12 August 2015

Heaven on Earth?

First sight of Noronha at dawn
 Paraphrasing, our Brazilian guide says Fernando de Noronha is better than heaven so, of course, we had to check it out.  The difficulty was that as the bird flies, it was a 660 NM upwind and going upwind we would once again be bumping along on a back and forth course.  Even I thought heaven had to be worth it.

Our course took us 712 NM in 4.5 days.  We were joined by dolphins and harassed by a few squalls but otherwise a straightforward sail apart from having to slow down to get into harbour in daylight.  

On my watch, at dawn, the islands came into view.  They were spectacular.  A beautiful green with black cliffs and jagged peaks in a deep blue sea and sky.  Surf pounded on the rock on the windward side but the leeward was sheltered and relatively calm.  
View from Milly's stern with constant audio of roaring surf.

View from Milly's bow.  This is where we saw the spinner dolphins but too distant for photos.

Whenever we come into port after a passage, no matter how long, we rarely go ashore until the following day.  Although we always feel we could keep sailing if the trip was longer, when we put the anchor down we suddenly we feel exhausted.  The boat is in passage-making mode, inside and outside.  There is lots of stuff to stow - headlamps, rainjackets, lifejackets, ginger candy, binoculars, warmer night watch clothing etc. etc - lines and sails to tidy and an inside and outside clean up.  We eat, drink, relax and fall into bed, often sleeping twelve hours.

Favourite tourist activity.  Dragged at low speed behind boat with  mask and snorkel.  We did not partake but used own locomotion.
View from the fort of downtown - church and city hall
Idyllic, well-preserved fort on hilltop.  Free admission
View from the fort of the anchorage.  We were the only cruising boat.
Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago but only one island is accessible.  There is one village, two supermarkets, one bakery, several restaurants, several forts, a church and two museums. Most of the main island and the other islands are a rigidly protected national park. 
We weren't allowed to take our cow to the beach.  Nor our horse. 
Sensational views wherever we looked.

It is called the Galapagos of Brazil because of it’s sealife.  Snorkelling, which we did almost daily, was amazing.  Clear water with coral reefs and a multitude of colourful fish, big and small, including harmless sharks.  Notably, we swam with sea turtles, two white snakes - not my favourite -, a ray and tons of other fish.  No sharks.  On land we saw an ugly eel and from the boat we were delighted by a pod of spinner dolphins.  They jumped high into the air spinning as they went.  It was quite a show from our cockpit.
Not my favourite

Definitely not my favourite
Even the crabs were beautiful.  Red against the black volcanic rock.
One day, we rented a dune buggy - the only rental vehicle available for good reason.  We met the renter in a parking lot and he babbled away in Portuguese.  We heard the word gasoline and assumed that, like everywhere, we should return the vehicle with a full tank.  None of the dials on the dashboard were operational and the start button didn’t work very well.  However, off we went on the one paved “highway”, the B-53, 7 km long.  Other roads are magnificently potholed, red dirt lanes or, in town, cobbled with “blackheads” the round, black rocks from the beach.  We were deep on one of these roads, heading toward what is touted to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, three of which are on Noronha.  The buggy had already stalled a few times and shifting from one gear to another required a knack which, before Peter got the hang of, made terrible grinding noises.  Finally, the buggy stalled and refused to start.  We happened to be outside the headquarters for one of the island tour operators where the buses were diligently cleaned while standing in pools of mud. One of the bus drivers came to give Peter some advice in gestures and after eventually getting into the driver’s seat, declared we were out of gas! A woman in a car behind us which we were blocking, luckily spoke some English, called the renter and told us he was coming with some gas.  She also filled us in that cars in Brazil are rented without gas and we had to fill it up before we took off. After waiting for over an hour with no sign of gas, one of the bus drivers took pity on us.  He siphoned some gas from his motorcycle, primed our carborater, partially filled our tank and sucked the fuel line to draw the fuel from the gas tank.  Only tools - jerry can and mouth!  He’d obviously done it before.  After profuse thank-yous, we went directly to the gas station, the only one on the island.  Lesson learned the hard way!
Three beaches were named - by Brazilians - as the three most beautiful in the world.  This is #1.  Rugged and wild.

#2 -  surrounded by very high cliff.

Descent to beachside via two very sturdy, well-maintained, long, vertical ladders that...

descended through this crack in the cliff.  

#3 - Tiny, accessible only at low tide.  We took TomTom the following day to access by a swim from the beach beside and explore by snorkel.
One of the trails was only accessible with a guided hike, an experience we had on our last day.  The hike took us along the top of black cliffs on grass covered headlands.   At two points we made our way down precipitous paths to tidal “pools” connected to the ocean by crashing waves and strong currents going out to sea.  With life jackets, we snorkelled in clear water to see multitudes of fish and one snake hanging out in the calmer water of the pool.
Views on our hike.  

Cliffs, frothing surf and grass plateaus.  

Whenever we see these glorious spots, I wonder if the other ports of call we make as we continue on our journey can be as beautiful.  Then I see pictures on other blogs in Sardinia or the Pacific which look equally spectacular.  We are so lucky to be able to live in our home as we check out the world!  Was Noronha deserving of it’s reputation as heaven on earth?  It is definitely worth an upwind sail and a wonderful way to say good-bye to Brazil before a 1300 NM passage to St Laurent de Maroni in French Guiana.

4 August 2015

Milly is Beached

The sand bar was at Itaparica
Very quiet colonial section of Itaparica
Before heading out on our longer passages, we needed to do some work on Milly’s bottom.  Unbelievably, her hull was covered with barnacles, those tenacious sea creatures that grow on anything solid, from whales to docks to Milly.  Peter’s need for speed was burdened by his knowledge of the barnacles causing deleterious friction.  They needed to be removed.  They were also growing inside Milly’s through hulls, the openings that allow water in for the generator, engines, and watermaker and grey water out from the sinks etc.  I had visions of through hulls being plugged by pesky barnacles and causing engines to fry or toilets to overflow. The barnacles had to be removed.

Even more important was replacement of the sacrificial zinc anodes.  These are balls of zinc that are attached to our propeller shaft.  The zinc kindly corrodes before our stainless steel shaft and brass propeller and, hence, is sacrificed.  We had noted in Guarapari, that the zinc anode on one shaft was gone completely and the other shaft’s zincs were pockmarked and eaten.
Zinc anode on the left has sacrificed a great deal compared to new zinc on right.  Amazing, I think.

Although this hull work could be completed by diving, it is much simpler and more efficient to do it when Milly is high and dry.  Our destination from Galeao was Itarparica in the Baie de Todos  os Santos, just across from the city of Salvador.  Our cruising guide described a sand bar exposed at low tide as the perfect place to beach a boat.
The sand bar was the site of much activity.  Women scraped the surface of the sand for small snails

This woman proudly displayed her snails and a real find, a ray, for us.

The men dug deep with a special shovel to harvest disgusting-looking, wriggly marine grubs by the bucket full.  Not sure if they were food for fish or for family.

Women rushing to catch the boat home as the tide came in.  The sand bar was an island for about three hours at a time.

At low tide, there was a soccer pitch complete with goal posts.  Completely submerged at high tide. 

This was a traditional fishing town.  One group of three in a long canoe similar to this had one guy at the bow slapping the water with a very long paddle to scare the fish toward the net.

A family boating to the sand bar to work and play.

After yet another upwind sail in huge waves, we arrived in the Baie, dropped anchor outside a small yacht club and reconnoitered the town and the sand bar.  On TomTom with a GPS, we picked a spot on the bar which would be more than the draft of Milly at high tide and exposed for at least an hour or two at low tide.  With some mathematics and the rule of twelfths (a method of measuring depth within a tidal range), we figured out the timing to arrive at our spot.  An early morning start saw Milly hovering in place and after several minutes she was aground.  We waited for the tide to go out enough to venture into the knee depth water, careful of a multitude of spiny urchins and a few starfish who were also enjoying the sandy bottom.  As the water went down, Peter and I got to work.  By the end of the two hours when Milly was high and dry, we had removed the barnacles from bottom and holes, replaced two anodes, attempted to fix our leaking emergency hatch (still leaks) and inspected the bridle attachments.  Mission accomplished.  Milly was good to go. 
Milly high and dry.

On a flood tide.  All work complete.  Peter had to wade back to the boat.

Next stop was a marina in Salvador - strange to be docked after months of our prefered anchoring. 
Milly at dock in this multi-purpose harbour complete with fort.
Accurately described as a gritty city, Salvador has a lovely rejuvenated but tiny old city on a cliff top overlooking the bay.  The area below and around the harbour was full of beautiful old decaying buildings many of which were little more than facades or shells, reminding us of Havana.  Tourist areas were full of people attempting the hard sell of odds and ends.  Compared to the wealthier cities in the south, Salvador seemed to be struggling and on a slow decline even though the guide books say that it has been more successful with infrastructure in recent years.  Ethnicity was also strikingly different than the south.  Historically, Salvador was a centre in the slave trade and the Salvadoran art, religion and ethnicity is proudly African.
Art deco Elevador Lacerda used to get between the Cidade Alta or old city and the Didade Baixa or commercial city below.  

The old city has been rejuvenated.  Many women dress in traditional garb to pose with tourists.  Hard sell but the dress was interesting.

From the elevator.  Lovely green growth but lower city in sad decay.

Largo do Pelourinho, one of several squares in the old city

Lovely building where only trees and vines live now

A gritty city, indeed.

Time here was spent sightseeing, of course, and completing a major restock of our cupboards.  For the next two months or so we will be on three major voyages with one stop in Fernando de Noronha, where provisioning pickings are reportedly slim and expensive.  Three expeditions via taxi later our cupboards were full and we were ready.
After first foray to the supemercado, cross-checking lists with inventory in Milly's saloon.
Igreja do Bonfim, a church used by Catholics and African Candomblistans where those praying for cures bring photos,  pleas and thanks.  Plastic body part offerings from the hopeful hang from the ceiling.

The fence outside the church is covered with ribbons.  People knot the ribbon onto the fence three times for three wishes.  

A great marine museum was housed in this fort that guarded the mouth of the bay.
Good-bye Salvador.  We are on our way.