March 2018 - St Helena to Brazil

1 March 2018   St Helena to Brazil (Day 6)
We’re over 1/3 of the way now, which is encouraging, but the thought of another 10 days is discouraging.  It was another lovely day pottering along at 4-5 knots.  The weather forecast is for the wind to veer slightly and pick up later tonight and it looks like a band of rain is going to go over us tomorrow.

Our wind generator has been turning too fast and isn’t producing any power, so I did some investigation and changed the bridge rectifier.  There isn’t enough wind to test it properly, but when we get the odd gust, it hasn’t been free-wheeling, so fingers crossed.   For the rest of the time when I wasn’t sleeping, I wrote more of my Alba User Manual, which has turned into a chore, but now that I’ve started, I want to finish it.  Oh, and I finished off the afternoon by playing a bit of guitar.

Beautiful Full Moon

Glenys did some sleeping, some reading and a some stainless steel polishing on the stern arch and then produced baked Fish Pie for dinner with stir-fried cabbage.

Just before sunset, we gybed the main to starboard and poled out genoa to port in anticipation of the wind veering later.  The wind is directly behind us so it doesn’t really matter what tack we’re on.  There were a few more clouds around as night fell and the wind picked up to 10-15 knots, so we were doing 5 to 6 knots through the water, but that didn’t last long and we were soon back to 4 to 5 knots.  It was another lovely night with a very bright full moon.

2 March 2018   St Helena to Brazil (Day 7)
Groundhog Day.  Beautiful fluffy clouds all day.  Steady breeze in the morning - sailing at 4 to 5 knots. Wind picked up in afternoon - increased our speed to 5 to 6 knots. Gybed main to port. Wind dropped a bit at midnight, so back to 4 to 5 knots boat speed.  A beautiful full moonlit night.

I spy with my little eye something beginning with S

3 March 2018   St Helena to Brazil (Day 8)
We woke to another beautiful day with a nice steady breeze, but the wind had veered about 15 degrees overnight forcing us six miles north of our rhumb line. After breakfast, we gybed the main over to starboard and then poled the genoa over to port.  We’ve been running wing-on-wing, more or less downwind since we left St Helena 7 days ago, it’s amazing sailing.

There’s not a lot to see out here apart from sun, sea and sky.  We had one Gannet circle us for 30 minutes yesterday and we disturb the occasional shoal of flying fish who glide off with their blue wings glinting in the sun.  The sea is a deep, deep blue and has now reached 25°C – a huge change from the 9°C we had along the coast of South Africa.  I spy with my little eye something beginning with “S”.

During the morning, we passed the halfway mark to Jacaré – it’s also the halfway point between Cape Town and Barbados.  I still can’t believe that we’ll be back in the West Indies in a couple of months’ time.  We had a piece of fruit cake to celebrate.

The wind backed during the morning, so after lunch, we had to gybe back onto port – that’s two sail changes in 24 hours, a very busy day.

This afternoon, I noticed a two metre swell rolling in from the north.  It has a period of 12 seconds, with 50 metres between each wave, so it has no effect on us at all.  We simply get lifted up and lowered down by 2 metres, which reveals the horizon and then hides it as the swell approaches us.  The motion of the boat is affected more by the one metre waves created by the wind, which are catching us from behind and rolling us around.

Pan-fried Fish, Chips and Mushy Peas

Glenys used up the last of the Dorado for dinner, making Pan-fried Fish, Chips and Mushy Peas - it would have been perfect with a pint of Sam Smiths Bitter.

I’ve been having an SSB radio schedule with “Jomara”, who left at the same time as us; and “Sabir” who left two days before us.  The propagation has been terrible, but I managed to get their positions this evening and we’ve gained 120 miles on both of them. They said that they’ve been motoring for a few hours today, so I’m pleased that we’ve been able to keep sailing, albeit at only 4-5 knots.

We’ve just passed full moon, so I had to wait for an hour before the moon came up over the horizon, but once out, we had another beautiful moonlit sail.  

4 March 2018   St Helena to Brazil (Day 9)
We passed the 1,000 mile mark this morning, so we “only” have 800 miles to go.  We’ve averaged 5.2 knots over the past 8 days and if we can up that to 5.3 knots, then we should be anchored in the river at Jacaré on the evening of Saturday 10th.  Fingers crossed.

This weather is unbelievable. Today was exactly the same as yesterday – ESE 8-15 knots, fluffy white clouds against a blue sky, sailing wing-on-wing doing 4-6 knots. We still have the 2 metre swell coming from the north.

We spotted half a dozen Portugues Man Of War Jellyfish today.  Above the surface, we can see a six inch long, three inch high “sail” which is a beautiful, light purple colour.  They use this inflated sail to move across the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

Portuguese Man of War Jellyfish

They are pretty to look at, but we know that below the surface, tentacles several metres long contain a deadly toxin paralysing any creature that touches them.  I’m on a mission to photograph one, but they are as elusive as Flying fish – I spot one, but by the time that I‘ve grabbed my camera, they’ve disappeared astern. 

Glenys has been doing well with her Garbage Management. Any vegetable matter goes overboard for the fishes; tins and glass get consigned to the deep and she cuts up any plastic and compresses it into old 2 litre soft drink bottles, which she has been saving.  After 8 nights at sea, she only has half a carrier bag of garbage and 2½  bottles of plastic bits.

The moon took 2 hours to appear tonight, but it’s still big enough to light the sky, so the rest of the night was lovely.  For the second half of the night we had a 10-15 knot winds, so we made good time.

We must be near a major shipping route because ships started to pop up on our AIS today.  It looks like it’s the Great Circle route between Cape of Good Hope and the Caribbean because there’s a steady stream of ships passing within 40 miles of us.  On Glenys’ 10-1 watch, a fishing boat passed within a few miles of us – she could see their lights, but no AIS.  They’re a long way from land.

5 March 2018   St Helena to Brazil (Day 10)
Dawn brought us yet another fabulous day.  The shipping is increasing and Glenys actually saw a big tanker on the horizon just after sunrise. It looks like we’ll be crossing the Great Circle route tomorrow.

We had another quiet day.  I spent most of the morning down below, editing photos and getting ready for some serious Internet action when we get to Brazil. We’re going to put the boat up for sale on various websites and we need to organise a trip back to the UK in July.  Also, we need to get more up to date information about French Guiana and Guyana, which we plan to visit when we leave Brazil.


I was allowed to put out the fishing lines today, but no joy. The highlight of the day was cutting my hair - 10 minutes with a ½” hair trimmer, job sorted.

The moon didn’t come up until after 22:00, so my 7-10 watch was a dark one.  However,  the sky was clear and the stars were impressive.  Around midnight, a huge bank of clouds messed up the wind, altering the direction and strength for a couple of hours.  Eventually, I gave up changing sails and turned on the engine for an hour until the clouds had buggered off.  The rest of the night was peaceful.

6 March 2018   St Helena to Brazil (Day 11)
By day break, the wind had veered enough that we had to gybe the genoa pole – we’re getting faster with all this practise.  The weather forecast shows continuing ESE to E winds, maybe a knot or two higher at times over the next 3 days, so we’re hoping that we can keep our average speed above 5.3 knots and make it to Jacaré before sunset on Saturday 10th.

Glenys has been taking sunrise photos every morning and has been trying to come up with a variety of images -  silhouettes of the arch, shots of the sail with a shadow of the wind generator, shots from the bow, etc.  She must have been very bored this morning because today’s shot has the silhouette of an elephant marching across the horizon...

On my daily walk around the deck, I found that the “lazy” sheet on the genoa has been too tight and has been pressing against the staysail.  It’s been rubbing for 24 hours and has worn through and ripped some of the UV protection strip on the staysail.  It will only take us a few hours to patch it when we get to Jacaré, but I’m kicking myself for not noticing it sooner.  It’s so important to make sure that nothing is chafing on these long passages, when sails are not changed very often.

Chafe on Staysail

I’ve developed some kind of sore on my left big toe. I thought at first that it had been rubbing on the nail of the toe next to it, but upon closer examination there seem to be a few things that look like blisters and it’s painful to touch.  It might be some kind of fungal infection, but we’re not sure.  We don’t have any cream for fungal infections, so last night I slapped on some Triple Anti-biotic cream and covered it with a plaster.  

This morning it looked worse and the skin around it looked “soggy” after being covered, so I’ve cleaned it with Betadine and will leave it open to the air.  We still have another 4 or 5 days at sea until we can get to a doctor or pharmacy, so I hope that it doesn’t get any worse.  I’d hate to die from an infected toe.

I put the fishing lines out, but no joy again.  The afternoon was frustratingly slow and we had to gybe before dinner.  The wind picked up a little on my 7-10 watch, but dropped off again in the early hours of the morning.

7 March 2018   St Helena to Brazil (Day 12)
We still had light winds in the morning and we were only making 4.5 knots.  At 07:00, we had 440 miles to go, so we still need to average 5.3 knots to make it in on the evening of Saturday 10th.  It was looking less likely as the morning progressed.  In desperation, I pulled out the staysail, which kept collapsing behind the mainsail, but I reasoned that it must be adding a little bit to our boat speed.  Arrival is feeling imminent, so Glenys finished off painting a Brazilian courtesy flag.

It was still daylight at 19:30 last night, so we changed the ship’s clocks back an hour to GMT -2.  It’s surprising how many clocks we have to change – the ship’s clock, my laptop, Glenys’s tablet, the alarm clock, 2 Kindles and 2 cameras.  Phew!

Off Watch

My big toe is looking a bit better today.  It’s not as red as it was and the pustules seem to be a bit smaller.  I’m going to keep cleaning it with Betadine and pray that I don’t have to have it amputated in Brazil.

Glenys and I both put on a bit of weight in South Africa because of a lack of exercise and indulging in vast quantities of food and alcohol.  These recent long ocean passages have forced alcoholic abstinence on us and we eat less at sea anyway, so we’re both feeling less blobby.  Glenys has read that the Brazilians love big meals with plenty of meat, so we’re going to try resist the cheap “All You Can Eat” beef dinners washed down with cheap Brazilian beer.

The wind remained light all day and it was boiling hot around midday.  The sun was heating up the bimini and the heat was radiating down.  With only a light breeze, it was unbearable in the cockpit, so we lurked down below where it was only 30°C.  Fortunately, by one o’clock, the sun had gone behind the sail and the cockpit cooled down in the shade.

We had another lovely sail overnight.  It was slow going, until 22:00 when the wind backed to the East and picked up to 15 knots, pushing us along at 5-6 knots for the rest of the night.

8 March 2018   St Helena to Brazil (Day 13)
The 10-15 knot winds continued into the morning allowing us to sail at 5-6 knots.  At 07:00, we had 315 miles to go, so despite the slow conditions yesterday, we gained a bit of ground last night and we still have a chance of making port on the evening of Saturday 10th – our target remains at a frustrating 5.3 knots average. 


The wind had veered overnight to finally put us on a broad reach, which is perfect for our asymmetrical spinnaker.  We dragged the beast out of the front cabin and it took me a couple of goes to get it up because the spinnaker was twisted in the sleeve.  Once we had the spinnaker inflated, our speed increased to a comfortable 6.5 to 7 knots.

I put out two fishing lures and, in the afternoon, the rod suddenly started screaming.  I was in bed, but Glenys briefly saw a huge silver fish leap in to the air.  It flailed away, landed in the water, the rod screamed again for a second and then it went quiet.  I hauled in the line to find that the 60 lb wire trace had been broken.  I guess it was a swordfish or a marlin, too big for us, but I lost a good lure.

The wind veered a little and dropped in the afternoon, but the spinnaker kept us going along at 5 to 6 knots.  The only problem was that, as the wind came more behind us, the mainsail was blanketing the spinnaker and making it collapse every five minutes, which was irritating.  

After my afternoon nap, I read an article on using an asymmetrical spinnaker and decided that I needed to pole the tack of the sail out to windward.

My timing was unfortunate because Glenys was making dinner and when she popped her head up to say it was ready, I was still messing about on the foredeck.  She was a bit annoyed and then got even more annoyed when I accidentally tripped the spinnaker and then had to spend 15 minutes stowing it away, while dinner was going cold.  I lost lots of Brownie points.

Glenys's Birthday Wine

Although it’s been sunny, our solar panels are not quite keeping up with our energy usage.  We’re using the autopilot all the time and my laptop is constantly on because we use it as our main chart plotter.  However,  I think that it’s the hotter climate that is tipping us over the edge.  The sea water is now 27.5°C, which means that the water cooling on our fridges is not as efficient, so the compressors are running for longer.  

Also the air temperature is much hotter, so we’re constantly running fans to keep cool down below.  There’s not enough wind to generate power from our wind generator, so I’m having to run the engine or the generator for an hour each evening, which is irritating in such idyllic sailing conditions.

It was Glenys’s birthday today, but it was sort of postponed until we get to Brazil.  However, we did have a piece of cake in the afternoon and Glenys put on a posh frock and had a glass of wine with her dinner.  

It was another beautiful night with 8-15 knots of wind.  We were back to having the sails set wing-on-wing again and were pottering along doing 4.5 to 5.5 knots.