us northern hemisphere weather even though we were still 3 degrees south of the equator. These winds along with the favorable equatorial current we were now riding gave us the best mileage of our Atlantic crossing with 154. We baked a cake to celebrate. Jack was no longer homesick and realizing this was his last sail before his homeward departure now expressed not wanting to leave (just a few short weeks before he couldn´t wait to get to Brazil and an airport).
After 30 days and nights of sailing from Africa, we reached mainland South America at the Brazilian beach city of Fortaleza. With a population of 3 million, its skyline and boat traffic kept us in awe on our approach. Finding the Marina Park Hotel we dropped sail and prepared to for the required med style mooring, while our friends on Exabyte (already there having passed us once again), knowing we had no engine, also prepared by throwing out as many fenders as possible. Using our stern anchor, lots of line and help from South Africans we were soon secured in place.
A hot, bustling city you can cool yourself on any corner with an ice cold coconut drank by straw (one real, $0.60). Also whetting our appetites was the grilled meat that seemed to be ubiquitous as well as affordable as we ran about the city trying to find parts and fix the many things that had broken on our recent voyage. Brazilians aren´t into sailing and so finding things was difficult but we made due. Frankie, for example, was fixed by a shoe maker named Marcos who assured me his previous experience of patching three parachutes qualified him for the job. I must say his work was stellar, even though he showed no such attention to his own clothes, which were in tatters.
One night out on the town we met a Shaman that took interest in us. Being bearded with shaggy hair he wore a wolf skull around his neck and nearly nothing else. He greeted each us by taking our hands and putting them to his forehead for an awkwardly long time. He then had us sit Indian style in the street as he emptied the contents of his small pack which seemed to be all he owned. Besides some small pieces of wire he used to make ornaments his pack was full of cow bones killed by a chupacabra. He would tell us simple things with deep meaning like ¨we all are one¨ and ¨the path to happiness is found through others¨. Torrential rain would frequent the night, but for only ten minutes at at time, and while everyone else would duck for cover, the Shaman would remain in the downpour with his bamboo staff pointed skyward. Most looked at him bizarrely but I understood him. He was simply feeling the rain. After several other pow wows and group huddles with our Shaman, it was time for our departure and I bought him a sandwich from a local street vendor. Although he clearly needed to eat, he simply passed the food along to one of the many less fortunates that surrounded us.
Bubbles stayed lively during our Fortaleza stay. Our first guest to arrive were Tree (her fifth visit to Bubbles) and her sister Winter (both Alaskans) coming from the north, and from the south came Celesta (her second time aboard) and sweedish newcomer Rebeka. Then our brother sister Viking friends from Fernando arrived, and David and CJ, the South Africans brus, would throw their near nightly braiis on our neighboring boat. To add another reason to celebrate, Jens, off the Danish family boat Exabyte (first met more than two years ago in Panama Canal) had a birthday and the parties would often carry over into the hotel swimming pool (open 24 hours). Also adding to the mix were the French couple Antuon and Philip, the Canadian Andy, and the rest of the Safas, including Wally from Walvis Bay. On our final night before departure we had everyone aboard Bubbles for Jacks ocean crossing ceremony , which got so intense that he passed out (details not bloggable).
The following day more bad news came regarding our engine spares as they were still held up in Brazilian customs with no sign of release. Was really hoping to having the engine back before attempting the Amazon but the wind was right and it was time to go, so after our final ice cream ashore, goodbyes said, and hugs given, Diego, Celesta, Rebeka and I hopped aboard Bubbles. Jack, who was supposed to fly home from Fortaleza, still hadn´t booked his flight and was now talking of sailing back to South Africa with David and CJ. Jack cast our final line that secured us to land before we maneuvered Bubbles using the dingy and some elbow grease to get her out of the harbor. A group gathered at the rocks and we yelled our final ¨ma se pouse¨ at each other before sailing into the sunset. We looked back, hoping our recent goodbyes would be short lived. At least a few I knew would be.