Fernando de Noronha

Taking a break before completing my Atlantic crossing

Ask a sailor that has been to Fernando de Noronha what it was like and he is sure to shake his head and grumble about it being ridiculously expensive!

With the excuse that it is mostly national park, there are all sorts of environmental taxes to pay and while imported goods are understandably dear, I still can’t understand how a pizza can cost more than 25 Euro.

I’d done my research so it didn’t come as a surprise to hand over more than 50 Euro a day for the privilege of anchoring half a mile from the harbour (reserved for local craft only), but as I’ve not spent a cent over the last 18 days, why not splurge a little now?

I stayed two nights and have the following collection of photographs to share with you:

My Atlantic crossing is almost over so why not take a break, relax a little and enjoy the view?

Yes, I think it might be possible to unwind a little here...

I think it is relatively safe to leave Eileen at anchor given the nature of my immediate neighbours, and

Anchorage security Brazilian style!

it’s not so bad sitting miles away from the harbour jetty if you can convince friends to offer the occasional tow.

Frederica and Daniel making life easier for me.

Once on land, it’s easy enough to get around town. Either hire a buggy (very popular with the locals),

I thought the VW based dune buggy was extinct!

or hitch a free ride on anything that happens to be going your way.

A Massey Ferguson all they way out here!

While parts of the island are obviously very touristic,

Get your Fernando de Noronha plastic back-scratcher here!

the authentic and apparently colourful life of the locals is also in plain view,

Little houses... on the hillside... little houses made of ticky tacky...

even if they don’t always appear very willing to converse… 😉

Young local girl trying to ignore me and the camera. 🙂

This island is billed as a surfers paradise, but it appears the best breaks are not to be found on the sandy beaches.

Surf but no sand...

Not that I mind missing out on the surf if I can amuse myself otherwise!

Ouch!

But Fernando de Noronha is not all just surf and sand.

It was hit by lightning!

There are shady parks to visit,

Fancy a walk in the park?

and several local bars to frequent.

Having coffee and a chat...

Though perhaps a glimpse of the islands past is more to your liking,

Ruins with a view.

or something more spiritual…

Going to the chapel...

Either way, this island will not disappoint. Living here a while would certainly be interesting,

If only I could take a peek inside...

and I’m sure those lucky enough to have been born on the island feel they have it made…

Living green

But for the moment, I’m just an observer passing through.

I wonder where they are now?

With a little more time at my disposal I hope to change that or I’ll never hear the end of it from my sailing friends upon reaching Trinidad.

From Sal to Tarrafal, Sao Nicolau

Tarrafal, Sao Nicolau, Cape Verde

The 22hr down-wind sail (averaging around 4 to 5 kts) from Porto de Palmeira to Tarrafal was exhilarating. Unfortunately, I was not able to get much sleep (for fear of running into the island), so I was mentally if not physically exhausted on final approach to Tarrafal, No matter, plenty of time to rest once at anchor.

Halil, my new Turkish "brother"

I was on a natural high, and having caught a large tuna on route I felt sure to win the fishing competition spontaneously organized with my Turkish sailing buddies in Sal. “Ah, what a fine meal it will make!”, or so I thought…

Of course, nothing ever goes precisely according to plan.

Upon arrival I found the small anchorage filled to capacity, and all shelter behind the breakwater taken by local boats. I spent almost two hours trying to set my anchor but it stubbornly refused to hold.

No problem, I can do stubborn…. besides I need the exercise. Hauling aboard my 25 meters of chain, I moved Eileen for the umpteenth time to seek better holing in shallower water by the beach.

I flagged down a Frenchman as he sped by in his dingy and asked if he could kindly deliver my prize catch to my Turkish friends so it wouldn’t spoil in the increasing heat (they have a refrigerator), and continued my game of drag the anchor.

Having unsuccessfully tried both my Danforth and CQR, (and motored backwards past everyone else’s boat at least a half-dozen times), a Spanish registered vessel took pity on my valiant attempts to plow the seabed, and surrendered their mooring to me.

I thought it was out of pity, but apparently it was out of extreme gratitude. Gratitude for mistakenly being the recipients of my tuna dinner. Curse that Frenchman, he took my catch to the wrong boat! Well, at least I will be able to sleep now that I am secured to their buoy…

No such luck…

Keep your mooring buoys!

What followed was a string of interruptions as several enterprising young men swam out to my boat, climbed aboard (despite my protestations), and began insisting they be paid a fee for using “their” mooring.

That triggered the proverbial “straw that broke the camels back” response in me, and I’m ashamed to admit that at this point I completely lost my temper…

Throwing the mooring buoy back in the water, I started Eileen’s engine, told my uninvited guests where they could put their fee, and sent them scrambling back into the water as I motored away.

So much for Tarrafal, I’ll sleep on route to Mindelo.

Photos from Sal

Sal, Cape Verde

It is generally agreed among sailors here in Sal, that anyone sailing directly to Mindelo is missing out on some of the best of Cape Verde has to offer. I concur, Sal offers a fabulously safe anchorage, effortless formalities, and genuinely friendly village atmosphere.

Just be sure to check the price of everything before you commit (such as a visit to the hair salon… hint hint…), to ensure the few unscrupulous business types in town can’t take advantage you.

Perhaps the best way to describe Porto de Palmeira is with images. Below is my collection of favourites, enjoy!

The anchorage is one of the best in Cape Verde and your dingy is perfectly safe despite what the dated guide book might say.

Anchorage, Porto de Palmeira

The village has a pleasant sleepy atmosphere and everyone seems rather content.

Wandering around Porto de Palmeira, Sal

Certainly nobody here is going hungry, a boatload of fish is caught daily just a few hundred meters from the harbour entrance. I’ve never seen such abundance!

Fish in abundance around Sal

Water on the other hand is only available from the desalination plant. Not that it seems to bother the locals, just don’t expect to find a hose anywhere to fill your yachts water tank.

There is still plenty of time for recreation, here the locals wile away the hours playing the African equivalent of board games.

Just playing games on Sal

While the women take care of more domestic affairs. Amazingly, the art of crochet is not dead!

Being a little more productive than the men!

Order is maintained by the men in blue, they even recovered a stolen laptop briefly left unattended by a German crew.

Wearing the uniform with a swagger!

With what is perhaps a little excessive enthusiasm, children readily pose for your camera,

Children in Cape Verde

and even the local school teacher accommodates my impromptu photo shoot by re-establishing some order.

Order out of chaos!

So, what did I get up to while in Sal? Not much, just hung out at the local bar.

The mini bar! No backyard should be without one.

Checked the weather at the Cyber Cafe,

Time to update the blog.

and mingled with the locals.

It's the local hair models.

Had I been a little less strapped for cash I might have spent some money on locally produced music and a souvenir or two. I guess these photos will just have to do.

Local art, music souveniers... See this man!

I hope you enjoyed the visual tour.

A few odd jobs then on to Gran Canaria

My collection of radar reflectors

Before leaving Lanzarote I bought and mounted a biggest ugliest radar reflector I could find. Short of hoisting my pots and pans there is little else I can do at this point. Fingers crossed that it’s enough to make me visible to radar.

I also installed a much sexier, but considerably more expensive solar panel in the space covered by the companionway hatch (when it is open).

Not too shabby if I may say so.

Behold!

New solar panel

Nothing like a few boat chores to suppress the heart and stimulate the mind. Besides, there’s no more whiskey aboard.

It took me 24 hours to sail to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. My plan was to arrive once the ARC rally fleet had left so I could be sure of a berth but I had not counted on the marina being closed. Yes, closed! But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Just as I rounded the breakwater (at approximately 11am), I ran into the entire fleet of ARC participants as they made their way to the starting line. Looks like my timing was a little off. No matter, I’ll just join the festival, take advantage of the photo opportunity and watch the procession from the comfort of Eileen.

The 2010 ARC Rally leaves port. Trouble is, there's no wind!

I spotted the young Swedish crew of “Wind” (who I’d met in Nazare). Music blared from their boat as they waved to the crowd gathered along the marina breakwater. I also found myself alongside “Summer Song” (the only other ARC entry I’d met on my travels), and exchanged a warm greeting.

In the following hour or so I watched just about every other boat in the fleet file out and head to sea.

With only a few stragglers remaining, I made a dash for the marina entrance only to have my first attempt at landfall thwarted by an angry “marinero” in a RIB.

I could see the veins bulging from his temples as he shouted… “The marina is closed, go away, you come back tomorrow, leave now…”.

Closed? Who cares if the office is closed! I just want to tie to one of the recently vacated pontoons and sleep.

The official seemed to be getting increasingly agitated at my reluctance to leave, so rather than be responsible for triggering a brain embolism in all the excitement, (those veins on his forehead are really popping out!), I reluctantly complied, motoring to the extremely crowded anchorage on the other side of the breakwater.

See mum, I can be magnanimous on occasion. 😉

What all sailors do in Gran Canaria, wait...

Five hours later I made my second attempt, and as it was probably Mr “not so sociable’s” coffee break, I made it to a pontoon unmolested.

I’m now in Las Palmas Gran Canaria doing what all sailors do here (unless of course they are part of the ARC); hanging out at the Sailors Bar waiting for the elusive trade winds.

Carino, Ribadeo and on to Gijon

Overtaken by the Dutch

The forecast swell was under 1.5m for the next three days so I made good progress under power despite frequent showers and little wind. At least the fishing was good, withing 30 minutes of leaving the marina I had already hooked another Bonito!

This very patriotic racer (judging from the size of his ensign), overtook me just 15 miles out from La Coruna despite my liberal use of the iron topsail.

At just under 45 nautical miles, and traveling at 4.5kts, I reached my first stop at the anchorage in Carino well before dark and spent the night rolling about despite the relatively benign conditions.

The rolling itself doesn’t really bother me, but the washboards and the companionway steps tend to creak when Eileen sways from side to side, and this together with the thumping of the rudder as it shifts in its fastenings tends to irritate me after the first few hours of sleep deprivation.

Anchorage off Carino, Northern Spain

Carino has a pontoon with small fingers, but I couldn’t be bothered to make my way through all the moorings to get there, or dig out my fenders for that matter. A larger boat should not even consider berthing there.

In the morning mist and drizzle I made my way to what must be the northern most headland of Spain, Punta Estaca de Bares, and set my course for Ribadeo, covering approximately 45NM (motor sailing) by late afternoon.

Wet ride in a J-boat

I found myself moored next to the same Dutch racer (a J-boat) that had overtaken me leaving La Coruna, and judging from the foul weather gear hanging out to dry, they had had a very wet ride. Smugly dry, I made my traditional offering of fish pate (this time mixed with avocado), and we sat down to exchange travel adventures over drinks.

I didn’t really get to see much of Ribadeo, which is a shame because from what I’ve read it’s a picturesque town. But at the time I had more pressing concerns. I’d forgotten to return my gate/shower key before the office closed and that meant I’d have a late start (if I wanted my deposit back) for my next and longest leg to Gijon (almost 70NM away).

Resigned to arriving well after dark, I set a relaxed pace (still motor sailing), and passed the time solving complex algebraic equations…

If you believe that last remark, I have some fine real estate for sale in Nigeria… 🙂 The only algebra I do while cruising is something along the lines of: If x=relaxing, and z=sleep find y… hmmm y bother about it…

I spend most of my time just watching the world go by and daydreaming. 🙂

Rope caught on the propeller

Obviously not much happened on this leg. Apart from a 30 second skinny dip to remove another propeller entanglement, which I don’t really mind doing provided the sea is relatively tranquil. Mind you, I do dread the day it happens at night and in boisterous seas.

The toughest part of this passage was rounding Cabo Penas at sunset. I had to battle a west flowing current in freshening Force 5 north easterlies. At just 1.5kts SOG, it took quite a while. It even prompted a looking over by the Aduanas (customs) boat. I gave them a wave and they left me to continue my game of hobby horse around the cape.

My approach to Gijon was also somewhat noteworthy. My hand-held GPS plotter didn’t show a newly built breakwater which obscured half the lights off Banco las Amosucas and the inner breakwater. Adding to the confusion were a series of green lights that would flash and then turn red. What kind of sectored lights do that when I’m simply maintaining my course? The answer? Pedestrian traffic lights that just happen to be on the recommended track to the marina.

Never mind… I still made it to the visitors pontoon (by 1:30am), which was just in time to have a celebratory drink at one of the numerous waterfront nightclubs. My 30 minutes of nightlife at the Habana club left my ears ringing and did much to renew my latent agoraphobic tendencies.

An anchorage off the beach at Finisterre

Beach anchorage at Finisterre

I was not going to round Finisterre with north to northwest winds (from Force 4 to 6), so I only motored as far as the headland for a peek at the conditions (in a word… ugly), before turning to plan A and making for the beach anchorage northeast of the town.

Provided there isn’t too much roll, and the wind doesn’t shift so that you end up in surf, I’ve come to enjoy staying at beach anchorages. They can be so easy! You just approach the shoreline until you arrive at your desired anchoring depth (5 to 6m for me), and drop your hook in the clean white sand. No fenders to tie, no rocks to rub up against your hull, and no weed to reek havoc with your anchors holding ability. Bliss! As an added bonus you get to ‘people watch’ landlubbers for your afternoons entertainment.

Dawn at Finisterre anchorage

The port of Finisterre has virtually no room for a visiting yacht, but the anchorage served quite satisfactorily for my overnight stay as the winds died down to Force 1 and the seas settled. Just as predicted in the weather forecasts… What a novelty!

Rising at dawn, I photographed the French yacht that had come to share “my” beach retreat before joining the rush of fishing vessels heading for the cape.

Piedras Negras to the anchorage at Muros

Dolphins escort Eileen of Avoca

Over the next leg I had a dolphin escort for much of the journey. Rather large dolphins I might add, perhaps it’s all that fertilizer floating in the Rias that’s bred a race of super large and extra cheeky cetaceans. I say extra cheeky because individuals in this pod had developed a new way to amuse themselves by splashing me (without resorting to the blow-hole technique describe in an earlier post).

The trick involves leaping from the water and giving an extra slap of the tail at just the right moment upon reentry to effect an extraordinary large splash . Very sopping amusing…

The ‘Big Brother’ helicopter was at it again today, but it was more interested in a trio of south bound yachts, and only bothered to give me a single flyby.

Approaching the anchorages off Muros, Spain

Approaching Muros, the wind picked up considerably (to its usual two to three times that indicated in the windguru.com forecast). Double reefed, I made excellent time traveling at a brisk 6 knots so I arrived in Muros by mid-afternoon giving me plenty of time to examine its two anchorages.

The one closest the marina (and town) was over (reportedly) foul ground, and at 10 meters, I opted for the shallower eastern side over sand and weed. Here I would have ample scope for my meager 25 meters of anchor chain.

It was a tranquil night and my sleep was only interrupted once when at 5am a crescendo of engine noise, followed by subdued Spanish conversation and culminating in much rattling of my anchor chain, had me frantically reaching for my clothes.

Once suitably attired (yes, I know I have questionable priorities), I ventured on deck to discover a couple of fishermen passing their tiny boat under my anchor chain. Upon seeing me, they explained that they were just getting themselves unstuck from my chain and that there was no need to worry, which I figured was the polite Galician way of saying “you anchored on our fishing net, dimwit”.

North along the Portuguese coast to Aveiro

Eileen of Avoca under sail in Portugal

My next leg to the anchorage at Aveiro was uneventful, except perhaps for the occasional downpour, forcing me to shelter below decks. I’d occasionally pop my head out to make sure I wasn’t about to run into anything but other than that there was little to keep me occupied. I wasn’t even going to try to fish. With yesterdays catch under ice (purchased in Figueira da Foz), I would not need to use my lucky lure for quite a while.

Forced below, I did a little cooking to pass the time and make a new batch of fish pate.

The recipe?

Preparing fish (Bonito) pate

Fry your bonito or tuna steaks in olive oil with some rosemary. Take off the skin and bone when it cools so that it looks like what’s in the photo. Take one chopped onion, several chopped capers (the large type with the stem), mash your catch of the day, and add lots of mayonnaise. Voila! For variety add a little chili powder, fresh avocado, or tomato sauce to the concoction. Serve with fresh bread or crackers and you have a great sailing snack.

Sailing along the western coast of Portugal

Avian hitchhiker

24 Hours later I weighed anchor and started the 50 plus nautical mile leg north to Cascais on the outskirts of Lisbon. The sailing was in light winds on a relatively smooth sea, so generous use of my mighty 13.5hp Beta engine was necessary. Even at a consistent 5kts, it was almost dark as I approached the Rio Tejo. I really should learn to wake up earlier…

Dolphins made an occasional half-hearted visit, but this was more than compensated for by frequent social calls by exhausted avian hitchhikers.

Overall, the passage was soothingly tranquil, ignoring a brief episode of near panic when my favourite hat forced me into another impromptu “man overboard” drill. I did get it back however! As you can see in the accompanying photo, it is just the thing to compliment my sailing ninja apparel and I would be loath to lose it.

Sailing ninja apparel

I spent two nights in Cascais marina and I will happily return here (perhaps at anchor) in summer before heading toward Madeira or the Canary Islands. There are interesting little beaches, quaint winding cobblestone streets, and a multitude of bars, restaurants and cafes catering to all tastes.

I was also pleased to find the “out of hours” marina staff exceptionally helpful and professional; evidenced by the quick defusing of potential disaster as an accompanying Finnish yacht bungled repeated attempts to tie off at the reception pontoon. The incident prompted a spontaneous and amusing discussion on general marina mishaps, and having witnessed first hand what these people have to contend with on a daily basis, they have my deepest respect. Let me elaborate with an example;

Beach, Cascais Portugal

I’d noticed quite a substantial number of seagulls resting on the marina breakwater in the afternoon and a sudden cacophony of avian cries disrupted my hapless attempts at Wi-Fi prompting me to pop my head out of the companionway, I was just in time to see an enraged fisherman take out a pistol (the air gun type from the sound it made) and start shooting willy-nilly at gulls attempting their getaway with stolen fish. I’m afraid I do not have an accompanying photo captioned “enraged fisherman shoots sea birds”, but I was studiously minding my own business at this point.

Besides, dealing with this sort of thing is the business of those aforementioned, exceptionally helpful and professional marina staff. 😉

I was too tired to sample Saturday’s marina nightlife and had to content myself will meeting other cruisers “en passant” partaking in the new and ridiculously bizarre yachtsmen ritual of wandering marina grounds seeking improved signal strength for Internet Wi-Fi, laptops extended, face aglow.

Rounding Cape Saint Vincent to Western Portugal

How to tame boisterous children

Planning was high on my list of priorities as I methodically watched the weather forecasts pending departure. I did not care for a repeat performance of the previous days hair raising port entry. If I wanted to spend my free time surfing, I would have brought a Malibu board to Lagos rather than Eileen of Avoca.

As I waited for easterly winds, I busied myself with some serious relaxing at the beach occasionally burying a locals child to stop “it” running about and making a general mischief. Despite my best efforts, they continued to be a nuisance and even had the gall to find it all rather amusing. Oh well, I’ve never really been that good with kids.

Rounding Cape St. Vincent in calm weather

I’d decided the best way to tackle Cape Vincent was to leave at midday, round the cape during daylight hours and complete the total of slightly less than 80NM to Sines by night. The easterly winds dropped from force 4 to a gentle 1 and 2 overnight and while the sea maintained a significant swell, Cape Vincent came and went as an anticlimax.

Sprayed by dolphins

Dolphins escorted me for much of the journey, and their company was mostly appreciated, the exception being when a particularly cheeky individual would “sneak up” alongside Eileen and enthusiastically shock me awake with a spout of fishy smelling water. Who would have though dolphins had a sadistic sense of humour. I like them more and more each day! 😉

Aside from scaring the living daylights out of me by catching me unaware with their playful nocturnal antics, they effectively made sure I wasn’t going to catch any fish for supper.

I optimistically trolled with a brown lure (holding my newly acquired blue one in reserve), until at about midnight it was lost. to either:

a) the biggest fish I’d ever hooked (the dolphins at this point had vanished), or more likely;

b), a fisherman’ pot (even though I was at the 100m depth contour).

I’m newly resolved to fishing at night only when more than 10 miles off the coast.

At dawn I motored into the lovely little anchorage off the beach in Sines and set to work composing an opus in snore major.

Anchorage at Sines beach Portugal