Monday, November 29, 2010

Tales of current

Since we passed Madagascar, we have had to deal with some of the world
renowned currents.
First, was the Agulhas current. We did not see much of it because of our
direct route to East London from Reunion, but we were in the current for
15 hours and we averaged 9 knots. So, not bad for this one. It deserves
its reputation.
Then, leaving from Saldanha for Luanda, we were told to watch out for
the Benguela current. All we had to do was to sail away from the coast
and when we would see the water temperature drop, we would be in the
Benguela current, pushing us north a 4 to 5 knots. We got the cold water
all right, at 150 miles from the coast, but no current. The best we ever
got was 0.25 knots, very much in line with what I had seen on the
various scientific papers available on the net.
Now, we are going from Cabedelo to Cayenne, and we were told that there
would be a conveyor belt, all the way to Cayenne, providing us with 3
knots of current. All we had to do was to go at the outside of the
continental shelf and follow it. Which is also what the Grib files from
Max Sea were saying. It is also where most of the north bound traffic
is. But the current, well, the best we got today was an average slightly
over 0.5 knots.
Maybe sailors inflate their stories about current the same way fishermen
talk about the fish that they nearly caught.

The air temperature remains high, somewhere in the high 80s and the
water temperature in the 90s, but I have some doubts about my
thermometer for the sea water. I will have to recalibrate it in Cayenne,
it seems to me to be on the high side.
We have been enjoying from the start an ESE wind 15 to 20, and we are
sailing under Gennaker alone, doing on average a little under 7 knots
through the water and a little over 7 knots over the ground. We have
another 1004 n.m. to go, and provided that the wind does not die north
of the Equator, which is a possibility that I saw on Internet before
leaving, then we might get to Cayenne either December 5th evening, or
6th in the morning. Still a long way to go.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Rest stop in Jacare

jacare - 08
Originally uploaded by brisegalets
Jacare means alligator in brazilian. I was going to stop here only for two or three nights as we need to move on and be in Martinique late December, but finally we stayed four nights et we would have liked to stay longer. The marina here is very friendly and pleasant. It's a small marina, located in a very strategic place, and where you will find all the essentials that a cruiser would want : showers, toilets, laundry room, bar, snack bar, wifi with an excellent connection, and on the dock water and electricity. And in the nearby town, you can do all the shopping that you would need for the boat, possibly with the exception of spcialized boat hardware. But you can haul out.
Up the river, there are three restaurants where people go to watch the sunset over the Brazillan landscape, but without any construction of any kind, whille sipping on a Cai Piriniha (a drink based on Cachaca, lime, sugar and lime) and listening to the Bolero of Ravel. This piece of music has been played here every sunset, every day, rain or shine, for donkeys years. It has become a tourist attraction and I think it will stay for quite a while. So, tonight, we will follow the tradition and go there.
We will be leaving tomorrow early afternoon, one hour before low tide, so as to avoid the choppy waters of current against wind one we get to the exit of the river.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Speed bump !

As much as the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean has been kind to us,
as much the fringes are not very generous in terms of wind. We had no
wind to speak of leaving the African continent, and since yesterday, the
wind has dropped to a mere 10 knots as we are approaching the Brazilian
So much so that to keep going a 4 to 5 knots, we have the gennaker and
no main to enable the Gennaker to collect all of whatever wind there is.
We only have 230 miles to go for Cabedelo, but they are going to be
tough to go through. We will have to play the wind and the current to
get there during the day on the 23rd.
Yesterday, there was drama in the galley. Olivier had decided to make
"gratin dauphinois", which are potatoes sliced in very thin slices and
baked in milk. The problem came from the door of the over which is very
heavy. When you open it, since the stove is gimballed, the whole thing
rotates a good 30 degrees and the milk spilled in the oven. Olivier then
slammed the door shut to prevent the milk to spill more, and one part on
the left of the door jumped out of place and we could no longer open the
door. Eventually, everything came back to almost normal, except that we
have to retrieve this part which is only there to prevent the door from
opening at more than 90 degrees angle with the face of the oven.
The gratin dauphinois was very good, although Olivier complained that
the potatoes were not cooked enough. But to me, it was a success. And
one in Cabedelo we should be able to fix the problem for good.
It is beginning to be hot out there. The air is at 90 degrees and so is
the sea. We still have this damn swell from the SE which makes us roll
and the sails to flap since we have no wind to hold them. We will be
very pleased to set foot on the dock in Cabedelo.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Domestic chores

Not much to tell about in the monotony of a crossing where the wind
and the sea are almost always the same, day in day out. What breaks the
monotony are the few technical glitches coming from wear and tear on the
rigging and the equipment, and what we try and do in the galley to make
things a little more interesting.
The day after the genoa fell on deck, I decided to try and make an
"ailloli" which is a kind of mayonnaise, but the egg is replaced by
crushed garlic to make the emulsion with the oil. It is served with cold
boiled fish and vegetable, in this case yellow fin tuna, potatoes and
carrots. It would have been nice to add cauliflower, but we have ran out
of veggies except for onions and potatoes.
Then the day before yesterday, this time at midnight, while reefing down
the main, I noticed the base plate that attaches the rigid boom vang,
and is fixed to the mast with eight rivets, was coming off. I quickly
made and emergency tie up with a line, and then looked for steel clamps
big enough to go around the mast. In the end, we used four clamps, two
to make one, and tied the plate to the mast with them. It should hold
until Cabedelo, if we don't tighten the boom vang too much.
Yesterday, I then went into the process of baking bread. I used to do
that in the70's, but have not done that since. At first, it's a two days
process, as you first have to make the batter with which the bread will
rise. You mix flour, water and dry yeast in the right proportions and
keep it in the fridge for 24 hours. Then you mix that with again flour,
cold water and salt, by hand or with a mixer if you have one, then let
it rise for 2 to 3 hours, then mold it into whatever shape you want and
put it in the oven, with a container full of 1 liter of water at the
bottom of the over, and bake it for about 1 hour.
For a first attempt, not too bad. The oven was set a little too high and
I should have put more flour in relation to the water, but overall, it
looked like bread, tasted like bread with a crisp crust like we like to
have it, just a little burnt on the underside, and aluminum paper glued
to it.
Today, the clamps that hold the locking wheel of the windvane to the
main steering wheel broke. Fortunately, the autopilot was cooperative
and kept the boat on track while we did the repairs.
We now have 632 miles to go (it is midnight on Thursday night, November
18) and it looks now like an arrival very late on the 22nd.
The wind remains on the ESE at 15 to 20 knots, with a swell from the SE
that keeps us rolling, with the sails wing on wind, and we are doing
more than 7 knots. So far, everything looks good.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Breakdown on the high seas

This time it did not happen at midnight. At 8:30 this morning, while I
was at the end of my watch, the genoa fell on deck, again, this time in
the middle of a shower. What had broken was a part underneath the top
swivel of the roller furler, and there was no choice but get at the top
of the mast to recover the halyard and the sliding swivel. We are still
rolling heavily with light winds but sizeable swell. Olivier put on the
bosun's chair and I hoisted him up while he was clinging to the mast for
dear life. But the operation was successful. Then, once the swivel was
at deck level we realized that the broken part was the exact same one
than the one at the bottom. Se we swapped them and put a simple shackle
at the bottom for the tack point. We then hoisted again the genoa and
were back sailing at 10:30, which is not bad. And we did not lose 2
hours as we were still sailing under full main sail during the operation.
This being said, the day was not one of our best. As expected the wind
had dropped, but we are now in a different system and there are many
squalls and showers around us. The good news is that there is not much
more wind within those showers, just enough to speed up to 7.5 knots.
For the day, we covered 150 n.m. over the ground and we are now only
1287 n.m. from Cabedelo. We very much would want to use the Gennaker,
but with those squalls, I don't want to take chances and we remain with
full Genoa and full main wing on wing. I am still expecting to reach
Cabedelo on the 23rd morning. As long as the wind remains true to the
Grib files from MaxSea.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Half way

As of today, we are now in the second half of the crossing. At noon,
we were 1428 n.m. from Cabedelo fora total distance of 2882. We have
covered 1540 n.m. over the ground, some 153 miles per day, which is very
good considering that we never had more than 15 knots of wind on average.
In theroy, the wind should drop even further today, and this for about
three days. When this happen, we are going to jibe the main and the
genoa, to keep them wing on wing, and curve our course northwards as it
appears that the wind will come back from the north. From now on, the
name of the game will be to maximize speed, almost regardless of the course.
Today the sun has shown up for the first time. Olivier did not waste one
minute to drop long pants and t-shirt. I am a lot conservative in terms
of clothing and I tend to avoid exposing myself to the sun. But I am
dressed lighter still.
Since we left, we have used on average 2.4535 US Gallons of water per
day, and we have at this rate 72 days left. No worries on that score. We
could cross three oceans and still not run out of water.
Yesterday, I ran the main engine for 5 minutes, just to put the impeller
of the raw water pump in a different position. As for the genset, I have
ran it for a little less than 8 hours, To me, it's a lot, but we have
not seen the sun since we left. Things should change with the sun making
its first apparition. I would like to use it one hour every other day.

We are not so lucky as far as food is concerned, especially fresh stuff.
What we bought in Lobito did not survive and it's a good thing that we
bought just a little. We have ran out of bread and today or tomorrow I
will try and bake some. I have not done it in a very long time, so it
will be interesting to see if I succeed.

Less than ten days to go now. We will survive !

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Eight days into the crossing, we haven't seen the sunshine yet. We are
wearing long pants and sweater and we are in the South Atlantic, in the
summer by 12 degrees of latitude South. This is probably what they mean
by global warming.
But the good news is that we have now covered 1202 miles over the ground
and have closed in on Cabedelo by 1128 miles.
The first day, we went tacking, then for three days we went on close
haul, then we spent another three days under gennaker, and we are now
Wing on Wing, full main and full genoa, steaming along at 7.5 knots.
The worry is what lies ahead. It looks like by the day after tomorrow,
we are going to hit a patch of very light wind that might last for three
days. And there is no obvious way to go around it, either north or
south. So we are going to go north so that once in the light wind, we
won't have the wind right behind us and we should be able to do 5 or 6
knots under Gennaker.
Yesterday was the end of the bread that we had bought in Lobito.
Actually, it was stale and Olivier prepared it like "French toast",
soaking the bread in milk and eggs and frying them in a pan. Turned out
quite good.
The days go on, three hours on, three hours off, no excitement. When we
were still close to Africa, we say a few whales, sharks, dolphins and
sea turtles. But now that we are in the middle of the pond (we just
passed 240 miles north of St Helena), there is almost no life. A few
flying fish, some of them landing on deck at night, the occasional bird,
and that's it.
I can't stay at the computer for too long, with an overcast sky the
solar panels don't produce much and the computer burns 4 amps. So, we
get very busy doing nothing, which is not very exciting. And we have
another two weeks to go. The Indian Ocean had more diversity.

Monday, November 8, 2010


This blog is about my trip. My trip is almost exclusively about the
Brotherhood of the Coast. And so, I make entries about the trip and I
make entries about the Brotherhood. I apologize for those who not being
part of our community are either not interested or do not understand. It
is very much part of me and I can't just ignore one aspect or the other.
Besides, I do not write to please or to seek agreement with what I
write. I just put out my feelings as they result of my various
experiences during this voyage. Some entries have been praised, some
have been criticized and that's OK. This is how I feel. At 70 years of
age, I am made, not likely to get rebuilt or changed.

Yesterday, I made mayonnaise while Papy Jovial was speeding at 8 knots
under Gennaker. I usually don't make mayonnaise at sea as I like to
start by adding oil almost drop by drop until the emulsion holds. And on
a moving platform, it is not easy. But it was a success.
I start like everybody with the yoke of an egg, salt and pepper and a
wee bit of mustard to help the emulsion start. I use a hemispheric bowl
so that when I whisk the mayonnaise, nothing gets away from the
whisking. And I use a regular stainless steel fork for the whisking. As
you add oil (I use Canola oil because Olive oil has a too strong taste
for me), the mayonnaise will get harder and harder. I continue until it
forms a kind of hard ball in the middle of the bowl.
Then, if it is for meat, I would bring to boil one table spoon of
vinegar, either in a stainless steel measuring cup or a stainless steel
laze, add it in one go to the mayonnaise while whisking. The mayonnaise
will become lighter in color, smoother in texture, it will loose its
oily taste and keep better in the fridge without falling apart.
If it is for fish, I replace the vinegar with fresh squeezed lemon
juice. If is for shrimps, crab, lobster, crayfish, etc..., then I use
cognac and after that I add some ketchup until the mayonnaise has a pink
color. A touch of cayenne pepper to give it a little spring and you have
a "cocktail sauce".

Today we made good progress. And we no longer have to fight any current.
For the last 25 hours (we move the clock by to Z time), we covered 170
n.m. both through the water and over the ground and we have now 2221
n.m. to go to the entrance of the channel to Cabedelo. I still plan on
getting there on the 24th. Since we left Lobito, we have not used the
main engine, except for the one hour to get out of the harbour, and we
ran the genset for 2 hours, because we keep having an overcast sky and
the solar panels don't produce as much as I wanted. Maybe after St
Helena, we will get the blue sky, long swell and warm air.

We find the South Atlantic Ocean, at least the area where we are, much
more comfortable than the Indian Ocean. The seas are much better
organized, and once Papy Jovial is locked in her 10 degrees list to
starboard, not much rolling goes on. Much easier to cook.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Moving on

Apart from the first day when we had to tack away from Luanda, we are
rather lucky, even if we had been on close haul from the start. This
morning, at last, the Gennaker came out.
The first day, we closed in on Cabedelo by a mere 88 miles, the second
day 143, the third 139 and today 150. Bearing in mind that the weather
I had seen before leaving was giving us almost 500 miles of very light
wind, the actual weather and wind are rather satisfying. If we could
maintain a VMG of 138 miles per day on average, we would reach Cabedelo
by 7 p.m. on the 24th, local time. But, in all, there are still 2384
miles to go and everything can still change.
Otherwise, overcast skyand a temperature that dropped more than 10
degrees since Luanda and relatively faire seas. All we need is wind at
our back, not too straight at the stern and not too light.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pirates and brotherhood

In the second half of the 17Th century, when non military vessels were
attacking the Spanish merchant vessels on their way to Spain from
Panama, there was only one word in Spanish to designate those attackers,
be them true pirates, freebooters, privateers or corsairs, and that word
was "Piratas". Even if their fate was not always the same depending on
which group they belonged to (to be hanged or not), the word was the
same. And when in 1951, a group of Chilean Yachtsmen created "The
Hermandad de la Costa" (translated in English as "The Brotherhood of the
Coast"), they certainly did not have in mind to allow the possibility to
confuse who we are with "piratas". I am convinced, and to be proven
wrong will take supporting documents and not just hear say, that the
founding brothers never had in mind that we would one day play pirates
or that we could claim a spiritual ancestry with the "brothers of the
coast" of the Island of La Tortue, also called piratas.
The fact is that a pirate is a common law criminal at sea. That is the
legal definition and the only one accepted by all.
There has been pirates from the day man ventured at sea, back thousands
of years ago where ever shipping was to be found, as the long maritime
history of the Mediterranean and the China sea will testify. Pirates
were common throughout history and today they are active in most parts
of world, however, none are currently more conspicuous than those
hijacking ships along the coast of Somalia. The pirates active along the
East Coast of North America and in the Caribbean during the 17th and
18Th centuries only represents a small part of the history of piracy.
One should never doubt the nature of piracy. Pirates are conceited and
violent. They bear arms and attack whoever is not with them and could
yield a benefit, however small it might be. Pirates steal, rape, take
hostages, ask for ransoms and kill. They don't play games. Remember Leon
Klinghoffer in October 1985, thrown overboard on his wheel chair from
the deck of the Achilles Lauro.The fact is that many seaman are still
being killed (Sir Peter Blake) or seriously injured annually by pirates
testify to this. Many contemporary pirates (as pirates of old) are
convicted criminals who hide their real names behind a nickname.
Pirates do not love the sea. They merely see it as a their criminal
hunting ground - the place where they conduct their illicit activities.
There is no such thing as a pirate uniform or pirate dress. Pirates will
wear anything they have or whatever clothes is practical, including
clothes that they may find in their loot.
In short, there is nothing more alien to what the Brotherhood of the
Coast represents than pirates. In fact, the use of nicknames was not
even a custom in Chile, and in the rest of South America until much
later when this habit of having a nickname was brought in by the
European brotherhoods. And I am at a loss as to why in many cases, we
hold brotherhood functions asking brothers to dress as pirates or even
using the word "pirate" in naming
the function, or even worse, using a pirate logo (skull and crossed
bones) for their table. To me, the use of that word can only bring
disservice to who we are and I don't think it adds anything to the fun
and the joy to be had by getting together as brothers. I hope it will
not take a 9/11 of the sea for the message to get through.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Out od Africa

This time, we are leaving the African continent, headed for South
America. Not on a high note.
Last week, we decided to try a restaurant which looked clean near the
Clube Naval. And I made a fatal mistake by having 2 slices of raw
tomatoes with my well cooked meat and rice. And since then, it's been
running and I have not been able to find a way to stop it for more than
a few hours. I tried Imodium, I tried eating a diet of exclusively non
agressive things like white rice, yoghurts, oat meal. Nothing workds and
I am not looking forward to the next three to four weeks.
On a less personal note, I lost the screen on the main computer. The
scree itself seems to be alive, the computer too, but there is no signal
going from the computer to the screen which point towards probably the
VGA connection. I managed to install a small portable screen that I
normally use in the waterway to have a chart up there in the cockpit. If
and when I feel better, I will try and see if I can do something with
the main scree.
Weatherwise, we know that it is going to be difficult to move away from
the continent. We have to tack and try and go south almost to the
latitude of Namibe. But the wind has decided otherwise and we are for
the time being sailing almost due west, which is not too bad, We have to
keep going on that tack anyway until we are sure to clear the coast on
the other tack.
For the first 24 hours, we have reduced the distance to Cabedelo by a
mere 88 miles and we still have 2793 to go. This is going to be a long one !
The good news is that we have blue sky and calm seas. . . . .

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Viva Internet

I am again sitting on the veranda of the Terminus Hotel in Lobito and today we have Internet working quite well. So I want to take advantage of this to at least make a posting on the blog. In fact, we were supposed to have left this morning, but the wind was MIA and I decided to wait for tomorrow and see if we are luckier.
At first, it looked like we were in hot water regarding formalities. In Luanda, they had been kept to the minimum and we had left Luanda without seeing any authorities. But in Lobito, they found that strange and we had to go and visit the port authorities, or immigration, or fiscal police, I don't exactly know. Anyway, we were given a pass to allow us to go to the city in exchange of our passports which we will recover once we are ready to go.
Lobito is a small town much cleaner and quieter and nicer than Luanda. Obviously, not having to cope with millions of people and cars makes a change.
The marina is quite adequate, with electricity and water, but other than that it is practically dead. Don't know why, but that's the way it is.
Today, I lost the screen of my computer. At first, I blamed the computer itself, but I managed to get a signal on the screen of a backup computer, so it appears, since the screen is powering on and going through its power up routine, that the problem, once again, lies in the connecting cable. Nothing I can do about it here in Angola, and I can only hope that the jerry rigged set up that I have installed will last until I can find help, probably in Cayenne, but I might have to wait for Fort de France.
The night here is quiet, beautiful, we are sitting next to the beach, and we might as well be on vacation in a tourist resort. We had a nice dinner, and while I am having my espresso, I will close on that. Next time I come on the blog with a picture might be in Cabedelo, Brazil, around November 23rd.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Out of Luanda

This was a very emotional send off. At 10:00, I positioned Papy Jovial
at the fuel dock, just beneath the building of the Clube Naval and its
restaurant. First, there were interviews with the local media, around a
table in the Clube with some of the important people of Luanda
attending. While all that was going on, the sailing school attached to
the club was putting out all their dinghies, Laser, 420, Vauriens, to
provide an escort on our way out.
As we cast off the lines, the members of the Club who had gathered on
the balcony of the restaurant gave us a big hand and cheered us as we
were sailing off under spinnaker. (or gennaker to be precise). And all
the way until the exit of the bay where the port of Luanda is located,
we had all those dinghies around us, competing to be the closest to us,
all with spinnaker up, and providing us with a fantastic show. And then,
there were still three boats belonging to the Brotherhood of the Coast
of Angola, sailing along with us on their way to their base at Mussolo.
So far, this is the most impressive welcome and send off that I have
seen of all the various brotherhoods that I have visited. Well done Angola !
Among the things that the brothers of South Africa and those of Angola
have in common is their involvement in teaching under privileged young
kids to sail. In South Africa, I visited the sailing school ran by Koos
Louw and Manuel Mendes. In Luanda, the Clube Naval includes a sailing
school and the members of the table are very much involved in its
running. Wonderful to see in action what means "sharing their love of
the sea".

As far as the country is concerned, I don't have much to say since we
only saw a small portion of the city of Luanda. Most of what I now know
about it, I got it through hear/say, and you might get a better idea by
visiting Wikipedia or the CIA factbook. What we have seen is a city
planned for 800,000 thousand people but actually housing 5 or 6
millions. Everything is under construction, and the infrastructure
obviously, is not able to cope with all those people and all those cars.
What I found remarkable is the coolness with which everybody is taking
in that mess. I have not seen anybody lose their cool, I have not seen
any bender fender, although traffic lights don't work (yet) and there is
gridlock most of the time. I believe that the average speed of any car
in the city must be around 1 to 1.5 mph. So much so that many people
with a few cars in their garage are opting to travel on a motorcycle to
beat the traffic.

Angola right now is certainly a difficult country to live in as it is
engaged in rebuilding itself after the war. But the welcome and the help
constantly coming from the members of the Club and the brothers did
make my stay one of the best I've had during this voyage.